Simon stayed where he was, a small brown image, concealed by leaves. Even if he shut his eyes the sow's head still remained like an after-image. The half-shut eyes were dim with the infinite cynicism of adult life. They assured Simon that everything was a bad business.
Lord Of The Flies
This is how Christmas vacation ends... not with a bang but with a whimper.
A Very Chipmunks Christmas
Alan and I met up at the great maple tree between our Maine houses, the first foot and a half of its knobby trunk buried beneath the Maine snow. Boy was it ever Maine.
"Mai- I mean it sure is cold!" Alan said, rubbing his sides briskly. "What do you want to do?"
I surveyed our block, considering the options. It was the morning of Christmas Eve and we were anxious to make the day pass as quickly as possible, but we would have to keep an eye out for Randy Fowler and his gang. Our pal Bill Callahan had died a bad death at the hands of those kids a few days earlier when they ambushed him with snowballs. Poor guy never even saw it coming. His guts had steamed when they spilled out into the freshly fallen snow, and his anguished screams were silenced thanks to the snowball that had punched a hole clean through his neck, leaving his head attached by only an inch or so of muscle and skin. Randy's boys had propped his body up on the playground's monkey bars. It still hung there on display as a warning to us all.
"Anything, as long as we stay away from the playground."
Alan nodded in agreement and then shivered, in all likelihood not from the cold but the mental image of Bill's frozen corpse and his lifeless eyes forever locked in an expression of puzzlement. To prevent the horrific thoughts from lingering in his head and ruining one of the best days of the year, I suggested the first thing that came to my mind.
"Say, why don't we go bust up some of the neighborhood snowmen?"
"Sure!" Alan's face lit up. "I've been trying to get you to do it for weeks!"
The truth was that I've always been a good kid, and the thought of damaging other peoples' property knotted my stomach up in the worst way. But hey, Alan needed cheering up and it wasn't as if the snowmen were really worth anything. They were just frozen water and dog pee rolled up into shapes that vaguely resembled humans.
Keep telling that to yourself, kid, my inner voice said. You've steered clear of trouble this long, you think Santa's going to be okay with you doing something that you know is wrong? Heck, he's the least of your worries. Doing this could open a greatbiggodawful can of worms, kid.
"Steve?" Alan was across the street, standing next to a snowman and his snow wife on the Sawyers' front yard. The husband's head had been knocked to the ground and its eyes stared blankly into the Maine sky. "Earth to Steve! Are you up to this or not?"
"Sorry, guess I spaced out."
I approached the snowcouple and inspected Alan's handiwork. Clean separation of the head at shoulder level, no evidence left behind. A perfect murder. We grinned at each other and broke out into laughter, and I realized this wasn't so bad after all.
"All right, you took out the old man so I'll wax the lady to make sure there won't be any loose ends." I said, smiling. "Can't have any witnesses popping up to cause trouble later on."
Pulling my fist back without knowing where I would land my blow, I swung wildly and connected with her stomach. My fist was met with the resistance of packed snow for the first couple of inches, but then came something unexpected. Something wet.
I warned you, kid.
As I withdrew my fist in revulsion, the hole I had punched in the snow woman's stomach swelled outward and a hot red syrup poured out. Blood. Tons of it, already forming a sizeable pool of darkness in the virgin white snow. I glanced back and forth between the hole and my crimson hand in disbelief. This couldn't be happening. Not on Christmas Eve.
The stream of blood slowed as something blocked the hole from the inside. There was an awful sound as the object squished its way outward, and then with a 'plop' a snowman fetus emerged riding on a festive holiday placenta. Instead of snow he was made entirely of exposed muscles, and he wore a top hat upon his head. Improbably, he even had a small corncob pipe tucked into the corner of his mouth. He lay on his side shaking pathetically, groaning a horrible groan.
The snowfetus' beady charcoal eyes locked onto Alan and I, and he stopped shaking. Opening his mouth and letting the pipe fall aside, the snowfetus coughed deeply. From within his underdeveloped lungs spewed forth a cloud of dead and dying gnats. Those that were able to flailed helplessly on their backs in the pool of thick blood as the fetus moaned in a small but deep and raspy voice, "KWAAANZAAAA..."
"What the hell is happening?" I blurted out as I backed away from the snowfetus, who had resumed his shaking and appeared to be dying. Alan did not respond for he was no longer at my side. I didn't blame him for running, but when I saw the direction he was heading my heart sank.
"Alan, NO! The playground!"
Instead of running home he had stumbled directly toward the playground and into the waiting crosshairs of Randy Fowler's gang. I closed the distance between us as best I could, but it was too late. When he heard my voice and realized his mistake, Alan came to an awkward stop with his arms flailing and turned to run back, but the first snowball had already been thrown. Alan's stomach blew outward as the snowball passed clean through him, his intestines looping outward crazily. He cradled his insides as close to his body as possible and attempted to shuffle out of his attackers' range when another snowball blew his right shoulder apart, sending even more intestines flying out of this second wound.
I was now twenty yards away from Alan on a suicide run to save him, but he held out a hand to halt me.
"Go home," croaked my doomed friend with a sad smile, "there are other playgrounds than these."
With that he fell face down in the snow. More snowballs sailed through the air toward me from unseen assailants crouched behind the cover of a snowbank, but none came closer than ten feet before hitting the ground. After hesitating a moment I turned and ran as fast as my legs would carry me, away from my best friend, past the snowfetus, and back to the warm safety zone that is my home.
Although Bill Callahan's corpse stayed on display for weeks, Alan's body was never found. I do not know what became of the horrible little snow creature. I suspect it died, but sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and hear a quiet rustling outside of my window. As I lay with my eyes squeezed shut and cry I can't help but imagine being braver, summoning my courage and slowly stepping toward that window to come face to face with the horrors that await me.
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I was able to pull some strings and secure an advance copy of this year’s PAX panel schedule. Enjoy!
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