Cemetery Dance Online Exclusive Fiction
“The True Story of Christmas”
John R. Little
My name is Alexander Malicious of Oz. I am twelve years old, but I was only ten months old when the whole world went kablooey, so I don’t remember any of it. Daddy once told me I had a different name back then, but he won’t tell me what it was. After everybody died, Mom and Dad renamed me. They never told me why.
So, it’s Alexander Malicious of Oz. I think that’s an okay name, isn’t it? Of course nobody calls me that. I’m just Alexander most of the time.
See, there’s me and my little sister, Annie Globetrotter of Harlem, and my mom and my dad, and my granny. Her name is Bermuda Short. She doesn’t like that, but it’s been her name for more than decade now, and she’s old, so she’s stuck with it.
The world went kablooey in 2021. I can’t tell you what happened, because nobody will tell me. All I’ve been able to figure out is that everyone died.
They don’t talk about it. I asked Dad once a couple of years ago, and he slapped me.
Mom told me once that before the end of the world, there were lots of other people. I asked how many, and she said, “Lots! More than you could ever imagine!”
Well, I can imagine a lot. I think she probably means there were about a hundred people. I know that’s hard to believe, because how would anybody ever remember who everyone else was? How would they find enough squirrels and berries to eat? Maybe it was really only fifty. I have a big imagination, so it was really probably smaller than I can visualize.
It was Mom’s idea to write a diary. She figures since she’s been trying to teach me to write for years now, I should put it into practice so I don’t forget how to. Or something like that. She said to start by talking about who I am. That’s pretty dull, though. I’d rather talk about it being Christmas!
I never know when it’s going to be Christmas. My daddy always just announces one day that it’s time. I don’t know how he knows, and he won’t tell me. Mom just shrugs, like she doesn’t know, either.
My dad is the big boss.
Old Granny is kind of useless. No point even asking her. The best I’d get from her is a shrug. She mostly just sits on her rotting old log during the day and hardly ever talks. Mom does the talking in this family, but it’s always stuff that nobody cares about.
“Looks like another nice day!”
That’s her favorite way to start the morning. Well, it’s pretty much always a nice day. After all, we’re in Floreeda. It’s sunny and warm and Daddy says it’s always nice in Floreeda, and I have to agree. But every morning, Mom tells us it’s going to be nice.
She also likes to talk about how she wonders what we’re going to do for dinner. Daddy usually is able to hunt something, and on the days he doesn’t, we’ll just eat berries, so what’s there to talk about?
This morning, though, it was Daddy’s time to talk. He came back early from hunting and announced, “Today is going to be Christmas.”
I almost couldn’t believe it! It’s been like forever since the last time he said we’d have a Christmas. I ran into our tent and found my little sister.
“Annie Globetrotter of Harlem! It’s Christmas today!”
Her eyes went wide and she jumped to her feet, scattering the half dozen bare branches she’d been playing with. “Really?”
“Yes! He just told us.”
Annie paused and then asked, “What’s Christmas again?”
I shook my head. “Don’t worry, you’ll understand soon enough.”
The rest of the day was just amazing. I had so much energy, I ran through the forest to wear myself out so I wouldn’t explode. And I did my chores without complaining throughout the day. That’s why I decided to start writing my diary today. What better day than Christmas?
It’s later on Christmas Day now. The sun is setting and Daddy is getting the fire going. He has a big stack of books lined up to burn, so he’s taking this whole Christmas thing very seriously. The fire is going to last a long time, maybe all night.
Did I say how much I love Christmas?
We didn’t eat today. That’s part of the tradition. We save our appetite for Ye Jolly Old Christmas Feast. We are allowed to drink, though, so I’d run down to the creek a few times during the day to scoop out some water.
The last time I went, I decided to go swimming. Annie Globetrotter of Harlem was with me, and she wanted to swim, too. We both stripped off our clothes, but before we jumped in the water, she pointed at me and asked, “What’s that?”
