Our yuletide terror-tale begins:
“Not letting up at all, is it?”
The woman responds without turning, slowly wiping the frost-coated window with the back of a gloved right hand.
“Coming down heavier if anything. Drifts are almost reaching the window seal.”
The man sips his beverage nosily, creating a mild echo within the waiting area’s cramped confines.
“Figures. First heavy snow of the year would have to fall on Christmas Eve. Idiot weatherman said one to two inches at the most. Typical mis-forcast,” he grumbles, lying the dark-tinted mug next to his left ankle.
“Well, what say we continue the game then? Captain Happy there behind the ticket counter said it’d be tomorrow morning around eight at the earliest, that is, if the roads are passable. Might as well kill time as productively as possible, am I right?”
Sighing, the woman whirls about with her slim shoulders slumped and her chin pointed downward.
Her head is wrapped inside a comically thick toboggan, her upper body enveloped by a wool coat that appears three times too large for her bony frame. She resembles a mummified child sent to brave the elements by an overprotective parent. A badly crumpled bus ticket curled tightly inside her left hand, she shuffles back to her seat, a small back bag her only apparent luggage for a trip that seemed doomed to never transpire.
Overhead, the elevator music version of ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ is only vaguely audible between scattered bouts of conversation.
“Should have bused out yesterday. I knew something like this was going to happen. It....always does,” she whimpers, removing her gloves for at least the third time in the past half-hour.
The man shrugs and manufactures a pained smile, although the woman hasn’t bothered to look up to acknowledge either act. He guesses the girl’s age in the twenty-two to twenty-five range. In taking in the overall ragged nature of her appearance, he secretly wonders if she is homeless.
“I know what you mean. These are the times I wish I was still driving. Lost my nerve after my accident a few years back. Interstate scares the bejesus outta me. These days, I won’t even ride a bike down a city street.”
The woman sniffs and finally meets his gaze, displaying a sly, though rather pathetic, grin of her own.
“Well, where were we? Movies or TV? Sorry I don’t know more about sports. That would have really livened up the conversation, I’m sure,” she blurts in a tone ripe with false cheeriness. Even from the dozen feet or so that separate them, the man detects a slight sourness about her, not unlike peeled onions.
From where they set in the tiny bus terminal, the lone ticket counter is to the left, centering the rear of the room. The men’s bathroom sits left of the booth; the women’s to the right. A soft drink machine is positioned between two larger vending machines, all of which hum and buzz like a malfunctioning jukebox playing an endless concerto.
The bus terminal houses less than two-dozen seats in the cramped waiting area, all of which sat eerily deserted save two. The man notices a thick spider web hanging from a far corner. A web filled with the severed, brittle remains of its builder’s most recent meals.
“No problem,” he shrugs good-naturedly.
“Personally, I’ve kinda soured on today’s batch of rich, pampered athletes. I know…how about your favorite Christmas Special of all time? Figured we might go seasonal for a change of pace.”
The man tilts his head to the right while reaching to scratch a fresh growth of grayish beard atop his prominent chin. His size eleven boots cross at the ankles, resting atop a worn, imitation leather satchel that is shaded brown in the spots that aren’t completely faded.
“Well, okay then,” she concedes with a slight frown, forcefully hugging herself as if besieged by a sudden chill, “You first.”
The woman first hears and then visualizes the man inside the ticket booth briefly depart his six by eight safe haven for a back office, then just as quickly re-enter, his identity shielded by several gaudy holiday decorations that hang from both the exterior and interior glass.
“I’d have to say…..promise not to giggle now....but I’ve gotta admit its Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Bet I’ve set through that old chestnut two dozen times since I was a snot-nosed kid growing up on a farm in Idaho. Kinda cornball, I know...but it still holds up to this day. You?”
Temporarily covering her mouth as if to stifle the aforementioned guffaw, the woman pauses, her eyes twinkling with mischief.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas. I always bawled when Charlie picks out that pathetic little tree, and Lucy and the rest of the Peanuts gang chastise him for it. Alas, I could...can...relate to poor ol’ Chuck in many, many ways. We’re both on the outside looking in.”
“Quality choice....I’d have to rate that one in the top five myself...,” the man replies, quickly turning towards the entrance as the double glass doors shake and shimmy from a particularly stout gust, “...how ‘bout favorite Christmas song? Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ always caught my ear and added instant cheer.”
Her face growing instantly pale, the woman noticeably tenses as if expecting to be physically struck.
