As I pause now to write these words upon tattered parchment, my hands -- the hands of a trained doctor -- shake, such that my lettering, always small and crabbed, now winds and twists its way across the page like the track of some blinded and pain-wracked snake. I, who have performed a great many amputations and operations in the thick of the Boer War with exceptionally cool head and brow, now shudder from the most excruciating terror that man can envision. I cannot explain how my tenuous sanity escaped the horrors that I am about to relate.Back to the Net.Humor Archives
My family and I reside in an isolated but comfortable country estate outside of Porterstown. There the hills are wooded and roll gently down to pebbled brooks and moss-trimmed streams. These same hills were once mountains, but time and fate have conspired to grind them down to mere shadows of their former glory. The land is old -- I must stress this -- and in places poorly explored. There are many valleys and dells that to this very day are shunned, in part because the native inhabitants of these regions would not set foot in those places of dread, and passed their mute fears on to their more civilized neighbors. Rough and brutish are the ways of the savage, but wise are they, in ways beyond the ken of man!
It was late in the evening on Christmas Eve, and my family was just settling down to a long winter's nap. The snow fell heavily in clumps of whiteness, and blanketed our house and environs in an even cloak of milky drear. It was not overly late, but the stillness outside and the seeping, insidious chill of the New England winters introduced a feeling of nebulous dread into my home. Edgy, I bade my wife and children to prepare for an early retirement, to be followed by a visit from none other than Santa. Thus prompted, the children went to bed. Soon they were sleeping, albeit restlessly.
As my faithful spouse and I prepared for our own retirement, my mind could not help but return to the curse that the ancient Indian had pronounced upon Drucker and myself. "You shall fear the day you call Christmas," he hissed, as we turned him out from Drucker's barn. "Ware the Red Rider!" he called over his shoulder, disappearing into the late snow flurry. For some reason, these words had troubled me. My mind harkened back to the tales I had heard, of Christmas being based originally on a pagan holiday involving human sacrifice and other unspeakable acts. However, I pride myself upon being a rational, sensible man; I cast off my doubts and came to bed.
We slept. The house was still -- not the quiet of rest, but the quiet of death. Not even a mouse stirred in our parlor, ordinarily the site of many a rodently tryst and squeak-filled cabal. The children slept fitfully, but their innocent visions of holiday sweets were marred by strange, amorphous nightmares -- dancing sugar-plums grew menacing, and shapeless forms haunted their youthful sleep. I....*I*!!....I lay like a block of wood.
Then came the noise.
I do not know what time it was when I awakened, but the moon had risen, sending ghostly slivers of light through the shutters. All at once came a terrific racket! I sat upright in my bed! W h a t w a s t h a t n o i s e ?
I sat perfectly still. I felt the cold chill of icewater running through my veins, and tasted the coppery taste of fear on my tongue. Where did that noise come from, and what on earth was it? Then I heard it again, and I knew that it came from above, and was not made by anything on this earth.
It sounded -- I know you will think me insane -- it sounded like hooves on the rooftop. There was the sound of metal clattering on wood, muffled slightly by snow, repeated without pattern or apparent cause. I pinched myself, fearing this to be a troubled vision or dream, and convinced myself I was fully awake. Summoning up my courage, I ran to the window! I threw up the sash and unbolted the shutter! And there I saw.......I saw the naked face of terror.
There were *things* on my roof -- things that were bent and twisted, and hurt to look at. Superficially, they might have looked a bit like reindeer -- O, how insane you must think me! -- but their warped forms and the devilish glints in their unearthly eyes spoke of alien, monstrous heritage. These beasts were tethered in a kind of harness to what I can only call a sleigh -- but no sleigh crafted by human hands! Curves defying the math of Euclid gaped insanely, challenging the mind to put the full picture together. There were shapes heaped in the back, but I could not divine their nature. The worst, though.....the worst was the dreadful driver.
If all the hobgoblins and beasties of the mind have a name, he had it too.
It was like a little man stripped of his soul. It wore a peculiar suit of garments, stained in blood (or was that a trick of the moon?) It capered and gamboled obscenely, chittering and gabbling in a tongue forgotten by men in an age when monstrosities still walked the earth openly. It slavered, and cackled, and bayed. Then, with an impossible spring, it leapt into the chimney. Suddenly I thought of the children. Stopping only to fetch my rifle, I ran for the downstairs.
I must have been in a terrible panic, but my concern for my family overrode the impulse to cower, to run, to hide. However, some unknown instinct in my mind -- some holdover from a forgotten era -- urged caution. I tiptoed down to the parlor and peered around the corner of the doorway instead of rushing in. I feel that my instincts must have certainly saved my life.
How can I begin to express the horror? The twinkling, malicious blue eyes! Cheeks like two collosal festering cherries! The mocking, diabolical sneer! And the presents -- Oh, God, the *presents*!!!
I came to lying on the floor. With great caution, I picked myself up and entered the parlor. It was deserted, having been left exactly the way it had been when we last trimmed the tree. Nothing had changed, with one exception: there was a large blue parcel, neatly wrapped, on the mantelpiece. I did not want to open it, but something inside me drove me on. I knew that I must surely look inside, or go mad. My hands trembling, I tugged at the ribbon and stripped off the paper to reveal.....
.......The head of Matthias Drucker.
As I sit on the stone floor of this godforsaken sanitarium and scribble these words by the light of a single, guttering candle, I know that I shall never escape the consequences of that one, fateful night. I shall never again sleep without seeing the leering muzzles of the satanic draft-beasts. I shall never pass through winter without thinking of that Thing in the satin suit a hundred -- nay! a thousand! -- times. And I shall never, even if I live a millenia or more years, forget those mocking, sinister words that assailed my ears as I slipped into a reverie of darkness and insane, fluting noises:"Merry Christmas to All
And to All a Good Night!"