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Tinsel and Spiders ezine and podcast

December 26, 2017

Welcome to our fang-packed Christmas special, Tinsel and Spiders. Settle down for some chilling tales that with give you shivers and prickly skin. 
 

To kick things off we're proud to present, "Deck the Halls with Silk and Spiders" by our Christmas flash fiction contest winner R. A Goli. 

 

R.A. Goli is an Australian writer of horror, fantasy, speculative and erotic horror short stories. In addition to writing, her interests include reading, gaming, the occasional walk, and annoying her dog, two cats, and husband.

 

Her short stories have been published by Broadswords and Blasters, Fantasia Divinity Magazine, Deadman’s Tome and Horrified Press among others. Her fantasy novella, The Eighth Dwarf is due for release Spring 2018. Check out her website https://ragolifiction.wordpress.com/ or stalk her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ragolifiction.

 

Her superb story has been given our star treatment and is presented in our quarterly podcast as read by Mr. Bill Derwent. Listen to her story here.

 

Our second place tale comes from Jillian Bost, who is no stranger to Feed Your Monster. Her story "Hear Me" was the winner of our 2017 Halloween contest. If you missed her story, listen to it here.

 

Jillian Bost is an avid reader and writer, and a keen horror movie fan. You can follow her at https://twitter.com/JillianBost

 

This time around she brings us a festive treat, "Christmas Bites."

 

Christmas Bites 

By Jillian Bost

 

 

I skittered up the wall and hung in the corner near the living room ceiling. It was dark, just as I liked it. I’d been in the house for an eternity and no one took notice of me.

 

The light flicked on, and I paused. Gemma, the woman of the house, entered the room. I wanted her to see me. Wanted to see if she’d freak out and scurry away at the sight of me, screaming all the while. ­­I crawled across the ceiling, and waited by the light.

 

Maybe I’d crawl into that tree in the corner. The one with all the coloured lights and tinsel, silver and delicate like my webs, my threads. Let her see me when she was putting up more baubles.

 

She was currently on the phone, pacing back and forth, no clue that she was being watched. “You’re sure you have to work late?” She listened for a moment, then sighed. “That’s the third time this week though. I mean blimey, are you gonna work late on Christmas Eve, too?” She paused for a moment, then huffed. “Seriously, Ethan? I don’t believe you.” She paused again, one hand clenched into a fist, the other digging into the phone like she’d break it with her fingers alone. “Yeah, fine. You do that,” she snapped, and threw the phone down on the couch.

 

I went back to the ceiling corner and watched as she flopped onto the couch next to her phone arms crossed. “That’ll be Christmas alone, then,” she mumbled. “Nice one, Gemma.”

 

Now was not the best time to frighten her. She deserved some time to cool down.

 

I waited, spinning and slinging webs until Ethan stumbled in at two a.m. He flicked the light on, then threw himself onto the couch.

 

“Ain’t like I’m gonna be invited into bed again tonight,” he muttered, and chuckled. He soon fell asleep, his mouth hanging wide open as he snored.

 

I crawled down the wall, skittered across the floor and up the couch, landing on his lap. I thought about staying there and making my presence known, but instead crawled up the rest of his body and settled over his mouth. His breathing made me rise and fall gently.

 

I tapped his bottom lip, and he twitched, trying to knock me off. But I held firm, and he jerked awake. His eyes widened when he saw me. He whimpered.

 

His jaw began to tremble as he froze, trying desperately not to move. Are you scared, Ethan?

 

"Sp-sp,” he puffed out. Smart boy, Ethan.

 

 His chest rose and fell in frantic, sharp movements. He wanted to fling me off him, wanted to stomp me into the floor, but he knew I could jab him with my venom and he had no idea just how dangerous I was or where I came from. I could be a local garden nuisance, or I could be much worse. He’d work himself into a state worrying about it.

 

I crawled over his mouth, and hovered. He grimaced and closed his eyes. He suddenly wrenched to the side, and I tumbled off him.

 

He tried to stomp on me, but I was too quick. I galloped over the floor and into the kitchen pantry.

 

“Shit,” I heard him mumble. “Bleedin’ spider. Hate those things. Gemma! Come deal with this spider! Oh wait, she’s asleep.”