“I...well, I guess...um...growing up I used to enjoy ‘Please... Come Home for Christmas’, but t-that was b-be...before something happened that...um, let’s just say I can’t...don’t pay much heed to carols and the like these days. It’s the sole part of the season I try my best to ignore.”
The man squirms uneasily, the vinyl beneath him squeaking its disapproval.
“Oh...uh, sorry. Along the same lines, I always remember a Christmas cartoon I saw as a kid. Might have been a Loony Tunes, but one of the really, really old ones, where the characters were drawn so damned...creepy. Anyhow, this skeleton was singing ‘Jingle Bells’ as ‘Jingle Bones’. Scared the shi...um, scared me so bad I camped under my bed for a week.
Anyhow, this is kinda why I wanted to...avoid the subject. By all means, lets delve into something differe..”
Cutting him off with a slight nod and a raised hand, the woman’s smile is almost grotesque in the purity of its sadness.
“No, no...I’m sorry. I tell myself I’m not going to...go there, but it’s so incredibly...difficult.”
Inhaling deeply, she blows out the breath in a single huff, a faint maroon shading returning to her horribly pale cheekbones.
Overhead, ‘Hark, the Herald Angels Sing’ is being butchered by the nasal whine of the Chipmunks.
“Actually, I occasionally find it therapeutic to...discuss the problem, especially with a stranger. Do you..uh....mind? I know its asking a lot...”
Reaching up to firmly pat his left shoulder with his right palm, the man shoots her a playful wink.
“It’s a big, broad shoulder, sister. You won’t be the first to cry on her. Be my guest. We seem to have nothing but time.”
Almost instantly, the woman’s eyes seem to glaze over in a hypnotic state, her head tilted upward as if conjuring memories from a transparent realm only she alone could access.
“I was eight, only a few months from my ninth birthday. It was Christmas Eve, and my younger sister and I had gone to bed early, as was usually the case every year. Couldn’t wait to get up at dawn and check under that tree.
Anyway, my dad was working the night shift at the local steel mill, so my mother had tucked us in with promises of Santa’s impending visit. My parents were far from rich...lower middle class at best. Nonetheless, they never failed to grant us our dearest wishes on that most special day of the year for children. Our house was filled with love and respect, something you see less and less of these days, I fear.”
The howling winds outside the terminal seemed to increase in intensity as the woman’s tale commenced; a moaning, groaning wail that provided eerie background vocals to her rambling narrative.
The man was surprised to feel chill bumps coat his forearms just as his scalp grew inexplicably warm.
“That night I awoke in pitch darkness, my heart pounding in my throat. I woke my sister, convinced that Old Saint Nick himself was plundering about in our kitchen. My mother had left him freshly baked oatmeal cookies and a glass of milk, as was the annual ritual.
I recall we tiptoed from our upstairs bedroom and froze midway down, peering into the dimly lit living room, illuminated only by the flickering lights of our Christmas tree.
There was…there was a man. He…had our mother pinned to the floor...doing something to her we...we could not understand or comprehend at such a tender, innocent age. A man we instantly knew wasn’t our father. He was much larger, broader in the chest. His face remained hidden from our view as he commenced to strike her about the face and head.
I…. faintly recall my sister whispering to me just as the man stood from the ruins of our mother and stepped near the fireplace, scooping up a hatchet my father often used to splint small shards of kindling. My sister repeated the question over and over, as if never actually expecting an answer, or possibly speaking only to herself, I…I don’t know. She kept asking ‘that’s not Santa, is it? Well...is it? Is that Santa? I… think I tried to...s-scream out...I know I did. I just...I was too scared to do anything other than pee my nightgown and remain frozen in place.”
The woman pauses briefly, reaching up to wipe a freshly formed tear that had trailed down the left side of her face and onto her pointy chin.
The man finds he has stopped breathing. He has no idea how long the duration, although his lungs burn from the effort.
“The man left quickly after he....after our mother was...h-he never looked up apparently, for if so he would have easily spotted us on the stairwell from such a nearby vantage point.
As far as the authorities could tell, he took nothing from our home, though they listed burglary as a primary motive for the home invasion. Only a scant few hair fibers were found to prove he had been there at all. No blood other than my...mothers...which had coated the tree like a crimson web...the tree and the...presents, none of which we ever opened. The attacker left no semen, no fingerprints. Even with 21st century DNA testing, which was obviously unavailable at that time, the man who butchered my...our mother has never been apprehended.”
Pausing with her eyelids tightly clamped, the woman reaches up with both hands to clutch her tiny bosom.
