"Grampa. Tell me about Krizmuz," Sam said.
It was cold, Dixon’s feet were cold, and the air was thick today; the wind turbine on the roof of block 45-731—he could see it on the window screen—was sluggish, congested, as if the crude oil-coloured air were crude oil—more words from the distant past—like “Krizmuz”: "Crude oil" was something he'd heard about when he was a kid, a story about a king who turned everything he touched into slimy, black oil.
"Krizmuz," he said shifting in his chair, his lips having trouble with it, like putting on an old pair of trousers. He gazed into the fire for a second. It was a coal fire—a real coal fire. Well, the coal wasn’t real, but the fire was.
"Yeah. Krizmuz,” Sam said, getting up from playing with the cat and going over to the screen that was a window and a screen—the weather forecast changed colour—to red, with a streaming banner: 'SANDSTORM ALERT: 24/12/2324—gusts: 100-120 km per hour expected over next 24 hours.'
“Mum says it had toys and things—Krizmuz. People gave out toys." The cat moved into Sam’s vacated chair and stretched. It made a sound like an overloaded motor and folded up into a ball the size of someone’s head. It was a genTech cat: a cross between a robot and a genetically-reconfigered rat. It looked like a cat, meowed like a cat, but it wasn’t really a cat, any more than the meat in the meatballs they’d had for dinner was real meat.
“Well... Krizmuz was more than that,” Dixon said, at last. “There were Kriz-muz lights… and Kriz-muz movies.”
“Kriz-muz—Krizmuz, Kriz-muz...” Sam said in sing-song voice moving closer to his grandfather. He was a wiry little lad—small for his age and he couldn’t stay still when he spoke, as if his whole body were conducting what was coming out of his mouth. He sat down on the floor beside his grandfather’s chair, his face, his big eyes, looking up—his implant flickering, a band of sub-dermal points of light dancing across his forehead.
Like a Krizmus tree, Dixon thought. "Tree" was another word Dixon hadn't spoken, or even heard, for a long time. "There were—toys. That, I remember. I mean... I remember being told that. And singing, and food, lots of food."
“What's it mean, "KRIZ-MUS?" Sam said.
"I don’t know—money. Getting things. I forget—"
"You mean you've forgoogled it. Mum says you’re, ‘Baron of Urls.’"
“I'm not that old. Yet." He shook his head and closed his eyes and the ancient search engine he'd been implanted with (when he was a lad not much older than the boy at his feet) slowly kicked in. It made him draw in his breath and hold it for a second, till the dizziness faded—and there before his eyes were the words "Krizmuz,” and "Krizmuz Day,” and an old spelling of it, not with the K and two Zs, but: C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S.
"So, what have you got?” Sam said, shifting round so his feet were closer to the fire. “Mine came up with nothing…” His hand absently brushed against a sudden sparkle of reds and greens above his left eye. The cat was with him now, stretched out, soaking up the infra-red from the fireplace.
“Let's just see what Wiki says—” Dixon said, sitting up straight.
“Ancient philosopher—before your time…”
“Read it to me.”
“I will. Just hold on a second… Okay, here we go—here’s a bit by a guy named Assange the Fourth…no, the Fifth… Kriz-muz or Krizmus (with an 'S') started out as ‘Christ’s Mass’ which comes from the Middle English Christemasse and Old English ‘Cristes mæsse.’ ‘Cristes’ is from the Greek word ‘Christos’ and ‘mæsse’ is from Latin ‘missa’ (the holy mass). In Greek, the letter X (an aspirated velar stop /k!/) is the first letter of Christos, and it, or the similar Roman letter X, has been used as an abbreviation for ‘Christ’ since the mid-16th century. Hence, ‘Xmas’ is sometimes used as an abbreviation for ‘Christmas.’”*
“Sam spoke up then: “I thought X-mess was something, dirty—naked women showing off there titties and stuff like that—”
Dixon slowly shook his head. “Well, you’re wrong. You’re thinking X-rated, maybe — when they look through your clothes at airports and see things they shouldn’t—they used to x-rate you, too. For broken bones—” He suddenly grimaced and said, “Ahhhh. Scheise!” holding his head in both hands; his eyes were shut tight.
