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ADVENT - A Christmas Ghost Story from Dec 1 to Dec 24

Dec 1

Where’s the chocolate? Just a picture of a dumb bird!
What kind of advent calendar hasn’t got chocolate in it?
Can’t believe I’m stuck here all Xmas in the middle of nowhere while you get to go to Darren’s party!
Sophie slept
In spite of the house
In spite of herself
In spite of the spitting, chattering rain against the thin black ugly window pane
It was strangely soothing
Strangely calming . . .

Until a sharp
Smacked her furiously awake!
Dec 2

Hey how you?
Sooooooo tired! Thought I heard a noise last night but no one else heard it so I guess I must’ve dreamed it. Then I couldn’t get back to sleep. This creepy old house is doing my head in!
Btw another lame pic on this stupid calendar today.
Looks like you LOL
Dec 3

Morning! Enjoy school lol!
Never thought I’d say it but I wish I was there with you. Hate it here!
Just cos dad reckons it’s Nan’s last Christmas. Not like she knows who we are. She just spends all day staring out of her bedroom window.
Oh and how weird is today’s pic??
Hi Zoe, sorry had to text!
Just went down to tea and there was this tree in the dining room.
Not a normal Christmas tree. A big branch with little branches.
And these weird little dolls hanging on it - me, Tom, Maggie, Mum and Dad!
Dad said Nan must’ve made them. Freaked me out!
OK calmed down now. Sorry for being weird. Just not used to being somewhere so quiet and far away from real life!
Downloaded this Sounds of the Forest app to help me sleep. Dad recommended it.
Shoulda got Sounds of the City lol!
Sophe x
Sophie slept . . .
Miles away from the cold dark house
blanketed by her phone’s forest soundscape
the gentle leaf-shivers
the calming calls of night birds
the angry crackle of hot orange fingers clawing up dead dark bark into the black moonless sky . .
Sophie woke
Dec 4

Look at this! Seriously wtf??
I know she’s my Nan an I’m supposed to love her but why would she put this weird calendar in my bedroom?
That’s it! I’m not opening any more.
Another bad night last night. Only been here four days. Feels like forever!
They call midnight the witching hour
But they’re wrong
It’s the watching hour
When they watch you
As you sleep
Sophie slept
And they watched . . .
Dec 5

OMG Zoe!
Woke up this morning and today’s calendar window was already open!
What even is this??
I’ve turned it round to face the wall. Creepy enough in this house without that staring at me!
Sorry, I know things are hard for you right now but I don’t know what to do!
Dec 6

The grey winter sun crawled over the sill, across cold floorboards and clawed wearily up the chest of drawers at the foot of Sophie’s bed.
She stared, frozen, as the lazy light slowly revealed the calendar.
No longer facing the wall.
The sixth window yawning open . . .
They didn’t listen
Mum didn’t listen because Tom and Maggie were fighting again
Dad didn’t listen because he never listened
So she took the calendar downstairs to the big fire and threw it in
And as the yellow claws tore it apart she was calm for the first time since they arrived
Dec 7

Sophie lay still, eyes screwed shut.
Even though she’d seen it crumple and crumble to black in the flames, she was terrified the calendar would be there right in front of her.
A new window open.
A new horror grinning at her . . .
Knuckles white as the sheet drawn to her chin, Sophie forced herself to open her eyes.
And . . .
It wasn’t there.
It wasn’t there!!
Her hot, damp head fell back onto the pillow and she laughed
And laughed
And laughed

Until she heard the screams
Sophie wrenched open the heavy oak door to see Tom and Maggie sitting up in their twin beds.
Twin beds for twins - she thought that was hilarious a few days ago, she didn’t know why.
What were they doing?
They were staring,
Stiff and still
At the calendar . . .
Dec 8

Hey Zoe sorry couldn’t text.
Think the network was down.
Now Dad’s accused me of scaring the twins by putting this creepy calendar in their room! He didn’t believe I tried to burn it and the windows opened themselves!
Guess I’m stuck with it till Xmas
Here’s today’s pic
Dec 9

Sure enough, Sophie woke to see the ninth door open.
But this time the picture looked familiar . .
It was the tree down by the road.
The one that stood guard at the bottom of the path.
The one Nan stared at all day. Like she was waiting for something.
Or someone.
Sophie gazed at the tree.
It made her feel uneasy but she didn’t know why.
Maybe it was the charred, dead bark.
Maybe the way it seemed to claw angrily at the icy sky.
Or maybe because it would be the last place she ever saw her little brother . . .
Dec 10

