Welcome back! I know, I know, I almost missed our Christmas tradition of posting a Christmas horror tale! Trust me, this one was worth the wait! Read on, if you dare!
Lenny squinted his eyes at the Christmas tree. If you did it just right, it looked like tiny fireworks exploding from every branch. He could lie right under it and look up the branches now that the presents were all opened and it was amazing. He aimed his prized brand spanking new nerf gun up the trunk of the tree, pretending to zero in on a shiny blue glass ball.
His finger jerked. The ball shattered sending tiny shards down on him. Lenny rolled over, jumped to his knees and brushed off the debris.
“What was that?” his mother called from the kitchen.
“Nothing,” he called back.
“Didn’t sound like nothing,” she said, her footsteps stomping his way.
She came around the corner, wiping her wet hands on a dishtowel. He put the gun under his shirt.
“Leonard James Doukas, what have you done?”
“Nothing,” he said, his eyes wide.
She held her hand out. “Give it over.”
“No, Mama! The ornament fell on its own!”
“Uh-huh. Give it here.”
He groaned and gave her the gun. She set it up on top of the mantel.
“You can have it back tomorrow. I told you not to point it at anything but the target that came with it.”
“Don’t ‘but Mom’ me. I told Santa not to bring you that! Get the hand-vac and clean it up then off to bed.”
He started to protest again. The adults were settling in around the dining room table, and he wanted to listen in to the stories they would tell about Christmases past and ‘the old country.’ Lenny’d never been to Greece, but it sounded like a magical place to go. His mother gave him the look and he knew better.
“You never know, maybe the kallikantzaroi knocked it down. It’s the first day of the twelve days,” his father said as he walked through the room. Lenny could smell the cinnamon and cloves from the cookie he was holding.
“The kalli-who?” Lenny asked. Maybe he could still get out of this.
His mother glared at his father. “Don’t fill his head with that stuff. It’s bad enough that the baby won’t sleep through the night, I don’t need him up, too.”
A broad mischievous smile cracked his father’s face. “Clean up your mess, get ready for bed, and I’ll come tuck you in. I’ll tell you all about the Kallikantzaroi.”
“Nick, you jerk! You can stay up with the kids tonight then,” his mother said.
Nick strolled over to her and covered her in a bear hug, picking her up off her feet. He nuzzled his face into her neck, and she shrieked with laughter. Lenny wrinkled his nose at their giggles and smooching sounds. He got started on the clean up.
As he knelt down under the tree, he looked up at the mantle and could see the tip of his gun hanging over the edge. His heart swelled. He’d gotten a lot of gifts, but that one was the best. Maybe heading to bed wasn’t so bad. That meant tomorrow would come sooner and he could have his treasure back.
Face washed, and teeth brushed, he slid his bare feet down the cool smoothness of his sheets. His father pulled the blankets up and smoothed them around his thin body. Lenny pulled the soft comforter up under his chin.
“Tell me the story, Papa.”
“What story?” Nick said, and the mischievous smile returned.
“You know! The Kalli-kontz-aroo!”
A deep rolling laughter came from Nick. “Your mother won’t be too happy.”
“Please! You promised!”
“Okay, okay. But you have to promise to be a big boy and not get scared.”
“I promise! I promise!”
“You know that big oak tree in the front yard?”
“Yes,” Lenny said.
“Well, there’s one just like it only much bigger that grows underground, and it holds up the whole world, it’s the world tree.”
Lenny scowled. “Papa, that sounds like make-believe.”
“Do you want to hear the story or not?”
“Okay, then. Shush,”
“The Kallikantzaros are hairy little monsters who spend all year trying to cut the tree down.”
“Um, because they are bad. They spend all their time sawing away at the trunk. But on Christmas day, they can come up from the ground and run around for twelve days. On the day of Epiphany-“
“Oh, I know what that is. That’s a special church day,” Lenny said.
