'Flash!' Winter 2017

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: The Imaginarium

A short story written by Imaginarium House member, Hullabaloo22.

Chapter 27 (v.1) - The Christmas Fates

Submitted: December 08, 2017

Reads: 60

Comments: 3

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Submitted: December 08, 2017



The Christmas Fates


The Barley Tavern looked like little more than a shack, run down and dirty. It was well off the beaten track and was not the kind of establishment that would encourage passers-by to give it a chance. In fact, if you did not know better you would think by its appearance that it was deserted and certainly no longer in business. But you would be wrong!


If you should dare to venture nearer you would notice that the paint on the door was peeling; that there were cracks on the concrete of the wall. But the roof was intact and the windows, although smeared with dirt, were free of breaks. If the weather should be cold you might notice puffs of smoke from the chimney. Whatever the weather, whatever the hour, if you walked up beside it you would hear the gentle buzz of conversation; if your timing was bad you might hear a shout, a crash, the sounds of a ruckus as a fight broke out.

Fighting in the Barley Tavern was by no means unusual.


The door opened up in to one big large room. It would always be smokey, smelling of damp and poor hygiene, both of the building and the people inside. The light would be dim with deep shadows in the corners. The furniture, scattered around the room, had seen better days. Many of the chairs had uneven legs, some so much so that they were propped up with anything that seemed the right size. The tables were battered, looked battle-scarred; the surfaces were far from clean and had a sticky feel about them.


The man behind the bar was scruffy, with a thick beard and badly cut hair. He was neither fat nor thin, tall nor short. He was average, unremarkable in any way. He could have been forty years old or eighty, it was impossible to tell. He rarely spoke a word.


The bar itself seemed to offer a very limited choice of drink and the barman would get a top-up for the customer whenever approached. He knew exactly what they wanted without being asked. The strangest thing of all was the lack of money changing hands; nobody ever seemed to pay at the bar no matter how many times they walked up to it.


If you looked around there would be an odd assortment of clientele. Male, mostly, and rather rough in looks. Many wore hooded tops, pulled down low to obscure most of their facial features, although some seemed to favour hats instead. There was a definite air of shadiness about the customers; that they were skirting the edges of the law or had gone right across to the bad side. Eyes were cast down, mostly fixed on the tables. The exception to this was when a dispute was starting, a fight about to break out.


In the far corner of the bar, in the darkest, dampest shadiest corner five figures sat around a table. They were dressed in cloaks, hoods pulled up, and were leaning around a black bowl of some kind. All five were female, but you would not call them ladies. The term ‘hag’ would most likely come to mind. Once a year, without fail, they would gather around that table – nobody would ever dare to take their place.


* * * * *


These five women are none other than the Christmas Fates. It is not only Santa Claus, Father Christmas, St. Nick – whatever you like to call him – that is out on the night of December the 24th, but these five will be journeying around the world too. They do not bring gifts but they determine the sort of Christmas you will have.


Even though there is not the slightest glimpse of tinsel, of glittered stars, of a tree bedecked with lights and baubles, this day is December 24th. The Christmas Fates are gathered together to receive their lists, to see where they are to call to. All have their plus and minus points – a visit from any of them can be good or bad – but all will bring a different experience of Christmas.


Although at a quick glance these five women look very similar, all being old and wrinkled, hunched in posture, when you learn who they are and the sort of fortune they bring, their differences become apparent. As with the barman, their ages are impossible to guage.


The first one you would come to if you were to approach the table would be Cataclysima. If she visits, you will be ensured a Christmas that is in some way dramatic. Where there is a natural disaster, an act of violence, a severe accident, she will have been to call. But she does not only bring catastrophe. If you were to find yourself making a big win in a lottery, for instance, this would also be as a consequence of Cataclysima calling to your address.

She is the most haggard looking of the five, clearly showing the trauma caused by the events she so often brings.


Next to her sits Mercia. She brings a sort of mercenary feeling to Christmas, where everyone is out for what they, themselves, can get. And it will definitely be the more the better. Houses where there are moans of disappointment, that the brand is not right, that the model is not recent enough, that the gifts received are just not up to scratch – well, they have been visited by Mercia. She has a sharp appearance, callous and cold. Always, she gives the impression of weighing things up, balancing, and trying to tip the scales in her own favour.


Celebora gives off a tired air, although she smiles and tries to hide it. The couple that are putting on a show, being entertained or entertaining, have been visited by her. The family that is running here, there and everywhere, trying to fit in as much as they possibly can even when they are worn out, have also been paid a visit. It is all about ‘doing’ or of ‘being seen’. They will force themselves to keep going until they physically cannot carry on any longer.


The fourth of the five is Faminita. The houses that host a big family get-together have received her fate. Family members come from far and wide to gather together, often with little in common with each other than genetics. Many of these people have not seen each other for years, even decades, and many have past histories, resentments, disagreements that end up resurfacing when all the family are in close proximity again. Of course, not all family gatherings end in arguments and some can be quite happy occasions. Faminita smiles but the stress is all too clear in the way she chews her lip uncertainly, the way she fidgets, bites her nails. She has the look of the constantly worried.


Finally, the fifth Fate is called Solista. It is she that brings the uneventful Christmas, the quiet Christmas where nothing different seems to happen. She brings solitude. For couples or families this can be good or bad depending on how content they are in their own company. For the lonely though, this can be a devastating, soul-destroying time; a time when they feel they are lacking, are unloved, unnoticed, would be missed by nobody if they no longer existed. There is a deep sadness about her; she does not quite seem to ‘belong’ with the others.


They sit patiently, taking in their instructions which seem to invisibly communicate themselves to the five Fates from inside that black bowl. There is no mist, no steam, no popping, no fizzing, and definitely no whispers. How they receive their lists is a complete mystery to all but themselves, but they always take their leave of the Tavern at exactly the same time each year.


The five women stand and walk towards the door, one behind the other. As they take each step they appear fainter and fainter and before the door is reached they completely vanish.

Nobody watches them leave, or if they do they are very subtle about it, and nobody ever sits in their vacant seats. After all, who would want to tempt fate!

© Copyright 2019 hullabaloo22. All rights reserved.


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