The two men, clad only in black with no winter jackets, stood out horribly. The street was awash with last minute holiday shoppers bundled tightly in their reds and greens, moving in rhythm to some unseen winter orchestra. Each of them trying to complete the task of bringing cheer to someone or another. All of them completely ignorant of Michael and Art, as they wound their way down Robbins Ave.
Michael looked around at the gaudy lights and displays in the store windows and, without even turning to Art said, “I hate this time of year.”
“What on earth are you talking about?” Art replied.
Michael kicked a snow covered coffee cup out of his way and sighed heavily. His breath was invisible, even in the cold air.
“They’re all… happy.”
“Well of course they’re happy, you moron. It’s Christmas.”
Michael shook his head and sighed again.
Art let out a sigh of his own. He knew they were about to get into a long drawn out conversation. It was one he and Michael had every year for the past countless number of years. It was one that Art has never won. And this time it was one that would delay them from eating, which was the whole reason for the excursion.
Art, seeing the pained look flash across his friend’s face at the mention of the word, felt like poking at Michael’s apparent sore spot.
“What’s wrong with Christmas?” He added the extra emphasis just to watch Art cringe. “You’ve got to admit, it brings them out in droves. And they’re completely focused on their own goals, ignoring everything else around them. It makes our life so much easier.”
The two pale men rounded the corner on to Main Street. As they turned, Michael blurted out, “Oh, c’mon. You have got to be kidding.” He backed up and gestured at the crowd gathered around an elevated stage.
On the stage, a small barn was constructed. In front of the barn was a family of three. The father and mother were holding their infant son and talking to three strangers with gifts that were quite obviously for the newborn. An incandescent star was placed over the barn.
“Remember when we used to dress like that?” asked Art. “Those robes were comfortable.”
“Really? Is that all you have to say about this?” Michael turned around and headed back up Robbins. He looked at Art with absolute disgust. “Now we have to take the long way around.”
Art grinned and decided that if they were going to repeat this discussion for at least the fiftieth time, then he was going to have fun with it.
“So what? It’s not like we’re going to get cold. So we take the long way around.” Art patted Michael on the shoulder and said, “Hey, maybe we’ll run into a group of carolers this way.”
Michael pulled away. “Great! And maybe they’ll be singing ‘Oh come all ye faithful.’ That would just be the icing on the cake.” He started walking faster to get ahead of Art.
“Oh, wow. That one even gives me the creeps.” Art regained his smile. “C’mon, let’s go into one of the shops and find something to eat.”
“Really? You’ve got to be kidding. We can’t go near half of these places.” Michael stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and pointed at the decorations surrounding them. “Look.” He took a deep breath. “Angel, cross, Jesus, cross, angel, angel, Jesus, Jesus on a cross…” Michael faded off and started walking again. Art quickly caught up.
Michael kicked at the snow like a petulant child. “Not to mention the fact that you brought us to a small town. Most of these stores are family owned. There’s no chance of being invited in by the owner.”
“Ok, so that was a dumb move on my part.” Art looked at Michael sheepishly. “I definitely wasn’t thinking ahead. Look, for New Year’s we’ll go up to Times Square. That’ll make it easier.”
“I’m going to hold you to that. It would be nice to actually get to…”
Michael was cut off by Art grabbing his shoulder and pointing. Up ahead of the two was a small diner. It was trimmed with red and blue neon lights, but not holiday decorations. A pair of young ladies were exiting the front door. Both in their early twenties and over-laden with boxes and bags. They were completely absorbed in conversation.
“Still hungry?” Michael inquired.
“Famished. That’s as good as any,” Art replied.
The two women rounded the corner on to Coolidge Street and disappeared. Michael and Art looked at each other and took off on a dead run. Their feet made no sound as they floated across the new fallen snow.
Art glanced back at the diner to confirm that no one else was coming out. He nodded to Michael who was slightly behind him.
In the blink of an eye, the two were upon the young women and had them by the shoulders. Art was the first to shift. His fangs were immediately visible to the women as they spun around to face their attackers. Michael’s face had contorted into a grotesque parody of itself as he lunged at the girl he was gripping.
Both men buried their mouths into the necks of their partner. One woman tried to scream but was cut short by Art’s hand.
The two men continued to feed until Art looked up at Michael and said, “Merry Christmas, Mike.”
Michael looked up from his meal long enough to utter one word.