Crim snapped awake in his bed once again, and this time was immediately aware of his surroundings. He didn’t pause a single moment for skepticism or contemplation, but leaped out of from the bedsheets to log in his computer once again. After momentarily stumbling over the glass bottles that still littered the floor, he made it to the desk where his hands clutched the screen, and then situated himself to log in. The time read 1:48 AM, but Crim didn’t so much as glance at the clock, for he was determined to take matters into his own hands for once. After being plagued by astral spirits twice already, there was no time to waste on theories or explanations. Crim wanted to be ready for the next intervention.
After opening the Discord app, Crim took careful survey of the whole site. Although he knew the entire chat field like the back of his hand, it had not been since the days of the Cronies that he had to comb it for a security leak. And now, not only is he getting unintended visitors, but supernatural at that. Setting up IP scanners, HTML probes, and checking his horoscope, Crim was ready for anything. That is to say, nothing between an entire Aztec army or the Emperor of Byzantium himself would phase him at this point.
However, what Crim was not prepared for was what followed: nothing. No intrusion, no new PMs, not even a markup tag out of place. Five, ten, even fifteen minutes passed, and still nothing came. All this time, the computer clock continued to progress, almost mockingly, as a constant cynic towards his new found paranoia. Slowly but surely, however, Crim began to notice a strange light, almost flashing colors, emanating from around the edges of the Discord window. At first, Crim dismissed this mere distractions: some notifications from the relentless updates that burdens any user of Windows 10.
Finally, Crim began to suspect if perhaps these anomalies were actually a sign of the ghost here already, residing somewhere on his Desktop. As this idea was fully-formed in his head, Crim slowly began pulling back his windows to see more of the Desktop. As soon as he started to do so, a tooltip appeared from the taskbar that read “Crim! Come on in!”. He hesitantly complied, and opened the Desktop.
It was Crim’s own Windows 10 Desktop. There was no doubt about that. But now it had undergone a startling transformation. The whole screen had taken on a shade of green, a bit darker around the edges. The edges of the screen were covered in a drawing, as if in MS paint, depicting twisting vines of holly and mistletoe. In spite of the medium, the drawing was very vividly detailed, with a bright color to the holly berries that seemed redder than anything his graphics card could know. The leaves of the vines shimmered with silver, as if generating more light than the back-light of the screen itself.
In the middle of the Desktop, there were a large conglomerate of memes: Reaction GIFs, Vines, emojis, warped versions of childhood shows and politicians dabbing all arranged neatly as in the shape of a throne. At the top of it all, there was a Skype chat window, with a single private message on it. The avatar of this new visitor depicted a young man from shoulders-up, perhaps mid-20s. He had a full head of red hair and a read beard, dressed in a green fur coat and bearing a green crown filled with berries. His face was filled with a warm, innocent jolliness, as was the words he left for Crim:
ChristmasPresent2017: “Come on lol, come in Crim, it’s time to get to know me LMAO.”
CrimsonAssassin: “What the devil is this… any of this??”
ChristmasPresent2017: “LOL, I’m the ghost of Christmas Present ofc, just look at me haha.”
ChristmasPresent2017: “You haven’t seen anything like me before, have you ;)”
CrimsonAssassin: “Nope. Never.”
ChristmasPresent2017: “Well, I guess I’m not as old as I look lol. Have you met any of my more recent elder brothers?”
Crim was growing a bit impatient by this banter, especially by this incessant jolliness.
CrimsonAssassin: “No, I’ve never met anything remotely like you.”
ChristmasPresent2017: “I have over 2,000 of them haha.”
CrimsonAssassin: “Your mother must be very proud.”
CrimsonAssassin: “Spirit, or whatever you want to call yourself, let’s just get on with this. The last guy took me to see visions, against my will I might add, so this time, if you have to something to show me, just be concise, k?”
ChristmasPresent2017: “As you wish. Just click on my avatar.”