 

If he woke her up I’d bite him for sure. Hadn’t he caused enough damage?

 

To my dismay, she came stumbling out of the back room, reindeer pyjamas rumpled and hair askew. “What’s the problem, Ethan?”

 

“I saw a spider,” Ethan whined. “Can you kill it for me?”

 

“What? No! I’m not killing it. Just put it outside. Here, I’ll get a cup and plate. Where did it go?”

 

Ethan grumbled. “I don’t know. Somewhere in the kitchen, I think.”

 

Moron. He wasn’t going to get anywhere near me, and neither was Gemma.

 

They searched for me for a couple more minutes, then gave up. Gemma stomped off to bed, while Ethan slept on the couch. I played it cool for now, not wanting to risk getting squashed. My time would come.

 

            *

 

Christmas morning. No carollers, no snow, no roaring fire. Gemma had put on a CD of old Christmas classics, but she was texting nonstop on the couch, while Ethan played video games.

 

After a while, he threw the controller down, checked his phone, then went to put his shoes on. He shrugged on his jacket. Gemma finally noticed, and put down her phone.

 

He held up his hands. “Listen, babe, I’m just going round to Kev’s for a bit. Just a beer or two, watch a bit of telly and I’ll be back.”

 

“Ethan!” Gemma gaped at him. “It’s Christmas, for God’s sake. Does he not have a family? Or even a girlfriend?”

 

“Guess not,” Ethan said with a shrug. “I can’t leave him all alone, can I? I’d be a crap friend then.”

 

“You’re being a crap boyfriend to me right now,” Gemma grumbled. “I shouldn’t put up with this.”

 

“Don’t, then. Laters.” He sauntered off.

 

Gemma stared off into the corner and squinted. Maybe she’d finally noticed my webs, strung across the ceiling like tinsel. I do enjoy my work.

 

She hung her head as tears streamed down her face, her own lovely silver decorating her cheeks. “I hate this,” she whispered.

 

I made a sympathetic noise. I’ll fix this, Gemma. Don’t you worry.

 

*

 

Ethan didn’t return until nearly midnight. He flopped on the couch, not bothering to remove his shoes or coat. That was fine. I still had skin to work with.

 

He slept, his shoes still touching the floor. I skittered up his leg, up his stomach and chest, and paused at his face. Then I bit him on the cheek, where he still had a lipstick smudge from another woman. He grunted, then froze.

 

He wouldn’t move again.

 

Merry Christmas, Ethan.

 

Merry Christmas, Gemma.

 

END

 

***

 

Our next spindly tale is from our third place winner, Olivia London with her Christmas story, "Merry Arachmus."

 

Olivia London is a writer, avid reader, former high school teacher, and proud member of house Ravenclaw. She lives on the shores of Lake Superior in Upper Michigan with her small army of cats, where she is working on her first fantasy novel.

 

Merry Arachmus

By Olivia London
 

The Christmas-tree-shaped second hand ticked from one snowflake to the next as the bell rang for third period.  A few stragglers shuffled in, talking in loud voices.  It was the last day before Christmas break, and a half day at that, so I leaned against my desk with my arms crossed and let them talk.

 

"Hey, Mr. Osborne,” Jerry Pilke called from the back of the room.  “Are we doing anything?”  He had his IPod in his hand and looked ready for a nap.  Everyone else stopped and looked at me.

 

“Just clear out your papers from the return basket.”  I pointed to a row of fabric baskets.  “After that, you're free to chat until dismissal.” 

           

No one moved to collect their papers, and Jerry put his head down on his arms.  As I turned to take a seat at my desk, I rolled my eyes. 

 

Above us, the ceiling groaned.  It had been doing it all morning.  The kids glanced up, but said nothing.  Snow flew past the windows in fat, fluffy blobs, so I attributed the noise to the extra weight.  Maybe the ceiling would collapse over break. I lived in hope.

 

“Students and teachers!” The intercom screeched to life.  “We hope you have a snow-tacular holiday break!  Here are some tunes to get you in the mood, as we get ready to dismiss.  See you next year!”  A few crackles and ear-splitting shrieks later, Frosty the Snowman poured into the room. 

 

Over the music I heard several thumps and what sounded like scratching directly above my head.  I craned my neck back and peered at the ceiling. 

