The Hollow didn’t want Christmas to be over.
It’d been quiet the past few years, and that’s how I wanted it to stay. This morning, though, I found the body of a man. I don’t know who he was or where he was from, but he’d been butchered.
His clothes were in a neat pile by the stonewall on North Road, and his skin was stretched out in long, curling strips. Muscles were stacked in one section, bones in another. The ligaments were woven into a herringbone pattern, and his organs were arranged as though they were a bird in flight.
I found dozens of small tracks, each no larger than my thumbnail, appeared to have been made by a miniature boot.
I followed the tracks into the Hollow to a small clearing where a house stood in the morning light. Smoke curled up from a fieldstone chimney, and there was an air of joy about the place.
The bloody prints led to the front door, and so I followed them.
I didn’t bother to knock. There was no handle. I pushed upon the door, and it opened on silent hinges.
In a well-appointed parlor, with a fire burning brightly in the fireplace, dozens of miniature soldiers stood at attention on their shelves. They were armed with cavalry sabers, and they wore black cloaks over blue shirts and white pants. Some were splattered with blood.
I crossed the room and passed through a second door into a workshop.
A Father Christmas sat at a table and worked diligently on the face of another toy soldier. The toy’s saber lay on the bench.
The Father Christmas looked up from his task, frowned, and I gunned him down.
Without a word, I went into the parlor and found the toy soldiers staring at me. Using the fireplace’s iron poker, I pulled the burning logs out onto the floor, where the flames leaped onto a rug and set it ablaze.
The soldiers came for me, but I kicked them aside, ignoring their slashing blades. I slammed the door closed behind me and took a seat close by, shooting the occasional toy that tried to get out of the house.
None of the toys escaped, and as the flames devoured the building, I heard the soldiers scream.
It was a good sound.