Christmas Takeover 30: Tim Waggoner: The Anti-Claus

The Anti-Claus

A Story by Tim Waggoner
3,403 words

Jessica had one bad habit: she always ran late in the morning. She was on time for everything else the rest of the day – never missed a meeting at work, never showed up late for drinks or dinner with friends. But whatever the first thing she had to do in the morning was, she was late for it. Always. She’d tried all kinds of things to break this habit. She went to bed early, set multiple alarms on her phone, got up early, drank stronger coffee in the morning, exercised, ate a good breakfast . . . But nothing helped. It was like her brain was unable to adjust to living by the clock until she was out in the world and doing things.

Today was no exception. She worked as a financial advisor, and she had an appointment with a client at nine a.m. Her Lexus’ dashboard clock told her it was 9:18, and she wasn’t even halfway to work yet. Lila – her supervisor – was going to kill her. Lila had lost patience with her tardiness and she’d taken to recording the precise time of her arrival each day. Jessica thought Lila was creating a paper trail so she’d have the documentation necessary to fire her. But Lila had it in for her for personal reasons, too. She resented the fact that clients preferred to work with her, which was only natural considering what a tight-ass, humorless bitch Lila was.

Rush hour traffic was bad enough, but it didn’t help that today was December 24th, Christmas Eve. The traffic was a nightmare, the streets clogged with vehicles as people rushed around making last minute preparations for tomorrow or heading for the airport to catch a flight to visit family in some other part of the country. Why the hell did people wait until the day before the holiday to get shit done? Why didn’t they –

Jessica saw the crimson flare of brake lights ahead of her, and she jammed her foot down on her own brakes. But she’d been going too fast, had been riding the ass of the car ahead of her, and the front end of her Lexus collided with the back end of the other vehicle with a jarring whump.

Shit! she thought. Shit, shit, shit!

She put her car in park and activated the hazard lights. She checked the rearview mirror to make sure the traffic was giving her car a wide enough berth so she wouldn’t be hit the instant she got out of the car. It looked safe enough, so she opened the door and stepped out into the cold morning air. It was a gray day – cloud cover, but no snow – and a sharp, biting wind was blowing from the east. Jessica wore a light jacket. She hated the way she looked in bulky winter coats, but now she wished she’d dressed for practicality instead of vanity. The wind hit her exposed skin like tiny daggers of ice, and she would’ve killed for a nice thick parka right then.

The car she’d hit was a big beast of a vehicle, a Cadillac, maybe, but there was no metal logo affixed to the back of the car to indicate its make. Maybe the logo had been knocked off in the collision? The vehicle was black, blacker than black, so dark that it seemed to swallow light instead of reflect it. The blackness seemed to pull at her, to demand she keep her gaze fixed on it, to step closer, touch it . . . She took a step forward, raised her hand, but then she realized what she was doing. She squeezed her eyes shut, dropped her arm, and gave her head a quick shake to clear it. When she opened her eyes, the blackness of the car still pulled at her, but not as strongly as before, and she was able to resist it. Shivering – only partially due to the cold – she stepped to the front of the vehicle to assess the damage.

She hadn’t been driving too fast, or else her car’s airbags would’ve activated, and she expected the damage to her Lexus to be relatively minimal. So she was shocked to see the entire front end of her vehicle had been pushed in, as if she’d hit a brick wall going sixty miles per hour.

Fuck, she thought. She’d had the car less than a year. Sure, it had been “certified pre-owned” instead of brand new, but it had been new to her, a symbol of how hard she’d worked and how much she’d accomplished. And now it looked as if that symbol was totaled.

Merry goddamned Christmas, Jessica.

She looked at the black car then and saw that it didn’t have so much as a scratch on it. What the hell was the thing made of? Granite?

She heard a car door open, and she turned to see a man getting out of the front passenger side of the big black car. He was tall and thin, with stick-like limbs that seemed longer than they should’ve been. His head was oddly shaped – kind of like a light bulb with an unkempt mass of dingy gray hair on top – and his neck was so thick Jessica didn’t see how it could possibly support his head. His features were overlarge and prominent – eyes, nose, mouth, and ears bigger than they should’ve been – and he had a mustache and goatee that were the same dishwater-gray as his hair. He was dressed in what she thought of as a mortician’s suit: black jacket, white shirt, black tie, black slacks, black shoes. His clothing wasn’t as dark as his vehicle’s paint job, but it was close.

He started toward her, moving with a surprising grace for a man who was all straight lines and angles, and his light bulb-shaped face broke into a smile, as if he was about to greet a long-lost friend instead of the driver of the car that had rear-ended his vehicle.

“Are you injured?” the man asked as he reached her.

She’d expected his voice to be as strange as the rest of him, but it was a pleasant baritone, the sort of voice a radio or TV announcer might possess.

“No, I’m fine.”

He pursed his lips as if in disappointment.

“Ah, well. Maybe next time.”

She couldn’t believe what he’d said, thought she’d surely misheard, but he continued before she could say anything,

“I apologize for my driver braking so abruptly. His eyesight isn’t what it used to be, and he thought he saw an animal dash across the road in front of us. He has a . . . reluctance to kill an innocent creature.”

He chuckled, as if amused by the notion. He then turned his gaze to the crumpled front end of her Lexus.

“My, my, my. This looks rather serious.”

He bent to examine the front end of her car. After several seconds, he straightened and smiled.

“You can’t drive for shit, can you?”

Jessica’s mouth dropped open in shock. This was followed by quick, hot anger.

“I’m not the one who slammed on the brakes in heavy morning traffic,” she said.

Ignoring her, the man examined his vehicle. He ran long, thin fingers across its trunk, and she thought she heard soft clicking sounds as they moved, as if his hand were a crab skittering across the metal.

“I think you may have actually scratched the paint. You must’ve hit us harder than I thought.” He looked at her, smile widening, revealing crooked, yellow teeth. “Good for you!”

He clapped his hands together as if the slight damage to his car delighted him.

It was then she realized his vehicle had no license plate. She hadn’t noticed in the post-accident confusion, and at first she thought the plate must’ve been knocked off by the impact of her Lexus striking his car. But she didn’t see any place where a plate had been attached to the vehicle. Did that mean it had never had one?

The man rubbed his crab hands together.

“So . . . what would you like me to take?”

Jessica stared at him, unable to process his words. She understood them, of course, but she had no idea what they meant.

“I . . .” She frowned. “What?”

The man released a breathy bark of a sound, which she thought might be a laugh.

“My apologies! I should introduce myself. My name is Arland Merriman, and I am the Anti-Claus.”