I didn’t know what it’s called. Mom and Dad would never tell me.
“I don’t know. It’s just something I have that you don’t. I call it my lazy finger.”
“I want a lazy finger, too! Why don’t I have one?”
“Because I’m older than you.”
“Will I get one when I’m older?”
“I don’t really know.”
“I’ll ask Mom.”
“No, don’t. She won’t like that, and if Daddy hears you, he’s just going to slap you. You know that.”
Annie followed me into the water. It was cool. I suppose that’s because it must be winter, since it was Christmas Day. On Christmas, it snows and the reindeer jump over the moon to cool the world down.
The current was very slow, and we floated around for a bit before climbing back out and lying in the sun to dry off. The sun is hot in Floreeda, even on Christmas Day.
Annie has long yellow hair. Mom talked about cutting it one day, but Annie hated that idea. Mom cuts my hair sometimes by chopping it with a sharp rock. My hair is brown.
While we were lying there, Annie studied the thing between my legs. At one point, it decided to grow, like it does sometimes. Annie’s mouth seemed to drop when she saw it change.
I just laughed and closed my eyes. I almost fell asleep, but after a while I got up and my lazy finger was back to normal. We got dressed and went back home.
“Alexander Malicious of Oz!” called my dad when he saw me. I could tell he was in a very good mood, because he called me by my full name.
“Yes, sir!” I know how Daddy likes me to answer lickety split when he calls me.
“Grab me some more firebooks to add to our stack. It’s time to get the party going.”
I nodded and walked to the garage. That’s a hut that Daddy built when we moved here. It’s built with branches and moss and is full of firebooks.
I pulled out three. One was called Gone With the Wind, the second was The Stand, and the last was yet another copy of The Kardashians. That one seems to have been very popular with people. I’m sure I’ve taken several other copies out to burn previously. I have no idea what a kardashian might be.
They were all hefty. I always grabbed thick firebooks so I wouldn’t have to keep running back and forth all night.
Daddy started ripping out pages and putting them together, then he used one of his lighters to start the fire. He’d be busy most of the evening adding firebooks to keep the blaze going and working his way up to logs that would burn longer.
Somewhere beyond the forest is the great and fabulous city of My-Ami. I know Daddy went there many times when we first moved to Floreeda. He told me he found zillions of books sitting on people’s doorsteps from the amazing land of Amazon. The firebooks were delivered but never picked up by people before they died. Daddy collected them all and brought them to our hut to burn.
Inside the boxes were tiny white cubes that Daddy said were to protect the firebooks. I’m not sure why they needed to be protected, since they’d just be burned anyhow, but when I asked that, Daddy slapped me, so I know better than to care about that now.
Tonight being Christmas, Daddy had taken all the white cubes and scattered them all around the campfire. He called it snow. I love when it snows! It looks so different, and it only happens on Christmas Day.
I also really enjoy watching the fire crackle and pop. We don’t have enough holidays, so whenever we do get one, I always be sure to enjoy it.
The last holiday we had was Thanks-Burning. That’s not a very interesting holiday, because we mostly just sit around and talk about reasons to throw each other into the fire.
The fire pit is outside our tent, and by the time the fire was going full steam, the sun had set. Mom and Old Granny Bermuda Short came out and were sitting on the log nearby. I grabbed the stump and Annie Globetrotter of Harlem sat on the ground. Only Daddy was standing, as of course was tradition.
The sky was clear, and I could see stars up above. From somewhere in the distance, frogs croaked and I could hear an owl hoot. It made me think even Bloody Mother Nature knew it was Christmas.
Finally, Daddy started to tell us what we longed to hear.
Christmas is a very old tradition (said Daddy). It’s a time for love and a time for joy.
The first Christmas happened more than 2,000 years ago. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Back before the whole world went kablooey, people called archaeologists found evidence of that.
Every Christmas we celebrate the birth of Walt Disney. Sometimes he was called Uncle Walt, because when he was born, he already had a long beard that stretched down to his knees.
