The Haunting of Tommy Mills

“Tommy, who were you talking to?”

“My new friend Lucas. He said he lives here.” 

“Where is he?”

“He’s right next to you. Geez, mom.”

“Tommy, no one’s there. Stop fooling around and help me bring these boxes in the house.”

“Now he left. I think he’s mad.”

When Tommy walks into his new bedroom, he sees Lucas sitting on his bed, and says, “I thought you were gone for good.”

 Lucas stretches out on the bed. “Nope. You’re stuck with me. This is my room, but I guess I can share.”

“Mom can’t see you. “

Lucas laughs. “Good catch.”

“So, you lived here before? What happened to your family?” asked Tommy.

“Dad deserted us when I was real young. He used to hit mom and she cried a lot. We were both happy when he left.”

Tommy opened a box full of clothes and began putting things away.

“Where’s your mom?” asked Tommy.

“We were in a car accident,” said Lucas. “A drunk ran a red light and t-boned us. Mom died immediately and I was taken to the hospital. I died in the emergency room. Now I can’t find mom, so I came back here.”

Tears welled up in Tommy’s dark brown eyes.

“Please, don’t be sad Tommy,” Lucas said as he began to phase in and out then disappeared.

“Lucas, where did you go? Please come back.”

Lucas reappeared then explained, “Sorry about that. Sadness drains my energy field.”

“You can bet as soon as my energy recharges I’ll be back,” Lucas said. 

Tommy asked, “Can you please tell me what’s going on with you?” There was a silence that seemed to go on for what seemed like forever, and then can the loudest boom and everything shook violently.

Tommy’s mom yelled from the other room, “Tommy! What was that? Are you ok?”

“I’m ok, mom! I’ll be right there!” Tommy looked at Lucas. “What was that?” 

“He’s coming! Get out! He can’t find you in my room!” Lucas looked scared and used his energy to nudge Tommy towards the door.

In the hall, Lucas held onto the doorknob, while Tommy cringed at the loud, angry voice booming from inside his bedroom.

“Lucas! I can smell him. If you’ve shown yourself again, I’m going to kick your friendly Casper ass!”

“W-W-Who’s that?” asked Tommy, backing down the hallway away from the bedroom door. 

“Someone you never want to meet,” cautioned Lucas.

Tommy suddenly backed into a body and he thought that thing, that monster, whatever it was had escaped the room.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”

Two hands grabbed Tommy’s shoulders.

“Tommy! What was that loud noise? What are you doing?”

Tommy was never so happy to see his mom. He grabbed her and hugged her tight.

“Oh, my God, Mom!  You literally scared the sh__” he caught himself, “livin’ daylights out of me!”

Tommy looked as white as a sheet as he continued to shake with fright.

“You look like you have seen a ghost, son.”

“Duh, Mom. That’s what I have been trying to tell you.”

“Stop being silly. There are no such things as ghosts.”

Suddenly, all of the walls started shaking pictures flew off walls and the lights flickered! “Mom, see that it’s the mean one he’s messing with us now!”

 Mom said, “That’s utter nonsense. It’s either a jet flying over or an earthquake. “Go to your room and stay there. You will scare your brother.”

Tommy made a move as if to re-enter his bedroom. A cold force stopped him. “No, Tommy, you can’t! Please don’t go in there!” Lucas wailed. 

Tommy looked from the ghost back to his mom. Tears of anguish stung his eyes, “Mom, I’m sorry,” and he rushed past her and down the hall.

Sobbing loudly, Tommy bolted wildly out of the house, down the street, and into a public park. He slowed and threw himself on the grass near a picnic table. 

As he used his tee shirt to wipe his eyes, he felt guilty about leaving his mom alone.

“You run pretty fast, Tommy.”

“Lucas? You followed me? That thing in my room has got to go. Mom and I can’t live there like that,” said Tommy.

Tommy sniffed and wiped his nose on the arm of his tee shirt.

“What is that thing?”

“I don’t have all the answers,” said Lucas. “I haven’t been dead long enough.”

“I wish there was some kind of instruction manual for dead kids,” said Lucas. “Maybe we could find something at the library.”

“The LIBRARY?” yelled Tommy. “We can use my iPhone.”

“Your what-phone?” questioned Lucas.

“Hey! Just exactly how long have you been dead?”

“I really have no idea. I can’t feel time pass at all. I remember playing Galaga at the arcade next to Blockbuster video store yesterday.” Lucas answered.

“The arcade? Blockbuster? They have been closed for years. l can play games and watch movies on my iPhone.” Tommy explained.

Then all of a sudden, the phone rang. It was Mrs. Winslow his next-door neighbor. “Tommy you need to hurry home. Something has happened. Your mother said to call you and tell you to rush right home.”

“I’m on my way. I’ll be there soon as I can.” Tommy hung up phone and ran home quickly.

Tommy slowed as he got home. His mom and brother were out front with a cop. His mom waved him over. “Why didn’t you say there was someone in the house? I didn’t see him, but he pushed your brother!” 

Tommy’s younger brother, Brandon, scowled right at Lucas. “Who’s he, Tommy?”

“I’m Lucas. I met Tommy at the park. Right, Tommy?”

 “Uh, yeah. Right. We met at the park.”

 “Hello, Lucas. I’m Tommy’s mom.”

 Tommy looked from his mom to Lucas. “Mom, you can see Lucas?”

 “Of course, dear. Really, I don’t know what’s gotten into you!”

Lucas grinned.

“0kay,” said the cop. “Why are you pretending there’s some invisible kid there?”

“Wait, you can’t see him?” asked Mrs. Mills.

“See who?” asked the cop.

“Him!” she said, pointing at Lucas. “That boy! Right there!”

“Look lady, do you want to report a crime?”

“Ma’am tell him no,” said Lucas.

“Errrr, I’m sorry, Officer. There’s been some sort of mixup,” said Mrs. Mills.

The cop mumbled something under his breath and returned to his car.

“What’s going on?” asked Tommy’s mom.

“No human can see me unless I let them,” explained Lucas.

Tommy, Brandon and their mom walked back into their house. The air in the living room became as cold as ice. A loud crash came from inside Tommy’s bedroom.

“It must be that thing again!” Tommy yelled. “We really need to find out what that thing is, Lucas.”

As Tommy slowly moved to his bedroom door he was sweating profusely and couldn’t calm his breathing. “Are you coming Lucas?”

“No. I can’t, Tommy, be careful!” Lucas said.

Tommy opened his door and stepped inside. His stuff was floating around the room and bright lights shined out of the closet.

Before he could take another step, Tommy felt a cold breeze and Lucas was there in front of him. “I can’t let you face him, Tommy. He’s my problem.” 

“Who…” Tommy started to speak but was cut short by all of his stuff crashing to the floor.

“There you are, boy. Daddy is home.”

Tommy was scared but he just had to know who or what was behind this. He finally got his nerve up enough to speak.

“WHO ARE YOU?” Tommy shouted in his most demanding voice. 

A disembodied voice shouted back.

“SILENCE YOU LITTLE HUMAN TWERP OR YOU’LL JOIN MY SON IN DEAD LAND!”

“Dead Land?” Thought Tommy. 

Now it began to make sense. Lucas’ dad treated him bad in life, and now he must have died and is hunting him down in the afterlife. Tommy had to help his new friend… somehow… no matter what it took.

Tommy yelled, “SHUT UP YOU BIG BULLY!”

The demon inside of Lucas’ dad had completely taken control of him in the afterlife. Its eyes were now glowing bright red. Lucas floated in front of Tommy to protect him. 

“Ah, there you are Lucas boy! Looks like you found a new boyfriend. You filthy freak!” 

Suddenly, with a sudden upward motion Tommy was lifted off his feet with force so strong he blacked out. Lucas screamed at the demon that his dad turned into, “Stop! You want me, not Tommy. Please! He’s just my friend and I don’t want nothing to happen to him. Please, oh no!”

Brandon raced into the room and knelt by his brother. He shook Tommy, trying to wake him. Lucas growled, blasting a wave of energy at the ghost of his father. 

“Just as much of a sissy now as when you were alive. How many of your little boyfriends am I gonna have to kill, boy?”

As Brandon was shaking Tommy, trying to get him to respond, his eyes focused on an object hanging on the wall. It was a large religious cross. He remembered seeing a movie where a cross was used against evil.

Brandon jumped up and grabbed the cross from the wall.

He raised it high above his head until he could reach no higher. Brandon yelled at the top of his lungs.

“I COMMAND YOU IN THE NAME OF CHRIST… LEAVE THIS HOUSE AND LEAVE US ALONE!”

The demon inside Lucas’ dad turned into mist and flowed out through the air duct. His ghostly shell was left laying on carpet, unconscious. The cross and incantation also made the ghost of Lucas light up like a Christmas tree. He too collapsed onto the floor. 

