Holiday Short Story - Fiction

We're excited to share the stories that have been submitted for our Holiday edition of the Writes of Winter contest! We received seven submissions:

The Children in the Lights - Jeremy Robinson

A Drop in the Ocean - Danielle Lee

Christmas Eve Reckoning - Heather Bonin MacIntosh

Lost - Alessandra

Mabel's Magical Market Adventure: A Red Deer Holiday Tale - Amy Tkachuk

The Quick Stop - G. W. Cord

The Littlest Nutcracker - Isaac Barrett

The Children in the Lights

Jeremy Robinson

It all started when I took one of my lonely walks down to the city centre. Loneliness was not my choice, yet it decided to tag along wherever I went. The streets were dim with only a few citizens scattered among the sidewalks waiting for life to present itself. It had been this way since most of the local stores had to close due to an epidemic of poverty, inflation, and any other economic instability that grew from the clenched bowels of our once prosperous town.

For solace, I turned to the city garden. This was the epicentre of cheer, the valley of shared dreams, the last refuge of relief. While it is true nothing grows in the garden in mid December, there were signs of life. For it is at this time that the city leaders declared the Christmas season open by illuminating the streets with a wondrous display of lights. They shined with the colourful optimism that had been lost in our grey desolate streets. One could not look directly into them for fear of blinding themselves with Christmas delight. I knew that if I were to visit there, my own dismal feelings towards the holidays might dissipate just for a moment.

Yet what do you think I found when I arrived? The lights were on, but no one was there. It was silent and still. There were no families, no couples, no children, no wonder, no laughing, no joy, no peace, just darkness among the light. Christmas had been abandoned.

An overwhelming sadness came over me. The cheery feeling I was longing for had been replaced by a hopeless crater. The brightness of the lights no longer held any meaning, and were therefore transformed into an extravagance. Each bulb became a reminder of the city’s wasteful energy, which was fed by the pockets of taxpayers' money. They were cheap trinkets of sentiment, and they made my eyes hurt. I looked away in disgust and I ached for humanity.

But as I turned to walk into the darkness,I heard a faint sound coming from the lights. It was soft, and distant, but it was enough for me to pause. I drew closer wondering where it was coming from. As I moved in, I could hear it more clearly. It was the sound of giggling, like a tickle to the tummy. The high pitch of this giggle became apparent that its owner must be a child. I inched closer perhaps hoping to see a silhouette of a young person within the blinding lights. Were they lost? Were they alone? Then it dawned on me, the laughter wasn’t coming from inside the garden, but inside the lights. Then suddenly every blinking, illuminating bulb gave way to enormous laughter. There were children inside happy, warm, peaceful, and loved.

I doubt anyone will believe me if I told them what I saw. Children living in light, away from the bitter cold, the harsh world, and the uncertain future. Inside was pure joy. For every blinking light, there was a beating of the heart. And I knew how important it was to keep them on, and hope for the world that it will never be turned off.



A Drop in the Ocean

Danielle Lee

Darkness.

A fathomless abyss.

The water droplet peered over the edge of the cloud, shimmering with trepidation.

“Tearling,” Teacher was suddenly by their side, “are you okay?”

Tearling took a surreptitious step away from the looming chasm.

“I-I am afraid.”

Teacher smiled warmly. “I understand. I too was afraid before my first jump.”

“You were?” Tearling’s eyes widened.

“Of course, it’s normal, if not expected, to be nervous.” Teacher’s diaphanous surface glimmered with joy. “But some of the greatest experiences are born from braving the unknown.”

Tearling gazed up at the older, wiser water droplet. “How many times have you… jumped?”

“Endless, my tear, endless. It is what we are, after all. What we are created for.”

A soft tinkling sounded overhead and millions, billions, of tearlings began to form a line along the edge of the cloud. Some seemed eager, others, like Tearling, appeared uncertain and anxious. “D-Do I have to?”

“Of course not,” Teacher replied. “It’s your choice, always. Though it would be a shame to miss out on such a wonderful destiny.”

Tearling sighed, knowing Teacher was right.

