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Happy Hallmark, Baby!

Vocal+Assist December Prompt 🤍

By Celia in UnderlandPublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - December 2023

In response to a challenge set by Vocal Assist. You can find it here should you wish to be involved!

The crisp winter air bit at Talia's skin as she stepped off the bus. Her breath formed small clouds in front of her as she walked. The once-familiar streets of her hometown were now indistinct. As if trapped in a memory of a memory she could not remember. The grey, unobtrusive December sky did little to calm her rising anxiety. She had not returned in twenty years. And for good reason.

Her arrival at. ‘Hopeless Springs’ was in large part thanks to the cryptic Christmas card enfolded in her coat pocket, “Unwrap the truths you need to know. Come home for Christmas. x ” Curiosity and an unfathomable desperation for answers she did not want to hear had driven her to purchase the bus ticket and leave behind her modern South side apartment.

Talia trudged through the snow-laden paths of the village; memories filtering into her corporate soul. Mother Comb's Bakery. The smell of Christmas strudel – rum and cinnamon, laced with the sweet scent of vanilla, reminded her of all that had gone before. All that had been lost. Kantor's book shop, its window now displaying a scene of books piled into the shape of a Christmas tree. “How quaint,” she thought as she bowed her head fom the wind and continued to walk, focused on her destination.

As she turned the corner towards the house, the carollers surrounded her. Faces lit with expectation and joy, they entered into a rendition of ‘Silent Night.’ Their voices were soothing and calming. And triggering.

It had been a silent night indeed that Christmas Eve so many years ago, but yet, being here now, Talia felt it as if it were a moment ago. Her heart began to race.

She shoved past the exuberant carollers, and continued to walk down the street. Her street; lined with the ostentation and gaudiness of the festive period, rainbowed lights glared into the night. A sordid snowman stared at her as she passed, and a plastic Santa raised a glass. And there it was. Flamboyant in its desolation. Dark, unadorned. Bleak. Her childhood home.

Death had tainted Christmas cheer.

Talia hesitated as she reached the door, her hand trembling as it touched the knob.

The house grimaced as she entered – its worn shape unused to company. She walked through the hallway. In the living room, the Christmas tree, once adorned with lights and baubles of memory was dead. Brown. And dated. The electricity supply, long cut off, brought no respite. She used her phone to navigate.

She ventured deeper. In the dining room on the old oak table, where her family had once gathered excitedly every evening to discuss the happenings of the day, she found old newspaper clippings spread haphazardly across it. Each headline screamed the horrors of that devastating Christmas Eve:

“Local Family’s Daughter Missing, Mother Dead – No Suspects Found.”

It had been her. She had suppressed it for so long it barely seemed real. Like a nightmare remembered in late afternoon. Shrouded in flashes and filled with dread.

She had watched his legs from underneath the bed. He moved with precision. She heard the shots ricochet around the room. And then silence. She had waited for his footsteps to dissipate before running; clambering out of the first-floor window and shimmying down the old oak in the front yard into the night.

She had not looked back to see the blood-stained mattress or the frozen faces of her mother and two younger brothers. She had run. Like a coward.

Months later somewhere in the forest, they had found her. Too traumatised to speak. Her father had disappeared. She, the ward of the state, was protected well enough. And when she could. she left.

As she sifted through the clippings, she also found a series of letters, each detailed his plan. He had outlined the murders with chilling precision. The handwriting was unmistakable – it was her father’s. His family had become a blight - an evil representation of the devil. He would be the one to cleanse the family name and ensure their future. An upstanding family in 'Hopeless Springs'. He was a good man, he had written. Just protecting his family.

“Ah, the one that got away,” he said ominously, “Happy Hallmark, baby,” his obsidian eye fixated on the sight of his glistening rifle.


About the Creator

Celia in Underland

Just a voice finding its echo. Teacher - reader-writer-cat lover. Wanderer. Weirder than a koala in The Arctic. Magpie for shiny words and stuff. Taking the scenic route home.

Admin @ FB VoIces in Minor

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (35)

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  • ROCK 2 months ago

    This should be pitched to Netflix, 😂. Congratulations on your well earned recognition.

  • D. A. Ratliff3 months ago

    Excellent story! It is gripping and well-written.

  • Teresa Renton3 months ago

    Oh no! Does that mean the card was from him? 😮🫢 Fantastic storytelling, totally hooked! Congratulations for TS 🥳

  • Kenny Penn3 months ago

    So damn good, Celia!!! Hooked from beginning to the twisted ending I never saw coming, great story!!

  • Karissa E.L. Cuff3 months ago

    this is so eery but enchantingly written, i adored it

  • Novel Allen3 months ago

    You mean he never looked under the bed, too bad for him, so weird. But he got what he deserved. Congrats.

  • waseem Chemist3 months ago

    Excellent keep it up

  • Kendall Defoe 3 months ago

    Never read about a house grimacing. Can understand why it did...

  • sairanoor3 months ago


  • Naveed 3 months ago

    Kudos! Keep excelling in your work—congratulations!

  • Phil Flannery3 months ago

    Holy crap. A Christmas nightmare. That was chilling. Well done? I believe you met the brief. I hope you have a better Christmas than your character.

  • Kageno Hoshino3 months ago

    Great story

  • Tressa Rose3 months ago

    Great job on this, well deserved!

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story!

  • JBaz3 months ago

    Thats terrible....I mean a brilliantly written story but jeez, merry freak'n Christmas. You nailed the challenge and Congratulations

  • Dana Crandell3 months ago

    Yeah, you hit the challenge nail on the head with this one! Great job, Celia, and congratulations!

  • Babs Iverson3 months ago

    Awesome!!! Congratulations on Top Story!!!💕❤️❤️

  • Rene Peters3 months ago

    Love the twist! Amazing job! Congrats on top story! 💜

  • Jay Kantor3 months ago

    Hi-C ~ From a little Jewish kid you DO have 'Chutzpah' 'j' ~ bud

  • Real Poetic3 months ago

    I love a good micro! Congratulations!!

  • River Joy3 months ago

    Yessss! Top story. :) congrats. It's well deserved and perfectly twisted

  • Happy Hallmark! I love it. This is so beautifully yet hauntingly descriptive. Great job, Celia!

  • Margaret Brennan3 months ago

    wow. congratulations on TS. this was fantastic. It's the kind of story you want to have it continue and yet, you don't so you can use your own imagination. It sure would keep you up at night. GREAT.

  • Donna Renee3 months ago

    😁😁 I hate Christmas so this made me happy hahaha “The house grimaced” is an awesome line!!

  • Congratulations on the Top Story Celia!!! You deserve it...!!! 🥳🥰🥳

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