It was a cold 25th of December. The pavements sparkled with an irridescent scattering of frost and were gently crisp underfoot. The moon was suspended high in the inky black sky, with only the stars for company and the air was perfumed with the heady aroma of pine trees and peppermint. Christmas trees festooned with tinsel and twinkling fairy lights shone proudly from every house whilst indoors families feasted from tables positively groaning with festive food. Crackers snapped and released their gaudy trinkets as heads were adorned with brightly coloured hats. Children, full of chocolate and turkey were desperately trying not to yawn for fear that bed would be suggested therefore bringing Christmas to an end again. Music played constantly in the background, always the same old sentimental tunes.
Violet shivered as she stepped outside for her nightly walk with Jasper, her basset hound. Pulling her thick, woolly hat further down over her ears she gave a gentle tug on Jasper’s lead and they turned left out of the gate and set off through the village. She started up the hill towards the village green, oblivious to the sounds and smells wafting from each house, her mind far away as it always was on Christmas Day. Keeping her head down, she trudged on, stopping occasionally for Jasper to do what dogs do but all the while heading for the top of the village.
The green sat proudly at the top of the hill, resident to a magnificent nativity scene, painstakingly hand carved by someone many years ago, although no one could remember who. Violet stopped and bent down to release Jasper from his lead, allowing him to roam free, never fearful that he would wander far. As he trundled slowly, nose down, on the white tinged, crispy grass, Violet sat down on one of the wooden benches and felt the same, familiar feeling that she felt every December 25th. It crept slowly over her like freezing fog, a despair that threatened to drown her as though an invisible hand was silently, mercilessly, tightening around her neck. Claustrophobia was the official word for it but Violet thought despair was closer to the truth. How many Christmases had she done this now? She had stopped counting a long time ago but she knew it had been too many. How much longer could she go on?
A chill wind blew round her neck and she knew without turning that it was coming from the loch just beyond the perimeter of the village. Almost as though in a trance she stood and began walking slowly away from the green. Aware of every sound now as she made her way towards the loch, she could hear her footsteps crunching, Jasper snuffling the ground, her own shallow breathing and in the distance that bloody song about it being Christmas every day and she almost laughed with the irony of it. Almost but not quite…..because that was the reason why Violet was close to cracking now, the reason why every Christmas Day she made this pilgrimage of sorts to the edge of the village.
Growing up in this picture perfect place had been idyllic. Of course, as a child, it actually being Christmas every day had been wonderful. Going to bed knowing that you would do it all over again the next day, never being sad that Christmas was over for another year was special. It never occurred to her that not everyone lived this way. However when, as a teenager, rumours spread amongst her friends about there being another way to live, she had been intrigued. Imagine living somewhere warm, where your skin could be free to feel the air. Who knew there were songs out there that spoke of other things, that acknowledged sadness as well as joy. Was it really possible that Christmas could be celebrated just once a year?
At 18 she learned the terrible truth as her Mother lay dying. There was another world out there but as part of the village she could not experience it. She was trapped, for eternity, in an endless Christmas. There could be no sun, no Halloween, no music festivals for her because the only way to leave this village was to enter the loch. Violet was ashamed to admit that her Mother dying that day was not what made her weep. It was the realisation that she could never leave. It wasn’t that she had been desperate to go until that point but knowing that she couldn’t had changed everything. Christmas lost it’s childlike sparkle and she fell in to a depression and developed a hatred for the place she had called home.
So here she stood, as she had done every day for years since she learned the awful truth, gazing at the loch. She wondered how cold it was in there, whether hypothermia would get her before she actually drowned. Crouching down she removed her gloves and trailed her hands in the water. Her fingers immediately turned blue and in the distance she could hear a scream. This brought her mind sharply in to focus and she realised that there was no going back. Swiftly removing her coat, hat and boots she plunged in to the icy waters and lay back, allowing the cold to slowly seep in to her bones all the while listening to the terrified screams grow louder.
As she began to lose consciousness she remembered her Mothers final words to her, gasped out with her last breath…’remember Violet, if anyone enters the loch, the whole village drowns with them’.