Kbatz Kraft: Spider Ball Topiaries

As seen in my Thrift Finds Alterations video, I picked up these holiday topiaries at Goodwill for $5 each – compared to $15 a piece on the original Marshalls and HomeGoods price tags. Although the all silver glitter urns, stems, and spikey balls scream December cheer, my little goth brain whispered black paint….

It only took a few hours to coat the stems and urns black. I worked with acrylics rather than spray paint in order to leave the balls silver, but glitter of course got everywhere. I had to make sure my paint coverage was true black and not….sparkly…but after a few touch ups it was time to break out the glue gun. It seemed fitting to put something black and morose on the balls to cover up some damaged, bald spots – tying the new dark sophistication to the glam silver with a few strategically placed dollar store plastic spiders. I was actually short as many black spiders as I wanted, for it’s tough to find Halloween accessories in June even without a pandemic. However, I still had some purple and green spiders from a dollar store ring assortment, so I just painted them black, too! Ironically, those painted spiders ended up as too many different types of spiders at once, and I went back to just a few for a less crowded scheme.

Voila! For less than the original sale price of one dated holiday topiary, I now have two statement pieces for Halloween or year round. A real holiday maven could continue the theme every month to coordinate or pop – black snowflakes, purple hearts, black four leaf clovers, red flowers, whatever your macabre little self desires. For pennies, anyone can personalize and enjoy a revitalized holiday find. Now, however, it’s time to wait for the first guest to recoil, oh yes.

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including: 

Paint it Black

Re-purposed Black Topiaries

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins Video

For more step by step Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

It Came From the Vault: Traditions by Stephen Kozeniewski



by Stephen Kozeniewski 

Granny clattered on the counter with a wooden spoon until the children stopped squabbling. When they finally turned to pay attention, she smiled, baring each and every bright white denture with joy.

“All right, little nuggets,” she said, “Now granny is going to show you what to do. Come up here.”

She lifted two-year-old Benji and planted him on the counter beside the sheer metal stockpot that was almost as tall as him.

“Now, Benji, this wax is very hot so don’t put your fingers in it and don’t splash.”

“Yes, grandma.”

“Now start to feed the coil in slowly and let me know when you run out of length.”

Giggling, Benji did as he was told.

“Granny, why do we wax the decorations?” little Suzie asked, her pinky hooked into the corner of her mouth.

“So that they last, my dear.”

“And why do we want them to last?”

Granny crouched down to Suzie’s level, even though it pained her ankles.

“Because it’s a tradition, my dear.”

Little Suzie’s eyes lit up with the wonder of excitement and recognition.

“A t’adition?”

Granny nodded.

“Like when we invite a homeless person in for Christmas?”

“That’s right.”

“All done!” Benji announced, clinging to the last link of this year’s holiday visitor’s small intestine.

Together, as they did every year, they draped the wax-dipped organ around their tree of horrors. The attic was starting to overflow with their collection of decorations.

“God bless us every one,” Benji said joyously.


Kozeniewski Author PhotoStephen Kozeniewski (pronounced “causin’ ooze key”) lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German. Find out more at: www.amazon.com/author/kozeniewski

It Came From the Vault: Traditions by Stephen Kozeniewski



by Stephen Kozeniewski 

Granny clattered on the counter with a wooden spoon until the children stopped squabbling. When they finally turned to pay attention, she smiled, baring each and every bright white denture with joy.

“All right, little nuggets,” she said, “Now granny is going to show you what to do. Come up here.”

She lifted two-year-old Benji and planted him on the counter beside the sheer metal stockpot that was almost as tall as him.

“Now, Benji, this wax is very hot so don’t put your fingers in it and don’t splash.”

“Yes, grandma.”

“Now start to feed the coil in slowly and let me know when you run out of length.”

Giggling, Benji did as he was told.

“Granny, why do we wax the decorations?” little Suzie asked, her pinky hooked into the corner of her mouth.

“So that they last, my dear.”

“And why do we want them to last?”

Granny crouched down to Suzie’s level, even though it pained her ankles.

“Because it’s a tradition, my dear.”

Little Suzie’s eyes lit up with the wonder of excitement and recognition.

“A t’adition?”

Granny nodded.

“Like when we invite a homeless person in for Christmas?”

