Twas The Night Before Christmas Across The Universe


Scene Title Twas the Night Before Christmas Across the Universe
Synopsis Montage of the worlds on that one night.
Date December 24, 2018

Across the Multiverse


Sitting in her chair with children scattered around her in wheelchairs or sitting on the carpet on the floor, Megan smiles. "All right, you lot," she tells them with a grin. "Santa's going to be coming soon, but while we wait, we'll have the story." Bringing out a large picture book, she holds it up and shows the cover with Santa's sleigh pulled by reindeer and a large moon. "The Night Before Christmas."

Opening the book, she begins to read with a happy expression. "Twas the night before Christmas," she tells them solemnly. "And aaaall through the house, not a creature was stirring — not even a mouse!" She makes wide eyes at them. There are stifled giggles at her theatrics. "The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there."


The children were nestled all snug in their beds

While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads

And mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap

Emily Epstein looks up from the book to gently hush the crowd of kids, adjusting her posture as she holds the book. The leather of her old, beaten coat shifts with her. "If everybody's not quiet, some of us might not be able to hear. Wouldn't that be bad?" Her voice is light, conspiratorial, and she smiles in that friendly way reserved only for children.

It's nights like these she misses having Squeaks. Squeaks, the more direct, whose frank direction could help capture the attention of the group just as much as Emily's mom-voice did. Or Lance, who could bring down a hush over two fussing boys and talk them through their issues without taking away from the moment for everybody else.

She misses a lot of people like that, these days.

But so many new faces look up at her. Kids rescued out from under the Dome. Kids whose parents finally came forward from hiding, now that the old regime's death throes were loud, and people clung to something new, something that had been foreign for years:



The honking of horns below only contributes to the tension of the story. Spitting the cat's tail out of his mouth, Dirk's animated voice squeaks through in baby talk for his favorite family member. "When out on the lawn, ptoo!" A growl and hiss are the response to a gentle shove toward the cushion next to him. Instead, the cat begins to knead the assistant's stomach before lifting his heinie and turning in three circles. "Knuckles, will you …"


"When out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter!" The high pitch of Dirk's voice doesn't garner a reaction, not even the lilt he puts on for effect. Yellow eyes just stare, half lidded in that creepy way only cats can do with their nictitating membrane. "I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter…"

He flips the page and pauses. A new, more disturbing sound, causes the cat's ears to twitch in annoyance. A crinkle of a chocolate wrap, things cats aren't allowed to have but Dirks can. How rude. "Mmm … Away to the window, I flew like a flash…” He pauses. “Mmm this caramel is so good…" Another wrapper crinkles as the man pauses in his reading. Again. "Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash!" Spasms from the cat signify a different use of those words, just before a hairball makes its appearance.

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Carrying the plastic-lined containers filled with steamed rice and beans, Brynn's hands are not free to speak to Squeaks as they make their way into the shelter that Raquelle sent them to. It's not a fancy place — an abandoned school whose gym has been turned into a place for people to get out of the cold. Christmas dinner might not be much, but at least it will be warm. The brunette is surprised as the volunteer who opens the door for them leads them into a room with way more people than she expected to see. Where a Christmas tree decorated with construction paper chains sits and a Santa seems to be handing out small gifts wrapped in colored paper to the children sitting on the floor.

Her hands aren't as full as the older girl's are, only weighed down a little bit by a large reusable bag filled with yeasty bread rolls, so Squeaks has the freedom to talk. Which is what she was doing before as they walked to the shelter, but whatever she was saying seems to be forgotten as they enter the converted gym. The whole scene brings a quick grin that she shares with Brynn as she carries her food gifts to the table. Nearby in a cluster of families, some young and some older, she hears the gentle cadence of a grandfatherly voice and a familiar story. Her hands pick up the story a second behind, translating the words for Brynn as the old man reads.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow gave the luster of midday to objects below.

