There wasn’t much holiday cheer going around the mean city, but there never was. Just another holiday, just another workday. Lindsay reached down to cup the fat bastard’s balls before he came. She knew he was going to, by the way his jelly bowl belly shook and shuddered against her forehead. He moaned like a girl when he orgasmed, and had the furry man boobs to complement, but he was her best customer and she always made sure to take his calls, if only because he had big money and wasn’t shy about spending it. He always called around the holidays, especially Christmas, since he had no family and was one lonely son of a bitch without her company. Without her good acting. He imagined they had a rapport, if not an actual friendship, and she thought that was the saddest thing about him. She couldn’t care less if he lived or died, only if he had the cash to pay for her services. She was worth it. She still reminded herself of it every time. She stood up, shaking out her flowing red mane, adjusting her voluptuous alabaster bosom, and leaving him basking in his sloppy afterglow. The big glob of white at the tip of the condom reminded her of the skiing trip to Big Bear she was taking during new year’s week. She was looking forward to it tremendously, even if it was an AA sponsored jaunt. They were the biggest sticks-in-the-mud she knew, but also the only friend circle she had that wouldn’t goad her into huffing lines within the first hour. She had three months clean. She planned to keep it that way.
Take a look in the five and ten, glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow…
Sharon and Leslie emerged from the high rise office building and strode to the corner, coffees in their hands and heads in the clouds. Their own universe, and the small dramas usually playing out within, always seemed to keep them from fully engaging the world around them, and this day was no different. The last day of work before Christmas, bonuses in their purses, they were set to look through everything they saw until Christmas Eve, when they were both counting on their present beaus to pop the Question. And woe be the girl who didn’t get asked for her hand, because the winner of the contest would surely rub victory carats in her face daily. To the victor went the spoils. It was just how they were raised by pampered, kept mothers and how they lived their lives in mirror reflection. Go, go, go. Win, win, win. Look good while you do it, or it’s all for naught. And if you don’t have the tools to rise above the pack, marry the toolbox. Just get there, one way or another. The end justified the means. Sharon chattered ceaselessly, only noticing the walk signal when Leslie stepped off the curb in the middle of her sentence. It irked her that her friend was paying as much attention to the stupid crosswalk as she was to Sharon’s galvanising conversation.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in ev’ry store…
He stepped off the curb with a broken, jagged mop handle clenched in his white-knuckled, stained-black fist. He saw the girls coming his way, but he always saw them coming. Everywhere he turned, their ugly leering faces, their screeching nonsensical jibberish, their sheer obliviousness to the predator that swiped past them, ever so close. Close enough to see, hear, smell, touch. Close enough to grab, squeeze, cut, smash, eat. The two heading straight for him were as ignorant as the rest. They all were. Sleepwalking through their days with no awareness at all of the menace that was sometimes only inches away. He imagined driving his mop handle through the talking one’s mouth, shattering her teeth, impaling her flimsy skull, shaking her like a rag doll on the end of his killing staff. He imagined reaching into the agape mouth of the other one, slack-jawed, glassy-eyed idiot that she was, and ripping out her tongue with his bare hands, then spearing her skull and slinging them both over his shoulder like harpooned bass. In a few quick seconds, he’d have two cups of coffee and two designer handbags full of cash, credit, and cigarettes. Life would be good. If they only knew. But they didn’t. And they wouldn’t, until the day he acted on the impulses that had been swirling in his head for so long. They all passed each other in the crosswalk, neither woman noticing him, neither seeing the look in his eye or how tightly he gripped his mop handle. He listened to their pointless chattering fade into the distance behind him, but soon the other voices replaced theirs. A legion of voices. The ones that spoke directly to him.
But the prettiest sight to see, is the holly that will be
On your own front door…
Lindsay scaled the spiral steel staircase leading to the third floor walk-up on Hollywood Blvd, cigarette dangling from her lips, finished for the night and thankful for it. Finished, that is, after one last trick. It would be an easy one, in and out, no pun intended. The guy was another repeat customer, a little weird, but they all were. He liked to sit in a straight-backed chair and jack off while she lay on his bed watching TV. She didn’t even have to take her clothes off. His conversation was for shit, but the work was preferable to any of her other gigs put together. No muss, no fuss. She even stayed an extra half hour after he came once, to finish watching a show she was enjoying. He stroked himself again and shot a blank before she left. She didn’t even charge him extra. She reached room 313 and knocked. A burly, shaggy-haired, unshaven guy in a v-neck tee answered with a sheepish smile, before his eyes darted to the floor. After three visits, he hadn’t learned to relax around her at all. Only when she was on the bed and his dick was in his hand did he assume a measure of control. She stepped past him, into the apartment, and noticed right away that the TV was playing a porno DVD. It was unusual, as he usually had network sitcoms on, and it bummed her out. Oh well, maybe he was moving on up. She knew the drill, dropping her purse and striding to the full-size bed across the small bachelor pad. She plopped down on his mattress, stretched, rolled over and looked up. The guy was standing right at the foot of the bed, a weird smile on his sweaty face. “Are we doing something different?” she asked, creeped-out but hiding it well. He nodded. She sat up, figured she’d be stripping. “Okay…like what?” His face dropped and he levelled an icy stare on her, grabbing her ankle and squeezing hard. “Ow… hey, you’re hurting me,” she spat, trying to pull away. But he was too strong, dragging her off the bed. The blanket came off with her, revealing blood-stained sheets, but the last thing Lindsay saw was the guy’s fist flying at her face.
