It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Pitts Creek trailer park. In a mobile home further down the weed-ridden fence of the park, an assorted arrangement of grime-covered decorations hung lazily around on the oval frame of Trailer 37E. They had been there there since the previous Christmas. The wreath on the trailer door was an ugly decaying brown and the plastic snowmen and Santa Claus, were filthy from a year’s worth of rain damage.
Inside 37E, in front of a three-foot Christmas tree of fading health, Dylan, a nine-year-old chubby boy with curly red hair held a sheet of loose-leaf paper with a bright smile on his face.
“I finished my letter to Santa!” the boy said happily.
“Shut the fuck up.” The crushed empty beer can narrowly missed the boy’s head, crashing into the wall with a metal clang.
Travis, a thirty-five-year-old gas station attendant, was the latest in a long line of suitors for Dylan’s mother Sabrina. Balding with long hair on the sides with a beard and potbelly, he sat in the stained EZ-Boy chair in the center of the trailer. A half spent cigarette sat smoking in one hand while another hand rested on his growing paunch.
“What’d you say, Dylan?” his mother, Sabrina asked groggily as she emerged from the bathroom.
Her eyes were dazed. She was a small, curvy woman with disheveled auburn colored hair. A blue sweatshirt with WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY printed on the front hugged her torso tightly.
“I wrote a letter to Santa. Now he’ll know what I want for Christmas.”
“Oh, um, that’s nice I guess?”
“How the hell did you write something? You can’t read for shit,” Travis growled.
Sabrina sighed. She learned a while ago that it was pointless to ask any of her boyfriends to be nice to Dylan. Whether it was the ginger hair, the baby fat, or maybe they all just hated being around their girlfriend’s kid, none of them ever cottoned to her kid.
Still, Travis had a point: her awkward lump of a son wasn’t doing well at school at all. His teachers at the public elementary school told her whenever she answered their calls that Dylan was in danger of repeating the third grade. The teachers kept repeating this word “dyslexia”, or something like that, Sabrina hadn’t been paying much attention. It meant that her son saw letters upside down or in the wrong order or something.
Just what the hell was she supposed to do, anyway? Weren’t there pills for this kind of thing? Shit, she knew how to get pills. Anything to get this kid past the fourth grade.
It wasn’t hard for her to see why her boyfriends or other kids at school disliked her son. A smelly, husky ginger kid who still believed in Santa made him the perfect bullying target for all the kids his age at school who outgrew Santa years ago.
She knew damn well that her son was a weirdo who slept with at least five stuffed animals in his bed. Even she was slowly beginning to resent him for being boyfriend repellent. More and more as the days went on, she swore to herself that she’d dump him on his father…as soon as she could figure out who he was.
“What’s it say?” Travis asked with an evil smirk.
Happy to read his letter, Dylan’s pudgy hands lifted the sheet to his face.
“Dear Santa, how are you? I am fine, school is still hard but I’ve been extra good with chores, being nice and everything else this year! If it’s not too much trouble could you please bring me a puppy for Christmas? I’d give anything for one. Merry Christmas! Love, Dylan Farina. The End!”
Travis farted loudly. Even groggy, Sabrina couldn’t keep from laughing.
Dylan frowned, his head sank.
“Sorry honey, but you know we can’t afford to keep a dog.”
“Christ, what a dumb ass,” Travis snickered, cracking open another brew.
An hour later, Sabrina had taken her son with her to the local Community Center to get her Unemployment Benefits. She usually managed to get a slight raise in her unemployment check whenever she brought her son around to the Center. Who wouldn’t feel bad about the strung-out looking woman dragging along her clueless-looking fat kid with her?
Alone in the trailer, Travis sat reclined in the EZ-Boy watching Family Feud. He went up to go take a piss and had made it halfway to the can before he spotted that little asshole’s letter on the floor. Curious, he bent down and picked it up. It was obvious the tubby birth-defect had a serious reading and writing problem, always writing out letters backwards. Simple words like “CAT” come out looking like Chinese.
This time, however, from the jumbled up letters on the dumb kid’s letter to Santa came a bizarre surprise.
“Holy shit! Well God damn me how do you like that?” Travis laughed as he read the letter.
Well at least the brat had managed to spell the word “PUPPY” right but for fuck’s sake, that stupid shit had spelled “dear” like “dera”. Still, that’s not what made Travis laugh the hardest. Let’s just say the little water-head didn’t spell Santa as “S-A-N-T-A.” Oh no. From an outsider’s perspective, it looked like a creepy crudely-written child’s letter invoking the powers of another man in red.
