Sometimes I get a little too proud of myself. I was sitting on a bench in the park one November day, in front of the usually-green fields completely shrouded by a blanket of orange leaves, reading a newspaper. The day was slightly warmer than I expected it to be, so I had draped my coat over the bench; besides, I liked the Autumn breeze, and I felt it better without my coat on. So, I was reading the newspaper, and they were already talking about Christmas. All these people talking about how great and extravagant their Christmas events were going to be. There was this man who claimed his Santa’s Grotto was going to be the best Santa’s Grotto in town, and that it would actually be like walking into the real Santa’s workshop.
I then put down my newspaper and thought, why should Christmas time be a competition for who has the best decorations or the biggest display or the most immersive workshop? Christmas should be a time to be humble, I said to myself, not a time for pride. It’s the birthday of Jesus bloody Christ, the guy who turned water into wine and rose from the dead, and I doubt putting up a lot of lights is going to top that.
Me thinking that thought left me pretty chuffed with myself, so I walked away with a glow of pride from being one of the few people out there with the true Christmas spirit. It wasn’t until I reached the gates of the park, and felt an especially strong breeze that I realised I had left my coat on the bench. I ran back to get it, and found it in the hands of a man.
A man wearing a filthy hoody and equally filthy jeans.
A man with the head of a deer.
As soon as I noticed what he really was, he turned towards me and handed me my coat. ‘Is this yours?’ he said in a soft voice.
I turned away from him, internally giving myself reassurance that this actually wasn’t a deer-headed man, that I was just seeing things because of how much I was thinking about Christmas. I took my coat from him and, closing my eyes tightly, said ‘Thanks’.
Though at that point I was almost certain that I had not actually seen a deer-headed man, I still ran towards the gate, only to trip on one of my shoelaces and fall face-first onto the path. ‘Are you alright,’ came the voice again, and as I lifted myself up, the deer-man shoved his face onto mine, and held my hand.
He held my hand with his hoof.
He held my hand with his hoof-hand.
His head was completely a deer’s head, and yet his hands were somewhere between hooves and human hands – more flesh than fur and with fingernails, but two fat fingers where there should have been four thin ones. His head was a deer’s head with absolutely nothing human about it – except lips. He spoke, and I focussed on his mouth.
‘Are you hurt?’ he asked me, ‘People try to hurt me, you know. They said they hurt me because…’ He then bit his lip, allowing me to look at his thick, yellow teeth. ‘Because I’m a monster. Do you think I’m a monster?’ he added, staring at me right in the eyes, holding my wrists with his hoof-hands. His eyes, I couldn’t tell if they were those of a human or a deer, they seemed to alternate between the two. ‘Am I a monster?’
I could think of no other response but to scream and scream myself hoarse.
The deer-man released me and ran. I thought he would run away from the park, but instead, he ran to the nearest tree, and pressed his head against it, covering his eyes with his hoof-hands. I ran away, however, and as soon as I burst through the park gates and crossed the road, something told me to go back. The poor mutant just wanted a friend, I heard from my brain, go back and comfort him.
My brain pounded on my head, begging me to go back, and yet no matter how much it pleaded, my body stayed still.
What made me go back was the sound of gunshot.
Back I ran over the road and into the park, and there I saw a man I was just reading about in the paper, the one with the biggest, best Santa’s grotto, standing over the carcass of the deer-man.
‘That’s him put out of his misery,’ said the man, gesturing to the corpse, before looking at the newspaper in my hand, ‘You know, my Santa’s grotto is still going to have actual, talking reindeer. Back to the drawing board.’