15 comments

Fiction Horror Christmas

This story contains sensitive content

Important content note:


Hello everyone, this story contains my particular mix of horror, humor, and religious elements. Also, there are some sexual elements in this story, and the devil shows up.


If any of the aforementioned things are triggering for you, you have my sincerest apologies, and I ask that you find a different story on Reedsy. (I know that there are many good stories on this platform, especially during the holiday season.)


Sincerely yours,


Ruth

*****

It was cold and snowy. The wind howled through the parking lot, and the Reverend Bartlett wrapped his red scarf more tightly about his neck to keep out the chill.

“Hello there, Reverend Bartlett!” called a cheery voice. The Reverend smiled and rubbed his hands together to keep warm.

“Hello there, Esther!” he said. “What brings you out in this weather?”

Esther smiled back, and pointed to a box she was carrying.

“Just some Santa cookies for the market,” she said.

“Do you need some help carrying that box?” he said. “

"No,” said Esther, as she shook her head. “I may look old, but I’m only 83!”

Internally, the Reverend sighed.

“Still a spring chicken, then?”

“You bet your sweet bippie!” she cackled, as she walked down a winding path that looked as if it had only recently been cleared.

“Be careful!” shouted the Reverend.

“What?” she said, as she made her way toward a dilapidated Cadillac. “I can’t hear you.”

“Never mind,” he said. “Merry Christmas!”

“The same to you, Edward!” she called. “See you at the festival tonight!”

“It’s John!” he shouted, as she drove off. “Edward was my father’s name.”

“I don’t think she heard you,” said Maria. “You know she can’t hear, right?”

John smiled, slowly. “I think,” he said, that she probably hasn’t heard a thing since 1986. I also think that she only hears what she wants to hear."

“Like my mother’s cat,” she said.

“Exactly like that old battle ax,” said John.

Maria grinned, and kissed him on the cheek.

“Do you mean my mom, or Mr. Dickhead?”

Frantically, the Reverend looked around.

“You can’t say that here,” he said.

“Why?” said Maria, frowning. “That’s his name. That’s what my mom calls him. Do you have a problem with that?”

“No,” said the Reverend Bartlett. “It’s just that people might think—”

“That my daughter should know better?”

The Reverend took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

“Speak of the devil,” he said.

“Where did you come from, Mama?” said Maria.

“From Hell, I guess,” said the Reverend’s mother-in-law. “To hear your man speak.”

“Mama!” said Maria. “Can you be nice to John for just one second? It’s Christmas Eve!”

The good Reverend’s mother-in-law snorted.

“He just said I was the devil!” she said. “As if I had a pointy tail and horns!”

Maria sighed. “It’s just an expression!” she said. “Would you say you’re sorry, so that we can go to the market? It’s freezing out here!”

“Mi Dios,” muttered Maria’s mother, under her breath. “Fine. I am sorry.”

The Reverend smiled.

"I’m sorry, too, Rosie,” he said. “Would you forgive me?”

“My name is Rose,” said the Reverend Bartlett’s mother-in-law, through gritted teeth. “But I forgive you because it’s Jesus’ birthday tomorrow.”

*****

As the sun began to set, the Reverend Bartlett thought that it had been a very good day at the market. He and Maria had been able to slowly make their way around the many market stalls, and he had been able to visit with a few members of his congregation who, despite the miserable weather, had made it out of the house to buy or sell a wide variety of homemade Christmas presents.

He thought it was strange that his mother-in-law had disappeared—didn’t she usually stick to her daughter like the proverbial glue?—but he decided not to question God’s providence.

“And that’s why you need to be baptized for salvation,” said Thomas, interrupting the Reverend’s musings.

“What?” said the Reverend.

“I said,” said Thomas, a man who was given to debating the finer points of Scripture, that everyone’s going to go straight to Hell if they aren’t baptized. You, me…even that baby over there."

The Reverend glanced at the horrified mother at the next table—who, until that moment, had been peacefully spooning semi-solid food into her child’s mouth—and decided a change of scenery was in order.

