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Introduction

Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn't exist yet, and will change everything for everybody,
and nothing will ever be the same again. ~ Ray Bradbury

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 After Christmas by Andrew McCormick

When you see a big fat guy with a bushy white beard, nursing a Heineken at the end of the bar on December twenty-sixth, you gotta figure he’s just asking for it.

“Yo! Santa,” I said, as jovially as my third Dewers Over could make me. “Christmas is a done deal. How come you’re not out relaxing on the beach someplace, huh?” I raised my glass high, ice cubes clinking, as a salute, hoping he’d take it the right way. Although after four highballs, I’m never really quite sure what the right way is.

He smiled back. Not a big, jolly, Santa smile. A tired smile. His forehead’s wrinkles curved like ocean waves. His thick fingertips were not manicured. His nose was red, all right, but he was drinking beer for as long as I had been in the bar. Maybe longer. Tired, I thought, that’s what he was. Tired to the bone.

He looked back down into his glass, divining the liquid for some inspiration to life, I assumed. Not that I was going to let him get off that easy.

My third scotch said, “No, really, Sa…

Winter Holidays - Story 2 - Future Perfect by Rivka Jacobs

Lilly Campbell remained motionless like a statue in her plaid frock and smudged white pinafore. She clasped her hands behind her back, trying not to cry. Her black side-button shoes were pressed together in perfect alignment and she kept her rosy, round face expressionless, her blue eyes staring straight ahead.

Her mother, in a long amethyst-colored velvet dress, hovered off to the side, making whimpering sounds as she nervously rubbed her hands up and down her skirt.

Her father, Morris Campbell, paced in front of her, marching a few steps to his left and back the other way, his hands bunched into fists. “You are a disgrace,” he intoned. “Your hair is a mess, your stockings torn. Where have you been? You won’t do your chores or help your mother. Always making things and touching things and pulling things apart... you disgust me.” He stopped and pointed at his daughter, his mustache quivering, his face red with anger. “We gave you a chance to change, to be a proper young lady. There wi…

Winter Holidays - Story 3 - When Friends Come to Call by Zach Shephard

This story originally appeared in Kazka Press's 2012 e-book anthology At Year's End.

---

“This’ll never work.”

“Of course it will.”

“Do you really think no one’s tried before?”

O’Hara adjusted a knob on the machine in his living room. The scent of peppermint grew stronger in the air.

“Of course people have tried,” he said. “Probably for centuries. But now we actually have the technology to make it happen.”

Blackman squinted at O’Hara’s machine. It was a boxy, dryer-sized contraption with a plate of cookies on top. He reached for one of the treats.

“Don’t touch those,” O’Hara said, slapping Blackman’s hand. “Those are for him.” He carefully nudged a lever on the machine’s side. “There.  You can practically taste the cookies on the air, can’t you? He’s sure to come any minute.”

“Yes. And he’ll probably have the Easter Bunny with him. Although I don’t know who’s going to feed the Loch Ness Monster while they’re gone.”

“Santa does not live in Scotland.”

“Right,” Blackman said, low…

Winter Holidays - Story 4 - The Anti-Christmas Tree by Stanley B. Webb

This story previously appeared in the anthology Death and Decorations by Thirteen O’Clock Press, 2017.

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Eugene suffered Christmas Eve insomnia.

From his high-rise bedroom window, he watched the tree in Columbus Circle: a seventy-foot blue spruce, wrapped all over with crisscrossing white and blue lights, and topped with a pinwheel star. The decorations reflected in the river, which curved wide around the square.

He played with the Japanese monster figures that Santa had brought last year, making them stomp across the windowsill. Eugene lowered his perspective, to make it look as if his monsters rampaged across the city’s skyline. He hoped that he would get larger figures this year.

If only he could fall asleep, so Santa would come.

The stores around the square went dark one by one, after weeks of around-the-clock selling. The traffic thinned and disappeared, leaving the streetlamps to guard abandoned parking slots. The utility cables, hung with their own decorations, swayed in a ge…

Winter Holidays - Story 5 - Christmas 2077 by E.N. Dahl

Editor's note: This fascinating and dystopian piece has dark themes, violence, and gore. Reader discretion is advised.

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The new laws meant Chip wouldn’t be getting a prosthetic arm, so he met Alexa outside the hospital. They’d apparently been signed just days earlier, not that his dealer let him know how useless Frostbyte would be. Light flurries of snow danced down from the sky, spinning his mood a little, coaxing him from depressed to jovial, until Alexa smacked him across the face.

He raised his one remaining hand to his cheek, noticing that the moisture running down her face wasn’t from melting snow. She balled her fists, probably wondering if she should do the world a favor and just kill him right here. A swift death might’ve been one of the better gifts he’d received over the recent holiday seasons. But rather than outright murdering him, Alexa wrapped her arms around him, squeezing tight, making sure it hurt at least a little. She avoided the fresh wound of his stumpy ri…

Winter Holidays - Story 6 - Christmas Social Science by KB Nelson

A white mouse named Adam peered through his spyhole behind the living room electrical outlet.

“Be alert, Douglas!” he whispered. Pale whiskers shivered as his pink nose sniffed out every detail of the scene unfolding before him.

Douglas scurried up beside his fellow researcher, long tail lashing with enthusiasm and tangling with Adam’s. This was his first field assignment. He was now a true Field Mouse!

Just like every day for the previous few weeks, they observed a pajama-clad couple in the morning light, sipping from their mismatched mugs. But today was it, the culmination of all the tedious hours and days of study. Douglas’s excitement escaped in a squeak, fortunately covered by the sound of the man’s words.

“Merry Christmas, Mabel.” His silver hair reflected lights from their Christmas tree.

The woman smiled and smoothed his multicoloured cowlick as she whispered, “Well don’t we look fancy.” With a gnarled hand on his shoulder she raised herself from the couch and moved into the k…

Winter Holidays - Story 7 - Yonder Star by J.A. Bryson

The craft hovers just over the peaks of Judea. Kygll fixing her gaze on the bright star pulsing in the easternmost sky.

“There.” She unfurls a tendril-like finger and taps the windscreen.

The pilot, Enis, nods wordlessly, squinting his ink black orbs. He pulls the throttle, and the craft drops with a sudden jerk.

“They’ll make him a god,” she says.

“Or kill him.” Enis blinks indifferently.

Or both.

Kygll’s innards lurch as they make their final descent, a wrenching sensation she’ll gladly wait millennia before experiencing again. A darkened Bethlehem comes into focus, its colorless buildings still and silent—all except for one. A stable.

“Is that it?” Enis points.

Was he expecting pyramids? Kygll clicks her bifurcated tongue against her teeth in annoyance. “You’ll find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger.”

Enis snorts. “A human.”

Kygll grabs her augury kit from the wall-case. Its gold skin glitters in the artificial light.

“Not for long.”

The magi touch down in …