We had our family Christmas dinner around noon today. It was a marvelous feast, and we all gorged ourselves as is the annual tradition. Anyway, after we had stuffed our faces, everyone collapsed in the living room filling up the couch and chairs.

Just as our lethargy was really setting in someone put one of those Yule log programs on the television. It was kind of nice sitting around the fire, chatting and drifting in and out of dreamland. The fireplace was popping with little merry crackles, and flickering between shades of yellow and red. The air was scented with that lovely pine smell that comes indoors along with real Christmas trees. Life was feeling pretty festive…

-until the cries began. At first we thought it was one of the kids upstairs, and my stepsister got up to go check on the little runts. Meanwhile the rest of us sat around waiting for the crying to stop- it didn’t stop; it got louder. My stepsister re-appeared, looking completely perplexed,- the kids were fine, playing quietly on their own.

A pleading mumble joined the whimpers, and we all kind of looked around, not really sure what to think. The words became increasingly clear as the minutes passed.

“Please, no. Don’t hurt me.”

Meanwhile the fireplace was still popping happily. Someone, one of my cousins I guess turned off the sound, and the crying stopped. We all assumed that the joke was over, and we could just go back to being lazy. Except that when the volume on the TV came up again the screams were louder. There were two distinct voices, a screaming woman, with a high girlish sound and a man with a deep voice. He kept saying twisted shit too.

“You’ve been real naughty for Santa,” and “Ho ho ho, I’ve got a present for you.”

Each time the man spoke his words were punctuated with loud slaps and whips. The girl’s cries echoed through my stepdad’s new surround sound.

“Turn it off, this is sick.” My mom was the first one to suggest the obvious. Whatever was happening outside of the view of the camera, it had nothing to do with Christmas joy or good tidings. That creepy feeling had settled in my stomach, but it was like a train wreck, I was in denial but for the first time in my life truly riveted to a screen with a burning log.

A few people got up and left the room, one of my younger cousins added to the ambiance by barfing up his meal in the bathroom. But, then there were the rest of us, unable to look away from the cheerful little fireplace.

The scenery never changed, even as the violence off screen got louder and louder, and then even more terrifyingly quieter and quieter until a last soft gurgle could be heard. We listened to the sound of boots crossing a wooden floor, and then watched in awe as a blood soaked poker prodded the dying embers of the fire. The fire brightened in response, and went back to burning quietly.

A little while ago my step dad got off the phone with the cable company. He was pretty mad about the experience, after all, the adults felt completely sullied and if the kids had been around it would have totally altered their view of Christmas.

Of course, the company denied it, and from what I’ve seen around the internet no one else has had the same experience. So, I don’t know what to think. At least we won’t be forced to watch that lame Yule log burning next year, it kind of goes without saying that we’ll never put that on our telly again.

Anyway, hope your Christmas was less frightening.