After all the fun we had bringing you scares from Prospero all October long, we couldn't resist concocting this series of festive flash fics of fear.
So check back with us throughout the season for fresh, bite-sized of holiday horrors!
Previously On... Holiday Horrors: Black Friday, What the Movies Don't Show, What's Eating Mall Santa, Where Gran Hides Her Presents
By Matt Carter
It’s not that I didn’t take any pride in what I did. I made sure everything looked good. Our door had a wreath, our fireplace had its stockings hung with care, our mantle decorated with greens and lights. The first floor had been taken over by Christmas decorations, all centered around the six-and-a-half-foot Noble Fir tree that took place of pride in the middle of our living room. Decked out in ornaments, lights, strings of popcorn and about ten boxes of tinsel, it was a sight to behold if I must say so myself.
The kids loved it, of course, not that they wouldn’t have been happy with whatever I put up because it was Christmas, but I tried to make it right for them. We never really did much for Christmas when I was a kid, so I guess you could say that I was trying to overcompensate and make sure they had the most Christmasy Christmas possible.
Christmas morning was great. They woke up at four-thirty, hyper and jumping up and down on our bed, telling us that Santa had come. They practically dragged us downstairs to show us the mountain of presents beneath the tree and the bites that Santa had taken out of the Oreos they left on the coffee table. Presents were torn open, there was much cheer and pictures taken of fond holiday memories. They played for a few hours, then passed out (because hey, that’s what happens when six and seven year olds wake up at four in the morning), and while my wife brewed another pot of coffee I cleaned up all the boxes and torn wrapping paper.
If only that were the last of the cleanup necessary.
See, that’s the problem they never tell you about going all-out on decorating, that eventually you’re going to have to take it all back down.
I think I did that pretty responsibly too. Every night after the kids went to sleep, I’d take a little bit down, box it up and hide it back in the attic or the garage. It got to the point that they barely noticed a thing was missing until all I had left to take down was the tree.
We knew they’d be despondent if they saw the tree go down, so my wife took them out to the mall for some post-holiday clothes shopping and left me to take it down and out to the recycling center.
It was kind of sad, taking it down. It was that one last bit of the holiday that we still had to hold onto before getting back to the real world. When I pulled down that first handful of tinsel and tossed it into the trash, however, I realized one thing I wouldn’t miss about this season.
Bindley was a six-inch tall wooden gnome, with a jaunty red and green pointed hat, a high collared, furry suit, and a beard that reached down beneath his ample belly. His smile was wide and his blue eyes sparkled, and his one outstretched arm pointed out to his side at nothing in particular.
And I absolutely hated him.
My kids wanted an Elf on the Shelf this year, but since we couldn’t find one, I got a deal from one of my neighbors on Bindley, who was supposed to be some new equivalent made by one of those companies specializing in handmade toys. Since I needed it on short notice, I said sure, why not.
And from that moment on, I hated it.
According to the instructions, Bindley was supposed to move around your house, always pointing out to kids reminders that Christmas was on the way, and at first, I played along. I’d ignore his smirk, his eyes that seemed to follow me everywhere, that pointing finger always drawing attention to what I’d set up and how it didn’t match up to what other, better, dads could do.
But the kids loved him and searching for him, so I did my duty and moved him around.
Well, most of the time at least.
Bindley had a bad habit of popping up in weird places that I know I didn’t put him, like in the medicine cabinet, or in my glove compartment. Always pointing at me, always staring. My wife or kids had to be moving him, like some kind of joke, and I couldn’t say anything because I didn’t want to break the illusion of the holiday.
But I was looking forward to packing him away for the season.
I pulled him out of the tree and set him down on a nearby bookcase. I should’ve thrown him out, but the kids would remember next year. Maybe say you just lost him…
After taking down a few more ornaments and packing them away, I looked back to Bindley.
He was pointing at me and the tree. Staring. Smiling like there was some private joke that I wasn’t in on. I knew I must’ve just set him down that way, but it still gave me a start.
“What’re you laughing at?” I joked, trying to smile it off.
He didn’t say anything. He couldn’t say anything. He was just a toy gnome. But still he pointed, and for some reason I couldn’t quite explain, I felt compelled to look at what he was pointing at.
I pulled away a handful of tinsel, revealing a surprisingly empty section of the tree. It had been full when I bought it, and I’d kept it really hydrated, so this shouldn’t have been a problem. Pulling more tinsel aside, I probed deeper.
Then I saw it.
There was a bulge in the trunk, about the size of a softball, looking almost like a wooden tumor with a glossy sheen over it.
I looked back at Bindley, “So this is what you’re laughing at? That I got a funky tree?”
Still no answer, just staring and pointing and laughing.
Reaching inside, I made to tap the bulge. My fingernail barely scratched its glossy surface when it softly ruptured. Thousands of tiny, writhing insects poured out, scuttling down the tree and my arm. All at once they seemed to start biting me.
I screamed, pulling away from the tree, watching as my blood started to drip onto the ground. I pulled at the bugs, trying to scrape them free and only succeeded in covering my other hand.
I stumbled, falling to the ground. Looking close in one last moment of lucidity before they started burrowing deeper and climbing further up my arms, I could see that they weren’t insects, not quite.
They were miniature gnomes, all with tiny, pointed hats and even tinier, sharper, teeth and claws.
Bindley looked down at me from the bookshelf, pointing down at me and smiling down at us like any proud father would.
Before blood loss and their teeth took me for good, I couldn’t help but have one last, crazy, thought.
Guess I’m not going to have to clean up the tree after all.