Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays
by Bob Freeman

Let this tale begin on a full moon’s eve, when the last kiss of daylight withers and dies and fresh blood stains the new fallen snow a muted crimson. From within the recesses of the growing dark, feral eyes glare through its frosty breath with a seemingly erotic longing. The din of Yuletide carols mingle with the beast’s labored breathing as it chokes back the stabbing pain of misadventure.

“Merry Christmas, Nick,” a slender voice called out. A young girl by the smell, but she was hidden by the landscaping in front of Sinclair House. An older boy, late teens perhaps, gave a wave toward the house as he strutted along the cracked and uneven sidewalk that passed in front of the object of the beast’s attention.

Sinclair House sat quietly, shadowed by thick pines and untamed brush. Creeping vines had ensnared the wrought-iron fence that surrounded the property long ago further hindering a full view of the dark house that resided behind its barrier. The Second Empire architecture was out of place in the small rural town and whispered voices spoke often of the profane statue that stood in the property’s back lawn. It had once been visible to passersby, when the Sinclairs took pains to maintain the appearance of the estate, but that had ended twelve Christmas’ before with the death of Lilith Sinclair-Miller’s husband and the disappearance of her eldest son.

The beast waited for the boy to pass then sprang from its hiding place and bound across the road, springing into the air and clearing the eight foot fence with ease. The deep gash in the creature’s side tore slightly and the pristine snow of the Sinclair House back lawn received the beast’s hot, steaming blood as a libation. From the cover of the overgrown landscaping, the feral beast crouched and peered into the house whose faded glory rose like a blight against nature.

The window before the beast offered a view of the Sinclair House great room and its Christmas décor. Wreaths and tinsel graced the narrow stair and the furniture was pulled back and away from the towering pine that took center stage. Twelve feet tall, the Christmas tree stood bold, seemingly rising from a mound of packages wrapped in bright colors, and bedecked in garland and garish ornaments from the four corners of the globe. Strings of cranberries and popcorn crisscrossed the emerald giant whilst an angel hovered overhead, its wings spread wide above a crystalline star.

A salt and pepper haired woman, led by a preteen child, maneuvered through the room with a grace that belied her transparent blindness. They stopped before the front door and the young girl released the older woman’s hand to open it. Filling the doorway was a towering man dressed in forest camouflage. His face was weathered, his eyes cold and distant. The beast’s hackles stood on end at the site of the towering huntsman. Straining his preternatural hearing, the beast listened intently as the figures inside conversed.

“Good evening, Margaret. I’d like to speak with your mother, if you wouldn’t mind,” he said, his voice hoarse and graveled from years of smoking. His crooked mouth flashed a smile full of yellowed and broken teeth.

“Anything you have to say to me, Thomas Miller, you can say in front of Margaret,” the older woman quipped with obvious disdain for the man at her doorstep. “I’ll not be keeping secrets from the girl, she’s my eyes and she shares my ears as well.”

“As you wish, Miss Lilith, but I was thinking that some things would be best shielded from one so young.”

“She already knows all about the night she was conceived, about how my husband raped and beat me within inches of my life, leaving me blind. She knows her father was killed that very night, torn apart by god-knows-what, and that her brother was lost to us as well. So, do you have something else to add that may be too shocking for your niece, Thomas? If so, then please, I’ll send her away.”

“Lilith, you know I don’t approve of the way my brother treated you, but what happened to him… I can’t just let that lie,” the large man stammered. “I…uh, well… I caught wind of the beast tonight. I got a shot off, but I think I just grazed it. After twelve years… I finally got a shot off. I just thought you should know.”

“And now I do. Thank you Tom,” the matriarch of Sinclair House said coldly. “Now, if you don’t mind, we’ve Christmas Eve to attend to.” Young Margaret closed the door and the weathered man was gone.

“Are you all right, mama?” the girl asked.

“Darling Margaret, my heart is breaking and I cannot cry.”

“It’ll be all right, mama… I’m here. Let’s sit down and I’ll stoke the fire and you can tell me stories of the days before I was born. The good ones, with Alek in them.”

“That would be nice, dear. Maybe when Aidan comes up from the basement? I do worry about that boy. He’s not been the same since he lost his older brother. And you, my sweet, I worry for you too. This family has seen so much darkness, darker than that which I have been consigned to. When will we have peace? Come, lead me to the fire. I have grown cold.”

The two figures moved through the room and the elder woman sat by the fireplace, while her daughter brought the logs within to life… a roaring fire providing warmth and comfort against the winter chill. The beast touched the wound at it side and licked at the blood that still flowed from the torn flesh. The bullet had merely grazed the creature and would heal in short order, but its sting affected the beast’s soul more than its flesh. It watched as the girl came to stare out the window… looking into the very shadowed recesses that it hid within. For a moment, the beast thought he had seen her mouth words as her breath fogged the glass and obscured the sight of her angelic face.

As the beast turned away and stalked off into the wintered night, it chewed on the silent words that the child had sent out into the dark.

“Merry Christmas, Brother Alek. Be safe.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: