“Breaking News: yet another death has occurred this week, marking this the seventh of the month. Twenty-year-old Margaret Bell was found poisoned inside her own house last Saturday night. Police were called into the scene when neighbors reported the

“Oh turn that off, will you?” Mia said, appearing at the door. 

“Shhh.” Brian, her bespectacled coworker who was a known conspiracist in the workplace, shushed her quickly. Mia frowned, entering the room with a plate of cookies in hand, her contribution to the event. Her scarlet pumps clicked across the linoleum in a steady rhythm; it was the first time Brian had ever witnessed her wearing heels.

“Move,” she muttered to him. He was sitting on the foldable table designated for the food, feet perched on a nearby chair. After deciding the cookies should be placed next to the prettily frosted rum cake she set to work peeling off the Saran-wrap. Out of the corner of her eye, Mia glimpsed the TV screen flash a picture. She glanced up instinctively and her stomach immediately tightened in nausea at what she saw. It was blurry, and heavily censored, but anyone who had half a mind could tell what the photo was- the still, dead form of Margaret Bell, limbs twisted strangely on the ground. Mia averted her eyes, quickly grabbing the TV remote and turning it off.


Mia shook her head in disgust.

“How can you stand watching that stuff? It’s so... horrible.” She scrunched her nose, crushing the plastic wrap into a ball. “I don’t want to think about any of that serial-killer stuff. I mean, for Christ’s sake. It’s the holidays.” Brian smirked at her, a teasing glint in his eye. He pushed himself off the table, grabbing a cookie.

“Oh yeah?” He said, biting the head off one of the gingerbread men, “Well nothing’s ever stopped a serial-killer during the holidays. Ever thought about that?” Mia silently cringed as she watched him chew, several crumbs spewing out every time he spoke.

The rest of the party arrived shortly after, in a flurry of baked goods, ugly sweaters, and the occasional Santa hat or antlers. Mia stood near the wall, greeting most of the people entering, all of them pausing awkwardly to knock the snow off their boots. So this is what a work party is, she thought. There were Christmas carols coming from an old radio someone had turned on, a meager attempt at decorations. The cheap plastic tinsel looped haphazardly around the walls was coming off already.

“Ah, Mia! I finally caught you.” She turned suddenly at the voice; it was David, who sat exactly two cubicles away from her. The one cubicle between them didn’t stop him from regularly approaching her.

“It’s good to see you,” He said, as if they hadn’t just seen each other a few days ago. She smiled tightly in return.

“Not too bad for our first Christmas party, huh.”


“Snow’s coming down pretty hard out there.”


“First time we’ve all really been together like this. Kind of like a farewell party. What with Brian going away soon and all

“Wait, what?” Mia’s brows furrowed. “Brian’s leaving?”

“Oh sure,” David said back easily, “In a couple of weeks. He didn’t tell you?” Mia stared at him. Not waiting for an answer, David leaned in closer as if he were about to tell a deep, dark secret.

“Just between you and me; let’s just say I won’t exactly be grieving his absence.” He winked. Mia was speechless.

“Never really liked that guy,” he continued, shaking his head. “Never did. Oh, by the way,” David picked up one of her biscuits with a thumb and a forefinger. “These cookies are amazing Mia, you made these? They’re a big hit, I’m pretty sure everyone here has had one.” Grinning, he sauntered off to a group of his colleagues, slinging an arm around one of their shoulders. It was a shame, she thought. She would miss Brian. But she knew it wasn’t her choice anymore. 

Mia set down her cup of rum eggnog. She began to wonder if anyone would notice if she slipped out the door and drove home early when a shriek pierced the air, followed by a shrill “Brian! Oh my god, Brian!” Upon following the noise, Mia perceived one of the women kneeling next to the aforementioned man, who was writhing spastically on the ground, his eyes rolled back, his mouth foaming white. Mia’s eyes widened and she dropped next to his body, pulling his head into her arms.

“Somebody call an ambulance!” She yelled. Another man she didn’t know the name of knelt down in an attempt to perform CPR, but Mia knew that it was over for Brian. And then something quite strange occurred. The CPR-attempter suddenly fell over, beginning to jerk as well. Another person in the crowds of chaos fell and began to foam at the mouth. Nearby David keeled over, groaning in pain. One by one they dropped like flies, until the screaming and calling and crying faded away into nothingness and Mia sat alone.

When she was sure everyone had gone still she gingerly pushed Brian’s head off her lap and stood up, dusting her skirt. Carefully stepping around the mess of limbs she picked up the phone that had been abandoned, still in the middle of its call for help.

“Hello?” She said softly into the speaker. “I’m so sorry, I... I guess it was just a false alarm. He’s all right now. Yes, I’m sure, everyone is fine. No need to come over. So sorry for the inconvenience.” She ended the call and turned the phone off, placing it back down over its dead owner’s body. The old radio still performed in the corner; O Holy Night played tinnily through the room. Quietly, Mia pulled on her coat and walked out into the cold night air. Of course, not before dumping the rest of her cookies into the trash.

There was no use in anyone else getting hurt, now was there?

December 22, 2019 05:52

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