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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Aaron lay in bed staring at the ceiling. He couldn’t decide if he should stay in bed or get ready for school. What day is it? He didn’t know. He knew it wasn’t Sunday, but it wasn’t Tuesday either. Something felt different. Something felt wrong. Maybe his mom would know. He begrudgingly got out of bed, shivering when his bare feet hit the cold floor. “Mom!” He yelled, walking into the kitchen. “Hey, mom! Is today a school day? I… I’m not sure.”
Aaron’s mother wandered into the kitchen, still in her pajamas. “Aaron, I’m not sure either. I can’t remember what day it is. It feels like a day I should go to work but I know it’s not Tuesday. I don’t know what to do.” She sat down at the table and stared off into space.
Aaron felt like he was walking through fog, but if he thought hard enough it felt like there was an answer in the back of his mind. He stepped outside and looked around. All over the neighborhood, people walked aimlessly like they didn’t know where they were or what was happening. He called over to his neighbor. “Mike! Hey, Mike! Why is everyone just walking around? What’s happening? What day is it anyway?”
The other boy broke into tears and fell to his knees. “Aaron, I don’t know. Look at me, I’m half in my school uniform and half in weekend clothes. My parents are sitting in their car, but they haven’t left yet. They don’t know if they have work today or not.”
Aaron went back into his house. He thought about all he’d seen so far. As he thought about it, the fog in his brain thinned. He went into his room, sat at his desk and opened his laptop. He searched google for “how many days are in a week” and came up with “7”. He searched for the names of the days of the week and came up with “Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday”, but that was only six. He knew yesterday was Sunday, so he searched “what day comes after Sunday” and got an error message saying that google was unable to find that internet page. He searched several variations on that same question and suddenly the screen of his laptop cracked, and his laptop caught fire. Aaron ran to the kitchen for the fire extinguisher and put out the fire before it spread. Now he knew something was wrong.
Aaron walked back into the kitchen. “Mom, I think there was a day in between Sunday and Tuesday, but I can’t remember what it’s called. Does that sound familiar to you?”
“Nooooo! There’s nothing between… nothing… nothing…nothing…” Aaron’s mother slid out of her chair onto the floor, drool dripping out of her mouth. Before he could run to help his mother, Aaron found himself somewhere else entirely. He wasn’t in his kitchen anymore. He was in a long room, completely white with no window or door. Just in front of him stood two tall grey-skinned creatures. They looked just like pictures of aliens. Tall, slender bodies, silver almond shaped eyes, and long fingers. Aaron just stood staring at them, unsure of what to do. One of the aliens spoke to Aaron.
“Why are all you humans so displeased. We have studied you for centuries and the most common complaint we have heard is about this day called “Monday”. We, Overlords, made the decision to remove Monday to see if overall human happiness improved, but your entire species fell into chaos and confusion in a matter of hours. You seem to grasp what we have done. Have you an explanation for our results?”
“Wait… what? Monday… oh yeah! Monday! That’s it!” Aaron remembered everything now and looked up at the Overlords. “You removed Monday? I can’t even begin to understand how that’s possible or how you are even possible! But if this is real and not some crazy dream I’m having then I think I may have an answer for you. You removed an entire day of the week, but you didn’t replace it with anything. You didn’t even move Tuesday up to fill the gap, so we all woke up this morning and it felt like something was missing… something was wrong. We didn’t understand. There was no Monday but there was nothing in it’s place. We felt empty. We didn’t know what to do.” He spread his hands and looked at them. “You left us in an empty void of nothing.”
The Overlords considered this for a moment. “You are correct. Would it be better to move Tuesday into it’s place and banish Monday from your brains?”
Aaron shook his head. “No. It’s not exactly Monday that we hate, just the end of the weekend. The end of fun. If Tuesday were there, we’d begin to hate Tuesday the same as we hated Monday. Just put Monday back.”
The Overlords conferred with each other then spoke to Aaron. “You are correct. We never considered this possibility. You are a complex species that requires much more study. The Overlord’s silver eyes flashed, and Aaron found himself back in his kitchen.
His mom sat at the table eating breakfast. “There you are, Aaron. Go get ready for school. I don’t know about you. Every Monday you almost miss the bus. Hurry up. It’s an early workday for me and I won’t be able to drive you to school. I hate Monday too, but I have to go to work and you have to go to school.”
Aaron smiled to himself. The Overlords already put things back to normal. His mother didn’t remember that anything weird happened. He wondered if he was the only one who would remember this crazy morning. “Ok, mom. I’m going. Mondays do suck but you’re right. They’re a necessary evil.” Aaron laughed and got ready for school.
Every muscle ached. Sweat drenched my body. I thought only of showering and going back to the dorms to collapse on my bed. Then he appeared. Anakin Skywalker. I thought he’d tell me about my poor form in training. Boy, was I wrong.
“Hey, Kenji.” Anakin smiled and leaned in close. “I see how you look at me. Honestly, I can’t get you out of my head. I have never thought this way about a boy before. You want to hang out tonight?” He looked at me, blushing. He was as nervous as I was surprised.
“Did you ask me out on a date?” I could barely speak. My mind racing almost as fast as my heart.
“Yea. If you want to.” He looked around making sure we weren’t overheard. Anakin was biting his lower lip and staring at the floor, waiting for my response.
“Of course, I’ll go out with you, Anakin. Tell me when and where and I’ll be there.” I listened as he told me the details and I ran off to get ready. My feet barely touched the floor as I ran.
I slipped out a side door and stuck to the shadows as I made my way to our meeting place. I started to look for him, but then he appeared at my side. I jumped. “Anakin! I didn’t even hear you walk up!”
“Hey. No one saw you leave?” He looked nervous.
“No. I was cautious.” I told him.
“Come on. I know a great place down by the docks.” He led me into the city, towards the river.
We reached our destination in no time. It was small and clean, and everyone seemed very friendly. We sat at a table in the back and ordered our food. We talked. We laughed. We ate. It was the most fantastic dinner of my life. After dessert, we walked along the river with only the light of the full moon lighting our way. We’d been talking the entire night. He stopped walking, and he pulled me around to face him. “Kenji, I’ve had a great night. I like spending time with you, even more than I thought I would. Can we do this again?” He smiled at me, his emerald green eyes sparkling in the moonlight.
I reached up and touched his face. “Yea. We can do this again anytime you want.” My hand slid to the back of his neck, and I pulled his face down close to mine. His eyes closed, and I leaned in and kissed him. He kissed me back, tentatively at first but then with growing passion. His lips parted, and our tongues entwined. His hands slid down my body, and he grasped my hips, pulling me closer to him. He trailed kisses along my jawline and down to my neck. I moaned his name. “Ani, that feels so good.” His hands were now underneath my shirt, and then……
“Anakin Skywalker!” We heard the shout. Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. He was close, but he wasn’t in sight, yet. Anakin gave me one last kiss, and then we grudgingly parted.
Anakin looked panicked. “He can’t find us together. You must go. I’ll deal with Master Obi-Wan. I always manage to find a way out of trouble.” He grinned. “Go. Hurry. Get out of here. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
“This was the best night of my life, Anakin.” I touched his hand then turned and ran off into the darkness.