Flash Fic Challenge – Seasons Greetings From R’lyeh
This time the challenge was seasonal horror, which is a specialty of mine (please search for Jingle Hell on this site, the first of my holiday horror stories). But this one took a weird turn, and it might be a dark comedy? At least at the end. Don’t know if it works, but if you know what R’lyeh refers to, you can probably see this one coming.
Seasons Greetings From R’lyeh
When Ben first heard the noise downstairs, he thought it was Santa Claus. Until he remembered that Santa Claus didn’t exist.
It had to be a burglar. Never mind that he lived in a gated community, and it was specifically advertised as being more crime free than those other neighborhoods. Nowhere was safe nowadays, was it? He grabbed his gun from the drawer of his nightstand and tried to work up courage as he snuck downstairs, hoping his hands would stop shaking. Should he say something? Maybe yell something manly in a deep, authoritative voice. Did he have one of those? Could he fake it?
He strained for further noises, but all he could hear was his own breathing, the loud thud of his heartbeat in his ears, and the occasional creak of a settling house. Why did houses have to settle when everything else was so damn quiet?
He briefly paused on the stairs as he wondered if it was one of the kids, then he remembered Amber had them right now. Goddamn, he was an idiot for all seasons, wasn’t he?
But the darkened living room looked exactly the same as it had when he went to bed. In the reflected red and green flashing lights outside, bleeding through the windows, everything looked normal.
When he started to turn away, Ben thought he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. He looked back, sure he was jumping at shadows. The fact that the outside lights were blinking really didn’t help. But something about the far wall wasn’t right. He stared at it while the lights flashed, and finally saw … was it a crack?
Ben tried to switch on the living room light, but the bulb must have blown, because it didn’t work. So he crept closer, eyes still open for any potential burglar. When he finally reached the wall, he saw the crack was huge, like someone had taken an axe to the drywall. But as his eyes adjusted to the dim, inconstant light, he realized it wasn’t a gash at all. It was something under the wall.
His first thought was maybe a leak somewhere, letting water in, but he felt it, and realized it bulged out of the wall, and he could feel grooves and bumps in it.
And then it pulsed.
Ben drew his hand away so fast he bobbled the gun, and he clutched it awkwardly to his chest as he backed away from the thing in his wall. Could an animal have somehow got in there? They had a problem with raccoons the other week.
But the lights on the Christmas tree suddenly blinked to life, throwing out multicolored shadows, and he could see the bulge was not restricted to one part of the wall. The bulges spider webbed like a cracked windshield, and covered not only the walls but the ceiling too. They almost looked like veins, throbbing with the beat of an unseen heart.
He pinched himself to see if he was still dreaming, but no, he was awake. He didn’t see how he could be.
Suddenly there was a rustling noise beneath the tree, and he aimed the gun that way, his heart pounding right behind his eyes. For some reason, he thought it was rats.
But a package tumbled out from beneath the tree, something inside the box kicking and flailing, stretching the bright metallic paper, popping the yellow bow off the package like a cork. Finally, something exploded out of the box, and for a second he thought it was snakes spewing out of the container like they were just loosed from his nightmares.
Except they weren’t really snakes. They looked wrong, although it took his shocked mind several seconds to figure out what else they could possibly be. They were veins, like those in the walls … No, roots. Like plant roots, but thicker and moving with incredible alacrity, streaming over and under the carpet, bunching it up in clots.
What the hell was going on?
He heard a crackling noise, but it took him several moments to realize it was the roots breaking through the floorboards, and continuing to snake their way through the walls. Ben stepped back towards the stairs, and stumbled on the thick root that was now warping the bottom step. This was crazy. How was this happening?
There was a noise then, like an amplified gong going off, and he cringed with his hands over his ears, dropping his gun. It was no use against tree roots anyway. After an interminable amount of time that was probably only a few seconds, that noise resolved into a deep, inhuman voice, repeating the same nonsense words over and over again” Cthulhu R’lyeh fhtagn! Cthulhu R’lyeh fhtagn! Cthulhu R-lyeh fhtagn! Cthulhu R’l –“
Who was shouting that? Ben knew he’d been alone in the house, and as far as he knew he was still alone, save for this demented Christmas tree now growing animate roots that were destroying his house. He’d made a conscious decision to grab the gun and try it anyways when a root slid snake like around his ankle, and seemed to bite him. Except the pain continued, and suddenly, even as his blood spurted warmly over the splintered floor, he realized the root was growing in him, traveling up the inside of his leg like it was threading a vein.
Ben tried to pull it out, but the root was stronger than him, and throbbed beneath his hands like it was drinking his blood. Maybe it was.
He collapsed to the floor, feeling his lungs constrict as the roots embraced him from the inside, weaving through his ribcage, and for the first time, he wondered if he should have asked more questions about where his five dollar Christmas tree came from.