This week I’m merely going to wish you all a Merry Christmas and thank you all for being so supportive of TWF. We have thoroughly enjoyed reading your stories and hope you will continue to submit next year.
Enjoy your time with your family, reach out to those who are in difficulty or in crisis at this time, be kind to others and remember to be kind to yourself.
Have a lovely ChristmasStephanie Ellis
It’s that time of year where the snow is falling (depending on where you live and global warming) and Santa Claws is deciding how to take care of the naughty kids out there. This is the penultimate installment of Trembling With Fear for the year and it has been such a wild ride. With it being Christmas Eve it seems like the perfect time to deliver some horror that you can read while sitting around the fire, eating Santa’s cookies, and scaring your kiddos (if you have them, if not, whoever’s kiddos you’re borrowing) into a nightmare induced coma!
‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.Stuart Conover
A Letter For Santa
On the floor in front of the fireplace was a woman in a nightgown that splayed around her body like a snow angel. A dark red tree skirt surrounded the Blue Spruce. Multi-colored Christmas lights flickered in time with a dancing snowman on the television screen. A plate of reindeer-shaped cookies with their antlers bitten off on the coffee table. A large glass of milk teetered dangerously on the edge.
He felt silly in the Santa suit. He had come straight from his final night on the job at the Oxford Pines Mall. No more kids on his lap with sniffling noses and gooey hands. No more prying questions from his boss about his home life. The background check had come up clean, what more did the nosy man want?
It had been a close call, but it helped that he used his brother’s ID.
His brother was hundred miles away, celebrating traditions with his own storybook family. Handing out the Christmas Eve pajamas like they did every year. Telling his daughter that she better be a good girl so Santa would show up. Little Cora, with her strawberry blonde hair on the top of her head in a bow that her mother made. He missed her the most out of all of them. Which is why the little girl in the green dress had called out to him. She looked like his favorite niece.
In his front pocket, he had the little girl’s letter.
Please come see Mommy for Christmas. It’s her last one. I don’t want her to be alone.
He had smirked at her attempt to spell Santa. Guess she had mixed up her letters, like most of the kids at the mall seemed to do. Heck, he mixed up his letters sometimes too. Never was able to win a spelling bee, or write a poem that made sense. “Some kind of learning disorder,” he had heard his mother utter in the middle of the night to his father through the paper-thin walls of his childhood home. “Don’t give that boy an excuse,” his father answered. “He’ll think he’s some kind of special kid who deserves things. That’s the last thing that kid needs. He ain’t special.”
On the bottom of the letter was a hand drawn map with the little girl’s address. 15 Hawthorne Avenue. He didn’t do this kind of thing for kids, but there was something desolate in her brown eyes. She struggled to talk to him. He had asked her what she wanted for Christmas about a dozen times before she handed him the tattered red envelope.
She was a little girl who knew too much for her age. She knew that her Christmases would never be the same again. She knew that no one would make them special for her like her mother. Would anyone ever be Santa to Vivian again?
He could give her one special Christmas. One magical memory.
He took a deep breath like he always did when he started his shift at the mall.
Showtime. Remember to be Jolly.
With a small push, the door creaked open. It creaked so loud that it should have woken the world. At least it should have woken the woman on the floor. But she remained as still as the tower of stacked presents in holly patterned paper that sat next to the tree.
He stepped inside, adjusting his red and white-trimmed cap.
“Miss? I’m here to see Vivian. I met her at the mall. She gave me a letter.”
The woman didn’t respond.
Maybe she wasn’t feeling well.
The television repeated the snowman scene from earlier except this time the screen flickered like when a VCR would adjust its tracking with black and white snow.
His tongue slapped the roof of his mouth, nearly sticking to it. He knew he should have picked up a drink at the food court before he left the mall. The glass of milk on the table looked cold and before thinking too hard, he grabbed it from the table and swallowed it down in one gulp. Vanilla and sugar, his favorite. Just like he had told the little girl.
“Miss?” he repeated a bit louder.
He reached down to shake her arm and as his hand touched her shoulder he realized that she was cold. Too cold to be living.
He stumbled backward, slipping on the floor, his feet nearly coming out from under him as he put his hand behind himself so he wouldn’t fall flat on his back.
He felt something wet. It was the dark red tree skirt. Except it wasn’t a tree skirt. It was blood.
His mouth opened into a gasp as he sunk into the syrupy human fluid on the floor. It smelled like the pennies that were in the empty fountain at the mall, next to Santa’s workshop. The scent was so strong that he could feel his stomach wretch.
A giggle echoed in the room.
