Saturday, December 17, 2016

Advent Ghosts 2016: The Stories

The periodic purges have begun, jackboots tromping through the frosty night. No one knows how they began, what petty bureaucratic infringement sparked the settling of old scores, the creation of new ones. We’ve killed the lights for safety’s sake, because who would think this old hovel with its icy stove and chinked walls and cracked windows was inhabited? A hoarded blanket flung over the scarred table in the dining room serves as our shelter, and we huddle beneath it for warmth, lifting a corner now and then to peer out at the fissured glass, at the roving lights striking white against shifting sheets of snow. But then the howling starts, bellows of fear and pain and something that could almost be called delight. We shiver as one. It has nothing to do with the cold. We let the blanket drop, knowing that no human throat could’ve made some of those sounds, knowing that we won’t dare to raise it again until the sun stands tall in the sky, knowing that there are things worse than the secret police out in the darkness.

We stare at the blanket's patchwork surface. Tough, undyed homespun. A section of chiffon. A swath of powder-blue cloth printed with puppies. A match flares, finds the precious stub of a candle. A trembling hand passes around a flask. A low voice starts to sing about bells wild and sweet, catches on a soft sob, and stops.

Please, dear friend, come here. Warm your hands, recall the old songs, pass the night with us. And while you're here, don’t forget to tell us a story ...

• "Into the Void" and "A Condo Christmas" by William Gregory (see below)
• "I-Bowndyn" by David Llewellyn Dodds (see below)
"The Trampoline" by Kel Mansfield on Kel Mansfield: Write Stuff
"It's Only ..." by Loren Eaton on I Saw Lightning Fall
"Under the Mistletoe" and "Tree" by Craig Scott on CS Fantasy Reviews

"Christmas Eve at the Tree Farm, Candler, North Carolina" by Joseph D'Agnese on Joseph D'Agnese
"What's Under the Tree?" by Phil Wade on Brandywine Books
"Nose" by Lester D. Crawford on Lester D. Crawford Blog
"Mother and Child, West of the World" by R.S. Naifeh on Advent Ghosts: Short Theological Fictions for the Dead of Winter
"Bethlehem‘s Star" by Rhonda Parrish on Rhonda Parrish
"Fresh Paint" by David Higgins on Davetopia: Fragments of a Curious Mind
"The Elves Are Busy" by Michael Morse on Rescuing Providence
"Ever Here" by Paula Gail Benson on Little Sources of Joy
"Birth of a God" and "Data Breach Expected to Have Consequences" by Eric Douglas on Books by Eric Douglas
"This Old House" by Patrick Newman on Lefty Writes
"It's Not Mama" by Elizabeth Damewood Gaucher on Esse Diem
"Scrawled on Memo Line of Giant Novelty Check Presented by Blackgall Creamery to Diluvian Street Firehouse Rebuilding Fund Dated 12/25/1985" by Manuel Royal on Donnetown Today or Recently (or a Long Time Ago)
"Finally Alone" by Simon Cantan on Simon Cantan: Science Fiction and Fantasy That Moves
"Cold Comfort" by Katherine Tomlinson on Kattomic Energy
* * *

"Into The Void"
By William Gregory

The blank white space is overwhelming. Intimidating. I take a deep breath. Settle myself. My mind.

Standing before me a void. Nothingness. Thoughts of failure. A palpable fear and dread.

Why? Why do I keep coming back?

A small blinking light in the corner. Beckoning.

Another deep breath. Go forward. You’ve done it before. You can do it again.

I press the keys and the first word appears. I begin down a path unknown. A sense of where it may lead, but never knowing where or how it will end. This is the adventure I seek. I am a writer.

("Into The Void" copyright 2016 by William Gregory; used by permission)

* * *

"A Condo Christmas"
By William Gregory

Apartment 5A: “I feel so honored to have my children here tonight. Nothing makes a father or I should say, new grandfather, happier than having all his children with him for the holidays.”

Apartment 6B: “More wine honey? It’s so nice to spend our first Christmas together.” “To new beginnings!” “To dreams come true!”

Apartment 8C: “Mommy, when will Santa be here? Can we stay up? Can we put the cookies out now? Please??? Oh Please????”

Apartment 1D: Too cold on the roof. Razor is too messy. (And you’ve tried that before dumbass.) Xannies and Popov? (Yeah) “Merry Fucking Christmas!”

("Into The Void" copyright 2016 by William Gregory; used by permission)

* * *

By David Llewellyn Dodds

Darkness, confusion, buried alive, like a well, a building-collapse. Light, sound, voice, crashing into head, heart, so fine, clear, certain – all suddenly gone, what long years ago? Borne, patiently, hope carbonized to diamond in the dark. Now, what rumor (how?) stirring, of excavation – of more than restoration? What glint, in the depths, sheltered roundabout? What surge from root to branch to bud? “Yirmiyahu, – ” “O, Yeshayahu, what a city of grey desolation is this, we’ve not escaped the making of: how the sorrow weighs against hope…” “No!: hear that submerged ghostly breath of joy in the womb, ‘Eloi!’ – He nears!”

("I-Bowndyn" copyright 2016 by David Llewellyn Dodds; used by permission)


Paula Gail Benson said...

The variety and quality of this year's entries is outstanding. It's a great day for reading!

Phil W said...

I'll take a warm ale, barkeep, and whatever soup you've have. I plan to settle here for a while.

Loren Eaton said...

Mr. Gregory,

I see that you and I share similar sentiments about the challenges of composition. However, may I suggest that you chase your vodka with a bit of orange juice and a nap rather than prescription mess?

Loren Eaton said...

David, have you ever read Colin Cutler's The Ward of Heaven and the Wyrm in the Sea? I'll admit that I haven't had the pleasure yet, but from what I understand, Cutler takes familiar Christian concepts and remythologizes them -- much like you've done here. Nicely written.