<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - THIRTEEN FOR XMAS]]>Thu, 26 Apr 2018 11:14:11 +0100Weebly<![CDATA[13 FOR CHRISTMAS: AS YOU MEAN TO GO ON BY JOE X YOUNG]]>Wed, 28 Dec 2016 17:24:26 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/thirteen-for-xmas/13-for-christmas-as-you-mean-to-go-on-by-joe-x-young
 To wrap up Charlott Bobd's excellent 13 for Christmas  series of sppoktakular festive flash stories, we have a special guest story for fellow Ginger Nuts of Horro conrtributor, the one and only Joe X Young.  

As You Mean to Go On....

In the burning hours and driving rain Lea walked alone, soaked through, shivering, hungry and exhausted. Her bag biting her shoulder, pushing her collar against the painfully fresh bruises where thumbs had pressed and fingers gouged.
It had been hours since their fight in the kitchen, since Paul’s hands dug around her throat, her eyes bulging, face turning purple as she struggled for breath. “Huhhghh” she huffed into her cold hands, rubbing them together, hoping that her breath would be warm enough to take the numbness from her fingers, his skin still under her nails where she had clawed at him. She managed a thin smile as she wondered how he felt when her thumb pushed deep in his eye socket. He’d screamed like the bitch he was.
“Happy New Year you fucking bastard.” She uttered through clenched bruised jaws. “I’m starting the year as I mean to go on, new town, new life. I’ll never have to put up with your shit again. No going back, not ever.” She uttered through clenched jaws which ached from constant cold-to-the-core teeth-chattering. Lea searched her handbag for breath-mints, it had been a long and evil day, her mind unable to focus on the mundane routines of eating and drinking, but now, in the desolate hours, heading toward a dormant town, she was starving. She found the pack, some left, but not a meal, not even a mouthful. She sucked on one; it eased her, the mint settling her stomach. Fresh vapours of eucalyptus tickling her nose.
The town couldn’t be that far away, a few miles at best. “Thank fuck for small mercies, with any luck there’ll be a bakery.” Lea muttered. The thought of hot bread spurred her on; she would be able to buy some rolls, maybe the baker would invite her in from the icy downpour. He could give her a cup of tea, save her life. She trudged along, her Birkenstocks slapping mucky water over her exposed feet. Lea no longer cared, stopping only briefly to fish the slick bits of debris from between her pale prune-wrinkled toes.
By four in the morning her vision improved. The rain had reduced to a lacklustre drizzle.
“Please have a bakery, or newsagents, a petrol station… open twenty-four-hours… hot food, hot drinks, a washroom…” The realisation that she had several options for salvation boosted her morale. Lea reached the town half an hour later, elated to the point where she hugged the sign.
‘Welcome to MAIDANTON’ it stated, under which some well-wisher had sprayed a smiley face. Lea rested her arm on the sign and took her sandals off, shaking the crud from them before entering Maidanton.
“My poor feet… Soon get you warmed up, in a few hours I’ll be able to buy you some socks” she slipped her sandals back on and hobbled into town. A few minutes later and the first building came into view. It was a petrol station. She saw the sign ‘MOBIL’ high on a post. The light wasn’t on.
“Oh please, please be open”. She quickened, limping towards her salvation, to food and rest, to dry warmth. She walked on, seeing her hopes drain away when it became apparent that the petrol station was a derelict, boarded-up. No food, no drink, no shelter. She wandered the streets; the shops all closed. No bakery or at least, no sign of one, she was certain she would have smelled the fresh baked bread from streets away and would have been able to zero-in on it like a bloodhound, but so far nothing. Dawn approached, the street lamps faded, and there, at the end of a winding street, was it… YES… A milk float. Lea tried to run, hoping to catch up with it, hoping that the Milkman wasn’t going to drive around the corner and vanish forever from her desires. Her hastening steps hurt like hell, the blisters on her feet having long since burst. He was heading towards her. She slowed. Stood. Waited. She reached in her handbag for her purse thinking surely he’d sell her some milk, perhaps he’ll have some yoghurt or cheese that she could buy too.
He stopped the float eight doors down. Lea almost cried, so close, so damned close, she should never have stopped, she was so weary, so much in pain that she was scared that she may not be able to reach him, her mouth hurt, her throat so dry she may not be able to speak… She panicked, thrusting her feet forwards, almost falling, regaining her balance, closer, ever closer, and there he was, her saviour, her Knight in a white dairy coat.
“Morning Madam” he said cheerfully, slamming a crate on an empty stack.
“Gnhrrr” Said Lea.
“Excuse me?” he replied.
Lea cleared her throat; it stung like hell, her eyes watered.
“Sorry. Erm, good morning… Can I buy some milk off you?”
“You can have it for free my darlin’… looks like you need it” He grabbed a bottle and handed it to her. “I always keep extra on the float”
“Thank you very much, but it’s not all I want.” said Lea, taking the milk and unscrewing the plastic top. She took a huge gulp, spat, and vomited. “It’s off”.
“Pardon” said the milkman, stepping back from the spreading vomit.
“The milk, it’s off… rancid.”
“and?” said the milkman.
“Is this some kind of sick joke you play on people? It’s not funny, can I have some fresh milk, quickly, I need to get rid of the taste”
“There is no fresh milk here, it’s all off”
“But you’re delivering it…”
“That doesn’t mean its fresh now does it!”
“Are you insane?”
“Just doing my job, not my fault you haven’t figured out where you are.”
“I’m in ‘Maidanton’ aren’t I?”
“Well I’ve heard it called many a name, but Maidanton’s not one of them.”
“This is Maidanton; I saw the sign, stood by it not half an hour ago…”
“I think you’d better come with me…” he said, ushering her towards the cab of the milk float.
Lea stepped forward. Better to be sitting down in the cab than standing up much longer. She sat, took the breath-mints from her purse and chewed a couple, the tang of vomit and sour milk overpowering the eucalyptus.
Within minutes they reached the boarded up petrol station. The light on the pole was on; instead of ‘MOBIL’ it said ‘LIMBO’. They carried on toward the town border and the Maidanton sign.
Lea remembered the fight, Paul squeezing her life away, her thumbnail puncturing his eyeball, forcing him back in agony, his grip intensifying as he repeatedly slammed her head against the cooker. She grabbed for something, anything, to make him stop, plunging the carving knife into his skull before they died.
The Milkman pointed at the sign. It read: ‘Welcome to DAMNATION.’
Beyond the sign a man approached, his one good eye staring at her as he freed the blade from his head.
Lea screamed.

<![CDATA[13 FOR CHRISTMAS: ​JUST LIKE MUMMY USED TO MAKE BY CHARLOTTE BOND]]>Thu, 08 Dec 2016 05:00:44 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/thirteen-for-xmas/13-for-christmas-just-like-mummy-used-to-make-by-charlotte-bond
Here it is folks the last festive flash fiction piece from Charlott Bond.  Thank you to every one who has read and shared these stories over that past fortnight.  And if you have read and shared them please head over to Thirteen for Christmas and have a read.  And a special thanks to Joe Young for creating all of cover images for the stories.  

