It was Christmas Eve, and Whitney Turner’s children were getting ready to receive their presents from Santa in the morning, though what they didn’t know was that their mother had very little for them to open. It just didn’t seem like Christmas this year. She had been living on what wealth her late father had bequeathed to her, and now that money had run out, forcing her back on the job.
There were five children in all, the litter of a monster slayer named Hunter O’Heslin, now dead seven years. He had left his home and belongings to Whitney when he’d died, and the new owner of the property on which the house stood had simply allowed the transition to take place, as the previous owner’s sister, simply called The Witch, took over.
The shack on The Witch’s property was too small for Whitney and her brood, but she didn’t have the money to add on to the house. She was hoping that some of her old friends from work would pitch in financially. She had only just recently returned to her old job as a secretary at the police department. She had once worked for Captain William Sage, who unbeknownst to Whitney was her own father, but now the man she served was Captain Lou Abbott, a ruddy man known for his wild Christmas parties… something the other police captains looked down on.
Her old friend Helen had given her a cash gift, but alas, it had only been enough for one small gift for each child. Helen had once turned her back on Whitney out of fear of the vampires in the police department, but was now accommodating as a friend once more. Whitney only took the money because she had decided that life was too short to hold grudges. Besides, after seven years, the vampire presence on the police force had been completely wiped out, in no small part due to Whitney and her werewolf associate, Bobby Brinkley.
Her relationship with Bobby had always been tense. It had started when the werewolf killed her old boss… who turned out to be her father. Bobby had then kidnapped her and introduced her to the world of what he lovingly referred to as “otherworldly beings.” She had met Brinkley’s monster-slaying partner, Hunter O’Heslin, along with The Wizard, several mad scientists, a voodoo priest named Reverend Moonlight, another werewolf named Vince, and a yeti called Jargosh. After these characters had helped save her from a fate worse than death at the hands of a supreme vampire known as Bart Draxton, she slowly let them into her heart. One that she had not accepted so readily, however, was an angel of death called Worm Face.
Whitney had initially been terrified of Worm Face, as nobody could explain the angel’s fascination with her. She had dodged fate’s bullet by killing her would-be murderer, the vampire detective Jason Beauregard, whom she had foolishly fallen in love with. She found out then that Worm Face was not a threat… but he was still not welcome in her life. A walking image of death with the moniker “Worm Face” wasn’t exactly anyone’s idea of a best friend.
On this Christmas Eve, the employees of the police station were getting ready to party, but Whitney’s financial worries kept her from joining the crowd. She approached her boss, who was downing a large mug of spiked eggnog, and asked, “Captain Abbott? May I talk to you about my Christmas bonus?”
“Please,” he said with a belch. “Call me Captain Lou. Everyone does.”
“Okay, Captain Lou. May I talk to you about my Christmas bonus?”
“I don’t feel comfortable with that, Ms. Turner. The other employees who have been here a while know you. But I’ve only been here a few years, and I don’t. You work for me, not them. And I need you to earn your keep. You’ve only been here a month, after being absent from the work force for seven years, and you want a bonus?”
Her pleasant demeanor was gone. “Do you have kids, Captain Lou?”
“No, and I don’t want them. Why?” He asked with a lascivious leer, “Are you offering?”
She scoffed. “No. If you had kids, you’d know that kids are a job and a half. Even though you say I was absent from the work force, I was busy working as a mom to quintuplets. They’re a lot of work. And as a single mom, it’s been particularly hard. I’ve been gone for seven years, yes, but I’m trustworthy here to my co-workers, and I’ve proven my worth here. I don’t think it’s too soon to talk about a bonus, no.”
“Step in my office, Ms. Turner.”
“I’d rather not, Captain Abbott.”
He grabbed her arm. “I insist.” He pulled her into the dark office and slammed the door, then pinned her against the wall.
“Sexual harassment suits are expensive, Captain Abbott,” she replied calmly. “I’m not giving up my job here, but maybe you are.”
A cold voice filled the captain’s ears. “Your heart is working overtime, Captain Abbott. Too much liquor so early in the evening, I fear. It’s become… the death of you.”
Captain Lou turned pale as he saw the worm-eaten corpse approach him. “What the fuck is this? Ms. Turner, is this Ghost of Christmas Future looking motherfucker with you?”
Whitney nodded. “Merry Christmas, Worm Face. Is this asshole on your short list?”
Captain Lou laughed, drool running down his chin. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this drunk before. Am I really seeing this?”
