Saturday, December 15, 2018

Ho...Ho...Holidays Horror!

So, over the years I've written several Christmas-themed horror stories, starting with "The Werewolf that Saved Christmas." Unfortunately, that one was lost due to a flash drive mishap and no additional backup. (I swear by Dropbox and have for years now!) The wolfish main character in the aforementioned  does appear in a sequel of sorts, which you can read here. But this time he saves Christmas from bloodthirsty vampires, not a case  of flu-stricken reindeer.

Tired of those annoyingly cute Elf on the Shelf memes? You might enjoy an evil Elf story called "Hellf." Check it out here. But it's not at all cute. You've been warned!

And finally, another Yuletide horror classic involving zombies, Santa...and fruitcake. Need I say more? Pour some whiskey-spiked egg nog, open wide and enjoy it here.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, I figured since I've written a handful of Christmas-themed horror stories over the years, which you can find to the right in previous postings, an Easter horror story, and of course, my latest Halloween horror story, which can (not so shameless plug) be found here and here, as well as here, it was time for a Thanksgiving story. So without further ado, please enjoy what's below whilst you gorge yourselves on turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and the trio of football games today.

Copyright 2018

The Cartwell family gathered every Thanksgiving at Grandpa Cartwell’s log cabin in the mountains. Both sons and daughter drove in from the city, just an hour’s drive, and brought their own children. Sometimes aunts and uncles would make the trip, too, nieces and nephews, and once the Cartwell family fall get-together boasted nearly forty guests! This year, however, the total was almost half that, which suited the senior Cartwells just fine.

The log cabin was one of those fancy two-story domiciles, with lots of spare rooms for visiting family. Plus the downstairs rec room could be used for extra guests, if needed. Grandpa Cartwell wouldn’t hear of family having to stay at motel, if he could help it. And family was the most important thing to him…next to the traditional and very special holiday gathering.

The annual autumn Feast was THE event of the season.

Like most families, they ate early in the day, Grandma Cartwell preparing the usual assortment of Thanksgiving delicacies, with help, of course, from their daughters and granddaughters. They sat around the large open-air family room, sipping after-dinner drinks (non-alcoholic for the kids, although the teenagers were allowed to sample Grandpa’s homemade cider). 

While the adults were mostly relaxed and comfortable, the children got antsy and anxious, as usual. They bounced around in the downstairs rec room, watching movies but mostly playing video games or watching YouTube, excited for the evening’s delicious grand finale. You see, after the afternoon’s sumptuous meal, they waited until later to enjoy their final meal of the day. The Feast always ended with a fine, unforgettable dessert of the most exquisite variety. But Grandma wasn’t responsible for this, no, this was Grandpa’s doing. You could say it was truly the one thing everyone looked forward to.

As dusk approached, they exited the spacious home for the vast backyard, which led down a gently sloping and neatly kept lawn to the wooded hills. Beyond that loomed the mountains. As the extended Cartwell family settled around a medium-sized bonfire, Grandpa brought along his banjo and harmonica, and they all sang and laughed. Once night fell, the elderly Cartwell put down his instrument and glanced over the flames at his oldest son, who nodded at him.
Both men quietly left for the house, heading for a pair of locked cellar doors set to the left of the rear back deck. Everyone watched expectantly, eyes gleaming with barely restrained excitement. 

High above in the night sky, the full moon washed down on them with ashen pale light.

Five minutes later, the elder Cartwell and son led the shackled figure over to the bonfire. He’d stumbled along behind them, led by a thin chain leash and sturdy leather collar attached to his neck. Earlier in the day, down in the locked basement cell, he’d been hosed down after his clothes had been removed. Later, those filthy garments would be destroyed, incinerated in the bonfire. His wallet and its contents, as well. The man had a smartphone when they’d found him, but that had been taken care of weeks ago, the battery and SIM card removed and disposed of. His pickup truck with out-of-state plates was long gone, too. No one knew he’d been the Cartwell’s very special guest for tonight…or Guest of Honor, you could say. 

