FLASH FICTION - Presents
This was my entry for Horror World's Flash Fiction contest. Although I didn't win I did get what I'd call a "positive rejection" so I'm happy. Feel free to let me know what you think!
“Luke, we’re ready!”
Marni scoffed. Who could be ready for this? she thought, absently biting at her fingernail. Mom noticed her discomfort and offered her a cup of hot chocolate.
“Now, now, honey. No frowns on Christmas.”
That joyful Christmas morning smile. If only the eyes would match it.
Under the tree, Dad counted the presents, intent on playing his role in their twisted little play.
From upstairs came a grunt.
Mom continued to offer Marni the chocolate.
Footsteps began making their way down the stairs. Heavy, uneven. More like thuds.
Marni stood up. Dad shot her a glance.
Her chest heaved, restraining a scream. Not this again.
“Marni, please” Mom begged, and stretched her smile as much as she could. Her arm was getting tired of holding out the cup. She’d spill it any second now.
Marni grabbed the cup before Mom made a mess. Things were bad enough already.
Mom sighed, her eyes inviting Marni to sit back down.
Marni did. Mom grabbed her hand, kissed her fingers.
“I’m not coming next year,” Marni blurted.
“I’d rather spend Christmas at the dorm, I swear to God.”
Dad’s voice, stern. He bore the no-nonsense expression of a father who’s heard enough whining.
Settle down now, Marni. Play along.
Marni could see the dread behind, weighing on his features.
Luke reached the bottom of the stairs with a wail. Marni thought she was ready for the shock, every year she thought she was, but taking it in was never easy. As her younger brother made its way toward the couch, dragging the stump it had for a foot, glaring at them with that only black eye, Marni clutched a cushion until the fabric ripped under her fingernails.
“Marni, please,” Mom whispered.
Fine, she thought. She’d play along.
Dad picked up a present. Mom wound a music box. Inside a crystal dome, Santa and Jack Frost danced to “Deck the Halls”.
“This one’s for you, son,” Dad said.
Luke mumbled something, words colliding with the spit dripping from its chin.
“Oooh,” Mom said, “I wonder what it is!”
Her brother’s deformed fingers clawed at the wrapping.
It’s a train, it’s always a fucking train!
And it was, of course. Luke picked it up, held it over its head and gurgled in approval, that sick, disgusting sound.
Marni shut her eyes. Beside her, Mom cuddled Luke, laying a kiss on its leathery skin.
“This one’s for you, Marni,” she heard her father say. When she opened her eyes she saw him holding a bright red box.
“Merry Christmas, baby,” he said.
It was Luke’s guttural cry what made her take the gift.
And with every shred of will, she smiled.
Luke’s cry stopped.
I won’t be coming next year, she told herself. No way in hell.
But for now she’d play her part.
For her family. And for Luke. No one wanted a tantrum this year.
No one wanted Dad to lose another arm.