Christmas with a Difference

A short story subverting Christmas …

 

My eyes flew open.

Christmas morning. Sunlight streams around curtain edges, but the room is shrouded in darkness. It’s early, early Christmas morning. Usually Cody and Jasmine bounce on the bed until I wake. Early, but not this early.

I love my Christmas morning with Cody and Jasmine. It only happens every second year. Perhaps they’re exhausted from yesterday’s skiing? I am. Aching and bruised too.

This Christmas we’d agreed to spend at Evergreen Ski Lodge. With my family. Our time away from home is the perfect invitation for me tease them. I’d tell them Santa skipped us because we weren’t home. To see their little faces, light up when they see presents under the tree? Priceless.

A door clicks shut. I can’t tell, is it our room or another room?

My heart races. And not with excitement – call it intuition. Something is wrong. I fling my doona, and grab my gun from the room’s safe.

“Cody? Jasmine?” I call. What if they don’t answer?

My job puts them at too much risk.

My bare feet pad over the carpet along the suite’s bedroom corridor.

Silence.

I reach Cody’s bedroom door first, and peer inside. His bedcovers are pulled back and crumpled, but his bed is empty. Does he wait by the tree? Is he with his sister? Or does he walk Spot?

Somehow, I stumble to Jasmine’s bedroom door. The pink elephant bedspread she loves so much, and made me pack and bring, is all mussed up. The room is devoid of life. They’ve gone to the Christmas tree without me. Except they always wake me first. I shiver, from the bitter chill me as much as the fear – where are my kids?

My feet move so fast, like skis down a black slope. Controlled and tense: stalking steps.

Splatters of blood on the kitchen floor. No! My stomach drops.

My gun is a cold and hard: a comfort in my hands. Holding it with two hands, helps control my trembles. I jump around the kitchen corner, into the living room, and thrust out my gun.

In front of the tv, lays our white speckled Staffy. Another one of Jasmine’s demands. Bring her.

Spot lay unconscious, and blood pools around her chest. Fresh blood. From a puncture. I’ll bet this is what woke me.

No kids.

Just the Christmas tree and no presents. I’d left presents under the tree last night. Robbed. I don’t care about that. I only cared about my kids. And Spot.

I rush to Spot’s side, my gaze darting around the room. I rip the bottom of my nightgown and press the material into her wound.

What do I do? Spot is dying in front of my eyes. Cody and Jasmine would never forgive me. I would never forgive me. Oh, God, I wish I left you at home. Without the kids, there is no forgiveness. Only my own regret. My family is only complete with Cody and Jasmine … and Spot.

I know the procedure.

“I’ll be back,” I whisper to Spot.

I race for mother’s room and bang on the door, until it opens.

“Mum, get Spot to a vet. ASAP. The kids are missing, I’ll call 000.”

She nods. I leave her and rush to my room. From my bedroom, I grab my phone, a jacket to throw over my nightgown, and dash to the living room, to Spot’s side.

Mum is already there. She kneels next to Spot, staunches the blood flow, with my ripped nightgown, and she’s on her phone.

With a curt nod, I run outside, dialling 000 as I go. The corridor blears. My kids. This feels totally different to the job. Personal. I take three or four stairs at a time from our first floor.

“State your emergency,” drones a computer-generated voice. “Police, fire, ambulance.”

“Police.”

No one at the lobby desk. There’s no one else here either. A stand of brochures. I push the main door open. Cold air slaps me in the face. My warm breath huffs in white puffs of mist. I stare at the fresh snow. Footprints. Two sets, and deep. Both are too deep unless … they’d been carried. Cody and Jasmine. They’d be so scared.

No blood splatter. No drops.

The tracks went right.

“Police,” a gruff male voice answered.

“This is Detective Janice Fletcher,” I said, my voice cracking. “I’m at the Everglade Ski Lodge. Someone took my kids, left our dog for dead and stole our presents. Send a team. Hurry.”

“10-4. ETA ten minutes.”

I keep my arms straight, clutch my gun with two hands and follow the footprints to the carpark. My gaze scans car to car, under and inside, and through dense pines to the fence-line.

The footprints end. Just stop. The place where they should be? It’s an empty car space. There’re tire tracks to the road.

Gone. Cody and Jasmine are gone.

In a daze, I holster my gun. Collapse to my knees, cradle my head. Hot tears trickle through the gaps of my fingers.

He’d promised vengeance, and now he was out? They were gone.

 

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