He extended one of his skeletal hands for her to shake, but when she made no move to touch it, he lowered his hand and continued speaking as if nothing had happened.

“Please don’t feel awkward for never having hear of me. I don’t enjoy the fame of my opposite number.” He leaned forward, as if to impart a secret. “It’s all part of the ‘anti’ thing, you know. He’s famous, I’m anonymous. But don’t worry. I like it that way.”

Jessica was beginning to regret getting out of her car, and she definitely regretted leaving her phone in her purse on the passenger seat. Whoever this odd man was, it was clear there was something wrong with him mentally, and she wanted to call the police.

Merriman went on.

“My opposite has a list and checks it twice, but I only visit with those I meet by chance. Like someone who rams into the back of my car on Deprivation Day.”

She looked at him blankly.

“You know it as Christmas Eve. But it’s a special day all its own, I assure you. After midnight, my opposite will begin bringing so-called gifts to the deserving people of the world. Usually useless junk that no one really needs, but which inject a small amount of temporary joy into their otherwise meaningless, empty lives. The universe exists in a state of carefully maintained balance. So if my opposite gives . . .”

He stressed this last word, urging her to complete the thought. She didn’t think she could speak, but she was surprised to hear herself say, “You take.”

“Exactly!” He grinned in delight. “And where my opposite selects what to give you, I give you a choice of what you want to lose.”

He reached into the inner pocket of his jacket, withdrew what looked like a business card, and held it out for Jessica to take. She didn’t move at first, so Merriman took hold of her wrist. She expected his fingers to be ice-cold, but his touch burned and she drew in a hissing breath of pain. Of course he’s the opposite of cold, she thought. He’s the Anti-Claus. He lifted her hand and deposited the card on her palm. She was grateful when he let go of her wrist. The skin still hurt, but it no longer felt as if her flesh was on fire.

She looked down at the card and saw it was blank. She turned it over and saw it was also blank on the other side.

“You have until midnight – when my day ends and his begins – to decide what you’d like me to remove from your life. The only rules are that it must belong to you and you must write the name of it on this card. Either side will do.”

The unreality of this encounter was getting to her, and although on some level of her mind, she knew what was happening was absolutely, undeniably real, she needed to believe that Merriman was crazy, or that this was some kind of elaborate prank. Anything, just so long as she could tell herself that there was no such thing as the Anti-Claus and that the card he’d given her was just a plain, ordinary blank piece of cardstock, nothing more.”

She looked into his oversized eyes, which were the same color as his hair and beard, the same color as the overcast sky above, and smiled as if she was in on the joke and intended to play along.

“What happens if midnight comes and I haven’t written anything on the card?”

Merriman’s smile – already wider than a normal person’s – stretched even further until the tender skin at the corners of his mouth split and blood trickled forth.

“Then I choose something of yours to take. And believe me, you don’t want that to happen.”

Jessica’s smile faded and despite her attempt to make herself believe this was nothing but a bizarre practical joke, she felt a hot flush pass through her body. Not a chill, not from the Anti-Claus.

The driver’s door of the large black car opened and a figure emerged. The driver wore a chauffer’s uniform, but while his body appeared human, his head was that of a stag. It lolled to the side, antlers broken and short, tongue protruding from the side of a blood-flecked mouth, eyes milky white.

Like roadkill, she thought. Her stomach lurched, and she thought she was going to vomit.

The driver walked to Merriman, head flopping bonelessly as he came. When he reached his employer, he raised his arm and with the opposite hand – which possessed a hoof instead of fingers – he tapped the face of the wristwatch he wore.

“Ah, yes. Thanks for the reminder, Hobart.”

The hideous thing turned and headed back to the car without saying a word. Jessica was profoundly thankful the creature hadn’t spoken. She didn’t want to hear what sort of voice would issue from the thing’s throat.

“I’m afraid I must take my leave,” Merriman said. “I have many other cards to pass out before midnight, after all. I wish you a most lamentable Deprivation Day, Jessica.” He nodded goodbye, turned, and started walking toward his vehicle. When he reached the front passenger door, he opened it and started to climb inside. But then he stopped and turned back to look at her. “Remember to fill out your card. If you don’t, I’ll be paying you a visit later.”

He grinned so wide this time that the skin of his face tore from the edges of his mouth all the way to his ears. Blood flowed from the wounds, but she could still see his teeth. All of them.

Jessica watched the blacker-than-black car drive away, its engine eerily silent. She then returned to her Lexus, got in, gripped the steering wheel, and sat for several moments, breath coming in rapid huh-huh-huh-huhs, heart keeping time with the rhythm. When she’d calmed down a little, she turned off the car’s hazard lights. She’d left the engine running as she’d spoken to Merriman, and she put the Lexus in gear and started driving forward. The engine didn’t sound good, and the steering was wonky, but the car moved, and that was all she cared about now.

She’d put the blank card on the passenger seat when she’d gotten in, and she glanced at it quickly, as if to make sure it was still there, still real. It was. She reached over, picked it up, and slipped it into her purse.

If she didn’t want Merriman to pay her visit later tonight, she had to write something on the card. Something she wanted to be rid of. She didn’t bother telling herself that Merriman and his grotesque driver hadn’t been real, that they’d been hallucinations, that she’d gone crazy. The damage to her car was real enough, and even if Merriman wasn’t the Anti-Claus and no harm would come to her if she didn’t write something on the card, she wasn’t going to chance it. She’d do anything to avoid seeing Merriman and his deer-headed driver again.

Could she write something innocuous on the card? There was a bland painting in the reception area where she worked, a water tower surrounded by bright blue sky and fluffy white clouds. She didn’t like the thing, hated having to look at it whenever she passed through the reception area. Maybe if she wrote Ugly-ass water tower painting in Reception on the card, it wouldn’t be hanging on the wall when she returned to the office after Christmas. She wouldn’t have to see Merriman again, and the workplace would be improved, at least for her.

No, that wouldn’t work. Merriman had said that whatever she chose had to belong to her. She didn’t own the painting. It belonged to the office.

She wracked her brain, trying to come up with something to write on the card, but she couldn’t think of anything. She feared there was some sort of catch to what Merriman had told her, that if she didn’t choose something important enough, he’d come to visit her anyway. Say she wrote My old toaster on the card. She could imagine Merriman coming to her apartment sometime before midnight. He’d knock, she’d open the door, and he’d say something like A toaster? It’s called Deprivation Day, Jessica. Do you think losing a toaster really qualifies as you being deprived?

And then he’d reach for her with his blazing-hot crablike hands, while behind him in the hall, his driver with the dead deer head – Hobart – would let out a wet, snuffling laugh.