Today's story is titled Just Like Mummy used to make ....
James sat on the bench in the park, watching the passersby on the street beyond the railings. There were very few of them out here on Christmas Day itself and most of them looked incredibly cheerful; they held hands, laughed, joked and were totally wrapped up in the people with them. There weren't many people out and about on their own; those that did catch James's eye were walking quickly, their heads down, desperate to be out of the cold and back in the warm family home.
The atmosphere was festive and full of love. James soaked it in. It provided a contrast to the butchery that was to come and made his Christmas tradition that much more delicious.
As darkness gathered and streetlights started to turn on, James stood up. His legs were a bit stiff from sitting so long but he had quite a walk ahead of him, so he knew it would soon ease. What was of more concern to him was the numbness that had crept into his fingers. If he couldn't hold a knife, this would all be for nothing. He flexed them, blew on them and rubbed his palms together as he walked until soon they tingled with feeling once again.
He had already chosen the house of his victim. He'd been watching her most evenings and every weekend for two months now. She'd had no visitors during that time and he was certain she'd have none today.
It took him half an hour to walk to the cul-de-sac and by then snow had started to fall gently from the sky. He strode confidently up to the bungalow, looking like he had every reason and invitation to be here. He didn't knock on the door, but went straight for the handle. It was open, and he breathed a sigh of relief. It was always the one part of his plan that he left up to chance, or to divine intervention. If the door was closed, then clearly this victim wasn't for him; if it was open, it was meant to be. It was a rule he'd lived by since his first kill.
He pushed open the door and stepped inside. He was surprised to see the old lady, Elsie he'd discovered she was called, was walking towards him from the kitchen. She looked up and her eyes widened in surprise. Knowing that a scream was on her lips, James' hand snaked inside his coat, going for his knife.
'Jimbob!' she said with surprise. James' hand, clutching the knife handle, stilled. He looked at her warily. A beaming smile split her face and she came forward in a strange, waddling walk. 'Oh, Jimbob, I knew you'd come this year. How good to see you.'
She wrapped her arms around him in a weak hug. James' hand tightened on the knife handle. She pulled away then reached up to pull his coat off his shoulders. James took a step backwards. She clicked her tongue in displeasure, a frown replacing her smile. 'Now, don't be silly. You'll get snow all over my carpet and Jessica will be so cross. She was only in two days ago to hoover this place. If she comes back to find mud and snow all over the carpet, she'll shout at me, and you know how I hate that.' The smile appeared on her face again. 'But now I have my strapping young grandson to protect me! You'll protect your old gran, won't you, Jimbob?' she asked, reaching for his coat again.
James didn't step away this time, but let her take his coat. He turned slightly, shielding the knife from her view and his hand fell away from the handle. He wasn't sure what was going on -- he knew for a fact his own grandparents had died before he was born so he was definitely no relation -- but he was willing to play along a bit. After all, how exciting would it be to have that wonderful, happy festive family atmosphere not just out on the street but here in the home, at the killing scene? A smile of anticipation tugged at his lips.
Elsie pointed at his shoes. 'And you take those off, young man, before you take another step into my house.'
'Yes... Gran,' he said hesitantly. She nodded and walked into the sitting room. James did as he was bid. He checked his socks for holes; he didn't want to be careless enough to leave any DNA evidence here. Satisfied, he went to follow the old woman into the sitting room but stopped abruptly at the doorway. The room was crammed full of Christmas knick-knacks, from nodding Santas to reindeer with flashing noses and a representation of the nativity scene made of knitted dolls. The tree was small and stout, yet still sagged under the weight of a decoration, sometimes two, on every branch. The electric fire was evidently turned up to its highest setting as the room was incredibly hot and filled with the scent of cheap potpourri.
Elsie patted the sofa beside her. 'Come, sit down, Jimbob.'
James did as she said. She started nattering away at him. He didn't pay much attention but let her babble flow around him while he studied the room for pictures of family. There were none.
She's just daft, he thought, smiling blandly at her. She thinks I'm her grandson probably because she hasn't seen the kid in years. There's no harm in it though. And she's not screaming, well, not yet.
In fact, James was surprised to realise he was strangely enjoying this. It wasn't the sharp excitement he normally got before a kill, but something that seemed to warm his cold hands and make him want to lounge back in the comfy chair.
A loud beeping came from the kitchen and Elsie clapped her hands together. 'Oh! That'll be the turkey ready to come out. Do excuse me, Jimbob.'
As she stood up to go into the kitchen, the familiar excitement rose up in James again.
I could kill her on the table laid up for Christmas dinner. I could carve her like a turkey. I could leave the table set up with her delicately sliced flesh on the plates with potatoes and stuffing.
A cruel grin spread over his face. He got up and walked towards the kitchen, sliding the knife from its sheath. He hid it behind his back as he walked purposefully into the kitchen then stopped abruptly as the smell hit him. He stared at the tray in Elsie's hand as she placed it on the table.
'Are those... roast potatoes?' His words were slurred by the saliva that had suddenly pooled in his mouth. The potatoes, piled high on the tray, were golden and glistening, small curls of steam rising from them.
'Yes, done just the way you like them, in goose fact and with a bit of salt on them.' Elsie chuckled. 'Nothing fancy, that's the best way. Shake 'em in the pan before you put them in hot oil to make sure they're crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside.'
James sank into a chair, tears in his eyes. 'Just like Mummy used to make.'
Elsie clicked her tongue disapprovingly. 'Not at all. Your mother never got them right. They were always soggy when she did them.'
James was lost. It was all so unnervingly familiar and comforting. One part of him cried out that it was a trap, that he was being turned away from his true purpose; yet the other part of him wanted to seize a fork, plunge it through the crisp outer shell of a potato, into the soft flesh beneath, and cram it all in his mouth.
He was suddenly aware that Elsie had spoken. He looked up to find her staring at him, hands on her hips. 'Sorry?' he asked.
'I said, are you going to carve? You've got the knife, haven't you?'
James looked down at the knife he held; lost in his childhood fantasy, he'd forgotten to keep it hidden behind his back. Before he could say anything, Elsie put a large turkey in front of him. A part of him he thought had died long ago now seemed to take control of his body. In a daze, James stood up. He took up the carving fork, skewered the bird and, with the precision of a master, began to carve.
Elsie poured them both a glass of white wine then winked as she sat down. 'Just a little tipple, yes? Since it's Christmas?'
James put a plate of turkey slices before her and gave her a genuine smile. 'Yes. Since it's Christmas.'
They both helped themselves to everything on the table. As they were eating, Elsie asked, 'How long are you intending to stay, Jimbob?'
He glanced at the tray on the table between them. 'How long do you think those potatoes will last?'
Elsie laughed. 'Well, those lot will probably last until tomorrow, but I've got a load more potatoes in the cupboard. We could be eating them all the way up to New Year's Eve!'
James smiled. 'Well, I've got something lined up that I absolutely must do, but I guess it can't hurt to leave it until the new year.'
Elsie beamed. 'Splendid.'
'Can you pass the gravy please?'
<![CDATA[13 FOR CHRISTMAS: ​HOME FOR CHRISTMAS BY CHARLOTTE BOND]]>Thu, 08 Dec 2016 04:59:26 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/thirteen-for-xmas/13-for-christmas-home-for-christmas-by-charlotte-bond
Christmas is coming, the decorations are up, Christmas tunes are playing on repeat, and the eggnog is chilling in the fridge.   Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes the festive season.  And as a thank, you for all of your support for what has been a fantastically successful year, Ginger Nuts of Horror in association with Charlotte Bond, brings you 13 For Christmas.  For thirteen days in the lead up to Christmas, we bring you a special festive themed piece flash fiction from Charlotte.  Grab a hot drink and find a nice warm place and please enjoys these festively creepy tales.  

Today's story is titled Home for Christmas....

