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Christmas Horror Speculative

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Warning: This story contains violence and gore.


I had prepared for the apocalypse. I hadn’t prepared for the apocalypse to arrive on Christmas Eve. 


Everything seems to accelerate around the holidays, you know? Including, apparently, the destruction of the world as we know it.


We all knew it was coming. We had seen it coming for months. Years, really. All those dystopian novels, all those monster comic books, and movies and TV shows, and—really? We knew. 


But the knowledge of something is different than the seeing of something. The abstract knowledge that people on another continent are being systematically isolated and purposefully executed to mitigate the risk of an encroaching plague is different than seeing the 5.56mm round rip right through the “o” in the shimmering sequinned “holly jolly” scrawled obnoxiously across Frank’s ugly Christmas sweater. It’s different than seeing the spray of red, than hearing your boyfriend’s body fall—dull and heavy and just dead—on the once-clean luxury vinyl outside Macy’s. 


I stood, mouth agape like a beaten trout, still dressed in my finest fake velvet Santa hat. What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck


The next sound launched my body behind the decorated pine. Ducking too hard to avoid the onslaught, I cracked the back of my head on the stone wall, and I suddenly slumped into darkness.


When I woke, the mall had gone quiet. 


No racing footsteps. No more gasps or screams. Frank was still lying there on the other side of the tree. I peered at him through the cover of the branches and the gleaming garland lights. His arm was bent under him. His eyes still open. 


I surveyed the rest of what I could safely observe from my hiding place. The soldiers had gone. Or seemed to be. I waited another hour to be sure, glancing obsessively at the battery display and the clock on my phone. 


While I waited, I considered the truth of the last several months and my sincere denial of it, trying to process this onslaught, the truth of the hundreds of holiday shoppers that had just been murdered in this mall. I thought about the social media uploads that would pop up sporadically and disappear just as quickly. I considered the conspiracies that had begun spreading to major news outlets, the forceful hushing of local and national governments. I remembered the endless reassurance. The president emphasized her confidence, hope, and faith. Every good American ducked their head in agreement with at least one of these—or with the sweet bliss of denial if nothing else.


Not too long ago, sprawled in our underwear on our threadbare burgundy couch to bear the August heat, I had tuned in to a debate about the reality of the plague overtaking more of China. 


Too quickly, I had muted the TV and prodded Frank with the remote. “Think any of it’s real?” I had asked him.


He lifted his head from his tablet screen, scratched his stubbled chin, and shrugged off the daze of the summer afternoon. “I dunno. Even if it is, what can we do about it?”


I had wanted to do something about it, but I didn’t know what. Frank assured me it was other people’s problem. Other people far away. 


On the news, they spoke of quarantines. Lockdowns throughout Asia and then Europe. Rumors of whole neighborhoods, whole cities shut off from the rest of the world to stop the spread. 


But that was still so far away, and even though we could no longer travel for the holidays, in the good ol’ US of A, everything was business as usual. Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas. 


Plague or no, they decked the mall in all its holiday splendor. They invited us in with drifts of fake snow, twinkling lights, an overweight old man in red, and endlessly enticing consumerist discounts. 


Frank loved Christmas, and I loved Frank. I wore the stupid fake-fur trimmed hat and did my best commercialized Saint Nicholas belly laugh. I sang “Rudolph” and “Jingle Bell Rock” and even “The Little Drummer Boy.” We sipped our eggnog lattes, and yeah, all the lights on the rows of Japanese maples lining the path up to the mall entrance were pretty stunning. 


“Okay, come on, let’s get a pic with him,” Frank kissed my cheek and gestured excitedly.


“With Santa? Are you serious? You’re twenty-six years old!” I shook my head. “Even kids getting pictures with him is a bit creepy.”


“You like creepy shit,” Frank teased.


“I like slasher films, not—”


That was when my boyfriend died. And dozens and dozens of others all around me. That was when I heard the incessant pop pop pop and felt my heart drop before my head hit the wall.



Over an hour now. They were gone. I pulled myself up from behind the tree and wiped the blood from my hands on the plastic pine needles. I kept my gaze raised high, higher from the sights on the ground. I stared into the twinkling lights and the crimson and gold reflecting on the garlands. I watched only the face of the 10-foot-tall wooden nutcracker that stood like a terrible guardian over it all.