She began trembling then, and she continued to do so the rest of the way to work.

“I’m used to you being late, but this is a personal worst for you.”

Lila Robinson was waiting inside Jessica’s office when she’d arrived. She sat at Jessica’s desk, a small notebook open in front of her. She checked the time on her phone and then, using one of Jessica’s pens, she noted the exact time.

Lila was a petite woman in her late fifties, with short brown hair. She wore a bit too much makeup in a futile attempt to make her look a few years younger. She wore a navy-blue blazer over a white blouse, and while Jessica couldn’t see them at the moment, she knew the woman also wore navy-blue slacks and sensible black shoes. She’d never worn a skirt to the office the entire time Jessica had worked here.

She’d considered calling off sick and going home, but she didn’t want to be alone right now, wanted to be around other people. Now she regretted her choice.

“Sorry. I got into an accident on the way here. Slowed me down.”

Her voice was toneless, matter-of-fact. After seeing Merriman and Hobart, Lila didn’t scare her anymore.

Lila seemed put out by Jessica’s lack of reaction to her words. She threw the pen down on the desk, grabbed the notebook, closed it, stood, came out from behind the desk, and walked over to Jessica until they were practically standing nose to nose.

“I’m sorry you were in an accident.” Lila sounded doubtful, as if she didn’t believe Jessica’s story. “But you could’ve called to let us know. Instead you come strolling in over an hour late. Your client got tired of waiting for you and left. I tried to convince him to speak to another of our advisors, but he declined. ‘I think I’ll take my business elsewhere,’ he said and then left. This is your last warning, Jessica. If you come in late again, for any reason, I will fire you. Do you understand?”

Jessica had heard every word, but she was so preoccupied by her experience with Merriman that she couldn’t bring herself to care. Lila’s face reddened with anger.

“Aren’t you going to say anything? No? I’m your supervisor, Jessica. The least you could do is give me the courtesy of a response.”

Jessica looked at Lila as if noticing her for the first time since entering the office. She smiled slowly.

“You are, aren’t you?”

Lila frowned. “Are what?”

“My supervisor. Mine.”

Lila took a step back from Jessica, as if disturbed by something she saw on the other woman’s face.

“Just remember what I said.”

She walked past Jessica. She paused at the doorway, glanced back briefly, then left.

Jessica, still smiling, put her purse on top of her desk and sat down. She picked up the pen that Lila had used to record her time of arrival, then reached into her purse to withdraw the blank card Merriman had given her. She placed it on the desk in front of her, held it still with the tips of her fingers, and began to write.

Tim Waggoner’s first novel came out in 2001, and since then he’s published over forty novels and five collections of short stories. He writes original dark fantasy and horror, as well as media tie-ins. His novels include Like Death, considered a modern classic in the genre, and the popular Nekropolis series of urban fantasy novels. He’s written tie-in fiction based on Supernatural, Grimm, The X-Files, Alien, Doctor Who, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Transformers, among others, and he’s written novelizations for films such as Kingsman: the Golden Circle and Resident Evil: the Final Chapter. His articles on writing have appeared in Writer’s Digest, Writer’s Journal, Writer’s Workshop of Horror, Horror 101, and Where Nightmares Come From. In 2017 he received the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Long Fiction, and he’s been a finalist multiple times for both the Shirley Jackson Award and the Scribe Award. His fiction has received numerous Honorable Mentions in volumes of Best Horror of the Year, and he’s had several stories selected for inclusion in volumes of Year’s Best Hardcore Horror. In addition to writing, he’s also a full-time tenured professor who teaches creative writing and composition at Sinclair College in Dayton, Ohio.

Christmas Takeover: Frazer Lee: Tinsel


A Story by Frazer Lee
1,232 words

Tom’s breath fogged up his window then disappeared like a ghost. He tried again, but no luck – the frost clinging to the outside of the windowpane refused to melt. He wished his parents would just go to bed. He’d been kneeling here on his bed, leaning on the windowsill for what seemed like an eternity. Then – footsteps on the stairs. Action stations.

It was Mum, here to tuck Tom into bed. He lay rigidly still, breathing heavily with his arms by his side. He felt his mother’s shadow falling over him as she leaned in to kiss him softly on the head. Then she grabbed him and tickled him. He let out a loud giggle. How on earth did she do that every time? Anyone else would’ve fallen for it and believed he was asleep, but not Mum with her amazing radar skills.

They shared a laugh about it and she kissed him again and turned off the light. He listened intently as Mum closed the door and went back downstairs to the living room. ‘Must be wrapping my presents right now,’ he thought, his ears conjuring sounds of foil paper and sticky tape.

This was the most crucial part of Christmas Eve for Tom – waiting for Mum, Dad and Big Sis to come to bed. Then he had to leave it for just long enough to make sure they were asleep, without nodding off himself and missing his chance. Still listening intently, he remembered how he’d bungled the job two years ago, when he was just eight. He was older now, and wiser – an expert in nocturnal maneuvers. One day he’d be a secret agent…

Tom awoke with a jolt and shivered. His bedclothes had made a bid for freedom, leaving just his pajamas to protect him. He grabbed his alarm clock, the luminous face teasing him with the time. Four o’clock am. Oh, flipping brilliant, he’d nodded off and been asleep for hours. But there was still time. He’d better move fast and silent, like that amazing ninja he’d seen on the telly.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed, and ever so carefully stood up. Without a sound, he crept over to the door and removed his dressing gown from the door handle. Tom loved his dressing gown – it was fleecy and so cosy, especially good for a nippy night like this. Careful now, this was where it could all go horribly wrong. One false move and he’d wake the whole household. He reached out for the door handle, his arm rehearsing the exact distance he could open the door before it creaked. Slowly, slowly, he pulled the door open, slipped sideways through the gap, grabbed the outside handle and closed the door behind him with the tiniest click.

Heart beating, Tom stood on the dark landing for a few seconds, catching his breath. That was intense, his best ninja move ever. Satisfied he hadn’t woken his folks, he padded gently across the landing towards the stairs. The soft, soundless carpet beneath his feet, he allowed his mind to wander a little. He began thinking of the prize that awaited him at the end of his mission, remembering how wonderful his presents had looked under the tree last year. They’d gleamed in their shiny wrapping paper like treasure, begging him to squeeze them. He’d picked up the biggest first, giving it a gentle rock to hear and feel what was inside. It didn’t take a genius to realize it was the games console he’d wanted. The box had matched the dimensions of the one in the shop exactly – he should know, he’d examined the display case at the supermarket enough times while Mum spent an age at the deli counter. Tom felt a rush of panic. Had he dropped enough hints about the music player? Maybe she hadn’t noticed during her massive quest for breaded products and two-for-one deals on the way to the checkout. Maybe he hadn’t been clear enough about the colour of the headphones – oh no, what a disaster. His pace quickened as he reached the foot of the stairs.