The younger son met them just short of the bonfire, grinning, and the rest of the family, including the kids, rose from the seats. Everyone stared raptly at the naked man. He swayed on his feet, eyes widening, mouth working, but no words that made sense came out. His tongue had been removed a while ago, the wound cauterized. And he’d been given a steady diet of whiskey and high-calorie shakes to fatten him up a bit. 

“You made a big mistake coming to town, buddy,” the younger son quipped. He’d drunk his share of cider, but was only mildly buzzed, unlike the man. “You should’ve never messed with Jenny out at the truck stop. She’s a sweet, pretty gal, but she’s only 17, you fucking pervert!” He loosed a loud, braying guffaw. 

“Honey, the language…the kids!” his wife said. But she only chuckled at her admonishment of him. He shook his head, tugged off his sweater, and dropped it to the ground. It was a chilly night, in the mountains, but it usually was in late November. His wife started to unbutton her sweater and blouse, and soon everyone began to disrobe. They felt the sharp cold air on their bare skin, goosebumps rippling over exposed flesh, nipples hardening, but soon it wouldn’t matter.

Grandpa Cartwell unhooked the leash from the trembling man, who babbled incoherently, moaning as drool ran down his chin. He’d remove his clothes last, as would his own wife. Not that they were shy around their children and grandchildren. Not at all. After all, they’d enjoyed the yearly Feast together for many years. They just wanted the younger ones to have their fun.

“Go, get, run!” Grandpa said, dropping the coiled leashed to his feet. The man took a few unsteady steps away from the Cartwells and the bonfire, in the direction of the dark wall of trees. If he was lucky, he might make it a few dozen feet inside the densely wooded vegetation. But he kind of doubted it.

Then he ran for the trees, like a pack of hellions were on his heels. He stumbled over his own feet after maybe a hundred feet or so, and tumbled to the ground. When he glanced back at them, his eyes bulged. The naked Cartwells writhed and convulsed on the close-cropped grass, the fiery light revealing flesh that rippled and flowed, unearthly sounds of bones reforming, and simmering growls of lusty hunger. In moments, as he got back to his feet, they were no longer naked. Thick dark fur covered their bodies. Almost in unison, their glowing yellow eyes locked onto him.

They howled. He ran. They charged in pursuit.

The man’s ululating screams lasted for maybe a minute, if that.

He’d managed to get fairly close to the woods, but Grandpa Cartwell had been right. 

And they gave thanks for another successful Feast, blood-stained muzzles lifted up to the moonlight sky.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy April Fool's...

...but the following is certainly no joke! Been a long while since I've updated my blog, so here goes.

My debut ebook, Clowning Around, is available at here and Amazon here. Since the biggest, best advantage an author has are honest reviews, I'd greatly appreciate one after you've read it on either website or GoodReads. 

And my latest ebook, The Last Chord, is available at here and also on Amazon here. Same goes for the above, please leave an honest review...thanks!

And since today is also Easter, for those who celebrate it, here's a twisted Easter story I wrote a few years ago, involving the Easter Bunny, Easter Eggs...and three pigs. But not those three little pigs. Oh, and this story is not really for kids. You can find it here.

I've been off from work for a week and working hard at home on finishing the first round of revisions for my scifi horror novel, The Ravening. Since this past Monday, I've spent 8-10 hours per day, with multiple breaks and a nap, going through my printed chapters and line edits, entering those into the Word docs, as well making numerous on-the-spot changes. It's been a blast! But it's also been exhausting, too. My goal was to be done by Easter Sunday. That's not going to happen. Keep in mind I've gotten half the novel almost completely edited (first round), but I also needed to do a few things around the house, too. I'll work on a bit more today, maybe more...and that will leave me around 4 chapters left. I'm pleased with what I got done on my working vacation. 

