Although this challenge, created and hosted by @hallowedwinter on Instagram, focuses on visual artists, I’m participating as a “literary artist.” The challenge provides nine prompts for works of art that cross Halloween and Christmas, to be completed between Dec. 1 and 31, 2020.
1. The X-Mas Files
A greyish, syrupy membrane had formed on top of the wrapping paper, its moisture tugging on the ink in Santa’s jolly expression and melting his smile into a sinister frown. Sticky tentacles of white slime stretched wildly across the corrugated ridges of a green ribbon, tied tightly to keep the box’s contents – clearly too large for a package that size – from bursting through. It smelled like rotting meat and burnt hair, and it gave off heat at the bottom, where someone had finger-painted “i wANt 2 bELieVe.”
2. It Came Down the Chimney
Ravenous flames licked the dust off the bricks in my fireplace as I stoked the fire. Above the crackling and hissing of the burning wood, I began to notice another sound: an absurd giggling ricocheting off the walls in the flue. Hypnotized by curiosity, I leaned over the hearth. There, behind the blurry haze of the fire’s heat, I saw something taking shape. Something red … a ball. And above it … eyes. Then, a gigantic mouth … with concentric layers of fangs — suddenly sinking into my face!
3. Murder on the Polar Express
I woke up to something crushing my throat, my diaphragm convulsing as my esophagus struggled to siphon off oxygen. Adrenaline electrified my muscles, and I pushed the thing – a bloated man’s body, apparently – onto the bed beside mine in the sleeper suite. Heaving, I snapped the lights on. The man’s head had been heavily bludgeoned, leaving a crater above his nose that was filled with a cloudy pool of pureed brain and bone. And his shirt had been torn open, revealing “NAUGHTY” carved into his chest.
4. A Nightmare on 34th Street
Maggots were nursing on milky pustules inside ravines of bacterial decay on the man’s arm: four lacerations discovered upon waking. Putrefying, flayed skin had curled up in defeat around the edges of the cuts, exposing threads of muscle and releasing a sulfuric odor that pierced his tear ducts. He wiped his eyes with a handkerchief already sodden with blood and pus excreted by the gashes, and, pointing to his wounds, said, “And that, your honor, is how I know Freddy is real.”
5. Ho Ho Hocus Pocus
Razors in the barbed wire bit into my veins and drooled red venom onto the crusty upholstery of the chair I was tied to. My wrists wept the dregs of Santa’s life potion, a toxic sludge now conquering me at a cellular level. Bone fragments burrowed into my gums, my teeth resembling a broken window where Santa had rammed the oral syringe. Leaning heavily on a cane a few feet from me, he wheezed as he drew in a deep breath to reap my life force. And as I imploded from the suction, he arose.
6. It Jingles, It Jangles
Chewy, gelatinous beads of cellulite slid across her tongue like tapioca, packing her mouth full of a single rubbery, globular mass. She paused to exhale through her nose, but kept her lips powerfully clamped on the straw that was planted in her thigh. Stomach squirming, gag reflex on edge, she fought not to swallow the lard and sucked in a little more. As the grotto between her jaws reached capacity, Mr. Jingles held a bucket beside her head and proclaimed, “DIY lipo: my greatest invention yet!”
7. Do You Want to Build a Scarecrow
Grimy tail feathers slathered something warm and runny across his face as a raven hobbled in choreographed spasms across the man’s taut arms, pulled out to his sides and tied to a board. His bare shoulders, pulverized for ease of hanging, revealed the bird’s footprints like sand. Hemorrhages had colonized his major organs, distending his torso and streaming fluids down the sides of his chaps and onto the stake that had impaled him. Beside him, a sign read, “TRESPASSERS BUILD SCARECROWS.”
8. Midnight Mask
Serrated blades of moonlight sawed into his skull as the brightness of the light violated his constricted pupils. The throbbing in his head returned as the anesthesia departed. Like acid, snowflakes burned the exposed cartilage on his snout as they fell, the pain contracting his muscles violently, splitting his hooves. Frosty, the hustler performing the rhinoplasty, told Rudolph to hold still as he retrieved a shiny, red bulb from a paper bag and brushed rubber cement on it. And as the reindeer admired his new nose, the clock struck 12.
9. New Year’s Necromancy
The whisper crawled into my ear like a centipede, its words tickling my skin like tiny legs, infesting my mind with awful thoughts that hatched instantly into grotesque hallucinations. Terror pried my eyes open, forcing me to see the ghoulish spirit before us. I wrung the hands I was holding in our circle until I tore their flesh apart and felt them leaking agony in between our laced fingers. I didn’t care about their panicked attempts to break free; our circle had to remain intact! We had been warned. But at 11:59 p.m., Dec. 31, 2019, someone let go.