Setting her dish of rice and beans down, smiling at the thanks of the volunteers who are putting out foodstuffs donated from various places, Brynn looks at Squeaks. Enlightenment crosses her features, and she nods immediately. She moves to the side of the room where they can remain to listen to the story as it's told, her eyes slipping between the storyteller and Squeaks.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

The deaf teen giggles silently, watching Squeaks use her own creativity to fill in the words she doesn't know yet. After all, without having lived in Canada with the others, how would she know what the sign for 'reindeer' was??


With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick

The old talking story book gave out its lines perhaps the first time in years, under the careful watchful eye of the repairwoman, before she picked up another to work on. It was a time to give back, even if she wasn’t a celebrant of the holiday named, and even if she was so far from home as to make the term ‘distance’ not make sense. Still, this Alia was happy: She had a world to make a difference in, had made a difference in already. Maybe this time, it would work out right. Still, there was many more toys to fix for the children that night. This one sparked, and likely gave off a radio fright….


More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And He Whistled, and Shouted, and called them by name!

Spat out the radio on Alia Chavez’s desk at Raytech, startling the technopath, before it sputtered and went back to static. Alia stared at the purposefully tuned radio, an eyebrow raised.

At least it wasn’t effing La Mer again.

“Happy Yule,” the technopath said to the empty room, thoughtfully. “Wherever you are.”


The click of Emily's heeled boots as she walks through the mall echo down and back its arched, cavernous body. Similar sounds float from further down the hall, the tinny notes of Christmas music playing somewhere above it all. Her date is late, a fact she tries to ignore as she rides the escalator up to the second level to loop back around for another lap around the premises. Phone in one hand and a scented to-go cup of coffee held in the other, she doesn't pay attention to much while she walks, scrolling social media and waiting for her screen to light up with a certain notification.

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!"

She glances up at the booming voice that echoes from afar, peering around her to see where it comes from. Coming up on another atrium, she leans by the railing to look down.

"On Comet! On, Cupid! On Donner and Blitzen!"

Underneath glowing yellow and white lights, a winter wonderland is set up below — the Santa Claus in his snowy throne reading aloud from a large gold-trimmed book, its pictures shown out to the pool of children gathered below him. Emily Raith leans against the garland-wrapped railing and sips from her coffee, a small smile for nothing in particular on her face. The kids are all enraptured by the glow of the lights, by the grace and glee of jolly 'St. Nick' as he reads the Christmas classic out in his voice that carries so well.

"To the top of the porch! To the tops of the wall! Now dash away, dash away! dash away, all…"

The sound of footsteps deliberately approaching gets her attention, and smirks as she stands upright to better face them. "Fucking took you long enough, didn't it?" she lets her voice join the echoes.

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"As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky. So up to the housetop, the courses they flew With a sleigh full of toys and St. Nicholas too…"

As a group of children sit in a half circle around the woman known as Gillian Childs, off in the distance the hunched over figure of Eve dressed in all red to match her dark red hair and a long, old white beard in the style of Santa's is glued to her chin, she had coaxed Eli into helping her and tiptoed she did along the dirty ground to just around the bend of where the children. Stopping for a moment to smoke the last of her joint, the smoke trailing behind her and hopefully not announcing her arrival to the children. She digs in her pocket and takes out a bag of cookies, one she has been munching on since morning. She had been extra hungry lately regardless of her favorite drug of choice, finding herself rubbing her belly again the seer looks down and wonders before shrugging it off and grabbing another cookie to stuff into her mouth.

"YO HO HO MERRY CHRISTMAS YOU FILTHY ANIMALS!" Yanking a fresh bag of cookies out of her other pocket and dangling it above the laughing children's heads before beginning to pass them out. "One for you because you're just so cute! One for you because your eyes shine as bright as the moooon! One for you because you're smarter than Aunt Eve and you haven't even reached puberty!!" The Merry "Santa" dances around the group of children with a bright smile on her face, she had things to celebrate this year, the return of her best friend, Peter and Gilly's being reunited. Ending the war, a fresh start. She had ideas, they had to be better than before.

