I had so much fun writing the bonus Blades of Janus short story, “Trick or Treat“, that I decided to stop in and see how Johnny Goblin, Scarecrow, and Spriggan celebrate Christmas. Of course, it’s as weird as you’d think 🙂
Christmas is my favorite holiday, too, Johnny <3 Some day, maybe you’ll learn to spell it right.
Please enjoy a peek into how three alien/Earth-Creature hybrids celebrate a holiday they adore and aren’t sure they quite understand.
(Psst… There’s also a video on my YouTube channel with me doing a reading of this piece, with imagery to accompany it 🙂 ).
Copyright © 2017 Cassandra Chandler
Halloween should have been Johnny’s favorite holiday. The one night of the year when he could run around without worrying too much about Earthlings seeing him. It was great for restocking the pantry, and Johnny had lots of fun scaring the crap out of humans, but it couldn’t hold a candle to X-mas.
“What the heck kind of goblin am I?” Johnny muttered to himself, digging deeper into the trash.
He should like Halloween best. But this time of year, when the nights were long and the days so short—it always made him happy. This was his time of year.
So many tiny lights, like little stars sprinkled all over the place, reminded him of the depths of space. Somewhere, there was a planet full of the lifeforms that had spawned him. Other…goblin-things.
Even removed by scores of generations on Earth, he could still feel that pull. He still wondered. But the lights also weirdly reminded him that Earth was his home. Little stars right on the planet. It made him feel like he had a place here.
“Cripes, when did I get so sappy?”
Going out to forage any time of year except Halloween was dangerous. Humans were everywhere—and with their camera phones, if Johnny was seen, it could cause a lot of problems for the dwellers hiding on Earth. So why was he digging through a garbage can in the frickin’ suburbs?
“Ha!” He let out a short shout of triumph as he pulled his latest find free of the other household trash…and was answered by half a dozen neighborhood dogs.
“Crap.” Tucking himself into a ball, he rolled under the nearby bushes, then held completely still.
Usually, if anyone saw him when he was like this, they just thought he was a big pile of trash, with his lumpy body, gray-green skin and wrinkled-beyond-recognition clothes. Nothing to bother with. But he usually wasn’t hiding in somebody’s front lawn.
Lights went on and the door opened. A pair of humans stepped out, chittering in their weird voices.
“Damn raccoons,” the male said. “Look at what they’ve done to the street.”
“The cans are still standing,” the female said. “Wouldn’t a raccoon have knocked them over?”
‘Clever human,’ Johnny thought.
“What else would have done this?” the male said.
The female was quiet for a moment. Her voice was a little strained when she spoke again.
“Let’s go back inside. We can finish decorating the tree and clean this up in the morning.”
Johnny held back a chuckle. Very clever human. Or at least, one with good enough instincts to know when something was off.
The male muttered something too quietly for Johnny to hear, but the pair headed back for their house. As soon as they were inside, he rolled to the sidewalk and stretched himself onto his feet, then held up his prize to inspect it.
“They’re gonna love this.”
And there was his answer for why he was doing this. Scarecrow and Spriggan, waiting for him back at the den.
Stuffing the last treasure into one of the oversized pockets that held the rest of his spoils, he curled himself up again and rolled into the storm drain he’d used to access the neighborhood. He made sure to bend the bars that had covered it back into place before heading home.
By the time he arrived, he was covered in silt. Spriggan would love that. Probably get all huggy, wanting to be closer to all that fine dirt. Johnny could deal with that. He was about to ask for a huge favor, after all
He moved aside the battered piece of plywood that covered the door to the abandoned building where they lived, then squeezed through the small opening.
“Gotta have a treeee.” He chuckled as he walked into their home.
He heard weird little clicking and scratching sounds, like branches rubbing together in a wind, then Spriggan’s voice, sounding even more airy than usual.
“You smell really good, Johnny.”
Johnny understood the sound when he saw that Spriggan was lying on the dirt in his huge flowerpot instead of standing upright in the soil. One of his feet was even unburied, his root-toes twitching as he let out a deep sigh.
“What the hell happened to you?” Johnny said.
“Heeeee.” A jagged crack split Spriggan’s face where he smiled, and the two knots that were his eyes had become huge and darkened. One branch-limb was draped over his chest, making the scratching sound as he…breathed? Did spriggans breathe?
Johnny shook his head. He could ask about that later.
Spriggan’s other limb was draped over the side of the pot—and holding the remains of a paper carton of eggnog. Most of the carton had been shredded and was littered around the top of his wet soil.
“Cripes,” Johnny said. “Who gave you eggnog?”
