By: Lily Luchesi
"Ugh!" Jessica Klaus slapped her desk with her hand, making her laptop shake. "Another one! I swear, I am so damn sick of this."
"Article on us again?" her husband, Nick, guessed.
"What else?" She sighed, clicking the red X in the top right corner. Her wallpaper, which was a panorama of their home all covered in snow, popped up. A fire burned in the grate, which you could see through the window.
"What was it about this time?" he asked, handing her a cup of blood with peppermint schnapps added in. Very Christmasy.
"It was the attached depiction of you. For the love of everything, these people have never seen you, so how do they all picture you the same way? What asshat said, 'Hey, I bet this guy is eighty, fat, and laughs like a loon'? Whomever it was, I'd like to set a scorpion on their dick."
Nick laughed, choking on his drink a little. "Damn, you're really pissed this year. Sweetheart, calm down, before we have a repeat of 1953."
Jessica smirked, her blood-red lips parting to reveal her sharp fangs. She could retract them, but preferred to leave them. 1953 was a time when parents were allowed to beat their children, and husbands were allowed to beat their wives without reprimand. In fact, it was actually socially acceptable to do both! In 1953, people who were gay were being chemically castrated. Women were property and had no jobs. It was a pretty shitty year, and Jessica had had enough, eventually "punishing" the cruel people. She had fed quite well that night, fueling the ridiculous story of "Krampus."
However, the complications that arose from so many deaths had nearly been catastrophic. The loved ones of the deceased had noticed a pattern, and it had been terrifying for Nick to think that his beautiful wife was going to be hunted and their true secret was going to be out.
"1953 was a lovely year." She stood up, stretching. Her long, white hair hung to her waist, brushed back from her heart-shaped face. "I assume this is the last from last year's Harvest?" She gestured to her mug.
Nick nodded, his spiky white hair not moving. "Glad we can get more tomorrow."
Jessica sat next to him, their black and red clothes matching perfectly, as they always did. "You want me to come and help?"
Nick smiled wryly. "You have a tendency to get a bit overzealous during the yearly Harvest."
She pouted, but couldn't hold the expression for long. She draped herself in Nick's lap, and he stroked her pale skin, which really stood out under black clothes and cosmetics. She was so beautiful, it made him ache to look at her. She was also the brains of their operation, which was why he couldn't stay mad at her for long. She was the reason that they had survived when the rest of their species had been wiped out, by creating a mythical persona for them both, effectively cloaking them from humans in fantasy.
"Have you forgotten that it was my idea to trade toys for our nourishment?" she asked. "After all, these silly little mortals give up their time, their money, and sometimes their lives for material items. I figured it was an even trade. And I was right... as usual."
He sighed. "Yes, you were right. Speaking of, the imps have given us our stock for tomorrow night. Already inventoried and everything. They just need to bring it outside on the carriage."
"Have you seen their description of the imps?" Jessica asked, back on her earlier complaint. He was used to this: it happened the same time every year.
"Yes, I have. I am actually delivering a few copies of The Elf on the Shelf," Nick laughed. "Oh, what would happen if they saw the imps?"
"Years of nightmares and therapy... how delicious their fear would be!" Jessica laughed. "Please let me come with you. They won't be expecting a woman, and how I so love to taste their fear!"
Nick finally relented. "Yeah, sure. Just don't go overboard, okay?"
She pretended to cross her heart as she put her black trench coat on. "I'll go check the wolves!" Nick could see her through the window, checking all twelve of their precious pets. She bent down, giving them treats, and petting their scruff. As gentle as if they were a gaggle of golden retrievers... or reindeer. He peered harder, seeing that they were eating bits of greyish imp flesh. He smirked. Looks like Jessica has finally gotten around to punishing the imp who had screwed up when painting that one doll's face.
This was a business, and in business you couldn't afford such errors. He checked the clock. The sun was setting in Australia. His schedule was always perfect, and he would start in Australia, slowly heading westward till he had finished with America. Always beating the sun; always carrying home a heavier sleigh than when he had started out, even after all the toys had been deposited: payment for a service the children did not know they had rendered. With Jessica coming with him, he was certain that this year's sleigh would be even heavier on the return trip. She could promise to behave all she wanted, but he knew he could not restrain her when the Harvest was happening. If it didn't risk their discovery, he wouldn't want to restrain her.
