She couldn’t move, her heart pounding and her head filled with the images he had recounted of dark shapeless forms that appeared in the night, their eyes bright points of light like the lights she had seen through the window. The air between them silent, but for the malformed echo of his voice and oppressed by foundless fear, she watched him being slowly drained of all functions and recreated by something that existed only in his head.

The silence was broken…

The sound, drifting melodic and misplaced, broke through the torment of unreasoned thought until it was so loud it couldn’t be ignored.

“They’re here…” The effort of speaking dragged him downward until he stooped like an old man waiting to die. “They’ve come for my soul.”

“No Jed! No! They’re just children. Carol singers!” Hope flooded through her, heavy and intoxicating like mulled wine, the false images dispelled by a truth she could understand. “It’s Christmas Jed. It’s just Christmas!”

He recoiled as if he had been struck…
She reached out to him, her face alight with the warmth of a thousand glowing Christmas lights.

He rose up. Driven by a rage that only the dying can know when faced with the final moment of life he fell on her, pressing his hands around her throat and forcing to look into his eyes.

She gasped for air but none would come. She tried to cry out, but her voice was drowned by the sound of voices singing a song she no longer recognised. She tore at the rough fabric of his sleeves as the world switched from grey to blinding white, time suspended as the burning agony of his touch crushed all hope. And in the empty shimmering white light echoing to the hollow of toll of distant bells, past Christmas’s came and went.

The anticipation and joy of languorous days spent in the company of loved ones eating and drinking too much and the lingering belief that Santa exists. The bright wrappings of exchanged affection and that first Christmas when shyness deserted him and, fuelled by whisky he had kissed her under the mistletoe and felt her whole being warmed and cosseted. And in amongst it all were dreams of pagan rituals; flickering flames of burning Yule logs to worship the Sun God that he might be reborn. The aphrodisiac filled atmosphere, safe behind the evergreen protection from the demons of winter. She saw the rape of a descending angel, swarmed and smothered by the dark, malignant spirits of the old world. The angel’s wings torn from its back by a seething, cackling horde and its blood falling like plump, ruby holly berries on the pristine snows of a sleeping earth, leaving the souls of the dead abandoned to the darkness.

She felt herself running…
Her bare feet pounding the carpet through the door and out of the house as he wailed and thrashed somewhere behind her. Rushing headlong into a wall of darkness pierced by points of golden light, she ran still further to wide, still fields, cold and soft beneath her feet. Running with weightless strides not looking back and only vaguely aware that she could no longer hear his voice, it seemed that he and the world had been swallowed by the night.

Then she stopped running….
Standing in a dark wilderness below a black velvet canopy strewn with bright stars and a sliver grey moon, she gazed, mesmerised by a column of light. The angel’s wings made no sound as it descended. Finally reaching out a hand that she might take it, while shadows of the old world swarmed on the peripheries of the new. As she rose she looked back and saw the shadows move toward the town, drawn by the shining Christmas lights.

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