 

“Mr. Osborne,” Lucy O'Donnell said from the third row.  “What is that?”

 

“Probably mice in the walls,” I mused and shrugged. 

 

Lucy went back to chewing the end of her red braid, watching the ceiling thoughtfully. 

 

Thumpity Thump Thump, Thumpity Thump Thump, look at Frosty go

 

The song seemed to exacerbate the noise and the ceiling Thumpity Thump Thumped in response.  A few sprinkles of dust fell, plopping softly into my coffee mug. 

 

Thumpity Thump Thump, Thumpity Thump Thump, over the hills of snow

 

 

Finally, the song ended, but the noises remained.  In between thumps, something scuttled from one side of the ceiling to the other.  The kids were silent now, all eyes on the ceiling; except Jerry, who was sound asleep.

 

I went to the door, poked my head out, and listened.  The same noises could be heard out here, too.  Several other teachers stood half in, half out of their classrooms, looking around. 

 

“Maybe it's reindeer,” Ms. Hayes, the Spanish teacher, said with a grim smile. 

 

“Get packed up,” I told my students.  “We will wait by the front door for dismissal.”  This ceiling wasn't going to collapse on me today.  “Someone wake up Jerry.”

 

They stood up immediately casting unnerved glances at one another.  As Jerry blinked awake, the ceiling cracked across the middle, raining plaster and dust down over the center of the room.  The kids screamed and ran to crowd around me by the door.  Jerry shoved his chair back and ripped the ear buds out of his ears as he stood up.  

 

“What the fuck?” he shouted. 

 

“Jerry,” I automatically reproached. 

 

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I'm tellin' you why

           

The ceiling cracked loudly again, and an enormous jagged hole tore down the length of the roof. Pieces of black roofing fell through it, scattering quickly across the floor.  Too quickly, and they didn't stop moving.  My eyes struggled to understand what they were seeing. 

 

“What the FUCK?” Jerry shouted, as one of the pieces fell on him.  This time I said nothing, only watched in horror as the roofing material—no, it couldn't be that—tore into his face.  His mouth opened in a high pitched scream as he slapped at the thing with his hands.  Blood ran down his face as whatever it was fell off and scrambled away on tiny legs. 

 

Lucy was screaming now.  No, I realized—it was me.  The kids pressed close, trapping me against the door as the black things crawled up Jerry's legs. The floor between us and Jerry was a shifting black carpet, creeping toward him.  He slapped at his legs, trying to get them off; but for each one he knocked away, a dozen more crawled up his jeans.  There was what looked like thousands still moving toward him.  Frantic, I looked for a clear path to reach him, but there was none.

 

“GO, MR. OSBORNE!” The others shrieked, pushing me out the door into the crowded hallway.  Students shoved each other forward, desperate to get away as tiny black shadows flitted between our feet and along the walls.  Ahead of me, Lucy tripped and fell to her knees as several black spots ran up her back.  I hauled her to her feet without stopping.  Up close to the creatures I could see two rows of beady eyes that glittered menacingly as I raised my hand to swat them away.  One on the back of her neck bared glistening, bloody fangs before it was slapped into the wall. My arm was suddenly jerked backwards and I spun to find Mr. Parker, the janitor, in my face.

 

“Don’t hurt them!” he screamed before looking behind me with wild eyes. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean- DON’T HURT THEM!!” He turned down the main hall, fighting through the terrified mass of students and faculty.

 

Outside, teachers ushered droves of hysterical students onto the waiting buses, casting fearful glances back at the school.  Spiders hissed and dropped off those who managed to get through the roiling black mob crowding the threshold, abandoning their meal for the warmth of the building.

 

Silent Night spilled softly from the quiet hallways as the buses lurched forward into the hazy afternoon.  Out the grimy windows I watched the spiders retreat back into the building, searching out those left behind.

 

END

***

 

A huge congratulations to all three winners, and thank you to everyone who participated. There were lots of very strong stories to choose from.

 

Next up we bring you a web woven by our own Rinoa Cameron. This Christmas she delivers her own version of Tinsel and Spiders, "More the Merrier". She would also like to thank her beautiful pets Scarlet, Bumble Bee, and Tangerine for posing in the promotional pictures throughout the Tinsel and Spiders season. 

