Click here to watch me read this part out loud.
The winds whipped violently across the open desert plain, battering against the cracked, aged walls of an abandoned fuel station and diner. The building stood alone in the desolate wilderness, its walls covered in neon graffiti, its original paint sun-bleached and chipped. There was no sign of life visible from the outside of this place, which was rather ironically called "The Dead Pegasus".
Inside the shelter, though, things were entirely different. A vermilion-haired man bustled about excitedly, stringing up half-tangled yarn and slapping pieces of vibrant duct tape against the wall, anything to liven up the atmosphere. Christmas was on its way, and nothing could dampen this man's spirits; not even the cheapest, foulest half-cup of cold coffee, not even the lack of snow outside...not even Better Living. No, nothing could take this joy away from him. He was like a child again, preparing for what he knew would be the most magical Christmas yet. It was Christmas Eve, and he could feel the energy rising through the humid, desert air...indeed, this night would be one to remember.
"Hey Party, are ya-- oof--
" In his eager frenzy, the man had accidentally plowed down his comrade and brother Mikey, who had just entered the building, carrying two large brown paper bags filled with various knicknacks and gifts for the next morning. Every year they assigned someone to be the Dead Pegasus Santa, and this time around was Mikey's turn.
"Sorry, Kobra," Party grinned, climbing to his feet and helping his younger brother up.
“Don't worry about it... Hey Party, are you excited for Christmas?”
“Of course I'm excited, I've even made an elf costume so I can be your little helper!”
“That sounds great! Speaking of costumes, I may have got a little too excited and uh... ripped the badge off of mine. So do you think you can fix it for me while I put up the rest of the decorations?”
“If you wish, Santa!”
“Thank you, my little elf!” Kobra placed the bright decorations he had bought onto one of the dining tables and got to work, turning the dull building into a place of many colours, while Party started sewing the 'Dead Pegasus' badge back onto the costume.
The two killjoys were singing and dancing around when Jet and Ghoul entered through the creaking wooden doors, bursting into a fit of laughter at the very sight of them. Deciding to help Kobra with the many decorations, they soon joined in the fun and, in unison, they air-guitared to the rock music streaming through the diner. After the decorations were in place, the killjoys were getting more excited by the minute as Christmas day was drawing closer.
“Well, are you ready Jet?” Party asked eagerly, jumping up and down on the spot.
“Yeah...” he replied, wondering how much coffee Party had consumed.
“How 'bout you Ghoul?”
“Oh, I'm there, baby!” Ghoul exclaimed, both now jumping in synchronization.
“How 'bout you Kobra?”
“Fuckin' ready!” Kobra joined in Party and Ghoul's celebration, while Jet stared confused for a couple of seconds before finally imitating their extreme behaviour.
“Well, I think I'm alright.” Party exclaimed. “1, 2, 3, 4!” He counted down the hours until Christmas day.
As the day passed by, the caffeine slowly evaporated. The cheap coffee and bits of left-over beans quickly ran out. Only the soft music was still there, begging for attention. For the first time in ages, Party Poison shivered and put a vast blanket around himself and his loyal companions. When he breathed out, tiny, transparent clouds of air were trying to touch the ceiling. They disappeared and mixed themselves with the air that hadn't been sucked up by the lungs of the four men. It had been a long time since the radiator had broken. The sand-blasted glass of the emty diner showed the vast desert that surrounded the hideout. Party Poison sighed as he watched the orange sun fall and silver moon rise.
"So, when are we going to open up your bags, Kobra?" Fun Ghoul yawned.
"Soon," Kobra Kid mumbled. His eyelids felt heavy after the long dancing and partying. He doubted if they were going to stay up late, guarding the cozy diner and keeping away the beasts of the desert. He sincerely hoped that even the Draculoids would be celebrating Christmas. He smiled and looked at the small pile of branches that were supposed to be the Christmas tree. Jet Star was playing with the bags, poking them carefully.
"Can we open them now, Kobra?" Jet Star laughed.
"Do you guys remeber what Christmas was all about?" Party interrupted with a vague smile playing on his lips. "I remember how Dad came home with one of those trees. Do you remember that, Mikey?"
Kobra Kid nodded slowly.
"You were always so eager to make the tree all pretty and shiny," Party Poison sighed while gazing into the distance, "And do you remember how we sneaked out of our bedrooms at night, trying to catch a glimse of Santa?"
"A lot has changed," Jet Star interrupted. He didn't want to make this an all emotional night. The brothers could start crying any moment. Party Poison smiled. "Yeah, too much has changed."
"Let's not get all emotional, guys!" Fun Ghoul laughed. "I might claim all of the presents."
Kobra Kid smiled warmly at Fun Ghoul. He loved his friends more than any Christmas. Fun Ghoul noticed the sign and grabbed a pocket knife. Slowly, he slit the first bag open. He gasped at the loads of things that were in it. "Kobra!" he exclaimed. With eager hands, Party Poison joined in, forgetting how much he missed the old days. The days they had a proper home with lovable parents. He smiled broadly at the letter that Kobra Kid had written as a kind of Christmas card. Four men were drawn on it. They were just made out of sticks and a circle. Only the hair differed from each little man. They four stick men were holding hands and smiling broadly. The background was created by the drawn rock formations. Little piles of snow were showing on the hills. A small diner was built behind the four men, with a snow man just to the right of the building. In huge, colourful letters was written: "Merry Christmas!"
"Turn it over!" Fun Ghoul said excitedly. Party Poison coughed and read what was written in a meticulous, scribbly handwriting.
"The greatest gift is being together…"
Party chuckled as he saw Ghoul’s face drop. Just below that sweet message, another line read:
"P.S. Christmas is for the morning…"
Kobra smiled smugly as Ghoul reluctantly pushed the torn paper bag back to their makeshift tree. Rather than returning to their seats scattered about the booths, they settled down on the tile floor with their back against the breakfast bar of the diner.
"You sound like my mom," Ghoul grumbled.
Kobra managed to say "You sound like you’re five," over a choked yawn.
"How am I supposed to sleep with them taunting me?" Ghoul whined. His tone reminded Party of Mikey when they were younger. Mikey would try desperately to get their mom and dad to let him open something before the morning. Though every attempt proved fruitless, he persisted year after year up through high school. A lot had changed, but some things never do, and he didn’t really want them to.
Jet replying to Ghoul’s complaint pulled Party from his thoughts. "Do something to occupy your mind until you're tired."
Ghoul sighed as he looked lazily over to the magazine rack filled with things he had read seven times over each. He darted his eyes around the room looking for something to do. Anything at all! His turmoil was obvious on his face and quite humorous. Kobra laughed at his effort. Ghoul flopped on his back with an overdramatic sigh. Party mimicked his actions landing beside him.
"There’s nothing!" he exclaimed in a breathless shout. Kobra raised his finger to his lips and shushed him furiously. They may be the only ones awake, but they weren’t the only ones in the diner.
The four got very quiet for a moment, as most people do after they are shushed. The sound of Grace tossing over on a cot in the back room echoed into their section of the diner. Show Pony let out a subtle mumble in his sleep. The drone of Dr. Death Defying’s snoring traveled through the air. Party wondered how they hadn’t heard that muted wood chipper earlier. Ghoul peered into Dr. D’s broadcasting booth and grinned mischievously. Jet shot him a wary glance.
Whatever Ghoul’s plans were, they were interrupted by the sound of a shattered window. Not just a shatter, but a silent one. A shatter that was barely audible when awake, let alone asleep. That wasn't an accidental shatter or a prank from a fellow Killjoy, no, someone was breaking in.
"We have ourselves a Grinch," thought Party.