“Right. On that day the kallikantzaroi have to go back under the earth. They get real mad because the tree has healed its trunk and they have to start all over with the sawing.”
“That’s the whole story?”
“Well, yeah,” Nick said feeling disappointed at his son’s reaction. “But while they run around on the surface they do naughty things, like break furniture and pee in the potted plants,” he said, hoping to win his son’s approval.
Lenny laughed. “That would make Mom real mad!”
“I suppose it would! Now get to sleep.” He leaned in and kissed Lenny’s forehead.
“Dad, could the kallikantzaroi come here?”
“Oh no! They only go to Greece. Now go to sleep,” he said.
Lenny drifted off to a sound and satisfying sleep.
Lenny blinked his eyes open and stared at the darkened ceiling. Something had woken him. He stayed as still as he could and strained his ears. Nothing. Just the night noises. His door was partially open, and the light from the bathroom nightlight almost lit the space.
Lenny sat up on his elbows. A shuffling sound on the carpet in the hallway. Maybe his parents were still up. He sat up a little further.
A longer-than-it-should-be arm reached in to grab the door handle. Stringy, black, rough hair hung down from the arm. Sticklike fingers curled around the knob and pulled the door shut slowly. It clicked, and Lenny threw his blankets over his head. His heart hammered in his chest, and his breath came in short gasps.
When he tried to holler for his parents, no sound would come out of his mouth. He clutched the blankets around his body and curled into the tightest ball he could like a roly-poly bug.
Lenny couldn’t be sure how long he stayed like that, but somehow he had fallen back asleep. He woke up in the same tight ball. His little legs and arms were sore, and it was hard to get out of bed.
He heard his mother.
“Lenny! What did you do?”
He came around the corner and saw what she was talking about. Several of the glass balls from the tree were smashed in front of the television. The screen to his father’s most prized possession was cracked.
Nick came stomping down the hallway. “What’s the matter, Laura?” His breath was sucked from him in a gasp when he saw the damage.
Lenny stood shaking his head. “No! I didn’t do that!”
Nick spun on him. “Go. To. Your. Room.” His voice shook with something Lenny had never heard before.
“He’s gotta have breakfast first! Then you go clean up this mess!” Laura shouted at Lenny.
“I didn’t-“ he started, but tears took over.
“I’ll give you something to cry about! Go eat!” Nick shouted at Lenny.
His dad had never yelled at him like that before. Lenny’s little body shivered against his thin pajamas.
Nick’s face softened. “I didn’t mean to yell, but son this is terrible. I can’t believe you would behave like this. Like an animal,” his voice rose slightly.
A light clicked on for Lenny, and he remembered the long hairy arm that closed his door the night before.
“I saw them! They did this!” he exclaimed.
“Who?” his mother said.
“The killy-can monsters!”
Laura gave Nick a stare so cold that winter was jealous.
“I told you not to fill his head with that stuff!”
Nick scoffed and stalked to the breakfast table. He dropped hard into his chair, and it splintered to tiny shards under him. He hit the floor with a loud bang that made Lenny jump.
“What the hell?” Nick said, shock on his face. “Damn, cheap furniture!”
“Ugh, seriously Nick? Clean it up!” Laura said.
The baby began to wail in the other room.
“Great. Thanks a lot, guys,” she spat and headed down the hallway.
Lenny crept over and began to help his dad put the pieces of the chair into a large black garbage bag. Tears dripped onto the floor and his hands. They worked in silence.
“Nick!” Laura shrieked from the bedroom.
Fearing something was wrong with the baby, he sprinted down the little hall. Laura stood among a pile of diapers and blankets that appeared soaking wet. She held the baby out from herself with straight arms as if she couldn’t stand for the little one to be close to her. When Nick approached, he could see that his little baby girl was dripping wet from head to toe.
“What the hell?” he said.
“I don’t know. I found her like this! Smell it! I think it’s pee!” she squealed.
“Pee? She couldn’t pee that much!”
