Winter was always the hardest time of year for me out there. Growing up in the North of Britain, the month of December always held connotations of snow and ice to me, but out in the vast Mojave Desert, the winter seemed like a world away. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the way the heat singed horizon smashed into the virgin blue sky,  the dizzying expanse of bright yet distant stars above my trailer, and the comfortable emptiness of the sands, but every year, when winter rolled in, I always felt like something was missing.

I’m not exactly sure when it began, so to speak. These things never have a concrete start date; a man does not simply wake up in the morning having lost his mind. No. Insanity, like most of the horrors in this world, is slow. It creeps. It grows. I think though, the first time I saw it was December 19.

I love to hike see. On weekends I’ll pull on my walking boots, grab my map, and just walk out into the desert. There’s no better place than the far flung reaches of the sand wastes to think. To be alone with your thoughts. The 19th, was no different. I trudged through the heat, my mind far away.

Far away.

For nearly an hour, I wandered wherever my legs took me, across the brilliant sands, up steep slopes, past the skeletal figures of cacti, lost in thought. The figurative ghosts of my past swirling in the dust kicked up by my foot falls.

I was snapped out of my semi-aware state as my feet sent the pebbles in front of me plummeting down a vertiginous drop, the dusty rocks giving way to thin air. I swore as I watched the loose chunks of rock tumble into the chasm before me. Disequilibrium washed over me, and I stumbled back away from the edge. Once I was back a good distance from the precipice, I took a deep breath. The view was amazing.

I could see for at least a fifty miles, maybe more. The straight rods of roads pierced the irregular contours of the distant hills. Sand was blown into smooth curves, punctuated by the dark brown pores of scrub and desert grass.  The magnificent desolation, as Aldrin had described the surface of the moon, truly felt like the surface of a far distant planet. It was so alien to me, a foreign, inhospitable beauty.

Off all the things that view made me feel, there was one that stuck with me the most. I felt like I was alone. Like I was the first man to set foot upon this earth, the first man to feel its heat beneath my feet, to trace its curves with my thirsty eyes. There was no one else for a thousand miles.

Something caught my eye a little up the ridge. In my distraction, I hadn’t noticed the dark outline that pierced the skyline like a needle. Tearing my eyes from the allure of the titanic desert for a second, I saw the viewing tower.

It was a haphazard construction of bleached wood, perched on the very edge of the cliff. About ten metres tall, a set of steps ran to a small covered observation deck at its top. Grinning at my discovery, I decided to try my luck, and set out in a brisk walk towards it.

Once I had straddled the small wire fence that surrounded it, I jogged towards the tower, and started to ascent the steps. They creaked loudly, a hideous cry that echoed across the desert. I could see through the slits down to the floor below as I climbed, my long ingrained fear of heights beginning to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. Slowly, I made my way to the top, and tried the door. It swung inwards on ancient hinges.

The observation deck smelt of dust and dry mould. A thin layer of sandy sediment coated the floor and windows, sent swirling into incorporeal shapes by my forceful entry. In could see the mass graves of flies on the window sill, their long dried and decaying bodies’ lay becoming part of the dust. A small magazine rack in one corner was the only furniture, but that didn’t matter, because the view was amazing. It was a little after lunch now, and the bright sun reflected of the dunes, creating a glittering mosaic of terracotta and pure white sands.

I don’t know how long I stood admiring the view. I was probably nearly half an hour mesmerized by its allure. Eventually, I felt myself drifting back to awareness, and blinked rapidly to shake off the sense of disorientation. My interest wandered, eventually falling on the leaflet rack in the corner. It was entirely picked clean, save one dog eared pamphlet.

Absently mindedly, I picked it up, and gazed on its grime covered surface. Bright red text splashed across the cover displayed the words Santa’s Christmas Land. My face split into a semi mocking grin at the unintentionally hilarious photo of the man himself on the front. He looked half asleep, and the false beard strapped to his face was a mangy shade of off white. Unfolded the flaps, I saw a map listing the parks attractions.

Santa’s Workshop
Reindeer Pen
Elves’ Village
The Christmas house
Winter Pitch and Putt
Polar ice tunnel
Nativity Scene

I raised my eyebrows at the list of attractions. The photos were equally as laughable as the ones on the front cover. Everything looked cheap or worn out. The so-called Elves Village appeared to be a couple of garden sheds dressed up in the tinsel and plastic Christmas trees. The reindeers were plastic as well. Everything was made more bizarre by the fake snow that littered the buildings, despite the sandy ground, and the view of the searing desert behind them.

