Here’s a short Christmas-themed horror story I wrote under the name TJ Floyd in 2015. I think it’s interesting enough to save it from the depths of pseudonym hell and post it here.
A Christmas Story
Tabitha Mix (Originally Published as TJ Floyd) © 2015
I remember the noises outside at night in the winter. The moaning wind, the creaking trees—knocking together and giving us nightmares. My brother and I huddled together, chilly because our bed was far from the hot embers of the fire and because the wind snaked into the cracks between the boards of our little house.
It was a night in late December, on the eve of Christmas—before the Lord gave us back our light. We had spent the day in school, our hands cramped from the cold and our heads wet with the slush of math and grammar, the Code of Hammurabi and the tales of Moses. We were talking in hushed voices under the covers—pretending that we were kings in our own land and making our own laws. We were so enrapt that neither of us noticed the sudden silence that had descended on the hous. I’m still not sure when it really started. I only remember how we both stopped talking at once and froze, turning our little heads outside of the covers and looking around for the cause.
In Manhattan, in those days, the wind never stopped. Never.
We crept out of our beds and walked, as one, to peer down the stairs at the glow of tamed firelight. Our parents, god rest their souls, would still be awake at that hour—talking in hushed voices themselves about those things that only parents know. We didn’t hear their whispers wafting up the stairs like we expected, so we both descended with a quizzical look at each other.
In our kitchen, beside the fire, were two dark shadows. These two lumps of clay were utterly unmoving. They sat beside the fire, which was crackling merrily in a way that our fire was rarely allowed to, at a slight incline toward each other. It was strange, but I could sense—without touching them—that they were no more living than the floor underneath us. Christian and I crept closer, hunched down as if to hide from the awful thing that was happening now.
It was with great trepidation that I reached out my fingers and touched the lump on the left. She fell down, her stony eyes staring into the space between the worlds and her mouth gaping in agony. I leapt back but my brother leaned forward—right over her. There was a sickening curiosity on his face that looked almost evil in the flames. I felt a shiver in my belly that pleased me none.
“Christian,” I whispered loudly. “Christian. Get away from that!”
He turned to me, all innocence in his expression lost. This, my little brother, grinned like the devil. I couldn’t see him in his own face. I felt tears coming to my eyes and I backed up.
“What is it?” he said—somehow—through his wicked grin, his voice calm and level and his eyes alight with glee.
I didn’t say anything but looked down to my mother. I noticed, then, the pool of dark fluid at the foot of their bench. It was spreading now from my mother’s head and, as I tilted my head to get a better view, I could see the glimmer of wet flesh and shining black liquid at her neck. I moved in closer, beside my brother, in spite of his wicked face and alarming demeanor.
There, on her neck, was a dark hole. It was as if someone had punched her with an awl. Her tongue hung out of her mouth and made me shiver again as the firelight dancing made it look like it moved. A hungry licking from hell.
“What happened?” Christian said.
I refused to look up at him. “I think she’s dead.”
I reached over, knowing exactly what would happen, but determined to prove it to myself. The moment I touched the other lump, down he fell. His feet landed somewhere near my own and that’s when I retched—all over his shining boots.
The silence was still on us and I rose to meet it. Christian glared at me with the vicious new face that I could not discern thought or feeling from. I felt him a tool, somehow, of some sinister force that had stolen our wind and our parents. At least, his face was a tool. It sat on him like a mask.
I moved to our window and pushed back the heavy drapes that decorated it. It was a moonless night, though, and I could see nothing but a blackness that mirrored the noiselessness that surrounded us. The corners of the house were also cast in deep shadows—made blacker in the firelight. I felt a deep dread of the dark such as I hadn’t felt it for years, when I was Christian’s age and still scared of mice and old Miss Evans, our teacher at school.
And then we heard it—a loud, sharp knock on the ceiling. Our ceiling. The one that met our bedroom floor. In the horrible silence, it sounded like a scream. I blinked my eyes shut over the tears that were still falling for my mother and father and my brother’s wicked face. It knocked again, but closer toward the stairs.
I shut my eyes, then. I didn’t want to see what was happening. I didn’t want to know anymore.
There was a long creeeeaaaak as someone stepped on the third stair down—the one that was forever creaking and cracking underneath us as we trampled happily up and down it.
There was a sinister knocking on the middle stair. Rat-tat-tat, like someone at the door. I think I whimpered, then.
I felt my brother’s small hands on me, at my waist. “Jes. What’s happening?” he said to me in a soft voice.
I took one long and shuddering breath and tried to pry open my eyes.
There was a knock in the black corner by the bottom of the staircase.
My eyes flew open of their own accord. Now, instead of trying to pry them open, I had to fight to keep them closed. I stared hard at the corner, desperately willing myself to see in the dark. My breath was caught in my throat. The damned firelight was growing brighter, making the shadows deeper. I stepped back, right onto my brother’s foot and he yelped loudly.
There, pooling out from the shadows, was a long black…stick? Finger? It was flat like the shadow itself and knobbed like an arthritic joint. It moved along the floor with achingly slow speed. Except that was only a trick of my imagination. It was moving very, very fast. It was too fast, even, for me to back away. It landed on my slippered toe and I felt the weight of iron holding me fast.
I looked to Christian—his yelp still ringing in the air and on his maniacal grin. With a little “hah” of laughter he pushed me forward onto my face and into the shifting shadow.
I couldn’t breathe then. I was in the blackest place on earth. My mind was numb and my mouth was clamped shut like a vise. My brother had betrayed me for evil; I felt the tears in my eyes freeze in place. I tried to move my head side to side and found it as still as if it was encased in marble. My will meant nothing. Time itself had frozen.
And then, in a rush, everything came back. The fire was crackling away. I was breathing in pants and groaning. My face was in the dark shadow around the back of our stove, true, but nothing more sinister than that.
I pushed myself up on my hands and looked around. There were my mother and father on their sides by the fire. And there was my brother—his mouth a gaping hole and his eyes wide in terror. His neck was slashed from ear to ear. I reached up to grasp my own and almost imagined that I, too, had some terrible wound. But, no. I was safe.
The wind was howling now—as loud as it ever was. My mind returned, I raced to the door and lifted the bar. I ran out into the dark night—following the merciful stars south until I reached our neighbor the Jameses, who took me in in a moment and listened with incredulous faces to my story. The next morning—sleepless and aching—we returned to my house and found all three bodies precisely where I had left them.
There never was another Christmas that I could stand after that. You may call me a villain, but I hate the cursed night when the blackness comes to claim us. I hate the cruel dark that closes us in. And I hate—I truly hate—the knocking of the pines in the wind and the cold fingers of death that creep through our little houses at night.