Well, that's it for now. Be good and stay scary! 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Even Stranger Things

So it was exactly one year ago when Netflix dropped this original new series set in the early 80s, in the fictional Midwest town of Hawkins, Indiana. It largely centers around three nerdy middle school friends searching for their missing friend, Will. But then they find this strange girl named Eleven, who manifests even stranger powers. You have the mother and older brother of missing Will, dealing with the sheer terror of his disappearance, the gruff town police chief who harbors his own dark and tragic past. And that's just to name a few. Besides the obvious love-letter and homage to the Era it's set in, STRANGER THINGS is clearly influenced by the works of Lovecraft, Stephen King, John Carpenter, and even Spielberg, among others. It doesn't just resonate with those of us who grew up in that same time, but I think if you did, and perhaps you hung out with your geeky buddies playing D&D (or in my case, Top Secret, the espionage version of D&D), STRANGER THING really hit a definite chord. Even the theme music sounds like a John Carpenter 80s horror film...not to mention the numerous nods to his classic scifi horror flick, THE THING.

Recently Netflix released the poster for Season 2, due October 27th. And of course that stunning teaser trailer a few months before. Last week, it was announced that this blockbuster show had garnered an astounding 18 Emmy nominations. Needless to say, fans have been clamoring for more info, and plot details--while largely under wraps--have been few and far between, other than things leaked over the past several months. But we can only hope some unanswered questions from the first season get resolved, as I'm sure they will.  What happened to Doctor Brenner? Was he really killed by the Demogorgon? Where did Eleven go (because we know she's not dead)? And what's happening to Will? And what was this secret deal Hopper made with Brenner? And so much more.

Needless to say, late October can't get here fast enough.

Things are about to get even stranger in Hawkins.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Horror Writer Looks At 50

In less than a month I'll be turning 50. The Big Five-Oh. Half a century old. Fuck. I still remember teasing my Dad when he hit that milestone...and now it's my turn. Yeah, not so funny now, smart guy. Funny thing is, some days I don't feel my age and others...yeah, I definitely do. My hair is mostly gray now, but still thick and not receding too much. Thicker around the waist, too, but what the fuck...I like to eat, although I need to exercise  more. And when I did do that a few weeks ago when I had a week off from work, doing laps in our pool almost every day, I pulled muscles in my right shoulder and upper arm that's taking forever  to heal.

So yeah, getting older sucks. 

However, I've reason to celebrate. In the past year, I've accomplished  much in terms of my writing. Probably more so than in any time  in my life. I finished the first draft of my scifi horror  novel, THE  RAVENING. I wrote several short stories, two of which I self-published as ebooks, CLOWNING AROUND and THE LAST CHORD, the latter of which received a nice review on a book review blog recently. My last post here has links to where you can pick them up. I've been working with professional editor and publicist extraordinaire, Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, as a client and she's been wonderful to work with, only making me a better writer. Two of the aforementioned short stories will be eventually submitted to horror anthologies, one of my professional goals, along with my novel. And there's a story/novella collection, THE NIGHTMARE SEASON, that I've written but need to revise. And much more...

One of my all-time favorite horror writers turns 50, as well, not too long after I do. You may have heard about him. Brian Keene. Horror Grandmaster, Bram Stoker Award Winner, and bestselling author. Last year he toured extensively in support of his latest books and I had been fortunate enough  to set up a book signing at my store. I'd been very nervous because I hadn't met him before and wanted the event to go well. And it did. Sold a bunch of books and got the chance to chat with him about bookselling, horror, writing, and our kids. It was something I'll never forget. Brian was kind and gracious and very easy to talk to.

So yeah, while I celebrate the Big Five-Oh with loved ones next month, I have a lot to be grateful  and thankful for. 

And a lot more dark and scary stories to tell...

Monday, May 29, 2017

New Ebook & Works In Progress

Been a while since I updated my blog (since social media is more immediate  and direct), but here's  the latest:

My latest ebook short, THE LAST CHORD, hit the digital bookshelves last month, so please check it out and post a review. I'm happy to supply review copies to book review bloggers upon request.



