The Christmas you get you
With that, they turned and walked away, searching for
fresh prey for their Dark Paymasters.
Jake lay still in the water, too bruised to move,
strapped to an aches and pains matrix, all scratchy and Heath Robinson. His
mouth had been burst open and he spat out some blood.
'Merry Christmas,' he repeated as snow peppered the
water. He imagined he could see ice crystals forming in the little pool. Would
he be encased in a block of glittering ice, shining from the inside with its
gorgeous gold treasure? At least he could afford to buy his Mum a nice present
in the Boxing Day sales now.
The truth hit him like a slap in the face. He was in a
shit-forsaken world and he'd just reached rock bottom, or rather the
particularly nasty crap under the rock at the very bottom.
That was when it happened, the beginning of the strangest
Screw the feel-good factor, a voice whispered. The time has come for something
different. The world is crying out for our medicine.
Jake raised his head, fearing the millionaires and their
evil choir of familiars had returned, but no one was there.
Don't you see? the strange voice continued. It's time to spread the feel-bad
factor. Feeling like shit is going to be the ultimate fashion statement for next
Jake groaned and pushed his face closer to the surface of
the puddle. He saw a little chunk of red shimmer-light falling from a candle in
the window of a hooker's apartment. The image wavered and was replaced by that
of two well-scrubbed faces. He looked up and found himself in the unmistakable
presence of two do-gooders, Jehovah's Witnesses by the look of them, carrying
'Hello, have you had a personal crisis recently?' The
taller of the clean-cut young men stretched out a hand towards Jake.
Jake declined the offer and continued to lie in the
puddle, watching flicker-trick red water entering the opening of the can of
lager he'd drunk from earlier.
'We can help.' The second well-dressed young man crouched
down, shining his torch straight into Jake's face. 'We're part of the world's
largest family. You can be part of that family too. A problem shared…'
'Is a problem multiplied.' Jake wondered what had happened
to the strange voice he'd heard earlier. 'I've heard the tune before. It's the
words I don't get.' Fresh, and much more intense, pains began. It was as if
someone had switched on an electric circuit linking every nerve-ending in his
body. He was a lit-up Christmas tree short of the Christmas.
'You shouldn't look at it that way.' The Witnesses
introduced themselves as Oliver and Theodore.
'Do you believe in the End of the World?' Jake said. He
rolled onto his back and stared at the black sky.
'The End is a lot closer than most people imagine.'
Theodore had a knowing look in his eye. 'Most people have no idea.'
'No idea at all,' Jake stated flatly.
'It could be today,' Oliver added.
For you, it certainly will be. It was the voice again.
'Christ, did you hear that?' Jake squealed.
'Hear what?' The Witnesses looked around, confused.
'That whiney little voice. It's threatening me.'
'We heard nothing. Perhaps it's an after-effect of your
'Maybe you're right.' Jake wondered if one of his ribs
was broken. Jesus, maybe it was much worse…brain damage? He hauled himself out
of the puddle and struggled to his feet. The streets of Newcastle were wet and dark,
dime-detective-novel sleazy. A lot nicer than Jake's native Glasgow, right
enough, but lacking the fond fellow feeling inspired by all of that famous
fraternal Glasgow kissing.
'We must get you out of those wet clothes,' Oliver said.
'You're soaked through.'
Jake brushed off a condom that had become entangled with
the belt of his jeans. 'You're Jevvies, aren't you?'
'If you mean Jehovah's Witnesses then we certainly are,'
Theodore answered. 'Would you like to read some of our literature?' He fished
in his satchel then thrust a copy of Watchtower
Jake waved it away. He wasn't sure why he was even talking
to God Squadders. Normally he'd have told them to fuck right off, no matter
what condition he was in. Maybe he was feeling vulnerable because of that nasty
As soon as he thought that, the voice spoke again. You might believe you have a degree of
control over what's happening, but you couldn't be more wrong.
'What the fuck is happening?' Jake moaned.
The two Jevvies exchanged curious glances. They'd seen
demonic possession before.
'Who's talking to me?' Jake shouted. 'I demand to know.'
Tonight's the night, Jakey boy, the voice replied. The stranger within becomes the
'I don't frigging believe this.' Jake cradled his wet
You're finished, Jake, the voice continued. You had your chance and you blew it.
Look at you. All washed up; a nobody going nowhere. For fuck's sake, fat
millionaires have beaten you up and now you're talking to Jevvies. You couldn't
sink any lower. So, you see, it's time for a new outfit to run the show. Get
'Why don't you pick on someone else, you bastard,' Jake
You've been chosen, Jake, my boy. There's nothing you can do about it. Just tell yourself
it was written in the stars or some astrological bollocks like that.
Why not, you shitty cunt?
'Get out of my head!' Jake screamed.
I'll be doing more than that. I'll be
getting you out of your head.
And, with that, Jake knew he was in the biggest trouble
of his life.
All of the lights came back on…Midnight.