The water droplet took a slow step closer to the precipice. Bitterly cold wind swirled amidst the ocean of blackness below.

“What do I do now?”

Teacher smiled. “Trust . The greatest gift of all awaits you at the end of this journey. ”

The tinkling bell resounded.

It was time.

With a deep breath, Tearling took a brave step forward—and dropped into the darkness.

Alone.

So alone as the little teardrop descended, falling faster and faster into the opaque oblivion. Shivering now, the icy wind gripped Tearling ’s body, squeezing it vise-like. The little droplet’s skin tightened, becoming rigid. Sorrow and regret welled inside.

“I shouldn’t have jumped,” Tearling thought, tears brimming. “I should have stayed where I was safe and warm and surrounded by my family…”

But then a light appeared below. A soft and comforting glow.

“What is that?” Tearling’s eyes widened with awe.

A hush fell over Tearling, a calm. From some deep recess in its soul, Tearling remembered its purpose.

It was time. Time to do what it had been born to do.

“Trust…” it whispered.

The ground rushed closer now, faster. Tearling surrendered, allowing nature to fulfill its destiny.

The lightness grew brighter. Tearling peered at the white mass, smiling as it realized what it was …

In the last moment, Tearling ’s spherical body burst outwards, growing ice-blue, treelike limbs. It didn’t hurt. It felt light and airy and free.

Whirling, weightless, rocked gently by the wind, Tearling landed gracefully, cradled amongst its millions, billions, of brothers and sisters, becoming one, joining the ocean of tearlings to create …snow .

In the spring, when it warmed again, Tearling melted back into a teardrop and became lighter than air, and was eventually carried home, where it could join its family and begin the journey again.



Christmas Eve Reckoning

Heather Bonin MacIntosh

December 24, 2023 was to be Elmer’s reckoning, but he didn’t know it yet. If he had known, he might have chosen to stay indoors. He was experienced in denial, but the good citizens of Red Deer made Christmas near impossible to ignore, with their grinning blowup snowmen, plastic nativity scenes, and wooden reindeer cutouts. He hated, in particular, the twinkling trees in front of City Hall, such a waste of his hard earned money.

Assuming the night would be a repeat of past years, Elmer planned his usual survival strategy: stock up on frozen pizza, close the curtains to avoid Christmas light pollution, and spend the night in an epic Warcraft battle with the orcs. The headphones he picked up at Long & McQuade on Black Friday were an early present to himself, perfect for canceling out the clanging church bells of Gaetz United. He had just dished up a slice of ham and pineapple when a flash lit up the room. Pulsating light wreaked havoc with the orcs. He tore open the curtains and threw up the sash. A top City Hall was an inflatable Santa, a full story tall, with a blinking sack of toys. It was all too much.

If Elmer had thrown his pizza down on the table in disgust, closed the window, and gone back to his game, that would have been the end of things. But something snapped in him. Elmer thrust his arms into his parka and his feet into his skidoo boots and ran down the stairs, past City Hall and around to the library, desperation a sour candy in his mouth. Then he found it—the black box.

The latch stuck. Elmer pried it open with his Swiss army knife. He grabbed the master switch and shoved the lever down. Christmas trees went dark. Santa’s sack quit blinking. Recorded Christmas music ceased. Elmer barked a laugh. Finally, peace on earth.

A tune he recognized drifted through the air and he pivoted, searching for the harmonic voices. Tiny flickering lights spread across the street and bobbed toward him. He stood, unsure where to turn, as faces appeared in the light, singing, moving, enclosing him in a circle. A bearded man passed him a candle.

“For me?” Elmer said.

“Merry Christmas.” A woman smiled and patted his arm as she passed.

“This is perfect,” the minister said and led everyone to the centre of City Hall park, dark but for their candles, quiet but for their a capella rendition of Silent Night. People looped arms, and Elmer felt himself held between the bearded man and a teenage girl whose nose and eyebrow piercings glinted in the candlelight. Elmer swallowed hard.

“I can’t believe I’m here,” he said to the teen beside him. “I never do this.”

“Yeah, me neither,” she said and smiled.

Elmer smiled back.