Also, my debut ebook short, CLOWNING AROUND, which is loosely related is free for Nook here, and just under a buck on Amazon here.

Works-in-progress are two new short stories for as yet (but soon to be) unannounced horror anthologies, one is called "The Caretaker of Blood Manor" and the other is titled "Lizard Kingdom."

Also, I'm off from work for a week, so it's full steam ahead on revisions to my scifi  horror  novel, THE RAVENING. Revisions on my novella/story collection, NIGHTMARE SEASON, is on hold for now.

Much thanks to Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi for her professional editorial eye, guidance, and support. You're the best, Wonder Woman!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Sanguine Christmas Tale

Chris Kosarich
Copyright 2016

Santa Claus knew something was amiss the moment he coasted the gifts-laden sleigh down to the snowy ground next to the quiet subdivision. Well, of course, it was quiet, being so late on Christmas Eve night and everyone—young and older—tucked safely in their beds. But his keen senses, not to mention his trusty crew of reindeer, had immediately detected the strangeness in the air. At first, it hadn’t been a smell, just a sense, like that feeling of charged electricity in the air right before a violent thunderstorm.

As the sleigh skidded to a stop, the reindeer fidgeted, jostling their harnesses and making agitated sounds. The red suit-clad Saint Nicholas stood up and surveyed his surroundings. His round nose twitched above his full white beard, and a frown creased his forehead beneath the trademark cap.

       While not a supernatural being, he did employ magic (and technology, too, he wasn’t stupid) to make his annual gift-delivering task to all those good boys and girls possible.  But Santa had experience with supernatural creatures, some good and some bad. A few years ago, he’d encountered a man cursed with being a werewolf, and because Santa had been able to tap into that man’s basic goodness, he was able to enlist his help after one of his reindeer, Rudy, had fallen ill.

Ironically, that had been not far from where he was now.

Santa strode with careful black-booted steps through the snow to the front of the line of reindeer, running his gloved right hand over brown-furred flanks, comforting them, murmuring soft words to ease their sudden discomfort.  His eyes scanned the snow-flecked line of trees bordering the perimeter of the subdivision.

He didn’t see it, yet, but his nostrils widened as the pungent scent invaded his sense of smell.  Barely there, just a waft of it on the icy air, but it was ripe with rot and death.

To Santa, it meant only one thing, one word for what the source of that horrid odor was: vampire.

“Oh, dear God,” he muttered.

As someone who was accustomed to various forms of magic and, to a degree, the supernatural, Santa knew what this meant. And none of it was good. In fact, it was nothing short of horribly disastrous.

He walked back to the massive red sleigh and reached one hand into the pocket of his white-fur-trimmed red coat. He pulled out his smartphone, and after tugging off the glove with his teeth, swiped the touchscreen to unlock it. Deftly, Santa tapped the address book and scrolled through until he found the name of the one person who could help.

After he dialed the number, pressing the phone next to his ear, it rang several times until a gruff voice answered. The man sounded either half-asleep or drunk…or both.

“Lupo, this is Nicholas,” he said. “I need your help once more. And it’s far more serious than last time.”

“That’s not my real name,” he replied sarcastically. “I’m sure whatever the emergency is you can handle it, Nick.”

The man coughed, clearing his throat, before he spoke. “Listen, I’d love to help. But I’m not the same man you once knew. My wife divorced me, took the kids and left. Said she couldn’t deal with my, um, problem, any longer. Not sure I can anymore either, to be honest.”

Santa hesitated before responding. What the man told him made him feel very sad, but there wasn’t time for this. If he didn’t get Lupo over here and fast, a bunch of innocent people—families…children!—would be killed at the hands of these ruthless, blood-thirsty monsters. Maybe after it was all over, if his old friend agreed to help him, Santa would see what he could do to improve his situation. However, getting the man’s wife to change her mind about her husband was one Christmas miracle he might not be able to make happen. But he would try, and he told him as much.

