But, oh, it is not. Had you eyes to see, you could behold the host of restless spirits moving across this chill tableau, a cloud of unsettled witnesses. Are you sure you want to know what have they seen? Because you are anything but alone. They can tell of the wayfarer huddled in the woods just over the hill whose red right hand turned against his brother. They can tell of the nameless thing that stalks him, desperate to slake its undying thirst. And they can tell of the quiet congregation accreting by your back door.
Come, turn the knob and let us tell you our stories...
• "Real Game" by Brent Aikman (see below)
• "The Camera Sees" by James D. Witmer on James D. Witmer • "A Million Pieces" by Rhonda Parrish on RhondaParrish.com
• "Jingle Bell Run" and "The Steenbok" by William Gregory (see below)
• "Heiligabend" by KJ Mansfield on KJ Mansfield.com
• "Spooky Tale" by Linda Casper on Third Age
• "The One" by Lynn Amaral (see below)
• "Copy of a Copy of a ..." and "Elisabeth" by Loren Eaton on I Saw Lightning Fall
• "Eyes Full of Tinsel and Fire" by John Norris on Pretty Sinister Books
• "Anesthetic" by Scott Garbacz on Advent Ghosts
• "The Road Trip" by Simon Cantan on SimonCantan.com
• "The Snowman" by Craig Scott on CS Fantasy Reviews
• "Whiteout" by Simon Kewin on Spellmaking
• "December 11001" by Ben Mann on BenMann.net
• "The Other List" by Nick Johns on Tales from a Tightrope
• "The Last" by Elizabeth Damewood Gaucher on Esse Diem
• "Naughty, Naughty Nick" by Sandra Seamans on My Little Corner
• "One Night Ago" by Paul F. Boekell on Betrothed to Another
• "Christmas Spirit" by Hunter F. Goss on Hunter F. Goss
• "August In December" by Jason Jones on Catchy Title Goes Here"
• "A glass of wine" and "Parasite" by Eric Douglas on Books by Eric Douglas
• "What Scares Father Christmas?" by Paul Liadis on The Struggling Writer
• "Assassin in Jack’s Backyard, AD 1660" by Joseph D'Agnese on Daggyland
• "The Dark is Silent" by Erin Cole on Erin Cole
• "Attic Ghosts" by Rachael K. Jones on Rachael K. Jones
• "Collapse" by Dave Higgins on Davetopia
• "Where Is Santa?" by Michael Morse on Rescuing Providence and "Silent Night, Good Girl" on Mr. Wilson Makes it Home
• "Memories" and "The Charity of Strangers" by Derek Manuel on Derek Manuel
• "I Saw Lightning Fall" by Scott G.F. Bailey on Six Words for a Hat
• "Be Good for Goodness Sake!" by Lester D. Crawford on Lester D. Crawford Blog
• "Doll Face" by Geoffrey Miller (see below)
• "A House, Haunted" by Nathaniel Lee on Mirrorshards
• "Excrucimas" by Ollwen Jones on Fiction - Miscellaneous and Sporadic; (Probably Especially the Latter.)
• "Good Help" by Bon Steele on The Process
• "Home" by Leanne Stowers on Write On
• "Coming Into the Dark" by Peter Stein (see below)
by Brent Aikman
Christmas morning snow covered leaves just enough, allowing her silent creeping to the wooded spot. Here generations before her had also stood, rifle in hand, and waited for their prey.
She waited. He might be quiet too. She would have to be patient, watch for any movement. They would not hear each other.And then, there he was, headed her way. She raised the gift from her father to her shoulder, put the sights directly on her brother’s chest, and slowly squeezed the trigger. It was only a BB gun. Practice for her chance to someday win the real game.
("Real Game" copyright 2014 by Brent Aikman; used by permission)
"Jingle Bell Run"
By William Gregory
Julie’s breathing was labored as the frigid air bit into her lungs. Her nose ran. Her eyes teared. The tiny bells on her running shoes jingled like a metronome marking her pace. She registered the red form on the side of the trail just as his black boot caught her shin and sent her crashing to the forest floor. Instantly everything stopped. She could barely draw a breath as his heavy bulk pinned her down in the icy snow. A paralyzing mix of fear and adrenaline coursed through her body… until she heard his jolly voice exclaim, “Ho, Ho, Ho!”
("Jingle Bell Run" copyright 2014 by William Gregory; used by permission)
By William Gregory
Trevor crouched silently behind the acacia tree. He had stalked the tiny Steenbok for nearly 30 minutes. Now he was in range. Trevor focused his camera on the doe-eyed creature. Through the viewfinder the Steenbok’s intense stare made Trevor uneasy. It appeared to be fixated on the tree above him. Suddenly his camera strap went taut around his neck. Trevor realized his grievous mistake just as the full weight of the musky leopard fell upon him. The last thing Trevor saw before the big cat’s knife-like canines penetrated his throat was the little Steenbok casually slipping off into the veld.
("The Steenbok" copyright 2014 by William Gregory; used by permission)
by Lynn Amaral
The altercation occurred without provocation. The embarrassing barrage of excuses for him imprisoned her. Buried in isolation, fearful of exposing what she allowed tied her to him so tightly she could barely breathe. Chained, not because she believed he would change, but desperate to believe she couldn’t have been so wrong. Doubting her own instincts crippled her, more than broken bones. Bruises confirmed what her mind believed: you’re an idiot. Change became phantasmagorical. Denial bred despair, suffering, and silence. Broken and bruised, her body defiled, yet that paled, incomparable to the scars of shame in her heart.
("The One" copyright 2014 by Lynn Amaral; used by permission)
By Geoffrey Miller
“Thank you. I only ever wanted a child."
The crone strokes the doll's hair, lovingly twining its yellow yarn curls round her knobby, gnarled fingers. A jewel on its stomach pulsates rhythmically to a disembodied sob, a sob that once woke you many anight. Your daughter’s sob—your poor daughter, who was exiled as a mere child, thrust beyond the safety of the city walls into the dark wilds because of her uncleanness of flesh.
“Jennyra wasn't going to live long anyway," says the crone with a toothless smile. "Now she doesn't have to hurt anymore. Now, we're both happy."
("Doll Face" copyright 2014 by Geoffrey Miller; used by permission)
"Coming Into the Dark"
By Peter Stein
As the shadow of night falls ever long, I feel within myself the deepening wrong.
The day relinquishes further to the night, and so takes life from the light.
The cold wind o’er the world blows, the black night within me grows
I find the coming of the dark, the black smudge, the filthy mark
Not just blackness in the world, it’s evil in me, soon unfurled.
At last the sun’s light fades, the hour struck, the deal made.
Here now comes the dark, final ruin calling hark
The end of all things
The last bell rings
("Coming Into the Dark" copyright 2014 by Peter Stein; used by permission)