“They’re coming,” Sylvia whispered, her voice dipped in cold dread.
“They who?” Grandt had to ask. It was hard to keep track of all of the comings and goings.
“The relatives.” The cold dread wasn’t thawing.
“Holy goddamn alive with a cherry on top,” Grandt swore, distaste warping his expression despite the cherry being on top.
Relatives coming over always caused anxiety in the Faltersteppe household, but this year it was especially pronounced. You see, their relatives had mutated into demonic zombie alien hosts with explosives strapped to their bodies. Perhaps now you’re more understanding of the temperature of Sylvia’s fear.
“We haven’t much time,” Sylvia urged, putting her cell phone away. “They’re in Cassidy’s car, and you know how effective her GPS is.”
“At least they phoned to warn us, huh?” Grandt was certainly squinting to find a bright side.
Their predicament was already dire enough without the impending arrival of their loved-ones-turned-insane-grotesque-monsters. Not only was their roof leaking, but their dog, Alfonso, was on fire, and their genius toddler, Alfonso II, had decided to move out on his own without warning the previous night, only to get kidnapped out of his rented moving van by a rogue government agent who was threatening to sell him to “Asian diplomats” if they didn’t cough up $300,000, or whatever the going ransom rate was.
This was Christmas?
“First things first,” Grandt said, and he dumped the nearest bucket of roof water on Alfonso, extinguishing the flames on his hot dog. Now the smell of wet dog mixed with that of burning hair, and it was enough to make both Grandt and Sylvia vomit a little on each other, but at least Alfonso’s demeanor seemed to improve a little.
The doorbell rang. The couple decided not to worry about cleaning themselves up and just opened the door.
“Hi, it’s me, Benzene,” the man at the front door said. “I’m here to collect my prize for stealing your son. I think we agreed on $300,000?” That’s when he noticed with his eyeballs and his nose the state of the household. “Ewww, sick,” he had to say.
“Spare us the commentary,” Sylvia said, crossing her arms. “It’s the holidays. We’re a little overwhelmed.”
“And we didn’t agree on a sum,” Grandt butted in. “I haven’t had time to research how much my son’s ransom is worth. The team of Feds who were supposed to help us told us they had to focus on Operation: Christmas Dinner, and we were told they could resume work on our situation when that was concluded.”
“That’s actually pretty rough,” Benzene admitted. “And I thought I was being mean by stealing your kid.”
“No, you’ve been a real treat,” Sylvia spat sarcastically.
“What branch of the government are you roguing from, anyway?” Grandt probed.
“Naturally, it’s one of the secret agencies. You’ve heard of all of the ones with three letter abbreviations? Well, this one would have sixteen, so a lot of us just call it the Sweet 16, though one idiot calls it Pure Cane. Everyone was hoping he’d be the one to go rogue, but we drew straws, and it became my turn.”
“What’s the point of all of that? Why not just keep the team completely intact at all times?” Grandt further probed. His curiosity was fully erect at this point.
“Well, a lot of our job requires extended periods of isolation from the protective arms of our home base, anyway, so these rogue retreats were set up as a sort of practice to keep us flexible. We alternate between real field work and practice to–Hey, I’m a crack shot when it comes to shooting the breeze, but let’s get on with this. As you said, this is the holidays, and I’m sure we both have better things to do.”
“Grrr,” Grandt said, his curiosity still showing. “Fine, but like I said, I can’t agree to anything until I get the expert advice of the FBI agents who are stuffing their faces as we speak, so you’ll have to try again later in the week.”
“Okay, but I’m stealing your dog, too,” and that’s when the rogue agent bapped them both unconscious with a stick they hadn’t even seen him carrying.
“Alfonso, I’m dog whispering you to come with me,” he said.
Alfonso, under his spell, obeyed.
“Now I have both Alfonsos from the Faltersteppe Collection,” Benzene bragged to the cold, rain-filled air, and in ten seconds there was no trace of him or the dog.
Grandt was the first to reacquaint himself with consciousness, and he could feel the bap to his head linger in the form of a rhythmic throb.
He tried to move, but his hands and feet were bound with what felt like… hair? He raised himself suddenly to find the house swimming with relatives.
“Oh, god, no,” he whispered to himself.
He nudged Sylvia with his head. She was bound, too, but otherwise looked fine. She started to reanimate, and as she started to moan, he quietly shushed her. She became fully alert when he tried nudging her again, and she looked around, her face joining his in a look of desperation.
“We’re too late, huh?” she breathed at him.
“Maybe not, if we can free ourselves.”
Grandt looked around. The relatives had arranged themselves in a semi-circle that conveniently faced away from them, and they were engaging in some sort of competition.
Oh, a farting competition. Bouts of raucous laughter shook the walls in between each family member’s submission.
It was the strange thing about this evil mutation. These people they knew were now definitely disfigured creatures of tragedy, what with their flickering demonic shadows, their hunger for human brains, and the bulging alien parasite adorning each of their bodies in different configurations. It was like a fashion show of abomination. With explosives. Why the explosives were strapped to their bodies, no one knew. All of the other stuff was weird enough, but explosives? It seemed so mundane next to what else was going on, but explosives were explosives, and you had to give them respect, no matter if there was a lack of explanation. Several theories existed on why these “mutations” started occurring, but the most popular was that a ghost and a cloned sheep had their way with Tobey Maguire on February 29th of the last leap year, and this magically contagious travesty was the result. Never mind why, these people that Sylvia and Grandt Faltersteppe would like to call things were congregated in their kitchen celebrating Christmas like they always did. The Faltersteppe Christmas Farting Contest lived on, and it really wasn’t enhancing the existing odor.
