{Christmas Feature/Exclusive Fiction} Christmas Every Day: Morgan K. Tanner

Christmas Every Day

By Morgan K. Tanner

I wish it could be Christmas every day.

That’s what Roy Wood says. I wonder if he truly believes it, though. Of course, if it was every day, no doubt his royalty cheque would be even larger than it already is every winter. Or perhaps he genuinely enjoys this ‘magical’ time of year.

He has it easy, though. For me, Christmas will be every day. Until my painful demise, that is. And it will be painful. Yes, I am fully aware of my fate.

It all started on the 13th of December.

Julie, my wife, is Christmas’ number one fan. She delights in the decorating of the house, the buying of gifts, the food and drink, time spent with family, the Christmas specials on TV, seasonal films that bring her to happy tears; you get the picture.

I’m not a hater of Christmas, far from it. I enjoy the time off work, and of course the food and drink. I just don’t buy into the whole ‘magic’ of it, though. I suppose if we ever had kids I’d appreciate it more.

Not that we ever will have any kids. Not now.

Julie had been nagging me for weeks that we needed a real tree this year. The plastic one had seen better days and her best friend Maggie had convinced her that the natural smell of pine needles made the house even more Christmassy.

I’d been putting it off for as long as possible. Julie wasn’t going to go and buy one, it was another job for me. I’d used every excuse I could think of but nothing was working. I didn’t think it possible that Julie could get annoyed during December, but she was getting mighty close.
“Just pick one up from Webster’s,” she’d said, as though she was talking to a child, “they’ve got loads.”

This was true, but Webster’s was the popular local garden centre that was adorned with more sparkly tinsel than Santa’s most twinkly grotto. It was always full of people with smiles almost carved on to their festive-loving faces who milled around like happy sheep, not actually buying anything.

No thanks.

But there was another option.

Every day on my way to work I drove along a country lane where a decrepit sign advertised Christmas trees for sale. The sign must have been there for decades, judging by the peeling paint and splintered wood. My instincts should have warned me, but the thought of being able to buy a tree from a quiet establishment seemed like bliss.

Surely this was the safest option?

So on the evening of December the 13th, I took the plunge. It was to be my biggest mistake. As I drove along the narrow lane indicated by the aged sign, the trees thickened around me like giant bacteria. Their bare branches reached down to brush the roof of my car, either warning me to leave, or embracing my presence there. Darkness surrounded me, the blackness eating up the illumination from my headlights like a ravenous beast.

But all that was in my head was buying this damn Christmas tree. In and out, that was the plan. Anything for a quiet life.

Eventually, the lane brought me onto a gravel driveway where an old cottage watched me with dim light from its curtained windows. A barn was located opposite and seemed as though it hadn’t been used in years.

To think about it now, it looked like the setting of a particularly gruesome horror movie.

I killed the engine, took in a deep calming breath, and exited the car. My footsteps crunched as though a whole army accompanied me towards the cottage.

I knocked on the door and waited, shivering in the cold air. It was deathly silent.

A shadow spawned through the frosted glass before me. Heavy wheezing emanated from the crack under the door and right then I considered turning around and getting the hell out of there. Something wasn’t right with the way that this person was moving. It seemed like the character was half-man half-beast. But alas, I stayed exactly where I was.

What a fool.

The door creaked open in painful complaint. The musty light crept outside, bathing me in its pseudo warmth.

Before me hunched a giant of a man. His shoulders sagged, his breathing heavy as though he’d run to the door. His sunken eyes observed me with no hint of emotion. Sweat clogged on his grey, ragged stubble; a poor attempt at growing a beard.

He stared at me, his eyes giving nothing away.

What the hell was I doing?

Hi there,” I offered. “I was looking for a Christmas tree?”

At those two words the man straightened himself somewhat. “Christmas tree?”

His voice sounded like my footsteps on the gravel. The noise from his mouth was as though his throat was preparing to cough up something monstrous.

Yeah, you know, a tree for putting tinsel and shit on?”

Christmas tree.” He nodded as an excited grin spread across his face.

The man hobbled through the front door with little grace. I stepped back to prevent him shouldering me out of the way. He trudged along the gravel towards the old barn, a waving arm urging me to follow.

An owl called in the night air. Was this another warning?

The man finally reached the barn and with almost superhero strength pulled the door open. The roar from the decrepit wood was as though the old building was mocking me.

He stood, staring inside, waiting for me to join him.

Christmas tree.”

What, in there?” I peered inside, a pointless effort as nothing presented itself to me in the darkness. “Look, man…”

“All I want for Christmas, is you,” sang Mariah Carey. The song irked me at the best of times, but now it felt so ominous, as though the words were being force-fed into my aching brain.

I groaned. The back of my head throbbed and I was aware of a wet patch on my hair. My eyes refused to open at first and my arms burned as though they were about to fall off.

