Collaborative Writing 
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Festive Frights
Story Excerpts

Crystal M M Burton - Julbocken

Madeline was afraid. 


She had woken in the middle of the night to the tinkling of bells on the roof. Her excited curiosity had faded quickly as sounds of snorts and growls coursed through the house. There was a soft crash, followed by a succession of muffled bangs, then what seemed to be loud, rapid gulping. 


She thought of her father's tales of the frightening demon of midwinter; her imagination began toiling with bright red eyes, twisted horns, hooves, and sharp, bloodstained teeth. Shivering, she pulled her wool blanket up over her face leaving only her eyes exposed to peer through the darkness. 


There is nothing to fear, she repeated in her mind. The soft glow of the fireplace emanated through the crack beneath her door. She was grateful for any light it could offer, until a shadow crept across the brightness, stopping directly in front of her doorway. The handle creaked as it turned, the hinges groaned, and the door slowly swung open. 


Madeline's eyes broadened as wide as they would go. The silhouette before her was more alarming than anything she had imagined. She slid the edge of her blanket upwards as slowly as she dared to move, until it covered her entire head. The heavy footfalls of the terrifying beast grew steadily louder. She was sure the horrible demon was upon her. The room fell deathly silent, and she wondered if anything was there at all. She cautiously lowered the blanket, coming face to face with a thick, brown snout. Heavy, pungent breath threatened to suffocate her, and she opened her mouth to scream.

Kevin Grover - Our House

I am walking down the hallway, moving from room to room. The voices of past families chatter away as I make my nightly rounds, checking the windows are closed, the doors locked. Don't want anyone getting in, but there's a part of me that doesn't want anyone getting out. My wife is waiting upstairs for me in bed, angry at my obsessive behaviour. It's about being safe, keeping the world out because it's dangerous. Am I a bad person because I want to keep my family safe? We have two daughters and I'll look in on them one more time, just a peek through the crack in their bedroom door. But first my checks, ending in the front door where I'll slide the heavy bolt across, double lock the door. When I do this and hear the click of the key turn within the barrel, I sigh with relief and feel some of the tension leave me. 


It's coming up to midnight on christmas. Somewhere I hear a clock chiming, one of those old pendulum swinging clocks this house once had. When I close my eyes and rest my head against the plasterboard walls, I can hear it all. I hear laughter of children from long ago, their thumping footfalls running around. There are parties and celebrations and I can hear We Wish You a Merry Christmas sung by at least five different families across several decades.  All united here in this house that I have now come to possess. The joy I sense lifts me up and I want to burst into fits of happy laughter. Without realising, I find I am screaming with laughter, verging on the hysterical. My stomach hurts from laughing, my breath almost gone. I suck in some air and I’m laughing again, but at some point I realise the laughter has turned to tears. Look at me, I’m crying on christmas. Is there anything sadder?

 

Yes. There’s the blood covering the snow outside, a red christmas instead of a white one. Is that an echo of the past or is it something from the future? I shudder, thinking of my family, the ones so dear to me that I want to protect on christmas day. But they’ve been naughty this Christmas and Santa doesn’t like naughtiness. 

AJ Millen - Seasons Greetings

Crumb approached the armchair facing the now cold fireplace, and looked down. In it sat a man in his 80s, wearing a checked flannel shirt, knitted tie and thick jumper vest. His thinning grey hair was slicked back against his parchment thin scalp, stray white hairs jutted out wildly from his eyebrows, his skin stretched across closed eyelids and gaunt cheekbones. His ankles were tied to the legs of the chair, wrists firmly bound in his lap, and something was stuffed tight into his mouth. He was dead. Very, very dead. And it didn’t look like he’d gone peacefully.


“Poor old bugger must have choked on whatever the evil bastards shoved down his throat to keep him quiet,” said Jo from Forensics, taking a large pair of tweezers and carefully drawing the make-shift gag from between the victim’s lips. “See those broken veins, and the bluish tinge to his skin? Tell-tale signs. Asphyxiation…  what the hell?”


Her eyebrows shot up as she carefully pulled the gag out to reveal a length of brightly-coloured fabric with the name ‘Jake’ written in glitter above a cheery appliqued snowman. A Christmas stocking – probably intended for one of the grandchildren he’d be expecting to visit in the coming week.


