I have just finished a new short chiller that was design to be finished for christmas but it got a bit delayed with another story I was writing. I hope to send this to a horror antholigy book that is being published however I may have missed the deadline.
So tell me what you think and don't be shy in being honest.
Mrs. Daisy Peddler rolled out pastry on the flour-dusted work surface. She smiled at the idea of baking sugary treats for the many grasping hands and rose-red cheeks of her children. She and Mr. Francis Peddler had four children in all. Joseph, Nigel, Sandy, and little baby Gemma who would see in her first Christmas.
She hummed a floaty, fanciful tune to herself as she made flattening strokes across the pastry. The house was so warm and delightful. Everything glowed with a sweet, tender joy: the sparkle of the electric lights about the Christmas tree, the metallic red and blue of the decorations hanging from the ceiling.
She paused from her baking for a second and picked up the card, slightly damp from condensation, that perched on the kitchen windowsill. The children had made this for her. On the front was a picture of a joyous Father Christmas with a sack full of presents pushing himself into a chimney. Their eldest, Joseph, drew it with uncanny skill for a ten-year-old boy. Poor little Nigel and Sandy couldn’t colour within the lines.
She chuckled. What it lacked in artistic skill, it made up for in love and delight, especially with little Gemma’s thumbprint on the front in green and red. The whole card was just marvellous. She opened it up and inside it read: “To Mummy, we love you very much and can’t wait until Father Christmas comes, love Joseph, Nigel, Sandy and our little Gemma.”
She let a tiny tear of joy roll from her eye and held the card close to her bosom. She looked up at the clock. It was nearly 8pm and her darling husband would be home soon from shopping for a week of Christmas. He told her he wanted to be with her and the children because this was his favourite time of the year and he couldn’t wait to start it.
Daisy left the kitchen after washing her hands and went to the living room to make a drink for her husband and herself. Then, from the corner of her eye, she saw his small red car pull up outside the house. The snow flurried against the window, making the margarine yellow of the street light blur and speckle. She thought Francis would be pleased to be home out of that and doze in front of the fire, holding her tight with affection.
Francis stepped out of the cosy cocoon of his vehicle and into the swirling blizzard of Christmas Eve night. He slammed the door behind him and walked over to the boot of his red Fiesta crunching the snow with his workmen’s boots. Dressed in a thick grey duffle coat, he could have been mistaken for Paddington Bear, for both held life with an optimistic hand and greeted all who crossed their path.
He opened the boot to remove bags of gifts for the day ahead, filled to the brim with toys, games and sweets for the children, plastic bags of magic to lovingly cast upon his most treasured little ones and give them the joys he never had.
The final bag held his wife’s present. It was a topaz brooch in the form of a dragonfly. Edged in silver and with two perfect ruby gem eyes, he remembered how it sparkled with such life and warmth way back in mid-March, the moment Daisy first fell in love with it.
He struggled to close the boot with the sheer weight and volume of the bags of presents he carried. He still managed it and stifled a giggle at his predicament. Stepping awkwardly down the path he finally reached his front door. With no free hands, he was reduced to pushing the bell with his nose. He smiled at what he must have looked like.
No sooner had he pressed it, than Daisy opened the door, beaming a radiant smile upon him. “Oh love, would you look at yourself. Let your heart spend your money again.” She smiled.
“Well, that’s the way it should be.”
She hurried him in, helping him unload whilst he shut the front door. “You look exhausted, poor thing. Fancy a drink?” she asked.
“Wouldn’t say no.” He wandered into the living room where the children were all crouching around the television watching the Grinch stealing Christmas. He waited for them to notice him. They were glued to the set. He slumped down in his favourite armchair, coughed, and they didn’t even stir.
“Shall we tell Father Christmas not to bother coming over this year, Mum?” Success! Three wide-eyed, open-mouthed children turned their heads towards their father, snapping to attention. “Daddy!” Joseph yelled. All the children ran towards their father cuddling with admiration. He beamed contentedly. All the trading and effort in the shops was worth it if it made his little ones happy.
Daisy came into the living room with a large glass of whiskey and placed it in his hand. “Okay now, I let you stay up to see Daddy. Time for you lot to go to bed.”
“But Grinch, Mummy.” Sandy pleaded.
“Look you want Father Christmas to come to you, don’t you?”
“Then hop it to bed, sweetie.”
