This must be the end of the world.
It feels like the end of the world.
Snow falls like lazy ash, warm with paper-texture.
It doesn’t melt.
A Christmas tree juts out of the ground like a broken pylon or obelisk – a pagan symbol of Christian faith and social norm. The red bulbs are dull. The star at the top is smoking.
It’s blocking out the sun, turning the fallen snow into a grey sheet that smells of sulfur and hidden childhood memories.
She stands, facing the tree. Her nose is red and running. Her scarf is loose.
She holds tightly to her boyfriend’s hand.
Just his hand.
After the loud noise and flash of light, that’s all that was left of him.
They have matching mittens.
“Come closer, come closer. Don’t be afraid. It’s Christmas after all!”
The voice comes from the tree.
From a sagging, dead branch – the nettles brown, metallic, covered in rust.
“Yeah, hi, hello, Merry Christmas. My Name is Parix. How are you?”
“Yeah, sure, close enough.”
She stands, facing the tree. She grips her boyfriend’s hand tighter, wishing for warmth and a reassuring squeeze back.
The man, Parix, is hanging from the tree. He might be naked, but her eyes are having trouble focusing. Christmas ornament hooks pierce his skin, holding him onto the rusty nettles. Scars crisscross his body, looking like white and purple garland left outside until Spring.
“It’s such a beautiful time of the year, don’t you think? The snow falling from the sky, the Christmas tree all lit up and decorated.”
Sparks fly from the branches, some catch fire. The sky darkens. The tree and the man glow a sickly orange.
“What do you want for Christmas, little girl? What would make your heart sing? What would make your faith burst forth in tears and laughter, bubbling up like marshmallow in hot chocolate?
Forgive me…sometimes I get a bit poetic. It’s the spirit of the season, you know.
I don’t have much.”
He reaches out to her, extending his hand and offering a kind smile.
She reaches up, straining to grab his hand.
“No, no. We mustn’t touch! I was asking for that thing…”
He points at her other hand, the hand holding on tight to her boyfriend’s hand.
“We all have to make sacrifices, dear. That’s what Christmas is all about.”
She can feel herself about to cry.
If she lets go of his hand, what does she have left?
She can’t even remember his name.
No name, no face to go with this no-name.
Just his hand.
Just a hand, and now she watches herself hand it over to the man in the tree.