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"BETTER NOT CRY"

Written by Mason McDonald

Miranda is in the closing lap of her Final Girl Circuit and isn’t sure she is going to make it. She’s seen enough horror movies to know where things are headed: her left leg is losing blood very quickly and is only going to get her about as far as the scene of her murder. There are no other people around to help her. She didn’t make a last ditch effort to call the police in the previous scene. None of her friends are going to make a surprise reappearance at the climax, bloodied but alive, and save her. That is very impossible; their heads are in his sack of toys.

She never figured out who he is, or where he came from. One second they were all closing up for the day, another successful Christmas Eve at SupaMart in the books, and the next she was hiding behind the inflatable reindeer, her hand over her mouth, while Santa Claus stuck an ice axe into Terry’s neck and hacked away until his head rolled across the linoleum. It happened so fast. So fucking fast.

His entire look is stereotypical save for his face. Where most mall Santas have those cute round spectacles, his eyes are completely hidden in darkness under his low-fitting red hat and white curly hair. His beard is magnificently large and white and covers the rest of his features, as a good Santa’s should. When he made his first appearance during their closing celebration in the middle of their holiday display, when all the staff were sharing paper cups of eggnog and rum that Brenda had supplied, his suit was pristine, his look immaculate. They greeted him, thinking he was the Santa that had sat in the velvet throne behind them all evening and took pictures with the kids. Miranda knew it wasn’t him, however, because their Santa had used a cheaper suit with a bright, crayon red coat. This Santa’s outfit looked like the real thing. His was the same velvet as the throne and was the same deep red as spilled blood.

After they greeted him, he stayed silent. They tried talking to him, asking if he was a customer they missed and was now locked in, or if he was one of the other staff members playing a joke. After a while, Santa dropped his beige sack to the floor and reached instead. Toys rattled and clacked against one another. A few almost fell out as he shuffled them around. When he stood up, he was holding a large leatherbound book that looked older than any Bible she’d ever seen. He read from it quietly, murmuring under his breath, as he followed along with a finger. He wore black gloves. As he read, he’d stop and look up and around at them, and then continue reading. Finally he finished and packed the heavy tome back into the bag.

He swapped it for the ice axe.

It was short and sharp with a handle painted in spiraling red and white. It resembled a big, violent candy cane.

While everyone else was more confused than anything, Miranda had what she can only explain as a premonition. A sort-of sixth sense. Her whole life, she’s been obsessed with horror movies. Specifically, slasher flicks. Jason, Freddy, Chucky, Warden, she loves all of those guys. She began to instinctively take a few steps back, readying herself to break from the group and make a beeline for the warehouse.

“What do you want, buddy?” Colin, their manager, asked.

Miranda knew what he was doing. It clicked together for her extremely fast. These guys are all the same thing, and that thing is: predictable. She loves these movies but they all follow the same recipe. They each have their own schtick (Jason’s mommy issues, Freddy’s dreams, and so on), but that is where their uniqueness ends. What Santa was doing was painfully obvious to her.

He was checking his list. Doing it twice.

Making sure they were all there.

Santa brought the ice axe down into Colin’s forehead and Miranda broke away, sprinting to the beat of her friends’ and coworkers’ screams.

The warehouse had been a bust. All of the doors were locked or barred from the outside. She frantically pressed the electronic button for the loading dock doors but they could only raise about an inch before getting snagged on something. She couldn’t see what it was, but the sound of chains rattling told her everything she needed to know.

He’d chained them shut.

Of course she tried the phone at the warehouse desk. No dial tone. He cut the cords.

Okay. She wasn’t thinking, she was panicking. She grabbed her phone from her back pocket, the phone she wasn’t supposed to have on the floor but everyone still did anyway, and this was when things got really weird.

Like really fucking weird.

No service. Instead of bars in the top right corner, there was a simple Ø. No Wi-Fi either. The service in the building was never great seeing how it is basically a giant concrete and steel cube, but there is always something.

