The wreath is made of bones, feathers, and lost things. Ana hangs it on her door every Christmas, as has been her family tradition since she was little.
Each year, she adds something new – this winter, it’s some sheep’s wool she found snagged on a fence. She likes how it reminds her of snow, and the dash of blood on the side that makes it looks like it’s been dipped in red glitter.
As Christmas Eve approaches, the smell of rot that usually lingers in the hall is fading, replaced by something more pleasant – cloves and citrus, as if the house remembers Mum’s mulled wine. She breathes in the scent, savouring the taste – her senses always get stronger at this time of year. She prepares the dining room first, setting the table with a moth-holed tablecloth and her mum’s best china; for Dad’s benefit more than hers. Then, she brushes away cobwebs and dust as best she can, and covers up the permanent stain by the doorway with an old rug.
There’s a knock on the door and a feeling rushes through her that could almost be warmth. She drifts towards it and pokes her head out. A plump figure stands on the porch, with a hesitant smile that twitches at the sight of her.
‘Hi Dad.’ She tries to say it enthusiastically, though she knows her voice comes out light and wispy. He’s carrying a tray of food for one, and a wrapped present. He’ll open it for her when inside and set it on the mantlepiece alongside the other gifts he’s brought over the years.
He clears his throat. ‘Can I come in?’
‘You’ll have to open the door yourself,’ she says, then pulls her translucent head back through the wreath and the door. Back in the house, her form solidifies, and she’s almost able to walk again.
The door creaks open, and her dad enters. He shivers. ‘The house looks…nice.’
‘Thanks.’ She smiles wide and points to the wreath. ‘I decorated.’
Lyndsey is a Scottish science fiction and fantasy writer based in Edinburgh. She received a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award for 2020 and is working on her debut novel. She enjoys writing speculative short fiction and has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies. Find her on Twitter as @writerlynds or via www.lyndseycroal.co.uk.