Travis could dig it. In his younger days, when he had more hair and less gut, he had gone through his own death metal/underworld phase to the eternal shame of his parents. The tattoo of the Avenged Sevenfold skull with bat-wings logo on his arm could attest to that.
“This is way too perfect not to share.” He took out his smartphone and snapped a picture of the letter.
An even better idea occurred to him. He pulled out and flicked open his Zippo. A lick of fire caught the corner of the letter as orange flames slowly crept up the paper. Travis laughed, dropping the paper to the floor. He took a few more photos as the corners of the sheet curled up in flames. Even amongst the blackening, charring paper, he could still make out the gist of the letter and the amusing misspelling.
“Now that is metal.” Travis stepped on the smoldering ashes, mushing it into the carpet.
Maybe he’d post it on Reddit or show it to his buddies at the Hess Station. At least something finally cool came out of having a girlfriend with a kid, even if it was a freak accident. He was still chucking over the kid’s learning disability when he finally made it to the bathroom and unzipped his pants.
A week later, it was Christmas morning. This year it was a white Christmas as over a foot of fresh snow stacked up outside in the trailer park. The merry sounds of holiday songs and Christmas movies drifted from the various mobile homes throughout the park. Inside Dylan’s trailer, his mother and her boyfriend were three sheets to the wind, laughing and snorting lines of Xanax on the surface of their phones. Their depravity was drowned out by Alvin and the Chipmunks’ “Christmas Don’t Be Late” chirping from the small television.
Even with glowing rainbow lights, the sullen Christmas tree in the corner of the trailer had no luck in raising the holly jolly spirit in this sinkhole of a home.
In the center of it all, on the dirty, ashen floor sat Dylan. Plopped there in his red pajamas with white snowflakes and reindeer, made the the boy resemble a sad Christmas stocking full of meatloaf. It was hard to believe that he had been so excited to wake up that morning. This wasn’t the Christmas he had been expecting. All night he had dreamt of the moment he would see the yipping, happy puppy that Santa had left him.
To his heart-shattering disappointment, all he found that morning was an empty plate and glass where he had left extra milk and cookies for Santa. He looked down sadly at the only presents he had received: a couple of Hershey bars and three pairs of socks with Star Wars characters on them. Dylan had never seen any of those movies, but at least the socks were comfy.
The boy was confused, even more so than usual. This didn’t make any sense. Wasn’t Santa Claus supposed to bring you presents if you were nice? Didn’t he get his letter? Travis said he dropped it off. Dylan wasn’t mean and for the past year he made sure to help out with extra chores for his neighbors around the trailer park. Shouldn’t that have made him worthy of being on the Nice List? How could this be? Unless…
“Sorry honey, but you know we can’t afford to keep a dog.”
No. He wouldn’t even consider it. The problem must have been him. He had failed to prove his worthiness to Santa, so now he didn’t get the puppy, that’s all there was to it. All he could do now was spend the next year being extra, super-duper nice. Then, maybe next Christmas he would finally get the puppy he wanted and he would finally have a his best friend. Trying to find comfort in the presents he had received, the boy began peeling away the wrapper to one of the candy bars, pulling the chocolate to his pudgy freckled face.
“Merry Christmas babe, Merry fucking Christmas,” Travis sniffed, rubbing his nose.
He unwrapped one of the candy bars by Dylan and took a big bite.
“Hey, that’s mine!” the boy whined.
“What’s the matter, Scrooge McDuck? Haven’t you ever heard that it’s better to give than to receive? Plus it ain’t like you’re starving over there, fat boy,” he smiled with chocolate smudged on his teeth.
“Mom!” Dylan turned a pleading look towards his Mother.
Her head was in her arms which rested on top of a stack of magazines and broken candy canes piled on the small kitchen counter. Raising her head groggily, she looked at Dylan, then Travis and just shrugged.
“Dylan, honey, why don’t you fix Travis and me another drink?”
Resigned to a disappointing Christmas, the boy wobbled over to the liquor cabinet. He couldn’t read the labels on the colorful amber and green bottles so he just started mixing whatever he could find. Neither adults noticed the tears rolling down his chubby red cheeks as he did this.
“Jesus wept, will you turn the heat down, Sabrina? I know it’s snowing outside but it’s starting to feel like a god damn furnace in here.” The gas station attendant held a cold beer to his head.
