Here is Part 2 of A Season of Fear and Superstition. An original short story of mine, set on Christmas Eve, "By Midnight." Merry Christmas reading. . .
By Midnight (Copyright by Pamela K. Kinney)
You better watch out, you better not cr. . . .
A strange jabbering woke her from her nightmare. Mrs. Piers sat up and switched on the lamp on the bedstead by her bed. Light flowed over her and the bed, banishing the darkness back to corners of her bedroom. The only other light came from moonbeams stretching fingers through the glass of the window .
Nothing. Must have been a revenant from the nightmare. She stared at the clock. Shoot! She’d overslept. The woman leaped out of bed, showered, and dressed in her custodial uniform.
It was Christmas Eve, but that didn’t matter, as she was scheduled to work tonight. It had proven to be the only way to get Christmas Day and night off. As she walked into the eat-in kitchen, her daughter, Jenny, brought their dinner, bowls of chicken noodle soup, to the table. Both sat and began to eat, though Jenny only ate a few spoonfuls of soup.
Mrs. Piers lost her husband a year ago and had to go to work to pay the mortgage on the house, besides to support both her and Jenny. Luckily, she saw the ad for someone to clean the local hospital during third shift and when she applied, she got it. That meant leaving her daughter alone in the house at night. A pretty teenage girl going through changes due to puberty could get into trouble, least what she had heard.
So far, nothing happened. Knock on wood.
Tonight though was Christmas Eve. Though Jenny promised she would go to bed early after watching It's A Wonderful Life on TV, as she admitted to feeling ill all day. Still, Mrs. Piers felt uneasy. Jenny handed Mrs. Piers her purse and bagged lunch, and followed her mother to the front door.
Mrs. Piers said, “I feel uneasy about leaving you alone tonight. Don’t know why either.”
“’Night, Mom.” Jenny threw open the door. “I’ll make sure the place is locked up tight, besides, I’m sixteen! Geesh!” She shook her head. “What do you think could happen?”
Mrs. Piers reminded her. “There have been those people that vanished.”
The girl snorted. “That was last Christmas and they were homeless people that disappeared from a shelter downtown, not teenagers. There’s been nothing since. The police even said they think the men just snuck out of the building and took off for parts unknown.”
Mrs. Piers needed to get to work, so she stepped out into the night. The moon and a few stars sparkled up in the black velvet of the sky. Many houses had Christmas lights and other decorations. The whole street was lit up. Some people strolled along the neighborhood, only stopping to view the lights. Everything looked innocent and Christmasy. Nothing scary.
She whistled to the Christmas music that sang from the radio as she drove to the hospital.
As Jenny turned to go back indoors, a tease of jabbering reached her from the darkened area beneath a tree on the side of their home. A squirrel? This late though? With a shrug as she heard nothing further, Jenny locked the door and ambled into the living room. Raps resounded on the glass of the sliding doors that led to the back yard. Her friends and the guys they brought were here. Thank God, her mother had left already. Unlocking, she let in two girls and three boys. They strolled past her into the house, carrying bags of snacks and drinks, along with stuff for entertainment. Jenny shut the door and stared as they began to set up. One of the boys put two bags in the living room, while Lisa and other set bags on the kitchen counter and began taking things out. Things like bags of chips, cans of nuts and microwave popcorn overflowed the counter. Jenny thought back to the last day of school, just before Christmas vacation.
Jenny’s friends, Lisa and Debbie, had approached her as she was taking things out of her locker at school and jamming it all into her bookbag.
“Hey,” said Lisa, leaning a shoulder against the ,locker next to Jenny’s. “Your mother works all night—right?”
Jenny slammed the door on her locker and slung her bookbag over one shoulder. “Yeah, but you knew that. So?”
Debbie grinned. “Well, our parents will be out at a party that night until two o’clock. Be kinda cool to have a party without adults staring over our shoulders. There are these three guys—”
Jenny finished for her, “and you two have the hots for two of them. Guess the third was dug up for me? An incentive to have the party at my house?”
Lisa shrugged. “Well, your mom is gone all night—”
Jenny sighed. The other girls looked at her. She nodded. “I don’t feel good about this, but all right.” She shook a finger. “Not all night, okay. Just ‘til midnight.”
Lisa grinned. “Of course, we don’t want to do it all night. Christmas is the next day and we want to be rested for that. Besides our parents will be home by 2 a. m., so midnight is great.”
