Garlands of red and gold blew up against the horses’ hooves. They shied away, dancing in starts and fits. The smell of crushed pine needles suffused the air. Crow didn’t want to get down off his horse, but he needed to see—really see—what had happened.

Glass ornaments crunched underfoot.

Jack nudged Crow with his shaggy head. The scent on the wind and the silence disconcerted the wolfboy. Crow threw a comforting arm over his shoulders. Jack inhaled the odors of death. Fort fanned out into the town. Ronan whispered to the horses, calming them. The four hunters hardened themselves against what they saw.

Bodies.

Bodies in their holiday best. Holly, tinsel, ribbons, and bows. Smashed gifts. Scattered food. Families. All tinted and splashed with blood. Crow tested the wind: burnt cookies, burnt cakes and pies, and burnt turkey. Under the layers of spoiled treats lay the deeper, darker smells of fear. Christmas made macabre.

“Over here,” Fort called from the general store’s boardwalk, silhouetted by the sun. He clutched his coat closed with gloved hands, and kept his hat pulled low over his masked face.

Crow shifted to Fort’s side. Jack, on all fours, loped after him.

A cedar, decorated with sparkling lights and handmade ornaments, leaned out a broken window. Glass sprinkled the muddy boardwalk, the street, and the body that had been launched through it. The sun played across the smooth shards as she set. Her reflection caught here and there, flaming with orange fire.

Ronan leaned over his saddle horn. What horror they would pull from under the walkway? He pushed his sunglasses tight against his face. His horse shook its mane and blew through its nose. The sun set. The two men and the wolf gathered under the fallen tree.

Under the layers of spoiled treats lay the deeper, darker smells of fear. Christmas made macabre.

The town held its breath.

The dead waited.

The wind stilled.

Fort reached deep into the shadows. Crow whipped back his coat, ready to draw the Jade Gun. Jack tensed. His lips drew back. A growl rumbled low in his chest. Out came a boy, trembling and torn. Dirt and blood covered his starched black suit. Bits of a meal stuck around his mouth. His wide eyes darted from one face to another: Fort, Crow, Jack, and back to Fort.

“Crow,” Ronan warned, glancing over the top of his sunglasses.

Crow squatted in front of the boy. “What happened, kid? Who did this?”

The boy crumbled a bit of cake in his hands. “They came right ’fore the party. They came screaming and shouting. They said we couldn’t celebrate nothing, and they took it all. Everything.”

“Did you get a good look at any of them?” Fort pulled down his mask, safe in the dusk.

A puny wail trickled out of the boy’s mouth. His eyes blackened.

Jack’s hackles stood on end. He lowered his head and snarled.

A band of wraiths rode up the center of town. Dark coats hung limp. Carved faces gleamed in the shadows of hats. Thin horses kicked up a low cloud of dust. Lumpy sacks slouched on their backs.

“Take them.” The harsh command rolled out of the boy.

The wraiths bowed.

Fort, Crow, Ronan, and Jack stared at the child.

“Take them!” the boy screamed. “These are my gifts. All mine!”

The wraiths socked their rifles to their shoulders and sighted down long barrels.

Crow palmed the Jade Gun and fired right at the boy’s temple.

Blood fountained.

The crazed boy dropped.

With a reek and a keen, the wraiths diffused in a puff of black smoke.

The bags spilled their contents. Toys scattered across the ground. They clapped, chattered, and sang. Dolls, soldiers, BB guns, dresses, ribbons, books, paints, and even a few puppies and kittens lay where they fell. Jack nudged the nearest with his nose. With no one to love them, the gifts lay as dead as the town.

Crow and Fort remounted their horses. Ronan lead them towards the setting sun. Jack followed. They left the ravished town behind. They left the broken holiday, and the dead boy, behind. The wind tugged at a white ribbon and left with them.

 

Find more holiday mash-ups in the October 2017 edition of Havok magazine.

 

Meet the Author

Abby Jones writes Warrior Stories. They range from children’s Faerie Stories, YA Western Faerie Stories, slice of life blogs, theological blogs, and flash fiction. All of her stories focus in on some element of standing up against the darkness, and standing up for the weak. These themes pulse through all her tales.

Abby’s passions are her church, home, family, and writing. She writes from a Christian worldview without mincing on the dark sides of life and the horror of war, but not bathing in it either. Abby’s writing is most influenced by a strange mix of J.R.R. Tolkien, Steven King, A.S Peterson, and Richard Adams, with hints of WW2 history, Viking Mythology, and the American Cowboy Mythos.

Abby lives southeast of Fort Worth with her husband, who is about to start Seminary, and their 11 beautiful trees. She writes a blog, helped found a writing group, has given writing lessons, and is working on an allegorical book for children based on the Beatitudes for her church. You can find Abby on her blog, Facebook, and Instagram.