Yule tide is nearly upon us again and the decorations are up in the shops. What does the fairy on the tree mean? I might not have finished a novel but I have finally completed this little story that has a look at the question. Have a Happy Advent and Merry Christmas folks.
The Fairy On The Tree
My life starts with a harsh click from my back followed by a joyous burst of music that fills my soul. The tune is so light, vibrant and happy, I feel I want to sing along but the tune is my only voice.
Someone is picking me up, I’m swung upside down for a moment and I see into a brown box filled by smaller, gaily coloured packs with transparent windows. Inside each are little angelic women and a mass of green wire speckled with tiny lamps, they all look so happy, I wonder if they can sing like I can. One of the little boxes is open, a train of green wire with lights is spilling out of it but there is no little angel in the box. Wait! it’s me! I’m a little angel!
Oooh! I swing across the room, I can see the floor is covered by a short, rough brown carpet that is covered in little flecks of tinsel glittering in the bright lights. I’m hoisted up now, the walls of the room are covered in shelves decorated in drapes of shining tinsel and chains of rainbow paper. They are filled with oddments and toys, books and jewellery, candles and pens – untold riches of gifts.
The music is still pouring out of me, it’s only a short ditty; three funny little descending scales, skip over the stepping stones of the key’s major chord and then a lilting dance chorus. I do love it so!
I’m reaching the other end of the sparkling grotto, there is a large green tree stood in a red basket. I see it and for a moment a chill runs through me, I seem to hear cold wind blowing and feel wetness biting at me, poor starlight casts deep shadows in the surrounding thicket. A moment later and the chilling vision has passed, but I am worried now as I am lifted up to the top of the tree. I can see the creature carrying me, she is huge! Her hand is wrapped around me, her face is as big as all of me! She stands on a stool and ties me to the highest branch.
Suddenly I notice that she is humming along to me tune! And she is smiling! I feel an immense rush of pleasure that she finds my song beautiful. She finishes tying me and as she steps down she mutters some words along to the chorus: “Glad tidings we bring” but then steps away and I hear no more. Bring to who? Glad tidings we bring, dum dum dum da thing. I must have the rest of the words! I don’t think my tune is complete without them!
The girl is hanging my string of lights in hoops around the tree, another is hanging silver tinsel and little glass balls with patterns of white and blue flakes. They remind me of the coldness I felt when I first saw the tree but they are pretty nonetheless.
As they busy themselves decorating my tree, I look across the rest of the room, there is a desk with a funny little machine on it. There are three large signs above it:
“23 Shopping Days to Go!”
“Ask about our low interest store card. 10% off your first purchase!”
One of the girls disappears from my sight around behind the tree holding the end of my train of lanterns. There is a scraping sound and a click, which reminds me of the one that awoke me to the music, and my little lanterns burst into jewels of coloured fire which skips across the tinsel and flashe off of the glass globes.
Glad tidings we bring, dum dum dum da ding!
The other girl reaches up and touches my back, there is a sharp click and I am plunged into darkness, cold and wet. I can hear nothing in the darkness but can feel ropes burning tight against my naked flesh. Another click and I am back in the room, but the girl has changed as she moves her hand away, as has the room: it is filled with bustling people, picking up objects and examining them. The odd machine on the desk is making a tune too but it is not regular and the short verses aren’t nearly as pretty as mine, the chorus is just a harsh metallic crash.
Looking down I can see that my lamps are still lit and there are a couple of little people staring up at me. Not as small as me, but smaller than those other girls. One of them is singing along to my tune but he has his finger in his mouth and doesn’t seem to be concentrating on getting it right.
“…wish you a werry iss-muss…”
Wish you a werry iss-muss? It more or less fits each of those scales at the start of my tune but doesn’t seem quite right, somehow. The other one could be a girl, judging by the pigtails, but the amount of… stuff that seems to be coming out of her nose makes me wonder. She picks up something stacked under my tree and waves it at a bigger man behind her. He picks the box out of her outstretched hand and turns it around.
It’s one of the boxes with the other little angels like me! He reads out something on the box: “Twenty four colour fairy lights and singing tree top fairy.” He casts his eyes across the box and continues “Plays ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’. Requires two LR-44 batteries (included) for Music Fairy. Requires 240 volt AC for lights (plug included).” Another critical examination and his eyes fall on a sticker at the top of the box. “£39.99.”
He lowers the box and his daughter jumps up and down trying to catch it. He doesn’t look at her but stares up at me. He fixes me with a hard glare as I merrily hum along “We wish you a Merry Christmas” to the parts of my tune it fits now that he has gifted me more words.
“No darling,” he says, “That tune would drive me mad in ten minutes.”