Brandon yelled for his mom. “Mom! Hurry!”

Slowly, mom walks into the room with an evil laugh, “Hahahaha! You think you can get rid of me that easily little boy?” With a gust of air, the cross was chucked out the window. “Awe, what’s a matter, son? Mommy is gone for a while!”

Lucas’ energy levels fluctuated then stabilized just in time to hear what the boys’ mom said. “Brandon, help Tommy get up. I have to get you guys out of here quick. We’re in double trouble now that the demon and my dad have separated!” 

The ghost of Lucas’ father began to move.

Brandon helped Tommy to a standing position and as Tommy’s senses started returning, he saw his mom standing there.

Without knowing, Tommy instinctively ran to his mother’s waiting and protecting arms.

Brandon made a grab, but Tommy slipped through his fingers.

Simultaneously Lucas and Brandon yelled to Tommy.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

As Tommy reached his mom, the evil within her possessed body grabbed him and pulled him close, their bodies melting into one large evil entity.

Meanwhile, the ghost of Lucas’ dad awoke. He saw Lucas and said, “I’m so sorry for what I did and said to you son. The demon took over. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”

Lucas’ dad lunged at the demon possessing Tommy and his mom. “Take me!”

The demon used his powers to take Lucas dad and send him away from the house to the netherworld! “Now, as for you, little boy, we have plans for you.”

Lucas stood in front of Brandon and said. “You will leave him alone! What if I take his place?”

 “No! Lucas, you can’t I won’t let you!” Brandon screamed.

The demon hesitated and almost split back into two. Lucas took the opportunity to fling it against the wall. A path to the front door stood clear. 

“Brandon, come on! We need to get outta here and come up with a plan!” 

With a final glance at the demon, Brandon followed.

Lucas ran out the front door and just as Brandon reached it, he noticed his Super Soaker Water Canon in the top of an unpacked box. He grabbed it without stopping and continued out the door.

“Lucas!” he yelled, “Look!” Brandon held up the water gun for Lucas to see.

“That’s only a toy,” said Lucas.

“Yeah, but what if we filled it with… Holy Water?” suggested Brandon.

“It could work,” said Lucas. 

They stood out in the middle of the street, looking one way, then the other.

“But where are we going to find Holy Water?”

Brandon thought for a minute then said, “We could order holy water on Amazon or go into that church across the street. They have it for baptisms.”

“Going to the Amazon is too far.” Lucas replied.

“Not that Amazon,” Brandon giggled. “Forgot this is all new to you.”

“Well we can’t just go into the church and get it,” Brandon said.

“I know. I can’t enter the church. I’m dead and it is a barrier to me,” Lucas said.

Then all the sudden a lady in white came floating down the road with beautiful flowing blond hair and emanating light all around her.

“Mom?”

Lucas’s voice trembled as he watched his mother float towards him. “Mom! I looked everywhere for you! Where were you?!” 

“I was stuck in an in between place. I tried to get to you, but I couldn’t. Your father freed me and said you needed help!” 

Brandon watched, mouth agape.

Lucas and his mom hugged, creating a bright, white halo around them. Brandon was frozen in awe at the miracle he witnessed.

“Mom, I want you to meet Brandon. He’s a human. His family is being possessed by an evil entity. We need to find Holy Water… quick.”

The mother spirit glanced around and saw the church nearby.

“Brandon,” she instructed, “You need to run inside that church and yell for help. If no one hears you, look for a stone structure that looks like a wishing well. That’s where you’ll find Holy Water.”

Brandon opened the heavy, oak church doors and stepped inside. He looked around but didn’t see a soul. He did however see a bird bath looking thing with water. “This must be it.” Brandon thought to himself. He hastily filled up his super soaker then ran back outside.

“Now that I have my super soaker filled with holy water, I’ll see what I can do.” Brandon thought to himself. Then out of nowhere a swarm of mayflies started descending towards him. Brandon started to run as fast as he could, but when he turned down the alley, a pack of wild dogs chased him to large fence.

Brandon backed against the fence at the end of the alley and raised his super-soaker. He had to try something, and it was the only weapon he had. He shot at the cloud of mayflies and each one that was hit by the holy water burst into flames! 

Now the dogs were closing in.

Brandon aimed carefully at the lead dog and squeezed the trigger. It was a direct hit and the dog howled as it burst into a small fireball and disappeared. 

Brandon smiled and quipped, “Yes!”

This was just like a video game and he was good… really good at games.

He looked down the barrel of his super-soaker and kept his eyes focused on the sights.

Each time he aimed and pulled the trigger, he uttered, “Pow!”

“Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow!”

Every shot was a hit. Every hit destroyed its target. Finally, he stood alone, his heart beating hard.

Suddenly, the demon possessing Tommy and his mom appeared. 

Brandon yelled, “Get out of my mom and brother now!”

He pulled the trigger on the super soaker, but it was dry. The demon smirked.

“Lucas, help!” Brandon screamed as he too was taken into the demon.

As Lucas watched Brandon be taken in, he felt so defeated. After all he was just a simple little boy ghost. “What am I to do? I brought this on this family.” He thought. In an instant he had idea. “I will go sit outside the church and leap into the priest when he comes out. He can help me figure this out!”

The priest exited the church and walked down the steps. Lucas leapt forward. Just before he reached the priest, a blast of cold power pushed him aside. 

Lucas’s mother stood on the sidewalk. “You were always an impulsive teen, even when you were alive. There are other ways.”

The priest stopped suddenly as a cold shiver ran through his body. He looked around, but saw no one.

“Hello! Is someone there?”

He got no answer, so started on his way.

“WAIT!”

He stopped again and turned around. Slowly, out of thin air, a young boy started materializing.

“Sir, we need your help. Please. My human friends and their mom are all possessed by a terribly evil spirit.”

Suddenly Lucas’ mom’s spirit materialized next to Lucas and confirmed what he said.

“It’s got three humans and grows bigger and stronger with each passing minute.”

Another spirit appeared next to Lucas and his mom. It was his dad who had been freed of the demon. He hugged his family saying,

“Love you both. I’m sorry for the bad things I did in life. We must stop the demon from destroying another family. Can you help us priest?”

“I don’t know if I can,” said the priest. “but I can try to do my best and assess the situation. I will consult with God and see if he can help me out.”

 Meanwhile, the demon was trying to talk with Satan. The demon snarled, “This is not just my battle, it’s the ultimate evil vs good!”

The sidewalk cracked under the demon’s feet. Smoke and the odor of sulfur filled the air. The priest uttered a frightened squeak and fled back into the church.

A voice bellowed from the crack. “It is not your place to question me, demon. Collect the souls, especially the boy!”

The demon headed toward Lucas, but Lucas’ dad jumped in front of him. 

“LEAVE HIM ALONE!” yelled the dad spirit, as he made the form of a cross using his arms and held them up in front of the demon’s eyes. “I COMMAND YOU TO LEAVE!”

The action did nothing but annoy the demon.

“GET OUT OF MY FACE,” bellowed the demon. “Satan wants the boy’s soul and he shall have it.”

The demon swatted at the dad spirit, knocking him off his feet, then grabbed at Lucas. 

Lucas saw the evil claw-like hand coming at him and bolted for the church door.

Lucas’ mom and dad continued to fight the demon as its clawed hand grabbed Lucas’ head. The memory of his death rushed back to Lucas. He recalled his dad yelling at him in the arcade, running into the basement and falling down a shaft. The same shaft he saw in Tommy’s basement.

Lucas remembered he came face to face with Satan before. He was told that one day they had plans for him and that he was the chosen one to lead them to victory over the forces of good. But remembers that something was told to him by something else but he can’t focus on what.

Lucas felt himself being absorbed into the demon. His parents continued to fight but it did no good. Then the church doors flew open and the priest stood there holding the biggest balloon that Lucas had ever seen. The priest threw it at the demon’s face. Water sprayed everywhere.

The Holy Water spilled down over the demon and its skin began burning and smoking. It released its hold of Lucas’ soul and Lucas slowly returned to the Holy Spirit that he had been.

The Demon becomes transparent and the human bodies of Tommy, Brandon and Mrs. Mills are released.

The six of them stood there with the Priest looking on, thinking the demon had finally been defeated.

The ground suddenly rumbled, feeling much like an earthquake and the small crack that had opened previously got wider.

A netherworld voice trumpeted from the depths of hell.

“Spirits back to limbo where you belong!”

Huge vines grew out from the crack, wrapping around Lucas, his mom and dad slowly dragging them underground.

“Tommy, you will find our bodies in the shaft. Give us a proper burial so we can finally be at peace!”

“I will Lucas. I promise!”

As Tommy made his way back home, he thought about all that had happened he was still shocked to know ghost and demons existed he made a promise to himself right then and there that he would always help kids and families being haunted or possessed by demons. He headed for his basement.

