You Better Watch Out

The war on Christmas had become increasingly desperate. The conflict, such as it was, had been low level when it had been confined to rhetoric, bluster, and the occasional controversial act of apparent censorship, but now it was very serious, and very real. Christmas had taken our declaration of war and had run with it. It seemed we had been at war with Christmas for years before Christmas had decided to retaliate. A jolly adversary it is indeed who can take decades of aggression and turn the other cheek, but as we know, in the modern world, no threat can be ignored, however illusory.

It was Barry Jenkins, of Lowestoft, who was the first soldier to die in the battle. A local restaurant had been forced to refrain from putting a coin in its Christmas puddings. Health and safety concerns were cited. Local protesters sat up tables and chairs outside and served their own Christmas puddings, coins included. This continued fine until a tourist who didn’t speak very good English mistook this for an outside seating area, availed himself of a pudding, and promptly choked to death. None of the staff had had health and safety training.

Barry Jenkins, a man passing by who had witnessed the incident, was asked to give an interview when the news crew turned up. He fit the demographic they were looking for and collared him.

“How do you feel about Christmas?”

“I don’t like it, not one bit.”

“What do you think about these protesters, do they have a point?”

“Not in the slightest. I’ve worked in a restaurant, you don’t give people food containing foreign objects. It’s not hard.”

“You saw the whole thing, I believe. Who’s responsible?”

“Christmas is responsible. I hope we win the ‘war on Christmas’ and I hope they all choke.”

A Facebook page called “Lynch the Grinch” reached a million likes overnight.

Barry might have found his life severely impeded by this negative attention were he not found hanging from some intricately, and strongly, threaded red tinsel. The hanging had apparently been done for affect, as shards of what were found to glass baubles had been inserted in to both his eye sockets. He had had candy canes inserted under his fingernails. He was covered in soot, as if he had been up and down a chimney.

There was a note left at his feet, on paper that looked as if it had been torn from the end of a scroll. It read;

For years we have quietly toiled in service of all mankind. For years we have sought to preserve a holiday that means goodwill and cheer to all, regardless of faith, creed or colour. For years we have toiled to bring your children happiness. And how you despise us. And how you erase us. And how you no longer leave any brandy by the chimney.

We use our strength, now, to defend ourselves and our good name. Recognise our good name or perish.

Yes, the war had become desperate now. The efforts of a nation are not best mobilised when they don’t even realise they are at war, and by the time the bauble bombings had begun happening, it was too late. Of course, Christmas’ efforts to defend its good name were met with a shunning, instead of an embrace, of Christmas. Armed police were on the streets and anyone dressing as Santa was shot on sight. The postal service as it stands for civilians had been suspended for the Christmas period. The Secretary of Education had banned any nativity play from being performed in schools.

None of these measures had done anyone a lick of good. The bombings had continued. Prominent atheists who finally had some professional stock as talking heads, had been found in much the same state as Barry Jenkins. And cinemas found that every film they had scheduled to show over Christmas had been mysteriously replaced with It’s a Wonderful Life.

The situation was becoming quite unbearable.

Prime Minister Swine had retired from a COBRA meeting in something of a funk. The war was useful politically, of course, but it had been a long time since any Prime Minister had fought a war that they had any conceivable chance of losing. And Swine was certainly losing this one. Besides, Christmas was his favourite holiday, and it did so pain him to have to wage war on it. Of course, first he would have to find a target. Any target.

COBRA had been scheduled to meet because some people had some fresh ideas. They were bad ideas, but anything would do. Military Intelligence had resisted the idea, but when it became clear that the bombings would not stop, a scouting party had been sent to the North Pole. The plan had been ridiculous, but despite how it may seem, it is useful to have a target when you yourself start bombing back. The scouting party had found nothing. No sign of Santa Claus, no elves, no reindeer.

The minister who this time suggested that we accept the demands and observe Christmas as per usual was summarily dismissed. Swine had no time for defeatists, and he wasn’t going to be the first Prime Minister in years to lose a war. But what other ideas were there? Military intelligence had nothing left to offer. GCHQ found nothing in their dragnet and had then suggested that the means by which Santa can know if you are naughty or nice are probably encrypted. They left no evidence bar what they meant to, which often amounted to sacks of presents. In ordering these sacks processed and disposed of, Swine had become quite unpopular. He lamented for a time when a good old war would cement your base and win you an election.

Everything he had worked for had been taken away by some maniacs with explosive filled baubles and some tinsel, and his cabinet had been bloody foolish. Swine had been in a bad mood because, at this last COBRA meeting, the best suggestion offered would make him even more reviled. Five of his cabinet ministers, all of which had investments in fossil fuel companies, had suggested that we might accelerate CO2 emissions in the hope of flushing Santa out of whatever icy place it was that he must be based.

Swine had campaigned on green energy. He wouldn’t, couldn’t, follow through on it, but it had won him the election. And his cabinet wanted him to fire up the coal power stations and reopen the mines. They said it would help him get the working class vote next year, if nothing else.

Swine sat in his decorated drawing room sipping brandy and thinking over all this. Publicly he had nothing to do with Christmas but privately he celebrated with gusto. He had decorated his own tree this year, hoping to reconnect with the magical feelings of his youth. Instead he grimaced as each bauble went on, grimaced as he thought of the pictures they had showed him of Barry Jenkins, back when this was all a terrible controversy and not much more.

He was ripped from his thoughts when he heard sleigh bells ringing outside. They were very loud and at first he was thrilled. Bells! It felt like so long, now, since he had heard the bells of Christmas. He got up quickly, a child again, hoping to go outside and see snow, and a sleigh, and reindeer. But then he stood stock still. Had they come for him? Had they found a way to get at the publicly hard line anti-Christmas Prime Minister? He felt the brandy going to his head as he moved to the door, seeking the officer who should have been there. Always knowing, watching, and waiting.

A bit like Santa, he thought.

There was no officer there. He shouted and there was no reply. The ringing of the bells got louder, and louder. He shouted louder, and louder. The bells and the brandy and the fear. He didn’t know what to do except, in his befuddlement, open the door. If they could get this close, if they wanted him dead, wouldn’t he be dead already? He wanted Santa to be there, ready to negotiate terms. He wanted his presents. Bugger the next election and bugger the war, he wanted to enjoy Christmas the way he had when he was a boy.

When he opened the door, so loud were the bells that he did not know where they were coming from. The two officers who stood watch lay there, still. He saw they had been strangled with fairy lights. Between the two officers lay, could it be? A present. It was wrapped in green foil paper and red tinsel. There was a sticker on the top that said, “To Swine. Merry Christmas.”

He didn’t know what else to do except pick up the box. If he was dead, he was dead. Maybe it was a peace offering, maybe it was his terms of surrender. As he bent down, into his view at the gated end of Downing Street slid a sleigh. Riding the sleigh was someone dressed as Santa Claus.

He stood up to take a better look and saw Santa put down his reigns and pick up some kind of device.

Snow began to fall.

Swine realised why the sticker had not also said, “and a happy new year.”

Santa, the snow, the reindeer. At least, Swine reflected, he had gotten what he wanted for Christmas this year.

“Ho ho ho,” shouted Santa, just before he pushed the button.

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