 

More the Merrier

By Rinoa Cameron

 

Mike’s tree had no pine needles and wasn’t actually a tree. The plastic reindeer antler did sort of look like a tree, though … ish.

 

He’d stuck one end into a pot of mud, then smeared the prongs with PVA glue and sprinkled it with torn up tinfoil. He’d wanted a star for the top, but made do with a shard of broken glass that resembled a star—well, a triangle, but at least it was pointy.

 

With the glass and the foil, the makeshift tree twinked in the candle's glow as though it wore real fairy lights.

 

“Look Grandma!” Mike exclaimed. “It’s a tree. A real tree. The type Santa will leave presents under.”

 

Grandma ignored him. She’d been doing that a lot lately. She didn’t even turn her head. Didn’t even grunt. Mike pushed out his lower lip. He didn’t know what he’d done to make her angry, but hoped she’d forgive him soon.

 

“It is going to work this year,” Mike muttered to himself. “Santa will finally come!”

 

He thought about how every year he wrote a polite letter asking Santa for the same thing, and every year he got the same thing—a big fat nothing, which was not what he’d asked for.

 

The problem, Mike realised, was the lack of tree. Santa couldn’t very well leave a present under a wobbly footstool, could he? Santa was probably offended so stayed away. Not this year, though. Mike had a proper tree, surely his sparkly efforts would attract Santa to his door.

 

Just one more thing would make it perfect. He snatched up his jar and shook it, eyeing the things scurrying and swirling inside. It had taken him weeks to collect them. He’d even gathered extras since they kept eating each other. But Mike knew how important they were.

 

Back when they had a proper house and a nice crackling fire, Grandma told him the legend of the Christmas spider. She said the spiders loved the tree so much they covered it with cobwebs. Santa came and made the cobwebs into shiny tinsel!

 

That’s why Mike needed his jar of spiders. He couldn’t rely on them coming to visit his tree to spin their webs, therefore he had to add them himself.

 

Without spiders, Santa might not come. There’d be no web to change into tinsel. And Mike really wanted his present this year. He’d been extra, extra good.

 

He unscrewed the jar and dumped his captives over the decorated plastic antler. The leggy creatures tumbled out. Some drifted down on silky strands. Some rolled like tiny tumbleweeds. Some ran all over the floor.

 

Lots quickly disappeared. They scooted off in all directions, hurrying under furniture, up walls, between floorboards. But some—just enough Mike decided—got stuck in the glue that smothered the tree. They pawed at it with their hairy legs, becoming more and more entangled.

 

Good, Mike thought. Those spiders were going nowhere. They would decorate his tree and bring Santa just like in the story.

 

Grinning happily, Mike crawled onto the settee and blew out the candle. “Night, Grandma.”

 

Facing away from him, she didn’t answer.

 

*

 

A scuffle caused Mike to blink awake. He moaned and peeked from his sleeping bag, catching a glimpse of a shadow sneaking across the room.

 

“Santa,” Mike breathed. Could it really be him. Was he finally here?

 

He clambered to his hands and knees and pinned his eyes on the darkness-cloaked tree. He could just see the scraps of tinfoil, glass, and stuck spiders that sometimes twitched.

 

He heard a bump.

 

“Santa?”

 

Something skittered up the wall. A shiver ran down Mike’s spine and something feathery brushed his nose.

 

“Santa, are you here?”

 

Another bump.

 

Mike crawled towards the edge of the sofa. He looked all around. Grandma was still asleep in the armchair.

 

Bump.

 

Bump.

 

Mike shuffled forwards and invisible net struck his face. He swiped it away. “Santa?”

 

He climbed off the sofa and padded towards Grandma’s chair. Things scuttled. Shadows swept around the room.

 

“Grandma,” Mike whispered, approaching her chair.

 

Crackling and slurping noises touched his ears. He saw Grandma flopped over, shaking and jerking, surrounded by hundreds of shimmering bodies, dashing around and leaving silvery trails. Mike’s mouth dried out as he listened to cracking and crunching sounds.

 

“Grandma?”

 

He stepped to the front of her chair, seeing Grandma had become a black, writhing mound beneath rattling legs that made noises like the dregs of a drink dragged through a straw.

