It was Christmas Eve and church bells rang out across the city. The rooftops of the dreary housing estate glistened with frost and a bitter wind searched the windows of the flat, like a burglar intent on gaining entry.
Jamie Bryson lay in bed and listened to the clock on the wall ticking, it needed a new battery so it was useless for telling the time. He checked his mobile phone, it was ten minutes to midnight. He then turned his attention to the red, white and blue sock hanging from the fireplace, into which was stuffed a parcel. Jamie couldn’t wait to open it in the morning, it was the surprise present he had bought for himself earlier that day; a Rangers shirt.
A choir sang carols somewhere off in the distance, or was it the TV in the flat below?
“Humbug!” Grumbled Jamie.
He leaned over to the old CD player on the table beside his bed and switched it on. The Sash played but it didn’t fully drown out the choristers so he tuned it up to full volume.
The sound of children crying came through the wall of his bedroom. Then the wall was pounded upon by a fist.
“Turn that fakin’ crap off, it’s scarin’ the bloody children!”
Jamie was aware of the size of the fist that pounded upon his wall, as was he aware of the size of the man to whom it belonged, so he quickly turned off The Sash.
“Humbug!” He grumbled again. “Christmas and all this tidings of joy and goodwill to all men are a distraction from the rage and anger we Loyalists have built up inside us over the betrayal act!”
His eyes grew weary and tiredness was upon him, he was all but asleep when he noticed a presence in the room.
A shadowy figure stood at the bottom of his bed. He was gripped by an icy fear and he pulled the filthy old quilt up to his chin.
“Who are you?” He asked of the spectre.
“Who am I?” Boomed a voice that echoed around the entire bedroom.
“Shut the fake up or I’ll beat the shit out of you in the mornin’!” That voice was coming from next door again.
“Only those whom I haunt can hear my booming voice,” said the spectre.
“Well that’s obviously balls so keep it down or I’m dead,” pleaded Jamie.
“Who am I?” Repeated the spectre in a hushed tone of voice. “I’m the Ghost of Christmas Pissed Off... that’s who I am!”
“Who are you pissed off at?” Inquired Jamie.
“You... you wee rabble-rousing shit-stirrer!”
“Me, a rabble-rouser? How dare you, I’m a true son of Ulster... a leader of my people!”
“You’re a rabble-rousing piece of shit, if I say you are!”
Jamie opened his mouth to speak, but the spectre was beside him. He didn’t see it moving from where it had stood at the foot of his bed. It leaned over him. He could feel an icy coldness on his face.
“You are coming with me Jamie Bryson!”
The spectre stood upright and pointed a bony finger towards the bedroom door. “Back to where it all began Jamie Bryson!”
The door flung open and sunlight streamed inside.
“I’m going nowhere!”
“You’ll do as you are told or I’ll leave you standing in the middle of Andersonstown in those ridiculous breeches you are wearing!”
Jamie jumped out of bed, he was wearing Union Jack boxing shorts. “I’ll need to put something on first!”
“You will not feel the cold where we are going! Now come!”
The spectre led Jamie out through the bedroom door to a landscape of rolling hills. He could hear what he thought to be the sound of thunder or fireworks coming from beyond the nearest hill. Jamie turned and looked back but the door and his bedroom were no longer there.
“Come!” Ordered the spectre. “There’s no going back until I decide that you can, now make haste boy!”
He reluctantly followed the spectre to the top of the hill.
As they reached the brow of the hill, Jamie whimpered like a small dog. Beyond them was a river and on both sides a battle was raging. Cannons roared and spat bloody death in all directions. Flintlocks cracked, while the screams of the mortally wounded and cries of rage combined like a nightmare unfolding before him.
“What’s happening?” Shrieked Jamie.
“Why it’s the Battle of the Boyne Jamie Bryson. Do you see the man mounted upon the horse on yonder side? That’s King William of Orange himself!”
“It’s a brown horse!”
“Your murals of him astride a white horse came about because of a painting. What a foolish lot you are Jamie Bryson!”
“Can we go now, please?”
“Most certainly not. I have brought you here so that you can fight by your hero’s side!”
“F*ckin’ hell!” Whimpered Jamie.
The spectre turned and Jamie was no longer at his side, so he set off in search of him in a blind rage.
“Come back, you hen-hearted coward!”
Jamie was cowering behind a bush when the spectre eventually found him. “Have you befouled your ridiculous breeches Jamie Bryson?”
“Please take me back, I’ll become a priest… I’ll take up that Hurling game they play. Please… I’ll even support Celtic!”
“Stop! There’s no need to do those things. Just mend your ways Jamie Bryson!”
“My ways are mended, I swear to god, they are!” Pleaded Jamie blessing himself.
The Spectre pointed a bony finger and the door to Jamie’s bedroom appeared just feet away. Jamie fled into it without looking back and with a flick of the same bony finger the spectre slammed it shut.
In a great otherworldly hall, lit only by many candles and a fire that blazed in a sandstone fireplace but gave no heat to the cold dead who inhabited this place, the spectre sat behind an ancient mahogany desk. He typed on a laptop while three other spectres stood looking over his shoulder.
The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come watched as The Ghost of Christmas Pissed Off logged into his Twitter account. He then began scrolling though Jamie Bryson’s many posts from that morning. There was tweet after tweet about Loyalist anger and that peace and goodwill should not be extended to those Pan-Nationalists who seek to destroy Unionist culture and extinguish our bonfires forever.
“There, I told you so. Did I not?” The Ghost of Christmas Present turned to the other two ghosts nodding in self-satisfaction.
“And you wonder why you’ve been left out when our story is repeated annually!” Mocked the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
“That is surely the reason!” Added the Ghost of Christmas Past.
The Ghost of Christmas Pissed Off slammed down the lid of his laptop and turned to his fellow ghosts. “F*ck off!”
Thomas Dixie Elliot is a Derry artist and a former H Block Blanketman.
Follow Dixie Elliot on Twitter @IsMise_Dixie