“I know but I already turned off the heater,” Sabrina said anxiously as sweat began to form on her pale brow.
Indeed, the temperature inside the trailer was beginning to rise. Dylan wobbled over to the trailer’s window and couldn’t believe his eyes. Only moments ago, there had been at least a foot of snow blanketing the trailer park. Now, that was all gone. While it was still snowing, the mounds of snow were rapidly melting revealing the damp grass underneath. The sun wasn’t anywhere to be found in the white blizzard sky.
“What the hell?” Travis stared dumbfounded, fanning himself with his hand.
“Y-you see that too, right?” Sabrina grasped on to him, her pupils dilated.
“How is this possible? Even if someone’s having a huge bonfire, it shouldn’t cause this.”
“Look!” Sabrina pointed out towards the window.
Outside in the melting snow, it looked like at least half a dozen of their neighbors were running away, fleeing from the park, hollering incoherently. Dylan turned his view towards the center of the park towards what everyone was running from and saw what looked like…was that a crater? While they had been “celebrating” Christmas, some kind of large crater had erupted in the center of the trailer park as though something had dug out from it. Now ungodly ripples of heat coming from it were overpowering the blizzard.
“What’s happening? What are they running from?” Sabrina was growing increasingly hysterical; the pills hadn’t been helping.
“Shut up. Just shut up for a second. I think a gas pipe must have burst or something, that’s gotta be it.”
Just then, there came a loud, insistent scratching sound at the door.
“Aw fuck me, what now?” Travis groaned.
“It’s Santa! He came back because he forgot my puppy!” Dylan perked up immediately.
“Oh for the love of, Santa Claus isn’t real you clod. It’s obviously the Park Supervisor telling us to evacuate. Cheap bastard ruining our Christmas. Well, I’m going to rip him a new asshole. Ho Ho Ho.” He turned towards the trailer door.
He had only taken a few steps towards the trailer’s door when a vicious force blasted the door off its hinges. The flying claw-marked door narrowly missed the bearded pot-bellied man as everyone screamed and ducked for cover. The heat that had steadily been rising shot up to sweltering, furnace-like degrees while the rotten smell of brimstone filled the trailer. When Travis uncovered his eyes he saw what had been scratching on the door.
It was the last thing he would ever see.
“Holy-“ but Travis couldn’t even finish.
There was nothing holy here.
It wasn’t a dog, not exactly. To human comprehension, it certainly resembled a dog, the way a wolf might. The visitor was the size of a car; a black snarling beast-shaped cloud. What passed for its lips shriveled back in the front revealing a row of sharp white fangs. It was a dark phantasm that stood on four legs but didn’t touch the ground. Instead of paws, the legs of the creature seemed to fade away when they reached the ground, instead fluttering as wisps of some kind of horrifying charcoal mist.
Two glowing red eyes on the nightmare’s face made eye contact with Travis. All he could do was listen helplessly as a haunting, ungodly howl filled his mind. In the span of a few seconds, Travis experienced every last drop of pain he had inflicted on others in the thirty-five years he had lived. He felt the pain and misery of every beating he gave his siblings growing up, every woman he had slapped and the torment he gave to others just because he could. So much cruelty and pain, Travis never would have cared but unfortunately for him, his heart grew three sizes that day.
“No,” he begged.
Then his eyes burst into flame.
Travis started screaming. He turned to face Sabrina and Dylan as twin rockets of fire ignited from his eye sockets. Melted jelly of what used to be his eyes dribbled down his bearded face. It wasn’t long before the screams stopped sounding human anymore and turned into a high pitched wail.
As he fell to the floor convulsing, the four-legged terror lunged at him. It made an awful roaring sound as it barked, like a thousand agitated pit-bulls eyeing a juicy steak.
In a ferocious chomping motion, razor-sharp teeth sank into Travis’ jugular. The hound’s snout pulled back and tore ribbons of gore from the blinded man. Travis’ limbs flailed about as his screams turned into watery gurgles. A geyser of crimson blood splattered the wall of the trailer, some drops even getting on the small Christmas tree. The wolfish shadow tore and bit while Sabrina screamed, covering her eyes while her son jumped and cheered.
“Awesome!” Dylan pumped his fist.