After vomiting a little more on his wife, Grandt started to formulate a plan. The smell of burned hair was still strong, even with several scented candles going nearby. That was it! Grandt worked his body up, and he carefully positioned the hairy manacles restraining his hands near the flame of one of the scented candles. Before long, Grandt’s hands were free, and he was able to coax the other restraints off his ankles.
Sylvia beamed, proud of her husband, but this is when the relatives noticed the escape-in-progress and screamed like a choir of alien banshees. The whole family started running toward them, and it really wasn’t a great distance to cover.
Grandt flashed Sylvia a look of apology and bolted, getting to the back door just as the swarm of loved ones reached his wife.
“I’m sorry!” he further apologized just before slamming the door behind himself.
Everything happened so fast that Sylvia didn’t really know what to feel, but a lot had just taken place, and she couldn’t help but start crying through the confusion.
The sound of her crying didn’t jive with the sickass chorus of her family members, so they dogpiled her into silence.
* * * * *
“Bloody boobies, bloody boobies,” cursed a frantic Grandt Faltersteppe. “My wife is trapped in there with her loved ones! What am I going to do?!”
While he wasn’t screaming at someone in particular, someone in particular responded.
It was his son, Alfonso II.
“Dad, shut up. I have a plan.”
“Wait, how did you get away from that Benzene nut?”
“Turns out he wasn’t a genius,” was all Alfonso II would intimate. “Now the task at hand is getting your wife–my mother–to safety. I mean, the whole world is one giant booby trap designed to rain disaster on us, but that’s beside the point–”
“I was just mentioning boobies,” Grandt interrupted.
“Dad, focus. Relative safety is what we’re talking about, and in this case, that means killing all of our relatives. I got a text from Cassidy that they would be coming over, so I’ve been working on a solution. Now what I have here in my tiny hands is a device I cobbled together on the way over here. It was pretty MacGyver of me, only I have better hair. Anyway, this device absorbs oppressed souls and catapults them into Heaven. By oppressed souls, I mean the souls of people whose bodies have been FUBARed by dark forces. We certainly can’t reverse the damage to their bodies, so flinging their souls hardcore against the pearly gates is the next best thing. Right? Right.”
Grandt just nodded, as you have to trust geniuses.
“I’m too small and feeble to pull off what needs to come next. You see how this is shaped like a bat? Basically, you need to go in there and bap every relative in the face. This will escort their souls to the 8-to-1 preferred afterlife, and once that’s done, all you need to do is kill their bodies and disengage their explosives. I didn’t have time to make another device for that.”
Grandt didn’t just nod, even though you have to trust geniuses.
“You mean I have to run in like a madman and bap them all before they dogpile me, somehow get Sylvia out of harm’s way, and destroy all thirteen relatives… using what, my hands? You’re right, though, I would need a ‘device’ other than this one for the second task, as this looks more harmless than Nerf wishes. And what do I know about defusing bombs?”
“Less than me, but I also happen to know you’re The Chosen One, as foretold by my ass. Now get in there and kill everyone we know. Except Mom. By the way, I’m dog whispering you.”
Grandt, under his son’s spell, obeyed.
Alfonso II counted the baps as he waited on the porch steps. He also heard the accompanying sound of souls rocketing toward eternal bliss.
Bap! Swoosh! Bap! Swoosh! Bap! Swoosh! Bang! “Ow!” Bap! Swoosh! Bap! Swoosh! Bap-bap! Swoosh-swoosh! Bap-bap-bap! Swoosh-swoosh-swoosh! Bap! Swoosh! Bap! Swoosh!
Then there was an obligatory pause as dramatic tension elevated.
Ultimate bap! Swoosh finale! “Woo-hoo!”
Then, “Frothing menstruation, no!”
That didn’t sound good. Alfonso II peeked in the front door to see his father and mother being surrounded by the relatives, only now they were completely unrecognizable as loved ones. The warmth in their eyes was voided, and as they lumbered toward Grandt and Sylvia, Grandt slipped on some soul residue, and since he was gripping Sylvia’s hand pretty tightly, she fell, too. Grandt moaned from his sprawl, as he’d hit his head pretty hard. Sylvia wasn’t looking so hot, either. She looked fairly dog-eared from the dogpile. They certainly weren’t getting up in time to escape the thirteen point pinch that was headed their way.
Alfonso II crapped his pants. Thankfully, he hadn’t grown out of diapers.
Then his father did the dumbest, sweetest thing he could have done. As Uncle Petrol lunged for him, Grandt grabbed for Petrol’s torso to come away with a pin.
“Uh-oh. I don’t think this pin disengages the explosives,” he said.
“I likewise do not think so,” Sylvia concurred.
Alfonso II was already running away, as fast as his toddler legs would allow, which, thanks to the rule of happy endings for Christmas stories, was fast enough.
The thirteen distinct booms in the massive explosion made him think of popcorn, which his toddler friends would have mispronounced as “cop porn.” He had to laugh.
Then he stopped laughing. He didn’t really know what to feel at this point. Being a toddler, he didn’t have a full appreciation for what it means to lose loved ones, and being a genius didn’t help, either. Not really knowing how to react, he decided to cry through his confusion.
Even as he cried, he felt the need to get moving, as this giant booby trap of a world wasn’t going to coddle him just because he was a toddler with dead parents. Before he had disposed of Benzene, the man had told him of something called Operation: Christmas Dinner. This sounded promising. As the rain joined the tears on his face, he made his way toward the house of the FBI agent in charge of his rescue.
Maybe, just maybe, he could finagle some new parents for Christmas.