And so with a happy and full yet somber heart the kooky redhead dished out cookies, took wishlists from the children and even made some hot coco too. "Merry Christmas, merry christmas."


The storybook sits open and Felix peers down at it through his reading glasses. The smell of cookies redolent in the air, he casts a look toward the kitchen. Each year he does this… but this is the second year in a row he's missing his daughter-of-the-heart.

"Don't forget the hot choc'late, Daddy," the little boy sitting in Felix's lap solemnly tells the man baking those cookies.

Cameron Harrison was always Felix's son in all the ways that mattered, but as of today the boy legally belonged to both Felix and Lee, with Jared Harrison's blessings. "I thought Santa had milk," he teases the boy lightly.

Lee's voice from the kitchen is a comforting rumble. "He can have both, just in case the hot chocolate gets cold."

Apparently satisfied with this answer, Cam grins cheekily. "See, Papa? Daddy knows how to do it right." He turns his attention back to the book and Felix takes the hint, beginning to read again with his cheek pressed to the top of Cam's head. "And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof, the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound…"


“Now remember…ya’ll get hot cocoa and crumbs in this bed, and you all have to wash, dry, and remake the whole damn thing.” Raquelle drawls as he’s settled in bed, tucked under the plush multicolored quilts from his waist to his feet as he sits upright, back resting against the headboard…nevermind his slump over to rest his head on Bolivar’s shoulder.

Both girls…Diana with her long blonde hair, impish grin and gangly long limbs that have allowed her to match her second father’s height in the last couple of months…and BJ with her side shave fade and hints of red streaks in her natural brown hair and her faintish hint of freckles…dressed in pajamas and rolling their eyes in unison.

Gathered together for once, each person with mugs of hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies, the Cambria/Rodriguez-Smith family gathered to listen to the familiar story over the radio waves. Something Raquelle remembers reading during his war radio days…

Soft giggles and mouthing along or loudly quoting the familiar bits, Raquelle raises his voice. “Here it come, here it come…’He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot'…” He laughs softly with his family. “In other words, Santa came on his sleigh, to slay in that suit, honey, not to play and he walked across the roof like a Paris runway…” He ducks a swing from a teenage-wielded pillow and laughs as he’s shoved lovingly off of his fiance. BJ pipes up, “He even had the boots with the fur…”

Diana’s inquisitive inquiry is almost lost in the giggles. “Can Santa even get low?” And Raquelle’s mouth is quickly filled with a hastily shoved snickerdoodle as he waggles his eyebrows.


His eyes, how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.

Sullenly toying with cookies on the plate in front of him that his grandfather wanted him to decorate, Joshua scowls. "I don't even believe in Santa Claus, Grampa. Why are you making us listen to this?"

Jared takes the last tray of cookies from the oven and sets the pan on top of the stove to let them cool briefly. His blue eyes flicker to the doorway where Elisabeth leans on the jamb with her arms crossed. "Because it's Christmas. And for all that it's been a crappy couple of years… you're both here. And you're okay. And we get to spend it together. I thought it might make you smile, young man."

Elisabeth meets her father's gaze only briefly and then hers skitter away.

Josh grimaces and rolls his eyes.

Putting his hands on the counter to lean, one leg bent at the knee, he looks old for a long moment. "Fine. Be a jerk about it. You're allowed." He turns off the radio and leaves the cookie pan on the stove. "We need more firewood. I'll be back." Grabbing his jacket from the hook near the back door, he heads out into the cold toward the woodpile.

Now Joshua looks stricken.

"Dad…" Liz tries, but her father's gone before she can really stop him. Pushing off the jamb, she walks to the table where her son now sits looking like he's caught between tears and pissed off. She lowers herself slowly into the chair.

"I didn't mean to hurt his feelings," the boy mutters rebelliously.

