The Christmas Splooge

Pietro, armed only with a rusty fork, half a pack of cigarettes, and the clothes on his back, takes to the streets. Most of the city is busy preparing feasts and exchanging gifts. Even many of Pietro’s ilk, what the rest of the city refers to as “The Homeless Problem”, have found a shelter or soup kitchen to stay for the night. Pietro envies them. They know not what horror comes to the city. If Pietro does his job right, they will not know for many years to come.

In the Old Language, the creature is known as _____, but Pietro has come to calling it the Christmas Splooge, due to its viscous, creamy appearance. The first sign of its arrival is obvious. Really, you couldn’t miss it. Every year, without fail, the Christmas tree outside town hall combusts. Every year it is blamed on faulty wiring. In reality, this is the Splooge crossing into our plane.

Most beings that want to come in to town take the highway. This sets the Splooge apart from most beings. It is a drama queen. This has also been Pietro’s only advantage for the past decade.

The combusting of the tree starts a countdown. A countdown that lasts exactly nine minutes and two seconds. Pietro doesn’t know whether this time is significant in any way, and he doesn’t particularly care to know. He just cares about doing his job.

He stands outside a small deli, eyeing a particularly old looking sandwich. He figures he can strike a deal with the manager, she always seems to appreciate what he does to keep the block clean. However before he can enter, sirens fill the air around his ears, followed closely by their source: a crimson fire truck.

“Motherfu-” Pietro stops himself mid swear as a mother and her young child hurry past. He tries giving them a friendly smile, but it comes off more as creepy than friendly. He can never catch a break, Splooge decided to come early this year. He breaks into a jog, unlit cigarette in danger of falling out from between his lips. He lost his lighter a few nights ago in a bet with Eddie, another vagrant. Luckily for Pietro, he knows where Mason, a non-vagrant, keeps his weed reserves, and there is usually a spare lighter in with it. It is a block out of the way, giving the Splooge a few minutes head start, but there was no way Pietro was going to fight Splooge without a goddamn cigarette. He tried that two years ago. It was awful.


 

Fifteen minutes later Pietro arrives at the freshly extinguished tree, reeking of tobacco and cheap marijuana. The mayor and fire chief are sharing a laugh out in the snow. After all these years, the combustion of the tree has become tradition for them. Idiots.

Pietro knows that he is running late for the second sign. It may have already happened. If so, this night is going to be a hell of a lot harder. With most of town hall’s staff either gathered outside, or already home, Pietro has no trouble walking in and up the service stairs to the roof. The brisk air whips at his neck. He wishes now that he hadn’t given away his scarf to Layla. She probably sold it for her daily dope fix anyway.

Two cigarettes later Pietro decides he has missed the second sign. Oh well, not the first time this has happened. He turns back to the stairwell door when he hears it. A grin spreads across his face and he lights another cigarette in celebration. The sound is nearly impossible to describe. When Pietro drunkenly tells someone about it he describes it as “how I imagine deaf people imagine firecrackers”. Most people have long since stopped listening to him by this point.

The sound is coming from the East. This means that the Splooge is somewhere in the West, possibly North, but probably West. Pietro secures his remaining five cigarettes in his pants pocket, throws the pack off the roof onto the sidewalk below and heads for the stairs.

“This time I’ve got him. I’ll take care of this in an hour and still be able to get a bite to eat somewhere pleasant.” Pietro tells himself this almost every year. He has too. He has to believe that this time things will go a bit better. He learns something new each year after all. Last year it was that the Splooge can control people’s minds, but only if the street that they are on contains exactly two vowels. The Splooge is fucking dumb.

A twenty minute walk later, Pietro finds his first clue that the Splooge is nearby. There are shadows moving in the street and alleys. Shadows that have no owners. Either that, or the owners of the shadows are invisible. Either way, the Splooge is behind it. Pietro glances at the street sign: Om Str et.

Damn.

Damn damn.

The first ‘e’ is missing from Street. Pietro figured he best be on his guard. While the name technically has three vowels, the sign only displays two. This is probably good enough for the Splooge, or whoever gives it its powers.

He waits. He waits for it to make the first move. He waits for it to show itself. Except it doesn’t. Instead a young boy comes out from a house. He isn’t any older than Pietro’s own daughter, probably fourteen or fifteen. Pietro pushes the thought of his family out of his head. He has time to cry for them later. Not now though.

The boy approaches and, with a voice that cannot possibly belong to him, speaks: “Hello Peter. It has been too long.”

In the time that it takes the boy to say this he is within lunging distance of Pietro. His grip on his fork tightens.

“Leave these people out of this _____, you tried it last time. It didn’t work then.”

