The first Christmas

Submitted into Contest #118 in response to: Set your story during a sudden change of season.... view prompt


Fiction Fantasy

Winter came earlier that year. The wind saw cities collapse. Surrendering to the tempest of October. The hearths of millions could not keep homes warm. This is how I started. This is my tale.

In the month before Christmas, when Christmas was not yet marketed or truly existing, and when my clothes and skin still reeked of gut-spillage, shame and defeat, and when the strike of midnight anaesthetized the rare drunks consistently awake, the good-for-nothing ice-prince arrived on the shores of his new homeland. In this story, I am the prince and there were no shores. Fantasy is what makes it special, however, and I intend to use it extensively in my tellings.

The gruff pads of failure had enclosed tightly around my throat, I wore them like an expensive scarf. I remember from this inn the cheap scent of ale, bargain-basement wine turned vinegar, the cinnamon and baked-dough scents from the back kitchen, the smoke of dancing candlelights. I remember the whispers that followed my entrance and would not ever again leave me in the following years. Clearly, some stigma was implied, I know the looks, I have known them my entire life. In the shadow of my more radiant brother, in the shackles of a justice that was not mine, in the contemptuous treachery of my enemies. Power is misunderstood, so are its insignias. I was covered in them, a royal stranger but here? A misfit. Which I did not mind, not really. I have been alone in my skin for centuries.

Regarding the coming of my story, how the tales of the silver-haired prince came to life, I am to this day not entirely certain. I am sure there was liquor and slurring involved, possibly I indulged in the dictum of my venal refrain, explained my despotic greed, abused the memory of my wont supporters. The question of legacy was brought up, the legends of winter: how I’d defeated the great white-lion and carved my weapons in its bones on the day of my coronation. How I’d allied with the creatures of the woods, wolves and deers, to attain the peak of my power. Rise above. How I’d lived amongst the elves and learned from them the intricacies of magick. How I’d preached the word of a hero determined to redesign the future, how I’d gathered men and women alike from all around my world to the upbringing of my army: the children of Nix. All of which I’d saved from their own doom. Me, the worldly-wise dictator of hope. I have redistributed the spirit of winter in the hearts of my faithful children, I told everyone who listened.

In the years that followed that night, I had settled abode in old New York, adjusting to life on Earth. I had tried ignoring the publication of poems and books vaguely chronicling the lifestory of a winter-man dressed in red and silver-white. Over the years, more stories were published and shared with this world. The distorted perceptions of drunken writers, I realized. A disenchanted comparison to my glorious backstory: the elves ridiculed, the deers tamed, my hostile army turned to innocent infants. I have watched the idealism of a king fall to child-stories over the years. Sat back and silent as this world painted a risible picture of me: old, fat, cheerful. The truth? I was never interested in the affairs of this world before this world scorned mines.

In the 1830s, I came to wonder about the definition of a good life. What is it, what it might mean or imply. It started with a better comprehension of my own drive, the endless seeking of vainglory. How I’d been deprived of it for too long. I was envious of leaders, politicians, and celebrities. Envious is not the word for it, it is too kind. I was resentful. I am a believer in power earned and power entitled. A believer of leaders born, not made. I was born for power, I never doubted that but for some time in this world? I let myself forget. I began to see an opportunity in the free, and dishonest, advertising of my tale. I was so gone, so fallen. No kingdom or empire for me to reclaim, not here. But power might have taken on a different shape here… And so could I.

Christmas was never about presents, it wasn’t. I resented whoever made it seem like it. Christmas was about my legacy, the spirit of winter. Something I intended for people to remember for a long time. My work began in that cold winter as I bound my blood to the crisping soil under my feet. I stayed here for twelve days, incanting. Eyes closed, palms flat against the snow and ice, draining from adult minds the energy of happiness and faith, exhaling its powering combination in the minds of children. The rate of suicides increased tenfold that year but the spirit of Christmas was truly born. Over the course of the following years, I traveled the world like a hermit, and repeated the same action again and again and again, until my spirit roamed the veins of earth worldwide. Always, there was a cost to such spell-binding. Always, the reward exceeded my expectations. On Christmas Eve, the ground remembered my sacrifices and connected with me. I could feel all children, the bonds to their minds all tickling the tips of my fingers in hyperconnection. The children of Nix were reborn, I declared, content. I whispered in to them the secrets of winter, the spirit of it. A love for the cold and an appreciation for the moment spent in its hurtful delight. The seasonal gratitude, the hopefulness that came with it. A dream-song of silent nights, beautiful in its silver dress. What is power, I have asked myself this a good many times. This is the tale of my understanding of it: power is more than control, power is vision. And when mine is shared by an entire people? I am powerful.

My Christmas-songs have become lifelong traditions. The trees, the lights. The hot drinks and baked goods. Carolling, skating. All of it is a symbol of success, I choose to see it that way. The truth is, my memory has survived centuries. Strengthened, even. Victory is more powerful than a crown, I conclusively established this in my years crafting my way to it. I have carefully architected the blueprints of Christmas for decades on. Marketing, children and capitalism have built the rest. What generates so much income is not a legend dying, not anytime soon. So, who am I now? I have relegated the hermit shoes to an old chest, locked my traveling years away. I find that preaching the spirit of winter is a more materialistic endeavour today. While Santa Claus was once the wanderer clad in red leather and white fur, you can find him in a town on the outskirts of Springfield, Massachusetts wearing the same clothes and smiles you wear. You can imagine him, the old man. Not so old incidentally, younger-looking than in most legends. With the enigmatic look on him, his piercing blue eyes and the hair he’s changed to a more human colour. He’s running a christmas tree farm, has grown its trees for years, maybe. There are lines of them, decorated, undecorated, covered in snow come December. On these days you can hear the distinct sound of a bell every time a family picks their tree, the tinkling of metal against metal. You can smell the smell of mulled-wine risen from the small cabin too.

This is me, I am him. Hidden in man-clothes, homeowner, a red ford truck in the driveway, a foster kid in the guest bedroom. The title of town mayor to look nice. The occasional business trips to New York and Boston. And if you are nowhere near Springfield? You can find the same town, the same tree farm, the same people down in Colorado, or Vermont. Close to Yosemite, and again near Cody. In every place that I’ve linked to my blood in return for something unspeakable. It’s like I said: once the door is opened on Christmas, it’s impossible to shut it close.

Who am I? I have had countless names. I have been Prince Nix, and traitor Nix. I have been Saint. Nicholas and Father Christmas. I have been Santa Claus, I have been every shade of red and white. I have been a murderer and a saviour. I have been an assassin and sometimes a guide. I have been your Hallmark-dream and Tim Burton-mare. Right now I’m just Nix, Winter.

October 30, 2021 17:28

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