Chaos Pagentry (The Nativity)

📅 Published on December 16, 2021

“Chaos Pagentry (The Nativity)”

Written by Kyle Harrison
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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Everyone in town knew my family, the Bowers.

We are considered cornerstones by some. Never wavering in any community activity.

Until this year.

We experienced a tragedy, one that only now with the holidays past us I can talk about.

It’s an event that changed the meaning of this special time of year for us, and it’s one that shook my faith to its core.

It began shortly after Thanksgiving, a flyer posted on the school bulletin board of upcoming events.

I saw that the theater director, Mister Steele; was requesting people to try out for an upcoming nativity pageant and my best friend Rachel suggested I try for the part of Mary.

“Besides sleeping with Tommy Anderson you would be perfect for the part,” she teased.

I immediately got red in the face and shoved her away, hoping no one else heard what she said. I knew I was going to be in the pageant anyway though because what Rachel was unaware of was the whole nativity was a family tradition.

I have fond memories of working under Mister Steele when I was a little girl, getting to dress up in costumes that were twice my size and pretending other students were sheep. He had been doing this for about as long as we had, so I didn’t really expect there to be a change this year.

Some people said it was playing favorites but the truth was not too many actually signed up for the play.

My mom and dad were on board at the beginning, although this year Mom admitted her role would be limited thanks to being heavily pregnant.

Sometimes I would dream that my new baby brother would be a Christmas baby, especially since I had prayed about wanting a little sibling for months.

But those prayers were almost left unanswered when Mom had a scare that sent her to the ER.

I was actually practicing my lines at the time, the younger boy that was chosen for Joseph was doing his best to not stare at my cleavage when Mister Steele got the call.

“What was that?” I asked him.

“Nothing Bella, let’s continue with the play.”

I kept going for another ten minutes until we got another call, this time it was the stage director that answered and she rushed over to me.

“Your mom is in the hospital, I think the baby is coming early!” she shrieked.

Mister Steele didn’t seem too happy about the interruption but reluctantly let me go.

I arrived twenty minutes too late. The baby made it just fine but it was a premature infant and the doctors informed Mom that he would need to be in a neonatal ICU for the next month.

Mom was in tears, glad that everything turned out okay but doctors warned we weren’t out of the woods yet.

That first night staring at my baby brother through the glass and wishing that I could cradle him was hard. I wanted everything about the moment to be perfect but instead his arrival into this world was filled with unexpected pain.

Mister Steele called in the morning to check on everything. He has always been so close to our family so initially I didn’t think much of it.

Until I overheard a particular part of the conversation that was making my dad heated.

“I’m sorry but that is how it’s going to have to be. Elizabeth needs to recover from the birth and I have to go back to work. Bella is the only one who can take care of her. I wish things were different, you know that this matters to us but I’m afraid that there simply is no other way,” he barked as he hung up the man.

“I just don’t understand how that man can be so bullheaded,” he said as I entered the room.

“What’s going on? Is everything okay?” I asked.

He gave me a solemn face but didn’t hide his frustration. “Mister Steele is expecting us to be able to participate with the nativity play, but I told him with everything that’s just happened it would be better if we took a step back and let others get a chance. It would be too stressful for us to juggle all of this.”

At first I was a little upset, but then I saw the reasonableness of my dad’s suggestion. With the new baby and Mom recovering, I would need to help as much as possible around the house. And it’s not like I really enjoyed the play, it was different now that I was older.

“I’m sure that he’ll understand. It’s probably just a little shocking to him,” I told Dad.

I went to bed that night in a hospital bed right alongside Mom, holding her hand and dreaming about everything being fine by Christmas. But that isn’t how the story unfolded.

Another call woke Dad around 4 am the next morning, this time from a private number.

He jumped up and started talking frantically to the person on the other end of the line, waking me up as well.

“You’re sure? How could this even happen! I don’t understand… I don’t…”

It looked like he was in tears. I didn’t say a word as I sat up and curled my feet under me, waiting for him to tell me what had happened.

He was still holding the phone looking at me like a shell shocked soldier as he muttered, “Bella… our house…”

He was struggling to find the words as I saw his trembling hands and face, realizing that something horrible had occurred.

It didn’t take long to find out the truth, since we live in such a small town it was all over the news.

“Local authorities responded last night to a house fire coming from the Indigo Court culdesac where they were able to successfully stop the blaze from spreading any further to neighboring houses. Fire Marshall Travis Brady stated that it appears the inferno was started due to a gas stove being left on. No one was injured during the incident.”

Our house was a smoldering ash now, not even the bare bones remained. I couldn’t even comprehend what we had lost. Our pastor told us we were lucky to be alive. But I didn’t feel very lucky.

And as I soon found out, I really wasn’t.

The next call we got that day was from Mister Steele. His tone had changed, I assumed he had heard about the accident.

“This is the moment where all of us need to pull together and take care of one another. You can stay with me. My house is big enough,” he told my dad.

Dad declined the offer at first but then the hospital informed us we could only stay there for one more night so we had little choice unless we wanted to be homeless.

