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I haven't posted for a while but I thought I'd share a short story that I sent to Apex Magazine for their Christmas Invasion Flash Competition. I didn't get in but I still liked my story, and my little pun in the title!
(Mistletoe belongs to the order of plants Santalale - apologies, I just couldn't resist.)
Santalale's Coming to Town
Fran paused in her wrapping, listened with a smile to the sound of happy laughter drifting up from the hallway; the silence that had accompanied the emptying of her nest banished for just a few precious weeks. There is a way to keep them here …
Fran dismissed the whisper; a side-effect of her new medication, it would settle down soon.
“Deck the halls …”
Outside, her orchard looked strangely barren in the gloomy winter light. The leaves had long fallen but the mistletoe, her Santalale, had garlanded the boughs for many years. Now that had gone. Like her family. But she could keep them …
“Bring the mistletoe inside, Dan,” she’d said to her eldest, making a sudden decision. She’d had enough of being alone. “All of it. It’ll make a lovely decoration.”
“Don’t go under the mistletoe with anyone …” His wife singing.
Silence. A pause. Low murmurs. Then the continued rustle of foliage as it was draped over banisters, coiled along hallways. A deeper silence.
Fran made her way downstairs. They’re yours now.
All she had to do was join them. Be a good host. Her hand brushed a tendril and she watched in detached fascination as its tiny tip pierced her flesh and wriggled its way in, taking root.
It won’t hurt, the voice had promised.
There was a moment’s pang when she saw her grandson succumb to the invader’s embrace. But that passed.
They were all together now … and not just for Christmas.
The Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree waited patiently at the bottom of the garden. It was nearly time. From behind, the others rustled their bare branches in expectation. They were old and nobody came for them any more. It did not matter, Christmas was a time for sharing and they would still enjoy the festivities.
A new family had moved into the house in the summer and three young children had spent those distant hazy days running in and out of the trees, hiding from grown-ups and tormenting the ageing dog that had come with them. The mother had spotted the tree during one of their games and made a mental note that it would be the perfect tree for Christmas. The high-ceilinged rooms of their house demanded the presence of such a majestic specimen.
The first day of the holidays had been spent putting the finishing touches to the decorations that now hung around the house until all that was needed was the tree. She had sent the children on ahead of her whilst she gathered together the angel and the little wooden soldiers that were to adorn its branches, listening with half-an-ear to the sound of their youthful laughter echoing through the cold night air.
Her sons ran wildly in the happy beam of the moon, darting between frost-trimmed branches that glittered as brightly as any tinsel, releasing their pent up energy into the darkness. The moon loved this time of year, when the children would come to decorate the tree.
As their mother called to them from the house, the boys dived beneath the tree's branches, stifling their giggles, trying to ignore the scratch of needles. They loved to hide from her and the tree helped them. It curled its limbs around their waists, gripping them tightly, lifting them up, silencing them before they realised what was happening. Then the tree stilled itself, waiting as the mother approached her children's hiding place and started to creep quietly into the darkness, ready to make them jump, not expecting the surprise in store for her as a branch dug its needles into clothes and flesh so that she too was held prisoner. She struggled fiercely but the tree was obstinate and refused to give her up, piercing her body with its knife-edge leaves so that she too had no choice but to stay.
The mother's protests, sung as loudly as any carol, were ignored as she was lifted higher and higher, past the bodies of her children that now dangled like little wooden soldiers in their crimson coats, up and up until she cleared the topmost boughs to be placed almost reverently at its peak. The finishing touch, a dusting of frost, made her shimmer as brightly as any angel.
The others let out a gentle sigh of approval, a shared delight in the decorations that now adorned the tree. Christmas had finally come.
A writer - I think that says it all.