Christmas at the End of the World | Teen Ink

Christmas at the End of the World

December 22, 2021
By Bella_Queen DIAMOND, Plymouth, Ohio
Bella_Queen DIAMOND, Plymouth, Ohio
81 articles 25 photos 79 comments

Favorite Quote:
Keep your face always toward the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you.
-Walt Whitman

December 25th. 

I almost didn’t believe it, but the calendar clearly stated the year, 2056, in bright bold letters, and my marking of the months and days had brought me to December.

And the 25th.

I pursed my lips, smudging at the dirt and grime covering the picture of a green tree covered in sparkles and glittery bulbs of light with my thumb.

I looked around me, scowling at the broken stairs, the decimated right wall, and the collapsed bookcase in the corner. 

No tree. No lights.

Nothing to remotely remind me of Christmas.

But I guess that was how things went at the End of the World.

At least the ash falling from the sky was a little like snow.

“Nali,” a hand brushed my arm, and I jumped, whipping around to see Hunar, my older brother, staring at me. “What are you doing? We have to go.”

I looked down at the calendar still clutched in my hands. “Did you know it was Christmas?”

He blinked and adjusted his ratty plaid shirt, the only semblance of a coat he had. “No.”

“Do you remember what it was like?”

He looked away from me, “Let’s go.”

I didn’t argue; Hunar was right. What was the point of dwelling on things we couldn’t have? Couldn’t even really remember?

Even so, I shoved the calendar in my backpack as he led me out of the wrecked house and onto the street. The smell, though we had gotten used to it mostly, forced us to pull our kerchiefs up over our mouths. As we walked, Hunar, who kept a tight hold on my hand though I was only a few years apart from his twenty-two years, watched the road like a hawk.

“I didn’t see anyone today, Hun,” I said, “maybe we could stop by the mall?”

The mall was our biggest supplier, though a hive for survivors. Every day, it seemed emptier. We hadn’t been in weeks.

“It’s colder,” I reminded him, trying to be as convincing as possible. “We won’t survive in this plaid for long.”

He glanced at me, “It’s too risky.”

I scowled at the binoculars dangling from his neck. “Did you at least scope it out?”

He didn’t say anything, but a sudden gust of wind had him pausing in the road, my hand still in his. He looked in the direction the mall was in, then straight ahead, where the road led to home.

Or the sewer entrance we called home.

“All right,” he relented. “Take this and go home. I’ll get what we need.” He withdrew our gun from its holster and held it out expectantly.

I frowned, “I’m not going with you.”

It wasn’t a question.

“No. I’ll be back before you know it.” He shoved the gun into my hands, letting go of me, “straight home. Okay?”

I knew there was no way he would relent, so I nodded.

He leaned down to kiss my mud-streaked forehead. “I love you. Never forget that.”

With that he jogged off, long dark hair blowing in the wind.



I lay awake in the sewers, watching the manhole cover.

By my calculations, it had been three hours since Hunar and I had parted ways.

Too long.

I took a deep breath and clutched the calendar in my fists. In the hours he had been gone, I had wiped the December section clean until the tree was practically leaping off the page.

It made me homesick.

Or perhaps, past-sick.

Suddenly, a shift in the cover had me sitting up straight, muscles alert and ready. Light filtered through, gray, unlike how I knew light used to look. 


I expected my brother to drop down into the filthy water, his face slightly black from all the ash, but what fell was a rectangular box. Following it was a smaller one. And then another. 

I blinked as my brother came after all of them.

“What is this?” I whispered as he pulled the cover over the hole. “How did you carry it all?”

He knelt in the filth, silent, and started cutting the box open with his pocket knife.

I gasped when he showed me what was inside; a tree. Dismembered and plastic, but still…

A tree.

“Hunar… where did you find this?”

“At the mall,” he shrugged like it was nothing, “it took me a long time, but… Here it is. Is it like that one? In the calendar?”

I looked down at the picture still in my hands. “Close. The color is right, but this one’s put together. And we don’t have any bulbs or lights.”

He pulled down his kerchief, showing off a secret smile, “Look in there.” He nodded towards the other boxes.

I practically leapt upon them, tearing tape with my teeth, until the decorations spilled out; old cans strung up on twine, a few broken baubles, and garland that was ratty and dusted all over. He had even found two puffy coats, both white. Like snow. I felt warmth hit my cheeks.

“Hunar… you did all of this for me?”

His smile softened even further. “For us. For their memory.”

Our parents.

I almost started to cry, but Hunar placed a hand on my shoulder. “Let’s set it up, yeah? It took me forever to find this! I want to see it all bright and shining.”

I grinned, “Yeah! Let’s do it!”

With rats scuttling over our feet, and filth soiling our clothes, my brother and I painstakingly put the tree together. The end result was imperfect, since we had placed some branches in the wrong slots, but it made us both feel lighter. Happier.

Like before.

“Here,” Hunar handed me a string of cracked lights, his face flushed with excitement. “You do the honors.”

Carefully, I started wrapping the tree in lights, following a trail from top to bottom. Like Mom had shown us years ago. Next, we dotted it with the baubles and stringed cans, using the garland to cover the patches left uncovered.

With contented sighs, we stepped back to review our work.

“Perfect,” Hunar said softly.

“I guess, though we don’t have a star.”

He tried not to look dejected. “I couldn’t find that.”

I looked down at the crumpled calendar, thinking. Then it hit me.

“Dad’s statue! The one of that weird no-armed lady from Greece. Or was it Paris?”

“You still have our replica of Venus de Milo?” He looked surprised.

“Dad loved that thing, of course I do.” Shrugging, I quickly scooped up my backpack and rifled through it. 

There, at the bottom, was the bust.

“We can tie it with string.”

As I held the figure against the highest bough, Hunar tied it there with a ratty string that dripped dark water onto the dank floor. Then we stepped back again to look at it.

“It looks nothing like the picture,” Hunar murmured, eyes far away.

“But it’s ours,” I assured him, “and I love it.”

He smiled as I hugged his side, face brightening, “It does have its charm, I guess…”

We both laughed, and for a moment I forgot the world had ended.

For a moment, everything was perfect.

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