Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas In Hell: A Story From Blood Under The Mistletoe

Christmas In Hell

By Lisa McCourt Hollar

Art by Thomas Arensberg
There was a cat hanging above his head.
When Thomas first opened his eyes, he thought he was dreaming. His leg had been throbbing and he had taken some vicodin to deaden the pain, along with some alcohol. It wasn’t unusual for him to see things when he first awoke, especially after a night of bingeing. The cat leered down at him, its mouth open in a silent jeer. You just had to drink the whole bottle of Jack, it seemed to be saying.
“It just seemed the best way to get through the holiday. Besides, who are you to judge, you’re the one hanging from the ceiling. Talk about tying one on.” Thomas chuckled at the joke. The cat didn’t join him, its eyes staring coldly down at him.  Thomas studied the cat. He thought its name was Fluffy. Mrs. Cranston had been looking for it the other day. She seemed to have thought he’d done something to the flea-ridden beast, just because he had threatened to gut the thing next time he caught it pissing or shitting in his garden. Now Fluffy’s white fur was matted with blood and the cat’s entrails were dangling above Thomas’s head and he wondered if maybe he had, in a drunken stupor, carried through with the threat.
“Look, I’m sorry, if I did that to you. I was just looking to spend the next few days comatose. It’s a Christmas tradition, started by my father when I was a boy. Beat my mother, fuck my sister… then me and be passed out by nine. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. Only it was more a daily tradition, but it always seemed more special at Christmas.”
The cat stared, dripping blood onto Thomas’s forehead. 
“Okay, will you stop that?” Thomas tried to swipe at his face, only he couldn’t move his hand. Something was holding it down. He tried his other, but again, it lay next to him, as impotent and useless as his dick when he tried to fuck the cute neighbor. The cat smirked, silently laughing. The cute neighbor had laughed too, until he’d made her stop. “Stop laughing at me!”
The cat just stared down, drip, drip, dripping, a good, yet twisted version of the Chinese Water Torture. Thomas screamed, pleading with God, if God existed, to free him from this hellish nightmare. After a while, he stopped. God wasn’t going to help him. He hadn’t helped him when his father used him for sex and he wasn’t going to help him now. He would have to help himself, just as he had all those years ago.
“You think you helped yourself,” his father whispered. “You became me.”
Thomas turned his head and glowered at his father, who was dressed in the Santa outfit he’d  been wearing when his son had finally stood up to him. The meat cleaver was still sticking out of his head. “You’re not here. I don’t want you here.”
Jake Mackey disappeared and was replaced by his mother. He flinched, startled by the sudden pain in his chest. He’d hated her. She had allowed the abuse, turning her back on her own children. She had confessed, just before her death, that she was always relieved when her husband turned his attention away from her and towards their two children.
“A mother is supposed to protect her kids.”
“I couldn’t protect myself, how was I supposed to protect you?”
“You weren’t supposed to stand by and watch, while he did the unspeakable to us. He killed Jenny.”
“No, you did that.”
She was right. Jenny had become pregnant. Thomas knew if anyone found out, everyone would know what was going on inside their home. They would investigate and his father would go to prison. But then they would also find the animals. He’d buried them in the basement, but they would find them. They wouldn’t understand that he needed to release his rage somehow. So Thomas told Jenny she needed to get rid of the baby. It was the first time he’d seen a vagina. Jenny lay on the bed with her legs spread open, while he followed the instructions in the book. He’d done something wrong though. The hanger had pierced something it wasn’t supposed to and he couldn’t stop the bleeding. And then something happened that had only occurred when he’d killed the neighborhood cats. He developed an erection.
“I protected you then,” his mother said. “When I found you on top of your sister, covered with her blood, I didn’t judge you.”
They told everyone, including his dad, that she’d run away. But with Jenny gone, Jake Mackey had turned his full attention to Thomas.
“Your tight little ass wasn’t so tight after I was done with you,” Jake taunted. His voice was coming from somewhere behind Thomas and he twisted his head, trying to find him.
