After all the fun we had bringing you scares from Prospero all October long, we couldn't resist concocting this series of festive flash fics of fear.
So check back with us throughout the season for fresh, bite-sized of holiday horrors!
(Click here for Holiday Horrors: Black Friday)
(Click here for Holiday Horrors: What the Movies Don't Show)
(Click here for Holiday Horrors: What's Eating Mall Santa?)
(Click here for Holiday Horrors: Where Gran Hides Her Presents)
(Click here for Holiday Horrors: Bindley)
Holiday Horrors: The Stroke of Midnight
By F.J.R. Titchenell
I get that I’m going to be doing it forever. I can live with that.
It’s only the pressure that sometimes gets to me, and the overprotectiveness, having to be around that all the time.
That’s why I’m here, at a New Year’s Eve “party” in some club I’ve never been to, full of people I don’t know, after a three drink equivalent cover charge, watching the clock run down, trying to decide how close I’m going to let it get before I call Ester.
We work New Year’s, every year. That’s why they were all so against my getting out to celebrate it even for a couple hours, and probably why I’ve always wanted to.
I didn’t have much of a plan when I got here. A few fantasies about meeting Prince Charming’s eyes across the crowded room, dancing until I almost lose track of time (but not quite), and getting to see those eyes turn disappointed and determined to find me again somehow when I tell him I have to run.
Instead I’ve spent most of the night sharing a table with a woman who might be named Cheryl or Sharon or Sherry, it’s hard to tell through the music, who’s been doing her best to help me understand with the help of gestures exactly how she got stood up here.
She’s probably the person here I have the most in common with, except she had a date at the beginning of the night.
I’m not sorry when a new Prince Charming (well, maybe not prince, more a Duke or Marquis Charming), graciously allows her to whisk him onto the dance floor and I steal the nearly untouched glass of champagne he brought her to seal the proposition.
I’m almost at the bottom of the glass when I realize something’s wrong.
This isn’t the steady increase in the warm dizziness the other drinks have been compounding. All at once, the club begins to swirl in luminous molten lava shapes.
I’m barely tethered to my body by long elastic bands, but I manage to maneuver it onto its high-heeled feet and toward the nearest door. The lights are a thick, near-solid that I can barely swim through but which fails to support me, and the music coaxes me in deafening sparkles to just dance, just dance.
I consider for a moment trying to warn Cher-something about the man she’s dancing with, but I can’t see them anywhere in the magic eye kaleidoscope of the dance floor, and if I don’t find Ester while I’m as conscious as I am, he’ll be the least of anyone’s worries.
Somehow I get myself through a door, by guessing that the middle one I can see is the real one, end up in a gossamer white bathroom and check my phone.
When did it pass eleven thirty?
After three tries chasing down the pulsating symbols with my thumb, I unlock the screen and return the most recent call. Ester answers on the first ring.
“Where the hell are you?”
It’s 11:40 before I can answer, and I’m pretty sure the echoes of her question aren’t all in my head.
“At the glitter pony. I need you to meet me.”
I have the name of the place wrong but close enough for her to get it right.
“I’ll be right there,” she says. “Be out front.”
My voice seems to take forever to reach the phone.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN, ‘YOU’LL TRY’?” she demands.
I start describing my symptoms and the circumstances that led to them, and she identifies the drug by its scientific name, which sounds like it starts with a K, but it’s hard to tell between her more familiar cursing.
“You do understand what happens if we don’t complete the ritual and line the next year into place?” she rants. “You do realize there won’t be any more new years, or any more parties for anyone, including you?”
Of course I realize it. It is my one stupid job in the whole universe, the one that only requires two seconds of blinding agony a year and ends existence as we know it if it’s not done.
Needless to say, it’s not a job I applied for.
Ester says something about her and Edgar coming to find me so we can all join hands by midnight, and I don’t know if it’s my senses or the way time itself unravels toward the edges that make her words run parallel to the phone being back in my pocket.
There’s a window set high in the ceiling. My body does that elastic thing again, and it’s 11:48 when I start standing and already 11:54 when I reach the wall and determine that the window is both painted shut and not adjacent to the outside.
It’s probably about 11:58 when Cher bursts in, leaning so heavily on Viceroy Charming that her feet drag along the floor.
My knees launch the rest of me away from the source of the K-champagne, fingers scrabbling at the top of the nearest stall wall for a place to hide and toppling headfirst over it. My jaw collides with the tiles, and I realize dimly that I would hurt tomorrow, if there were a tomorrow.
Beyond the half open bathroom door, the partygoers cheer to a clock that must be slightly fast but not fast enough, “Happy New Year!”
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