Twelve Drummers

The entire town had gathered for the spectacle. No one spoke a word. He could only hear their breath; when they remembered to breathe at all. 

His sight was non-existent. The black hood restricted everything to be seen.

 A silver slinky had been straightened and now bound his wrists together.

 The grooves of cobblestone rippled under the soles of his boots.

 It was the longest walk he had ever taken. It was the longest walk anyone would have ever taken.

 Flames danced in trash cans; he could feel them through his clothes.

 The crowd began to chant. A countdown.

 “Ten! Nine! Eight…”

 He’d wished it were a week later; then the countdown would mean something else.

 “Seven! Six! Five…”

 He began to slow his pace. Finally coming to a stop.

 “One!”

 A bellowing drum sounded simultaneously with the tolling bell of the clock in the square.

 His wrists tightened against the stretched-out slinky. Instinct told him to run; but he wouldn’t.

 A new drum joined in with each chime. The bellowing soon began to drown out the chiming.

 Twelve chimes.

 Twelve drummers drumming.

 The crowd drew in a collective breath.

 He was pushed from the cobblestone, falling through the cold midnight air.  

 The first point of metal pierced his back. Then four more.

 A current from the magical star poisoned his veins. He went into convulsions.  

 The star passed through his body.

He was the new star on the big tree.

 The town would gather again next year.  

 The twelve drummers would drum again next year.  

 Another sacrifice would be made next year.

 

Eleven Pipers

Eleven distinct tunes rode the wind, snaked down the streets and gently tapped on bedroom windows. 
Christmas is a time for familial joy and happiness, for most, but there is a dark side. Some will say it’s the Krampus. Sure, but that’s not the real fear. 
The real fear is the pipers. 
Good or bad, the pipers will take children- eleven from each town. 

Parents nail their windows and doors shut on the eleventh night of Christmas. But no matter what, no matter how careful, eleven children would disappear from their beds. 
The wind is cold, on it you can hear eleven sweet songs and eleven windows breaking or front doors opening. 
Eleven children in pajamas, smiling and dancing to mysterious songs, disappear into the darkness on the eleventh day of Christmas. 

Leaping Lords

Johnny Trinket was evil, and he died on Christmas. Thus, he was automatically granted a season pass to “Winter Wonderland”, a twisted them park standing in the bowels of hell. 

Christmas was officially in three days, and Winter Wonderland was packed.

 He ducked under the archway made of sharp candy canes and meandered on the path of dismembered gingerbread men.

 Johnny passed a pack of carolers croaking “Deck the Halls”, their slit throats streaming crimson through every “Fa-La-La-La-La.”

 He wove his way through a gaggle of twirling ballerinas, their crooked heads ornamented by the broken nooses swinging from their necks.

 The whistle stopped him in his tracks. Johnny became mesmerized by the line of toy soliders, marching in perfect sync, rifles hung on their shoulders.  

 He waited for the tail end of the line, then proceeded to follow them to the destination they were determined to reach.

 Johnny followed the soldiers to a group of men.

 Lords. Ten of them.

 Johnny watched with child-like anticipation as the toy soldiers turned about face and aimed their rifles at the lords.

 At the feet of the lords.

 POW POW POW

 The toy soldiers fired at the feet of the lords, making them leap high into the air.

 Johnny clapped like a monkey with cymbals.

 POW POW POW

 Blood sprinkled along the ground, as more and more bullets found their way into the lords’ feet.

 POW POW POW

 The lords kept a-leaping.  

 The toy soldiers kept a-shooting.

Until each lord was left with only one operable foot.

 Johnny recalled his life above ground. And all of the tap dances he used to do for the press junkets, for the rallies, for the debates. Taking bullets until he would have just one foot to stand.

 POW POW POW

 Ten lords a-leaping.

 Ten lords a-limping.

 

 

 

Nine Dancers Dancing

The dancers danced. Nine women spinning with such precision they could have been on a single pinhead. 

Their feet looked like they were in matching red shoes. Glimmering. Wet. Spilling forth. 
The dancers danced. 
The spectators watched – transfixed, stuck, salivating. 

No music played. 
The women moved together, splashing their feet. 

Moving their hands deftly. 

Time and space seemed to ripple around them. 
The women danced as their feet bled. 
The spectators watched as their eyes bled. 

Snow came down in soft clouds, sticking to torn flesh. 
The dancers danced and the world burned. 

The dancers spun faster together as the flames grew higher and closer. 
The dancers danced as their feet bled, but the flames did not harm them. 
The spectators screamed as they burned, but they couldn’t stop watching. 

Snow mixed with ash and blood and the nine women danced. 

Eight Milking Maids

There are many secrets to Santa’s Workshop. Some darker than others.

