A Christmas Fable

I topped a rise and stood on the crest of the jagged mountain peak. Above me, the sky glowed like molten copper. Black clouds formed above the peak, twisting into lurid demon shapes before dissipating in the dry wind. The air was hot, only a little cooler than a blast furnace, and smelled of rotten eggs.

I wiped my brow and sat on an outcropping of quartz-veined rock. Below me, a sea of bubbling lava lapped at the base of the black mountain. This was the end of the line. I could go no further.

I slid down to the ground, leaned back against the rock and closed my eyes. I was out of water, out of food and out of options. The dimensional gate that had brought me to this cozy little corner of Hell was gone; destroyed by a Cyberdemon’s rocket. I was going to die, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.

It’s not that I am afraid of death. God knows I have seen enough of it. I just wished I could have seen my wife and kid one more time. Just to say goodbye.

I looked at my watch. It was midnight, December 24, Christmas Eve. In a few ticks of the clock, Christmas would dawn back on Earth. I kept my watch on Central Standard Time. That way, when I looked at it, I could imagine what Sarah, my wife and Jessica, my daughter were doing. It made me feel a little bit closer to home. A little bit closer to them.

I leaned my head against the rock and closed my eyes. I had stopped sweating. My body just didn’t have the moisture to spare. My tongue felt thick and I was having trouble breathing. It wouldn’t be long now.

Christmas Eve. Sarah probably just got Jessica to bed. Jess was always a bundle of energy on the night before Christmas. In my mind I could see Sarah tucking Jess into bed, waiting while she said her prayers, and then admonishing her to stay put so that Santa could do his work.

“He doesn’t need a little girl getting in the way,” Sarah would say. “You’re not the only little girl he has to visit tonight, you know.” Jess would always agree, but it usually took a few tries to get her settled and sleeping.

I started feeling cooler. A bad sign. My body temperature was rising. If it got high enough, my brain would cook. What a way to go.

“Dear God,” I croaked, “please watch over Sarah and Jessica for me.” If I could have mustered the tears, I probably would have cried.

“I love you both,” I whispered, and waited for the end.

“Such a lonely place,” I heard a voice say. I opened my eyes and then blinked. My brain must be boiling. A man was standing in front of me.

“Who are you?” I whispered. The man was dressed in a one-piece jumpsuit, red with black trim. I couldn’t tell his age. At first, I thought he was old, his hair and eyebrows were white but his eyes were bright, almost youthful.

He knelt beside me and put a canteen to my mouth. The water was cold and it was the best thing I had ever tasted in my life. “Not too much,” the man said. “Just enough to wet your lips and tongue. That’s it.”

“Thanks,” I said hoarsely. “Who are you? How did you get here?”

“Which would you like me to answer first?” He asked me smiling.

“The first one,” I said.

“I’m a friend.”

“What about the second one?”

“Well, that is easier to show,” he said. “Let me help you up.”

The man grabbed me by the arm and lifted me up with surprising strength. I stood, a little shakily. He kept a firm grip on my arm.

“Are you ready?” He asked.

“Ready for what?” He just smiled at me, reached into his pocket, pulled out a handful of gold dust and tossed it into the air. The dust hung in the air sparkling like a thousand fireflies.

“This way,” he said, pulling gently on my arm. I followed him into the golden cloud—

And stepped into the living room of my home back on Earth. “My brain must be boiling. This can’t be real,” I said looking at the man. “You can’t be real.”

“I get that a lot,” he said.

He helped me sit on the couch. In the corner of the room, a Christmas tree glowed in rainbow colors. Brightly wrapped packages were stacked under the branches, heaped haphazardly around the tree. Three stockings, stuffed with candy and toys, were spread out on the floor. I could see the name on one of the stockings: Jessica.

“This can’t be real,” I repeated.

“Just rest,” the man said. “It will seem real enough when you have had some rest.”

“But I don’t understand,” I said.

The man reached into a pocket and pulled out a slip of paper. “This will make everything clear,” he said handing me the paper.

It was a letter, addressed to Mr. Claus, North Pole:

‘Dear Mr. Claus,

‘I know I haven’t been a really good girl this year; but Tommy did deserve that punch in the nose when he called me a pooty-head. Anyway, even though I haven’t been a super great girl this year, I was hoping that I could still ask you for a present. It isn’t just for me either. It’s for my Mommy too.

‘You see my Daddy has been gone a long time. He has been fighting in a war. I don’t really know what a war is, but I know it is bad. I hear Mommy crying at night and sometimes I see her go to bed with Daddy’s picture. I miss him a whole bunch and Mommy does too.

‘So, the only thing I want for Christmas this year is my Daddy. Thank you, Mr. Claus.

‘P.S. I’ll apologize to Tommy if you want me to.’

It was signed Jessica. I looked up, but the man was gone.

“Thank you,” I whispered.

Author's Note

This was an experiment to see if I could write a Christmas story based on the video game Doom. It received good reviews from the Doom community so I think I succeeded.