The little girl in the green smocked dress stood in the door to the kitchen. A smile crept over her face.
“Vivian, we need to get out of here,” he said as his heart began to race. He looked down at his stained clothing. The white parts of his costume were matted with crimson. He couldn’t go out into the dark in a bloody Santa suit on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t even his own blood. No one would believe him. They’d learn about his criminal record. They’d pull up the fake ID. They wouldn’t believe that he “found” the bag of presents at the mall. He wouldn’t be able to explain it away.
“You drank the milk!” she said as she pointed at the empty glass.
“Come on, Vivian. Let’s go,” he hissed.
He looked into the little girl’s glossy eyes. He had never seen that look in a child before. And he had seen scores of kids at the mall. Nice ones. Bratty ones. Scared ones. But none like this one.
This was pure evil.
He swallowed an acidic burp as he tasted the vanilla and sugar again.
“Satan! Satan!” the girl cooed.
Something inside of him told him to flee, but his body was stick. He was sinking. His limbs were heavy. He fought to keep his eyes open.
He shook his head slowly like the animatronic elves that stood next to his workshop at the mall. “I’m Santa! You spelled my name wrong on the card!”
“Satan,” she repeated with a new smile. This time it was larger than before. Her eyes darkened.
He slumped to the floor, his face hitting the thick pool of blood with a squish. He stared into the dead woman’s face. The missing sugar cookie reindeer antlers were in the spaces where her eyes should have been.
“Now Mommy isn’t alone.”
Jessica Shannon is a writer/artist living outside of Philadelphia whose interests include miniature dioramas, vintage retail, and horror films from the 1980s. She is currently working on her debut novel which takes place in a dead mall.
Father Ralph parked in the spot reserved for ministers near the entrance to Conway Nursing Home. He hurried inside, minimizing his exposure to the chilling wind that had frozen much of North Texas this Christmas Eve.
He greeted Luella at the front desk, signed in, and made his way thru the lobby. A large, extravagantly lit Christmas tree took up much of the lobby area. On the wall near the tree was a garish cross, created by several strands of lights that flickered erratically. The cross appeared large enough to crucify a full-sized man, but there was no Christ figure on it. Glancing at it as he passed, Father Ralph thought the cross’ mad flickering might be enough to cause an epileptic fit if one was so inclined. Why is the cross here on Christmas? he mused.
He didn’t have time to appraise the decorations, however. He had been called to attend Mrs. Santos, whom Nancy Lomax, the head nurse, thought must be near death. Mrs. Santos was only in her 60’s, but had evidently had a hard life and was now in advanced dementia. He found her in a wheelchair in the hallway, pushed by Nancy Lomax.
“If she’s dying, why isn’t she in bed?” asked Father Ralph.
“Well, Father, when I called you she had passed out and we thought she might not awaken. But she came to and seemed to be a little better. She’s been babbling like crazy ever since. I thought it best you see her in case she maybe relapses into a fatal coma. She’s acting very strange.”
Father Ralph bent down to look the old lady in the eye. “Mary, are you stirring up trouble around here?” he asked lightly.
She grabbed his wrist with a gnarled claw and whined, “They never get it right. There weren’t any shepherds or wise men. No presents either. It’s not fair. But he’s coming, he’s coming!”
“What do you mean, Mary. I don’t understand,” said Father Ralph. Then he turned to nurse Lomax. “What’s she mean about no shepherds or presents?”
“Oh, haven’t you heard her story claiming to be the Virgin Mary? I thought she had told just about everyone by now. Well, let me see if I can make it coherent for you. As you know, her name is Mary—Mary Santos, which I think means Saint Mary. She claims that when she was a teenager, she became pregnant, but not thru the normal process. She was adamant that she hadn’t been with any boys. Her family was mighty strict, so when they discovered her pregnancy, they kicked her out. But her older boyfriend, Joe, stuck by her and took her into his house. Well, you can see the parallels to the Christ story. She claims she is actually the latter day Virgin Mary.
“She even says she gave birth in a barn. Seems Joe had a temp job at a guest ranch down near Palestine. So the two of them were there when she had the baby, or rather babies. Seems she had twin boys. Named one of them Jesus, of course. Care to guess about the other? No? Well, Judas, no less.”
“Holy macaroons!” said Father Ralph crossing himself.
“Yeah, she couldn’t deviate that much from her illusion, so she left Judas with the owners of the guest ranch. She and Joe hot-footed it back here with baby Jesus. Joe gets a job building custom wooden coffins for the mortuary trade. Jesus does that too for a while as a teenager, but then disappears for several years.