An animal hiss erupted in his ears as he stepped into the hallway. Tom searched the gloom for the source of the din, dropping to his knees to peer under the sideboard. Wild eyes suddenly glared at him from the shadows there, along with more violent hissing. It was Fudge, the family cat. Whispering as loud as he dared, Tom told Fudge to be quiet. The animal shrank back beneath the sideboard with a final exasperated meow. The cat had almost been his undoing, but failure was not an option. He had to go and squeeze and prod at all the parcels bearing his name.

Downstairs was even chillier than his bedroom, cold seeping into the hallway through hidden nooks and crannies. Tom pulled his dressing gown tighter and snuck into the living room. It was pitch black inside, owing to Mum’s annoying habit of switching everything off and unplugging it every night, “to be on the safe side.” This often drove Dad to distraction; especially if he’d set the tellybox to record late night sports shows. An acrid metallic smell filled the room. What had they been wrapping in here? ‘Only one way to find out,’ thought Tom as he edged his way around the perimeter of the room, feeling along the cabinet, then the wall. Finally, he felt the Christmas tree as he brushed against it. Baubles clinked icily as he located the power cord and followed it, crawling across the floor to the power socket in the corner. He felt the cold metal pins in his hand and turning the plug right side up, inserted it into the wall. Something wet dripped on his hand just as he pressed the switch. Something heavy and slick slid across his head.

Tom scrabbled backwards in shock. Looking up, he saw the fairy lights twinkling. But they were red, not clear, as they had been earlier today and all last week since they’d decorated the tree. He stared, mouth agape, as he realized the lights weren’t red after all. Rather, it was what hung around them that gave them their crimson glow.

The Christmas tree was slicked with blood and covered in strands of flesh and hair. Mum’s hair, and his sister’s. He could pick out his Dad’s tattoo on a piece of bloodied skin that dangled above a bauble like a handkerchief. Drooping branches struggled beneath the weight of the innards scattered across them like red tinsel. Ruined organs steamed like butcher’s offal at the hot kiss of the lights. Eyeballs hung there like baubles. He could recognize some of the pieces – he’d seen them in the big pop-up anatomy book at school – a section of intestine here, a tangle of veins there.

Tom scrambled to his feet. Nausea hit him and he vomited stomach bile onto the living room rug. Turning fearfully around, he saw his family lying lifeless on the sofa like grotesque dolls. Their bodies had been torn apart. Flesh ravaged and ribcages exposed like the hulls of broken ships.

The room swam, and Tom sank to his knees, a dry scream dying in his throat.

Then, he saw them.

Cold eyes, watching him from the dark black of the fireplace.

Watching him touch his presents.

Frazer Lee’s debut novel, The Lamplighters, was a Bram Stoker Award® Finalist for ‘Superior Achievement in a First Novel’. His other works include The Jack in the Green, The Skintaker, and the Daniel Gates Adventures series.

One of Frazer’s early short stories received a Geoffrey Ashe Prize from the Library of Avalon, Glastonbury. His short fiction has since appeared in numerous anthologies including the acclaimed Read By Dawn series.

Also a screenwriter and filmmaker, Frazer’s movie credits include the award-winning short horror films On Edge, Red Lines, Simone, The Stay, and the critically acclaimed horror/thriller feature (and Amazon #1 movie novelization) Panic Button.

Frazer lectures in Creative Writing and Screenwriting at Brunel University London and Birkbeck, University of London. He resides with his family in leafy Buckinghamshire, England just across the cemetery from the actual Hammer House of Horror.

Christmas Takeover 24: Linda D. Addison: The Christmas Ghost

The Christmas Ghost

A Story by Linda D. Addison
824 words

Once upon a time, there was a very different ghost. His name was Klaus and he lived in Halloween Village. He knew he was different from the beginning, but he tried to fit in with everyone else. So, when Halloween came, he put on his scariest best: a bright red suit, chains with loud bells, and a big, red floppy hat, and his blackest, shiniest boots.

He brushed his white beard out until it filled the air like a cloud and painted red circles on his cheeks. When he was done, he looked at himself and decided no other ghost could look scarier, so he went to the meeting place where all ghosts gathered for the Night of Haunting.

Klaus stood proudly in line with the other ghosts waiting for the Queen of Halloween to inspect each of one. The smallest ghosts were first in line and the Queen patted each on their head, if they had one. Each ghost she patted jumped in the air with a blood-curdling scream and flew into the night to begin their work.

Even though the other ghosts pointed at Klaus and snickered behind their hands, if they had them, he stood proud and straight, ignoring them and waiting for the Queen. He was one of the last ghost because he was one of the biggest.

Finally, he stood in front of the Queen. She looked Klaus up and down with her six eyes, her snake fingers gingerly touched Klaus’ beard and plucked at the bells around his large waist.

“You certainly are the most unique ghost I’ve seen this year,” the Queen said in a scratchy, screechy voice. “But you don’t look quite scary enough. You are big and the red is a nice contrast from the usual black and gray, but I like my red a little runnier. Let’s hear your scream.”

Klaus took a big breath and with everything in him let out a loud, “HO-HO-HO!!!”

The Queen stepped back as if she had been hit and her face twisted with pain, her mouth contorted into a wide circle. The other ghosts moved away, they’d never seen her like this. Finally, she burped a strange sound that no one had ever heard her make and her mouth settled into a grimace.

“You made me laugh, you made me happy. What kind of sound is that for a ghost? GET OUT, GET OUT NOW!! Leave our presence and never come back!” The Queen turned away, covering her face with a rotting shroud. The other ghosts turned their backs to Klaus.

Klaus walked away with his head down, back to his house. He gathered the things he made in his spare time in a large bag and threw them into the back of his old sled. He hooked his pet, Rudy, to the front of the sled and took off into the night to find a new place to live.

Everywhere he went, the air was filled with ghosts. By now, the word was out about him, and each ghost turned their back to him. Klaus went to the end of the earth, the place where no one lived, the North Pole. There, he found an old, deserted cottage to live in. He curled up on the dirt floor, and went to sleep to try to forget about his failure.

Finally, Rudy woke him by licking his face. Klaus knew he had slept a long time, because Rudy was much bigger and apparently had made friends, because there were others of his kind gathered around the cottage.