I tried to move, to bring some semblance of life back into my tired body.

I was numb. Paralysed.

My eyes shot open to the most magical and fear-inducing scene imaginable. I stood in a room chock full of Christmas decorations. Santas, tinsel, sparkly decorations adorning the walls and ceiling, piles of presents stacked in every available piece of floor space, twinkling lights blinding me like a vicious sun, three Christmas trees decorated so garishly that none of the green needles were visible.

And in the middle of it all, the monster of a man who assaulted me outside the barn. There was no question that was what had happened. He hunched over a cardboard box bursting with yet more decorations like a festive volcano erupting its seasonal cheer.

My breathing halted and the tightness in my chest threatened to pull my body inside itself. Panicking, my gaze darted around the room, silently pleading with anything to end this nightmare.

I glanced down and almost passed out.

I was standing in a large plant pot, my feet buried up to my calves in soil. I tried in vain to wiggle my toes but the instruction was lost somewhere along the nerve pathways from my brain.

My throat granted me the mercy of projecting my panic and a scream burst forth from my grinding vocal chords.

The man stared at me, his face of concentration moulding into that smile he’d flashed me earlier. In his hand he held a gold bauble. He rubbed the plastic ball against his face as though he were a cat snuggling up to its owner.

As he ambled towards me my eyes again yearned for an escape. It was then I noticed my arms. Extended outwards, fixed in full Jesus Christ pose, the muscles twitched as they pleaded to be relaxed. Gold tinsel had been wrapped around them.

The man-monster gurgled something from the depths of his lungs, possibly a laugh, then wiped the trickle of drool from his chin with the sleeve of his red reindeer themed jumper. He extended his arm with the bauble and hung the decoration from my shirt’s breast pocket.

Christmas tree, you so pretty,” he slurred, seemingly very pleased with his addition.

What the fuck are you doing?” Suddenly my throat remembered how to communicate. The exertion burned as though I’d swallowed acid. I struggled, trying to move away from him, but my body defied me. “What the hell is going on here?” I whimpered.

The man looked at me as though I was speaking a foreign language. His frown then turned into a haggard smile before he returned to his box of decorations.

With all the strength I owned I forced life into my limbs. My neck contorted and the blood thumped through my skull. But apart from a slight twitch in my right hand I remained motionless.

I grimaced, feeling the sweat on my brow. “No, no, this isn’t happening, no, no, no…”

My rambling did nothing to help my situation. I was paralysed in a psycho’s living room, standing frozen in a plant pot with Christmas music blaring around me.

It was a thing of nightmares, the kind that terrifies you at the time but upon waking, turn into an anecdotal tale of how even the tamest dream can scare your sleeping brain.

But this was no dream. The pain burning in my arms was testament to that. I closed my eyes and willed my body to listen to me; to give me the energy to escape this hell. To smash this bastard’s skull in with his own glittering decorations.

My desire for violence soon diminished as he adorned my shirt with yet more gold baubles. He seemed so proud of himself.

My body began to twitch again, the muscles pleading to be relaxed, but it was futile. Something was controlling me and its power was one I was no match for. As the man placed more golden tinsel around my neck I hoped he’d strangle me with it. To die now would be bliss. Whatever was happening to me was a hell I’d no wish to experience for a moment longer.

Mariah Carey wrapped things up before Slade’s festive classic erupted from the hidden speakers like an air-raid siren.

The tears streamed from my eyes. My head hung forward in defeat and I pleaded with the man to let me go.

I sounded pathetic. My nose ran as quickly as my eyes, and I sniffed like a child as I begged him to end this.

My thoughts were on Julie, and the delight in her face as she decorated our tree. I would have given anything to be doing that with her.

Please, just let me go.” That tired old cliché was all I could come up with.

Oh, Christmas tree. Pretty, pretty, pretty.”

I stared at the soil that held my feet captive, my vision blurring. My arms pulsated, ready to spasm and send fresh pain throughout my body. By now I was sobbing.

Then, a sound. A loud thump. Footsteps. Descending from upstairs.

My head shot up, the tears instantly ceasing. Who was that? A voice, muffled through the walls, but getting louder.

Was this my way out? Excitement flowed through me. Suddenly there was hope.

The man retreated and tried to hide in the corner of the room, although there was nowhere to go, what with all the Christmas tat everywhere.

Terrance? Terrance!” The voice was closer. The man hugged his arms and looked at the floor.

Hey, help me, in here!” I screamed, though not as loud as I’d hoped.

The door creaked open.

Please, help.” My voice was almost a whisper, I felt exhausted.

A large grey-haired woman presented herself. She stood with her hands on her giant hips and rage in her eyes. Her thick glasses reflected the sparkling life of the room and her mouth hung open as she regarded me.

She looked from me to the man and shook her head with a sneer on her face.