"Darlin', make sure they're fed quickly: it's almost time to go," he called, heading out the front door with the icy cold wind nipping at his nose.
"Already done," Jessica called, walking back towards him. Her pale cheeks were reddened by the wind and he thought about the mortal depiction of them both, with their feverish faces. He guessed that was at least partially correct. "The imps are almost finished with the packing. If they were any slower, they'd be going backwards!"
Nick donned his hat and cloak to triple guard against the frigid night sky as he readied the wolves.
His and Jessica's innate abilities were enough to make the carriage fly, but they needed extra muscle to make it move, which was where their beloved wolves came in. Aside, Nick loved the sound of their howls in the wind.
Before completely exiting the house and locking up, he went into the den and took out their beloved pet, Rudy. He was a Mexican FreeTailed Bat, the fastest flyer of the species, and they kept him healthy and warm in their home, only letting him into the freezing temperatures one night a year. Jessica came up and gently took Rudy from him. Despite her homicidal urges, she was the sweetest, most loving person towards animals. He never loved her move than when he saw her taking care of their pets.
She cooed to Rudy as she walked outside to attach him to his custom made harness. There was no better navigator in the darkest hours of the night than a bat with echolocation. Rudy might not look like the humans' depiction of him, but Nick thought he was pretty adorable.
He went to the workshop and saw that the imps were indeed nearly ready, but they were certainly cutting it close with their poor time management. They were constantly whining, arguing with him about their jobs.
Nick kept them full with all the meat they could eat after the Harvest had been brought back, made sure their lodging was as hot as where they had come from, and never really badgered them to do more work than necessary, even though their contracts said that he could if he wanted to. Lucifer was a hard taskmaster compared with the job Nick gave them.
Greyskinned creatures, anywhere between two and three feet tall with three-toed clawed feet, four sharp-tipped clawed fingers, nought but skin and bones, with bulging black eyes like a fly's, they were not the most appealing creatures to behold. Some of them had one eye, some had as many as six. Their noses were either flat like a pig's or long like a tree branch and their wide, no-lipped mouths were filled with piranha-sharp teeth. They had large, bat-like ears. They were genderless, wore no clothes, and spent their free time torturing polar bears for fun, dining on them afterwards.
"Come on, time's running short," Nick said, ushering a few of them out with the massive overstuffed bags of toys. He followed the last one back to the carriage. Jessica had last updated it in the mid-nineteenth century with a carriage from London, black-canopied and made of black iron, it had once been used as a hearse before mechanical vehicles were invented. It was fitting for their objective that it had once transported dead mortal bodies.
In the back was a large space with more than enough room for their trip, both outgoing and returning, and their bounty. Harvesting required patience, stealth, and a lot of storage space for the journey around the Western world. Black silk curtains with black lace covered the carriage so none could see inside if they happened to be spotted.
She was waiting for him, already sitting shotgun with their schedule and list of names in hand. He swore, if not for Jessica, he'd never get anything done. She was brilliant.
"Ready, love?" she asked him as he approached, petting each wolf in turn and calling them by their names. "Careful, Donner's got a bite to him today. We might have to feed one of the parents to him to keep him content tonight."
Nick settled himself in his seat and took the reins in his black-gloved hands. He whipped them to get the wolves going as Jessica assisted with her magic. Within a few moments, they were flying away from the South Pole, heading south to Australia, where after they would keep heading west until they returned home, the Harvest completed for the next 365 days.
For quite some time, all through Australia, most of Europe, and the United Kingdom, Jessica was very calm and restrained herself as she left the presents for the children while Nick went upstairs to take their payment from the tiny, sleeping bodies.
It wasn't until they reached halfway across the United States that Jessica began to get fidgety, as he knew she would. She had controlled her hunger admirably, but even Nick knew that neither of them could get through this night without sampling their Harvest while flesh.
