WHERE THE BAD ONES GO
BY K.G. HEATH
© K.G. Heath, 2013.
All rights reserved.
She should have been happy, but she was terrified. The Christmas tree lights winked on then off. On then off. On then off. Kelly had been sat there for an hour, staring at the tree. It was a real tree with sparse branches and needles, a few baubles, lights and tinsel had been thrown over it haphazardly.
It was not the Christmas decorations that Kelly was staring at. Instead, she was fixated by the blood-shot eyes of the thing inside the tree. She had wet herself, the urine soaked into the sofa, but she put no thought to that.
What is it? What is it? What is it? she thought in a continual loop with a manic pace.
The thing inside the tree blinked slowly, a thick gunk stringed between the eyelids and then dribbled down its dark face.
"Sweety," said her mum. "Are you alright?"
Kelly's fascination was broken, she turned and looked at her mum, tears filling her eyes. "Mummy..."
Her mother ran to her and knelt down, hugging her as tight as she could. "What's the matter, honey?" she asked. "What-" she started, as she felt the wet clothes of her daughter.
"That," said Kelly, pointing into the tree.
But the thing with the blood-shot eyes was gone.
Danny's mother had told him to sleep, or Father Christmas won’t leave you any presents. He wanted to sleep, but he couldn't. He was staring at his wardrobe.
The doors were open a little, moonlight illuminating the white wood. He was fixated on the darkness between those two open doors. Something was in there, something was watching him. He knew it!
Danny heard the metallic scrape as the hangers were moved apart. His heart thundered in his chest.
White, blood-stained eyes peered out of the darkness, illuminated by the light of the moon.
Danny pulled the bed sheets up a little further, his heart hammered harder. He wanted to cry, but he didn't want that thing to know he was so scared.
"What are you?" he asked quietly.
The thing made a rasping laugh in response. The sound tickled his spine and goosebumps prickled over his skin.
"Please don't hurt me."
The laughter grew quieter and quieter, and then the thing inside his wardrobe moved back into the darkness. The sound of the clothes-hangers moving again scraped into his ears.
Then there was only silence. He crept out of bed, stretched across his small desk and switched on the light. At first his eyes stung from the brightness, but soon his eyes adjusted and the pain disappeared.
He crept up to the wardrobe, cupping the handle of one of the doors in his hand. He hesitated, fearing what may lay inside. He pulled it open, revealing a rack of clothes.
It was gone. He swallowed and the goosebumps on his skin began to disappear.
Kelly was woken when her parents had called for her to come down stairs. She put her dressing gown over her unicorn pyjamas, shoved her feet into her slippers and skipped down stairs.
Her mum and dad were beaming when they saw her. "Did you have a good sleep," asked her mum.
"Yes," she lied. She didn't want to tell them that she had dreamt of the thing inside the tree. Except, this time it had been inside the wardrobe of a little boy.
"Good," said her dad. "Because you have some presents to open."
Kelly smiled and ran into the living room. Inside, there were a myriad of presents in wonderfully colourful wrapping paper.
She was unleashed to attack the gifts, shredding paper with the deftness of a child giddy with glee.
She unveiled a toy kitchen, a set of ponies with a barn and her very own little mobile phone that made sounds when she pressed the buttons.
When the main set of presents had all been opened, Kelly was presented with a stuffed stocking. There were smaller gifts inside and she could not open them fast enough.
There were pieces of plastic jewellery and small creatures that walked when you wound them up.
There was one more thing left inside the stocking. She put her hand inside to grab it. She screamed when she touched it, pulling back her hand as though she had been bitten.
"What's wrong?" her mother asked.
Kelly didn't like what ever was inside the stocking. "Something bad," she said.
"Don't be silly," said her dad. He lifted the stocking by the bottom to tip out the final gift.
A piece of coal fell from the stocking’s opening. It was the size of Kelly’s palm and it dirtied the carpet as it rolled to a jerky stop.
"What the-" her father began.
