Some guests arrive... HUNGRY.
A frozen hell brings evil to an all girl academy on Christmas Eve... and it's very hungry.
Home for Christmas by Shane Migliavacca
Music by Ray Mattis http://raymattispresents.bandcamp.com
Produced by Daniel Wilder
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“It’s never going to stop snowing.” Kat Walker said to herself, watching as never-ending white fell outside. The dying embers of the day cast a soft glow that lit the snow covered landscape in a blood red hue. The wind howled, making the old walls of the house creak and strain.
Kat was alone in the parlor; the gathering place for most of the social activity at Blackoaks. A tall Christmas tree sat in the room’s center, it’s lights blinking on and off. The smell of cinnamon delighted Kat’s senses. Cinnamon cookie ornaments hung from the tree’s branches, crafted in various Christmas related forms; Santa, Frosty, snowflakes and Christmas trees… lovingly made by Blackoaks’ resident cook, Mallory Horst. A fire crackled in the fire place and the scent of burning wood hung in the air.
The sound of whisky flowing over ice pulled Kat from her thoughts. She watched fellow student Georgina Harris enter, reflected in the glass of the window. Georgina returned her metal flask to the folds of her expensive robe before crashing to the couch. The chic brunette lounged on the couch, her sleek legs visible at the robe’s part. Taking a sip of whisky, she lit a cigarette. “The weather outside is indeed frightful little Kitten.”
Kat turned, angry at the interruption. She spun around so fast, her long Raven black hair fell across her eyes, stinging them. “What are you doing?” Kat blurted out. Her anger getting the better of her. “Working towards a career in alcoholism and nicotine addiction.” Georgina smirked, raising her glass in a toast. “Just like dear old mom.”
“You know the house rules.” Kat said, “If Miss Keene sees you.” Her voice lowered as if saying the woman’s name would summon the headmistress out of thin air. “Don’t worry about it.” Georgina took a puff off her cigarette. “It’s not your ass on the line if I’m caught Kitten.”
“Fine” Kat gave up. Why did she care if the bitch got in trouble anyway? “And, my name is Kat. I hate it when you call me Kitten.”
Girls like Georgina were the reason Kat was at Blackoaks. She’d gotten in her fair share of fights with girls that thought they were better then her… thought they could tell Kat her place. Expulsion for Kat soon followed nearly every time.
A slight, red-haired girl with a fox-like face stood framed in the doorway. Her freckled brow wrinkled in concern. She was wearing a snug, if preposterous, sweater; robots danced around a Christmas tree on it’s front, and a pair of pale blue jeans.
“There you guys are.” Sue McCoy said, sounding relieved. “Miss Keene wanted to know if you guys wanted to exchange Christmas presents now or in the morning.” Kat looked down at the presents, neatly arranged under the tree. She wondered how the tree looked at home. Her mom would have it all decked out with all the usual ornaments. This would be the first year Kat wouldn’t be there to help her decorate it. She was stuck here, at Blackoaks boarding school… mainly for the simple fact that her parents couldn’t afford to come and get her… even if the weather did permit.
Not that she was the only one stuck here for Christmas break. Georgina’s mom and her new girlfriend where off to Barcelona for the holiday. Sue was still here because she preferred it to her home life. Why, Kat really wasn’t sure, nor did she want to pry.
The other two students still here, Lois Kincade and Alison Gordy, were both stuck due to the sudden onslaught of the freak blizzard assaulting half the country. Besides the remaining five girls, there was Miss Keene and Mallory still at the school. Georgina kicked one of the presents under the tree with a outstretched leg. “I say we get this shit over with.”
Sue turned to Kat.
“Yeah, why not.” Kat answered.
A half hour later, wrapping paper littered the parlor’s royal blue carpet. The girls had done a ‘Secret Santa’, ensuring that each girl got a gift and they didn’t have to spend a lot of money getting multiple presents.
Kat sat with her knees drawn up on the floor, clutching her gift in her arms… a simple black T-shirt with ‘I’m against It!’ written on it’s front in a spray paint font. Whoever had drawn Kat’s name, they certainly knew her tastes.
Sitting next to her was Mallory. The cook was only a few years older then her and lived in town with her mother, who had held the position previously until injuring her back. Now her daughter supported her.
Kat had bonded with her, both feeling very much the outsider at Blackoaks. Mallory had a crisp, no bullshit way of looking at things, and never sat around feeling sorry for herself or whining about the shit life had handed to her. It was something Kat aspired to do herself.
Mallory’s Secret Santa bought her a simple pendent necklace. She wore it proudly around her neck. Turning to simile at Kat as they all laughed at one of Miss Keene’s stories.
Kat drifted in and out of the story the woman was telling. Her ears picking up bits and pieces of the news playing on the TV behind them. “...storm of the century…flights canceled…power outages…escaped mental patients…pile up on the thruway…” The girls all laughed again and Kat joined in instinctively. Her thoughts turned back towards home. Were mom and dad celebrating tonight? Was mom making her annual Christmas lasagna tomorrow? She hoped her parents were safe and happy.
“What’s on your mind?”
Kat turned to see Mallory looking at her.
“Nothing, just Christmas at home.” Kat answered. “Miss your folks?”
“Yeah, we don’t always get along… but this time of year though, all the shit of the year disappears.” Kat smiled, thinking about that warm feeling she got, sitting around the tree on Christmas morning. “How about you?”
“Hope I can get back into town tomorrow. Spend the day with mom.”
“Hold hands you love birds.” Georgina mocked them. The heavy scent of whisky hung in the air as she spoke.
Mallory made a face. “God, you’re drunk.”
Georgina laughed. “Fuck yeah townie!”
Kat noticed a repeated thumping sound under the din of the girl’s laughter and the TV. It grew louder and more ferocious as seconds ticked by, until finally…
“Someone’s here!” Kat said, springing up from the floor.
All eyes turned towards her. They stared as if she was in a one woman play, written by a psychotic.
“At the door!” Kat added, already headed to the foyer.
Kat fumbled with the door lock as the knocking outside intensified. Miss Keene and the girls gathered behind her.
“I told ya, there’s somebody at the door.” Kat felt vindicated as the knocking continued.
“Maybe you shouldn’t open that door.” Sue spoke up. “It could be a…you know…a crazy person.”
“It might be a rapist.” Lois said.
“Or a Holy Roller.” Georgina added. “We’ll be buried in Watchtowers.” From the other side of the door, a man spoke. “Please, I know your in there. I need help.”
Kat looked to Miss Keene for guidance. The head mistress nodded her approval. Without hesitation, Kat unlocked the door. Wind and snow assaulted her immediately. A man, looking half dead, stood at the center of the maelstrom. His hair whipped about as if alive, and his eyes were wide with panic. The man stumbled into the house, helped along by Kat and Miss Keene.
Sue struggled to shut the door behind them, the snow and wind fighting her. Mallory stepped in and helped her close the door.
“Well this is something.” Georgina observed the scene before her.
They took the stranger into the dining room. A large wood table sat at room’s center. The room much like the living room had been decorated for the holiday; lights and garland ran along the walls, and the table was covered by a table cloth and place mats depicting Santa and his Reindeer on Christmas night.
Alison pulled out one of the chairs for the disheveled man.
“Get him a blanket and some coffee.” Miss Keene instructed Alison and Lois, sending the two girls racing off in opposite directions.
“I told them. ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’” the man said through chapped lips. He looked up into Kat’s eyes. “My wife and son, they’re waiting for me.” Miss Keene took the blanket from a returning Alison and draped it over the man’s shoulders. “Were you in an accident?”
The man hugged the blanket to himself before nodding. “Our bus went off the road, the snow made it hard to see.”
Lois came back with a steaming cup of coffee. The man gladly took the mug. Holding it in his hands for the warmth it radiated.
“Where about did you crash?” Miss Keene asked. “How many people on the bus besides you?”
“I don’t know where. The storm made it hard to see any landmarks.” The man took a sip of coffee. “Ten, I think there was ten on the bus.” He pondered this for a moment before continuing. “I went for help. Got lost.” He laughed grimly. “I was in the army. Some tracker I turned out to be. I used to go through the jungle like nothing.”
“We should call the police.” Lois said. “And tell them what?” Georgina pointed out. “We don’t know where this guy crashed? Where we gonna send ‘em?” Mallory stepped forward. “She’s right.” “We should get you to the hospital.” Miss Keene said, turning towards the man. “I’ll call for an ambulance,” The headmistress left.
There were only two working phones at Blackoaks; one in Miss Keene’s office and the other in the Rec room. The girl’s weren’t allowed to have cell phones as they were felt to be too much of a distraction from their studies. The same went for thee internet. The girls were allowed laptops for assignments, but even those couldn’t go online.
After a few minutes, a stone faced Miss Keene returned. “The phone is out.” she informed the girls, fighting to conceal any troubling emotion that might slip out. “It must be the blizzard.”
“I’m so hungry.” The man groaned. His voice full of pain and regret. “I’m starving.”
Mallory went to the kitchen to get the man some food while Kat and the others stayed with him in the dining room.
“Under the circumstances.” Miss Keene addressed the group. “I think it best if I drove into town with our guest. We can get him help and get a search started for that bus.”
There was some debate over the idea before the headmistress’ authority won out over the girls’ doubts. Miss Keene agreed to take Lois and Alison with her and the man into town.
The stranger greedily devoured the tuna fish sandwich Mallory brought him as Miss Keene and the two girls geared up for their trip. Kat donated one of her trench coats for the man to wear out into the bitter cold.
The remaining girls watched as the four headed towards the garage. The four swallowed up by the blizzard.
Kat took one last look outside, before closing and locking the door.
Georgina sauntered off back to the parlor. “Back to our regularly scheduled program.” she quipped.
Anxious, Kat glanced out the window. It had been fifteen minutes. Shouldn’t she had seen something from the garage by now? A light from the car through the billowing snow… something to confirm they’d left? “I don’t like this.” She muttered. “Where are they?”
“It’s gonna take time in this weather.” Sue answered.
Pulling on her jacket and hat, she unlocked the door. “I’m going to go check on them. Just to make sure.”
Sue thought about it. “Can’t hurt. I’ll go with.” “We’ll hold down the fort Gunga Din.” Georgina said lighting up a cigarette. As soon as Sue was ready, the two girls headed outside.
Mallory stood inside the door frame. “Hurry back. I’ll have some hot chocolate waiting. Don’t leave me alone with that boozy bitch for too long.” Kat laughed. “Don’t worry. We won’t.”
“Heard that!” Georgina hollered from the parlor.
“Don’t care!” Mallory shot back, slamming the door shut.
The snow was ankle deep as the girls made their way down the walk. Holding gloved hands as snow and bitter cold wind raged around them. Cold snow slipped down into Kat’s boots. She felt her nose start to run as her cheeks reddened.
Halfway to the garage and she was already regretting coming out here. “Why couldn’t the fucking garage be connected to the damn house.” She moaned.
Sue made a face. Kat had forgot the girl’s disdain for “colorful language.”
With the garage in sight, the pair were surprised to see the garage door still closed. Car headlights visible from within through the slats. Entering the girls found Miss Keene’s van sitting there, headlights on, doors closed. Melting snow footprints lead to the van, but none led away. There seemed to be something smeared on the interior windows, making it hard to see inside. The faint sound of music came from within the vehicle.
“Is that Buddy Holly?” Sue asked.
It was indeed. As Buddy sang about a love that never fades away, Kat touched the door handle of the driver’s side door. She glanced at Sue, who nodded in approval. Kat turned the handle, slowly opening the door.
“Miss Keene, is everything all right?”
In response, something fell from the van with a moist thud, rolling to a stop next to Sue’s feet, causing her to scream. Before Kat could turn to see what was wrong, her eyes were caught by the van’s interior which was covered in splashes of dripping crimson. Human limbs, chunks of flesh, and what appeared to be intestines littered the front seats. The next thing Kat knew what she’d had for diner now covered her boots and part of the floor.
“Oh god.” Kat groaned.
Sue had stopped screaming and was now doing an impromptu impression of a Monty Python routine. “It’s…It’s…It’s…”
Miss Keene’s head lay at Sue’s feet. The dead headmistress’ eyes were wide with terror.
“I’m starving.” The stranger’s voice came from somewhere in shadows of the garage. “I couldn’t help it.”
Kat took Sue’s hand, ready to drag the girl out of there if need be. Backing towards the side door they’d entered by, they hadn’t gotten more then a few steps when something slithered out from under the van.
The thing grabbed Sue by the leg and wrenched the startled girl off her feet, which caused Kat to lose her footing as well.
Desperately Kat scrambled to grab the screaming girl’s outstretched hand. The thing that had hold of Sue was faster, dragging the red haired girl into the darkness under the van. Screaming once more filled the air before being suddenly cut off.
Gripped by terror, Kat half crawled, half ran for the door.
Stumbling out into the snow, Kat gasped for breath as the wind hammered her. Heart pounding, she retraced their footprints in the snow drifts. She tried to block what she saw in the van from her head… tried not to think about what must be happening to Sue back there in the garage. It had happened so fast… could she have possibly saved her?
Back at the main house, Kat found the front door locked. Pounding on it, she waited… prayed for someone to open it. Suddenly overtaken with the feeling that someone was behind her, Kat spun around.
In the distance, through the snow she saw them standing there at the end of the driveway. Three figures. Then she saw two more standing in a drift on the lawn, their features obscured by snow and distance.
She wanted to call out to them for help, but something about them felt wrong, filling her with dread. She returned to pounding on the door frantically.
The door opened. Kat pushed past a slightly aggravated Georgina, nearly falling to her knees, panic stricken and out of breath. Tears and snot were frozen to her face. “What the hell?” Georgina said. “Who’s that out there?” She poked her head out the door. “Who are those people?”
“Close the door!” Kat gasped, warm air burning her lungs. “Lock it!”
Georgina slammed the door shut, clicking the deadbolt in place as Stevie Nicks belted out Silent Night from the parlor’s TV.
Kat stood, feeling her knees shake. Looking down at her shirt, she noticed chunks of vomit. Pulling off her coat and shirt, Kat walked into the parlor.
Georgina followed her. “What the fuck is going on? Where’s the sidekick?”
Kat pulled on her ‘I’m against it’ t-shirt. She took a deep breath, not wanting to say the words. “She’s dead.”
Georgina laughed. “What? Are you shitting me?”
“No.” Kat’s eyes scanned the room. “Where’s Mallory?”
“In the kitchen… washing dishes or some shit. Sue’s dead? What the fuck?”
Kat took off for the kitchen, Georgina storming after her, profanity flowing freely from her mouth. They found Mallory in the kitchen, standing uneasily next the stranger, seated at the counter, eating a sandwich.
“Your friend made me a nice sandwich.” He took a bite from it, blood running down his chin. As he chewed, pieces of fleshy meat stuck to the corners of his mouth.
“That’s disgusting.” Georgina gasped.
“Mallory get away from him.” Kat reached out towards the young cook.
A large kitchen knife gleamed near Mallory’s side, held in the stranger’s free hand. “I think she’s fine right here.” The man smiled a bloodily. “Oh, there’s a hair in my mouth.” He pulled a red hair from between his teeth.
“Who the fuck are you?” Georgina asked. Horrified and angry.
“Just a man. On his way home from a pointless war in the jungle. Sick of being called ‘Baby Killer.’ I just wanted to get home to my wife and boy for Christmas.”
The man sighed,his eyes focusing on something long gone. “And then that goddamn blizzard hit. The old drunk behind the wheel of the bus drove us into a ditch on some backwoods road. I went for help with one of the passengers, we got lost in the storm.”
A chill ran down Kat’s spine as the man spoke.
“I don’t know how long we were out there. I got so hungry… and the other man was falling behind. In the bush, you had to do anything it took to survive. He was holding me back… and I needed food… so…” The man licked his blood caked lips and laughed. “And then the next day, I found myself back at the fucking bus. Those ungrateful shits criticizing me for getting lost. Accusing me, after everything I did. Everything I went through. It was too much and a man’s got to eat.”
Kat felt sick to her stomach again. She willed herself not to throw up a second time.
“That night it came to me. Standing there at the edge of the trees, it called to me. Wendigo… demon spirit. My burden, my curse, the hunger inside me. That’s where it lives. Keeping me alive… to feed it.”
Georgina scoffed. “That’s a pretty fucked up story buddy. What are you smoking? And where can I get some?”
A loud knock came from the front door.
“They’re here.” The man said as he stood. “I hate to eat and run, but they’re company I try not to keep.”
“Who are those people out there?” Georgina asked.
“I really must be going. I fucked around here too long.” The stranger held the tip of the knife to Mallory’s throat. “I was looking forward to sampling all that young flesh. Tastes so much better then that old hag in the car.”
He backed towards the rear door, that connected the kitchen to the courtyard behind the main house. Another knock came from the front door.
“Shit. I don’t think I have time to even slaughter you bitches properly. I’ll have to be quick.”
Kat scanned the kitchen quickly. The stranger could kill Mallory before she got to a knife. There had to be something else.
A third knock came from the front door.
With his free hand, the stranger yanked Mallory’s head back by her long blonde hair, exposing her neck.
“Quick and easy babe.” The stranger grinned. The whine of a kettle sliced through the tension of the kitchen, causing the man to look up from his prey just in time to see Kat snatch it from the stove.
“Have a little hot chocolate!” Kat screamed as the scalding water hit the man dead center in the face. He let go of Mallory and the knife as he held his face screaming in pain. Mallory screamed herself as some of the water had hit her as well. Kat hurled the now empty kettle at the wounded stranger. Georgina, for her part, pulled the startled Mallory to her feet.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here!” Georgina shouted.
The girls started towards the door, but the man blocked their escape route. Holding his ragged face with one hand and a knife in the other.
“You-You cunts aren’t going anywhere.”
The trio of girls turned and ran out of the kitchen and down the hallway towards the front door.
“Out there?” Georgina stopped them.
“What choice do we have?” Kat said.
“Out one of the windows.” Mallory answered. The stranger stood in the hallway, having replaced the knife with a meat cleaver. “Ya’ ain’t going anywhere. I could have ran, but you three really pissed me off.” The knocking on the door turned into a loud banging.
The man charged at them with the cleaver, forcing the girls to run into the parlor, slicing at them as they ran. Georgina lunged towards the fire place, grabbing a fire poker. Spinning around, she confronted the stranger, swinging the poker at him. It collided with the strangers head with a sickening thud.
“Never mess with a chick from the Upper East side asshole!”
Georgina followed it up with a couple for hard swings… but her cokiness was her downfall as the stranger caught the poker, yanking it from the her grip. He kicked her in the gut, doubling Georgina over in pain. Throwing the poker aside, the stranger hoisted the cleaver, ready to strike down the stunned girl.
Kat ran towards the man, howling like a banshee, attempting to tackle him. She grabbed the man’s hand holding the cleaver. The two struggled, but the man was stronger and a trained fighter. Using Kat’s weight and momentum against her, he sent her sailing into the Christmas tree with a loud crash. Both the girl and the tree went down in an explosion of tinsel and ornaments.
From the foyer came a the sound of straining wood as the pounding assault continued on the front door.
Kat, now caught up in the tinsel and lights of the tree, struggled to free herself. The man stalked towards her. A desperate, evil smile on is burned lips. She watched helpless, unable to defend herself.
A strand of lights dropped over his head, wrapping around the man’s neck. Standing behind him, Mallory pulled it tight, choking him. Holding tight, the young cook pulled him away from Kat.
The pair stumbled towards the fireplace; the man clumsily taking wild swings with the cleaver, trying to hit Mallory behind him. Taking a handful of the man’s unkempt hair with one hand and holding the strand tight with the other, Mallory rammed the man’s head into the mantle repeatedly until the bloodied and battered man pushed away from her. Yanking the strand from his neck, he hurled it to the ground.
Finally free of the Christmas tree, Kat was on her feet. Picking up the discarded fire poker, she attacked the stranger, screaming as she beat him.
Georgina picked up a second poker and swung primally as well, forcing the man to fall to his knees.
The girls stopped when the front door shattered.
The three girls turned as something shambled into the house. Standing, framed in the parlor door, stood a decayed corpse, dressed in a tattered, age ravaged bus driver’s uniform. Standing behind it were similarly decayed corpses.
The three tired girls readied themselves for a new fight.
To their surprise, the dead ignored the three. The walking corpses surrounded the man, who now knelt, laughing hysterically. Behind him, the discarded strand had partially fallen in the fireplace. Burning like a fuse, it had lit the carpet up. The fire was quickly spreading.
“Come and get it you bastards!” The man laughed as the dead descended on him, ripping at his flesh.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here.” Kat said as she watched the man being ripped apart. The three girls hurried out of the house as the fire and the dead claimed it.
They stood on the lawn for several minutes watching the house burn. Holding their jackets tight in the bitter cold night. “So now what?” Georgina asked.
“Walk to town?” Kat said.
Mallory shook her head. “We should wait out the fire and the storm in one of the staff buildings. They’re far enough away not to catch fire. We should be warm there.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Georgina said.
Kat looked at her two friends. “Merry Christmas guys.” “Bah, humbug.” Georgina laughed.
The three girls trudged through the snow. Kat turned to take a last look at the burning building before continuing on.
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