Estimated reading time — 12 minutes
The night of Christmas Eve 2008 is a blur, depending on how much medication I am given that day. I can avoid the nurses for a couple of hours, but not too long. I suppose you’ve heard about me in the papers or on your favorite serial killer show. No, I was never convicted. What the media claimed was all lies anyway. No one knew what happened that night except me – which is why the police blamed me. My name is Max and my name is all I carry now. You’ve probably heard of ghost towns around the U.S. My town is one of them. Located in the foggy mountains of Oregon, most people have never heard of the town “Asher.” It was the kind of town where people never left, and if they did, they always returned. Things and people always had a habit of coming back. Bad memories, sadness, pain, and grief always stuck around. Festering at night right before one tried to go to bed, piling on itself, growing deeper in the dirt. There are forests, but not as many trees as you’d think we would have. Green doesn’t grow in this town. The dirt won’t let it.
No matter how much sage you burned, it couldn’t cleanse this place. This town was haunted, but perhaps, the people were first. I don’t consider myself haunted, I just think I was born wrong. When I was brought into this world, my mother told me that I wasn’t like other babies. I had a solemn-looking face and dark eyes. She also said that I refused to cry. I still can’t cry. My eyes won’t produce tears. The doctors say it’s a disorder. Even when my grandmother died, I never cried. Or when my mother would scream at me, I never flinched. Or when my dog got hit by a car.
I didn’t feel things like other kids or people. I don’t feel at all.
When I was six, I knew something was wrong when I accidentally cut half my finger off and I never screamed. There is something within me that isn’t in other people. I guess it was destiny for the events that took place. Some kind of fated magic.
Whenever my mother got drunk, she would tell me that I was a stone boy and that all stone boys went to hell. She was bi-polar when she wanted to be. When she loved me, she loved me, but when she despised the fact that she had a kid, she hated me. There was never an in-between.
My father was too busy pretending nothing was wrong, with his head in the clouds of denial, he always knew how to make himself feel better. All he had to do was look away or leave the house. Too bad I couldn’t live in those clouds with him. Instead, I was always on my own, sitting in silence at the kitchen table, staring out the window in the back seat of our car, waiting for some better day to come, but better days never came.
2008 was a year of many things for me. I had started 8th grade and was finally one year from high school. My voice got significantly deeper and life seemed like it had possibilities, until my parents separated. The separation made my home life worst. My mother drank more and my father never came home. The teachers blamed me for not paying attention, but what they didn’t know was that I hadn’t eaten in two days. The school bully would make fun of my ribs and call me names. We called him Dan the Giant. At almost 6 feet at thirteen years old, he was monstrous. The only person scarier than him was his father. His dad was taller than him and viler. Even the teachers were scared. Dan had dyslexia too, but he wasn’t that bright, to begin with. Any kid that mentioned or corrected him got the beating. Any kid that existed, to be honest, got a beating. Dan stuck gum in my hair the Friday before Winter Break. The teacher had to cut chunks of my brown curly strands to get it out. My father blamed me saying I deserved it because I refused to stick up for myself. How the hell was I supposed to stick up to a six-foot behemoth? They would all get theirs, I promised myself. One day – they would get it. This whole town.
The teacher had us all do an exercise. She called it Santa’s Magic. We had to write a letter to Santa asking what we wanted the most. The other kids laughed. We all knew Santa Claus wasn’t real. For a moment, I believed, because I had nothing else to believe in. I asked Santa for something very important. Something I’ve wanted for a long time. Something only Santa could give me.
* * * * * *
I was making a can of soup when my mother stumbled through the kitchen, knocking the bowl out of my hand. “Pick it up!” she yelled. Not wanting to get hit, I found some towels and soaked up the liquid. My father looked down at me from the living room without saying a word. Instead, he took his coat and left. God, I hated my parents. They were pieces of cow crap and they knew it. The whole town knew who my mom was by the bars she would frequent and lose her clothes in. Dan the Giant once told the class that my mother was nothing but a no-good whore and my father a loser mechanic. That was the day I punched Dan. Of course, he punched back and harder. Neither of us got in trouble. The principal didn’t want to get involved. That was the thing with the town of Asher. No one wanted conflict, and yet there was always conflict. No one wanted to get involved, yet everyone usually was.
I put the soaked-up towels in the basement and went to mop the floor. I was angry because that was the last can of soup. No one went food shopping anymore and when something did pop up, usually someone took it and hid it. I scrambled through the cabinets for anything else I could find. There was nothing. I teared up, my stomach growling, and I drank a glass of water to appease the pain. My mother sat in the corner of the kitchen with her bottle, laughing.
“Where did your father go?” She asked, stuttering over her words.
“I don’t know,” I responded.
“One day I’m going to leave this earth and never come back. Then what are you all going to do?” She laughed again. “You’re just like your father. Small, weak, and pitiful. I didn’t want you, but he made me keep you,” she chided. “I never wanted kids, but there you were one day. A mistake.”
“Stop,” I muttered under my breath.
“Or what?” my mother replied, vicious as ever.