Eying the address that was printed on the leaflet's rear, I saw the park was only about an hour’s drive away from my trailer. With a chuckle, I folded the leaflet into my pocket, and started off back down the steps, stealing one last glance at the unforgiving sands.

I awoke at about half twelve on December the 23rd, to the sight of a full ashtray and an empty ibuprofen packet. With a still throbbing headache, I picked my way across the darkened room towards the open bathroom door.
“Shit.” I muttered, coughing up a wad of thick phlegm from the back of my throat, and spitting into the nearby sink with a grimace. My reflection stared back at me through the cracks of the mirror, its eyes dark and baggy behind the grime. I gave it a grin, then regretted it instantly, recoiling at the sight of my plaque coated teeth.

Retreating back towards the bedroom, I straightened out my duvet on the mattress, then looked around the floor for a pair of jeans and a fresh shirt. I pulled on the least creased one, and wandered out into my kitchen barefoot, running my hands through my rat’s nest of hairs. The linoleum was cold under my feet, yet slightly sticky.

As I fell down onto the worn sofa, I felt something sharp pressing into me in my back pocket. In annoyance, I slid in my hand, and pulled out the junk that had prodded into me. The offending item was a broken tooth pick, which I discarded onto the floor. I rooted around, and pulled the rest of the pocket’s contents out. There were a few nickels, a tissue, but most interestingly, a folded up leaflet. The memory of my hike up to the view tower came flooding back to me, and I smiled despite myself. I smoothed it out, and tossed it onto the kitchen counter, distracted by the lure of the TV.

Rooting around the litter strewn floor for the remote, I retrieved it, and pushed the big red on button. The black box flicked on in front of me, accompanied by and angry hiss of static. I looked up, and saw the TV was displaying just the blurry snowstorm that the sound signified.

“Piece of crap.” I muttered, flicking through the channel, all displaying similar grainy screens. After I checked good twenty channels, I hissed in irritation, and tossed the remote control away onto the sofa. My attention quickly turned back to the leaflet. I’ll be the first to admit, it made me curious. I wanted to see it for myself. If it was anything near as entertaining as I had found the leaflet, it would be a worth a look.

I checked my watch, then pulled the plug on the TV, and left the trailer, locking the door behind me.
It took me a couple of hours to get to the park. I ended up taking the completely wrong road, and heading away from it. After getting on the right track again, I soon pulled up in the car park.

It was in the middle of nowhere. Quite literally. There were no other buildings as far as the eye could see. A rusty sign hung over the parking lot, which was half blown over by sand. The park itself was set about fifty metres back from the road, encapsulated by a tall fence of wooden boards, decorated by badly painted pictures of children playing among snow dappled conifers. A huge gate in the middle held a pair of turnstiles, underneath the banner of Santa’s Christmas Land. I pulled out a cigarette from the pack in my pocket, and lent against the side of the car, smoking it, and surveying the scene.

There were only two other cars in the car park. They both looked like they had been there some time, or at least as far as I could tell across the sea of discarded wrappers and burger cartons.

It was silent, except for the sound of the hot wind.

After finishing my cigarette, I stamped it out on the ground, and went for the front entrance. The turnstiles swung loosely in the breeze, on rust caked hinges. I pushed through hesitantly, seeing a small table next to the entrance. A dirty plastic ice cream tub labelled ‘honesty box -$5’. It contained only a couple of dead spider and a single solitary dollar bill.

Coldly, I rooted through my wallet, and scraped out a few dollars to toss into the box. After I had paid my way in, I looked around. The park was built from porta-cabins and old shipping containers, arranged around a large darkened house that slumped decrepit on sea of dried scrub. The jauntily arranged plastic snowmen, icicles, and tinsel, gave the entire scene an air of the bizarre.

Dust swirled in the thick air, lazy and silent in the afternoon air. I approached one of the nearest buildings, labelled Nativity. The door was slightly ajar, so I pushed on it, and it creaked open, throwing light onto the darkened room. A low wattage bulb hung flickering on the roof. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I closed the door behind me, and entered into the heavy silence. The room contained several dusty dioramas of the nativity, all flaking and covered in spider webs. I looked at them disinterestedly, already beginning to doubt the quality of this theme park.

Somewhere in the distance, I could hear the hum of an air con. The tiny motes of dust that coated the floor were disturbed by my footprints, into tiny clouds in the dim light. I was beginning to notice things like this in the uncomfortable silence.

