Christmas Time Is Here Again
Christmas was upon the Earth again. This year David had managed to get the time off from work and the bureau that he needed so that he could spend it with Claira making the farmhouse look very festive.
Steve O'Brien walked up the long path towards the house with Sarah somewhere in tow.
Claira looked out from the window to see them coming.
"Dad, it's Steve and Sarah coming up from their mobile home."
"Yes, thank you Claira, I do know where they are staying at the moment. Once the work is finished on the cottage down the lane they will be moving in and they will become our first neighbours." He said handing her up another ball for the big Christmas tree that now filled the corner of their living room.
Claira looked at him.
"An alien as a neighbour, it seems hard to envisage at the moment."
"Hey, who wanted him, erm, how did you put it, 'as close as possible' to us. Last month?"
"I know, but… the bureau did…."
There was now a knock at the door.
"Are you going to get that?" He said looking up at her.
"Ha? Half way up the ladder? Dad?"
"Alright, I can take a hint."
He now moved out to the kitchen door and opened it.
"Good morning sir, we are two lonely travellers bearing gifts of food and whiskey if you can slip away from the kid for half an hour." Steve said laughing as he walked in.
Claira stared at him through the runners of the ladder.
Steve now noticed her.
"There she is, Miss Vincent the child of the family." He said moving to look at her from the other side of the runners. "Good morning darling, and how are we today?"
"Fine, is the whiskey for me, too?"
"Claira!" David said as Sarah now walked in.
"Sarah." He said then closed the door behind her.
Steve walked back to the kitchen table.
"Do you want me to open this now before it gets thrown down the waste chute?"
David grabbed two glasses and watched Steve pour.
Sarah went straight to Claira and watched her up the ladder.
"Haven't you finished that yet?"
"Well, no, you see we don't live in a mobile home, we have a farmhouse, a rather large farmhouse." She said looking down.
"Is that so? Well, we have a large cottage, it's just that the roof is not yet waterproofed so we can't exactly take up residence yet." She said folding her arms.
"Waterproofed? Sarah, you could saucer watch from your bedroom ceiling. The whole house is in need of some serious renovating. I can't see why the bureau can't find you a place further away, like say…." She looked around.
"The moon? That's getting good reviews lately. What was it, back in the sixties? One small step for man…?" Steve said watching her from the kitchen.
"One more for the aliens to conquer, yes, I've heard all that." Claira said looking at him.
Steve now turned to look at David who was trying to savour the taste of the whiskey on his lips.
They let the situation cool down as the kids ran out to play.
"At least it's not snowing. The house couldn't stand anything else on its rafters. I've been up there all night sorting out the rest of the slates."
"It snowed here bad last year."
"Oh, I'm sorry I missed that one. Sarah would have loved it, that's all she's talking about at the moment. She noticed a few Christmas cards with the festive motif on it."
David jumped up and moved to the back of the kitchen.
"I've got to think about getting the provisions ready. Are you interested in staying over for Christmas?"
"We'd love to. I must say that it would be better than a draftee old bus! What have you got planned for Christmas Eve?"
David stopped and looked at him as he reminded himself of last Christmas.
"Do you know, this is the first Christmas I've managed to get off from work and the damn bureau in four years. Four years of my daughters life on the road searching for…" He looked at him.
Steve jumped off his stool and handed him another glass of whiskey.
"Look, David, if I could change things I would in an instant. Claira means the world to you and come to think of it Sarah means as much to me, but…."
"They've put you through a lot."
"Yeah, 'you' sure have." He said putting his glass down.
Steve looked at him. "Maybe I should collect Sarah and the bottle and just go, ha?"
David stopped him. "Sit down, I think maybe you should know something."
He looked at him then sat back down.
David looked at his half empty glass of whiskey and topped it up. He offered the bottle to Steve but he gracefully declined watching him all the way.
David now swallowed the light brown liquid in his glass and looked at him.
"Along with this being the first Christmas that I've managed to get away from work and the bureau, this happens to be the first Christmas after Claira watched an alien die right in front of her." He said looking at him.
Steve looked at him. "You know what, maybe I will have that glass now." He said grabbing the bottle.
"Claira, is some how convinced that it was Santa Claus that burned up in front of her last year, not just some meaningless alien looking to get to us by any ways and means that they can."