As soon as they reached home, Tommy’s mom and brother collapsed on the couch and fell asleep. The ordeal inside the demon wore them out. Tommy was too restless and was determined to find the bodies. He went downstairs and located the opening to the shaft and peered inside.

It was pitch black inside, but Tommy could see that the shaft went down a short way, then cut its way back into a tunnel. A rickety wooden ladder was attached to the side of the shaft’s wall.

He climbed onto the ladder and carefully made his way down to the tunnel.

He peered into the tunnel.

“HELLO!”

‘Hello… Hello… Hello…’ only an echo answered.

Tommy pulled his iPhone from his pocket and turned on the flashlight. He pointed it into the tunnel but could see only a few feet ahead.

He cautiously entered the dark, damp space.

Tommy was glad to be on solid ground. He thought to himself since he almost slipped off the ladder a few times coming down, “I’ll bet that when Lucas’ parents came looking for him, they fell to their death climbing down that rickety old ladder.” He shined his phone’s flashlight on the floor and saw three skeletons. He carefully collected the bones in the three canvas bags he had brought with him.

Before he could start climbing back up, Tommy heard a loud booming voice, “You Can’t Have Them! A swift glowing red hand snatched the canvas bags out of his hands. They belong to us and now so do you! You will never be able to get out of this portal to Hell!

Something grabbed Tommy’s legs and pulled him deeper into the tunnel.

Tommy kicked at the claw that held him, but he couldn’t get free. In desperation, he yelled into his cell. “Text Brandon. Help! I’m in the tunnel! Found bones but the demon got me!”

The one bar he had on his phone disappeared so he tossed it behind him, hoping it would be found.

Brandon and his mom had been sleeping upstairs, but Brandon had found the urge to pee. As he stood at the toilet relieving himself,

“Ding!”

He pulled his phone from his pocket and clicked on messages, seeing what Tommy had just wrote.

He zipped up and ran back to his mom.

“MOM! WAKE UP!”

Brandon showed the text to his mother. Mrs. Mills jumped up and the two of them hurried to the basement.

“TOMMY? TOMMY?”

They found the uncovered shaft entrance but couldn’t see or hear anything. 

“Brandon, run upstairs and get flashlights from the kitchen.”

Brandon quickly got the flashlights and ran back into the basement. He and his mom were right under where the arcade was years ago. They shined their flashlights down into the dark shaft and yelled, 

“Tommy!”

“I’m going down.” Brandon said.

“Be careful honey!”

He was getting scared as he made his way deeper and deeper, it was so dark. He got to a spot that was so hot that he was sweating badly and was hearing screaming and very loud voices. “Boy, how dare you come down here. You can’t help your brother. He’s mine now. Replacing Lucas in my army! Roar!”

Brandon recognized the voice of the demon. The same demon who he had just recently escaped from. He stopped and picked up his brother’s iPhone. Further along, he found the three canvas bags. He wondered to himself, “If I bury the bones, will they be free to help me again?”

He grabbed the bags and quickly made his way back to the basement. 

“Mom, these are the bones of our three spirit friends. I think we need to bury them to lift this curse and get Tommy back.”

“I think you’re right, son. Take them to the church yard and hallow ground. Hurry!”

Brandon grabbed his folding Boy Scouts shovel and ran to the church. His mom had phoned ahead, and the Priest was waiting. He quickly led Brandon around back to the cemetery.

“Dig right there,” said the Priest, pointing. “Make it deep enough so we won’t ever have to disturb it.”

Back in the tunnel, the demon had Tommy pinned to the wall and was ready to consume his soul. Suddenly, a brilliant white light flooded the tunnel. The demon screeched then disappeared as three angelic beings appeared. It was Lucas with his mom and dad.

“Our souls have been freed.”

Tommy was then greeted by an angelic figure. The angel spoke, “You are the guardian of good here on earth. I am bestowing you with special abilities to help you in your journey of fighting evil demon spirits and protecting souls from evil. Do you accept?”

Tommy grinned. “Yes! I will gladly accept. Thank you! I am ready.”

Tommy looked at his mother. She nodded, knowingly.  He faced the three spirits. “As Guardian I can release you to Heaven.”

Lucas blurted, “I wanna stay with you!” As Lucas’ parents agreed they shimmered and were gone. Tommy took Lucas’ hand and Lucas became a live boy once more.

Epilogue

Tommy led Lucas into his bedroom, hand in hand. “I’m so happy that mom got all the paperwork sorted to let you live here. I even started cleaning out the spare room to make it into your bedroom.”

“Don’t you mean your bedroom? This is my bedroom.”

“Very funny. This is my bedroom.”

“It was mine first. I guess we’ll have to share it.” Lucas smirked and winked.

Tommy blushed a bright red. “I wish. Mom would never go for that, though.”

Lucas sighed. “Ok. Ok. Let’s go check out this new bedroom.”

Back down under the arcade, the tunnel began to glow with an orange light again. Heat and the smell of sulfur poured forth. A clawed hand appeared out of the darkness pulling its owner forward. The demon’s eyes flashed with Hellfire. “I’m not done with you yet, boy. I’m coming and Hell is coming with me.”

The End…. For Now.

The New Kid

Skylar stopped at the corner, looked around, and stepped into the alley. He fidgeted with the straps on his backpack and cursed the man for being late. Where was this guy? Skylar glanced at his watch, seven-thirty. Sky was on time; the guy was not. Finally, the man entered the alley and walked over to Skylar.

“Hey, kid, sorry I’m late. You got the money?”

“Yeah. Right here.” Sky showed the man a bundle of cash. “You got what I asked for?”

The man pulled something out of the pocket of his hoodie. They exchanged the money for the merchandise. “Kid, don’t do anything stupid. I don’t want to regret my decision to sell to you.”

Skylar scowled. “Give me a break, dude. You know you don’t care what I do. You have your money, don’t worry about anything else.”

“Whatever, kid.” The man turned and left.

Skylar shoved the bundle into the bottom of his backpack and walked the rest of the way to school.

Jack sat in the back of the classroom and watched as the new kid, Skylar, arrived not ten seconds before the last bell rang. He also watched as, once again, Nate tripped the kid, sending him sprawling down the aisle between the desks. Idiot. Bullies are such cowards, and the people that laugh and do nothing are just as bad. Jack decided that the time to act was coming soon, maybe even today.

Skylar got up off the floor and quickly sat down. He blushed furiously when almost everyone in the class laughed. Sky held his backpack in his lap and caressed the outline of his new purchase. He was tired of being the target of bullies. If no one was going to help him, then he needed to help himself. Skylar decided that the time to act was coming soon, maybe even today.

Jack was in the cafeteria, eating his lunch. He saw Skylar walking across the room, tray in hand, looking for a place to sit down. He was about to call out for Skylar when he noticed Nate walking quickly, angling straight for the boy. Jack decided that the time to act was now. He got up so fast that his chair fell over and rushed towards the other two boys.

Skylar was walking through the cafeteria just trying to find a quiet place to sit down. The next thing he knew, his lunch tray flipped up, spraying the food all over him. He looked up just in time to see Nate’s fist connect with the side of his head, knocking him down. Tears of pain and rage welled up in Sky’s eyes. He didn’t even hear what Nate was yelling at him. Unthinkingly, his hands unzipped his backpack, and he reached inside. His hand reached the bundle that he put there this morning, and he began unwrapping the cloth from around it.

Jack reached the other two just as Nate knocked Skylar to the floor. He crouched down next to Skylar. “Hey, you ok? You want me to call a teacher or the nurse?” He rested a hand on Skylar’s shoulder. “First let me get rid of this idiot.” Jack gave Skylar a reassuring smile.

Skylar was unsure what to do. No one had ever helped him before. He decided to let go of the item he was holding and see what happened. He zipped his backpack securely closed again.

Jack stood up in between Skylar and Nate. “Nate, what is your problem anyway? Are you so insecure with yourself that you have to pick on other people? Grow up.”

“Shut up and stay out of this, Jack. This is between me and the little fairy.” Nate said with a sneer on his face.

“Fairy? Name calling now, Nate? What is this? Third grade? Your bullying of him and of everyone else for that matter ends today. Unless you want to try and bully me.” Jack’s track teammates had started to gather around the boys.

“What are you a fairy, too, Jack? Sucking dick in the locker room after school?”

“Whether I am or whether I’m not, that isn’t what this is about. It’s about you trying to target someone who you think you can get away with bullying. That stops now. You can stop on your own, or I can stop you. Your choice. I almost hope you want me to stop you.”

“You know what? Screw you. Screw all of you. I’m outta here.” Nate turned and stormed off.