“That’s right.”

“All done!” Benji announced, clinging to the last link of this year’s holiday visitor’s small intestine.

Together, as they did every year, they draped the wax-dipped organ around their tree of horrors. The attic was starting to overflow with their collection of decorations.

“God bless us every one,” Benji said joyously.


Kozeniewski Author PhotoStephen Kozeniewski (pronounced “causin’ ooze key”) lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German. Find out more at: www.amazon.com/author/kozeniewski

Free Fiction Friday: The Curse Of Bortegrim

The Curse of Bortegrim

By R J Murray

I was born deep in the valleys of Bortegrim, in a small town which stood a thousand miles from any other.  Within the town stood many a thatched cottage, stone bungalow and wooden barn, nestled between forestry and fields which stretched far into the wilderness.   Due to its remote location, the occupants of the town had to be self-sufficient –  harvesting and growing their own crops, vegetables, and rearing their own livestock.

To those who were unfamiliar with Bortegrim, the town appeared to be as pleasant as any could be, but as is the purpose of this story, I will show you that this was certainly not the case.   For in these parts there existed a mighty curse which, since the beginning of time had infested us like a dark disease.

Such an existence had decidedly haunted our souls and ripped through the heart of our hopes and dreams.  The adults of the town would forbid us from discussing it and indeed denied the very existence of the one who could not be named. 

Most of us learned to forget or at least pretended to forget but as much as I tried I knew that it was not to be; I could not avoid the persistent burden of this dark curse.  Day by day as I looked down upon the valley from my hill, the sight of the affected children struck a terror and a pain into my soul.  Such innocent girls and boys, when just before Christmas had been happy and able, now struggled in vain, limping and stumbling, no longer fitting their shoes, but now forever deformed, forever tainted.

Having always being somewhat different to the people of Bortegrim, I spent most of my time alone, wandering the moors and studying quietly upon my hilltop.  Of course, at times I would walk amongst the other children only to see them pointing their fingers or  whispering accusations such as “Don’t go near Wichita, she dabbles in black magic,” or “Wichita roams with the wolves, she’s dangerous you know.”  But despite feeling more detached from the others it never compelled me to change or to question my interests.  In fact, it pushed me further towards the wolves and towards my magick.

From an early age, I had been drawn to the dark arts, pagan practices and performing rituals.  I had no desire to fit in with the other children and was perfectly content with my given nature.  I was a lone soul and desired the solitude of nature and the company of wolves.

But in spite of my singularity, I continued to be emotionally effected by the curse just as much as the others.

Every year, on Christmas eve, I witnessed the children of Bortegrim shivering and shaking under their blankets in fear of becoming one of the cursed.  At precisely midnight, when the moon had hidden behind the black fog and an unmerciful frost had descended upon the rooftops, the hills would shriek with anticipation for the one who could not be named to descend.

The magpies would forewarn of the impending presence with deadly squawks. The townspeople would dash in all directions, slamming shutters, locking doors, some hiding in cupboards, some diving into underground bunkers. Within minutes, the smell of burning chestnuts would transform into choking gas and radiate the atmosphere with a putrid evil.

They tried as they could but not a million shiny padlocks could keep it out.

The carriage would arrive screeching into the valley, the stench of burning coach tyres and flames flying from the monstrous engine.

Some children would scream hail marys, some would leap around in nervous fits, crawling under beds, rattling off every prayer they could remember and swearing out godly oaths that they had been good children.

Neither man nor beast, the one who could not be named would unleash its terror, creeping unmercifully upon the chosen ones. Scarper, plead and wrestle as they tried, their feeble attempts fell into nothingness.

In through bedroom windows it would thud, bringing a stench of horrifying odour which travelled through every crevice to every room.  Shrieks that almost shattered windows could be heard far into the valleys.  One by one, each child would be grabbed by a claw of black matted hair and wet bulging palms, the fiery breath heaved upon their limbs, rusty fingernails of sharp cutters shredding shoes to pieces, grasping with hunger for what flesh lay inside.

Five toes sliced.  Another five toes sliced. Tossed into the boiling bucket they would plummet. Girls blessed with a long mane would plead in vain, clutching onto their locks in terror as they were unmercifully shredded and sliced, then packed into a wicker basket, leaving the girls clutching their bare scalps in hopeless devastation.

