A SPECIAL PRESENTATION: BLUE CHRISTMAS

“A sad tale’s best for winter. I have one/Of sprites and goblins,” declares the young Mamillius in The Winter’s Tale. For years in Victorian England, Christmastime was the season of ghostly tales, told against the warmth of the fire or by candlelight. Prior to electricity, winter was dark indeed, and seemed to promise sprites and goblins lurking in the night, just beyond our vision. Before Halloween, Christmas Eve was regarded as a mischief night for these entities, one last turn in the realm of the living before the holy day, and huddling by the hearth in the company of loved ones was a respite from this procession of otherworldly chaos. In those dark, demon-haunted winters, when the nights grew longer, telling ghost stories served to entertain and to remind ourselves that our time on Earth was numbered.

The longest of these nights, and the first day of winter, is today. In the Advent season, it is also known as BLUE CHRISTMAS, an observance to honor loved ones who have passed and to comfort those experiencing grief of their absence.

This winter, join us by the fire and read these stories of loss, of hauntings (whether by supernatural or all-too-human means), of melancholy, of hope, from our “low life/high strangeness” underworld perspective. But be swift–night is near.

The Christmas season has arrived. APOCALYPSE CONFIDENTIAL has conjured the specters of memory, longing, and mischief to commemorate the holiest of days. Journey under the glow of these dark stars and find our gifts awaiting you…

— Hermes, editor at large

Here is APOCALYPSE CONFIDENTIAL‘s take on the dull-throb anxiety of gift giving. We hope you like what we have gotten for you; although admittedly we do not know much about you so the process was guesswork at best. We hope this is not one of those cases where the gift giver is giving you, dear reader, a present that we ourselves had always wanted all along at the expense of what you really ought to have. Regardless, please forgive the lack of a return policy.

— Tom, poetry editor

I could lie–quite believably, too–and say that I grew up in a decrepit and cobwebbed Victorian manse; that I am the pale, bookish scion of some farm equipment magnate or other, sequestered in my father’s library for days at a time reading the classics while the other children watched Blues Clues, Power Rangers. I could take my lie further, tell you that my family had a Christmastime tradition of inventing ghost stories in the glow of the fireplace; of trying to top one another with tales of tinseled terrors and Yuletide Yithians. But, as I said, that would be a lie. A charming lie, yes, but a lie nonetheless. The truth is, I’m only a generation and a half removed from the tar paper shacks of Kentucky. The truth is, my family watches Gremlins every Christmas Eve. And the truth is, I wouldn’t trade these truths for any lie, no matter how charming. The stories, poems, and essays we’ve gathered for this BLUE CHRISTMAS reflect a similar sentiment, and we’re proud to present them to you here for your reading pleasure. Merry Christmas!

— Dawson, fiction editor

The real protagonist of Joyce’s “The Dead” – perhaps the most melancholy of Christmas tales – is the horse Johnny, endlessly and pointlessly circling the statue of King Billy on Dame Street in Dublin.

Like the poor horse, it often seems we circle around our own lives, cycling through seasons until we reach the darkest day of the year.

Christmas is a time of openness and togetherness, yet also of conflict and secrets. It is this interplay of shadow and light that makes it such fruitful ground for stories, including the greatest of all: the birth of the end of seasons, cycles, and chronos itself.

— Max, fiction editor

It’s a cliche at this point to say that this time of year can be painful for some, but it is true. I’m thinking now of the parents of a friend of mine who just passed away. It will be hard for them to borrow any Christmas cheer at all. Tonight is the longest night of the year, and the night will be even longer for those who grieve. One of the biggest problems posed by grief is the belief that it ought not be felt at all. That it is an aberration. But grief is a part of life, and the only way to endure it is to honor it as such, and understand that it will keep coming and coming until it is finally through. Thankfully, grief like everything else in the mind and body and on the Earth is a visitor.

One thing I love about A Christmas Carol are the visiting spirits of various natures that change Scrooge. Tonight will be easier if you believe spirits are real. Notice them and let them work on your soul. They will make the longest night of the year shorter. In fact, think of these submissions from APOCALYPSE CONFIDENTIAL as spirit guides. Contemplate them in the darkest hour and let them change you. Merry Christmas, and thank you for reading.

— Brendan, managing editor

This is the first Christmas season without my grandparents. My Bapa died in May of 2020, and my Nana passed on All Saints’ Day of this year. Christmas with Nana and Bapa was a defining feature of my childhood, and while I always knew that eventually they would pass and my family would have to forge new traditions, I guess I figured we’d have a little more time. Anyway, merry Christmas.

— Jacob, editor-in-chief & publisher

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BAD DAD LAND by Frank Esparros

LA BEFANA OF STATEN ISLAND by Adrian Georges Silva

THE BELFORD HAUNT by Nick

“BILL AND COO, OLD MISTLETOE” by Emily Slotta

A BLACK CLOUD FOR ST. LUCIA DAY by BDP

THE BLIND by Russell Thayer

“COAT OF FLIES” by Sean Bronson

“DASHER DONNER BLITZEN” by Will

DEGREES OF OBSCENITY by Cobi Powell

LATE NIGHT GAS STATION CLERK by James Reinebold

MIDNIGHT’S CHRISTMAS by Arbogast

NOAIDI (TRAILER FOR A CHRISTMAS MOVIE) by Brad Kelly

THE PARADE by IHJ

PRACTICING by Imogen Osborne

A ROBBED RETIREMENT by Mark Atley

“THE SECOND ANNUNCIATION” by Konstantin Kanelleas

THE SMELL OF TOWELS by Andrew Thomas

THAT TIME OF YEAR by Joseph Farley

WHAT THE KILLER SAW by Craig Rodgers

THE WIDOW ONDREY by David C. Porter

WILDES HEER by Xavier Garcia

“YOUR HANDS ARE COLD WHEN YOU THINK OF CHRISTMAS”: ON BLAST OF SILENCE AND HOLIDAY NOIR by Tom Will