Christmas Bells

How the Evil, Malevolent, Tone-Deaf, Demon Worshipping Satanistic Cult Stole Christmas

A Yuletide Story

by Mr. Valentine

Disclaimer: Actually this story doesn't really need a disclaimer. The characters are my own, there's no sex or violence and only a few mild swear words. If you're mortally offended by anything in this story you're probably living on the wrong planet.

But anyway...


Now, as your parents have mysteriously seen fit to leave you unsupervised this evening I suppose it's my responsibility to make sure you don't get into any trouble. Don't look at me like that, I know perfectly well the mischief young people get up to if they think they can get away with it. It's been my experience that any leeway you allow will only result in shame, embarrassment and a severely traumatised sheep. And since some memories are better left buried, that's all I'll say on the matter.

In order to keep you occupied I've decided to tell you a little story. Since it's late and there's a bottle of rum waiting up for me it'll be a very little story, but it should at least serve to keep you from running wild in the immediate future, which is to say before I can make a graceful exit. Anyway, our story begins on Christmas Eve. It was a cold, wintery evening, as is traditional at that time of year, but Marion Camberwell and Ms. Chalk (who refused to admit to having a forename in the mistaken belief that such a quirk made her memorable) had braved the weather to walk for two minutes down the street and deliver a Christmas present to Marion's aunt Giselle, whom she had not seen for almost three years. Huddled into their coats to ward off the sleet they approached the battered front door, which was clearly in need of painting, and rang the bell.


"Come on, come on..." Marion muttered as she held her finger against the buzzer. "First we have to wait here for the sodding narrator to shut up and now we have to wait some more for Aunt Giselle to get off her arse long enough to let us in. Doesn't anyone realise I'm freezing to death here?"

"Patience is a virtue," Ms. Chalk (so called because of her tendency to go pale at the slightest provocation) reminded her sententiously.

"Right now I'm only interested in virtues that include warm fires and hot chocolate as fringe benefits." Marion muttered. "Patience isn't in the running."

At that moment the front door creaked open, seemingly of it's own accord. Ms. Chalk went pale.

"Marion!" She gasped, clutching at the taller woman. "While I admit that what we just saw was a relatively simple phenomenon that could easily be explained away as the result of atmospheric conditions and poor maintenance, you must admit, nevertheless, that as far as portents go it bodes ill for our present mission of goodwill."

"Goodwill?" Marion snorted. "I'm only here in the hope that I can guilt Aunt Giselle into buying me something nice. Anyway, portents or no portents, I'm not staying out here one second longer," she said, striding through the open door, a nervous Ms. Chalk at her heels. Ms. Chalk (so called because her neo-luddite tendencies led her to eschew all writing materials more sophisticated than a slate) lost a further shade of colouring as the door slammed behind them but Marion ignored her nervous stammers and headed for the kitchen, looking for heat and chocolate and the possibility of combining the two, leaving her to try and get over her scare on her own.

She was not helped in her efforts by the fact that, now she came to look closely, Aunt Giselle's hallway was not a welcoming environment. For a start the place could use a good clean. Dust was heaped in the corners and vast swathes of cobweb hung from the ceiling. Ms. Chalk avoided looking too closely but was sure that she'd glimpsed a dead rat cocooned in one of the webs. She jumped as Marion walked up behind her, sipping from a steaming mug. Ms. Chalk looked at the mug pointedly then gave Marion a hopeful look. Marion stared back at her for a good five minutes before realising what she wanted.

"Sorry," Marion said. "This was the last of the hot chocolate. I think I saw some creme de menthe in the cupboard though."

"I hate creme de menthe."

"Really? I love it." Marion knocked back the rest of her drink. "Wish I'd had that now. Oh well, too late for regrets. Where's Aunt Giselle? I want to give her her present, talk about how poor and deprived we are at university until she gets the hint, then get the hell out of here."

"What did you get her anyway?"

Marion pulled a small gift-wrapped sphere from her pocket. "An orange," she said. "Lot's of vitamin C in this. It's a gift that shows consideration for the recipient's health while keeping to a strictly defined budget."

"Your generous nature was the first thing I noticed about you," said Ms. Chalk (who was lying. Actually it was Marion's tight jeans that were the first thing she noticed. The first thing Marion had noticed about her were her rather strained eccentricities, which tended to lead to her being avoided by the bulk of the student body. Since Marion, having discovered that Ms. Chalk's father was loaded, was the only person at university who would give her the time of day they eventually became best friends by default, despite not liking each other very much, to the point where Ms. Chalk was staying with Marion's family over the holidays.) The seemingly endless parenthesis was brought to an abrupt close when a ghastly noise echoed throughout the house. By this time Ms. Chalk's skin was so colourless it was practically transparent. Marion speculated that one more good scare would render her skeleton visible.

"Oh God, the house is haunted!" She shrieked in a panic. The noise came again and she dived to the floor and attempted to wriggle under a rug. Marion listened with some interest.

"I dunno," she said. "Only if it's a ghost with tourette's syndrome."

