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Jingle Bells
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 1

Jingle Bells, played the tune from somewhere, in BoneyM’s revoltingly sweet tones,

Jingle bells, Jingle bells, jingle all the way

Oh what fun it is to ride

On a one-horse open sleigh.

"Dad?" His son’s voice, trembling on the verge of panic. "Dad? There’s another one."

"Don’t look at them, Davey." He fought down his irritation. He needed to make allowances for the boy’s phobia – god knew he had to make allowances for a lot of things – but this was beginning to get to him. This time of year, one didn’t even have to step out of doors to encounter them. One only had to turn on the TV or open the newspaper. They were everywhere.

But it wasn’t the ones in the papers or on TV that frightened his son, it was the ones on the street corners and in the stores. One couldn’t take him anywhere without panic attacks but one couldn’t leave him alone at home either. Sean gritted his teeth and resisted the urge to crush the boy’s hand in his own, to cause pain and tears. "Don’t look at him."

"But he’s looking at me, Dad." The boy’s voice, now perilously close to the familiar wail. "He’s looking at me!"

"Nobody said you have to look back, do you?" But he took the boy’s hand and pulled him round so now he was between David and the object of his fear. He smiled apologetically at the fat man across the street, who looked back and smiled benevolently. "He’s smiling at you, Davey," he said, but the boy only tugged harder at his hand. "Dad? Let’s go, please?"

"All right, Davey." He tried his best to keep hold of his temper, but it was difficult. His son needed to be helped, he often thought. It wasn’t easy for the kid either, having to live with a father he had virtually never seen till just half a year ago. It wasn’t easy coping with the trauma of the loss of his mother, almost before his very eyes. And now this phobia.

He remembered the last time he had talked to Phoebe over the phone. He hadn’t seen her then in well over a year, since after the divorce. He had sent her a cheque every month and that was it. But his conscience had been pricking him after he listened to the others in the mess hall talking about their kids growing up without them, so he had finally phoned. Phoebe had been surprised to get his call, surprised and not wholly pleased. He had sensed the coolness right through the static of the really pretty bad connection. She had said, yes, the boy was fine, and no, he couldn’t come to the phone and talk because he was sleeping. It had seemed a bit odd that he would be sleeping then, so early in the evening Phoebe’s time, but he had let it go. He had not thought it worth phoning again.

But Phoebe was dead now, victim in her own home of some psychopath so sadistic that when they had found her she could barely be recognised any more as a human being. The madman had never been caught. And Davey, who had been in the house at the time and slept through it all, was now his charge – along with the responsibility of making a new life after a decade and a half, all his working life, in the army.

Poor kid. Faced with the sudden loss of the mother who was all he had ever known as family in the five short years of his life, forced to live with a father who was not only a stranger but had certainly been blamed by Phoebe (being who she was) for everything that had ever gone wrong (like "You can’t have that toy because I have no money and that’s because your dad is such a bastard"), he must feel like a prisoner of war. And on top of that he had all this fear – of darkness and of closed spaces and of this and that and whatnot. Fear, of all things, of Santa Claus.

He should have had left the army long ago, he knew. If he had left early enough, Phoebe and he might still be married. The boy might be growing up as a normal kid. But soldiering was all he knew, and it was not easy to decide to throw away an entire career, after making Colour Sergeant Major, just because his wife was not happy with him being away so often and so long. But he had had the stubbornness in him too, and once she had left there was no further point even thinking of leaving. He probably would have been in the army now, Phoebe or no Phoebe, but for the Taliban rocket-propelled grenade that had left his right foot a shattered stump. He had just been discharged from hospital, artificial foot and all, when the news about Phoebe had come. And after that he had been given a medical discharge anyway.

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Genre:General Horror
Type:Short story
Rating:6.55 / 10
Rated By:11 users
Comments: 0 users
Total Hits:10783

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