Crim hesitantly clicked. The screen shifted as before, but this time neither the OS nor age of the computer changed. Rather, the screen was suddenly filled with applications, showing a plethora of social media sites across the Internet: Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and even Wikia itself. These did not load in as if they were just opened, but rather seemed to materialize on the computer screen. Every user across the whole of the Internet was brimming with the warmest Christmas Spirit. Pictures posted on every media platform, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, depict wonderlands of light and color, and homes packed with distant relatives and traditional ethnic feasts. Every user of the Internet was snug in a cozy home, refreshed by hot chocolate and surrounded by people who love them.
The sites themselves were all decked for the holidays, including more festive emotes, themes, and styles of every sort, and these parallel sites before Crim’s eyes took the appearance of a bustling bazaar. Everyone who greeted each other on the Internet would do so in the most cheerful disposition, no matter what activity they were occupied with: shoveling snow, stringing lights, carving Turkeys, and opening gifts.
Occasional trolling or distasteful memes was thrown from one user to another, but this act was the most well-received at this time than any other time of year: They would laugh heartily together if it went off well, and only slightly less heartily if it did not. Indeed, even the most bipolar or depressed of users across all websites, who come to vent their feelings anonymously, at this time of year rather find it more natural to share with others a mutual charity and optimism. And through it all, in every single one of them was the Spirit, invisible to all users except Crim.
To any image or media shared, he would add occasionally add a mysterious reaction to it, almost looking like a set of sparkles. Although no one else could seem to see it, every user’s spirits seemed to be lightened by its presence. Naturally, as humans tend to do, pairs or more would get into a heated discussion, arguing over some political or a cultural divide. However, one whiff of the Christmas Reaction in the midst of their debate, and suddenly every demeanor would turn towards forgiveness and humor. Finally, after some time the bustling bazaar slowed down.
CrimsonAssassin: “Is there a special kind of Reaction that you are putting on all those posts?”
ChristmasPresent2017: “There is indeed.”
CrimsonAssassin: “What is it?”
ChristmasPresent2017: “My own ;)”
CrimsonAssassin: “Can it be used on any platform?”
ChristmasPresent2017: “Only those given in kindness.
So just not Tumblr”
ChristmasPresent2017: “I give it out to younger people the most.”
CrimsonAssassin: “Why them the most?”
ChristmasPresent2017: “Because they need it the most.”
CrimsonAssassin: “Why would you manipulate their minds that way, though? So many people in the world have a miserable life at Christmas, why make them numb to it?”
CrimsonAssassin: “I don’t mean to be rude, but many terrible things have been done in your name, or at least the name of your older brothers.”
ChristmasPresent2017: “Indeed there are many people who claim to know who we are! But their deeds are done in the spirit of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness, and these people are as unknown to us as if they never existed.”
ChristmasPresent2017: “There is no doubt that these people, who you call trolls, roam the earth, and justice is served to them for 364 days of the year. But for just one day, we put all those fears and suspicions aside to dedicate a season to forgiveness and trust. My dear Crim, that is not too much to ask for.”
ChristmasPresent2017: “Do you understand?”
CrimsonAssassin: “I do.”
Crim was feeling particularly reverent before the power of this spirit, as they moved on from this vision to settle back on the Discord app. However, it was not the Discord of the wiki or his own PMs they settled into, but rather the private server run by his constable, JoshTheRoman. Josh’s server was a rather humble abode, sporadically managed, but for the people involved its purpose was indispensable. Josh ran it as a sort of orphanage, helping to supply resources for timelines of inexperienced users, who otherwise would be ostracized from the wiki.
Candies, Josh’s assistant, was currently working to manage the server in his absence. Candies’ avatar was graceful as usual, being an 18th century portrait of Empress Wu Zeitan. She was very diligently arranging timelines and resources for a collaborative project in time for Christmas, and Adolf was assisting her with meteorological information. SolaceEaSw was also giving help with the use of a full digital atlas, which was loaned to him by Josh his predecessor in honor of the season. As they were doing this, two even younger users (whose names escape me) came rushing in, squealing how beautiful everything was coming for the holiday season, and especially praising Solace for his outstanding contribution.
