MERRY CHRISTMAS! HAVE SOME FREE BOOKS!

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Merry Christmas! May today bring you glee, joy and drunkenness! And how about a little weirdness on top of that? As a gift from me to you, ALL my Kindle books are FREE TODAY ONLY!

Barking Benjamin
Mr. Movie Maker
The Adventures of a Duck
The Ghost of Christmas Socks

 

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Christmas Index

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Hello everyone, and happy one week until Christmas! I hope you’re all enjoying Karl Kangaroo’s Christmas Extravaganza. Also in the spirit of the season, I have decided to make an index of all the holiday-themed stories on this blog to get you into the Yuletide spirit:


 

Poems

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A Clown at Christmas
A clown and his holiday angst.

Daryl and Susie’s Christmas
A dragon and his adopted daughter face a festive monster.

We Think of Christmas in November
Why do we think of Christmas early?

dannycamel
Christmas with Danny the Camel and Julie the Rat
What do you get the rat that has everything?

A Wolf’s Christmas List
An unexpected letter to Santa. (mentions of violence)

I Brought A Snowman to Life One Day
There’s more than one way to bring a snowman to life.

Santa’s Pets
Santa keeps more than just reindeer.


 

Short Stories

reptilehouse

A Gift For Christmas
A snake in a reptile house tries to understand Christmas.

Do You Have A Favourite Toy? (Horror at the Panto #1)
Magic Chocolates (Horror at the Panto #2)
Everybody Loves The Baddie (Horror at the Panto #3)
Three stories about a pantomime…and the supernatural horrors it brings…

Jenny and the Monster’s Christmas
Has Bert the monster finally found his home? (some language)

Mr. Deer Man
An encounter with a hybrid of man and deer. (some violence)

ooziehenry
Heck Comes to Sloofiewoof Land
The once-cheerful Oozie has turned his beautiful world into a miserable wasteland; can a spectral rabbit convince him to restore Sloofiewoof Land to its former glory? (some violence)

Cinderpizza
Lisa the Pizza Woman faces her fairy godmother.

Two Christmas Trees
A real tree and an animatronic tree have a conversation.

mouseking

The Mouse Queen
A retelling of a Christmas classic, where mice get revenge on humanity and only a certain device can stop them.

The Elf
The creepy tale of a creepy decoration.

Karl Kangaroo’s Christmas Extravaganza
Lisa the Pizza Woman is to sing during Karl’s Christmas show, but then finds herself having to save it from evil.


 

Christmas Books

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Reindeer

Santa Claus never lived at the North Pole; he lives and operates in Purgatory. He brings presents to those that have not yet ascended to Heaven in order to give them hope. His elves and reindeer are the spirits of those who died during Christmas.

Meet his newest recruit, Randall, a Christmas-loving human turned into a confused and curious reindeer. It’s bad enough for Randall that he now has to live in a world where happiness and saccharine is forced onto him daily, but then he learns that the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come has history with Santa, and a crooked man is practicing necromancy so as to ruin Santa’s operation.

Can Randall thwart the evil plan and save the holiday he loves?

Buy on Amazon

gocscover

Little Louis Lumpton is excited about all the presents he’ll receive on Christmas…but he’s also dreading the arrival of his Aunt Laura, who gives him nothing but socks as a gift. However, one Christmas Eve, he receives a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Socks, who attempts to teach him that getting socks for Christmas isn’t that bad.

A short, 700 word story that should amuse kids, adults and anyone who’s ever hated getting socks for Christmas.

Buy on Amazon

Karl Kangaroo’s Christmas Extravaganza

This story contains some strong language

Before you is an archetypical Christmas scene. Roaring fireplace, tree decked with tinsel and baubles, garlands on the walls, even a big stack of presents under the tree.  You’re here to hear a story, for what is Christmas without a story? In the middle of the room there’s a table with a big storybook, and eying that storybook is a fat purple furry three-eyed monster, sitting on an easy chair. Bert, his name is. Say hello to Bert.

Are you going to?