LOST

Alessandra Francine Reyes

My name is Willow, Willow Frost Pedal. I’m 25 years old but two feet tall because I'm one of Santa’s elves! Of course my favorite color is red, my hair is jet black, and my eyes are navy blue.

“ Hi Shinny,” I said to one of the elves. “ Hello Willow where are you headed?” Said Shinny. “ I’m headed to the workshop, you?” I said happily. “ Oh just going to get candy cane hot chocolate” Shinny said walking away. I love the candy cane hot chocolate. It's a very warm and toasty hot chocolate with a little bit of a cool minty flavor. I really want to go to Greece, I saw it in the magazines we get in the mail. But how will I get there because I have so much work to do there’s 27 more days until Christmas!

Dobby is one of my friends in the workshop, he helps me when making wooden toys. Making wooden toys is hard for me but I'm starting to get the techniques of making wooden toys. I was daydreaming about the candy cane hot chocolate that I was so focused on that I bumped into the most popular elf Pepper Evergreen. “ Oh sorry, I was daydreaming as usual!”I said.

“ It’s totally fine, I love it too. Where are you headed? It looks like you're going to the reindeer?” said Pepper. I thought she was gonna get so upset at me. Surprisingly she didn’t, well she is kind but I really thought she was gonna get upset . “ OH! I’m gonna see the reindeer because I heard a noise from them.” I said. “ Okay see ya later!” Pepper said. “Hi Dasher,Dancer,Prancer,Vixen,Comet,Cupid,Donner,Blitzen, and finally Rudolph,”I said to Santa’s reindeer. After that I ran to the nearby frozen river to see my friend Noel. We skated there, we talked, we sang her favorite song, Noel by Lauren Daigle. I told her about Greece and why I want to go there. “ Ohh! Nice. I wanna go to the Philippines after Christmas.” Said Noel. “ Nice! What part of the Philippines?” I said. “Manila, I saw it in the magazines too,” said Noel. After that I went back to the workshop. Everyone was asleep when I got to the workshop.

When I knew everyone was asleep I ran to Santa’s sleigh to go to Greece. I hooked up all the reindeer on the sleigh and left. I was in Bulgaria when I noticed that I went the wrong way so I pressed a button that I felt like I trusted and the sleigh went flying around the world so fast I got super dizzy and I fainted. When I woke up the sleigh was alright and so was the reindeer. I wondered where I was until I saw a sign that said WELCOME TO RED DEER. “ I landed somewhere else?”I said to myself. I spent a night in Red deer and went back home.



Mabel’s Magical Market Adventure: A Red Deer Holiday Tale

Amy Tkachuk

(contributed image)

As the Red Deer Lights the Night festival set the city aglow, Mabel, a tiny mouse with a heart full of wonder, navigated the merry scene, her delicate paws tracing a path of tiny prints in the freshly fallen snow.

The market brimmed with kindness, a testament to the town’s spirit. The aroma of spiced cider and carolers’ harmonies filled the air, lifting Mabel’s spirits. She watched as people exchanged greetings and gifts, their generosity a blanket against the winter’s cold.

Mabel’s quest was simple yet heartfelt: to find a special gift for her beloved Mortimer. Amidst the revelry, her gaze fell upon a shiny loonie, discarded and gleaming like a star. With care, she nudged it along, envisioning Mortimer’s delight at this token of love.

As she continued her journey, Mabel witnessed acts of kindness: strangers sharing scarves with those shivering, laughter from a group playing impromptu snow games. Each gesture was a gift in itself, reflecting the true essence of the season.

The children’s choir sang of peace and goodwill. Mabel, hidden but moved, added her tiny voice to the chorus, feeling an invisible bond with the humans around her.

With the loonie secured, Mabel found a scrap of velvet ribbon, fashioning it into a festive wrap for her precious find. This small act mirrored the resourcefulness and warmth that surrounded her.

Night fell, and the market’s lights twinkled like stars. Mabel returned to the cozy burrow she shared with Mortimer. In the hush of the evening, the distant laughter and music lingered, a sweet serenade to the night.

