Ah, the snow. How delicate and unique each flake of the cold, white substance can be. The children will dash through it, flinging it left and right among each other. They will lay down and stretch their arms and legs in all directions, attempting to create a beautiful angel for all to see. Then, of course, there are others who build snowmen, their laughter filling the frosty air as they partake in a multitude of holiday activities. How I envied those who enjoyed the Christmas Spirit. I had never actually… seen such festivities occur. Rather, I would hear about them through tales my father would tell of the good boys and girls who truly valued what it meant to celebrate Christmas.
This story will be a recounting of an experience I had as a young boy. After finding myself away from my childhood home and actually close to civilization, I began taking the time to recollect a few memories from my past. Between strange occurrences I couldn’t explain back then, and one freakish moment I experienced at that point in time, I suppose this will act as a warning to you.
I truly want to help you, and this is perhaps the best way I can spread the word around about what I have discovered about the holidays without “him” finding out. I need to be discrete about this. Although I have traveled as far away from my old home as I can, I know for a fact that he’s still out there, and that he can find me. I don’t want to risk it, so maybe… maybe if a few people who see this help me spread it around, I won’t have to worry about the consequences of my actions. It’s the best I can hope for I suppose. Even still, I have to live the life of a nomad, never once being able to stop and catch my breath. Doing so would be too dangerous, so it is imperative I get this out soon. Now, since I’ve finished my introduction, I suppose it’s time to release something I’ve been holding back on for quite some time now. I can only hope that I make any sort of difference by doing this.
My childhood was a strange one.
When December would come, I found myself locked inside my house. My father and I didn’t adorn the halls with stockings or decorations, nor did we erect a Christmas tree in our living room. The fireplace was constantly extinguished, robbing me of the comfort I desired. Each night I would curl up in bed, trembling as the cold air ran across my body and I stared up at the ceiling, my mind completely blank. Yes, it was as bad as it sounds. No, I didn’t mind how rough things could get. There always seemed to be an innocent part of me that didn’t mind the way I lived my life, no matter how barren the house could be during all times of the year.
Don’t get me wrong, my father was very good to me. I can’t recall a day he didn’t show me his big, wide smile and treat me as best he could. He took care of me, fed me well, and was a good parent overall. He was a rather portly fellow, but a kind man nonetheless. The only issue is that, well, he wasn’t a big fan of the holidays. It made for a very bleak life around the winter time especially. It confused me as to why he would tell me about how the other children had such a great time. I often thought he did it to make a bit of fun, or that perhaps he was just pulling my leg. I had never seen the things he described to me after all, so it would make sense that maybe they were just stories.
I rarely found it strange that we didn’t live remotely near anybody else. Our small wooden hut was located high in the mountains, where the slopes would be treacherous for anyone ascending or descending the terrain. Perhaps, even if I had wanted to see the outside world, I wouldn’t have been able to. It would have been impossible for me to climb up or down the rugged area, let alone at such a young age. Because of the sheer height of the mountains where we lived, the air was thin and the winds blew fiercely, and the most I ever saw of the outside world was through the window. My father said we didn’t always live there. He said we had a home somewhere down below where the other people lived, but we were in his “vacation home” as he put it. I hadn’t lived in any other house before then, so needless to say, it was a rather odd vacation, to say the least.
While my father stayed inside with me, we would play board games and create drawings together. Those and various other indoor activities would teach me about the outside world and what it was like. However, my favorite memories of my father were the stories he would tell me. As mentioned prior, he would tell me of his experiences with that which dwelled under the mountain and across the world. His various interactions with such people piqued my curiosity and, upon my request to learn more, he would bring me books and magazines. Those sources were my first true contact with society, and I’d spend hours at a time reading. It kept me busy and, despite the lack of holiday cheer in my life, I was content.
As each December came, my father would start spending less time with me and more time in his private office. I only ever saw him carrying a large list of what appeared to be names on a sheet, and then he would vanish for lengthy periods of time. I always wondered what he did up there, but he never took the time to explain. He always brushed off my questions, or dismissed them a simple, “You’ll understand when you’re older, kiddo.” I never found myself content with those answers, and in a time where I wanted to learn, that lack of knowing the truth bothered me a lot. For years I felt as if my thirst for knowledge would remain unquenched, for the simple reason that I hadn’t a clue what my father did. After mischievously trying to sneak into his office one night while he slept, I found that the door was locked, and I never found the key. With my determination fleeting, I decided to just mind my own business and let it be.
