This is one of my first attempts at fiction. Please let me know what you think – positive or critical – by commenting below.
Sebastian jolted awake from a nightmare, all blood and teeth, hideous laughter and terrified running. “Mommy! Daddy!” he called, but there was no answer. He yelled to them again, but heard no response. He pulled his covers up and over his head to protect himself, reluctant to leave the relative safety of his bed. He knew that once he was out, he would have to move quickly to evade the dangers that still floated through his mind. Steeling himself, he repeated, it was only a dream, only a dream. Suddenly making his decision, he leapt out of bed and raced down the hall to his parents’ room, but as he jumped onto their bed he realized that their covers had not been pulled down. They weren’t there.
It was Christmas morning, he remembered. Where were they? Looking at the clock, it was almost 6. They must be downstairs already. Why hadn’t they woken him up? Were they downstairs opening the gifts? Or were they downstairs because they knew Santa hadn’t brought any gifts?
He thought back to a few days earlier. After a long session playing on his tablet, he came across a new game that he really wanted. Maybe, he thought, he could convince his parents to buy it. “Mom, Dad, there’s this awesome game I found. Would you get it for me?” “No, Seb, not today. It’s almost Christmas.” “Please!” he complained, raising his voice. “No,” his dad replied, his voice rising in tandem, and then Sebastian exploded. “I hate you! I don’t want you here anymore!” he screamed at them before storming to his room and slamming the door. He heard his dad yell through the door, “Sometimes I hate you, too!” Sebastian regretted what he had said almost immediately, but he didn’t know how to take it back. They had all eaten dinner in front of the TV in silence, and later, when his mom had looked into his room to talk with him about what had happened, he was already asleep. They hadn’t spoken of it again, and he hadn’t thought of it again until this moment.
Now, guilt flooded his body. He felt the heat of it flood his cheeks and a shiver pass through his belly. Was this because he was bad? He crept down the stairs, taking them one by one, frightened of what he might find. No gifts, no treats, his parents sitting with accusing eyes? When he reached the bottom, he edged through the kitchen and heard faint music coming from somewhere. Slinking around the corner, he inched through the kitchen and then peaked around the corner into the family room.
He noticed immediately that there was a fire blazing in the fireplace, heat radiating through the room. The stockings dangling from the mantle bulged with sweet treats. The speakers were on, playing “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” ad nauseum. The Christmas tree’s lights flashed on and off and, suddenly, Sebastian noticed the piles of wrapped presents underneath the tree that had not been there the previous night.
Forgetting his fears, he tore into the gifts with abandon, setting off a snowstorm of shredded paper, stretched ribbons, and torn gift bags. A new tablet, a game console, a new sled, everything he had wanted and hoped for. He couldn’t believe how much he had received, how much he had deserved. As the wrapping settled around him, Sebastian lay back on the mounds of paper like a king reclining on his royal settee, and at that moment, he felt the overwhelming desire to laugh. At first it was a little chuckle, but it grew into a full belly laugh, then ballooned into uproarious guffaws that he could not stop, though he wished he could. He laughed to the point of breathlessness, of discomfort. Finally, he collapsed back exhausted. After resting for a few minutes, he opened his eyes. He looked over and noticed one last present, almost obscured by the trunk of the tree. It was small, enclosed in plain brown paper. He leaned over to grab it, then tore it tentatively, pulling open just one corner at first. Inside, he saw a photo that contained his own face. In fact, he realized, it was the family portrait that usually hung from the wall over the TV set. He glanced up and confirmed that the picture was missing. He resumed his task, tearing away the rest of the paper to reveal his mom’s and dad’s photos…but they weren’t there. At least their faces weren’t. They had been ripped roughly from the rest of the photo, leaving the image showing him and his parents’ headless bodies.
He jolted back to the recognition that he still hadn’t seen his parents. The terror of his dream seeped back into his mind. That doesn’t mean anything, he thought, they’re OK. Perhaps they went outside for some reason? As he spun around to take in the room, he noticed something he hadn’t seen before next to the outside door. He walked closer. What was it? What he had initially taken to be the red of holiday decorations was… Gradually it dawned on him that it looked just like a patch of dark, sticky red blood smeared across the door frame. Next to it, slashed into the wood, were ragged gashes that could only have been gouged there by an enormous set of biting, grinding teeth. And he thought he could hear – though he wasn’t sure if it was somewhere outside or just in his mind – that same horrible laughter.
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