Klaus decided to take a ride a see if the other ghosts had changed their minds about him. He took his bag of things, hooked up Rudy and his friends to the sled and took off into the night.

The air was quiet. There were no ghosts, anywhere. Klaus thought maybe they hiding in the homes of the humans, so he crept down the chimneys, tip-toeing through their homes while they slept, but there were no ghosts. Here and there, he got hungry, and would take a cookie or a piece of cake. He didn’t want to steal, so he left one of the things he made in place of the eaten food.

Finally, after checking each town, he ended up back at Halloween Village. The gate was locked and all the houses were dark. Obviously, he was too late or too early for the Night of Haunting. He shook the gate, but it wouldn’t open. Then he saw the sign that said, “Keep out—that means you, Klaus!”

With sadness in his heart, he climbed into the sled and went back to his cottage at the North Pole. Each year after that Klaus rode his sled to give out the things he made in his spare time and eat the food humans left for him. It was his way of dealing with rejection.

The End

Linda D. Addison, award-winning author of four collections, including How to Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend, the first African-American recipient of the HWA Bram Stoker Award, received the 2016 HWA Mentor of the Year Award and the 2018 HWA Lifetime Achievement Award. Check out her latest poetry in The Place of Broken Things, writen with Alessandro Manzetti (Crystal Lake Publishing, 2019). She is excited about the 2020 release of a film (inspired by my poem of same name) Mourning Meal, by producer and director Jamal Hodge.

Christmas Takeover 23: JG Faherty: Yule Cat

Yule Cat

A Story by JG Faherty
3,008 words
Originally published in Appalachian Winter Hauntings, 2009

Excitement hovered over the town of Fox Run in much the same way the snow-filled clouds had done all week. The day seemed ordinary enough, but children and adults alike knew differently.

Tonight would be special.

All day long, women bustled about in kitchens, grandmothers and mothers and daughters, cooking and baking the feasts for that night. The savory, grease-laden scents of fried ham, roast lamb, and hamborgarhyryggur – smoked pork rack – competed with the heavenly aromas of fresh-baked breads and desserts. For those with a sweet tooth, plates stacked high with jelly-covered pancakes and twisted fried dough – lummer and kleinur – sat on tables and counters, wherever there was room.

It was the traditional Yule feast, part of the celebration of the winter solstice.

The longest night of the year.

The night when ghosts ride the winds and the Yule Cat roams in search of lazy humans to eat.

“Aw, Grandpa, that’s just a silly old tale to scare little kids,” Jacob Anders said, as his grandfather finished his annual telling of the Yule story.

“Don’t talk to your Farfar like that,” Grandma Anders said, her thin face pulled tight in one of her mock-serious scowls. She worked hard to keep up her brusque appearance to the rest of the family, only occasionally letting her old-country veneer slip, as she’d done earlier when she let Jacob and his older sister Erika lick the spoons after she iced the traditional Yule cake.

Like most of Fox Run’s residents, the Anders had emigrated from Scandinavia, eventually settling in Western Pennsylvania, where the Appalachians provided the same backdrop as the Kölen of their homeland.

Although they’d celebrated Yule at their grandparents’ since before they could remember, this year was the first year Jacob and Erika’s parents weren’t with them. They’d dropped the children off the day before, with kisses and hugs and promises to return in four days loaded with gifts from their cruise.

For Jacob and Erika, the four days loomed over them in much the same way as the mountains loomed over Fox Run. Their grandparents’ house wasn’t exactly child friendly. They had no cable TV, no video games, and cell phone service was spotty on the best of days.

His temper frayed by boredom, Jacob, who’d always been overly energetic, even for a nine-year-old, made a face. “It’s the same old boring story every year. Why can’t we go into town and do something? Maybe see a movie?”

“Because Yule is for being with family.” Grandma Anders shook a bony finger at him. “Children today have forgotten the old ways. They think only of themselves.”

“Ja.” Grandpa Anders sucked on his empty pipe. He’d given up tobacco years before, but never the habit of clenching the pipe between his teeth while sitting by the fire. “And those are the ones who get no presents from Jule-nissen later tonight.”

“Grandpa, we don’t believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny. What makes you think we’re gonna believe in an elf who rides a talking goat and leaves gifts for children?” Jacob laughed, but his grandparents didn’t smile.

“Ah. No talking to children today.” Grandpa Anders got up and shook his head. “Goodnight, then. If you think the tales of your ancestors are such…foof…” he said, waving his hand at them, “perhaps you should stay up and watch for the Jule-nissen yourself.”

“Maybe I will.”

“Jacob, hush.” Erika gave her brother a poke. Normally she wouldn’t care, but with her parents gone she felt responsible for her brother, and she didn’t want him being rude.

“I think perhaps bed is a good idea for all of us,” Grandma Anders said, taking her tea cup into the kitchen.

“No way! It’s not even nine o’clock yet. We never go to bed this early at home.”

“You’re not at home, young man.” Grandma Anders glared at him, giving him what the children secretly called her ‘stink eye.’ It meant she’d reached the point where she’d put up with no more nonsense. “So off to bed. Now!” She clapped her hands twice, the sudden sound like branches snapping under the weight of too much ice.


“C’mon, Jacob. I think you had too much sugar tonight.” Erika grabbed him by the arm.

“Lemme go!” He yanked himself from her grasp and stormed down the hall to the guest bedroom they were sharing.

“I’m sorry, Grandma,” Erika said.

Grandma Anders patted her shoulder and planted a soft, whiskery kiss on her cheek. “Don’t fret, child. Someday he will learn the truth.”

Jacob and Erika lay awake in their room. Upstairs, the grumbling, wheezing sounds emanating from their grandparents’ bedroom told them Mormor and Farfar Anders were fast asleep.

“I’m hungry,” Jakob whispered.

“No, you’re not. You had two plates for dinner, and at least three desserts, plus the one I saw you sneak while everyone was sitting by the fire.”

“Fine. Then I’m thirsty.”

Erika sighed. “What you are is bored and a brat. Go to sleep.” She wished she could do the same. She’d been trying to doze off for over an hour. But too much sugar and a day of doing nothing but helping in the kitchen had her wide awake.

“Did you hear that?” Jakob asked.

“All I hear is you talking.”


She started to scold him for being such a pain, and then stopped.

Because she did hear it.

A low, distant moaning, winter-cold and ethereal as the wind. A dozen voices; a hundred. A thousand, perhaps, all sighing at once, all lamenting a sadness older than time but not forgotten.