“You can turn it off but leave the lights on, Sir.” says one of the girls who bound me to and decorated my tree. She reaches up behind me and I hear the click.
Again I am surrounded by darkness and cold, some of the wounds from the bonds have broken my skin and it itches and crawls. I open my mouth to scream.
Click. I am back in the grotto, the man and children have gone and I am singing my song again though it takes a few moments for its cheerful notes to warm my heart. The people in the shop have changed and the girl who last touched my back is behind the discordant mechanical monster. One of the signs over the monster has changed, it now says “21 shopping days to go!”
More of my sisters are picked up and taken to the monster that sings its ugly music to them. I pick up a few more words to my tune and with a couple of guesses I think it goes:
“We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
And a Happy New Year.
Good tidings we bring to you and your King,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
And a Happy New Year.”
I think there might be other verses because I heard one woman, with thick gold rimmed glasses, muttering something about “figgy poody”.
The day draws on and I see the girl who first bound me to the tree coming towards me. She looks tired and annoyed, she is reaching up to my back! No! not the dark place again! Please!
“That tune is really beginning to bug my…”
Click! This time I can see fires burning somewhere off in the woods – there are people cheering and singing while I remain cold, lost and dieing strapped to a tree.
Click! The room has been tidied, the binding girl is arguing with the other one: “It’s so annoying, do we have to leave it on?”
“It sells so well though so yes, we do have to leave it on. At least when it’s busy.”
“It’s not busy yet!” She reaches behind me again.
Click! There is something in the darkness near me, I scream but no one comes.
Click! The room is full of people again. Twenty shopping days to go and the rhythm of the monster’s harsh music is getting faster. I try to take pleasure in my tune but I am upset, not just from the fear of the darkness but from the cruel words of the binding girl before she sent me to that place. Annoying!? My tune is all that I have and I saw it make her smile when she first heard it!
I’m so scared of the click now. The darkness only seems to have lasted an instant once I am back but it lasts a lifetime of torment as well.
Is the day over so soon? The girl is coming towards me again, her hand outstretched. No! Please, no!
Nineteen shopping days to go. I hate the girl who bound me now. Why does she do this to me? Why isn’t it her instead of me? I’m so scared of what will happen when the shopping days are over. I only want to sing but I also want to be able to scream my defiance. I know that I scream, between the clicks in that other place, there my screams are ignored. Here I can not make them heard.
Eighteen shopping days to go. The beast was with me in the woods again that time, I could feel its presence nearby. I’ve screamed so much and have gotten so cold I can barely draw breathe to cry any more. It is coming for me. I know it is.
Seventeen shopping days to go.
It is well past the dead of night in the wood now and the cold is so intense I can barely feel my body anymore. The pain of it has ground into my very bones. I am aware of the beast walking in front of me but can’t open my eyes to look at it.
Fourteen days to go and I know it is counting down to my doom.
I feel so weak, even my song is sounding lethargic and flat. I have so little energy left and this fills me with a dread beyond all the previous anguish; what will happen when the last of my energy leaves me? Will I stay in that horrible darkness between the clicks for ever?
No! No more! I don’t wish anything for anyone anymore. I hate my tune! I hate it! I want a real voice to scream with here, not sing this same hateful jollity over and over and over and
It is the deepest night between the clicks. The sky is filled with stars and each one is a needle of cold sapping life from me. I can hear the beast breathing near my ear. I begin to shiver uncontrollably and the movement grates the ropes over my open wounds making them ache again. My whole body is made of cold pain.
The last five days blend together as my song grows weaker in one world and my life drains away into the cold in the other.
The sign over the monster says “Last shopping day till Christmas!” My tune is very slow and faint, I know I am all but spent. I can hear myself getting fainter and fainter as the day goes on while the monster’s cacophony rises to finale. The room is becoming hazy and cold, I’m sure my tune is so quiet that only I can hear it now.
The girl is coming towards me now. This is it, I think, the end; she is going to give me forever to the maw of the beast I hear in the woods beside me. She reaches up and unties me from the tip of the tree. The other girl is taking down the decorations around the shop and replaces the sign above the monster, now silent, with a new one: “January Sale – Everything 20% Off!”
I feel myself being strapped down from the tree in the shop, her fingers are behind my back where by pressing the switch she shall bind me once more back in the wood. But the click doesn’t come. I am so quiet she does not hear that I am on.
I am cast onto the top of an open bag filled with ripped cardboard, crushed tinsel and other detritus swept from the room. The bag is lifted up and out of the room which has been the fairer half of my prison and down a corridor that smells of pungent old smoke and dumped out into the bitter night air.
I recognise it. I’ve felt a cruel eternity of slow death in it between each click. I can see out of the top of the bag narrow walls climbing towards the sky sprinkled with few stars and an orange glow that failed to make the sight any warmer, the stars again seem to pierce me with cold.