“My...f-father committed suicide the following Christmas eve, having been a walking husk of his former self for an entire year beforehand.
He...h-hung himself from a giant oak in our back pasture. An oak he had once swung my sister and I…..fr-from an old tire swing he had placed himself. I think he blamed himself...for not being there for her. For not...being h-home for Christmas.
My sister and I spent time in six different foster homes. I haven’t seen or spoken to her in over eight years, although I’ve heard she’s been admitted to various mental institutions and has attempted suicide on numerous occasions.”
Dabbing the corners of her eyes with a tissue she pulls from her coat pocket, the woman swallows several times and falls utterly silent, staring down at the tile floor with an expression that is equal parts relief and unbridled agony.
“Da-...god, lady...I...I’m sorry. I...uh...hope…wish there was something I could say...” the man mumbles, his own spastic vision darting from the woman to the terminal entrance and back again several times. He rings his hands nervously before turning towards the ticket booth, as if hoping for an impromptu interruption from the only other possible source.
“I have to...uh...go to the john, um...bathroom... for a minute. Back in a jiffy. You...um, you gonna be alright?”
Wearing a weak smile, the woman looks up at him apologetically.
Overhead, ‘Joy to The World’ is performed in true antiseptic fashion by Barry Manilow.
“Certainly. Sorry for the waterworks. You’d think the passing of almost two decades would soften the jolt, but...it’s the season itself that triggers it. No matter how hard I try to avoid that part of my past, the calendar turns to December and...”
“No need for the explanation, Missy. We all seem fated to visit hell’s outer fringes every now and again in his lifetime. Sounds to me like the worst is over for you,” he replies, his knees popping loudly as he rises, scooping up the leather satchel as he departs.
The woman’s eyes narrow to fine slits as she watches him enter the bathroom, widening only after the door has completely closed. A clock above the ticket counter reads eleven-twenty seven PM. She reaches for the black bag at her feet just as the terminals double-doors burst open from the inside, flooding her senses with fluttering waves of frigid ivory.
Staring into the small, squared mirror above the bathroom’s lone sink, the man carefully studies his own hardened visage as if observing a particularly fascinating zoo exhibit from behind a one-way mirror. His right eyebrow arches dramatically even as the left corner of his mouth droops as if paralyzed by a sudden stroke. His nostrils begin to flare; the hair of his bushy mustache standing out like quills. Moaning softly, he relishes the transformation. The simple act of playing it straight, even for a few short hours, leaves him emotionally drained and physically wrecked; every fiber of his being shrieking for sweet release from the detestable bonds of normalcy.
Such a pitiful creature. No doubt I’ll be doing her a favor. And here I thought my work in this damnable town was complete. Thought that parking garage attendant served as the third and final sacrifice, at least until I reached the next destination fated to fall beneath the woefully misunderstood artistry I offer. Alas, Denver will have to wait. That’s what I get for thinking. I truly never know when I’ll be called on to serve. So many wretched, lost souls to eradicate, so precious little time.
Reaching into the satchel, the man retrieves a thick-handled blade and gently runs its cool, serrated edge across his left palm. He feels the veins in his neck begin to throb in systematic rhythm. The mirror reflects a monster in human guise, a being whose very soul is a black pit filled with rancid decay. His grin is wide, predatory, and can only be defined within a normal realm of sanity as evil personified.
Despite its seductive pull, I cannot allow anything as primitive as blood-lust to detour the ultimate goal. A trophy must be taken to mark the occasion for all time, for how else will the history books treat me with the respect I have so richly earned through decades of hard work, careful planning, and meticulous attention to detail.
Tucking the seven-inch blade into his waistband, the man then re-buttons his knee-length overcoat and reaches for the door handle.
Maybe an earlobe this time....or better yet, a pinkie finger. Regrettably, it’s getting harder and harder to be original.
The unexpected chill smacks the flesh of his face like a wet towel as he reenters the terminal, the temperature within having dropped dramatically.
“What the-?’, he manages to babble just as a spattering of fresh flakes find the part in his lips and land rudely upon his exposed teeth and tongue, only to melt away quicker than his mouth can close. The man sees the double doors standing agape, the wind having shoved them aside like rotted shutters within a hurricane’s probing eye. The room’s fluorescent lighting has been doused, the terminal’s interior lit only from the murky dimness of a paled street light just beyond the entrance.
The woman is nowhere in sight, nor is her bag, the seats they had accompanied now coated in a fine mist of partially melted snow.
