Christmas Eve had finally arrived. I looked around the living room with quiet satisfaction. The lights on the tree blinked with a steady and comforting rhythm. The gifts sat underneath, pristinely wrapped. A fire crackled in the fireplace, filling the house with its soothing warmth.
I sat on the couch and leaned against my husband. My little dog curled up on my lap, his eyes begging me to pet him.
I didn’t know how long we sat like that. We reveled in the perfect peace on the night.
Gerry lifted his head and whined. Pippin joined him, and they scurried to the back of the house with their tails literally between their legs. The parakeet stopped chirping. Even the fire burned lower and almost silently.
I looked to my husband. Fear shone through his eyes, and I knew.
It was coming.
My heart pounded in my chest. I started panting. Sweat dripped from my forehead. “Not now,” I whispered. “Not on Christmas.”
I panicked. I leapt from the couch to check the doors and windows – all were closed and locked. I knew the gesture would eventually prove useless; no mere locks or doors would keep it out. It would come regardless, bearing its fangs in a sick and twisted grin. Its claws would be out, ready to shred me to pieces if I made the slightest misstep.
I had fought it off before. I looked around the room for something – anything – to use as a weapon. Why did my children have to be girls? I could have used a baseball bat or a BB gun. I couldn’t fight it with lip gloss and a Hannah Montana CD.
I risked a glance outside. Our time was up. It was here. Its hair stood up on its head, defying gravity to keep it in check. Its coat shifted colours in the moonlight and snow. The fur around its neck looked out of place in its softness. It raised its head, and I could see the horrible gleam in its ice-blue eyes. It knew we were here; it knew we were afraid.
My husband stretched his arms out to me. There would be no running or hiding. There was no way to defend ourselves. We stood together in the living room, surrounded by the perfection of Christmas, ready to face the attack head-on.
The lock on the door turned open. Despite the terror pounding through my body, I smiled. It was going to be polite before devouring us.
I gave a last thought to my girls, Elisabeth and Nicole. Both were most likely sleeping. Would they understand what had happened to us? Would it spare them? After all, it was fond of collecting children.
It came in with a blast of cold air. The wind was almost visible as it curled around the room and blew out the last vestiges of the fire.
It looked at the two of us huddled together and smiled. It probably thought we looked cute or some other such nonsense.
I took a deep breath and straightened my back. No matter what, I wasn’t going to be taken down without a fight.
My courage steeled, I said hello to my mother-in-law.