Christmas Friendship Fiction

These days, I avoid drama, crowds, and confrontation. I avoid them like the plague.

Because here, drama, crowds and confrontation only ever lead to either a fight or what I call a “rush”.

All lead to injury. And I’m terrified of being injured - again.

The last and only time I was injured was the worst time of my life. The injury itself and the memory of what happened before and after still haunts me. I’m terrified that if I get caught up in another rush or brawl, and get hurt again, I’ll have to relive that day over. It’ll kill me. It’s only a matter of time. Without him here to protect me, the “rush” will one day consume me.


It escalates quickly here. If something drastic happens, or someone gets into a flap about his given portion, it’s inevitable that a large crowd will gather. To either fight or rush or both.

It’s hell for someone like me. I am pint-sized and puny, perhaps an unfortunate feature inherited from an unfortunate breeding stock. My size draws negative attention from just about everyone, giving the perception that I am weak and only worthy of being stepped on. Easy pickings: or so the bullies tell me. But not Terrence…

So, I resolve to keep to the side-lines. On any given day, I do laps around the perimeter just to keep out of trouble. I busy myself with routine - I count fruitlessly the same seven strip lights that have illuminated every waking hour since the day I arrived here. Somehow the presence of the blinding lights, animating our shared space, makes me feel safe. The static light, though unnatural, beams down on us with a static but unwavering aura. They are always on, they are always there. Dependable. There’s something in that. So, I gaze up to keep grounded.


Before the injury and that terrible day, when I wasn’t engaged with the lights, I was more adventurous. I’ve always been introverted but back then, I had more punk in me. I could and would challenge myself to tear my eyes away from the dazzling safety of the lights and cross the ocean of loud, rowdy bullies to find Terrence in the crowd. Thinking about it now, I believe Terrence was the reason for those periods of bravery and ambition. When Terrence was around, I had a reason to break with routine and venture out. When Terrence was around, I had a reason to live with purpose.


I arrived here alone, lost in a herd of similarly aged kids. I don’t know my parents. I don’t have any allies. I am a scrawny specimen and apparently the lowest in the pecking order. I am therefore living a purposeless and predictable existence:

I sleep (besides others),

I eat (after others),

I defecate (on top of others),

I shuffle around the

perimeter (away from others).

Day in, day out.

Since I arrived here, nothing has really changed. And so, I concluded a long time ago that I am here for an unknown time and purpose and the best thing I can do to keep

sane is to lie low in a routine and keep to myself.

That was until Terrence intercepted my one hundred and fiftieth lap one mundane day and challenged me, after an unlikely friendship blossomed, that there is more to life than clinging to the side-lines. It was Terrence who persuaded me to take in each day, to do more than just exist and observe.


We all live in a commune, a place where privacy and quiet do not exist. It is inescapable and suffocating and of course is the perfect breeding ground for brawls and flocking.

But Terrence didn’t let that - or anything else - bother him. He was one of the Elders. I never found out his age, but he possessed that wisdom, bravado and distinctive wrinkled red beard that sent a message that he was not to be toyed with. He was respected, listened to and made way for by everyone alike - even the youngest ladies clucked and cooed over him!

And so it was truly inspirational, when I would steal myself away from routine to spot aged but agile Terrence moving, not with pride but purpose, through our space dispersing his wise words and actions to stop us all from killing each other. It was truly an honour when he would look up, catch me watching him and gesture for me to come. 

Roe, he’d shout over the incessant squawking and chattering of the commune; come walk with me. And

in that moment, I’d forget my fear. Like Peter stepping out on the stormy waters to meet Jesus, I would answer the call to go to the one who made me believe that there was hope.


Although Terrence was a saviour figure to me, he insisted there wasn’t anything, not omniscience or omnipotence, God-inspiring in him. He was in his own words “just a regular Tom” who’d lived long enough to appreciate things. He’d seen the comings and goings of many, made multiple friends only for them to be selected, leave and never be

seen again. That is the way of our commune. It is a steady stream of the same confused and unspectacular bodies, arriving, growing and then moving on.

“Where do they go, Terrence?” I remember asking my mentor multiple times. I’d try to keep up with

him as he’d nudge through the adorning huddles, greeting each with a word of advice or rebuke along the way.

“Kid, you’ll drive yourself crazy speculating about what’s going on around here. You gotta stop. You know what I’ve always told you - take stock of today. Be thankful for

what’s in front of you. It’s all we’ve got, so relish it. I was fortunate to have met my Grandgobble, Last thing he told me was to stop flapping over tomorrow, It’ll take care of itself. When the time comes, seize it. But for now- we wait whilst we move.”