 On the eighth day of Christmas, preparations were well underway for the magical trek just a few days ahead.

 Elves built and wrapped and toys.

 Santa had made his list and was checking it twice.

 And eight maids were milking.

 Eight maids who, over the years, had given Santa plenty a jolly.

 Mrs. Claus was well aware, but Mrs. Claus didn’t care.  

 But the maids cared.

 They got free room and board in exchange for their milking duties. (Tut-tut. They had ACTUAL milking duties)

 The maids milked Sugar Plum Fairies year-round. It was the essence of the Sugar Plum Fairies that fueled the eight reindeer to guide Santa’s sleigh through the skies. Hundreds of thousands of Sugar Plum Fairies gave their lives and magic for Santa to bring joy to the rest of the world.

 On this particular Eighth Day of Christmas, though, the maids had decided enough was enough.

 This was test-drive night for the reindeer. Each maid would bottle-feed one reindeer, giving them enough Fairy juice to rise into the sky, make eight laps around the Santa’s Workshop compound, then come back to the ground.  

 But, again, enough had become enough.

 The maids plotted in glances, no words.

 They fed the reindeer as expected; but no one knew a spot of coal had been included in the bottle to taint the Fairy juice.

 Santa paused from review of his list and got into his sleigh. Mrs. Claus came out from the kitchen to watch the take off.

 “On, Dasher!” Etcetera, times seven.  

Santa and his eight reindeer rose into the sky and shot off, emitting a trail of glitter.

 One lap.

 Two laps.

 Three laps.

Each lap lagged a little more than the last. Mrs. Claus noticed, and so did the elves that had also paused to come and watch.

 By Lap Six, the reindeer and sleigh slowed to a complete stop.  

 The winter wonderland watched in horror as Santa and the eight reindeer plummeted down.

 The sleigh separated from the reindeer. Santa, jolly as he was, was falling faster and was the first to his endgame.

 He fell right onto the chimney of his workshop. Blew to bloody bits on impact.

 Appendages from eight reindeer littered the grounds.

 And the eight maids laughed.  

 

 

Seven Swans Swimming

The swans appeared on the lake every year. 

Their wings whiter than the snow. 

Pure birds. Full of innocence. 

The town gathered each night with campfires and carols. 

They loved the swans. 

Tourists from all over would pay a lot of money to glimpse the seven birds. The town was even on the Travel Channel once. 

Fires raging, carols singing, and the swans would stand perfectly still – waiting. 

One male and one female, both virgins, would be sent out onto the ice. They would slowly make their way to the middle, their feet cracking and spiderwebing the thin ice under feet. 

The whole town would cheer them on. 

Their families sat front and center of the festivities, proud to be able to contribute to such a special occasion. 

The two in the middle would slowly undress each other. Whoops and hollers would erupt from the shore when both were finally naked. 

The fires were put out and the music gone. The crowd held their breaths. 

The swans began to circle the virgins. Circling and pecking st the ice, at naked flesh,  until the ice began to crack and split apart. 

The crowd would bow their heads when the sacrificial virgins plummeted into the frozen water. 

The swans would honk in unison, twelve times, and fly off. 

The water could be heard as it re-froze, trapping the panic screams underneath. 

Two more virgins added to the lake and the town would be safe for another Christmas. 

Six Geese a Laying…

Farmer Randy had a made a solid business out of selling chicken eggs.  
Like everyone else, he was looking for the next big thing.

One afternoon, Farmer Randy was driving along in his battered pick-up when he noticed a small boy taunting a small flock of geese. Trying to pelt them with rocks by way of a slingshot.  

Farmer Randy bellowed at the boy to ‘knock it off’; the boy ran off. 

The small flock of geese stuck hung around. Farmer Randy watched them for a moment; and thought of that next big thing. 

Farmer Randy dashed home for supplies and came back to trap the geese. After a few hours of plotting and clumsy execution, he’d managed a haul of six geese.

They honked in the back of his pick-up as he hurried home.   

There were three coops on his property, but only two were full. He set up the third for the six new geese and they were more compliant with their new living quarters than he’d anticipated.

A few days passed before he found the first eggs. Six of them, one from each goose. 

He gathered the six eggs and rushed into his home, anxious to cook them and taste exactly what he knew the farmers’ market crowds would be clamoring for from him. 

Six goose eggs was a hefty order, but Farmer Randy was excited to see the goods from each goose. 

One by one, crack and sear. Crack and sear. 

They’d smelled just slightly different than chicken eggs. Heartier. 

Farmer Randy was six for six with the eggs. He pulled the pan from the stove and dumped the steaming heap of scrambled goose eggs onto a plate.

Farmer Randy turned to put the hot pan back on the stove when he saw them at his feet. 

The six geese.  