My father came back through the door. He took one look at my mother and went upstairs to his room.
“The kids in the town say you’re a whore,” I screamed.
My mother got up from the ground as quickly as she fell back over.
“What the hell did you just call me?”
“My friends say you’re nothing but a dirty whore!”
My mother reached into the drawer and grabbed a knife.
“You piece of shit. How dare you dare call me that. How do you think I pay for this place? Your father, who hasn’t had a job in months? Your weak and useless father. Weak and useless! And you know what? You’re just like him!” She screamed. My mother took another swing at the bottle and then at me.
“Just get out! Get out! Get out of my house! GET OUT!” she screamed.
I grabbed my backpack and ran out, not looking back. I just ran, not knowing where I was going. I ran knowing that I couldn’t go back. Tears flowed down my eyes and my chest felt like it was going to drop out my ass. I must have pissed myself because my pants were wet. I ran through the streets, past the school, past the town, into the woods. The sun had already gone down and the night took over creating an eerie path on the outskirts of town. I didn’t care. I ran through the trees, going off the path, finally stopping when I had no air left in my lungs. My legs collapsed and I sat against a tree.
The wind blew against my face and for the first time throughout that entire run, I realized I was utterly alone. Not just in these woods. I had no family. I had no friends. I had no one. I wanted to not exist anymore. For a moment, I wondered what it would have been like to die. To not be me. Until something shuffled amongst the leaves. I got up and looked out into the darkness. I couldn’t see anything. I tried to tell myself that it was nothing until I heard the shuffling again. It was Oregon, so perhaps it was a bear or an animal moving about. The shuffling was heavy. Shuffling and steps being taken by something big and bigger than me. I tiptoed in the dark to try to find the path. I was mortified. With no flashlight or even the moon to help, I was blind. I heard the shuffling again, except closer.
My heart was like an engine failing. I couldn’t breathe. I kept walking, knowing that whatever the hell was shuffling in that darkness, knows I was there. It was when I felt a hand on my shoulder that I started to run. I didn’t know if I was going the right way or if I going deeper into the forest, but I ran. As much as I hated my parents, I would gladly go back to my crazy mother than be in the woods with something I couldn’t see. Luckily, I was going the right way as I heard a car drive by. I made it back to the road, but I could still feel whatever it was in that wood, behind me. I waved at the car driving, screaming for help. I took a rock and threw it at the car. It smashed a window. The car stopped and reversed.
“Help me!” I screamed. The car pulled over and a man wearing a red plaid shirt with a long grimy beard got out of the car.
“Help!” I yelled.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing, you little shit?!” he screamed, examining his car.
“There’s something after me!” I yelled.
“I don’t give a fuck. Look what you did, you little shit.”
“There’s someone out there following me. Please!” I pleaded.
“You better hope your parents can pay for this or I’ll chop off your balls as payment!” he screamed.
The grimy bearded man grabbed me by my neck and slammed me against the car.
“Or maybe I should do it now,” he said. His breath smelled like beer and rotten cheese. He was missing a tooth on the left side of his mouth. I turned away, terrified.
Before he could strike me, I fell to the ground. Something dragged the bearded, grimy man away from me.
“Kid, get the gun in my car!” he yelled at me, blood coming from his nose.
I went into his truck and found a revolver under the seat. I could hear something attacking the bearded man. The thing from the woods. I could hear the tearing of flesh and the breaking of his bones. I grabbed the man’s phone that had dropped on the ground and put it on flashlight mode. The man was dragged into the woods, screaming, leaving a bloodstain on the road behind. I screamed and went into the car, locking the doors. I didn’t know how to drive a car, but I figured it out. I put my foot on the brakes and out the gear in drive. Even though I put my foot on the gas, the car wouldn’t move. Whatever creature took that man, came back, this time, for me. It was holding the car from the back. I got out and started running back through the dark. I tried to call 911 on the dude’s cell-phone, but something knocked it out of my hand, smashing it to the ground.
I stopped, feeling the creature circling me. I prepared myself to be torn apart like the grimy bearded man. Instead, I felt a stale breath on my neck. I turned around, not seeing anything. I knew it would be any moment before it killed me. I closed my eyes and waited. My hand raised on its own. Whatever this creature was, held my hand and grasped it, holding it. I shakily lifted the light from the cell-phone to its face. It was ugly with white pale and scaly skin. Its mouth was oversized with teeth that protruded from its bloodied mouth. A long slippery tongue occasionally stuck on the way a snake’s tongue feels the environment. It was tall, and had black coal eyes that gave a merciless stare.
“What are you?” I asked.
The cold eyes looked into mine, but it gave no response.
“Th… th… thank you,” I muttered.
I felt an ice droplet on my nose. It started to snow. I didn’t know what this thing was, but it decided that I would call it Creature.
Creature cried into the night. Its shrieks echoed in the air. I was still scared, but something felt safe with it. It did save me from that man.
“Are you alone, too?” I asked.
It shook its head. Whatever Creature was, it understood me.
The creature took one last look at me and ran into the woods, disappearing into the trees.