“Signal’s gone,” he said, at last. He was breathing hard: “Friggin’ piece of crap,” he said, thumping the crown of his head. He snapped his fingers and gestured over to the kitchen; Sammy got to his feet and came back with a bottle: his grandpa’s medicine.
Dixon took a long drink, leaned back, and closed his eyes. Sam could see them moving around behind his eyelids; they were like darting mice under a bed-sheet. After a few seconds Dixon started to speak again. “Here we go—another entry, Much later—more recent. About a hundred years ago, I guess… I’m not going to read this one, I’ll just play it for you. If I start to cough, slap my back, okay?”
He seemed to fall into a trance; his chin fell onto his chest and a low, rasping hum emerged from his mouth. His lips hardly moved, as if the sound were coming from an old metal device deep in his throat.
But Sam knew what was really happening—sort of—it was coming from Grampa’s own voice box (his mum had explained it to him once), all to do with a special way the circuits in the muscles of his throat changed so they could act like a machine… and say what the old search engine was playing across his grandpa’s eyelids:
“It's the cusp of 2214, and it's time to take a nano sec or two to look back, cut through the spam and tweet ya’ to the true meaning of Krizmuz.
“If we hack back to the beginning we see that it was the night before Krizmuz when it really took off: Winter Solstice—ground zero: where B.C. and A.D. came together, time-wise—a calendar clash of the Old and the New—a Testament to innovation, but that’s whole other story…
“Needless to say, it was a night to remember—silent, calm, all is bright, deep and crisp and... even in the desert, it was cold. Brightly shone the moon that night, (Tho' the frost was cruel…) desktop wallpaper-picturesque, finely pixelated—the flares of Saddam's oil wells in the distance, beacons in the night.
"We know now, of course, how it really started—the seed of it, so to speak. We must backtrack a bit, flashback to nine months earlier: Vernal Equinox, to be exact… it went like this:
'It’s the middle of the night, the UFO swoops down out of nowhere, hovers over the hut in a blinding glare of pulsating lights, the rushing wind driving the sand and camels into a frenzy. Gabriel beams down—or did he come down a chimney? He plays a tune on his trumpet and says, to the poor little woman huddled in the corner ( Or did Mary dream it all? We don’t know for sure): "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also, that holy thing—which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God...'
“'That holy thing!' What a name for a kid, fancy growing up stuck with a name like that! Later on they changed it to 'BabyJesus,' which sort of has a better ring to it. This close encounter has come to be known as 'The Annunciation,' which is where the word 'Nun' comes from—Mary being the mother of all Nuns. It should have been called the 'Cosmic Insemination,' or something like that: 'the Genetic Infusion Of The Otherworldly'—God’s gift to women.
And here’s another account of it in a book called the Qur’an—from Sura 3, Verses 45-51...
'Behold! the angel said: "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and in the company of those nearest to Allah: He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be in the company of the righteous. She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?" "Even so,” the angel said, “Allah createth what he willeth: When he hath decreed a plan, he but saith to it, 'Be,' and it is! And Allah will teach Jesus the Book; and the Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel, And appoint him a messenger to the Children of Israel, with this message: "'I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah's leave: And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead […].'"
(A crackle and a buzz came out of Dixon’s throat then, and his head jerked back, as if he’d been electrocuted; the cat scurried into the corner.)
Dixon mumbled for a bit then started speaking again: “So, you can imagine, whatever way you look it, when he finds out about this, Joseph is really pissed—Mary up the stump, and all—on account of being cuckolded by God—Allah, or Klaatu. or ET, Morkenmindy, the favorite Martian—whatever… then one night, there’s poor old Joseph, lying there in bed, in a cold sweat, as this ghost of Krizmuz Yet to Come tells him: 'Get on your bike, mate... come on, pull up your socks! Be a mensch!' So he does the right thing and marries the poor girl. And to make a long story short: they get a donkey and end up in a barn just outside Mecca.”