‘Well, I wasn’t expecting you to. Hello, I’m Bert, Bert the monster from Jenny and the Monster and Jenny and the Monster’s Christmas. The latter story, I think, has started a little tradition here at The Weird Writings of Gareth Barsby. You see, Jenny and the Monster’s Christmas starred me of course, but also had several characters from several stories published on this blog, and this Christmas spectacular will follow suit.

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‘But before I tell the story, let me introduce the main characters. First, we have the title character, Karl Kangaroo. He was once a regular normal kangaroo, but his Mum didn’t really care for him, so he didn’t ride along in her pouch with the other joeys. He learned to dance for food, but then he ended up in a British circus before being bought by a theatre. There, he not only participated in shows but learned how to talk, walk and use computers. As he grew up, he ended up making games on computers, which made him very rich and soon he founded his own mobile games company. He even found another kangaroo that learned to talk and walk like a human and adopted her as his daughter. He was, however, still bitter about his mother and his childhood so he mistreated his employees and alienated his daughter…

‘Now, I know what you’re thinking, and don’t worry, this isn’t a Christmas Carol story. We already kinda did that with that Sloofiewoof thing.

‘Speaking of books, we have Ricky Raven, descendant of Poe’s Raven. He wanted to be a singer but his Dad wanted him to terrify people. His singing was so bad he learned he could do both.

‘Also starring in this story is Lisa the Pizza Woman. She has the “World’s Best Pizza Place” to thank for her birth; a woman ordered the “perfect pizza” and got a pizza who comforted her, spoke to her, loved her and eventually married her. Lisa was their offspring: a humanoid creature with a pizza slice for a head, eyes made of mushrooms and a body made of mozzarella. Life has been difficult for her, as whenever someone sees her, they try to devour her. She did, however, find a friend in Natalie the Pumpkin Woman, a creature that could only be summoned on Halloween or when Halloween things are sold in shops, and together, they saved the life of the aforementioned Karl.

‘This was when Lisa revealed her marvellous singing voice, so when Karl decided to put together a Christmas show, he asked Lisa to participate in it. This is the story of how that particular show went down…’


This was all a farce, Lisa thought, just another rich man trying to become richer. Indeed, one part of the show was a Kittycat Town Revue, promoting a game that was free but charged for the best content and making characters complete tasks quicker.

This was all a farce, Lisa thought, and I’m taking part in it. She sat backstage, donning a silver dress, wearing no mask, not hiding the hybrid she was. Normally when she went out in public, she hid what she was with masks and coats and gloves. Despite this, she had always dreamed of going up on stage without a disguise, acting and singing while people saw the pizza woman she was.

She had been looking forward to this day. When Karl the Kangaroo had first asked her if she wanted to perform in “Karl Kangaroo’s Christmas Extravaganza”, she didn’t hesitate at all in accepting. She counted down the days, rehearsed in front of the mirror and even bought the dress specifically for the occasion. On the day of the show, however, she sat twiddling her cheese tentacles, listening as the opening act finished up. She actually didn’t know if she was more afraid of the potential for booing or the potential for the audience climbing on stage and devouring her.

She so did wish Natalie were here. Sadly, the shops were free of Halloween merchandise, even in the clearance aisles, so she couldn’t be summoned.

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Karl came on stage, wearing a tuxedo, smiling wider than he usually did. ‘Wasn’t that fine entertainment? Well, hello and Merry Christmas, this is Karl Kangaroo and welcome to Karl Kangaroo’s Christmas Extravaganza. Now as we all know, Christmas is a time for family…’ All of a sudden, someone from the audience threw a Diet Coke at Karl’s head, with a ‘That’s not what you said when it was my Mum’s birthday, dick!’ before leaving.

‘Um, yes,’ Karl continued, ‘well, Christmas is a time for opening presents and…’

Lisa thought to herself that perhaps she should be leaving. Though she had spoke frequently to Karl ever since she and Natalie saved him from the Lemon Possum, stories she had heard about him gave her chills. Not the nice, refreshing chills that kept her from melting either.

Despite what she had heard, she saw Karl as something of an inspiration. He had faced prejudice and hardships like she had, but with hard work and perseverance, became rich and successful. Hearing about Karl’s “mother issues” also, Lisa felt, put things in perspective for her. It reminded Lisa of how lucky she was to have parents as caring as hers.

Sometimes she would curse the fact that her father was a talking pizza, which led to her being born a freak, but looking back, she wouldn’t ask for anyone else to be her dad. School was a nightmare for her, with children not only trying to have a nibble on her, but pulling her arms, shoving her into mud and trying to use her to lure out the mice in the pantry. Her childhood would have been unbearable  were it not for her mum and dad, who always listened to her, let her vent and comforted her.

They saw her not as a freak or a mutant or monster. They saw her as their little miracle.

And they were in the audience for the show. That, thought Lisa, is reason enough to stay.


‘You know,’ said Bert, ‘I could go for some pizza right now. Non-anthropomorphic pizza I mean. Well, anyway, while Lisa was having her moment of contemplation, two other weirdoes were planning to attend the show…’


‘I don’t think we’ll be able to summon the Pumpkin Woman tonight, Dad,’ sighed Ricky Raven as he looked over the spell book.

‘Don’t be silly, son,’ barked Ricky’s father Roger, ‘It doesn’t need to be Halloween, the actual day, to summon her. There just has to be a little Halloween in the air. Look around you; it’s Halloween every day in this house.

Ricky looked around at his home. He and his dad lived in a crumbling monochrome mansion on top of a hill where no flowers or grass ever grew. No Christmas trees or poinsettas could be found in this house, the banisters were covered with cobwebs instead of string lights, and no holly or berries covered the grotesques or skulls.

‘Well, okay,’ replied Ricky, ‘let’s give the ritual a try.’

They did everything the ritual demanded – the pumpkins, the blood, the incantations – yet nothing happened.

‘Guess you were right,’ said Roger, ‘we’ll have to try something else.’

‘Do we have to summon a demon?’ asked Ricky, ‘Can’t I just go on the stage and sing?’ Roger had promised Ricky a chance to sing on stage. It seemed win-win; Ricky got publicity, Roger got to see terror.

‘Well, son,’ said Roger, ‘this is supposed to be an extravagant show, so we need an extravagant horror.’

‘Well, I doubt he’d be scared of a pumpkin-headed woman, Dad,’ replied Ricky, ‘I’ve looked him up, and I think he has other things to be scared about.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well,’ said Ricky, scratching his shoulders, ‘I’ve heard he has a few family issues, he’s upset about his Mum and his adopted daughter…and you know…Lenore…’

‘Ricky, my boy…’ Roger hugged his son. ‘I’ve taught you well. Now, we aren’t going to summon the Pumpkin Woman, we’re going to summon a fellow literary figure…’


‘And now,’ said Karl, ‘put your hands together for The Kittycat Town Revue, and remember, this week only, you can get 250 golden paws and a big Christmas tree for your Kittycat town for only £5!’ As soon as he said that, the curtain opened to reveal a picture of a town with multi-coloured buildings as several people wearing gigantic cat masks marched in, dancing around.

Karl walked backstage, rubbing his temples, then found that he almost walked into Lisa. ‘Oh, hello, Lisa,’ he said, lowering his arms, ‘are you nervous?’

‘Well…’ Lisa wanted to say ‘Of course I am, who wouldn’t be?’ but nothing came out.

‘Don’t worry,’ said Karl, placing a hand on her shoulder, ‘I’m sure you’ll be fine.’ He took his hand off, only to have some cheese stick to his claws. He shook his hand until the cheese came off, back into Lisa’s body, with a drop getting into Lisa’s eye. ‘You know, I remember when I first started out with this type of thing, I was nervous too. I thought they would eat me ali…’ Karl stopped himself when he realised his poor choice of words. ‘Sorry.’

‘It’s alright and thanks,’ said Lisa. ‘Um, you know, I actually do play Kittycat Town from time to time…I can use the phone pretty well for someone without fingers.’

‘Yes, I know,’ replied Karl, ‘ we did have some nice conversations.’

‘They were mostly about the weather, really.’

‘Well, the weather is worth talking about right now, it’s bloody cold out. Where I come from, it’s usually nice and warm at Christmas time…’ Lisa actually had forgotten Karl had come from Australia; he had learned how to talk in the United Kingdom so he didn’t have an Australian accent like every talking kangaroo Lisa had seen in cartoons.

‘I prefer the cold,’ said Lisa, ‘you know, I really would like to bake cakes, but I’m terrified of coming near an oven.’ She sighed. ‘You don’t eat oven food that much, do you? You said you mostly eat grass…’

‘Grass is a fine dish,’ replied Karl, ‘it is worth a try…oh wait…’

The cats had finished their little Christmas celebration, and they came dancing in backstage as Karl walked onto the stage and Lisa leaned back on a wall, taking a deep breath, glad she wasn’t on until after the interval.

‘Well, wasn’t that a wonderful visit through Kittycat Town?’ Karl said to the audience, ‘and now our next act, a comedy…’

‘…of terror,’ came a voice, booming from above.

‘What?’ Karl barked.

‘Isn’t that a fear of yours? To be a joke? To have what you truly are paraded in front of the public?’

Lisa ran on stage, looking up to see wherever the voice was coming from.

‘Behold, here’s a special guest for your show, one who reflects who you are.’ Smoke erupted on the stage, making Karl and Lisa cough violently. When the smoke cleared, there stood a balding priest, looking around the stage with a raised eyebrow. ‘What is this?’ He took a closer look at his surroundings, peeking backstage and catching a glimpse of some of the Kittycat Town Cats. ‘Is this another of my student’s mystery plays? I hope my brother isn’t here.’

Before either Karl or Lisa could ask who this was, the voice answered for them, ‘This is Dom Claude Frollo, summoned from the realms of literature.’

‘From The Hunchback of Notre Dame?’ Lisa asked, looking upward.

‘Yes. He died in his book, but he is kept alive by how many people read and tell his story. And his story is still happening, isn’t it, Karl? He was an adoptive father, but descended into sin; now who does that sound like?’

Karl twitched. ‘This is ridiculous. Go away and get this cosplayer off the stage.’

‘Oh no,’ said the voice, ‘it is the real Claude Frollo.’ Frollo nodded.

Lisa had read The Hunchback of Notre Dame several times (she did see something of herself in the title character and she did almost always skip the chapters about architecture) and something about this figure made her think that standing before her was actually the real Claude Frollo Victor Hugo wrote about. The same Frollo that had a woman hung at the gallows. Even if he wasn’t Frollo, he was still interrupting the show.

Therefore Lisa felt she was justified in launching globs of cheese at Frollo’s feet, sticking him to the stage. ‘Damnation!’ Frollo cried.

‘Oh, very good, Pizza Girl,’ came the voice, ‘but he’s still here. He, who represents Karl’s greatest failings and fears is still looking at him. Don’t you wish your daughter were here instead, Karl?’

Karl trembled, his hands balling into fists. Lisa thought this would be the perfect time to use another ability of hers she only recently learned she had; her mushroom eyeballs sprung out of her head, though still attached to her by tentacles of cheese. These optic nerves stretched further, propelling Lisa’s eyes upwards towards the rafters. There perched two ravens, one formally-dressed and with a microphone, the other smaller and more causally-dressed.

‘You can hawk your terrible games all you want but…what’s this?’ The larger raven looked at Lisa’s eyes, and instantly pecked one of them. Lisa’s optic nerves shrunk back into her body as the younger raven flapped onto the stage.

‘And now,’ said the larger raven, still in the rafters, ‘put your hands on the sides of your heads for my son, Ricky!’

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Ricky pulled out a microphone of his own from his pocket and sang. He sang a song that made everyone howl in agony, and made Lisa collapse onto the stage, covering her ears (or their equivalent, at least). Karl shoved his claws into his ears, shuddering, and even Frollo looked like he would run away if his feet weren’t stuck to the ground.

