[A short dark tale of fiction for you this Christmas (what more would you expect from me?), which I hope you enjoy. Oh... and I nearly forgot: Seasons greetings to you all; Have a wonderful Christmas. ]
The crunching sound of his boots, as he walks towards the barn through the deep snow, nearly makes him smile, but not quite. There isn’t much in life that’s ever made Edward Furfur smile, or even happy for that matter, apart from maybe hearing about other peoples bad luck. Yes— come to think of it, that’s the one thing that might just bring a grin to his toothless mouth; other people’s misfortune will nearly always makes him smile or laugh. For instance: he laughed for days when he heard about that stupid neighbour of his, over at Home Farm, driving his car off the road one winters night two years ago. Trapped in the car in a water filled ditch, old Tom McFarlane spent the night up to his neck in dirty cold runoff. Folk say that he was alive for hours before he died of hypothermia.
The huge bonfire that Edward lit, in the dark, early hours of this morning is still smouldering away like a black cancer, in the otherwise perfect, snow covered landscape. He walks over to it, and stands staring at the glowing red embers for a moment, his hands deep in his pockets, his mind deep in thought. The world feels different this morning; Edward thinks, as he prods the ash with the toe of his worn out boot - a better type of different; he’s not sure, but different none the less. He thinks back to last night; the fire he built to burn wood and paper, flesh and bone. It was enormous – monstrous even. The low cloud in the valley above his farm was turned blood red as he killed and destroyed legends, with shotgun and sharp axe.
A crow cawing overhead breaks the silence - and the moment. Edward turns to leave the bonfire when he notices a brightly wrapped, shoe box sized package resting lightly in the snow. He picks the parcel up and goes to throw it onto the remnants of the fire, when he spots a star shaped tag hanging on the side. Edward knows that it says something on the tag, but his father liked him to work on the farm when he was younger, and he never got round to going to school too often, and as a result: his English isn’t so good. He looks at the writing, and tries to understand what it says, but can’t, and that just makes him feel angry. He drops the package onto the still glowing hot ashes of the fire; waits until the flames start to lick up around the edges of the paper, and is walking away by the time the tag that says: To Beth, Happy Christmas Love Dad xxx, is consumed by fire.
He continues his walk and cuts through the orchard of apple trees; bare at this time of year; bare at any time of year after they caught some sort of disease. When he was a kid he used to come down to the orchard with his mother, to pick lovely heavy apples, and sweet pears, and even plumbs sometimes. They would take them back to the house, and mother would cook lovely apple crumble, or pie for him and his father... Edward pushes all thoughts of his parents from his head as he emerges from the trees to see a large green barn, looming over him in the late afternoon half light. As he approaches the weathered barn doors, he feels none of the fear that has dogged him for the last twenty-two years. That gut wrenching feeling of sickness, every single time he had to come down here is gone now. Before last night he didn’t often come to the barn. Not since he found his mother hanging in there, from a rope.
The inside of the barn is dark, as the sun has nearly set, and Edward lights two of the lamps that sit on the barn walls so he can see. As they flicker to life they cast light on the old tractor that has been parked up for years, that hasn’t moved since the accident that killed his cruel father; his father, who liked to drink and gamble, his sadistic father who was handy with his fists after a few drinks. The last straw for his mother had been finding out that father had been sleeping with a woman from the village. She couldn’t take it anymore, and took the easy way out on Christmas Day, many years past. Half a dozen years later, Edward had been sitting in the tractor revving the engine, while his father tried to fix yet another problem with it; laying underneath the old machine while shouting and cussing at him. Years of physical and mental abuse had ended with the simple act of Edward dipping the clutch, and putting the tractor into gear. He had heard the scream and felt the bump as the big rusty machine had rode straight over his father. Edward had calmly stopped the tractor, got out, and walked back to the churned up mess of meat and blood that used to be his dad, and spat at him.
“Please help me.” Edward looks towards the floor of a dark corner of the barn where the pleading voice is coming from, and removes one of the oil lamps from the metal bracket that holds it on the wall.
“Is someone there—“
He walks with the lamp held out in front of him toward the corner, the darkness retreating away from him as though he were some god, until he stops at the sight in front of him.
“Plea... please help me—“the old man repeats once again. Squatting down, Edward looks at the legend that he trapped last night, after weeks of preparation. A thin steel wire, strung across the roof of his house had been enough to do the damage, enough to stop all this madness. In the early hours of the morning Edward had heard an almighty crash outside his farm house, He jumped out of his armchair where he had been dozing and rushed out with his shotgun. There in the white snow were the things from his nightmares, cloven hoofed devils, smashed and broken. Some were still alive, but Edward soon saw to that, his gun and his wood axe, blasting and cutting. Years of loneliness and pain, fear and loathing taken out on those terrible animals. When the killing had finished, he dragged the beasts and the sleigh into a pile and doused them with diesel before tossing in a match with his red sticky hands. The pyre had burned bright in the darkness, presents, wooden sleigh and flesh melting together to form Edward Furfur’s gift to the world. No Christmas spirit for man or child this year; Christmas present and future never ever again.
Edward takes a good sour look at the white haired ancient man; who is as old as time itself, now chained to the barn wall; his once fine red suit, ripped and torn, his jolly fat face, bruised and battered. “Please... please help me, you don’t understand what you have done—“ pleads the old man in vain. Edward smiles at the old man, and is still smiling as he leaves the barn, putting the lights out on his way, allowing the darkness to return.