A Christmas Horror Short Story
CONTENT WARNING: CONTAINS SOME GRAPHIC IMAGERY AND LANGUAGE.
“When are you going to accept it? Junior’s just stupid?”
“He is, and no meeting with the teachers at school can change the fact that you birthed an illiterate simpleton.”
“Bill!” Her voice echoed down the hallway off the kitchen. She leaned across the kitchen island, looking down the darkened path to the slightly ajar bedroom door. She drew in a deep, slow breath and quieted her voice. “That’s your child too. I don’t want to talk about it, we will meet with his teachers after the holidays and figure out what we can do. That’s final.”
Bill took another sip of his rum-infused eggnog and shook his head. She pointed at her lip, and Bill Senior sucked the remnant of eggnog from his mustache. “Fine, if it makes you feel better. But, I think we’re wasting our time. We’re halfway through third grade, and our little angel can hardly read. Stupid. Accept facts, Beatrice.”
“I will not. If we can do something, we need to do something.”
“Fine, let’s finish putting the bike together. Better make sure the training wheels are on good.”
Bill Junior’s arms tensed at his sides pulling the covers taut over his body refusing to wipe away the tears. Their warm wet streamed over his cheek onto his pillow. Tonight was for keeping little boys and girls up with anticipation, not the regret of disappointing your parents.
He tried and tried at school, but it came slow. It didn’t matter what he did. No amount of effort or focus improved the results. Bill Junior determined here and now on Christmas Eve, the night of all nights, that he would make it happen. He would get better, smarter. Then his dad would stop saying he was dumb. His mom’s looks could be of pride instead of pity.
Santa better come through this year. He better. Bill Junior debated sending the annual letter to Santa, partly due to suspicion of it all being fantasy and partly from not wanting to write. He wrote the letter anyway, dropping it in the mailbox along his walk to school. One last letter to Santa.
Little Bill lied to the Santa at the mall, and said he wanted a bicycle. He didn’t want a bike, but he knew his parents were eavesdropping. The best way to not get a present from Santa was to let anyone else know what you want. That was private, personal, and only between the jolly old Saint and Bill Junior.
He stared at his window. Incandescent colors of the lights around his frosty windows bled into his room from behind the curtain. Dim yellows, reds, greens, and blues glowed around the uncovered portions of the window pane. He fixated on those sneaky lights while listening for hooves on the roof. It helped to tune out his arguing mom and dad in the living room. Like every child, he wanted to confirm the reality of Santa. Hearing the reindeer on the roof would finally cement Santa’s existence.
He rubbed his eyes. The Christmas lights on his wall blurred. With a yawn, he stretched his arms and legs. He shook his head to push away the sleep calling on him. He bounced his head on his pillow a few times. Didn’t help. Bright tinks of metal tools and his dad swearing, followed by his mom’s laugh of whelps and snorts echoed through the house. Blinking his eyes, the heavy lids pulled up slow. The gravity of fatigue shuttered his vision, and he dreamt of Christmas morning.
Tremors woke him. Loud thumps crashed against the rooftop rumbling down to the eaves. The windows rattled. Snow and ice broke free and slid off the roof into the shrubbery surrounding the house. Then silence.
He sat up, his heart thrumming in his ears. This was it. He came. Santa was here, in his home! Bill Junior steadied his breathing in the deep of this silent night. The house rested in absolute stillness. It was dark as it was silent. The only lights visible were the ones hidden behind the curtain he fell asleep watching.
He waited for more signs. Nothing, not a sound. Had he missed it? Did Santa leave? Were the crashes and bangs the takeoff of the sleigh and reindeer from his rooftop? An Investigation was required now, either it was too late or he was here.Throwing the blanket off of him, he slid his feet into his fuzzy white yeti slippers.
A loud crash shook the house. This time from the inside. Metal clanged down the hall in the kitchen. Pots and pans over the kitchen island bounced against one another in the reverberation of the earth-shaking crash.
Bill Junior’s pupils dilated in the near-total dark. The fuzzy vision slowed his advance as he crept to his closed door. His ear felt the cool of the cheap wooden facade as he leaned against it hoping to hear with greater acuity.
He heard something. It was his mother’s voice trembling with worry. “Bill, get up. Someone’s in the house.”
“Hold on, I’m loading my pistol.” Bill Junior could hear the snap of the clip locking in Bill Senior’s gun.
Junior backed away as he heard his parents’ bedroom door squeak open. At the sound of his dad’s feet sliding along the hall carpet, Bill Junior cracked his door. The floor groused beneath the girth of his father’s movements. Junior peered out through the narrow slit. Bill Senior whipped around, pointing his pistol at Junior’s forehead.
“You dumbass, I almost blew your head off.” The harsh hiss scared Junior more than the gun. “Get back in bed.”
“It’s Santa, don’t shoot him.”
Senior rolled his eyes. “If it’s Santa, I’ll have milk and cookies with him, now back to bed.” Senior grabbed the knob and pulled the door shut. Junior pressed his ear against it. He strained to hear his dad slip further down the hall. Bill Junior decided, If he heard Santa, he was running into the living room.
It started with an exclamation of confusion. Next, a gurgle, and the clank of a heavy metal object against hardwood. Then, ornaments falling off the tree in the living room. The noises coming out of the living room didn’t make any sense to Junior. Someone was decorating the tree?
What happened to his dad? Bill Junior held his breath easing back from the door. Instinct made him careful to avoid the spot on the floor that creaked.
“Bill?” His mother’s voice limped toward the living room down the hall in a fear weakened warble. The jingle and rattle of the ornaments on the Christmas tree stopped. Junior held his breath, waiting for his dad to answer. Instead, the sounds of the Christmas tree ornaments and rustling started again. With no answer, Junior heard the door to his parent’s room squeak again. This time a little louder and with a more pronounced wobble, she spoke, “Bill, you okay? Bill?”
Junior began waving his hands, gesturing for his mom to stop even though she couldn’t see it. Something was wrong. His dad would have at least told her to shut up if everything was okay. Junior’s heart pounded like the double-bass of a death metal song in his chest. Every second he waited, the sinking in his stomach sank deeper. Did he hide or go see what was going on in the living room? The Christmas tree noises stopped. With a loud whoosh, a hot breeze pushed into his room from under his door.
The temperature rose as he remained frozen like a snowman in the space between his bedroom door and bed. Beads of sweat dripped across his forehead as his mom called out again. “I’ve called the police, and I have a gun. Don’t come down here.”
That prompted movement. Glass shattered in the kitchen. Loud stomps surged down the hallway. Junior started toward the door. His outstretched hand wrapped around the brushed nickel finish of his doorknob. His mother’s screams of terror stopped his hand from turning the knob. He dropped to the floor. On his belly, he pushed backward, moving away from the door. He slid across the carpet until he was safe, tucked under his bed.
TO BE CONTINUED…