Three wise asses followed the stars to find the baby Walt in the little town of Bethlehem. That’s somewhere near Japan.
Uncle Walt was the son of Dog. Dog was the ancient being who invented the world. When He wasn’t happy with things anymore, He destroyed he world as easily as he created it.
For a while, though, Uncle Walt became the most powerful magician in the world. He could change water into wine, part the Red Sea, walk on water, and even bring people back from the dead. He was one hell of a magician, the best the world had ever known.
When the three wise asses found their way to the baby Walt, they brought gifts with them. That started the tradition of always thanking Dog whenever anything good happened. Today, that tradition has passed down symbolically so that everyone has to thank their Daddy for all good things.
Everything bad, of course, is Dog’s fault. Everything good is done by Daddy.
Uncle Walt was nailed to a cross when he was a teenager, because everyone loved his magic tricks and wanted to see him escape. Many years later, another famous magician named Houdini also performed magical escape tricks, but nobody could ever do them better than Uncle Walt!
Walt Disney was crucified near Orlando, Floreeda, not far from where we are now. One day, when you kids are old enough, we’ll do a pilgrimage to Orlando and pay tribute to Uncle Walt himself. It’s something every citizen must do at least once in their lifetime. Otherwise Uncle Walt’s ghost will haunt you forever.
Tonight, we’re incredibly fortunate to have Ye Jolly Old Christmas Feast. The ghost of Uncle Walt led me earlier today to trap a beautiful fat raccoon, and so we can have our traditional stuffed raccoon feast tonight.
Nobody will go hungry tonight, except for possibly Bermuda Short.
We need to thank Dog for providing us with such generosity tonight. So, please close your eyes and call out three loud cheers for Dog’s generosity!
It took quite a while for Daddy to skin the raccoon and rip its guts out and then stuff it with berries. Once that was all done, he stuck a metal rod down its mouth and pushed open a new asshole for it. Then he could start spinning it on the spit.
Christmas is the only day that the great Dog gives us stuffed raccoon. It’s the best meal of the year. We were just about starving when the meat started to sizzle and Mom started to shuffle around, setting places at our picnic table. She brought out the good china dishes, which shone brightly from the fire. We hadn’t used any real dishes for a year, not since last Christmas. Usually we just plop the food right on the picnic table. Nobody cares.
We do have plastic cups for water. Before it got dark, I’d taken our jug down to the creek to fill it up, so we were all set.
I could smell part of the raccoon burning just when Daddy called out, “It’s ready!”
Old Granny shuffled over to the table, but me, Annie, and Mom almost jumped. We were so hungry, all we could think about was chowing down on the meat.
When we were all seated, Mom said, “Hold on. It’s time for us to say grace.”
“Dear Dog in Heaven,” she said. “We thank you for delivering this delicious meal to us on this very special day, and we thank you also for protecting us from the big kablooey. You are a good Dog, and we are your willing servants. We tell you all this is Uncle Walt’s name. Ramen.”
“Ramen,” we all repeated.
“I want a drumstick!” I called.
I wasn’t really sure what a drumstick was, but I’d heard Old Granny call that out one other time.
Daddy smacked me. “You get what you get,” he said.
That’s when the night took an amazing turn.
Another man had walked into our camp ground.
Now, if anybody ever reads my diary here, you probably are really old, like dirt, and maybe before the big kablooey, people walked into your camp ground every day. Not so with us.
I’ve never seen a single other person in my life.
Neither has Annie Globetrotter of Harlem, of course.
Mom and Dad acted as surprised as the rest of us, but I’m pretty sure they’d seen other people before.
The guy had a long black beard that stretched down to about his belly button, and his face had long scratches dug into it.
He stared at us like we were some kind of weird animals.
“Been watching you all,” he said. His voice was full of hitches.
Daddy walked over to behind the big old oak tree, where he stashed the ax. He grabbed it with both his hands, like he was ready to chop the stranger’s head clean off.
