Short Stories 366:353 — “The Everlasting Match Girl,” by Paul Magrs

Okay, you’re going to have to bear wth me a bit with this story from Christmassy Tales, but I promise it’s worth it. It’s set on Mars, and is set in the same universe as Paul Magrs’s trilogy that begins with Lost on Mars, but you can absolutely read this one by itself, and it has the same—I’m going to say harsh whimsy?—as those books. We catch up with Toaster (the somewhat sanctimonious and sentient servo-furnishing) and a group of his friends as they decide to take part in the human tradition of he holidays, and aim to do so via being carollers. That they’re a drink cabinet, a sun-bed, and a bunch of other sentient and mobile pieces of furniture doesn’t really play into their decision directly, though humans don’t always treat them well and there’s this undercurrent of them taking their own destiny in hand. Y’know, to carol.

It’s all so delightfully odd, even before the various servo-furnishings start sharing what they’ve heard of the legend of the Everlasting Match Girl, a haunting and horrid monster of a little human girl who maybe has it in for servo-furnishings (at least, the wood ones) and while Toaster thinks that’s all poppycock (but he’s not made of wood, so…) the others, you can tell, are a little alarmed. Still, out they go a-carolling and it’s all going well until it doesn’t go well, and Toaster is pretty sure there’s a girl-sized figure following them and maybe even laughing and it’s all very ominous and perhaps he’s made a bad choice after all.

This being a Magrs Christmas story, things turn out, but it’s a sideways sort of tuning out, and ultimately as charming as it is odd. Toaster and his friends, alongside the reveal of the Everlasting Match Girl’s true nature, both felt like the most wonderful of Christmas moments—just, y’know, on Mars. In the future. With sentient servo-furnishings.

Listen, like I said. You have to just sort of bear with me and trust on this one.

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