WC #21 Weird Xmas Flash Fiction 2019 (Contest Results)

The full text of each story is below the embedded audio player.

2019 Weird Christmas Flash Fiction Winners:

1st place: “Christmas Gran” by Hannah Whiteoak

2nd place: “Hung With Care” by Ian Kopp

Honorable Mention (in no particular order):

  • “The Gifts” – Mary Sheehan
  • “The Tree Eaters” – Douglas Jensen
  • “No Presents for the Naughty” – Faye Brown
  • “Snow Friend of Mine” – John Adams
  • “Santa Claus Lives Forever” – Meredith Morgenstern
  • “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – Ellen Booth
  • “A Weird Christmas Dinner” – Michael Donoghue
  • “Midnight Snack” – MJ Mars
  • “Last Chance” – James Jensen
  • “On One Snowy Christmas Eve…” – Keely Shannon
  • “Advent” – Dan Fields
  • “Kiss M’Ass Day” – Jinge

Please help support the contest, the podcast, and Weird Christmas website by buying a “coffee” (a gift in increments of $3) at Ko-Fi.com (click here). For even more support, please consider joining my Patreon page (click here) where for $2/month, you’ll have access to monthly podcasts throughout the year, videos, and other bonus content like physical postcards mailed throughout the year. With more support, I can offer more and bigger prizes for the contest next year.

Listen to Old Man Freakboy‘s Hey You Kids, GET OFF MY LAWN! and its annual Christmas special for some of the strangest Christmas music you can find. Plus, I’m on this year’s show! (And thanks to Old Man Freakboy for reading one of the stories!)

Bumper music: I’d Still Like to Go to Grandma’s House for Christmas by The Talleys. Also Smokey Mountain Christmas Cumberland Gap.

(2018’s stories are here.)

2019 Weird Christmas Flash Fiction

All stories copyright © 2019 by the authors indicated.

First Prize

Christmas Gran

by Hannah Whiteoak

The best part of Christmas is getting out the Gran. On the first day of advent, Dad climbs into the loft. When he wobbles down the ladder with Gran slung stiffly over his shoulder, the festive feeling sets in.

Mum puts me in charge of decoration. Lucy has too much teenage cool to get involved, and Dad’s put his back out fetching Gran from the loft, so it’s up to me. I make her a tinsel halo and thread baubles through the holes in her ears. They stretch a little more every year.

Gran sits by the fire as relatives come and go throughout December, dropping off presents for Lucy and me. Everyone takes a chocolate from the bowl in her lap and says, ‘Hello Gran, how are you doing?’ She doesn’t answer, of course, just stares with her glass eyes, her smile stretched tight.

Gran was livelier before I was born, but everyone agrees she wasn’t as nice. I imagine her as a bit like Aunt Marjorie, who complains that Mum’s slimy sprouts are undercooked and takes her teeth out at the table to pick them clean. Dad says the taxidermist had to iron Gran’s forehead to get rid of the frown marks. If you look closely, you can still see the burn.

After Christmas dinner, we squish into the living room. There aren’t enough chairs so Lucy and I sit on the floor, next to Gran’s orthopedic shoes. Turkey-stuffed, we’re just about drifting off to sleep when a sprouty stink fills the room. ‘Cor,’ we all say. ‘Who’s that?’ And then someone says, ‘It’s Gran!’ and everyone laughs. Uncle Norman claps her on the shoulder, shaking one of the baubles loose, and says, ‘Mum, you don’t half reek!’

Gran stays with us until Twelfth Night, when we take away the tinsel, sponge the stains from her cardigan, and put her back in the loft. Dad rolls up the ladder and closes the trapdoor. Mum lays out my uniform for the start of a new school term. Gran waits alone in the dark.

Hannah Whiteoak lives and writes in Sheffield, UK. Her work has appeared in Ellipsis Zine, Ember, Microfiction Monday Magazine, and Asymmetry Fiction. She tweets as @hannahwhiteoak. You can read more of her stories at medium.com/@hannahwhiteoak.

