By way of a Christmas treat for all Scream Street readers, I’ve written an exclusive short story – The Anti-Claus.  Hope you enjoy it!

Have a screaming Christmas…

Tommy

The Anti-Claus

by Tommy Donbavand

The Anti-ClausLuke Watson stood in Scream Street’s square and gazed up at the giant Christmas tree in its centre.  Lengths of steaming intestine were strung across the branches like tinsel, and glitter-coated hearts, livers and kidneys hung as baubles.

“You know,” said Resus Negative, the young vampire standing next to him, “maybe we shouldn’t have let the zombies decorate the tree this year…”

“It still needs something at the top,” Luke grinned, gazing up at the highest branches.  “Where’s the fairy?”

Resus gestured to a huge figure in a pink tutu throwing darts on the other side of the square.  “He’s over there, trying to win a goldfish.”

Just about every resident of Scream Street was out, enjoying the Christmas Fair: witches brewed up cauldrons of warm drinks, skeletons played seasonal music on their rib bones, and the “I’ll Guess Your Blood Type” stall run by Resus’s dad was doing a roaring trade.

There you are!” called a voice.  A small figure wrapped from head to toe in bandages was picking her way through the crowds towards Luke and Resus.  “I thought you said you’d wait for me by the food table!”

“We did,” said Resus, “but the goblins are manning it this year and the aroma of cooked chicken doesn’t mix well with that of face-melting farts!”

Cleo nudged Resus in the side.  “Go on, then!” she hissed.

“Oh, yeah!  Right…” the vampire said, remembering.  Plunging his hand deep into the folds of his cape, he produced a carefully wrapped present.  “We got you this,” he said, handing the gift to Luke.

“You shouldn’t have,” beamed Luke as he tore away the bat-covered wrapping paper to reveal a dog’s lead and choke-chain made from thick metal.  He looked confused.  “No, really – you shouldn’t have…”

“It’s for when you’re in your werewolf form,” said Cleo.

Resus winked.  “Can’t have the big doggy getting lost, can we?”

“Thanks!” said Luke, enjoying the joke.  “I didn’t know if I’d get any presents this year.  I doubt even Santa knows how to get to Scream Street.”

Cleo frowned beneath her bandages.  “Who?” she asked.

“Santa,” repeated Luke.  “You know – big and jolly, bright red suit, gives toys and presents to children all over the world.”

“He sounds nice,” sighed Cleo.  “I wish we had him instead.”

“Instead of what?”

“Let’s just say the sound of sleigh-bells is one of the most terrifying noises there is around here,” explained Resus.

Luke cocked an ear skywards.  “But, I can hear sleigh-bells now…”

With a whoosh, a shadow swooped over the square and a harsh voice roared out: “Who’s been good this year?”  The effect was instant.  The residents screamed and ran for cover, knocking over wine-filled cauldrons and upsetting tables of food.

Resus grabbed Luke and dragged him behind a nearby garden hedge.

“He’s here!” bellowed Cleo, racing to join them.  “It’s him!”

“Who?” yelled Luke as the shadow swept across the square again.

Resus pointed up to a shape blocking out the stars.  Luke squinted and saw what appeared to be a sleigh made from bits of broken wood, pulled by six skeletal reindeer, each with fire flashing around its antlers.  Driving the sleigh was a fat ogre, dressed in a filthy green suit.  The creature’s piercing red eyes scanned the terrified crowd below with glee.

“He comes here once a year to steal presents from children who’ve been good,” explained Resus.  “He’s the Anti-Claus!”

“The Anti-Claus?” exclaimed Luke, jumping to his feet just as the sleigh passed overhead once more.  It skimmed across the square as the ogre chased a pair of young banshees, each clutching a doll.  The Anti-Claus pulled his sleigh alongside the screaming children and grabbed their toys, tossing them into a bulging, black sack behind him.  “Goodwill to ME!” he roared, pulling on the reins to order the reindeer to climb once more.

