Not A Creature Was Stirring, by Dan Dillard, is today's Terror Tuesday. The members of The Pen Of The Damned have not been kind to Santa lately. We will all receive copious amounts of coal which we will, of course, turn into diamonds. That's exactly what this story is: a real gem! Read it and enjoy. Be careful not to have your children peer over your shoulders. For a number of reasons.
Read more of Dan Dillard's tales on The Pen Of The Damned website, and those of our other authors as well. All of us wish you a Damned great Holiday Season.
Not a Creature Was StirringTiny footsteps and giggles filled the hallways of the small suburban house. Dad was snoring somewhere in a back bedroom.
“Shh,” one voice said. The other snickered and more footsteps were heard as the pair moved into the kitchen and through the wooden door that led to the basement.
“Where are they?” Emily asked.
Her blond pigtails hung in long, thick ringlets against the bright pink footie-pajamas.
“I don’t know. Look over there, dork,” said David. “I think they’re in daddy’s toolbox.”
She stuck out her tongue and carefully opened the lid to the Craftsman case. She saw screwdrivers and wrenches and various other things inside the tool chest. Then, her eyes grew round and her lips parted, spreading into a wide grin.
“Found ‘em,” she said to her brother, holding up her prize.
“Good. Now help me find the big one.”
She pulled out her list and checked it twice.
“The big one?” she asked as if to say, are you sure?
David, eight years old, pushed a lock of chestnut brown hair out of his eyes and grabbed a coil of rope from a hook on the pegboard wall while Ironman looked on from the front of his t-shirt. The coil of rope slipped over his shoulder as the pair hunted the big one.
She spotted it first.
“There it is, David.”
David looked where she pointed and leaning against the wall next to the water heater, was a bundle of long handled tools. He grabbed the ten pound sledge hammer and hiked it up onto his shoulder before starting back up the stairs. Emily was looking at a pair of large garden shears, almost as tall as she was.
“Emmy, come on. We don’t need those.”
“You sure? They look sharp and pointy.”
“I’m sure. Everything’s set up already.”
She shrugged, tucked the nails she’d grabbed from the toolbox under her arm and bounded up the steps behind her brother.
“Daddy’s going to be so surprised!” she said in an excited whisper.
“Shh,” David said.
They snuck into the living room and placed the items in the middle of the floor with some earlier gatherings. David grabbed a chair from the dining room and carried it into the living room. He placed it under the exposed beam that ran the length of the ceiling. Emily turned on the Christmas tree lights and hummed Jingle Bells.
David removed a cluster of mistletoe from the beam revealing a metal bracket and with some struggle, connected the handle of the sledge to it with a single bolt. Giving it a nudge, he was happy to see the hammer swing freely side to side. He slid the chair a couple feet to his left and climbed back up, pulling the sledge by its head and connecting it to a loop of twine that was already prepared. The other end of the slipknot dangled over the back of their father’s recliner.
“Like this?” Emily asked.
David turned and looked. Emily had propped up a two-foot-square piece of plywood that was full of holes he had drilled that afternoon and she was busy pushing nails through them. He nodded.
“Just like that.”
When she was finished, it made a triangular pattern much like a Christmas tree. She put duct tape on the back, holding the spikes in place until she could lay it on the plastic sheeting they had placed the floor. There were a few more holes in the board that David had drilled so he could screw it into the subflooring through the thin carpeting. He picked up a battery powered screwdriver.
“Go check on Dad,” he said.
She padded down the hallway and peeked into her father’s room. He snored peacefully and she pulled the door shut behind her with a minimal snick of the latch. Back in the living room, she gave her brother a quick smile and a thumbs up.
“Still asleep. Visions of sugar plums,” she said.
He quickly screwed down the bed of nails and put the screw-gun away. Emily helped him stretch out the coil of rope and David secured one end of it to the fireplace with a double knot. Once that was finished, they stood back and looked at their work. Emily jumped up.
“Almost forgot,” she said and rushed into the kitchen.
She returned with a plate of cookies and a glass of milk they had staged in the refrigerator and placed them on the end table next to the recliner.
“I think that does it,” Emily said.
David nodded in agreement.
“Now what?” she asked.
“Now we get in position and don’t move until it’s time.”
They fist bumped and then she ducked behind her dad’s recliner and grabbed the length of twine that hung down from the ceiling. David gripped the end of the rope and sat in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen. The Christmas tree lights gave off an eerie glow and not a creature stirred otherwise. Their father’s snoring broke the silence every few seconds.
Those seconds turned into minutes and the children exercised expert patience, but when the clock on the fireplace mantle struck midnight, their wait was rewarded. In a twinkling, they heard on the roof, the prancing and pawing of many a hoof. Emily smiled as she peeked around the chair. David gave her a nod and ducked back behind the wall, holding his rope in both hands.
There were more scuffling sounds, then a snore from daddy’s bedroom, then more scuffling, and then with a bound, St. Nicholas came down the chimney. The jolly old elf stepped, leaning over, out from the fireplace and dusted the soot from his furry red suit, then he cranked his pipe from one corner of his mouth to the other. He glanced at the tree, then at the cookies and when he laughed, his little round belly shook like a bowl full of jelly. Over his shoulder was a sack, and as he stepped further into the room, he swung it around and set it on the floor. David peeked around the corner. It was time.
“Now!” he shouted.
Before Saint Nick could place a finger aside of his nose, Emily jerked the twine with all of her might. The slipknot came undone and the sledge fell from its perch, smashing Santa in the side of the head. David pulled his rope tight and as Santa pirouetted in place, dizzy from the blow, he tripped over the rope and fell face-first onto the bed of nails, embedding his rosy cheeks, cherry nose and droll little mouth onto each three-inch spike.
“We got the bastard,” Emily said as she stood up.
“We sure did,” David agreed.
As the Claus twitched and shuddered, his magic blood seeping out onto the plastic in front of their tree, David and Emily retrieved his bag. It felt empty as they held it up, but when Emily reached inside, wishing, something appeared. A pink tablet computer with her name etched on the back. David pulled out one of his favorite video games, then another. Then they pulled out a wad of cash as thick as the Manhattan Yellow Pages.
“Merry freakin’ Christmas,” Emily said.
Her brother gave her a hug. “Daddy’s going to be so excited.”
“What do we do with that?”
They pair looked at Santa’s corpse and David laughed in spite of himself.
“I have an idea.”
They wrapped the plastic sheeting around Claus’s body and David lifted the old man’s shoulders while Emily pulled the bag over his head. They struggled to get it around the rest of his body, but the bag stretched as necessary and once inside, he disappeared. David unscrewed the board and tossed it and the screws into the magic sack and lucky for them, none of the blood had gotten onto the carpet. He then climbed back onto the chair and replaced the sledge hammer with the mistletoe. Once it was all cleaned up, they sat down and split the milk and cookies.
“What you want to wish for next?” Emily said.
A massive thud on the roof startled them. Emily’s tiny hands went to her heart. Another thud followed, then another, and one by one, the reindeer slid off the snow covered roof into the back yard.
Down Dasher, then Dancer, then Prancer and Vixen, followed by Comet, then Cupid, then Donder and finally, Blitzen.
“I almost forgot about the poison carrots,” she said. “How are we gonna hide all that?”
“We’ll think of something,” he said. “We always do.”
~ Dan Dillard