Jenny had been worried about agreeing then. Wore, all day today, she had not been feeling good. Couldn’t eat and stayed in her room most of the day, as her stomach twisted into tight knots. Least the need to barf had calmed down. It was only until midnight. She could handle that. Surely?
She chided herself. It’s not as if there would be alcohol. . . One of the boys, a tall, gangling one, laughed as he lifted a six-pack of beer out of a grocery bag. Another boy, dressed all in black and sporting earrings in his big ears, nose, and even his lower lip, laughed too, braying like a donkey.
Jenny’s stomach boiled as she fought not to run to the bathroom. She stomped over to Lisa and Debbie who were opening packages of cookies and bags of chips as they gossiped.
She grabbed Lisa’s arm, snarling. “You didn’t say there would be alcohol!”
Lisa glanced with disinterest as the boy withdrew another six-pack of beer. “Wellllll. . .I never said there wouldn’t be. John’s adult brother got them for him at the liquor store tonight.”
Debbie piped up. “It’s not like we’ll all get drunk on twelve bottles of beer, Jenny.”
Jenny blinked. Debbie wasn’t the brightest girl in town. Remembering the incident with Debbie and the horse last year, well, not even in the whole world either.
She sighed. “All right, but be forewarned, first time anyone starts to act drunk, the party is over and everyone goes home.”
Lisa shrugged a shoulder. “Sure. That’s doable.”
Lisa popped in a DVD of a Christmas comedy she brought and both she and Debbie settled on the couch, a boy each nestled against them. Lisa got John, who was the tall, gangling type with the beer, while Debbie got Roy, plump and dumb. Jenny ended up with Spider on the floor. Spider was the goth who brayed like a mule earlier. She had thumped down in the chair that matched the couch, but Spider had slithered in like a snake about to snatch its next victim, sliding his arms round her so Jenny got down on the floor. Unfortunately, so did Spider, looping an arm over her shoulders.
“You know why they call me Spider?” he whispered into her ear. “It’s like I got eight arms.”
It felt like he had eight hands too. They slid up and down her body, searching for permanent places to nest. Like her breasts, and other unmentionable spots.
She hissed in his ear, digging an elbow into his ribs. “Hands to yourself. I don’t know you enough for you to do that. Honestly, in my opinion, that will be never ever. Understand?”
He glowered as he grabbed the bottle of beer beside him. “Your friends didn’t say you be a class A bitch.”
He took a swig of beer and ignored her after that, staring at the television. Which was fine with her. Jenny rose to her feet and headed for the kitchen to get herself a bottle of soda and some snacks.
Alone, she opened the fridge and peeked in when she heard a sound. Closing the door, she listened and heard it again. It sounded like someone saying something, except so slow that Jenny couldn’t catch the words. It came from the back of the house. Jenny stared down the shadow-dark hallway. A chill skittered up her spine. The only people in the house were her and her guests.
The jabbering grew a little louder. Now, it sounded like there was a crowd back in wither hers or her mother’s bedroom.
She jumped when something touched her shoulder. Her pounding heart slowed when she realized it was Spider. His bottle hanging limp from his fingers, the boy’s brow knitted together.
“What’s going on?” He peered down the hall. “I thought we were the only people tonight? Your mother working, right?”
Jenny rubbed her arms with her hands, as she felt cold. “She is. We are.”
“Hey, what’s going on? Sneaking off to do some neckin’?” Lisa and Debbie plus their guys joined them.
Spider pointed with the neck of his now empty bottle at the hallway. “No. Doesn’t that sound like people are talking back there?”
Debbie bit her lip. “Really?” She turned to Jenny. “Thought you said your mom was at work.”
Jenny spat out. “She is. We’re supposed to be the only living bodies in the house tonight.”
Debbie giggled. “Cool. Maybe it’s ghosts.”
Lisa snorted. “There are no such things as ghosts, dummy. It’s just Jenny playing a trick on us.” She merged with the darkness as she walked down the hallway. “I’ll prove it. Hey, John, coming?”
John asked, “You sure you want me? I mean, I doubt there’s anything back there.” He gave Spider a nasty glance. “Spider watches too many horror flicks, you ask me.” But when Lisa told him to come with her, he hustled to join her..
Jenny heard the rustling of their clothing, their footsteps barely audible on the carpeted floor. All sound quiet as even the voices stopped. She back stepped until she found herself against Spider’s front. His odor flowed over her. He stunk of sweat, some male cologne and . . . . fear? How would she know what fear smelled like?
