The first theme proposed for our regular story challenges was "Christmas Eve" - we had a number of stories, scary, heart-warming and just plain weird! Here is the first one by Michael Connell, with inspiration from Charles Dickens and M R James!!
THE PECULIAR PORTMANTEAU by Michael Connell (c)
Mr Richardson hated Christmas. And If anyone presented him with a gift or a salutary nod of the
head, followed by a hearty - 'Merry Christmas!' his habit was to spin on his heel and walk off without
One Christmas Eve Mr Richardson was closing his shop, the snow had started to whirl around his
heels and began to leave deep swooping drifts in all the shop doorways, when he spotted a large
brown parcel poking out of the snow near his shopfront. He peered at the label. 'To Mr Richardson',
was written on the thick card. The ink appeared to be of a crimson hue and smelled faintly
'Damned Christmas present I'll wager!' He snorted. Richardson was about heave the parcel into the
gutter when from around the corner an officer of the watch appeared.
'Oi!, you there!' said the officer. 'You can't leave that fing ere!' Pick it up and bugger owf! Or I'll av
you in the cells!'
Mr Richardson picked up the box and hurried off through the heavy snow. The streets began to
darken. And once or twice he thought he felt something inside the parcel move towards his chest
Once inside Mr Richardson struggled to close his door against the howling wind, and a cyclone of
snow swept in behind him and died as the door slammed shut.
He placed the brown box down before the blazing fire, took a small letter opener from his desk,
crouched before the box, and put his hand upon it. It was freezing. He got his leather gloves then
proceeded to cut the thick cord.
Once unwrapped he could see that it was an old portmanteau. Who would send such a gift he
thought? He'd refused all gifts since he was a child yet this was something he had always wanted.
He opened the straps quickly like a... like a child on Christmas morning! He laughed out loud at this
thought and at his stupidity for refusing to allow himself this pleasure all these years. Well no longer,
from now on he would celebrate Christmas every year! Have friends and family over for a roister
they would never forget!
He opened the lid and reached inside. His hand met a sticky membrane covering the opening like a
spiderweb. Suddenly it began to peak in several places and stretch towards him. He thought he
heard whispered laughter from inside. He tried to pull away, but small boney twig-like fingers
pushed through the web and caught hold of Mr Richardson, who tried to scream as they covered his
mouth with many spiny little hands.
On Christmas morning, despite a thorough search, Mr Richardson was nowhere to be found. His
Maid discovered the portmanteau on the rug and some crumpled brown paper with a label.
On one side was written - 'To Mr Richardson', and on the other - 'Do Not Open Until Christmas Day'.
It had an unsavoury smell so she threw it on the fire.