Jack turned and saw his friends gathered in, watching. “You guys can go finish lunch. Thanks for having my back, but I can handle jerks like Nate.” After the crowd dispersed, he knelt next to Skylar. “Hey. He hit you pretty hard. You want me to walk you to the nurse?”

“No. I’m ok. Why did you do that? No one has ever helped me before. I didn’t think anyone even cared. Usually, everyone just laughs at him.” Tears streaked down Skylar’s face, though he tried his best to make them stop.

“Hey. Stop that.” Jack reached over and brushed away Sky’s tears. “Let’s go somewhere more private.” They walked out of the cafeteria and into an empty classroom. “Skylar, I’m so sorry I never stepped in sooner. I never laughed. I… I don’t know. I should have said something to a teacher or did something sooner. I’m so sorry.”

Skylar looked up at him through fresh tears. “I’m surprised you even know my name. I loved my old school, but I hate it so much here. No one even talks to me.”

“Well, that’s gonna change, starting right now.” Jack put an arm around Skylar’s shoulders. “You’re under my protection.” They both grinned. “By the way, don’t you have a study hall with Mrs. Jamison next period?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Ditch it. Come to art class with me. I’ll have Mr. Jenkins call her and tell her he said it’s ok. I’ve seen the drawings in your notebook. You need to show them to Mr. Jenkins. You belong in art more than I do!”

“You’ve seen my doodles? I didn’t think anyone even knew I existed in this school. I’m not really that good, but I’ll come to class with you.”

“Good. Come on. Let’s go.” The two boys headed down the hall towards the art room.

The last bell rang, and all the kids ran out to either catch a bus or walk home. Skylar looked around for Jack, not seeing him, he started walking home.  He was just crossing the Stormy Brook Bridge when he heard Jack yelling from behind him. “Skylar! Hey! Wait up!”

“Hey, Jack. I thought maybe you took a bus. I don’t even know where you live. I forgot to ask you which way you went home before we left art class.”

“I live on Mitchell Drive. What about you?”

“Only two streets further. Monument Street.”

“I guess we get to walk home together then.” Jack nudged Sky’s shoulder with his own.

“Jack, I need to tell you something. I know we just started talking, and we don’t really know each other very well yet, but I need to tell you this. You have to swear to me that won’t tell anyone. Not your parents, not my parents, not the police, no one! Promise me!” Skylar said, leaning against the railing of the bridge, with tears forming in his eyes.

Jack grabbed both of Sky’s hands and held them in his own. “I promise. Whatever it is, I promise. You can tell me anything, Sky.”

“I bought something this morning. It’s in my backpack. I bought it because of Nate and all the people who laugh instead of stopping him from hurting me. In the cafeteria today, I had my hand in my backpack. I had it in my hand. I was going to use it. Then, like a miracle, you showed up. I don’t know why you picked that moment to show up and help me, but if you hadn’t, I would have used it.” Skylar had slid down the railing. His head was resting on his knees, his arms wrapped around his knees, sobbing uncontrollably.

Jack knelt and wrapped Skylar in his arms. “Shh, stop crying. I’m glad you told me this, and I’m glad I was there today. If that had happened, I never would have gotten a chance to meet you and talk to you. I’m sorry I didn’t get involved sooner, Sky. I’m sorry you felt so alone, but I’m here now, and I’m not going anywhere. I never want you to feel alone ever again.” He took Sky’s face in his hands and made him look at him. “If you’re talking about what I think you’re talking about, what do you plan on doing with it now? Are you going to keep it?”

Skylar stood up and set his backpack on the railing. He fished the bundle out and held it in his hand. Sky looked from item in his hands to Jack and back to the bundle again. He slowly unwrapped the cloth revealing the gun that he had been carrying around all day at school. He reached over the railing and dropped the gun into the river below. He smiled as relief flooded over him. “It actually feels like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders today. Jack, what you did for me means more than you can ever know. I’m happy for the first time since I moved here.” Skylar’s smile lit up his whole face, his bright blue eyes twinkling as he looked at Jack.

“I’m so glad you dumped that gun. If you hadn’t, I might not have done this.” Jack leaned in and kissed Skylar. Shocked, Skylar pulled back at first.

“Oh, my God. I’m sorry. I’m such an idiot. I thought you …. Oh my god….” Tears of embarrassment filled Jack’s eyes.

“Hey… hey stop. You were right. I do. You just surprised me.” Skylar grabbed the front of Jack’s shirt and pulled him close for their first real kiss.

Jack grinned from ear to ear. “For a minute I thought you were straight, and I’d ruined things already.”

“Hell no. How can I be straight when I’m around hot guys like you?” Sky teased.

Jack rolled his eyes. “I’ve created a monster.” They both laughed and continued their walk home.

The Christmas Ghosts: Behind the Scenes

The Ghost of Christmas Past floated into the chamber where his brothers waited. “So, do we get this Christmas off or what?”

The Ghost of Christmas Present looked up from the documents he was reading. “You can’t be serious. Look around the present on occasion. If you noticed current events instead of always looking into the past, you’d know we are needed more than ever before.”

“Well, who do we visit this year? After that green beast in Whoville and the miser in London, we are due for an easy one.” He looked towards their third brother.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come simply pointed at the most immense Blood Ledger that any of them had ever seen.

“Who the blazes does that belong to?” He said, his translucent jaw hanging open.

Christmas Yet to Come mutely pointed at the cover of the ledger. Christmas Past groaned and rattled his chains. “Oh, dear. We are in for a long night.”

The Ghost of Jacob Marley moaned to himself as he floated through the halls of the house of his new target. He thought that, after assisting in the haunting of his former business partner, he would have been free to move on. But no, here he was about to haunt yet another businessman.

Jacob did feel honored to participate in this particular haunting, though. He took in the beauty of this significant and historic house. The mix of antique paintings and furniture and newer décor was breath-taking. He readied himself and floated through one final wall. As he entered the Oval Office and faced the man behind the desk, Jacob began moaning and rattling his chains in earnest.

The man behind the desk shouted, “You’re just a Fake Ghost! Get out!”

Jacob Marley rattled his chains even louder. This was bound to be a long night.

Red Death

Charlie pulled the parka tighter around his slim body and ran through the blinding snow. He was the only one left now. He didn’t see what took his friends, all he saw was a bright red flash of light then the screams. Screams that he knew he would never forget. That red light, could the legends be true? He pushed the thought from his mind and ran on.

Finally! He saw the soft warm glow of the light in the cabin window. Only fifty yards more. He pushed himself to ran faster. Wham! He felt something heavy slam into his back, knocking him face first into the snow. He groggily turned over and his eyes widened in shock and fear.

The legend was true. It made a weird kind of sense, he thought. Rudolph existed, so why not his evil twin? For every beacon of hope and light in the world there also existed a beacon of despair and darkness. That was what Charlie faced now.

He got to his feet and started backing away from the pawing, growling reindeer. Just when he thought he escape into the cabin, the reindeer’s red nose glowed bright. Surprised by the unexpected light, Charlie raised his arms to shield his eyes. The last thing he felt was the reindeer’s razor-sharp antlers piercing his body.

Khristoff, the Red-nosed Terror of the North had claimed yet another victim.

Home For Christmas

Danny sat in his bedroom, knees pulled up to his chin, watching a Christmas special marathon. He could have gone downstairs to his parents’ Christmas party, but there were way too many people down there. Danny doubted if his parents even noticed that his absence. His phone vibrated in his pocket, but Danny ignored it. Then it vibrated again, and almost immediately a third time.

He slipped his phone out of his pocket and looked at the notifications. Three texts from Greyson.

Greyson (text): Yo! Where are you?

Greyson (text): Upstairs or downstairs?

Greyson (text): Never mind. Just look out your window!

Danny rolled his eyes and got up. He went over to his window and looked down. As expected, there in the yard below, Greyson was looking up and waving at him.

Danny (text): Hey (laughing face) what’s up?

Greyson (text): Get your ass down here. Let’s chill.

Danny (text): Ok. Be right down. They’ll never notice I’m gone.

Greyson (text): Just put some clothes on. I don’t want you scaring your neighbors (laughing face).

Danny (text): They’re used to it (eye-roll face) (laughing face) I’ll be right out.

Danny ran down the stairs and carefully weaved his way through the crowd of guests. He waved to a few people he knew and hoped they’d mention seeing him to his parents. Maybe they’d think he was there after all.

Bundled in his winter jacket, with a red beanie pulled down over his thick brown curls, Danny joined Greyson in the backyard. Even though he’d only known Grey since they met in freshman orientation back in September, they had quickly become the best of friends. Grey lived in the dorms, but since the college was only ten minutes from his house, Danny still lived with his parents. “Hey. What are you doing here? I thought you were going to Colorado over Christmas Break.”

“Ugh. No.” Grey blushed and looked down. “I lied to my parents. I told them I had a lot of schoolwork to catch up on. I just wanted to go home for Christmas, not a stupid ski trip. You know what I mean?”