Indeed it lay resolute that this supernatural force could not be haggled with.

Then one year, when it had fallen once again upon the eve of Christmas, I had been cowering up on the hill, listening to the familiar screeching tearing through the soul of the valleys when unexpectedly, at the strike of twelve past midnight, a feeling of doom crept over my senses.  As I cowered upon my hill, I felt the presence of the one who could not be named as he forcefully blazed upward towards the mound, smoke trailing behind his every putrid step, unmercifully delighting in his conquest for devastation.  I knew that it was time, after all the years of bearing witness to other victims, I was now to become one of them.  A layer of black smoke blinded my vision and as the scent of horror immersed me, I felt the clutch of burning hair and dripping flesh, violently grabbing my face, my limbs.  I screamed to the heavens, trying to struggle, trying to resist but my desperate pleas were in vain.  As the tortuous pain struck through my every core, I soon felt myself become limp and helpless.  I cried out in agony to the dark sky, desperately willing the moon to feel my sorrow.


Soon after my fate had been served, I found myself becoming hardened with scorn for the one who could not be named.  As I now stumbled upon the moors, trying to adapt to my new deformity, I developed a force of vengeance in me.  I became determined to defeat the curse which lay upon the valleys.   I refused to become resolved to damnation and sought out with forceful vigour to seek revenge.

Realising that the demon could only be destroyed by an external force more powerful than it, I resolved with a mighty insight what I must do to challenge the curse.

Night after night, month after month, I continued to educate myself in the realms of the other-world.  I learned to channel the unknown divine and I conjured the elements with such purity and strength of plight that it soon created in me the level of skill required for the operation I was to perform.


The next winter, as the town prepared for the inevitable terror to fall upon them, I began to conjure a powerful concoction under the black moon.

As the coach raced towards the terrified community, I positioned myself at my altar – upon the highest hilltop, where I began the potent chanting, echoing out with passion over the vast moors, penetrating the atmosphere with my own supernatural forces.  As I chanted continuously with increasing levels of passionate conviction, a miracle force gradually began to manifest before my eyes.  As the elements crashed below the electric clouds in a ferocious whirlwind, a great blaze of lightening struck the carriage and I watched as the one who cold not be named disappeared in a mist of black smoke.


A year went by and just as before, there had been much calm upon the town until the days leading to the upcoming Christmas eve, where a mighty panic once again ensued.

Then on the evening in question and to the bewilderment of the townspeople, there arrived to Bortegrim a portly man of a kind nature, dressed in red clothing, who brought about triumphant cheer as gifts were placed under fireplaces in every little house in the valley.

The people of Bortegrim wept with happiness and relief.  The curse had been lifted!  Such joyous elation filled the streets.  Overcome with delight, they begged me down from my hill to join them as they danced a merry celebration for twenty one days and twenty one nights.


The following year, as the red man zipped up on his flying coach and departed through the clouds, a sudden storm blew and bubbled and the coach swayed violently in the strong wind.

The heavens had shifted.

As the man wrestled with the elements and I gazed silently from my hill, I could see that his white beard had given way to black matted hair and the smile which had once crossed his face had turned to a dark sneer.

And out of the flailing coach there rained upon the town a golden coat made from hair and a thousand buckets of bloody toes.


10686959_10152289676261899_8223621542015104018_nRJ Murray is a writer and musician based in Scotland.  She is inspired by old gothic authors, weird tales and odd,dark fairy tales.  She has recently published a number of short stories and is currently editing her first fantasy novel.

Visit her blog at: https://rebeccajmurray.wordpress.com/

All I Want for Christmas by Chantal Boudreau

All I Want for Christmas

by Chantal Boudreau

“Chris – did you eat any of these Christmas cookies?  I told you they were for a work function and that you absolutely were not to touch them.”

“I didn’t touch them.”  Christena tried not to sound indignant, but she hated being accused of something she hadn’t done and Ben did that to her all the time.

“Well then explain why there are three missing.  I brought home two full dozen from the bakery, but I’m short three.”

“Are you sure the bakery didn’t short you?”  The moment the words escaped Christena’s lips she regretted them.  Ben never would have left the bakery without counting and double counting them, obsessive compulsive as he was.  Even suggesting otherwise was new cause for strife.  He gave her a harsh glare.

