The sound of merrymaking ripped through the air.
The house stood on the edge of the Hollow and North Road where the stonewall ends.
No house should have stood there, but the Hollow cared little for the rules of this world.
Despite the cold, the windows and door were thrown wide. Light spilled out onto the porch and illuminated the darkness. In the crisp air, I could smell hot chocolate and candies, cookies and Christmas pies. All the good and sweet things beloved by children and adults on Christmas Eve.
I went up to the house, eased my way across the porch with its snowdrifts, and entered the home. Beneath the smell of sweets was the unpleasant odor of rotting meat. The walls were decorated with Christmas pictures and bows, yet I could see a thin film of filth coating it all.
Music wafted from a room at the far end of the hall, and while the notes were pleasant, there was an undeniable discordant sound woven into the weft of the tune.
The house was bad, as was whoever lived within it.
I reached the room at the end and looked in at a parlor. A grand Christmas tree occupied the far corner, and a Father Christmas stood with his back to the door. From where I stood, beneath the glam and the glimmer, I saw a blight upon the branches, and the cloth of Father Christmas was poor.
When he spoke a moment later, his words wheezed out, body rattling.
The air became fetid and thick with sickness, a stench that raised my bile and caused me to draw both Colts.
Thumbing the hammers back, I waited, the revolvers ready.
Father Christmas turned around, and I gazed upon the face of pestilence. His eyes were gone, face ravaged, his beard stricken with mange. He shivered as he turned his ruined visage upon me, mouth spreading wide to reveal broken and blackened teeth. His nose had long since rotted off, and in the brief moment, before he spoke, a single strip of flesh fell from the bridge of his nose and fluttered to the floor. The skin rested between his worn and ragged boots as he croaked, “Father Christmas is here, Childe.”
I shot him twice, and as he crashed to the floor, I emptied the Colts into him.
I hate the Hollow.