Word was he went out to the coast and became a surfer dude. Some said he became a marijuana grower. Could have spent some time in prison. Anyway, next time Mary hears from him, he’s become a rock singer and he and Judas are reunited in the same band. You see where this is going, of course. Well, they’ve been traveling around quite a lot, but she’s claiming Jesus is supposed to show up here tonight, it being Christmas and all.”
“That’s quite a story,” said Father Ralph. “So, she came out of her coma because she thinks Jesus is coming?”
“Could be, but we haven’t heard anything that would give her reason to think so. No mail or phone calls from anyone.”
Just then there was a commotion from the lobby. Nurse Lomax and Father Ralph wheeled Mary down the hall toward the noise. Several of the residents and staff were gathered in the lobby watching a group of musicians setting up their equipment to play. A banner for the group read: “Jesus and the Apostles”. A thin young man with a scraggy beard detached himself from the others and came to embrace Mary Santos.
“Mother, I’ve come to see you and we’re going to play some music for you and your friends.”
Mary glared up at the man. “Don’t try to fool your mother. You’re Judas! Where’s Jesus?”
The front door flung open and another thin young man entered who was obviously twin to the first. “I’m here! Don’t start without me. Thanks for filling in for me Judas, but I’ll take over now.”
The two brothers embraced, but Judas said bitterly, “Maybe I’d better take the lead this time while you see to Mother. There she is, give her a kiss. She’s been waiting for you, not me.”
Jesus looked at his withered mother, then back at Judas. “The sign says ‘Jesus and the Apostles’. I’ll do the show as always.”
“You always have to be in the spotlight, don’t you?” sneered Judas. He gave Jesus a little push to get around him. Jesus must have lost his balance or stumbled on a speaker cable. He did a slow-motion fall against the flashing cross on the wall. Glass broke. Electricity crackled. The lights went out. Jesus gasped.
When the lights came back on, Jesus’ body was stretched grotesquely against the now dark cross. There was a haze of smoke and the smell of burnt flesh. The cross had evidently shorted out and electrocuted him.
Mary screamed, “Jesus!”
Judas groaned, “Oh, my God!”
Father Ralph exclaimed, “Holy macaroons! This is Christmas not Easter!”
Michael Baldwin is a native of Fort Worth, TX. He holds a BA in Political Science, a Masters in Library Science, and a Masters in Public Administration. He is now retired from a career as a library administrator and professor of American Government. Mr. Baldwin has been published extensively in poetry journals and anthologies. His poetry was featured on the national radio program The Romantic Hours, and has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He won the Eakin Manuscript award in 2011 for his book, Scapes. He won the Morris Memorial Chapbook Award in 2012, for Counting Backward From Infinity. His book of Texas poetry, Lone Star Heart, was published by Lamar University Press in 2016, and was a candidate for the Texas Institute of Letters Poetry Book Award. Mr. Baldwin has also published a mystery thriller novel, Murder Music, and two collections of science-fiction short stories, Passing Strange, and Surpassing Strange, and a children’s book, Space Cat. Mr. Baldwin resides in Benbrook, TX.
You can follow his work on his homepage here: www.jmbaldwin.com.
It’s a chilly one tonight. The cold goes right through the bones if you let it; but I shan’t let it. I’m warm here in this small room with its small bed and small desk. The light of the candle sitting beside me on the desk is fighting with the light of the fireplace behind me; a to and fro battle my shadow cannot win. I’m sitting with my fingers firmly gripping my quill. I plan to write my love Cynthia who has gone off to visit her family in New Brighton for the Christmas holiday.
Marty, the undertaker of the mortuary and my dear friend, asked me to take the dead watch for him tonight saying that he had previous plans with a visiting cousin. With Cynthia gone, I had nothing else to do. I suppose I could have run down to the tavern with some of the others or even asked to run along with Marty and his kin; but the cold kept me in.
During the dead watch I oversee the dead who have been brought here after Marty prepared them for viewing or burial, or a cremation which will take place the following day; or after a holiday. I have watched the dead before, a few times, not much. Most of my time is spent with my dear Cynthia.
The watch is quite simple, really. I merely stay in a back room of the mortuary ensuring that the building is secure and no one breaks in during the night. It is quiet. No one disturbs me.
The only duty I must perform during the watch is to turn off lights situated above each occupied coffin. The lights are perched above the head of the deceased incase a loved one or a policeman may drop by, perhaps an investigator. Loved ones may stay with the deceased for some time before I must usher them off for the night whilst outside, trolley cars continue their rounds about the snowy city.