By now Travis was long dead, having been reduced to a vaguely human-shaped pile of carnage on the carpet. The hound pulled its snout from the pile of intestines and howled. It was an incomprehensible sound normally found in hurricanes and moments of uncompromising forces of nature. This was the sound you heard as you were being dragged screaming off into hell.
Mad with terror, Dylan’s mother got up and ran screaming from the trailer, almost tripping over Travis’ entrails as she did so. She flew past the carnivorous shadow dog, out through the hole it had created in her trailer. The beast’s silver eyes darted in the fleeing woman’s direction briefly before turning away as if due to lack of interest.
In a blind and drug-addled panic, Sabrina ran in a beeline straight through the warm grass. Her downfall came when she craned her inebriated head around to see if the monster was chasing after her. It wasn’t, but she had been so concerned with getting as far away from the monster as possible that she didn’t realize she was heading directly towards the crater. That brief moment of distraction was all it took for her to step over the edge of the dark pit and fall screaming all the way down.
Only after she had fallen several stories into the scorching abyss did she remember that she had a son.
Trying to ignore the fading echo of his mother’s screams, Dylan walked over and turned up the volume on the blood sprayed television. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” filled the slaughterhouse known as Trailer 37E. He stared in fascinated awe as the hound fed amongst the cheap Christmas decorations. Without realizing it, he gulped anxiously.
The hound raised its intangible head and turned its gaze to Dylan. This time the red eyes weren’t threatening, instead, they made the boy think of everything red that came with Christmas: candy canes, stockings and most of all, Santa’s big red suit. It craned its head to one side then the other before it started making what sounded like a curious whining noise. Dylan’s jaw dropped open as he saw what looked like a short tail wagging at the back of the wolf shaped shadow.
“It’s okay I won’t hurt you. C’mere boy or… girl?” The chubby kid smiled patting his large thighs.
The large, four-legged shadow slowly crept forward, appearing to sniff cautiously at the boy with what could have been a cold wet nose until it stood in front of him. Its tail continued wagged as Dylan began petting the waves of flowing black shadows along its side. He knew he was petting shadow but to the boy, it felt like he was touching warm black fur. The hound’s jaw extended as a large pink forked tongue lolled out and began licking his face.
Dylan laughed happily as the dog licked him. He didn’t even notice when he wiped bits of slobber away from his face that they burned and sizzled like hydrochloric acid once they hit the ground.
“I knew it! I knew Santa got my letter!”
Tail wagging, the hound phantasm barked as if it agreed.
“I never had a dog before, what should we do?” the boy pondered.
The hound made another whining sound as it pointed its snout towards the pile of gore in the corner.
“What’s the matter, girl? Ohhh, I know!”
The ecstatic boy trotted over in his red pajamas and picked up a bloody severed forearm on the floor. The limb was hairy and had a faded tattoo of a large black skull with bat wings sticking out on the sides. Smiling, the young boy waved the arm in the air.
“You wanna fetch? Huh, do you?”
Another deep, bellowing yip came from the hound as ear-shaped points on the shadow’s head perked up and it crept back to the boy. The hound’s fangs carefully pulled Dylan up from the back of his pajama shirt and placed him on its back. Despite its wriggling, mist-like appearance, the boy had no problem sitting on what felt like a solid, furry back. Heavy snowflakes fell around them as the boy and his dog-headed outside into the melted, trashed wonderland of the trailer park.
Out past the park’s fence, where the snow hadn’t quite melted yet, there came the faint but growing sound of police sirens.
“This is the best Christmas ever!” Dylan patted the hound as the long viper tail wagged back and forth behind him like hell’s metronome.
A dozen flashing police cruisers and a large black S.W.A.T. van were parked haphazardly on the street. Officers ran towards the trailer with their weapons drawn but froze when they saw what they were up against. It was already bad enough that they had been dragged away from their families on Christmas, now the unrelenting force of hell itself stood before them, and it looked hungry.
Dylan heard them yell something at him but he was too excited about his new puppy to notice. Turning in the direction of the officers and their lights, the hound growled. It sounding like a motorcycle revving its engine as its back arched and prepared to lunge, fangs bared in anticipation.
There’s nothing quite as pure as the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. In that very moment, with his family dead and his home in ruins, Dylan couldn’t have been happier. He had gotten what he wanted for Christmas and it was even better than he could have hoped. Now it was time to have some fun. With all his strength, the boy threw the bloody arm as far as he could, straight into the air towards the red and blue lights.
“Go, long girl, fetch! Fetch!”
Previously published by Dark Fire Fiction