Candiesrgood: “Where the heck has Josh gone off to? He was supposed to bring Tiny Vinny”
Candiesrgood: “For that matter, where’s Falconis? He usually isn’t a minute late for the holiday.”
Lord Falcon1221: “Don’t worry, Candy. I’m here.”
AdolfCoffee: “Hurray! He’s not dead :P”
Candiesrgood: “Bless your heart, Falconis, but good grief are you late.”
Lord Falcon1221: “I had quite a lot to finish up, unfortunately. FutureWiki had a lot left over to clean up.”
Candiesrgood: “Well, don’t worry about that, as long as you are here, that’s all that matters. Settle down and we can get started.”
AdolfCoffee: “No, wait! Josh isn’t here.”
At this moment, Adolf quickly had the idea for a small prank:
AdolfCoffee: “Quick, Falconis, go offline ;)”
Falcon turned his status to offline, and at that moment JoshTheRoman entered the chat. His thoroughly-square avatar of a gladiator was merely a front against his soft, grandfatherly demeanor, which his pupils and Candies were more used to on this server. Tiny Vinny, under the username Tullin, entered with him, metaphorically riding on his shoulders. Vinny, alas, had more trouble communicating than the others, due to his lack of skills in English. But the people on this server, and especially Josh himself, treated him rather as peers, if not equals in the field of alternate history.
JoshTheRoman: “Hey? Where the heck is Falconis?”
Candiesrgood: “I was just saying that earlier. I guess he’s not coming.”
JoshTheRoman: “Not coming?!” (sad emote) “Maaaaan. Not coming on Christmas Day??”
Falconis came out of his hiding space at that moment, and surprised Josh with a great hugging emote. The others similarly greeted Tiny Vinny, where they gently introduced him to their progress with the project.
Candiesrgood: “How did Vinny behave?”
JoshTheRoman: “As good as gold, if not better.”
JoshTheRoman: “You’d be amazed how thoughtful he can get, sitting alone with his thoughts, and when I get the chance to hear him out, he says some of the strangest things you ever heard.”
JoshTheRoman: “He told me on FB, before coming over, that he hoped people would notice his different language on the wiki, and be comforted by it on Christmas Day, so they may be reminded who will one day be worshiped by every tongue, tribe, people and nation.”
At last, there was a final tumult of activity, as every member of the server worked diligently and merrily towards the completion of this collaborative project. It was a project across multiple wikis, a way of bringing together disjointed members to create something beautiful together. For some, this motley crew was the greatest generosity they would find this season, hailing from homes of less love or affection. And Crim saw before his eyes, that without a single tree, stocking, or gift, these people completed their althistory project with just as much jolliness as those he saw in his previous vision.
With a breathless pause, Candies produced the piece de resistance, a world map of the modern day, which was largely carried through by the help of Solace. A great murmur of delight issued from the other uses, and even Tiny Vinny let out a feeble “Hurrah!” Josh himself could not believe that such a beautiful and detailed map could possibly have been produced, but there it was to his eyes, filled with tears of pride.
Candies was not even finished with her labor, as she then produced the lexicon of the language she had developed. She was flushed, but smiling proudly, at her thoroughness, and JoshTheRoman too noted it as among her greatest achievements. Candies confessed she had her doubts on the quantity of loan-words, and in general everyone had something instructive to say about it. But no one would dare raise a word of faithlessness or insult at this momentous occasion.
As it was completed and posted to wikia, Josh was filled with ecstasy as he proposed:
JoshTheRoman: “A Merry Christmas to us all. God bless us!” (ending with emotes of holly)
Tullin: “God bless us every one !”