Lisa knew this was an ideal time to use her cheese powers. She could throw cheese into Ricky’s mouth to stop him from singing, she could throw cheese into Karl’s ears so he could help fight against the invaders. However, the atrocious singing meant she could hardly concentrate, and Ricky dodged every splodge of cheese she threw. ‘He’s had stuff thrown at him before,’ came the voice of Ricky’s father.

Lisa stood up, scrunching her eyes and rolling up her tentacle arms, and marched towards Ricky. Ricky hit a note that made Lisa feel like her head was in the oven, so she backed away slightly before swallowing and knocking the microphone out of Ricky’s hand. ‘Hey,’ he cried as he dove for the microphone.

Lisa picked it up. Lisa sang:

‘What are you doing? I sure do wanna know.
What are you doing? Do you have to spoil our show?’

Ricky froze.

‘Don’t be such a spoilsport, don’t scare anyone,
We’re here because it’s Christmas, we’re here to have some fun…’

lisasinging

Lisa continued her song, leaping about the stage and twirling as she did so, and Ricky did nothing but stand and listen. When Lisa finished her song, raising her tentacles in the air on her knees as she did so, Ricky’s father flew down off the rafters.

‘That was a very nice song,’ said Ricky’s father, ‘Too bad the audience cleared off when my son sang.’

Hundreds of empty seats greeted Lisa when she looked. Where there were people, there were empty plastic cups and wrappers.

Yet Lisa could still hear clapping.

Some of the audience remained. There were a couple of goths who would watch anything related to Edgar Allan Poe, a Victor Hugo fan hoping to get Frollo’s autograph after the show, and three figures familiar to Lisa.

There, near the back, there sat a woman and a pepperoni pizza with eyes and tentacles, both of them applauding.

‘Mum! Dad!’

Not too far from them sat Natalie the Pumpkin Woman.

Before Lisa could say her name, Natalie ran towards the stage with superhuman speed and leapt towards Lisa, hugging her. ‘I thought you couldn’t be…’

‘You really really wanted me here,’ said Natalie, ‘and I really really wanted to be here.’

‘Well, I really really want you to cause terror,’ barked the formally-dressed raven, ‘so get going.’

‘I’m sorry, mate,’ replied Natalie, ‘what me and Lisa have is stronger than any incantation or spell book.’

‘Oh, forget this,’ snarled the raven, ‘I’m off. Come along, Ricky.’

‘But…but…well, at least I got to sing.’ Ricky and his father flew away.

‘Well, now that they’re gone,’ said Karl, cleaning out his ears with his claws, ‘we can continue the show. At least we could if most of the acts and audience hadn’t run away.’

‘Don’t worry,’ said Natalie, ‘you’ve still got some “sing” in you, don’t you, Lisa?’

‘Yeah.’

‘She’ll put on a show for the remaining audience members and I’ll provide backup,’ said Natalie, pulling a guitar from behind her back. After that, she ran backstage and pulled out a keyboard. ‘Frollo, since you’re here, you might as well make yourself useful.’

‘Well,’ said Frollo, looking over the keyboard, ‘I have nothing better to do, and Quasimodo did once suggest I take up an instrument.’

‘I’ll try to see if I can get anyone back,’ said Karl, before hopping out of the theatre.


‘And Karl did get some of the audience and the acts back,’ continues Bert, ‘unfortunately some of the audience wouldn’t go back into the theatre until Karl paid them. So despite the invasion of ravens, the show was a success, thanks in no small part to Lisa and her band. Lisa and her parents even spent Christmas in Natalie’s house. She may be a Halloween creature, but she had the best Christmas decorations. In fact…’

A door bursts open, and in walks the Pumpkin Woman herself, along with her friend, the Pizza Woman. ‘Hey, are you two done in here?’

‘Just finishing up. Well, that’s our Christmas story, and the moral of it is…um…well, the Christmas story’s over. Goodbye and Merry Christmas!’

Santa’s Pets

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We all know Santa has reindeer,
But let’s not stop just yet,
For let me tell you something,
About Santa’s other pets,

You may not know about them,
But they come every year,
And they help their master,
In spreading Christmas cheer,

Santa has a pet rat,
And on Christmas Day,
He comes to your house to collect,
The stuff you threw away.

