Written for The Speakeasy at Yeah, Write. A story about a clash of generations begins after the image.
Genre: Science Fiction
The family Christmas tree shined bright in the family room. Beyond the tree, outside the orbital habitat’s window, Earth hung in space like a giant blue Christmas ornament. Nineteen other habitats sparkled near and far like smaller ornaments anxiously waiting to be hung on the tree.
Jennifer finished programming the processor and entered the family room where adults lounged and children chased each other. “Who’s ready for eggnog?” she called. Hands went up from everyone. “Well then…” A muted ‘ding’ interrupted her. “Eggnog’s ready. C’mon and get it!” The kids piled into the spartan kitchen, removing steaming mugs that, moments before, didn’t exist. Allan, Jennifer’s husband, finished his eggnog quickly. He dropped it in the disposal where nanites disassembled it to component atoms in seconds. The microscopic machines stored the elements for later use as food and dishware.
“Hey! You kids ready for stories?” called Grandpa from the family room. The sound of an ancient Christmas song started playing, sung by a guy named after an old search engine.
The youngest kids, Illuminada and Werner, squealed with delight and charged off. Twelve-year old Fujiko chased ofter them, grinning wildly. Jennifer smiled. Grandpa told the best stories. The kids loved them.
The eldest, Rajesh, stayed behind looking sour. “What’s wrong, Raj?” said Jennifer.
“Grandpa’s stories aren’t real,” muttered Raj.
“They’re called fairy tales, Raj. It doesn’t matter if they’re real.” She swatted him gently but forcefully on the butt. “Go on. Grandpa will feel bad if you’re not there.”
The last three joined the kids on a mound of pillows and Grandpa’s feet. At 279, Grandpa was weak and reaching the end of life. His was the first generation receiving life-extension treatments. His children’s children would easily clear 600 years. As it was, the old man seemed happy enough telling stories to eleven generations of grand kids.
“A long time ago,” began Grandpa. His voice creaked like a rusty valve. “There were 192 countries in the world.”
“Why so many?” said Fujiko. “Isn’t one enough?”
“Well, they divided themselves up by race, religion, and political ideas.”
“What were they racing for?” said Werner.
“There weren’t ‘racing,’ Werner. Back then, people had different religions and they looked very different from one another. Some were white, some black, some brown or yellow.”
“Awesome!” squealed Illuminada. ” I want to be colorful like that. I’ll be pink.”
Raj rolled his eyes in disgust. “That’s crazy grandpa. People are people. There’s no such thing as people with different colors.”
“Oh yes there was!” roared Grandpa. “Now, people look and act mostly the same, but before, the people looked and thought and sounded differently from each other. Many thought these differences were scary. So they used to have wars because they thought killing people from a different country or religion was justified. Airplanes dropped bombs and suicide bombers blew up crowded markets. The wars killed millions over the years. A lot of people lived in fear.”
Fujiko covered her mouth in shock. “But not the mommies and babies, right Grandpa?”
By now, the three youngest had begun crying. Jennifer stood up with a glare at Grandpa. “Okay that’s enough. Grandpa, that’s silly. Nobody killed each other because of some weird color-codes or over religion.”
“That’s what happened!”
Jennifer pulled her crying children close to her. “Now kids. It’s just a fairy tale. It’s not real. Besides, there’s no crying on Christmas! Santa Claus is coming.”
“Santa Claus is the fairy tale!” complained Grandpa.
“Santa Claus IS real,” grated Jennifer.
“Yep,” said Allan as he pulled the curtains aside. “Here he comes now.” A starship, converted for cargo, cruised past slowly. Small red dots by the thousands spilled out. Gradually, they moved closer until it became clear they were man-shaped, all dressed in red with white trim. The kids became nearly uncontrollable as they watched thousands of Santa Clauses approaching the habitat. Before long, the family’s main hatch opened and Santa Claus stood there laughing uproariously, his arms loaded with Christmas presents.
While the kids tore into the gifts, Grandpa pulled Jennifer aside. “Someday you’ll have to tell them Santa Claus is a pack of clones who only live a couple weeks before they’re disassembled. Will they cry then? Who’s telling the fairy tales?”
“But at least he’s real!” countered Jennifer. “Grandpa, you’re getting older. But your stories…maybe things are getting mixed up in your head.”
“It’s all true!”
Jennifer cocked an eyebrow. “If only your stories were half as true as Santa Claus!”
This week, the Speakeasy prompt must include the phrase, “Grandpa told the best stories.” It should also include a reference to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” Here’s the original prompt: http://www.yeahwrite.me/speakeasy/139-open/