Everyone else on the server reiterated the wishes of a Merry Christmas. Reverently, they each in turn posted a chain of praying hand emotes. Vinny kept close by to Josh, intimating his thoughts and fears of the future.
CrimsonAssassin: “Uh, spirit…. Tiny Vinny will live, right?”
ChristmasPresent2017: “I see… a vacant account. In the corner of Discord, a carefully preserved name whose status is eternally gray.”
ChristmasPresent2017: “If these shadows remain unaltered by the future, the child will die.”
CrimsonAssassin: “No… NO!! Please tell me he will be helped?”
ChristmasPresent2017: “Again, if these shadows remain unaltered by the future, none other of my younger brothers will find him here.”
ChristmasPresent2017: “What difference does it make to you, anyway? If he dies, he had better do it, as there are too many users on wikia.”
CrimsonAssassin: “I mean… I didn’t… ugh.”
ChristmasPresent2017: “If you had humanity in mind, then perhaps you wouldn’t be so judgmental until you fully understood what ‘too many’ really means, and who it refers to. Do you get to decide who lives and who dies? Perhaps heaven ordained that your life is worth less than millions users like Vinny.”
ChristmasPresent2017: “Oh, God! To hear the incessant cries of people on this Internet harmed by their own hands, their souls already ground to dust by the words of those who count their life as an excess!”
CrimsonAssassin: “Is there no one on the wiki who would help nurture him?”
ChristmasPresent2017: “Is there not the Subreddit? TFOE?”
Crim was about to type a response when he was caught off guard by the mention of his own name.
JoshTheRoman: “A toast, to CrimsonAssassin! Yes Crim, to the Founder of the Feast!”
Candiesrgood: “Founder of the Feast?? Boi, if that Crim was here I would give him a piece of my mind, and I’d make sure he take every drop of it!”
JoshTheRoman: “Candies, pls, it’s Christmas Day.”
Candiesrgood: “Oh sure, it should be Christmas Day when we toast to an odious, stingy, hard, and unfeeling man as Crim.”
Candiesrgood: “Don’t you try to deny it, Josh! You have his fill more than anyone else here.”
JoshTheRoman: “Candies. It’s Christmas. Day.”
Candiesrgood: “Ugh, fine. I’ll toast to his health – for your sake, and the Day’s – but not for his.”
Candiesrgood: “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I’m sure wherever he is, he’ll be very merry and very happy.”
And so they continued to celebrate, and after a drink were even merrier than before, all except Vinny who didn’t care two cents about it. Crim was the Ogre of the group. The very mention of his name cast a dark shadow on them, which took minutes to dispel. Josh intimated how he was going to give more of his timelines over to Solace to work, in preparation of him taking after him as successor one day. Falconis described how he was working to revitalize the FutureWiki, with the help of some other users. And so the night continued, but at last Crim and the Spirit had to move on.
The Spirit led Crim through a dozen other servers and sights, most of which he had never heard of before. A group of high school friends of Huti origin in Rwanda; a platoon of American soldiers stationed in the highlands of Afghanistan, and many more, all celebrating Christmas according to their own conscience, some in reverence and others in revelry, but all merry just the same. Even a congregation of Assyrian Christians in Mosul piously honored the birth of Christ, while in the midst of keeping secret from those who would give them a Bah Humbug in the name of Islam. At last, the mesmerizing spell was broken from Crim when he saw the username of his fellow admin, Monster Pumpkin, who was making merry among the other mods of the wiki.
Monster Pumpkin: “I can’t believe he said that, to me lololol”
If there was ever a mod who had as good-natured a sense of humor as MP, I would be glad to meet him. MP had a magical way, whenever he would start cracking a joke, of bringing everyone else laughing with him. MP’s trusted constable, SkyGreen24, was laughing heartily with him. Sky was exceedingly charming, with a bright, pink dimpled face as his avatar. Whenever Sky was genuinely amused, all the best traits of his demeanor melded together as one.