“Why don’t we get some fresh air, Tom,” he said, ushering his companion out of the food tent and into a grove of bare, skeleton-like trees.

“Fresh air?” bellowed Tom. “It’s 15 below outside!”

But he went anyway, as the Reverend knew he would. Deep down, Tom was a good man, and knew when he had sinned.

“Don’t forget the festival tonight!” called Maria, laughing, from the mulled wine stall on the other side of the grove.

“I won’t!” said the Reverend. Was Maria drinking? He hoped that she wasn’t. Lutheran churches traditionally had no problem with drinking alcohol, as long as one didn’t drink to excess. However, he had found that the church frowned upon members of the clergy, as well clergy members’ wives, who imbibed even one drop of wine.

The hypocrisy of the church was staggering, he thought.

“John?” said Tom. “Earth to John. Are you there?”

In that moment, the Reverend took a deep breath. This was for two reasons. One, he wanted to steady himself against the howling wind. Two, he wanted to keep himself from screaming, at the top of his lungs, “MY NAME IS THE REVEREND JOHN BARTLETT, YOU POMPOUS ASS!”

“Are you okay, John?” said Tom.

“I’m fine,” said the Reverend.

“You don’t look okay, old buddy,” said Tom.

“I just need to get away from you,” said the Reverend.

“What?” said Tom. His mouth gaped open, exactly like a goldfish with short-term memory problems, and the Reverend almost laughed.

“Nothing,” said the Reverend. “I said that I need to get back to my wife.”

“Oh,” said Tom, as he removed a large bible from his coat pocket. “Would you take a gander at this passage from Romans before you go?”

The Reverend hesitated.

“Please?” said Tom. “It’ll just take a second, and then I’ll never bother you about this again.”

As a supreme act of Christian charity—and it was the eve before Christ’s birth, after all—the Reverend leaned forward to read what the book of Romans had to say about baptism.

Unfortunately, in a supreme act of evil, Tom lifted the heavy bible high into the air and struck the Reverend Bartlett, once, squarely in the back of the head.

*****

When he woke up, the Reverend felt the back of his head with one hand. His fingers reached a large bruise, and he winced, but he though he would be alright, as long as the wound didn’t start to bleed.

“Maria?” he croaked, “Where are you?”

It was dark, and his muscles were stiff from the cold. The Reverend staggered to the mulled wine stall, and found that most of his strength was gone. He saw some empty tables covered with a light dusting of snow, and sniffed the air. He detected the faint scent of cinnamon mixed with red wine, but, otherwise, there was no sign of his wife.

“She’s not here, Reverend Bartlett,” said a voice that sounded like it belonged to his mother-in- law.

“Rose,” he said slowly, as he took in the altered appearance of Maria’s mother.

Gone were the festive red coat, the knitted purple hat, and the stylish high-heeled boots. She was wearing a simple white tunic, and her hair looked different. He couldn’t quite put a finger on what she had done to it, but he guessed that his mother-in-law had used a brush and hair dryer to make her hair look long and smooth.

“In a manner of speaking, I am Rose,” said the Reverend’s mother-in-law. “Then again, I am not Rose. Buenos noches.”

“What?” said the Reverend. “Have you been drinking?”

Not-Rose laughed, and the sound filled the Reverend with fear. Did his wife’s mother have a previous history of mental illness? There had to be a logical explanation for his mother-in-law’s strange behavior.

“Take me to Maria, now,” he said. “I want to see her.”

“Have it your way, John,” said Not-Rose, smiling.

Was it just the Reverend’s imagination, or did his mother-in-law’s teeth look sharper in some way?”

“Tom must have hit my head harder than I thought,” he said. “I must be hallucinating. It’s the only logical explanation.”

Not-Rose giggled, and the Reverend jumped at the sudden sound.

“Silly John,” she said. “You are a man of faith. Surely you, of all people, can accept that unbelievable, illogical things happen to each of us, every day.”