 

Mike stumbled away and ran his hand over the coffee table until he found the matches. He stuck one.

 

It didn’t light.

 

He tried again, igniting a tiny flame. His hand trembled, struggling to light a candle. Its glow fought away the darkness and Mike squeaked.

 

His Grandma’s chair was covered in spiders. They swarmed all around. Their silk floated in the air. Grandma was slumped forwards. The chewing sounds stopped as she lifted her head. Blood dripped from her false teeth, smothering her lips and chin. She rolled the lump on her knees towards Mike … and Santa’s dead, half-eaten face slipped into view.

 

“Santa!” Mike screamed, then leapt and threw a fist into the air, smiling around his fangs. “Santa! Santa! He came! He finally came!”

 

Grandma grinned. “You were right about the tree and I invited the spiders to stay for dinner. They did help, after all.”

 

“Yay,” Mike sang, skipping around Grandma, the spiders, and Santa’s corpse. “More the merrier!”

 

END

***

 

And now the spidery goodness continues with a bonus tale from Joel A. Coughlin whose tale "The Feast" comes with all the trimmings.

 

Joel A. Coughlin is a preschool teacher (who works with little monsters all day) from Buffalo New York and a part-time writer anytime he can get his hands on his keyboard. This is his second Feed Your Monster appearance. You can read his story "Sunday Afternoon In The Park Just After The Zombie Apocalypse" here.

 

The Feast

By Joel A Coughlin

 

The two homeless gentleman sat at the opposite side of the table, staring at the O’Brien family.

    

The fat man homeless man, who called himself Rod, looked at all five of them: the blonde mother, the petite twins, the little boy and the father. They all had on fake plastered smiles; which in turn made Rod nervous.

    

The thin homeless man, who called himself Alfred, didn't notice the family, but kept his eye on the whiskey tumble in front of him, waiting for someone to tell him it's okay to drink.

    

They looked like a veritable Laurel and Hardy.

    

“Ma’am,” Rod said. “May I ask—and I mean no disrespect—why did you invite us here today, my friend and I? Not that we're not appreciative.”

    

Ellen said, “Every year we invite two homeless men over as our  way of saying thanks for a good year and sharing our good luck with the less fortunate.”

    

Rod grunted noncommittally.

    

With the turkey and whiskey ready to go in front of the men, Ellen said, “Let us pray.”

 

The way she said “Pray” made the fat man think of the word 'Prey’.

    

Everyone bent their heads, including Rod and Alfred, as Ellen recited, “Good God. Good grief. Guess what-let's eat!”

    

She looked up at Rod and Alfred and said, “Dig in boys.”

    

Alfred grabbed the tumbler and downed the contents in three seconds. He looked over at Rod, who tore a leg off the turkey and began chewing ferociously. Some of the turkey caught in his beard and Rod grabbed the leg on the other side and began gobbling it down.

    

Ellen looked at her husband, Tim, who had their son Paterson on his lap. Tim looked at her and smiled.

    

“We are truly blessed,” Ellen said.

    

“Mom, I'm hungry,” Paterson said.

    

“Don't be rude. These gentlemen barely eat. Sometimes they go days without food. Now it's our turn to wait,” Ellen said. She tussled his hair and stood up. Paterson shook his head in frustration. He hated someone running their hand through his hair.

    

“But I would like to get the tree up.”

    

Alfred was greedily filling the tumbler again and downing the whiskey as quick as he could when he heard Ellen say, “Mr. Alfred?”

    

In a haze he looked up at the blonde woman. His face was worn with years of alcoholism and his eyes were red and sunken into his sockets.

    

“Yes, Ma'am?”

    

“Would you be so kind as to help me?”

    

“Of course.” Alfred got to his feet and began walking in a zig zag motion.

 

*   *   *

    

Earlier in the day the O'Brien house was a living and breathing thing with people busily getting ready for the holiday, squeezing through narrow hallways, writing down instructions, and just the general chaos all families have before Christmas.

    

The Twins, Emily and Tricia, were putting on their coats—Emily doing a good job of it while holding the cell phone to her ear.

      

Tim and Paterson were receiving last minute instructions for getting the right kind of tree-

    

“One that's not too fat, but not too thin,” Ellen said.

    

“We've been doing this for twenty years and every year you give me the same instructions, honey,” Tim said.