Second Prize

Hung with Care

by Ian Kopp

They caught and killed William McLister that winter. After six years of investigation, the bobbies axed down his door, found him standing naked in a circle of blood, laughing. Some of his victims were strewn about, limp and pale on the rough wood floor. Their skulls were cracked; it was known that William bludgeoned his victims to death. Some folks, out in the darkest hours, reported hearing the “thump thump” of his attacks echo through the empty streets.

“Gentlemen, I surrender. May I get dressed before you take me?” He asked as the officers advanced, clubs held high. The sergeant allowed it, under strict supervision. The judge would want him clothed anyways.

A ten-person escort followed him to the far wall, where a three-piece suit hung, clean and pressed. He hummed a carol while he dressed, then presented himself with a flourish. He looked more like a lord than a depraved killer.

“Ah,” he chuckled. “Almost forgot my hat.” He spun on his heel, causing all ten men to flinch, and plucked a silk top hat from the floor, donning it with a wink.
—–
He was hanged on Christmas Eve. The crowd cheered and broke into song. His body was tossed in a wobbly hearse, puffy flesh and purple bruises looking out of place next to the trim suit.

As the cart bounced through cobbled lanes the corpse was tossed about, slamming into the walls. The driver didn’t care. This man deserved rough treatment, even in death.

In the tumult, William’s hat rolled from the hearse into the slush and mud. A group of children spotted it falling. They scurried over, picked it up, brushed it off. It was perfect for their purposes. Giggling, they ran back to the alley where a snowmanawaited their final touches. Standing on shoulders, one youth lifted the silk hat up, past the corncob pipe, above the button nose, and placed it on the snowman’s head.There must have been some vile magic in the hat they found, because that night, William McLister laughed, and the thumpity thump thump began again.

Ian Kopp is a writer of short fiction. He lives in Victoria, British Columbia with his wife – she is a much better writer than him. They also have a dog, who hasn’t written anything yet. That makes Ian the second best writer in the house. For now.

Honorable Mentions

The Gifts

by Mary Sheehan

“I don’t want to!” My voice trembled.

“You must.” Mam whispered. Our eyes met. Hers were wide with fear too.

I took a deep breath and opened the sack. A dozen identical parcels lay within, but I chose mine cautiously. My wrist still smarted from last year’s rash choice.

Mam then picked one and we watched solemnly as the sack of gifts shrank and with a faint pop disappeared back up the chimney. As we carried our gifts to the kitchen table, I could sense my parcel mould itself… to being mine.

Mam carefully un-wrapped hers to reveal a cut crystal bottle of perfume. Now, her eyes widened with pleasure. She dabbed a drop of the golden liquid on her wrist. A deeply unpleasant odour began to stink the air. Mam wrinkled her nose in disgust, but relief that nothing truly bad had happened made her laugh. Later when she’d stopped laughing and was wiping the tears from her eyes, we realised the horrible stench had changed to a delicate floral scent.

It was my turn.

“It won’t be the same as last Christmas Sam.” Mam said softly. I swallowed, it mightn’t be the same… but it could be worse! The black and amber toy I’d got last year, which had buzzed into angry life then stung me before flying up the chimney had been bad, but obviously not as bad as whatever had happened to Dad with his final gift. Mam never would tell me.

I was thinking about that when my parcel suddenly moved.

Fear paralysed me. The movements got wilder and the paper began to tear away from the inside. Sweat broke out all over me, as claws tore a gaping hole in the parcel. Then it became eerily still… expectant.

I thought about how bravely Mam had reacted to her gift, so I leaned forward to peer into the dark hole. A pair of startled green eyes stared back at me.

“Hey Fella!” I coaxed. A black kitten scrambled awkwardly from the wrapping, purring happily.

Now I laughed with relief. We were safe for another year.

Mary Sheehan lives in what’s known as the ‘Sunny South-east’ of Ireland. Only it isn’t, which is good, as the brooding skies, mystic mists and that silence within the rain provides atmosphere for her short stories. She also blames it for her suspicion of obvious sounding place-names and her obsession with the state of the weather.

