One-Hour Flash – The Christmas Crypt

Hey, all, it’s time for another installment of one-hour flash. If you’re new to this feature or this blog, these are stories I wrote as part of a one-hour flash fiction exercise/contest. Some of those stories were good enough to be published, and the others, well, they ended up here. 🙂

Today’s story is a weird one, and maybe it’s greatest flaw is that it’s a Christmas story. That’s a big limiting factor on which markets you can submit to and when. Since I never think far enough ahead to look for Christmas-themed submission calls, I figured I’d celebrate this Christmas by sharing the story with you.


The Christmas Crypt


“Christ, It looks like the North Pole exploded in here,” Frank said, panning his flashlight around the huge dark room. The thin beam of light played across stockings and garlands pinned to every wall with rusting 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 gaudy 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 some cash somewhere.”

“I hope so,” 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.”

They were keeping their voices down out of habit, but it wasn’t necessary. The big old house was in a neighborhood where people liked their privacy. That meant lots of space between homes, and a veritable 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, they’d hear and see the car, giving them more than enough time to exit through the back window they’d pried open to get in.

“We’ve been through every room in this place, and I’ve seen nothing but piles of Christmas garbage. There’s not even any furniture.” Frank shook his head. “It’s fucking weird, man.”

Randall had reached the other side of the room and stood next to one of the towering fake Christmas trees. “Hey,” he said, motioning for Frank to join him. “There’s a door behind this tree.”

Frank pushed past a trio of inflatable Santas to join his partner. The door behind the tree was made from a heavy dark wood and crisscrossed with metal strips in a checkerboard pattern. A stout iron bolt held it closed.

“Help me move this tree,” Randall said, and the two of them manhandled the faux Douglas fir out of the way.

Randall put his ear against the door and listened.

“Anything?” Frank asked.

Randall pulled away from the door, his forehead wrinkling. “Bells, I think.”

Frank lifted his shirt, exposing the butt of a black pistol in his waistband. He put his hand on the grip.

“Fuck that, man.” Randall held up both hands in protest. “Stealing is one thing, but I don’t want 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,” Randall said. “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 screeching noise. He pulled the door open, and from the night-black portal came a thick animal stink. Both men covered their noses and stepped back.

“Fuck me,” Frank said, gagging. “Smells like something died down there.”

“Maybe something did.” Randall aimed his flashlight at the open door. The beam revealed rickety wooden stairs leading down.

Frank pulled the collar of his shirt over his mouth. “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. The stairs led down into a large brick basement with an earthen floor. When they reached the bottom, they heard two things: the soft tinkling of bells and the hollow boom of the door slamming shut above them.

Frank whirled toward the stairs and pulled his pistol. Randall stayed where he was and shone his flashlight around, trying to find the source of the bells. He heard Frank on the steps behind him, and the bells grew louder, closer.

Randall opened his mouth to call out to Frank, but something large and fast moved out of the dark and into the beam of his flashlight. He saw a white blur and what he recognized as antlers seconds before they pierced his abdomen and slammed him back against the wall. He screamed as the thing connected to the antlers twisted them violently in his guts.

Halfway up the stairs, Frank turned to see his partner pinned to the wall by a white reindeer the size of a grizzly bear. Its red eyes seemed too large for its skull and its misshapen head was crowned with a rack of antlers like a nest of spears.  A string of small iron bells hung from the creature’s neck. The beast 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, blew steam from its flared nostrils, and charged. Frank pulled the trigger, filling the night with the dichotomous sounds of gunfire and jingle bells.

Yeah, this one’s not perfect by any means, and it’s probably more vignette than true story, but I dig the weird factor of a giant devil reindeer. Is it a marketable story? Eh, it’d be a tough sell with that holiday theme even if I polished it up. I’ll say this for it, though; it’s an absolutely perfect final blog post before Christmas. 🙂

Happy holidays to all the writers, readers, and fellow rejectomancers.