Alfie helped his wife into the armchair by the fire, rearranging her skirts from where he'd carried her in from the car. His back ached with the effort, but it was a small price to pay to have his wife home. If he had to carry her round the whole house, he would do it; after all, he wasn't the one with cancer, or the one who'd had a stroke. His wife needed him, and he'd be there for her, whatever she needed.
He brushed some dirt off her blouse then gently turned the chair round so that she could face the fire. He kissed tenderly on the cheek, trying not to recoil at the chill that had sunk into her skin.
'Oh darling, you're so cold! I'm so sorry, but the heater isn't working in the car. I'll get us both some hot chocolate and maybe put something a bit naughty in it too, aye?' He chuckled, brushing a stray strand of hair from her cheek. The hair came away in his hand and he hastily wiped it on his trousers.
'You just wait here,' he said, walking away. He didn't expect a reply. His wife hadn't spoken for months, not since the cancer had destroyed her vocal chords. And she certainly wasn't going to be saying anything after that vicious stroke he'd suffered.
Alfie made some hot chocolate and opened a new pack of mince pies, piling them up on a plate in a little pyramid, just the way his wife used to do. He carried the tray of hot chocolate and mince pies into the living room and placed them on coffee table.
'Here, let me put the Christmas lights on. I know how much you love them.' His old knees complained as he knelt down and reached under the Christmas tree to the plug on the wall. It was a tricky and painful manoeuvre, but the effect was worth it. He turned the overhead light off so that the only illumination in the room was the electric fire and the fairy lights. With the holly over the mantlepiece and tinsel draped over the bookshelves, the place sparkled with festive cheer.
'How magical,' he said, sitting down. He grinned at his wife, sitting opposite him, just like old times. With the soft lighting, she almost looked her old self -- so long as he didn't look at her eyes; that was where the truth of her condition stared back at him.
A loud ting and a buzzing had him looking around in confusion. He saw the mobile their son had bought for them lit up on the windowsill. He went over to it.
'A text,' he murmured to himself. 'Now, let me see. Home, then messages, then select and...' He read the message from his son.
Dad. I'm here at Mum's grave. You have to come. Someone's vandalised it! I've called the police, but I really need to speak to you. Can you call me ASAP please?
Alfie shook his head as he turned off the mobile. 'Honestly. "ASAP"? What's wrong with typing out "as soon as possible"? It's not like it takes much time.'
Tutting, he put the phone back on the windowsill. Then he schooled his face into a beaming smile as he turned back to his wife. He needn't have bothered; her dead eyes stared unseeing at the electric fire.
Undeterred, Alfie walked over and patted his wife affectionately on her knee before he sat down again. 'There now. No more disturbances. It's Christmas. Just you and me, just like it used to be. I couldn't let you miss your favourite time of year. Now, let's get some of that hot chocolate down you, and I'll tell you about all the fabulous things I have planned.'
<![CDATA[13 FOR CHRISTMAS: THE YULE CAT  BY CHARLOTTE BOND]]>Thu, 08 Dec 2016 04:58:07 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/thirteen-for-xmas/13-for-christmas-the-yule-cat-by-charlotte-bond
Christmas is coming, the decorations are up, Christmas tunes are playing on repeat, and the eggnog is chilling in the fridge.   Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes the festive season.  And as a thank, you for all of your support for what has been a fantastically successful year, Ginger Nuts of Horror in association with Charlotte Bond, brings you 13 For Christmas.  For thirteen days in the lead up to Christmas, we bring you a special festive themed piece flash fiction from Charlotte.  Grab a hot drink and find a nice warm place and please enjoys these festively creepy tales.  

Today's story is titled The Yule Cat....
​'It's Christmas!' Samuel cried as Abigail switched on the bedroom light.
'No, Samuel. It's Christmas Eve,' she said, throwing open the curtains. 'Now get up and get dressed.'
'Is Amma still here?' George, Samuel's little brother, asked as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
'Yes, Grandma is still here,' Abigail replied, emphasising the English name rather than the Icelandic version that her mother insisted on teaching to the boys. 'She's downstairs getting your breakfast. Be good for her today. I've got to go to work.'
'But Mummy, it's Christmas Eve,' George said, his bottom lip wobbling.
'Didn't you know,' Samuel said, resentment filling his voice, 'that Mummy works every day of the year, even Christmas?'
George looked at his mother wide-eyed and Abigail had to hold her irritation in check; this was all just making her late for work. 'Is that true, Mummy? Will you be working tomorrow?'
'Only if I have to. Now: get up. Get dressed.'
Obediently George jumped out of bed, Samuel moving more reluctantly. George went to his clothes drawer, opened it and frowned. 'I need a new top, do you have one, Mummy?'
'What? No. What nonsense is this?'
'Amma says that if we don't get new clothes for Christmas the Yule Cat will eat us.' Abigail felt the anger at her mother go from simmering to boiling. She clenched her fists. 'Do you think Santa will bring us new clothes, Mummy?'
'I don't know. I don't even know if you've been good enough for Santa this year. Certainly silly little boys who believe stupid fairy stories that their grandmother tells them will appear on the naughty list.'
George went white. Samuel strode over to him and hugged him tightly while glaring at their mother.
'Hush now! What is all this noise?' Lena, Abigail's mother, asked as she came to stand in the doorway, wiping her hands on a tea towel.
Samuel gave a humourless grin. 'Mum is telling us that she'll be working over Christmas, that there's no such thing as the Yule Cat and that George has been too naughty for presents this year.'
Abigail met her mother's disapproving glance with her own icy glare. Lena put a warm smile on her face as she said gently, 'Well, now, I think you'll find that a defence against the Yule Cat is waiting for you downstairs.'
George peeled his tearstained face away from Samuel's chest. 'Really, Amma?'
'Really. Now go downstairs.'
George scampered away, Samuel following after, but not until he'd thrown another black look at his mother.
'Don't start,' Abigail said, pushing past her mother. She went to her room, grabbed her handbag, checked her hair one final time and put on some lipstick. Glancing at her watch, she hurried downstairs where she was met by a joyful George.
'Look, Mummy! Pyjamas! And a DVD!' He squinted the cover as he struggled with the words. 'The Puppet Christmas Card. Carol. Now I'll be safe from the Yule Cat in my new pyjamas and we can watch the DVD when you come home.'
Before Abigail could reply, Lena came down the hallway and said, 'That will be nice. Now go have some breakfast, George.' When the boy had gone, Lena added, 'I didn't think there'd be any harm in it, kær. Won't you want to sit with your boys when you get home tonight?'
