An Ornamental Christmess by Christopher Shawbell
TODAY’S BREW: Not enough. Is that a good answer?
I feel like Chris Shawbell is my own personal new discover, but he’s really not. Read this and wonder about your own writing abilities.
An Ornamental Christmess
The following transcription was recorded at 1147, AZ; 12/25/12 by Det. Mack and Det. Bradley of the Chandler Police Dept. and has been entered in to the record.
DET. MACK: Suspect has been very detached, almost catatonic. He’s come around a bit. Doc Taylor interviewed the suspect and gave the thumbs up on his condition, so we’re going in and getting a statement.
(door opening and closing – chairs adjusted)
DET. MACK: Howya doin’? You okay?
MR. PETERS: Yes, thank you.
DET. MACK: Doc says you’re all good, so we’re gonna get your statement, okay?
MR. PETERS: That’s good news. I’m glad I’m okay. Very relieved.
DET. MACK: Okay. (clears throat) The time is 11:47 am. It’s the 25th of December, 2012. I am Detective-Sergeant Rudy Mack. With me is Detective Matt Bradley. Statement is being made by Mr. Brian Peters who has waived his right to an attorney, and is willing to speak to us regarding the events earlier…
MR. PETERS: Events?
DET. MACK: I’m not making light. It’s protocol; no embellishments, etcetera.
MR. PETERS: Oh, of course, yes.
DET. MACK: Mr. Peters is going to make a statement regarding the events earlier today at his residence, 53142 North Agatha, Chandler. Begin by stating your name, please.
MR. PETERS: My name is Brian Peters. Is that good?
DET. MACK: That’s fine.
MR. PETERS: Alright. It was the 15th … I think, Saturday, I was watching the Sun Devils lose again. I had money on the game. Julie came in…
DET. BRADLEY: Your wife?
MR. PETERS: Yes, Julie was my wife. She came in with a large Christmas package. It had been left on the doorstep wrapped like a present. The wrapping was this amazing, shiny, textured material, and it had these colorful patterns and shapes; kind of like a hologram. Really amazing… The bow was beautiful; golden lace ribbon. The card said; “Merry Christmas, Neighbors.” We had no idea who had sent it.
The kids came in; Jimmy and Maggie. They were excited about the mystery present, as only a 7 and 5 year old can be. I sent them out of the den; it was the second quarter and AU had just got another TD. 10 minutes later Julie’s calling me to the living room. I got a commercial break on the third summons, and so tore myself away.
The box was a deep red color—almost black—and there was this gold symbol on the lid. Inside were ornaments—Christmas tree ornaments; the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
DET. MACK: Mr. Peters, what does this have to do with this morning’s events?
MR. PETERS: Everything.
DET. MACK: Okay.
MR. PETERS: Beautiful doesn’t sum it up, though; they were absolutely amazing, the ornaments. We’d never seen anything like them. They were like colored glass, but not. I don’t know how to explain it. I mean, it looked like glass, but didn’t sound like it or feel like it. The colors were surreal—so vivid—and they were all these crazy geometric shapes. Each one had a golden symbol like the box. There were 13 of them.
I heard the game come back on so I left my grumbling family to the ornament hanging. I returned during halftime to admire their handiwork. The ornaments were gorgeous, so incredible … totally dominated the tree.
Then I noticed something; each and every one of them—all 13—were hung symbols facing out. I mentioned it must’ve been a pain to do. Julie said they hadn’t tried, or noticed. I congratulated them, and returned to my game. ASU lost 37-28. I lost 300 dollars.
We had dinner, then we admired the new ornaments with just the tree lights. I still love that as much as I did the first Christmas I saw it as a boy; seems magical somehow, doesn’t it?
Those ornaments took it to another level. It was so beautiful … mesmerizing. About 20 seconds into it Harvey called—that’s who I lost the bet to—so I left the room.
Toby came in while I was on the phone—Toby’s our Golden Retriever—and that’s when the first of many strange things happened. I heard barking—really vicious barking—so I ran in the living room. I couldn’t believe what I saw.
Toby was snarling, and snapping at Julie and the kids; he had cornered them against the tree. The kids were screaming, and Julie was shaking with terror. Toby was completely savage; his teeth bared and the hair along his back standing up … I’d never seen anything like it—he was barking and lunging at them. I really thought he was going to attack my wife and children.
I didn’t see it then—I should have—it’s so obvious now. Toby would never hurt us. He was protecting us—he was barking at the tree.
I rushed out in front of Toby, and Julie got the kids out. I yelled at him to stop—he’s very well trained—but he didn’t listen. I was scared to death, but I got him by the collar and drug him outside.
We got the kids calmed down and in bed. Julie and I went to bed, too, still very shook up. We finished two bottles of wine before we got to sleep.
Did I mention we have a cat?
DET. MACK: No.