The man chuckled mirthlessly. “That’s not going to change a thing,” he said coldly. “My wife just thinks I’m crazy. She believes that I’m a werewolf as much as she believes…you’re real.”

As Santa held the phone to his ear, he walked up to the proud reindeer at the head of the line of special, magical creatures, and worked at Rudy’s buckle with his free hand. Rudy’s signature nose flared red off and on like a bright, slow-strobing beacon on the frigid Christmas Eve night.

“I’m sending Rudy to you,” he told him. “Get yourself sobered up and ready to ride him back here. By my estimation, thankfully, you’re not too far. Maybe an hour away, at most, and I need you here as soon as possible. Or plenty of innocent folks will die this very night.”

“What are you going on about, Nick? Who is threatening to kill people?”

“Not who, but what,” Santa said with deadly seriousness. “Vampires, and while I haven’t seen them yet, I can smell them. And there’s more than one. When Rudy reaches you, just get here post-haste! I’ll do my best to stall them!”

Once Rudy was freed of the harness, Santa patted him on the head, murmuring a few hurried, stern commands, and the famous red-nosed reindeer kicked his strong back legs, his forelegs grabbing the night sky, and he leapt upwards.

Minutes later, Rudy was gone.

*    *    *

The man who Santa dubbed Lupo many years ago on that late Christmas Eve night (or like now, early Christmas morning) was named Curtis Lockwood. It had been nearly a decade since another late night when, after a drunken get-together with coworkers from the office to celebrate closing a big deal, he’d decided to walk home from the bar. Instead, he’d been attacked by a large black dog, his right arm badly gashed before a passersby stopped with a shriek of brakes and blaring horn to frighten it away.

After a brief stay in the hospital, life went along as normal until Curtis began to change. He began to have weird dreams and urges, most of them primal and terrifying. He’d resisted as long as he could, until one evening he told his wife he was going out for a walk to clear his head…and didn’t return until early the next morning. His clothes—baggy sweat-suit and sneakers—had been ripped and dirty, his feet bare and equally dirty. His face had been bloodied but had no apparent wounds.

Needless to say, his wife had been deeply concerned.

Years went by and he managed to control his condition through research (mostly online but some old books) and kept his nocturnal activities to just hunting animals in the nearby forest. He swore if he ever killed a human being, he’d just take his own life.

Since helping out St. Nick on that late December night many years ago—by pulling the massive sleigh with the aid of some magic spell Santa used after his team of reindeer fell ill—he’d been given a special herbal potion made by Nick’s wife, brewed in hot water and consumed like tea. It had tasted awful but the stuff helped him control the wolf inside. Sadly, though, it hadn’t kept his wife from wanting to take their daughter and divorce him. He’d lost his job the year after he’d saved Christmas, and fell into the trap of booze. While he hadn’t been abusive to his family, his mood had darkened, not to mention the occasional nightly jaunts in the woods.

Since then, his best friend had been the whiskey bottle. He did managed to acquire a new job, but not nearly as satisfying as his old one. Nor had he made the same kind of money, but he scraped by. At least his current employer didn’t care if he grew a bushy, unkempt beard.

Curtis stood out in front of his house, the ground white with a few inches of fresh powder—and more reportedly coming overnight—and flipped up the hooded top of his charcoal-gray sweat-shirt. He wore sweatpants that matched and cheap sneakers. The transformation was hell on good clothes but loose-fitting sweats could expand and not be torn to tatters. The shoes would be no great loss and replaceable.

What the hell am I doing? Curtis thought for the umpteenth time. This is crazy, but vampires…seriously?

Nick had sounded deadly serious and while he still felt slightly buzzed and would regret the hangover on Christmas Day, he shrugged and peered up into the snow-flecked night sky. He didn’t see anything and considered reaching into his pocket for his smartphone to call or text back the Jolly Fat Man in Red.

