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A Christmas Quacker

Part 1

“What day is it?” asks Holly as she slowly chewed the last of her dinner. That single bite was the first of her dinner, too - she had to savour every morsel.

 

“I don’t know, darling. Does it matter?” her mother replied.

 

“I suppose not. I just feel like there have been a lot of nights between then and now. Shouldn’t Santa have visited by now?”

 

Ivy had failed to tell her daughter about Christmas in all the chaos. About Santa. With all that is going on, she thought, perhaps now wasn’t the right time.

 

“Well, Santa is probably having the same issue we are having right now. He might not be able to get to us all this year.”

“But why?” Holly never missed a beat with her questions. Ivy sighed at the prospect of answering countless whys all night.

 

“You know why, sweetie. The ducks.”

 

“But Santa has a flying sleigh.”

 

“Ducks can fly, Holly. You’ve seen them.”

 

“But Santa is fast. There is no way those ducks can get him. A regular duck couldn’t even get him." Ivy paused. The silence was enough for Holly to recognise that her mother was thinking of what to say – what to make up to keep her quiet.

 

“You are lying, mama. Tell the truth.”

 

Ivy looked at her daughter, her big brown eyes staring up at her. She still didn't fully understand what had happened to the world. That things would never be the same. That Santa just won’t be coming. So, she lied again, but more convincingly this time.

 

“OK. You caught me. There are four sleeps until Christmas.”

 

“Four? Just four? That’s not long at all Mama. We must decorate. We must get pies and carrots!”

 

Ivy cursed herself. She should have given herself longer.  Why didn’t she round up to a full week at least?

 

“Things are a bit different now. We have to be sneaky so the ducks can’t steal the pies or the carrots.”

 

Holly laughed. “The ducks don’t eat pies and carrots, Mama! They eat people!”

 

Ivy flinched. How quickly her daughter had adjusted and accepted a new, bizarre reality. As easily as she accepted a man in a red and white suit delivers presents with the aid of flying reindeer every year. She wondered then if it might be time to start teaching her some critical thinking but banished the thought. That can come later. After the fake Christmas she has to deliver is over.

 

Ivy wrapped herself up in all the protective gear they managed to salvage. It was enough to withstand a few bites, but worthless if she encountered a flock. Given the blizzard outside, she figured she had more chance of getting out and finding something to appease her daughter now rather than in the morning.

 

She kissed her daughter on the cheek and demanded that she stay inside until she returned. Holly nodded aggressively, showing her mother just how much she understood her instructions.

 

Ivy stepped out into the cold. What am I doing? she thought. I should just stay here. Tell Holly that Santa isn’t coming. This is stupid. And yet, she walked forward into the night.

What does Ivy encounter outside?

[options

  • A bear

  • Santa

  • Zombie ducks - winning option]

 

Part 2

The snow in the village was as heavy as it always was. Despite so much changing, so much had stayed the same. The almost guaranteed white Christmas in Lakeview is what drew Ivy to the small town in the first place but, since the epidemic, she wished they weren’t holed up so close to such a large lake, especially at that time of year.

Ivy trudged through the thick white powder, not noticing that her footprints disappeared almost immediately behind her. She followed the paths by muscle memory, keeping her headtorch off until she needed it – the light attracted the ducks.

 

There was nothing for a while. The blanket of snow made everything look the same – you’d never know that the end of the world lay just beneath it. Ivy tried to recall the old layout of the town and each of the stores that made up the little high street. One of the shops was a toy store once which always had the most beautiful Christmas window displays. Ivy figured they might have some old decorations lurking in the back and a few toys that Holly might like.

 

Ivy turned around and squinted through the falling icy debris. With a swift on/off of her headtorch, she surveyed the street. There were six stores behind her. That meant the next one should be the toy store. She needed to be right; she couldn’t risk another flash of light to check, no matter how quick she was.

 

She ran to the door and pullled. It moved an inch before jamming. Ivy felt around the door to find the cause of the jam. A simple latch or an obstruction, hopefully a small own. Halfway down, she found it. Snow. There was far too much to dig through without a shovel. In the open. Alone

 

Ivy thought through her options. All the shop fronts were likely to be the same, and none of the others will have what she needs. Going home wasn't an option without something for Holly. Her mind ping-ponged between which stores she could try, trading home empty handed, and what she could craft out of snow that would pass as a gift. It kept moving between these unacceptable alternatives until a memory rose to the surface, breaking the cycle.

