I grew up with artificial Christmas trees and didn’t mind them at all. When I got married, my wife declared that one of our family traditions would be having a real tree every Christmas. I’d never felled a tree before and didn’t know what to expect; or hoisted a felled tree on top of my car and didn’t know what to expect; or drove from a Christmas tree farm to our home with a felled tree on top of my car and didn’t know what to expect (anxieties are interesting, aren’t they?) In reality, everything worked out quite smoothly, but from the seed of that initial anxiety grew my story “Christmas in Apocalypse,” which I was thrilled to sell to Mysterion. If you’re a supporter of the magazine, you were able to read my story in November, but now Mysterion has published it for everyone to read.
This is the last story of the year for Mysterion, and I hope it’s a nice send-off to 2022 and an optimistic outlook on 2023.
About my story, Mysterion editors Kristin Jaz and Donald Crankshaw wrote:
Our December story, “Christmas in Apocalypse,” by Canadian author Karl El-Koura, resonated deeply with us after the last few years, and is hopeful despite the post-apocalyptic setting.
Christmas in Apocalypse
by Karl El-Koura
He began to regret his decision to leave about five kilometers from the survivors’ camp, on what must have been the coldest night of one of the coldest winters he could remember. The boots whose soles had separated let in waves of snow, which melted and soaked his socks. To pass the time and remind himself that things could be worse, he thought of the many layers he wore, each in turn. Long johns, pajama pants, jeans for his lower body; t-shirt, two long-sleeves, a woolen sweater, and winter jacket for his upper body. A scarf wound round his neck and a toque for his head completed the ensemble, hastily put together in the dark so no one would see or hear him leave. He wore gloves but they were worn and had small tears in the fingertips that let in the blisteringly cold air; he kept switching the rusty saw from one hand to the other so his hands could take turns in his jacket’s pockets and hopefully stave off frostbite. But, for the most part, he was warm enough under all his clothes. Worst case, he might lose a toe or one of his thumbs on this whim, this spur of the moment adventure he’d undertaken by himself in the middle of the night, but he wouldn’t freeze to death. Probably.
Aboard the bus that had brought him and the other survivors to the repurposed military camp they now called home, he’d remembered passing a tree farm, with a sun-faded large placard advertising last year’s Christmas trees still on the lawn, its painted cartoon snowflakes striking a discordant look in the summer heat. The bus drove on for another fifteen or twenty minutes, from what he remembered. He’d figured ten kilometers, then, and he’d already walked a good five kilometers at least.
The snow covered the ground five to six feet most places. He tried to walk along the road, by positioning himself between imaginary lines drawn down the occasional road signs. He tried to step lightly, but his feet kept sinking into the snow, slowing his progress remarkably. Once his sinking foot hit something hard right away and he figured it was the roof of a car, abandoned on the road. He bent down and began to clear away the snow.
“Bad idea, little brother,” he heard, in the lilting voice of his dead sister.