Miracle in Worm Hollow
A Story by Robert Holt
Curled up in balls to protect from the penetrating cold, the four children looked at the snow drifting in through the hole of their burrow that they had dug for shelter. Gillian caught a snowflake in her palm and looked at the intricate pattern with wide-eyed amazement.
Dillan sat up and smacked her hand. “Get it off you. You don’t know what’s in it. Might be radioactive,” he said.
Gillian lowered her head and snorted out a sob. “Sorry Dill, I wasn’t thinking.”
Dillan sat up and put an arm around her. “Is okay. Is okay, Gillian. We just have to be smart, you know. You remember how Mrs. Heaney said we needed to be smart?”
“Yeah,” said Gail, unable to hold her silence any longer. “Mrs. Heaney went out in the rain, grew toads on her back, and fell over dead. Is that the type of smart we should be taking direction from?”
Gillian was full on bawling now.
“Jesus Christ, Gail. Do you always have to be such a jerk?” Dillan wrapped Gillian in both arms and rocked slowly back and forth.
“Keep your voice down. You’re going to wake up Brandon,” Gail said through her shivering teeth. Her shivers began months ago, before the snow, even before the cold weather. Mrs. Heaney said it was nerves, whatever that means. What the kids knew but did not say was that the shivers were fear. They started when the cannibals had attacked the compound, and she had looked like a Fall leaf in the wind ever since.
Gillian looked down at the muddy and tattered piece of paper she had been carrying since her house had been destroyed by the Antediluvian. Her mouth fell open in shock. Her tears instantly dried and her grief forgotten. “Did I sleep last night Dillan?”
“Yes,” Gail answered. “And you snored.”
“Then we made it. Guys, we made it. Everything is going to be okay now,” she said.
“What are you talking about?” Dillan stopped rocking her and shifted away.
“It’s Christmas. We made it. Now we can get everything we want because Santa will bring it.”
Gail moved in front of Gillian’s eyes to look her face to face. “Are you freaking kidding me? Santa? That is our savior? That is who is going to rescue us?”
“Yes,” said Gillian. “Santa will bring us what we need.”
“Oh hell, oh hell, oh hell,” Dillan said in increasingly frantic tones. The girls turned to him. “Brandon is dead. I think he’s dead.”
The three sat there for a long time in silence. “He’s going to miss Santa then,” Gillian said. Gail started laughing. Dillan started crying.
They wrapped Brandon in a blanket and pulled his body from their shelter once the snow stopped. Gail looked around at the desolate landscape around them. When they dug their hole less than a month ago, this had been a forest. Now there wasn’t even a living tree in sight. The grass had grown though, thick and wild.
Dillan tapped her shoulder as the unspoken warning that it wasn’t safe to be out in the daylight. The cannibals were everywhere, the turkey buzzards had also grown bold towards the living, and the Antediluvian was also still at work at ridding the earth of humans.
The three kids gathered once again in the shelter hole. “We shouldn’t have used our blanket,” Gail said.
“It was Brandon’s blanket,” Gillian said. “He should keep it.”
“He’s dead and doesn’t need it anymore. And I’m cold.”
“He pooped on it,” Dillan said, killing the discussion.
After a while of counting the turkey buzzard calls from Brandon’s final resting place, Gillian grabbed a rock and scratched a bow on it. She handed it to Dillan. “It isn’t much, but I want you to have it.”
Dillan held the rock in his hands for a moment while his smile slowly spread. “Thank you!”
“That’s stupid,” Gail said. She shifted around and scratched at the mud wall revealing a cinch bag. She pulled it out and opened it.
“What is that?” Gillian had inched closer to see what she was doing.
Gail smiled at her, but her shivers made her nose twitch to look like a snarl. “You first.” She took something out of the muddy bag and slid it behind her back. She then pulled the bag shut and handed it to Gillian.
“What is it?” Gillian took the bag.
“Open it. And Merry Christmas,” Gail said.
Gillian opened the bag to see a single triple A battery. She gasped. “This will work with my flashlight,” she said.
Gail nodded. “You need to use it only when we need to. That may be the last one in the world.”
Gillian pulled her small, toy sized flashlight out and inserted the new battery. She flicked it on for just a second, squealed, and threw her arms around Gail.
Gail pulled the bag back and put what was behind her back into it and handed it to Dillan. “Your turn,” She said. “And Merry Christmas.”
Dillan opened the bag and pulled out a hunk of metal. “What is it?”
“I don’t know what it was, but it is heavy and sharp.”
He leaned over to hug Gail. “Why did you wait until now to give this to us?”
“It’s Christmas. And I thought it best to save the battery for a bit. And I was going to try to make something out of the metal thing, but I thought you might be able to as well.”
Dillan ran his thumb across the sharp edge of the metal piece. “I don’t have anything for you two.”
Gillian then let out a giggle, snatched the cinch bag and turned to her own wall. She reached into the mud pulled out something and dropped it into the bag. She held it out triumphantly to Gail. “Merry Christmas!”
Gail smiled and pulled the bag open. She pulled out a partially decayed human finger.
“What the hell is this Gillian?”
“That’s the finger of the big, bald guy that killed your mother. He caught me about three weeks ago while I was in the forest. I don’t know what he was doing, but he stuck his finger in my mouth. I bit it off and ran. He tried to chase me but the blood lured the turkey buzzards. They tore his skin off while I hid in a tree. When I finally got back I realized I still had his finger in my mouth. It was a good thing. If I hadn’t I would have screamed and then the buzzards or the other cannibals or … worse.”
“That’s pretty freaking sick,” Dillan said.
Gail crawled over to Gillian and gave her a big hug. “This was the best present I ever got. Thank you!”
Gail held up the finger, whispered a curse to it, and tossed it out of the opening. A few minutes later there was a rustling in the tall grass. The children shifted together. A puppy emerged with the finger in its mouth and its tail wagging. The children laughed and ran towards the puppy. That night they had a Christmas feast.
Robert Holt is the author of dark fiction and horror, spanning through every form of the written word, from spooky children’s stories to gruesome splatter punk. He lives in St. Louis Missouri.