Oh, Christmas Tree, by Daniel Ritter
Getting home from work after dark was pretty much the standard in the winter months.
He managed the keys in the lock, the front hallway, and the living room expertly in utter darkness, even overstepping the extra garbage sack next to the bin that he’d yet to remove to the garage.
He stopped in front of the Christmas tree, and fumbled around the needles of the lower branches to locate the plug. With a bit of fumbling to find the socket, he plugged in the light string, and his whole apartment lit up in multicolored glow.
He stripped off his grease-smudged work shirt and draped it over a nearby chair back. The embroidered tag on the chest read “Chris,” in a cursive script.
Chris looked at the tree, moving his head around slightly to make the lights sparkle between the branches, “Melissa would have liked this,” he said, then kicked the plug from the wall, returning his apartment to darkness.
He went upstairs through the black, navigating by memory alone.
He washed up, brushed his teeth, piled himself into an unmade bed, and fell fast asleep.
Downstairs, the tree stood there in the darkness.
One of the clumps of pine needles twitched, detached themselves, then gathered up and formed into a small spidery shape. The leaf needle spider skittered along its branch, and then down the trunk of the tree to the floor.
“Tsss Tsstssss Tsswishhhh,” the leaf needle spider scurried, and looked up at the tree from the floor.
“Tsswsss TSSSWISHHTSS TSSSHH,” the tree erupted into hundreds of detached leaf needle spiders, and they all skitter-ran to down the trunk, leaving the tree nothing but bare branches and the strings of lights and ornaments.
The leaf needle spiders crawled all over themselves, piling high, and wavering in a tall wiggly tower, “Tsswhssssh, tsswhssssh”. It leaned to one side, then corrected itself, leaned to the other and rested against Chris’ shirt on the chair.
Feeling around, it crawled an appendage over and into the shirt, exploring the name tag, “Trissss… TRISSS,” the leaf needle spiders straightened tall, and piled themselves up to match Chris’s height, and then pushed themselves outward, making legs, arms, and shaping themselves at the head into the shape of Chris’ face. “Triss.”
The tree leaf Chris picked up the shirt and tried it on; perfectly snug, except for the errant needles poking out through the cloth in places. It felt around the branchy Christmas tree and unplugged a bulb from one of the unlit strings, then shoved it into an eye socket. It pulled another and shoved it into the other. It flexed and scrunched its leafy face until the eye bulbs had enough power for the filaments inside to glow a dim orange. It blinked its glowing eyes and tilted its head side to side, stretching things into place.
“Tss Tss Tss,” the tree needle Chris raked its leafy hand across its face, combing out the needles neatly, primping. It grinned with its whole leafy face.
Tilting its head curiously to one side, it could hear the sound of Chris upstairs, snoring. The tree needle Chris walked toward the staircase, “Tsss Whsss Tsss Whsss.”
Trying out the steps, it wobbled and slipped. “WHSSS TSS SSSss,” its whole left leg fell into a pile of disorganized tree needle spiders, which skittered around in a confused pile for a minute. They then crawled themselves up into a pile again, and formed back into the shape of the missing leg. It continued climbing the stairs.
It followed the sounds of Chris sleeping, and wandered into his room, “tss whss tss whss.”
It walked up to Chris’ bed, and leaned over, moving in nearly nose-to-nose with the sleeping man, squinting it’s leafy eyebrows trying to focus the orange glow of its light bulb eyes onto his face, and it studied him.
Chris’ rhythmic breathing fluttered the leafy needles on the tree leaf Chris as it watched him sleep under its dim orange glow.
“Trissss,” it said to him, quietly.
Chris’ breathing hitched, and he rolled to his side.
The tree needle Chris looked around the room. Over near the door were a pair of discarded pants. It walked over and picked them up, noticing the heaviness in the pockets. It dug around in a pocket, finding a thick and folded square of leather. It pulled this out and dropped the pants.
It unfolded the wallet and flipped through the things inside. Squinting an orange glow, it found a single photograph inside of a young woman. “Tsllissaaaa,” it said. It opened its leafy mouth and extended a needley tongue at the photo, then licked it in one slow broad stroke from bottom to top, as if trying to taste the woman captured within.
Behind the tree leaf Chris, the flesh and blood Chris had woken up and had a pistol trained toward the shoulder of the dark outline of what looked like a man in his room.
“Don’t you freakin’ move.”
The tree needle Chris dropped the wallet suddenly and spun its head around at the noise.
“PLAKK-PLAKK” Chris squeezed off two rounds into what would have been the intruder’s shoulder.
“TSS WHISSS TSSWHISSsss sssSSss…” Before the first bullet had left the muzzle, the thing had exploded into a cloud of tree needles, which showered down all over the darkened room.
Two dim orange bulbs fell to the floor among the leaf needles and cooled to black.
Posted on December 22, 2011, in Issue 2: Creepy Christmas and tagged creepy christmas, e-zine, flash fiction, horror, microfiction, short stories, The Were-Traveler. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.