We watched them. For seven years we had crept after the boy, Tommy. Watched his dark curly hair and followed his growing obsession with marine life. Shadowed him, close to his heels, watching as he poked about in the river and spent hours in the pet store studying the tanks of bright tropical fish.
We watched them. For five years, silent as ghosts, we had followed on the heels of Sandra, as she stubbornly followed her brother everywhere. She was less interested in the fish, but stared at them because Tommy did.
Every year they had been good. So good. Tommy had protected and looked after his sister, slowing his pace so she could keep up. Making sure she had her coat and hat and gloves during the cold weather and her sun hat in the summer. Sandra had worshipped at the heels of her brother, bolstering his confidence and expressing her admiration for his feats: jumping from rock to rock in the river and persuading the pet shop owner to let him feed the fish each day. Every year they had been good, had left out a mince pie and a glass of milk for Santa. And every year Santa had stopped at their house, peered at us with those icy blue eyes and shaken his head: no.
This year we both felt it. A change. Tommy impatient, hurrying his pace to try and lose his sister. Sandra shouting and wailing, fearful of losing her beloved older brother.
We watched them. A grey February day, the children’s breath steaming in the cold air. Tommy half ran down the river bank to try and lose Sandra. Sandra slipped and flailed as she tried to follow, until her feet went out from underneath her and she plunged into the water with a shriek. She scrambled out, soaked and covered in mud. The wind cut at her like ice. She hugged herself and looked around for Tommy, but he had gone.
She trudged home, frozen to the bone and crying silently.
When Tommy returned from the river, Mum berated him soundly.
“I didn’t know she’d fallen in,” he objected. “I thought she’d gone home!”
We knew the truth. We had watched him look back at the sound of the splash, had seen the moment of indecision on his face. Then he had started running, away from Sandra.
But still, it was only February.
In June, Sandra asked if she could feed the fish at the shop. Tommy refused her indignantly. “You’ll only mess it up, you’re too stupid to do something like that.”
“I’m NOT stupid!” Sandra shouted, fists clenched and cheeks red.
“Yes you are,” Tommy said. “You’re so stupid you don’t even know you’re stupid. Anyway, the pet shop owner said it was a responsibility and I had to do it right. I can’t trust you.”
The next day Sandra came to the fish shop before Tommy, and emptied all the fish food containers into the bin when the pet shop owner wasn’t looking. Then she went home.
Tommy returned home later, sullen-faced. The owner had been furious when he’d discovered the feed missing. “You’ve been drastically over-feeding them! You assured me you would do it properly.”
We watched them. Tommy as he stomped upstairs and slammed his door. Sandra as she smiled a little to herself.
But still, it was only June.
In August, when heat wrapped the country in a sticky blanket, they fell to fighting over a lego piece. Sandra had built a car, Tommy an airplane. Both needed the same part to complete their models.
“It’s my lego.” Tommy gripped the piece so tightly it left a red mark in his fist.
“It’s our lego,” Sandra spat, standing with her hand held out. “You’re meant to share.”
“You can’t have it.” Tommy went to click the piece into place and Sandra made a grab for it. Tommy swung away and Sandra fell on him, her fingers clawing at his hand.
He shoved her away. Sandra growled and kicked out at him. Her foot connected with his shin and Tommy’s face went red. He grabbed her car and threw it against a wall. Lego scattered across the floor. Sandra stood frozen, staring at the mess. Then she let out a shriek and flung herself on Tommy, pummeling with her fists until he managed to grab her wrists and push her back onto the floor. She glared up at him, tears in her eyes, and he glared back at her.
We were excited now. Watching them fight. Our tails lashed back and forth, and we felt drool collect in our mouths and leak down to the carpet where it dissipated like mist.
But still, four months to go.
In October they went to visit their grandmother, out in the country. Their mother drove. Tommy and Sandra sat in the back.
“Can we listen to the Rainbow CD?” Sandra asked.
“I don’t want to listen to those baby songs.” Tommy crossed his arms. “Put on War of the Worlds.”
“I don’t like that, it’s scary.” Sandra stuck out her lower lip. “We always listen to the Rainbow CD when we visit Gran!”
“We can listen to the Rainbow CD on the way there, and War of the Worlds on the way back.” Mum glanced in the rear-view mirror.
“The Rainbow CD sucks!” Tommy kicked his foot against the back of the seat. “I don’t care what we listen to, just anything except that stupid baby CD for idiots.”
Sandra’s face screwed up. “We always listen to the Rainbow CD.” Her voice wavered into a sob.
“Sandra, you and I can listen to it together when we get to Gran’s house.” Mum drove them around a roundabout.
“I want to listen to it NOW!” Sandra bellowed.
We looked at each other, hunched over each child, our tails curled up together and pressed against the rear windscreen, our shoulder spikes jammed against the roof of the car. Seven years I had waited, five years we had waited. Two more months. We stretched our jaws open, lowered our heads to let drool mist away around each head.
In December they strung fairy-lights around each window. Tommy helped Mum carry the box with the Christmas tree inside. They pulled the tree out slowly, reverently. Sandra squealed with excitement as green branches were revealed. They pulled each branch straight.
“I’ll put the fairy lights on the tree,” Tommy said, already reaching for the looped wire.
“I want to do it!” Sandra reached the other end of the wire.
“Come on you two,” Mum said. “It’s nearly Christmas. Tommy, why not let your sister have a go this year.”
“She’s too little, she won’t do it right.” Tommy frowned.
“You did it when you were her age.” Mum took out a bag of baubles. “You can hang these, with me.”
“I want to hang the lights!” Tommy yanked the wire out of the bag. Sandra clung to her end and for a moment they played an intense tug-of-war. Tommy suddenly let go. Sandra, taken by surprise, fell backwards and cracked her head against the edge of the coffee table. She let out a wail, and Mum swore, jumping to her feet.
“Can’t you two get along for five seconds? You know Santa’s watching right? You’re meant to be good!”
Our claws curled around Sandra, the glittering knife edge millimeters from her tear-streaked cheek. We lowered the tip of one claw to her eye, imagined thrusting it home.
Twelve more days.
On Christmas Eve we watched, two shadows in two bedrooms. Sandra awake and excited, listening for hooves on the roof. Tommy half-critical, half-hoping, pretending to sleep. Our hunger yawed inside us, a great and empty space. We longed for flesh.
The clock ticked down. They had been naughty, such naughty children. Santa’s sleigh flew silently overhead without stopping. As his shadow flickered across the window we knew he would not be stopping at this house. Not this year.
We loomed over each child. Sandra’s eyes widened and her mouth opened but we closed our jaws about her head and her scream was cut off before it could begin. Tommy tried to roll from the bed, but we tore his lungs through his spine with a single stroke.
The next morning we woke at the same time. We each moved to the door of our bedroom and smiled at each other as we emerged into the hallway. I touched my small hand to his.
“Merry Christmas, Sandra,” we said.
“Merry Christmas, Tommy,” we said.
I hope you enjoyed it! Let me know what you thought in the comments 🙂
Other ‘horror themed’ Christmas Stories for your enjoyment:
- Christmas Comes but Once a Year — Mikey Campling. This is just the thing to cheer you up after a round of spending too much on Christmas Presents.
- All in one night — Pavowski. This story is definitely the one to read to the kid on your naughty list.
- A Frosty Transaction — Miriah Hetherington. For those of you who enjoy tucking into a snow cone.