They were in a large house in a midwestern suburb when she finally lost control. She flung the wrapped gifts down carelessly, also knocking over the plate of now soured milk and crumbly sugar cookies that had been left out for her husband. That was certainly not the snack either of them came here for. She followed Nick upstairs, where the family's four children were all asleep.
"Four! I could never imagine having one... for more than dinner, anyway," Jessica said, her red eyes glowing in the darkness of the bedroom. She giggled, looking down at the children. Twin girls were sleeping soundlessly in their frilly pink beds, clad in equally frilly white nightgowns. "It's amazing how children sleep like the truly dead when they've engorged themselves on sweets." She ran her black-lacquered nail along the bedspread. "And they even left us a matching set."
Nick was about to say that they shouldn't do this, that it was wrong, it could expose them, and on and on. It would all be true, but oh, how he did miss dining on fresh blood as opposed to the preserved stock they were currently Harvesting. They could only do this one night a year, after all, and he was only a mere immortal.
In the silence of the Witching Hour, he could hear the sound of their blood sluggishly moving through their veins, its vivacity dulled by the deep slumber unique to small children.
He watched Jessica as she bent down and picked up the little girl, who was barely three years old. The child fussed for a moment before falling back asleep in his wife's arms. Jessica smiled, her fangs on full display once again. She gestured silently for him to take the other girl. She mouthed, 'Before the sun rises, Nick.'
He watched as she bent her head down to the soft flesh at the throat of a child that had not even shed her baby fat, sinking her pants into it, the smell of freshly spilled blood permeating the air, driving Nick nearly mad with bloodlust.
Fast as a snake descending on a mouse, he slunk forward and picked up the other little girl. She was startled by the sudden movement and when she laid eyes first on Nick and then on Jessica, with her mouth covered in blood and fangs buried in her twin's neck, the little girl began to cry.
Her screams didn't even reach a high enough volume to rouse her parents or siblings before Nick felt his fangs sink deep into her sleep-warmed flesh. Fear made her heart begin to beat faster, pumping the sweet, iron-tinged blood faster down his throat, filling him in a way that no Harvested blood ever could.
Power thrummed in his veins and his cold, Undead body was warmed as he felt the child's heartbeat flicker. He tore his fangs from her flesh, tearing the skin like an animal, before he took her head in his hands and twisted, breaking her neck. He dropped the body back onto the bed, the girl's lifeless eyes staring at the ceiling, a glassy mimic of the doll's that he had just left under the Christmas tree.
Jessica was smiling over at him, still holding the other girl by the pigtails in one hand. Her lips were dripping with fresh blood drops speckling her cleavage. He imagined his face looked just as ghoulish as her's did were a mortal to see him, but to him she was more than beautiful.
"Bring their bodies for the wolves?" Nick asked.
Jessica nodded, chuckling. She walked over to him, dragging the girl behind her like a rag doll. She leaned up and kissed him, the blood on her lips mingling together, smearing on their faces.
"And to think," she whispered, her voice a deep, raspy purr, "they call you a saint."
They brought the girls' still warm bodies to the rooftop, where the wolves and Rudy were waiting with their carriage. Nick tossed one corpse to the six in the back of the line, and Jessica handed her's to the ones near the front, but only after cupping her hands in the bit of blood she'd left in the body, bringing them to Rudy to let him drink.
The frigid air no longer bothered them, warmed as they were now. The back of the carriage rocked, their youthful captives trying fruitlessly to escape. Nick could hear the gallons of blood sloshing with their movements. The half moon shone down on them all, fresh snow littered the roof, only marred by the blood and gore from the wolves' feeding.
Jessica was smiling and humming as she liked her palm clean. "Merry Christmas, dear Saint Nicholas."
Nick winked. "Merry Christmas, my love."
About the author:
Lily Luchesi is the author of the bestselling and award-winning Paranormal Detectives Series. She grew up in Chicago and now resides in Los Angeles, where she writes horror and erotica stories in between going on concerts and comic book signings. She loves vampires, classic horror, metal and rock music, anime, Supernatural, and the color black.
She has also written short stories in the anthologies Naughty Bedtime Stories: In Three Words, Death Love Lust, and Lurking in the Shadows.