The Tree Eaters

by Douglas Jensen

It’s Christmas eve and I am alone, chewing a sprig of tinsel in the dark of my office. The home is quiet. The staff are all gone. I’ve remained strong until now, but I know what’s waiting for me in the warm shadows of the television room. I shiver, close my eyes and breath pine.

Mrs. Dennis was the first, her tongue furred green. Mr. Benson came soon after, his gums all bloody and the smell of sap on his breath. One by one the wreaths vanished from the resident’s doors. We found them behind radiators, under piles of laundry. All were stripped bare.

We felt revulsion. Meetings were held, where we chewed pencils and took innumerable cigarette breaks. Cards were banned after we caught Mr. Morton smiling glitter. Everywhere was the sound of bells, the scent of cinnamon, the taste of blood.

One night when I was on watch I saw a line of blinking lights shiver and curl in the dark. I heard wet breathing and the beam of my torch landed on a pair of pale bodies writhing on the sofa. I recognised Mr. Andrews, with a length of glistening cable hanging from his mouth. Each vertebra flashed red in turn.

It spread quickly. I caught a spark of green in the smile of a colleague. Pine needles littered the bathroom floor. I held out, ate broccoli, chewed rosemary. The care manager swallowed six baubles, whole; we found him in the car park, blue faced and smiling.

I thought I was different. But in the end, I knew I would find myself here, walking the narrow corridor to the television room. There is a song in my heart and when I shut my eyes the world is filled with blinking lights. I open them again and there it is; waiting like a nervous bridegroom.

The last tree.

I lean in, gently. Take the trunk between my teeth.

Douglas Jensen is originally from Scotland but now lives and works in Sheffield. He has had prose and poetry published by TSS, Three Drops from a Cauldron, and on the Weird Christmas podcast. He can be found on Twitter @thatdougjensen.

No Presents for the Naughty

Faye Brown

It was 3 o’clock Christmas morning when Carrie awakened. She opened her eyes and lay there, wondering what woke her. Then she heard it, a noise coming from outside. She sat up and started to call for Max, her android housekeeper. She stopped short when a movement outside of her window caught her eye. She went to the window. The floodlights below illuminated her yard and she could see Max walking across the alley and into the Jergens’ yard. Carrie sighed. Max was programmed to serve as housekeeper and protector. He was also programmed not to leave the property.

“Must be a glitch,” she mumbled as she threw on her jeans. She was at the back door pulling on her boots when she heard the screams. It was from the Jergens’ house. Adrenaline pushed her out the door, through the yard and across the alley. She raced into the house and stopped short. Max was standing in the kitchen holding Bill Jergens’ head in his hand. Bill’s body was on the floor surrounded by a pool of blood. The screams were Mrs. Jergens’. Carrie froze. Max turned to her and smiled.

“Hello Carrie,” he said. “What’s wrong?”

“Why?” was all she could manage. Fear made her sweat.

Max looked down at the severed head. “You said that naughty people don’t get Christmas presents, but Santa put gifts under the tree for Bill anyway. I saw them through the window. I came to correct Santa’s mistake and Bill tried to hurt me the way he hurts Evelyn, so I destroyed him.”

Carrie was shocked. She looked over at Evelyn, whose face had changed into…a smile?

Evelyn looked at Max. “Can you destroy him so that there’s no evidence?”

Max nodded. He dropped Bills head on his body and used his incinerator attachment to fry Bill until he was dust.

“I guess I’m going to have a Merry Christmas after all,” Evelyn said, grabbing the broom.

The women nodded silently to each other, and Carrie and Max left. “You’re learning,” she whispered as they walked. Max just smiled at her.

Faye Brown is a Correctional Officer by trade. She loves to write short stories and is currently working on a full length novel. She hopes to one day make a career out of writing.