Lenny watched from the doorway. He wrinkled his nose against the stench. Hadn’t his dad said the kallikantzaroi liked to pee in the potted plants? Maybe they had mistaken the baby for a plant.
A thunderous racket came from the kitchen, and his parents pushed past him to see what was going on. Lenny followed closely behind, but not too closely. Liquid dripped and splashed from the wailing baby.
The entire refrigerator was tipped on its face. The contents dripping and leaking out like a wound.
“Oh my gosh! What is happening?” Laura shouted.
Nick tried to right the refrigerator, but it tipped over and caught his leg underneath. He wailed in pain. Laura tried to lift it one handed with the screaming soiled baby in her other arm.
Lenny caught movement on the counter out of the corner of his eye. He jerked his head just in time to see two small black hairy shapes dart behind the curtains. Then he heard a crash next to the stove and looked up to see two more figures pushing the butcher block of knives to the edge of the counter, right over his trapped father. Red eyes burned in their bat-like faces.
“Hey!” Lenny shouted. The creatures looked at him. One of them pulled his lips back in a growl and exposed razor-sharp teeth.“Leave my dad alone!”
Lenny picked up an egg that had rolled out of the fridge and threw it at them. They howled and scattered off the counter.
Laura must have seen them too because she started screaming.
Lenny knew he had to do something. His dad was trapped. It was all up to him.
He sprinted to the living room and shoved the big footstool under the mantle. Standing on his tippy-toes, he could just reach his nerf gun. Before he could grasp it, he felt his pajama bottoms slip down to his ankles. He looked down, and four terrible black faces snarled up at him, one of them had his bottoms in its teeth!
He stretched his little body and got his hand around the gun. Pointing down, he fired a dart at the one with his pants. It squawked and let go. Lenny fell off the footstool and right out of his pants. Clad only in his pajama top and underwear he scrambled to the Christmas tree. The box of extra darts was right where he left it the night before. Lenny grabbed handfuls of ammo and stuffed them into his underwear. The little creatures dove for him.
High ground. He needed to find high ground.
He jumped and ran, springing on top of the kitchen table. In one move he spun and began firing nerf darts at the monsters. It only slowed them down. They were still coming! The next thing he knew, his mother was next to him. She held a small vial high above her head.
“Get out of my house!” she yelled.
She flicked the vial at the monsters. Where the water touched them, their flesh sizzled and smoked.
“Holy water, Lenny!” she said excitedly and dumped some on the darts in his hand.
He loaded up and began shooting again. Over and over. His mother continued to squirt her vial at the creatures. They began to back up.
“Keep going, Lenny!” his mother said.
They got off the table and pursued the kallikantzaros, forcing them to the fireplace.
“Get out!” Laura shouted.
“Leave my family alone you poop heads!” Lenny shouted.
Then the monsters began to climb up the chimney. Hissing and spitting at Laura and Lenny.
“Lenny, grab the lighter from the drawer!”
He dropped his gun and ran as fast as he could back to the kitchen. His dad was still on the floor with the refrigerator on his leg, but he cradled the baby in his arms.
“Go, Lenny! Go get ‘em!” he said.
Lenny’s little heart burst with pride, and he clutched the long-nosed fire starter to his chest. He practically flew to his mother’s side. She was still squirting holy water, and the demons were hanging down from inside the chimney showing their teeth and trying to bite her.
Lenny flicked the lighter and held it to the dry wood in the hearth. Where the holy water had dripped onto the logs it flared like lighter fluid. The monsters went up with a shrill screech, the flames licking after them.
His mother turned her exhausted gaze on him. “Leonard James Doukas, thank God you are a good shot!”
“Thank God Santa didn’t listen to you!”
Laura began to cry. “Thank God.”
I have a gift for you almost as awesome as Lenny’s dart gun! The eBook of DREAD is on sale for FREE through Christmas Eve! Have a wonderful holiday! Until next time, keep your fires lit and Never Turn Off the Lights!