'twas the watch before Christmas, and all through the ship
Not a creature was stirring; there was only the blip
Of the life support indicator hung on the rail
Against the dire chance all our systems would fail.
The crew were all tucked up in cryosleep berths
Frostily dreaming of a long-distant Earth
And Debs (the watch Chief) and I on the bridge
Were just starting in on the beer in the fridge
When from the prox alarm arose such a clatter
I sprang from my seat to see what was the matter.
To the computers I flew like a flash
Quickly rebooting the one that had crashed.
Not far off, just a few thousand kay,
The monitors showed me in flickering grey,
Fuzzy and small on the old infra screen,
The weirdest spaceship that I'd ever seen.
At a substantial fraction of lightspeed it raced -
Where could it have come from? Where was its base?
Clearer and clearer the oddly shaped frame,
And the comms unit crackled to life as it came.
"Now Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the lateral airlock! To the top of the hull!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
Debs leapt to the helm and I to defence,
Raised the shields to full, mouth dry, stomach tense.
She toggled the radio but heard no reply,
As the alien ship loomed large in our sky.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the hull
A tapping and clawing like a knock or a call.
As I sucked in my breath and Debs ran for the guns,
In from the airlock he came with a jump.
He wore a red spacesuit, trimmed round in white.
He'd pulled off his helmet and was breathing all right.
In fact he looked human, right down to the beard,
But we didn't trust the way he appeared.
His eyes twinkled oddly, his dimples were strange.
His cheeks were too red and his nose was inflamed.
He was smiling a deeply untrustworthy grin,
And his snow white beard looked out of place on his chin.
He set down his vac-sack right there on the deck,
And undid the seal that fastened the neck.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Made Debs shudder, and filled me with dread.
He spoke not a word but went straight to his work.
He emptied the sack on the floor with a jerk.
And while Debs and I stood, mouths open, and stared,
He laid out wrapped presents for everyone there.
The pile of gifts grew rapidly higher.
One for each crewmember sleeping in cryo.
And, last of all, one for Debs, one for me
(I think mine was beer, from what I could see).
Then he sprang to the airlock and dialled himself through,
And the alien ship disappeared from our view.
But I heard his transmission as he flew out of sight
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"