"Santa Claus? You, you erm, did tell her that he doesn't exist, didn't you?"
"I didn't need to. Her parents did that part for me, some years before, when she was five. Up until last year she never believed in Father Christmas."
"So, what happened so dramatically that made her believe differently?"
David grabbed the bottle and moved around the work unit.
"Claira just happened to witness one of you lose your fading regeneration processes then burn up and die."
"Hmm, I see, grow old, glow red and disappear?"
"In that precise order, yeah."
"And Claira took that process to be Santa Claus?"
"Well, it wasn't just that that convinced her, there was more contributing factors, such as the alien speaking to her as he died. Her father telling her that if Santa Claus really did exist that he would know all of us, every child on this planet, etc…"
"Except meaning that he knows all of the believers and the bureau like all aliens are supposed to?"
"Exactly." He said then turned away.
"You've got a problem on your hands tomorrow night." He said looking at him.
"I know that I should say something to her, to reassure her, help her make everything clearer for her, but what happened last year has just got to me lately. Steve, when she was explaining to me about what had happened to her, it was like, Jesus, it was like I had just met her for the first time and that she meant nothing to me at that point. Like I was just some stupid reporter investigating the sightings and not her father. I don't want that to happen ever again, this year or any other year. She's my daughter and at the moment she's all I live for." He said looking at him.
Steve got up and moved to him.
"So, what are you going to do about this?"
He looked at him.
"I don't know. Play it by ear, I guess, what else can I do? See what comes of Christmas Eve at home and if she needs me, she wants to talk, I'm going to be right there for her."
"As a reporter? Steve said looking at him
"As a father!"
Steve now nodded. "That sounds like the best thing a father can do."
David watched him pour out another glass.
On Christmas Eve, David started to prepare the turkey.
"Wow, one big turkey, dad."
"One big family. Don't forget, we have Steve and Sarah this year."
She looked down.
"I guess that Sarah will be putting out a mince pie for Santa this year."
David looked up.
"Erm, yeah, probably."
"It's not fair dad, I've met him and Sarah is closer to the main road than us. Santa is obviously going to be stuffed bigger than that turkey before he gets to us. He wont even have space for one pie, let alone two." She said moving away.
He watched her go as he wiped his hands on the towel.
Later that evening, David walked in to the kitchen to check on the turkey. He moved to the light and turned it on.
There in front of him on the table sat one mince pie with a letter besides it. He now picked it up and reached for the pie. He munched on the pie as he read the letter.
"Dear Santa Claus, my name is Claira Vincent. I thought that I'd write to you personally to apologise for not believing in you up until last year. I now know that you really do exist and that my dad was right about how you would know all of us, how you would know every single child you deliver to each year. I knew that I had to write to you and tell you that I really do believe in you, Santa.
I have left you one mince pie because my friend, Sarah Whitten, that's the girl who lives in that small mobile home down the lane, has also left you one mince pie and maybe you might be a little full what with all the other mince pies you might be eating tonight. I hope that she gets the chance to meet you like I did last year. She lives with an alien, but he's a nice alien, if you can have a nice alien, that is.
Anyway, I must end this letter now. All I wanted was just to let you know that I do believe in you Santa and I'm sorry that I didn't up until last year. Merry Christmas Santa, your best friend, Claira Vincent."
David looked up from the letter and thought of Claira as he folded up the letter and placed the half eaten pie back on the plate.
He now headed to the oven and checked on the turkey.
Claira cautiously moved through the living room and into the kitchen.
"Daddy?" She said rubbing her eyes.
He now jumped up holding the pan with the turkey sitting in it.
"Claira! Do you know what time it is? Damn, that's hot!" He said putting the pan onto the stove.
She looked at him then back to the clock on the wall.
"You should be in bed young lady."
"I couldn't sleep. You know, Christmas…."
He looked at her then remembered the half eaten pie.
"Erm, oh yeah, yeah." He said attempting to move the evidence out of the way.
"Is the turkey ready to eat?"
"Nearly. I'll slow cook it through the rest of tomorrow."
Claira now looked at the table.
"Santa Claus!" She said then ran to the back door and opened it.
He watched her go.
"Claira! Close the door, it's cold out there."
"The pie, dad, it's half eaten. I knew he wouldn't have space to eat it all. You wait till I see Sarah in the morning. She must have left out two." She said closing the door and leaning up against it.
