The whole “naughty vs. nice” motif has always struck me as one of the weirdest elements of Christmas lore — and stories like Kristopher Mallory’s “The Special Christmas Ornaments Of Mr. Everett” drive home exactly why. The implication that we’ll be punished if we’re naughty makes the niceness we might strive for in order to avoid that punishment a bit… ingenuous, no? Sure, you can argue that the motivations behind your niceness don’t ultimately matter if the end result is good… but still. That “or else” is… troubling.
“The Special Christmas Ornaments Of Mr. Everett” made its debut in a few different places at the end of 214: On Dec. 21, it appeared in ebook form via Mallory’s online indie publishing outfit, Stealth Fiction, and as an audio drama courtesy of the NoSleep Podcast; then, on Christmas Eve, it dropped on r/NoSleep itself. It’s still readily available in all of those formats, too, so… there’s no excuse for missing this one, is what I’m saying. It’s a terrific premise (looks like I’m leaning hard into this theme this holiday season); it’s polished and well-executed; and holiday horror? Well, personally, I think it’s a criminally underrated subgenre.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
Consider this your reminder that you can’t just behave around the holidays if you want to make it onto the nice list. You have to do it year ‘round.
I’ll never forget the Christmas Eve blizzard of ’09. I’d gone to town seeking the perfect gift for my wife, Lucy, and on my way home the snow had begun to come down hard.
Instead of the interstate, I took the dark, lonely two-lane through the countryside. The snowflakes whisked past the windshield against the backdrop of a pitch-black sky, and the high beams faded to a dull glow below the horizon of the distant gray mountain tops. As I drove through the storm, the night’s simple beauty seemed to draw me in until nothing else existed.
Suddenly, the steering wheel began to vibrate, and the car lurched off course. I snapped out of the trance just in time to veer to the right, doing my best not to overcorrect on the icy road. After a tense moment where I was sure the car would slide into the ditch, the tires shifted from the rumble strip back onto the pavement, reganing traction once again.
My heart pounded hard and fast, but my eyes were still tired from the hypnotic snow that seemed to be flying toward me instead of falling. I wound down the windows, hoping that the wind would restore my senses. It had been a close call, and I considered stopping until the snow let up, but that road was hazardous even without patches of black ice. Over the decades, too many people had been killed around that section of the pines, and I didn’t want to be one of them.
[Photo via AnnieSpratt/Pixabay]