(Famine)

Christmas Rites
Disclaimer 1: This is fanfic. That means I do not own any of it. I just borrow it to play with for a little while and let people see the pathetic results if they really want to.

Disclaimer 2: I'm not making any money from it. It's just for fun.

Disclaimer 3: What isn't borrowed is all made up. None of this is real or most likely at all realistic. Please don't trust any of the information in here. Most likely you know more about whatever I'm writing about than I do.

Disclaimer 4: Attitudes, views and opinions expressed by the characters or in the story are not necessarily those of the author. Even when writing Science Fiction or Fantasy I do not tend to attempt to create perfect/better worlds in which everybody gets a happy end ... or whatever is best for them. Please accept that some characters will have a bad ending or be unhappy.

Disclaimer 5: I intend no insult to anyone. If I offend anyone I'm very sorry. Please understand that it was an accident as I tend to be very clumsy in these things.

Disclaimer 6: If my characters' conversations seem odd or they appear to be talking past each other the latter might occasionally be intentional, but most likely it is an accident and I'm not aware that they are. It's just my bad communication skills.


My first ever GOE. I skipped two or three years after that, so I can't remember the year anymore. My recipient requested something Christmassy ... and gave several characters for choice, one of them the Kraken. Something Christmassy with the Kraken? I was inrigued and finally managed to come up with something, but it couldn't possibly get long enough, so I decided to do a short bit with each of the characters listed istead of just one.




Christmas was a slightly uncomfortable time for demons, Crowley thought as he watched the people hastening about to get last minute presents. Yes, there was greed and materialism aplenty involved, but still it was in the name of Him and the joy of giving almost always outweighed the greed of the recipient. He could feel it radiating even from the most hectic last minute shoppers.

There were stressed shop assistants looking forward to the end of their shift and going home to their loved ones to wrap presents and decorate Christmas trees. He'd given up inciting them to be rude to the desperate shoppers years ago, though he was no longer sure why. Perhaps it had gotten boring, or maybe it had been part of his decision to ignore Christmas entirely. Treating it like any other day had been perfectly fine for him for years. He'd gone to Aziraphale's bookshop for tea and hung around there making rude comments to the angel's unwanted customers or just getting drunk.

This year however the bookshop was closed on Christmas Eve. Aziraphale was on some special Christmas mission somewhere in Africa. Perhaps Crowley should have asked for details. It might have been a good idea to go with the angel just to keep things balanced, but then he loved the comfort of London way too much and wherever Aziraphale had gone was probably an underdeveloped area in the middle of nowhere. Thus Crowley had decided to stay and indulge in some sloth until his opponent returned.

Sloth had however become boring, wiling just wasn't any fun when there was no smiting going on and watching shoppers wasn't any better. Crowley left the busy shopping streets to wander aimlessly about, not quite sure whether he was looking for a better place to do some serious tempting or a good place to get drunk.

There wasn't going to be anyone to try and smite his tempting or anyone to get drunk with anyway.

At least, he thought, he wasn't the only one being bored today. Christmas would disrupt the business of all hellish beings on Earth.

Not that there were many hellish beings on Earth. As far as he knew he was currently the only demon up here.

There were the horsepeople, though. They might not be specifically hellish, but their functions had always seemed more evil than good to Crowley and with all this 'peace on Earth and goodwill towards men' and giving of sweets going on at the moment he could only imagine how War or Famine were feeling ...


Actually, at that very moment War was in Iraq lamenting the American soldiers' current lack of aggression. Oh, they were still doing their patrols and the Iraqis were still busily planting their bombs - thank Somebody they were Muslims! – but the Christian side was definitely letting her down today being all sloppy and thinking only of missing their families, having Christmas parties and extra rations.

Perhaps she should have gone to Washington, War thought, had a little talk with that nice Mr. Bush. Surely more soldiers and weapons would have been a better Christmas gift to the Middle East than extra rations for the soldiers. From all she'd heard Bush would be easily swayed by such suggestions.

Then again War had never actually spoken with the man. For being such an excellent supporter he was surprisingly good at avoiding a face to face meeting and there was something disquietingly biblical about talking to bushes that had stopped her from actively chasing him down so far. A single holiday wasn't troubling enough to break that habit, she decided. She could wait it out.

Still, it left her feeling grumpy and impatient. Everything was grating on her nerves today every greeting, every door opening or closing, every plane passing overhead ... There was another one right now. War glared up at it until it disappeared in a fiery explosion.

"Excellent work," a familiar, but unexpected voice commented. "And perfect timing. I was just wondering what to do about this one."

War turned around and raised an eyebrow at Famine. He was standing leaning comfortably against a wall and radiating contentment. How could any decent horseperson be this happy at Christmas?

"It was carrying food supplies for the American troops," Famine explained. "Didn't you know?"

