Today’s promotion is for The 12 Terrors of Christmas: A Christmas Horror Anthology by Claudette Melanson, with a bonus story by Lynn Lamb and an excerpt from The Price of A Christmas Wish.
Award-winning author Claudette Melanson offers eleven new and original stories to make your skin crawl at any time of the year. This horror anthology also includes an original short by Amazon International Best-Selling Author, Lynn Lamb, titled “Bring Me Flesh and Bring Me Wine.” A special bonus story is also included by Melanson, “Mislead,” previously published only on the Halloweenpalooza blog. Grab a cup of cocoa and make sure the windows and doors are locked tight as you settle in by the fire to enjoy these tales of terror, but be warned…locks have never succeeded at keeping Santa from gaining entry. If you enjoy a slice of horror with your holiday cheer, this collection of Christmas horror shorts will satisfy all your dark cravings during the holidays…and beyond.
Terror One: Who is Santa really? Does something sinister lurk beneath the red suit and apple-cheeked visage? More importantly, what does Santa want for Christmas?
Terror Two: It is said that every wish bears a cost…even a wish of good intent. What do Detective Talbot and his son, Mallory, stand to lose when the pair seek to right a wrong on Christmas Eve?
Terror Three: Christmas can be a time for great joy…but also for heart-wrenching regret. Can the magic of Christmas Eve turn back the clock before time runs out for Morana and her family?
Terror Four: Snow falls white and clean, seeming to purify the small town of Moon, Pennsylvania, but the woods behind Vaughn’s home have taken on a sinister cast. The snow keeps falling in record-breaking depths, but does evil lay hidden beneath its seemingly-innocent luster?
Terror Five: As his elves scurry to fill the toy orders for the busy season, unknown terror creeps toward the workshop intent on releasing an evil meant to cancel Santa’s yearly deliveries forever.
Terror Six: A well-meaning elf casts a spell which could inadvertently reveal the dark truth about Santa’s workshop and its inhabitants. The world’s children may end up paying a terrifying price, proving that the path of good intention oftentimes does indeed lead to hell.
Terror Seven: A scary twist on a classic Christmas poem
Terror Eight: Santa’s sleigh plummets to the ground, tearing all hope of a merry Christmas to bits and pieces. Will the elves be able to employ enough magic to stitch together some sort of solution? Or will their efforts only deliver greater horror and loss?
Terror Nine: Trinette is preparing to celebrate her first Christmas in love. Her boyfriend says he found the perfect gift for her, but beneath the shiny red paper and ribbon lies a secret he’s kept hidden during all the months of their courtship…
Terror Ten: The world’s population explosion means business is booming at Santa’s workshop, with the need to expand making a difficult excavation below the permafrost necessary. But the elves should use caution lest they dig up an evil best left buried.
Terror Eleven: A special holiday treat for Maura DeLuca fans! Riptide ended on a happy note, but how did Maura’s extended family celebrate Christmas? Could it be that the holiday didn’t quite play out the way the vampires planned?
Terror Twelve: It’s a dangerous time to call oneself a non-believer. Those who scoff at Santa’s existence are melting all over the world. But could the benevolent head elf turn out to be the murderer?
Vampires, ghosts, demons, elves, werewolves, serial killers and a rampaging Krampus are just a few of the monsters creeping amongst the pages of The 12 Terrors of Christmas. Are you brave enough to venture inside to experience the flip side of the typical Hallmark-themed Christmas?
This is from the story: The Price of a Christmas Wish
“Stop right there!” I called in my most authoritative tone. “Don’t you move!”
“Let the boy go,” my fellow officer added, his voice bereft of the ringing confidence mine carried. “No one has to get hurt.”
*Oh, but someone must.* The gruff voice, heavy with dark intonation, didn’t sound in the air around us. It seemed to originate from inside my head. I turned my eyes to my impromptu partner, his gun shaking in his hands, but he gave no indication he’d heard the words as well. His eyes remained locked on the hulking figure who dangled the boy in front of his body, gripping the lapels of Colden’s coat while the poor kind kicked frantically, wailed pitifully.
*This has to happen, Detective.* The growling string of words bounced and echoed off the bones inside my head once again.
That time, I had to question the existence of the voice aloud. “Did you hear that?” I asked the kid beside me.
“What?” If possible, he looked even more distressed, horrified by the idea of being forced to take his eyes off the monster before us so he could focus on what I was saying. “Hear what?”
“You didn’t hear anyone…around us…speaking?”
*He cannot hear me, Devlin.* At that moment, the head of our child abductor turned. His features were entirely hidden within the massive hood trimmed in sooty fur which hinted at being white once upon a time. Strands of long, matted hair streamed out on either side like perverse renderings of mutant starfish. In the dark space where one might find a pair of eyes, two blood-red embers smoldered. The eerie light they cast seemed to dribble and drip to the ground, snaking through the dirt so that the crimson fingers could claw their way up the trunk and out each skeletal stretch of bare magnolia branch. Before my eyes, the barren tree burst into full bloom, fat white blossoms exploding along the tree’s arms with a sound like the popping of corn.
“Mike…” I reached out to shake him gently by his upper arm. “…are you seeing this?” But he didn’t answer me, didn’t even turn his head toward me. He didn’t blink an eye…or move in any other way. I shook him harder, but he stood as rigid as if he’d transformed into a life-sized action figure.