“Yeah, but now you’re stuck in the dorm. You’re still not at home.” Danny pointed out.

Grey smirked. “I’m not stuck in the dorm. I’m in your backyard. Let’s go get coffee or something. It’s freaking cold out here.”

They walked into the coffee shop, and a young blonde-haired waitress ran over to them and hugged Danny. “Danny! Where have you been hiding? I haven’t seen you since graduation! Do you have a girlfriend yet?” She asked excitedly.

“Hey, Beth. Good to see you. I’ve been busy with schoolwork, mostly, and no girlfriend.” He pointed at Grey. “This is my best bud, Greyson. Grey, this is Beth. We went to high school together.”

Beth said hi to Grey, but her attention was still on Danny. “I have to go. We’re busy tonight, but I’d love to catch up sometime. Maybe you could stop in more often.” She winked at Danny and left to help other customers.

“Future Mrs. Miller?” Grey chuckled.

“Not on a dare.” Danny rolled his eyes. He motioned for Grey to be quiet as he saw Beth bringing their drinks.

His hands finally wrapped around a steaming mug of hot cocoa, Danny nearly moaned. “This is so much better than coffee.”

“Are you sure your parents won’t miss you?” Grey asked.

“Nope. They’re way too busy having the perfect Christmas party to notice that their only child isn’t even home on Christmas Eve.” Danny said.

“That’s unbelievable. I would totally notice if you weren’t there.” Grey said blushing.

“Of course, you would. I’m your only friend. Without me, you’d have no one to talk to.” Danny laughed.

“Idiot. You’re my best friend, not my only friend. Get it right.” Grey rolled his eyes.

“Why wouldn’t you want to get out of here for a couple weeks. Have fun skiing. You didn’t actually stay to study, did you?” Danny asked.

“No. I thought if I told them that I couldn’t go, that they’d stay home. I know I don’t live all that far away, but I’ve been in the dorms for three months. I just wanted to go home and spend the holidays sleeping in my own bed. I wanted to wake up Christmas morning and spend the day playing games with my brother and relaxing. But, no, they went anyway. They told me if I changed my mind that they’d send me a plane ticket. So, now, I’m stuck in the dorm by myself. I’m not at home or on vacation. My diabolical plan failed.” Grey said.

“Why stay by yourself? I’m sure you can find some cute girl to shack up with for the week. Or if she doesn’t mind your annoying personality traits, date her.” Danny shrugged his shoulders and smirked at his friend.

“Yeah, right! No thank you. I’ll pass.” Grey said.

Danny cocked his head and looked intently at his friend. “We’ve never really had this conversation, but I can’t believe that you don’t have a girlfriend, or maybe a boyfriend?”

Grey blushed. “I’ve never had a boyfriend before. None of the guys in my high school interested me.”

Danny grinned. “What about now? There’s a lot of hot guys on campus. You ever ask any of them out?”

“Well, there is this one guy, but I was never sure if he liked me back in that way. I was too scared to mess up the friendship I was building with him to ask him out and have him end up being straight.” Grey said.

Danny reached over and took Grey’s hand. “I think you should chance it. The dude would be a fool to say no to you.”

“You want to get out of here? We can go back to my dorm and talk about this some more.” Grey said.

Danny’s brow furrowed in concentration. “No. You wanted to go home for Christmas. Your parent’s house is only like an hour away. How about we go there?” Danny said with a smile.

“That’s brilliant!” Grey said, leaping to his feet. “Let’s go!”

Danny motioned for Beth to bring them their check. After paying for their drinks, he went to put the receipt in his pocket, but he noticed some writing on the bottom. He laughed and showed Grey what it said.

“Poor girl. If she only knew.” Grey said.

“Yeah. Her bad luck that she gives me her number the same night I finally decide to stop hiding what I really want in a date.” Danny said, smiling at Grey. “Now, let’s get you home.”

Less than an hour and a half later, they were pulling into the driveway. “Are you sure no one’s home?” Danny said, looking at all the Christmas lights and decorations in the yard and the lit-up tree in the front window. Light snow started falling while they were driving. The snow and all the lights in Grey’s yard looked like a scene straight off a Christmas card. “It’s beautiful, Grey. Your family does an awesome job decorating.”

“Thanks. Mom does the whole inside of the house. Dad and me and my brother do the outside lights and stuff. Well, I didn’t help this year, but it all looks the same. The lights are on automatic timers. So, even though they aren’t home, the lights still go on and off.” Grey said, getting out of the car. He ran through the falling snow to take Danny’s hand as he exited the vehicle.

Danny smiled, and they walked into Grey’s house together. Danny shook the snow off his coat and beanie and hung them by the door. Grey gave him a quick tour of the house, ending in the living room by the Christmas tree.

Grey stood in front of Danny, just staring at him for a moment. “You are so beautiful, Danny.” He reached up and touched Danny’s face. “I have wanted to do this since the first time I saw you back in September.” He leaned in and kissed him. The kiss was tentative at first but quickly grew in passion. Danny’s hands wandered down Grey’s body coming to rest on his hips. He pulled their bodies even closer together. Grey’s hands were tangled in Danny’s curly brown hair. Grey broke the kiss and started licking and sucking on Danny’s neck. Danny moaned in pleasure, but he pushed back from Greyson.

“Let’s save some of this stuff until we’ve actually been on a real date.” Danny laughed.

Grey nearly growled. “Mm. OK, I guess.” He gave Danny one last kiss and led him to the couch. They cuddled close, and Grey pulled a big blanket over the two of them. Danny grabbed the remote.

“Let’s watch the Christmas movie marathon that I was watching before you stopped by.” Danny said and turned on “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

“Do you prefer classic cartoons or new movies?” Grey asked.

“I love both, but I prefer the classics. Jim Carrey did great as the Grinch, but this cartoon is pure gold.” Danny said.

“I know, right! Mostly I hate the old-fashioned animation, but it just seems to fit the Christmas cartoons. And the stop motion animation in the ones like Rudolph is amazing. Watching classic films is what got me interested in film making, to begin with,” Grey said.

“That’s right. I won’t ever have a problem getting you to watch movies. It’s your obsession and your future career.” Danny said.

Grey leaned in and kissed Danny. “And I’ll buy the rights to your first novel and hire you to turn it into a screenplay. I might even let you make a cameo appearance on screen. It depends on how well your audition goes.” Grey winked and kissed him again.

“After my sexual harassment suit, I’ll own your company!” Danny acted like he was offended.

“It’s not harassment if we’re married,” Grey said.

Danny smiled. “Let’s start with a first date, Romeo.” He leaned in for another kiss. They leaned against each other and watched as “The Grinch” ended and “It’s a Wonderful Life” started. With the Christmas tree lights blinking and the tv playing, they fell asleep in each other’s arms.

When Greyson woke up the next morning, he looked down and smiled. Waking up with the boy that he was quickly falling in love with wrapped in the arms was the best feeling ever. He leaned down and kissed Danny’s forehead. Danny groggily opened his eyes, and Greyson said, “Good morning, sleepy-head.”

“Morning, Grey.” Danny leaned in and kissed him. “Merry Christmas.”

“It’s already the merriest Christmas ever,” Greyson said and couldn’t stop smiling. He had come home for Christmas after all, and not just home to his house. He had come home to the arms of the man that he hoped he’d spend every Christmas with for the rest of his life.

Christmas Heart

Christmas Heart

Ben desperately needed to get out of the house before he had an anxiety attack. It was bad enough that they over-decorated their home, but now, even here at the cabin, they were all rushing around putting lights and garland on everything in sight. Ben didn’t hate Christmas, not the overall idea behind it anyway. He did, however, hate the over-commercialization and all the stupid decorations.

Obviously, at nineteen, he didn’t believe in that fat elf-lover in the red suit. And flying reindeer? Please. Maybe reindeer in a tasty stew for Christmas dinner, though. He chuckled at his own joke. He looked around at his parents, his little brother, and his two younger sisters. He shook his head. How many freaking decorations does one small cabin need? He grimaced and inched closer to the door.

He tapped his mother on the shoulder. “Hey, Ma, can I get out of here for a little while?” She was about to say no, then she saw the anxious, trapped look in her oldest son’s eyes.

His mother pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket. “Sure, Ben. Go for a drive into town. Pick these things up on your way back, please.”

Ben took the grocery list from his mother. “Thanks, Ma! You’re the best.” He kissed his mother lightly on the forehead and ran out the door.

Ben was driving aimlessly through town with the windows down, despite the winter chill. The cold wind helped to clear his head. Without even realizing it, he was stopped in front of Landon’s house. Ben smiled for the first time that day. He met Landon at the beginning of their freshman year of college last year. They immediately became inseparable. They did almost everything together, except date. Then, after over a year of being best friends, everything changed. Ben’s mind drifted back to that night, October 23. They were, as usual, sitting on the couch in Landon’s basement binge-watching “Supernatural” on Netflix.

