2nd December

The Lights Aren't As Good As They Used To Be

by Lex H. Jones

“The lights aren’t as good as they used to be,” Cyril grumbled to himself as he walked the snowy highstreet.

   He remembered days gone by, walking through the highstreet at Christmas with his mum and looking up at the lights. Green and red and gold, stretched from one side of the street to the other, creating a corridor or festivity. Sometimes they branched out into more ‘modern’ Christmas colours like pinks and blues, but Cyril never much cared for those. He liked the old-style lights. The traditional ones.

   The shops would use their windows to get involved too, of course. Their displays showing the best that they had to offer. It was all very carefully planned to tempt people inside, so that they might take some of the presented items home to place under their own tree. The window displays weren’t as good as they used to be, either, Cyril thought. He used to like the ones that moved, but those displays were few and far between now. Nobody made the effort anymore.

   It wasn’t all entirely the fault of the shops and town councils, of course. The materials to make the lights and window displays were getting harder to come by. The resources just weren’t as prominent as they had been when the new traditions first started. The snow didn’t fall as heavily as it used to, either. If somebody asked him about it, not that anybody ever did, Cyril would fiercely state that the snow wasn’t as red anymore either. There wasn’t very much anybody could do about the snow, of course, but the lights and the window displays could still be made special again. If only people cared enough.

   When the shadow first came, everyone made a lot of effort to do what was right. The new traditions were welcomed and embraced by all, fiercely desperate as they all were to keep it happy. Christmas was its favourite time for celebration, and it wanted every street and house decorated to create a wonderful display. Cyril remembered being taught at school that Christmas used to be a celebration of something else. Some other great power that had arrived here. But that it no longer mattered because we had a new god now, who wanted things done differently. Cyril had no idea how things used to be, but he didn’t much care either. He liked how they were now. Or at least he liked how they were when he was a child. The decorations were much better then.

   Clutching his shopping bag against his chest, feeling the moist warmth that emanated from within it, Cyril stopped outside one of the shops to look at the window display. This one was one of the old-fashioned moving ones. He’d seen it from across the street and wanted to get a look at it. To see if it had any of the old magic. Through the glass, Cyril saw the human corpse split open, stretched out and spread across multiple wooden and metal mechanical contraptions. Its organs were wrapped around the moving gears and cogs, some of them still squirting out a little blood with each rotation. The eyes of the corpse were attached to thin wires which stretched out to the sides, each one tugging on the eyes to make them look this way and that. At the same time the hands of the corpse would move in a fashion to suggest that they were waving, although the hands weren’t actually attached to the end of the corpse’s arms. Behind the corpse display was a traditional grey Christmas tree decorated with lungs and kidneys and even a heart at the very top. Cyril hadn’t seen a heart-topped tree in years. He wondered if it was the heart of a clergyman, as the old traditions used to call for? Those were rare these days, so he assumed not.

   Cyril felt a touch of wet cold on his balding head and realised the snowfall had resumed. He stuck his tongue out and caught a red flake on the tip of it, tasting its cold and coppery goodness. The window display made him smile, reminded him of the playfulness of his childhood Christmases. Hunting down a Christian with his dad, bringing them home in a sack, preparing the big dinner and then leaving their praying hands out in a little bowl on Christmas Eve. Cyril shook his head at the memories, knowing it was fruitless to get lost in nostalgia. Taking one last look at the window display, he turned back to the lights above the highstreet. There were a few splayed cats and dogs, even a couple of pigeons, all stuffed with electric bulbs that made them glow from the inside as they hung above the street. But no baptised children like there used to be. Some traditions just weren’t coming back.

   “The lights aren’t as good as the used to be,” Cyril grumbled again, before heading home through the snow.