I ran home and away from what would be a future crime scene. I was terrified, confused, but also curious. I opened my front door quietly, hoping that no one was awake and tiptoed to my bedroom.
* * * * * *
The next morning, the entire town was talking of bears, thieves, or wild animals that must have taken Burton John -A.K. A – The grimy bearded man. That was his name. Only I knew what happened to Burton and he was definitely dead. I guessed Creature took the body and finished it off elsewhere. My mother left me alone the next day, perhaps out of guilt. My father never asked me how I was. I quickly got dressed and went off to school.
I didn’t notice the dirt in my hair leftover from last night. Dan the Giant made jokes to the class about how poor my family was that we couldn’t afford water and that we were all dirty people. I ignored him, but he just wouldn’t stop. For an entire 30 minutes, he kept going, unable to control himself. The teacher sat at her computer drinking her coffee, living in her clouds of denial, and pretending nothing was wrong.
Then the thought came to me.
How interesting would it be to have Creature eat Dan?
It was murder, I quickly realized, and I was not a murderer. Dan kept going for the rest of the class period. Something changed in me. I realized Dan didn’t deserve mercy. He deserved to get eaten. He was a piece of shit and he would eventually grow up to be a shit adult. People like him never grew out of their shit-ness. Kids like Dan either became violent men that preyed in bars or violent cops that preyed on civilians.
No one would miss him.
Remembering the gum in my hair and I knew that something had to be done. He had to be punished. We all got let out early for Christmas Eve. I skipped the bus and walked back down to where Creature was. Police and townies were all over the woods. There was no way I would be able to find him.
I went back home. My mom was going through one of her cycles where she bought food, cooked dinner, and acted like she didn’t just kick me out the other day. This “happy” cycle only lasts a couple of hours before someone says or does something that tips the scale and she’s full-blown crazy again. I took the opportunity to eat and go to my room. Not more than an hour later after my father mentioned that the gas got turned off did she tip. I started packing a bag for myself. I put on my shoes and left for the front door. I wanted to get ahead of the storm and look for Creature. The second I opened it, my mother’s hand slammed it shut.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” she asked.
“Why do you care?” I snapped back.
“You’re not going anywhere.”
“I’m not going to sit in this house as you hit and yell at me. I’ll just leave.”
My father walked by us, slinking up the stairs to his room.
“Mom, I’m leaving.”
She grabbed me by my throat.
“Tell me what you’re going to do again.”
I couldn’t breathe. She took a shoe and hit my leg with it.
“It’s your fault we can’t pay the bills. All you do is take from us! You’re lucky we don’t put you out into the street.”
I felt my lungs tearing inside from the pain. I was a minute from passing out when a loud crash through the window made my mother let go. I didn’t have to look for my friend after all because there it was, in my living room. It walked on the broken glass unhurt like Jesus on water. It ran to my mother and grabbed her and threw her across the room. My father came downstairs and upon seeing Creature, ran for his gun. Creature was too fast. It slit my father’s ankles and he fell down the stairs. Creature put its foot on top of my father’s stomach until it protruded, squishing and disemboweling him. My mother tried to run, but Creature threw a table at her, stopping her. “Please! Take him! Take him!” she pleaded, pointing at me, tears rolling down her eyes.
Creature wrung her neck, and with one final snap, crushed it. Blood poured from her eyes and nose. I sat in silence looking at what it had done to my parents. The two people that raised me from when I was a baby. My parents who loved me, beat me, and told me I was scum, and hated me for existing. I felt nothing for them, as I looked upon their bloodied faces. I suppose it was at that moment that something else changed. I took Creature’s hand and we left my house. We found an old Santa’s costume and I dressed him. A red hat, and a red and black suit. He just wanted to belong like me.
Santa had finally come to the town of Asher.
We started at my neighbor’s houses. One by one, killing them all. Their screams like a symphony in the night. I watched as he pulled organs out, smashed people’s heads, picked out teeth, and splattered blood on Christmas trees.
Oh, how the red brightened the magical night.
When we reached Dan’s house, I knew I wanted to relish the moment when he saw who was behind his death. Creature slashed Dan’s father’s throat and with its sharp claws, stabbed his mother. Dan screamed in horror as Creature inched closer to him. I smiled at Dan who looked back with a face I’ll never forget. To be honest, it was a look of defeat. Creature took Dan and limb by limb, tore him apart. His agony was my cloud of denial and his suffering my alcohol and I was drunk in it. When we were done, I watched Creature feed on some of the bodies, offering me chunks of eyeball, brain, and liver. I wondered where this beast had come from, but it didn’t matter. He was my friend and he answered my one Christmas wish. A wish only Santa could give.
Before the night had ended, Creature took one last look at me, but I somehow knew he wasn’t coming back. There was no ceremonious farewell, this beast went back into the darkness from where it came, and I didn’t even feel sad. My friend was gone, and I still felt nothing.
You see, I just wanted to be alone.
When the news hit that a town massacre had occurred, the world was in shock. The only survivor was a fourteen-year-old boy. I told the police no lies that night.
I told them that Santa Claus had come to town.
Credit: Amaris J. Gagnon
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