Every piece of wrapping paper,
Each unwanted gift,
Even bits of fruitcake,
He takes with movements swift,

He puts every bit of rubbish,
Into a bin bag, big and fat,
And that night distributes it all,
To every little rat,

And here’s another pet,
I would like you to meet,
He is the Christmas Vulture,
And he distributes meat,

If the dog ate your Christmas turkey,
If your dinner needs a bird,
The Christmas Vulture then swoops in,
And without saying a word,

Plops onto your table,
What will be your main course,
Though you must pluck and roast yourself,
Your gift, the avian corpse.

These are Santa’s pets,
And they work during this season,
They aren’t celebrated or well-known,
Though I guess there’s a good reason.

The Elf

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Trevor and I never really decorated our flat for Christmas. We thought it redundant; we spent Christmas Day at our families’ houses, both of which had tinsel, baubles and fake snow in spades. One January, however, we were looking over the bargains, and Trevor suggested, ‘Maybe this December, we can have just a couple decorations, eh. You know, just to show we have spirit.’

We looked at the unsold Christmas decorations on sale; tinsel that cost £2.99 now 75p, £1 for a formerly £4 teddy bear. Most of these decorations, however, really had little to do with Christmas. There were Christmas tree ornaments of Darth Vader – just plain Darth Vader, not wearing a Santa hat or holding a present. There were ornaments of Walter White from Breaking Bad and Batman, and the only thing Christmassy about them was that they were meant to be hung from a Christmas tree.

This gave Trevor an idea; that year, we would create a Christmas tree that was as “un-Christmassy” as possible while still being a Christmas tree. It would be a fir tree – a little plastic one – without red and green baubles or Santa, but would have Darth Vader, Walter White and Batman.

We bought the ornaments, and when December came, we bought a little tree to put them on. We added other things as well: a little plastic pumpkin we got for cheap in November, a couple of teabags, a novelty Daffy Duck necktie, a small joke book. We debated about whether or not some of those things actually were Christmassy – that necktie was a Christmas present after all – but we later agreed we had succeeded in creating a Christmas decoration that was as un-Christmassy as possible while still counting as a Christmas decoration.

A few days after we first put up the tree, Trevor came back home from work with another ornament, one that actually had to do with Christmas. A spherical elf head with a little green Robin Hood cap, with stripey arms popping right in front of its ears. It grinned widely.

‘Found this at a charity shop,’ said Trevor, ‘It’s supposed to be a Christmas decoration, but looks more Halloween to me.’ Indeed, last time I had seen eyes that big and a grin that wide was the plastic skull bucket I trick-or-treated with as a child.

We gave the elf a special place inside our tree. Yes, we made it look like he was hiding in the branches, waiting for his moment to strike, like a lion surveying its prey.

Both of us imagined the elf slaughtering the other ornaments, ripping apart the tea bags, nibbling every needle. We had a clear idea of how his laugh would sound; high-pitched, gleeful, dripping with sadistic joy.

It was that laugh I awoke to that night.

At midnight, I awoke to see the elf resting on my chest, breathing heavily. His grin was wider than ever, his eyes didn’t blink and he held a sewing needle in his hand.

I couldn’t bring myself to speak. I couldn’t bring myself to move. It felt like a thousand of those sewing needles were stinging my veins and my throat was on fire. Just as I thought of fire, I saw an orange light through the door crack.

‘Your Christmas tree wasn’t Christmassy enough,’ said the elf before he hopped into my neck, ‘so I fixed it.’ I then noticed in his other hand, he held a spool of thread. ‘We just need you and your friend to make some popcorn. I don’t know how to work a microwave.’

He took me to the living room, where Trevor already was. He was as speechless as I, staring at our updated tree. It had grown, and now just barely fit in the room. Baubles of red and green. Tinsel. Flickering lights of all colours.

And elves. Spherical elf heads with arms and wide eyes and big grins. Elves bouncing on branches, elves staring at us.

Elves that were here to stay.

