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 Bauble...
Bernard stepped back and admired the tree. It was a real one this year, an indulgence. The tinsel sparkled a rainbow of colours where it caught the light. Silver baubles were hung from selective branches, swaying gently and glittering. He couldn't stop a grin spreading across his face.
Mine, he thought, taking in the living room as well as the tree. Not Stephen's. No. Nothing for him but a cold grave, and Mother to keep him warm. A sneer split Bernard's face. He always was her favourite. Now they can spend eternity together. I wonder if they're burning in the afterlife as much as they burned in this one? He raised a hand to his lips, holding back a giggle.
Setting that fire in his own kitchen had been a genius idea: not only did it get rid of his mother and brother in one fell swoop, but it gave him a reason to move out of his own house and into his mother's little cottage. And the amount of sympathy he'd got for losing his mother, his brother and his home - all at Christmas - had made his head spin. It had only built on the exhilaration he already felt for having finally rid himself of his hated relatives.
Bernard went to the kitchen and made himself a cup of coffee; not instant stuff, not any more. With the family money, he'd bought himself a proper coffeemaker and the most expensive coffee he could find.
Coffee. It's my only sin, he'd told himself at the time. I deserve to indulge myself a little, after all I've been through. The smell of the finest roasted coffee beans filled the kitchen and Bernard breathed in the aroma with relish.
When the coffee was ready, he poured it into a cup. He left it black but added three spoonfuls of sugar. It was Christmas, after all.
He wandered back into the oak-beamed living room. With the twinkling Christmas tree, the open fire and Christmas carols on the brand new sound system he'd installed, it was really quite festive. One thing irked him though: he remembered how the mantlepiece had been covered in cards when he mother lived here. Now there were only a couple up there, and those were from his workmates.
Still, friends come and go. This house was built to last, and now it's mine. That's the most important thing. The gaps on the mantlepiece still irked him though, and he turned his gaze away.
In surveying the room, Bernard's eye fell on a white box, almost lost among the other empty boxes from the loft. He slapped his forehead. 'How stupid could I have been!'
He put down the coffee cup and opened the box. He pulled out a large bauble, made of blown glass and coloured a deep, ruby red. There was an intricate pattern around the top in gold paint.
Bernard remembered exactly the moment he'd bought it and why. It had been Boxing Day, the day after he'd successfully rid himself of the last two members of his family. He'd been in a department store, picking an impromptu present for his next door neighbour who'd offered to put him up until he found a new place to live. His mother's key to her own house had been warped out of shape by the flames that consumed her, and apparently locksmiths didn't work on Boxing Day.
He'd been picking out a scarf (the cheapest one possible), when the Boxing Day sale stand had drawn his attention. That bauble had been in a large bowl with others that were a garish purple or an insipid gold. But this one shimmered with a brilliance lacking from its fellows. The imperfections in its glass caught the light and made it look like its surface was alive and swirling.
He'd bought it, swearing at the time, that this would be the first bauble he hung on his tree next Christmas. It would be a sign that he'd won.
Well, maybe it's better that I saved it until last, he thought as he hung it about two thirds up the tree, at eye level. Now it gets pride of place.
He stood there, staring at the ruby glass, hypnotised by the way it gently spun and sparkled. A movement in the darkness behind it drew his gaze. With the fairy lights flickering on and off, it took a few moments for him to realise that a face was staring back at him. It was a face he knew, that he'd last seen being zipped up into a coroner's black bag.
Bernard stood frozen, transfixed by the empty holes where his mother's eyes should have been. Her blackened skin glistened wetly in the festive lighting.
'But... but... you're... I mean, I...'
The creature hissed, a blackened hand snaking out of the tree branches, aiming for his eyes. Bernard cried out, lurching backwards. But his ankle was tangled on something and he fell to the ground. Dazed, he stared down to see a man's hand wrapped around his ankle. The knuckle bones were exposed, a stark white against the charred skin.
The tree started to shake, as the monsters concealed within it tried to reach the living on the other side. Bernard twisted on the floor, digging his nails into the thick carpet. He tried to haul himself free from his brother's hand. But as he kicked out, he felt another hand fasten around his other leg, halfway up the calf.
He cried out, his arms flailing as he tried to gain purchase on the sofa, on the rug, on anything that would stop him being dragged inexorably backwards. As he grasped at the coffee table, his cup toppled over. Blisteringly hot coffee splashed over his face and he screamed in agony. His pain distracted him from noticing that, without a grip on anything, he was being dragged swiftly towards the tree.
Shrieks and squeals filled the cottage; grunts and choking coughs drowned out the cheery Christmas carols. The tree shook so violently that ornaments went flying and the star fell from its perch. The plug for the fairy lights was wrenched from its socket, plunging the tree and the room into gloom.
Through it all, the red glass bauble hung there, swinging in a frenzy backwards and forwards, but never being shaking loose. Slowly, the tree stilled and the bauble swung gently to and fro until it too came to rest. It scattered shards of bright scarlet light across the empty room as a final ray of December sunshine fell on it through the leaded windows.