Luke stood and snatched up the metal lead and collar Resus and Cleo had given him, swinging it round his head like a lasso.

“What are you doing?” demanded the vampire.

Luke focused on the nightmarish sleigh above.  “I’m getting my name on the ‘naughty’ list!” he growled.

As the Anti-Claus banked and swung back over the square, Luke flung the metal lead above him, hooking it over one the sleigh’s metal runners.  As the reindeer thundered by, the choke-chain collar tightened and Luke leant back to take the strain.

“Help me!” he grunted as the lead pulled taut and he was dragged across the garden.  Resus and Cleo dived for Luke’s feet, but the sleigh was travelling too fast and they missed by centimetres.

Luke, still gripping the end of the lead, was lifted into the air and carried high over Scream Street.  Feeling the added weight, the Anti-Claus leaned over the side of the sleigh and gurgled with delight.  “Looks like I’ve got me a hitch-hiker!”

Jerking on the reins, the ogre turned the sleigh and flew straight for the huge Christmas tree.  Luke kicked his legs in the air to try and swing himself away from the branches, but couldn’t changed direction in time.  He crashed into the tree, pine needles puncturing his skin and various decorative organs slapping across his face.

Branch after branch hit Luke in the stomach, arms and legs until he slammed into the trunk, winded.  He wrapped his arms tightly around the rough bark and tried to catch his breath, the metal lead snagging on a creaking bough and temporarily halting the progress of the sleigh.

Racing across the square, Cleo stared up at the tree as it shook from the force of the impact.  “I can’t see Luke!” she shouted.

“There!” yelled Resus.  “He’s caught up in the branches near the top – and the good news is, he’s getting angry!”

“How can that be good news?” asked Cleo.

“Because he’s about to unleash his furry friend!”

Luke spat out a spleen covered with glitter as his mind flooded with rage.  Allowing the feeling to wash over him, he felt his bones begin to splinter and reshape.  His muscles tore and knotted back together instantly and long, yellowing talons burst from his fingers and toes.  Within seconds, he was a fully-formed werewolf.

Luke yanked hard on the dog’s lead, pulling the sleigh back as the reindeer struggled to drag it in the opposite direction.  The wolf’s powerful legs wrapped around one of the uppermost branches and clung on tightly, muscles rippling beneath the course fur.

The Anti-Claus turned and scowled at the werewolf holding him back.  “You’ll never win!” slavered the ogre.  “I’m in charge at this time of year!  I know when you are sleeping.  I know when you’re awake!  No-one can stop me from coming to town!”

With a howl, the werewolf pulled back hard on the lead.  Suddenly the leather reins snapped and the six skeletal reindeer shot skyward, their hooves pounding against the air itself.  The sleigh spun and catapulted back towards the tree, smashing into the branches and disintegrating.

Luke caught the black sack as it flew past and used his werewolf teeth to tear at the coarse material.  Hundreds of stolen toys spilled from the bag and rained down to the square below.

Resus and Cleo were waiting at the bottom of the tree as Luke clambered back down.  The transformation was reversing, and he was quickly returning to his human form.

“That,” said Resus as Luke reached the ground, “was incredible!”

“It was nothing,” said Luke.  “It just needed someone to take the lead!”

All around them, Scream Street’s residents were emerging from their homes and hiding places, righting tables and chairs while children happily collected up toys that had been stolen from them year after year.

“Hang on,” said Cleo.  “Where’s the Anti-Claus?”

“Up there,” said Luke.

The trio looked up to see the Anti-Claus, knocked unconscious by the impact, tangled at the very top of the tree.  Several zombies were already clambering up the branches with tubs of glitter, a gag and lengths of rope to secure the ogre in place.

“You said needed it something up there!” beamed Resus.

“He won’t be happy when he wakes up,” said Cleo.

“Maybe not,” grinned Luke, “but until then, we’ll have a silent night!”

THE END

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