“Funny thing is,” she continued “although obviously some sadistic git did this to the poor old sod, there’s no sign of a break-in. All the doors and windows were locked from the inside. Nothing missing either – not even the box of fifties our boys found stashed at the back of his kitchen cupboard.”

Virginia Carraway Stark - A Very Marduk Christmas Carol

“He had tentacles coming out between the mouths and he tried to use the tentacles to grab me and pull me into his mouths. Some of the tentacles were pale, like bugs under a rock and others were dark purple like an octopus. He oozed slime and everything the slime touched corroded. I had to replace the entire rug in my living room,” he added contemplatively.


Lucy opened her mouth to ask her favorite Uncle why he had such a monster in his living room but Howard continued before she had a chance, “As scary looking as the monster was, it wasn't his physical appearance that was so scary. It was the feel of him. He had tentacles of the mind as well as of the flesh and with those, he would try to get inside my head, try to make me have all the worst thoughts a human being can have.”


Howard, for a moment, forgot that it was children that he was talking to as he was so wrapped up in his reverie of the monster he had accidentally summoned one dark night, “They are there all the time, the sea of monsters. We can rarely see them, but they see us. They get into our heads and bring out the worst in us. Every grievance we have ever had they turn into a festering wound and they make us want to do horrible things.”


He shook it off and looked Lucy in the eye, “Is that enough credibility for you, Lucy? Can I go on to tell you about Marduk now?”

Sharon Flood - Derailed Christmas

“Hazel, I need the police and and an ambulance at my place immediately!” she screamed into the receiver.


Hazel Dean the telephone operator in our area lived only three doors down, and she knew Mom well, so there was no need to give an address. Besides that, Anthony Milton was a big shot in the pallet factory he worked at by that time in 1938, so everybody knew him. He was the boss of a lot of the men who lived around there. Mom wrapped me up in a blanket and put me on the front porch swing in full view of the neighbours to wait for the ambulance. She went upstairs to get Joey out of his crib. He was only two at the time. Milton ran to the bathroom downstairs to soak bath towels in cold water, but when he saw Mom come down the stairs with Joey, he ran out to the stairway to stop her. His face was raw, blistered and peeling, so the towels were only wrapped loosely around his head. Blood and scalded skin oozed from third degree grease burns on his face. He was a screamin' blasphemin' freak show!

Kathrin Hutson - The Holiday Box

The lights were small out here, spotting the one-lane street like the back of a giant leopard. Ten o’clock on a Thursday night in any other town might have been busier. He wasn’t used to small; he wasn’t used to rural. Something floated in the darkness between the street lights, threatening much more forcefully the possibility of getting caught. Brick alleys and red-lit hallways might not hide him this time.


A neon billboard shone at the limit of his vision. Green, blue, and red, a nauseating combination amid the cool night air and the open fields. The sign grew closer, huge letters crawling forward, a brightly lit shell on a stick of a snail. Frowning, he pushed further on the accelerator as the wording came into view. 


Celebrate Jesus.


“Celebrate” in an intricate font, “Jesus” exploding across the board like the second coming would take place right there. A landing beacon for Christ’s mothership.  His foot eased as relative darkness enveloped him again, pushing the landmark behind.


Celebrate Jesus? Jesus had never celebrated him. Even beyond middle-age, what did he have to show for it? A broken truck, stolen money, and no one in the world he could call.

Alex Benitez - I'll Make it Next Christmas

I sighed and pressed my head against the giant pane of glass. I had just missed it by a sliver; it was right there just gradually rolling away from the gate. It crawled across me as its first turbines kicked on. I was watching my final chance for a nice Christmas literally roll away. I knew next was the dreaded call to Lisa to tell her I'm missing the party.


A blinding light flashed from the plane and the wing was engulfed in flames. The explosion sounded like a mighty thunder clap and sent a shockwave throughout the airport. Everyone stood there in silence for a moment as the horror of the explosion sunk into their heads. Emergency vehicles and fire trucks rode up to the blaze salvaging what they could from the side of the plane. The plane's emergency door was blown in, completely crushing the unoccupied seat by the wing. It was the seat that I was supposed to be in that was flattened.


As my near death experience basted in my brain, I could hear two flight attendants having a discussion behind me.


