Jim Holiday sat in a shabby brown recliner in his living room. His sweat (and otherwise) stained wife beater clung to his sallow skin like a lizard’s exodus, peeling away from the flabby flesh underneath like a scab. The garment had seen better days, much like Jim himself. Also like its wearer, the garment was tired, worn out, and disused. It had grown too small to hold Jim’s burgeoning frame within its cotton cage, so much like a prison, and odd protuberances of hairy lard poked out of wear worn holes at random intervals. Jim opened his mouth and let out a low groan, drool which reeked of morning breath, nicotine, and old liquor ran over his lip and down his chin like a filthy river. It meandered through the mangy forest that was his 3, perhaps even 4 week old beard growth. Although in all honesty, it was far too scraggly and sparse to be referred to as a “beard” and yet too wild and overgrown to be considered stubble.
Jim sat up, adjusting his position as one of his feet had fallen asleep sometime during the previous night. Beer bottles and empty fifths of Jack and Johnnie clattered to the floor in a derelict melody before rolling under the chair and across the carpet in the direction of the Christmas tree.
Jim’s eyes shifted as he yawned, yellowed teeth like uneven tombstones pushing up through the pink, fleshy graveyard of his gums. The tree stood about ten feet away from where he sat, an ancient monument to a preexisting version of the grotesquery he had become. It had been up for a year, or somewhere thereabouts. He couldn’t be sure exactly what day it was, or really what month, though judging by the Christmas music filtering through the walls from the next apartment over, he supposed that it was probably sometime in December. Either that, or they were just plain mad.
The tree had long since gone brown, dried up and desiccated. It had lost the greater majority of its needles, needles which lay undisturbed where they had landed like an ashy brown halo around the weary old symbol of Christmas past and the unopened presents beneath it. Ornaments sparkled from its branches through a thin haze of dust and dirt and spider webs, which had been woven throughout the limbs like intricate little garlands. They had become sort of a decoration themselves. Atop the skeletal remains of last year’s happiness perched a little golden angel like a silent specter. Her tiny blue eyes beat down on Jim as if in accusation or contempt.
Jim barely regarded the tree any longer. It had become just another shadow in what remained of his pitiful life. He hadn’t been out of his recliner in days. He was beginning to worry that perhaps he couldn’t move if he tried. He struggled to sit up, placing both of his hands with their bloated sausage fingers on the arms of the chair and pulling himself forward, the massive hulk of his gut obstructing his view of the ratty brown carpet in front of him. One of his feet, clothed in what remained of a grimy red slipper slid to the left, knocking over a beer bottle he had been using as a urine receptacle. The foul yellow liquid splashed onto his leg, running down the grungy mat of hair and spilling into that unfortunate slipper.
“Ahhhh.” Jim creaked, the crackley, course tone of his voice sounding alien to his own ears. How long had it been since he’d last spoken? Weeks? Months maybe? When had he last heard another human voice, he wondered? He couldn’t recall. Jim’s annoyance at the wet mess on his leg, slipper, chair and floor fueled him into action. He stood up abruptly, grabbing the bottle and throwing it against the wall beside the doorway where it shattered into a plethora of sparkling shards. They rained onto the carpet as the remnants of the bottle’s liquid contents dripped down the wall. The shape the mess made was almost festive. It could’ve been a Christmas tree in the right light, with enough imagination. Jim was turning towards the kitchen when a sharp, melodious voice stopped him in his tracks.
“Jim”, it sing songed, “Jim Darling, won’t you be a dear and bring me something to eat?” Jim stood stock still for a moment, unsure of what to do. It was the voice of the Angel alright, but he hadn’t heard it in, well, nearly a year. He thought perhaps he was imagining things in his deep seated loneliness, in his longing, but the voice continued.
“I’m so very hungry, my darling. So very, very hungry.” Jim swallowed. He had missed that voice. Missed his angel lo these long months, but now that she was back, he wasn’t sure he wanted her. He didn’t know what to do, and so he remained stone still for a few lingering minutes, listening to her pleas. He remembered her hunger, remembered feeding her, watching her eat. He remembered the touch of her skin with a shudder that was so close to revulsion and yet so close to elation at the same time.
Jim faltered for a moment before racing down the hall and opening the door to his bedroom, a door he hadn’t opened in almost a year. The air inside smelled ancient, reticent with mildew, dust and decay. Cobwebs clung to everything. The petals of the rose in the little glass bud vase on the night table had long since fallen. That rose had been fresh and dewy when he’d last seen it, and as pink as a newborn’s bottom. Pink had been her favorite color, after all.
Jim opened the white accordion doors that lead to his closet. He knelt on the floor, dust and dirt clinging to the sores on the sides of his legs, sores caused by his lack of motion and his near permanent position seated in his old brown recliner.
There she was, folded in the back of the tiny space, still wearing her costume. Her white gown had been discolored by time, as well as by mold and rot, but in Jim’s eyes, she was still beautiful. The sequins lining the gown had long since lost their luster, but that was OK.
“Why’d you have to leave me, Baby?” he whined, voice cracking with disuse, “Why’d you have to go and do a thing like that on Christmas?” Jim straightened out the tinsel halo that still clung to the pale blonde wig she had worn that day. The wig had fallen over her face sometime during the 12 months she had been inside the closet. Beneath it, her dried up flesh had pulled her once full, pink lips into a gruesome smile.
“Merry Christmas, Angie.” He said in a whisper as he leaned forward and kissed her.