“Get the fuck out of here, mister.”
“Hey, hold on there!”
The stranger held his hands up in the air, like he wanted to push the sky up a notch. “We’re just passing through is all, and it looked like — ”
“My boy.” He turned and whistled.
And then another person came out of the forest.
Holy carp! Two new people?
“The boy is Jiminy,” said the man.
“Jiminy Cricket, I imagine,” said Dad. The man just stared at him, so I figured he was right. Dad’s good at figuring stuff out.
Jiminy Cricket wasn’t much bigger than me. He was skinny and had long brown hair. Just like me.
“Maybe you should just keep on walking,” said Dad.
“Looks like you’re ready for dinner. It’d be awfully kind of you to offer some.”
“It’s not just dinner,” I blurted out. “It’s Christmas dinner!”
“Is it now?”
“Yup! See all the snow?” I pointed at the small white cubes.
“Well, it sounds like we came along on the right day. It’d be a very Christian thing for you to feed us tonight.”
Dad stared at them, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen until Mom walked over and said, “Well, of course you can join us for dinner. It’s not much, but we’re happy to share what we can.”
Dad was gripping the ax harder, and I wasn’t sure that he wasn’t going to use it to chop Mom’s head off right there and then. He ended up grunting and motioning the two new people to the picnic table, where we all sat down. Well, all except for Bermuda Short. She just wandered off into the tent, but nobody seemed to care.
Two new people! Yowza!
The raccoon wasn’t all that big, and so we only ended up with a couple small pieces each, but that’s okay. Any coon is better than none!
“You know it’s only October,” said the man.
“No matter, Christmas is in the heart,” said Mom. I don’t really know what that meant. October sounded like some kind of weird disease. Maybe the man was crazy or something.
“What makes it Christmas today?”
“Oh, I know!” I shouted. “It’s the day Walt Disney was born!”
I went on to explain about how Uncle Walt was the magician who could walk on water and how he was nailed to the cross but Dog saved him and fed him to the lions. If there was one thing I knew, it was the true story of Christmas. Once he killed the lions, he fed them to the masses, and they laughed and nailed him to a cross.
The man just stared at me. I didn’t think he’s very smart.
“Where you boys headed?” asked Dad.
The smaller one hadn’t said anything since arriving at our camp. He just kept staring at his now-empty plate. The man said, “We were heading south, but . . . ”
He scratched his beard and looked over at Annie Globetrotter of Harlem.
“You know, it’s our responsibility to re-populate the planet. Make more babies.”
He nodded at the boy and then to Annie.
Now I was totally confused. Dog is the only way to make babies. He plants seeds in the forest and pours baby oil on them to make them grow. Once they sprout, the parents come along to get them.
“She’s only seven,” said Dad.
The man shrugged. “Gotta be thinking about the future.”
It seemed like everyone just wanted to stare at everybody else from then on. Nobody talked. No wonder Dad didn’t really seem to mind the big kablooey. If this was what it was like having other people around, I was thinking maybe it’s good we just had our family.
I had to pee, so I walked over to the hole in the ground over by the forest and sang “Good King Walruses” while I did it. I sang nice and loud, just like Dad does.
When I came back to the table, I asked the man, “What’s your name?”
What a weird name.
“I’m Alexander Malicious of Oz.”
He stared at Mom and Dad. “You really need to teach your children the proper meaning of Christmas.”
Dad laughed. “Proper? Like how Jesus came down from heaven to save everybody from sin? Fat lot of good that did the world.”
“What do you mean?” asked Annie. It was the first time she’d spoken since the strangers arrived.
“God created the heaven and the Earth,” said Steve. We sinned, and He sent his only son to us, to save us for all eternity. His son was named Jesus, not Walt Disney, and he was killed by evil men, but it didn’t matter, because he saved humanity anyhow and taught us how to live good lives.”
