‘twas the night before Holiday Day Week, and all through the Secaucus Holiday Inn, not a creature was stirring, except for a couple of guests, a family of squirrels, a bunch of mice in the basement, and the two cloned queens decorating a tree in the lobby.
The replicated royals in question – Queen Victoria XXX and Boudica IX, both the last-standing versions of themselves, cloned by a German sausage maker to repopulate a desolated American government, but instead making a living as freelance mercenaries – were in over their heads, ornamenting the twelve-foot Pagan Celebration Tree, which, despite the rebranding, wasn’t actually any different than a conventional, American-style Christmas tree.
“This is how this works, right?” asked Queen Victoria XXX, hugging the top of a ladder and stuffing handfuls of garland in between the branches. “We never bothered to celebrate Holiday Day Week before.”
“Dude, I don’t know,” said Boudica IX, tearing open yet another box of ornaments. “All I’ve got are fuzzy, implanted memories of Druidic ceremonies in the frozen woods of Ancient Britannia. Pretty sure that pre-dated Christmas, nevermind Holiday Day Week.”
“Who’s stupid idea was this anyway?”
The dark-haired queen mumbled. “Her and her stupid, healthy upbringing.”
“Speaking of, where is she?” asked the red-haired queen in reply.
“At her sister’s or something, I think.”
“Then why in the butts are we even doing this?”
“That is an excellent question.” The clone leaned back on the ladder, a single outstretched arm keeping her from falling. “Maybe we should just give up.”
“Yeah. Yeah!” Boudica IX, sitting on her feet in front of a pile of Holiday Day Week decorations, glitter up and down her arms and across her ratty Bad Religion tee, scrunched up her face. “It is … kinda … nice, though.”
“Yeah …” said the other queen.
“I bet this is what childhood would’ve felt like.”
Queen Victoria XXX sighed, then leaned forward on the ladder again. “Toss me another box of those glitter boa things.”
There had been twenty-four apocalypses to date. The world ended so hard and so fast and so often that certain groups were considering giving the planet a breathalyzer test and suing it for reckless endangerment.
Everyone else, however, learned how to simply ignore the occasional Armageddon. Despite the total illogicality of it all, they continued to celebrate almost every last one of the major holidays in between all the screaming and skyline-crumbling and government-collapsing. Even some of the shittier holidays, too. For some reason, coming together for a bright, joyous, and often drunken celebration in the midst of an otherwise dark and desperate existence really resonated with people. Go figure.
After Santa Claus’s workshop self-destructed, though, ending both the Torrent Wars and, for the fifth time, the world itself, Christmas was cancelled. In short order, other catastrophic calamities felled the other holiday mascots and, soon enough, there were no more holidays left.
Fearing what might happen if folks became depressed and distraught enough to actually pay attention to how they were running things, the governments of the world came together and forged a new holiday, a better holiday, a weeklong mega-holiday event!
Holiday Day Week – a four-year-old contest winner had been tasked with naming the new holiday – was, initially, all of the big, old holidays in quick succession, starting with Halloween and ending with the St. Patrick’s Purge. Over the years, however, Christmas – now completely secular, as per the War on Christmas ceasefire – took over the rest of Holiday Day Week wholesale. In fact, there was talk of simply renaming the holiday “The Seven Days of Christmas,” but a surprising amount of the population was divided as to the correct number of days in a week.
The front doors slammed shut, and then a lot more things started slamming too. Looking at one another, Queen Victoria XXX and Boudica IX abandoned their decorating and raced toward the foyer, only to be met by an enormously fat man – seriously, like, two tons, easy – pushing through a pair of inside doors. The more-than-morbidly obese man in the tattered red outerwear threw himself back against the doors, holding them closed.
“How are you moving without a scooter or something?” asked Boudica IX.
“Is Thor here?” asked the man. His bald head was blubbery and severely windburned. A wiry, white beard covered his chin and neck. Noises continued to bang out from the foyer behind him. “What about Chester A. Arthur XVII? I need help.”
“They’re out shopping,” said Queen Victoria XXX.
Chester A. Arthur XVII held an apron dress in front of him, pinning the floral linen to his midsection with his tungsten arm, turning this way and that in front of a mirror.
“Do you think Vicky would like this?”
“Why’re you asking me?” asked Thor, leaning over the shopping cart, his forearms on the handle. “That woman has terrible taste.”
“I wish,” said the clone, grabbing another dress.
“Can you help me then?” asked the fat man, desperation in his eyes.
The queens looked at one another again and exchanged shrugs.