It’s almost Krampusnacht (I mean Christmas)!
As Christmas is the perfect time for ghost stories, I thought I’d share this little Christmas-themed piece of flash fiction I wrote, called “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, first published by the Australasian Horror Writers Association in their anthology Hell’s Bells.
I’ll be Home for Christmas by Greg Chapman
Natalie had been watching the fireplace with tears in her eyes when she heard the mail slot open.
She walked to the door and picked up the solitary envelope, her address in neat handwriting. Inside she found a Christmas card and her heart began to thunder; people stopped sending her Christmas cards a long time ago.
The front of the card was of simple design, a Christmas tree with presents and a fireplace, not unlike Natalie’s own living room. The inside was blank. Natalie turned the envelope over; there was no return address or postmark. She quickly opened the door, but no one was there, not even a mailman, just a blinding carpet of snow.
Natalie closed the door and put the card on the mantelpiece above the fireplace. She could feel the knot in her gut twisting even tighter. Christmas was the worst time of year, but she felt obliged to celebrate.
She was pondering the card when the phone rang and the knot coiled again. She picked up the phone and sat before the fireplace.
“Hello Natalie, it’s Ingrid.”
“Hello, Mrs. Colton.”
“I just wanted to call… to see how you are.”
A moment’s silence then Natalie could hear Ingrid’s soft sobbing. “It feels like her last Christmas all over again.”
Natalie watched the flames; she could see the fabric burning like it was yesterday. “Yes, it does.”
“I’m sorry Natalie. I know it must be awful for you to have to think about her too.”
“I wish it had been me and not Susan,” Natalie said.
“Don’t say that sweetheart… you survived. I just wish he’d let both of you go…”
Near the Christmas tree, Natalie could almost see Susan crying tears of anger.
“I’m sorry Mrs. Colton, but I have to go.”
Natalie ended the call and wiped away tears. Every Christmas was the same lie and she couldn’t do it anymore. The story of the ‘stranger’ had grown thin in the telling. She was surprised it still held water after all these years.
The card fell to the floor and Natalie scooped it up like it was the last snowflake.
Fifteen years ago she’d told everyone that she and Susan Colton had been attacked by a crazed killer on Christmas Eve.
Natalie opened the card to find writing inside:
I’ll be home for Christmas.
A log slipped in the flames sending sparks into the air. In front of the Christmas tree, she saw Susan screaming, a photo of Natalie and Susan’s boyfriend kissing in her hand.
It all came flooding back: The screaming, the hair-pulling, the fire-poker in Natalie’s hand – the blood and all-consuming fire.
Beneath Natalie’s feet, the floorboards rattled. Natalie turned just as a decrepit hand burst through the wood. The planks gave way to reveal a rotting corpse, emerging with impossible life, but undeniable rage. In its once golden locks, a deep gouge bloomed. The reanimated Susan glared at Natalie and reached out to clutch the fire-poker.
And finally, as promised I can announce the winner of the free digital copy of my novel, Hollow House!
The lucky person is JOSEPH PINTO! Congrats Joe, I’ll be in touch to send you your copy.
Until next year, I hope you have a Merry Krampus and terrifyingly good New Year. And don’t forget – books make great stocking fillers!
I’m so grateful, Greg!!