 

The fire alarm in the bookstore, way back when the town wasn't infested with flesh-eating ducks. Leslie was re-reading 50 shades in the stock room on her break when the table caught fire. She'd lit a candle - insisting the main light wasn't working - and the flame got a bit too close to a stack of the latest trending book. Ivy chuckled at the memory. The irony that the books that set the place ablaze was called Ignite Me. But it was how Leslie got out of the stock room with the doorway blocked. It had a side entrance. She remembered the book manager telling her at the time that all of the main street stores had a second entrance. It made sense really - she'd never seen the stores take deliveries through the customer entrance (except those few weeks after the bookstore fire whilst the stockroom was being rebuilt). 

 

Resolved to get in somehow, Ivy turned and stepped forward. Her foot landed on something soft yet more solid than snow. The thing under her foot wailed – and unholy screech with an undertone of quack.

 

Oh no, she thought. I’ve stood on a duck! She flicked on her headtorch to find a raft of ducks before her. They look innocuous enough. Maybe they are just ducks, she thought as the one she stepped on lunged for her – sharp, bloody teeth bared.

 

Not just ducks, then. Zombie ducks.

What should Ivy do?

[options

  • Run back home

  • Battle the zombie ducks - winning option

  • Run to the back entrance and hope the door is open]

 

Part 3

Ivy had a decision to make, all of which were equally likely to result in being eaten by rabid ducks.

If I have to go down, might as well be fighting, she thought.

She reached into her snow boots, pulled out a fire iron and set to work. A stab through the head would work whatever the weapon, as would a swift beheading. Ivy was pleased to find that she had in fact learned something from watching mindless zombie films in her teenage years. But iron also seared zombie duck's flesh - cutting through them like a hot knife through butter. With a few sharp swipes, she took out at least a dozen of the frenzied beasts.

Swipe. QUACK. Swipe. QUACK. Swipe. QUUUUUAAACCCK!

The last duck to fall pierced the night with its fearsome quack.

 

The ground rumbled beneath Ivy's feet; the remains of rotting ducks vibrating around her. Ivy moved her head frantically left and right, the head torch sweeping across the road and down the street.

Nothing.

But the vibrations, the noise, increased with every second. Whatever it was, it was getting closer.

I need to get out of here, thought Ivy. I need to get out now. 

What is coming?

[options

  • An Army of more Zombie Ducks

  • A Rescue Party

  • Santa - winning option]

 

Part 4

Ivy looked around. First, she needed to get off the main street before whatever was coming found her practically unarmed out in the open. She ran awkwardly through the snow, slipping every other step as she approached the alley to the side of the toy shop. She could see the side door up ahead; the snow piled against it higher than the drifts barricading the front doors. 

Dammit, she thought. What am I going to do?

The rumbling sound was getting closer; Ivy was running out of options.

The only thing nearby was an industrial bin. Recoiling with every rushed step forward, Ivy approached the bin - she could smell it even with the lid shut. Hoping there were no wayward zombie ducks inside, she lifted the lid.

QUACK!

Ivy dropped the lid sharply and stepped back, bumping into something large and soft. Something that wasn't there seconds before.

"Hello, Ivy," said a booming voice behind her.

Ivy spun round, fire iron raised and ready to fight to the death. She dropped it immediately at the sight before her. A big, bearded man. A red suit with a white fluffy trim. She could hear bells jingling behind him and the light snort of a reindeer snuffling the snow.

"Wha...Wha...?" Ivy stumbled.

"What is going on? Who am I? What do I want?"

Ivy, knowing that words would still not come if she tried, simply nodded.

"Well, I understand you are looking for a gift for little Holly and I'd like to help you on your quest." The jolly man chuckled, conjuring a small man in a green suit and pointy shoes - an elf.

The elf was holding a large gift almost three times his height and width. A smaller box was resting on the top.

Santa swept the presents out of the Elf's arms who swiftly disappeared behind him.

"Here!" proclaimed Santa as he pushed the presents into Ivy's chest, forcing her arms up to catch the presents.

"The perfect present for Holly and a little something for you too!"

Ivy didn't know what to say. This is impossible, she thought. Maybe I fell asleep in the alley. Maybe I never left the safe house - the idea of venturing out during a zombie-duck apocalypse for a Christmas present sounds more like a fever dream than reality.

As if he could read her thoughts, Santa spoke again. "I assure you I am very real, Ivy. Now run along. The ducks will stay away with my reindeer close by but I have other places to be. You won't be safe after I leave the town."

Ivy didn't move.

"Run, Ivy!" he shouted.

Startled by his tone and the fact that Santa just barked at her, she squeezed past him back to the main street and power-walked back to her daughter.

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