    

“I know, but for the last few years you've been slacking, sir.” Ellen gave him a rye smile.

    

“Oh, come on. I have not.”

    

“Mom,” Emily interrupted. “We need the money for the turkey and we wanna get some lunch.”

    

“The tree last year was too big.” Ellen pulled out three twenties from her purse and handed it to Emily without looking at her.

    

As the twins began to exit Ellen O’Brien turned her attention to the girls. She said, “This is your first time doing this. The dinner has to be perfect.”

    

“We know. We're not dumb, mom, like seriously we can get dinner on the table by six.”

    

“And you know how to cook the turkey?” their mother said.

    

Emily pulled out her phone. “Mr. internet has all the answers!”

    

“Good girls. Now get going!” The two girls scooted out the door as a blast of cold winter air and snow danced in.

    

Snapping her fingers Ellen ran to the door. The snow was beginning to pick up. She yelled to her girls, “If you can't find the right kind of food just make sure it’s nice and fat.”

    

Emily said, “Mom, we promise. Cross my heart and hope to die- stick a needle in your eye.”

    

“No, your eye, you little brat. Scat!” Ellen said and shut the door.

    

“Do you think we did the right thing letting them pick out the dinner?” Ellen said.

    

Paterson was struggling with his boots and his father moved over to Ellen. He caressed her left cheek and said, “They know what they're doing. They'll find the right one.”

    

Ellen smiled.

    

“Get going, you two.”

    

“My damn boot is stuck!” Paterson said. At this Tim and Ellen burst out in laughter and Tim placed Paterson on his shoulders.

    

“Now it's time to hunt down our Christmas tree. We'll stop first at the gas station on the East Side. They have some good upstairs trees, son.”

    

Ellen watched them leave, hopeful this would be perfect Christmas.

 

*   *   *

    

Ellen led Alfred around the corner to the living room where he noticed no tree. He thought maybe it was in another part of the house, but was still happy to help.

    

They walked through the living room to the stairs leading to the fourth floor. Alfred ascended the stairs with his hostess not far behind. At the top they walked towards the attic door past an end-table with a Betty-Boop lamp on top. Ellen opened the Attic door and smiled politely. “After you, sir.”

    

Alfred took a drunken first step and fell on his face. Immediately he said “I'm okay! I've been falling for over forty years.”

    

Ellen let out a giggle and Alfred got up as Ellen flicked on the lights.

    

Upstairs was cold, but the attic was huge with long hanging rafters and they slanted just at the right angle to spread out to the walls. It was a good fifty feet or so. But the musty smell hit Alfred and he nearly lost his lunch. But no, it wasn't must it smelled like death. He had been in the Vietnam war and being a vet he knew this smell.

    

On the walls above the boxes to his left and right tacked to the wall were rows and rows of cherry-wood crosses-all upside down.    Boxes were neatly stacked to the left of the attic like a pathway with the boxes leading up to the ceiling.

    

Alfred headed into the maze when out came Ellen holding a box of lights.

    

“Oh, Miss Ellen, let me go get the rest, I don't mind. I promise not to spill anything.” He gave that particular drunken man's toothless smile and moved towards the back.

    

Ellen said, “Well, thank you Alfred. You're sent from the Great Gods themselves.”

    

Alfred stepped into the rows of boxes and the light became darker.

    

Alfred heard Ellen call back, “About four boxes of ornaments are way in the back on top of the shelf, but I promise they're light. You could probably stack a few. Then one more box of lights.”

    

“Yes, Ma'am,” Alfred pulled out a lighter and lit up the darkness. There were two shelves. One with the ornaments, but about five feet above that on a wooden shelf were around ten skulls.

    

Still in his drunken stupor he looked up and saw that they were all broken in half. Some right sides or chunks of left side leaning against each other.

    

The metal lighter head grew hot and Alfred dropped it, then put his thumb in his mouth. He stepped forward and slipped on the lighter, falling into the far wall where boxes rained down on him. He smiled and stood up.

 

* * *

    

Rod had a tumbler of whiskey to calm his nerves as he started to piece together that weird family. You just don't invite strangers to your dinner.

 

* * *

    

“What's with the racket!” Ellen said.