Terrance, I’ve told you about this.” Her voice was that of a heavy smoker. It seemed like an effort for her to make the words, but this didn’t hide the anger in them.

Sorry, Mom,” said the man, rubbing his foot on the floor as though he was stamping out a cigarette.

Sorry won’t cut it, Terrance. Just what in God’s name do you think you are doing? How many times do I have to tell you? This is not what we do in this house. Do you understand me?”

She spat out the question, at the same time kicking the box of decorations with more force than I’d expect to see from a lady of her apparent age. The baubles scattered across the floor.

He’s… decorating me, he’s crazy. Just let me out of here and I’ll leave you alone. Please?”

The old lady stared at Terrance, a tired sigh accompanying her shaking head. “I am so
disappointed in you, do you know that?”

Terrance nodded. “Yes, Mom.” The man began to well up.

Well this is too much this time, must I do everything myself?”

She finally looked at me and again I begged her for help. She didn’t acknowledge my words but began a slow shuffle towards me.

The old lady stank of smoke and breathed a lungful of the stench into my face. She reached forward, muttering something under her breath, and grabbed the tinsel from around my neck. With another sigh she removed the sparkly decoration.

Thank you, thank you so much, I – I’m so, I dunno, please, just.” My words made no sense, but the feeling of relief swept over me as every muscle relaxed in an ocean of calm.

She removed the tinsel from my arms and threw it to the floor. Then the baubles were yanked from my shirt. She stared through me, shaking her head once more.

Terrance, you’ve got this whole colour scheme all wrong. This will not do.

A Christmas tree as glorious as this one should be covered in silver, not gold. How could you get this so wrong? We haven’t had one as nice as this for years, and here’s you covering it in tacky gold.”

My mouth hung open. My heart sank into my bowels. Her words hacked at my mind like an ice pick. Had I heard her properly? No, there was no way this could be happening. My chest cramped and I let out a scream doused in fear and morbid realisation.

Sorry, Mom.”

That’s OK, dear, I can’t stay mad at you, not when you’ve gone to such an effort.”

Can you two hear me? What the hell are you doing?”

The pair watched me but made no expression they’d heard my words.

As Slade continued to scream about it being Christmas and my pleas went ignored, the two of them wrapped silver tinsel around my shoulders and hung multi-coloured baubles from my clothes. Two of the baubles pierced my earlobes, but the pain didn’t register.

They were both insane.

Mother and son embraced, watching their wonderfully decorated new tree with such joy in their faces.

You know, Terrance? I could look at this thing all night. Such vivid colours. And doesn’t it look better in silver? It really adds something to the room, don’t you think?”

You’re fucking crazy,” I said, although the sound was nothing but mumbled nonsense. The pain in my limbs returned as though my muscles were being impaled by thousands of invisible blades.

Come on, it’s late, we can carry on with this in the morning, it’s not like the tree is going anywhere. Not for a while anyway.”

At this, Terrance began to sob. His mother squeezed him tightly.

Now come on, don’t be like that, it’s the same every year. It’s the circle of life, Terrance. You know that the shredder outside makes perfect soil for growing new trees. Once we’re done with this one it will help to make an even more special tree in the future.”

Terrance nodded and forced a smile. “Yes, Mom.”

Anyway, we’ve got a few weeks before we have to dispose of this one, let’s enjoy it while we still can.”

They left the room and I stared at my new surroundings. The three other trees sparkled with multi-coloured lights. As I concentrated I thought I saw three pairs of desperate eyes watching me from behind the tinsel.

At least I knew how this would end. If I could only endure this pain for a couple more weeks. If I put my mind to it, surely the end would come soon.

A new song began.

When the snowman brings the snow.”

I suppose I should make the most of the festive season, as it’s the last one I’ll ever experience. I just hope Julie manages to find a real tree from somewhere.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Morgan K. Tanner

Morgan K. Tanner is a writer, drummer, and golfist currently residing in the English countryside. The idyllic surroundings make it an ideal place to write, drum, and hide the bodies. The busy sound of the typewriter is perfect to drown out the hum of the antiquated torture equipment. His works of fiction and threats have appeared in the mailboxes of many a celebrity, who then sells their story to the tabloids, claiming they are being ‘terrorized.’ You can praise or indeed abuse him by visiting www.morganktanner.com or find him on Twitter @morgantanner666.

The Mind’s Plague

Three friends search for an infamous internet video of an urban legend with devastating consequences;

a passionate drummer joins the band of his dreams, or perhaps his nightmares;

a man tries to find fame in a world where the mundane call the shots;

and a grieving father loses his grip on reality.

These ten stories delve into a world of darkness and suffering, where the terrors are more vivid than they may appear.

Blood is spilt, minds are destroyed, as madness ultimately reigns victorious.

You can buy The Mind’s Plague from Amazon UK Amazon US

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