Jacob climbed out of bed and went to the window. His body was a gray shadow among all the others in the room. When he pulled the white lace curtain aside, he revealed a scene that was almost alien, as the snow, so white it almost glowed, hid the ordinary beneath weird mounds and featureless plains.

“Don’t!” Erika couldn’t explain it, but she felt something deep in her bones.

Danger waited outside.

As usual, Jacob didn’t listen. He pressed his face to the glass and peered out.

“I don’t see anything,” he whispered.

Against her better judgment, Erika joined him at the window, barely noticing the chill of the floor against her bare feet.

Jacob’s breath left twin ovals of fog on the frigid glass as he pushed closer to look up and down the street.

Shaped like a heart, Erika thought, and that scared her just as much as the distant susserations of grief.

Outside, nothing seemed different than any other night. The houses were dark. Like the hard-working towns around it, Fox Run rose early and went to bed early.

Just when Erika thought her chattering teeth might wake her grandparents, new sounds joined the mourning dirge. A triumphant cry, accompanied by the bellow of a horn and the baying of hounds.

“Something’s happening!” Before Erika could stop him, Jacob dashed from room. For a moment she stood frozen by indecision. Then she heard the slam of the back door and the spell holding her in place broke like an ice dagger snapping from the gutter.

Pausing just long enough to put on boots and grab her coat from the hook by the back door, she hurried outside and spotted Jacob already running down the road.

“Jacob, stop! Come back!” He didn’t, so despite the glacial air that threatened to freeze her blood and stop her heart, Erika ran after him.

It took three blocks to catch up with Jacob, and by the time she did, her face burned and tiny icicles of snot crusted her nose and upper lip.

“I’m gonna kill you when we get back,” she said, grabbing a fistful of his coat.

“Quiet!” He put a finger to his lips. “It’s almost here.”

Since the sounds were no louder, Erika wanted to ask him how he knew, but then she understood. He felt it, and she could, too.

A heartbeat later, the source of the supernatural noise appeared. Swirling towers of mist, so many she couldn’t count them, appeared out of nowhere and sailed down the road as fast as racing cars. As they swept past, she glimpsed faces, twisted and horrible. The moaning of the apparitions vibrated her teeth like a dentist’s drill. Next to her, Jacob pressed his hands over his ears.

The line of spirits – for she knew that’s what they were – seemed to go on forever, but it was only seconds before they were past, and the reason for their wailing became apparent.

Behind them came more ghosts, mounted on ephemeral horses and surrounded by massive hounds with glowing red eyes. Leading the pack was a giant of a man wearing the antlered skull of a colossal deer as a helmet. It was his exultant war cries that had the other spirits fleeing, as he led his phantom troop in pursuit.

Ten heartbeats later, the streets lay empty again.

“Did you see that?” Jacob asked. “What were they?”

“I don’t know.” Erika pulled at him. “Let’s go home before we freeze to death.”

“’Tis not the cold you should be worrying about.”

Erika screamed and Jacob gasped at the unknown voice behind them. Turning, they found themselves face to face with a goat wearing a green jacket. On its back perched a tiny man with a long, pointed beard. Like the goat, the man’s yellow eyes had horizontal pupils, and he wore green clothes as well.

“Jule-nissen.” Jacob’s eyes were wide. “You’re real!”

The elf shook his head. “Yes, but you’ll be nothing but a memory if the Cat gets you.”

“The cat? What cat?”

“The Yule Cat, sonny-boy. He’s been stalking you since you left your house.”

“I didn’t see any–”

“There!” The elf pointed down the street.

Between two houses, a shadow, darker than the sky and impossibly huge, slid across the snow. Before Erika could think of anything to say, a giant tabby cat, taller than a lion and twice as broad, stalked into view, yellowish-green eyes glowing and a hungry smile on its face.

Jacob moaned, and the Cat, even from a hundred yards away, heard. Its ears twitched and it crouched down in the middle of the street, tail whipping back and forth behind it.

“Run,” Erika said.

Jacob stood still, frozen in fear.

“Run!” This time she shouted it. At the same time, the cat sprang forward.

“This way,” the elf called to them, as the goat carried him down a side street.

Jacob and Erika followed. Each step took them further from their grandparents’ house, but they didn’t care. All that mattered was eluding the impossible feline sprinting down the road after them.

The goat led them around a corner and Erika felt a rush of relief as the Cat skidded on the slippery road and missed the turn. Then her relief turned to horror as the Cat sprang out from behind a house and swung a massive paw that sent the goat and its elvin rider tumbling across the icy blacktop. It swung again and Jacob cried out as a white cloud exploded from his chest. Erika screamed, sure the cat had disemboweled her brother and she was watching the air from his lungs freeze as it escaped. Then she saw it was just the front of his down jacket torn open and gushing feathers into the night.

“Get up!” Erika grabbed Jacob and pulled as he kicked his legs in a frantic attempt to get his feet under himself.

The Yule cat took a half-swing at them and hot liquid ran down her legs. She remembered how Mittens, the cat they’d had when she was younger, used to play with field mice and birds the same way, toying with them until it was ready to bite their heads off.

Now she knew how they felt.

“Ho, Yule Cat! Train your eyes this way!”

Erika jumped at the Jule-nissen’s shout. In her worry for Jacob, she’d forgotten about the elf and his goat. She watched in amazement as the diminutive man waved his arms while the goat jumped and danced on its hind legs.

“What are you doing?”

“Saving your lazy hides,” the elf said. “This is your chance. Return to your house. We’ll be fine.”

Erika didn’t argue. Hand in hand, she and Jacob ran as fast as they could, the December air burning their lungs, hearts pounding in time with their feet. They ran without looking back, deathly afraid the Cat might be only a whisker’s length away.

Suddenly Jacob cut sharply to the right. Erika started to shout at him and then realized they’d reached their grandparents’ house. They pounded up the front steps and flung open the door so hard it hit the wall and sent knick-knacks clattering to the floor.

“Who’s there? What’s going on?” Josef Anders appeared at the top of the stairs, his wife close behind him.

“Grandma! Grandpa! It’s after us! The Yule Cat!”

Erika slammed the door shut and twisted the lock. Grandma Anders said something, but Erika couldn’t hear over the sounds of her and Jacob gasping for air.

“Into the living room! Hurry!” Grandpa Anders hurried down the stairs and tugged at their sleeves.

“But we’re safe now. The goat–” The rest of Jacob’s words disappeared in a crash of breaking glass as a pumpkin-sized paw came through the window next to the door.

“There’s no hiding from the Cat,” Grandma Anders shouted. “Only one thing can save you. Come!”