Snow Friend of Mine

by John Adams

It was a powdery Christmas morning, and all the children worked together to create a dazzling display of snowmen. All the children except little Eloisa Pembershuffle, that is. She huddled by herself, struggling to balance a ball of mucky snow atop two larger balls of mucky snow.

“Look at little Eloisa Pembershuffle’s snowman!” the other children cackled. “It’s lopsided!”

“It has radishes for eyes!”

“It wobbles!”

Proving that last taunt, the snowman’s head slipped right off its body, landing in a dirty thud at tiny Eloisa Pembershuffle’s feet.

“Oh, misery!” the girl cried. “Why must life be so cruel?”

“Purhupsyuh just nud uh bust frund,” a slurred but hearty voice suggested.

Wee Eloisa Pembershuffle looked around for the voice’s owner but only saw much happier children in the distance.“Who said that?”

“Lukduwn,” the voice said.Dainty Eloisa Pembershuffle cautiously lowered her gaze.A radish eye winked up. “Hulluh, luttul Uluwusuh Pumburshufful.”

Teensy Eloisa Pembershuffle released a very un-teensy scream and stumbled backwards. Her foot connected with slippery snow, and she tumbled onto her bottom. The snowman laughed and stuck out a corn-cob tongue. “Curful thur, bust frund!”

“What… what are you?” the girl asked, shakily rising.

“Uh tuld yuh. Uh’m yur bust frund.”

“But you’re a snowman.”

“Dun’ tbuh rude. Nuw, put muh hud buck un muh shuldurs.”

Entranced, teeny Eloisa Pembershuffle did as instructed. This time, the head fit perfectly.

“Huw duh Uh luk?”

“O…. OK, I guess.”

“Gud.” The snowman narrowed its radish eyes.“Wunnu huv sum fun?” Its coal grin tightened.

“I… guess.”

“Wunnu gut uvun wuth thuse jurks?”It pointed a gnarly stick arm at the other children.

Stumpy Eloisa Pembershuffle took in a cold breath. “Yes,” she said on the exhale.

The snowman huffed. Its radish eyes and coal mouth widened in disappointment. “Wull, thut’s just wrung!” it cried. “Thut wus uh tust, und yuf flunked, luttul Uluwusuh Pumburshufful! Uh dun’t wunnuh buh yur bust frund, uftur ull.”

It rolled away on its mucky snowball torso to join the other, much-less-naughty children, leaving tiny, little Eloisa Pembershuffle on her own once again.

John Adams (he/him/his) is a writer, improviser, and producer from Kansas City. He primarily writes the genre he’s coined “inclusive absurdist speculative melodrama” – which means “monsters, aliens, and ridiculously huge emotions.” His fiction has been selected for publication by Dream of Shadows (coming 2020), Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction (coming 2020), Siren’s Call, 101words.org, and The Drabble and shortlisted in The Molotov Cocktail’s 2019 Flash Monster Contest. His plays have been produced by Alphabet Soup (Whim Productions, 2018, 2020) and the 6×10 Play Festival (The Barn Players, 2016) and selected for readings for the Midwest Dramatists Conference (Midwest Dramatists Center, 2017, 2018, 2019). He performs at comicons and comedy festivals across the United States with That’s No Movie, a multi-genre improv team. Web: http://JohnAmusesNoOne.com. Twitter: @JohnAmusesNoOne.

Santa Claus Lives Forever

by Meredith Morgenstern

Santa Claus no longer marked the passage of time. He stayed inside his castle and stopped noticing the change of seasons. A few weeks of sunlight never made a difference anyway.

He grunted and scribbled a name onto the blank scroll. The columns were obsolete. There were no more “Naughty” or “Nice” kids. The list he kept was little more than a futile memorial. The scratching of the quill on parchment echoed through the empty room while his breath puffed out as warm mist in the cold.

Decades ago he noticed his trips had grown shorter.  The elves called it efficiency, but a tally of names from both lists showed a marked decrease each year. Rumors persisted that kids these days no longer believed as much. No more magic in the world, the elves said. Maybe so, Santa thought, but it didn’t explain the world’s growing dimness with each year’s ride.