“Do I even have to answer that? How could you do this to me?  I had one for every person at the office party.  I could have forgiven one – I would have foregone my own, but three?  Now what am I supposed to do?”

“Buy a box of doughnuts on the way in to make up the difference?”

That response was met by a disgruntled huff and the slamming of their front door as Ben stormed out.

Christena slumped into the couch.  It was her day off, even though her husband had to work.  Unlike Ben she was never guaranteed that her free time would fall on a weekend.  As a personal caregiver, she couldn’t keep regular Monday to Friday office hours because people needed care seven days a week.  Ben had often belittled her for it, suggesting a real job would pay more and offer set hours – as if somehow crunching numbers the way he did was more valuable than caring for the sick and elderly.

As soon as she was sure Ben was long gone. Christena spoke out.

“Peeve? Peeve – come on out.  I know you stole those cookies.”

Two beady eyes peered at her overtop one of the branches of the Christmas tree.  Peeve, or that was what Christena had taken to calling the gremlin-like creature, had started appearing shortly after Ben had completed his internship and had gotten his current job.  Since then, every time Ben treated Christena with any disdain or talked down to her as if he were more important than her, Peeve would exact some sort of revenge.  It was getting worse, as was Ben’s treatment of her.

“You have to stop doing these things.  I end up getting the blame for them and he leaves here irate.  When he gets home later, he’ll be a grouch for the entire evening.”

Peeve blinked at her and grinned, as if he enjoyed being the instigator of Ben’s foul moods.

Christena heaved a gargantuan sigh.  Things were bad enough between her and Ben without Peeve complicating them – not a welcome intrusion at all.

Life had been different while Ben and Christena were in college. He had been more relaxed then.  After setting his sights on her, he had broken out the charm that he now saved only for networking.  He had romanced her very diligently, with promises of a family and a pleasant future and he had kept it up until she had agreed to marry him.  She realized now that his courting had all been a calculated ploy to get himself the pretty, docile wife he saw as a requirement for a successful businessman.  She was just another notch in the post where he marked his achievements in life.

Since then, Ben had been constantly pressuring her to give up her job and find one that would better support his work hours – office work perhaps.  She had actually suggested the night before that she would do that if they finally started trying to conceive the first of their planned children, offering him a trade-off, something he wanted in exchange for something she felt she needed.  That was when Ben had dropped the startling bomb on her.  He had changed his mind.  He no longer wanted children because he expected they would interfere with his career.  He had already scheduled a vasectomy that was to take place first week in January.  Christena had been heartbroken.  She wanted children more than anything else and she didn’t believe in divorce.  It was another reason he had chosen her.  Ben considered divorce scandalous, another form of failure.

“Just stop it – alright?” she told Peeve.  “Unless you can fix what he’s about to do to me, you may as well just go away.  I’m the one who has to live with him.”

For the first time since he had begun causing trouble, Peeve emerged from the shadows.  His impish form dropped down from the tree, where it began to grow and change.  By the time he was done, the only recognizable difference between Peeve and Ben were those beady little eyes.  The monster in the shape of Christena’s husband walked over to their bedroom and paused in the doorway, gesturing for her to follow before proceeding into the room.

Christena hesitated for a moment before following, but only long enough to consider the potential consequences.  Ben would never request an abortion – that was beneath him – and as long as the child was conceived prior to his operation, he would never try to suggest it wasn’t his, especially if it looked like him.  Condoms weren’t 100% effective, and he knew it.  She told herself she would be doing this as a gift for herself… much better than the practical, emotionless, although expensive, gift she no doubt would be receiving from Ben.

“Merry Christmas,” she said, visions of a rounded belly followed by baby smells, sights and sounds filling her head.

Peeve was about to provide Christena with the best act of revenge in the face of Ben’s heartlessness yet.  And she would enjoy every minute of it.


Snapshot_20140802_2Chantal Boudreau is an accountant by day and an author/illustrator during evenings and weekends, who lives by the ocean in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada with her husband and two children. She writes and illustrates horror, dark fantasy and fantasy and along with her Fervor Series and her Masters and Renegades series, she has had many of her stories published in a variety of horror anthologies, online journals and magazines.  Find out more at: http://chantellyb.wordpress.com

The Elf by Christine Morgan


by Christine Morgan

It started last Christmas, that must have been it. Weirdest thing that ever happened to me in my life – or so I thought at the time.

