Place me on the naughty list cause I’m a day late and 100 words over on this bit of flash. The challenge comes from the Terrible Mind of Chuck Wendig.
The Christmas Box
by Jonathan N. Bray
An alert tone plays in my ear and a voice says Camilla calling. My assistant, this can only mean more work.
“Answer,” the line picks up, “what?”
“Jesus Christ Camilla I don’t need sorry, just tell me what the issue is.”
I push past a family making their way through the crowded station, the mom gives me a dirty look, I almost tell her where to shove it, but its Christmas.
“I went to track Lila’s gift, and I found out why it wasn’t delivered.”
“Did you get it fixed and have the goddamn idiot fired who caused the delay?”
“Ah, that’s the thing, the reason it didn’t ship is because the order didn’t go through.”
I come to a dead stop in the center of the walkway, being one of those jerks I hate. The foot traffic behind me starts to back up and I hear people complaining.
“What do you mean you ordered it on Monday didn’t you?”
“Yes. No, I guess I never completed it. We we’re super swamped, that was the 18-hour day.”
“You’re fired. Terminate call.”
The line hangs up and I catch just a brief bit of Camilla’s begging. What the hell am I going to do now?
I checked my watch, barely 20 minutes before the last train comes. Where the hell was I going to get a gift?
“Move it lady.” Some rude idiot calls from behind me. He pushes around me and I start moving at the same time and swing my luggage into his knee.
“Ow!” he yells.
“Sorry. Have a merry Christmas.”
The crowd is so dense it’s hard to run, but at least I know where I’m heading, South Entrance right around the corner is an old Odd Shop. The type owned by the family that lives in the back of the shop. It’s mostly junk curated from the garbage bins at the Good Will, but that’s the best I got.
As I make my way down the steps from the South Entrance I hear the sound of multiple men fighting. I catch just a glimpse, but it looks like a gang of homeless men versus two members of a Christian Boy-Band, the boys are not all right. Not my problem, I cruise on into the shop, noticing a sign that says 24/7.
Inside an old man waits at the counter awkwardly. He kind of glances out the door, but mostly doesn’t a good call. On the tall desk they use, as a counter there is an ornate box. It is laced with rich gold and velvety, with looks more fitting of Tiffany’s and Louis Vuitton than unofficial train station gift shop.
“I’ll take it.”
He shakes his head, “Reserved.”
“By the boy-band?”
“They aren’t coming back. I’ll pay you triple what you’re asking.”
His eyes light up. “You don’t even know how much it is.”
I grab the cash from my purse and hold it out, “Is it more than 500 dollars?”
His smile is huge like I just flashed a million dollars, it almost makes me smile.
“It is 500 dollars,” he says like it’s an amazing coincidence.
Back on the street the homeless guys are giving the final beating to the boy-band, when one of the dirty bastards says, “Hey, she has the box.” and points with what I think is a hand, but is so covered in filth I can’t be sure.
A big guy, fresh from some deep garbage dive, stalks toward me, he smells rancid, like rotting meat. I step back for air and positioning. He steps, I round house kick his head in, literally.
It caves like an old pumpkin meeting a metal bat. Blood spurts on my leg and back, and I almost do that sickening shudder dance, but maintain some composure. Please don’t let that bastard be contagious. Maybe I’m a horrible person, but the thought of is he dead doesn’t cross my mind.
The garbage gang is stupefied, but their boss says, “Kill her and bring me the box!” He sounds like Batman if he picked up a 30 year chain smoking habit and suffered a deep neck wound from Joker.
“Sorry, guys. This is a gift for the one person that actually maters on this shit heap. So just back off an we’ll all go home.”
It doesn’t work. They move towards me with slow, sluggish steps like their ratty shoes are stuck in mud. That smell becomes unbearable and I realize the alley is full of these bastards; it’s a goddamn hobo filth cult.
The smell almost makes me toss my dinner, just as one of them lunges at me with an impossibly long and wobbly arm. I duck and then fly up smashing my hardtack shell travel bag right into his mangy face. A kettle bell swing my CrossFIT coach would be proud of.
This guy must have the same disease, cause his face damn near explodes all over the sidewalk. I wouldn’t mind sticking around and beating the crap out if these degenerates, and God knows it would be good to get some punches out before I have to see my brother Leon, but holy-fucking-Christmas I don’t want what ever flesh eating disease these psychos have. So I run.
I can hear them right be hind me, but growing fainter, Tracheotoman is yelling in Latin. I can’t quite make out the words.
My feet are flying and I can no longer hear them, but I can still smell them ever so, oh goddamn it. Slowing enough to lift up my luggage and sure enough, the smell is coming from the sick splattered all over the case. I’m burning everything when I get to Mom and Dad’s.
An alarm bell dings in my ear; the last train is departing soon. I’ll make it though. The turnstiles are just ahead. No time to slow down, I smash my way through, hoping to knock off some of the goop.
