A Short Story
Ever considered the various mistletoe traditions and Christmas? From whence came these ancient traditions? A Christmas riddle from ancient times to sink your teeth into, hopefully, more enjoyable than a fruitcake. Or maybe “fruitcake” is apt.
The vampire glared at the young woman following him into the dark alley. With only days before Christmas, the sidewalk bustled with shoppers and party goers. But with superhuman agility, he could have ended her life before passersby sensed their presence.
The vampire brimmed with anger. “Stalking a predator is a fool’s errand. Why should I not kill you now, child?” She knew his Italian accent and youthful appearance were deceptive. After hundreds of years, he might master dozens of languages and accents.
“You are curious. Or you would have already tried to kill me. You suspect the reason I’m here. I want the Dark Gift.” The girl faced him with fearless resolve, not intimidated by his menacing frame towering over her.
The vampire rolled his eyes. “Very tiresome. Would you like to know how many people I’ve killed over the years who came seeking the Dark Gift?”
“None. Who could even know what you are? Much less track you through the city. You are curious as to how I managed to follow you. How long I followed you. How many of your secrets I discovered. Do I know where you sleep during daylight hours? And who else might know your secrets.”
“I could easily use the Dark Gift to extract that information,” he pointed out.
She smiled. “But you already know my mind is not susceptible. And that I read the truth and guile of you as well as you read me.”
“So you want the Dark Gift? Did you read a silly novel about vampires? See a movie? Now you expect me to give you the Dark Gift? Am I like Santa Claus with fangs? Why do you want the Gift?”
“It’s Christmas. It’s the time for gifts. ‘Why’ is not your true question. You should ask, ‘ How?’ How did I track you?” she posed.
“Enlighten me.” The vampire had to admit to his curiosity. He had not been tracked like this for hundreds of years., mostly thanks to the fact modern people no longer believed in vampires, despite their love for silly caricatures in fiction and film.
The girl reached into her coat pocket to remove an evergreen sprig clustered with white berries.
“I lived my life between the worlds
Neither earth nor sky would call me child
Daily I grew in power and strength
Till snatched out of time by the trickster.”
The vampire examined the green sprig. “Riddle the Mistletoe? The Legend of Loki and the Gift of Frea.” His accent over the name Freya hinted at ancient origins.
“Loki. One of the most ancient vampires. And the power endowed into mistletoe by Freya acted against his Dark Gift after he tricked her. Cut with a blade of gold on the sixth night of the new moon after the winter solstice. A parasite. Like all vampires. The vampire plant that feeds off a living host. Able to render the Dark Gift ineffective.”
“Why? ‘Why’ is the only question. With such knowledge and power as you’ve gained, why do you yet seek the Dark Gift?”
“The song,” she replied as if the answer could not be more obvious. The answer was far from obvious to the vampire. The vampire’s acute senses detected bitterness, indignation undetectable to a human observer. The young lady fidgeted, visibly agitated. She did not wish to elaborate. His silence demanded the truth.
Flustered for the first time since he became aware of her, she snapped, “‘All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth’. When I was five, my top two incisors fell out in December. Aunt Liza made me sing the ridiculous song at the family Christmas gathering. And every year after. I’m twenty-four. She’ll do it again this Christmas. And it will be the last time.”
“You want the Dark Gift to dispatch your Aunt Liza for embarrassing you at a family Christmas party?”
“Parties,” she said, emphasizing the plural. “This year will make twenty-five.”
“Couldn’t you skip the party? Or tell Aunt Liza to bite herself? You searched out the Mystery of Loki, the Riddle of the Mistletoe for this? I should kill you instantly for such foolishness.”
“You can’t. The protection of Freya. And the Peace: under a bough of mistletoe, enemies must lay down their arms, and no killing is permitted. Tradition also says you must steal a kiss from me. A kiss without killing. And since you’re of the line of Loki, it must be the Kiss of the Dark Gift. The ultimate prank.”
He sensed a trickster almost as skillful as Loki in this girl. The vampire almost sympathized with poor Aunt Liza.
Under the darkened December sky, a fresh layer of snow fell on the celebrating city. The crowds on the sidewalk thinned as people arrived home or other destinations. A solitary girl strolled down the sidewalk, fangs gleaming beneath twinkling Christmas lights. She merrily whistled “Sister Suzie sitting on a thistle” on her way to one last family Christmas party. For the first time in years, she actually looked forward to seeing Aunt Liza.