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The Coca-Cola truck’s coming to town, and Donner and Blitzen, all blazing white neon, dance across shopping mall roof tops, and drive-thrus serve burgers in holly-stamped boxes and polythene mistletoe garlands the entrance to stores where you kiss all your overtime money goodbye, and Santa’s elves work at the carwash.

Brightly shines the light o’erhead of Easyjet, the red-eye flight, and unto us a child is given from a far-off land, no place to lay its head. Twelve hundred of them. We’ll take a few, an old converted prison for a stable.

The streets here are all paved with blankets and cardboard, where those without shepherds came looking for gold while the gatekeepers closed all the doors on them. And it seems that for now there are no wise men.

And the cityscape glows nuclear white and red as hell, and blue lights flash and twinkle, where they still find drivers. Until, quiet into a carpark falls a snowflake. Then another, and another, ‘til, unseeing and unique they overfill the air and whitewash chip shops and the multi-storey, soften acid streetlights, halo them, and muffle all to silence, still the night.

And til the gritter lorry cometh, all is bright.

o         o         o

Helen Rye

has stories in various journals and anthologies, online and in print. She has won the Bath Flash Fiction Award and the Reflex Fiction prize, been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and nominated for Best Small Fictions. She lives in Norwich, UK.

Twitter: @helenrye

Helen’s Christmas song for Open Pen:



The one-off zine we’ve called ONEOFFZINE is guest edited under a mentor scheme, working alongside young editors in the making from the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham.

Printed by the good people at Rockland Lit, ONEOFFZINE is thirteen pieces of microfiction with something to say. It feels like Open Pen, it reads like Open Pen.

There’ll be a few ways you can pick up a copy in the coming weeks, but for now, any order placed for The Open Pen Anthology today will include ONEOFFZINE with your delivery. The only other way, if you’re feeling flush, is to pick our The Open Pen Anthology boxset for a cool £49.99.

Its authors include:

ONEOFFZINESimon Pinkerton
Pia Patel
Thomas McColl
Jac Lewis
Terence Corless
Paul Paranchikis
Christoper P. Mooney
Tamara Jones
Laura Gabrielle Feasey
Jo Gatford
Martin Cornwell
Fiona Marshall

*  *  *

Edited by

Matthew Neal & Pia Patel