He grabbed the pie.
"What if Santa Claus didn't eat it and I did, instead, ha?" He said finishing it off.
She looked at him. "Then there's still time. He hasn't arrived yet, so I can still catch him this year, like I did last…"
David watched her grab another pie and place it on the plate next to the letter.
"Claira, wait a minute, will you!"
She did as she was told, sat down at the table and watched David put the turkey back in to the oven and then move up to the table and sat down facing her. He now watched her rearrange the letter on the table and smiling as she remembered what she had written.
He now stopped her and took her hand. She looked at him.
"You're hoping to catch Santa again this year, ha?"
She looked away.
"You, you read my letter."
"Well, you didn't exactly go out of your way to hide it." He said looking around.
She looked down.
"Claira, I'm not going to start chewing you out here. I think that the letter is nicely written and it really shows you care…."
"But," She said now looking at him.
He looked at her then got up and moved to the worktop and turned round to face her.
"I need to know that what I'm going to say you will understand."
"I know what you're going to say, dad. It's written all over your face. Santa Claus, he doesn't exist, right?"
Claira stared at him then jumped up.
"Well, your wrong dad, I saw him, last year! He spoke to me, he knew me! Me, Claira Vincent, that's me dad and he said that he knew you, knew all of us. He probably even knows Steve and Sarah."
"Of course he knew all of us because they have been made aware of us, the aliens have been made aware of us because of the fret we mean towards them. Not because we sit at the end of our bed every Christmas Eve hoping to catch a glimpse of his reindeer or even the man himself. Claira, Santa Claus only exists as a fable, a story, just like your parents originally told you. You have to understand that before, before you can ever go on."
"Santa Claus is real! My dad told me so and you, he, can't change that." She said running out back to her bedroom.
David looked back at the letter on the table then grabbed his coat and ran out of the farmhouse down the lane to the mobile home.
He knocked on the door and Steve soon opened it.
"David. Erm, isn't this a little bit late for a social call?"
"It's not social. I need your help Steve or I'm going to lose my kid if not."
He stared at him.
"Look, come outside for a moment, Sarah's only through there and she'd find any excuse to stay up tonight, what with Santa flying around." He said leading him out.
David stopped and looked at him.
"Will you lighten up? That was a joke!"
"I need your help, Steven."
"Well, what can I do?"
"You have a regeneration tube in the cottage, yes?"
He stopped and stared at him.
"Oh no, not you!"
"Have you got a better idea?"
"David, you go in their Claira will lose you, permanently, do you want that?"
"I've been in one before."
"Some years ago. They put me in there to try and kill me. The effects took their time to wear off, but I think that we can manipulate it enough to make Claira think that I am Santa Claus so that I can talk to her."
"You can't risk the damage it could do to your body."
"I have no other choice."
Steve looked at him.
"David, I haven't known you long, but, but what your doing is suicidal."
"I'd do anything to save my kid."
They walked to the tube.
David looked at it.
"Can you work it that it can give me a low enough charge to produce the same effects as a dying alien?"
Steve looked at him then turned away.
David watched him then moved up to him.
"Steve, my kid is convinced that she saw Santa Claus last year. I have to do this."
He nodded. "Alright, step into the chamber. I've calculated it to a half hour cycle, if you go over that, David, I can't help you."
He stared at him.
"Go for it." He said as the door closed behind him.
"Good luck, bro." He said throwing the switch as David fell to the floor in pain.
David now got back to his feet as he started to grow old and glow red as the radiation moved through his body.
Steve now turned the dial to zero and the door opened. He reached in and pulled him out.
"Alright, go save your daughter. The clock is ticking."
David now ran out.
Claira sat in her bed looking out to the dense blackness of the sky. She now heard a noise from the kitchen and ran out to find out what was going on.
"Hello? Dad? Is that you?"
She turned the corner to the kitchen and noticed the red glow around the room. She moved forward and now noticed a figure 'Santa Claus'. She stepped back to feel the fridge handle hit her in the side.
The figure now turned round.
Claira noticed that Santa Claus was reading her letter and eating the mince pie.
"Well, good morning, Miss Vincent."
"Santa Claus? She said as he finished the pie and put the letter down. "It is you, isn't it?" She said now moving forward to the table.
He nodded. "It's me, child."