A pair of hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Barney and Ben…
Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jen…
His blackened hands rummaged through the garbage dumpster, searching for something to eat, but really searching for anything that struck his fancy. Empty Chinese takeout containers full of bugs, a rusty chair, a baby stroller, expired fabric sale signs, the lower half of a maggot-infested grey tabby cat, a platinum blonde fright wig… He eyed the wig, pulled it over his sun-blistered skull, kept looking. A pair of dirty size 7 Chuck Taylors, a wooden female mannequin, a broken vacuum, a smashed television set, a jumble of frayed power cables, a gas mask… He drew the mask close, staring into its eyes, nose-to-nose. An hour later, he walked down Hollywood Boulevard, drawing stares from all the punks, hipsters, wannabes, and players he passed. A few people crossed the street to avoid him. He imagined choking all those weak motherfuckers, digging his black fingers deep into their eye sockets, deep, deep, deep, until he fingered their brains. He passed a thrift store, grabbed a blue blazer off the sidewalk rack. “Hey! Excuse me! You have to pay for that!” The voice sounded like it was coming from the bottom of a well and he ignored it, kept moving. Like a shark. He crossed the street, locking eyes with a smiling toddler. It didn’t fear him, and he didn’t want to kill it. He kept moving, passed a hardware store, grabbed a hand scythe off a sidewalk table. “Yo! Yo, man! Callin’ the cops, motherfucker! You better run!” You better run. He passed a Christmas tree lot, listened to the speakers pumping yuletide cheer into the street. You better not shout… you better not cry… you better not pout… I’m tellin’ you why… The voices were talking again. Louder this time. Too loud to ignore. Leave it, they said. You’re an animal, and animals don’t walk the city streets. You’ll never be free here. Your home is up there. Look up. Look up. He obeyed, turning to look. The Hollywood sign stared back at him. Beckoning.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go
There’s a tree in the Grand Hotel, one in the park as well
The sturdy kind that doesn’t mind the snow…
The guy pulled his Jeep with the matte grey spray paint job to the side of the dirt road, overlooking a cliff, high over Runyon Canyon park in the heart of Hollywood. He was only three-quarters of a mile from his apartment, but as anyone who lived in town knew, bodies turned up in the foothills all the time. Proximity to the crime meant nothing in a place like L.A. Hell, you stood more of a chance getting caught if you transported a victim a few miles to a bad part of town than if you just carried them out back to your complex dumpster. So many people, so many bad intentions. Who’s to say where anything comes from? He cut the engine and got out, looking around for hikers. It was a strangely overcast day in Hollywood, the sky a foreboding shade of grey. Not unlike his vehicle. He opened the back door and dragged Lindsay’s limp body out, casting one more glance around the hills before dropping her off the edge of the cliff, face-first. He could hear her body crashing through the tree branches on its way to the bottom, as he climbed back behind the wheel. It was easier than he thought. It was the start of a whole new chapter for him. They used to own him, but now he’d own them. As many as he could snare. None of them would be safe.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Soon the bells will start…
And the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart…
She woke facedown in the sticks. Her eyes wouldn’t focus and every bone ached. For a moment, she thought she was dead. And for another moment after, she was relieved. But alas, she was alive. Shit. She dragged herself through the underbrush, with no idea where she was or how she’d gotten there. Her head hurt like someone had tried to bash it in, and in fact, someone had. White spots floated in front of her eyes and she blinked, trying to make them go away, but they only multiplied. She slumped in the dirt and puked, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. It was cold and wet, and she finally realised it was snowing. Snowing in Southern California, the day before Christmas Eve. She smiled at the glistening flakes, holding her hand out to catch some. She’d loved the snow as a kid in Connecticut. Never dreamed she’d see it again in the belly of the beast. She struggled to her feet, leaning on a tree, looking around. Nothing but woods, but there was something familiar about them. As a resident of Hollywood, she’d jogged Runyon countless times, but she’d never been thrown from a cliff in its farthest reaches, off the trails. She’d have to take a few twists and turns to recognise the locale, but sadly, she’d never make it.
He stepped out from behind the tree Lindsay was using for support, staring her down from behind the gas mask’s plastic eyeholes. She looked up in slow motion, still not in control of her faculties, and ogled him with the marvel of a child. Not unlike the child from the boulevard crosswalk earlier. But this time, it was his turf. Interlopers were fair game. In his world, he would hunt, kill, dress, eat, repeat. In a flash, he raised the scythe, but to her it looked like slow motion. She cocked her head, remembering the ski trip she’d be taking in a few days. She’d never been skiing and was really looking forward to it. The snow floated down around the blade’s cold steel, as inexplicable as the thing that happened to Lindsay on this day. She was focused on a particularly large flake as he swung the scythe at her head. It was the most beautiful thing she’d seen in a long time. And the snow went red.
WRITTEN BY BC FURTNEY
ILLUSTRATED BY LEE DAVIS
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