For Mabel, the holiday season’s richness was woven into Red Deer’s festivities. It was found in kindness, shared moments, and simple joys that lit up long winter nights. And as she presented Mortimer with the shiny loonie, wrapped in love and velvet, she knew they were part of something magical—a celebration of giving and community that would stay with them forever.

The festival was more than just lights; it was a symphony of joy and shared stories. It was here that the true spirit of the holidays was alive—where every light was a reminder of enduring hope and unbreakable bonds.

Mabel’s adventure at the festival was a small chapter in Red Deer’s winter celebration narrative—a tale warming hearts for generations. And as dawn approached, Mabel and Mortimer knew that these memories would be their beacon through dark winters.

The holidays were indeed a candle against darkness—a time for family, food, and festivities. In Red Deer, each light and each burst of laughter reinvigorated souls for chilly months ahead. For Mabel, this season was filled with moments more precious than any stocking gift.


The Quick Stop

G.W. Cord

In the dim light of a winter’s eve, our unknown friend stopped suddenly.

Through the mist of swirling snow, he heard the muse of melodies floating in the air between the hanging lights on a patio. A small crowd conversed in the cold. They were a sight to cherish, if only for the slightest of moments.

“Time to hurry” mumbled our friend, pushing on towards the illuminated spectacle. Staying hidden between two glistening trees of winter, he saw the swaying of hands extending out greetings to each other. He took note. Every name not said aloud was already known to our strange friend. “Hmm…good. I see they remember.”

There was a time when he wrote their names down in a distance past. Now, in his haste, he wanted a quick glance at who and what they had become. They were nice. He knew they would be, and this one last look warmed his heart.

A silver bell tinkled in the air beckoning his leave. With a smile on his lips and the slightest wink, he disappeared into the long winter’s night.



The Littlest Nutcracker

Isaac Barrett

The wooden men stood in a row outside the village. Melchior's posture was rigid as he stared into the dark. Bony trees towered all about them.
“You know we really are in a situation here,” Sir Wenceslas said. The lanky nutcracker leaned against white bark, shifting his spear from hand to hand.
Melchior grunted. A fire crackled nearby, but it did little to ward off the chill creeping up his back.
“Nothing personal of course,” Wenceslas said as he began twisting the butt of his spear into the snow-packed floor. “With that thing out there. We were praying for an army or something.” He chuckled. “Then we got you.”
“Yeah,” Melchior said.
He was half the height of Wenceslas, and thinner too. These men needed soldiers to add to their ranks. Melchior thought. Yet The Carpenter had sent only him. The littlest nutcracker of them all.
Snow filtered down in fat flakes. It glinted in the shifting firelight and made it difficult to see. Had that lump in the darkness moved? Melchoir squeezed the handle of his sword.
“I'd think it was a sick joke,” Wenceslas said. “But that old Carpenter doesn't joke.”
Melchior grunted. He didn't know exactly what these soldiers faced night after night. They were reluctant to talk about it. But he had been created to help. Melchoir knew that much. He would find a way.
Wenceslas snapped to attention as a tall Nutcracker came marching up the line. He wore a dark red cloak that swished about his ankles, scattering the fresh snow.
"Blades!" Alabaster shouted.
Weapons were drawn and the clinking of metal trickled through the night.
"Not you runt." Alabaster shot Melchoir a glare as he strode past. "I don't need you getting in the way."
Melchior’s jaw clenched. He kept his gaze forward. He would have to. He had to.
Eyes flashed in the woods, catching the firelight as the creature scuttled behind a tree.
A whistle cracked the night. Melchoir was the first to move, but he was overtaken as the nutcrackers around him charged into battle.
The mice materialized like ghosts. Greasy, fanged, lumps of hair, leaping from the shadows.
They were nearly as tall as Melchoir. Time to prove himself.
Heart hammering, he lifted his blade them. He stumbled over something in the snow and hit the ground. Before he could rise, someone's ankle connected with Melchoir's side and they tripped on top of him.
Icy shards tore at Melchoir's cheek as it was pressed into the snow. The nutcracker on top tried to get up but was forced back down by a hissing mouse. Melchoir struggled to lift his head. He sucked in a breath and felt cold powder fill his throat and nostrils. The man on his back thrashed. The rodent screeched. Then the weight lifted.