Now, this Christmas, I know a little better.

My name’s Belle, Clayton Belle, and I always hated this time of year.

I blame it on my folks. Sure, everybody blames their problems on their folks, but you should have seen mine.

My dad’s name was Jim Belle, but from after Halloween until round about New Year’s, he told everyone to call him Jingle. Dressed in red and green every chance he got. Decorated the house like you wouldn’t believe. My mom was just as bad, and she had no excuse … her given name was Carol.

They wanted me to swap “Clay” for, can you guess? Sleigh. No joke. I tell you, it was enough to drive a kid crazy. Here I was trying to be normal …

That was why, as soon as I was old enough to get out on my own, I gave up on Christmas. No, that’s putting it too lightly … I went out of my way to avoid the whole thing.

Maybe that’s why it happened. Maybe it was some strange message, some sort of off-the-wall Christmas revenge. Like in the story about Scrooge, except I didn’t get three ghosts. Didn’t even get one.

What’d I get? Some little freak with rabies …

I’d done pretty good at getting away from it all. I’d finally saved up enough to move out of the apartment into a house, tiny but my own. I had a telecommuting job, which spared me the yearly hassle of office parties, Secret Santas, holiday music over the intercom, and all that.

So, for the first time in years, I was expecting a nice, stress-free December.

Then it happened. Christmas Eve.

That was when I heard the bells.

Jingle-jingle-jingle, clanging and grating on my nerves, bringing back all my tension like it had never been away.

I shot to my feet, fists curled. If this was the preface to a spontaneous outbreak of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” from trespassing carolers, I was going to blast them with the hose and 20-degree temperatures be damned!

Stalking to the door, I yanked it open. But already, the sound was receding, dwindling into the distance … and even then I remember thinking that it almost seemed to be receding upward … but of course I didn’t give that idea a moment’s serious consideration.

Not then.

The people across the street were the Jaimesons. I’d seen them come home a week or so ago with a tree

lashed to the roof of their car, but they were good about it, and kept their stuff private. If they wanted to be as looney as my parents in the privacy of their own home, that was their business, and they didn’t try to inflict it on the rest of us.

But now, something was hanging on their door. Even at midnight, every house on the street dark and sleeping, I couldn’t miss it. The full moon and the snow conspired to make it almost as bright as day, and the wreath that now hung on the Jaimeson’s door was twinkling with tiny red and white bulbs, like holly berries amid the shiny green leaves.

And there was something on the porch … from here, it was a bump of scarlet and white in an uncertain shape.

I couldn’t help it … anger set in. Some nerve the Jaimesons had, sneaking out in the night to put up that wreath, thinking no one would notice. Before I fully knew I meant to, I was striding down my walk, slippers crunching through the crust of the snow. I crossed the icy street and marched up their lawn, driving deep tracks. They’d see, they’d know, but I didn’t care.

The crumpled shape was recognizable now, a stocking. A plush cranberry-red velvet stocking with a ruff of white fur. It was lumpy … it was moving.

A nasty spear of fright jumped through me before I realized that the movement was due to nothing more than a toy, a child’s wind-up toy that had been jogged by the fall to the porch.

I could see it easily in my mind – Hank Jaimeson in full Santa regalia, smuggling in the sacks of goodies he’d had hidden in the garage, but dropping a stocking as he paused to put the wreath on the door.

My intent was to pull it down and pitch it, maybe onto the roof, maybe into the bushes, I don’t know. But as I reached for it, I heard a high mewling sound from inside the stocking.

My first thought was that it was a kitten, that old Hank had gotten his daughters a kitty but didn’t notice when it fell from his bag.

My second thought was that it would serve them right, a nice gruesome Christmas surprise to find frozen solid on the stoop.

But I may have been a Scrooge, I may have been a Grinch, I may have been a sour old jerk, but I wasn’t a total bastard. Couldn’t leave an innocent kitten to freeze to death in the night.

I bent down and scooped up the stocking. It squirmed in my grasp, and yes, there was something warm, something alive, in there.