As soon as night has fallen, I lock the front hinged door of the mortuary, chain and bolt it, and then make my rounds turning off all of the lights in the building including those hanging over the deceased.
Back in my small room, I settle down with a few sheets of paper, my quill, and the fire warming my back. The only light now is in the room with me, shoving my shadow here and there. The dark open viewing area of the mortuary is through an open doorway to my room.
I begin to write Cynthia, my love. My words of love for her easily flow through my quill. Sometime later, a rap at the front door startles me. Hurriedly I throw on my cloak and quickly walk to the bolted door. I pass the coffins in the dark noticing that I left one of the lights on by one of the coffins near the far wall. How silly of me. I thought that I had turned it off. With a slight laugh, I arrive at the front door, unlock it, and am surprised to see a night patrolman.
In a cold shivering whisper of a voice he asks, “Can I sit in by your fire for a bit, lad?” His moustache is covered in small bits of frozen ice. His hat and shoulders are covered in fresh snow flakes.
“Sorry old boy,” I say. “But I am not allowed to let anyone in now that visiting hours have passed. You might try the tavern. They may let you sit for a bit.”
He smiles. “Well done. Marty wanted me to check in on you. I see he’s hired himself a good man. Goodnight then.”
Graciously, I nod, closing the door on him and relocking it. Of course Marty picked a good man for the job! I wasn’t going to let a good friend of mine down. He had helped me on many different occasions. Sitting here in the dark was not such a hard thing to do to repay a kindness, now was it? And not only that, Marty was going to have Cynthia and me over for dinner as payment. His rabbit stew was such a treat.
With a shiver, I folded my arms and rubbed my sides as the front door sealed the cold away. “God its bloody cold out there,” I said making my way back to my room past the coffins. Entering the door to my room I stopped in my tracks. “Ah, the light.” I walked back to the one which was still lit, pulled the chain, and off it went.
The light of the fire beckoned to me. Just that short time of talking to the night patrolmen had brought such a chill to my bones. I could feel the cold air around my ankles.
Hurrying now, I entered my room and stood in front of the fire. I pulled my hands out of my pockets and spread my fingers toward the heat of the flames. The cold left my body and warmth filled me.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw that a light was coming from the room full of coffins. With my head cocked, I walked back out into the coffin room and saw that indeed one of the lights was on over one of the coffins. It was the same light that I had turned off only moments before…right after the night patrolman’s visit.
I stood with my fingers on my lips, my thumb under my chin. “I thought I just turned that light out,” I said quietly.
So cold. The room was so damned cold. It felt like the chill of death in here.
I walked back over to the coffin. I pulled the chain down and the light went out. I stood for a moment – or at least as long as I could until the cold pushed me back to my stateroom and the warm fire waiting there.
“I know it’s out now,” I said with my hand on the back of my chair preparing to sit down. Instead I went back to the door of my room. The room full of coffins was dark.
With a sigh I took off my cloak, laid it on the bed and returned to my desk. I thought that I should at least finish the letter before retiring. I picked up the quill; feeling the warmth of the fire on my back; and continued the letter.
A bit later, I felt a wisp of cold around my ankles.
“Did someone come in?” I asked. They couldn’t have. The front door was locked with a bolt and chain. Still, it felt like wind was blowing around my feet.
I pushed back from the chair. Putting my cloak on once again, I stopped in my steps when I stepped into the room of coffins.
The light was on again over the same coffin.
The pull chain was swinging slightly.
“Is someone playing tricks?” I asked to the cold room. “Come out now. There’s no time for this.”
No one said anything, just the icy wind blowing outside through shutters, between the barren trees, over the rafters.
‘Now, I know I have been turning this off,” I said in an angry whisper.
I walked over to the coffin.
In it, an old dead man lay, his hands folded over his chest. His hair was white. His face clean shaven. I could see tiny ice crystals covering his skin. I thought about closing the lid of the coffin, but Marty distinctly told me to leave the coffins open. He didn’t say why, however. I just assumed that it was for the undertaker to do before the bodies were transported away from here.
I stood looking down at the old man.
Was he really not dead? Was this one of Marty’s friends playing a trick – his cousin? Or a different night patrolman? No. It couldn’t be. No man could lay in a coffin so long, especially not in this cold. The man was only wearing a suit. He wore no cloak!
I could see my breath pluming out in front of me.
The old man was not breathing.
“I will make sure this light stays out,” I said pulling down on the chain. The light went off. “There. It’s out.”
Back at the door to my room, I turned around to look back.
It was dark.
