Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Tale of a creepy Christmas



By Colette NiReamonn Ioannidou

Maari spent some not unpleasant years at boarding school. Her parents, serving the Crown in far flung places, wanted her to have a ‘proper’ English education. Holiday times were spent with grandparents in Kent until one December the old boy crashed their car and they were hospitalised. Damsel, a fringe acquaintance with ugly protruding eye teeth and a penchant for trapping spiders in jars and sealing butterflies in with them to observe the results, invited Maari to spend Christmas at her home, Maari reluctantly accepted.

A tedious train journey deposited them at a deserted station where a stooped man in a chauffeur’s uniform waited by a large, dark green Jaguar as decrepit as the driver. Maari was introduced to Clarksel. A few miles up an uneven, overgrown back road, a large house came into view.

‘A ruddy template for all those awful houses you see in scary movies,’ Maari sighed. A single set of Christmas lights weakly winked on and off around the wooden door. It creaked open to reveal a woman with outrageously dyed black hair who grasped her child to her ample bosom, both squealing like baby pigs.

Mumsel turned to Maari and smiled, ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex canine teeth like her child.’ inviting her inside. The house was cold, a dull old-fashioned pile with portraits along the walls. ‘If I had ugly ancestors like those, I’d have shoved them in the fire to warm the bloody place’ Maari thought. The living room, at least, had a fireplace roaring with burning logs.

In a high-backed chair sat Dadsel, ‘a Madame Tussaud’s cartoon of Christopher Lee’s Dracula,’ who unfolded long skinny legs and rose to greet his ‘Dawling! And you are Mauween.’ Maari corrected him; he ignored that and Mauween she was. A cry and mutterings came from upstairs. Damsel reassured her startled classmate, ‘Don’t worry, it’s just Gransel holding a séance.’ Gransel was convinced Grandseldad was dead but no, there he was in a corner ensconced in a wheelchair reading a paper. ‘Looking like his sell-by date had expired years ago.’ He waved at Maari, she cautiously waved back.

Gransel made an entrance dressed like a silent movie star complete with feather boa, long beads and goose bumps. She was lost in a labyrinth of her mind’s concoction in which she was sure her hubby had passed on even though he was sitting in front of her. ‘She thinks he’s the prime minister.’ Damsel explained.

Dinner consisted of meat Maari couldn’t identify. The drinks were homemade from apples, berries and ‘God knows what!’ Maari stuck to water. Her room smelled musty as though the windows were never opened and the bed felt damp. She spent a rather chilly, uncomfortable night; the generator had given up the ghost and couldn’t be seen to until morning.

Maari awoke in the early hours by the light of a flickering candle to find Grandseldad leaning over her, leering. She screamed and he slunk away. No one came to see why she had screamed. ‘You were dreaming; he can’t walk,’ Damsel assured her next morning. Maari could sense the lie.

In the hall, the maid and the butler had left bows and arrows. ‘Bows and bloody arrows!’ She was invited on a hunt in a nearby forest. ‘At least it solved the mystery of the unfamiliar meat dish, probably hedgehog,’ she thought declining the offer to go on the hunt.

As soon as the group left the house, Maari packed her bag. On the way out Gransel greeted her, ‘Nice to meet you, your majesty,’ this with a deep bow. ‘Sorry my husband can’t be here; he’s dead you know?’ Maari told her he was quite alive and needed kicking. ‘Oh no, no, he’s dead, I poisoned him; he was an abominable man, used to spy on the maids undressing through a hole in the wall behind Lord Avery’s portrait.’

Maari was lucky, she got a lift from a local vet who raised an eyebrow when she said where she’d come from, and dropped off her at the station. A classmate had texted Maari not long before she called me, to say Damsel had been dead for days, discovered when a neighbour heard pitiful, animal cries coming from her house. What the police found in there is another story.

‘So, that brought it all back?’ I said. ‘No, before her text came, I woke up, I was definitely awake, and she was standing over my bed grinning.’ Maari is going to friends in Paphos for the festivities. Hopefully, Damsel won’t follow her there.


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