Along with her brothers, she ran up the stairs, giggling. Daisy snuggled up with her husband and laughed. “You tired, baby?” she said
“You bet. I am going to have this drink and go to bed myself soon.” She slowly kissed him, pleased that her beloved husband was back and ready for a wonderful Christmas. She left the living room and picked up the presents from the hallway. “I suppose I am wrapping again this year?” she said.
“Well, you’re best at it.” came the reply.
Daisy spent the evening neatly wrapping presents for the children’s stockings. Francis lazed in front of the television watching Christmas specials and eating his favourite seasonal treat.
One after another he peeled and ate them, devoured them indiscriminately until something caught his eye. It was a piece of pith from the satsuma he was tearing open. It looked much like a spider’s web. Francis stared at it, perplexed. He was glad he didn’t eat any of that orange because he found that it was plagued with blue-green mold.
The pith came off the inside crown of the fruit. It seemed almost claw shaped as if it were grasping for something greedily. “Take a look at this.” He held out the strange piece of white material for his wife to see.
“What the devil is that, darling? Looks like a crow’s foot.”
“It’s from the moldy orange, honey. Pretty funny, isn’t it?”
“Well, don’t put it in here! It’s all nice and tidy. Throw it away.”
Francis grinned, watching his wife make her journey to bed. He snuck into the kitchen and hid the pith on the shelf. She wouldn’t know. He then looked at his last task before bed: delivering the presents to his children. He couldn’t wait.
The pith lay still on the kitchen shelf; damp, pale and stringy it was concealed in darkness, alone and cold. It flinched after several minutes, a frail twitch, but still the movement was all of its own accord.
Then another twitch, this time stronger and more purposeful: something had awoken inside the flaky white strips. One of the shorter torn stalks started to move, a pained action, but one of powerful instinct. The stalk started to stretch.
It grew ever so slowly at first, but with each passing moment the growth increased and before too long the shortest piece of pith became the longest. For some unearthly reason this set into action a chilling metamorphosis from the fulcrum: each piece of stalk started to grow.
They thickened and stretched, sprawled and reached. Soon the pith was twice the size of its original form. Wild, pale tendrils filled the space it occupied, its resting area now too small to hold its subject.
So, with purpose, it wrapped its advancing limbs around the shelf, covering it in matted shoots of new growth and coiling around a small potted plant, initially wrapping its soft arms around it, but eventually crushing the plant with some freshly developed strength. In the centre of the spawning tumour a tiny mouth was forming; it developed rudimentary lips and inside tiny grey bumps were shaping.
Before long, some of the spirals of growth were tearing pieces of the plant off and feeding them into the hungry mouth. The new teeth crunched and gnawed at the fresh nourishment and a newly developed throat swelled. The chewed plant matter slid down into a sticky bump of white webbing where the growth digested its meal.
The greed of the mouth demanded more flesh and an increasing number of limbs stripped and tore at the defenceless plant to fill the growth’s swelling belly. The surging lust for existence motioned the terrifying abomination to expand and mutate further. It had now devoured the small pot plant beside it leaving only a brick-red pot full of moist soil.
The organism had transformed into a heaving mass of squirming tentacles. It was now about the size of a small child and yet still it grew.
The kitchen shelves, refrigerator and much of the surrounding work surface were covered in a thick, mushy pulp, a targeted webbing of pulsing white veins. One tendril had started to elongate and wind to the cold tiled floor. It looked different to the others; thick and muscular, with what looked like thin streamlined arteries coursing through the length.
Deep orange in hue, the whole limb crept its way across the floor, up the cupboard and into the sink, which was full of dishwater. It sank its tip into the discoloured water and upon contact, started to absorb the liquid, pumping it into the middle of the thriving white heap.
The focus of the malformation had not only a well-developed jaw, but two slit eyes were appearing, blazing yellow. There were two nasal cavities also, shaped like deep slashes; the monster took its first full breath of air.
The oxygen was the catalyst for a substantial physical change. After the initial intake of breath the face pushed forward and up, stretching like molten plastic. It rose like a hot stick of gum and whilst rising, twisted and contorted itself a head.
It was a rough oval shape, jagged on the edges; below a muscular neck formed streak-white like bacon rind. Broad heavy shoulders surfaced from the rapidly changing pile of pith, sap ooze became pectoral-like muscles, the gloopy ivory sludge also making an abdomen.
On either side of the formation the twisting stringy tentacles started to combine and mix to create a pair of extremely ill formed arms. The thing looked down with its new head and witnessed the genesis of two monster legs.
