Two Wheels Bad

They came overnight, and we did not notice. Not at first, no, because their brothers and sisters were already here, a discreet phalanx of unobtrusive invaders. An expeditionary force, embedded deep cover in our towns and cities. Our villages. Everywhere. Waiting for the signal.

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No presents?

No presents. Something needed to be done, so here I am in the back yard of a house far from home, dressed in black and carrying a crowbar. I wait. I’ve been here three nights in a row and I know to wait. The lights on the tree switch off and still I wait. Give them half an hour, 45 minutes to be sure.

In at the window, splintering the wood to wrench up the sash. In. No light but a streetlight a few yards down, doesn’t matter. Everywhere is the same in suburbia. I roll the balls of my feet across the parquet floor, balloon my legs silently across to the tree. There, gifts. Too many for this small family, they sha’n’t miss a few. I pull off and pocket the tags. Someone shifts upstairs. A child sighs in their sleep. I think of Jo, sprawled on the rug, hollow-cheeked and sad-eyed. No presents. Could I disappoint her?

The presents are wonderful. Jo will be happy, maybe she will smile for the first time in months… but something nags at me. A sigh. A tag sat in my pocket. Something needs to be done, or I will never feel well.

So here I am again, in another yard. Waiting for the lights to go off, waiting to go in and take not so many gifts. No need to replace like for like. Then tomorrow; another house, a few less, to make up for this. And then tomorrow.