They honked and pecked at him. He danced around them, kicking at them. Their honks grew angrier and they wouldn’t let up.

Farmer Randy fell to the floor, flat on his back. The back of his skull took a hard smack, dazing him.  

The six geese took turns pecking at Farmer Randy. Obliterating his eyes, packing the mush into the sockets.   

Their beaks seized his tongue while he screamed; they pulled at it, loosening it from his bottom jaw.   

Finally, Farmer Randy swallowed his tongue. Choked on it. Flatlined.

 

6 Geese A-(Laying) Avenging

 

 

 

 

Five Golden Rings

She looked at her hand, her left hand. It felt heavy, leaden, as if her hand had had been drugged. 

On each finger was a gold ring. Solid gold. Cold, humming, and heavy. 

She woke up on Christmas morning. Color from her room had faded. Snow fell against the window. Fire lit up the distance. 

She couldn’t lift her arm. 

Her fingers felt stiff but electric. Her muscles were sore but the skin  crackled. 

There was a note next to her:

“Which one? You must decide.”

She looked at the rings. They were slightly different. A chip here, a smudge there, just a slight difference. 

Why must she decide? 

What was she deciding on?

As she looked over the rings, she chose one she felt suited her best. 

The four discarded rings fell off. 

She heard shouting outside. 

Looking out the window, she could faintly see five figure in the snow. 

They had hoods. Hands tied behind their backs. 

She looked down at the ring on her index finger. She felt how smooth it was. 

A series of loud cracks. 

Four of the figures slumped to snow. The fifth fell to his knees and thanked god, pointing his prayers to her window. 

Four Calling Birds

Day 4:

‘Tis the season. 

Duck Season, that is.

 Out of bed and into the gear. Shotgun strapped on my back. Double-barrel obliteration.

 I put the Duck Call up to my lips and sent a quack up into the air. That first one was met with silence, so I doubled up the next.

 Still nothing.  

 I trudged a bit further and tried again. An answer this time. From a beauty of a mallard that ascended into the sky.

 I’m an excellent shot; but I missed this one. And the crack of the discharge didn’t seem to phase that beauty of a mallard. It stayed on his path.  

 QUACK.

 A second one took to the sky. I aimed and pulled the trigger. Zero for two. The two mallards stayed together, floating idle in the air.

 A third joined. The third lived.

 What. The Fuck. Was going on?

 The trio plus one.

 The four ducks sailed in place together. Flapping their wings but going nowhere.  

 The Duck Call, but I didn’t commission it. The four ducks maintained a diamond, squawking at each other like my cousins and I used to when we’d fight over the leg of one of their ancestors every Christmas dinner.

 Foul language among the fowl.

 Four birds calling back and forth to each other.

 Four calling birds.

 They’d evaded every shot. Their squawking was mocking. It carried across the sky.  

 I aimed again. Bit my lip. Pulled the trigger.

 BLAM!

 Right in the back. Obliteration.

 But it wasn’t any of the mallards’ backs. It was my back.

 And it wasn’t a bullet. It was an antler.

 The four mallards continued their frenzied squawking as I fell to the ground. My throat dropped to my balls as I tried to turn on my side to see the beast that had impaled me.  

 Obliteration as I rolled all the way onto my back, onto the shattered skin.

 I kicked and thrashed as best as I could but it was ineffective. I felt the hooves on my gut and the steam from the snout.

 The antler came down again, this time across my throat.  

 Four calling birds. Squwaking and mocking. Having turned the hunter into the hunted.

 The creature burrowed its snout into my shredded throat, then reared its head to look at me again.  

 Blood dripped from its nose. My blood.  

 Never in all those years had I ever seen a reindeer in these parts.

 Those four fucking calling birds.

 Fucking Rudolph.

Three French Hens

Day 3:

The three women shuffled through the darkness.
The three women shuffled through the snow.
The three women spoke in French and laughed to themselves.

They passed a sack of food back and forth. Scattering crumbs to stray dogs and cats.
Their shadows, stretched far behind them, wriggled and writhed in the moonlight – shimmering like serpent scales.

“Ah, this must be it.”
“It must be.”
“It’s Christmas after all.”

The three women stopped in the darkness.
The three women stepped in the snow.
They three women gathered up their shadows and help them close.

The dogs and cats surrounded them, obeying French-commands.
They looked into the windows, peering into houses and cars.
They stood close together, nodding.

“It’s my turn to see.”
“Let me see, let me see!”
“Wait your turn!”

Their shadow began to cry out in multiple, childish voices.
They cooed to their darkness, whispered French rhymes to sooth the black mass.
The taller woman took out thread.

The three women stole more children that night.
The three women stole more lives that night.
The three women wove their yarn, silver and shiny, and cut it with gold scissors that bled.