“Silent Night”

fireplace-with-christmas-stockingsAuthor’s Note: This was a piece I did for the A Merry Little Apex Christmas Flash Fiction Contest. I didn’t win, so I’ll publish it here for you. Happy, um, holidays.


Gerard barreled down the stairs.

I’m first! I’m FIRST!

He reached the landing and skidded to a halt. The tree was dark. Even the lights strung along the mantle were out, resembling a black, tangled vine in the dark.

Gerard’s heart thumped in his chest. He hated the dark. Things lived in the dark, in its shadows.

“Not on Christmas,” he whispered. “Not on Christmas.”

It really was Christmas morning; he was certain of it. Yet, underneath the tree, there was nothing.

“There have to be presents,” he mumbled angrily.

Looking toward the mantle, he saw six stockings hanging there. Gerard approached them. Unlike the others, which remained flat and empty, his clearly bulged with . . . something.

He grinned. “That’s how it should be.”

Gerard grabbed it down, his eager grin changing to a look of confusion when the contents rattled.

He dropped down to sit cross-legged on the floor in a patch of gray-white light and poured out the stocking’s contents. Five small, dark shapes clattered against one another as they tumbled onto the carpet. Each one was about the size of his finger and perhaps twice as wide.

He examined one, turning it slowly beneath his fingers. Its edges felt rough, almost sharp. He stared down at it, recognizing the shard for was it was.

Coal!

He nearly flung it away. In the reflected light, though, from within the black substance, his mother’s face stared back at him.

Gerard began to scream.

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