"I'm more or less shooting them down at random these days," War explained. "Keeps them on their toes, if they don't know when to prepare for an attack. I didn't expect to see you here, though. Has something happened?"

"Humanitarian food deliveries in Africa, people giving up their diets for Christmas candy in America and Europe," Famine grimaced, but was still smiling underneath. Nothing seemed to be able to ruin his good mood today. "So I decided to pay you a little Christmas visit, chat about old times and maybe re-enact a bit." He winked at her.

Ah, of course. Why hadn't she thought of this sooner? Cut off an army's supply lines and they'd get hungry and aggressive and confiscate or steal food from the locals causing them to get hungry and angry in turn. Besides, there could be no extra Christmas rations, if there wasn't enough food to give out. That should stir up some extra trouble and possibly even proper infighting.

She smiled at Famine. "That does sound promising, but do remember not to take it too far. Once they start fainting from starvation they don't fight too well."

He smiled back at her. "Honestly Red, what do you take me for? I am a professional."


There were Christmas rows and overeating to keep War and Famine happy, though, Crowley remembered.

Somehow his feet had carried him into Soho and he suddenly realised he was standing right in front of Aziraphale's shop. Of course there was no angel here today the darkness behind the dusty shop window a better reminder than the familiar closed sign at the door.

Of course Crowley could have let himself in as he usually did, but what use would that be?

The shop would be dead and empty, the books gathering dust on their shelves and there wouldn't even be any unwelcome customers to annoy. Unless, of course, Crowley opened the shop, but the thought of pretending to be a bookseller wasn't very appealing and he wasn't sure how Aziraphale would react, if he found out.

Crowley gave the door a good kick, but being a dead object it didn't object or take offence so the act proved to be very unrewarding.

The demon dug his hands into his pockets and glared at the grey street. There should be more cars around blocking the road and polluting the air with their exhaust fumes, but it seemed even the humans had better places to be this evening.

That was a thought. Surely Pollution was as unhappy as Crowley considering all the industrial pollution prevented by the factories being closed for the holidays. Thinking of Pollution always reminded Crowley of the youngest horseman's predecessor Pestilence as well, another comforting thought. The retired horseman had to be feeling lonely and unhappy today.

***


Pestilence had no idea what the pilot's announcement actually said. Whether this was more due to the hoarse voice or the coughing of the pilot, or the fact that he wasn't very familiar with this particular Chinese dialect didn't seem important enough to dwell on. There was always an outside chance that it had been his fellow passengers' coughing and sneezing that had caused him to miss some crucial words anyway.

Most likely it had been the announcement of their impending landing. It was about the right time for that, Pestilence estimated and fastened his seatbelt with a happy smile of anticipation.

Oh yes, he was looking forward to seeing his young protégé again. Pollution was doing well on his own by now, but still hadn't forgotten his old mentor and would check in on him every once in a while. This time he'd received a short, but oh so very heart warming e-mail:

Hey, old friend!

Guess what? I've found this wonderful rural area in China. Lots of factories just a little further upstream. Just the place to have a little Christmas party. Come quickly.

Pollution

PS.: Don't forget to bring bird flu, food poisoning and good old cholera.

Of course Pestilence had started packing right away. It had turned out to be a bit of a long trip what with all those new flight security measures, several flights being cancelled due to food poisoning and an outbreak of flu among the airline personnel and the region being a bit too remote to have an international airport, but even though he hadn't been able to give advance notice of his exact time of arrival he just knew Pollution would be meeting him as soon as he got off the plane. The boy had always loved to hang out at airports, he thought with a fond smile.


Then again it was flu season and all that unnecessary colourful wrapping paper just might console Pollution. Perhaps it was all just a matter of how you looked at it?

Crowley tried hard to concentrate on thoughts of greedy children and commercialism. Christmas rows, parents having to work on Christmas, poor families not able to afford the expensive toys their children expected from Father Christmas ... Why did he have such a hard time enjoying humans being miserable? He was a demon!

Ah, but being a demon wasn't about making humans miserable. It was about making them sin. Angels were the ones making them miserable with things like conscience and repentance. Sinners were supposed to be happy with their deeds, Crowley told himself.

Whether they were happy or miserable at Christmas most humans just weren't sinning. That was the problem. A hellish being on Earth during Christmas was about as useless and out of place as ... as ... as the Kraken before the Apocalypse. Yes, Crowley thought with satisfaction, at least one being was definitely feeling as unhappy and out of place as he was today.


Deep under the sea the Kraken stirred in his sleep. A tentacle twitched, then another, then one eye opened lazily. He was feeling slightly ... peckish.

The other eye opened as well.

Yes, an average sized whale wouldn't go amiss right now, but for that he'd have to swim up to much higher regions and hunt. They were much rarer these days than they used to be, so it was quite an effort to make and he was feeling so very sleepy. A couple of years wasn't nearly enough sleep to recover from all the activity required in an almost-apocalypse.

