Ginger Nuts of Horror
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...'