I progressed into the next room, where things took a turn for the weird. The entire room was stripped bare. I could see the stands were dioramas had been, but they had all been spirited away. It was odd, but not entirely unsurprising from this crappy place.

After looking through three more empty rooms, I gave up, and left the cramped building. It looked like everything except the first dioramas had been torn out. Like someone had decided they needed a tiny plastic Jesus in their life so much that they’d leant over, and stuffed the characters of the nativity scene into their jacket. It was almost laughable in its pathetic nature.

I wandered over to the reindeer pen, and stared at the plastic animals for a few minutes, lighting up another cigarette as I did so. The silence, hanging heavy in the air, was overwhelming. I could feel a hundred tiny pinpricks on my back, like the pressure of someone’s eyes burrowing into me from behind. I turned to look in paranoia, but still the big house remained dark and empty, not a soul in sight.

On the horizon, the sun, a golden bullet hole in the flesh of the sky, was melting away into the distant mountains, setting my fragile world into a squalid half-light, and casting dark dancing shadows around the walls and window frames.

Lighting another a cigarette to replace the burnt out one, I took deep, shaky breaths. Coming here had been a bad idea. I saw that now. I felt the sticky evening heat crawling over my body, and my flesh quivered slightly. My next stop, according to the rusty signs that covered the park, was the Elves’ village.

The elves village was in reality a set of garden sheds, as depicted so humorously by the leaflet. In real life though, they just looked sad. As I approached the nearest one, there was a clattering from within. I hesitated, realizing someone might be inside.

“Hello?” I called nervously, through my clamped teeth. “Anyone here?”

There was another sharp banging, followed by a smash. “Are you alright?” I tried the handle. It was stiff, but with a bit of force, I hit it open, and half stumbled into the shed. The place was a mess. There was torn up wrapping paper coating the floor, along with a few smashed snow globes. Animal faeces was stained all along the wood, and it reeked.
I saw the source of the noise; a small dishevelled cat, huddled in the corner. It mewed at me loudly, before jumping up, and sprinting out in between my legs.

I half laughed in relief, following the animal as it disappeared round the big house with my eyes. After it was gone, I looked around inside, recoiling once more at the smell, before slamming shut the door. It must have been living in there for some time. It seemed odd that such a small animal could have survived out here. The place seemed completely empty, and coyotes that ate cats like that for a light snack roamed the wastelands at night.

I was certain that I wasn't going back in those vomit inducing sheds again, so I followed the cat, in the direction of the big house. When I got to the front door, though, I was dismayed when I was met by the spray-painted words Closed For repair. A hefty padlock further dissuaded anyone who dared to doubt the words. I raised an eyebrow in annoyance, and was almost ready to call it a day when I heard the noise coming from the house.

It sounded like the cat again, from somewhere within the derelict structure. It was wailing, pitifully. The noise was like nails being dragged down a chalkboard, but definitely came from an animal. An animal, that was by the sound of it, in some kind of indescribable pain. 

What can I say? The next thing I knew, I was skirting the edge of the house. The next thing I knew I was levering open the basement window. Next thing I knew I was lowering myself down to the dusty floor.

Next thing I knew, I was inside.

The basement was lined wall to wall with cardboard boxes, all overflowing with Christmas decorations. With only the fading light of the window to illuminate the room, I picked my way round the maze of boxes, and went for the light switch. There was a flick, and a sharp buzzing from somewhere in the building, but no light came.

“Shit.” I hissed, nervously eyeing the dark crevices, not wanting to be caught in an abandoned house in the pitch dark. My eyes fell on a small electric lamp, shaped like the head and shoulders of Santa Claus. Praying it still had batteries, I flicked the switch, and it spilled a feeble orange glow out onto the room. Well, anything was better that using my lighter.

The stairs up were covered in dust, like everything else, but on the third step from the top, I saw a pair of footprints in the sediment, like someone had been walking down, then changed their mind. I felt a bit foolish as I emerged into the hallway, covered in cobwebs, and touting a kids’ Santa lamp. The desperate screeching came again though, and it spurred me on.

The hall, seemed like any other at Christmas, albeit abandoned. Leaflets for Santa’s Christmas land littered the floor, trampled into the threadbare carpet. Some faded fairy lights were strung along the walls, and much to my surprise, they were blinking weakly.