When he glanced up again, though, he spotted a dark shape gliding down from the darkness, a familiar slowly blinking red light lighting its way. Rudolph—or Rudy as he preferred to be called by his friends—landed with grace and hardly disturbing the snow-covered front yard, his head swiveling around to peer at Curtis with his black eyes. His majestic rack of antlers gleamed under the ashen moonlight.

“Oh, what the hell,” he muttered and climbed onto Rudy’s upper back and leaned forward, grabbing the antlers (but not tugging on them) like he was riding a bike. He certainly didn’t want to risk falling off when Rudy leapt up to fly.

And he gasped when the reindeer did just that.

*    *    *

Santa spotted them converging in the large two-story house at the end of the cul-de-sac. He’d been standing in front of his line of reindeer, scanning the snowy sky with his keen, sharp vision, but didn’t see Rudy yet. But it was way too soon yet. Then that awful, rotten smell assailed his nostrils. His earlier sense of black foreboding strengthened.

“Oh, no,” he said under his breath.

As Blixen and a few others stirred restlessly in their harnesses, obviously sensing the imminent danger as well, Santa stepped away from them and peered at the cluster of houses along the dead-end street. Three shapes suddenly appeared moving quickly and fluidly from the forested wooded area to the first house closest to them. They were pale in the moonlight, cadaverously thin but rippling with lean muscles. Even at this distance, Santa saw the red glint of their bestial eyes.

As they moved to the two-story home like a pack, Nick realized he didn’t have time. He would need to distract them until Rudy and Lupo arrived. As he walked further out into the snow, he plucked his phone from his pocket and hurriedly tapped out a message to Lupo (if he even had his own phone on him): They’re here, hurry!

*    *    *

While being this high up and holding on for dear life, not to mention freezing cold, it wasn’t as windy as he’d expected. But his eyes watered and tears froze on his ruddy cheeks.

Then Curtis felt the vibration of his smartphone, and he carefully pulled it out with one hand, keeping a tight death-grip on the antlers with his other hand. He read the brief text from Santa.

As he stuffed the phone back, he leaned forward and said, “We got to fly faster, Rudy!”

*    *    *

Santa didn’t have any weapons, except toy ones, and those wouldn’t do. The best he might be able to do was use some spells he knew, but none of that magic would stop the trio of vile bloodsuckers. And employing magic of any kind would drain him of much-needed energy for the long night ahead.

So he cupped his gloved hands around his mouth and yelled, “Hey, you three! I’ve got something tasty for you!”

The vampires halted in their tracks, several feet from the darkened, white-coated house. Three sets of hungry, baleful, blood-red eyes fixed on him, narrowing.

Then almost as one, they moved off the yard and headed in his direction.

Oh shit, guys, Nick thought, referring to Rudy and Lupo. Come on, get here fast!

*     *     *

Suddenly, Rudy dropped into a fairly steep dive and Curtis gritted his teeth as his stomach rolled. He always hated rollercoasters, dammit!

Below, he saw the wide open field covered in snow and thick forest surrounding a large cul-de-sac and several homes. Some had been decorated with your typical exterior holiday d├ęcor, including the icicle lights and multi-colored blinking ones. Then he noticed off to one side in the field stood the familiar red-and-green-and-gold trimmed sleigh with the harnessed line of reindeer, minus one, of course.

As Rudy pulled out of the dive and slowed a bit, Curtis looked over past the sleigh and immediately saw the equally familiar stocky, white-bearded, red-suited figure standing alone in the middle of the field. And the three pale stalking forms gliding soundlessly over the ground were getting very close to Nick, maybe a dozen or so yards away.

“Drop me between Santa and those bastards, Rudy!” he yelled and sat back, looking up and staring at the fat swollen disc high above. He let the moonlight wash over his numb face, tried to relax his mind enough to allow the change to come. His growing anger and frustration at how his life had ended up, coupled with the fact that these vampires sought to feed and kill unwitting families on this day of all days (or any day, for that matter!) made the transformation burst out of him all that more rapidly.

