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The 2023 Third Prize

The Naughty List

by Jessica Corcoran

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 The fire in the hearth crackles fiercely, the mistletoe hangs merrily on high. Tis’ Christmas Eve, a time of warmth, excitement and mince pies. As most families prepare their tree that night, for the delight of presents in the morn; the Grey family hide away in their dark rooms in fear of the dawn. For there is no cherishment to be had, no jovial feelings to be shared. All the Grey family can desperately hope, is that their lives will all be spared.

The Grey parents lie stiffly and silently in their bed, hands clasped together tight. A deafening chime rings in their ears as the grandfather clock strikes midnight. Little Alfie and Jenny are curled up in their beds, nervousness stirring in their hearts. The last chime reverberates, a shattering heavy thud on the roof- and so it starts…

Heavy thud leads to jingle bells, creaking of tiles, his raspy breaths heard from the floor below. The children peek out of the window, see his form in shadow, carved out by lamppost glow. Screeching nails against brick travel down into the house as he creeps his way inside. There is no stopping his destruction now, by his gory list they must abide. But still, the father cannot stand idly by and do nought, so out of the bed he creeps. Silently, he makes it to the top of the stairs; through the banister he peeps.

Old fire logs hiss to smoke as black mist descends into the room. Wispy finger-like tendrils claw out of the fireplace; the first sight of doom. A torn black cloak stained in crimson blood covers what remains of this ghoul. The putrid smell of rotting flesh develops, a stench so harsh and cruel. A hollow face, barely skin and bones, hides beneath a droopy, red hat. Venomous eyes glare intensely, eyes the father dare not look at. A rotten carrot dipped into his fabric sack; the vegetable re-emerges drenched in blood. With carrot in hand, in large letters he writes “NAUGHTY”, carved into fresh wood. His hands dip into the sack once more, this time producing gifts of all sizes. Beneath the tree, he places them – a wicked laugh emerges as his voice rises. The laugh cackles throughout the house, “Merry Christmas to all!” the ghastly monster screams. In a flash, he ascends up the chimney and disappears as though he were a phantom of their dreams.

But the Greys know different, the father makes for the presents nestled beneath the tree. Tentatively, he picks one up and inspects it nervously. The ribbon unfolds in his hands and the box unfurls. The contents, so despicable and vile, the box he instinctively hurls. To the other side of the room it flies, the contents sprawling across the floor. A disgusting, bloody reminder that the Greys were marked as naughty… forever more.