The boy changes into a bookshelf and pounces at Pietro. This…is unexpected. Pietro sidesteps. Bookshelves are tricky. They have very limited mobility in the air, but their recovery time, as well as swivel speed is unnatural.

Pietro makes a break for an alley. If he can trip the shelf up, get it stuck in a dumpster perhaps. That will save the boy and remove one headache from tonight. Getting to the alley isn’t hard, but the shelf stays at the edge of it, rocking from side to side, daring not to approach Pietro on his home turf.

Pietro takes this opportunity to light a new cigarette. Only two left. Some must have fallen out, or he stopped paying attention to how many he was smoking a while ago.

After a moment of semi-awkward silence the shelf seems to chuckle to itself. Pietro’s eyes narrow, trying to figure out where this fucking shelf gets off. Pietro’s question is answered almost immediately when something heavy knocks into his back, catching him flat footed, and nearly knocking him to his knees.

Pietro turns 180 degrees, now face-to-face with a washing machine.

“Jesus…” Pietro sighs. Washing machines generally only have one good hit in them. After this they tend to take several minutes before even moving. Pietro stabs the fork into the top of the machine, leaving it in there for good measure. If this is the sort of thing that the Splooge has in store tonight, then a fork isn’t going to be much more good.

Turning around reveals that the shelf has retreated back into the street. As soon as Pietro sees it, it turns back into a boy, and as soon as it turns back into a boy, it falls to the ground.

What happens next is not pleasant. The Splooge is not kind to its meals. It does not follow any rules of decency. It is quick however. The Splooge comes in from the right side of the street, where it had been waiting, just out of Pietro’s sight. It then hovers mere inches above the boy. The boy’s nervous system is removed instantaneously. It settles first at the top of the Splooge, then slowly forms the words “Hello Peter, Merry Christmas” in comic sans font.

“Bastard” Pietro mouths. “Let’s end this.”

Pietro has no idea how his last cigarette has gotten into his mouth, or how it lit itself, but he doesn’t care. He is just glad to have its sweet aroma before he metaphorically dives into the literally mass of goo.


 

Planets whip by. They are the size of marbles. Pietro lands in an infinitely large white landscape. Before him are shapes, similar to what a baby may play with. The shapes are massive, and miniscule, at the same time. He touches one. A cube. It is the absolute worst feeling that any human has ever felt. The edges are too real. They dwarf him, and he is scared of crushing them.

The shapes are replaced by a long hallway. Pietro has no time to look behind him, but he knows an alligator is chasing him, eating the floor behind him. He must run. The end of the hallway is a chasm. Yellow fog is at the bottom. The hallway continues about fifteen feet in front of him. He knows that he won’t make the jump. But he tries anyway.

A field. Jolted awake. Pietro hears laughter. A young woman. He does not recognize her, but immediately knows he loves her.

“You’re silly” she says, lying next to him in the tall grass. “Let’s follow the path a bit more, maybe we can get home in time to see a movie.”

Hours pass in the span of a few minutes. Everything, all of the worries, all of the pain, is all gone. This moment is perfect. She grabs his hand as they enter a movie theater. Joy.

The movie starts. Pietro hears shouting. He is in his bed. No, he is in a bed, but does not recognize it. Nor does he recognize the shouting voices. Upon closer listening, only one voice is shouting. The other is pleading; crying.

Pietro is back in the theater. He knows that it won’t last much longer. He tries to hold onto the feeling for a moment more, but decides to let it go.

Awake now, in the strange bed. Crying. No shouting though. A bottle of pills on the desk, half empty now. A shadowy man is in the mirror, in the bathroom, writing letters in blood. Pietro sees it happening without having to leave the bed. He sees another taller shadowy figure at the end of the hall. He suddenly realizes how thirsty he is, but knows that the water is in the closet at the end of the hall.


 

Pietro finally jolts back to reality. He is crying in the alley, slumped against the washing machine. Turns out it was a young woman, probably in her early twenties. She is passed out, but still alive. Pietro wipes away the tears, searches for a cigarette to no avail. He finally recognizes the alley. He has porn hidden here somewhere. After a few minutes searching through garbage cans he finds it: the 1989 Christmas issue of Quackers.

Pietro exits the alley onto the street where he did his battle. The Splooge is gone. Defeated for another year. Pietro’s mind goes back to his family for a moment. He imagines them huddled around a fire right now, his daughter might have a boyfriend by now, and her mother has probably found a better job since he left. These thoughts bring more tears to his eyes, and he quickly casts them aside with another glance at the filthy magazine. Another year complete. Just a few more to go.

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