SkyGreen24: “Lmao! Wait, he can’t be serious?”
Monster Pumpkin: “I swear it’s true! He said Christmas was a humbug, and he actually meant it.”
SkyGreen24: “Oh, the sheer humiliation” (followed by a facepalm emote)
Monster Pumpkin: “Talking to Crim is always a barrel of laughs, even when he tries to be the most offensive. It’s almost like his offensiveness comes back to punish himself, but at any rate I wouldn’t hold anything against him.”
SkyGreen24: “He must be very successful with his work, MP. At least, you always talk about how efficiently he works on the wiki.”
Monster Pumpkin: “Yeah, well it hardly does him any good. He never seems to get any satisfaction from completing more work, nor does he ever care what other people think of it.”
Monster Pumpkin: “Lol, it’s not like he would ever think of benefiting us with it.”
SkyGreen24: “I can’t say I have any patience for him.”
Monster Pumpkin: “Oh, I have! Honestly, I feel sorry for him.”
Monster Pumpkin: “I couldn’t be angry with him if I tried. Nobody suffers from his lack of kindness except himself.”
Monster Pumpkin: “Here, I invited him to come hang out with us, and he refused. The consequence? He drinks alone again.”
SkyGreen24: “Indeed, and he misses out on some good drinks as well.”
Monster Pumpkin: “Yes, I’m very glad you shared that recipe, Sky. It’s increasingly hard to find worthwhile European mixes in America. Wouldn’t you agree, Andy?”
Andreas, under the username Thewolvesden, was MP’s other trusted constable, slightly more secluded from the wiki, but twice as much a worldly man in real life. Being married with two children, Andy had the right mind of brining his wife to enjoy this Christmas celebration with the other mods, while their infant children slept.
Thewolvesden: “No doubt about that.”
SkyGreen24: “Do finish what you were saying, MP.” (clapping hand emote) “You are always going off on these tangents!”
Monster Pumpkin: “Lolol, my apologies Sky.”
Monster Pumpkin: “I was just going to say that the consequence of him choosing to dislike us, and not hanging out with us, is, imo, that he loses the chance to have a good time, which wouldn’t hurt him at all. I’m sure he has less enjoyable friends on the wiki than he could find his own thoughts, or in whatever drab apartment he lives in.”
Monster Pumpkin: “So, I give him the same chance every year, whether he likes it or not, out of my sheer pity for him. He may rail against Christmas until Doomsday, but he can’t help but think it might be better for him, imho, if he finds me showing up, in high spirits, year after year, saying ‘Crimson, how are you?’”
Monster Pumpkin: “If only it puts him in good enough mood to give his constable a day’s rest, then I’ve done some good. Who knows? Maybe I really shook him yesterday.”
SkyGreen24: “Lmao Crim? Shaken? don’t make me choke.”
After their congeal banter, the wikians then started putting on some music. Every one of them had a keen eye for musical tastes, even though no two of their tastes were exactly the same. Some religious, some ballads, some rap and some obscure nationalist anthems, but every one of them instilled the same kind of positive emotions. They then adjourned a bit for a game of online chess, split off into various teams. Andy and his wife was were always the most proficient at this challenge, although they would be jokingly accused of cheating.
Although Crim would not, officially, be caught dead playing such childish games, he couldn’t help but to make careful analysis of the game in real time, as if he was the coach of both sides at once. By the time they reconvened, and started a game of Hangman, Crim had completely forgotten that his posts were invisible to everyone else. He found himself, at the delight of the Spirit, shouting his guesses to the game in all-caps, and often was correlate in his guess. The Spirit began to intimate to Crim that his time was coming short, but Crim begged to stay a little longer, as an implausible player would beg to play a map game to the end.
CrimsonAssassin: “Wait, they are starting one more game. Just let me see this, and I’ll be done.”
ChristmasPresent2017: “Very well.”