Worm Face leaned in and caressed the offensive captain’s cheek, which automatically caused Captain Lou to piss his pants. “Is this man bothering you, Ms. Turner?”
“Not in the least. I was trying to get a bonus out of him… Maybe a raise.”
“That’s not what it looked like to me.”
“I hope you’re not here to kill him. I need this job. Losing two captains in one decade would look really bad on my resume.”
“I find it unfortunate that you’re standing up for this man. He hasn’t done many good things in his time. Would you care to see?”
“What, like a highlight reel?” Captain Lou slurred, dazed from Worm Face’s touch.
“Shut up, Lou,” Whitney said. “You’re lucky to be alive. Worm Face, what are you doing here?”
“I’m not here for him, Whitney…. Not entirely, anyway. You see, I’ve been reassigned.”
“So… you’re not a reaper anymore?”
Worm Face cackled dryly. “Oh, I am that, Whitney. However… you can think of me as your guardian angel.”
“So… you’re pulling double-duty now?”
“You don’t seem surprised.”
“I’ve seen a lot over the past seven years. Not much surprises me anymore.”
Captain Lou looked at her and said. “You’ve seen a lot? Like what, dirty diapers?” He then laughed callously before she slapped him.
“I’ve about had enough out of you, buster,” she snarled.
“Easy, Whitney,” Worm Face cooed. “I am here about your… lack of what people call the Christmas spirit.”
“It’s not Christmas spirit I lack, Worm Face. It’s money.”
“Money can’t buy happiness, Whitney. You have made do with what you have for so long, but now it is not good enough. Why?”
She let out a flustered breath. “It’s my kids, okay? They’re seven. They’re growing up so fast. Captain Sage’s money has run out, their father is dead, and… I can’t keep doing this.”
“Can’t keep doing what?”
“Raising them on The Witch’s property. I want out. Sometimes I wish I’d never even been brought into this world I’m living in.”
“Do you wish you had never been born?”
“No. If I had to word it more simply, I’d say I wish I’d never met Bobby Brinkley.”
“Ah. You blame him, as usual.”
Captain Lou tottered on his feet. “Bobby Brinkley? The murderer who killed my predecessor? He’s a wanted man.”
“How many times do I have to tell you to shut up?” Whitney asked.
“It will do you no good,” Worm Face replies. “This one is stubborn. I could show you what your life would be like had you never met Bobby Brinkley… but it wouldn’t be pretty.”
“That’s okay. I know I’d be dead without him. I was only kidding, anyway. I’ve been thinking of that old Capra Christmas movie.”
Captain Lou leaned closer to Worm Face and said, “See, buddy? She has Christmas spirit, after all!”
“I was not talking to her, Lou Abbott. You have always lacked the Christmas spirit. Whitney, do you want to see this?”
“Are you going to kill him?”
“Not now… though by the end, he may wish I had.”
She smirked. “Then count me in.”
The three of them rose from the floor as the room vanished around them. “This is your life, Lou Abbott. Every Christmas you’ve ever had was full of misery inflicted solely by you.”
Whitney and her boss saw a spoiled boy who had driven his parents mad become a teen who bullied others in the same way, until he reached his sexual peak, when he would rape several girls who looked just like Whitney Turner. “What the fuck, Lou?” Whitney asked.
His eyes rolling around in his head, Captain Lou replied, “I’m sorry. I have a type.”
“Wait a minute,” she said. “Worm Face, you said this is just his Christmases? He’s done all these horrible things during the holiday season? That’s awful.”
“Yes,” Worm Face replied, staring deeply into the captain’s face with his dead eyes. For the first time, Captain Lou seemed truly afraid of the specter. “He used this joyous time of year when we celebrate the Savior’s birth as a time for selfish revelry and sexual dominance. He truly is the lowest of the low.”
“Stop,” the captain whimpered. “I’m sorry. I’ll change. I’ll… I’ll be a better boss. A better person! I’ll keep the Christmas spirit! Yeah! I’ll start by giving Ms. Turner here her bonus. And a raise!”
“Having friends in scary places has its benefits, after all,” she said to herself. She then realized that this was the first time she had considered Worm Face a friend.
