Let Things In

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With one finger, he traced the length of her arm. The journey began at the sharp angle of her shoulder, moved slowly over the gentle swell of her slim, well-toned bicep, through the deep valley of her slightly bent elbow, along the long straight stretch of her forearm, beyond the tender skin of her delicate wrist, with its tiny dandelion tattoo, and across the slight edge of the inner side of her hand, right down to the tip of her long, elegant pianist's finger. The moment he reached the end of the path he retraced his steps. She shivered deliciously. Though her back was to him, he heard the smile in her voice. "It's torture!"

He nuzzled into her thick curls and breathed deeply of the mild floral scent of her hair. The rug beneath them was soft against his bare skin. The crackling fire was warm and comforting, a powerful warrior battling on their behalf against the subzero chill that laid siege against the walls of the ancient cabin, seeking entry by any means it could find. Expensive red wine diluted the blood in his veins, making the world far softer, kinder, and more intimate than it ever seemed when he was fully sober. Soft piano jazz, carried along a radio wave with the tiniest hint of static, dulled the harsh impact of the bone-jarring silence of a snow-filled night in the dep woods.

"Aren't you glad we got out of the city, away from all the Christmas nonsense?"

Deep in the heart of the woods, where no human with sense would ever dare venture on a night like this, the beast woke with a start, its yellow eyes instantly alert beneath the inky blackness of the new moon sky.

The woman stretched, luxuriously, turning onto her back to look at him. She exhibited no hint of bashfulness at her nudity. She was utterly at ease in her near-flawless skin. "Come on. Tell the truth. You must love it a little."

"Christmas?" He seemed astounded by the very idea that one could love such a thing.

"Everybody loves Christmas, at least a little. There's music and colorful lights, the scent of pine, and chocolate drinks, and shortbread cookies."

A line formed between his perfectly groomed eyebrows. His mouth turned down at one corner. "Noise and crowds. Screaming brats in every store, and bums expecting an extra handout because they've managed to steal a fake white beard. Terrible traffic. Fat people eating too many calories in the name of being festive."

The beast was fully awake now, on its feet and scenting the air. It felt the powerful pull on its frigid black heart and began moving through the trees at a quick trot.

"You don't love mistletoe?" She asked with a childish pout.

"Ugly, poisonous, and infested with bugs." He climbed on top of her. "Besides, I don't need an excuse to kiss your luscious lips." His embrace was gentle and thorough. He really did adore her glorious, full lips.

She pushed him off and sat up. "Seriously, I don't understand how you can hate a day so passionately."

Annoyance threatened to kill his happy buzz. Had he spent thousands of dollars on this cabin to get away, only to be pestered to death by his companion? "Do you want me to take you back so you can sing Jingle Bells with your friends?"

The foul creature was racing the wind now. Hunger, ever the cruel master, driving it on. His clawed feet left weird tracks no hunter would ever be able to identify in the sparkling fresh snow. Its long teeth, bared by snarling lips, were pointed and wicked, a perfect design for tearing the flesh of prey. The soft yellow light of the cabin was in view. Satisfaction was mere moments away.

"Of course not," the woman in the cabin said, her tone soothing. "I just want to know you more."

He tugged on his rumpled jeans. "Maybe that's a part of me I don't want known. I hate Christmas."

The beast reached toward the window, powerful now, and moaning with desire.

"I hate Christians and everything about their self-righteous hypocrisy." He declared, his voice nearly lost in what they both presumed to be the howling of the wind. "I hate their stupid little baby Jesus for all the trouble he's cause in the world."

Barbed black nails scratched the length of the window, seeking entry to this place where the feast was being so generously offered.

The sound of branches scraping the glass was awful. She made a mental note to complain to the owners later. A place this expensive should have tidy grounds in any season. Focusing on the moment, she approached the man and pressed her palms against his chest. "Shhh. I don't want to fight. I just... here... listen." She reached past him to switch off the radio. Her bare breast pressed against his arm as she did so. She was not above using desire to end a conflict.

She picked up her phone and scrolled quickly to the song she wanted. "You don't have to tell me anything about you. I will tell you about me." A gentle melody, a lullaby, played on a lone piano, danced into the air. "I've never cared about all the religion and stuff. You know that. But listen to this music. It's beautiful."

The nails found purchase under the window ledge. The feast was at hand. It could almost taste the man's blood in its mouth. A silvery line of drool ran from its horrible, scaled chin, even as a tinge of frightened desperation touched its core.

"This is what Christmas is to me. It's not gifts and food. It's this night. It's quiet and lovely. It's Silent Night, played softly on a single piano. Let things in, Adam."

It tugged at the window, stuck in its old, swollen frame. Let me in, human!

"It's a reminder to let joy, hope, peace, and love be a part of this busy, stressful world. Let them in and celebrate them."

True terror took hold. The woman would ruin everything. Uncaring of the injury it would incur, it drew its long arm back to smash the glass.

The man sighed. "I'm sorry. Someday I'll explain. For tonight, I will let you remind me about love and peace and joy and hope. Fair enough?"

No! It couldn't be! Not when the feast was so close!

She curled into his embrace, loving that their height difference made it possible to press her ear against his chest and hear the strong beat of his heart.

It swung, but the invisible chain was already dragging it away, back to the lair of cold and hunger.

Something smacked against the window with such great force that the wavy antique glass cracked and the couple jumped with exclamations of alarm.

The man turned on the outdoor lights and looked into the swirling fog of heavy snow. "Nothing there. Guess this storm doesn't make for such a silent night after all, eh?"

She pressed her body against his. "Forget about it. Let me show you how to let things in."

He carried her back to the thick rug in front of the fire.

In the woods, monstrous evil, having come so close to gaining entry, screamed in frustration.

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