With a little manoeuvring Ms. Chalk (so called because when under stress her voice took on the quality of nails on a blackboard) extended one ear from her hiding place and listened more closely to the unpleasant sound. Sure enough she found that what she had taken to be a ghastly spectral wailing was actually a litany of swear words. Quite creative ones, actually. Looking a little sheepish she pulled herself to her feet and tried to pretend that she had never panicked in the first place.

"Yes, well..." She said, trying to project an attitude of business as usual. "We'd probably best just find your aunt and give her her present before the weather gets any worse."

"I suppose so," Marion said and lead the way through the nearest door.

They found themselves in the living room, which was, they had to admit, quite festive looking. Unfortunately it was the wrong festival.

"Maybe you should have brought your aunt a calendar for Christmas," Ms. Chalk suggested, looking around at the Halloween decorations that hung from the walls. She idly swatted at a rubber bat that dangled near her face. "She seems to be a little confused."

Marion wandered about the room. "I think these were actually put up at Halloween. They've been here for a while at any rate," she said, gesturing towards a pumpkin lantern that had decomposed to the point that it had collapsed in on itself. "I'm quite impressed, really. Almost two months and she still can't be bothered to take these down. And people have the nerve to call me lazy."

"You are lazy," Ms. Chalk reminded her.

"Am not," Marion insisted. "I always make the effort."

"Your last essay consisted of three words, two of which were obscene."

"Yeah, it's proof of my strong work ethic that I even wrote that much."

Another bout of cursing interrupted their bickering and they followed the sound up a narrow flight of stairs. The sight that greeted them was not easily anticipated.

"Aunt Giselle!" Marion exclaimed as she saw the woman tied up in the corner of the dusty, but otherwise empty, master bedroom. All of the furniture had been removed, the carpet had been rolled back and a complex pentagram had been drawn on the floor. The other woman looked up at her shout and blinked at her a few times before recognition dawned.

"Marion! What on Earth are you doing here?"

"I've brought your Christmas present Aunt Giselle."

"Christmas?" Aunt Giselle said. "You mean I've been kept here that long? Doesn't time fly when you're being held prisoner in your own home by a satanic cult." She looked past Marion and noticed Ms. Chalk. "Well, aren't you going to introduce me to your friend dear?"

Marion looked blank for a moment, then remembered Ms. Chalk's existence and vaguely gestured in her direction. "This is Ms. Chalk," she said. "I keep her around on the off-chance that she may end up being useful sometime." Ms. Chalk (so called because of a briefly held ambition to be a pavement artist) stepped forward and was surprised to find herself looking at an attractive, albeit somewhat grubby woman in her early thirties, who looked back at her with a not inconsiderable amount of interest.

"Hello Ms. Chalk," Aunt Giselle greeted her. "Is that what you prefer to be called?"

"I... uh... don't have a first name," Ms. Chalk said, feeling unusually self-conscious.

"You don't? My, what a thoroughly memorable quirk."

"Really?" Ms. Chalk asked brightly.

"Oh yes, I think it's absolutely charming. You'll have to tell me all about it later." She looked down at her bound limbs. "You'll forgive me for not shaking hands, but circumstances are difficult to say the least."

"Speaking of difficult circumstances," Marion butted in, "How exactly did you end up like this?"

"It was Halloween," Aunt Giselle explained. "I was getting ready for bed when somebody knocked on the door. When I opened it I found a group of people dressed in blood-red robes embroidered with eldrich runes and symbols that gave me a strange feeling of spiritual disquiet. Naturally I assumed they were trick or treating. Unfortunately I didn't have any treats handy, aside from a bottle of well-aged brandy that I was keeping for myself. Still, wanting to be polite I complemented them on their costumes, which they took rather well. The leader told me that they needed a place to hold the ritual that would bring their master, the demonic hell-god Shub-Nigglybong, into the world. I said that that was all very well, but they'd have to find somewhere else. The leader asked me if I'd rather have a trick played on me. I said no, then he said 'Well that's that settled,' and hit me over the head. The next thing I knew I was tied up here and being kept for use as a human sacrifice when the planets reached the proper alignment."

"And when's that due to happen?" Ms. Chalk asked.

"Tonight apparently," Aunt Giselle told her.

Marion chose not to comment. She was already heading for the door. She stopped, however, when someone downstairs shouted "Praise Shub-Nigglybong!"

"Marion, we can't leave!" Ms. Chalk protested.

"Of course we can," Marion said. "We just need to find a big enough window."

"No, I mean we can't leave Giselle here alone to be sacrificed."

"It's a lot better than her being sacrificed with company. Especially when I'm the company."

They heard the voice loudly praising Shub-Nigglybong again, this time followed by several other voices singing "Praisypraisypraisyoooooooo-Praise Shub-Nigglybong!" Marion and Ms. Chalk stopped at the top of the stairs. Ms. Chalk gave her friend a blank look. "Is it just me or do these particular cultists sound, I dunno, kind of silly?"

"Nobody who practices human sacrifice can ever be described as silly," Marion told her firmly. "Not when there's a chance of them catching you." By now the voices had reached the bottom of the stairs so the two of them dived through the nearest doorway which, it turned out, led to a closet. They huddled there nervously, peering past the barely-ajar door as a line of robed figures trailed into the bedroom. Soon the door closed and a discordant chanting came from within. Marion seized her opportunity and went for the stairs.

