by S. E. Mabson
Janay will never forget this Christmas Eve. Everytime she closes her eyes she'll remember.
|Word Count: 1974
Prompt: Santa Claws and Spirit of Christmas past/present
I awoke abruptly to the sound of nails on a chalkboard. I sat straight up, but I was too afraid to get out of the bed. I pulled the covers up to my face and sunk back down into my covers like I was 8 years old again. In this neighborhood Christmas Eve break ins are a common occurrence. I figured if I laid quiet and still, I would be safe. I didn't have any presents in the house for this exact reason. Who ever was downstairs stealing so loudly would most likely leave empty-handed. In all my convincing myself, I didn't notice the total silence. No furniture moving, nothing crashing to the floor, no foot steps; just...silence. I blew out a blubbering sigh, laughing at myself as I laid back down. My anxiety, surely, must have got the best of me, that's all. This is my first Christmas Eve in this neighborhood living alone; I just need to get out of my head, I thought.
I began hearing footsteps creaking up the stairs slowly. The anticipation drew out the sweat from the glands in my forehead. My fear was definitely evident. My hands trembled in fear the burglar could, instead, be a serial killer. A magnified shadow crept up the wall and halted just before revealing itself. That was when I realized there wasn't a man in my house, or even a human. Curiosity overcame me. I found myself tip-toeing to my bedroom door. I hid behind the door and tried to sneak a peek through the crack just below the top hinge. All I could see was a furry paw with long sharp claws, dressed in...a Santa jacket? I heard a deep growling voice ask "Do you think we're close enough now? If we get any closer she will see us too early, Master."
A grim figure cloaked in black with long sharp claws emerged from the darkness of the shadows. He was carrying a long staff with a brightly lit red jewel at the tip matching his piercing red eyes. He appeared to be holographic, yet his presence commanded authority and reality. "This should be fine. We must transport her into the depths of her darkened soul, before we reveal ourselves."
My eyes grew large as the beast raised his claws into the air, chanted an unknown language, then slashed my wall. Suddenly the wall became a portal from both sides of the wall. The bright shades of blue illuminating from the portal called to me drawing me helplessly towards it, and sucked me right in. My stomach jumped up to my throat as I began to free-fall past the slide-show of my life that surrounded me. I landed in 1990 on my 7th Christmas, the day my grandfather passed. I couldn't talk to anyone nor could anyone see me. I knelt beside my 7-year-old self and wrapped my arms around her as she held her dying grandfathers hand. I tried to catch the falling tears, but it was no use. The bellowing scream rang through my ears. 7-year-old me dropped to her knees, sobbing inconsolably. My heart sank. I was sucked back into the portal and landed in 1995, on the day of my grandmothers Christmas death. Again I was succumbed to grief and anguish then sucked back into the portal. This time I landed in the year 2000, on the day of my Father's Christmas death, again overcome with sorrow from relieving the moments my loved one took their last breath, then sucked back into the portal. I landed in 2005 for my Mother's Christmas Death. Next was 2010 for my husbands Christmas death, then 2015 for my only child's Christmas death. As I am free-falling I am completely numb. Void of feeling. I closed my eyes and let myself fall right back into my bed in the present, the year 2020. That was the moment the pattern registered. Every 5 years I loose a loved one on Christmas Day, the reason I am now alone. "Tomorrow is Christmas, who could possibly be taken from me today? I have no one left." I whispered.
"That is our dilemma." I jumped up, standing in the bed in battle stance. "We have tried to break you by taking everyone you love on your favorite holiday, yet, here you are with a decorated house." The grim duo slowly stepped into my room. "We take you back to relieve those dreadful moments, yet, here you are ready to fight and not ready to die." I could see a fire burning in his eyes, looking into mine, as if, he was commanding my soul to yield to him. My jaws were locked shut, and my brain had nearly shut completely off. A fear malfunction no doubt. "You're wrong you do have someone left for us to take from you." The ghostly creature took a step closer to me, leaned in to my ear and whispered "You." He turned his back to me and disappeared, while the other ghastly creature lunged his claw into my stomach, raising me up into the air.
"It's not Christmas for another 4 hours. I promise you wont die before then." He released his claw and my body fell to the floor. His sinister and toothy grin grew wide, drawing attention to his sharp teeth. I laid there for a moment catching my breath and regaining my composure.
"I don't plan on dying at all" I winked and dove out the bedroom window down into the bushes. A branch brushed against my wound, nearly impaling me. I groaned, rolling over to the ground unable to stand to my feet. My pajama pants were caught on the branches. I tugged at them and flew loose to the ground. I turned to get up and was face to face with Santa Claws. He was much larger than I was and he walked on four legs. His breath blew so strong I nearly fell back. "Why are you doing this. Santa's helpers are supposed to be nice and helpful."
