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 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.
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.