I was surprised at how large his house actually was. Two stories, five bedrooms, and yet completely alone. It made me wonder what had happened to his family, or if he had ever had one. There were no portraits on the walls, no souvenirs to say that he traveled. The only thing he seemed to care about was his theater. There were countless awards, trophies, class pictures and more lining every square inch of his home. It was like a shrine to the arts.

“Come on in, the water is fine,” he joked as we came inside. We had only one bag to share but Mister Steele promised he would help us to grab some new clothes soon enough.

“I think this will be fine. I think this is how it was meant to be. Holidays are all about sharing and caring for each other,” he said as he finished prepping dinner.

Everything was kind of awkward, sitting there in a stranger’s house and eating his food even though we had just had an argument with him a few days ago.

As we ate; we made small talk. But the elephant in the room couldn’t be ignored.

“Thank you again for everything you have done for us,” my dad commented as we finished the main course.

“If there is any way that we can repay you, just say the word.”

Mister Steele wiped his mouth and coughed, looking at all of us eagerly. He did have something in mind.

“Well… I suppose it’s probably wrong to bring it up… but the play needs you. Now more than ever I feel that you should take part,” he answered.

Dad didn’t say a word but I could tell that he was pissed.

“We’ll discuss this later,” he told my theater teacher as he got a plate for Mom and left for the guest room.

Later that evening I overheard them getting into a heated argument. I swear they were so loud the whole neighborhood heard them.

“It’s just a stupid play, Harold! Stop pressuring us! Elizabeth needs to be here with the baby and I’m too exhausted!” Dad said.

“So that’s it then? This is the thanks I get for letting you into my home? You treat me like this? You do realize I could have let you go to a shelter. In fact, I still could. I suggest you reconsider your tone with me.”

“What? You’re going to toss us to the street just because we won’t do your ridiculous play? How is that the spirit of Christmas?” Dad shouted back.

“I’m giving you a choice here Peter. Just do what I say and this will all be fine. It’s really not a big request. I don’t see why you are making it out to be,” Steele replied.

In the morning I was told I would be back playing Mary. I feigned excitement and hoped that Dad was doing this for the right reasons. Mom kept out of it.

At the rehearsal, Mister Steele was immediately in full theater mode. And by that I mean we no longer really mattered as people anymore. He expected us to know our lines and to get them right the first time. And I noticed that he was especially critical of me.

He halted the production a few times to call me out, shaking his head that I got a few simple verses wrong.

“Bella I understand that you’ve been out of practice for a few days but this is absurd. You really need to focus on your work!”

At dinner, the criticism continued. He was dissatisfied with how I appeared in the costume.

“I’m ordering new clothes that will make you look more like the Virgin Mary. And I need you to eat less. I highly doubt she had so much weight on her,” he commented.

Dad put his fork down, this time choosing to not just sit idly as things began to deteriorate.

“Harold, I think that’s going a bit too far.”

“Too far is when you thought that you should step down. Especially with the play only a week away then and now we are on the cusp of opening night and you want to continue this charade! That was too far!” Steele snapped back.

“This is outrageous, you aren’t going to starve my daughter just so she can be better suited for a fictional role!” Dad shouted.

Mister Steele looked aghast. “What do you mean by fiction? Peter, I suggest you watch what you say and do as your told!”

I knew Dad wasn’t going to just stand for it but Mom managed to hold him back. Something told me though that things weren’t going to be easier from here on out.

The next day I came downstairs, expecting another shift in the ever-changing dynamic. I no longer felt truly safe here thanks to Mister Steele’s harsh tones and demeaning attitude.

And then on top of it, Mom and Dad were nowhere to be found that morning.

“They’re going to grab a few things for tonight’s performance. We should head out and get to practicing,” Mister Steele told me. I couldn’t imagine how Mom would let the baby be on his own here but I didn’t want to question it.

Still, I could tell Something was very wrong.

We drove to the theater early, there wasn’t a car in sight. Mister Steele instructed me to hurry inside to get changed and I saw that shortly afterwards several others were arriving.

All of them looked a little confused about what was going on and I gathered very quickly that Mister Steele had called them in for a last minute practice.

I was in costume in less than ten minutes and the stage producer was assisting with makeup.

She seemed shaken up by something too as I stood there like a porcelain doll letting her dote on me.

“Is something wrong?” I asked as I noticed she was holding back tears.

“Oh it’s just… I’m so surprised to see you here. After everything you have gone through. Bless your soul,” she said with a soft smile.

“I’m not sure I completely understand what you are talking about,” I said as I saw my co-star entering from backstage.

“Well, first there was the rush to the hospital, then your house and now the loss of your parents. It must be so much for you to handle,” she explained.

My mouth felt dry.

“My parents are fine. We are staying with Mister Steele.”

She covered her mouth and ran off as the theater director appeared in the shadows, his gaze falling on my timid form.

“What was she talking about? Where are my parents?” I asked. I couldn’t even hear my voice. It sounded so frail. I was terrified of this man for reasons I couldn’t explain but my body understood he was a threat.

“Your parents are fine Bella. The play is about to start. We don’t need to worry about that right now,” he said as he reached for my arm. I pulled away and snapped back, “I’m not doing shit until you tell me where they are!”

