Just a Holiday Portrait Session and NOTHING ELSE
It was Herbert’s last shift at the department store photography studio and his day had been filled with screaming babies and yowling cats. One woman in a garish sweater had insisted he switch back and forth between the two available holiday-themed backdrops for half an hour, before she finally settled on a plain blue one.
Herbert sipped from his water bottle and prayed to whatever god would listen that no one else wandered into the studio before he could punch out and go home.
But the gods were not in a mood for mercy.
Ten figures shuffled up to the front desk, all dressed in long black robes with the hoods pulled over their heads. Herbert could only see their eyes peering out from beneath the hoods, eyes which blinked at him in a startling array of colors both natural and unnatural.
“We’re here to get our portrait taken,” said one of the visitors, their voice simmering like brimstone pressed against soft flesh.
Herbert shivered. Clenching his jaw into a polite smile, he waved the visitors over to where the camera was pointed at a backdrop with an image of a roaring fire and the words “Merry Christmas to Family and Friends” splashed across it in Vivaldi font.
“We have other backdrops,” he said.
“No, this is perfect. Merry Christmas to Family and Friends. That is exactly the sentiment we are attempting to capture.”
The voice scraped past Herbert’s eardrums and echoed within his head.
The figures dropped their hoods one by one, and Herbert slapped a hand over his mouth to stop himself from letting out an impolite shriek. Each of the figures had long teeth growing beyond their lips and shaved into sharp points. Their eyes were sunken, their noses pointed, and their bodies covered in short, shaggy fur. Herbert’s eyes dropped to their hands, each of which was adorned with six fingers and claws so sharp they looked as if they could slice through a man’s belly with little effort.
“Have any poses in mind?” Herbert squeaked.