Instantly, a huge hologram appeared in the night sky,
showing breathtaking festive images. Grottoes and elves and cribs; snowy
castles and cosy families and dining tables crammed with mouth-watering dishes.
Parcels galore wrapped in the most expensive Christmas gift paper. Wine and
song and merriment. Everyone laughing. A million bright smiles. A great,
shining, dazzling, brilliant, multi-coloured star in the sky.
Three men wearing gaudy Christmas paper crowns emerged
from a Speak-Easy. They were guffawing, patting each other on the back and
wishing each other a Merry Christmas.
'Merry Christmas to you too,' they shouted to the
Jevvies, but Theodore and Oliver scowled.
'We may be Christians,' the Jevvies said, 'but we don't
'Eh?' one of the three drunks said. 'We're professors of
philosophy from East
University. How can you
be Christians if you hate Christmas?'
A little girl wandered by, clutching a handbag shaped
like a sheep.
Jake glanced at the dilapidated building directly
opposite: a closed-down wine bar called The Stables. The truth dawned. None of
this was any accident. Here he was on Christmas Day, with a strange voice
inside him trying to get out, with three wise men from the East - or Kings if
you preferred - standing in front of him. There was a little shepherdess too.
Throw in a couple of doubting Thomas's, for good measure, and unjust
persecution (well, a good beating up) by rich folk. Last and not least, a
spectacular star in the sky. What did it all add up to?
Jesus Christ, Jake thought, I'm turning into Jesus
Cunt! the voice snarled.
Correction, Jake reconsidered: I'm turning into the Antichrist.
The hairs on his body stood on end. His hands shook.
Colours and sounds ran into each other. Long-forgotten faces reappeared in his
mind. Snippets of thousands of dimly remembered conversations strolled in and
out of his consciousness as though they were promenading though Leazes Park.
He had the feeling his mind was being emptied in preparation for being filled
anew, with the memories of someone, or something, else.
Jake was getting desperate. Maybe the Jevvies' Jehovah
was just the guy he needed to help him fight back against the voice. Whatever
it was doing to him, the process was well under way, and accelerating. He
didn't have much time left.
'When the end comes, only Jehovah's Witnesses will be
saved,' Theodore said.
'Everyone else?' Jake winced involuntarily as fresh pains
convulsed through him.
'We need only concern ourselves with the Saved.'
'Saved from what?'
Jake understood perfectly. He sure as hell needed to be
saved from the voice in his head. It was pushing him out of the driving seat.
Adrenaline surged through his body and he started to sway.
'The word of Jehovah can be overpowering,' Oliver
whispered. 'We understand how you feel. It was the same my first time.'
Jake didn't answer. He had an army of worker ants toiling
away inside him, rearranging his molecular structure. The voice was gaining the
upper hand and he was powerless to prevent it.
You're on your way out, bozo, the voice mocked. Say hello to the dinosaurs 'cos you'll
soon be every bit as extinct.
Jake futilely tried to comprehend the incomprehensible.
You don't understand, do you? the voice said. I am a voice that hasn't been heard
for an Eternity. If you said, like those trashy newspapers you enjoy reading,
that I was a god and that I had a taste for late-night beach crawling on the
golden sands of ancient Greece,
you'd be either bang on the mark or off your fucking trolley. Not that I intend
to confirm the rumours either way.
What I'm prepared to say is this. I'm
all strange things. I'm strangeness itself. Think of me as a kind of sickness;
a sickness, I might add - and indeed I shall since I'm that sort of guy - that
once it has touched you, can only be purged by an eruption. You may ejaculate,
but not over the carpet, for fuck's sake. Or vomit. Ditto. Maybe you'll scream
until the top detaches itself from your head, and so much the better.
The voice's takeover was nearing completion. Jake ought
to have been appalled, yet somehow he scarcely minded now. Maybe it was the
best thing that had ever happened to him. At last - someone in charge who
actually knew what he was doing.
Showtime, the voice declared. It had won. It
prepared to declare its first audible words to a quaking world. Oh, how the
fools would suffer.
'My God, what's happening to you?' Theodore said to the
former Jake smiled, knowing his transformation must have rendered him a sight
terrible to behold, striking fear into every heart. He attempted to speak aloud
to the world for the very first time, but strange - wrong - words were in his
mouth. What the hell was going on? He caught sight of his reflection in a
window and vomited, making a nice Jackson Pollock mess on the snow.
wasn't the young, slim, godlike creature, in the most stylish of clothes, that
he was expecting. Instead, he was tubby, old - with a thick white beard - and a
large sack over his shoulder containing what felt like hard-edged, boxy
parcels. And why on Earth was he wearing red, his least favourite colour?
ho, ho,' he blurted involuntarily.
the realisation - the horrific, cold, unadulterated truth - struck home. He
knew exactly what he'd become, and the terrible, appalling first words that
were sure to spew from his mouth, mocking everything he stood for.
Christmas everybody,' he bellowed in a ridiculously jolly voice.