“Complete and utter bullshit,” said Dad.
Well then. This was getting interesting.
Steve shrugged. “Denial doesn’t change the truth.” Then he looked at me. “You ever read The Bible?” He pointed at one of the firebooks that Dad had brought out.
“Never mind,” he said. “I know the answer.”
I wanted to ask who would ever read a firebook, but I knew better. I took one last nibble of my raccoon and licked my plate.
“Maybe it’s time for you to head out,” said Dad. “We’ve been trying to be civil to you, but you’re in danger of overstaying your welcome.”
Steve ignored Dad and looked to Mom.
“Ma’am, thank you for your hospitality. My boy and I will just curl up a while by the fire if that’s okay. It’s late. We’ll sleep and head out in the morning.”
Mom lowered her eyes, clearly not wanting to be in the middle of anything. Dad would slap her if she did.
“First light,” said Dad.
We ended up not really enjoying our Christmas dinner, but a little bit of raccoon is better than plain old berries, so it could have been worse. We didn’t have any dessert, though. I’m not sure if Dad found any dandelions for us to chew on or if he just decided to forget it all with Steve being there.
All in all, Christmas kind of sucked. In my mind I started to wonder if we could have another Christmas in a few days to make up for it, but I didn’t want to ask Dad in case it earned me a slap.
My hand is getting tired. It’s already morning and I haven’t told you about what happened at first light yet, but I need to stop for now.
And I’m back.
I thought it would be good to take a break to bury Dad. Steve wasn’t all that interested in helping. He’d just dragged Dad’s body over to the bushes and dumped it, which seemed kind of mean to me.
Eventually I scurried around for some branches and tossed them on top of him.
Oh, right! I forgot to tell you.
We woke to screams, and it wasn’t the good kind of screams. I ran out of the tent and saw Steve crashing the ax down over and over again. Daddy’s blood spurted everywhere and turned all the snow around him bright red. It was really kind of pretty, but the screams kind of took away from that.
Annie Globetrotter of Harlem watched with me.
Chop, chop, chop.
I know I shouldn’t have wondered what Dad’s leg would taste like over an open fire, but I couldn’t help myself. I was hungry again.
Eventually the screams stopped, and Dad was all beside himself. Steve just grinned and looked at Mom. Like she would ever do anything to interfere.
Then he looked at me and Annie. “You can call me Dad now,” he said.
Well, okay then. After the way he handled that ax, I couldn’t see much benefit in contradicting him.
“First thing we gotta do is get you clear on God, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.”
I didn’t know what to say about that, so I just stared at him. Annie, too.
I nodded. What else could I do but agree?
“Good. We’ll begin our lessons later. You need to know about the birth of Jesus. He was born in a manger in Bethlehem, and he rose to become the greatest person in history.”
He stared at me as if waiting for me to contradict me.
“THAT is what Christmas is all about.”
“We’ll talk about the details later. For now . . . ”
That’s when he tossed the pieces of Dad into the forest; later, I went over to find them and put them back together so I could toss some of old Mother Nature onto him.
Mom was crying, but Steve just went over and tried to hug her. She wasn’t having any of that.
So, Dad Version Two is running the family now. He told me to head down to the creek to clean the ax, and then I had to use it to chop some firewood. I wasn’t sure why I had to do that since we still had lots of books, but I wasn’t the one making the rules.
In the evening, we sat on the picnic table and Steve, I mean Dad Version Two, started talking all kinds of carp to us about this Jesus guy. It was like this weird fantasy about how he could make bread fall from the sky and turn water into wine. Pretty familiar stuff, I know. Sounds like they just stole Uncle Walt’s story and made this new guy the same.
I just smiled and nodded, but it was all ridiculous. Who would ever believe that?
Well, one person who was buying it all was Annie Globetrotter of Harlem. She sat there all wide-eyed, listening to the fairy tales.
My old daddy would have called him a brain-washer, I think.
I only asked one question. “How is Jesus related to Uncle Walt?”