Yes, when we tried to take down the tree on Twelfth Night, they snarled at us, as if they were about to do what they did to most of our non-Christmassy decorations.

 

The Ghost of Christmas Socks Available for Kindle

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Little Louis Lumpton is excited about all the presents he’ll receive on Christmas…but he’s also dreading the arrival of his Aunt Laura, who gives him nothing but socks as a gift. However, one Christmas Eve, he receives a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Socks, who attempts to teach him that getting socks for Christmas isn’t that bad.

A short, 700 word story that should amuse kids, adults and anyone who’s ever hated getting socks for Christmas.

This story was my entry into Amazon’s recent “New Christmas Carol” competition. It didn’t win (congratulations to Mike Doodson), but I still would like to share it with you. The story will be FREE from today to Wednesday, but will cost £0.99/$1.33 afterwards.

Buy on Amazon US
Buy on Amazon UK

Also be sure to check out my other Christmas book, Reindeer, as well.

The Mouse Queen

mouseking

This story includes some blood and violence

Christmas Day. It was supposed to be a day of merriment, a day of joy, a day for getting drunk and regretting doing so on Boxing Day. It was supposed to be a day when dreams came true, yet this Christmas Day, when the Mouse King marched through the streets, brought nothing but nightmares.

Children, who were supposed to be unwrapping presents and annoying their parents, ran down the roads screaming and weeping for the loss of their dear kittens. Adults, who were supposed to be guzzling down on mulled wine, were either trembling in their hiding places or showing the Mouse King where their food was kept.

The Mouse King, a mechanical monster that scuttled around on metallic spider legs. The Mouse King, which had claws and drills and missile launchers. The Mouse King, which had seven mutated, organic mouse heads attached to snake-like necks, the heads much larger than a regular mouse’s entire body.

There were regular mice around too, thousands of them swarming the streets, entering houses they were previously shunned from. House after house had been emptied of all human presence, and filled with mice and rats and other rodents, for that was the will of the Mouse Queen.

Dr. Stahlbaum shuddered as he pondered on the horrors that he had unleashed. It was he that had brought the Mouse Queen into the world, and it was the Mouse Queen that brought the Mouse King into the world. Despite the names they had given themselves, the Mouse Queen was the Mouse King’s mother; she gave birth to seven sons, and she constructed the machine she attached the sons’ heads onto.

Stahlbaum was a scientist, and had created many weird and wonderful devices in his lifetime. Whenever he had any ideas, no matter how absurd, he made sure to act on them as soon as possible. When he found out his daughter Marie had secretly been taking care of a mouse and its seven children, he thought ‘My daughter treats that mouse like her friend’, then thought ‘I could probably make it more than a friend’ and impulsively tried to make that idea a reality.

Days and weeks he spent on the mouse, using every piece of machinery, every drop of every chemical he had to make the mouse grow, give the mouse intelligence, make it capable of speech. It would be a friend for Marie, who sadly wasn’t the most social of children, and, given the appropriate knowledge, would make a good assistant for him around the lab.

The experiment was a complete success. The mouse had been enlarged to six-foot-tall, it – she, rather – was bipedal, she could use her paws as hands and was capable of speech and understanding scientific principles. Her first few days after her mutation she spent trying to comprehend her new form – picking up and observing objects that once towered over her, testing her speech by saying random words and singing songs she heard on the radio and looking over Stahlbaum’s machinery and potions. Soon, she assisted Stahlbaum with other experiments, and even created little devices of her own.

In the middle of the night, both Stahlbaum and Marie were awoken by the sound of high-pitched screams. Down into the laboratory they descended, where they witnessed Stahlbaum’s experiment conducting an experiment of her own; making her sons grow even larger than she, while building a body for them.

She turned to the two humans and snarled.

One of her sons instantly pounced on Marie, looking at her like a stray dog would look upon a piece of meat. Stahlbaum could do nothing to stop the beast from ripping his dear daughter to shreds.

mousequeen

‘You gave me power,’ said the mouse to Stahlbaum, ‘Power that I need to get revenge on the humans that have tormented our kind for so long. Your daughter is merely the first of many.’