I stood in front of the fire, again warming my hands. I kept turning my head to see if the light was on again in the other room. It wasn’t. It stayed off.
“Ok. It’s off,” I said, sitting and tapping my quill on the desk. The letter to my love sat unfinished. I wouldn’t be able to finish it now. My mind was racing too fast. I couldn’t understand how the damned light kept coming on!
“I won’t get this letter done tonight,” I said to myself. “I can finish in the morning.”
I leaned over the desk and blew out the candle. Now the only light was from the fireplace. Shadows danced on the wall.
I slipped off my shoes and got into bed leaving the rest of my clothing on. It would be too cold to sleep in the buff, and I also wasn’t certain if a night patrolman might stop by.
Pulling the covers up to my chin, I closed my eyes then shot them open again seeing a reflection of white light on the ceiling above me. The fire wasn’t emitting a white light. It must have been from out in the coffin room.
“No,” I whispered. “It cannot be.”
I threw the covers back, slipped on my shoes and walked over to the doorway. I stood, my hands on either side of me resting at shoulder height on the door jambs. I stared into the darkness, my eyes stuck on the single light.
“It can only come on if someone pulls the chain,” I said, my breath short. “Who is pulling the chain? Who is out there?”
Only the wind outside answered me.
“Who is out there?” I said louder. “Who is out there?”
It was deathly quiet.
Quickly turning around I marched over to my desk and plopped down in the chair. “No one is pulling the chain. How can the light be coming on?”
I shot a look over my shoulder, fear gripping me, causing goose pimples to run up and down my body.
“Unless…unless the old man is reaching up and turning on the light himself.”
I stood up quickly.
“I must find out. I will stand and watch him.”
Quietly, I walked back into the dark room over to the lit coffin. I stood over it, my arms folded, my breath freezing in front of me.
I reached out and pulled the chain down.
The light went out.
There was no sound, only the wind. I didn’t hear a grunt or a sad, or perhaps angry moan from the old man in the coffin. He didn’t sit up in the coffin and grab my neck, strangle me, yell in my face with his rotting voice “Leave my light on!”
It remained dark.
“I’ve been hallucinating,” I whispered. “This has been my imagination. I am standing here in this dark room expecting a dead man to turn on a light.” I laughed with a cold shiver. “I am a fool.”
I went back to my room. Entering, my body was lit from behind as the light came on once again.
The dead man lay with his hands folded over his chest.
With fear shaking me, I went back into my room, kicked off my shoes, and jumped under the covers.
I was not cold.
I was not shivering from the cold.
I was afraid. Fear was holding me tight.
“How can this be happening?”
Loud rapping on the door woke me the next morning. Groggily shaking my head, I hopped out of bed, threw on my cloak, put on my shoes and went to the door.
My eyes never left the coffin as I passed it.
The light was still on.
Marty stood outside the door. He was looking around, his breath pluming out in front of him. He held a large Christmas wreath.
He met me with a smile as I opened the door. “Good morning, James.”
I nodded to him. “Good morning.”
He asked, “How was your night?”
“Fine. Fine.” I didn’t want to tell him about the man turning the light on in the coffin.
Shaking snow from his shoulders he came into the room. He looked around. “Oh, that damn light,” he said with a sniff.
“What about it?” I asked.
“The damn thing has a short. Every time a trolley goes by outside, it comes on,” he said. “Didn’t you notice?”
“No,” I said in the calmest voice I could muster. “I didn’t even see it.”
Marty laughed and nodded toward the open doorway.
“Merry Christmas, James,” a sweet voice said. Cynthia stood in the snow shivering, her arms wrapped around her. She had a large red Christmas bow tied around her waist. She came in and kissed my cheek.
Marty slapped me on the back with a grand smile. “Merry Christmas, old boy! When would the two of you like to come over for dinner?”
R. M. Smith writes gritty, grinding, clench your teeth adult types of horror stories about real life people who innocently fall into dire situations with no way out.
The Day Before
It was the day before Christmas, so it was a busy time at the department store. For Catherine, who started college last autumn, taking on a second job as a gift wrapper for the store during the season helped with the bills. The job also helped her save up enough money to get her parents a cruise to the Caribbean for Christmas, and she was excited to have them receive it.
Her workstation consisted of a table that was covered by a red cloth and the items she needed to wrap were scattered on top of it. There was also a small tip jar, and she had received a lot in tips due to her upbeat and hospitable attitude. Though she had been working nonstop for a few hours now, she enjoyed the job.
“Happy Holidays, Mr. Leroux,” she told a gentleman she just finished helping.
