(**Warning – I challenged myself to write a little Christmas flash fiction – it wound up darker than intended. Sometimes when you chase words down a hole, you don’t know what you’ll catch.)
The high-pitched smash of the thin glass against the brick was much less than he anticipated; yet he found it satisfying enough to retrieve another and test its sound.
This one must have been thicker because it uttered a more pleasing cry as it shattered and fell to the pavement below.
Another. Another and another with varying degrees of mayhem until…
The little tinkle made the boy giggle at its weakness. It’s paper thin, pink shards were so thin they didn’t even amount to a proper mess.
His hand searched for his next victim and settled on one so large he couldn’t completely envelop it in his fingers. The red ball was laced with gold paint made to look like gilding. The sight of it brought a trickle of sentiment that he couldn’t quite place. He looked at it longingly as if trying to bring the memory into focus, but his attention wavered and he chucked it toward the others.
He got two breaks for the effort – one from the wall and a second when the leftovers spilled out onto the cold ground which was littered with broken glass of every color.
That was a good one, he thought as he flashed an impish grin.
He rummaged through the remainders inside the box in hopes of finding one to outdo this latest gratifying cacophony, but there were none so large and the shapes he felt were irregular. The one he finally settled upon fit snuggly in his palm. Its antique brown had worn in places revealing the shiny silver beneath. Random sparkles still clung to parts of it and he recognized it as the likeness of a smirking little elf.
He cocked his arm to throw.
“Don’t break that one,” urged a spirited voice.
“Why not?” he snarled as he surveyed a slight girl with piercing eyes. He hadn’t noticed her approach and wondered how long she had been watching. She had a nearly transparent, sweet air about her but also a compelling presence that demanded to be reckoned with, bringing him to a defensive posture.
“Nobody tells me what to do,” he scowled.
“Please don’t,” she pleaded. “That one’s my favorite.” Then turning toward the heaps of glass collecting on the ground, she asked, “What are you doing, anyway?”
“I’m breaking Christmas,” he proclaimed, proudly. “I’m bustin’ it up real good.”
“But why? Why would you do such a thing?” the girl gasped in horror as she moved airily to survey the damage. “These are beautiful treasures. Don’t you remember?”
“Nope! I don’t remember a thing,” the boy scoffed – which was only a lie in the moderately to slightly false range. He couldn’t recall specifics of any kind related to the ornaments he had destroyed, although each one did seem to produce vague feelings that clouded over his soul. Since he was no slave to feelings, these superfluous emotions were easily replaced by the pleasure derived from seeing them demolished.
He only knew that he wanted it all gone – the lights, the fake happiness, the decorations… especially the ornaments. Why would anyone ever dress a dead tree in glass and shiny tinsel? It seemed so stupid and worthless to the boy now. Deep down, he felt there had been a time when he knew what it all meant but he could barely remember that far back. Something huge like a big, bad monster with fangs and terrible claws kept him from going there. It sat on a trapdoor that covered over whatever had been good and the monster wouldn’t even let him peek.
She reached down and gathered broken remains in her hand as if she had the power to restore them to their former beauty.
“Don’t do that,” he urged. “You’ll cut yourself.”
She bravely paid no attention to his pleading and stirred the shards of glass with an expression so sad and tender that it wounded the boy to know he had caused it.
“Stop!” he yelled. But she kept on stirring.
And then he saw the blood.
The sight of blood had never bothered the boy. He played hard and bled regularly. He was even used to the taste of it because he often seemed to bite his tongue in his sleep. In some foolish, boyish way, he thought it was cool to bleed. But this was her blood! It was different. It was wrong – he didn’t like it at all!
It was everywhere now. Blood gushed onto the ground and pooled with the glass, but she paid it no mind. She continued to dig for pieces among the ruins pausing only briefly when she found a special one that she pulled close to her. And she wept – her tears fell on her hands and mingled with the blood that endlessly flowed.
Although she never looked directly at him, the boy felt the weight of disappointment in those eyes. Disappointment with him, with what was happening, with what was lost – with the brokenness of it all.
And the blood kept coming, and the glass swirled, and the memories churned at a fevered pitch, and the monster roared, and the pain broke his heart, and the eyes – her sad eyes bore down hard upon his brain and gave him a throbbing headache. He cried because he wanted it all to go away as he squeezed the little worn elf in his hand so tightly he feared it would shatter and the girl would hate him even more.
But the elf didn’t break, the girl disappeared, and Christmas… his Christmas was broken forever.
And the sweat-drenched man awoke in a panic with the familiar taste of blood in his mouth.