A horror story for the holidays.
She pulled off the fancy bow, throwing the ribbon tidily onto the ground next to her. Opened the lid, slowly. As was proper. Breathed in a little as the top jiggled loose with a quiet puff of old dust. Looked inside.
A moment of silence.
“This is… not what I was expecting.”
The man in the red suit with the slicked-back hair and black goatee, all glint and glimmer and promising shine, smiled his lopsided smile. Deceptive as ever.
“What do you mean?” he asked, sickly sweet as an overly gummed candy cane. He slid closer, gliding like a hellcat in the shadows. “What were you expecting?”
She looked up, her eyes an angry flash at his bloody veneer. Her lips curled up into a snarl. “Immortality.”
The man in the crisp red suit threw his head back and laughed, all mirth and mockery. A tear dripped from one eye and he brushed it away with a black-gloved hand. “Oh, my dear,” he hissed, “That would have been an awfully big present. Too big for one as little as yourself. There’s not enough soul in you, to pay for that.”
Her slight frame shook. She pulled the bauble from its box. A glass knife. No – it was already dripping – an ice knife. Sharp. Pretty. Ephemeral.
She had asked for control over life and death. He had given her a toy.
Sly cat. No matter. She had some claws of her own.
“I will take what is my due,” she whispered, her voice thin as a blade and three times as sharp.
The man in the red suit lounged back on her sofa. “Oh really?” he purred, one eyebrow arching up. “And how is that, pet?”
She smiled. Carefully. Slinked towards him in her dress, red like blood and seduction. A sin for a sin. Of course he’d said they’d need to match.
She climbed onto his lap and put her hands over his chest.
“You’re magic,” she murmured under her breath. The man in the red suit leaned into her words. “Ageless.” She let a little reluctant wonder creep into her voice while one finger crept up the red suit and came to rest just over the heart that beat beneath the red suit. Her nails were long and pointed, sharp like daggers. Red from cuticle to tip.
Red. His color.
And now hers.
She dug her claws into the suit, into the flesh, into the man and his magic and his terrible gift-giving and she stole it. Pulled it up, out of him, away from his years and years of cheated death and trickery treasure and into her own body. She felt herself grow large, taking it all in. Bigger. Powerful.
Beneath her claws, the man in the red suit withered. His skin wrinkled and aged. His goatee frayed and greyed and whitened. Flab arose and clung to his middle like denture paste to an old jawline. His eyes sunk and his nose reddened.
And he began to scream.
She pulled her claws out then, cackling.
The old man in the red suit wailed at the sharp blades of her fingers cutting their way back out of him. There was pain. Oh yes, there was pain.
But there was no death.
He healed. Instantly. There was still enough magic left in him for the job.
She had made sure of that.
His chest rose and fell, clunkily. Ragged. “Ho. ho. ho.” The old man’s wheezing was short and clipped.
The woman smiled. “Ho ho ho,” she laughed.
The man looked up at her, fearful. “Who are you?” he whispered, eyes growing wide with fear.
Ah yes, a name. The woman looked down at her fingers, covered in red like cherry slowly drying to crimson around the cuticles. Her eyes narrowed.
Yes, that would do.
“Claws,” she said, voice firm as desire. “Mrs. Claws.”
She pulled the man up from the couch, thrusting him back towards her fireplace. “Now, if you don’t mind, dear, I believe you have my bidding to do.”
The old man in the ancient red suit was silent. But he nodded, then disappeared back through the flames.
Mrs. Claws’s eyes glinted in the firelight. She looked around the room, wondering where to start.
A now-empty box caught her eye. Mrs. Claws smiled. Cracked her knuckles. Stepped into the fireplace to follow the old man back to his workshop. Yes, that would be her first order. That is how he ended. That is how she would begin.
“Toys,” Mrs. Claws hissed. “Toys for everyone.”