*Do not bother with him. He cannot hear nor see you. I have frozen him inside his own little pocket of time and space.* As his unspoken words echoed through my skull, the blossoms around him began to shine as if they were, in actuality, flower-shaped Christmas lights. Each and every one became infused with the scarlet glow, the blush spreading to darken their snowy-white flesh until it dribbled from each petal’s edge. I blinked, disbelieving, even as the tree bled out onto the snow-covered ground right before my eyes, the plump crimson drops sizzling on impact.
My mind felt as though it were stretching…filling in some empty, meaningless expanse of uncharted horizon as I tried to make sense of the unexplainable playing out all around—and within—me. *Am I dreaming?* I asked the internal workings of my own mind.
*Wrong answer,” the gruff voice informed from within. One of the blood droplets—*Oh, god, it smells just like blood*–fell onto the back of my gloveless hand where it sizzled just as had upon the snow, burning with an intensity that convinced me of my state of wakefulness immediately. Though I shook my hand violently and bent to clean my skin in the snow, the blood left behind a misshapen star I could tell would scar, to forever remind me of that Christmas Eve…although I felt certain I needed no prompting to call the night to mind. The memory would forever haunt me—in ways I would’ve never imagined.
*How do I convince him to release the boy?* I was doing the math in my head. My partner stood immobilized by some method not of our world, and even without such an insane factor coming into play, this guy…*This thing,*my mind whispered…had a foot and at least a hundred pounds on me easy. He must’ve lived at the gym. *Demons possess no need to frequent the gym…*
“Let him go!” The shrill voice sounded behind me, and I could hear a much deeper one calling from the distance behind it. My eyes closed in a split-second of defeat and utter terror when I heard Hank shouting, “Mallory! Come back here, now!”
My beautiful, kind, golden boy ran into the blood-spattered half-oval beneath the macabre canopy—I’d suddenly stepped into the production of my own personal horror movie. “Mallory, NO!”
When the fiend reached for him, his paw??? broke free from the sleeve of the ratty coat, narrow claws like skewers thrusting their way out toward my son, and I reacted on autopilot. A succession of rapid-fire bullets broke the peace of the Eve, but they fell, as impotent as the rookie at my side, without traveling more than a few inches beyond my pistol’s barrel. The next slice of awareness came with the crunch of my shoulder against tree, one a frightening distance away from the spot where my child was standing. When my eyes wandered to the right to focus on a large object, out of place under one of the path’s lampposts, I realized Hank had been rendered inert in the same impractical manner as Mike.
“Please,” I called out in a last-ditch effort. “Just let my boy walk over here to me. I only wanted to bring that other boy home to his mother for Christmas. Can’t you do that? Let those kids go home to celebrate Christmas? Please…” I knew I’d never beat this guy in a fight, much less move close enough to flick him playfully on the arm. All I could hope for was some shred of decency he might carry inside that gargantuan frame of his…and it was a scrap of hope left weak by all the holes of doubt the job-weary cop in me had punched through it. Hell, as I clumsily gained my feet, I realized I couldn’t even move my injured arm. In my own way, I’d been rendered just as harmless as my backup.
*Believe me; you do not want this one to go home to his mother.* A laugh that sounded more like a snarl ripped its way through the space between my ears.
“What? Is that some kind of threat? Let me guess; you want to play some twisted game where you let me take Colden, and you take my son instead, right?” I’d borne witness to this kind of manipulation before, and the last thread from that scrap of hope fell away from me as I realized I must be dealing with a psychopath…*Or a truly evil creature from another realm He did stop your bullets telekinetically.* My brain just wouldn’t shut up.
*I have no interest in your boy. I only seek balance.*
“Balance? What you’re doing is evil. Taking a child from his family, especially at this time of year. And I can sense with every instinct I have that you mean to do him harm…”
*Oh yes, I do. And you should thank me.*
I felt my eyes bug in disbelief at his words. “Thank you? You’re even more far gone…” I fought to bring my temper under control, so I could at least try to bargain with whomever…*whatever*…this was conjuring up my absolute worst Christmas Eve ever—hell, more like the worst night of my life in general.
The grip of the incapacitating horror tightened, constricting my body further, when Mallory leapt toward Colden, securing his tiny hand around the other boy’s and attempting to drag him free from his abductor.
Mallory must have shed his mittens in the car. Colden’s little fingers locked around the skin of Mallory’s bare hand, and Mallory’s small form stiffened like he’d grabbed a live wire instead of another human boy. Each strand of fine blonde hair stood on end, and his limbs splayed out from his body in the most unnatural way. His eyes lost their color as the irises rolled upward to drain toward the back of his head.
“Stop it! What are you doing to my son…?” I screamed, the last couple of words losing the force thrown behind them as the change being visited upon the abducted boy bled into my child. Colden’s pallid face darkened to sooty ash, his eyes becoming antithesis to the white inside Mallory’s sockets. They glinted just as cold, just as dark, as the surface of coal. Ebony streaked across his cheeks, reaching up from his forehead to touch his dark hairline, like poisonous fingers of lightning. The creature—I accepted that was what he’d become—poured his hateful malice into the child he still grasped…and that toxin found its way to my Mallory, using Colden as a conduit. I was powerless to stop his assault, finding the rest of my body as immobile as my shattered arm. The words I’d planned to shout next clogged my throat, choking me, refusing either to find their way out or slide away and die inside my chest, unspoken.
I expected Mallory’s purity to become lost in the darkness infiltrating the other boy at any moment, but instead, the two boys’ hands fell away from each other. Mallory’s whole body slumped earthward in relief, and I hoped he might turn and run to me…even if I were incapable of protecting him. But he didn’t. He stood his ground and turned his green-again eyes on their tormentor. “Please, let him live,” he said, barely loud enough for me to hear.