Her mother put a hand to her mouth. "No!"
"What?" her father asked.
"It's just bad luck," she said.
"Honey, it's a piece of coal. Did you put it in there? I know Kelly’s been a little naughty recently, but nothing that deserved this."
Kelly’s mother looked from her father to the piece of coal. "I didn't put it in there."
"If you didn't then who did?"
"I- no it can't be."
"Can't be what?" he asked.
Kelly’s mother hesitated for a moment, swallowing hard. "My mother told me a story, an old wives’ tale. How a piece of coal in a stocking was the sign of the Stexies."
Her mother let out a nervous laugh. "The Stexies." She looked at Kelly and said the next few words in the exaggerated whisper of a parent trying to keep something from a child. "The child snatcher."
"Alright," said Kelly’s father. "That's enough nonsense for today. This is meant to be a happy day." He picked up the piece of coal and took it out into the kitchen.
Kelly and her mother shared a look. It was real, thought Kelly. I saw it. The Stexies.
Danny put his hand inside his loose, almost empty stocking. He reached deep inside, grabbing the object at the bottom.
It felt strange, powdery, a little moist - dirty. He pulled the thing out and saw the piece of coal.
He dropped it to the floor. He’d heard of children being given coal when they had been bad. No presents for you! But an uncomfortable feeling in his gut told him that this was not the work of his parents.
He thought of the bloodshot eyes that had watched him from inside the wardrobe.
His dirty hand had begun to itch, the coal dust irritating his skin, or perhaps what ever curse that thing had put on him.
He ran the water in the bathroom sink, but when he tried to wash off the black dirt, nothing happened. The soap only made a dark froth that rinsed away, leaving the same dark stain on his hand.
I'm marked, he thought.
The children tried to enjoy the rest of their Christmas day, but no matter how jovial their parents tried to be, what presents they unwrapped, or songs were sung, they could not be raised to smile.
Instead, they could only think of the bloodshot eyes of the creature that hunted them.
Kelly laid in bed, her mother sat on the mattress beside her.
"Mummy," said Kelly. "Where does it come from."
"Where does what come from?"
Her mother swallowed. "You don't need to-"
Kelly’s mother looked to the door, expecting her husband to be stood there, but he wasn't. She sighed as she looked back to her daughter. "I will tell you what my mummy told me."
Kelly brought the duvet up so that the material covered her mouth.
"The Stexies comes from the North Pole, like Santa. But, instead of bringing presents, the Stexies comes to collect food, like a squirrel collecting nuts for winter. The children it takes go back to the North Pole."
"The coal..." said Kelly.
"The piece of coal it leaves in naughty boy’s and girl’s stockings is its mark. How it knows who it's going to take back to the North Pole."
"Does that mean I’m going to the North Pole to be eaten?" asked Kelly.
"No," her mother replied. "It’s just a story." She smiled, but it was an expression tinged too heavily with fear. "You-you sleep tight. Remember, mummy loves you."
"I love you too."
Danny woke with a start. Darkness surrounded him, only an amber glow from the street lights outside illuminated some of his room.
The house was silent in that middle of the night way. The lack of sound screamed into his ears, making them ring. He looked at the wardrobe, but the doors were shut. Relief filled him. It’s not there, he thought.
His bedroom door opened with a click of the catch and a slow aching creak as it swung slowly on the hinges.
Danny’s eyes grew wide. His heart hammered in his chest.
A short, dark figure stood in the doorway. It's bloodshot eyes opened, just visible in the darkness. "Merry Christmas, Danny," it said.
Danny screamed as it dropped on all fours and began to move towards him in a predatory stalk. The eyes never moving from him.
It clambered up onto the bed, the springs of the mattress vibrating with the movements of the thing.
Danny’s nose filled with the scent of its breath, a fishy stench, like the rotting of a thousand salmon.
Its face came close to his, it's mouth open to reveal long, yellow teeth. That hot breath waved over him.
