Letter #1, written on pink unicorn stationery, sealed carefully in a matching envelope and left out for pickup.
I’d like a dollhouse, please. A pretty one that I can build with my dad and my sister, with lots of cute furniture and things. I want it to have a big front porch and wallpaper with tiny roses and tiny perfect pots and pans for the kitchen.
Lisa Ellison, 11 years old
Letter #2, on lined notebook paper, folded and stuffed into an overturned mailbox.
I wanted to say thank you for the mountain bike. It’s been very useful, even if it wasn’t what I asked for. I wouldn’t have been able to bring a dollhouse with me when we fled our house anyway. Did you know I’d need it?
This year, I’m writing to ask for a crossbow. I want to be able to hunt in the woods, so I don’t have to ride into town to raid the grocery store.
I don’t like going into the grocery store. It scares me.
Lisa Ellison, 12 years old
Letter #3, scratched onto a piece of birch bark, sealed in a bottle, and tossed into a river.
I didn’t think a book about traps would be as useful as a crossbow, but you really know what you’re doing. Thank you.
This year, I’d really like a safe place for us to keep my parents. They were able to be useful at first, but now they can hardly move at all. My dad keeps crying and begging us to leave him. My mom hasn’t said anything at all in months.
But they’re my parents. And they can’t take care of themselves anymore, so we have to.
Lisa Ellison, 13 years old
Letter #4, written in the margins of a yellowed shortwave radio instruction manual, stored on a sagging shelf.
I know it’s not your fault that we didn’t get to the cabin till after we lost mom and dad.
I know that.
And the cabin has been great, really, even with the broken windows and corpse we had to clear out. That poor old man.
The solar panels and the well and the weird old radio and the bunker full of supplies–it’s all perfect. More than I could have ever hoped for.
Even if mom and dad didn’t get to see it.
My sister keeps trying to tell me that you’re not real, that the bike and the book and the cabin were all just lucky finds, and that each appeared on December 25th (I think, anyway, she says we can’t be sure of the dates) is just coincidence.
But I believe in you. Even if no one else does.
I have to believe in something.
I don’t need anything this year. We’re safe and supplied. But maybe you could help some other people? Even if they don’t ask? Can you do that?
Lisa Ellison, 14 years old
Letter #5, written inside the back cover of a book of poetry, also tucked beneath a pillow.
Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting three people to show up on Christmas morning, but you’ve outdone yourself again. No adults, of course. I don’t think there are any adults left. Are there? Are you an adult? Are you immune because you’re magic?
It took my sister a week to notice how smug I was feeling. She still refuses to believe that you have anything to do with our yearly Christmas miracles. But with everything else that’s going on in the world, we’ve earned a little good magic.
Keep helping other people, please.
Lisa Ellison, 15 years old
Letter #6, scrawled on a page torn out of a book on gardening, crumpled and thrown into the fire.
Look, you know I don’t believe in any of this crap, but I don’t know what else to do. Lisa is sick. It’s like what happened to the adults, but faster. She’s already gone silent and still and I hate it so much. She’s younger than I am, this shouldn’t be happening. I thought we’d be safe till we were thirty, at least.
Anyway, I’m not sure if she’ll last till Christmas. But if she does, maybe you can help.
I can’t believe I’m writing a letter to Santa, of all the insane things. But Lisa believes in you. How does she even send these things?
Ugh, whatever. This was a stupid idea.
Letter #7, broadcast on shortwave radio, recorded on worn magnetic tape.
Hello, and Merry Christmas. My name is Lisa Ellison. Yesterday, I was dying. Today, I’m not.
I know things have been bad, these past years. I know that I’ve thought about giving up time and time again. I know that there might not even be anyone out there, listening to me.
But it’s Christmas, and Santa is real, and he can help you, if you ask. He’s always helped me.
I know it seems impossible to believe in magic, especially something benevolent. Something kind. But I think that we’ve earned a little good magic. If you ask him for help, maybe your life will get better. And all it costs is a bit of paper, a little time, and some faith.
I urge you to give it a try.
This is Lisa Ellison, signing off.
Letter #8, written in an illustrated copy of The Night Before Christmas, displayed under glass, next to a dollhouse.
This year, I’d really love a dollhouse to build with my daughter. A pretty one, with a big front porch and wallpaper with tiny roses and tiny perfect pots and pans for the kitchen.
Thank you for everything.
Lisa Ellison, 36 years old
About the author:
Jamie Lackey lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and their cat. She has over 160 short fiction credits, and has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex Magazine, and Escape Pod. In addition to writing, she spends her time reading, playing tabletop RPGs, and hiking. Find out more at http://www.jamielackey.com.