“Hello?” I felt bile rise in my throat, as I came to the realisation that my assumption of emptiness may have been premature. “Are you alright?”

I decided my best option was to find this goddam cat, and get the hell out of here.  

Somewhere from the depths of the house, I could hear All I want for Christmas Is You drifting through the seemingly abandoned halls. It was muted by the thick walls and carpets, but still recognizable.

I repeated by greeting, but there was still no response. Steeling myself, I glanced down the hallway, trying to discern where the noises were coming from. Eventually, I elected to head in the direction of the kitchen. This place had at least three floors, so I’d have to search them one by one.

The kitchen door was half ajar, so as I approached, I took a nervous glance inside, fingers playing apprehensively on the door handle. Like the hall, the kitchen was lit by cheap Christmas lights, which pulsed maddeningly, daubing the cracked tiles in sickly orange, pink, green, red and blue. Plastic food was arranged jauntily along the work surfaces, adding to the artificial air.

With a creek, I pushed into the room, and looked around. Empty. I breathed a sigh of relief, and raised my Santa lantern to look around. The room seemed like any other kitchen, save the plastic food and overabundance of Christmas decor and dust. Footprints criss crossed the floor, in seemingly random patterns. God knows how long they’d been there.

The rest of the first floor seemed normal enough, similarly decorated. There was a living room, a small crappy toilet, a cloakroom, and a single locked door, which I left in state, although the sign on the entrance had read dining room. It was only when I got to the stairwell that things started to get weird.

A Santa Claus lawn ornament hung from one of the bannister. As in, hung, with a noose. In this case, a noose made of tinsel. I gulped slowly at this macabre sight, rubbing my own neck skittishly. I kept my eyes firmly glued on the executed ornament as I climbed the stairs, half expecting it to come to life. Fortunately, no such sinister reanimation occurred, so I sidestepped it, leaving it still swinging in the thin air.

The landing was cordoned off with those ropes you often get in theme parks or at airports, directing you into the rooms in a specific order. The first room I entered was completely empty. As bare as the nativity scene had been. I crossed the landing, and tried the next room. This one, was slightly more sinister.

It was filled with puppets. Just ordinary marionettes or finger puppets, many of them dressed as Santa Claus, or elves. I felt a shiver crawl down my spine as I entered. In the fading light, their painted eyes glinted dangerously.

That’s when he came from behind. He must’ve been hiding among the puppets or something. I felt a set of strings slip around my neck, tangling all across my head. I struggled, as whoever was on the other side pulled tight. They snapped, flicking all across the room. Suddenly free, I jumped forward, away from my would be strangler, but he was still upon me. He slammed the puppet against my temple, impact jarring my vision. I slipped, legs buckling beneath me. The attacker was still atop me. He grabbed my collar, and began to assault me with the marionette once again. The vicious blows resounded through my skull, as the man straddled me, and began to put more and more weight into his impacts.

I could just see the Santa lamp rolling away from me on the floor as I blacked out.

I didn’t know what time it was when I awoke. A pair of thick curtains cast the room in perpetual gloom. Nor did I know exactly where I was. I was lying on a bed, underneath a duvet cover.

My hands were bound by duct tape. So were my legs. So was my mouth. I couldn’t feel the reassuring weight of my phone in my pocket. Resisting the urge to scream silently and writhe, I steadied my breathing, and tried to let my eyes adjust to the low light. As my pupils dilated, I saw that I was in a child’s bedroom. The walls were basted with wallpaper depicting Santa Claus, and toys were strewn across the floor. There was a fireplace in one corner, with a wooden board in front of it. As I looked down, I saw the quilt was a child’s also, depicting several teddy bears having a picnic. The entire scene was lit, once again, by Christmas lights.

It’s hard to describe how scared I was right then. My entire body was shivering. My mind though, was even worse. It reeled nauseatingly, my vision swirling in a sickening dizziness. I started to sob. I felt, no, I knew, I was going to die. It was horrible.

There was a plate of cookies on the nightstand, and a tall glass of milk. It looked like they had been there for years. Cobwebs covered the biscuits, which were brown and caked with some kind of hairy mould. I swear, one even had a mushroom sticking out of it. The milk though, the milk was even worse. It was nigh on solid, streaked with dark curdled veins, and had a thin sheen of green growing on the surface. The smell emanating from them was almost enough to make me vomit through my gag.

The plate was labelled by a small index card: For Santa!

I spent the next few hours before he came sobbing, out of fear. I was nearly in shock when he opened the door, breathing ragged and heavy through my clogged nose.

