My family had a tradition that we would all exchange one gift on Thanksgiving Day to bring good fortune for the coming holiday season. We never gave anything fancy, just candy, CD’s, socks, or maybe a book. The week before Thanksgiving we would all gather around, and our names would go into a hat. Like secret Santa but we didn’t hide it from each other, we would all reach in and pick a name. For a little more context, I’m the middle child, a boy sandwiched between older and younger sisters. Plus, our only remaining grandmother had just moved in with us. So, all six of our names go into the hat and fate decides the rest.
So here is how it all goes down. My youngest sister Rikki went first, she got mom. Mom picks next and gets grandma. Grandma then picks my name. Great, I say to myself, another pair of socks. My turn to pick and I get my older sister, Claire. She then picks dad which means dad gets my youngest sister.
After our big ceremony I was excited to start thinking about what to get for Claire. I wanted it to not only be awesome but like beyond awesome. You see, whenever my sister would get me a gift it was always some amazing thoughtful CD from a band I’d never heard of or a book of short stories that would somehow always relate perfectly to my life. I felt like I could never give her something as thoughtful but dammit, I was going to try.
I spent the next few days trying to figure out what to get. The problem is, it seemed like she had everything. How am I going to find something that she likes? She is the deep-thinking artistic type, so what like a candle? I was getting frustrated. I kept thinking I could get her a cool book, but with the amount she reads how would I find something she hasn’t read already? Then it hit me. There was an old antique bookstore in town that I have always wanted to visit but never have. I thought they must have some old, weird, obscure… something that she would like, right?
Two days before Thanksgiving I decide to go down to the bookstore. I have never gone here before because this place has always given me the creeps. I don’t know what it is about it though. There is nothing traditionally creepy about it. It’s packed into a small strip mall between a check cashing place and an adult novelty store. Maybe I was just nervous someone would see me and think I was going into Adult Pursuits II instead of the bookstore but nevertheless this was the time to go.
When I entered the bookstore, I was immediately overcome with the scent of incense and old books. It felt almost welcoming. I wish it didn’t. I wish there was something that told me to just turn around and leave.
“Welcome” An older delicate voice came from around a stack of books. For some reason I wasn’t expecting this and let out a sort of peep noise. “Sorry to startle you child, are you looking for something? Or do you hope something finds you?”
Um, what? I thought.
“Sometimes books just find where they’re meant to be.”
It’s almost like she heard me. “I’m looking for something for my sister.” I replied.
“Ahhhhhh, sister. Excellent. Wander these aisles and you will find what you are looking for my child. My books will let you know which one is the perfect gift.” And with that she sort of just glided toward a back room where I could hear her rustling papers about.
Now I’m in this creepy bookstore with a lady that is loving on her books way too much and I don’t leave. I mean honestly, why would I? I start to rummage through the stacks of books, the aisles of books, the mounds of books! They were everywhere, how was I going to find anything interesting? Towards the front of the store all the books seemed to be relatively newer. Nothing I would call antique. So, I wandered. Slowly making my way towards the back of the store. The further in I went the older the books started to get. Not that I knew anything about the titles I saw but you could tell from the old broken leather of the covers that these books had some mileage on them.
All these looked cool, but what did I know about picking out something she would like? I would probably have just as much luck picking at random and finding something that way. Right when I had that thought is when I saw it. A small leather book bound in twine. “Many Thanks” was written on the spine. Damnit if that storekeeper wasn’t right. It felt like this book found me. I pulled the book from the shelf to finally have a look at its cover. “Many thanks the personal diary of Harriet Louella.” I have no idea who Harriet Louella is or was, but I was intrigued. I began to untie the twine.
“Ahhhhh, an excellent choice.”
I peeped again. “You scared me!” I exclaimed.
“So sorry my child, but it seems as if your book has found you.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“Ah, that is the diary of a young woman that grew up around here. Every year on thanksgiving she would write about her year and what she was grateful for.”
Are you kidding me? This is perfect! I thought.
“It certainly is the perfect gift.”
“Excuse me?” I said.
“Can I help you find anything else?”
“No thanks.” I replied. Then I quickly paid for the diary. There was no need to linger around. This was the gift, like I actually found something cool that Claire would go crazy for. She loves this type of stuff. I couldn’t wait to get home to have a peek at the diary myself.
When I arrived home, I was ready to run up to my room and get a sneak peak of the diary before I gave it to Claire, but I was met at the door with an angry father informing me that my chores had been neglected.
“Get your ass to work on those chores before I get mine to work on you.”
Dad was terrible with threats. It was like he lost his nerve halfway through and had no idea how to finish what he started. Regardless, I understood the threat and got to work. I was so busy it wasn’t until later that night that I finally got to take a glimpse at the diary. I swear it looked like something out of a movie. I was sitting on my bed, covers over my head, and flashlight in hand. I untied the twine that bound the diary and opened the cover.
November 23, 1684 – Age 8
Today Grandmother gave me this book. She says it’s called a diary. She said every year on this day I should write in it. She said I need to write what I’m thankful for because the years can be hard. I’m thankful for mommy and daddy. I’m thankful for Grandmother. I’m thankful for my brothers Daniel and George, even when they are mean to me.
She goes on to talk a lot about the year’s harvest and crops and getting ready for winter so I kind of skimmed through the rest of this entry. Same goes for the following few entries as well. Just lots of thanks and talking about the year’s harvest. I guess when you’re living in colonial new England there isn’t much else to talk about.
I jumped ahead when I saw something interesting.
November 24, 1689 – Age 13
This year has been horrible. What am I supposed to be thankful for? Father died while out hunting. My brothers have both become ill and bedridden. I spend all my days taking care of them. Mother and Grandmother stay up late in the kitchen cooking up remedies to help my brothers, but nothing works. And they never let me help them. Mother says I’m too young. Grandmother says I need to wait a few more years. I hate it here.
