The Christmas tree in the town square stood tall for all to look at in awe. The varying reds and blues and yellows and greens coiled around the towering tree like a colorful snake. Children tightly clutched the hands of their mothers and fathers and grinned with crooked teeth at the masterful display of the holidays. Its light cast onto the empty buildings and lonely streets emptied by the men and women standing around the spectacle.
In the wake of the cheerful holiday smiles came another surprise--Snow began to fall from the sky, dressing the streets in a growing blanket of sparkling white. Heavier than a flurry, yet not quite a storm. Children stuck their tongues out with flushed cheeks, giggling as a myriad of snowflakes melted on them. And for that moment, in the bitter cold, it seemed as though the world revolved only around that tree that stood tall in front of them.
But there was, of course, the one and only family within that small town who had decidedly rejected the invitation to be around the others. Alas, the woman was much more content sitting idly in her chair and waiting for information regarding her husband. She had told her child that he had been out working the last few days, trying her best to cover up the fact that he had, in fact, gone missing. Now, with four days gone by and nothing to show for it, all she could do is stare intently at the static on the television and neglect the wilting Christmas tree.
The woman barely grasped the half-empty bottle of vodka in her hand, and when she heard the pitter patter of soft feet, she instinctively placed it in the shadows beside her. Her gaze fell on the small boy that sprinted into the living room, waving a tiny turquoise blanket back and forth, "Mommy!" His shrill voice cut through the buzz she had acquired from the alcohol--She winced, "There's a man with a badge at the door! He said he wants to talk to you."
Her daze was immediately broken as she sat upright in the chair, staring at him with a furious rage in her eyes, "You opened the door?!" she scolded. The boy stared at her for a moment before looking down, only to be met with a back hand across the face. He stepped back, grabbing his reddening face with tears brimming in his eyes. She stood up, exhaling sharply, "I told you to tell me first when someone knocks!"
She sighed in exasperation, stumbling out of the living room and hugging the wall for balance as she moved to the front door opened a crack. Deep in the background she could hear Frosty The Snowman playing in the boy's room. She shoo'd her child away, opening the door up enough for her face to be seen. A police officer stood in the snow, fingers in the loops of his belt as he greeted her with a grin. She met his grin with a deep frown, "What are you doing here so late?!" Her voice was slurred, causing the officer's expression to waver.
"Your husband..." His voice was deep but as soft as his expression, "We've learned a bit more about where he might be."
Her expression almost immediately changed. She stepped back, opening the door fully. The officer stepped in, raking his feet across the Welcome carpet first as a blast of cold burst into the warm home. She closed the door quickly, shuddering from the bitter weather.
Further down the lonely streets, there was movement in the dark shadows beside the buildings and broken lamp posts. A figure walked through the darkness as if it was their home, the hood on his head further veiling the lithe person's face from view of the naked eye. The being walked slowly, as if savoring the bitter cold that surrounded them as pitch black boots left prints in the thin blanket of snow.
The figure began to speak with the voice of a delicate man--It was a whisper, with the softness of an enthralling lullaby. However, there was a clear malevolence within his undertone. The soft noise sung at a slow pace, "It's the most... wonderful time--of the year..."
Nobody was around to hear the man's enchanting voice, however he seemed to enjoy the solitude surrounding him. Under his arm he cradled a large cardboard box wrapped haphazardly with a variety of different papers. A substance dribbled from the bottom corner of the box and onto the snow, though the hue was unseen in the darkness, "With the kids jingle belling... and everyone telling you... Be of good cheer."
The shadowed man suddenly was subjected to the dim spectrum of a barely functioning streetlight. Pitch black eyes sparkled against the brightness as his pale and sunken in face was shown, however the visual was only granted for a brief moment as he continued his troll. A droplet of crimson red sunk into the blanket of white as he passed by the street light. He looked forward to the police cruiser parked in front of the home that he had been traversing through the snow to find. A small grin formed on his features.
His soft feet cracked against the snowy sidewalk with a purpose as he tried his best to stay within the darkness, inching closer to the home. Eventually, he stood at the front of the dreary yet moderately lit up building, and at that point he walked up the three concrete stairs, continuously singing to himself, "It's the most wonderful time... of the year!"
He placed the box down at the top step, adjusting the large ribbon that had been placed on it. He stood up, his grin growing from ear to ear as the light washed over his face--A large and jagged scar ran from just beside his eye all the way to his lower jawline. He lifted his clenched fist up, rapping it on the door a few times. He waited a moment before turning around, quickly slinking back into the shadows before the door was opened.
The woman had taken her place back in the reclining chair. The officer stood awkwardly as he explained the current situation to her, purposefully ignoring the stench of alcohol in her breath and darting his gaze away from her half-closed eyes. She pushed her bottle of vodka back behind the chair as she listened as intently as she could to the man. She nodded slowly, "So you found his car?"
The officer solemnly nodded, granting her another faint smile, "Yes, on the outskirts of town hidden in the trees." He looked away from her fully now and glanced at the Christmas tree that had shed much of its pine needles due to malnourishment, "We don't know why it's there or where he ran off to, but it's a start. They have the K9 unit sniffing for any abnormal scent right now."
The wife took solace in that knowledge; Her husband possibly being okay was better than the uncertainty she had been facing. As if on cue, the little boy ran out into the living room once again, practically jumping from the balls of his feet, "I heard a knock, Mommy!" She sat up with a sigh, "I didn't open the door this time, Mommy--I promise."
She pushed past him, walking down the hallway with the police officer behind her. She opened the door only a crack at first, checking to see if anyone was actually there. She saw no person, but a large gift placed at their doorstep. With a raised eyebrow she opened the door, glancing to the various different wrapping papers used to wrap around the outside of the box. The officer eyed the 'present' closely before his expression changed. Great concern washed over him as he stepped in front of her with a nervous chuckle, "L-Let me open it first--Probably just some pranksters again."
He stepped outside and took out his box cutter, getting onto his knees as he drew in a deep breath. This wasn't the fault of any teenage pranksters--He had been in the force long enough to know exactly what this was. With great caution, he took the ribbon off and tossed it aside, pressing the blade into the wrapping paper and through the top of the box. He ran the knife across until he was able to open the top with ease. As he opened it, he drew back quickly, covering his mouth as he fought the urge to vomit. The 'present' had been even worse than he imagined it to be.
Curiously, the wife took a look inside. Her expression distorted into shock as she let out a blood curdling scream that echoed across the darkened sky. She hugged the wall as the little boy ran to the noise, "Mommy--What's wrong?" But she didn't respond, simply falling to her knees as she sobbed into her hands. The boy placed a small hand onto her shoulder, "Mommy...?"
The child moved to take a glance at the contents of the present, however the officer stood up quickly and covered the boy's eyes, drawing him back as he stared inside of the box in terror.
Inside of the box was a severed head, submerged to the chin in its own pool of blood. The man's hair had been matted with the substance, and his eyes were wide--almost alive with terror. His mouth hung open, and his face was riddled with cuts and bruises. A scar ran from just to the right of his eye all the way down across his cheek, to his lower jawline. Atop of his head was a Santa hat tainted with droplets of blood. The officer pushed the child back to his mother, who held onto her with a confused expression on his face.
The officer barely stood on shaky legs, holding a ripped piece of the wrapping paper and staring at it. It seemed that the legends were, in fact, true. He stared at the sticker that had been stuck to the wrapping paper, a still image of Santa waving his mitten to the person looking.
To: The Fortunate Family
From: Sirius Nightshade
Written by Kain Coffey