He was wearing one of those overhead masks, rubber or latex or something. This one was modelled as a reindeer. Heck, he’d even taped on a red nose.

I moaned loudly through the gag when I saw him, eyes wide. I shook my head desperately, and began to edge backwards, further into the bed.

“Don’t worry.” His voice was high, and slow. It definitely belonged to a man though. “Don’t worry.” he repeated.
“We’re just gonna celebrate Christmas.” He tried to stifle a giggle, but failed. “We’re gonna have a great Christmas!” He laughed.

He approached me, boots squeaking on the floor.

“It’s gonna be the best Christmas ever.” He muttered as he closed in, through gritted teeth.

The man reached out, and threw back the duvet cover. Briskly, he grabbed me by the scalp, and tossed me to the floor, my head hitting the carpet with a crack. I let out a muffled scream, as he slammed my head against the floor again.

I think that was about when I blacked out for the second time. When I awoke, my captor was gone. I was still on the floor, in a pool of dried blood. He must’ve removed my gag, and the duct tape on my limbs, when I was out.

I jumped up, running straight for the door. The adrenaline coursing through my veins imbued me with an unprecedented strength, and I rattled  the handle with the ferocity of a lion. It wasn’t enough; the wooden portal stood firm.

“Fuck you! Fuck you!” I yelled repeatedly, sobbing loudly as I did, and slamming my fists against the door. “Fucking let me out you bastard!”

As I roared, someone on the other side hit play on stereo, and I heard Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody begin to blast out, drowning out my anguished cries.

“Shit.” I muttered, tears running down my face.

Slade was on the loop for a couple of hours. In that time, I attempted climbing out the window, an escape attempt rapidly halted by my crippling vertigo,  yelled myself hoarse, tore down the wallpaper, but most of all, I sat huddled in the corner, sobbing.

I think I must have listened to Slade nearly a thousand times when it finally stopped. I looked up from my corner, at the door.

“Hello?” I whispered. “Are you there?”

There was a light tapping on the door, before whoever was on the other end retreated into silence.

Dawn broke outside the window. I could see my car still in the parking lot, from the vantage point. I must’ve been on the third floor, or even the attic. On the distant highway the occasional car passed. Desperately, I tried to catch their attention, but of course, it was an effort in vain. They were never going to see me from this far away.
He came again just after dawn. This time, when I heard him approach, I ran to the door, and pressed myself against it, trying to stop him from getting in. He was too strong, and kicked open the door. I stumbled to the floor, weak and bruised. He burst in, and began once again reign blows on me. I curled into the foetal position, trying to protect myself. He pulled out a rag, and pressed it against my face, holding me down. The harsh chemical smell drifted into my nostrils, and sent my mind reeling. My head began to spin, and the room began to blur.

I wasn’t in the room when I awoke. I was somewhere else. It looked like a dining room. A long table stretched in front of me, piled with the same plastic food I had seen in the kitchen. In the corner, a TV blared loudly, showing the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Warmth spilt out from a traditional fireplace.

Once again though, I had been gagged and bound.

He sat at the other side of the table. For the first time, I could see his face. He looked maybe forty, with thinning blond hair, a strong chin, and a moustache on his upper lip. He had lines on his forehead, but now he was smiling a thin, vicious, grin.

I groaned through the gag, my eyes staring daggers into him.

“Don’t look at me like that. I had to take-” He paused. “-special measures to get you into the Christmas spirit. You aren’t going to be Scrooge on Christmas Eve are you?”

I continued boring into him with my dark eyes.

“I’ve talked to Santa. It seems you’ve been a very naughty boy this year haven’t you Jack?”

I shook my head, warning him not to go there. He chuckled slowly, standing.

“You know what naughty boys get for Christmas don’t you?”

He approached the fireplace, and pulled a pair of tongs from the rack. He prodded the fire for a minute, before tightening them around one of the embers.

“They only get coal.” he laughed, holding the chunk of burning coal up to the light. It glowed dangerously.

The heat seared my skin as he brought it close to my face. I closed my eyes, bracing for the inevitable impact.

He laughed, at first quietly, then louder, shaking his head. He moved the burning coal away from my face, and tossed it back into the fire.

“Relax, I wouldn’t do that. Not on Christmas.” His laugh echoed loudly in my ears.

He tossed the coal back in the fire, and dropped the tongs to the floor. I breathed heavily in relief.