"Wait!" Ms. Chalk gasped. "We have to save Giselle."

Marion walked up to her and began counting on her fingers. "Cultists. Hell-God. Human sacrifice. Those are three very good reasons for us to get out of here. Why should we stay?"

Ms. Chalk held up a finger in Marion's face. "Reward." She said.

Marion thought about this. "That's a big finger," she agreed. "All right, we'll take a look."

The two of them crept up to the bedroom door and opened it slightly. The good news was that Aunt Giselle was as yet unsacrificed. The bad news was that the chanting was winding down and a murky red light was emanating from the middle of the room. They watched in horror as Shub-Nigglybong, the destroyer of sanity, devourer of saints, connoisseur of fine wines and lover of beautiful women, stepped into the world. He was seven feet tall and looked like a yacht, but this was entirely his decision. After successively taking the form of a kitten, a bowling ball, a vampire and a small village in Portugal he finally decided to manifest himself, in the spirit of the season, as Santa Claus. Needless to say, this was all somewhat disturbing.

"Praise Shub-Nigglybong!" The lead cultist cried, after only a brief pause.

Marion had seen quite enough and decided to run for it, but tripped over Ms. Chalk when she bolted. They got hopelessly tangled with each other and were only saved from discovery by a fresh burst of chanting which drown out the noise they were making. They had just gotten back to their feet when the chanting cut out and the lead cultist spoke.

"We greet thee, O Great God Shub-Nigglybong, and offer thee this sacrifice, that thou might favour us with thy hellish might."

"Ooo, a sacrifice! Lovely!" Shub-Nigglybong said excitedly. "Haven't had one of those since the middle ages. A monk, as I recall, all fat and rancid." He sighed. "The quality of sacrifices had really fallen off by that point. To be honest I was rather relieved when they stopped. So, what have you got for me today? It's not a monk is it?"

"No Master," said the lead cultist, then gestured for his subordinates to bring Aunt Giselle forward.

"Not bad, not bad at all," Shub-Nigglybong mused. He circled the struggling aunt, eying her appraisingly. "Some of the other Hell-God's go for the teenaged virgin type of sacrifice. Personally, I think they lack flavour. Give me something more mature, a bit lived-in, that's what I say."

Aunt Giselle's eyes widened at this description. "I'm only thirty-two you shower of shite!" She squawked in outrage as she tried unsuccessfully to headbutt the demon.

"Oh don't be so touchy," he admonished as his mouth grew impossibly wide and brown-tipped fangs protruded from underneath rubbery lips. "Sacrifice Time!" He crowed.

Outside the door Marion was determined to get away and threw herself blindly away from the master bedroom. Owing to poor planning on her part she collided with a wall and was stunned. Ms. Chalk was equally determined to help Giselle and, grabbing the first thing she laid her hands on, she dived through the doorway and hurled it at Shub-Nigglybong, managing by sheer luck to hit him in his gaping maw.

It was Marion's orange.

Shub-Nigglybong stopped in sudden surprise when the gift wrapped fruit landed in his mouth, swallowing on instinct. Then his Santa Claus face took on a horrified expression as the awful truth dawned.

"Vitamin C!" He shrieked. "The secret bane of all demons." He ran around the pentagram frantically as his skin bubbled and began to slip off. "Help! Help! I'm melting, I'm melting! Oh, what a world, what a world..." He trailed off as his form dissolved into a red puddle, which promptly evaporated.

The lead cultist looked at Ms. Chalk. Ms. Chalk looked back at him with some apprehension.

"I imagine you're annoyed at me and planning some horrible revenge aren't you?" She said, then slapped a hand over her own mouth at the thought that she might have given him ideas.

The cultist sighed and pulled back his hood. "I should be, really," he said. "But to be honest I was a bit disappointed with the whole demon-summoning experience. You'd think a Hell-God would have more class." He looked at the other cultists. "Come on," he said. "Let's all become Buddhists."

The ex-cultists all filed out, passing Marion in the doorway. She still looked a little dazed as she helped Ms. Chalk untie Aunt Giselle.

"However can I repay you?" Aunt Giselle asked her saviour, who blushed and looked away.

"Hey, don't I get a reward?" Marion asked petulantly.

"You didn't save me," Giselle reminded her.

"Yeah, but I didn't stop you being saved. Surely that deserves something."

Aunt Giselle rolled her eyes but otherwise ignored her niece. "So, Ms. Chalk, can I at least persuade you to stay for dinner? I'd enjoy the company and I'm sure that Marion would cope without you for the evening."

"Actually," Marion said, "I'm a little hungry..."

"I'd love to." Ms. Chalk said firmly.

Marion opened her mouth to comment but found herself ushered downstairs and outside before any sound came out.

"So tell me, why are you called Ms. Chalk?" Was all she heard before the door slammed behind her. Grunting in irritation she started to walk to her home.....where Ms. Chalk's presents from her family had been delivered earlier that day. Marion smiled the smile of the truly venal. Christmas, she decided, was about to come a little early.


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