I stumble back to my tattered couch cushion plopping down in a barely controlled freefall. The thought of dropping right through to the floor one of these times crosses my mind for a split second but I can’t say I’d care if that happened. The TV blares loudly keeping me company in the dark. Though I stare into the screen like a straight jacketed patient pumped full of Thorazine it takes several minutes for the images to even register. Flashes of red and green, a white bearded fat man surrounded by little men in green outfits. It must be nearing Christmas. Was it really that time of year already? Where did the time go?
Once upon a time this was special time of year. I had traditions, yearly rituals to be thought about and pondered for months in advance. Once happy memories are now the source of my nightmares. It’s hard to believe there was a time when I was happy, WE were happy. The little flashes of smiles and laughter while the decorations were carefully placed on the tree, lights were strung up inside and out, a multitude of large plastic figures were ceremoniously placed about the lawn accompanied by laughter of impromptu snowball fights. Just memories now, happy memories turned and twisted torturing my brain at the slightest thought of “The Holidays.” Damn the TV for bringing it all flooding back in! Will it never end?
I try changing the channel but it’s everywhere, there’s no escape. Turn it off stupid! I sit there holding the remote paralyzed by the memories now playing in an endless loop in my head. Am I asleep? Can I merely wake up and end these images of her smile above a festive sweater teasing me to tell her what surprise awaits her under the tree. She never really wanted to know and she knew I’d never spill the beans. I remember sitting by the fire sipping wine sharing our hopes and dreams. Those innumerable late night conversations that were more about enjoying one another’s company than anything tangible. Conversations about the places we’d like to travel, the children we’d have one day to spoil on Christmas morning. All the years of memories now gone, she was gone. When will it all be over? When will I forget? Is that even possible?
I lay there staring up at the ceiling reminded why I don’t do this. The ceiling fades out of focus replaced by the memories of her playing like a film on the big screen. Closing my eyes doesn’t help. After a time I don’t even know if my eyes are open or shut, the happiest times of my life are the nightmare I can’t escape from. I think tears flow out the corners of my eyes but I’m lost in the visions of her smile. Colored lights blur everything out of focus except her smiling face clear as day while various incarnations of decorated pines, brightly covered boxes topped with bows, plates of cookies, family members seated around a table, an open oven revealing a perfectly roasted turkey, a crackling fireplace, the clink of wine glasses in toasts to a wonderful life even flashes of that Jimmy Stewart classic and the young boy with his Red Rider BB gun.
“Stop! Stop! Stop!” For a moment my yelling stops the tormenting memories but only for a moment.
I wipe the tears away from my eyes pushing hard causing a kaleidoscope of color to momentarily erase her haunting image from my mind. Unfortunately it only lasts a moment quickly contorting into her blurred visage until the kaleidoscope fades completely and her smile is clear once again. I’ve contemplated the end more times than I can count and here I am again wanting so badly for it all to end. I reach inside the drawer of my bedside table for the lone item inside. How many times have I held the cold steel to my head? Maybe this will be the last time. I hold the gun in a white knuckled grip slowly compressing the trigger. The tears stream out, the image of my beloved clear as ever, with a slight fraction left to end my torment.
Still uneasy I swung open the door to confirm my imagination was just running wild. There was nothing there just as I expected. I leaned out into the cold just to confirm the fact. I saw no mischievous children scampering for cover, no animal dashing away, there was nothing but the black of night greeting me. I flipped on the porchlight to be doubly sure anyway and still nothing. Swinging the door closed I happened to look down. There directly on the doorstep were two ovals in the snow, were those… hoof prints? They were too large to be from a deer or elk. Kneeling down I placed my hand over the prints for perspective, they were easily twice the size of my not exactly small hand. There were no other markings, no prints leading this way or that just two large imprints directly in front of my door. Still kneeling I peered around in all directions seeing absolutely nothing. Then somewhere off in the distance I heard a faint rattle like a dog on a chain but then it was gone. I stood up staring out into the night for a sign of anything seeing nothing at all. I looked back down before closing the door seeing nothing in the snow, the prints were gone. I laughed at my foolishness. Damn, I really was losing it!
I shut the door locking it behind me and returned to bed. At the very least the imagined excitement had taken my mind off her as I laid back down on my warm bed. Sleep it seemed would come my way after all. I set the gun on top of the nightstand just in case something was out there. I closed my eyes seeing nothing but peaceful blackness as I sent up a prayer to no one that I would sleep until Christmas was over. No sugar plumbs danced in my head just an endless black void as I drifted off to sleep.
The rattling of chains woke me abruptly. I sat up but it was pitch black showing me nothing. Were my eyes even open? I rubbed them to double check, they were. The chains rattled again.
“Who the hell is there? I have a gun!”
“Last warning! Speak or I’m going to start shooting and ask questions later!” More rattling but nothing more, “Ok you asked for it!”
I fired off a shot. The muzzle flash that illuminated my bedroom for a split second showed me what could only be my imagination. I was asleep and dreaming, there was no other explanation. In the flash I saw a giant horned beast standing at the end of my bed with large chains wrapped about its shoulders and a face that could only be described as demonic like a painting from the Middle Ages to scare people into church on Sundays. I started to laugh. I was dreaming, there was no reason to be afraid. Then something touched my foot.
“Remember.” A voice growled.
Bloody images flashed before my eyes. Body parts scattered across the floor amidst the gore like something out of a horror film. A saw dripping crimson, bowels spilled out like snakes slithering free of their confines, ribs pulled back exposing the heart inside, now the saw on her neck, all of these images flooding into my mind like lightning flashes in the dark. Her screams echoed in my ears as the images continued to flash until I saw her head held by her beautiful blond locks from my hand, the rest of her body tucked neatly into black sacks around me.
“She cheated. She made me do it!” I yelled at the beast if it was even still there.
“It’s time.” The voice growled again.
We had so many wonderful Christmases together. Why did she have to ruin that last one? I loved her to the very depths of my soul. A soul I now knew was damned. The grandfather clock she had cherished rang out the first stroke of midnight, “Merry Christmas.” I pulled the trigger.
The Scribbler Crew. Thank You.