Holiday Spirit, by Chad A. Clark
It was possible that the boozy Christmas Eve dinner he had just put back was causing this, but at that moment, “the ghost” was the best he could come up with to describe the apparition that now stood in front of him. It was a young woman, maybe in her early twenties, wearing a white dress. The fabric looked old, worn and frayed in several places as it fluttered in the cold night breeze. Her skin was the palest he had ever seen, verging on a translucence that was frightening and yet somehow, intriguing.
Crayson stepped forward and put a hand out, for what exactly? Not a handshake to be sure, those hands didn’t even look solid. It wasn’t like the girl had something to give him. He lowered the hand back to his side, raised it again after it occurred to him that he was being rude, and then dropped it, again, because he couldn’t ignore the chills that were gripping him by the spine.
The long walk home from his parents’ house had led him past this alley at just the right time to find this woman, as if she had been waiting for him. He looked at the dark curls of her hair with the red ribbons and in a flash of memory, he knew where he had seen her. The near car accident from a week ago. The taxi swerving recklessly into the opposing lane and this woman had been driving the other car, the one who had almost been hit. Everything had seemed fine but not long after, he had spotted an ambulance tearing off in the same direction she had been driving, so maybe something had happened.
Why was she staring at him like that? What did she want? How was he supposed to help, because after all, he felt confident that help was what she desperately hoped for.
He put his hand out again, still unsure what he was offering, but this time, she moved closer to him. She didn’t walk up to him, but rather, seemed to slide forward on the back of a breeze. He felt a coolness creeping into him as she drew close and lifted up a hand of her own to caress his. This was going in a direction that he had not expected, but he still felt completely safe with her, not mistrusting her intentions at all.
Her hand came up to stroke the back of his neck, and with the slightest force applied, drew his face down to hers for a kiss. The feel of her lips was of cool, moist skin, there one moment, gone the next and immediately there again. Her breath was like wafts of air from a freezer as she let it out into his mouth and, as the kiss grew deeper and her tongue slid ever so slightly against his, he felt a shudder and warmth that started in his groin and radiated outward to the end of each fingertip and toe.
The kiss finally broke, and he looked down at her. Tears were rolling down her cheeks, but he didn’t think they were brought on by sadness. He placed his hands on the cool elusiveness of her exposed arms and pulled her up against him.
The clatter of a garbage can lid drew his attention from her as the sound of laughter scoured away the moment they had just shared. Three kids, teenagers at most, were making their way down the alley towards them, pointing, with cackling laughter that made him grit his teeth in anger.
“Look at this.” The one who seemed to be the leader was wearing a brown bombardier’s jacket, several sizes too large for him. The other two were wearing faded jean jackets and had a look about them that suggested that there were very few things that they ever did without a “by-your-leave” from their fearless leader. As such, they both laughed a little louder than necessary.
“Look at this,” he repeated himself. “Where the fuck did you wander in from? Didn’t care for the opera me good sirs?” The last sentence was delivered in a stereotypical British accent that made them seem somehow more menacing. “I think you should be givings us your money. Alls of it if you please.”
It was on the tip of his tongue to tell them to wait, that he would get his wallet out and give them whatever they wanted. The tip of his tongue was as far as that sentiment advanced before chaos exploded and suddenly, he could barely track anything that was happening.
The alley was filled with the echoes of a shrieking cry that brought to his mind’s eye the wraiths of Tolkien, cutting through his train of thought like a blade. He knelt down and clutched at the sides of his head, trying to blot out the sound. The first of the three kids, jean jacket number one probably got off the easiest. In one moment, his head was ripped straight off and hurled out into the street. The body continued walking away for several steps before collapsing. Jean jacket number two started to run and was lifted up off his feet. Crayson winced at the sounds of his screams as he was beat against the buildings, swung violently from side to side until there was little left to drop into a bloody heap on the ground.
The leader, Mr. Bombardier himself, screeched like a child half his age, and collapsed, as close to the fetal position as someone of his size could manage. He swung through the air around him with one clenched fist but, all it served to do was provide a target, as the arm was quickly severed at the elbow. He screamed, and continued waving the arm around, now spraying blood all around him. The invisible force lifted him up to his feet and one by one, his limbs were plucked off, like the wing off a chicken.
Crayson felt an icy breeze from behind him and turned to look again into the woman’s revitalized eyes that blazed with new life, new warmth. He took her into his arms and resisted the urge to turn his head to look over the grisly carnage left behind by his guardian, his love. He held her close, and felt her arms sliding around to his back, caressing him with cold hands that he couldn’t help but think would be the hands that would eventually pull him down into the deep abyss of infinity that he would share with her forever.