Margaret and I spent yesterday setting up the Christmas lights. Was cold today. Some snow on the ground. Got late by the time we finished up. Sat in the living room. Looking at everything. The tree. The stockings. Only set up the two of ours. Noah and Elizabeth won't be coming over for a while.
For the best.
Christmas lights around the fireplace began to flicker; first the yellow and the purple, then the blue and the green. Then they went out completely, leaving just the red bulbs. Fire was still burning, but the room was dominated by red. I went ahead and checked the bulbs of the other colors. All of them were scorched. Electrical. But the red bulbs remained alight. Struck me as odd.
When I was young there was always a tradition of testing the lights before we set them up. Often there would be one bulb that was no good, and it would become a great mystery trying to figure out which one it was that caused all the bulbs to refuse to light. Whoever found it got a treat.
This wasn't a new set of lights. It was the same one I had been using for almost five years.
The room was bathed in red.
Heard a knock.
I heard a knock coming from somewhere. Checked the front door. And then I checked the porch. But it wasn't coming from those places. It was coming from the chimney.
“It's cold out here,” something said. “May I come in?”
Picked up the fire poker from the stand. Heart was thumping. I was waiting. Kept waiting.
First there was a arm. It settled its pale hand directly onto the fire, causing the logs to shift, shooting sparks up the shaft. The other arm appeared after that. It searched, finally finding purchase by gripping the edge of the fireplace.
Then there was hair. A whole mess of hair. Stringy and black and oily.
Something impossibly long made its way out of the fireplace. Smelt of burnt hair, sour milk, and firewood.
Margaret ran to the kitchen and grabbed a knife. Thought I had gotten rid of that knife. A year ago Noah threatened me with it. Big butcher knife. Didn't need sharpening. Hadn't used it since.
Thing made its way out of the fireplace, its long arms extending past the entrance to the living room as it pulled itself out, settling itself in a squatted, sitting position. Its knees were only a few feet from the ceiling. In its hands, which were loosely arranged between its legs, was a package. It was red with a golden bow. The thing leaned forward, extending the package towards my wife and I.
“You have lost much the last few years,” it said. “All of it is tied to a single source. A single source of pain. So I offer you a gift. I offer you a chance for resolution.”
Didn't offer the gift to me. It turned its head slightly and extended its arms towards Margaret. Margaret looked at me. Looking for what to do. You don't turn a gift down. Not from that thing. I know the stories. Those who said no. So I nodded grimly. She understood.
She reached forward and removed the top from the package. Her reaction was of genuine surprise. She reached into the box, and retrieved its contents.
It was a scalpel.
A single source of pain. The Surgeon. The man who had taken so much from me and my family. There really wasn't anything else it could be. My wife put her free hand to her mouth. Tears in her eyes. She looked at me, then looked and the creature and shook her head no.
Muscles tensed. Waited for it to do something. Anything. Instead it just smiled. Too wide of a smile.
“Hold onto it for a rainy day,” it said in a cooing voice. She was silent, then placed the scalpel into the box. It put back on the lid and placed the box on the side table by the lamp. Then it headed across the room on all fours. Headed down the hall. Opened the front door.
Margaret was breathing heavily. She was shaking.
The lights flickered. They all lit up. Yellow and purple, then green and blue. The red remained as well. Like always. We just stood there a while. In silence. Listening to the crackling of the fire. Went over to Margaret. Wrapped my arms around her. Seemed uncomfortable. Went over to the side table and turned on the lamp. Tried to move the present. Couldn't. Couldn't even remove the lid. Was stuck in place. Figures. It isn't for me. Still sitting there.
Didn't know what to do with our night after that. Put out the fire and closed the flue. Made sure the door and windows were secure. Margaret went ahead and took a shower. After I spent time holding her. She wouldn't stop shaking. Gave her something to help her sleep. Felt helpless. Did what I could. She tossed and turned all night. Normally I'm the one have nightmares. Kept listening for knocking.
Felt in a daze all day today. Smoked half a pack before my shift was over. Have heard stories of the Jingle creature for a long time. Knew monsters existed here. Didn't think I would meet one. Not like the Surgeon. Something unnatural.
It is windy. Cuts into you. Little bit of snow that had accumulated was gone.
Margaret isn't very talkative. Without Loyd our house feels empty. Not just because the kids aren't around. The holidays are usually one of our favorite times of year. This year we aren't feeling it as much. Too much new trauma. Just need one good night of relaxing. Just one night.
I am looking our back at the grave Margaret dug for Loyd. She did a good job. Was deep enough. Ground is hard now. There isn't a marker. Neither of us want to put the work into it.
Need to focus on finding him. Finding the Surgeon. Don't want to think about it. Need to think about it.
Need to get our life back.
Replaced the trash can with the hole in it.
Thought I heard Loyd.