Landon looked over at Ben with a curious expression on his face. “After all this time, why haven’t you ever asked me out?”

Ben was almost too shocked to answer. “I didn’t think you were interested in me in that way.” He shrugged.

Landon got up, then straddled Ben’s lap, looking down into his brown eyes. “What if I asked you out?” He asked with a smirk.

Ben looked up, almost unable to speak. “I’d say yes.” His brow furrowed. “Are you asking?” Whatever else he was going to say was silenced as Landon kissed him. Ben’s lips parted, still trying to speak, and Landon’s tongue darted in.

After twenty minutes of a heavy make-out session, Landon casually got up and sat back where he had been before. He restarted the episode of “Supernatural” back at the beginning, then looked at Ben. “So, do you want to go out to dinner sometime?” He smirked.

Ben smiled the biggest smile of his life. “Yes. Absolutely yes.”

Ben focused back on the present. He got out of his car and sighed, shaking his head at the Christmas lights and decorations all over Landon’s yard and house. He slowly walked up to the door and was just about to knock when the door opened. Landon pulled him inside and planted a kiss right on his lips. “Merry Christmas Eve, Ben!”

“Wow. A greeting like that could get me to like the holidays.” Ben laughed.

“You are not allowed to be grumpy about Christmas around me, Benjamin Jacobson!” Landon scolded.

“Whatever.” Ben rolled his eyes.

“What’s up anyway? I thought you guys left for the cabin today.” Landon said.

“We did. Everyone is there, decorating everything in sight. Mom is baking cookies. The cabin is chaos. I had to get out of there. Mom let me go but gave me a shopping list. Want to go for a walk?” Ben asked.

“Sure. Hold on.” Landon stepped from the hall into the kitchen. “Hey, mom, Ben is here. We were going to go for a walk. Is that ok?”

Landon’s mom waved to Ben. “Hi, Ben. Tell your family Merry Christmas for me. You boys have fun. Landon, just please be home before five.”

“Ok, mom, thanks. See you later.” Landon said. He grabbed Ben’s hand, and they walked out the door.

Ben’s eyes darted everywhere as they walked up the street. He pointed up. “See what I mean! Why do we need wreaths hanging off the traffic lights? It’s too much. It bugs me.”

Landon stepped in front of Ben and wrapped his arms around his boyfriend’s waist. “Why? Why does it bug you so much? I love it. I think it makes the town look pretty for a month. I even plan to decorate our house someday.” His smile broadened.

Ben rolled his eyes. “Ugh! No! To answer your question, though, I don’t know. It’s the whole holiday, I guess. Whichever way you spin it, it’s bogus. Religion is crap, and the Santa myth is just lies spread by parents trying to get their kids to behave. It’s all stupid. Plus, the music is annoying!”

“You must not be listening to the right Christmas music,” Landon said, pressing his forehead against Ben’s. “It is my goal in life to get you to believe in the spirit of Christmas as much as I do.” He said.

“Good luck with that. It would take Santa Claus himself coming down my chimney and hand-delivering me a present to get me to believe even half of it.” Ben laughed.

Landon shook his head. “I don’t need you to believe in an actual person in a red suit so much as in the spirit of giving.” He placed a hand over Ben’s heart. “The spirit of love.”

Ben closed the remaining distance between them and kissed Landon. “I believe in love. I love you. I just don’t love Christmas.” He shrugged.

Landon smiled, his face flushed. “I love you, too. And I guess we can start with that. I’ll have you loving Christmas before you know it.”

The two boys walked into the grocery store. Ben looked around at all the Christmas lights and decorations and shook his head. “Even here! Let’s just get what my mom needs and get out of here.”

Landon held tight to his boyfriend’s hand, and they hurried through the store, gathering what they needed. As they exited the store, Ben took a deep breath. “Lan, can we just go back to your place now? Getting away from the cabin was supposed to help, but this isn’t helping.”

“Sure. Let’s go.” Hand in hand, they walked back to Landon’s house.

They dropped Ben’s groceries off in his car and went into Landon’s house. “Mom, we’re back!” Landon yelled when they entered the house.

“Ben, come into the kitchen and try some of these cookies. I tried new varieties this year. You boys can be my taste testers.” Landon’s mom said.

“I’d love to, Mrs. Parker. I can’t stay long, though. My mom needs those groceries I picked up.” Ben said. They sat around the kitchen table, and Landon’s mom passed out plates of cookies and poured both boys a glass of iced tea.

“Mm, these cookies are awesome,” Ben said with his mouth still full of cookie. “Where’s Mr. Parker and Mason?”

Mrs. Parker rolled her eyes. “They said they were going to Mason’s friend’s house to drop off presents, but you never know with those two. Probably last-minute shopping.”

Landon laughed. “You’re probably right, mom. I’m glad I got my shopping done early. The mall has been packed all this week.”

Ben glanced at his watch. “Lan, I wish I could stay, but I gotta go.”

“Wait for me by the door. I’ll be there in a second.” Landon said.

After Ben left the room, Landon looked at his mother. “Mom, I know it’s Christmas Eve, but can I go with Ben to the cabin? He’s been really stressed out and depressed. I’m worried about him, and I want to be there with him.”

Mrs. Parker thought for a minute. “He doesn’t seem his normal cheerful self.” She patted her son’s arm. “You know I want you here, but go ahead and go with him. I can see how much you care about him.”

Landon blushed. “Aww, mom. You’re the best. Tell dad and Mason I’ll be home before noon. Merry Christmas, mom. Love you.” Landon hugged his mother, grabbed his jacket from the closet, and ran out into the hallway.

“Why do you have your jacket on?” Ben asked.

“I’m coming with you.” Landon smiled and kissed Ben on the cheek. “Let’s go.”

“I can’t believe you’re coming with me on Christmas Eve. What about your family Christmas?” Ben said with a shocked expression.

Landon looked up directly into Ben’s eyes. “I love you. I want to be with you. I told mom that I’ll be home before noon. Now let’s get you back to the cabin before your mom kills us both.”

Ben leaned down and kissed Landon. “I love you, too. I’m so happy you’re coming with me.”

While Ben drove to the cabin, Landon was texting with his brother explaining why he wasn’t going to be home. “We’re here,” Ben said.

Landon looked up from his phone, and his jaw dropped. Wow. It’s so beautiful here. And all the decorations. You weren’t kidding. I love it, but how did they do all this in one day?”

“They’re motivated when it comes to decorating.” Ben rolled his eyes. They walked up to the cabin, and Ben pulled open the door. Loud Christmas music immediately assaulted their ears. Ben grimaced and walked in, followed by Landon. He walked into the kitchen and set the grocery bags down on the table. “I got everything you asked for and picked up something extra for myself.” He grinned and nodded toward Landon.

“Landon!” Ben’s mother said. “I’m surprised to see you, but I’m so happy you could join us. Didn’t your family have Christmas Eve plans?”

“Thank you, Mrs. Jacobson. Yes, they have plans. Usual family stuff, but,” He leaned his head against Ben’s shoulder. “I wanted to spend Christmas Eve with this guy.” Ben blushed and put an arm around Landon’s waist.

“Get a room, you two.” Ben’s sister Alice said as she walked into the room.

Ben smirked. “That’s the best idea I’ve heard all day.”

Landon elbowed him. “Not in front of your mom!”

Mrs. Jacobson Laughed and said, “Oh, don’t worry, Landon. I was eighteen once, too.”

“I’m eighteen now, and I don’t act like a hormone-crazed psycho,” Alice said, rolling her eyes at her brother.

Ben’s other sister, Amy, rushed into the kitchen. “Do I hear Landon’s voice? Hi, Landon! Are you spending Christmas with us? Is Mason with you?”

“Hey, Amy. No, your not-so-secret crush is not with me. He’s home with mom and dad. I’ll be sure to tell him that you asked about him, though.” Landon said with a grin.

Amy blushed a deep crimson. “You don’t have to do that. I don’t have a crush!”

Ben chimed in. “Want us to set-up a double date? Mason is a single pringle that’s ready to mingle. I’m sure he’d say yes.”

“Ugh! Boys! You’re all so annoying!” Amy stormed out of the room.

Ben shrugged his shoulders and looked at Alice. “I was serious. If she’s interested, we can ask him.”

“I’ll go talk to her,” Alice said and went off in search of her sister.

The youngest Jacobson, thirteen-year-old Lucas, walked in the kitchen. “Mom, when are we going to leave to go caroling? I want to be back here before eight o’clock. Oh, hey, Landon. I didn’t know you were coming over tonight.” Lucas bumped fists with his brother’s boyfriend and waited for his mother’s answer.