For the better part of the next 90 minutes or so, she was either hiding as he crept around or running as he slowed himself down with another victim. She tried hiding with Brenda under a canoe in sporting goods, but when they heard his boots jingling nearby, Brenda whimpered and gave them away. He cut off her head and impaled her on a bike rack, leaving her crucified corpse dangling there like a recreation of Jesus Christ, Athletic Superstar.

Maryanne had her guts spilled in produce, and Robert was vivisected in housewares. Leah was beheaded in the deli and bound like a turkey before being shoved into an oven and roasted. Marcus was hiding in automotive when Santa pushed a funnel down his throat and drowned him with antifreeze. Santa’s sack is filled with heads and saturated in blood. Everywhere he goes, he drags a bloody trail like a grotesque Christmas snail.

Darla was the last before Miranda. Her body was impaled atop the store’s Christmas tree, the star glowing through the bare skin of her stomach, a beam of light shooting from the stub of her neck like a light show in Vegas.

Like every Final Girl at the beginning of their circuit, Miranda tried to fight back. She armed herself with a cleaver she pulled from Robert’s torso and waited behind an air fryer display for Santa to step by, his boots giving him away. She managed a nice hack at his back as he passed, but he spun and knocked the cleaver from her hand. After a short fight, he managed to stick her in the thigh with the ice axe. He must’ve struck an artery because it bled like crazy, soaking the axe and the floor. Santa, whose coat and beard were already covered, slipped in the spillage. Miranda took this opportunity, as fleeting as it was, to hobble away and make one final run for the front of the store. Her only hope is to get there and break the glass before he gets to her.

Again, Miranda knows horror movies. She knows how this is going to play out. She isn’t stupid. Best case scenario, she gets out and flags down a passerby, thinking she is safe. That is when Santa will pop back out and she will die screaming. Worst case scenario, she can’t break the glass and either bleeds out or Santa comes and cuts her head off.

Either outcome ends with her skull in his fucking sack.

“I gotta be the twist,” she grunts as she grabs a shopping cart with blood soaked hands. She pushes the cart over to the window, dragging her limp, dying leg behind her. In the distance, bells. “I hate twist endings,” she says.

In all the movies, the Final Girl is only slightly more three-dimensional than the bodies that drop before her. Sometimes they have boyfriends, parents, maybe they have a career or school aspirations. They have just enough to make them feel like people and not just another blood bag for the killer to puncture.

Miranda doesn’t have much going on for her. She lives alone in an apartment with a beautiful view of the worst part of town. Her dog is fifteen and on his last legs, but Sparky won’t give up the ghost and she can’t bear to put him down. She likes drinking on Fridays and making tacos on Tuesdays. Nobody will make a movie out of her.

She tightens her grip on the cart as the jingling bells get closer.

If the credits must roll, then they shall. But she is going to fight like hell to extend the runtime. Let’s pad this bitch out, she thinks.

She runs as fast as her injured leg will allow her. The cart accelerates slowly at first, but the momentum builds. She doesn’t know if it will be strong enough to break the glass doors. She doesn’t care. She will try and she will let the script decide the rest.

The cart collides with the glass and for a fraction of a second she thinks it doesn’t work. That she’s going to bounce back on her ass and wait there for Santa Claus to come to town.

That doesn’t happen. Instead, the glass explodes. It rains down like snow, some of it hitting her and slicing her flesh, but she doesn’t even notice. She cries out in victory and steps through the mess of shards and jagged pieces of glass.

She stops. Thinks for a second. Then, she bends and picks up a shard the size of a butcher knife. She squeezes it so hard it serrates her skin and spills more of her blood. The jingling behind her is louder and when he catches up to her, she intends to stick Old Saint Nick right in his fucking neck and see if all of his Christmas cheer bleeds out.

The parking lot is empty because the staff parks in the back. It is snowing, and the bright pole lights illuminate everything in the awful white glow of modern day. As she pushes through both the pain and the lot, the snow picks up and blows harder. Her visibility turns to shit and she can’t fight back the bark of laughter that escapes her.

A white out. How fucking cinematic.