"I can't believe this happened again." One of them said.


"Again?" The other questioned.


"Yes, a few years back, one of the engines exploded on a jet for some kind of wiring issues. It was the same model and also a flight 651. I thought they'd have addressed that issue. Poor girl."

Jason Pere - Secret Santa

I watch you like I always do. You are the same, perfect just as you were the day before. The fresh white Christmas season snow falling catches in your hair and forms an argent halo to match your angelic beauty. You hold your long brown coat tighter over your chest as you walk down the street. You must be so cold, how I wish you would let me warm you on a freezing night like this. I could keep the cold from you, if you would only let me. Oh, why don’t you let me keep you warm? You adjust your purse as you enter the store, checking your pocket book the same way you did before you left from your work at exactly five thirty-five tonight. Nothing could have changed in your frigid walk from  the office to the department store but you always like to be sure and double check yourself. That is one of the things that makes you so wonderful, how mindful you can be. It is not the greatest thing about you that is still your beautiful face. 


You do not see me as I slip into the department store behind you. You are speaking with the clerk at the fragrance counter. I make sure you don’t notice me by keeping myself next to the men’s wristwatch display around the corner. The polished silver bulbs hanging on the department store’s Christmas tree catch your reflection and let me know where you are. They help me watch over you while you shop without giving myself away. I can’t let you see me, not yet. 

Laura Callender - Christmas Returns to Koptas

Astor watched year after year, masking the smile he wanted to show for Frictous’ work on Earth. With no one stepping in to fuel Koptas, the only hope they had was to being Frictous back, even against his will, in order to give life to their dying planet.


Frictous really should be commended for his work on Earth, his holiday tradition of delivering gifts united a broken population. Each year, the holiday became more exuberant and fun, and people started to share the joy they felt, forgetting how bleak life was before. Their ways became more selfish and Frictous started to feel his gift of giving had started to bring the worst out of humans. His frustrations were intensified by the loneliness he felt. Even after 200 years, he missed Magenta so much.


Astor could see he had fallen into a sullen state. His depression is what caused the elders to decide it was time to strike. They wanted to catch him at his weakest, and when Astor reported this to the council, it was with a heavy heart, as he knew what was coming. Teegan rolled in the sand, stretching out his heavy limbs whilst twisting his body to rest his head next to Astor. Although Teegan was a big, strong creature, he was a softie, and acted like a cute puppy at times to amuse Astor.


“Are you ready for this? I heard the journey to Earth is not fun. You think you can handle the transition?” Teegan curled his body pushing to an upright seated position. He stretched his neck long and proud, showing Astor his valor.


“Well, tomorrow is the big day! We meet at the ravine at noon. Apparently there is a brief about how things will go. I heard whispers of a secret weapon too. I hope they go easy on him.” Teegan grunted. That was all the comfort Astor needed.

Rachel Fox - Keep the Home Fires Burning

The snow formed little drifts on the pavement. Archie smiled to himself; snow for Christmas. If Sally were here they’d be in the garden making a snowman by now. As he trudged forward through the snowflakes he had the strong sense of being followed. Stopping, he turned around to survey the street but there was nothing and no-one there, just the snow falling silently around him.  Carrying on he tried to ignore it but the sense of being watched overwhelmed him again and this time when he stopped, he thought he heard a whisper. He whipped around but the street was empty but for the shadows thrown by the trees. A siren started up, it seems close. He stood in the snow waiting for it to turn the corner but as soon as it approached it seems to stop and become nothing more than an echo. The night was playing tricks on him. He pulled his cap down over his eyes, so he could only see his feet in front of him, and forced himself onward the grocers shop.


He’d known Mrs Jones since he was a child. She’d always run the grocers and he remembered her giving him a toffee or a square of chocolate when his mum would shop there. He remembered getting a clip round the ear for stealing an apple once too. The thought made him laugh as he dropped a postcard through her letter box.

 

“Is that you Archie Pratt?” A head poked out of an upstairs window.


“It’s me Mrs Jones.”


“Wait there.”


He rubbed his hands together from the cold and did as he was told. No-one argued with Mrs Jones.