Melchoir gasped for breath, coughing and wiping the snow from his eyes.
Alabaster stood over him, his cloak billowing in the frozen night. The mouse lay at his feet, twisted with its mouth agape. The man's fingers dug into Melchoir's shoulders as he yanked him upwards.
"You imbecile!" Alabaster yelled, flecks of spit splattering against Melchoir’s face.
"You could've had us both dead." He shoved Melchoir backwards.
The little nutcracker stumbled onto his butt as Alabaster swept away.
Melchoir's ears rang, and his head throbbed. He tried to stand but the world spun and he fell to his knees.
Imbecile. The word hung, like a blunt axe on his belt, as the battle unfolded without him.
Alabaster was right. He couldn't help them. The littlest nutcracker. Useless.
He watched Wenceslas. The man's spear glinted as he spun like a dancer, slaying mouse after mouse. Melchior should've been someone like that. They needed a hero. Not a runt.
A cry ripped across the battlefield as a hulking shadow appeared amidst the sparse woods, looming just on the edge of the firelight.
A wooden body flew from the darkness, cracking against a tree and landing in a lifeless heap.
Shouting erupted all about. What were they saying? Monster?
A rat stepped into the light. It was enormous. Ten times the size of the others, its ashen skin was wrinkled and scared, shrivelling around ember eyes. It snarled, revealing a set of yellowed daggers
"Stand your ground!" Alabaster yelled. "We slay this beast tonight!"
It screamed again, drowning out the last of Alabaster's words, and seized the nearest nutcracker.
Melchior's legs became like rocks. He had to move. Fear held him in a steel grip.
Save them.
The thought seemed out of place amidst his terror yet it helped him scramble to his feet.
Nutcrackers and mice alike fled around him. Melchoir was ready to run with them.
Save them.
He hesitated, turning to see that a group of men was holding their ground, Alabaster at their center pointing his blade in defiance. The sight lit a fire in Melchoir's chest. The Carpenter had created him for this. He had to try.
The men startled as Melchoir sprinted past them. He came at the rat's head, then ducked sideways when it snapped at him. He brought his sword down in an epic sweep.

CLANG!

A shock rang through his arms as his blade bounced off the monster's hide. Its tail shot at his chest like a viper. Melchoir soared backwards and collapsed like a discarded toy.
His chest and stomach seized. The monster lumbered towards him.
Wenceslas appeared from nowhere. Clangs echoed through the night as the nutcracker struck the beast in a hurricane of steel. The monster snapped its mouth, catching Wenceslas' spear. It snapped the weapon in two and gashed the man's chest with a clawed paw.
Alabaster bellowed as Wenceslas fell face-first in the snow.
There dying, Melchoir thought, rising to his feet. They're all going to die. He was supposed to save them. Why couldn't he save them?
The rat howled, flicking its blood-red tongue. Alabaster attacked. The beast reared and struck him in the face knocking the dark nutcracker onto his back. The man threw his hands up as the monster loomed over him and screamed again. Melchoir could see down its black throat.
Then it clicked. They couldn't kill it. Its skin was too tough. No warrior, no matter how great, could slay this beast.
Not from the outside.
A chill settled in Melchoir's stomach. There was a way. The carpenter had created the perfect man for the job. The littlest nutcracker.
A flame came to life inside Melchoir as he barreled across the snow. His pain and fear melted away.
He could die. He would probably die. It hardly seemed to matter. He would save them.
Melchior came within striking distance just as the thing finished its cry. He jumped, stretching his body like an arrow, and soared right down the monster's throat.
… Alabaster sat in the snow. What had he just seen?
The monster fell to all fours retching and choking.
Melchior.. He jumped...
A blade erupted from the beast's stomach. It froze, sucking in a few ragged breaths. Then it collapsed.
Silence fell like a thunderbolt. The forest became still, save for the wisps of rising breath.
Dead. It was dead. And Melchoir was… inside.
Alabaster sputtered and leapt to his feet.
"Out!" He managed finally. "Get him out of there!"

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