The room became Captain Lou Abbott’s office once more as Worm Face vanished and Whitney slowly touched down on her feet. Lou hit the floor, face-first. He slowly stood up and looked around. What had happened in an instant had seemed to go on forever for the man. He grabbed Whitney by the shoulders and said, “I’m sorry for what I said! Here, I have something for you.” He reached into his desk and pulled out a check with her name on it. “This… was your bonus handed down by the superiors. I was gonna spend it on booze. Sorry. You, uh… have a merry Christmas. When you come back, you’ll have a new boss.”
“You’ve changed that much?”
“I… I don’t know. I’m going to get you transferred to a different department. You just scared the shit out of me and I’d rather not deal with you and your freaky friends anymore. No offense.”
“None taken.” She took the check and asked, “Can I get an advance on that raise before you shove me off on someone else?”
He pulled a fat wad of cash out of his pocket. “Sure. I was gonna spread this around at the titty bar, but… you deserve it. Merry Christmas.”
She smiled. “Thanks, Lou. Now go out there and show the force a Christmas party they’ll never forget.”
He grinned. “Yeah!” He opened the door and screamed, “Merry Christmas, motherfuckers!”
Taking her money, Whitney decided to exit. Once she was outside, Worm Face was there, waiting for her. “Now that you’ve seen the Christmas spirit in full effect, what are you going to do?”
She stopped. “You did all that for me, didn’t you? I thought you were showing him the Christmas spirit?”
“An added benefit,” Worm Face replied. “You can now think about moving your children to a bigger space. Or perhaps just adding on to the house on The Witch’s property?”
“I have a lot of friends over there on the otherworldly part of town,” she said. “And I just realized how lucky I am to have them.”
“So I don’t have to show you what the world would be like if you’d never met Bobby Brinkley?”
A car sounded its horn as it stopped in front of them. Bobby Brinkley hopped out and, ignoring the reaper, said, “Your kids are finally asleep. You want to go out, celebrate the holiday?” He then nodded. “What’s up, Worm Face?”
She smiled, then looked back at Worm Face. “Are you kidding? I love that mutt… especially on the holidays.” She then sat down in the passenger seat of Bobby’s car and closed the door.
Bobby returned to the driver’s seat and said, “What’d I miss?”
“I have the money to do what I want with the house… but it means stiffing the kids tomorrow. What should I do, Bobby? Go to a toy store, or the hardware store to get some home improvement things?”
Bobby smirked. “Is that what you wanted for Christmas? Give me that money and you let me take care of the renovations. And don’t worry about the kids. I’ve got Jargosh planning to surprise them tomorrow. He’s got gifts.”
Whitney raised an eyebrow. “What kind of gifts does a yeti give children? Or do I want to know?”
“I have no idea, but I damned sure want to find out. Can we count on you to bring them by The Witch’s tomorrow afternoon? The whole gang’ll be there.”
She smiled. “Yeah, we’ll be there.” She then looked back at Worm Face. “How about you, Worm Face? Is my guardian angel going to be there for me tomorrow?”
Worm Face laughed a hollow, unnerving noise. “I am no one’s guardian angel, Ms. Turner. I just wanted you to get a more secure position before I claimed the soul of that wretched excuse for a man.”
“So… he is on your short list?”
“He is the short list.”
Thinking about all that had conspired, she said, “You lied to me. I thought angels weren't supposed to lie."
"Ah, but I did not directly tell an untruth, child. I implied to make you believe contrarywise, but I never told an outright lie."
Whitney smirked. "Fine. Cheater. One more thing..."
"Take it easy on him. After all, it’s Christmas.”
“Are you saying I should spare his life?”
“Oh, hell no. He deserves it. Just try not to scare him too bad. He thinks he’s been given a second chance, after all.”
“He is not acting like it,” Worm Face replied.
“Then fuck it, take him however you please. Merry Christmas, Worm Face. I hope I will see you tomorrow.”
“You may, Whitney. You may, indeed. Merry Christmas, Bobby Brinkley. Be nice.”
Bobby nodded slowly, not understanding what had taken place. “Sure. You too, Worm Face.”
Once the reaper was gone and Captain Lou’s distant scream was heard from inside the building, Bobby asked, “What was that all about?”
She smiled. “I made a new friend tonight, Bobby. Let’s go home.”
“Your home or my home?”
She scowled. "I've had enough unwanted sexual advances for one night. I meant my home, Bobby. I want to see my children.”
And with that, he drove off toward the Enchanted Forest, where Christmas dinner would happen the next day for Whitney and her children, as well as the otherworldly beings they had grown so fond of.