Robert Mackey - Dammed for Chrisrmas

It seemed like only minutes before Jason was awakened by a high pitched scream. He sat bolt upright in bed as the sound of his wife’s scream of Kimmy…no! sent him flying out of the bed towards the bedroom door.


Still fully dressed Jason took the sweeping staircase three steps at a time. Running across the foyer the screams continued. Jason burst through the front door, across the porch and down the steps into the drive. He looked at the great fir tree. All of the ornaments were human skulls, their empty eye sockets glowing red from the tree’s lights. There were other assorted human bones hanging precariously from the trees branches. Jason heard pounding hooves and turned to see a skinned bison heading right for him. Jason had no time to react. 


The bison spun Jason around as it charged past leaving him staring back at the house. The red lights that earlier had made him think of blood were now literally streams of blood that were overflowing the rain gutters and running down the walls of the house. The strings of lights were whipping about in the air as if in a tornado. One of the strings caught him in the neck drawing blood.


Art work by Izzy Ehnes  see her cartoons at 

www.BestMedicineCartoon.com

Tony Stark - The Wild Hunt

It roared over his head like a demon from Hell with wings that sluiced up slipstreams of sparkling snow in curving spirals of mystery. Erik raised his head to look, but saw nothing, just an arcing wave of snowdust in the sky above his head, shining like the moon itself. He turned in a staggering circle, eyes dazzled by the growing illumination given by the moon's light. The snow, powdered by days of still, high skies, was fine as bonemeal; it rose in billowing streams around him and curled over his head in ivory arcs and eddies, crossing and recrossing tendrils like the borders of the blankets his mother had decorated and the Abbot had ordered burned. Like the edges of a manuscript that Erik had illuminated for the Abbot, with the words of God inside its margins.


The wind swept those words away; the snow scraped the letters off the sheepskin. Erik's head was reeling as the snow's breath wiped the work of years from his mind. He raised his hand vaguely, a futile attempt at grasping all the hard, disfiguring effort he had put into this version of himself. The wind carelessly unravelled the rag Erik had wrapped around his hand, carried it up in a haunted spiral far, far above his head. He watched it spin, powerless to move, powerless to lower the hand with fingers freezing in the biting gale. It disappeared in the infinite blackness of the night.


Then came the roar.

R. L. Daman - The Nameless

A creature unlike anything I have ever witnessed stood at the entrance to my study. It was tall, malnourished, and lanky. Somehow, it moved despite its atrophied existence. Its skin was black as tar. Segments of it glowed a dark blue near the gray ridges of its skin. Its head, shaped like a crocodile's, was disproportionately larger than its body. Its needle-like teeth were large and pronounced. The lantern light glistened off its wet metallic incisors.

M W King - Nightmare on the Shelf

“Jeremy…” he heard an eerie rasping voice whispering.


After his eyes adjusted to the dark, Jeremy realized his door was cracked open. He sat up in bed, his heart racing, as he heard the voice call out to him again. Although he was scared, he wanted to know who was calling him. He slipped out of bed and went to his door, slowly opening it.


“Mommy?” he said, looking down the hallway.


“Jeremy…” The voice seemed to be coming from his parents’ bedroom.

 

Jeremy quietly tiptoed down the hallway. “Daddy?” he called out, a little louder.


The whispering voice called out again; Jeremy was definitely getting closer. He stood outside of his parents’ bedroom, leaning closer to the door to listen.


“Jeremy…” 


He pushed the door open a few more inches so he could squeeze through the doorway without opening it all the way. The voice had come from where his mother’s dresser was. He quietly crept over and waited for the voice.When he heard it again, he knew it was coming from the bottom drawer.


Opening the drawer, he realized that Rudolph was laying atop his mother’s clothes. His whole body was shaking as he reached down and picked up the doll. As he held the doll in front of his face, his eyebrows furrowed with fear and he stared at the doll waiting for it to speak.


All at once, the doll’s face became animated with a sinister smile and its hands sprung up, grabbing Jeremy’s cheeks as it cried, “Why don’t you want to play with me?”

Kaylee Kosakowski - Snowmonster

With each year that had continued to pass until now, it had only grown stronger. Initially, Sam had tried to fight off the foreign feeling. He hated the strange irritation he felt whenever Leah’s parents would call her in for the night, or when her friends would say, “let’s play at my house.” What had originally been a small flicker of annoyance had morphed into a possessiveness so innate that he had forgotten what it was like to just innocently be friends.