Dixon’s voice changed into a dialect that puzzled Sam; he did a quick search and discovered that it was an "Oxbridge Accent”—whatever that was.
"And we saw in the form of an ineffable pillar of light descending, and it came to rest above the water. And we were afraid and shook when we saw it. And we cannot speak about the brilliance of the star of light, since its radiance was many times greater than the sun, and the sun could not stand out before the light of its rays. And just like the moon looks in the daytime in the days of Nisan, when the sun rises and it is absorbed in its light, so also did the sun seem to us when the star rose over us. And we got ready with our whole encampment, and with our provisions, and with the pure and holy gifts, those that we brought out of the Cave of Treasures of Hidden Mysteries, in which they were deposited previously by our fathers, and we went forth in great joy, our hearts exulting to come to the place that was commanded to us, to worship the vision of the star of infinite light. And the star, our guide, our good messenger, our perfect light, our glorious leader, again appeared for us. And we had no need of the light of the sun or of the moon, because their light became diminished in its sight, and by night and by day we walked in its light, exulting and rejoicing without distress or weariness."**
“Dateline, A.D. zero: The Cattle Shed. All is calm, all is bright. It’s a silent night—except for the lowing cows, and the shepherds, the faint slap of high fives all round, Joseph flitting about, boiling water et-cetera, et-cetera.
“And Mary finally gives birth—(buzzz…..hiiiisssss…)—in the straw and the muck from the animals. And just at the right moment the UFO swoops in again, sits right there over the stable, hums a bit, shoots out this gigawatt beam of cosmic light… Next to the manger, there’s a couple of generals, and captains—salvation army blokes with kettles on chains, playing tambourines. Mary Krizmuz and Joey Krizmuz are basking in the glow of the pulsating spaceship—visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads… and Babyjesus, smiling, and quietly burbling; mewling and puking, no doubt—but we won’t get into that. He was a good lad by all accounts.
“It turns into quite a circus, eventually—with Santa Claus coming down the chimney; Harry Poppins going up. The three wiseguys, Bathysphere, Milkier... and, Friendliest of them all, Casper—show up with their camels. Bringing gifts of course: Gold, Franks‘n Beans, Zoozoo's petals… along with an iPod, a bottle of perfume from Macey’s (or was it Gimbels?), a rattle shaped like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle...
“Kris Kindle of the Amazon drops in, the Grinch, Amahl and the Nightcrawler, Walt Disneyland. Gabriel starts jamming with the Little Drummer Boy—Elvis drops in with his posse... and then the party really heats up: Frosty the Snowman starts dancing with Round John Virgin; Tiny Tim throws away his crutches and there he is, with a great big smile on his face tiptoeing through the poo bits…
“Shepherds are rustling up a mess of lamb-kebobs; washing socks and Krizmuz stockings... then in comes Rudolph the Red-Nosed Rainman, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid... eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping. Felice Navidad and her special friend, Tannenbaum of Giliad… it’s all there, if you want to check the facts—digitized, analog punch-carded, youtubed…. controversial sure, the political implications of it all, but documented, nevertheless.
“The Krizmuz lexicon is an inextricable part of our culture. The story lives on to this day in such expressions as: ‘Is that a Yule log in your pocket? What, the one that’s big as me?’ and ‘Thank you. Thank you very much.’ ;’We like Sheep’ and from ‘Krizzy Carol Gets Scrooged’: ‘Well, cut me throat and rip me liver if I tell a lie…’”
“But one thing we know for sure, it's a wonderful life, and Jesus loves me, this I know… and '...every time a bell rings an angel get's its wings'
"Frohliche Weihnachten, Joyeur Noel… Buon Natale. And, as Lenny McCardy once said, ‘All you need is Love dadadadada…’
There was a screech of white noise, erupting from Dixon’s mouth; a crackle, a splutter...