He hadn’t known that his final ride would be such. The house of the last children on earth had no tree and a dirt floor. The windows were broken. Instead of milk and cookies, the children had left him a precious candle which broke his heart. He left them matches, batteries, and cans of water.

The following year the list came up empty. Santa went out anyway, desperate with hope. He returned to the North Pole hollow-eyed and tear-stained.

Some elves left right away. Where they went, Santa neither knew nor cared. A few remained, for a while. Santa never sent anyone away, but he never asked them to stay. Soon only the reindeer were left. Where else would they go? Santa kept up with their feeding and fresh water as long as he could.

“Blitzen,” Santa wrote with a flourish. He tried to remember which generation this last had been. The twentieth? It didn’t matter. No one was left to read his account of the end of the world. After Blitzen’s name he wrote, simply, “The Last.” Santa rolled up the scroll, walked out of his dusty workshop and stepped into the North Pole’s frozen and eternal night.

Meredith Morgenstern is a space princess, second-generation geek, and voracious reader. She loves knitting, hates driving, and her Patronus is a dragon holding a glass of wine. Meredith is a member of HWA, a first reader for Tales to Terrify podcast, and has been published in ELECTRIC SPEC, TALES TO TERRIFY, STAR SHIP SOFA, and GRIEVOUS ANGEL, among others. Her preferred pronouns are she/her/Mrs. Dameron. She lives with her children in New Jersey in a house that’s probably haunted. Follow her on Twitter at @MLMorgenstern.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

by Ellen Booth

The first thing I experienced was the feeling of cold. All crowded together, the ground beneath us covered in a cold white layer. Stood side by side, contained within a metal fence. That was our home and that was where we grew. The axe came after we had grown fully. At first it was just a few who were cut down and taken away, then he came back for the rest of us. A short, angry man with arms wide and veiny. The chop did not hurt as much as I thought it would, it was one quick swipe and then I fell to the floor. He dragged up by our stumps one by one, and took us to a new place that I did not know. He piled us on top of each other and then stood us up, separated, but still surrounded by fences. That was when they began to arrive. 

They would walk in groups, huddled together to protect from the cold air. They would stop, look at us and burrow their brows, then they would usually say something, the others would murmur in agreement, and they would move on. This went on for days. Nights spent alone and cold, and days spent stood on display. Passed up by all, until it happened. 

She was a very small human, barely reaching the bottom of my pines, but still she stood there. Defiant to everything and everyone, gazing up towards me, taking in my entire splendour. With a giant smile upon her face she ran away and returned with the taller, older members of her flock and began to babble to them. And that was it, I was fastened to the top of a strange machine, and taken to a tall building. I was brought inside, and stood in the corner of the room, with sparkling objects and gems placed all over me. 

I’m no longer alone, they often sit in the room with me, and I am no longer cold, the room is warm and cosy. I quite like it here. I hope I can stay.

Follow Ellen Booth on Instagram at @ellen_booth97.

A Weird Christmas Dinner

by Michael Donoghue

Watching his severed leg roasting on an open fire, Rudolph felt unease about how much his mouth watered.

“Dark or light meat?” Santa brandied a sliver of former sleigh wood.

“I don’t see why I can’t have the whole thing.” Rudolph scraped his antlers against the permafrosted tundra. “It’s my leg after all.”

 Santa frowned. “Now, now, we’re all in this together.” He wagged his finger. “Be nice, not naughty.”

Rudolph knew if the crash hadn’t severed his back legs he’d get up right now and skewer that judgmental fat fuck. Santa claimed his glasses fell off and caused the accident. Rudolph snorted at that fairy tale. He’d smelt the rum on Santa’s breath. “Only eggnog,” right.

In his fucking annoying jolly voice Santa said, “Aren’t the Northern Lights luminous tonight. Ho-ho-ho! Makes you happy to be alive.”

Shivering, Rudolph avoided looking at the large pile of reindeer skeletons. At least they’d died quickish without having to endure Santa’s tyranny of unreasonable joyfulness.

