Ginger Nuts of Horror
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 ....
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?'