Lit Up
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Lit Up

There Was Once Christmas

Lit Up’s Christmas Event

Photo by thr3 eyes on Unsplash

The air was cold and took tiny insect like bites at his face. He drifted along Clark street before cutting west down Wrightwood. Through residential windows there were lights of green and red and the most brilliant of whites. Trees and music and cheerful voices wrapped him in the warmth of humanity, at the very least reminded him that there was still some humanity left. Under his feet the sidewalk was covered in fresh snow, the powdery kind. It had been falling consistently for the past few hours. A white Christmas, he thought. His boots were cheap and wet and failed to protect his now numbed feet. He explored the windows slowly. The joy within them had become foreign to him a long time ago. His hands, stuffed in his pockets, clung tightly to the objects that had held him captive since last Christmas. In one hand a locket, in the other a needle. Both served as stark proof of the cliched phrase about there being a thin line between love and hate, though perhaps love and suffering would be more appropriate.

Diego was the boy’s name, his son. Born last Christmas eve. From his pocket he pulled out the locket and looked at the boy’s picture, now slightly faded. He had his mother’s face a fact for which he was grateful. Even back then he knew they would never make it. For the most part the pregnancy was the last thread holding them together though it was as fragile as the snow that crunched under his boots. And when he missed the birth he knew it was only a matter of time before custody papers were drawn up. It wasn’t even worth contesting. When you set yourself on a path towards your own expiration, the last act of grace, perhaps, is to spare those you love from your own gravitational pull. His last request was that he be able to see the boy, sometime, after he got clean. She promised him, though he could see in her eyes it was only because she knew it would never happen. He was firmly in its grip. The needle is a cell with no key.

The locket was, in her own loving way, the fulfillment of her promise. When she gave it to him she said, “if this can’t motivate you to stop, then what’s got a hold of you must be the fucking devil. My heart will break for you but this,” she pointed to the locket, “is as close as I can let you get to him.”

He returned the object to his pocket, a tear formed at the corner of his eye. That was all the emotion he could muster for a son and wife lost to the substance. Even in the depths of emotional misery, the substance was still all he longed for. It’s fingers wrapped tightly around his heart and squeezed with a malice more inhumane than the worst human atrocities inflicted throughout the whole of history. It was a table for one, in the deepest part of hell.

He turned into an alley, deathly cold and running out of time. The snow was deeper here but soft and somehow took on a warmth as it collected. He looked at the address numbers as he shuffled along before finally reaching his destination, 632 Wrightwood. It was their apartment. The kitchen lights were on and cast a yellowish light onto the second floor balcony. He cracked a half smile. His breathing was heavier now, his body anticipating the needle, hungry, ready to consume and be consumed. Leaning back he let his feet go and slumped down onto the snow’s cushion. He slipped his left arm out from the jacket sleeve and tied off, prepped the vein. Before readying the needle he removed the locket and placed it around his neck. It hung close to his heart, exactly where he wanted it.

In the alley the holiday songs and cheerful chatter were clear and soothing. An old version of White Christmas played and stood out. As he sucked the yellow liquid into the syringe he wondered if anybody on this side of town, happy and with their loved ones, knew that some people spent Christmas like this. That his greatest gift, his desperate wish, was for it all to come to an end. That for him there was only once Christmas and that it had disappeared long ago.

The snow was light and fell gently on his cheeks with a sort of ‘it’s going to be ok’ whisper. The liquid, hot in his veins, was the only warmth he felt. Leaning back into the arms of the substance, he let it caress him, love him. At the moment the pleasure was so serene, he forgot about all the times he ever thought about leaving and getting clean. Spend Christmas with those you love, is the saying, and he loved the substance.

The snow was falling harder now. Judging by the liveliness of the muffled voices it couldn’t be later than nine or ten. The substance would keep him warm for as long as it could and when its warmth died out it would make him forget about the cold and the suffering. It was still blissful, this part, coming up. He gripped the locket and leaned back against the garage door. His blinks were getting heavy and the sounds disappeared until all that was left was the gentle hiss of snowfall. Beautiful life, he thought. The lids came down one last time, his hand still clenched around the locket as if holding his son for the first and last time. Peak euphoria was not far off. His head tilted and touched the garage, as he waited for it.

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Welcome to Lit Up -The Land of Little Tales. Here you can read and submit short stories, flash fiction, poetry - in brief, your own legend. We're starting little. But that's how all big stories begin.

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Zak Alvarez

Zak Alvarez

Essays, short stories, maybe poems if the divine strikes. On everything that’s interesting to me.

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