"Your coming with me, Danny boy," it purred, before grabbing him by his pyjama top and pulling him out of bed and into the hallway.
He screamed all the while, but his parents did not come out to help, as though they were deaf to his cries. He thudded down the stairs, the creature ambling on its three other limbs.
It was only when the creature dragged him outside that his screaming stopped. He fainted, turning his world to darkness.
Kelly sat up in bed. Her eyes were full of sleep, blurring her vision. She rubbed at them and looked around her.
Nothing seemed out of place in her room. She wondered why she woke up, and why she felt like she wouldn't be able to get back to sleep again.
She thought of the Stexies, fear trickled into her for a moment. But, there was nothing here. No eyes peeping at her, nothing stood in her room. Her fear began to diminish and she smiled with relief. Kelly thought that her mother was right. I’m not going to the North Pole.
The ceiling creaked. It was a single long creeeeeaaak as something moved in the loft.
Kelly whipped her head up to the ceiling, her heart thundering in her chest.
Again, the ceiling creaked, this time a little further to the left. It was moving.
Kelly’s mouth was open and her breathing had increased until she was panting. "Mummy," she whispered.
Creep. A little more to the left.
"Mummy," she said a little louder, as loud as Kelly would dare.
Creep. Creep. Creep. The thing was moving faster. It had moved beyond her room, towards the hallway, towards her parents.
"Don't hurt my mummy and daddy," she said to her empty room. She got out of bed, slipping on her pink rabbit slippers.
She moved to the door in the comical stealthy creeping of a child playing a game with their parents. She did her best to make no sound. She took hold of the door handle, it was cold, almost icy.
She opened the door slowly until was open only a crack.
The hallway was silent. Kelly wondered if it had been a bad dream. She was about to walk out of her room and go to her parents when-
A heavy click came from the loft hatch. The large flap of the door to the loft began to open slowly, almost silently. Only the springs gave a gentle buzz as they stretched.
Kelly swallowed, closing the door a little further, realising that she had inadvertently opened it wider.
The flap opened fully and stopped, hanging in the air, supported by the hinge mechanisms.
Nothing happened for a beat. Then a grey limb reached out from the darkness of the loft’s threshold. Three thin fingers spread out and gripped the ceiling. Another limb appeared and gripped the edge of the loft’s opening.
A grey, almost green head appeared. There were patches of thin hair on the scalp, amongst scabs, scars and drying skin.
Kelly may not have lived on Earth for many years, but she knew with certainty that the thing appearing from the loft was not human. The Stexies, she thought.
The rest of the creature swung from the opening so that it clung to the ceiling. Each of its limbs had fingers, all of them were splayed out to grip to the ceiling. How it did not fall, Kelly did not know. But, she did remember seeing documentaries about lizards that could cling to walls and glass. The Stexies did not look much like a lizard, but maybe it had that same ability.
The creature moved slowly towards her parent’s room. It's hand's made a scraping sound as the detached and reattached to the ceiling's plaster. It's breathing rasped with the effort it took to move.
Her parent's bedroom door was open, allowing the Stexies to reach to the top of the doorframe and swing itself inside onto the ceiling of their room.
With her mouth still open, Kelly opened her door and walked across the hallway.
When she reached the door, she peeped around the doorframe. Her parents moved a little in their beds, perhaps noticing the slight disturbance as the creature moved across their ceiling.
The creature paused, looking at her parents with its bloodshot eyes, studying them. When they calmed, laying still under the covers, the Stexies let out a deep breath.
From its mouth, a fine silvery mist descended over the bed. It coalesced before drifting towards their nostrils.
As her parents began to breath in that mist, their bodies relaxed further, the both of them beginning to snore as the creature’s intoxicating mist took its hold. Kelly's fear grew until she felt that she had to do something.
"Don't hurt them!" she screamed.
Her parents bolted up in bed, instantly beginning to cough in the acrid mist.
The Stexies hissed and lost its grip, falling onto the bed.