Her next customer was a woman in her mid-fifties who wanted several baby clothes wrapped, “They’re for my first grandchild!” the woman cheerfully proclaimed.
Catherine smiled, “OH, congratulations!” She loved children herself, which was why she was going to school to become a teacher. This was when a loud bang coming from the other side of the store was heard that startled her and the customers.
“What was that?” the woman wondered.
“Someone must have dropped something very big,” Catherine brushed off the incident, “Anyway, what’s your grandchild’s name?”
“Jennifer,” the woman replied with a big smile.
Catherine smiled back, “Jennifer… that’s a pretty name.” More loud banging noises were heard in rapid sequences, accompanied by people screaming. This was when a crowd of screaming people ran towards her direction. When another bang noise was heard, a man in the fleeing crowd fell dead to the floor from a bullet to the head. Blood splattered over the tile floor as the body hit the ground. The people in her line started screaming and running in terror.
Catherine froze as fear filled her veins and mind. A gunman, armed with a semiautomatic weapon, was walking in her direction. She believed such events happened elsewhere, but now it was happening before her eyes. The shooter looked odd because he dressed like Jesus. He had long black hair and a beard. There was a crown of thorns on his head and dried blood along the scalp. He wore sandals and a white robe that had blood stains on the right side near the chest. There were additional dried blood stains on his feet and palms. She was paralyzed from shock, but when he pointed the weapon to his left and yelled out, “Keep Christ in Christmas,” Catherine ducked. As he fired upon a crowd of people, she hid under the table. While she knew this wasn’t the smartest decision, it was her only option. However, since the table cloth hid her well and he wasn’t looking in her direction when she went under it, she felt it was a good hiding spot.
The only light under this table came from the small gap between the table cloth and the floor. This allowed her to see the shadows from the people that were running away as sounds of gunfire and screaming plagued her ears. Her heart started to beat so loud that it almost drowned out the noise of the chaos. Then, the man shouted “Sinners!” After hearing that, she could judge that he was less than ten feet away, and he was getting closer.
She tried to control her breathing, which was heavy due to fear. Another shot was fired, followed by a woman screaming. Seconds later, a shadow appeared and stopped right in front of her. A chill went down her spine because she knew it was the shooter. She could see threw the gap his feet, and noticed that each foot had a self-inflicted wound. Catherine assumed that he was such a fanatic that he self-inflicted stigmata on himself as part of some blind religious devotion. He stood in front of her table, and she could hear that he was reloading his weapon. Luckily for her, it appeared he was unaware of her presence. She wanted to scream, so she placed her hand over her mouth to control herself.
“But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me,” he said to himself. His sinister voice brought pure terror throughout Catherine’s body as she struggled to keep herself quiet. All she could do was pray that he wouldn’t find her. This was a nightmare she couldn’t wake up from.
He finished reloading and started shooting again. A group people were heard screaming several yards away, and he ran towards them. For her, there was a slight sigh of relief knowing he was no longer near, but she still wasn’t safe. She decided that if she had the chance to escape, she would do it. So, she listened.
Now, it was eerily quiet in the store, as if death took over it. Seconds felt like hours within this silence of horror. After what felt like an eternity had passed, Catherine heard screaming and gunfire coming from the far end of the store. This was her chance as she believed the gunman was far enough away that she could escape unnoticed. Catherine’s plan was to run with all her energy to the nearest exit and not look back. Wasting no time, she gathered what bravery and adrenaline she had and crawled out from under the table.
Salvation was just a few yards away, but once she crawled out into the open, there was nothing but damnation. Still on all fours, she looked up and saw a gunman pointing his weapon at her. Though this man was dressed like Jesus, his hair was blond, not black, indicating that there was more than one fanatical killer.
“God told me what you said to Mr. Leroux. It’s Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays!” he yelled. His words brought her questions on whether this was fate, divine judgment, or just a coincidence. While this confused her on how he knew what she said early, it didn’t matter in the end. She trembled as she faced her own mortality.
The man aimed the gun directly at her forehead and said, “That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death.” She didn’t want to die as tears fell from her eyes. What followed was the last sound she would ever hear: BANG!
Charles was born and raised in Coventry, Rhode Island, but currently lives in neighboring West Warwick. He graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a BA in English Literature in 2012. Today, he works as a museum tour guide. Additional works of his includes “Hell Hath Come” in Ampersand Literary and “Maiden from the Sea” in “One Night in Salem” from FunDead Publications.
