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Introduction

Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It's a way of understanding it. ~ Lloyd Alexander

Here at Tell-Tale Press, we hope to entertain you with quality stories from talented writers around the world. Some stories may include graphic violence, erotica, or both. They have been indicated as such before the story begins. Thank you for joining us, and happy reading!

Winter Holidays - Story 1 - 'Twas the Night by Manuel Royal

I remember the sky was blue. Sun was too bright to look at, and warm on my face. It’s dark now, always, forever. All night.

Cities sliding by, way down below, their swathes of light strung out along coastlines or spilling over plains. I can drop down and see streets (grid, jumble, what-have-you), and houses (shacks, mansions, doesn’t matter). Roofs. And chimneys, the world is full of them. Even in the most modern cities, houses with central heating still sport chimneys.

Underneath the roofs and the chimneys are the children. Small ones, particular ones. I’ve got a list. Kids that believe in things like me. Little children, simple in their faith, they keep me at my work.

If there’s a chimney on your roof, and you’re a good kid who believes in stuff, I’ll come and visit tonight. There’s a thing in my bag for you. A gift, I mean, for you. My big bag on my shoulder is full of presents. Special gifts, secret things.

Keep your eyes open, stay awake after they tell you to go to sleep, and yo…

Winter Holidays - Story 2 - The Fugwheel of Floeness by Nidhi Singh

 This story first appeared in Fabula Argentea, April 2015. It has been edited to fit the theme of this publication.

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A soft sound, not unlike the whimper of a person tucked cozily in for a dreamless sleep, awoke Alice, just as she was about to swoon in the arms of the dark, handsome stranger on horseback who’d rescued her from dancing and leaping ruffians—in her dreams of course. For she was only 18, starry-eyed, and had only the company of Mrs. Maud Stickle, in whose house she stayed in the capacity of paying guest, and sometimes not paying. And then there were her books, so many of them, lining the windowed shelves on her walls.

Rubbing her eyes, she slid open the door. It seemed heftier than usual, and as it moved, something scraped the wooden floor behind it. Alice nearly stepped on a squishy and warm thing as she put a foot to the floor in the dark passage. She flicked on the switch and found a grey furry ball curled up beneath. It was like a tangle of dandelions, or a clump o…

Winter Holidays - Story 3 - The Egg Man by Fiona Moore

This story was first published in the Christmas-themed anthology Sanity Clause Is Coming in 2014.

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Boxing Day, 1974. Joe unhitched his seat belt and pulled himself out of the wreckage of the intercity coach. The wind seared through his brown polyester uniform (too thin of course, even for wearing on the coach, but One Must Make Sacrifices as his boss said) and the snow drove into his face.

His head hurt, and he touched it. No blood; must just be a bruise. Felt pretty sore to be a bruise, but never mind. His legs and arms seemed to work okay, if a little weak and wobbly.

He sat, dazed, on the left front wheel for a few minutes and surveyed the damage. Was anybody hurt? He wondered finally. Had anybody else been on the coach? He thought he remembered a fat old lady and a teenage boy, sitting at the back. Carefully, he stood up, steeled himself, clambered back in. “Hello?” he called stupidly. “Anyone there?”

The coach was empty. So either there hadn’t actually been any passengers, or …

Winter Holidays - Story 4 - Mother's Night by Claire Devon

When the man came rushing into the bar, the other patrons took little notice. Snow swirled around him and an icy wind blew through the opening before he let the door slam shut behind him. The guy shot a quick look at the few inhabitants of the small local establishment before darting over to the scarred wood bar that ran the length of the back wall. A few desultory decorations punctuated by tinsel were draped around the establishment in a nod to the holiday season.

“There’s three women beating up a fella out there.” His expression was strained, wet dampening his coat where snow still clung.

Colin looked down into his mug before taking another draught and turned his attention to the man speaking. His trench coat looked expensive, but not top of the line, and under it Colin saw a sweater that looked as if it had a holiday motif, although it was hard to tell under the jacket. It didn’t look like something a man would buy, so that meant he had others buying him clothing, most likely a wif…

Winter Holidays - Story 5 - Time to Reflect by Gustavo Bondoni

This story was originally published in 2014 in Falling Star Magazine.

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From beneath the twisted wreckage, a hand emerged. Slowly, painfully, it displaced the deep snow around it until it exposed an arm.

The hole in the snow grew bigger and bigger until a grunting, overweight figure managed to climb out from beneath the bent and battered frame of what once had been a beautifully crafted vehicle. With the tatters of his red suit fluttering in the wind, Santa Claus observed the carnage that had once been his pride and joy.

It was clearly never going to fly again. The sleigh itself had broken into dozens of pieces upon impact; one runner was hanging off a tree a hundred yards away, and the wood had splintered into matchsticks, despite the snow cushioning the fall. The only thing that had saved old Saint Nick himself was the fact that none of the antiaircraft fire had actually hit it.

The reindeer hadn’t been so lucky. Prancer and Vixen were lying nearby, more suitable for use as pasta …

Winter Holidays - Story 6 - A Place by the Fire by Nickolas Urpi

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The air was thin. Thinner than the ice that had formed gently over the lake, as though it were calling for a skin. She woke to the sound of footsteps in the kitchen. Her streaming hair draped over her eyes, filtering her eyesight. She could see shadows moving from the dimly-lit kitchen. Heavy boots thumped across the floor, casting shadows across the bottom of the door.

Diana raised herself quietly from her bed, feeling the chilling bite of winter crystalize on her skin. She was careful not to wake her brother, who slept quietly by her side. She pulled the covers over him again and pressed her hand against his warm forehead.

Her robe was frayed and old, and slightly too small for her, but it was warm and felt like her mother’s arms used to feel. She entered the kitchen. He was there, reaching for his rifle from atop the mantle. He had started a fire and had eaten very little. He turned just as he was lifting the barrel from its hold, when their eyes clutched each other.

When he had…