“Right now, if I can herd all you hooligans into the car.” She said.

Ben spoke up. “Mom, with Landon here, can I skip caroling, please?”

“Landon is more than welcome to join us. Landon, honey, do you want to come Christmas caroling with us?” Mrs. Jacobson asked.

Ben didn’t give Landon a chance to answer. “Come on, mom, please. It would give us a couple hours to just chill without all you guys here. It’s our first Christmas Eve together.”

“Ok. Ok. I really enjoy our caroling, but I understand. You boys have fun. We’ll be gone for about two hours. Behave yourselves.” She said and gathered the rest of the family together, and they all left the cabin.

Ben was waving to his family from the door when he noticed the first few snowflakes starting to fall. He scowled and thought to himself that he didn’t remember seeing snow in the forecast. He took out his phone and opened a weather app. The forecast showed a clear but cold night. Then while he was still reading the forecast, the screen flashed red with a weather alert: Winter Storm Warning. Unexpected snowstorm developing over Douglas County. Blizzard conditions expected with 18-24” of snow. Travel not advised.

“Landon? Have you seen the forecast?” Ben asked as he was walking back into the living room.

“No, babe. Let me look.” Landon pulled out his phone. “Oh, wow. It didn’t say that earlier. That’s weird. I hope your family makes it back before it gets too bad out.”

“Yeah. I’ll text Lucas and make sure they know.” Ben said. “He’s not answering. I’ll try later or text one of my sisters. I’ll get the fireplace going. Go pick out a movie.”

Ben was finishing up getting the fireplace started, and he smelt the popcorn cooking. Good. Landon found the popcorn. He smiled to himself. He stood up from the fireplace and pulled his phone out of his pocket. Finally, a text from Lucas. “This storm caught us quick. The roads are already so bad that mom talked dad into going home for the night. She said to say sorry that you guys are gonna be at the cabin alone. I know that won’t be heartbreaking for you, bro. Ha-ha. See you guys as soon as we can tomorrow. Merry Christmas, Bro. Tell Landon I said the same.

Landon walked into the room, carrying a big bowl of popcorn and a six-pack of Sprite. “Nice fire. I scrolled through Netflix and picked out The Christmas Chronicles. I’ve heard it’s good, and I haven’t seen it yet, have you?” He sat down on the couch and handed a sprite to Ben and put the rest on the floor beside them.

Ben smirked. “Have you looked outside?”

“No. Why?” Landon asked, going over to the window. “Oh, my God. Have you heard back from anybody yet? Are they safe?”

“I just got a text from Lucas. Mom decided that they should spend the night in town at our home. We’re on our own for the night.” Ben winked at Landon.

Landon sat back on the couch and leaned in against his boyfriend. “Let’s start the movie then.”

Ben put his arm around Landon and turned on The Christmas Chronicles.

“I’m so glad my family didn’t make up any corny nicknames like Teddy Bear or Kit Kat,” Landon commented as the movie played. But this is a cute movie so far.”

“Cute guy, too. I might have to check his IMDb after the movie.” Ben said.

Landon rolled his eyes. “His name is Judah Lewis, and I’ve seen him in “The Babysitter” and yes, he’s cute.”

“He’s not half as cute as you, babe.” Ben leaned over and kissed Landon. Landon pulled Ben down on top of him, and the kiss deepened. Ben broke the kiss just long enough to reach over and turn the lamp off. Landon grabbed the remote and turned the tv off. The room was now lit by the light from the fire and the Christmas lights. The silver and gold garland sparkled in the dim light.

Ben looked down into Landon’s eyes. “You are even more beautiful in this light. How did it take me over a year to,” Whatever else he was going to say was silenced as Landon’s lips met his again. Landon’s legs wrapped around his boyfriend’s body, pulling him close. Then from overhead, “Thump! Thump!” The boys pulled apart from each other and sat up.

“Did you hear that?” Ben asked. “Is there something on the roof?” He looked at Landon, worry showing in his eyes.

“It did sound like it came from the roof. Wait. What’s that? Bells?” Landon said.

“It can’t be. Someone must be playing a joke on us.” Thumps on the roof and bells. Come on.” Ben tried to laugh, but it sounded more nervous than amused.

“In this weather? Look outside, Ben. They’d have to be nuts to get up on the roof in that snow, and the wind is literally howling. It’s gotta be a blizzard out there.” Landon said.

Then the fire in the fireplace blinked out. It didn’t sputter and die, it blinked out all at once, embers and all. Thump! A figure now stood where the fire had just been. Ben looked over at Landon, who was looking back at him, his bright green eyes wide with shock and awe. Landon mouthed words to Ben without speaking aloud, “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” Ben shook his head yes. What they were both seeing was a rather rotund man dressed all in red trimmed with white. His hat was red and came to a point with a white pompom on top and white fur trim all around the bottom. The man’s coat was also bright red with white fur trim. The buttons on the coat looked to be solid gold. His belt was black with a gold buckle. His pants were bright red and tucked into black leather boots, which also had gold buckles. The man was carrying an enormous red sack, which also had white fur trim around the top. The bag appeared to be full of oddly shaped items.

When the man turned to face them, they saw that he had a full beard of white, and his cheeks were tinged red from the cold outside. The man winked right at Ben, then turned towards the Christmas tree and started unloading wrapped presents from his sack and setting them under the tree. When he was finished, he turned back toward Ben and Landon. “I normally don’t like an audience while I’m working.” He said with a grin. “But, you,” He pointed at Ben, “have lost not just your belief in me, but your belief in all that I do.”

Ben could barely speak. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t even know if I’m awake or dreaming right now. How can you be real? If you are real, how can you go all over the world in one night? Are there reindeer on the roof right now?”

The man smiled. “You are very much awake, Ben. Just ask Landon. I am real, and I am kept real by the belief of the children of the world. And older kids like Landon, who still believe in the magic of Christmas. I don’t visit every house like some of the legends claim. I visit the kids who need something a little extra. Kids who wouldn’t have gotten anything if I hadn’t shown up. Or kids like you who needed something to believe in again. Parents take care of the other kids in my name.” Santa said.

“I just. I don’t know. I just think that the whole holiday has just been ruined by stores and crappy music, and I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s just all too much.” Ben said.

“Don’t focus on all that. Focus on the joy it brings to people like Landon. People like your family. Christmas brings loved ones together. Christmas is the spirit of giving. Not just giving presents but giving happiness and love.” Santa said.

Ben looked over at Landon. Landon had tears streaming down his face, but a broad smile on his face. Ben took one of his boyfriend’s hands between both of his and held on tight. “You’re right, Santa. Lan has tried to tell me the same thing. I’ve been looking at it wrong. What’s important is people, not things. I don’t even know how to thank you.”

“Cookies and milk next year. And don’t light the fire. I almost came down before I saw it.” Santa grinned. “One more thing, Ben. Here you go.” Santa handed Ben a present, then with a wink of his eye, he disappeared in a flash of light. The boys heard the tinkling of bells and the clomping of hooves, then a loud “Ho! Ho! Ho!” Ben and Landon rushed to the window and looked out. They saw a large golden sleigh pulled by nine reindeer flying off into the blizzard shrouded night sky. A bright red light shone from the front of the sleigh, lighting the way through the darkness.

“We just met Santa Claus!” Landon nearly squealed.

“I know, right! Oh my God. I’m sorry I bugged you about Christmas, Lan.” Ben said

“It’s ok, Ben. I love you. I can handle your moods and your anxieties.” Landon replied.

“Let’s wait until everyone else gets here tomorrow to open this stuff. It has all their names on it. They’re never going to believe us!” Ben laughed, setting the gift that Santa had given him under the tree with the rest.

“Yeah. I agree. Let’s wait. Let’s finish watching Christmas Chronicles and then go to bed.” Landon said.

Ben pulled Landon into a fierce hug. “I love you so much, Landon. For you, more than for anyone else, I promise to always keep the spirit of Christmas alive in my heart.” The two boys turned the movie back on and fell asleep cradled in each other’s arms as their first Christmas Eve together ended, and their first Christmas Day began.

Happy Birthday to Me

The Devil’s son died, on his birthday, June sixth, two thousand six, he was six years old. The only problem is, he didn’t stay dead. Now, he can feel the power growing inside him. His eighteenth birthday is fast approaching. He sent out the invitations. All the important people in his life will come. After he massacres them, the power will be his. His father promised.

The Collector

The Collector

“Do you think he’s gone?’

“Be quiet. I don’t know.”

“The screaming stopped at least.”

“She’s probably dead. There was a lot of blood.”

“I hope he doesn’t find us. You think he’ll look in here?”

“How should I know? But, please stop touching me.”

“What are you talking about? I’m not touching you.”

“Then who… uuuhhh…”

“Daren? Darren? What’s wrong?”

