Okay, fair warning, I was listening to Fairytale of New York, which is not exactly the most cheerful Christmas song.
And I had that lyric stuck in my head, Happy Christmas you Arse, Pray God it’s Our Last. But I thought it said Thank God it’s Our last, and I was like… no it ain’t, you’re young. And besides, why’d you want it to be?
Why yes, I argue with song lyrics all the time. Where’ve you been?
Fae apoc, but human protagonists or at least not using magic or the Law.
Content warning aside from “not really cheerful” is… this is set in the middle of an apocalypse. Implied off-screen deaths.
Um, but now that I’ve written a whole microfiction of lead-in to this story…
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it’s our last (but no, not really)
They bombed Athens (Georgia) on December 23rd, and that — that was that.
We’d been doing our best to pretend that the world was going to go back to normal, denying reality to beat the band, going on with our lives — work and school, pinball and darts Thursdays and Fridays and hikes in the park on the weekends; the kids were still playing soccer and baseball, doing cheerleading and gymnastics and karate and Kung fu, and all we’d done to acknowledge that the world was quite likely to change was to grocery shop a little more intently, give a little more money to charities, and make sure all our camping gear was up to snuff.
And pray. We’d done a lot of that, but silently, sitting in the back of the church and praying to god that this was just a bad dream, that all those people in Seattle, in Las Vegas, in New York City, in Greece and Spain and Russia, Japan and India and Zimbabwe and Liberia, that they’d all be okay, that some of them would be okay, that even one person, one family, would bee okay.
But mostly, mostly we pretended it was going to get better. Mostly, we pretended it was another problem that we couldn’t do anything about, that was just somewhere nearby and not… not really real.
When they bombed Athens, we ran out of excuses. We stared at the news after the kids had gone to bed and held each other close and opened that bottle of wine we’d been saving for a special occasion.
We listened to White Christmas and Holly Jolly Christmas and Santa Baby and drank wine until we cried, and then we listened to Silent Night.
“One last Christmas,” we agreed. “We’ll make it a blas — no. A blow-o— no. Damn it! We’ll make it a celebration. A real celebration. A Merry Christmas.”
There wasn’t any room for denial anymore. The US had bombed an American city. They’d — to be honest, we couldn’t even really know if there’d been anyone human left to kill. But they’d destroyed it, bombed our own land, our own place.
This wasn’t going to get better. The rolling blackouts weren’t going to stop. The gas shortages, the food shortages, those weren’t going to stop, either.
We spent the morning of Christmas Eve cooking packable meals and then packing them in every hoarded take-out container and disposable Tupperware and cookie tin. The kids didn’t really know what was going on — or, at least, we didn’t say what was going on, but none of them, even the baby (“not a baby,” she’d insist, and she was six and definitely not an infant, but you always wanted your youngest to stay young forever, or so my mother had told me.), none of them were stupid, and I’d seen the drawings they’d done and the essays our oldest had written.
The kids helped without, well, not without argument, they are kids, but without real complaint. The middle child brought all of the hidden containers and dishes from his room and washed them all, so we’d have more things to pack in.
And then we went downtown caroling, down to the places where people slept, even now, down to the places where they panhandled, and we — we didn’t sing Joy to the World, but we sang Away in a Manger and we sang We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Jingle Bells and, of course, Silent Night, and the panhandlers and the homeless, they sang along.
It was almost magical, if the word “magic” hadn’t left a permanently bad taste in my mouth. It was a little sweet and a lot exactly what we needed to do.
When we’d run out of food, we bought coffees and cocoas and the last of the bagels from a coffee shop. When that was done, when we thought we might have fed as many people as we could and the sun had set, we went home.
The day after tomorrow, we were going to pack up everything we could fit in two cars, and we were going to head somewhere… else. There were places in the hills where we hiked that were pretty empty, even when people (people with less skill in denial, or less connection to the former world, or maybe just with a better sense of self-preservation than us) had been fleeing the cities and the burbs for months. The kids knew that place, and they liked the silly lodge that hadn’t been updated since the fifties except a couple tacky repairs, and they liked the playground behind that was just as ridiculous.
Tomorrow, we were going to open presents, too many presents, books and clothes and toys, stuff that had been on their lists and stuff they could enjoy without power, without internet.
Tonight, we decorated a tree and we sang our hearts out until the baby was nearly asleep and even the oldest was a little sniffly.
When we were almost ready to put them to bed, our middle child looked at us. “We should do this next year,” he told me sincerely. “I mean it. Even if — Mrs. Thompson showed us how people used to cook on fire. And solar ovens! And um, horses and buggies. We could do it again next year.”
I kissed his forehead and put him to bed, and I went to our bed and I, I admit, I cried a little.
Not because tomorrow was going to be our last Christmas, but because my 7-year-old was a wise man indeed, and because tomorrow wouldn’t be our last.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds. They were safe, and healthy, and alive. And we all settled down for a long winter’s nap.