MR. PETERS: We do. Did, I mean—did have a cat … Scooter. Can I have a water now?
DET. BRADLEY: Anything else?
(transcriber assumes subject indicated negative)
DET. BRADLEY: You, Mack?
DET. MACK: No, I’m good, Socks. Thanks.
(door opens and closes)
MR. PETERS: Socks?
DET. MACK: Been his nickname since the academy.
MR. PETERS: How does one get a nickname like Socks?
DET. MACK: He’d never wear matching socks. He’d have on one white gym sock and one black dress sock or whatever.
MR. PETERS: That’s funny.
(door open and closes)
DET. BRADLEY: Here you go, Mr. Peters.
MR. PETERS: You can call me, Brian … if I can call you Socks.
DET. BRADLEY: Let’s stick to formalities, Mr. Peters.
MR. PETERS: Okay, Detective Bradley. (suspect drinking beverage) Julie woke me up early. I had a whopper of a hangover. There was blood on the living room floor; some had splattered on the presents too. I found Scooter’s collar. Toby didn’t do it; he can’t fit through the cat door. A coyote could though. That’s why Toby was barking, we thought; some animal in the house. The same animal had eaten our cat. Seemed logical, bizarre, but logical. I checked the house and locked the kitty door.
The next few weeks were so strange.
I was working 14 hour days—we planned to take a vacation after Christmas—I had to get everything lined up at the office. I should’ve seen it though…
DET. MACK: Seen what?
MR. PETERS: The changes.
DET. BRADLEY: What changes?
MR. PETERS: In my family, Detective Bradley. They were changing. I thought the kids were still traumatized, and that Julie was secretly pissed I was at work so much before Christmas. I was wrong.
They had been getting more weary. Julie said she hadn’t been sleeping well, neither had the kids. They actually woke several times screaming from bad dreams. One night Jimmy had insisted he’d seen little creatures in the living room when he’d got up to pee; gremlins, he called them.
Then it ended; no more nightmares, no more complaints about sleepless nights … nothing. They were looking worse, though, every day. Julie blew it off; she got really irritable. By Christmas Eve they were withered looking and withdrawn. I was worried.
My last day of work was supposed to be the 23rd but I didn’t quite get it all done, so I got up at 3 am, and was surprised to find Julie wasn’t in bed. In the hall I heard talking from the living room. The tree light, as I saw from the hall, had an odd glow. It changed just as walked in.
There was an enormous pool of blood on the carpet, still wet and reflecting the lights. Toby’s collar was in it
Then I saw Julie, Jimmy, and Maggie all sitting on the couch—not lounging, but upright—just staring ahead. No one looked at me.
“Julie…” I said. Nothing. I couldn’t see their eyes, but I’d swear they didn’t blink. Hackles rose on me—hackles like I never imagined—all over my body. Dread, Detective, deep and menacing, seeped through me. I shouted at Julie, and as if out of a trance, they all looked at me.
She said, “Yes, Darling?”
Toby’s blood all over and that’s it? Just, “Yes, Darling?” It was all wrong. It was all so damn bizarre, but bizarre is just what we’d been dealing with. I wasn’t surprised they were all in shock. Toby and Scooter had apparently been butchered in our living room; their remains unaccounted for, so I just thought they were all traumatized. Hell, they should be traumatized.
It made me miss a lot of signs that I couldn’t see then like I do now.
She told the kids to go to bed and they went. Then she cleaned up the mess. I tried to help but she wouldn’t let me. She said she didn’t want to talk about it. I prodded her until it got ugly then I left for work.
I turned around halfway there as I came to my senses.
Julie was in bed sleeping soundly when I returned. They all slept the entire day and evening through. I couldn’t get them to be coherent
DET. BRADLEY: Why didn’t you call emergency services?
MR. PETERS: They hadn’t been sleeping well for weeks, and there was Toby and Scooter … I just thought it was how their psyches, or whatever, were dealing with it, and if so, I sure didn’t want to interrupt the process. Who thinks this kind of thing could happen?
Anyway, like I said, they slept through the day and evening. I fell asleep about 10; I was emotionally worn out.
I woke cold. I didn’t have covers. Julie was gone, and the covers were strewn on the floor as if dragged off the bed and just dropped.
It was 12:13.
I checked the kids’ room. I wasn’t surprised they were absent, and the feeling disturbed me. Thoughts of them on the couch staring at the bloodstain or at the tree froze my blood.
I realized then—it hit me like a thunderbolt—they hadn’t been staring at the pool of Toby’s gore. They had been staring at the tree; at those evil goddamned ornaments. I remembered the strange light, and realized it had been golden, like the symbols. They had really been in some kind of trance.
I screamed their names. The horrendous images and fears; my imagination was going crazy! But what I saw when I got in there, Detectives … what I saw, my imagination could never conjure.
