My eyes shot open, reflexively tightened up and looked towards the door. Its 12:01am Christmas morning and at any moment the door to the bedroom will burst open and my two beautiful children will run in giggling with presents already in hand. Seconds passed and nothing happened. It took a full minute before I could remember no one would be coming through the door this year. The kids’ accident was only a couple months old; I wake up most mornings and for the briefest moment every day I forget they are gone. I find myself just lying in bed listening for their laughter, or cries for breakfast before the pain of losing them hits me as fresh as the day it happened.
It was a car accident that took them. I was supposed to pick them up after school, but work was running late. I called my daughter Samantha who was thirteen, three years older than her brother Ryan, and told her they would have to walk home that day. It was only a couple blocks and they have done it plenty of times before; it wasn’t a big deal. Except that day it would be.
She was only a kid, probably around the age of twenty-four, and didn’t see them crossing the street. She was probably texting, eating or doing one of the hundred other things people do while driving other than paying attention. It didn’t matter what she was doing; she hit both of them and they didn’t make it. Ryan died there on the road while; the ambulance tried to bring Samantha to the hospital in time to save her life. They were just not fast enough and in the span of fifteen minutes, my life was destroyed.
Janet, my wife at the time, blamed me, of course. It wouldn’t have happened if I had just picked them up like I was supposed to. She made it through the funeral and burials before leaving, and thinking back on it I couldn’t blame her. I can’t stand the sight of myself either, that’s why all the mirrors in the house were shattered, and why the gun I bought last week was already loaded and waiting in the night-stand by the empty bed.
All of these thoughts rushed through my head as I dragged myself out of bed and put my head in my hands. It’s the first Christmas spent alone, the house dark and empty. Last year at this time the kids were awake already and opening the one special present they picked out to start off Christmas with. The tree would be lit, casting a festive glow in the small living room. The smell of cocoa and coffee would be strong, but it was the laughter and joy that would wake me up the most. As a parent there is nothing better than seeing your kids excited and happy, and nothing does that more than opening presents on Christmas day.
I closed my eyes and tried to collect my thoughts, but a sound from the living room grabbed my attention. It sounded like the soft thud of little feet trying to be quiet as they snuck throughout the house. A sound I haven’t heard in months. Shuffling off the bed, I made my way towards the sound, opening the door to the bedroom and looking out into the empty living room. This is where they would be sitting, right under the tree, presents in hand, waiting for a sign that they can start ripping into their presents.
Of course no one is there now. The room was dark and the fake tree was still in its box, propped up against the wall and unopened. It hurt too much not to get ready for Christmas without them and it hurt too much to try. Looking at the empty living room I could almost feel them there, sitting legs crossed looking towards our room. Waiting to see we were ready. They would each get to open their one present and then get whatever was in their stockings, mostly little dollar store toys and candy, but it was still exciting to them even though they were getting too old for the trinkets.
It was never going to be that way again. This holy day of love and joy for everyone else will be a constant reminder of what I lost, made worse by the fact all other families, neighbors and even strangers are coming together and putting aside their differences and problems to have this one special day, and here I am alone. The weight of the gun in my hand snaps me back to the cold dark room that is my life now, reminding me there is still a way out. I look towards the tree and imagine it like it was just last year. Blue and silver twine circling bright blue LED lights, super hero and Disney character ornaments from theme parks and rest stops the kids always had to have. Decadent glass orbs that were a wedding gift, and the two angels looking back at me smiling and waiting for me to join them. I’m coming, I thought as I felt the cold metal of the gun barrel against my temple, and I pulled the trigger…
The sound was louder than anything I ever experienced, and it came before the pain. So loud I couldn’t see; the world went black as all my senses faded until all I could experience was the roar between my ears. When the pain finally came it was almost a relief. The sound didn’t stop but my focus shifted on what was an earth shattering rumbling to a drill like sensation that started in my temple and was boring inward. The combination of the sound and pain dropped me to my knees and the gun slipped out of my hand. Reflexively my hands shot up to the source of the pain and found nothing, not a mark at the spot just seconds ago I shot a bullet.
Can we open our present now, Daddy? A voice cut through the pain and I struggled to open my eyes and find the source. The dark empty room I was in moments ago was transformed when my eyes finally pried open. The first thing I noticed was everything was bathed in a red flickering light, the glow coming from the back wall where the unopened Christmas tree box used to sit. Now in its place was a fully decorated tree. Instead of the blue and silver of years past, the tree now was dressed in red tinsel and lights that contained actual flickering flames that gave the appearance of the tree being consumed by fire. Blood red ornaments seemed to drip the light throughout the tree and reflected the glow around the room.
Sitting on the floor in front of me, presents in hand, were my children, their matching green Christmas pajamas tinged red from the glowing tree, making them look muddy and unclean. Their backs were to me but from where I was standing I could see something was not right. Ryan’s small right arm was bent unnaturally at the elbow, giving it an insect like appearance, and the hand that rested on his present was twitching uncontrollably. The fingers tapping on the wrapping paper of the present at first seemed like he was trying to open it but I could tell it was more of an involuntary spasm of pain.
The floor under Samantha’s crossed legs was covered in blood. I couldn’t tell if it was coming from her or the present on her lap, maybe both. Her head turned towards me, when I could just about see her face her neck gave out and her head flopped back on a clearly broken neck. Empty jet black eyes looked directly into mine, a thin red trail of blood escaped her mouth, traveled upwards her face and started to pool in the corner of her right eye. Can we open our present now, Daddy? She asked again, her voice deeper then I remembered with none of the joy or light she had while she was alive.
