Eric J. Krause
Something woke Danny. He sat up, scanned his room, and found something silvery and shiny standing at the foot of his bed. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and discovered a short man (or was it a woman?) staring down at him.
“Hello, Danny,” the man (or woman?) said in a squeaky voice. “Are you ready for your trip?”
Trip? “What trip? Who are you?”
“Santa got your letter. He’d be delighted if you met him at the North Pole.”
Danny’s eyes went wide. Santa? The Santa? And he wanted to meet him? He hopped out of bed to join what he now guessed was an elf. The elf held out his (or her–Danny still couldn’t tell) hand, and Danny grasped it. Before he could brace himself for anything, his room blinked and he stood in a large room with a bunch of other kids.
“Ah, wonderful, the last one has arrived. We can get started now.”
Danny looked towards the speaker and found her (he was almost positive this one was a girl) standing in front of a large wooden gate. All of the children were focused on her. He looked back and saw the elf that’d transported him had disappeared.
“I’ll be your tour guide through the workshop, so stay close. I promise, after you meet Santa, you’ll have all the time you could possibly want inside the workshop.”
Danny and the other kids, already leaning forward, almost toppled over their feet at this news. They’d get to see the workshop! But more than that, Santa was here. He really was, and they were going to meet him!
The elves opened the gate, and the kids rushed in. It was huge! Danny didn’t know where to look first. Hundreds and hundreds of elves flooded the floor, creating toys and playing games.
“Look,” one of the girls said. “They have slides and swings and monkey bars!”
“Of course,” the guide said. “We can’t make fun if we don’t have it ourselves.”
The elves on the playground equipment climbed on the bars, slid down the slides, and swung on swings. An elf next to the group cleared his throat, and Danny glanced over. “Don’t be fooled,” the elf said.
“What do you mean?” Danny asked.
Before the elf could say anything else, others grabbed him and dragged him away. They stuffed some sort of gag in his mouth so he couldn’t yell out.
Danny turned to the group, who were all focused on the twisting and turning slides, high-flying swings, and multi-shaped monkey bars. “Did you guys see that? They took that elf.”
They looked at him, all with blank stared. The guide laughed, but he could hear a twinge of nervous energy under it, like Mom when she denied taking a nip from a liquor bottle. “Quite an imagination on this one,” she said to the group. Everyone but Danny laughed.
The group walked through the rest of the cavernous room. Danny couldn’t help but think of Mr. Wonka’s candy factory, but with toys instead. Elves sang songs as they pounded toys together, and the group got into the act and hummed along. Except Danny; he couldn’t put his finger on it, but not all was right with these happy elves. He could see it in the eyes of those few who ventured a quick glance his way.
“Ready to meet Santa, kids?” their guide asked when they got to a big set of double doors at the back of the workshop.
The kids squealed and even Danny perked up. Santa would make it all better. Maybe they’d all get early Christmas gifts. They’d at least get to sit on his lap–the real Santa’s lap, not some faker in the mall–and tell him face-to-face what they wanted.
The new room was empty except for twelve enormous drums which lined the back wall. Excitement crackled through the ranks of the group as everyone searched for Jolly Ol’ St. Nick. When the door to the left opened, they all jumped for joy.
Instead of Santa, however, twelve gigantic men rumbled out. They looked nothing like the elves; each stood at least ten feet tall and wore only a pair of fur shorts. They had more muscles than any of the professional wrestlers Danny liked to watch every Monday night.
The huge men each stepped up to one of the drums and picked up a big club. No one said a word; all eyes were on these monstrosities, who lifted their clubs and smacked the drums. The beats assaulted Danny. This was what the elf tried to warn him about. It had to be. The sound vibrated through his skull, and he clutched his hands over his ears to stop it.
The others in the group felt none of it. They watched the twelve huge drummers with looks of wonder plastered on their faces. Each stepped forward, and Danny watched them change. First their ears enlarged, growing points at the tops like all of the elves he’d seen in the workshop. Next their clothes changed. They went from jeans, t-shirts, and tennis shoes (or, like Danny, pajamas and slippers) to the extravagant styles of the elves. Their pants transformed into multi-colored tights, their shirts to green tunics, and their shoes to curly-toed booties, complete with bells on the tips. Their cheeks burned rosy, and wooly caps grew onto their heads, right through their hair.
The twelve drummers continued pounding out their beats. Danny kept his hands plastered over his ears, and though he felt strange, he hadn’t changed like the others. The guide came up behind him and pulled his hands from his ears. “You can’t meet Santa without listening to the song.”
He felt the transformation at once. It didn’t hurt, not really, but it wasn’t pleasant. His ears bent, his insides shifted, and his clothes swapped out. The driving drums pounded through his skin, his flesh, his bones, his soul.
It all took only seconds. When it was done, he had the urge to make toys. Though he’d never done it before, he had some great ideas for awesome toy racing cars, and he couldn’t wait to get started. He looked to the guide, hoping she’d send them out to work. She smiled at him and pointed to the door the drummers had rumbled through.
Santa, in all his red suit, jelly-belly, and white beard glory walked out with a hearty “Ho-ho-ho!” He looked at Danny and the other new elves, and then at the drummers. “Ah, nothing like the sound of twelve drummers drumming.”
It started so innocently. We met, talked, began hanging out and doing things together. Somewhere along the line he fell in love with me and started calling me his True Love. It was sweet. He made me laugh and, thank god, was loaded so, at the very least, I didn’t have to worry about him being interested in me just because I was rich. (Read More)
“Knees together, McGreevy, you’re flashing your junk at the widow.”