It all suddenly stopped; Grampa Dixon’s eyes opened and he sat upright in his chair (Sam had never seen him look so imposing, so, alert). He blinked for a second, and stretched, as if he’d been asleep, or in a coma.
Dixon scanned the room with it’s glowing fire, the huge window screen that looked out on a sorry excuse for a view and the cat that really wasn’t a cat...
and his beloved grandson, Sam, whose mother was really just another illusion: a genTek mock-up of a mother—but he hadn’t told Sam that yet, and he probably never would.
His eyes came to rest on his bottle of Scotch and when he found it, he gave it his full attention.
The cat was back, rubbing against his leg, now, meowing in a perfect, replica voice of a meowing cat.
“Grampa!" Sam said. "Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine” (he took a deep breath)… I guess.” After a long drink of whiskey he said, “What did I say—at the end?’
“It got all, kinda’ confusing—”
“Yeah, well. I’m not surprised. It’s been—distorted over the years: the message. You know—signal to noise ratios and all that... They teach you that in school? Shannon's Formula?"
Sam shook his head; he was stroking the cat now, scratching its belly. He looked a bit disappointed.
“I suppose after, what? Two-and-a-half thousand years? It’s like those steps in old Walmarts—worn away where it really counts. You google this guy’s name 'Jesus Christ' you get what? A billion; 10 billion; a trillion hits? A trillion to the power of a trillion?” He took a deep breath. “I tried it once and my head locked up.”
Sam frowned: “Grampa! They’ve fixed it since you were a kid. I mean, if I do that…” He paused for second as he used his own search engine (his whole forehead came to life in a pulsing splash of colour and the cat bolted for the nearest dark corner), it just says ‘infinity.’ What’s that mean: ‘infinity’?”
Dixon looked up at the ceiling. “Forever and ever, I guess. And everywhere. As the lawyers used to say: ‘In perpetuity throughout the universe.’”
“The name of a—little baby?”
“Yeah. Well, not just any baby. You got to remember; something—magical happened, way back then… just a baby, sure, but, it was bigger than that. He was a special baby. A baby that grew up to be a very special man -- and he’s been… in the news, I guess, ever since.”
“Bigger than the Beatles?” Dixon nodded.
“Bigger than Elvis?”
“Way bigger than Elvis.” He closed his eyes and took another long drink, and this time ended up draining the bottle.
The huge window screen flickered and the streaming text changed colour, back to white (the sandstorm alert was over) and the time/datline changed too: to 12:00 A.M. - 25 slash 12 slash 2324.
“Good Lord, I remember that—the date!” Dixon shifted in his chair. That’s, Krizmuz Day! the date: 25 -12… it’s Krizmuz day! (buzzz…..hiiiisssss…) Hallelujah!
“What was that?”
“I don’t know—it just, came out of nowhere…”
“Grampa. Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Yeah I’m fine—just... the cupboard over there. Get me that other bottle of my, uh, medicine. And you get yourself one of those special, vintage bottles of Coca-cola! It’s Krizmuz, for crizzake—”
“Wow,! Cool! It’s Kriz-muz! Alright!!”
That was Sam’s first Krizmuz, but not his last. It was, however, the last one for Grandpa Dixon.
But Sam never forgot that night for as long as he lived: all the noise that came out his grandpa’s mouth, all the crazy joy along with the gibberish—and as time went by, and the gauze of his life filtered out that noise—the slag, if you will, he came know the truth of it all…
"[...] and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of all of us!"**
And so, as Little Sam observed (24/12/2324) let us all rejoice and shout out: “Wow! Cool! It’s Krizmuz! Alright!”
— Michael Hale
Copyright © 2010
* from: Wikipedia
**Quote from: Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem by Brent Landau (HarperOne, 2010)
**Quote from: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens