When Kyra Dawson approached me a few months ago, calling out for any short Christmas-themed horror stories for an upcoming anthology, only one possibility came to mind: You Did It Again. It took quite a bit of digging through very old notebooks, and I was about on the verge of giving up and starting over from scratch when finally I came to the notebook at the bottom of the pile, and lo and behold, at the very back of the book, was this short story I had scribbled down about six years ago.
It all started with what was probably the most vivid nightmare I have ever had - and that's saying something. To this very day, I still recall with stark clarity the image of a girl, kneeling by her dying mother in the snow, the red of the blood-stained snow blending beautifully (and horrifically) with the mother's red hair, which spread out through the snow from her head like an incredible system of red rivers.
As the mother died, she whispered to her daughter, "You did it again." And then I woke up.
Very few dreams stay with me after I wake, but this one in particular haunted me for weeks after, and so I knew I had to write it down.
Most of what I recall of the rest of the dream is just vague impressions: a family stranded in a remote cabin during a blizzard, a very creepy child who they bring in from the cold, an old Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque barn, and the monsters - oh, the monsters.
But that last scene of the mother dying in the snow, and her last words, that image has never left my mind and is still as crystal clear as if I had only just woken up from the dream.
A Very Scary Christmas - the anthology that Kyra Dawson had approached me about - is a collection of seven horror/supernatural-themed Christmas stories, all written by members of the Scriborium Guild.
Also included in this anthology: A man grapples with his sanity as people close to him mysteriously begin vanishing into thin air in William Topek's, That Holiday Spirit; Christmas haunts interrupt a family reunion in Rosey Reay's Christmas Reunion at Villa El Figueral; a modern-day Scrooge finds out what fate lies in store for those deemed beyond redemption by the Spirits of Christmas in Sean Hayden's The Ghost of Christmas Last; mystery unfolds in an abandoned lighthouse in Athol Foden's Windy Lights; Michael faces the demons of lost memory in David Govett's The Christmas Card; and Eden struggles to bring an end to a curse that has plagued her family for generations in Kyra Dawson's I'll Be Home For Christmas.