OMG Zoe!
Tom’s doing my head in!
Ever since Mum told him if he fights with Maggie Santa won’t bring him anything on Christmas Day all he does is pester me!
So I challenged him to see how fast he can run down to that old tree and back.
20 minutes and counting . .
Sophie couldn’t believe how well her little plan had worked - no sign of Tom after an hour!
Either he was still trudging through the mud or he’d forgotten all about her and gone to pester someone else.
She smiled weakly to herself and tried to ignore today’s calendar picture
It was Dad’s turn to cook dinner. Which meant having to eat every last scrap no matter how disgusting it was. And then tell him how delicious it was.
Nan never joined them in the dining room. Sophie assumed she must eat in her bedroom.
If she ate at all.
“Where’s Tom?” asked Mum.
Tom was there
Standing by the tree
Thank God!
“What are you doing here?!” yelled Sophie, flashing her phone-light frantically into his small round face
“Hide and seek!” he smiled “Do you want to play?”
“What? It’s freezing out here! And dark!”
“Yes” he said “Do you want to play?”
‘Close your eyes and count to ten!’
She closed her eyes
And counted
To three
‘Got you!’ she cried
But she hadn’t got him
He wasn’t there
He wasn’t by the tree
He wasn’t by the brook
He wasn’t by the burnt-out car
‘Ok I give up, where are you?’
‘Tom, I give up’
‘I said I give up!’
Dec 11

Sophie opened her eyes.
Where was she?
Her face was wet and sticky.
Her arm was numb and heavy.
She tried to move it but there was something lying on it.
No, someone . . .
“Where are Mum and Dad?”
Sophie turned her face into a mop of red ringlets.
“I ,er, don’t know,” she frowned, slowly blinking herself awake. “I guess they’re still out looking for Tom.”
“Oh,” said Maggie, sucking her lip thoughtfully . . .
“Who’s Tom?”
A heavy thud shook the house.
Leaving her little sister to wake up, she leapt down the old staircase.
“Hello dear” smiled her mother, “We’ve just had a lovely walk!”
“Did you find him?” asked Sophie, shaking.
Her father frowned.
“Find who?”
Upstairs, a small window opened . . .
Sophie jabbed frantically at her phone but she couldn’t find a picture of her brother anywhere.
“Wait,” she said, dragging her parents through to the dining room and pointing at the dolls hanging grimly on Nan’s ugly Christmas tree.
“There, look! You, me, Maggie and . .”
“And who, dear?”
“No,” cried Sophie. “NO!!!”
She fell to her knees, scrambling and scratching before finally crumpling onto the cold, dark boards.

Tom was gone
Dec 12

In the city, you know that it’s snowed as soon as you wake.
The ice-bright glow creeping round your curtain edge.
The growling engines and the whining wheels.
Here, in the middle of nowhere, Sophie knew it had snowed.
Because the calendar told her.
Hi Zoe
Hope you get this text
I tried calling you but the signal wasn’t strong enough
Things are so horrrible here
Tom’s disappeared and no one seems to care except me
I know it sounds crazy but I think this stupid calendar’s got something to do with it
Zoe I’m scared
Dec 13

“Sophie, you’ve been in your room all day! Maggie wants to show you her snowman.”
Sophie dragged her hand across her eyes.
“Where is she?” she sighed.
“Down by the big tree. She’s been there ages.”
Sophie charged past her Mum into the stinging white evening . .
“Maggie!” Sophie screamed, skidding down the hill.
Then she stopped.
“Oh thank God” she breathed into the ice air.
There, under the tree stood a small still figure wearing her sister’s red hat.
She stepped forward slowly to see a glittering white face and frozen body.
For a moment, Sophie thought she saw Maggie’s clear blue eyes staring out at her.
She reached out to touch her cheek.
It was soft.
It was cold.
A sudden fury curled Sophie’s fingers and she smacked the white face with her fist.
The snow girl crumbled and sank to the ground.
Dec 14

“SHOW ME!” Sophie howled, scratching feverishly with fear-bitten nails. “SHOW ME WHERE SHE IS!!”
She slung the calendar fiercely across the room and collapsed into her tear-drenched pillow.
As she lay shaking and sobbing, the fourteenth window silently opened . . .
Dec 15

I don’t know what’s happening here
Maggie’s gone now and I don’t know what to do!
Mum and Dad are carrying on like nothing’s happened. It’s like she never existed
Just like . .
you know
that boy
what’s his name?
Please text me back
I really need you!
Sophie slept
She dreamed of home
School, chips, cider, boys
Everyday fun
Everyday dramas
Grey and happy
Except for the tune
That stroked her
And woke her
To see
A room
Half known
Not home

Not alone

. . .
Dec 16

Sophie woke up shivering and sweating. Like she’d had a nightmare she couldn’t remember.
There were a lot of things she couldn’t remember these days.
Like those children’s names.
And that pool on the floor.
She must’ve spilled something but she just couldn’t remember.
Dec 17

Another thing Sophie couldn’t remember was the name of the tune.
The one that had been swimming around her head for days.
She half-recognised it. She called it Zoe’s tune so that when she heard it she felt comforted, safe.
As if Zoe was there with her.
If only . . .
Dec 18

