Trevor and I never really decorated our flat for Christmas. We thought it redundant; we spent Christmas Day at our families’ houses, both of which had tinsel, baubles and fake snow in spades. One January, however, we were looking over the bargains, and Trevor suggested, ‘Maybe this December, we can have just a couple decorations, eh. You know, just to show we have spirit.’
We looked at the unsold Christmas decorations on sale; tinsel that cost £2.99 now 75p, £1 for a formerly £4 teddy bear. Most of these decorations, however, really had little to do with Christmas. There were Christmas tree ornaments of Darth Vader – just plain Darth Vader, not wearing a Santa hat or holding a present. There were ornaments of Walter White from Breaking Bad and Batman, and the only thing Christmassy about them was that they were meant to be hung from a Christmas tree.
This gave Trevor an idea; that year, we would create a Christmas tree that was as “un-Christmassy” as possible while still being a Christmas tree. It would be a fir tree – a little plastic one – without red and green baubles or Santa, but would have Darth Vader, Walter White and Batman.
We bought the ornaments, and when December came, we bought a little tree to put them on. We added other things as well: a little plastic pumpkin we got for cheap in November, a couple of teabags, a novelty Daffy Duck necktie, a small joke book. We debated about whether or not some of those things actually were Christmassy – that necktie was a Christmas present after all – but we later agreed we had succeeded in creating a Christmas decoration that was as un-Christmassy as possible while still counting as a Christmas decoration.
A few days after we first put up the tree, Trevor came back home from work with another ornament, one that actually had to do with Christmas. A spherical elf head with a little green Robin Hood cap, with stripey arms popping right in front of its ears. It grinned widely.
‘Found this at a charity shop,’ said Trevor, ‘It’s supposed to be a Christmas decoration, but looks more Halloween to me.’ Indeed, last time I had seen eyes that big and a grin that wide was the plastic skull bucket I trick-or-treated with as a child.
We gave the elf a special place inside our tree. Yes, we made it look like he was hiding in the branches, waiting for his moment to strike, like a lion surveying its prey.
Both of us imagined the elf slaughtering the other ornaments, ripping apart the tea bags, nibbling every needle. We had a clear idea of how his laugh would sound; high-pitched, gleeful, dripping with sadistic joy.
It was that laugh I awoke to that night.
At midnight, I awoke to see the elf resting on my chest, breathing heavily. His grin was wider than ever, his eyes didn’t blink and he held a sewing needle in his hand.
I couldn’t bring myself to speak. I couldn’t bring myself to move. It felt like a thousand of those sewing needles were stinging my veins and my throat was on fire. Just as I thought of fire, I saw an orange light through the door crack.
‘Your Christmas tree wasn’t Christmassy enough,’ said the elf before he hopped into my neck, ‘so I fixed it.’ I then noticed in his other hand, he held a spool of thread. ‘We just need you and your friend to make some popcorn. I don’t know how to work a microwave.’
He took me to the living room, where Trevor already was. He was as speechless as I, staring at our updated tree. It had grown, and now just barely fit in the room. Baubles of red and green. Tinsel. Flickering lights of all colours.
And elves. Spherical elf heads with arms and wide eyes and big grins. Elves bouncing on branches, elves staring at us.
Elves that were here to stay.