Terrence believed that there was a purpose for us in the commune. The truth was no one, not even the

Elders, knew exactly why we had all been transported here and left to fend for ourselves in this hostile sterile environment. There was a sense of expectation in the air. An expectation that we were in this commune until we weren’t. The unexplained appearing and disappearing of our fellow folk was the only change, the only excitement (besides a lecture or a walk with Terrence) that consumed my mind. It was the only topic of conversation (if we were all feeling particularly civilized towards each other, which was rare) over our shared mealtimes. Although I would rarely be invited to hear or participate in such discussions. I relied on my wonderful confidant to share the privileged musings when he’d eventually locate me after the feasting, always with a gift of leftover prime food. The bullies, the bigger fatter older folk, who’d appoint themselves as leaders and shove their heavyset selves forward to receive the best food, deemed me unworthy. Much to Terrence’s objections, he could do

little, but physically protect me from their attempted assaults - his burly

size also earned his respect. I got used to being pushed to the back. I

was and still am no match for them and I do not wish to be - I do not want to fight or be hurt again. Living on the scraps is the hand I have been dealt. So, I still give thanks and eat my share, just as Terence taught me, even though he is no longer around to provide an extra serving.

Being ostracized to last place is humiliating, but it keeps me safe and away from the vicious nature of entitlement that circles the camp especially around mealtimes. A

majority of our brawling, fighting and injury occurs at mealtimes and because of food.

Everyone is fighting for survival; everyone is fighting to be seen.

There is one thing that seems to be true about our circumstances. It is always the well-fed who are

selected. It is the privileged that disappears first. And so everyone, it

seems intrigued by the unknown life outside of this endless loop, wants to be selected. So they fight. To survive, to get fat and become worthy to leave this place for the hope of something better. Some fight and get hurt, whilst some fight and get killed. A risk I am too traumatised to take. Because I cannot get hurt, getting hurt will trigger the memories of that day. I cannot relive that day.


But as the saying goes, as Terence taught me, even the best laid plans (or routines) are laid to waste…


There’s a special time of year where the disappearance of folk happens more frequently. Almost daily, in fact. Like a thief in the night, they are stolen away from us by dawn.

At this time of year, we are woken up to eat, poop and rub against each other in bodies pulsing from the effects of the strangely coloured objects added to our extra rations of

food. At this time of year, the seven strip lights overhead feel hotter but the concrete beneath our feet still feels colder. This period is the best chance for all - young, old, big, scrawny - at being selected. Size, though it helps you, doesn’t seem to matter as much as other times in the year. Selection seems chaotic - as much of us as possible seems to be the strategy. This period flies

around quickly, it comes and goes and soon it is back again. But the commune feasts on the extra portions as though we are starving, as though the trays of golden grain will be cruelly snatched away from us if we don’t gobble it down. During this time, I stay well away from the herds that descend on the trays when we hear the bell clanging. There is a stampede and an expected match

between violent bodies and noisy vocalization begins. When the bell rings, there is pushing, stamping, pecking, kicking, consuming. It is hard to not get pulled in. Though I cling to the sidelines desperately praying that I am not knocked over, I am rarely successful, and the herd carries my flimsy frame, with ease, away into the chaos.

But in all my years here, in all the times I’ve been swept away, I have managed to escape unscathed. It is because of Terence. It is all because of Terence.

Somehow midst the stampede, Terence was unflappable; Terence was able to keep his head above. It

was and remains a mystery how he could part the seas, spot little me tossing about in the waves, pluck me out of danger and set me down in safety - I will never know. But what I do know is he truly was my friend, provider and saviour.

Terence never failed me. I learnt quickly, as friendship, days and age spanned, that I could depend

on him. No matter how tough the bullies or rough the mealtimes, I knew I would be okay, I knew I would survive when his dark but cooling shadow rose over me.

I knew if I could shuffle into his clutches, the impending threat had no chance against him. As long as Terence was around, I had hope for a peaceful existence, until my time came to go beyond the commune. Terence never failed me

- until the day he did.



“Terrence?” I whispered.

A moment silence.

“Yeah kid?”

“What time’s it?”

“Late, kid. Late”

“Well how late?”

Terrence chuckled.

“Why? You got somewhere

to be, kid?” We both knew the answer to that.