The snowy ground rushed up at them and Curtis pushed himself off the reindeer and fell the several remaining feet as his body rippled and burst with coarse dark hair and corded muscle. It physically hurt to do this, as it always had, but he ignored it. As his mouth elongated and bristled with razor-sharp canines, hooked claws sprouting from his fingertips and toes (shredding the front of his cheap sneakers), he sank deftly onto the fresh powder, cushioning his fall.

The trio stopped, peering at this latest addition to their Christmas Night blood-feast.

Hunched over and flexing his deadly claws, Lupo growled with menace.

Santa released his held breath, muttered thanks to Rudy, and said, “Now go kill those evil creatures, my fine, lupine friend!”

Snarling low and deep, Lupo nodded his massive furry head and sprang forward.

The vampires charged forward. The first one had leapt into the air with talons spread wide and horrid fanged mouth agape. Lupo ducked under his scythe-like claws, and thrust muzzle forward and up, jaws clamping around the skinny, pasty neck. Vicious teeth crunched together as viscous hot fluids sprayed his face, soaking the fur of his neck and chest. The thing beat and swiped at him but to no avail. Near-decapitated head lolling on a few tendons and ragged strips of skin, Lupo tossed the dead vampire aside.

The second blood-sucker attacked from the other side, coming in low and fast, but with razor-sharp fingernails sweeping up and thrusting out as if to rip across his face, to blind him. Lupo swiftly dodged the attempt to mutilate his face, but the downward arc slashed across his fur-padded ribcage, making him growl-hiss in sudden agony. However, his fury and hunger to kill these vile killers surpassed the white-hot pulsating pain along his left side.

As the vampire followed through on the swipe, it stumbled in the snow, and Lupo reached out and grabbed the thing’s skinny shoulders, pulling it to him. Savagely, he opened his slavering jaws wide and tore into the vampire’s face, ripping off great near-bloodless chunks of putrid flesh. Blackish goo splattered him, but he ignored it and dug his claws feverishly into its midsection, tearing out meaty loops of greasy entrails. He let the limp undead corpse slump to the gore-streaked ground.

Seeing how effectively his crimson-thirsty comrades had been dispatched, the third member of the vampire hunting parting turned and fled, heading with remarkable swiftness for the heavy tree-line.

The sight of it running for the woods, naked and gleaming in the silvery moonlight nearly made Lupo sing with primal joy. In fact, he raised his wet snout to the night and barked a short howl. Then he gave chase, moving with great speed and agility in the foot-deep snowfall.

Lupo caught up to the vampire just as it started to vanish into the snow-laden pines.

It didn’t give him much of a fight at all.

Santa watched it all unfold with his mouth hanging open. From within the woods, he heard Lupo howling his victory.

*    *    *

While delayed for maybe an hour or two, Christmas was once again saved. Before he took off again, to complete his long task ahead, they dragged the vampire corpses to a clearing deep in the woods and—using fuel from a flask of brandy Santa tucked away inside his red coat—burned the bodies, then covered the remains with snow.

Rudy agreed to fly Curtis back home, after he cleaned himself up with melted snow and an old but clean handkerchief Santa produced from one pocket of his red trousers. After a hearty thank you from Nick (and admonishment to stop his excessive alcohol consumption), Rudy and Curtis departed. Santa climbed onto his sleigh, grabbing ahold of the reins. But before he urged the reindeer skyward, he made a promise to his old friend. He’d saved his life and Christmas once again (because without Lupo’s help, Santa wouldn’t have just stood by and let it happen, and he could’ve been killed), not to mention saving the lives of those who slept unawares of how closely they’d come to being food for vampires.

After tonight, when he was safely back home at the North Pole, the man also known as Kris Kringle, vowed he would write a heartfelt letter to Curtis Lockwood’s estranged ex-wife. While he couldn’t do anything to make her give her ex-husband a second chance, perhaps and maybe, he could help her see that he deserved one.

After all, Christmastime was about miracles, wasn’t it?