Erika and Jacob followed their grandparents into the living room, where the sweet scent of pine still decorated the air from the Yule log smoldering in the fireplace. Behind them, the Cat let out a fierce yowl at being denied its prey yet again.

Grandma Anders grabbed two small boxes from beneath the Christmas tree. “Here, open these. Quickly now.”

“What?” Erika took the box but could only stare at it. With everything that had happened, the merry green and red wrapping paper seemed unreal.

“Do as your Mormor says.” Grandpa Anders threw an angry scowl at them as he pulled the drapes shut. With his head turned away, he never saw the movement outside the window, never knew the Yule Cat was there until it burst through the glass and knocked him sideways into a bookcase. Shaking shards from its fur, the Cat let out a roar.

“Grandpa!” Jacob cried.

Erika turned to run but her grandmother stopped her by slapping her across the face. “Open the fordømt box!”

Hoping box contained some kind of magic weapon, Erika tore at the paper and cardboard. When she saw what was inside, her hands went limp and the box fell to the floor.

“A shirt?” She sank to her knees, knowing there was no hope left. Hot, fetid breath blew past her face, carrying the stench of rotten meat. Tears ran down Erika’s face as she closed her eyes and waited for the end.

The carrion stink grew stronger and a whimper escaped her throat as something cold and wet bumped ever so lightly against her neck. Then it was gone.

“That’s right, one for the girl and one for the boy, too. Now be gone.”

Erika heard her grandmother’s voice but the words didn’t make sense. She opened her eyes and risked turning her head, just in time to see the Yule Cat climb out through the shattered picture window. Grandpa Anders was leaning against the bookcase, a cut on his forehead dripping blood. Jacob stood near him, his half-opened box in his hands.

Eyes still on the departing feline, Erika asked, “What happened?”

“I can answer that, young miss.”

Erika turned and saw the Jule-nissen atop his goat, right next to Grandma Anders, who didn’t seem at all surprised by their presence.

“’Twas the gifts. A shirt for each of you.”

“On Yule Eve, the Jule-nissen leaves a gift of clothing for all the children,” Jacob said in a soft voice, “except for the lazy ones.”

“And for them?” the elf asked.

“The Yule Cat eats them.”

“So, you did listen to my stories.” Grandpa Anders put a hand on the boy’s shoulder.

“You really brought us gifts?” Jacob asked.

The goat snorted and the Jule-nissen shook his head. “Not me. You haven’t done anything to deserve them, in my eyes. But lucky for you, someone thought different, and to the Cat, a gift’s a gift.” The elf snapped his fingers and he and his goat disappeared in a burst of golden sparkles.

“Then who…?” Jacob looked confused, but Erika knew exactly where the gifts had come from.

“You knew the tales were true,” she said to her grandmother. “You did it to protect us.”

Grandma Anders gave them the briefest of smiles. “We follow tradition, even if you do not. All families make sure to keep gifts handy in case the Yule Cat appears.”

“You have to be careful on Yule,” Grandpa Anders said.

Jacob nodded. “’Cause of the Yule Cat.”

“Yes, but not just the Cat. ‘Tis also the night of the Hunt, when the spirits of the Oak King arise to drive away the spirits of the Holly King, and put an end to nights growing longer. Get in their way and you’ll become like them, doomed to Hunt forever.”

“The Hunt,” Erika whispered. She shivered, remembering the wailings of the Holly King’s spirits as the Oak King banished them until June.

Grandma Anders noticed her reaction. “Go put on dry clothes. I’ll make hot cocoa.”

After the children left the room, Grandma Anders went into the kitchen, where her husband was already filling a pot with milk.

“Well?” he asked.

“I think from now on they’ll listen when you tell your stories.”

So distant they wouldn’t have heard it if not for the broken window, a child’s voice screamed in pain.

Josef Anders nodded. “Ja. Let us hope so. For their sakes.”

A life-long resident of New York’s haunted Hudson Valley, JG Faherty has been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award (The Cure, Ghosts in Coronado Bay) and ITW Thriller Award (The Burning Time), and he is the author of 7 novels, 10 novellas, and more than 75 short stories. His next novel, Hellrider, comes out from Flame Tree Press in August of 2019. He grew up enthralled with the horror movies and books of the 60s, 75, 70s, and 80s. Which explains a lot.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Frazer Lee

Meghan: Hi, Frazer. It is an HONOR having you here today. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Frazer Lee: Hello! Thanks for hosting me, and I must say that I love Meghan’s House of Books ☺ Forgive me while I switch to third person for the ‘official author bio’…

Frazer Lee is a novelist, screenwriter, and filmmaker. His debut novel The Lamplighters was a Bram Stoker Award® Finalist for Best First Novel. Winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Gothic Filmmaker of the Year Award for The Stay, his film credits also include the acclaimed feature film Panic Button. Frazer resides with his family in Buckinghamshire, just across the cemetery from the real-life Hammer House of Horror.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Frazer Lee:

  • I have a mysterious scar on my right hand.
  • An obsessive fan of The Cure, I have seen the band play like 38 times so far. (I know that isn’t very many, so I’m working on it.)
  • I was vegetarian for twenty-five years, but recently became pescatarian after recurring fever dreams involving flapping fish in an ocean storm.
  • My middle name is Alaric.
  • I am unable to converse until I am on my 2nd coffee. (I’m drinking my 2nd right now, luckily.)

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Frazer Lee: The Gauntlet by Ronald Welch, which transported me to a medieval world. Oh my goodness, what a book. I cried when I finished it because I didn’t want it to be over and I felt so bereft.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Frazer Lee: I am studying for my PhD so I am neck deep in Ernst Cassirer’s Language and Myth. If you don’t hear from me in a day or two, send help.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Frazer Lee: Perhaps Miracles of Life by J.G. Ballard because it is rather on the sentimental side and my reputation as a hardened cynic goes before me?

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Frazer Lee: I started writing stories in junior school because I lived in Staffordshire and needed to escape somewhere. (As Lou Reed and John Cale once sang, when you’re growing up in a small town, and you’re having a nervous breakdown, you just have to get out of there.) Reading, and writing, did exactly that. (Some of) my teachers encouraged me, and for that I am eternally grateful. I remember smiling when my school report said, “I look forward to Frazer’s first novel.” Took a while, but I got there in the end.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Frazer Lee: I like to write surrounded by trees, with my cat by my side, but I also like to write on the move, on trains, planes, in cafes, but never in automobiles – that’s too dangerous.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Frazer Lee: I like to write to music without lyrics, and I enjoy playing physical CDs and vinyl, so I often go through a kind of stop-start-stop again dance when I’m finding the right groove in which to begin a book. I talk to myself A LOT. And that 2nd coffee thing I mentioned earlier also applies to the writing, more often than not.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Frazer Lee: Nagging self-doubt can be a problem. That feeling that it’s not coming out quite how you’d hoped or imagined and what’s the point anyway? Like most things in life, it’s nothing that a stroll in the woods can’t sort out. Grit your teeth, roll the dice, come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Frazer Lee: I wrote a scenario about a grown man trapped in the skin of a young boy and he does this insanely disgusting thing with a big syringe and someone’s buttock fat… I don’t know if it was satisfying but it sure did make me cackle a lot writing it!

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Frazer Lee: My favourite novel of all time is still Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Bloody hell though, it has everything. Familial drama and tragedy, impossible highs and unfathomable lows, beautiful imagery that ties the whole experience together so memorably. And through it all, the terror of loving – and of losing. I think that mash-up of the Gothic and cutting edge science has had a long lasting effect on me. Perhaps it’s not surprising that I love J.G. Ballard’s writing so much as he continues that blend of new ideas/technology with the structure of a classic murder mystery or police procedural, but adds such a uniquely perverse dimension to proceedings that sometimes makes you feel grubby for just reading the book.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Frazer Lee: An idea. A character, her vividly rendered world, and a seemingly insurmountable problem.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Frazer Lee: Cheesy as it may sound, there’s that sweet spot when they’re speaking to you as you write them. If I can feel how they feel, hopefully readers can feel that too. I’m attracted to deeply flawed characters. The deeper those flaws, the more interesting I find them. There are no sexual athletes and crack-shots in my stories, more likely a bunch of barely functioning failures. That’s not for everyone, I know. If you want shiny, try your luck at a casino. I’ll wait for you in the basement bar.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Frazer Lee: I doubt that I’m the best person to judge that, but maybe the Skin Mechanic? (I’m a dab hand with a flesh-comb too.)

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Frazer Lee: I’ve been lucky that I’ve rather enjoyed my book covers so far. My editors and publishers always involve me in the process with a questionnaire, where I get to drop heavy hints about things I’d like to see or un-see. They are never quite as you imagined them, though, and that’s all part of the fun I think.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Frazer Lee: I’ve learned that it’s good to have a level of attack, but that’s it’s also good to let the thing breathe a bit and to never kid yourself that you have all the answers.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Frazer Lee: That was a scene in The Jack in the Green because it’s based on something horrible that happened in my early childhood. I won’t go into the details because I’m having a pretty good day so far and I don’t really want to go there again… into the dark… not now anyhow, maybe later.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Frazer Lee: I think that would be for the readers to decide. Maybe each and every book is unique in its combination of character and plot. You could give the same outline and character bios to two different writers and they would create completely different books. I’ve learned that one reader’s “different good” may be another reader’s “different bad” so there’s nothing to be gained from trying to guess which way it’s going to play. I think just be true to yourself, the character, the story and it’ll come out how it has to.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Frazer Lee: The title is usually one of the easiest parts of the creative process for me. Occasionally, you might need a second opinion. I had a few different titles for Hearthstone Cottage and sent them over to my amazing editor Don D’Auria, and he resoundingly preferred the one that’s now on the book spine. And he was right, of course. He so often is (but don’t tell him that, whatever you do!)

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Frazer Lee: A story well told is a story well told. How well, that’s always up for debate of course. It’s just a sense that the story is the best it can be at that given time, subject to deadlines, and any other constraints, before the story wriggles free of your grasp and you have to hand it over to readers. There is a sense of fulfillment to having gone through that process, and there’s no difference really in how that feels whether it’s a short story, or a novel, or a short film or a feature length movie screenplay, in my experience.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Frazer Lee: Each of my books does something a little different with the horror ingredients of isolation, confrontation, and transformation. My target audience is, honestly, anyone who will make the time to pick it up and give it a whirl. I’d like readers to take what they will from my tales, but as I write primarily in the horror genre, I do hope they take away some nightmares with them. You’re welcome.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Frazer Lee: I write to pretty detailed outlines, so there aren’t really deleted scenes as such. But anything tangential has to go, unless it works. The deleted bits are often the most uninteresting and expository asides about the minutiae of a character’s life, or their belief system (or lack of one). Hopefully what remains serves the character and their story and keeps the forward momentum going. Sometimes moments that are too gratuitously visceral or violent get edited out in favour of what you don’t get to see, because that’s often far more disturbing and scary.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Frazer Lee: I am working on a new horror novel for Flame Tree Press called Greyfriars Reformatory. It’s a haunted institution story with a post-modern twist. I have a script doctor commission on a movie screenplay that I’m contractually not allowed to talk about. And I’m developing another film project or two for my sins, which are legion.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Frazer Lee: Please drop by and say hello at:

Official Website ** Twitter ** Facebook ** Goodreads ** Amazon ** IMDB

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Frazer Lee: Hee, I find the concept that I would have ‘fans’ ludicrous…

I would just like to thank you again for hosting me on the blog today, and to say to anyone who has ever read my stories or watched my films, thank you for taking the time and I hope to see you again soon in your nightmares!

Frazer Lee’s debut novel, The Lamplighters, was a Bram Stoker Award® Finalist for ‘Superior Achievement in a First Novel’. His other works include The Jack in the Green, The Skintaker, and the Daniel Gates Adventures series.

One of Frazer’s early short stories received a Geoffrey Ashe Prize from the Library of Avalon, Glastonbury. His short fiction has since appeared in numerous anthologies including the acclaimed Read By Dawn series.

Also a screenwriter and filmmaker, Frazer’s movie credits include the award-winning short horror films On Edge, Red Lines, Simone, The Stay, and the critically acclaimed horror/thriller feature (and Amazon #1 movie novelization) Panic Button.

Frazer lectures in Creative Writing and Screenwriting at Brunel University London and Birkbeck, University of London. He resides with his family in leafy Buckinghamshire, England just across the cemetery from the actual Hammer House of Horror.

Hearthstone Cottage

Mike Carter and his girlfriend Helen, along with their friends Alex and Kay, travel to a remote loch side cottage for a post-graduation holiday. But their celebrations are short-lived when they hit and kill a stag on the road. Alex’s sister Meggie awaits them in the cottage, adding to the tension when her dog, Oscar, goes missing. Mike becomes haunted by a disturbing presence in the cottage, and is hunted by threatening figures in the highland fog. Reeling from a shock revelation, Mike begins to lose his grip on his sanity. As the dark secrets of the past conspire to destroy the bonds of friendship, Mike must uncover the terrifying truth dwelling within the walls of Hearthstone Cottage.