The Reverend Bartlett, for the first time in his life, was at a loss for words. Could something miraculous have happened to his mother-in-law? Perhaps she had been visited by the Holy Spirit and she was speaking in a heavenly language that only he could understand.

It also strained credulity, but could it be that Rose’s mother was a living, breathing angel? He chuckled softly to himself. It was definitely true that God had a sense of humor, if his horrible mother-in-law was, in fact, a heavenly servant of Christ.

“Are you an angel, Rose?” said the Reverend Bartlett.

“Yes,” Not-Rose said. “Wouldn’t you know it? As a matter of fact, I am.”

“Really?” said the Reverend. “I’m so sorry for everything. Can you forgive me? I didn’t realize you were--“

Not-Rose, also known as Lucifer the fallen angel, interrupted.

“Save it. As they say on Earth, all is forgiven. Let’s go and see Maria.”

In the blink of an eye, the angel who fell from heaven like lightning and the good Reverend stood in front of a roaring fire. He saw that they were deep in the middle of the wood, behind the market.

“Hello John,” called Maria, who was dancing with Tom. “Come and join us!”

The Reverend’s mouth popped open. Maria and Tom were completely naked.

Lucifer laughed.

“What’s so funny?” said the Reverend Bartlett.

“Oh God,” said the devil, wiping away tears. “I’m so sorry. I haven’t had a laugh like that in years.”

“Oh no,” said the Reverend, his eyes narrowing as the truth began to dawn. “You’re not an angel, are you?” “

To be completely truthful, no. No, I’m not,” replied Lucifer. “We’ve all got issues, right? Normal is just a setting on your dryer.”

“Hello Edward,” said Esther. “Glad you could make it to the festival! Do you want to try some of my Christmas cookies?”

“No,” said the Reverend, as he tried to make his way toward Maria.

Where had she gone? He hoped she wasn’t cavorting in the nude with Tom.

“And my name’s not Edward. It’s John!”

“You’re a real party pooper, Edward. Did you know that?” said Esther, as she began to do jumping jacks. “These cookies are real special, too! The secret is to mix just a pinch of cocaine with the powdered frosting. Try one!”

“Fine,” said the Reverend Bartlett. He grabbed the silver tray that Esther was holding, and threw the cookies into the bonfire.

“Hey!” yelled Esther. “The Rev just threw all of my special cookies into the fire!”

“Why did you go and do that for?” said Lucifer. “Every year, Esther’s cookies are the highlight of our Christmas festivities.”

“John!” said Maria, who was walking hand in hand with Tom, “You should be ashamed of yourself!”

“Yeah, old buddy,” said Tom. “I want to be on your side, but that’s a real party foul…to throw an old lady’s cookies into a fire.”

“On my side?” shouted the Reverend. “On my side! You hit me over the head with your bible and left me for dead!”

Tom scratched his head.

“I’m sorry about that, John. It was the thing we could think of…to get you to come to the festival.”

“You were never in any real danger, my love,” said Maria. “Lucifer assured us that he could bring you back to life, if you did die.”

Lucifer grinned.

“Well,” said the devil, “I have no idea why you would trust me, but this has been one helluva Christmas party. Strip him, everyone.”

“No,” said the Reverend, as all of the revelers began to move toward him. “Don’t do it!”

“Relax,” said Esther, as she grabbed him by the coat. “It’s just an orgy. We don’t do human sacrifice anymore. Too messy.”

The Reverend John Bartlett screamed.

When he woke up, it was daylight. He blinked and sat up. His head was still sore, but he felt better. The sun was shining, and he could hear his wife talking to someone.

“Yes, Tom,” she said. “I know you’re sorry for hitting him over the head, but I’m still going to call the police. You could have killed him!”

“My daughter!” said the Reverend’s mother-in-law. “Are you okay? I worry about all of this stress, especially now that you are pregnant.”

Maria put a finger to her lips.

“Mi madre, be quiet!” she said. “I haven’t told John, yet. It’s a Christmas surprise, remember?”