Where could she have possibly gone, and….why? Why brave tundra conditions on the spur of the moment? Surely she couldn’t have suspected my true intentions. Possibly a third player in our little drama intervened on her behalf? Mister Happy at the ticket booth perhaps? Maybe the power outage drove her over the edge...sent her running into the storm cackling like a lunatic. From the sound of her, it wouldn’t have taken a very forceful shove.
Trudging purposely forward, the man instinctively reaches inside his coat and grips the blade’s slick marble handle like a frantic traveler insuring his wallet is still intact.
He instantly notes the lack of overhead light within the ticket booth, the lone illumination provided by a tiny black and white TV mounted on a far wall.
Leaning down to obtain a clearer view within the small room, he peeks through the booth opening and quickly recognizes the TV screen showcasing the holiday staple ‘A Christmas Story’. The sound is muted, but the man finds that little handicap, for he has memorized every scene and snippet of dialogue through the years.
“Watch it, Ralpie...’, he grins happily, '...or you’ll put your eye out.”
Leaning as far inside as the small circular hole will allow, the man is barely able to visualize the slumped form pinned with its back against the booth entrance until the TV screen grows brighter from a sudden scene change.
It takes the man a full thirty seconds to recognize the figure as the same middle-aged man he had purchased a ticket from less than two hours earlier. Curled into what could only be described as an upright fetal position, his hands cupped over his own eyes as if shielding them from intense light, the man’s formerly dark brown hair is as white as the virgin snow that is gradually transforming the terminal into a North Pole beachhead.
“What’s the deal, Mac? You slurp down some soured eggnog or what?” the man asks sarcastically, gently pulling the weapon free from his belt but careful to keep it conspicuously concealed inside the jacket. Openly cringing at the harshness of the query, the other man curls even further into himself, his badly shaking hands never wavering from their assigned task.
“Damn son, the temp is down to near forty out here. You forget how to close a door?” the man adds, gesturing towards the terminal entrance even as he begins to back away from the ticket window.
“S-s-she...s-she..t-t-told me t-to c-close my e-e-e..eyes and I wah..would be s-s-safe,” the man stuttered weakly while crawling ever further into a far corner.
“Gotcha. Ho-kay….whatever you say, Clyde.”
Whew. Looks like the asylum keys were left in the custody of a most troubled patient. Ah well, a mercy killing is a mercy killing. If not the girl, this pathetic simpleton will most certainly do.
Half-jogging towards the open doors, the man’s right boot finds a slick tile and he comes dangerously close to flying head over heels into a nearby magazine rack.
His eyebrows, beard and mustache coated with fresh flakes, the man manages to shove the doors into place with Herculean effort as the gusting winds mercilessly pound the surrounding walls.
Just as he turns back towards the terminals interior, the overhead bulbs flash on ever-so-briefly; less than a full second passes before the darkness again swallows the light.
However, this is just long enough to cause the man to leap back with a whimpering yelp as the woman’s face appears mere inches from his own.
“Wha-..what th..?” he shrieks, falling hard onto his left knee while simultaneously pulling the blade free from his belt. Gasping, he begins slashing the empty air to his left and right in a continuous whipping motion.
Blinking madly as if to focus within the sphere of blurred dimness the room had become, the man’s breathing is rapid and labored. After a full thirty seconds, his eyes adjust adequately enough to confirm the knowledge that he is indeed alone. Rising from a crouched combat position, the man feels both embarrassed and enraged at his own inexplicable jumpiness.
Optical illusion, old chap. Nothing more. As crude as it may sound...I need to get a grip. Need to finish the work before somebody stumbles in here off the street.
Overhead, the opening chorus of 'White Christmas' rings out; the rich, golden baritone of Bing Crosby unmistakable.
The man takes less than three complete steps toward the ticket booth when a hauntingly familiar female voice, vocalizing seemingly inches from his right ear, freezes him in mid-stride.
“Hey hey Marvin...looks like they’re playing your song.”
The sound that escapes the man’s trembling lips is comically feminine, a squeaking whistle that could have easily passed for breaking wind. For the second time in less than a minute, he falls to one knee, clumsily whirling the blade in the direction of the voice.
“Y-you...w-w-who?” he babbles, spittle flying from his bottom lip as overhead, Bing smoothly croons ‘....to hear, sleigh-bells in the snooooow...”
“Veeeery well put, Marvin. I see the speech therapy classes are working marvels with your pro-nun-ci-a-tion.”