It was still dark outside the next morning when Whitney’s children surrounded her sleeping form on the couch. “Merry Christmas, Mommy,” they shouted in unison.
Once their mother’s eyes were half-open, the burliest boy asked, “Can we open the gifts now?”
She yawned. “Okay, Hunter. But I want you to keep in mind that The Witch’s magic makes it hard for Santa to bring a heavy load for five kids. You may be down to one gift each. I’m sorry.”
Roberta, the runt of the litter, asked, “What are you talking about, Mommy? Look at all those gifts!”
Sitting up on the sofa, Whitney stretched and looked under the tree, where she saw a mountain of gifts. She remembered that she had given Bobby a fat wad of cash for the renovations, and was now angry, thinking he had spent all the money on gifts.
The sound of sleigh bells suddenly stopped in front of the shack, and the sounds of “Ho, ho, ho!” came from outside.
“Hunter, would you please let Bobby in?”
The boy opened the door, but instead of Bobby, a grotesque yeti appeared, wearing a fake beard, a Santa Claus hat, and nothing else. Whitney turned her gaze up to avoid seeing his furry genitals once more, something she'd never wanted to see in the first place. “Merry Christmas, norms,” the fake Santa cried.
“Merry Christmas, Jargosh,” the children shouted back.
“Aw,” Jargosh whimpered. “How'd you know it was me?”
Bobby slipped in past the yeti and hugged the children all in one massive crowd. He then stood up and walked over to Whitney. “Merry Christmas.”
She glared at him. “Did you spend all that money on presents?”
Bobby noticed the gifts. “Wow. That’s a lot of gifts. Jargosh, were those all yours?”
“Nah,” he said. “Mine were the yeti dolls made from my old fur that came out in the summertime. Oops! I guess I spoiled the surprise.”
“That’s… sweet of you, Jargosh,” Whitney said unconvincingly.
Unable to sense the insincerity in her voice, Jargosh replied, “Thank you, woman,” with a sense of pride.
“Bobby, do you mean to tell me you didn’t buy those gifts?”
“They’re not mine. I buried that money you gave me for after the holidays."
'Buried it? I hope you don't mean that literally."
"Sorry, Whitney, but I am part canine. It's what we do." Thinking back to the gifts, he asked, "If they’re not yours, or mine, or Jargosh’s, who could have bought them?”
“Maybe we’ll know when they open them. Go for it, kids.”
The quintuplets cheered as they ripped through the wrapping paper and pulled out gifts. They weren’t toys, but rather supplies that the children would need in school. Stationery, pens, and other things found in an office. In fact, Whitney recognized some of these things from Captain Lou Abbott’s office. Hunter opened a present containing the late Captain’s sweat-stained baseball cap, which Hunter immediately pulled on, and one of his brothers got the tie that Lou Abbott had been wearing the night before. Whitney was certain that it had been removed postmortem.
Roberta held up a bowling trophy, which now had the girl’s name on the gold plate. “Look, Mommy! I won a bowling tournament!”
Whitney stifled a laugh. “That’s great, honey.”
Bobby leaned in and whispered, “Where’d this shit come from?”
“I think Worm Face paid us a visit in the night. If it weren’t so damn morbid that he gave my children the possessions of his latest victim, I’d say it was sweet.”
Next were the gifts that Whitney had bought with Helen's money, which were significantly more appreciated than Worm Face's office supplies. This brought a smile to Whitney's face and a tear to her eye. She whispered to Bobby, "Remind me to thank Helen."
"You'll get no reminder from me. She almost let the vampires have at me. If I had it my way, I'd have killed her."
"Considering that she bought those gifts, I'm glad you didn't have your way, Bobby Brinkley."
A few minutes later, every gift had been opened, and the yeti dolls lay discarded under the tree. Upset that his gifts were quickly abandoned, Jargosh pouted and stomped outside… and tripped over his sleigh, causing the bells to jingle once more. “Listen,” Roberta said. “According to that old movie Mommy likes, every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings!”
Shaking his head, Bobby chuckled and muttered, “That's right. Atta boy, Worm Face.”
As if summoned by the call of his name, Worm Face appeared by the tree. "Merry Christmas, children. Do you appreciate your gifts?" He pointed to the things from Captain Abbott's office.
Hunter and Roberta enthusiastically cried, "Yeah!" The other three were less thrilled with the dead captain's tie, paper clips, and pens.
"Really, Worm Face," Whitney said, "you shouldn't have."
"It was the least I could do, child."