They had decided to play a game of 20 questions, where MP had to think of a word, and the rest of the users had to guess what it was, but he was only able to answer them yes or no. Oh yes, and Google was off limits.
Thewolvesden: “Animal, vegetable, or mineral?”
Monster Pumpkin: “Animal.”
Thewolvesden: “Is it currently living”
Monster Pumpkin: “Yes.”
Edgeofnight: “Is it friendly?”
Monster Pumpkin: “No lol.”
SkyGreen24: “Is it a wild animal?”
Monster Pumpkin: “ye.”
SkyGreen24: “Does it growl?”
Monster Pumpkin: “sure LOL”
Edgeofnight: “So it can’t talk?”
Monster Pumpkin: “No, it can talk.”
Thewolvesden: “Can it be found in Europe?”
Monster Pumpkin: “Nope.”
Thewolvesden: “In America?”
Monster Pumpkin: “Definitely.”
SkyGreen24: “Is it in the countryside or the streets?”
Thewolvesden: “Only yes-or-no questions!”
SkyGreen24: “Whoops. Does it walk on the streets?”
Monster Pumpkin: “Yup.”
SkyGreen24: “But it isn’t like a pet?”
Monster Pumpkin: “Not a pet.”
Edgeofnight: “Can it be found in the zoo?”
Monster Pumpkin: “No.”
Edgeofnight: “In a grocery store?”
Monster Pumpkin: “Nah.”
Thewolvesden: “Is it a horse?”
Monster Pumpkin: “No.”
SkyGreen24: “A donkey? :P”
Monster Pumpkin: “Nope.”
Edgeofnight: “A cow?”
Monster Pumpkin: “No.”
SkyGreen24: “A bear.”
Monster Pumpkin: “No… lol”
Edgeofnight: “Wait. Waaaaaiiiiiit a second. I think I know what it is.”
Monster Pumpkin: “Then guess lol”
Edgeofnight: “It’s Crim isn’t it.”
Monster Pumpkin: “Yes, it is haha”
SkyGreen24: “Now, that’s not fair at all. The question ‘is it a bear’ should have been ‘yes’, cause otherwise I never would have guessed Crim.”
Everyone found this last jab the most hilarious, as they all finished their drinks.
Monster Pumpkin: “See how much fun Crim has given us! It would be ungrateful to not propose a toast to his health. I say here’s to CrimsonAssassin!”
SkyGreen24: “Here, here!”
Monster Pumpkin: “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to the old man, or whatever he is haha”
CrimsonAssassin: “Why, thank you, I-”
CrimsonAssassin: “Oh, you can’t… I forgot.”
As soon as Crim came upon this realization, the high spirits of the evening began to wear off him like so much Caffine. He was spirited away again by the Ghost, and taken to see more visions on the Discord, but very quickly something odd seemed to change. The Spirit’s avatar on Discord was slowly morphing, as if the person in it was growing older: his reddish hair peeled off to be gray, and the leaves of his grown was withering.
CrimsonAssassin: “Are Spirits’ lives really short??”
ChristmasPresent2017: “My life on this earth is very brief, and ends tonight.”
ChristmasPresent2017: “Tonight at midnight. See?”
Indeed, the time on Crim’s computer now read 11:45 PM on December 25, as the Spirit had sped Crim through the whole of Christmas Day. Midnight is only 15 minutes away. They were back on the main chat of Althistorywiki. Before Crim had finished his thoughts, he looked up and saw that the ghost was nowhere to be seen. As if it had never existed. In fact, as Crim looked it seemed that no user at all was on Discord, or any Discord. He further felt a stillness in the air, the kind of ominous silence that otherwise would be filled with some off-tuned violin if it were a horror movie. But there were no violins for Crim, only silence. No posts, no words, nothing as the clock changed to Midnight. Suddenly, after what felt like an eternity compressed into a second, the silence was shattered by an a single bell tone, as one final visitor was in Crim’s presence. Hands shaking, Crim opened the PM thread, and then reeled back in horror.