Inflatable Santas Lining the Block
Arthur used his power as mayor to declare a second Christmas per year.
Then, he did the same for birthdays. People aged twice as fast but lived twice as long.
Arthur believed he had made a tremendous difference in his small village. He threw his head back and laughed with rolling glee. Clearly, he was a genius and, damn, did he still look good for his age! And there was that PR specialist with the strawberry-scented candles in her loft, the one who moonlighted as his personal assistant, twirling red tassels on black-sequined pasties as she swayed her round hips against the curve of his belly. At first Arthur worried that his wife would be suspicious on those nights when he got home late, that strawberry scent hanging on him, but he pushed the thought away. He and his wife hadn't touched in more than two years—two Christmases, two birthdays—and the gifts that he bought her were merely checkmarks on the new calendar. Jewelry, chocolates, flowers, it didn't matter what, as long as there was a ribbon and a card. That's what mattered.
There were sunrises and sunsets, the usual days in and days out that occur with the passage of time. And then the leaves turned and fell. A touch of snow and bitterness was followed by the reemergence of green. And before long, Arthur had taken more power, seized it easily with his smooth smile and a gust of charisma. The village turned into a city and then a region, Arthur's power stretching across the land. Arthur flexed his arm muscle, admired it. He looked up at the sky, a glint of light echoing off his sunburnt nose. He adjusted his toupee and stared into the sun, thinking about how bright his future was. This, Arthur decided, was the good life. But he knew it could be even better.Arthur decreed: June's Christmas trees could only be pink or light blue. He liked the softness of those colors because they reminded him of the malleability of babies.
Protests followed this decree. And with time, so did questions. Was Christmas originally in December or June? Arthur said, "It's always been in June, of course," and demanded that any book or person who claimed otherwise be destroyed. He would not tolerate lies. Those who believed that Christmas had originally been a June holiday found the red-and-green December hubbub appalling. They spat at the depictions of angels, glittery stars, and Baby Jesuses. Under Arthur's direction, those who had real pine trees were considered heathens, debasing a sacred summer holiday.
Arthur's wife opposed the June holiday, stopped accepting his gifts, and threatened to lead a revolt. "Lies," she said. Then, pointing at a pink tree thrusting itself forth against their living room wall, added, "And this is a disgrace!"
She walked out on him, but Arthur didn't care. He relished in the sight of inflatable Santas lining the block and proclaimed a September Christmas, then a March one. Then, two more birthdays. There should always be something to celebrate. And, oh, how long everyone was living now!
"It's an outrage!" Arthur's ex-wife said in a media interview. "I struggle to remember when my real birthday is anymore." She headed up a group of picketers outside a shopping center where people stuffed their BMWs full of presents, considering them essential tokens of friendship and love. Plush animals, video games, tablets, big-screen TVs, mopeds.
They're selling you LIES, the protesters' signs read. You're no longer in control. Take back your mind! Vain pleas.
When asked for a response in regards to his ex-wife's actions, Arthur responded that he didn't know who she was, that he'd never been married. "Check your facts," he snarled.
A journalist got hold of his marriage license, shoved it in his face, but Arthur, 120 years old by that time, didn't care. He spat on it, shooed the journalist away, and stared contentedly out of his office window, thinking vaguely of a PR specialist he used to employ. Or was she in HR? He couldn't recall anymore. He had worked himself up from mayor to the ruler of the world. He could do anything he wanted. The only thing he needed people for was the gifts.
So, he mandated even more Christmases and more birthdays and sighed with delight. Still, there were occasional moments when he had a faint tinge of a memory, anxiety about smelling of strawberry-scented candles or something. Or lavender-scented ones maybe. Or vanilla. Or pumpkin spice. He couldn't remember exactly, but it didn't matter now. He always managed to force those thoughts down, reminding himself of what really mattered.
Arthur wrapped himself up in a velvet cloak and waited at a gold-plated table as the proletariat brought him a fifty-pound chocolate cake smothered with shameless amounts of frosting and blazing with 1000 candles, one candle more than the day before. And as he had the previous day, Arthur dug his fork into the viscous sweetness, waved the commoners away, and grinned. Gifts were stacked at his feet and around the table, the packages decorated with lavish frivolity. Fruit baskets and shiny gift bags lined the walls, their numbers swelling in front of him. He hadn't even opened all the presents from his last birthday yet. It was unbelievable! The years went by so fast.
Jessica Klimesh is an editor and proofreader who works with academic, technical, and creative writers. She holds an MA in English from Bowling Green State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Cedar Crest College; she previously taught English as a Second Language at the University of Iowa. Her short fiction has most recently appeared in The Mark Literary Review, Briefly Write, and Backchannels.