I looked at my watch. It was already 2 in the morning. How did it get so late? I didn’t think I was reading the diary that long. I figured I could read one more entry before I should finally try to get some sleep. I mean, it was finally getting interesting.
November 23, 1690 – Age 14
Daniel has passed and I feel the priest is here daily for the moment George passes too. Mother and Grandmother say I need to be strong but it’s so hard. They say sacrifices must be made if we are to continue to survive. I pray ever night for relief. I pray that things will get better. Still, I am thankful for my mother and Grandmother. I am thankful George is still with us. I am thankful I have survived another year…
It goes on for a bit, so I decided it was time to sleep. I’ll let Claire finish it and tell me about it later.
It was finally Thanksgiving morning, and I was so excited to give Claire her gift. Rikki gave her gift to mom first, a goofy looking turkey picture made from a handprint. Mom gave Grandma her gift. Grandma got me a shirt that said, “Official Pumpkin Pie Tester”. I think I would have preferred the socks. But now its my turn. I grabbed the diary and handed it to Claire. As she unwrapped the book my heart was pumping.
“Woah” Claire whispered in amazement.
“Do you like it?” I asked.
At this point she had already unbound the twine and started reading the first page. She was transfixed with the diary.
“So… do you like it?” I repeated.
“This is fascinating. Yes, I love it. Where did you find something like this?”
I briefly told her about the bookstore and how I spent hours sifting through stacks, aisles, mounds of books to find her the right one. Maybe I exaggerated a bit, but she was so focused on the diary I don’t think she noticed.
The rest of the gift giving went well and now was the part of the day where we all just kind of waited around till the food was ready. Rikki was off playing with some new toy she got. Mom, Dad, and Grandma were in the kitchen getting our annual feast prepared. And Claire sat in the living room reading the diary. Every now and then she would say something like “this girl is so young, and she is worried she isn’t helping enough. It’s so sad.” Then she would just get back to reading.
After what felt like years, it was time to eat. We all sat around the dining room table; feast ready for consumption when Claire spoke up.
“Before we eat, I’d like to read an entry from the diary I got today.” She looked at me and smiled. “I think it will put a little perspective on how fortunate we really are.”
November 27, 1692 – Age 16
Another year has passed, and life seems to get ever harder. With just myself, Mother, and Grandmother it’s difficult to keep up with everything that needs to be done. We all work extra hard but since there are no men around, the people whisper. Life has become so rotten in the village. We try our best to live a quiet life.
It feels as if each year that goes by I have less to be thankful for but this year that isn’t the case. I have learned so much. I’m thankful for all the sacrifices that have been made so that we can remain here. I’m thankful for Mother and Grandmother. They saw that I was ready, and they have opened my eyes to wonderful new possibilities.
The year has been tough, but we will persist. Our rituals keep up safe, for now. I have seen others become victims of the accusations. I have seen what becomes of them. I keep telling myself our rituals will keep up safe for now. Through all this, I am thankful for another year.
At this point everyone at the table had naturally lowered their heads and tried to absorb the story. Without looking away from the diary my sister spoke.
“Oh, there seems to be a little more.”
December 10, 1692
Tonight’s the night. There is no more being quiet. There is no more hiding. There is no more running. They will be coming for us, but I have prepared for this. I’ve read all of Grandmothers books. On this night, the longest night. My body will burn so my soul may live…
At that very moment it felt like all the energy was sucked out of the room. Everything went quiet. I looked at Claire. She was still reading from the book but there was no sound coming from her mouth. I frantically looked between the rest of my family. There was something wrong. They were all staring at Claire. Not moving. No expression. Just staring. I tried to call out to my dad. Nothing came out when I spoke. I tried screaming. Nothing.
I hadn’t noticed until now, but I looked around the room and, it was gone. Like everything was gone except me and family sitting at the dining room table in a dark empty void. The food sat on the table, rotting. I felt sick. I looked back my family. I tried to scream again. They were still staring at Claire, but they looked like they were rotting too! That’s when Claire finally looked up from the diary and straight into my soul.
Claire had the most beautiful greenest eyes you ever saw. The eyes that looked back at me were devoid of all color. Whatever was starting back at me was not Claire. The whole time her lips were moving, and no sound was coming out.
I was lost. I didn’t know what to do. I tried to get up and go to my parents, but I couldn’t move. I tried to scream again and still nothing! I began to feel empty. Hopeless. Like there was no point to try to bother anymore.
Claire, or whatever it was, started laughing. A low rumble that developed into a high pitch cackle. For whatever reason this snapped me out of my slump. I needed to do something. I gathered every ounce of strength, energy, and hope I had left and lifted out of my chair. Everything went dark.
The next thing I remember is my entire family standing over me as I laid of the floor of the dining room with a massive headache.
“You alright buddy?” My dad asked.
What the hell had just happened? A moment ago, I could swear I was watching my family’s bodies being devoured by maggots but now they look fine. And now they are asking me if I’m okay? I could still feel the emptiness, that hopelessness the consumed me. But it seemed to be slowly fading. My dad helped me off the floor and I got situated back in my seat. Once we were all seated again Dad made some dumb joke about the situation and everyone started grabbing food. I didn’t have much of an appetite anymore.
I suddenly thought of Claire. Was she okay? I looked over to her and we made eye contact. I was quickly relieved when I was met with her beautiful green eyes.
“Thanks again for the gift.” She spoke with a smirk.
And at that moment, I saw a flash of darkness behind her stare.
Claire never again gave me a thoughtful gift, it’s as if she doesn’t even know me anymore. She moved away a year later and we only see her on holidays now and every time I see her, I swear her eyes are getting darker.
Credit : WolfMagic
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