The Quiet Box

The Quiet Box is a short Christmas horror story I wrote last year for Kendall Review’s ( Due to a quieting in all writing activity lately, I never got a chance to write a cosmic yuletide terror tale for 2020. This will have to do for now. Enjoy…


“What is it?”

The last of the wrapping paper stripped away, Timmy flipped the empty box in his hands. Dyed black and dotted with what looked like stars, it seemed to be an ordinary cardboard shoebox.

“It’s a quiet box.” Grandpa’s voice cracked. The left side of his face drooped from palsy and he slightly shook all the time. Timmy only saw his Grandpa at Christmases. The change in his health from the previous year was noticeable.

Timmy shrugged. “What’s a quiet box?”

“Grab that egg timer.”

Timmy retrieved the timer from under the tree, one of the cooking gifts given to his Mom from the new boyfriend, Carl. Without need for further instruction, Timmy set the timer for one minute and placed it in the star-speckled box. He closed the lid.

Tracking the time on his phone, he waited. There was no sound. Timmy was surprised, the cardboard top of the box fit loosely, some sound should have escaped. But the room was noisy, filled with conversations of adults, crinkling of wrapping paper, and the excited chatter of his cousins.

Timmy ran to his room retrieving his alarm clock. Carl hated it, the buzzer obnoxiously loud. He set the alarm to go off in two minutes and put in in the box.


After five minutes, Timmy opened the box. The clock’s shrill alarm buzzed loudly. Everyone in the room stopped talking; aunts, uncles, cousins, and Carl angrily glaring at him.

Timmy turned it off.


He put the lid back on the box and slid it under the tree. There were other toys with which he could play. He nodded at his Grandpa, giving his best effort to appear grateful.

His Grandpa smiled. Timmy couldn’t tell if he winked at him or if it was just a tic.


After his Mom and Carl had gone to bed, Timmy snuck out of his room tiptoeing past their bedroom door into the living room. In the dark, he approached the Christmas tree and turned on its lights. He liked how the blinking colors lit the dark room.

Timmy found the quiet box under the tree. It struck him that it could be the last gift he would receive from Grandpa. He studied the box, curious to how it worked. The edges were frayed and the corners were slightly ripped. It definitely wasn’t airtight.

Opening the lid, he inspected the inside. Similar to the exterior, the threadbare cardboard was dyed black dotted with yellow stars in random constellations.

Timmy spied Carl’s phone on the coffee table. He grinned. Taking the phone, he placed it inside the box and closed the lid. Retrieving his own phone from a pajama pocket, he dialed Carl’s number.

Listening intently, in the still of the house, he couldn’t hear the ringtone. Timmy giggled imagining Carl frantically searching for his phone by having his mom call the number to listen for the ringer.

Timmy turned off the tree lights. He would resume figuring out how the box worked tomorrow. Maybe his Grandpa knew. Timmy made a mental note to call and ask him. He would need to do it soon. Timmy bit his lip thinking about the time his Grandpa had left. He wondered how it felt to know that time was so short.

Treading lightly, he made it back to his room ready for bed. It had been a long day. He took out his phone placing it on nightstand.

Timmy was surprised to find the phone lit, the call duration timer displayed. The call he made to Carl’s phone hadn’t rung through. Someone had picked up.

Bringing the phone to his ear, Timmy listened. The connection was strong, but he couldn’t hear anything. In fact, he heard nothing. He increased the volume, but there was only silence on the other end. It was strange, a deeper kind of quiet than he had ever heard. There was no ambient noise, no static, no background reverberation.

It was an absence of sound.

Timmy kept the phone hard to his ear as he put on his slippers. It was tricky doing it one-handed, but he couldn’t bear to miss the perfect silence fed to him from the other end.

He left the house out the backdoor, not bothering it to close it despite the December cold. Walking through the backyard, he entered the woods. The trees had long since lost their leaves, the starlight from the cloudless sky was bright enough for him to find his way.

Timmy found the gap in the chain link fence that divided the woods from the interstate highway. Keeping the phone to his ear, he snuck through. One of his slippers came off, snagged on a jagged fence barb. He left it behind.

Scrambling down the embankment, he stood on the highway shoulder. From around the corner, bright headlights suddenly blazed. A truck barreled toward him. Timmy could feel the rush of displaced air as it passed and the heat of its engine. The truck didn’t slow. It didn’t see him, the brush at the point where the highway bent hiding him from view of oncoming vehicles.

Keeping the phone to his ear, the sublime silence continuing to gush, Timmy took a step into the road. Serenaded by the sounds of nothingness, he thought again of his Grandpa. It would be his last Christmas and he hadn’t gotten him a gift.

Sometime soon Grandpa would hear the quiet. It would be all there was at the end. Timmy only wished he wouldn’t be alone when that day came. He now knew what gift he wished to give. If he only could.

Timmy took another step onto the road.

He looked up. The sky fit loosely above, the horizon dissolving into corrugated black edges.  The stars looked tired, drops of paint mistakenly spattered on a faded canvas. He looked in between the stars, into the vast open spaces, searching for the quiet.