'Only if I've got a glass of wine in my hand,' Abigail replied, grabbing her coat. She turned round to go but Lena reached out and placed something firmly in her hand. Abigail looked down. It was a fifty pound note.
'I want you to get yourself some new pyjamas too, Abigail.'
Abigail rolled her old eyes. 'Why? So the Yule Cat won't eat me?'
Lena shrugged. 'Perhaps. Or perhaps because I'm an old woman and I like traditions. We always had pyjamas, hot chocolate and a new book on Christmas Eve when you were a child, didn't we?'
'I'm not a child anymore,' Abigail said, heading for the door. Lena grabbed her arm, forcing Abigail to look back.
'No, but you have two children. It's just a silly tradition. Humour an old woman. Think of your family for a change.'
'Fine,' Abigail said, pulling her arm away. 'I'll find something at lunchtime. Happy?' Without waiting for a reply, Abigail opened the door and left.
When lunchtime came, Abigail had just closed a big deal with one of the bank's major clients and was feeling in a celebratory mood. She dug out the fifty pound note.
Well, I guess I can indulge her. She is my mother. And with the change I can grab myself a sandwich from that new place.
Abigail went out with good intentions, but she never got as far as a clothes shop. Instead she got sidetracked by the local wine and spirits shop where she indulged in the most expensive vodka they had. She came out with a wide smile, feeling that she'd bought herself a much better Christmas Eve present that a pair of pointless pyjamas. She could wear her old ones to watch the DVD with her boys and still keep her promise.
With a big deal under her belt and Christmas Day drawing closer, Abigail took it easy for the rest of the afternoon, as did many of her colleagues. There was a proper festive spirit in the office, and the boss even produced a crate of (cheap) wine for them to toast the upcoming holiday.
At five-thirty, Abigail shut down her computer and walked, a little unsteadily, with the others to the lift. She hadn't driven in today; her experience of driving out of town on Christmas Eve the last couple of years had been horrific. She also knew that the buses would be rammed so she chose to walk home.
It was a fine, clear night and the sky was already filled with stars that became more visible the further out of town she walked. Her job at the bank meant she could afford a nice house in a countryside village for them all, even if she didn't spend much time in it.
The air was pleasantly chill after the heat of her air-conditioned office all day. Abigail breathed deeply and, was so engrossed in looking at the winter landscape around her, that she nearly didn't see the cat that darted out in front of her. She stumbled backwards in her efforts to avoid it.
'Damn cat! I almost stood on you.'
The cat, grey in colour, stopped, turned and looked at her. Then it sat down and started to wash itself. One ear was ragged, but otherwise it seemed sleek and in good health. With her previous good mood bouncing back, Abigail bent over to tickle the top of its head. She drew her hand back in shock. The cat's fur was ice-cold.
The cat stood up and rubbed itself against her legs. Its whole body was chilled. Abigail stepped back with distaste. The cat sniffed at the bag she was carrying.
'It's vodka. Not clothes. Are you going to eat me now?' Abigail asked with a laugh.
The cat's ears flattened against its head and it back away, spitting, its eyes on the bag. Then it turned, dashed across the road, and was lost in the hedge on the other side.
Feeling unaccountably shaken, Abigail began for home again. Yet her previous good mood had dissipated. Instead of drinking in the wintry beauty around her, her head snapped round at every sound. She got the distinct impression something was following her, keeping pace on the other side of the fence.
It's the cat.
No, it can't be. The cat dashed to the other side of the road.
It could have crossed back again.
But what's on the other side of the hedge sounds... large.
Abigail walked so fast she was almost running. The bag of vodka banged painfully against her leg and she had half a mind to throw it away, but she kept it, thinking it might be a useful weapon if the time came.
Which it won't, because I'm being stupid.
She reached the bottom of the hill that led up to her village. Her home was up there. She looked up as she started to climb.
Not far now.
As she got to the edge of civilisation, the hedges ended and became houses. When she had passed several of them, she turned round. A dark shadow darted between the parked cars so fast she didn't have time to see what it was.
Abigail ran. Her house was at the far end of the village, their driveway long and winding. She almost slid over on the gravel as she passed through the gates at speed. Yet beyond the sound of her own footsteps and racing heartbeat, she could hear the crunch of something following her, something closing in.
The yards to her front door seemed to stretch out into miles. Abigail really thought she was going to make it when a heavy weight hit her from behind in the middle of the back. Too winded to cry out, she fell forwards silently. The bag with the vodka flew from her grasp a second before she hit the gravel, skidded away and smashing on the doorstep. Abigail's hands and knees burned with the pain of her fall. She could feel blood trickling down her chin from wounds on her cheek.
The pressure on her back was immense now, as if some great beast was sitting atop her. The air was being pressed out of her lungs. She couldn't cry out, she could barely breathe. Deep vibrations rocked her, shaking her bones.
It's purring...
Blackness was closing around the edge of her vision, but it wasn't fast enough to completely blot out the pain as teeth sank into her leg and tore a deep chunk out of her.
Lena glanced at the clock on the kitchen wall, then at her watch just in case it was wrong. Both showed it was eight o'clock. She peered through to the living room where her grandsons were absorbed in their DVD and hadn't noticed their mother's absence.
Unable to look at the lonely tinfoil-covered plate any more, Lena left the kitchen and walked to the front door. She didn't know what to do, but some air would clear her head. Maybe she'd see Abigail striding up the driveway and everything would be alright again.
She opened the door to find a pool of liquid on the doorstep and a strong smell that made her recoil. It took her a few seconds to realise that it was alcohol. Someone had smashed a bottle of vodka on their doorstep. Shards of glass glittered in the light from the doorway.
As Lena bent down to examine it better, the light fell on something else, no more than half a dozen steps from the front door. There was a ribcage, raw and steaming in the cold night. Other bones were scattered about, some of them snapped in two.
Lena felt the bile rise up her throat as she saw her daughter's watch and wallet lying discarded on the cold gravel. A movement further down the drive made her look up. A fat, grey cat was waddling down towards the road, its bloated belly swinging from side to side as it walked.