“Miss Claus will find us soon. The search party won’t give up hope and neither should we!”

Rudolph was too tired, hungry, cold, and worried to listen. The candy canes and mistletoe had run out after day six. Then they’d consumed the flesh of other dead reindeer. Santa called it “gamey venison.” Rudolph called “cannibalism.”

Rudolph severed legs were last. He knew this was the end. Of both the meat and wood. Now the race to death would be between starvation or freezing.

“Why, any moment now we’ll see Frosty over that hill with his big friendly wave,” Santa gave an exaggerated impression. “What do you think of that Rudy?” Santa slapped his hands upon his belly, and, just then, Rudolph saw a brown fleck shoot out of the felt pocket.

Rudolph didn’t smell a rat. He smelled ginger. From a gingerbread cookie. Santa should have been skin and bone, like him, but St. Nick still looked corpulent. The big man had been holding out.

Rudolph dragged his antlers across the ground to hone their edges before calling out, “Hey, Santa! I found your glasses over here.”

Michael Donoghue mostly lives in his head, but resides in Vancouver, Canada. Michael works in public health, where he spends much of his time preoccupied with hand washing. Follow him on Twitter at @mpdonoghue.

Midnight Snack

by MJ Mars

Billy yanked his hand back as his Grandma let fly with the rolling pin, and he narrowly avoided a floury rap on the knuckles.

“Leave the carrot alone!” she chastised. “It’s for the reindeer. If they don’t get the carrots they don’t have enough strength to deliver the presents.”

The six-year-old scowled. He loved carrots. They were his favourite snack in the whole world. He glanced over at the presents lined up under the Christmas tree, then back to the dish that contained one mince pie and one shiny carrot. He wanted it more than anything that was wrapped and waiting for him the following morning.

He waited until the house fell silent and Grandma’s snores filtered through the wall before sneaking downstairs. He snatched the carrot and crunched, feeling a burst of guilty glee as he swallowed the sweet orange flesh. Giggling, he rushed back up to bed, his Christmas already made.

He woke up to find his room still dark. He must have been sleeping on his nose, he realised. It throbbed, red hot heat emanating from the tip.

Something tugged his ankle andhe landed in a heap on the floor, then yelped as he was dragged across the room to the window. He felt the icy breeze of the open pane as tiny unseen hands lifted him, bundling him outonto the roof.

Shivering, Billy looked down at his arms in horror. They were covered in fur. His fingers had welded together and grown hoof-like, and his nose still burned. To his left areindeer laydead, crumpled in an emaciated heap. Ten tiny elves mourned over the body, then turned to Billy with furious snarling. Billy tried to scream as the elves rushed forward with a leather harness and clipped him unceremoniously to a heavy weight behind him. The straps cut into his back, and as a deep voice yelled for him to fly, lashing a whip against his mane, he glanced in terror at the other reindeer galloping beside him.

Its eyes were as blue and as human as his were.

MJ Mars has featured in numerous publications, including Silver Empire’s Secret Stairs Anthology, which was number one in the Amazon Horror chart for six weeks. She has also appeared in the No Sleep Podcast, and in horror compilations from Lycan Valley, Colors in Darkness, The Stringybark Prize, Momaya, Write France, and Cazart. She will also feature in Dark Peninsula’s upcoming Negative Space survival horror anthology. She lives in Lancaster, UK, where she regularly takes inspiration from the gruesome history of the city! Follow her on
Instagram: @mjmarsauthor, Twitter: @Chelle8854, or her blog: mjmarsauthor.wordpress.com
.

Last Chance

by James Jensen

“Let me be clear. This request comes straight from the top. The very top.” 

A hand raised, points ticked off one by one. 

“The Director has the utmost respect for your continued service, and is personally grateful for both your dedication and the transcendent results you have been able to achieve year after year.

“The Director also acknowledges that your success rate has been exemplary, close to near perfect, almost without exception.