Several years of this same pattern would come and go, and I was fine with it at first. However, I was not fine with the repetitive, and quite frankly, monotonous routine. I had read all my books, perfected all my art, and it got to the point where my father would be retelling the same old stories. I grew tired of these tedious rituals, and thus my curiosity sparked once more. It had been years since I learned about the existence of my father’s office. I thought that perhaps I was old enough to handle what was inside. You could imagine my dismay upon being denied my request to enter the room. I must have asked that man several times a month. Still, with his everlasting patience, he would respond with a simple “No” each time.
With all of this information out of the way, I think it’s time I introduce you to something my father would do that would eventually cause my curiosity to spill over. You see, every night on December 24th, he would open the front door, a large brown bag slung over his shoulder. He’d wave goodbye to me with a jolly grin on his face. He’d release a cheerful laugh before closing the door and locking it behind him, making his merry way down the mountain with inhuman speed and skill before disappearing into the night. The following day, he would come back exhausted. After taking his bag to his office, he would then sleep for most of the day.
I may have been an ignorant child, but I wasn’t stupid. All the books I had read, all the stories I had heard. They connected like puzzle pieces together within my young brain. The lists, the 24th of December, the brown sack. I smiled ear to ear as a realization came to my mind. I knew then more than ever that I had to find out what was in his office. So, I formulated a devious plan within my mind and decided it was worth a shot.
After a few hours of waiting, I saw the sun begin to rise above the horizon. The snow had ceased on the mountain, and the morning was a calm one indeed. I struggled to keep my eyes open. I had waited all night for my father to return, and I didn’t want to quit. Not then, when I was so close. After much waiting, I felt my body begin to relax. I fought with all my strength to keep my eyes open, and right before I drifted into a sound sleep, I heard the front door open. I perked my head up and fixated my eyes on the shape of my father stepping through the doorway. He looked surprised to see me up so early, but he flashed that same, warm smile he always did and rubbed my head gently. As expected, he ascended the stairs and opened his office door. He told me to wait outside and not to look in, and I obliged.
As he exited the room and closed the door, I stopped him before he could lock it with his key. I quickly grabbed his arm and pulled him downstairs. He tugged back towards the door in protest, but I was persistent, and he eventually sighed and followed me willingly. I lead him to the kitchen, where a fresh bowl of cereal awaited him. He smiled and thanked me before digging in, frantically eating the oats and drinking his milk. He eyed me as he ate, and I caught him looking at the stairwell which went to his office quite a few times. After he finished his cereal, he wiped his mouth with his sleeve and got up. I could see the bags under his eyed and the dead expression on his face. With a single yawn, he went to his room and fell asleep in bed. My plan had succeeded.
I steadily made my way up the stairs and found myself in front of the office. Sweat pooled in my palms as I gripped the doorknob before me. Years of waiting and curiosity would be satisfied, and the mystery would finally be solved. I snickered softly. Finally, a little action. A vacation from the curiosity which had plagued me for so long. I trembled in excitement and I pushed the door open and entered. A single desk stood in the middle of the room, and the brown bag sat on top of it. I slowly approached the desk, placing my hands on the bag. With one swift motion, I opened it and poked my head inside. To my surprise, its contents weren’t exactly what I had expected.
What I saw in that bag left me scratching my head in confusion. Instead of what I thought would be there, I found what seemed to be random objects at the time.
I was disappointed with my findings, and I carefully made sure to exit the door and close it behind, certain that I’d covered my tracks well. I never spoke a word of that experience to my father for fear of getting in trouble. I found myself chuckling a few times at how underwhelmed I was. I was expecting something far greater, only to find a strange assortment of items inside the bag. Perhaps I laughed to distract myself from the truth of what I saw, but I convinced myself that my dad was nobody special all along, and although it was still a mystery to me what he did those nights, I never thought more of it.
It wasn’t until I got much older and finally moved out of that house that I began thinking about what I found that day, and what it truly meant. My father never hurt me, but I fear what may become of me by releasing this information. Perhaps he is still out there, doing what he does best. I only hope this information being released can help someone out there, and maybe it can help me organize my thoughts and help me get some sleep at night. Believe me, I haven’t gotten enough rest since I discovered what was really going on. The part of the Christmas holiday they don’t tell you. Maybe I fear that I will become like him someday. That it is my predetermined fate to do as he did. I’m not certain, but all I know is this. He is my father. He is the reason I fear for my safety by writing this. I will never forget what I found in that brown bag of his, for it all becomes clear to me now.
I saw chains, coal, birch branches, rope, and branding irons. Each one had been used the previous night, and several child-sized shoes were also contained within the sack, all of them charred beyond repair.