Her dad roared with surprise and fear. He struck out at the creature, knocking the Stexies onto the floor. It gave a howl of pain as it rolled head over tail.
Her mother screamed, kicking backwards until she met the headboard. "What the hell! What the hell!" she screamed.
"Mummy!" Kelly cried.
The Stexies recovered itself, standing on it's hind limbs. It's bloodshot eyes looked from the two adults and the small child, confused by what was going on.
"Get back!" Kelly's father roared. "I don't know who- what you are, but get away from my family."
"It's the Stexies," said Kelly, before jumping into her mother's lap.
The creature bared its teeth. "The girl is mine," it said in a scratching voice.
"What is going on?" Kelly's father roared with desperation.
The Stexies took several steps forward. It was small, standing only four feet high, but it projected an aura of strength and danger. Kelly's father took a step backward, knocking the bedside table with a clatter of noise.
The creature climbed up onto the bed with purpose. "It is simple," it said. "The girl is coming with me."
"The hell she is-"
"Silence!" it hissed. "It is the way of things. She," the creature pointed at Kelly, "has disobeyed you. For that reason, she will come with me."
Kelly looked at her father, she could see that he was frozen. He could only stare at the thing standing at the foot of the bed. Panic took hold of her, not even her father could stop this thing.
Her mother took Kelly off of her lap. She thought that her mother was literally going to give her to the Stexies. "Mummy, please," said Kelly.
"No," said her mother to the creature. "No, I won't let you."
The Stexies cocked its head. "It is my right!" the creature barked.
It stepped forward, claws extending from its grey fingers. "The girl will come with me. I will feast on her bones. I will drink the blood from her veins."
Kelly's mother jumped at the Stexies. "No!" she screamed.
The creature flicked a hand at Kelly's mother, a long claw sliced into the woman's chest. She screamed, clutching a hand at the wound. Blood trickled down her nightshirt. "Oh God!" she howled and collapsed back.
The Stexies smiled with a mouth full of long yellow teeth. It was smiling at Kelly. "Come to me." When the girl did not make a move, the creature made its way to her.
"I'll kill you," said Kelly's father. He dived across the bed, tackling the Stexies. The two of them tumbled onto the floor, smashing into one of the bed posts.
A chunk of wood ripped away in a sudden snap. The almost dagger like piece of sheared wood clattered across the floor.
Kelly's father pummelled his fists into the creature. With each hit, the sound of smashing meat and breaking bones slapped and crackled around the room.
The creature dug its claws into the thighs of Kelly's father. He barked in pain, but he only continued to smash fist after fist into the creature.
When the Stexies’s grip finally slackened and the sound of its breath gargled, black blood bubbling from its mouth, her father stopped. His knuckles were red raw and blackened with the creature's blood. He was panting with panic, adrenaline and blind anger.
He saw the shard of wood and picked it up, gripping it tight in his hands.
The Stexies looked at the man with its bloodshot eyes, darker than ever. It's black, blood coated tongue licked at its teeth. "It is... my right," it said.
"Fuck your right. You'll never take my daughter." He brought the piece of wood down with all the force his fury and fear would allow.
The Stexies arms fell to the floor and it let out a final gargled breath.
Kelly's father looked at his daughter. She smiled back at him, loving him with every part of her heart. "Daddy," she said and ran to him.
Her father hugged her with the strongest hug he had ever given her. He rose to his feet. "Oh, my baby. It's alright."
Her mother, still clutching the wound on her chest, joined in, holding the two of them with her free arm.
Kelly's mother kissed her. "I told you it would not take you," she said.
She was so happy that Kelly cried. Through the tears in her eyes, she saw that where the Stexies had once been laying, there was nothing. It was gone - to where the bad ones go, she realised.
While many had fallen to the Stexies, dragged away to its frozen lair, she had survived.
Merry Christmas, I hope that you do not receive a piece of coal in your stocking this year, for that can only mean the Stexies is coming for you.