Saturday, December 21, 2019

Advent Ghosts 2019: The Stories

It's not at all what the small group you pried away from the paramountcy expected. You could tell that when you pounded up and pried away the ancient manhole cover, pulled them out into open, and felt the air, how it prickled the scalp, stung the lungs.

Cold. It was cold. No bleak desert. No merciless sun. No arid, choking dust.

You lead them as best you can for someone with no sense of where to go, scrambling through the ancient city's rubble, waiting for the invisible blight of radiation to bruise your skin and make your gums bleed. It doesn't. You wait for the monsters to fall upon you, the unnaturally formed abominations with their many fangs and mutated frames. They don't. You expect for thirst to grow unbearable not long after the last water skin is empty. You find the stream, find where it carved itself clean through a boulevard, an ice-lined channel of water flowing clean and clear.

You decide to stop when you discover the tree.

It rises straight up through the floor of some multi-story ruin, its needle-covered limbs dark and glossy green. Everyone gathers beneath it, staring up through its branches and the open, long-collapsed roof and, above that, the milky swirl of stars.

A sound out in the darkness. A clattering of rubble. Dimitri pops a flare, and Mikhail hefts his pneumatic gun, sighting this way and that in the gloom. The wind whips up, bitter as a goodbye kiss.

Then you feel a small hand in yours, look down to see liquid eyes in a place face. The child asks for the oldest thing of all, the thing that began when darkness was over the face of the deep.

She asks you for a story …

• "Cabinet Meeting" by William Gregory (see below)
• "Jemima and the Fell Beast" by David Llewellyn Dodds (see below)
• "Too Late" by Becky Rui (see below)
• "Wenceslas" and "Slice of Life" by Dan Dykstra (see below)
"Knotty" by Rhonda Parrish on Rhonda Parrish
"Christmas Miracle" by Linda Casper on Third Age
"The Deal" by Craig Scott on CS fantasy reviews
"Trueheart" by Loren Eaton on I Saw Lightning Fall
"Give a Dragon a Cookie" by Lester D. Crawford on Lester D. Crawford Blog
"Christmas Truce On The Western Front" by Kel Mansfield on Write Stuff
"Untitled" by Simon Kewin on Simon Kewin: Fantasy Author, Science Fictioneer, Writer of Worlds
"The Widow's Solstice" by Yvonne Osborne on The Organic Writer: Yvonne's Writing Blog
"Slide" by Elizabeth Gaucher on Esse Diem
"Town Square on a Midnight Clear" by Joseph D'Agnese on Joseph D'Agnese
"Return Visit" by Eric Douglas on Books By Eric Douglas
"And Since We Have No Place to Go..." by John Norris on Pretty Sinister Books
"Silver Belles" by Patrick Newman on Lefty Writes
"The Men in the Red Suits" by Michael Morse on Fire EMS Blogs
"Naughty or Nice" by Dave Higgins on Dave Higgins: A Curious Mind
"Peace on Earth" by R.S. Naifeh on Advent Ghosts: Short Theological Fictions for the Dead of Winter
"Just for Christmas" by Iseult Murphy on Iseult Murphy: Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction Author

* * *

"Cabinet Meeting"
by William Gregory

“Sir, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.”

Are we talking about Shifty Schiff?

“No Sir, it’s a reference to Santa Claus, but you get our meaning?”

Santa has screwed us for years! He can’t keep delivering presents without fair tariffs. And we don’t want his undocumented elf-workers coming across our northern border bringing drugs and crime. They’re rapists! Though some elves, I assume, are good people.

“Mr. President, it’s a metaphor. Santa isn’t real.”

You’re telling me Santa is a hoax? More fake news drummed up by the Democrats?

“Um, yes Sir.”

("Cabinet Meeting" copyright 2019 by William Gregory; used by permission)

* * *

"Jemima and the Fell Beast"
by David Llewellyn Dodds

Note: See this link for the historical background of the real Jemima.