Spriggan giggled again, then lifted an arm and pointed. Johnny followed with his gaze and saw Scarecrow sitting on a crate that was shoved against the wall. The eyes, nose, and mouth of her Jack-o’-Lantern head were pulsing bright blue, as if she was laughing.
Bits of straw poked out of the neck of the sweater that helped hold her body together, and she was wearing some kind of lumpy sweatpants with lots of holes in them, along with oversized boots. She must have gone out foraging herself to find those new clothes.
‘How festive,’ Johnny thought.
Spriggan let out a sigh, then said, “I can see all of space and time.”
At least he was a happy drunk.
Johnny lifted his long arms and let them drop to his sides, his knuckles rasping against the floor. “Why’d you give him eggnog? You know how he gets.”
The lights on Scarecrow’s face dimmed, her mouth becoming dark. Slowly, she lifted her arm, spreading her twine-wrapped straw fingers as she gestured toward Spriggan.
“I don’t care if he enjoys it. Now we gotta keep a close eye on him till it’s out of his system. You remember last year, when he hopped out of his pot and ran all the way to that tree yard and tried to set all them pine trees free?”
A blue light started to shine in the very center of her mouth—like a laugh she was suppressing.
“Okay, yeah,” Johnny said. “That was pretty hilarious. But only because it was the middle of the night and we didn’t get caught.”
Johnny sighed. “Did you maybe think that I might have some special plans for us tonight? I mean, why else would I go out?”
Scarecrow cocked her pumpkin head to the side, her lights returning to normal. Even Spriggan stopped giggling.
“Hey, Johnny,” Spriggan said. “We didn’t mean to spoil anything. We know this is your favorite time of year.”
Johnny wanted to deny it, but with these two, there was no point. They knew him too well.
“Thanks,” he growled.
“What can we do for ya?” Spriggan said.
“To start, you could stand up and—” When Johnny turned his head, Scarecrow was standing right beside him. He hadn’t seen her move. “Cripes!”
He looked at the crate where she’d been sitting a second ago, then back to her. Yeah, Scarecrow was…something else entirely.
She held out her hands, as if offering to help. Johnny pulled out some of his finds and gave them to her.
Spriggan’s knot-eyes weren’t as dark as they’d been, but were still huge from the eggnog. “I get it.” Spriggan clapped his hands together, making a sound like bamboo windchimes. “Oh, this is gonna be great!”
He dug his feet firmly into the dirt in his pot, then held out his arms. “Gimme!”
Johnny just chuckled. He handed Spriggan a couple of the baubles from the night’s foraging, then starting hanging more of them on Spriggan’s outstretched arms.
Broken globes, a reindeer with one antler missing, a bunch of plastic snowflakes that looked like they’d been chewed on by a dog, and Johnny’s personal favorite—a star. Scarecrow held out her hand for it after hanging her own decorations on Spriggan. Johnny gave it to her and watched as she reached out to put it on Spriggan’s head, some of her twine snaking out from her arm and wrapping itself around both to hold the star in place.
Johnny…hadn’t known she could do that.
She looked at him and smiled, her mouth lighting up brighter.
“There’s more.” Johnny pulled out the last bit of his spoils—a string of lights. He carefully wrapped them around Spriggan, with Scarecrow’s help. “They probably don’t work, but—”
Scarecrow cocked her head to the side, holding the plug end of the lights in one hand. The lights flickered, then started to glow—all with the same eerie blue that came from Scarecrow’s face.
Johnny hadn’t known she could do that, either.
They stared at each other for a moment, then Scarecrow reached behind her back, and pulled out another sweater from…somewhere…and handed it to him. It had the same design as the one she was wearing, some kind of antlered Earth-animal, made from tons of different colors that made his chest feel strange and constricted in a way he kinda liked.
Scarecrow rested her hand on his shoulder as he held the soft fabric closer, the light from her mouth almost too bright to look at. Johnny stared at her anyway.
He reached into one of his pockets with his free hand and then held up a folded piece of cereal box. He’d decorated it with a design he’d drawn himself based on something he’d seen through a human’s window one night.
Instead of humans gathered around a fire like in the picture he’d seen, he’d drawn himself, Scarecrow, and Spriggan, along with the celebratory words he’d copied exactly as they’d been on the card. He wanted to do this right.
“Merry X-mas,” Johnny said.
Spriggan lifted his arms higher, twisting a little to look at all the things they’d decorated him with, even though he swayed back and forth as he did so.
“I feel so fancy,” he whispered. “Thanks, Johnny.”
Johnny let out a chuckle. These guys were weird, even by dwellers’ standards, but they were his family. And damned if he didn’t feel lucky for having them.