"I kinda doubt that. But thank you. I take it you're here to take us up on that dinner invite at The Witch's place?"
"I do not eat, child. But I would enjoy the company... if you think the others would humor me."
"Yeah, you do kinda freak everybody else out, Worm Face," Bobby said, earning him an elbow to the ribs from Whitney.
She offered, "But since today is Christmas, I'm sure The Witch and the others would be delighted you came!"
Eyeing the things under the tree, Worm Face asked, "Where are the children's gifts from you, Bobby Brinkley?"
"Oh, werewolves don't really do Christmas gifts. I never have before, and... this year I didn't plan to make any exceptions."
"Nonsense. You made arrangements to add on to this house with your own finances this very morning, and you plan to give Whitney back her money this evening."
Bobby scowled. "Way to spoil the surprise, Worm Face. A guy tries to do something different for a change, and he doesn't even get the chance to say it himself."
Whitney looked at him with a smile. "Thanks, Bobby. But I didn't get you anything."
"He can have this," said Hunter and Roberta's brother Travis, holding up Captain Abbott's tie.
Worm Face tilted his head. "Are you sure, Travis? That is your gift."
Travis smiled. "It's better to give than receive. Besides, this tie smells funny, and it's too big for me,"
Bobby took the tie in one hand and gave the small boy a fist bump with the other. "Thanks, kid. This is the first Christmas present I've gotten... in a very long time. I'll treasure it always. I might even arrange to be buried in it when my time comes."
Whitney cleared her throat. "Bobby. That's a morbid thing to say to a seven-year-old."
"Sorry... but I'm like Worm Face in that I tell the truth!"
Worm Face made a nervous sound. "You are no angel, Bobby Brinkley."
"No shit," Bobby said under his breath.
"Did Santa Claus bring you any gifts, Worm Face?" Travis asked.
"No. The only gift I received was the pleasure of completing my assignment and doing something good for a friend. We are friends, are we not, child?"
Whitney smiled. "Yeah, we are."
The door slammed as Jargosh returned to the room. He was now missing the white beard, but still wore the hat. "Santa Claus didn't bring me anything, either," he said morosely.
"Don't tell me you believe in Santa Claus, Jargosh," Worm Face said incredulously.
"No... but nobody else gave me any gifts, either."
Whitney thought for a moment, then stepped over and gave the shaggy beast a hug, though the musky odor offended her nostrils. "Merry Christmas, you big pussy cat.."
"Don't let me hear you call me that again, woman," Jargosh snarled. "But thank you for the gift of physical contact."
"What about Vince?" Bobby asked. "He didn't get you anything, Jargosh?"
"I didn't think werewolves did Christmas gifts," Whitney said, eyeing Bobby with a suspicious glare.
"They don't," Jargosh said. "Vince doesn't celebrate, either."
Bobby uttered a nervous chuckle. "See? We don't.... usually. But I'm helping out this Christmas, so... it works out, right?"
Whitney sighed.. "Fine, Bobby. You get a pass this time. But instead of giving me back that money, I want you to make up for seven years of no Christmas gifts by treating these kids to something special. Deal?"
Bobby scratched the back of his neck. "What's special for kids that I can afford with your bonus?"
Hunter roared, "We're going to Disney World!"
Whitney placed a hand over his mouth. "Not that special. How about Chuck E. Cheese?"
The children forgot all about Hunter's outburst and celebrated the next day's trip to Chuck E. Cheese for the rest of the morning.
"Let us not forget the true meaning of Christmas," Worm Face observed, drawing the attention of all in the room.
Bobby shifted nervously on his feet. "Um... is the true meaning of Christmas the birth of Christ? I thought the Christians stole it from the Pagans?"
"Christmas means what you want it to, Bobby," Worm Face replied. "I was referring to what it means to me: kinship... and celebrating doing the Lord's work."
"Yeah, I guess that is what it means to you," Jargosh muttered. "Come on, norms," he said, "The Witch is waiting. I can practically taste her wolverine stew now!"
Whitney felt a gag in her throat. "Is he serious?"
"She makes a special plate just for him... She doesn't even cook it at the same time as our stuff. Don't worry. I wouldn't go every year if I didn't think her meal were edible."
"Good. In that case, let's go. Bundle up, kids!"
The family, along with the werewolf, yeti, and grim reaper, set out for The Witch's tavern for an afternoon full of memories that would last a lifetime... for better, or for worse.