All Stahlbaum could do at that moment was run. Run away from his laboratory, away from his home, carrying the only piece of Marie he could save from the mutants – her brain. He knew another scientist – Doctor Drosselmeyer – who had performed experiments in reviving the human brain after death, so that was why he found himself running through the city, trying to avoid detection by the soldiers of the Mouse Queen.

His experiment was a success. In fact, it had worked too well, and the Mouse Queen had abilities Stahlbaum hadn’t intended to give her. Every command she made to mice, every mouse followed. When she said, ‘Brothers and sisters, let us attack the humans that have tried to kill us!’ that’s what they did.

When Stahlbaum emerged from an alleyway after believing the coast was clear, the voice of the Mouse Queen echoed throughout the city – ‘There stands he who is trying to defeat us! Eliminate him!’ and Stahlbaum turned around to see the Mouse King, a camera and a loudspeaker having sprung out of its mechanical body.

Again, Stahlbaum ran, with the Mouse King clattering by in hot pursuit, followed by the Mouse Queen’s army. As fast as he could run, the mice caught up to him and the Mouse King, with all his weapons and machinery, just watched as the mice devoured Stahlbaum’s flesh.

All of a sudden, Stahlbaum suddenly saw the wizened, bearded face of Drosselmeyer looking over him, his mechanical eye whirring away. ‘It worked!’ he cried.

Stahlbaum could no longer feel pain. He could no longer feel fear.

He could no longer feel anything.

The last thing he remembered before seeing Drosselmeyer’s face was his heart pounding against his ribs, yet now he had no heartbeat at all.

He looked at his hands. Metallic claws, not unlike those the Mouse King had.

He looked at his feet. Large boots – which were not clothes but part of his new body.

Drosselmeyer showed him a mirror and a robot with a large square head and gigantic teeth stared back.

Stahlbaum wanted to scream upon seeing the machine he had become yet couldn’t bring himself to do so, even admitting inwardly he had been expecting to become a robot. Instead, his response was, ‘Where’s my daughter?’

Drosselmeyer gestured to his left and in entered an oversized metallic doll. A small robot with shimmering silver “skin”, wearing a white dress. ‘Daddy,’ she said as she shook.

This is what made Stahlbaum stand up and walk, noticing his mechanical body actually moved a similar way to his previous, organic body. The first thing he did in this new form was pick up his daughter and hug her. He knew she wanted to cry, yet couldn’t in that new body.

‘I’d hate to ruin this reunion,’ said Drosselmeyer, ‘but the Mouse King is still out there. I only managed to keep him and his mother’s armies at bay for just enough time to collect your brains, but they’re still strong. Luckily, I have you.

‘I’ve been trying to build a machine that could defeat the Mouse King, but what I needed to complete it was heart. And by heart, I mean brain. Love comes not from the heart but the brain, and you have love enough that you can defeat the Mouse Queen’s regime once and for all.’

Stahlbaum wanted to object, but remained silent, still hugging his now-mechanical daughter. As soon as Drosselmeyer told him about the abilities he now had, he left the laboratory almost immediately. Just a few steps outside and he saw the Mouse Queen, the Mouse King and several rodents approaching. He stood and let them come near him, and when the Mouse King backed away, Stahlbaum would have smiled if he could have. The Mouse Queen, however, smirked.

‘Son,’ she said, ‘are you pondering what I’m pondering?’

The seven heads all grunted in unison.

‘Exactly,’ said the Mouse Queen.

The Mouse King raised one of its claws, only for Stahlbaum to rip it right off. After that, he shoved it into his mouth and chewed on it while the Mouse King and his mother looked on in confusion. Before the Mouse King could retaliate, Stahlbaum leapt upon him like one of the heads had leapt upon his daughter, and then took bites out of his body, ripping out every nut and bolt and crunching them in half.

‘Son!’ cried the Mouse Queen, ‘How…’

Before the Mouse Queen could finish her sentence, Stahlbaum bit her head right off her body, watching it collapse to the ground with a fountain of blood spurting from her neck.

nutcracker

‘Just call me The Nutcracker.’