Ginger Nuts of Horror
Click here to editChristmas 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 Oh Christmas Tree...
William walked through the wood at the back of the garden centre, humming to himself. His son, Lucas, hurried to keep up with him.
'Three generations of our family have been supplying Christmas trees to the town,' William said with a grin. He looked down and ruffled the eight year old's hair. 'Hopefully you'll make it four generations.'
His son looked up, his eyes filled with wonder and trust. 'Yes, Daddy. I promise.'
William laughed and held his son's hand as they walked through the trees. His great-grandfather had set it up as a charity, giving away free Christmas trees to all the needy families in the area who couldn't afford their own. Then his grandfather had planted extra and sold them off to a few select families as well. The old man had even grown a series of ten foot high ones, especially for the big stately home; he'd discovered that once you sold them a fine ten foot specimen, you could sell them another two dozen five footers for all the rooms open to the public as well.
Then William's father had opened the garden centre and decided that the trees should be sold rather than given away, and William had extended that idea. Now they gave away only one Christmas tree, to the local children's hospital, and that was it. Gifting that tree gave them a wealth of publicity, so William didn't mind the loss of stock too much.
Lucas let go of his hand and turned round and round on the spot, his arms thrown wide. 'It's like having our very own Christmas grotto, Daddy.'
William chuckled. 'Yes, I suppose so. We are the givers of Christmas trees, the growers of festive spirit.' In the distance came the sound of his wife calling them to supper. 'Get on with you now, Lucas. It's time for dinner. Go wash up and tell Mummy to put mine in the oven. I just need to cut down one last one for a special order.'
Lucas obediently ran off and William made his way to the shed where they kept the tools. He selected his favourite axe, with the leather grip around the handle, and set off back into the wood. He found the tree he wanted, right at the furthest reaches of the wood. It was the first tree his great-grandfather had planted. William's grandfather had never cut it down, and warned his young grandson against it when William was not much older than Lucas.
'The first tree planted,' his grandfather had said, 'is the guardian tree. It holds the spirit of the forest. The other trees you can take as you like, but if you cut this one down, you may as well pour poison onto the rest of the crop.'
William's father had scoffed at such an idea, but nevertheless he had never cut down the tree. Now William stood before it.
'You'll look fantastic on the main square, really cement our position in this town. You'll be going to a good cause.' William lifted the axe. 'So long, old boy.' He drew the axe back and swung. It sliced into the tree with a meaty thud and stuck there. William let go of the axe in surprise and straightened.
What the hell? Is there something inside it? Wood doesn't make that sound when you hit it.
Black liquid was running down from where the axe was buried in the trunk. William stepped closer. He reached out a finger and touched the liquid, which was disconcertingly warm. He examined his finger and found it smeared in red. Blood. The coldness of fear seized his stomach. He backed away, startled when he bumped into a tree. He spun round. The path behind him had been clear, but now there was a tree there.
What's going? This is insane.
A movement caught his eye and he turned to his right to find that there was another tree where only moments before there had been bare snow. William spun around again and again, but he was hemmed in on all sides.
'Help!' he called out, hoping to alert his family. 'Help!'
There was sniggering laughter from the branches above him. William looked up and saw an ancient, leathery face peering down at him. Two green eyes, so bright they glowed, stared back at him. He heard rustling to his left and right and saw more creatures emerging from the trees.
William made a bid for freedom, dodging through the widest gap he could see between the tree trunks. Above him, the branches shook, and then a figure dropped down. It landed on his back, sending him flying forward, face first into the snow, so that only the cold ground heard his scream.
At eight o'clock that same night, Lucas came out looking for his father. He made his way slowly through the trees, shouting for his father all the time. But he didn't stay out very long; the trees, towering above him in the darkness, seemed more sinister than they had done when he'd walked this way with his father earlier.
He hurried back to the house and reported that he couldn't find his father. His mother, grumbling, bundled up and headed out. She made a more thorough search than her son did and, just when she was about to give up to go and try the office, the twinkling of lights through the trees caught her attention.
She hurried towards it, calling out her husband's name. Yet even at a distance, she sensed something was wrong. The lights were hung strangely, as if they'd been wrapped around the trunk of a tree rather than laid across its branches.
As she drew closer, her eyes registered the horror but her brain would not. She stumbled forward, her mouth falling open as she took in the truly awful sight before her.
William was tied to a tree, bound with fairy lights. His legs had been cut off, discarded some way from the body. The bloody axe had been left resting against the tree. The pool of red ice and slush spreading over the tree's roots testified to the fact that William had bled to death from his severed limbs. But worst of all, someone had used more fairy lights to tie his arms to the lower branches and then hung a few small Christmas decorations from his fingers, as if he was nothing more than one of the Christmas trees he sold.