You are running. Running from what you are not sure but run, and quickly, you must. It is cold, late December frost sparkling in the fading light, but you are hot so your thick cloak flies loose and catches on twigs in your haste. Your body is heated by fear from within as you stumble through the woods as fast as you can. You look behind you. What is it that you fear? There is nothing, is there? You look for a place to hide. You are seeking sanctuary. Will you find it? Perhaps, perhaps not. You chose not to heed the warnings of the village elders – they warned you. Warned you about me. A legend you said. But legends can be real. Too real.
The light has almost gone. Soon there will be complete darkness. Will the darkness protect you or will the cloying threat you feel all around you be compounded by it? You do not know so you struggle on until, just as the shadows join together into one oppressive black blanket, you see a hiding place. What it is you are not sure but it resembles a pipe; a large pipe into which you can crawl. It is covered with copper-coloured bracken and you are able to arrange more of this and other woodland debris to conceal the entrance. You will be hidden. You will be safe – or so you may think, so you close your eyes and wait for daylight. You wonder what the day will bring and whether you will feel foolish that you allowed yourself to get into this state. How will you explain to those who must surely be wondering where you are? No need for explanation as they will never see you again.
Daylight has come but for you no solace. No embarrassment at your irrational fear. No embarrassment because your fear was not irrational. Your fear was justified. Well justified. Now you are in a different place, my place; no longer hidden away but on show. Displayed; a decoration. My Christmas tree is a splendid specimen; a blue spruce with many branches that demand suitable adornment. Special adornment and you are special. Each of my little human trophies is special in their own way. All different but each contained in their own delicate glass bottles fixed to the tree with golden ribbon. Gold is beautiful. Gold is festive. Gold catches the light and has movement – just as my collection has movement.
I have gathered many over the years but there may never be enough to completely beautify my tree. You are only the latest. There may be the chance to find more before Christmas Eve but it will not be easy. Collection, as I have to travel further afield to acquire my living baubles is becoming more challenging. My discovery, the miraculous and incomprehensible process that creates them, challenges me also.
A victim. You see yourself as a victim. As do they all. You wonder what will become of you and cannot imagine how long you can be kept like this. My decorations last only until Christmas Day. After that the tree will be returned to the wood from whence it came. The glass bottles that at the moment hold you and my other living trinkets will be put away until the next year. What of you and the others? Perhaps, maybe, possibly- my mystical transformation process may be reversible and you may survive. As yet though, regrettably, this is not something I have, despite my magical skills been able to achieve.
I love to look at you, despite or perhaps because of, the fear and pain and horror on your tiny faces. So many different faces – maids and youths alongside old wives and old men. You give me pleasure as Christmas approaches; you give me much pleasure so thank you. Thank you all.
I have been writing flash fiction and short stories for many years but only last year published my first collection called 'Never Know... and other stories'. I also published 'A Resolute Child', a historical tale of a girl on a mission in the 19th century. Currently I am compiling another set of stories which will include 'A Witchy Woman' and working on a prequel to my first novel entitled 'An Enigmatic Woman'. My home is in Eastbourne, East Sussex, England.