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An old man's cold eyes watched the tree tremble. One final swing of his ax sent it toppling downward, landing softly in the deepening snow. Shivering air and wet snowflakes fluttered around, giving the man an ethereal glow in contrast with the stark, wintery white.

The little tree was easy for him to lift and carry back to his dull pickup truck, and fit easily into the back. He drove silently, the seat beside him empty and dusty; a sure sign that it had been used rarely, and usually only to hold groceries. He glanced at the mirror now and then to ensure that the tree had now been blown away, but he looked away when he saw his own, broken-looking eyes.

He hefted the tree over his shoulder and clomped through the unshoveled snow, up to his front door. A curious neighbor looked on from the comfort of his own home, but made no attempt at communication. He knew him well enough to not try.

The barren tree sat propped against a wall in the man's dimly lit home. The only source of light was the fireplace which crackled weakly from only two small logs. Nothing sat atop the shelf above the fireplace. No reminder of any sort of life to speak of. The tree shifted and began to fall, lacking any proper support. Gravity had won this battle.

The man watched it fall, and did nothing. He hunched forward in his chair, holding a book in his hand. His name was inscribed upon it, but it brought no feeling to him. Without another thought, he tossed it haphazardly into the fireplace. Then, he began to tear away the branches of the little tree and threw them into the fire as well.

Soon, he had rescued the dying light, and the whole room was bathed in warm, warm light. The little tree looked pulverized with so many twigs and branches missing, but still the man kept it for himself. He had no gifts to receive nor any to give, but playing pretend for a short while was no harm.

This year he felt particularly pained. As the snow piled up around him, he saw less and less sunlight everyday. The constant darkness threw his already weak mind into turmoil, and he fell deeply into a crushing state of depression. What good was a puny Christmas tree? None. What could it possibly do for him now? Nothing.

He pushed the whole tree into the fireplace, although nearly half of it stuck out onto the carpeted floor. That didn't matter to him. It wasn't important. The flames licked at the carpet, eager to devour a new world with newly discovered freedom. The whole tree was engulfed, and the flames were leaping away at any suitable surface or material.

The man walked calmly from his house and entered his truck, keeping an eye on his home every second. It appeared normal at first, but within the span of a few minutes, fiery light shone through the windows. Then, after a longer time, the house itself began to burn. Smoke billowed away from every little crack and crevice to the outdoors, and windows shattered from the pressure.

A single tear fell from his eye as his face thudded against the dashboard.

"Merry Christmas," he said weakly. He started to sob quietly, his tears freezing almost instantly upon contact with the freezing air. Merry Christmas.

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