"I knew it and dad said that you didn't exist. Last year and now this year, this is great. You wait till I tell Sarah, she is going to be gutted, unless you've already been to her."
"No, I've only come here especially to talk with you."
Claira stepped forward and watched him glow.
"After reading your letter I feel that it's best that we do not meet anymore. This will be the last time you will be seeing me in this form, Claira…."
"Hurh, no, you exist, Santa, did you come with the reindeer this time or did they give you another space ship?" Claira said going to the door.
David now fell to the floor in pain.
She looked back.
"I haven't got much time left, Claira. They didn't give me long."
She looked down.
"I understand, Santa"
She said looking down.
"It would be best if I only existed to you up here," He said moving to her and touching her head. "We have met for the last time, Claira and I'm sorry for any problems that I may have caused you."
"Santa, you have not caused any problems, I know your exist now. I don't have to worry anymore."
"I exist to you now only in your mind, your dreams, just like every other child believes in me."
Claira looked at him and nodded.
David now grimaced again.
"It's time, I must, must go."
"Do you? I need to know that you do, child."
He smiled. "You're going to be okay Claira." He said moving to the door.
"Santa, look!" She said pointing to the corner of the room.
He turned round to see all the presents under the Christmas tree.
"Thank you Santa." She said running to them.
David stared at them just as Steve grabbed him and dragged him back to the cottage and into the tube.
"You do know that you're just in time. A second more and… I don't even want to think it." He said pressing the buttons to return David back to normal.
He now walked and out of the chamber and checked that he was okay then went to Steve.
"Thanks." He said shaking his hand.
"I, I have to get back. Make everything appear normal."
"Go! Get the hell out of my chamber!" He said smiling as David left.
Steve watched him go then looked at the chamber and walked into it.
The next morning Claira rocking him soon awaked David.
"Dad, dad, daddy?"
"Not so load, I have one mother of a hangover."
"Did you go over to Steve's last night?
"I did yes."
"What did you do? Get drunk again?"
"Amongst other things." He said focusing in on her. "Good morning baby." He said grabbing her to give her a big hug.
"Merry Christmas daddy."
"Oh yeah, now I remember."
"You remember? Dad, are you getting forgetful in your old age?"
"I'm not sure what you mean by old age darling, I mean last night I felt so old, I," He looked at her. "Never mind. That's forever my little secret." He said kissing her. "Have you been out to the living room, yet?" He added watching her bubbling with excitement.
"Erm, yeah I have, I, erm," She stopped and looked at him.
"What's the matter?"
"Dad, last night… Santa Claus was here. He came here to the farmhouse. He left us all those presents, come and have a look." She said dragging him out.
He looked at the tree and scratched his head.
"It wasn't a dream, but how? I didn't have time to…."
Claira went to the tree then turned round and went back up to David.
"Santa said that he wouldn't be coming back to see me anymore. He told me that he had to exist only in my mind like he does to all the other children on Earth."
"That's very wise of him."
"Yeah I know and I kind a guess that he's right. It's only fair."
David stepped forward.
"You figured that out all by yourself, ha?"
"That's very brave of you, child. I'm proud of you." He said kissing her.
Claira now went back to the presents while David got dressed and carried on with the Christmas dinner.
Later that day after the children had worn the adults out playing, they all sat down in front of the fire. The children soon fell asleep. David watched Claira sleeping.
"I can't thank you enough for what you've done, Steve. You've saved Christmas for this family."
"As I told you last night, it was my pleasure. I would do anything for Claira and you, for that matter."
He looked at him. "Oh yeah, that reminds me, I didn't say thanks for putting the presents under the tree for me. With all that was going on last night I had completely forgotten about them."
Steve looked at him.
"Presents? I didn't put the presents under your tree. I was busy just trying to keep mine upright in the bus. I gave up in the end…"
"Wait a minute, if you didn't put the presents under the tree, then who did?"
They looked at one another then jumped up and looked outside.
"Can't see any hoof markings, or any sign that a sleigh was parked here."
"Any carbon deposits?" David said looking at him.
"David, come on. Santa Claus in a saucer…"
"After last year, anything is possible." He said looking at him.
They now checked the floor for any sign.
"Maybe…." Steve said looking at him.
"Just maybe." David said now looking up to the sky as a shooting star flew past.