's 2020 Horror Write-off:

A Christmas Dinner

Submitted by BC

"Mashed potatoes and sugar cookies" whispered a choking voice in my ear as I placed the freshly polished hand mirror in the middle of the dining room table. I sighed as I told Aunt Mindy who was preparing the returning family members' food with her sister Betty, that Terry just told me she wanted more potatoes and sugar cookies in her dish. Mindy, as always, questioned my deduction, whether I was getting the voice wrong that ordered sounded more like cousin Billy instead of Terry. Betty then asked me for the seventh time if I had polished the mirror correctly as the returning family members could not come through a filthy mirror. "I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus" blared on the radio right beside them as I told them as politely as I could muster, that yes I was sure on both accounts. The matter settled all three of us discussed what we and others,s had seen and how many returning family members were coming to dinner. My own experiences had been pretty uneventful. All morning I had heard Terry's voice whisper in my ear, I had also heard my brother's voice barely coming from my cell phone as I was taking photos of the kids opening their presents, and finally, I had gotten a glimpse of Granpa Stanford's distorted face in Mindy's glasses just as I was telling her about Terry's order.

After a few minutes of arguing, we finally agreed that at least eight family members were returning this year for dinner. The family was two members short from last year, but that was to be expected as Great Uncle Sammy had been very transparent last year, and Great cousin Patty's side of the family had by this point either moved away or passed on. As I set up their chairs, the whispering grew louder and more frantic as more and more returning family members stared to appear and seemed to be looking for their seats. Most members appeared out of thin air hovering right above their seats, others came slowly forming their body a piece at a time, while the rest slowly came sliding out of the mirror face-first floating to their seats.

With the returning family members finally at their designated seats, I helped my aunts set up their table setting plastic cups of either pure bottled water or fresh wine, the former being for the kids and the latter for the adults. We then each took a prepared paper plate with the returned family members' food all mixed into one mashed globe. I chuckled as I put Terry's food down remembering the year we must have somehow gotten her husband Billy's dinner wrong and he had thrown his plate clear across the room leaving a goopy mess that I could still see the stain. Betty glared at me so I quickly sobered up and continued serving the returning members ignoring both their warped twisted shapes they appeared in and the meaningless chatter they said to the thin air.

Setting the last plate we begin getting our food as we watched the returned family members floating over their seats completely ignoring both their food and each other. Fond my older brother's seat in the middle to Billy and grampa Standford. In the twelve years since his passing, he had started to grown another head on the right side of his neck and had lost most of his body including his legs, fingers, and eyes. He was also was flickering like static on an old tv set saying things like "Purple teeth, hunger never-ending, pie" and such nonsensical gargling. As I watched him spin around I knew that he probably wouldn't be returning next year. That he would be disappearing to wherever the dead go. I was mildly shocked at my acceptance of my brother's true death though honestly, I had mostly gotten over his death years ago. Though the reason I first started setting up the return table might be gone I'm sure I'm still going to set the returned table next year with or without him, if only to keep my aunts and the departed guests some company during the festivities.