Well. She can’t see, there are no cars, and no one around to help her. She’s getting dizzy from the loss of blood and doesn’t have long before she’ll collapse within herself and hit the pavement. She can keep running, or she can turn and wait.

She turns. And she waits.

This Final Girl isn’t running anymore.

“I’m on the naughty list, right?” she says into the snow. The backlit yellow SupaMart sign blasts through the snow and in the glow of the store’s open mouth is the silhouette of Father Christmas, ice axe and sack in hand.

“Well fuck you, Santa,” she finishes. “I’ll be your queen bitch and make sure before tonight is over and my head is in that gross sack of yours, that I take a chunk of you with me motherfucker.”

Santa runs at her.

“Fuck me,” she says and raises the glass shard, “they never run!”

Santa raises the ice axe high over his head and swings it down. Miranda narrowly avoids being struck by moving in closer to him and hitting his chest with her shoulder. This knocks them both off balance and they fall on the cold, wet pavement. Santa lands on his back and Miranda, screaming from the pain in her leg, scrambles on top of him and mounts his chest.

She’s stopped, momentarily, by the squirming things that wriggle under his coat. It feels as if he’s filled with worms and other serpentine creatures, all coiling together. “What the fuck are you?” She plunges the glass right where his neck meets his collarbone and starts ripping it down, meaning to gut him. She knows what will happen if she settles for a simple stab—he’ll grab her leg as she stands, thinking everything is fine. She has to Tommy Jarvis this fat fuck.

As she pulls the glass down, it cuts deeper into her palm and fingers until it hits bone. Should she survive this, her hand will never work the same. She’s obliterating the nerves and ligaments that keep it going.

Santa doesn’t scream. His head thrashes side to side and he bats at her, but he doesn’t make a single sound. Psycho or not, that’s weird.

The makeshift blade slices through him easily. Almost too easily. His skin and meat separate like soft butter. She isn’t interrupted by bones. Really, the only struggle is the high quality fabric of the coat. When she gets to his belly, she can only pull it slightly farther as her own legs get in the way. She tears the blade free and means to stab him in the face, poke out his eyes, turn his features to hamburger meat, but he finally bucks her off. She hits the ice and slides a few feet. This is it, she knows. She’s lost too much blood. If he gets up and comes for her, she’s dead. The glass falls from her hand, as she’s lost the ability to close her fingers.

Santa stands. He’s barely visible through the blowing snow. As he gets to his feet, his stomach opens up and his guts hit the icy pavement with a wet splash. Some dangle and hang on, connected by sinewy cords. At first, these appear to be intestines and organs. A liver, maybe. Buckets of blood and viscera like she’d seen the deli workers empty into their bins after preparing the fish for the day.

He keeps walking, dragging the wet bits along with him. Shambling is a good word for it. He gets closer and she sees clearly that it isn’t his bowels that’s left him, isn’t his lower intestine hanging from his open belly like Christmas garland from hell.

They’re moving. Coiling up into one another. Worms. Slimy tentacles. Tails. She doesn’t have the proper word because they’re unlike anything she’s ever seen. More squeeze from him like the white tangles that sprout from root vegetables when they’ve sat for too long. They snap and flick at the air. The pile behind him inches forward, crawling through the snow and ice and slush, and has its sights set on her.

Santa is above her now, his torso an open maw full of squirming nightmares, and he raises the ice axe high above his head. Then, he drops it behind him. For a moment Miranda wonders if she succeeded and next he’d fall backwards, dead. But instead, Santa reaches for his bag. The sound within as he lifts it is like a bunch of wet bowling balls clacking together. Santa holds the bag open like he’s thinking of the wrong holiday, and the worms start out at her.

She’s seen a lot of horror movies. Seen all the twists one could imagine.

She never saw this coming.

mason mcdonald 01Mason McDonald is the author of A Time For Monsters. When not inventing yuletide boogeymen, he can be found drinking booze and fist fighting his own personal Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come. He currently lives in Port Morien, NS with his wife Jenna and their collection of animals.

You can pick up his collection by clicking one of the links below!

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