And he listened to that still, dark emptiness. Listened to it until the lights came and took him.  

The Quiet Box – Flash Fiction Xmas Story up at Kendall Reviews

My latest Christmas Flash Fiction Horror story, The Quiet Box, (click title for link) is now up on Kendall Reviews site. This one follows my Christmas flash, The Toy Gun Factory, of two years ago, and The Stars Over Casper, Texas, last year. Although not intended, these three stories share a similar voice (Dickens vs Ligotti perhaps). They seem to be getting progressively bleak. Wonder what I’ll get up to next year.

Thanks to Gavin at for posting it on his site. Kendall Reviews is a growing horror blog featuring book reviews, author interviews, guest posts, articles, and promotions. It’s an active site with new content posted most every day. So please check them out and follow on twitter (@gjkendall)! Promote Horror.



O Unholy Night in Deathlehem – a holiday horrors charity anthology available now

My doom laden Christmas story, TRADITIONS AND ROTTEN DELICACIES, is included in the latest edition of the Grinning Skull Press annual Deathlehem charity anthology series available here. Its for a good cause as proceeds go to The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

This was a story I wrote a long time ago which was to be included in a Christmas/winter weird horror anthology by me. Due due to some heroic procrastination techniques I diligently employed throughout 2018, it hasn’t yet gotten off the ground, so it gave me an excuse to work on polishing one of the stories. Plus, it’s going to a good cause.

Thanks to Harrison Graves (editor) and Grinning Skull Press for publishing. Other authors include fellow flash fiction writers I often get published with Wiebo Grobler and Christopher Stanley (#teamdarkness).

Happy holidays and good reading!

S.E. Casey


THE STARS OVER CASPER, TEXAS — honorable mention, Weird Christmas Flash Fiction Contest

My 350 word short holiday story, THE STARS OVER CASPER, TEXAS, received an honorable mention from‘s inaugural holiday flash fiction contest. You can listen to my story and 11 other weird flash fiction stories from the contest results episode of the podcast (mine starts at 12:41), or read it in the comments section. So, what is my story about? I think the host’s introduction to it says it all, “…a mix between Cormac McCarthy and Thomas Ligotti”. So, that’s going in the Author Bio; heh, heh.

Thanks to Craig at Weird Christmas for running the contest. He has committed to doing it again next year, so get your stories ready (only 350 days until the 2019 deadline). Also, thanks to Brian Earl (twitter- @XmasPastPodcast) from the Christmas Past blog for his reading of my story.

S.E. Casey


The Toy Gun Factory – (A Christmas Horror Story)

There were no ceremonies and no witnesses. Twelve days before Christmas, in the middle of the Shaker Hills Mall parking lot, the tree appeared overnight.

Driven clear through the asphalt, its expansive width obliterated several rows of prime parking spaces. Gnarled bark and cankerous knots pocked its sooty trunk. Laden with rotten needles, its black branches swept off the stocky axis casting an ominous shade in the weak December sun.

Ribbons of mercury festooned the dark conifer, an infernal beauty in the cancerous tinsel although no one was fool enough to touch. We knew to steer clear, a tangible blight radiating from its awful core. At night, we beheld the lights recessed in the stygian foliage blinking deliberately like eyes of some wicked deep-forest predators.

No one knew the motivation behind the unwanted gift or the identity of its silent benefactor. The mall remained open despite the sinister presence. However, sales were sluggish, the mall plagued by a myriad of strange phenomenon. Without explanation and at irregular intervals, dirges of bassoons and oboes would blare over the PA system. Escalators suddenly reversed zooming backwards at ten times the speed, several broken bones and concussions the consequence. A six-year-old girl’s hand was badly scalded in the atrium wishing well, the waters somehow brought to boil.

The odd occurrences continued after hours. The department store mannequins were repositioned during the night, no one admitting to the deed. In the morning, the store owners would find them lurking in menacing poses or dangling from the ceiling in mock hangings. Thirteen mannequins went missing, the same number as the work gloves and coveralls mysteriously stolen from Krauss’s Sporting Goods.

Silent for decades, the abandoned factory behind the mall fired up its furnaces. Iron dust spewed from the dilapidated smokestacks which had been painted in a candy cane swirl. No one smiled at the mockingly festive design, a foul brown cloud gathering above the dilapidated building. Whoever manned the old assembly lines remained a mystery. No one could get close enough to find out, the demonic growls of the watchdogs slinking unseen amidst the winter shadows keeping everyone at bay.

The mall shut down three days before Christmas, abandoning the most profitable shopping days. The Yuletide spirit had been wrung out of us. We mostly stayed home, the shuttered factory’s hellish growl and faceless laborers the town’s only commerce.

On Christmas Eve, we were compelled to gather around the monstrous tree. Basking in the icy moon shadows, we celebrated under the starry black limbs, foolish worshippers shushing the crying children before hanging our sacrifices in those solemn, malevolent boughs.




Story first published in 2017 on Placed 6th place in the Horror Scribes 2017 Christmas Horror Story Contest.