    

“I fell, but I found them, Miss Ellen. Bringing them out now.” Alfred stumbled up and placed the boxes in his arms. Walked in a zig-zag he made his way out to Ellen.

    

“Here you go, Ma'am!”

    

Ellen took two boxes and Alfred followed her down the attic stairs.

    

Ellen put the boxes down next to the banister and went to the table with the Betty Boop lamp. “Could you put those over there for me, please?” She pointed next to the banister overlooking the living room.

    

Alfred placed them down and Ellen opened the table drawer, pulling out a large, sturdy piece of rope.

    

“Would you help me? I can’t reach the top part of that hook.” She hitched her thumb over her shoulder and there, about a foot above a painting, was a huge hook.

    

“Of course.”

    

Alfred took the thick rope and edged up towards it.

    

Ellen said, “The holidays are a nightmare for me.”

    

“I don't get many Christmases, but I'm thankful for this year.” Alfred leaned up on his tip-toes and put the small taught loop around the hook.

    

Ellen said, “Oh, Alfred you're the best.”

    

Alfred staggered back with the rest of the long rope and handed it to Ellen.

    

She casually began to unravel it. She looked over her shoulder at the box of lights and said, “Could you please put those next to the other boxes? In front of the banister?”

    

“Sure.” Alfred grabbed the light’s box and brought it over to the banister. He looked over at the four stories below and whistled. “Long way down,” he said.

    

As Ellen casually undid the rope, letting pieces of it drop to the floor, she found what she was looking for: the noose.

    

Ellen said, “It sure is.” She began to whistle walking toward Alfred, who was admiring the view.

    

Ellen approached with the rope open in a loop and quickly snatched the noose around Alfred's neck. Alfred made a grunting noise as she tightened it, and then all at once she pushed him over the banister.

    

Alfred dropped about 3 feet from the ground with an audible pop as his weight and the rope snapped his neck.

    

Ellen rushed down the stairs because she only had about ten to twenty minutes before the others came in. She went to the side table and grabbed two pieces of rope and tied them around each wrist of the now dead Alfred, putting each rope up and tying them so it looked like he hung on a cross. Then she hurried back up to grab the ornaments and lights.

 

**** ****

    

In the kitchen, Rod finished off his last but of turkey with a burp.

    

“Oh gosh, I'm sorry.”

 

The twins giggled and Preston burst out laughing.

    

Tim asked if he would like coffee.

    

“Not to be rude, but may I have another glass of whiskey?”

    

“Of course,” Tim said. He poured more Southern Comfort into the man's glass.

    

“I have not had good whiskey in three and a half years,” Rod declared. He poured half the glass down his throat and placed the cup on the table.

 

Most of the O’Brien clan were staring at him like he was a television set and he was the star attraction. No words or conversation, just blank, smiling stares.

    

After at least a minute of this passed, Rod put his hands on the table and said, “Well, I and my colleague thank you, but I believe it's time to get a move-on.”

    

The twins began to move around either side of the table and Rod said, “You’ve been so kind, we don't wanna stretch hospitality.”

    

“The Great Gods are pleased,” Tim said.

 

Paterson tittered.

    

About half way to standing up Rod stopped in his tracks, palms flat on the table. “No disrespect, sir, but far as I know there's only one God.”

    

“Oh no,” Tim said. “They live in the walls. They're very pleased with my son and our daughter’s.”

    

At that moment Alfred decided: time to get the hell out of there.

    

As he began to push further up from the table Emily and Tricia caught his hands! Trisha on the right of Rod cuffed his wrist easily, but Rod's left arm slipped loose of Emily's cuff, and he slammed Tricia in the chest, sending her toppling to the floor.

    

Emily jumped on his back and Rod instinctively backed up against the wall behind him, knocking the wind out of her. She dropped to the floor.

    

This is when Tim got up and made the most god-awful howling noise—loud and piercing. Rod ran past Tim, the handcuff jingling from his right hand. Tim reached out and scratched him.

    

Rod opened the double doors to see an awful sight. He stopped dead in his tracks.

    

Alfred, hanging from a noose, was strung up like he was crucified. But the most grotesque things were strewn around him: strings of colorful lights and about twenty-five disfigured dolls, which hung from little nooses attached to his outstretched arms. Underneath Alfred lay piles of presents.