“Darren can’t talk right now. He’s dead.”

“What? No! Shit! No! The door won’t open! Please don’t kill me! Why are you doing this?”

“If you’re quiet and sit still, I won’t kill you. I only want your eyes.”

“My eyes? What do you mean? I don’t understand!”

“They’re such a pretty blue. I need them for my collection. Now sit still.”

“Aaaaahhhhh……”

The House in the Woods

“Come on, Gage, enough is enough. Let’s just get to your house.” Sam said.

“I’m not messing with you, bro. These woods shouldn’t be this big. I don’t know where we are anymore. I mean look at that hill. There isn’t even a hill between my house and school. I’ve hiked these woods my whole life and none of this looks right.” Gage shrugged.

“We should go to the top of the hill and look around. Maybe we’ll see something we recognize.” Sam suggested.

“Good idea.” Gage said, and they started walking. After a few minutes, Gage stopped. “What the hell?” He said.

“What now?” Sam asked.

“There’s a house on top of the hill. How did we not see that just a few minutes ago? It looks abandoned and super old. There’s never been an old house in these woods, Sam. I honestly don’t understand what’s going on. What do you want to do?” Gage asked.

“We can’t find our way out of the woods, so it can’t hurt to check out the house. Maybe there’ll be a phone or a map or something. Plus, with all the noises we’ve been hearing in the woods, I’ll be glad to get to the house.” He shrugged and kept walking.

“I guess.” Gage said, following his friend.

They reached the top of the hill and Gage spotted a book on the porch, right next to the front door. He picked it up and started flipping through the pages. He looked more and more confused as he read.

“What’s that?” Sam asked.

“It’s a journal about a guy lost in the woods who finds an old house on top of a hill.” Gage said, still reading.

“Stop messing with me, Gage. Let’s get out of here.” Sam said.

“I’m serious, Sam. It’s dark. Let’s go inside and see if we can find a light and we can read this together. Maybe he found a way out.” Gage said.

Gage led the way into the old house. Sam coughed. “It’s freaking dusty and smells bad in here. I hope we don’t have to stay long.” Sam said.

There’s a lantern on the kitchen table.” Gage turned on the lantern. “Good. It works. Have a seat and let’s check out this journal.”

Sam sat down next to Gage and they began to read.

-October 28,1988-

Hey. My name is Evan Riley and I am extremely confused, and, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m more than a little scared. I don’t know where I am anymore. I know where I should be, but I can’t possibly be there. Plus, I don’t think I’m alone. I always feel like I’m being watched. I’m writing in this stupid journal just in case I don’t find my way out of here. Let me be totally clear with you. This is a journal, not a diary. No offense, but I’m not a “dear diary” kinda guy. I only have this journal, because the school suggested one for all incoming freshman and my mom bought it. It’s been living in the bottom of my backpack ever since, until now.

So, back to my story. Where am I? I don’t have a clue! I can tell you where I should be. I should be in a very small wooded area between the school and my friend Jake’s house. I take the bus to school, but two days ago I missed the bus home. It takes like ten minutes to cut through the woods and get to Jake’s house. My plan was to go there and have his mom give me a ride home or hang out there until my mom or dad could come pick me up. Ten minutes from one side of the woods to the other, but I’ve been in here for two days now and still can’t find my way out.

Me and Jake have been all over these woods, but nothing looks familiar now. You know what’s weirder? This afternoon I spotted an abandoned house on top of a hill in the middle of the woods. Why is that weird you ask? There are no hills or abandoned houses in the woods between Jake’s house and school! If I still can’t find my way out of here in the morning, I’ll check out that house. I swear it wasn’t there yesterday! What the hell is going on?

It’s getting too dark to write and I don’t have a flashlight or even any matches. And you know what? That rubbing two sticks together shit just doesn’t work like it does on tv. Sometime tomorrow when I stop for a break or something maybe I’ll write again. I might be just talking to myself anyway. I mean who would want to read my journal anyway?

-Evan-

———————————————————-

-October 29,1988-

Hey. It’s Evan again. Writing in this stupid journal again. Well, it’s just after noon now and boy am I hungry! I’m also pretty freaking tired. I barely slept last night. Every time I fell asleep, I got woke up by loud noises in the forest. I still haven’t seen what’s out there, but there’s more than one and they sound big. I’ve made my way up to the house if for no other reason than to get out of the forest. The house looks like it’s been here forever, but I swear to God that it wasn’t here just a couple days ago! I guess I don’t have many choices at this point. I’m going to search the house for clues. Maybe I’ll figure out where I am and how to get home. Wish me luck.

-Evan-

—————————————————————-

     -October 30,1988-

     Hey. It’s Evan again. It’s Thursday now. I think I’ve been here since Monday. Thank God this morning I found some berry bushes and a few edible plants. Boy Scouts paid off. For a while there I was tempted to chew off my own fingers. You think I’m joking, but I’m totally not.

     Anyway, I searched the whole house yesterday and couldn’t find anything useful. There is this one locked door that I can’t open. I’ve tried everything. It must lead to the cellar, because there’s a musty odor coming from behind it. After giving up on the door, I started walking back down the hill. Whatever is in the forest kept chasing me back towards the house. I still haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard it and I tell you this, I don’t want to see it!

     So, I’m stuck in this old, smelly, dusty house. Wait a second. What just happened? While I’m sitting here writing this, the door that I couldn’t get open no matter what I did… just swung open all by itself. My anxiety is through the roof, I’m scared out of my mind, but I’m going through the door. Hopefully, I’ll be back to tell you about all the boring stuff I’ll find!

-Evan-

—————————————————————-

-October 31,1988-

Hey. It’s Evan again. Things are even weirder than I wrote about yesterday. Oh, by the way, Happy Halloween. I sure wish I had some candy right about now. Anyway, the basement was dark and dirty and smelled horrible. At first, I didn’t find anything at all. I started to go back upstairs, and I heard a loud creaking noise. I turned to look, and I saw a door over in the corner of the basement swinging open. I know that door hadn’t been there just a few minutes before. There were stairs leading down with a reddish glow coming from the bottom of the stairs. I ran back upstairs. I thought all night long about my options. The things in the woods have the house surrounded. They won’t let me leave. My phone is dead and even when it wasn’t there wasn’t any cell service. There’s nothing in this house that can help me. All that’s left is the second basement or whatever it is. Now, in the bright morning sunshine, I don’t feel quite as terrified. I’m going down the stairs to see what’s there. If I don’t come back, tell my mom that I love her.

-Evan-

—————————————————————-

Gage snapped the journal shut. “That’s it. No more entries after that. What do you think, Sam?”

“It’s a load of bullshit. We’ve searched this whole house. We’re being punked, Gage. There’s no basement.” Sam said.

“I know, but what about the fact that we can’t find our way out of the woods? We’ve both mentioned hearing noises in the forest. And this house, I know it wasn’t here before. I just know,” Gage stopped in mid-sentence and both boys spun towards the far corner of the kitchen. Their eyes as big as saucers, they watched in horror as a door that hadn’t been there moments earlier swung open to reveal a staircase leading down.

The Ghostly Kiss

Ethan stepped slowly into the house. The chilled air made goosebumps form up and down his arm. The frigid air in the house, unusual for July, only made him smile. He knew he was here again. When Ethan bought this house he never expected the added benefit of finding his one true love.

Ethan spent almost all his time at home now. He barely hung out with his friends. Ethan’s family barely spoke to him anyway, but now he stopped trying to reconnect with them. Jake was all he needed. He promised Ethan that after tonight they could be together forever. Ethan walked upstairs to his bedroom. After changing out of his work clothes and into something nicer, he went back downstairs and waited for him to appear.

Jake appeared in front of Ethan who stood to greet him. “Jake, my dear, I’ve looked forward to tonight for a long time now. I’m so happy you finally agreed. Take me, my love. Take me. I belong to you and you to me. Let’s join together forever, my sweet. I love you with all my heart.” Ethan leaned forward as if to kiss him.

Jake leaned into Ethan’s kiss. His ghostly lips lightly touching Ethan’s warm ones. He lifted one translucent hand to Ethan’s face, caressing him. Ethan’s lips and cheek went ice cold. As the ghost continued the kiss, Ethan felt the warmth draining from his entire body and he welcomed it. The feeling of cold was gone. For the first time, Ethan felt Jake’s warm breath on his face. He leaned in and their kiss deepened. Breathless, he pulled back. “This is amazing. I can feel you now, not just the cold. I love you so much, Jacob.”

Jake smiled, and for the first time, he was able to speak to Ethan. “We can be together forever now, Ethan, my love. Let’s go upstairs and celebrate.” He grinned and winked. Ethan took his hand and the two ghosts floated up the stairs. Behind them, the corpse of Ethan Miller lay on the floor of his living room.