<![CDATA[13 FOR CHRISTMAS: KRAMPUS COMES BY CHARLOTTE BOND]]>Thu, 08 Dec 2016 04:57:02 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/thirteen-for-xmas/13-for-christmas-krampus-comes-by-charlotte-bond
Christmas is coming, the decorations are up, Christmas tunes are playing on repeat, and the eggnog is chilling in the fridge.   Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes the festive season.  And as a thank, you for all of your support for what has been a fantastically successful year, Ginger Nuts of Horror in association with Charlotte Bond, brings you 13 For Christmas.  For thirteen days in the lead up to Christmas, we bring you a special festive themed piece flash fiction from Charlotte.  Grab a hot drink and find a nice warm place and please enjoys these festively creepy tales.  

Today's story is titled Krampus Comes....
Jeremy's lips pulled back in a snarl. He guts roiled with fury as he stared at his wife's defiant expression.
'Is that so, Deirdre? Meant nothing did he?'
'Just like Jennifer meant nothing to you,' his wife shot back, her eyes blazing.
The anger within him reached boiling point and he had to let it out with an almighty, wordless scream. Deirdre's eyes widened and she took a step back. In his madness, he saw an opportunity and grinned at her.
'Careful, Deirdre,' he said with mock concern, 'or you might--' He reached out and shoved her hard. Time seemed to freeze for a moment, so that he could see the fear in her eyes, her mouth opening into an "o" of surprise, her arms thrown out in a bid to catch hold of something. Then she was tumbling down the stairs, her limbs at all angles so he could barely tell which way up she was at any given moment.
Jeremy rushed to the bannister just in time to see his wife hit the floor, an unpleasant cracking sound coming from her neck. She came to rest on her back, one arm thrown out, the other lying across her chest. Her legs, the first thing Jeremy had ever fallen in love with about her, were pressed up against the wall. Her head lay at an awkward angle.
'--fall,' he finished. His grin widened.
I'm free of the bitch, at last. I should have done that years ago.
He jumped as there came a knock at the front door. He stared at it, startled.
What if it's the neighbours? What if they heard? He pulled himself together, forcing down his panic. They heard us arguing. I can say that she came at me. She was screaming just as loudly as me. I can say that she rushed me, that I was only defending himself.
The knock came again. He started down the stairs, rehearsing his story in his head. He was halfway down when the door opened. He froze as two men walked in. Both were tall. The one in front was dressed in a smart grey suit with a waistcoat and a bow tie. The man behind him wore a long black cloak trimmed with fur and feathers over a black suit; his face was pale and angular, the bones of his skull almost visible.
Mummers. It was the first thought in Jeremy's head. In the village where he'd grown up, they'd still maintained the tradition of Christmas Eve Mummers plays, with villagers dressing up as old Father Christmas and the Lord of Misrule and touring the houses, playing jokes and singing songs. Yet there was a certain air of authority to these people which the actors in his memory lacked, and certainly none of the actors had ever come to his house carrying a clipboard. These strange intruders made Jeremy feel distinctly uneasy.
'What are you doing in my home?' Jeremy demanded, his eyes flicking from one to the other.
The men ignored him. The one in the cloak shut the door while the first one knelt down besides Deirdre's broken body. He glanced at it then made a few notes on the clipboard he was carrying.
'I said, what are you doing here? Who are you? Get the hell out.'
The suited man stood and looked at Jeremy for the first time. He gave an officious smile. 'I am Mr Mallory. We won't take a moment, and then we'll be on our way.' He turned to his companion, handed over the clipboard and said, 'Just sign here please, sir.'
The other man took it, signed it and handed it back. Then Mr Mallory stepped back and the man in the cloak knelt down next to Deirdre's body, his hand going inside his cloak.
'Hey!' Jeremy called out, hurrying down the stairs again. 'You can't touch her. She's dead.'
'I assure you, my boss will not lay a finger on her,' Mr Mallory said.
Jeremy stopped dead then went backwards a few steps as the cloaked figure withdrew a knife. The man positioned the knife carefully above Deirdre's breast then sliced down. Jeremy cried out but the man ignored him. Instead, he flicked his wrist, twisting the knife and something a silvery rose up around Deirdre's body. It hung there for a moment, then vanished.
The cloaked man stood up. There was a drop of blood on the end of the knife. The man who'd introduced himself as Mr Mallory held out his clipboard. The single blood drop fell onto the paper, leaving the blade clean and unspoiled. Then the cloaked man replaced the knife in his belt and, without comment or even so much as glancing at Jeremy, he turned and walked out of the house. This time, he didn't bother opening the door but walked straight through it.
Jeremy's mouth fell open. 'He can't... I didn't just see him...' His tongue felt thick in his mouth; his heart was thudding. He turned, uncomprehending to the other man who had not yet moved. Mr Mallory smiled and a shiver ran down Jeremy's spine.
'Yes, you did. My boss has many talents, that is just one of them. Now, I suggest you wait here. Your next appointment will be along soon.'
'My what?'
There was a crash as something landed on the roof. Jeremy jumped; Mr Mallory smiled. 'Ah. And there he is now.'
Above him, Jeremy heard footsteps accompanied by the gentle jingle of sleigh bells. He barked out a surprised, relieved laugh.
'Santa! It's fucking Santa on my roof!' Anything seemed possible tonight.
Mr Mallory frowned at him. 'There are more beings that Santa that arrive with sleigh bells on Christmas Eve. It isn't just St Nicholas who has a list of who's been nice and who's been,' he paused, his smile hardening, 'a real bastard.'
From the roof came a terrible bellow, like that of a bull. Jeremy cringed down to the floor. 'What the hell is that?'
'What the hell indeed,' Mr Mallory commented before he walked to the door.
'No! Wait!' Jeremy ran after him, but was too slow. The door closed when his fingers were only inches away from it. Jeremy grabbed the handle and twisted, but the door remained in its frame. Frantically, he twisted it again, and again, but the door wouldn't budge.
From the living room, he could hear the sound of claws scrabbling on stone as the creature from the roof made its way down the chimney. Whimpering, Jeremy tried the handle again.
The kitchen! I can get out of the back door.
He turned and raced down the hallway. Despite his fear, he couldn't help glancing into the living room. In that instant, the electric fire exploded outwards in a cloud of soot and stone. Jeremy had time to catch sight of green eyes in a large, snouted head pushing its way through the rubble, before he was past the door and speeding towards the kitchen.
Yet by turning his head to look, Jeremy hadn't been watching where he'd been placing his feet. Something tangled around his ankle and he sprawled forwards onto the carpet with a cry.
Jeremy twisted over and stared in horror at his wife's hand that was wrapped around his ankle. He kicked at it with his other foot and the fingers released instantly. For a moment he thought she'd reached out for him, but her eyes were dead and lifeless.
No, no way she could have done that. No way. I tripped that was all.
A bestial huff from the living room brought him back to the moment and Jeremy scrambled to his feet. His eyes were fixed on the back door and the escape it offered him, but once again, he was too slow. Another hand wrapped around his ankle, but this one was large, hairy and covered in black veins. Jeremy twisted and turned, screamed and kicked, but this demon's hand was not to be dislodged in the same manner as his wife's had been. Jeremy sobbed and pleaded as he was dragged into the living room, blackened by soot, towards the jaws of a creature with green eyes and a bulging sack at his feet.

<![CDATA[13 FOR CHRISTMAS: WRAPPED UP (PART 2) BY CHARLOTTE BOND]]>Thu, 08 Dec 2016 04:55:44 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/thirteen-for-xmas/13-for-christmas-wrapped-up-part-2-by-charlotte-bond
Christmas is coming, the decorations are up, Christmas tunes are playing on repeat, and the eggnog is chilling in the fridge.   Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes the festive season.  And as a thank, you for all of your support for what has been a fantastically successful year, Ginger Nuts of Horror in association with Charlotte Bond, brings you 13 For Christmas.  For thirteen days in the lead up to Christmas, we bring you a special festive themed piece flash fiction from Charlotte.  Grab a hot drink and find a nice warm place and please enjoys these festively creepy tales.  

Today's story is titled Wrapped up (Part 2 )
Matthew opened his eyes. His face felt numb. He tried to turn his head and a bolt of pain shot down from his cheek through his shoulder. He winced and rolled his head back. He squeezed his eyes closed, riding the pain until it eased.
When he felt able to, he opened his eyes again. Being in bed, he had expected to see the familiar furnishings of his bedroom. But the room he was in was completely alien to him. Its walls were a sickly green. There was a bland framed picture of a landscape on the wall. Over the frame had been draped some dull, ragged tinsel. Not wanting to risk moving his head again, he moved his eyes instead. The windows on either side of the door were frosted but he could make out the suffused glow of multicoloured fairy lights strung along the bottom.
A shadow passed over one window and the door handle moved. The door opened, admitting the distant strains of carols and the pungent disinfectant smell that confirmed Matthew's suspicion that he was in a hospital. That idea was reinforced by the man who walked through the door, dressed in green scrubs with a surgeon's mask across his face.
The surgeon closed the door, his eyes on the clipboard he carried. When he looked up, his eyes crinkled in an unseen smile.
'Ah! Matthew. Good to see you're awake. You won't be that way for long, I'm afraid. We need to operate on that wound on your face in the next few hours to prevent anything more than minimal scarring.' The surgeon bent down, peering at Matthew's face, inspecting the wound. 'A graft, I think.'
Matthew's heart stuttered as he saw the dark eyes in the pale face. A memory, a terrible one, was battling the way to the forefront of his mind. He could feel fear racing up and down his spine, but his mind was so groggy, he couldn't figure out what it was he should be afraid of.
The surgeon stood up and stared down at Matthew. It was an intense, probing look and Matthew shrank back into his pillow. The surgeon chuckled at his reaction. 'You're in very good hands, Matthew, very good hands.'
The surgeon reached up and pulled down his mask. It revealed his nose, his pale pink lips, and the seam that ran from each corner of his lips all the way to his ears. The surgeon's mouth opened, his cheeks parted and row upon row of sharp, pointed teeth were revealed.
Matthew started to scream, tearing his wound open so that blood poured down his cheek and soaked his pillow.

<![CDATA[13 FOR CHRISTMAS: WHERE DOES SANTA SPEND THE SUMMER? BY CHARLOTTE BOND]]>Thu, 08 Dec 2016 04:54:04 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/thirteen-for-xmas/13-for-christmas-where-does-santa-spend-the-summer-by-charlotte-bond
Christmas is coming, the decorations are up, Christmas tunes are playing on repeat, and the eggnog is chilling in the fridge.   Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes the festive season.  And as a thank, you for all of your support for what has been a fantastically successful year, Ginger Nuts of Horror in association with Charlotte Bond, brings you 13 For Christmas.  For thirteen days in the lead up to Christmas, we bring you a special festive themed piece flash fiction from Charlotte.  Grab a hot drink and find a nice warm place and please enjoys these festively creepy tales.  