“Piss off,” Tim McGreevy grumbled as he drew his legs together. True to whispered rumor, he wore nothing beneath his kilt. Presented with the appropriate audience, Tim would further clarify that he wore nothing “except lipstick” beneath his bagpiper uniform. The old ladies gathered in the Fellowship Hall at Our Lady of Infinite Compassion were not such an audience.
Kevin Clancy had studied Tim closely – the way women would sidle up to him after performances and coyly ask if the rumors were true; the way Tim would deliver the lipstick line; the way the women’s mouths would open in mock horror as they playfully slapped his shoulder. Kevin practiced delivering this line to the bathroom mirror each time he donned his kilt in case a woman inquired about his undergarments. No one ever had. It was just as well, anyhow, as Kevin always wore white cotton briefs under his kilt.
Kevin had been playing the bagpipes since the age of nine. His mother, once married into the Clancy name, took on being Irish with formidable gusto. The four generations separating her new husband from the Emerald Isle were no deterrent. Kevin’s three sisters, Erin, Meghan, and Shannon, had all been required to take years of Irish dance. Of the two pursuits, Kevin had to admit that playing the bagpipes was notably more profitable. He’d played at weddings and church services for most of his early twenties before joining Erin’s Own Bagpipe Brigade two years ago. Erin’s Own was a troupe of twelve bagpipers who marched in parades, performed at assorted St Patrick’s Day celebrations, and played Taps at the funerals of anyone who’d elected to honor their Irish heritage before passing on. (Read More)
Janet Lingel Aldrich
Harry McDonald shuffled down the hall to answer the door. He found his regular mail carrier with an oblong box in hand. “Good morning, Mr. McDonald! Ready for Christmas?”
Taking the box, he raised a bushy eyebrow. “Happen I am, lass. Happen I am.” He put the box on the nearest flat surface and took the clipboard he was offered. “Where do I sign, then?”
After he closed the door, Harry stared at the box for a long time before picking it up. I know what it is and I know what it means. Bloody hell. And at Christmas of all times. He was expecting his grandson any day, home from Afghanistan on furlough. I’ll put it aside for now.
As he passed down the hallway, he searched through the framed pictures on the wall and stopped at one of them. He ran his hand over the picture, looking at each of his mates in turn. Sandy, Hamish, Alasdair, David… all the twelve of us. Gone one at a time. And now, Jamie-lad. Only me left. Only me.
Tomas stood back and admired his work. Awesome, he thought with satisfaction. The hollow plastic bodies he’d just purchased were strewn across the lawn like the remnants of a drunken party. Clapping his chapped hands, Tomas was trembling with excitement and the cold. This was going to be great.
He’d been wanting to do thi (Read More)
Virgil lit up a cigarette and stepped out onto the porch before Lares could start complaining. That was one of the backdraws to having both telepathy, and empathy. He knew exactly how much his bad habits bothered people. Not that he ever let that stop him. Better to smoke, than worry about whether he would have to crawl around inside the mind of the cretin that was gutting celebs. Dressed them up in costumes before he killed them. Gotta love LA, even the serial killers were drama queens. He took a drag off the cigarette and let the nicotine calm his jangling nerves.
Lares glared at him through the screen door. “Why do yo (Read More)
My back hurts me. I stand, stretch my arms over my head, and then settle back onto the concrete stoop. I push myself up against the door so I don’t hang off the tiny step too far. Folding my hands on my lap, I look up and down at the front doors lining the city sidewalk.
I really got to pee.
There’s that pigeon again, (Read More)
David G Shrock
Standing at the bar, Larry York listened to classic rock playing over the jukebox. The song took him back to high school, his first kiss with Nadia. He could almost taste her lips. He pushed his empty beer bottle around on the moist surface. Flicking his finger sent the bottle sliding into his left hand. He watched condensation smears reform into a trail of drops. Sadie Hawkins. The same song had been playing at the Sadie Hawkins dance when Nadia had kissed him. Strange how a memories travel through time within music.
Larry pushed the empty bottle away. “One more.”
“Nine is unlucky.” Taking the bottle, Nancy swiped a cloth across the counter clearing condensation circles and peanut crumbs.
“What’s that?” Larry shook his head. “Oh, don’t worry about me driving. I walked.”
“All the way from Pine Grove?”
“Doctor’s orders. Have to walk for my heart.” He tapped his chest. “Besides, I only had four.”
“That’s what I’ll have left. Nine.” Dropping the bottle behind the counter, Nancy set her hands on the bar. “How about something from the tap?”
“What’s so unlucky about nine? It’s a solid number.”
“Back in the old days. They hanged some young women. Black magic. Summoning spirits. That sort of thing. Anyway, the ninth got away before they could string her up. Men chased her on the ridge. They caught up with the gal, but they slipped in the snow. Fell to their death.”
“So?” (Read More)
The final abduction left Miss Betsy a changed cow.
One would never know to look at her. She was a standard dairy Holstein, lovely white with black spots, wide ears that swayed when sounds caught her attention, soft muzzle so well designed to crop grass and munch grain. Her long, narrow tail did the usual job of most such appendages, swishing the odd annoying fly with a soft slap. She had a wonderful pattern on her sides that reminded most folks who admired her of Australia, but Miss Betsy didn’t pay any attention. She was a cow, after all, with bovine goals, hopes and dreams. Those being food, sleep and, well, the other things mammals do who aren’t particularly bright or challenged to come up with something witty to say. (Read More)
Ben wished he could cry, but no tears ever came. He didn’t even feel the picture he cradled in his hand. His eyes were tracing the curves on her face. Those perfect cheeks and playful dimples had brought many a smile to his face. In fact, Ben smiled just looking at the photo.
“She’s beautiful.” Jack’s voice cut through Ben’s thoughts. (Read More)