“Look who’s awake,” said Esther. “I told you that he’d be fine. The young always heal well from any kind of injury, in my experience.

“John!” said Maria. “Are you okay? I have something to tell you.”

“You’re pregnant, right?” said the Reverend.

“How did you know?” said Maria, beaming. “I’m so happy!”

“Is the baby mine?” said the Reverend Bartlett.

“How can you say that, John!” said Maria. “Of course it’s yours.”

“Do you have a concussion?” said the Reverend’s mother-in-law. In his ear, she whispered: “I wouldn’t doubt it, after the fun you had last night.”

The Reverend Bartlett lept to his feet.

“Careful, honey,” said Maria. “I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”

“It’s okay,” said the Reverend. “I’m fine.”

“Let’s go Christmas shopping for the baby,” said Maria. “I’m so excited!”

The Reverend John Bartlett ran as fast as his legs would carry him, over the well-trodden market path, and past the crumbling parking lot.

And that, dear reader, is the last time that anyone ever saw him.


THE END

November 28, 2021 10:08

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

15 comments

John Hanna
18:14 Dec 10, 2021

Hi Ruth, We've already met and I can't tell you how pleased I am to get your story from the critique circle. Please excuse any mistake I might happen across, I'm not pointing them out to be rude. box?” he said. “ “I think,” he said, that she mulled wine - cool, what's that? Normal is just a setting on your dryer.” - I like that! Heh! He ran and kept on running! It was great the way the reverend's personality stayed pat. Just a few punctuation marks were misplaced in a very nice rendition. Merry Christmas!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Lisa Rose
00:55 Dec 10, 2021

This was a fun read! I enjoyed the pace, the dark humor, and the pull. The beginning was especially strong for me--I found myself interested in the life-like characters right away. The latter third got a little more mulled/rushed, but overall I definitely liked the whole story!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Nikki Lee
10:02 Dec 05, 2021

This was so good! I loved it.

Reply

Ruth Porritt
14:12 Dec 06, 2021

Thanks so much, Danielle! :) Are you enjoying December? (I am looking forward to holiday time.) Catch you later, and have a great day, Ruth

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Rhondalise Mitza
21:03 Dec 02, 2021

Hiya Ruth! I so appreciated your comments on a few of my recent stories. I'm so thrilled to see your new stories, too! They are always sharp and funny. Very entertaining take on classic stories, something I always look forward to in your writing. Have a wonderful day!

Reply

Ruth Porritt
14:08 Dec 06, 2021

Hello Rhondalise, and thanks so much. I enjoy reading your work, very much, as well. How is December treating you? (Great, I hope.) Have a wonderful week, and catch you later. :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Michael Regan
17:45 Nov 30, 2021

"Here comes the the judge" - loved the story.

Reply

Ruth Porritt
00:25 Dec 01, 2021

Thanks so much Michael! :) You have made my entire day. Have a great week, Ruth

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Keya Jadav
14:16 Nov 30, 2021

Ooo I love it. It took a good start and the pace was just perfect. At a certain point, I was completely taken off guard when the reverend found himself in the darkness with a wound; it was really unexpected and formed an instant grip on the readers. The steps built up later are perfect. Nice story!

Reply

Ruth Porritt
00:30 Dec 01, 2021

Thanks so much, Keya. I had a lot of fun writing this one. Have a great Wednesday and catch you later, Ruth

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mariah Cheng
15:08 Nov 29, 2021

What a great read! The disclaimer only made me want to read more :)

Reply

Ruth Porritt
07:54 Nov 30, 2021

Thanks so much, Mariah! This story was a labor of love. Have a great week, Ruth

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Boutat Driss
08:20 Nov 29, 2021

Amazing how can you have this wide imagination, I love it.

Reply

Ruth Porritt
07:54 Nov 30, 2021

Thank you so much, and catch you later on Reedsy, Ruth

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Jon Casper
23:23 Dec 09, 2021

I loved this line: "Normal is just a setting on your dryer." Great work, Ruth!

Reply

Show 0 replies