Today's story is titled Where does Santa Spend The Summer?....

Graham gripped the arms of his wheelchair in anticipation. The cleaner was moving towards the mantlepiece now.
'Just watch this,' he said quietly, nudging Nick who was sitting on the sofa next to him.
Nick sighed, not looking up from his crossword puzzle. 'What have you done now, Graham?'
'You're such a wuss.' Graham would rather not talk to Nick, but since the rest of the care home residents shunned him these days, he had no choice but to tolerate his company if he wanted any kind of conversation at all.
The cleaner took her duster out, wiped along the top of the clock, picked up the Toby jug, cleaned it, replaced it, then reached for the picture frame. Graham held his breath in anticipation. As the woman lifted the picture, there was a loud crack. She screamed and dropped it, where it shattered on the hearth.
Graham threw back his head and gave a hearty, throaty guffaw. The cleaner scowled and hurried out of the room.
'You're for it now,' Nick said, still not looking up.
'You've no sense of humour,' Graham grumbled.
'It's not funny. It's cruel.'
Graham was saved from replying by the cleaner returning with Peter, the manager, walking next to her. The manager stood before Graham who glowered up to him. Peter pushed his ebony black hair out of his eyes and frowned.
'Snap bombs? I thought we confiscated them all from your room?'
Graham grinned. 'I hid some where even your nurses wouldn't check.'
Peter sighed and shook his head. He turned to the cleaner who had tears glistening in her eyes. 'I'm sorry, Sarah. I promise you, this won't go unpunished. Why don't you take the rest of the day off? You'll still get paid. Why not go out Christmas shopping?' The cleaner nodded, wiped her eyes and left.
'Do I get time off to go Christmas shopping too?' Graham asked innocently. Peter scowled at him and Graham put on a comedy pout. 'So what's my punishment to be then?'
Peter leaned down so he was only inches from Graham's face. Graham recoiled as much as his wheelchair would let him. He normally considered the manager a milk-sop, but suddenly he wasn't so sure.
Peter grinned, showing bright white teeth. 'Oh, I believe I'll think of something suitable.' He stood up.
Anger chasing away his unease, Graham said sullenly, 'What? You mean Father Christmas won't come to me this year?'
'I'm sure he will come,' Peter said in a low voice, 'but if you're really unlucky, he'll bring his companion with him.'
Graham frowned. 'What? An elf?'
Peter shook his head and walked away. Graham called out, 'Hey! I was talking to you! Answer me!'
But it was Nick who answered. 'He means Krampus. Or Knecht Ruprecht. Or Zwarte Piet.'
Graham glowered at the other old man. 'What the hell are you talking about?'
Nick looked up. His bright blue eyes were almost as unsettling as Peter's. 'I mean that Santa doesn't travel alone; he has a companion who dishes out punishment while Santa dishes out toys. Some people call him Krampus, a devil-like creature who carries a birch twig to whip bad children. Or there's Ruprecht or Piet -- Rupert or Peter, if you like -- who listens at chimneys to the children of the household, eavesdropping so they can report back to Santa who's been good and who's been wicked.'
Graham sniffed. 'My mother told me all eavesdroppers were despicable creatures. You're so full of crap, Nick.'
'I was just telling you what others believe,' Nick said. He scratched his white beard then returned to his paper.
Bored of the conversation, Graham wheeled himself back to his room. It made his arms ache terribly to push himself along, but the wheelchair was too good a ruse to give up. It meant he could get away with stuff that the new staff wouldn't expect of him. It also lent credence to his insistence that he be lifted into bed, a chore often assigned to the staff member he'd named Luscious Linda, and he always enjoyed copping a feel at the same time.
As the days marched inexorably towards Christmas, Graham upped his jokes and tricks. He put salt in all the sugar bowls and tried to hide his grin as they heard the kitchen assistant getting a bollocking from the cook.
By the time Christmas Eve came round, Graham was filled with Christmas cheer, if somewhat lacking in goodwill towards his fellow men. And it seemed he was in for an early Christmas treat when Luscious Linda helped him into bed.
'I got you something,' he said as she tucked the blankets around him. She looked at him askance. 'Look in my top drawer.' Suspiciously, Linda opened the drawer. Then her face brightened with delight. She lifted out the box.
'Lindt chocolates? How did you know they are my favourites?'
Graham grinned her but said nothing. He wondered what her face would look like tomorrow when she opened them and found nothing but stones where chocolates should be. The real chocolates had gone into his belly some months ago.
'Thank you, Graham,' she said, giving him a kiss on the cheek. 'You're not as bad as they all say.'
When she'd gone, Graham settled himself down. A life-long insomniac, he stared at the ceiling, entertaining himself by imagining the jokes and japes he could pull tomorrow.
He was distracted by a shimmering light playing across the ceiling. Linda had left the door open and he could see the light was coming from Nick's room across the hall. Ignoring his aches and pains, Graham tried to sit up and see what was going on.
'You got a telly in there, Nick? Who's arse did you lick for that privilege?'
No answer came, but the shimmering lights were blocked out by a figure standing in the doorway. Graham couldn't understand what his eyes were seeing; the silhouette looked nothing like Nick, but somehow Graham was absolutely convinced that it was him.
'Nick? What are you playing at?'
The figure strode forward and Graham saw that it was Nick, but the old man looked different. He wore a dark green suit with fur around the collar and cuffs. He wore heavy black boots that reached to his knees. Holly -- real holly, not plastic fakery -- was wrapped round his waist like a belt.
The figure strode in not with Nick's hunched shuffle, but with a wide, confident gait. A second figure followed him inside. Graham stared as the care home's manager stepped around Nick.
'St Nicholas and Piet at your service,' said Peter, bowing. With a grin he added, 'That's Father Christmas and Black Peter to you, Graham.' The manager ran a hand through his shocking dark hair; in the dim light, his brown eyes looked black as well.
'But... you're... North Pole... I don't--'
'Spare us your ramblings,' Nicholas snapped. 'We haven't time for it, tonight of all nights.' He turned to Peter. 'He's all yours. I have work to do.'
Nicholas turned and strode out of his room. Graham's eyes flicked to the manager, who closed the door and stepped forward, rubbing his hands.
'Now, Graham, let's talk about that punishment...'

<![CDATA[13 FOR CHRISTMAS: THE CHRISTMAS HAM BY CHARLOTTE BOND]]>Thu, 08 Dec 2016 04:52:43 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/thirteen-for-xmas/13-for-christmas-the-christmas-ham-by-charlotte-bond
Christmas is coming, the decorations are up, Christmas tunes are playing on repeat, and the eggnog is chilling in the fridge.   Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes the festive season.  And as a thank, you for all of your support for what has been a fantastically successful year, Ginger Nuts of Horror in association with Charlotte Bond, brings you 13 For Christmas.  For thirteen days in the lead up to Christmas, we bring you a special festive themed piece flash fiction from Charlotte.  Grab a hot drink and find a nice warm place and please enjoys these festively creepy tales.  

Today's story is titled The Christmas Ham....