If I ran, I would die too. Here, I had some fucked up chance. 


In a bizarre bloody winter dream, I wandered through the mall and found a bathroom. I used the toilet. Washed my face. Vomited a few times. Washed my face again.


I tip-toed around the fallen bodies, a grief-drunk ballerina, and collected the necessities. I need to go, I thought. I need to hide. Now.


I yanked down the metal cages—those ones that keep the rabid shoppers at bay long enough for the retail worker to chug her coffee—to keep myself locked in. I barricaded the doors with no-assembly-required office chairs and some tables from the food court. 


It would be a long wait, so I snatched the nearest food I saw—an oversized tin of popcorn, as well as a metal baseball bat. I wrapped myself in my plush robe (previously $89.99) and tucked myself into the farthest corner of the department store stock room—behind the metal screens, locked and barricaded doors, and a few massive towers of neatly stacked cardboard boxes.


I waited and tried not to think too much. Maybe if I waited long enough, someone would come back for me. Maybe if I survived long enough, they would develop a vaccine. 


I heard the dead waking. The ones they didn’t execute properly. It didn’t matter, maybe. Maybe that National Guard platoon would come back and start a fire or blow up the whole damn shopping center. It didn’t matter. 


They’d probably have the whole city “quarantined” tomorrow. It didn’t matter.


It didn’t matter if everyone inside was dead. 


But I wasn’t. I found a pair of headphones and a discarded iPod. I didn’t want to listen to the ripping and chewing of flesh. I took a bite of popcorn, but the kernels tasted foul. 


Tomorrow is Christmas. 

December 04, 2021 01:37

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12 comments

Christopher H
05:45 Dec 20, 2021

Hello Lisa! I enjoyed this story so much, I HAD to narrate it! It's a hobby of mine. Thank you so much for this amazing read! Here's the video for your listening pleasure! https://www.veed.io/view/f7191b05-3762-4df4-9cc3-a9ca57cdb269

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Lisa Rose
22:32 Dec 21, 2021

Hi Christopher! Wow! This is amazing! I am so honored! This is the best Christmas present! Thank you so much! Do you have a website or Twitter where I can follow you/to keep in touch? Thank you again!

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Christopher H
17:06 Dec 22, 2021

I do not have the socials to follow on but I do have a Youtube page that I have started in which I published this same video on. You have been credited in the description of the video for copyright purposes. Here is the link to the narration: https://youtu.be/M74Nr_KNYfQ You can follow me there. I will be uploading all of my narrations on that page. I am so happy you enjoyed the narration! If you publish anything else, I would be honored to narrate any future publications. This story was such a dark and intriguing read! If you need to ge...

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D.A. Marullo
04:26 Dec 12, 2021

The comparisons with the typical holiday cheery environment and the bloody death all around was epic. I don't usually watch zombie films, but this could easily be one. Great descriptions. I write horror too, but it appears this site isn't a great fan of it sadly.

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Lisa Rose
20:20 Dec 15, 2021

Thanks so much, D.A.! I'm really glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for the compliment about the zombie film--that sounds fun! This is my first story posted on Reedsy, but yeah it does seem the horror crowd is more niche. Thanks for reading.

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Ashley Roland
04:57 Dec 10, 2021

I really loved this story!!

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Lisa Rose
20:19 Dec 15, 2021

Thank you!

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Kayla Johnson
14:47 Dec 09, 2021

I truly enjoyed this story. mainly because I love zombie films. But you did an amazing job!:)

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Lisa Rose
00:56 Dec 10, 2021

Thanks very much! And yeah, I maaaaaay have been rewatching The Walking Dead when this prompt popped up! ;)

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Cathryn V
21:26 Dec 08, 2021

Hi Lisa, A request to read and comment on your story came from Laura at Reedsy. I have to say that ordinarily I shy away from gore and dystopian stories. But, I believe in supporting each other as writers working on improving our work and I think I can be objective, so if I don't say that I loved it, please understand. What I do love about this story is your writing with such great imagery. The flow is really good, and the showing is too. (the open eyes of her dead boyfriend was particularly disturbing) These are some examples: differ...

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Boutat Driss
08:23 Dec 06, 2021

well done!

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Lisa Rose
23:04 Dec 06, 2021

Thank you! This is my first ever Reedsy story, so I appreciate the response!

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