Christmas Eve

“Let’s go John!” mum yelled. “Everybody is meeting under the Christmas tree.”

“Where’s dad?” John asked as he searched around.

“Don’t worry about dad John. Just get yourself to the tree. They are coming! It’s not
safe.”

“Its 11pm mum, where’s dad?” John’s voice
was unrelenting.

“Your dad is still at the oil wells John. But he will be here shortly. John? Where are you going? John! Come back here right now!”

          But John wasn’t listening, his feet sloshed hard on the snow as he ran uphill in search of his father. He heard his mother calling but he had long since learned to ignore her cries. At the age of sixteen he was a grown man, strong and able
to make his own decisions. Or so he thought.

         He pulled out his cell phone. 11.05pm. He called his dad’s number but there was no response. He left a message. “Hey dad, where are you? Everybody in the village has to be under the tree by midnight. Did you forget? It’s dangerous out there. I’m heading to the wells to find you.”

          They had seen him run before, but not like this. Trees wheezed by and cold wind numbed his face. Moonlight guided his steps as he pushed forward and headed downhill towards the wells.

          11.15pm. He saw him working a wrench by the bulk separators: teeth chattering in the cold, lips and hands frozen. The pipe wrench shook weakly in his hands.

          “Dad?” John called. “We have to be back under the tree before midnight. You know this all too well.”

          His dad looked up with startled eyes. “John, what are you doing here? You are supposed to be under the tree with everybody else. You need to go back son!” his dad yelled above the wind. “Who send you out here? It’s too dangerous.”

          “I came to find you dad. We have to go back to the village before they come out.” Pause. The boy scanned the dark trees in fear. “Dad, what’s so important that can’t wait till morning? The oil separators are automated, they pretty much run on their own.”

          John had spent a lot of time at the oil wells with his dad. Crude Oil flowed from the wells into a tank where gas, water and oil were separated using heat. While gas escaped through a vent, oil floating on water dripped into a pan and through a different flow line. The oil was then pushed through various stages of purification before it was deemed useable.

          His dad took two steps forward and pointed at the pipes. “The valves and pipes are freezing son. I have to inject Methanol into the oil. Methanol does not freeze.”

          “But dad, if you stay here you are going to die! If midnight finds you here, you won’t make it home safely.”

          His dad put a right hand on John’s shoulder. “See this pipe here? This is a direct
flow line into the village. If this pipe freezes then we have no oil in the village…”

          John cut him short. “That means that we have no power!” And suddenly he understood. Without power, the whole village would be in darkness and Christmas would be ruined.
Everybody in the village would die, along with everything he had grown to love. His dad was on a suicide mission to save the village.

          11.20pm. “How can I help dad, your hands
are frozen.” There was urgency in the boy’s voice.

          “Can you bend stainless tubing son?”

          “Yes dad, you taught me how.”

          “Good. We need to connect a line from the Methanol tank to the oil pipe leading into the separator.”

          “Got it!”

John grabbed the stainless tubing and begun bending it with his bare hands. There was no time for tape measure and so he used his eyes and better judgment. “Give me the crescent wrench dad… and the cutter.”

          The older man handed the cold tools over and watched his son screw in the various nuts. In the distance, a screeching demonic cry cut through the forest.

          “Hurry up son, they are coming!”

          John wished that the wrench wasn’t so big or heavy but he did his best to make it work. His hands started getting numb but in his father’s eyes, he pretended that the cold wasn’t affecting him. The last bolt slid into place just as the clock struck 11.45pm. Methanol started flowing into the oil pipes.

          “Let’s go!” His dad yelled.

          First came the climb uphill and John led the way, slowing down just enough to let his dad catch up. On top of the hill, they stopped as a creature appeared in front of them. It looked human, only that it wasn’t. The clothes were rotten, the meat from the bones gone. It was a zombie!

          A sword appeared in his dad’s hand just as the zombie reached for John’s neck. The sword moved in an arc and the zombie’s head dropped on the ground with a thud. Dad grabbed John’s hand and pulled the shocked boy away. It was the first time the young boy had seen a zombie and he looked to be in a state of confusion.

          “Run John, run!”

          John tried. But no matter how hard he tried, his legs felt heavy. 11.55pm. They could see the village down the hill but the noises behind them were growing louder and getting closer. The
forest was filling up with zombies headed for the village: walking dead bodies without a soul.

          John’s body shook with fear as he tried to keep up with his dad. The haziness in his eyes mirrored his shock. He could still see the zombie’s hands reaching for his neck; the head falling off as his father’s sword slipped through.

          A scream behind him. John turned and saw them: hundreds of them running towards him with outstretched hands: dead souls brought back to life. He looked up and saw the black village gate, and he wondered whether they would make it.

          “Light the generators!” He heard his father’s booming voice. “Light the generators!”

          The men in the village moved fast and lit the generators. Oil flowed into the machines and power ran into the trees. The giant Christmas tree at the edge of the village lit up like daylight, throwing red and gold light into every crevice and around the forest: the bells chimed, the decorative ornaments swayed in the wind. Suddenly, the noise behind them stopped just as John and his dad ran into the village. The gates were shut and huge bolts pushed home. The villagers stood by the fence and watched the zombies walking slowing towards the village. The clock struck midnight and folks begun singing Christmas carols.

          “Why are they slowing down?” John asked his dad. “Why aren’t they attacking?”

          Dad placed his arm around the boy’s shoulder. “They can’t.”

“I don’t understand dad.”

His dad stared hard at the zombies. “They were once like us son and Christmas meant
something to them. A part of them still understands that. They know that Christmas is a time of joy and happiness.”

          John nodded and hugged his dad tight. He felt sad for the zombies but was grateful that his dad had saved the village.

          “Merry Christmas dad, I love you.”

          “Merry Christmas son. Let’s go and see what Santa brought for you.”

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by
night.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
     and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

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My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.

 

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