Julie and the children were lying face down naked on the floor. From their bottoms to the base of their heads the skin had been sliced and splayed open by these little demonic monsters—Jimmy’s evil gremlins. They were the ornaments!
They’d changed somehow into these creatures; these little indescribable fiends from Hell with glowing gold symbols and murderous shining eyes. They were cutting them up—oh, God!—they were hacking out the spines of my wife and children—dissecting my babies! All thirteen of them cutting, and chopping, and sawing away.
They had multiple arms; some like serrated knives, others like cleavers, or scissors—all hacking and stabbing things. Blood was everywhere … so much blood. I knew they were dead. My babies were dead!
I screamed, “NOOOOOOO!!!!!!! YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!!!!!!!”
DET. MACK: Mr. Peters, calm down, please. Calm down. Can you do that for me? Just breathe … there you go. Will you sit back down? We’ll take a break, okay?
MR. PETERS: No. I want to finish this.
DET. MACK: Okay.
DET. BRADLEY: Mack, you want me to..?
DET. MACK: No. He wants to continue. Go ahead, Mr. Peters.
MR. PETERS: (suspect laughs) This is so insane, I know, and it just gets… Anyway … I charged them and kicked at them—that’s how my feet and shins got all cut up—but they just bounced back. They leapt up at me, slashing my hands and forearms as I tried to fight them off. I retreated into the hall, swatted two of them off me, and managed to close the door before they got through. They started hacking and sawing at the door. I could hear them; a sharp croak-hiss, but not mindless gibberish … it was intelligent, sinister, and terrifying beyond any telling—to lean against that door as they banged and hacked at it—knife points and sharp things stabbing through, and hearing them hiss-croak their murderous plans to get me … how they would hack me up like Toby and Scooter because I knew.
But how would they get me? How would I get me? It only took a second. Oh my God! I looked over my shoulder and down the long dark hallway. Just after I thought it, they did it; the children’s bedroom window smashed. They were coming in behind me while the others still hacked at the door.
The bathroom was across from the kids’ door and it had a lock. How I ran! I could hear them behind me. I dashed in and slammed and locked the door. Blades punched right through, wriggled side-to-side then withdrew and did it again.
I threw open the window and punched out the screen. I climbed out as they breached the door. I ran across the backyard. We have a large piece of property—16 acres. I knew I wasn’t going to outrun them all the way to my neighbor’s, I’d witnessed how fast they were. It was just too far. I looked over my shoulder. They weren’t following at all. They were just watching me flee. I ran on. I couldn’t stop picturing them hacking up my family though, hacking them, devouring them, violating them!
Fear left me, and I got angry. Angry like I never thought I could … a murderous hatred. I stopped running. I stood stock-still until all fear faded. Then I ran back.
I entered from the back door with a our big axe gripped in both hands. I peeked into the living room.
Maggie was standing and looking down at her brother. Her flesh, like her brother and mother, was sallow, cadaverous; she was a corpse standing there in my living room … the corpse of my little girl. Jimmy’s body was just getting to its knees. Julie remained on the floor. The last of the little hell-spawned creatures crawled into the gaping hole in Julie’s neck where her vertebrae had been—others were already crammed in from there down. When the creature was settled, little wiry things came out, like thin spidery legs, all along the length of her back, and hooked the skin, then pulled the wound closed. Sutures weaved across the seams from the inside, sealing the wound. Jimmy had stood up all the way now, and Julie did as well, clumsily at first but she righted herself.
This hellish mockery of the love of my life saw me and it said—just as Julie would’ve said it, “Hello, Darling.”
I had returned armed, angry, and ready to fight, but I was so terrified I hesitated. Then came her coup de grâce … she grinned and said, “Merry Christmas.”
I fled. My mind broke and I ran. You know how it went from there, Detectives, more than I. I was broken. Running is all I knew when the Shaw’s found me.
That’s what happened this morning.
DET. MACK: Where’s your family, Mr. Peters?
MR. PETERS: I don’t know, Mack. May I call you Mack?
DET. MACK: Sure. And the ornaments? Where did they go?
MR. PETERS: I don’t know that either.
DET. MACK: Okay. Anything to add, anything at all before we close this interview?
MR. PETERS: No, Detectives, I have nothing to add.
DET. MACK: Okay, Mr. Peters … we’ll be right back.
(door opening and closing – Dets. Mack and Bradley exit)
DET. MACK: So, what do you think?
DET. BRADLEY: What do ya mean, what do I think? He’s a fucking nutcase, is what I think! He didn’t even cry—not a single tear. He murdered his wife and those kids—hacked them up prob’ly. Your call, but I’d be booking his ass right now for Aggravated Murder One.
DET. MACK: Yeah, I agree, Socks. Today of all days!
DET. BRADLEY: Yeah, Merry fuckin’ Christmas.