“Easy lady,” the ticket agent says as he closes up the booth. He sniffs the air and makes a gross face like I shit my pants.
This is the worst Christmas Eve ever. Running again I hear the ticket agent yell, then scream, but the heavy squeal of the train arriving drowns it out.
I board quickly trying to hide amongst the crowd, but nobody wants to be around me. The smell is pushing people away. The crowd starts to head for the two connected cars, as they would rather squeeze in than smell the funk I rolled in with.
Well that’s just fine, I’ll take a seat all to myself on this Christmas train. Just a few people remain in the car, sitting as far away from me as possible. One man is lying across multiple seats with a free-weekly covering his face, probably passed out drunk.
As the train pulls away I see the Garbage Gang and Tracheotoman. I give them the finger and sit back in my seat glad this weird night is over.
The few people in my car pack into the other ones, finally giving in to the smell. It’s just the passed out drunk and me. His hand sways with the motion of the train. Then it twitches, just a little, then faster and again like he’s having a full on seizure.
Slowly the hand melts to a black waxy goop that looks more tentacle than hand. The man sits up the weekly falls from his face, he’s dirty, like the garbage dwellers from the alley.
This is not happening.
He grabs the emergency brake line and pulls it. I have to get out of here, but the two cars are so packed I would be stuck in the doorway. I consider pushing my way through when the man removes one option by breaking the door handle of the car closest to him.
The windows explode in as dark slug like shapes pile into the car from the cramped tunnel. They pool all around me and spire upward twisting into the people I thought were men. Now it hits me, I’ve gone insane. Cracked, broken under the enormous pressure of work, but that feels like bullshit. Work is rough but I eat it up. It must be something else. Maybe an infection from earlier? Oh god, I bet whatever disease they have turns your brain to mush too.
A fist hits me in the stomach, as I sit like a damn idiot. Well that’s it understanding time is over. Real or not I’m just going to kick the shit out of all these assholes, right after I catch my wind.
The slimy hand pulls me to my feet, perfect. I slug the man-thing in the ribs with both fists, but it doesn’t seem hurt him. I head-bunt it and it lets go as it falls to the ground. Good to know.
I grab the handrail above me and use its extra momentum to kick the closest one in the head. It pops spraying the car with dark black goo and bits of dead grey matter.
The creeps all lunge for me and I have to dive and roll to dodge them. With a gallop I side kick the next one’s head clean off, and realize the insanity is starting to grow on me.
Tracheotoman is in the car and he’s moving for the box. His goons are blocking me so I ditch the aisle and run over the seats, but I’m too late, he has the box.
The freak starts speaking Latin and I swear that box is glowing. I grab my purse, inside is a Tezla 3000x, the same model that was pulled because it allegedly caused people to catch fire. I successfully defended that company and this high-voltage beauty was a present.
When I push in on the two triggers blue bolts shoot out and connect to Tracheotoman. Sparks are flying and he’s flopping like a fish and screaming. Son of bitch starts to burn too, like a Christmas bonfire. The stench is horrid and he’s screaming in Latin, something about the end of the world as he melts to a flaming puddle. His goons melt back into those puddles of crap they grew from and find any open avenue to slip from the car.
I collect the Christmas box and head toward the front of the car, nobody is happy to smell me. They get the train cleared and moved another comes and takes us on.
As I walk up the steps to my parents’ house it is close to midnight. They must have been waiting cause my Mom opens the door and is about to give me a hug when she smells me and backs up holding her nose.
Lila stands beside her scrunching her face into Mom’s apron. I hold out the Christmas box and say, “Merry Christmas I got this for you.” She takes it with one hand over her nose. By the look in her eyes it’s a hit.
“Kendra finally, oh god what is that?” my Dad says as he joins them. He shakes his head in disgust and pushes me out on to the lawn. “This is for your own good, and our own good,” he says, but I’m not paying attention. I watch Lila open the box and she smiles so big and looks up at something.
That’s when I feel an icy blast of water hit me in the face. My dad has turned the hose on me! I scream at him that it’s freezing and all he says is, “Sorry, can’t let you come in smelling like that.”
After a cold soaking from the hose my mom has me change in the garage. She brings me a robe and wraps me in thick comforter. Inside she serves up steaming hot mulled wine and I drink a few glasses. Lila comes up to me and says, “Thanks for giving me slug-fairy princess.”
I think I need to see a doctor. “Who?” I ask.
“From the pretty box. Slug-Fairy Princess was inside.”
She looks real cross at the air above her and shouts, “No Slug-Fairy Princess!” and slaps the air, I swear I hear a smack. “We aren’t destroying the world then there would be no more My Little Pony.” She gives it another whack then looks at me and says, “She’s a mean fairy but I keep her in line.”
“Oh, that’s good,” I say, wondering if I handed over a world conquering demon to a seven-year-old girl. Now I know I’m crazy. “Merry Christmas Lila. I’m glad you like the gift.”
Cross Posted at The Midnight Bards.