Bill hated this time of year and there was so much he disliked that he could write a novel about it. Peeking out of his heavy curtains, he watched his neighbours putting up lights inside and outside of their houses. He grumbled at the thought of all that wasted electricity and how his nights were to be now plagued with all those multi-coloured bulbs. Dropping the curtain, he shuffled back to his arm chair by the fire. Sitting down, he turned on the small lamp on the table beside the chair and pulled a large book into his lap.
Still muttering about his neighbours, he flipped through the pages till he came to his bookmarked spot and started reading again. The clock on the mantle chimed the hour and the fire crackled away. For an hour or so, he became lost in the myths and legends of the Greeks, then loud laughed and a car engine blasted in his ears. Standing up, he placed the book behind him and hobbled to the window again.
Peering out, he saw his neighbours opposite, saying goodbye to a young couple. Bill gritted his teeth as he watched them all waving. Then the car drove away and he let the curtain fall again. He went to the fire and poked at the burning wood and coal. Afterwards, he went back to his book for another hour. Warm and comfortable, he dozed off before being woken by the clock chiming midnight. Awaking with a start, he looked at the clock then is own watch, but the time was correct.
Frowning and wondered how he’d slept through the other chimed hours, he got up. Bill checked the fire was dying down, which after three hours of not being feed was almost out. Turning off the lamp, he found his way in the dark and went upstairs. Stepping into his bedroom, he turned on the light and hurried as fast as a man of almost seventy could do, through his bedtime routine.
Settling into bed, in the darkness, he thought about all the reasons why he hated Christmas, ‘the tacky decorations and the terrible music,’ he sound aloud, before realising he had done so. Growling, he turned over and tried to sleep. However, more reasons came to him; present adverts, over cluttered window displays, far too rich and expensive food, people panicking over the smallest reasons, dressed up dogs. ‘Who does that to a poor dog? Shaking his head into a pillow, he tried to get to sleep.
After a few hours, he felt still awake, even though he had been dozing off and on. Getting up, he decided he needed another blanket. Picking up the one at the end of his bed, he wrapped it around himself and went to the window. It was snowing on a cobbled street and a carriage pulled by horses was making its way through. A church bell was ringing and he could see rows of small houses. Nothing else seemed to be moving and he was about to turn around, when he heard a rattling sound. He froze and listened to what sounded like chains being dragged across the wooden floor.
He turned slowly, but couldn’t see anything in the dark room. Feeling his way, he went to a door and open it. Instead of a corridor or another room, was a cemetery. Puzzled, he stepped through the door and found his slippered feet sinking into mud. Disgusted, he turned around wanting to step back into the bedroom, but there was no door way and just another stretch of headstones. His feet stopped and he stared through the gloom. He glanced over his shoulder and though nothing had changed, he could now see a small light ahead of him.
‘What the…?’ he said.
Turning back, he trudged over to the light whilst trying to keep his distance from the headstones. The ground sloped upwards and at the top of the hill, he came to a stop to catch his breath and look around. Below, he could see three figures gathered around a fourth, who seemed to be on fire, though he could hardly make them out. Deciding, he had no choice, he walked down the hill and went over to them. He heard laughter and words he couldn’t make out as he approached.
Ducking behind a large headstone, he studied the figures. The one he had thought was on fire, was actually some kind of fairy. She was fluttering golden wings in the air and casting a yellow light down onto her friends. The figure closest to her was the size of a mountain and he was wearing a long fur coat and had a wild red beard and hair. Next to him a floating, ghost like man was rattling some chains which looped all around his body. The last figure was standing slightly part from the others and he was wearing a black robe, which completely covered him.
Familiarity tugged at Bill’s mind. He had seen this people before somewhere, but he couldn’t quite place them. Clearing his throat he stepped out from behind the headstone, causing all of their heads to turn towards him.
‘Sorry, for interrupting. I think I’m lost. Could you please help me?’
They looked at each other and then back at him.
‘You can’t be lost if you are here,’ the man mountain spoke.
‘Am I dead?’ Bill asked, glancing nervously around.
‘Not actually…’ the ghost cut in, with a rattle of his chains.
‘Wait a minute…I know you! You’re the Spirits of Christmas!’ Bill half shouted.
‘Oh, we’ve got a clever one here!’
‘I’m not interested in anything you’ve got to say or show me. Just take me home.’
‘It’s not as simple as that,’ the fairy chirped in, ‘we don’t get to pick and choose who comes to us. Your guardian angel does that, which means that you must have some glimmer of Christmas spirit left within you. It’s our job to find it.’
‘Guardian what? Spirit? Bah, what’s the point? I’ve no friends, no family. I can barely pay the bills and feed myself. Why can’t you let a poor old man be?’
The fairy looked sadly at her companions, ‘perhaps there was a mistake?’
‘To right there, was! Now send me home.’
A spark of yellow light hit him in the chest and Bill flew backwards. He cried out loudly, then stopped as he realised he was fighting with the duvet and blankets. Sitting in bed, he reached a shaking hand out of the lamp and turned it on. He was back in his bedroom. Sighing, he flopped down, ‘it was only a dream,’ he said to the ceiling, ‘thank God for that.’
He rolled over and got up. Making his way to the window, he looked out and saw the darkened houses opposite. A light rain was falling and he could hear the patter of it.
‘Nothing’s going to change my mind,’ he muttered and turned away.