I can feel my tune getting weaker and quieter. I can feel the dark woods getting closer. I see the stars above me blur and I know I am drifting, I’m not sure if I am in a trash can in an alley or strapped back on the tree in the wood. The two places drift together.
I feel the beast’s breath behind my neck but I have neither the strength nor the breath to scream any more. It is untying my bonds behind the tree. A gloved hand is reaching into the bag to pick me out. Thick warm fingers wrap around me pulling away the girdle of lights. I fall off of the tree and into the arms of the man in the alley who throws a fur around my shoulders.
A deep and kindly voice speaks to me “This way Little Angel.”
He leads me, stumbling, down the alley. Trembling I raise my head and look round at his face. It is lined with age but soft. Thick white whiskers emerge all over his chin, upper lip and even from his nose and ears. He smiles a broad smile as he leads me to his sled and hoists me up onto the seat. “You’ll feel better in a moment, Little Angel.”
The back of the sled is heaped high with brightly wrapped packages and I can smell the faint whiff of oranges though this is overpowered by the husky odour coming from the animals tied to the front of the sled. Over the top of the guard in front of me I can see only their huge backs and kingly looking crowns but I hear them champing at the bit and scuffing their hooves impatiently on the ground, anxious to be moving again through the cold.
I’m beginning to shiver less, I can still faintly hear my tune though I am not sure if it is only in my flesh-and-bone head. The thick fur around my shoulders feels as if it is pouring heat back into my bones.
The man clambers up onto the sled on the other side and picks up the reigns, he is wearing fur from head to foot – the deep maroon of congealed blood. “I…” I stutter as I try to speak. He holds up his hand, bidding me to be quiet.
“You want to know who you are, why you are, who I am and what I am going to do with you.” He says it in a matter of fact way, not really a question. Shivering less now I am able to nod. He looks down at me and smiles then digs in his fur robes, pulling out a small metal flask which he unscrews and passes to me.
My shaking fingers can still not hold it so he helps me take a draft. It feels like a mouthful of cleansing fire pouring down my throat and I cough as it worms its way into my parched body, warming me from within. I catch my breathe after a moment. “More?” he asks with a hint of laughter in his voice. I nod eagerly and he helps me swallow another mouthful and presses the open flask into my hand. I am able to keep hold of it now.
“You hold onto that and go easy on it.” He instructs me as he raises the reigns again and coaxes the animals forward. With a jolt we are moving and the alley flashes past, for a moment it looks like we are passing tall dark trees.
“To answer your questions, Little Angel, people have been sacrificing little girls to me for time immemorial, whether they are aware they are doing it or not. That pretty much covers the who and why of you because belief is a terrifyingly powerful thing.” His voice turns darker as he finishes the sentence and I shiver for a moment despite the warmth I now feel.
“Who are you?” I manage to ask, my voice shaking only slightly as the sled picks up speed between the trees or the alley, it seems to be trees until I focus my attention on it and it is simple walls slipping past. Either way we are gliding as if we were on the thick snow of the wood.
“Many names, many shapes and many things at many many different times and places, Little Angel.” again there is laughter in his voice as he shakes the reigns which jingle in a clatter of tiny bells. “I am the devourer of the old year, I am the goblin that stole the sun and holds it to ransom to the price of a virgin to devour. I am sometimes the spirit of winter. On occasion I have been abroad under the name of Jack Frost. For a while I was Nicholas.”
His words frighten me, there is coldness and death under the laughter that now seems only to be feigned. I look around to see if I can jump from the sled and to my shock discover that we are high above the ground, the dark wood below with flickering camp fires, burning to call for the return of the sun, finally become the bright orange lights of a city which sinks away from us as he speaks again.
“But fear not, Little Angel, in this age I am Father Christmas.” The joy in his voice no longer seems thin as he leans over, as if to share a joke, and whispers “Or just plain ‘Santa’.” He leans back and guffaws with laughter which fills the night sky we are flying through. It is infectious and I begin to giggle, forgetting my fear and feeling the wood for ever slip away from me. “Truth be told,” he says, his chest heaving for breath after the huge belly laughs, “I like this age and this shape the best.” He composes himself and exhales a puff of air. “Now, tonight I have some deliveries to make and then we’ll head back to my feast hall where you can join the chorus of all the other little angels I’ve dev…” he stops himself and corrects: “…collected over the years. But tonight you get to keep me company!”
He pulls at the reigns and the sled banks across the sky under the blue beams of a bright moon, I take another sip from the flask and feel completely warm and safe, I lean back in the seat and start to hum a little to myself. He smiles down at me again and asks me “Can you sing me a good Christmassy song?”