Real dangers (including a Dragon) had only appeared when Jemima the hen fluttered through the mysterious Portal -top of her Cave-Tree (what had her Giant called it, when he spoke Chicken, Out There? – ‘Kiln’?). But now (trapped by her curiosity!), a huge, clawed Beast, white as the snow, snuffled to darken the low entrance, teeth glinting…

Then, over Its shoulder, the strangest Giant, slender, fur-chinned, blood-clad, eyes glistening –

“Don’t eat Jemima” (It spoke Chicken – In Here – and knew her name!). A snort: “I stick to the sweet, you thinuous…” “Karhu!” “Alright, Father Nicholas!” Plop! – a pouch of the sweetest corn!

("Jemima and the Fell Beast" copyright 2019 by David Llewellyn Dodds; used by permission)

* * *

"Too Late"
By Becky Rui

“Be quiet!”

“Why are you always bothering me?! Can’t you see I’m busy?”

“Don’t you ever listen?”


The angry words bounce around inside her head. But the room around her is quiet. Still. She shifts in her chair, the creaking of her bones louder than the ancient rocker she sits on.

She glances at the pictures of her children. Wonders if they look the same, it’s been so long since she saw them.

“I love you.”

The words evaporate, sucked into the void of the empty room. Quieter than the fistful of pills that rattle in her palm.

("Too Late" copyright 2019 by Becky Rui; used by permission)

* * *

By Dan Dykstra

The frost was cruel, the rude wind’s wild lament dashing through the dark streets. With painful steps and slow, a poor man came in sight. A child shivers in the cold.

“C-c-c-could you h-h-h-hurry, sir? I can g-g-g-go no lon-g-g-g-ger ...”

The bitter sting of tears.

“Your hands, they’re just like ice!”

“S-s-s-sir, what am I g-g-going to d-d-do?”

Forth they went together; the gloomy clouds of night echoing the clanging chimes of doom.

“You can count on me. Stay by my side.”

Down to the village.

“Enter in.” An open fire.



Death’s dark shadows.

Deep and dreamless sleep.

("Wenceslas" copyright 2019 by Dan Dykstra; used by permission)

* * *

"Slice of Life"
By Dan Dykstra

6:18am. Wednesday. He swings one leg out of bed, then the other. Goes and takes a shower. Brushes teeth, deodorizes, feeds the cats, brews some tea. Lows in the 20s. Yuck. Big coat again. Makes the short drive to the office, passing all the usual bullshit billboards. Shuffles some papers around. Hey coworker. Lunch is soup at his desk. A meeting. A phone call. Repeat. Bye boss. Out the door at 5:01. Picks up frozen DiGiornio. Hey cats. Eats the whole thing by accident while Netflixing. A self-medicinal shot of whiskey. Facebook in bed. Rubs one out. 6:18am. December 26.

("Slice of Life" copyright 2019 by Dan Dykstra; used by permission)


Loren Eaton said...

Mr. Gregory,

Hold on a moment: Do you actually have the temerity to say that Santa isn't REAL?!

Loren Eaton said...


O.K., that was fascinating. I'm definitely going to need to read more about Jemima. I had no idea she was connected in any way with C.S. Lewis.

Loren Eaton said...


As a parent, yours hits close to home. Did you ever see Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Orphanage"? A lot of similarities here. (Dreadfully depressing film, though.)

Loren Eaton said...


Man, I was really hoping the boy made it out. Although, in a way, I guess he did.

Becky said...

Thank you. I did not see “The Orphanage” and I think it’s safe to say I won’t after that parenthetical review :) This was based off a really bad parenting day - and then I thought, what would make it worse? Merry Christmas!

Simon Kewin said...

Mine's up here:

Not sure if my email made it through the snow!

Loren Eaton said...

Thank, Simon! I had not, indeed, gotten your email. Something weird is going on with it this year.

Is there any particular title you'd like me to post for this one?

Elizabeth Gaucher said...

Just in case: "Slide" is upon Esse Diem:

Chestertonian Rambler said...

Too Late is fantastic.

Yvonne Osborne said...

All very good and clever. This was fun!