“Hey, kitty-kitty,” I said.

I reached in, meaning to pet the soft bundle of fur.

Instead, my fingers found skin.

And an unbelievable explosion of pain.

It was like a spring-loaded beartrap of needles, sinking into the tender web between my thumb and index finger.

I screamed or cursed, or both mingled, and flung the stocking away from me. It flew off into the snow, but the biter held on, dangling at the end of my arm. My flailing motions made it clamp down tighter, and now rockets of pain were shooting up my arm to my head, where they burst like the Fourth of July – a holiday I’ve never had a problem with.

But I did have a problem with what I was seeing. A major one.

An elf was battened onto my hand.

An elf, yes, that’s what I said.

He was about eighteen inches high, maybe two feet, it was hard to tell. Built like one of those pudgy little gnome you sometimes see on the lawns of people who should know better, but light as a feather. He was wearing short pants (winter-white), a red vest, and those dorky curled-up shoes with bells on the toes. If he’d had a hat, it had fallen off, because his pine-green hair was blowing free around a set of ears that would have made Mr. Spock blush.

His eyes were the huge winsome adorable eyes of a cartoon character, but no cartoon character’s eyes had ever glittered with such a hard and flat hatred. A snarl, muffled by his mouthful of my hand, issued from the back of his throat.

I screamed again, this time more in horror than pain, though there was still pain, plenty of it. With my other hand, I grabbed him around his potbellied middle and tried to tear him loose.

It didn’t work. Those fangs were embedded like a snake’s. But abruptly, the elf let go of his own accord. He scrambled up my arm, headed for my face.

My third scream broke decibel records. I reeled and staggered, trying to knock this deranged thing off of me. The backs of my legs hit the Jaimesons’ planter and I toppled over backward, feet flying. My breath was jarred out of me in a huge frosty cloud.

The crazed elf skittered onto my chest, his impish face twisted in pure madness. I didn’t know what he was going to do, and suddenly had a bizarre vision, one that might have been funny if it hadn’t been so hideous – my disembodied head impaled on the top of a Christmas tree in place of a star.

The Jaimesons’ door banged open, throwing a fan of light onto the snow. The elf hissed and was gone, springing from my chest in a bound that carried him into the concealing bushes.

The next thing I knew, Hank Jaimeson was there, in a robe, his eyes puffed from sleep and wide with shock. His wife and kids crowded into the doorway, all babbling at once.

Calls were made, to the police and to an ambulance. I was taken to the hospital because they thought I was having some sort of a breakdown. They had to think that, because I wasn’t wounded. The bite-mark on my hand was gone, except for a semi-circle of tiny white scars that almost looked like snowflakes.

I did some time under observation, and more time in court-ordered therapy. The consensus was that I must have snapped under the holiday strain. When I finally got home, the neighbors treated me with caution and even more distance than before.

The Jaimesons moved out that spring, the whole turn of events having been so traumatizing for their kids – waking to my panicked screams on Christmas gave little Amber Jaimeson nightmares for weeks.

But eventually, things got back to normal. Or so I thought.

I was fine until around October.

That was when I started to feel restless. Itchy, almost. Impatient, dissatisfied. I didn’t know what I wanted, but something was missing. Something I needed.

A few days after Halloween, as I was lugging the shells of my jack-o-lanterns out to the trash, I caught myself humming.

Humming a Christmas carol.

Appalled, I stopped then and there with my feet buried in a drift of leaves and a slightly mushy pumpkin sagging in my grip. I silently asked myself if I’d really been doing that, but I’d heard me. I could even Name That Tune – it had been “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

About a week later, I saw that they’d stocked the shelves in the dairy section of the local market with the first eggnog of the season, and my heart took an unprecedented and distinctly unwelcome leap of joy.

When I got home from my errands and started unloading my groceries, I found a carton of eggnog.

I wasted no time but raced right back to the market. The cashier who’d checked out my purchases was still there, and I stormed up to her, not sure if I meant to apologize for taking the eggnog by mistake or to berate her for mixing it in with my order.

But she told me that I had bought it, and had even remarked on how glad I was that they finally had some in the store. And that when she had replied with something to the effect of how it seemed the holiday season started earlier and earlier every year, I’d said ‘good!’


