I dropped my keys because a whisper accompanied a sudden cool breeze on the back of my neck. I turned around with a jerk on the front step of my new rental home with its small front yard and steel fencing that kept pedestrians and traffic ten feet away.
No one was there.
It was probably the neighbors whose homes encroached on either side, separated by a narrow alley just wide enough for a compact car to struggle through.
I tried the lock again and was greeted with a satisfying click. When I got inside and took off my coat, I noticed that mail had been delivered. It was lying on the floor underneath the slot. One official-looking letter that appeared to be from my new parole officer. I’d open that after a drink or two. There was something from the condo association, a Christmas card, I assumed. Two silver bells were taped to the front of it, and they made a festive jingling sound when I dropped the card and letter on my coffee table. In addition, a simple folded piece of paper rounded out the correspondence. It announced that carolers would be making the rounds this evening, and residents were welcome to join in the merry festivities if they liked.
I did not like.
It was only my second day out on parole, and all I wanted was the peace and quiet of my new home. No doubt that in time, someone would find out who I was and where I was living. Some ignorant asshole out to make a point, or for vigilante justice for the supposed ‘victims.’ It wasn’t my fault they couldn’t hold me anymore. And I can’t bring back the dead. Wouldn’t if I could.
I microwaved a frozen turkey dinner and brought it and two cans of light beer to the living room. Someday I’d replace the shitty-ass furniture, but for now, I flopped down on a sofa with just enough springs to hold me upright while I watched television. I clicked on the remote, and the large screen began sizzling to life. Mariah Carey was romping through the snow and singing ‘All I want for Christmas is you.’ I cracked open a beer and drained half of it before tiring of the stupid song and changing channels. Each channel was playing the same thing. Her face, her song, on each channel. Did she die or something? I clicked through the channels slower.
Click ‘All I’
Click ‘Want for’
I clicked off the remote and dropped it, bumping into my beer that spilled on the rug. The stain spelled out the word ‘You!’ in the cheap carpet and sent me staggering to my feet.
Outside I heard the sound of carolers approaching… singing the same song.
I shut my eyes and twisted handfuls of my hair.
Icy fingertips laced around my throat, and a familiar voice spoke.
“All I want.”