The overhead fluorescents flicker to life and eventually remain lit, and the man lurches back as if forcefully shoved, landing on his back with a muffled thud as the bulky jacket takes the brunt of the impact. A rather fluid combat roll finds him perched behind a row of seats, his mouth hanging agape; his eyes the size of dinner plates. He is forced to still his trembling hand as the knife threatens to shake itself free from his spastic grip.
“Y-you?...who are...what do you...want?” he finally manages, his eyes brimming with warm tears. The woman hadn’t been there a moment earlier; of that he was positively certain. In the dark a few moments previously, perhaps. But certainly not as the room had exploded with light, no sir, her pasty face mere inches from his own, the flesh of his right cheek instantly freezer-burned by the icy breath she emitted.
Overhead, Bing gracefully moans ‘....where the tree tops glisten, and children listen...’
“I smell the fear leaking from your pores, Marvin. I never would have dreamed predators such as yourself were capable, although there have been studies that state you are all cowards at heart. Just a scared little boy striking out against the unknown,” the woman whispers, her head cocked quizzically to one side, as if studying the man like a rare gallery exhibit. No longer wearing the toboggan, her lengthy strawberry blonde locks hang onto her slim shoulders in thick, silky waves that periodically dance and swerve from side to side without the benefit of additional movement on her part, as if each strand is an individual life form.
The man feels his gorge rise as a dull ache begins to thunder with great intensity at his temples. He tastes the sourness of his own stomach acid and struggles to swallow without gagging.
“Listen, missy...I-I don’t w-want to hurt you, so just b-back away,” the man says, staring helplessly at the woman’s magically swirling hair, which dances a choreographed jig created especially for him.
Overhead, the Bing-meister concludes with ‘...and may all your Christmases be white...’
The woman takes a half step closer, her head now bowed as her piercing blue eyes narrow to fine slits. Her purplish lips are curled in the most miniscule of smirks, her fists clinched at her sides. The small black bag sits just inches from her left shoe.
“Don’t want to hurt me, Marvin? What’s that in your hand, a peace pipe? Don’t want to harm little old me, huh? Why, that’s touching; a real heartstring pull fit for the holiday season. Unfortunately, you’re a tad late in my case, I fear.”
The man begins to unconsciously swing the blade from side to side, as if attempting to slash through jungle thicket.
“Don’t f-force my hand, l-lady. I’m w-warning you...”
“Four foster homes, Marvin. None of those poor, misguided do-gooders had the slightest notion how to relieve me of the constant nightmares; the black cloud that hung over my very existence like a shroud sewn of inhuman misery. Eight years spent in three separate state facilities, all of which did little but over-medicate in an attempt to dull the memories within a hopelessly fevered mind.”
As she speaks, the woman’s face undergoes a bizarre metamorphosis, a blurred frenzy that resembles a videotape fast-forwarded at warp speed. The forehead expands and bulges as if to explode, then shrinks and diminishes in both width and girth. The cheekbones melt to skull-sized proportions, then just as quickly swell and bloat until they threaten to flay apart the flesh containing them. The man continues to wave the knife from side to side, although he feels his strength and will power begin to mysteriously ebb away.
“My mother’s final thought was of her children as you choked the life from her. Thank God she never felt the blows that sliced her limbs away like so much butchered poultry. My father wasn’t killed that night, true enough, but he might well have been for all the good survival did him in his remaining year. His is the only soul within the family I am unburdened with, but I feel his urging regardless. In some ways, his need for release from the hellish purgatory you created might well be the greatest of all.”
Hard as he might focus, the man could no longer visualize the words departing the woman’s lips. Her facial features had become a surreal landscape of altered states, a grisly kaleidoscope of pulsating bone and flesh that refused to reveal a single clear entity, although he did feel an overwhelming sense of familiarity begin to move to the forefront of his tattered mind.
“My sister was unable to ever speak again after that night. Her eyes bore a blank slate until she died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age thirteen. I toughed it out a bit longer, my goal to reach age thirty falling short by five full years. I couldn’t stand it anymore, Marvin; couldn’t stand my mother’s incessant badgering or my little sister’s wordless yearnings for revenge.
I swallowed around forty Lortabs initially, then filled a syringe with air and plunged it into the center of my neck. Deep down, I pray the tortured souls of my family didn’t truly persuade my demise as much as they lusted for yours, Marvin. Over the years, I have felt similar cries of the countless others you’ve slaughtered. In some strange way, I became an unwilling sponge for their hatred; their frustration; their inner rage. Despite several attempts, I was unable to channel such raw power while still alive. Alas, No such weakness binds me now. Time to draw the final curtain, Marvin, and end this little tragedy the only possible way it can...”