Five Letters To Santa
The great thing about homicide is what it does to retail values. We would never have been able to afford the house if it hadn’t been for the murders; two murders and a suicide to be precise. That put a big dent in the asking price, and Amy haggled it down still further. After all, it’s not everyone that is willing to move into a crime scene. Even then we had to stretch to the limit to afford it. Luckily the banks were still happy to loan out high.
People get so spooked about these things; I mean, why? Do they imagine they’re going to find ghosts haunting the place? The past, in my opinion, is firmly in the past. Ghosts are all just in your imagination, and the one thing I don’t have is much imagination. Amy doesn’t either. She’s like me only more so; practical.
The house was in a bit of a state when we moved in. It looked like it had been rented out as a multiple occupancy unit. There were locks on the bedroom doors, and there were separate fridges with locks on them too. We were going to remodel anyway. We had budgeted for that when we bought the place and got some further discount. But we were going to have to do most of the work ourselves. That’s ok. As I said, I’m practical. We stayed in the basement flat to begin with and got to work. Of course, there was more work than we expected, there always is. First thing to do was to clear out all the trashy, old furniture and fittings. I ripped out the kitchen and threw all the old appliances in a skip. I know you think that I could have got a house clearer in to take the furniture and white goods, but seriously they were not worth anything. We did get some local house clearers round to look at it, but they all wanted money to haul it away. My guess is that whoever inherited the house sold the original furniture and, like I said, set the place up as bedsits.
The house was going to need a new kitchen; the bathrooms needed to be redone, a complete redecoration, rewired, new heating. That was before we could even think about the landscaping. Still, we knew we could make money from it; not least because eventually, people forget about the past. We just had to hold onto it long enough.
We made pretty good progress. We refitted the kitchen, and we got an electrician in to do the first fit on the rewiring, and we got heating done. We’d had to replace some of the doors due to the locks that had been stuck on them, but we managed to keep most of the original features. We even took some of the fireplaces out and had sold them to bring in some extra cash for the work.
I stripped out the fireplace in the back bedroom. It had been boarded up and a heater had been stuck in front of it. I was going to take out the chimney breast and get a bit more room anyway. But it was a nice fire surround and I was pretty sure I could make good money from selling it on to the salvage merchants.
When I pulled out the fire, there were five yellowing envelopes lying in at the back. Amy, who was helping, leaned over and picked them up. The envelopes were all different sizes, but all of them were addressed to Santa Claus. I guess a kid had written then and stuck them in there.
“Cute,” I said. “Let’s read them.”
“I don’t know,” said Amy. “Let’s just bin them with the rest of the rubble.”
“Nah, go on read them,” I insisted.
“Well, alright,” said Amy. And she tore open the first letter. It was written on Mickey Mouse notepaper and scribbled in crayon. The kid must have been about five when he wrote it.
“Dear Santa,” Amy read. “Please make Daddy come home from the hospital. I miss him so much and Mummy is sad because he is not here. She cries a lot and looks worried even though she tries not to.”
“That’s a bit of downer,” said Amy.
“Poor kid,” I said. “I wonder what was wrong with his Dad. I hope things turned out all right. I guess they must have if he wrote more. Let’s read the next one.”
“Alright,” agreed Amy. “I’m not sure which one it is. I guess this one going by the handwriting. That one was on top of the pile so it must be the last so I guess this is next.”
“Dear Santa, Thank you for letting Daddy come home. It’s great to see him, even although I need to keep quiet because he’s not well. Mummy says that he’ll get better and this is for the best. She says that the doctors will fix him and that why he needs his special medicine. I’d like special medicine too. Sometimes I get sad, just like Daddy, although I don’t shout and break things when I feel sad. Mummy hugs me when she feels sad. I wish Daddy would hug Mummy or me. But Mummy says he can’t because he’s so ill. Do you get sad, and does Rudolf give you a hug when you feel bad?”
“This isn’t any better,” said Amy.
“I don’t know; it’s kind of cute. You should give me a hug when I’m sad,” I said.
“I do,” said Amy. That made us laugh.
“Next one,” Amy said, opening the middle letter from the pile.
“Dear Santa, I’m sorry I’ve not been a very good boy this year. I’ve tried to be good but I keep making Daddy mad. He keeps shouting at me. When I make him mad, he hits Mummy and makes her cry. Mummy should go to the doctors but she won’t. She says Daddy is very ill and that if we tell the doctors, then they will take him away again. She says he is ill because the doctors won’t give him enough of his special medicine. When Daddy gets his special medicine, he can be lots of fun. He tells all sorts of funny jokes and things. I know this letter is from me, but can I ask you to give Daddy more special medicine for Christmas.”