I had no recollection of that at all, and would have never said such a thing! Not me! Not Clayton Belle!

I decided she must have been having fun at my expense, and put it out of my mind. I planned to dump the eggnog down the sink and forget the whole matter.

I drank it instead.

I didn’t mean to … I just took the carton out of the fridge – and only then did it occur to me to wonder why I hadn’t returned it to the store and gotten my money back – and opened it.

And the scent hit me in a great rolling wave of creamy, nutmeggy temptation … and before I knew what was happening, I was guzzling it straight from the carton with such gulping greed that overflows were running in rills down my chin.

I leaned over the sink, nauseated and afraid, wondering if I was going to bring it back up. But it stayed, a thick liquid weight in my stomach, and I imagined I could feel it spreading out in there, sending out tendrils of itself, into my veins, coating my organs, being carried to every cell of my body.

Another week passed, and I was cranky all the time, missing something, needing something, not knowing what it was. Little things kept happening, distressing little things. Nothing big, nothing like the Great Eggnog Experience, but upsetting ones all the same.

Being at the drugstore, having to walk down the seasonal aisle to reach the pharmacy, and lingering over the cards and garlands that had begun to creep in among the turkeys and harvest decorations.

Shopping a catalog for some new clothes and only realizing when my order arrived that some of the things I’d bought were eerily familiar – winter-white pants, a red cardigan vest. And a green knitted cap, where had that come from?

Waking in the middle of the night with the most terrible craving for cookies, not just any cookies but specific kinds. I had to have the butter-shortbread ones crusted with colored sugar … I had to have gingerbread.

Then things started getting worse.

I bought a box of candy canes and ate them all in the car, the entire sticky red-and-white dozen of them, until my tongue and lips were bright pink and the taste of sweet mint seemed to permeate my entire being.

I found myself taking long aimless drives around town to look at the holiday lights and decorations … I even went to the mall and stood amid a smiling crowd as little kids waited for their turns on Santa’s lap.

I was humming again, and then singing low, and finally singing aloud, whenever I heard the carols … and I knew every single word.

I had been flipping channels and happened across a Christmas movie, the one about the boy who wanted a BB-gun. And, telling myself that nothing else good was on, wound up watching it. And then, worst of all, realizing it was a marathon, 24 hours of that same movie, and I stayed up all night watching it and fell asleep in my chair and woke up and kept watching it, until noon the next day.

The day it all came crashing down on me, I was at the park. It was December 22nd and I’d gone for a long brisk walk, hoping that the cold air and exercise would snap me out of this constant state of alternating trance and terror.

A woman said ‘Merry Christmas!’ to me, and I said it right back at her.

She passed without looking back, which was good, because my expression would have horrified her. It horrified me and I didn’t even have to see it; I could feel it. That was the first time those words had passed my lips in almost twenty years, but I hadn’t just been saying them.

I’d meant them!

I uttered a rusty screech and ran for home. Something was happening to me … I had to get help … there had to be something they could do …

I reached my yard and the strength ran right out of me like water through a sieve.

Lights sparkled along the eaves and around the windows of my house. More lights, string after string of them, wrapped the fence and the tree in the front yard. A red ribbon had been wound around the post that supported the mailbox, giving it an effect that could be construed as barber-pole but I knew better! A plastic reindeer with a red lightbulb for a nose stood beside the walk, and a wreath hung on the door.

It was the wreath that pushed me over, because it was practically identical to the one that had been on the Jaimesons’ door last year. Their house had sold but the current owners were spending the winter in Arizona with their grandkids, and thus hadn’t seen the terrible thing that had taken place across the street.

Someone had decorated my house!

No … I had done it. And couldn’t remember doing it.

Haltingly, scared to death of what I might find inside, I went up to the door. The wreath seemed to stare at me like a big round eye, laugh at me like a big round mouth.

I wanted to rip it down, rip all of it down. What would people think if they saw this? What would they say?

I steeled myself and plunged inside.

If I could have drawn breath, it would have been last year’s business all over again, for I would have screamed and screamed until the neighbors called 911. But my breath was stolen from me by the sight of the interior of my house.

It was a nightmare made real. That’s all I’ll say. I can’t bear to describe how tall the tree was, how many garlands festooned the stairway banister, what horrors awaited me on the mantle. I can’t stand to think of the candles, the presents, the three-tiered tray of cookies and fudge and divinity.

