Tis the season to be jolly…scary: On the Feast of Stephen

Over the next four nights I’ll be presenting four self-penned Christmas ghost stories that hopefully owe more to the likes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents rather than Christmas presents.

Our first tale of seasonal chills sees a man who discovers the hard way that a dog is for life, not just for Christmas…

On the Feast of Stephen

Steve hated Christmas. He hated everything about it. In fact he went out of his way to make it as horrible an experience as he could for as many people. His only pleasure was other people’s misery.

He knew that people loved their animals, so every year on the run up to Christmas Steve would go round trapping and hiding other people’s cats and dogs in his cellar and then enjoy hearing the distraught owners travel out in all weathers to try and find them, but they never did…and this year would be no different.

This had gone on for years and whenever people came prying or asking too many questions he would simply pack up his few belongings and move on. It wasn’t a problem as there was only himself to worry about and no one ever noticed him when he was there so they would miss him even less when he was gone.

This year he had done himself proud and managed smash his own ‘previous best’. His haul this year though had been gained at considerable risk as normally he would pick up cats and dogs from the street or tied up outside shops, but this year for the first time he had broken into backyards and garden sheds.

There was no doubt that he would have to move before next Christmas as such daring raids had undoubtedly aroused suspicion, but he knew that no one could touch him. He even used to joke to himself that even the police had no leads, when in fact often that was all that often remained of people’s canine companions.

Still, just to be on the safe side Steve had joined hordes of locals on searches of the local area such as woods, streams and the local quarry. He had even helped fly poster the usual local shop windows and lampposts.

Steve always ensured that he kept one of the photocopied ‘missing’ photos that he would neatly put into a ring binder file, alphabetically in the name of the pet of course, so he would always have a memento.

And to think that his teacher had always told him that he would amount to nothing and he would never make a difference to people’s lives. Well this would show his English teacher, Mr Orsett, this would show all of them. Indeed, all those years ago Mr Orsett’s cat, Bilbo, a beautiful tortoiseshell, had been his very first ‘prize’ and from then he had never looked back.

The ‘booty’ Steve had collected was plentiful and varied as he laid claim to the usual menagerie as well as rabbits and even a ferret! Time for celebration indeed as Steve purchased the largest turkey that money could buy.

Come Christmas Day, Steve, complete with crumpled paper crown from a cracker, ate like a King and gorged himself. He ensured that no morsels were tossed to the animals below. If he heard their cries and whimpers then he would just turn up the volume of the tirade of festive repeats on television to drown it out.

As usual Steve fell asleep in a drunken stupor in the chair. As he slept he felt something suspiciously like a cat brush against his leg. Can’t be, he thought, as he knew the door to the cellar was firmly bolted. Then he felt his hand licked by something that felt like the tongue of a dog. He woke with a start and peered round the darkened room, lit only by the flicker of the television…nothing.

He drifted back into sleep. Again he felt something against him, this time he heard the noise of padded feet on the floor. It sounded like a small dog, a Jack Russell he thought. He rose from his slumber as he remembered that he had not “kept” a Russell for at least a couple of years. Suddenly he felt the clenching of teeth against his naked hand. The wound burned as the Jack Russell hung on for dear life.

As Steve whirled round in pain he sent empty beer cans flying in all directions. He stopped momentarily as he noticed that the entire room was full with rag-tag dogs and cats, dogs and cats that he had thought he had long seen the back of, dogs and cats that had come for some justice. Stood at the front leading the army of quadrupeds was a tortoiseshell cat, its fur stood on end, claws drawn for attack and eyes wild with revenge. It let out a migraine-inducing hiss that penetrated every bone of Steve’s body.

Finally he managed to prize the Russell from his hand, along with half of his skin, and retreated back to the only safe haven that he could find, the cellar door. He hadn’t heard any noises down there for a while so knew he would be safe. As the animals crept slowly forward, Steve finally managed to flee into his dark, dank place of sanctuary.

He stood at the other side of the door until the noise of clawing and whining ceased. Through a crack in the door he could see that the living room was now empty. Steve chuckled to himself as he knew those animals wouldn’t be getting out no matter whether they were upstairs or down below in the cellar. There was no food left as he had eaten it all just as his beloved mother had taught him to.

Satisfied that the coast was now clear Steve went to open the door and when he found those ‘vermin’ he would start pulling fur as any normal person would pull crackers. He’d be ready for them as was something he had been looking forward to all day, feeling somewhat rejuvenated after his Christmas Day snooze.

Steve yanked at the door but it would not budge. He hammered at the heavy wooden panels until his hands bled. Whether it was the noise he was making or the smell of blood from his self-inflicted wounds that had roused them he wasn’t sure, but roused them he had, there was no doubt of that. Steve heard several large growls and hisses. These noises were not the ghosts of pets past but the very real and very hungry ones of those of Christmas present.

The other side of the door Bilbo the cat curled up by the door and purred contently. The purring increased in intensity and Steve held has head as it shook his very brain. Holding his head he moved back from the door and stumbled backwards landing awkwardly. He felt something snap as he fell.

Steve fell from the steps right in front of the dozen or so dogs and cats, even the rabbit and ferret were there for the ensuing fun. The huge German Shepherd was the first to investigate but certainly not the last to enjoy the feast of Stephen.

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