His eyes blazed with a rage I had never seen before. Then he struck me across the face. So hard that I fell.

“I warned your father what would happen to anyone that stood in the way of this holy occasion. He didn’t listen. I wouldn’t want to have to use your understudy in the final hours but I will Bella. Now. On your feet and be ready. The scene shall begin.”

I wiped away a tear as what he told me was sinking in. Had he really hurt them? Was he threatening to do the same to me if I didn’t cooperate? All because of this strange obsession with the theater?

I made my way to the curtain, peeking out to see it was nearly a full house. Everyone had come to see how I would do. I couldn’t stop my head from spinning. I didn’t want to be here. But I had to go through with it to protect my family.

I stepped out, obeying the theater director implicitly as I began to recite my lines.

Already we had gotten to the part where the Angel Gabriel explained the purpose of the Virgin birth. I followed the wording to the letter but I always felt that Mister Steele was disapproving of the attempt. Or that he was holding my family hostage somewhere if I failed.

After that first scene, I was rushed backstage where he pulled me to the dressing room, infuriation filling his soul as he closed the door and snarled, “Bella… I’m hoping what I have heard from the audience is just a malicious rumor… but I need the truth. So out with it girl, are you a virgin?”

I was speechless. I knew that Rachel had likely blabbed her big mouth but I had never considered it would be something that wound up putting me in mortal danger.

He shook his head, too frustrated to even lash out.

“You have dishonored this place and you disrespect the very faith you are representing.”

He opened the door back toward the main backstage and added, “Get out of my sight.”

“I can… go?” I squeaked. It was beyond imagination for me to think that I was free from his control but Mister Steele didn’t tell me twice. He tore the wig from my head and kicked me out unceremoniously.

Leaving me with one goal, to find out what he did to my family.

As I was ushered to the main auditorium, he made an announcement that another younger girl would be filling the role of Mary. I think he did it at just the right moment to shame me, but I didn’t care. I was focused on leaving this place and finding Mom and Dad and the baby.

But I soon found out leaving wasn’t an option. Several older boys working as stagehands blocked the exits, apologizing to me that Steele had insisted no one was allowed to leave during the performance. I knew their type. The ones that never questioned authority. Reasoning with them would be like talking to a brick wall.

Desperate for answers I began to search the audience for the producer that had told me about my parents only moments ago.

As I crouched down beside her, I said, “What did you mean earlier? Please give me a straight answer. What happened to my family?”

She seemed confused that I didn’t know.

“Mister Steele told us all about how your dad abused your mom. I think after the baby was born he simply snapped. The things he did to her… Bella, they are unspeakable.”

Again I found myself at a loss for words.

I looked toward the stage like a confused deer in headlights, watching as the pageant drew to a close.

Someone was bringing in a cradle with the baby Jesus. I could just barely make out that it was a real infant. And then my heart stopped.

“That’s my brother,” I said, hardly able to speak. When I realized what was happening, I found the courage to stand up amid the audience and shout anxiously, “That’s my brother!!”

Everyone sitting around me likely thought I had lost it, but I couldn’t risk my baby brother being hurt. I started to climb over seats, frantic to get to the stage as I repeatedly shouted for the play to stop.

I climbed over the edge of the stage, rushing straight to the understudy that was holding him and grabbing him from her arms. He felt so cold and I nearly fainted when I thought he might be dead. But no, he definitely had a pulse.

“This needs to stop right now!!” I said as I showed the audience how blue he was in the face. Several of them were suddenly becoming disturbed, wondering what the hell was going on. But then it got ten times worse.

A gunshot rang out and people screamed. Mister Steele was standing beside me, grabbing my arm and holding the weapon near my neck as my baby brother just barely made a wriggling motion. What had he done to him?

“No one is going anywhere!” he snapped as he pointed the weapon toward the crowd next. Several people shrieked and some fainted.

“None of you have any idea how hard I worked for this. How I slaved over it to make it a masterpiece!!”

He began to rant, talking about how he had tried to reason with my parents. How he needed us to cooperate and make this work. It would be destiny, he said.

But destiny had another course to take.

Another shot rang out, this time from the audience itself. Mister Steele’s eyes widened in horror as he looked down at his clean white shirt and how it was stained red.

He staggered toward the crowd, still mumbling about the importance of the play as he cascaded over the edge and fell to the ground.

There was a deputy off duty in the crowd, the one that had fired the shot; and he ordered everyone to stay back as they checked Steele’s body.

The rest was not a hallmark ending. My parents were found asphyxiated in their car together in the director’s garage, it was made to look like my father had been the culprit but the confession and the strange behavior of Steele at the play had convinced everyone that he was insane.

Me and my brother were placed in the foster system and we spent that Christmas in a homeless shelter. It was not shiny. It wasn’t miraculous. But we did have each other.

I have found looking back at everything we endured it’s the only spark of hope to keep me going.

Everything else, I close my eyes and try to make it a bad dream.

Until Christmas comes back again. Then the memories resurface and the nightmares start again.

Then I remember I can’t ever escape that awful play.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Kyle Harrison
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Kyle Harrison

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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