The Strangest Christmas Eve

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The winner of the children’s section of our Scary Ghost Story competition is 11-year-old Gareth Williams of Jedburgh, who packs a ton of suspense as well as all-out action into such a short story. Well done, Gareth!

’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the village not a creature was stirring not even a mouse ...

The cold winter mist sat stagnant around the streets of Strathmoor, all that could be heard was the distant groan of a cow in a faraway field.

There was nobody to be seen, apart from the occasional campervan passing through, but even they quickened when they saw the ‘Welcome to Strathmoor’ sign at the southern side of the village.

I’m David Bradbury, 11 years old. I live with my mum in a small 18th century-style cottage at the foot of Mount Crief in Strathmoor. Strathmoor is usually a lovely place to live, but tonight there was an eerie sense floating about in the air.

I had just finished my last mouthful of cocoa when a strange sound echoed through my house. I dashed to the dining room window to investigate. It was hard at first to see what it was, but as I swept my eyes from right to left I noticed something was wrong.

All of the Christmas lights in the town had been reduced to a small buzzing glow that barely lit their one centimetre circumference. Something was wrong ... very wrong.

I hung my stocking up on the glowing fireside, kissed my mum good night and headed up to bed. I tossed and turned in bed until my sides were sore.

I kept reminding myself that it was Christmas Eve, “get to sleep”. I finally drifted off into a deep sleep. Suddenly, a green glow came rushing in through my half-shut blinds. At first, I thought it was the village Christmas lights finding a new life, but as I studied it harder, I realised my bedroom window was facing the rocky slope of Mount Crief. I had to go and check immediately as I was so intrigued.

I slowly whipped my duvet to one side and, being careful not to wake my mum, took six tentative steps toward the window. I opened my curtains carefully, so whatever was out there would not see me. As the eye-bursting glow emerged from the mountain I saw that it was being projected into the surrounding area from a small crevice near the summit of the mountain. I swished my curtains shut. There was so many thoughts trundling around in my head, I felt I was going to pass out.

As I regained control of my head, I realised that I had to go to the area where the crevice was shining and check it out.

I slipped my clothes on and grabbed my coat hanging on the bottom of the stairs.

I closed the back door slowly and gently so that my mum would not hear me leave.

I walked along the path in a brisk but casual way so that any sneaky onlookers would not be alarmed at a young lad out at this late hour.

I jumped the fence and started my hike up the side of Mount Crief. It was a long and perilous journey, jumping over bushes, climbing up rock faces and, worst of all, trudging through the small burn that came trickling down the main path from the crevice.

The rocks were slippier than banana skins as they had no snow lying. We had only experienced rain and hard frosts which was very strange for this time of year. For some reason it just didn’t seem like Christmas this year!

As I approached the crevice, three large bangs came flying out of the small hole.

They were so loud you could almost see them.

As I crept closer, a large plume of purple smoke went spiralling into the dull winter sky. I was starting to backtrack down the hill when I remembered the true meaning of Christmas ... to help and do things for each other. This was my chance to help my village.

The rain had just started to trickle down my face when I made the last bound toward the hole. It was dark and silent now, which made the situation a whole lot more scarier.

I lay on my front and peered into the mysterious hideout. There was nothing to be seen apart from the end of an old twisted rope ladder. I felt the rope just to ensure that it was safe and started to climb down.

My feet were still wet and sticky from fording the burn. The rope was hard and rotten, which increased my chances of falling into the unknown.

The first few steps were the easiest because there was still a glimmer of moonlight shining on me. As I went deeper into the crevice the light got dimmer until it was pitch black.

I was determined to keep going, it was getting colder by the second. Then, a burst of heat and light came flying up from deep in the crevice.

I panicked, rushing back up the ladder, losing my footing on every step and noticed I was being followed. I jumped with one almightly leap, like my life was depending on it.

I scrambled out of the opening, ran down the side of the mountain and into the burn. I lay still in shock. Looking up at the crevice, I could see a cloaked man climbing out. He was double the height of me and held a long sharp sword in his oily, blood-stained glove. He gave me a sharp, eye-piercing glare.

I scampered down the through the knee-high grass and, avoiding lots of greasy stones which were scattered everywhere, I finally got to the foot of the mountain.

Not looking back, I hopped the fence into my garden and sprinted to the back door.

I took off my wet clothes and jumped into bed and cowered under the covers. Was it a real ghost? I lay quietly in bed, wondering what had just happened ... was it a dream? I arose and walked slowly and sheepishly towards my window. The strange man had gone, there were no lights coming from Mount Crief. All that could be seen was a bright star shining in the sky and Santa in his sleigh riding round the top of the mountain.

I rushed back to bed knowing that Santa would not visit my house if I was not asleep. When I awoke in the morning it was Christmas day. I rushed down the stairs to see if Santa had been.

My stocking was bursting with surprises, however, there was still a thought in the back of my mind. What a strange night! Had I experienced my first encounter with a ghost or had it all just been a bad dream?