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.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme