It is a killing fog, creeping about my legs like mustard gas in the trenches. I'd had my fill of the trenches, and the marks were permanently on my face. |
With my walking stick in my hand, I dragged my sorry shape through the mists and odorous moisture of the east side of the city. Intermingled with the acidic white fog, was the stench of the docks.
I had just left the China Pipe Inn, which was a pub and much more. Do you blame me for my vices, with my leg on fire from the embedded steel and bone fragments that used to be part of a Hauptman's rib cage and an artillery piece? The killer fog also irritates the chemical burns on my melted face.
But I feel nothing. So judge me not.
Nothing is what I was looking for; my body is half dead and the simple opium solution allows my mind to ignore the physical shackle.
Sometimes the half alive part compensates; becomes overactive and assumes responsibility. And then, the stories begin. I have become a story teller to no one. A lone mangled figure sitting quietly by the docks, talking to the thick fog. The anonymous story teller; invisible and often unintelligible.
Since all your hallucinations are listening to my altered ramblings, still yourselves for a moment and I'll tell you a seasonal tale. And don't moan on about my bitterness, it is appropriate to my station in life.
I can see you people, forming and dissipating in the smog. I can almost see people I might have once recognized, at least when they had all their limbs properly attached.
But I wander....
Earlier this evening a foreigner asked me about Boxing day. So I spun the usual tale about abused servants getting to put the leftover food from their superior's tables in boxes the day after Christmas and taking it home for a cold feast.
The wog went away satisfied after stealing a draw off my pipe, the blackguard. Well, one must expect this from Chinamen and wogs, so I was not unduly stressed. Besides, the dissipated fop who runs the China Pipe feels sorry for me, and most nights the opium is provided free. Of course, the ownership papers are in my name in exchange.
This disturbs me not at all, since one prison is the same as any other, whether or not the doors are locked from the inside or outside.
Back to the issue at hand.
The correct story of Boxing day has nothing to do with the standard fable, which is assumed to be 'ancient'. In fact it was invented not fifteen years ago, between the Boer war and the Great war. This untrue version appeared because the truth is 'unpalatable to Englishmen.'
It seems my family is cursed with misfortune, for the story originates from my mother's brother, and their estates in a grisly, and miserable shale-covered peninsula not three hours train journey from here.
My uncle was quite unbalanced, as I am these days. Now, now, politeness is not required here. I know what I am. The huge difference between my current mental habits, and those of my uncle are simple; I am quite harmless you see, whereas my uncle was not.
What he truly was, is only speculated upon by those with a grim set of mind. You see, he was a titled petty aristocrat and part of his duties included a small parish a few minutes ride from the moldy Norman keep he used to call the 'Palace.'
In this Parish was, of course, the local church complete with the usual moss covered gravestones and a surprisingly large quantity of fresh graves. My uncle, as it turned out, was directly responsible for this sudden renewal.
The parish population had suddenly suffered a series of deaths. Something like one third the population essentially expired in the space of two years. Recall, this is an isolated place, with no reason for anyone to travel there, and the people too poor to leave.
I beg your pardon? What's this? I apologize, sometimes my memory fails in mid-hallucination. Never the mind, assume that I did tell you about the isolation.
My uncle was a large framed man, yellow of complexion, large of hand and jaw. His crazed mind forced his dim eyes to occasionally glitter suddenly, like a piece of shrapnel embedded in a corpse, reflecting a passing Very light.
Well, Uncle Myrdin had certain tastes, you see. And they dealt with small boxes about a yard by a yard. Many small boxes. And many small pieces of many small people who used to be large people within.
As I understand it, from the constables, there was a passageway from the graveyard to an extensive network of caves, which were also connected to that hideous Norman construction.
In short, Uncle used to travel beneath, extract the coffins and do whatever it is he did do. It seems he ran out of fresh meat after a while because over that two year period he would place people in the top and return later from the bottom. Very efficient, is it not?
One spring, there was an uncommon level of flooding, followed by an uncommonly hot sun. The boxes apparently let themselves be known, and out of curiosity, was inspected by a local veterinary, who suspected plague killed livestock.
When the story appeared in the local ill-reputed presses around this country, it happened to coincide with one of our more rich citizens who had poisoned all his servants the day after Christmas. They had been poisoned due to their master's whim, no reason stated.
Thus began Boxing Day, in its original form. It really has nothing to do with the box itself, but with the carved carcasses within.
I think you should leave at this point, for I am rather keen on getting a nice long swim in, before the fog lifts and the tide turns.
Ennui is an old bastard famed for uttering these incredulous words in over 35 countries ; "You only have Lager?" Beyond that, work has appeared in MPD, In Dark Faith Eternal, iMPs in the InkWell and a half a dozen other 'zines. The other half of his brain has been published in the Canadian Journal Of Contemporary Literary Stuff, Raw Nervz and other Lit oriented publications. Ennui spends his day as a corporate whore and his evenings are filled with Guinness products.