She reaches out to brush his hair off his forehead, seeing the scared beneath the mad. "I know." Elisabeth sighs heavily. This has to work out. Somehow.


The cookies are still hot, but that doesn’t stop Devon from taking one while Pops has his back turned. The older man is busy swapping one pan of cookies for another at the oven, so it should go unnoticed for a moment. He tiptoes away from the table, its top covered in a variety of holiday treats both cooling and already decorated, and slips back into the living room. He turns the radio on as he passes by, en route for the sofa, but the words coming out of the speaker give him pause.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

He had a broad face and little round belly,

That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

With a grin forming, Dev peeks over his shoulder. He recalls some nights when he was very young, when his parents were still alive, listening to this story while eating cookies. He eases the knob on the volume, so that Jared can hear it from the other room. Then, while taking a bite from the pilfered cookie, he eases himself onto the couch to listen.

Some traditions rarely disappear, even when they’re not practiced for years and some of the faces might change.


A lazy writhe of shadows solidifies in the translucent shape of Santa Claus himself, a susurrant whisper reciting words told children for generations upon generations.

"He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself…" …myself

Josephine giggled happily in the way that babies do, her rattle smacking into her other hand as she enjoyed her Uncle's shadowy antics even if she didn't really understand the words.

"A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread…" …to dread

The girl certainly didn't. Between the protection of the Secret Service and that of Richard Cardinal, Josephine Ann Bellamy just might be the safest infant in the world.


"He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk," Richard recited from the book he's reading, settled on the couch with Lili perched attentively on his knee and Ricky on the floor nearby making a Spot <tm> repeatedly run after a ball he's tossing across the apartment, robotic legs clattering away. The man looks tired, but cheered to be around his children, gesturing expressively with his hand as he continues, "And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod - up the chimney he rose!"

Proving suddenly that he's paying attention, Ricky pipes up, "Dad, if he goes in and out of peoples' chimneys, does that mean he's a burglar like you were?"

His son's query brings a burst of laughter from the executive, who calls out towards the kitchenette, "Harmony, what stories have you been telling the kids?"

"Nothing that isn't true," she calls back, laughter musical in her voice.

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A flickering electric lamp buzzes from where it hangs at a cross-beam over a folding table. Small packages wrapped in old, faded newspaper and bound in stripped copper wires are stacked up. There are just three, no tags or other ornamentation on them. A fire burns in a nearby hearth, crackling and popping. Across the old cabin, a shadow creeps under the door, paper thin and night black.

“He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle…” Sitting beside the fire, holding a two-way radio in her lap with thumb over the call button, Colette Nichols reflects the firelight in her mismatched eyes; one green, and one blinded white. “…and away they all flew like the down of a thistle.” Two pairs of shoes sit drying by the hearth, one large and mud-caked pair of boots, and one small pair of powder blue sneakers.

The shadow at the edge of the room lingers there, turning its face toward the lone girl speaking into the radio. It looks up at the sound of footsteps above, creaking across the second floor. Perhaps not as alone as she seems. The shadow slithers toward the tattered throw rug in the middle of the floor, then disappears under it as it listens to her. Then, rising up behind her, it takes the form of a smoky black silhouette of living shadow, both a man and no more at once.

“But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight— ” Colette jerks around and looks behind herself.

But there is nothing there. Her brows furrow, and she exhales a deep breath, not noticing the thin line of shadow disappearing beneath the door as it leaves the cabin. Slouching, Colette turns and looks back to the radio.

“Merry Christmas Nicole…” She says in a soft, hopeful voice, “…wherever you are.” Tears welled up in her eyes, Colette releases her thumb from the call button on the radio and looks up into the fire.

But out of the cabin, down through the woods, far past the post-and-beam fence and into the snow the shadow retreats. The lingering stretch of darkness cast by no man turns back to the lantern light at its back and shrinks down to the ground of a dead world.

“Merry Christmas to all…” to all.

“…and to all a good night.” good night.


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