I bought my Christmas gifts later than usual this year. I’m usually done shopping long before Halloween, but I haven’t really been in the holiday spirit lately. I kept putting off shopping and putting off shopping until a few days ago.
Since it’s already December, there was no way I was going to subject myself to walking through a crowded mall for presents, so I did what pretty much everyone else does. Bought my presents online. I ordered from the usual places. Amazon. Sephora. Etsy. Target.
Some of the packages weren’t set to arrive until a few days before Christmas, but most of them got here within a day or two. I didn’t bother opening them when they arrived. I just left them in a pile of cardboard on my floor.
I watched the Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center last night, though, and it gave me a little more Christmas spirit. I figured I would start wrapping the gifts that were available, so I took out my wrapping paper, scissors, and tape roll.
I sliced open the boxes and felt like a little kid again. I didn’t check the labels, so I wasn’t sure what was hidden inside until pulling it out from its box. I bought a new set of plush mice for my two cats. An eye shadow palette for my mother. An engraved necklace for my sister.
The last package was a strange shape. More of a lump than a square or rectangle. When I opened it, steam came out. It reminded me of the time I’d ordered steaks and they were frozen with dry ice to preserve them throughout their travel.
I waited for the smoke to fade away and plunged my hand into the package. There was a thick layer of bubble wrap on top. The bottom was filled with foam peanuts. Even thought the box was the biggest that had been delivered, the product inside was only the size of my palm.
It was an ornament. A sphere made out of clear glass. A hand painted picture of a mouse in a Santa hat curved around the front. It was adorable. But I’d never ordered something like this.
I rooted through the box for a note of some kind, assuming a family member had sent it as a gift or a company had sent it as a thank you for shopping with them. I couldn’t find anything, so I checked the address label on the box. It said North Pole. No real address. No real name. Nothing.
I had already put up my tree but hadn’t gotten around to decorating it yet, so I dangled the ornament on a branch, high up, where the cats wouldn’t try to reach.
It stayed there for a day. Two. Three.
Then, this morning, I was in the bathroom when I heard a tink and a crunch. I thought the cats must have knocked over the ornament. They must have shattered it.
I stormed into my living room and saw a single piece of glass on the ground. The ornament was still hanging on the tree by its string, but it was broken in the center. It looked like a cracked egg.
I hunted down the cats, worried one of them had hurt themselves on the glass, but the first one was snoozing on his cat bed. The other one wasn’t anywhere in sight, so I checked the usual hiding spots. On top of the kitchen cabinets. Behind the couch. Inside their cat tree.
When I checked under my bed, I saw movement. I figured it was the cat, so I reached my hand underneath. My hand latched onto something furry, and a second later, I felt teeth.
I wrenched my hand back and saw blood. Thick, flowing blood. The top chunk of my finger had come off with the bite. The flesh from my nail to my knuckle was gone. I started screaming in a pitch I never knew was possible and the creature scurried out from beneath the bed.
It wasn’t my cat. It was some sort of rodent. Something that hatched.
I booked it back into the bathroom and locked the door. Luckily, I had been listening to music on my phone in there earlier so it was available for me to use. I looked up the number for animal control, called them, and then called the paramedics about my missing finger.
I’ve been writing all of this from inside the bathroom. I can hear that… thing… banging up against the door, splintering the wood. I’m hoping the animal control gets here before it breaks through. I’m hoping this will all be a bad memory by Christmas