Jingle Hell – A Christmas Horror Story
Disclaimer: This is a nasty and disturbed piece of work. If you are disturbed by graphic violence involving beloved Christmas characters, don’t read it. Go read something nice instead. The writer nor the site is responsible for any emotional or mental distress if you read it anyways. (No, the baby Jesus doesn’t kill anyone … that’s the next story, Manger Massacre.)
The good thing about a hard frost was he didn’t have to worry about dogs digging up the body.It wasn’t that the ground was all that hard, although it could be, especially in the area around the old septic tank, where liquid waste had permeated the ground and made it a swampy, smelly morass during all but the driest days of the year. No, it was the lack of smell the frost brought, the lack of wind to carry it on. He had buried him right by the septic swamp, hoping that and the quicklime he covered the guy with would help get rid of any lingering corpse stench – or at least hide it – but he was never sure it had. The shit stink around the mud pit kind of smelled like rotting flesh, and vice versa. But that made it the ideal burial ground.As he stoked the fire in his wood stove, throwing in pieces of wood no bigger than his forearm, he wondered if it had been an entire year already. It seemed like just yesterday that he blasted that motherfucker to hell.
Jeremy went out onto the porch of his cabin after grabbing a mug of his special coffee, which was actually only about thirty percent coffee, and seventy percent bourbon. He found the combination much more satisfying than that Irish whiskey shit, and it got the job done faster. He sat on the top step and looked out through the trees that made up his front yard, the slices of sky visible through them turned a blood orange by the setting sun. Even though his breath came out in white clouds, the bitter coffee warmed him from the inside out.
He would be the first to admit he lived in the middle of buttfuck nowhere, in the ass end of nothing, not so much up in the mountains as in the shadows of one remarkable only for the lawsuits over clear cutting on its flanks. It was postcard pretty, but that wasn’t why he was here. He originally bought it ahead of the Y2K panic – which, to his disappointment, never materialized; he was looking forward to a more immediate societal breakdown, as opposed to this current, slow, pansy assed Balkanization – but found he liked it here even though anarchy didn’t reign elsewhere. He hated the arbitrary rules of society, the pace, the crowds, but mostly it was just the people; he didn’t trust people. They were always up to something, scheming and plotting, and the only one who was going to do any plotting around here was him, goddamn it.
The nearest “town” was five miles down the road, and was basically seasonal, most populous when the ski resorts were open, ghost towns when the season was over. Before they cleared out for the better part of the year, the local law would come over, a sheriff named Mullet (what kind of name was that for a cop?), and check on him. Why he didn’t know, unless he thought he was the Unabomber or something.
He knew the modern day and all its lawlessness would catch up to him here eventually, but he did not expect last year, right around Christmas.
Some fat bastard tried to break into his house.
It was two in the morning, and he heard something like scratching at his rear window. It wasn’t like a branch propelled by the wind, but something much more deliberate, something with purpose. He grabbed his shotgun, and stalked through the darkened house towards the noise.
He knew the law. He waited until he pried the window open and stuck one jack booted foot in the window before giving him both barrels of the thirty ought six square in his bulging gut. Fat boy flew away from the window, almost leaving his leg behind, and he went outside and made sure he was dead before he even considered calling the cops. And was he ever – his gut was split open like an overripe pumpkin, spilled intestines glistening like greasy, coiled snakes in the moonlight, meat like hamburger splattered on the ground, the blood pooling on the grass as black as ink. And the stench! Holy shit, it was like a decades old corpse had just let rip with a burrito fart.
It didn’t take him long to decide that he wasn’t going to involve the cops. He was within his rights to kill this man, but he knew there’d be paperwork, bureaucracy, and attention he did not want. So he dragged fat boy around, into the back forty, and it started to rain, as it was a warmer than usual December (global warming or El Nino or some such shit). The rain, as it turned out, helped a lot, not just washing away the blood, but opening up sinkholes around the septic pit. He didn’t even have to dig; he just made a sinkhole deeper than usual, and kicked lard lad into it, pouring a good amount of quicklime on him before not so much shoveling the mud back into place as shoving it back into the hole. The rest of the clean up was a breeze in comparison, and by the morning, you couldn’t tell anything had happened, save for the broken window (and some of the shot had splintered the frame).
But he fixed it up quite easily, and started watching the “local” news religiously, keeping an eye out for a missing man matching his description. The curious thing was, it never happened.
No missing persons report anywhere, not matching this guy, which suggested he was such a lowlife scumbag that no one cared about him. Months dragged by, and Jeremy was surprised to find himself slightly disappointed that Mullet never showed up to ask if he’d seen the guy around anywhere. He had wanted to lie to his pudgy, mustachioed face, using a pre-rehearsed blank expression to hide a strange sense of pride at having taken one more sleazeball off the face of the earth, something this rural piece of shit Sheriff would never have the balls to do.
Was he actually proud about killing a man? Yes, he was, and why should he be ashamed? Survival of the fittest, right? Kill or be killed. The fat ass was just not in his league.
In spite of the bourbon spiked with coffee, it started to turn bitterly cold as the sun faded away, the grass sparkling with frost as the sky began to turn a delicate shade of bruise violet. He got up and went inside, wondering if he had actually killed someone last year. It was such a faint thing now it could have been a dream more than a memory, a loose fragment of wishful thinking.