“No sir.” I replied,

feeling a little grin spread across my face.

“Then pipe down a bit.

The rest of us are trying to get some shut eye.” There’s an agreeing cluck from the closest nester from within the darkness. 

I closed my eyes though it didn’t make a difference - we were sitting in darkness whether we had our

eyes open or not. The strip lamps were off and the only light was from the small hatches high above our heads. I opened an eye and noticed the white speckles that appeared often at that time of year flashing against the hatch glass.

I tried to relax, tried to replicate Terence’s solid and calm pose but I couldn’t sit still. I was bothered by the situation. We were waiting for the bell. It was late and we were still waiting for the bell. Which was a problem because it meant that not only was something in the structure that controls our days wrong but also, we had not been fed. We were hungry.

And hunger breeds discontent. And discontent leads to insanity and fighting.

I felt Terrence’s warmth radiating through the air between us but despite our proximity, unease began to peck at me. Something was wrong. Why haven’t we been fed? Why is there a delay?

Upon the instruction of the Elders led by Terence, the commune were attempting to stifle off agitation

by resting. But had been some time and still nothing had happened. In that moment, I could hear the rumbles from stomachs and throats starting.

“Terence,” I tried again, a little later. I was shivering, the white speckles thrashed down harder against

the glass. “Terence, do you think they’ve forgotten about us?”

“Shut it” an irritated voice snapped, “Didn’t you hear what Terence said?”

I grimaced and shuffled back instinctively, anticipating the threat to suddenly attack me. I waited

expectantly for Terence’s action.

But it didn’t come.

I felt gloomy that he had

managed to find peace and sleep with an empty stomach on a freezing cold night.

I wished I could harness his ease.

When the bully went silent too, I moved closer again through the darkness towards Terence,

imagining he had fallen asleep. But to my confusion as I reached out, I couldn’t find him. At least I couldn’t feel him, I could no longer detect his warm aura.

Suddenly, the sound of the bell startled us all. And in one terrifying second, the lights flashed on,

wired mechanical doors clattered open and the starved sprinted from slumber to life. 

There was a literal whoosh of cold air as the others resting in our section thundered towards me. I was too slow, helpless and dazed to stop it and instantly, they collided into

me with devastating force.

I screamed: No, Stop, Get back but I was tumbling. The unexpected period of darkness and starvation had proven too much - hunger drove the pack over me as they exited the compound on route for the delight of the golden grain. They stamped and kicked with no mercy and I felt every blow of their wild clawed feet, every swat of heavily feathered wings and every lunge of jostling necks. I screamed for my life, screamed for Terence. But no one heard me, no one cared, no one saved me. I was left battered on the floor and unable to see the lights, obscured by the bodies

over me, or feel Terrence’s soothing shadow over me, I thought I was going to die.

When I was reintroduced to the commune, some weeks later, I was a nervous wreck. Recovery had been long and hard, so I was desperately to search for Terrence. I imagined I’d instantly see his striking red bearded head swaying with vitality above everyone else’s. Or hear his reassuring voice as he’d turn to acknowledge me and call me to come. But I didn’t. I never saw or heard from him again. That terrible cold night was the last time Terrence graced us with his wise but aged presence. That terrible cold December night, his light went out. And with his light, protection, hope and a future was snuffed out of me.



So, these days I go back to my routine. I stay back, and I gaze up at the lights. No one really knows why they failed that night, and I am relieved that they have remained alight. They are always on. Always there. They have not failed me since…


What just happened?

The commune suddenly falls into pitch darkness.

And in one terrifying second, the clucking of discontent rises around me. At the very same time, I remember the pain of the previous power cut – losing myself and losing my true light Terrence.

I realise I am now a defenceless, blind and lonely specimen.

I start screaming.

December 22, 2023 21:40

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


20:20 Dec 24, 2023

Nicely done Kelita.a real aha! moment when I figured it out. Thanks for sharing Happy Christmas!


Kelita Sim
14:45 Dec 28, 2023

Thanks so much Derrick ☺️


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
J. D. Lair
22:00 Dec 23, 2023

Such an entertaining read Kelita! I thought it was a prison at first, then perhaps a foster care facility. Never expected what it actually was until about halfway through lol. Well done!


Kelita Sim
07:38 Dec 24, 2023

Thanks so much. Ha, really? I'm glad it kept you guessing, trying to drop as much clues as possible without spoiling it : _) Merry Christmas


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.