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.