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2nd December
posted by amber

Silent Night

Don woke from his nap. The perfect nap. An afternoon of Christmas eve nap alone in the house while his wife and children shopped.

He and Nancy always joked that they had the most practical arrangement – he went out every day and earned money. She went out every day and spent money. An old-fashioned marriage. A happy marriage. Twenty years and three great kids.

He woke and the house was dark and quiet. It was late, past six. Their Christmas eve chili simmered in the crock pot. What was keeping them so long?

He checked the phone for messages, then called all their cells. If the system had been down, he wouldn’t have worried – that happened a lot – but every phone rang. And rang and rang. That was odd.

They’d taken the big car, but he still had the little truck, so he headed out to the mall, noting some houses in the neighbourhood were dark, some had lights, but he couldn’t see anyone inside, or any sign of the carollers who usually came around. Nor were there any other vehicles on the streets, which was unimaginable.

The mall’s parking lot was jammed with cars, but again, there were no people to be seen. He threw caution to the wind and parked in the ‘No Parking’ zone right next to the front doors. His wife’s favourite shop was Continental Ladies’ Wear so that’s where he ran first, his footsteps echoing in the wide empty concourse. Continental was empty, but the legs of a fallen woman extended from inside one of the changing rooms. Heart in his throat, he flung open the door only to find what he should have recognized – the legs were stiff and plastic, a manikin.

Don’s next stop was the specialty hardware store where he knew Nancy planned to buy the tool he’d asked for. He didn’t run there. He trudged. He didn’t know where everyone was but this mall with its festive music and over-abundant holiday decorations was clearly deserted.  At the hardware store, as empty as he’d expected, he tried his cell and found it dead. So was the telephone behind the counter.

He went to an electronics store, hoping to use a radio there to see if there was any sort of emergency broadcast, but that end of the mall had no power. He decided he’d return to the parking lot and use the radio in his truck. The entire mall was dark and quiet as he headed back, and things seemed different – many of the decorations sagged from the walls, the fountains were dry and dusty, merchandise spewed from shelves and racks onto the floor.

When he opened the doors and saw the wreckage lot of rusted and burned out hulks, bones strewn about, he remembered everything. He jumped into the truck and drove towards his house, hoping he wasn’t too late.

This was the anniversary of the day he’d been woken from his Christmas eve nap to find the house too quiet, too empty; the day he’d driven to the mall to find a raging battle in the parking lot, a battle from which he’d barely escaped. The day he’d found his family waiting on his front lawn when he returned, in the company of the very group who waited now, alerted to his presence by the lantern he’d carelessly left lit.

The carolers, slavering and staggering, flesh hanging from their faces and arms, their clawed fingers reaching toward him.

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