It waited for a while because its skin needed to harden and form an impenetrable shell. Crusty and thorny, it needed protection from harm. Along with this, groups of razor-sharp talons developed over the entire surface of both forearms.
“I’ve filled the kids’ stockings.” Francis smiled gleefully at his wife. They were now alone, wrapped in the loving glow of their bedroom.
“Then come to bed, silly.”
She flung the duvet aside to welcome him into her warm and adoring arms. Everything seemed so perfect, wonderfully peaceful and comforting. Francis climbed into bed and wrapped himself around Daisy.
“You should have seen the children, fast asleep and so sweet. Little Gemma was so beautiful in her new cot. I could have stood and watched them forever.”
Daisy sighed, looking deep into the eyes of her husband. Love blossomed in her spirit and body. She kissed him softly on the lips.
“You’d better turn the lamp off now, darling. We are going to need all our strength tomorrow.”
Francis winked and giggled, turning around to switch off the small bedside lamp. They both lay in each other’s arms; blissfully ignoring the winter storm outside and ever so gently fell asleep.
By now the monster was walking. The hunched humanoid moved slowly across the kitchen floor: it needed sustenance.
Nothing in the kitchen appealed to its foul tastes. It was not fresh enough, not alive. The monster craved living tissue. Its aching footsteps created a dry, hollow noise as it scuttled towards the stairs.
Its hands, malformed and claw like, tightened with anticipation as it slowly began its creeping ascent up the stairs. It cast a sharp broken shadow upon the white wall, much like a foreboding mountain range, steep ridges and peaks only an insane climber would dare challenge.
A wheezing, parched sound emitted from the monster’s fearsome mouth. Its breath was shallow and brittle. It lumbered quietly up the stairs, arms slouched either side of its husk like frame, its face grim and unforgiving.
It stood motionless on the darkened landing. It could hear the soft breathing of the children coming from the large bedroom at the far end of the passage. It grinned. The door in front of it held deeper breathing sounds created by heavy and less vulnerable people.
The monster quietly snarled.
Later, it thought. The promise of flesh far softer and less resistant tempted it towards the door of the children’s’ bedroom.
Daisy started from her sleep and opened one eye.
“Sweetheart! Did you hear something?” She tried to alert her husband. The reply was doused in lethargy. “It was like a ‘grrrrrrrring’ noise,” she said.
“You’re half asleep and hearing things, darling. Go back to sleep.”
Daisy wondered for a second, and then thought it best to shut her eyes again. Dream sometimes melded with reality.
The monster cast its ragged shape over the children’s’ door, looming oppressively, a projection of evil. It reached out an arm and nudged the door. It inched slowly open and stopped. The monster nudged it again until the door was completely wide open. It grinned again. Its bracken mouth couldn’t wait for the taste of food. It saw all the small, pale living things tucked up in their beds like tightly wrapped food parcels.
As it turned its head to survey the room something aroused its delight: a small pretty baby dozing happily in its cot. The monster moved forwards gently and with measured steps it approached the baby’s cot and let its gruesome head peer in.
Its slot eyes looked deeply at the baby’s closed eyelids as it pressed its own forehead onto the baby’s skull.
Nigel had heard someone creep into the bedroom. His heart pumped with excitement and just as he was about to turn his head to look, he realised. “It’s Father Christmas! Mummy said if I wanted presents from him I had to close my eyes and be a good boy.” He smiled and turned back to sleep, wondering what delights the morning would bring.
“Oh God. Already?” Francis said. He was awoken by the squeals and yelling of his children.
“Have they started already? What time is it?” Daisy asked. Francis pushed back the digital alarm clock and fell back onto the bed. 3:30am.
“That’s far too early. We’re going to have to go and tell them to pack it in.” Daisy and Francis both put on their dressing gowns and wearily traipsed towards the children’s’ room.
The noise was growing louder as they went and something was odd. The screams seemed slightly hysterical and maybe even frightened. Then Francis thought he heard something like a munching sound. And what about little Gemma? How come she wasn’t crying? Surely she wasn’t still asleep amongst all this din?
Daisy pushed the door open.
Her breath left her. Gemma’s soft cot was splattered with blood. Joseph’s body was split in half, sliced open by something fierce and heavy. Sandy, screaming, wanted to be with Mummy, but was too afraid. Nigel sobbed and whined, hiding under his duvet. Yet nothing seemed to bother the monster as it set about devouring what was left alive.
Francis gasped in horror: watching the monster chewing down on baby Gemma’s skull, eating its contents.