I don’t write many holiday-themed stories (okay, maybe Halloween), but I did write one Christmas story nine years ago for a one-hour flash fiction event. I’ve shared it before, but, you know, ’tis the season and all that. It’s a weird little flash that’s more vignette than full story, but I still dig it. It’s probably not quite up to publishable snuff in my humble opinion, but it makes for a weird literary stocking stuffer.
Happy Holidays, everyone. Here’s “The Christmas Crypt.” 🙂
The Christmas Crypt
By Aeryn Rudel
“Christ, it looks like the North Pole exploded in here,” Frank said, panning his flashlight around a huge dark room. The thin beam of light played across stockings and garlands pinned to every wall with rusted nails, a mob of blow-up Santas, snowmen, and elves in various states of inflation, and a small forest of fake Christmas trees, each festooned with cracked and broken ornaments. Some of the Christmas junk was new, but a thick layer of dust coated most of it.
“Dude likes Christmas,” Randall said with a shrug, shining his own flashlight around. His small, deep-set eyes glinted with rodent-like eagerness as they moved across the room. “Some of this shit is expensive, though. He must have cash somewhere.”
“He better,” Frank said. “I got two strikes; a B&E would send my ass to prison for the long haul.”
Randall moved further into the room, waving the flashlight in a methodical sweeping motion. “Don’t worry; I’ve been scoping this place for months. The guy lives alone, and he doesn’t get visitors. When he leaves, he’s gone for days. We’re fine.”
The two thieves kept their voices down out of habit, not necessity. The house was in a neighborhood where people liked their privacy. That meant lots of space between homes, and a forest of tall pines obscured this particular house from the road. No one could see onto the grounds without actually coming up the driveway. If that happened, Frank and Randall would hear and see the car, giving them enough time to retreat through the back window they’d pried open to get in.
“We’ve been through every room, and ain’t seen nothing but piles of Christmas shit. There’s not even any furniture.” Frank shook his head. “It’s fuckin’ weird, man.”
Randall had reached the other side of the room and stood next to one of the fake Christmas trees. “Hey, there’s a door behind this tree.”
“No shit?” Frank pushed past a trio of inflatable Santas to join his partner. There was a door. A stout-looking thing made from dark wood and crisscrossed with metal strips in a checkerboard pattern. An iron bolt held it closed.
“Help me move this,” Randall said, and the two of them manhandled the faux Douglas fir out of the way, then Randall put his ear against the door and listened.
“Anything?” Frank asked.
Randall pulled away from the door, his forehead wrinkling. “Bells, I think.”
In response, Frank lifted his shirt, exposing the butt of a black pistol in his waistband. He put his hand on the butt.
Randall held up both hands in protest. “Hey, man, stealing is one thing, but I’m not looking to kill anybody.”
Frank’s gaunt, freckled face was impassive. “We haven’t found shit in this dump, and if I’m gonna risk strike three on a B&E, then I might as well risk it on armed robbery. Open it.”
“Fine. But put that thing away unless we absolutely need it.”
Frank rolled his eyes, but he took his hand off the gun and covered it with his shirt.
Randall yanked on the heavy bolt, and it gave way with a loud screech. He pulled the door open, and from the night-black portal came a thick animal stink.
“Jesus,” Frank said, gagging. “Smells like something died down there.”
“Maybe something did.” Randall aimed his flashlight at the open door. The beam revealed wooden stairs leading down.
Frank pulled the collar of his shirt over his nose and mouth. “Well, let’s see if this asshole keeps his money in the same place he keeps the road kill.”
They mounted the steps, shining their lights into the gloom, and descended into a voluminous brick basement with a dirt floor. When they reached the bottom of the stairs, they heard two things: the soft tinkling of bells and the hollow boom of the door slamming shut above them.
Frank whirled and pulled his pistol. Randall pointed his flashlight, trying to find the source of the bells. He heard Frank climbing the steps behind him, then the bells grew louder, closer.
Randall opened his mouth to call out to Frank, but something huge burst from the dark and into the beam of his flashlight. He noticed whatever it was had antlers right before they were driven into his guts. Randall screamed as the thing twisted it’s head violently, shredding his insides.
Halfway up the stairs, Frank turned to see his partner pinned to the wall by a snow white reindeer the size of a grizzly bear. Its red eyes bulged like they were too large for its skull and its misshapen head was crowned with a rack of antlers like a nest of spears. A string of iron bells hung from the creature’s neck. The mutant reindeer jerked its antlers from Randall’s body, letting him sag to the ground, and moved up the stairs toward Frank. He pointed his pistol at it, retreating until his back brushed against the door. He fumbled for the doorknob and realized with cold dread there wasn’t one.
The reindeer shook its head, flared its nostrils, and charged.
Frank pulled the trigger.
The night rang with gunfire and jingle bells.