He wasn't that hungry. He'd get another decade of sleep before getting up for a quick mid-nap snack.

The Kraken pulled in his tentacles, rolled over and yawned heartily. But hey, what was this? There were fish swimming right into his beak! It shouldn't be. It couldn't be! Fish couldn't survive in this depth. The water pressure was much too high for them.

Still here they were whole and delicious.

The Kraken decided not to bother himself with such minor details as biological facts and just enjoy the unexpected treats. It wasn't his business to know about whys and hows and he was much too sleepy to wonder. Another yawn, another swarm of fish. Wonderful!

"Merry Christmas," a boy called Adam whispered into a perfect winter sky far, far away.


Crowley wasn't some simple apocalyptic monster of the deep, though. The Kraken probably wasn't even aware of Christmas or even the change of day and night. Taking a shortcut through a park lawn on the way home he gave the wet ground a vicious kick sending a clump of mud and uprooted grass splattering about.

NOW NOW, THAT WAS REALLY UNNECESSARY. I'D HAVE FOUND YOU IN A MOMENT ANYWAY.

Crowley glared at the hooded form that had appeared in front of him. "I wasn't aware you were looking," he snapped. What did DEATH want with him anyway?

WELL, I'M NOT EAGER FOR YOUR CHARMING COMPANY EITHER.

Was it just Crowley's bad mood or did DEATH sound a bit disgruntled?

"So what do you want?" The sooner they got this over with the sooner he could go back to his wa... brooding, yes brooding. Demons did not wallow in misery. That was the humans' job.

DEATH glared at Crowley from empty eye sockets, then, much to the demon's surprise, produced a parcel wrapped in brown paper and string and held it out to him.

MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Crowley glared back. "I'm a demon. We don't celebrate Christmas."

DEATH shrugged. IT WASN'T MY IDEA. I'M JUST THE MESSENGER.

Crowley withdrew his hand from the package quickly. Could this be some hellish trap devised by a fellow demon? Or even worse, Lucifer's overdue revenge for messing up the apocalypse? They didn't have any reason to go out of their way and employ DEATH as a messenger, though. There were more than enough imps readily on hand in Hell.

"Who is it from then?" he asked cautiously.

THAT ANGEL FRIEND OF YOURS, AZIRAPHALE. MET HIM IN SOME AFRICAN HOSPITAL A MINUTE OR TWO AGO. HE SEEMED TO THINK YOU'D WANT THIS, BUT IF YOU DON'T ...

"Oh, give it here." Crowley snatched the parcel out of DEATH's hand before the horseman could disappear with it. He knew how busy DEATH usually was and indeed the hooded form vanished the moment the parcel left its hand.

Crowley of course held no illusions that this meant that DEATH had left. There had to be millions of microbes dying around him this very second after all, small animals and plants freezing to death and maybe even some bigger ones starving.

Not that Crowley cared about any of these things. He had a parcel to unwrap and it had better not be some foolishly sentimental Christmas gift. He'd thought that Aziraphale knew better than that.

Beneath the two layers of wrapping paper he found an envelope, a tin of tea and what at first appeared to be crumpled up newspapers. Silly angel, sending tea from Africa to England. As if he couldn't go out and get his own. There was no hint of colourful Christmas paper, though and Crowley felt a little bit mollified. Clearly this was not a Christmas gift at all. Most likely the sentimental angel was just missing having tea together.

What was the other thing, though, the object so carefully wrapped in newspaper for the short time DEATH had been carrying it? Crowley unwrapped it dropping the sheets of paper to the ground at his feet where the wind picked them up and carried them away. It would cheer Pollution up a little, if he were here to see, Crowley thought.

The object that was finally revealed turned out to be a little carved figurine, an angel made of black wood with black face and hands and even unfolded black wings. A black angel?

He put the figurine and tea down on a nearby bench and turned to the letter for answers.

Dear Crowley!

I'm sorry I couldn't be in London for our traditional Christmas tea this year. I suppose we can have our tea whenever I get back from this mission, but until then I'm sending you some to enjoy on your own and hopefully remind you of me in my absence.

The other object I'm sending you I found in a local market place. I thought you might find an entirely black angel amusing. Sadly I haven't found any white demons, yet. Perhaps the locals would consider those in bad taste? Then again I haven't been here all that long. I will keep looking.

Yours

Aziraphale

Crowley sighed. Whatever was he supposed to do with a carved angel? It didn't exactly fit in with the decor of his flat. The human he was pretending to be would ... Actually, now that he thought about it, he would probably keep the exotic artefact on his bookshelf to show off to those poor unlucky visitors who'd never had the time or money to spare for a safari holiday in Africa.

Yes, that was exactly what the human he was pretending to be would do.






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