“Go away, I don’t want you here. Just go to hell and leave me alone.”
His father laughed. “Where do you think you are?”
Thomas closed his eyes and screamed until he passed out. When he came to next, the cat was still there, but it was no longer dripping blood on him. He turned his head, but there was no sign of his father. Of course not, it had been a dream. A nightmare, induced by too much Jack.
Then why was the cat still there?
Thomas tried to sit up, but he couldn’t. This time he knew why. He was strapped to a table. He recognized it; it was the table he kept in his basement. He looked around… yes, that’s where he was. How had he gotten here?  Thomas struggled against his bonds, pulling against the leather straps. They were cutting into his wrists. He continued to pull. The blood acted as lubrication and eventually he felt his right wrist beginning to slip free. At last there was a sickening pop, the sound of his thumb breaking, and his wrist slid loose. His left side was still tethered to the table. He lifted his free hand, hoping to undo the restraint, but it was futile. He was able to maneuver his body so that he could gnaw at the strap with his teeth. It was when he was halfway through, his teeth bloodied, some broken, that he saw her. Amelia. His neighbor’s ten year old daughter. She was just sitting there, watching him, a faint smile on her face.
She smiled when she saw Thomas watching. It was nearly dark in the room, but her smile shined and she had a gleam in her eyes that sent a chill through his body. She was enjoying his pain. Then she spoke.
"You're funny."
Thomas was startled to hear the girl speak. She was retarded… no wait, mentally delayed, that was the correct term. Her mother had come unglued when she’d heard him use the “R” word.  Either way, he’d never heard her speak, which had made her the perfect plaything for him… at least until her mother had taken her to the doctor and found out she was pregnant.
“You’re the only man she’s been around,” Kristin had screamed. “I’ve called the police. You’re going to go to prison.”
Only she’d ended up on his table. No one knew about this room and it was soundproof. When the police came, they didn’t find anything and with Amelia missing too…
Only now he was on the table.
"Sweetie, help me."
She had him there. Amelia had watched him torture her mom. She stepped forward then and Thomas saw something else gleaming in the dark. She had a knife in her hand. "I was getting bored with cats. And mommy died too fast. What happened to your leg?"
“My father broke it when I was small. It never grew right after that.”
"Does it hurt?"
“Sometimes. Honey, why don’t you untie me?”
Amelia laughed. "I thought you liked the tie up game.”
Again, she wasn’t wrong, except Thomas liked it better when he was the one with the knife and the evil gleam in his eye. She stepped forward and he reached out, trying to grab the knife. Amelia danced out of his way, clearly delighted. Then she frowned and he saw her for a moment as she had been the last time he saw her, her neck twisted at an odd angle. He hadn’t meant to break her neck, it had just happened.
She smiled then and the image faded. His hand was strapped down to the table again. He struggled against it as she advanced. “You’re fun,” she said as she raised the knife.  “Now let's see what's going on with your leg."
She laughed then. It was the last sound he heard before passing out. Regaining consciousness, he saw his leg was gone. She wasn’t finished though. She took his fingers, his eyes… she even cut out his tongue because she said his screaming wasn’t fun anymore. And then when she had nothing left to cut off, she sewed them back on and started over again. Sometimes she had help. His father would show up every now and then, still in his Santa Claus outfit.
“I’ve got a Christmas package for you,” he’d say, right before flipping him onto his stomach. His sister rammed a coat hanger into his ass too. “How does this feel, Thomas?” He cried, pleading for death, but it never came. He knew why. He was already dead and this was his hell.

Christmas In Hell is one of my stories included in Blood Under The Mistletoe, an Anthology of Christmas horror put out by Visionary Press Cooperative. Stories are included from Blaze McRob, Jeffrey Hollar and myself. There are 14 stories in all and I love every single one of them. Thomas Arensberg has also illustrated several pictures included in the anthology, as well as the cover. It is available on Amazon, BN, Smashwords, VPC and in full color print.

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