The man’s arm continues to sling the weapon, although the mental command to do so ended moments before. His entire upper body is growing gradually numb as his mind systematically goes into involuntary shutdown mode. The flash of the woman’s face had been brief, but revealed all he needed to know as to why the snowed-in bus terminal was to become his own personal mausoleum. Twenty-some years before, the specter that stood before him witnessed his first clean kill; the central figure in what was to become his life’s work; the prototype victim who had initially opened his eyes to the ‘calling.’ Decades later, the bill had indeed come due, and the price to be paid would undoubtedly be extremely steep in both a physical and metaphysical sense.
Overhead, Perry Como’s soothing rendition of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ is seemingly without flaw.
“If...I would have seen you that night, y-your suffering would have ended at t-that point. S-same for your...your sister. I...I want you to know that. I was…inexperienced…then. J-just wasn‘t meant t-to be.”
Without benefit of moving a single limb, the woman levitates forward and floats gracefully over the terminal seats, the object she has pulled from inside the discarded black bag not revealed until she is close enough to practically embrace the man.
“If the intent of such a vile comment was to be kind, dear Marvin, I’m afraid you’ve fallen pitifully short. Whether alive or dead, brutal honesty has always been my Achilles Heel. Thus, there will be no leniency shown on this night, despite the holiday trappings. Inexplicably, I was handpicked to end your reign of terror. Souls that yearn for eternal rest are depending on my success in doing so. You see, Marvin...”
The man’s blade drops uselessly to the snow-coated tile just as the woman’s fingers gently cradle the back of his head. Her other hand rears back the long-handled hatchet. A fine line of foamy spittle coats his bottom lip, which quivers helplessly.
“....what once were a random group of victims now play a new part entirely. So unfortunate for you, Marvin James Kendall, that we are truly your ghosts of Christmas Past.”
The man urinates uncontrollably. He attempts to close his eyes as the axe blade begins its harrowing descent, but is somehow unable. He quickly accepts this as a painfully ironic twist of fate and remarkably, refrains from releasing the screeching cry of self-pity that freezes on his drool-spattered lips.
“Now now, dear Marvin...just relax. The pain will be excruciating, of that I cannot lie. But compared to the anguish you’ve caused, there is truly no earthly comparison...”
The hatchet’s initial contact with flesh and bone is muted by the TV blaring a few dozen feet to the north, the man stationed inside mercifully deceased moments earlier, courtesy a massive coronary.
The dozen or so chopping blows which follow are swept away by winds which seem to gust ever louder as the mayhem proceeds, as if providing a purposeful cover for the ironic justice being doled out.
Only as the assault subsided could the faint whisperings to a slightly altered Christmas carol be heard; the chirpy falsetto performed in a tone rich with newfound joy and unrivaled relief:
“Jingle Bones, Jingle Bones,
Jingle all the way.....
Oh, what fun it is to chop
and slash his bones to clay”
At 8:30 AM the following day, the city began to slowly shovel its way toward the light of Christmas morning.
By 9, a patrolman on routine rounds at the eastern edge of town made a most grisly discovery, one which was destined to become a media-driven legend of sorts as years whisked by and embraced by all anti-Christmas reveling Grinches from coast to coast.
Outside an abandoned city bus terminal, fronting the lone entrance to the building, a snowman of sorts had been constructed. A snowman not in the traditional sense, however. True, the majority of his bulk consisted of tightly packed snow, but the accessories weren’t the traditional button eyes, carrot nose, or brittle tree limb arms.
Crime scene photographs (years later leaked to the public via the popular and controversial internet site gorefest.com) revealed an all-new, horrifically original species of Yuletide decoration. Investigators had initially thought the victim had been killed and his body simply tucked within a sizeable snowdrift.
Upon final review, however, it became obvious that the severed head and arms of the victim had literally been mounted onto the snow sculpture after the fact, as if to properly showcase the work like some grotesque piece of abstract art.
Rumor (never publicly substantiated) had it that a message had been written in the nearby snow. A single word shaped by the victim’s own blood, which had frozen in thick, circular clumps and thus kept on ice for DNA test purposes (never to be matched as years passed and the crime grew...cold).
A word as complex as it could be simple, depending on the circumstances of its use.
That word had been.....‘retribution’.