A classic first line there; taken, of course, from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.
Now, over the year we’ve watched on with awe and admiration as you lot have managed to take the cheeriest prompt and propel it into the darkest depths fiction has to offer. It really is quite a skill. So we’ll admit, we were kind of expecting some pretty grim stuff to happen to poor old Jo. But no. You surprised us with all kinds of funny, poignant, lovely reasons why Jo might not be getting any presents this year.
A whole bunch of dark stuff too, obviously.
Anyway, here are our winners:
RUNNER-UP: Louise Rose Boyne
‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
Nobody at all knows what to say to that. The words hang in the air, which smells of sweat and smoke and sick.
The aircraft has a strong metallic smell too. Now that it’s stopped hurtling us around and we are still and bruised I look about us fearfully.
It’s circular – I suppose this is why it’s called a pod – and silver, with curved walls and thick bolted beams.
At one end there is some sort of control panel, but nobody has even begun to think about addressing that problem, although right now the pod seems to be driving itself. At the other end, where pa squats, the pod is a window.
We watch the Earth fall away as the ship takes us further into the darkness. Great belches of black smoke the size of mountains engulf its surface. My burns sing with pain.
Jo lies still and small as a doll. The rug she lies on looks bizarre on the corrugated floor and not under the table in our kitchen.
Us and the rug could be all that’s left of Earth. I watch pa watch our planet descend into darkness, tears are on his face, the window reflecting his grief.
Normally I’d be angry at Jo’s childishness, but right now I shuffle towards her and take her little hand. She isn’t the only one who doesn’t truly understand what’s just happened to our home.
WINNER: J Kelly
‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents’, grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. ‘I’m off to the market’, she smiled, fitting her naked body against his before she rose. Their usual casual intimacy. Telegenic, almost. She left their suite at the conference hotel, and on what seemed to her then like a whim, asked the taxi to take her to the Alte Pinakothek. So close to the holidays, and just before closing time, the gallery was quieter than usual. She had always wanted to see Durer’s Self-Portrait at 28. Her boots clicked energetically.
It was there, looking in to Durer’s eyes, that she decided to leave him. Or simply not to return to him, her husband of nine years. All she could say later was that, at that moment, she felt exhausted by his pursuit of her, or something that he thought was her. Maybe some idea of grace to which, accidentally, she had easily conformed.
At the precise moment of this knowing, her nose set off the sensor. Her head filled with the noise and it was as if the world itself was alarmed by her thoughts. Only Durer was implacable. Understanding even. Like he might reach out and touch the side of her face. Or if there was mistletoe, maybe even kiss her. Though he would never need her. He was complete in himself, perhaps the only man about whom she could say this. ‘Frohe Weihnachten, mein leibling. Danke schon’, she whispered and walked away.
Congratulations, Louise and J! And a huge THANK YOU to everyone who’s played QuickFic with us this year. We can’t wait to see what you come up with in 2016.
And don’t forget to keep an eye out for our 2015 Champion of Champions – we’ll be announcing the winner in the new year!
Merry Christmas to you and your Muses x