'Are you looking forward to this?' Michael asked his sister, Susan.
She grimaced. 'Not at all. But it could be worse. We could be going to Dad's.'
Michael frowned. 'Yeah, maybe. But I'm going to reserve judgment until I've met Mum's new bloke. I mean, a butcher?' He pulled a face and couldn't stop a shudder going down his spine. 'Her standards have fallen, don't you think? Merchant banker to butcher.'
'Yeah, but Dad's an arsehole. You didn't stay with him while he was recovering from his hip operation. He was a nightmare. I don't know how Mum stood him for so long. But if she's happy now, then we should be happy too. Now shush,' she chided him as she lifted the knocker and rapped hard three times.
The door was opened a few moments later and Michael was surprised to find a tall, thin and surprisingly handsome man on the other side. The man's face instantly lit up at the sight of them.
'Ah! You must be Michael and Susan. I'm Shaun.' His voice had a pleasant Irish lilt to it. He hugged Susan then held out his hand to Michael.
Michael gritted his teeth as he shook it. He half-expected Shaun's skin to be moist and sticky with blood, but in fact his hand was warm, his handshake firm. Yet when he let go, Michael reflexively wiped his hand on his trousers. With horror, he realised that his mother's new boyfriend had witnessed this. He tried to defend his actions.
'I, just, well, I didn't mean--'
'Don't worry, kid,' Shaun said with a chuckle. 'You're not the first. It comes with the job. Come on in.'
Despite Michael's initial reservations, he began warming to Shaun very quickly. The man was easy, relaxing company. They sat in the living room, talking and drinking tea, until Michael and their mother went to finish off preparing dinner. It was only then, with a stab of guilt, that Michael realised he hadn't thought of his father at all since they'd arrived. He glanced at his watch.
'I'm going to call, Dad,' he told Susan. His sister was reading the paper and merely shrugged noncommittally. 
Michael made his way to the kitchen. Shaun turned round, a large plate with tinfoil on it in his hands. When he saw Michael he beamed. 'Ah! Do I have a treat in store for you, my boy. Now, I know we'll all be sharing turkey in a week or so, but in my house, there was always the tradition of the Christmas ham. It whetted our appetite so to speak for the coming feast, and it carves up beautiful for sandwiches.'
'Smells delicious,' Michael commented with a grin. He looked towards his mother. 'Can I use your phone just to quickly call Dad before we sit down, Mum? I want to check how he's doing. He doesn't get about much after his hip operation.'
Michael didn't fail to notice that the question caused his mother to pause. He glanced at Shaun, wondering if he'd said the wrong thing. The man's smile had indeed slipped slightly, but when he caught Michael's eye, he widened it again.
'Er, of course, dear,' his mother said, not turning round.
'Thanks.' Michael made his way into the hall. He dialled his father's number and got no response. He waited five minutes and tried again; still nothing.
'Dinner!' cried his mother from the kitchen. 
Susan overtook him on the way to the dinner table. 'Smells fabulous,' she said as she sat down.
Shaun beamed. 'Old family recipe, lass.'
The ham was indeed delicious, moist and full of flavour. They ate and talked and laughed. Michael genuinely couldn't remember when he'd enjoyed a family meal so much. After it was done, he and Susan insisted that Shaun and their mother, as the cooks, should go and rest while the two of them tidied up. 
As Susan sat down to carve up some ham for tomorrow's sandwiches, Michael went back to the phone. He called his father again; still no answer. He wandered back into the kitchen, feeling unaccountably glum. 
Susan was sitting just where he'd left her, but now she was as white as a shroud. 'What's the matter?' he asked, hurrying over to her. 
Wordlessly, Susan held up an item. It was a few inches long, covered in bits of ham. Michael felt nausea grip hold of him as he recognised it. Susan was holding a pin, one that the surgeon had shown to them, right before they put it in their father's hip.
<![CDATA[13 FOR CHRISTMAS: ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS BY CHARLOTTE BOND]]>Thu, 08 Dec 2016 04:51:14 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/thirteen-for-xmas/13-for-christmas-all-i-want-for-christmas-by-charlotte-bond
Christmas is coming, the decorations are up, Christmas tunes are playing on repeat, and the eggnog is chilling in the fridge.   Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes the festive season.  And as a thank, you for all of your support for what has been a fantastically successful year, Ginger Nuts of Horror in association with Charlotte Bond, brings you 13 For Christmas.  For thirteen days in the lead up to Christmas, we bring you a special festive themed piece flash fiction from Charlotte.  Grab a hot drink and find a nice warm place and please enjoys these festively creepy tales.  

Today's story is titled All I want for Christmas...