    

Ellen was hanging the last “ornament” on poor Alfred by pushing the needle until it stretched his skin and popped out as blood trickled to the floor.

    

She turned and plastered on her smile. “What do you think? I think it's one of my best. The Gods are definitely pleased.” She began whistling “Silent Night.”

    

“Oh shit...” Rod said and began to sprint toward the front door to freedom when Paterson slid in front of him and tripped the fat man. He slammed his forehead, nose and teeth hard on the wooden floor. Blood flew and landed on the hardwood like a Jackson Pollock splatter painting.

    

In was through the dim of the pain that he felt himself being handcuffed behind his back.

And then blackness.

 

*   *   *

 

When Rod woke up he was strapped to the table with his arms spread eagle and his feet strapped to the legs of the table by chains. He felt pain in his head and his eyes refused to focus. He saw figures and shapes he knew were the family moving around him.

    

He heard a voice say, “Did you get the blood in the living room?” This sounded like Tim but he couldn't be sure.

    

Rod grunted and everything seemed to stop all at once. He shook his head and his eyes began to focus.

    

The family stood like statues. Emily holding a knife, Tricia holding a large roasting fork. Tim was holding a cup of coffee. Patterson had another fork.

    

Ellen was standing next to Tim with her arms folded: that same fake smile.

    

She said, “Hi, Rod.”

    

Rod yanked at his chains, but couldn’t break free.

 

“Oh, don't exert yourself,” Ellen said. “The Gods are pleased. The girls did a wonderful job of finding the perfect dinner.”

    

Applause came from Tim and Paterson, as Ellen moved closer to Rod and began gently stroking his hair.

    

Tears welled in Rod's eyes and he said, “Just let me go, I promise I won't tell no one bout this.”

    

Ellen put her finger to her lips and shushed him.

    

She said to Rod, “Honey, we promise it won't hurt that much.”

    

“I can't die like a dog,” Rod said.

    

Ellen said, “It's time.”

    

The family placed their carving utensils on the table between Rod's splayed legs.

    

Rod watched as the entire family put their hands on their foreheads and began peeling off their skin.

    

Rod's eyes jutted wide, not believing what he was seeing.

    

Beyond the family, above the door, little creatures black as night and about one inch long came crawling out of the vents like bugs. There must have been about a hundred pouring out like cockroaches. They spread on the ceiling until the it was covered black with these Gods. A few of them let out long red tongues and their yellow eyes stared at him. Their thin lizard like bodies chilled Rod to the bone.

    

Rod looked back at what were human beings just minutes ago.

    

All the monsters had no hair and no facial features except pitch black eyes and  mouths, twisted as though from a cartoon, dark and cavernous. All except those blood red toothless gums.

 

The matriarch of the clan looked up to the ceiling and screamed, “Feasta Slaugh!”

    

Just like a falling net, all the Gods dropped at once, landing on Rod, who began to scream. The creatures moved quickly to his mouth, where they began crawling on top of each other to cram in. It was then that the screaming stopped.

    

After they were all inside moving down his throat and moving to that big thumping sound in his chest. Rod lifted his body-he tried to scream but collapsed. Blood trickled from his mouth and nose. His eyes were grotesquely open.

 

Rod the fat man was dead.

    

The clan of monsters opened their mouths and shark like teeth slid from their gums.

    

“Okay, it's your first time carving the meat,” the man who had been Tim said to his son. He handed him the carving knife.   What used to be Tim leaned over what used to be Patterson. The boy stepped over his human suit and moved closer to dinner.

    

“Here. Let's carve it together,” the father said lovingly.


END 

***

 

And thus concludes our Christmas special ezine and podcast: TINSEL AND SPIDERS. We hope this feeding has left your monster well and truly stuffed and ready to indulge a nap in front of the telly. 

 

Merry Christmas from all at Feed Your Monster, and, as always, may your monster never go hungry. 

***

*Deck the Halls with Silk and Spiders © R. A. Goli.

*Christmas Bites © Jillian Bost.

*Merry Arachmus © Olivia London.

*More the Merrier © Rinoa Cameron.

*The Feast © Joel A. Coughlin.

*Tinsel and Spiders podcast narrated by Mr. Bill Derwent,

 

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