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The longest journey - By Steve Jordan

Dec 19, 2013
The Mover Magazine's Christmas story

He was a bad boy.  He had always been naughty.  Even when he was at little school he liked to pull the girls' pig tails, leave pins on the teachers’ seats and, sometimes, when he was feeling particularly wicked, put spiders in the book shelf so that when Suzie reached for her favourite Enid Blyton, she would scream and scream.  It made him feel good.

When he was older his antics took on a more sinister style.  He learned how to hack into people’s Facebook accounts and leave hurtful, sometimes very scary messages anonymously. Nobody knew it was him.  Sometimes he would even get the smaller boys to do it for him so he could never be traced and threaten them if they dared to snitch.  His victims were in despair.  They didn’t know what to do.  They couldn’t stop it.  They had no one to turn to. 

Then the demands for money started.  If you want to stop this happening, you must pay.  At first, the sums were small.  Just a few pounds.  But then he got greedy - £50, £70, sometimes more. More than pocket money could pay.  Pay me now or I’ll tell your mother what you’ve been doing behind the bike sheds with Jimmy Brown.  Pay me or your dog gets it.  Then it was the Christmas cards: blank, except for a single chilling message – ‘Merry Christmas, I know where you live’.

The children were terrified.  Nobody dare speak to anyone else in case he, whoever he was, found out.  Nobody knew who were their friends and who were not.  Everyone lived in fear of the next message spreading its own evil brand of poison among the innocents of the town.

Then things changed.  She moved in.  She had met bullies before and wasn’t planning on putting up with him for long.  It was show down time.  She didn’t have to do much.  She just spoke to a friend who ran the school newsletter.  The friend put in a simple message telling the victims that they were not alone.  Instantly, they began to feel better.  They were not so scared.  They laughed at his threats.  Some even told their parents - and guess who else they told…?

It was Christmas day.  The children woke to the smell of fir trees and mince pies, brightly wrapped gifts and smiles from long lost relatives with whiskery chins.  He too awoke.  The tree was there but its fragrance never reached his nostrils. The presents were there too, but none were for him.   The family came but their smiles dimmed in his presence.  The fire roared in the grate, but its heat did not comfort him.  He sat down and cried.

He had always known that he couldn’t be found out.  He was clever.  He covered his tracks well.  In truth he didn’t much mind if people did know who he was, he liked people being scared of him.  But he never reckoned with the Santa factor. He never expected Father Christmas to find out.  He never thought he would ever feel the hollow despair he had inflicted on his victims for so long.

That evening, as the family chatted and laughed in the other room, he sat by the tree. Had he been so bad that Father Christmas has forsaken him?  Had he caused so much pain? What could he do to make amends?  Then he saw it.  Glinting under the tree, partially hidden by a bauble, was a small package, wrapped in gilded paper with a tag bearing his name.  He reached out, took it in his trembling hand, and opened it.  It was a single sweet: a toffee with chocolate cover.  With it a note written in old-fashioned handwriting in ink that was somehow red, green and gold at the same time.  “The longest journey starts with the smallest step,” it read.  And so it did.        

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