Mr Mallory pulled the collar of his grey coat up to protect his neck from the cold winter wind. He looked at the dank walls of the narrow alleyway stretching above them and repressed a grimace.
He turned to his boss who was standing next to him and commented, 'Getting chilly, sir.'
'Is it?' Death replied. 'I can never tell.'
'Of course not. Sorry, sir. Just making conversation.'
Mr Mallory looked down at the tramp curled at their feet. Mr Mallory might wear a human form these days, but he was far from that. He was as ethereal as his boss, although not quite as old. In the early days, Mr Mallory had wept over the death of each creature. But these days, he took it in his stride.
They watched the small plumes of breath coming from the man's mouth. As the plumes got smaller and smaller, Death swept his black cloak back and knelt down. He retrieved a knife from his belt and poised it above the tramp's heart. Mr Mallory took a step back. You didn't want to get too close to a knife that could part flesh from reality, even if it wasn't pointing directly at you.
A final plume of breath left the tramp's mouth and Death's hand plunged down. The knife entered the tramp's flesh, not leaving a mark. Death gave it an expert flick of the wrist and drew the blade out again. There was a brief shimmer around the tramp's form, as if he was momentarily wreathed in mist, then it vanished.
Mr Mallory turned to his clipboard as Death stood up. He filled in all the details then held the clipboard out to his boss. Death lifted the knife up; a single drop of scarlet blood hung from its tip. It dropped down onto the paper, marking it with a perfect circle.
'Thank you, sir,' said Mr Mallory, blowing on the blood to dry it.
Just as he was tucking his pen back into the groove on the clipboard, a voice behind them startled him.
'Excuse me. Are you Father Christmas?'
Mr Mallory turned and saw, with some measure of surprise, a little girl standing in the alleyway behind them. She was dressed in a coat that looked third-hand and her shoes were scuffed, one of the velcro straps hanging off.
'Does he look like Father Christmas?' Mr Mallory asked, glancing at his boss who wore a plain dark suit and a long black cloak trimmed with feathers and fur. 
The little girl shrugged. 'I don't know. Granny has a card with a man in a long green cloak on it. She says its old Father Christmas, that he's different from Santa, and doesn't actually wear red.'
'Well, actually,' Mr Mallory began, 'the tradition goes back to the time of the pagans when--'
'Thank you, Mr Mallory, I don't think she needs a history lesson,' said Death. His tone brooked no argument. Mr Mallory shut his mouth instantly.
'Are you an elf?' she asked, looking at Mr Mallory.
'I'm an assistant,' he said defensively. Her thoughtful, piercing gaze was making him uncomfortable.
She frowned. 'I didn't know elves wore grey suits or waistcoats or bow ties.'
Indignantly, Mr Mallory adjusted his tie as Death knelt down in front of the girl. Mr Mallory expected her to step back, to run away, but instead she just pressed her chin down deeper into her coat, as if trying to draw her head in like a turtle. She stared at him with wide eyes, filled with uncertainty, but she held her ground. Mr Mallory was impressed.
'Santa Claus has a red coat -- or a green coat, as you said -- with white trim. He is usually surrounded by lights and snowmen and... things. He doesn't wear black and you don't find him an alleyway.'
'Yes, I've seen that other Santa, but Daddy won't let me sit on his lap, and Mummy says there's no point in asking for presents this year because...' Her voice trailed off. She dug her hands in her pockets and looked down, but not before Mr Mallory had seen the look of abject misery on her face. He realised that her tights were snagged and had a large hole on one ankle.
'Because what?' Death asked gently. Even Mr Mallory leaned forward to hear the girl's whispered reply.
'Because she says Daddy drank away all our money and now we have to have soup and beans on toast for Christmas dinner.' Despite the dim light, Mr Mallory saw the teardrop fall from her nose and hit the dirty ground.
'I see,' said Death. His voice had a cold, hard edge to it. Warning bells went off in Mr Mallory's head. 'And if you did find Santa, what would you ask him for?'
The girl looked down, abashed. Then she looked up, under her long eyelashes and said quietly, 'I'd like Daddy not to be horrid please, Santa. Just for Christmas Day. Just once this year. Please.'
Before either of them could reply, a loud drunken belch echoed down the alleyway. 'Rebecca? Where are you, you brat? I told you to wait outside the betting shop.'
As Death stood up, Mr Mallory spied the man weaving down the alleyway. He was podgy, his beer gut spilling over his tracksuit bottoms. He carried an open can of cheap lager in his hand and swigged from it again before shouting, 'If you don't come out right now, you'll be eating your dinner through a fucking straw. Or maybe I'll just leave you here and some muggers or a rapist will--'
His eyes fell on the trio of the grey-suited man, the cloaked figure, and his young daughter who had stepped just a little closer to them as her father appeared. Death gave the girl a gentle push. 'Go on. Your father's here.' To the man he called out, 'Don't worry, Mr Bailey. Your daughter is fine.'
Reluctantly the girl walked towards her father who was staring at Death with a look of horror.
'How do you know-?' he began, then clearly thought better of it. 'Just keep away from us, you hear?' He grabbed his daughter by the wrist and hauled her down the alleyway.
Rebecca twisted round and called out, 'Bye, Santa.'
'That's not Santa, you stupid bitch,' Stephen said, tugging her the right way round.
'Then who was it?' she asked with a touch of defiance.
Her father glanced nervously over his shoulder; if he gave her a reply, it escaped Mr Mallory's hearing and in a moment they were gone, turning left onto the high street.
'I think I have a new name to add to your list, Mr Mallory.'
'Sir, should we really--?'
'It's Christmas, Mr Mallory.'
'We don't normally celebrate the seasons, sir. This is highly irregular.'
'Yes, but I haven't done it in a few decades. I'm due a little tinkering.'
Mr Mallory stifled a groan and said, with as much humility as he could, 'As you say, sir.'
Children. It's always children that makes him act this recklessly.
Death reached into the pocket of his long black cloak and drew out a watch. It was a cheap quartz piece; each person's soul had its own chronometer. The cheap tackiness of this one said a world of things about its owner.
Death snapped his fingers and the hands began to move, slowly at first, until they were fairly whizzing round. As they went faster, Mr Mallory looked around anxiously. They were visible to humans here and he didn't like lingering.
'Food poisoning, I think,' Death said as he watched the hands whirred onwards, 'combined with excessive drinking so that he chokes on his own vomit. Yes. That will be very satisfactory.'
'Very good, sir.' The hands of the watch slowed until it was ticking normally again. Mr Mallory peered over his boss' shoulder and asked, 'And what date for termination do we have now?'
'Christmas Day. About two o'clock in the morning.'
Mr Mallory made a note on his clipboard then sighed. 'This will cause a considerable amount of paperwork, sir.'
Death turned. The skin on his face was so thin that Mr Mallory could see the skeleton underneath when his boss smiled. 'Then I shall gift-wrap it for you, Mr Mallory. And maybe throw in a new pen.'
'Very droll, sir.' He tucked the clipboard under his arm and together they walked out of the alleyway, merging unseen among the Christmas shoppers. 
<![CDATA[13 FOR CHRISTMAS: WRAPPED UP (PART1) BY CHARLOTTE BOND]]>Thu, 08 Dec 2016 04:50:11 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/thirteen-for-xmas/13-for-christmas-wrapped-up-part1-by-charlotte-bond
Christmas is coming, the decorations are up, Christmas tunes are playing on repeat, and the eggnog is chilling in the fridge.   Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes the festive season.  And as a thank, you for all of your support for what has been a fantastically successful year, Ginger Nuts of Horror in association with Charlotte Bond, brings you 13 For Christmas.  For thirteen days in the lead up to Christmas, we bring you a special festive themed piece flash fiction from Charlotte.  Grab a hot drink and find a nice warm place and please enjoys these festively creepy tales.  

Today's story is titled Wrapped up (Part1).....
Matthew glanced over his shoulder. Even through the late evening crowds, he could see she was still there, her eyes fixed on him above her the grey scarf that was wrapped around the rest of her face. She was small, nothing more than a little girl, but somehow that made her blank, unerring gaze that much worse. Matthew shifted his backpack and sped up.
It had been Steven's idea to go home from school via the high street. He'd wanted to buy something for his mother. 'Haven't you got her anything yet?' Matthew had asked with exasperation.
'Nah. I'm waiting for the Christmas sales,' Steven had said, picking up a small china figurine.
'Those don't start until Boxing Day, you idiot.'
He'd turned and grinned at Matthew. 'Think she'll notice?'
But now Steven was gone, heading the other way home. It had been as Matthew was waving goodbye to his friend that he'd noticed the girl. She was standing in the middle of the street. The crowd seemed to part around her, like water around a rock. Her eyes were so dark they'd seemed black and the way they were fixed on Matthew had unnerved him -- but not as much as turning round at the traffic lights and finding that she was keeping pace with him.
Now he was reaching the end of the high street and the park loomed ahead of him. It was his quickest way home but Matthew didn't like the idea of going through that dark, silent place with that creepy girl after him.
He glanced over his shoulder and couldn't see her through the crowd.
Now's my chance.
He dived down a side street and crouched behind a folding shop sign that stood in the street. A few people looked at him curiously but he ignored them. He peeked around the edge, needing to see proof that his ruse had worked. To his immense relief he watched the girl walk past. She didn't even glance his way.
Matthew stood up and hurried in the opposite direction down the side street, constantly glancing behind him, but the girl had gone.
She probably wasn't even following me, he thought as he turned left at the end of the street and crossed the road. Maybe she was lost and I looked like her brother or something, and that's why she was following me. His steps faltered as guilt swamped him. Could that be possible? He picked up the pace once more; whatever his conscience counselled, there was no way he was turning back to find out.
Matthew walked along the road, the park on his left beyond the railings. Its dark, open space made him nervous, vulnerable even though he was only skirting the edges of it. He thought of what it would have been like crossing that wide, empty space with the girl trailing after him. He repressed a shudder and tried not to look that way. Instead, he walked close to the line of parked cars on his right.
The lights of town were well behind him now, the sound of shoppers fading away. He was in the residential streets now, not far from home.
A figure stepped out in front of him, moving silently from between the parked cars. Matthew halted in surprise. The figure turned its head and he saw dark eyes peering at him over the top of a grey scarf.
Matthew swallowed uneasily as the little girl turned to face him fully. 'Are you okay?' he asked, his voice trembling. 'Are you lost? Do you want me to walk you back to the high street?'
The little girl didn't answer. Instead, she reached up and started unwinding the scarf. In a strangled voice, Matthew said, 'Don't do that. It's too cold. Stay wrapped up.' He had a deep, primal sense that he didn't want to see what lay under that wrapping.
The girl dropped the scarf to the ground. They were standing halfway between two streetlights. In the dim light, she appeared normal. Matthew felt the tension between his shoulders unknot a little, then he noticed that there was a wide line stretched from the corners of her lips up to her ears.
Matthew frowned, peering at her. 'What's that? Are you--'
The girl opened her mouth, and it kept opening. Those seams on her cheeks split apart revealing an impossibly wide mouth lined with rows of razor-sharp teeth that seemed to stretch all the way down her gullet.
Matthew cried out and stumbled backwards. He started to turn but the girl tensed then pounced. The weight of her overbalanced him and he tumbled to the ground. Her teeth sank into his cheek and Matthew's world was filled with a sharp red pain that wouldn't stop.