Even the bathroom wasn’t safe, because the shower curtain, the towels, even the toilet-lid cover, had been replaced by new ones in a poinsettia pattern. But despite that, the bathroom was still the least objectionable place in the house, and it was there that I collapsed in a dead faint.

I woke over twenty-four hours later to unbelievable pain in my hand and arm. Dimly sure that I must have been laying on them, I pushed myself up and looked.

The scars … the tiny semicircle of snowflake-shaped scars … they had faded nearly to invisibility over the year but now they were back. Standing out in vivid relief, almost seeming to wax and wane in time with the throbbing I felt in every nerve.

And yet, even with the throbbing, even with an ache that seemed to burrow into my bones, I felt full of a hectic, wild energy. Mania, almost. No, not almost … it was mania. I wanted to do something, had to get up and get moving, but I didn’t know what.

I tried to rise, shakily got as far as the sink, and caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror.

But at first, I didn’t know it was me … I had never in my life worn a silly little pointy cap with a bell on the end.

I cried out, thinking it was a stranger, an intruder, that I’d surprised in my home. My reflection reacted along with me and then I knew, but that knowing was untempered with relief.

I looked … different. It wasn’t just because of the cap.

My hair looked wrong. Longer.

My eyes were huge, but I attributed that to shock and fear.

My ears …

I didn’t want to see any more, and fell back onto the bathmat.

The ache intensified. I could hear the radio playing in the other room, tuned to the nonstop holiday music station.

I felt as if I was being crushed, slowly crushed under an impossible weight. I imagined I could hear my bones crunching, feel myself being squashed, compressed. An appalling, stretchy sensation tugged at my ears.

A dark corner of my mind knew then what was happening to me, but the rest of my mind rejected it. Ignoring the pain and the horrendous things that were going on in my body, I got up to splash cold water on my face …

And couldn’t reach the sink.

I was standing, but I was on eye-level with the cabinet where I kept the cleanser and spare rolls of tissue.

Very, very slowly and very much against my will, I looked down at myself.

Yes, I was standing … assuming those were my feet in the curly-toed shoes about eighteen inches below my head. Assuming that was my torso I was seeing, pooching out into a potbelly.

A wavery, uncertain noise came from my throat. I started to bring up my hands, to explore my head, but paused and let them drop. I had to see.

With strenuous effort, I clambered onto the toilet, and from there onto the counter. I edged out around the basin, keeping my eyes on my shoes – my horrible curly-toed shoes – until I was there.

Then I looked.

An elf looked back at me.

It had my blond hair, only grown long and silky. My brown eyes, cartoon-character cute. My features … changed and made sharper, fairer, more … elfin.

I opened my mouth to finally voice the scream that would rouse the neighborhood, maybe even the town. But before I could finish drawing my breath, my gaze fell on what was also shown in the mirror, the reflection of my dining room beyond the half-open bathroom door.

The table was covered with things. With tools, and paint-pots, and lengths of wood, and stuffing, and wheels. Half-finished toys were scattered all over the table, and a box of finished ones rested underneath. The mania that had been surging in me now came roaring up full-force.

Because time was short! Time was so very short! Tomorrow was Christmas Eve!

Tomorrow was Christmas Eve and I was behind in my work!

I yipped in alarm, sprang down from the sink in a sprightly hop, and rushed to my workbench.

And I knew, as I picked up my paintbrush to apply rouge-spots to the cheeks of a dolly, what I was. I knew what would happen to me this time every year, not ruled by the phases of the moon but by the seasons, when the change would set in.

Helpless to resist, caught in the grips of the dreadful transformation, compelled by my hungers and driven to do unspeakable things … with no folklore, no gypsy woman, no one to help me or tell me how to break the curse …

The terrible curse of the were-elf!


christChristine Morgan works the overnight shift in a psychiatric facility, which plays havoc with her sleep schedule but allows her a lot of writing time. A lifelong reader, she also reviews, beta-reads, occasionally edits and dabbles in self-publishing. Her other interests include gaming, history, superheroes, crafts, cheesy disaster movies and training to be a crazy cat lady. She can be found online at https://www.facebook.com/christinemorganauthor