Leah was his.


And he would have her.


So he had started to make her, his.

Eleftheria Crysochoou - Snowman

Gradually at first then more intensely, small clouds of flakes rose from the ground, turned into small whirlwinds and twisted in the air. Nobody was there to see how they all became one large body of snow and settled on a particular place on the ground, creating a large snowball. Within seconds, two smaller snowballs had formed on top of the first one in the same manner. When the last snowflake rested on top of the smallest snowball, the snowman was complete.

Robert Padan - The Hitchhiker

Even in the dark the truck driver could see for miles over the flat agricultural land. In the distance he knew the road improved and was paved, and he knew there was a traffic light ahead in the East where this road crossed Krome Avenue, on its way to the Florida Turnpike, from which he would head for points north. As he looked ahead for the crossroads he not only saw the traffic light as it cycled from green to yellow and red, but also the flashing blue and red lights from emergency vehicles. Long before he reached the intersection the lights pulled away to the East and disappeared. Minutes passed, when he reached the intersection he saw a hitchhiker holding a cardboard placard with a dollar sign on it. The truck driver was unaccustomed to picking up hitchhikers in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night but the dollar sign got his attention, and in the trucks lights the guy looked decent enough, work boots,  clean blue jeans, white shirt, haircut, clean shaven, young looking and all that. He rolled down his window and asked the hitchhiker, “What’s up?”


“I’m headed north; I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you stop in Fort Pierce, and I’ve got a Commercial License if you need help driving.”


The truck driver was eager and could always use some extra money as well as someone to help drive on the long run, so he wouldn’t have to cheat on his logbooks, but cautiously asked. “How far are you going?”


“As far as you can take me, but I’m sorry I can’t pay you now, so if you’ll stop in Fort Pierce I will make sure you get your cash if we can stop at one of the Truck Stops, if that’s Ok with you?”

Chris Broom - Let it Sleep

Drip…drip….drip….drip…


I moved my toes against the hard floor and felt a slickness of liquid beneath my skin.  I stretched my feet to reach the dry portion of the floor again but wherever my feet went the liquid followed. I tried in vain to ignore it, to resume my much needed rest for my body was sore and my head was heavy. Inhaling sharply I smelled copper; it was as if someone had stuck a bowl of old pennies under my nose.  


I heard my little girl make a splashing noise then gurgle softly, oh how she loved to splash in the bath tub! A loud scream echoed throughout the house. It was distinct and I knew the voice the scream belonged to. My wife’s voice; my beautiful bride of seventeen years. Her voice was that of angels singing and when she screamed it reminded me of a powerful chorus. 


“Calm yourself my dear.”  A smile found its way to my lips as I heard her voice. “You don’t want to disturb our little one.”  At that moment I knew my rest was over. There was work to do.  


I found her in the bathroom kneeling beside the tub. Water had seeped over the top rim and had pooled near the toilet.

Charlotte Rose Lange - The Holiday Butcher

“Promise you’ll be home in time for presents.”


“I’ll do what I can,” he said. Mr. Cranston never meant to break promises to his wife, but he had noticed the negative trend, and so stopped promising. 


“Harry was too young last Christmas, but he’ll remember this time.”


Mr. Cranston stretched and cracked his jaw, relieving the usual tension of his wife playing the “don’t neglect our children” card. His own father had spent more time at the plant than at home, but as an adult Mr. Cranston now respected his father for that, and expected his own children would come to the same conclusion. 


“The city comes first.” 


On their wedding day, a month before a faintly mustached real estate agent showed them the two story on New Cherry, Mr. Cranston vowed his wife would be first in his heart even when he wasn’t there in person, and Mrs. Cranston vowed to believe him. Both had faltered in this over the years, but vows are only words in the end. 


“You aren’t a super hero. You’re an FBI agent who hasn’t spent a holiday with his family since Easter.”


The table settings, perfectly aligned silverware an autumn leaf table runner twelve carving knives, surrounding the Holiday Butcher’s latest victim, Bobby Donahue, age 12, flashed in his peripheral vision. 


“I’m not about to let somebody else’s family get slaughtered by that maniac.”