“Wow,” said Amy, and put the letter down. “Let’s not read anymore.”
“We can’t stop now,” I said. “I want to hear what happens next.”
“Then you read them,” she said and handed me the two last letters.
“Ok,” I agreed. “But this is not like you.”
I opened the fourth letter. It was written in copperplate handwriting with a fountain pen like a schoolboy. Who knows what age the kid was now; I and guess twelve.
“Dear Santa,” I read. “Thank you for the presents last year. I liked the cowboy suit and the train set very much, although I’m a bit big for them now. Dad took them and sold them. He said that they were too babyish for a boy my age. Dad is well, and so is Mum. They send their best regards. I am doing well at school and working hard. Dad is fine now that he has enough medicine. I help Mum to look after him and clean him up after he’s been sick or fallen asleep on the floor. He has a friend that comes and stays sometimes. She is very nice, although I think Mum does not like her. Sometimes I hear Mum and Dad arguing about her. Mum says that she is a whore. But when I asked the teacher at school what that meant, I got into trouble. Mum cries a lot now, and I have to help her look after the house. I love my Mum and Dad very much. Please help us to be happy this Christmas and keep Dad’s friend away.”
When I finished the letter, Amy took it and screwed it up.
“That’s enough,” she said. But we both knew that we had to read the last letter. I looked at her and took a deep breath. She was shaking her head. But we had to. We owed it to the kid at the very least.
“Alright then,” she said at last, and tore open the envelope with shaking fingers. There was only one line of writing.
“Dear Santa, For Christmas I would like a new bicycle, a new phone and a .22 hand gun. Thanks.”
Like I said; ghosts only exist in your head, and now there was the ghost of an abused, twelve year old kid with a gun that shot his parents and then turned the gun on himself living in my head.
We lost a fortune on that house when we sold it. And of course, Christmas was never the same.
David wrote with big letters. he filled the whole page with just one line of long strokes, swirling loops and tails and dashes. But that was no good; it needed to be small letters, so he wrote in tiny letters that no one else could read. There is no middle way.
You can follow David’s work at: Davidrae-stories.com.
“Brilliant costume!” shouted Steve.
A ‘soldier’ in a red jacket and a tall hat was marching up the street towards them.
“Yeah, brill!” muttered Harry. Their mismatched Santa outfits seemed quite pathetic.
“Hallowe’en all over again…” groaned Bill.
Then, another figure in uniform rounded the corner. And, another. And, another. Dozens, marching in unison.
“Something’s not right,” said Harry.
A man with flashing antlers on his head stumbled out of an alleyway. The nearest soldier swung around and its jaw dropped.
CLACK! Its jaw snapped back up and took the man’s head off.
They were everywhere.
CLACK! CLACK! CLACK!
DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing, was short-listed for the 2015 Carillon ‘Let’s Be Absurd’ Fiction Competition, and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Strangely Funny II, III and IV (all Mystery & Horror LLC), and Irrational Fears (FTB Press), as well as on Cease Cows, The Flash Fiction Press and The WiFiles, and in issues of Tigershark ezine, and also has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor).
You can follow DJ’s work at http://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/.
The Grungle is a critter
That hides in Christmas trees
Its seven eyes are black as coal
Its spiny legs deceive
The Grungle looks like evergreen
It blends with colored lights
It tip-taps on glass ornaments
And lingers through the night
When children come to open gifts
The Grungle plays a trick
Its poison stinger fires out
To make the child sick
The child wakes up in his bed
Away from Christmas cheer
And the Grungle crawls upstairs
To grant the gift of fear
Underneath the child’s skin
The Grungle lays its spawn
That wriggle out by dawn
Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, and adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by Double Feature Magazine, Flame Tree Publishing, Parsec Ink, and more.
The sound of bells wakens me, and my heart instantly fills with joy. I listen as, downstairs, heavy boots move around the house. Do mother and father hear it, too, or is the magic of this moment just mine?
There is a clatter and a grunt—a stifled curse-word I never expected to hear from Santa—and I sit upright in bed, turn to face the door.
This is when I notice the advent calendar hanging there, two doors yet to open, for it is only the twenty-third.
Panic sets in as the boots stomp up the stairs toward me.
Adam Millard is the author of twenty-six novels, twelve novellas, and more than two hundred short stories, which can be found in various collections, magazines, and anthologies. Probably best known for his post-apocalyptic and comedy-horror fiction, Adam also writes fantasy/horror for children, as well as bizarro fiction for several publishers. His work has recently been translated for the German market.
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