“Additionally, the Director is fully aware that by the terms of your respective offices, you are not now, have not been, nor shall you ever be held accountable for neither the successes nor the failures of your missions. You are the guides; their free will remains their own. 

“The Director further acknowledges that if you do choose to take on this abrupt change of mission, succeed or fail, you’ll be doing everything possible to pave the way for his redemption.

“Finally, the Director has made every resource available for your disposal, without limit, beginning now.”

The most significant of pauses, total attention demanded from one, complete focus given by three. 

“Because of all that stands to be gained from your undertaking, the Director will not command, but begs you—begs you!—to do your very best, your utmost, as you have never done before!” The voice lowered, sad, yet resolute: “Because if his atonement does not take hold, his case will immediately move to the Office Of Finality.”

Three reactions of shock, three countenances firming into a mixture of resolve, determination, and hope.

“As the Director’s intermediary to you and your esteemed positions, I officially ask — nay, I implore — that for this year, this season, this very night, do you accept this change of assignment?”

“Yes,” the Ghost Of Christmas Past agreed firmly.

“Aye!” declared the Ghost Of Christmas Present.

The Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come nodded slowly and deeply.

“Then go forth! For now is your time, and the President is asleep.”

Bio forthcoming.

On One Snowy Christmas Eve…

by Keely Shannon

Sarah shot the zombie that was lurching towards her in the head.

These things are getting faster, she thought, moving away from the body that lay centimetres from her, looking around for more danger in the abandoned shopping centre.

She scowled at the shop she found herself in.

Action figures, teddy bears and all manner of other toys lined the shop’s shelves, placed carefully as if someone was still responsible for ensuring the place looked presentable.

This is going to be fun, she thought.

Sarah let loose, punching and kicking boxes off shelves. She flew around the shop, wrecking everything she could.

She would never have heard the three children come careening into the store over the racket of her destruction had one of them not desperately screamed at her, “STOP DESTROYING THE TOYS!”

Sarah paused, breathing heavily.

It was a maybe 11-year-old boy who’d spoken; pale, shaking, with a machete gripped hard in both hands.

Next to him was a younger boy, sobbing, who said between hiccupped breaths, “She – she broke all the . . . the Legos you said I could have for Christmas.”

 “It’s okay,” a girl reassured. “Santa’s still going to come.”

 Sarah snorted. “Oh, he’s coming alright.”

That’s when the kids properly paid attention to her. Confusion passed across their faces and then the youngest child’s eyes widened.

“Mrs. Claus,” he gasped. How did these blasted children always recognise her? She felt like the universe must have been laughing when it endowed her with incredible superhuman powers and immortality, then also made her recognisable only as someone else’s wife.

And then, blessedly, she heard faint sounds of gargling and scraping and running.

The kids heard the sounds too and exchanged glances. With a lingering look at Sarah, the boy with the machete led them to the back of the store and through the door.

The kids may hate her, so be it. Mr Claus made them their sacred toys, but she was giving them what they really needed: rest, safety, a chance at something of a life.

She stepped forwards and started shooting.

Keely is a nerdy 22-year-old copyeditor living in the UK. She likes reading, writing, playing D&D, long walks on the beach, and playing board games. At any hour of the day she can be found sipping tea and typing furiously at her laptop.

Advent

by Dan Fields

Teague turned from the sensor port. “Orders to arm?”

Esparza blinked wearily. “Negative. Safeties on, pending final triangulation.”

Lieutenant Teague and Commander Esparza had earned their respective places onboard, although one specialized in gravless flight tactics and the other in apocryphal gospels. Locating and even reaching the correct star had been fairly simple once the proper assortment of physicists, theologians, astrologers and engineers could be coaxed into sharing notes in service of the common objective. Tracking relative visibility on habitable planetoids was trickier. To determine where its guiding radiance now focused would have been next to impossible but for the confirming appearance of the freighters – one, two… the third with her decreasing orbit listing a speck toward eccentricity. Some property, atomic or otherwise, of the gold it carried interfered with the ship’s navigational precision in a way that the fragrant wood-based compounds filling her sister vessels did not.

