The candle-shaped lights flickered against the dark blackness of night; reds, greens, blues, and yellow blips of light popping off and on in a random pattern, that was anything but random. They flashed all red followed by green and blue before finishing off with yellow and then they all blinked once in quick succession, then flashed backwards order and did it all over again from the beginning. He noticed the flashing and the order after hours of staring at the house. The front living room lights were still on, after five hours of standing in the hidden shadows of the trees, but the curtains were drawn. Every so often, as he stubbed out a cigarette butt in the soft, cold white snow under his feet, he would notice a shadow move behind the curtains. Someone inside the house was moving about, probably to freshen up their holiday beverage or to once again gorge themselves on the leftovers from the feast, he thought with disgust, lighting another black cigarette. It had been years since he had a white, earthly tobacco cigarette, the holidays always made him think of early tobacco cigarettes. He once had gotten a carton of freshly arrived earth tobacco white cigarettes from his grandfather, a gift for Christmas. His grandfather died two weeks later, radiation leak from an oxygenator close to their house. The cigarettes lasted two years; he only would allow himself a pack on the anniversary of his grandfather’s death. He hadn’t had one since. He couldn’t afford it, but if tonight was successful, he would be able to get white earth tobacco cigarettes at any store, because he was headed to Earth.
He had been born in the neighboring colony village, Roanoke, twenty-five years before. His father, a Martian Mining Company low-level executive, had died of a heart attack when his son had barely turned ten years old. He tried to continue in the Martian Scouts, but without a father figure to guide him, and with a mother that took to Martian Whiskey, he was on his own and the road became rockier as he went along. His grandfather came when he was sixteen, bringing the habit of smoking with him. Grandfather had been born on Earth back in the last century, but had come to Mars with his Mother when she remarried. Grandfather had lived at Roanoke Colony Village for ten years before moving back to Earth. He moved back and forth several times; as part of his career as a MMC big wig. He was loaded and his grandson, after getting to know him, thought his Grandfather’s fortune would one day be his own. Instead, when his grandfather died, it was revealed that Grandfather had left it all to charity.
His mother died, her body having been found in a seedy alleyway, clutching an empty bottle of Martian whiskey, and he began working in the funeral home to help pay for his mother’s funeral. He helped by picking up the deceased from their homes, he helped to prepare the bodies by draining them and refilling them with the proper chemicals for a Martian burial. He would dress them and even helped doing the make-up before the families came to pay their last respects. At the funerals, because he was still a scrawny teenager, he helped serve as an usher and pallbearer for those families who needed that service. He began to get invited to the families of the deceased, for dinners after the services. He began to notice all the nice things the families had; way nicer than he ever had.
The living room lights went out, the whole front of the house becoming dark as the occupants turned off chandeliers and lamps. The Christmas lights continued to blink, flashing off and on, off and on in their non-constant, random, un-random sequence, and he shifted where he stood. Two more hours, he thought, as he crushed out his, and lit another, black, Martian tobacco cigarette and dreamed of seeing Earth for the first time. He dreamed of it at night, as he slept in the storage room at the funeral home. He would get enough credits after he fenced the items he planned on taking tonight. He had been in the home a week prior, he knew the layout and he knew where all the high end merchandise was located inside. The occupants, which took a keen interest in him, turned in early each night and within a few hours the house was as quiet as church, with no one roaming the grounds for eight hours, until daylight. There was no alarm, they were too far out in the countryside of the colony village and didn’t worry about security. He was very glad that they felt so comfortable with him to tell pass that information so throw away to him.
He entered the house, quietly, through the dining room sliding glass doors. He had left them unlocked the last time he visited and he doubted the occupants, the Murray couple, would have checked them. Mr. Murray was an artist that spent most of his time in his upstairs studio with young ladies that model for him. He sculpts and paints, creating museums worth of artwork for a studio on Main Street in the colony village. Mrs. Murray was a teacher of meditation techniques, spending most of her time in her studio where she holds classes of up to twenty, teaching them how to relax and meditate. Inside the main home, however, the Murray’s had plenty of electronics equipment, expensive silverware, and precious stones. They had known his Grandfather, and had even selected the funeral home to bury their recently deceased aunt based on his employment there. That was another reason to do the job, he thought while he filled his bag with the select list of items he wanted, to get back at Grandfather for cutting him out of his will. Miserable old man, he thought reaching for the two ruby and emerald bejeweled silver candlesticks on the desk of Mr. Murray’s study, when the lights came on suddenly.
He turned with a start to see himself looking down the barrel of a handgun being brandished by Mrs. Murray. He started to pull his hand away from the candlestick, and he felt a sting in his abdomen. He heard a snapping sound and smelt a funny smell and looked on as Mrs. Murray’s face went slack and turned ashen white. He looked down and saw the redness spilling out between his fingers as he clutched his stomach. Mrs. Murray had pulled the trigger, when she saw him move, and now he was doomed. He could no longer hear anything, the ringing of the gun deafening him momentarily, and he only had moments as his life’s blood continued to spill out. He saw Mr. Murray come into the study as he sank down to the ground. Around him, the Christmas decorations; the green wreaths spotted with miniature gifts wrapped with green and red paper and ribbons, ornaments, snow globes, all decorated Mr. Murray’s office. He could smell the pumpkin pie and fresh apple pie, the Murray’s had been cooking and hadn’t gone to sleep. Instead they had heard him come in and had called the police; Mrs. Murray had gone to the study, thinking it empty, and to hide when she came across him. His hearing returned as he heard the Martian Police sirens, as darkness began to overtake him. He wouldn’t make it to earth it seemed, and he’d never get to taste another cigarette again, white earth tobacco or black Martian tobacco, it didn’t matter.