I had to get out of the house. The pain in my head was unbearable and diluting my equilibrium, but I managed to stumble out of the front door. Outside was almost pitch black, all of the lights on the street and neighboring buildings was off. The only light was coming from a full blood moon casting an odd dark orange hue over everything in sight. A loud wet sounding thud caught my attention down the road and I slowly made my way to the neighboring apartment building down the street.
The pain came in waves, pressure building up in my skull and blinding me. It got so bad I fell to my knees. There wasn’t anything around that could help; the streets were empty, all the houses and businesses lights were off and most looked boarded up and abandoned. Nothing looked like it did just yesterday. Once I was finally able to get moving again I saw a light on in a living room a couple of houses down on the right of where I fell. I walked toward the light and could see a figure standing at the window looking out towards the road at me.
It was a woman, pale white skin, and wearing a white wedding dress. As I got close she raised her hand as if waving to me and I saw the marks on her arm. The was a long four inch slit starting from where her palm meets her wrist down to about her mid forearm. Blood slowly pumped out in thick rivulets down her arm and onto her white dress, staining it instantly. The pain flared up again and I fell to a knee in front of the window. She looked down at me almost understandingly before she turned and disappeared inside her house. We couldn’t help each other, but just as she seemed to understand what I was going through I felt that I understood her loss as well. It was this day, Christmas day. For most it was a reminder of what they had, but for us it was too much of a reminder of what was lost.
I collected myself for a moment before another loud wet thud brought me back. I pushed onward trying to find a way out of this nightmare. The street's Christmas decorations were still up but all lights were dead; the usual joyful colors of green and red candy canes and forest green wreaths looked dull and corroded on the seemingly abandoned buildings. Ripped and haphazardly hung tinsel clung in patches to the dark streetlights. Movement above me caught my attention; hanging from the street light almost hidden by moss colored tinsel was a slightly overweight man.
He appeared to have been dead for some time, his dark features made even more obscure by the pooling of blood in his face and around the noose he hung by his neck from. His large fat tongue stuck out between his thick swollen lips like a diseased overgrown worm. He was dressed in a Dirty Santa suit that seemed to have a lot of wear and not enough care on it, and I could smell the sweet and vile mixture of alcohol and vomit. Another wave of pain and pressure made me collapse into a ball directly under the man. The unkempt Santa’s eyes shot open and he looked at me. He began to struggle and kick his legs, rocking himself violently back and forth and grunting for help. Just another soul claimed by this unholy night.
All I could do is crawl forward, the pain kept me from getting to my feet. I couldn’t help the man, I couldn’t help my family, I couldn’t help myself. I heard the thud again, this time right beside me. The wet smack of flesh hitting a solid. I rolled over on my side and tried to get a look on what has been making the noise, and found myself staring into the bloodshot eyes of a man in a bloody and ripped up tailored suit.
His body was smashed and broken, blood leaked from his eyes and mouth into a dark neatly trimmed goatee. He must have fell from the building off to my left, some kind of business I couldn’t tell and reading or moving my head just caused the pain to intensify. As I looked into the man’s eyes, his pupils began to shift; he seemed to be trying to focus on me. The bones seemed to rearrange themselves in his face and his mouth twisted into a surprised frown. He tried to raise himself up on his hands and knees, but the bones in his forearms were breaking through the skin and he shrieked in pain and collapsed back down.
I could hear more grinding and tearing as his body shuddered. I watched in horror as the bones retreated back into his skin and while screaming he forced himself up once again. Standing in front of me I could see his body was almost completely healed; his left arm still hung lower off of his shoulder socket and he was standing with his left ankle completely bent sideways, but the pain seemed to have left him. Instead, what replaced the agony in his face was bewilderment and as if I wasn’t even there he searched the surrounding area as if he was looking for something he lost. He quickly found what he was looking for and straightened himself out. I can see he was now standing there with a worn and battered briefcase in his hand. He adjusted what was left of his Christmas tree tie and walked back into the building I suspected he fell from. If you couldn’t see the dark spreading splotches of blood or the rip and tears in his suit he would look just like any other corporate business man going to work on Christmas morning.
I needed to get out of here no matter what it took. Ignoring the pain, I stood up and blindly started running, not caring about the direction I was going, only trying to get away from the awful things I was witnessing. Nothing could slow me down, not the pain, not the roar in my head, not even the loud wet thud of a body hitting the pavement again behind me. I ran until my legs wouldn’t carry me anymore and out of breath I stumbled up to an abandoned house.
The pain was too intense, I needed to lie down. Using my shoulder, I forced my way into the house and into the living room. The living room was dark, and the fake tree was still in its box propped up against the wall unopened. It hurt too much not to get ready for Christmas without them and then it hurt too much to try. Looking at the empty living room I could almost feel them there, sitting legs crossed looking towards our room. Waiting to see that we were ready. They would each get to open their one present and then get whatever was in their stockings, mostly little dollar store toys and candy but it was still exciting to them even though they were getting too old for the trinkets.
It was never going to be that way again. I felt the weight of the gun in my hand. I imagined seeing the kids sitting by the tree. Imagined Christmas how it was supposed to be, the best day of the year. The time when you are with your loved ones and all the pain is gone. I wanted their smiling faces to be the last thing I thought about and I put the gun to my head with tears welling up in my eyes. I pulled the trigger.
The sound was louder than anything I have ever experienced, and it came before the pain.
Written by Nowhereman0828