Lisa called out. “Hey, there’s a glow coming from a bedroom back here. It looks like—“
Silence. Nothing from her or John.
Debbie said, “Lisa? Lisa?” Roy yelled, “Yo, John?”
Lisa didn’t answer. John neither.
More chills skittered along Jenny’s nerves. She was ready to turn around and get her cell lying on the coffee table in the living room, then dial 911. But she didn’t as Debbie, along with Roy and Spider tiptoed to where Lisa and John were. Spider hadn’t wanted to, but Roy dug his fingers into the thinner boy’s shoulder and forced him along.
Jenny called out. “Come back. I’m going to call the—“
Suddenly, screams and growls rent the air. Frightened, and not even looking back, Jenny bolted, snatching her cell phone and the house keys. She ran out of the house, not even shutting the door behind her.
Breathing heavy, she stopped in the street and stared back at the looming darkness of the open doorway. Nothing surged out of it, not the others or whatever had gotten them. With a shaking hand, she called her mother at the hospital. After she got off the phone, she felt pain wash over her. Smells rushed at her. Iron-like, like when there was bleeding. She drooled. Confused and still in agony too, she leaned against a car parked on the street. Until she realized it was Lisa’s car, then she stumbled across the street. She stayed there.
Thirty minutes later her mother drove up and after parking the car on the street, joined Jenny who hugged her, crying. “Mom, something’s in the house, and it got Lisa and Debbie.”
Her mother patted her back. “Did you allow them in the house?”
Jenny sniffed. “Yeah. I allowed them and three guys to have a party of sorts at our house. Now something has got them and it’s my fault.”
Her mother nodded. “It is, Jenny. Mine too.”
Jenny looked at her mother and noticed how strange her face looked in the light of the moon. A kind of blurring. “What do you mean?”
“After your father died, I was called back to my people. But they wouldn’t allow you to come with me. I couldn’t leave you. Oh no. They said you’re a halfling. That you couldn’t survive in my world. But I noticed you had some of my powers, something most Halflings never inherited from their few parent. So staying here, I had to get a job to support us, but still worried about leaving you alone as you were entering puberty and with puberty for a fey, the changes come. Some of my people came to stay with us.”
Jenny backed out of her mother’s arms. “What do you mean? I never saw anyone but us in the house since daddy died. And what’s a fey?”
Her mother sighed. “That’s because of the glamour. Like what I use to keep me appearing human to humans, like your father. A fey is another word for what humans call fairies. I am part of one race of the Sidhe. We can change shape with will, besides having other powers.”
Jenny saw with shock as her mother’s form shorted out like a television reception. Where her mother had stood, a tall, pale being with shimmering hair that fell to its feet towered over her. It gave a parody of a smile, revealing a mouthful of cannibal sharp fangs. “I saw your father from a distance when he was hiking with friends in the mountains and I fell in love with him. So I stepped from my world into his, changed my looks, and made him fall in love with me. I don’t need to feed most of the year on what my kind subsist on normally, but on Christmas Eve, before midnight, the hunger calls to me. So I would sneak out to hunt my prey as your father slept deeply due to enchantment. It grew worse when I became pregnant with you. I had to feed for two then.”
Her mother snatched her up and they flew to the house, entering. The door slammed shut behind them without a sound. Jenny was let go and she found herself standing over Spider. A crowd of beings like her mother surrounded them, blood on their lipless mouths and bare skin. Her mother pointed at the scared boy.
“You’re half fey, dear, and you must eat the right food tonight to survive. Just as our relatives had gnawed on your friends. Just as I fed on a dying person at the hospital earlier tonight. Your magic is growing stronger each day and if you don’t feast on human flesh before the first strike of midnight, you will burn up. Don’t you feel the heat in you now? It’s our particular type of fairies’ Christmas curse.”
Jenny did. It felt like a roaring fire centered in her. It hurt. She stared down at Spider and saw how large and rounded his eyes had become. Even smelled his fear like an overpowering perfume. The pulse at his throat drew her eyes. It teased her, begged her to take a bite. But his hands interested her more. Spider had wanted his hands on her earlier that night. She had said no then. Why not be in a place they should? Like her mouth? Yes.
With a smile, Jenny leaned over, her jaws popping to accommodate the feeding. She grabbed Spider’s hands as he tried to screamed, but couldn’t, thanks to the magic she used.
His hands tasted so good when they were in the right spot. Like down her throat and in her tummy.