“I saw three ships,” Esparza muttered. No need for cargo scans. The evolution of their sect had not made the Magi any less predictable in their pilgrimage rites, whatever fresh messiah they’d been summoned to exalt for the present cycle of millennia.

“They made it,” Teague whispered, still half-credulous.

“So did we,” Esparza sighed, both confirming and dismissing any miracle.

Timing had been everything, concerns about escaping homeworld orbit amid storming pandemonium now academic. A moon of blood and a sun gone black as sackcloth had taken all attention off the launch of a single rogue spacecraft. The rupture of the final seal had been the last audible transmission on the control frequency.

What had befallen the homeworld, once witnessed, could not be suffered to happen again. Only eradication of its beginning, their mission data indicated, could forestall another such ending. Esparza ordered safeties away, relayed by Teague. Low-frequency sonic disturbance vibrated the atmosphere rising to meet them.  “Be not afraid,” it might have signified to all life below; indeed, there was no time left for fear. Laden with a cataclysmic fourth gift for whatever undulated toward the appointed coordinates of a new Bethlehem, the destroyer Herod 9 descended.

Dan Fields graduated from Northwestern University in 2006.  He has recently published fiction with Sanitarium Magazine, Tell-Tale Press, Harbinger Press, Jolly Horror Press and Hellbound Books.  He lives in Houston, Texas, with his wife and children. See more at www.danfieldswrites.com.

Kiss M’Ass Day

by Jinge

Word had gone out for every biker to stand and be counted at the protest rally. Ol’ Joe had been in two minds about it, but Marie had insisted they go even though she was pregnant.

There was no room left at the campsite, but when Marie’s waters burst, The Animals MC let them use their club tent as a stable place for the birth. She was callin’ him all the bastards under the sun. As God’s my witness, thought Ol’ Joe, I’m the innocent one here. It was some Angel knocked her up, before disappearin’ to Heaven knows where.

As mother an’ child lay in sweet repose, Ol’ Joe nipped out for a smoke, “Oh God, my pouch’s empty – it’d take a miracle to score any now.”

A torch-light bounced along the ground an’ settled on the tent. Three bikers were approaching and one of them asked, “Heard about the big event an’ wondered if ya needed anything?”

“Yeah – sure could use a smoke right now.”

He smiled an’ pressed a pouch of Gold Brand into Joe’s hand.

Ol’ Joe clocked their backpatches announcing they were Kings of the Road MC, East coast chapter. Another of the kings asked, “Fancy some frankfurters?”

Catchin’ Ol’ Joe’s nod, he set the dogs bubblin’ on a portable stove.

The third King winked an’ gave him a block of resin. Ol’ Joe breathed in its heady incense and said, “Thanks man that should ease Marie’s pain some.”

Some shepherds came along for a look-see. “For Heaven’s sake, what the hell do they want?” he asked one o’ the Kings.

He said, “It’s most likely word spreadin’ about the special day.”

“Yeah?” Said Ol’ Joe, “Well tell ‘em it’s KISS-M’ASS-DAY.”

Hearin’ the commotion. Marie put in an appearance an’ he‘d visions of her givin’ him a sermon. “Come on Joe – don’t be cross. It’s a miracle the baby hasn’t woken up.”

Aye, an’ you watch that halo doesn’t slip an’ choke ya, he thought.

“Anyway,” she said, “what’ll we call him?”

Ol’ Joe shook his head, “Jesus Christ, Marie – I don’t know.”

Jinge was a technical author, who retired due to hypergraphia. He hails from Largs in Scotland, where he’d a spell as a voluntary Adult Literacy Tutor. The British biker press used some of his work before the freelance market dried up. As a member of the Largs Writers Group, he’s won prizes and given talks about writing and run workshops. Along with writing for their newsletter, the local press and a regular column in Writers’ Umbrella magazine, he’s had stuff published in some anthologies and Pen Ultimate magazine which also ran his horror serial.

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