"I do not answer to strong! I answer to the Soul Gripper, collector of broken souls. He feeds off of their wounded spirits, and grows stronger with each taste. The Santa jacket is to remind you of your sorrow filled nostalgia for Christmas, to cripple your will."
"Why does he want my soul so bad. I'm sure there are much easier souls to collect. Ones that don't take as long to capture." I suggested hesitantly.
"Your will is strong, which will make its brokenness all the more sweet. Ill break you down before Christmas is over, and gift you to my master." He ended our conversation with a growl. The fearsome beast bit into my arm squirting my blood on to the bushes, as if he were Alice in wonderland, painting roses for the Queen of hearts. A gruesome belting of cuss words flew freely from my lips as the beast drug me back into the house by my pierced blood leaking arm. A trail of blood followed us from the bushes to my living room, up my stairs into my room. He threw me up and over to the bed, and down into another free-falling portal. This time 5 years into the future-My grave. My grave was overwhelmingly unkept. Vines and weeds covered my tombstone. I left no one to mourn me. I sat at my grave reflecting my life of isolation. I loved hard but behind walls. What was the point of living if I lived in an isolated box? A single tear fell on my hand and instantaneously the tombstones of my past loved ones circled me, their whispers seeping through. They taunted me, blaming me for their deaths. I stood up to run but they followed me. Their whispers amplified, screaming about how I deserved to die. They chased me until I fell. Instead of hitting the ground face first, I went free-falling back through a portal. This time I didn't land in a time wrap. I landed in darkness.
I could hear the footsteps of women's heels coming towards me. "Hello? Who is there? Where are we?" I called out.
"It's me, your mother."
"Mom! Can I see you? I've missed you so much." I cried.
"You don't have to miss me anymore sweetheart. Join me, here in the darkness of broken souls." A dim light shone down on her face. Her wrinkled skin was a faint whitish blue. Her eyes were sunken in beneath her protruding bones. The flesh peeling around her nose flapped as she breathed. My eyes grew wide in terror, and hers grew wide with offended wrath. "Don't look at me like that, it's your fault I am here in the first place, looking this way!" She huffed as her fists landed on her hips. "You should be the one in here for the way you threw your entire family away, not me! Everyone that has ever loved you is dead because of YOU!" Hundreds of eyes popped open surrounding me, with death glares aimed right at me. The eyes grew closer, closing me into my little box of isolation. Their arms reaching into the light to grab me. I dropped down to my knees, hunched my head over into my hands, and scrunched my eyes closed tight. I felt my shirt tugging in different directions, tearing with each pull. My tattered shirt fell off my shoulders, and I was free-falling once again through a portal into the present, landing in the back yard of my old family home. The cemetery where my family rested was just beyond the fence. I grimaced as I tried to stand through the pain. I was too weak. It didn't matter I knew what I was supposed to see; the unkept graves of my family. I just laid in the grass subdued, waiting for the Gripper to come for his long-awaited prize. I closed my eyes gently accepting death. Instead, I woke up groggy in a hospital bed.
"Oh, your finally awake Janay. Would you like a drink or maybe some food?" The nurse smiled.
"Where am I?! Who are you?!" I tried to get up but I was strapped to the bed. I was jolting aggressively, but the strips didn't budge. My hair was matted, and I was filthy. I scanned the room for signs of the Soul Gripper. He had an intense grip on me.
"Janay! Calm down, you’re at Memorial Psychiatric Hospital, where you have been the past 5 years. I'm your nurse. It's Ok Janay just rest, this happens every Christmas."
"What does? What happens? The Soul Gripper! He is co-!"
"Janay, calm down there is no Gripper. Every Christmas for the past 5 years you have the same break down. You somehow manage to escape this place and always come back hurt talking about the Soul Gripper collecting your soul. None of the things you explain are real, it's all in your head darling. You keep torturing yourself for being the last of your family."
"Really? I don't believe you! Let me out of here before he com-!" The nurse hushed me and tucked me back in the bed promising food and beverage, as she pushed the sedative into my arm. She walked out of the room and a shadowy hand with long fingers tipped with sharp claws crept along the wall.
”She is ready for you now.” the nursed looked over her shoulder and smiled at me. I gasped with wide eyes and snapped my head towards the window and braced for the attack. I looked at the window, as I began to fade, the reflection I saw in the window, Christmas 2020, I will never forget. The wide sinister and toothy grin, drawing attention to his sharp teeth.
I am not crazy.