He had a dinner of warmed up canned ham and beer before the t.v. set, watching Christmas specials that verged from inane to insulting, drifting into an alcohol fueled, dreamless sleep in his recliner.
Then something woke him up.
He wasn’t sure what at first; he woke groggy, alcohol still fogging his brain, but something in him was insisting something was wrong. He got up, listening hard, and thought he heard a scratching noise at one of the back windows. He must have been dreaming – there was no way it could happen two years in a row.
Still, he got up quietly and grabbed his shotgun from the gun rack in the hall, glad that most of the lights were dim or off. He didn’t want this crackhead to see him first.
But when he reached the back bedroom, still unlit, he saw regular movement outside the window, and up and down blur of a shadow, and although his initial impression was that it was a huge man with some kind of lever, he realized it was just a pine tree being agitated by a violent wind. When the hell had that come up? It was clear earlier, not a cloud in the sky.
Now he heard a weird noise at the front door.
It was a scratching sound, dry bones on concrete, and then it seemed to echo around the house. No, not echo, repeat; things were scratching one every wall and window, a dry scrape, skittering noises like the claws of rats, or maybe the scritch of a thousand fingernails on the wall. What the hell ..?
The wind was howling now, he could hear the roof groaning under the strain, and he checked the kitchen, glancing out the window in the back door.
There was something out there.
It was big, and his first thought was it was an elk or something, but the antlers were wrong, smaller and without spectacular branching. His eyes adjusted to the moonlight, and he could see it was some kind of shaggy deer, with a red ribbon around its neck; a ribbon with silver bells. What, was there a petting zoo around here? Did it get loose in the storm?
The house shook as the wind roared, and the front door slammed open with an explosive bang, making him jump and grip his gun so tight he almost shot a hole in his own fucking wall. Son of a bitch, hadn’t he dead bolted that thing?
He crept out towards the living room, the wind sounding like a distant, drawn out scream, and he approached the open door warily, his heart trip hammering in his chest. He had no idea why he was afraid, until he realized the air blowing into his home had a familiar smell.
The septic pit, the stench of decomposing shit and dirt, but with something else beneath it, a meaty smell, like offal and blood, and something rotted and sweet. A dead body; a rancid corpse.
He was within ten feet of the door when the man appeared.
Jeremy didn’t wait to identify him, he just pulled the trigger, the stock braced against his right hip. But the telltale jerk of the gun never happened – the gun fired, but all that came from the barrel was a bright spray of maggots, pink and squirmy as they splattered on his hardwood floor. “What the fuck..?!” he exclaimed, torn between rage and abject confusion.
But the man in the doorway was the most shocking thing of all.
It was the man he shot last year, in all his decayed glory. Maggots roiled in the open wound of his stomach, and squirmed in the empty sockets of his eyes, and he pointed a skeletal finger stripped off all flesh. “You -” he croaked in a sepulchral voice, as black beetles poured out of his mouth, glistening through a rotted hole in his cheek.
Okay, he was dreaming; he had to be dreaming. This wasn’t real.
He backed up slowly as the corpse staggered forward on uncertain legs, half of them stripped up of flesh and muscles and clothes, although it looked like his clothes had lasted much better than everything else. The red velvet remained mostly intact, although the white fur around his collar was brown with clots of dirt and shit, and worms wriggled out of the folds of muddy clothes, littering the floor with each halting step. “You’ve … been … a … naugh-ty…boy …”
He shook the shotgun, emptying the maggots out of the barrel, and flipped it in his hand so the stock was out, then took a batter’s stance. In those movies, you hit zombies in the head, right? Destroy the head and the things died. And the thing wasn’t moving so fast, so it would be a snap. Or, in its case, a splat.
But then something struck him in the back, hard, and he tasted electricity in his mouth as his spine snapped in half and he collapsed to the floor, no longer feeling anything below his waist. Even before he looked up, he saw hooves in his peripheral vision, and knew that that damn deer had gotten in the house. Had the back door blown open too?
He looked up into the face of what had to be a reindeer, snot dripping from its flared nostrils as it pawed the floor restlessly, like a bull eager to gore its tormentor, and Jeremy suddenly realized that the song had it all wrong. His nose wasn’t red – his eyes were.
“And … naugh -ty … boys…” the corpse of Santa rasped, grabbing him by the hair and yanking his head up painfully, the lower half of his body a dead weight. “…go … to … hell.”
Rudolph stamped his hooves on the floor, and it sounded like jungle drums.
Jeremy was found in late January, after a freak, heavy snowfall had blocked most of the roads out and killed electricity for days, making Sheriff Mullet do what he called his “rounds”, checking on all the disgruntled loners, misguided nature lovers, and freaky militia people who lived in the lower elevations.
The insects had been at the body for what seemed quite a long time, which was extremely puzzling since most of them hadn’t come out of hibernation yet, and those that had had been killed by the cold snap. But the maggots and beetles that had nested in the remains of Jeremy’s body seemed quite fat and happy. It also looked like a horse or maybe a big deer had wandered in at some point, as he found muddy hoof prints on the kitchen linoleum.
But none of that was the strangest thing about the murder scene. No, the thing that Mullet would never get over, not for the rest of his life, was the fact that the killer hadn’t just lopped off Jeremy’s head, but the sicko actually bothered to gift wrap it, and put it under Jeremy’s tree.
What kind of freak would do something like that?
Merry fucking Christmas.