I got slapped.
Some things never change.
For a fire, Dad Version Two insisted on using twigs and tree branches instead of firebooks. It seemed weird, but he’s the boss, so what could we do?
Mom just sat and stared at the fire the whole time, and I knew she was thinking about Thanks-burning and wanting to throw Dad Version Two into the fire.
Come to think of it, I was thinking the same thing.
Who knows what Bermuda Short was thinking? Her brain seemed like a wasteland of porridge most of the time.
Steve’s son, Jiminy Cricket, sat there poking the fire with a stick. I decided to rename him Mystery Boy Theater. I think my daddy would have liked that.
Mystery Boy Theater still hadn’t spoken a word to us. He’d gone pee a couple times and didn’t sing “Good King Walruses,” or any other peeing carols for that matter. He has no manners.
The night ended in a very unsettled way. Dad Version Two pulled Mom into the big bed, and they had their own little kablooey, but Mom screamed a little, and I’m not sure she was really having much fun.
Speaking of that, I asked Dad Version Two about the big kablooey earlier in the afternoon.
“That was horrible,” he said. “It was like God was punishing us for all the evil we do, and now it’s time to redeem humanity. That’s why some of us are immune to the virus, and it’s God’s wish that we repopulate the planet for Him.”
I have no clue what that all meant, but I smiled and nodded so I wouldn’t have to listen any more.
Time for sleep.
In the morning, I stretched and then immediately hopped to my feet. The sun was only barely awake, and I knew what I had to do.
The ax was just where I’d left it after chopping down the wood for the fire.
I could still smell the burned tree branches. It wasn’t very nice. I love the smell of firebook ashes in the morning.
Nobody else was awake. I tip-toed to where Dad Version Two was sleeping beside Mom and made sure the first swing of the ax was true.
He didn’t even get a scream out as his head was sliced off from the rest of his body, but man, what a mess the blood made! It spurted out of his neck like a fountain, and it just gushed all over Mom.
So, she was sure screaming.
I pointed at her and frowned. She got the message and stopped yelling her freaking head off.
I pulled the body off of her and rolled it onto the floor. It was heavy, but I eventually managed to pull it out and into the forest. I suppose I could have followed in his footsteps and cut the body into little pieces, but I just wanted to get it over with.
Once I tossed more Mother Nature on it, I went back to the creek to clean the axe.
“You killed him, Alexander,” said Mom.
“That’s not my name any more.”
She looked at me, puzzled.
“I’m in charge now. I’m Dad Version Three.”
Annie Globetrotter of Harlem stared at me like I was Uncle Walt himself, her mouth wide open. Mystery Boy Theater just stared over at Version Two and didn’t say a word.
I realized I should have told him to clean the ax, not do it myself. If he refused, I would have had to slap him.
“Why did you do that?” asked Mom.
Sometimes I think people can be so stupid. Wasn’t it obvious?
“He kept telling lies about Christmas,” I said. “Calling Uncle Walt a fairy tale, when it’s obviously the truth.”
I looked over at Annie and put my arm around her. “I needed to protect my sister from his lies.”
The sun was fully up now, and our campsite was quiet.
“You,” I called to Mystery Boy Theater. “Clean up the fire.”
He hesitated but then moved over to the fire and stacked the unburned pieces of wood together.
Tonight we’ll have a good old fashioned fire made of firebooks, like fires have been started forever.
Maybe we’ll have another Christmas soon. I figure now I can decide whenever I want to have it, and Thanks-burning too.
From this point forward, we’re back to the true meaning of our national holidays.
I took a peek at Mystery Boy Theater and decided I’d better hide the ax. I’m no dummy.
John R. Little has been writing horror and dark fantasy novels and stories for a much longer time than he’d care to admit. His novella, Miranda, won the Bram Stoker Award in 2009, and he has been nominated three other times. His most recent novels are DarkNet and Soul Mates, so you should check them out right now.