“Now, let’s have a bit of Christmas dinner eh?” I merely nodded obediently.

“Good.” He purred, and he went towards the plastic turkey.

I wriggled my hands while he was distracted, trying to free them from the duct tape that kept me bound to the chair. I twisting my wrist, and after a few seconds, my left hand was free. Looking up, I saw my captor was still preoccupied, but before I went to unpeel my other hand, I spotted a steak knife in the mess of junk on the table. Checking he still wasn’t looking, I reached up, and grabbed it. Just as he looked up, I pulled my arm back behind me, slipping the knife into my sleeve.

“Want some turkey?” He dropped a plate down in front of me. It looked like he had attempted to serve the plastic turkey, tearing it to shreds, and had piled the shreds of polymer on my plate.

We sat in silence for a few minutes, as the man pretended to eat the plastic turkey.

“Right, enough of the bullshit, let’s get our presents out.” He pulled out a neatly wrapped box from underneath the table, adorned with a fancy bow and a label.

“It says, to Jack, from Carl Winters.” He smiled warmly at me, placing it down in front of me.

“Well go on. Open it.” He motioned. After a few seconds, he raised his eyebrows, and sighed. “Fine, I’ll open it for you. It’s fine.”

He muttered darkly to himself as he tore through the wrapping paper, just too quietly for me to hear. As the brightly fell away, I saw the shape of a high end food processor emerge. 

He smiled proudly at me as it was fully removed from its wrapping. “It’s a food processor. Top of the range. I thought you could use it, in that trailer of yours...”

His voice trailed off as he saw my expression. “What? Don’t you like it?” He asked me, his smile now strained, and his teeth gritted.

After a few seconds of silence, he nodded slowly.

“Okay. Okay, that’s fine. It was expensive you know. I paid for this with my right arm you know. But if you don’t like it, that’s fine. I put a lot of work into the wrapping, but it’s okay, you didn’t even want to open it.” His voice began to rise, getting closer and closer to shouting.

After a few seconds of fervent nodding, he sat, and raised his eyebrows expectantly.

“Well?” He sat there, looking at me. “What have you got me?”

The man searched me with his eyes. “What have you got me?” He said again, more firmly.

There was a second or two of silence. Suddenly, he snapped, tossing the chair across the room.

“What have you fucking got me for Christmas?” The man roared. “Tell me you insolent piece of shit!”

I must’ve cowered back, away from him, because his face suddenly twisted in rage.

“You haven’t got me anything!” He screamed loudly. “You wouldn’t get your own father a Christmas present?”

He ran to the fire, and grabbed the poker from the rack.

“I’ll teach you the Christmas spirit you insolent little brat!” The man raised the poker above my head. That was when I struck with the knife. I slammed it into his abdomen, about where his kidney would be. He squealed in pain, and dropped the poker, clutching desperately at his wound.

“What have you done?” He whispered. “I just wanted the family together at Christmas.” I cut him off with another stab to the abdomen, the time into the area of his digestive tract.

Using what precious time the attack afforded me, I peeled off my other hand, and started on my legs.

The man just stood there, blood running down his shirt, and pooling on the floor below. His face was pale. Slowly, he began to hum. I recognized the tune of jingle bells.

Suddenly, I was free. I kicked out the chair, and looked at the man. He looked up from his wound at me, still humming. Slowly, he leant down for the poker. I kept at the same pace as him, backing for the door. Neither of us making a sudden move.

“Jingle bells, jingle bells...” He began to murmur. His fingers clasped around the poker, mine the doorknob. “Jingle all the way.”

He roared loudly, and raised the poker. I tore open the door, and sprinted through, just seeing him jump the table and come after me as I slipped away down the corridor.

I had no idea how to get out of the labyrinthine house. I guessed we were somewhere on the third floor still, so I searched desperately for stairs. When I found them, I took them two at a time, my captor right behind me. I could almost feel his breath on the back of my neck, and heard the whoosh as he swiped with the poker.

I saw the hanging garden ornament once again, and some bastion of hope in my heart opened when I realised I was on the ground floor. The main entrance was just ten metres away. I ran to it, but suddenly, felt the ground fall from beneath my feet. The rug that covered the floor slipped, and sent me tumbling to the ground. He was on me, and prepared a blow with the poker.

I brought the knife into his throat, with a wet schlock. His eyes widened. I pushed him off, blood gushing down onto my clothes and face.

Through his fluid coughing, I heard him murmuring.

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.”


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