Based in the Bedeviled & Beyond world, this fun collection of Christmas short stories will put a smile on your face and turn every day into a Hell-i-day!
#1. Astra Takes out the Grinch: Astra’s been conscripted to deal with a hairy, green demon who’s stealing presents and creating havoc. The Big Guy has grown increasingly tired of the Grinch’s antics and, this Christmas, has called out the big guns.
#2. Astra gets a Lump of Coal – Thumps an Elf: Astra is forced to spend Christmas in Satan’s backyard, helping the angels figure out how the green dragons are escaping Hell to terrorize the human realm on Earth. But in true Astra form, she figures out much more than that!
#3. The Year the Grinch Stole Santa: Astra is determined to take Christmas off so she’s been ignoring the nearly constant calls from the North Pole to help them find Santa, who’s disappeared just days before Christmas. But Astra learns the hard way that Santa’s minions will not be ignored!
#4. An Elvish Catastrophe: Astra and Darma are Christmas shopping at the mall when a pack of ninja elves invade the place and demand the execution of all faux Santas. Talk about little man syndrome…these ninjas have it in spades!
Where was that green demon? The information I’d gotten told me he should be there. I wondered if I’d somehow missed him while I was enjoying my brief moment of heat with Dialle.
As if on cue, a woman screamed inside the building next door.
I ran inside and took the stairs toward the upper floors at a dead run. Crashing through a door on the third floor, I landed, feet planted wide in a battle stance and knives drawn expectantly, in somebody’s living room. I winced as the shrieking, which had continued unabated as I’d rushed to the rescue, increased when she caught sight of me.
At first I thought I’d found my Grinch. The creature who stood on an ugly yellow couch a few feet away had a lumpy, green face and clutched a ratty red bathrobe around its extensive middle with one hand, while brandishing a large, glass ashtray with the other.
The brown eyes staring at me from the midst of the green slime were filled with terror.
“What?” I yelled, trying to figure out what she was shrieking about.
Her shrieking increased and she lifted the ashtray higher, flourishing it threateningly in my direction.
I realized she’d transferred her terror from whatever had originally sent her into hysterics, to the leather clad halfling standing in front of her brandishing knives. I slipped the knives back into their sheaths and showed her my empty hands. “I’m here to help. What’s wrong? Why are you screaming?”
She slammed her lips closed and the terrified brown orbs swung toward the Christmas tree. “It’s over there.”
I stared at the scrawny tree filled with ornaments and colorful lights. I could easily see between the overburdened branches and I didn’t see a large green guy wearing bad velvet standing behind it. Peering carefully around the space, I came up with nothing.
“I don’t see anybody.”
“It’s not a body. It’s a rat.”
“Arrrgghhh!” I shrieked and leapt up onto a nearby table. The woman screamed too and climbed higher on the couch, onto its well-worn back. The couch rocked backward for a terrifying moment and then slammed back onto its stubby front legs as she adjusted her weight.
“A rat! Are you kidding me!” I shrieked in a less than manly way.
“Lady, would I kid about something like that?”
Hissing emerged from the greenery and the lower branches of the tree rustled. “What’s it doing down there?”
She shook her head and a glop of green shit flew sideways, plopping wetly onto the glass topped table beside the couch. “I think my cousin Arnie must have given me a cheese ball again. He gives me the damn things every year and they taste like a dog’s butt.”
More rustling was followed by the sound of ripping as the wrapping around the cheese ball apparently gave way under nasty rodent teeth. “Next time just throw cousin Arnie’s gift out as soon as he hands it to you. It isn’t worth this.”
“Amen Sistah.” Another green glob flew off her face as she nodded.
I took a deep breath and forced myself to step down off the table. Deciding close combat was not an option given the extremely disgusting nature of my opponent, I left my knives in their sheathes and pulled my power forward, using it to create a protective bubble as I moved toward the tree.
My heart pounded hard in my chest. Sweat popped out all over my body, running in a cold trickle between my shoulder blades and making my palms sloppy with damp. I scrubbed my hands on my sweater and tried to get my panicked breathing under control.
In case you haven’t already figured it out…I’m not a fan of rats. Give me a slathering pack of gargoyles any day, or a worm-like supra demon in the ear. Give me a half dead fish demon stinking up a pool. Just don’t put a dammed rat within ten miles of me. “Happy frunkin’ Christmas, Astra.” I muttered to myself.
I scooted slowly closer, trying not to move my feet too much while gaining on the cheese ball feasting rat under the tree. I was on the down low…keeping it chill…lying in the proverbial weeds. “I can handle this.” I murmured. “I’ll just send a teensy, tiny, rat sized jolt into the nasty thing and fry it.”
Without warning, the rat jumped out of the tree and pinged off my shield. I panicked and shot everything I had into the nasty, disease-ridden thing. A giant ball of fire roared from my fingers, flew sizzling toward the ugly, brown creature lying dazed at my feet, and disintegrated it into a small pile of grey ashes in the blink of an eye.
Unfortunately it didn’t stop there. The carpet beneath the rat sparked into flame and, with a terrible whoosh, spread outward toward the scrawny tree. The fire hit the bottom of the tree and hovered as the green faced woman and I watched, open mouthed in horror, and then ignited like a giant fire starter log and went up in hungry flames that consumed the spindly thing in about two seconds.
The fire ball would have taken the curtains behind the tree too, but by that point the apartment’s inhabitant had shaken herself out of her horrified trance and run to get her fire extinguisher. She doused the curtains and the carpet around the tree and reduced the fire to a wet, smoking mess that formed a perfect circle beneath the cremated Christmas tree.
I stared at the spot for a few minutes, unsure what to say. Finally I decided there was nothing I could say that would make things better so I turned around and headed toward the door.
“Wait! Where are you going?”
I stopped with my hand on the knob of the door, which was ripped off its hinges and hung at an odd angle from the frame. I cleared my throat and tried, “Um, my work here is done?”
I didn’t think she’d bought it.