Sugarplums and Other Carrion

My latest story, ‘Sugarplums and Other Carrion’, has been published as a part of the Christmas themed anthology ‘The Deadman’s Tome Krampus Christmas‘ (click for link).  As the title suggests this is a holiday themed story although it does not include Krampus.  Instead I wrote about a dark Christmas between-the-cracks, a secret celebration under rat-tail mistletoe while drunk on sour mother’s milk nog.

Thanks to the Deadman’s Tome for publishing my admittedly disturbing piece.  For any aspiring authors, the Deadman’s Tome is easily the most fun you can have in submitting, that necessary evil of being a writer.  Although it is a one-man operation, there is clear communication and decisions are made quickly, not dragged out over months.  Many new authors have been published here and there are no constraints on content.

For this particular anthology, it’s purposely focused with five well-defined, different short stories and one epic poem.  The other authors are Grant Butler, Mark Slade, Christopher Powers, and William Marchese.  Please check out and consider supporting some independent authors and an independent press.  Also, check out the Deadman’s Tome website/blog for other Christmas horror stories, no taboo too great, to be posted just about every other day throughout the month.

Oh, and then there’s Gary Buller’s ‘The Present’, the first story in ‘…Krampus Christmas’, a harrowing tale about that small Christmas gathering you’d rather not have about a gift that you’d rather not get.  Check out some of Gary’s other short story offerings (such as ‘The Way Out’) on the Deadman’s Tome as well, some of the most popular tales to be posted on the site.





Of Christmas Horror – Krampus

In my younger years, Christmas horror stories were always ones I avoided, no particular interest in them.  As an example, in reading a Thomas Ligotti anthology years ago, there was a story whose title suggested Christmas (I looked it up – The Christmas Eves of Aunt Elise).  As is my habit with short story collections, I skip around, choosing the next story based on how interesting the titles sound, and I am sure I left this one for last.  However, it turned out to be a fulfilling, provocative read.  While Christmas was the setting and backdrop of Ligotti’s story, not the primary source of the particular horror, it did add a principal element in its oppressive atmosphere and motive of the characters.

This exception to the rule notwithstanding, and not taking a lesson learned, my bias can be best explained by the story-line most commonly associated with Christmas horror- Krampus.  In truth, I had never heard of this specific character until recently, unaware this specific folklore dedicated to a malevolent anti-Santa figure existed so widely- a product of my Christmas story indifference perhaps.  The Krampus construct fits my preconception of Yuletide inspired horror where the spirit of Christmas is threatened by a menacing presence which must be exorcised lest the holiday (and all we’good’ souls who celebrate it) suffer.  Now that I write it, I see it as the basic plot of the Grinch— a seasonal confection viewed enough times as a child to permanently fuse into my subconscious.

My lack of enthusiasm for this narrative comes from its absence of moral dilemma.  The good and evil characters are so pre-defined they are not bothered to be introduced, and to reduce even further, the definitions of good and evil are also negligently assumed.  Most simply stated, these story’s conflict can be explained as a status quo has been upturned and must be corrected back to the way it was… a reflexive presumption that any change should be resisted.  But why?  This most conservative of ideas, like an angry railing of some crotchety old man, is where the return to the good old days is both the ideal and the justification in of of itself…  an adolescent argument of just because…  Not the side of the philosophic side of the tracks I normally choose to reside.  It is much more rewarding to question why the status quo should be defended, or if, maybe with some benign neglect, there may be an elegant opportunity for something better to replace the old. What would it be for the sacred cow of Christmas to fall?  To my tastes, this is a more interesting and challenging imaginary universe.

Of course, Krampus is not all Christmas horror, and there is an place for Krampus in literature/entertainment, no accounting for my specific tastes.  However, in opposition to this trope I have written a few short stories where Christmas itself is the horror, rather than a damsel in distress.  Hopefully, my fiction blurs the line of morality and expectation, as well as confronts the possibility our Yuletide traditions (at least to some) may be stale and even vulgar.  Could Christmas be a Trojan Horse, a veneer of light and merriment, with sinister intent festering inside?  Or perhaps it is some Lovecraftian behemoth devoid of purpose, nobly ignorant to how it is mistakenly interpreted by we lesser, unimaginative creatures.

In this unfrozen Christmas ground, I plan on writing more of these short stories based more on questions than answers, eventually publishing together in a collection.  For now, one of my Christmas themed stories, SIX BEASTS A FLAYING, which can be found in the horror magazine Devolution Z (December 2015, Vol 5), is about a vindictive Yuletide spirit lashing out to protect its own tired, burnt out land that holds nothing worthy of defending.  Also, I have posted a free story NICHOLAS’ LIGHT (Smashwords, Barnes&Noble, Itunes, Amazon) which begs the question of Christmas’ ultimate destination in its disturbing progression of its celebrants—a wonder of children, then an obligation of adults, and finally a forlorn pining for the past of the elderly-a wholesome innocence never to be relived.

Please see below link for free download of my Christmas short story if anyone is interested.  Always remember, Christmas is other people.

Free download of Nicholas’ Light (a Christmas Short Horror Story)

NicholasIce final6 copy