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Boughs of Holly

Jenna Hanchey has been an actress, physics major, and afterschool-space-program teacher. She is currently an assistant professor of critical/cultural communication who writes about neocolonialism in aid to Africa, and how Africanfuturism reimagines logics of development. She's not sure what she'll be next. But publishing her first piece of fiction here in Daily Science Fiction is a good start! If you're interested in following along with her academic work, fiction, or art, check out jennahanchey.com.

She hovered over the deep green leaves before deftly pricking her finger on a spiked edge. Turning it over, she found only emptiness where blood once welled. Sighing, she lifted the heavy sack and continued her ordeal. She had known, before, why the leaves were so important, what the lack of blood meant. But the repetitions of menial labor--lifting, carrying, climbing, driving, lifting again--had worn her mind smooth, and the memories, unable to catch on anything, slipped away into the darkness.
She knew it had something to do with this body, this cursed, round, hairy body. Male, obscenely. White with years she didn't remember. Heavy with food she never tasted. Others ate the cookies, of course. They weren't part of her punishment. She knew the body was, vaguely. Something about her vanity, her rapacity. She felt flickers of her old self in the deep green of the holly: reverberations of the color in fabrics, echoes of the word through extravagant halls. She could only ever catch the first, tantalizing, syllable: "Ho-," she sometimes said aloud, as the remainder of her name caught on her lips.
The more she grasped at the memories, the more quickly they fled. It was her penance. She could no longer feel the soft caress of luxuries, only their weight as she carried them for others. Never-ending toil, hauling gifts to house after house after house, year after year after year. She trudged back to the sleigh slowly, shivering in the cold of hell.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, December 24th, 2020

Author Comments

This story came to me one day because I was tired and thinking about the holidays, and realized DAMN: What Santa does is serious labor! Good thing he's into it, because it could be a weighty punishment for someone who's not. And so this little story critiquing capitalism and making the North Pole more chill-ing than chill-y was born. Ho-, ho-, hope you like it!

- Jenna Hanchey
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