Mum and Dad were arguing again.
Muffled by the heavy bedroom door they sounded like a pair of raging beasts.
The smaller beast seemed to be accusing the other of something but Sophie couldn’t hear what.
She didn’t want to hear.
The voices in her head were enough.
Maybe it was about this house. Sophie still didn’t really understand why they were here. All she remembered was Dad bundling her into the car outside school. She barely remembered the journey.
Then they were here.
How long ago was that?
18 days?
It felt like 18 years.
Dec 19

Sophie recognised today’s picture - the stairs leading up to Nan’s room.
Was the calendar trying to tell her something?
Telling her to go up?
Or warning her not to?
Maybe there was something wrong with Nan.
Mum and Dad had disappeared again.
Perhaps she should check . .
There were 13 steps up to Nan’s room.
Sophie knew each one intimately.
Every knot hole, every creak.
“OK this time!” she said to herself.
She took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
Then, as she turned to go down for the final time, she heard it open.
Dec 20

Hey Zoe
Finally saw Nan properly yesterday!
Only for a moment. Wish I hadn’t!
She was all grey and white - almost see through!
She just stared at me with these big dark eyes then reached out with her long nails and screamed “Get Out! Get out of my house!!”
Scary AF!
Crazy old woman!
Dad told me never to go up again. You know how teachery he is even when he’s not in school!
Anyway hope you’re alright and not still mad at me - I was only jealous. Don’t know why I thought it was Darren’s, don’t care whose it is as long as you’re both ok.
Hugs x
Sophie slept
A giddy snowstorm semi-sleep
A twisting snarling blizzard sleep
A sleep from which she tumbled hard
To see
Ten tiny tipsy fingertops
And more
That stretched to hungry hands
Who gulped
And grabbed
And pulled her up
Out of bed
Out of the room
Out of the house
Dec 21

‘Gone for a walk. Back soon’
Sophie tossed the balled note into the fire and gazed at the three figures hanging on Nan’s Christmas tree - Mum, Dad and her.
Didn’t there used to be more?
She tried to remember but her head was as snowy as the hills cradling the house . . .
Sophie wished she could remember more . . .
Why wasn’t she in school?
Why wasn’t Dad in school?
They’d been here three weeks but the Christmas holidays only began today.
Why were her parents constantly arguing?
And why hadn’t Zoe replied to any of her texts?
It had been hours since she found the note and still no sign of Mum and Dad.
Sophie felt a choking fear begin to clutch at her chest.
Where had they got to?
Biting white flakes scratched the darkening window pane pressed against her cold pink nose . .
Suddenly the door flew open.
Dec 22

“Sophie, let me in!”
“No! Not until you tell me where Mum is!”
“I told you I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“She was here! With us. What have you done to her?”
“Sophie this is crazy. Come on, unlock your door!”
Sophie bit her lip and stared at the calendar . . .
Dec 23

I’m really scared!
I think Dad’s done something bad
I need to get away from here but I don’t know how
I know you’ve got enough to worry about with your parents and the morning sickness and all that but I really need your help!
Please text me back ASAP
S x

I’m coming to get you

The house slept
And the tune woke
Zoe’s tune
It led her down
Past sombre, solemn fireplace
And lonely dangling doll
Into the frozen winterwhite
And down
And further down
To the big bare burnt tree
And Sophie stood
Until . . .
Or half-there
Between clawing branches
Snow-blurred and silent
A shadow
Of a girl
Brushing by bending bough


And then
Before the face made sense
Before it found its form
A burning growl
An awful shriek
A sudden
Nov 30

Hi Zoe
Hope you’re ok.
Sorry about before. Can’t believe I got suspended for hitting my BFF!
Now we’re off to spend Xmas in the middle of nowhere at Nan’s house!
Journey’s a nightmare - Tom and Maggie keep fighting and Mum and Dad haven’t stopped arguing since we set off!
Now she’s saying he’s having an affair!
One of his pupils! AND he’s got her pregnant!
Seriously, can you see anyone our age fancying Dad?
Now he’s saying it’s sorted.
Don’t know what that means.
OK text you when we get there.

S x

Sophie pressed send.
And heard a tune . . .
. . A familiar tune
Zoe’s tune
Zoe’s ringtone
Coming from behind
From the boot
Sophie felt cold and sick
Then a sudden sharp fury flooded her body and she was flailing at her father, hammering the back of his head with her fists.
Her father hunches beneath the storm of blows
Barely grips the wheel
From nowhere
A bird
Red breast
Red heart
Hot crimson splash across the windscreen
A grubby brown wing flaps madly against the glass
A dumb bird dies a dumb death
And the wheel sharply spins . . .
Engine growls
Wheels shriek and skid
Blinding headlights hit the giant tree a moment before they do
A moment of panic
A moment of calm
A moment of yellow

And nearby
A fading woman
With fading eyes
Stands at her window
With her calendar.
The End
Thank you all for reading and sharing our festive tale!
Keep following to read a new spooky story very soon.
Until then, have a very creepy Christmas!
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