“Is there seriously snow here? I feel like there shouldn’t be snow here. How is snow menacing anyway? It’s all white and fluffy and looks like a Christmas card. Do you guys even celebrate that holiday here or is that something we just have a scary equivalent to? Inquiring minds would very much like to be informed,” Matt said.

Lydia just beamed at him as she put her hand crafted fabric ornaments up in some of Toby’s webs. She’d even made little crocheted ones for him to play with so that he wouldn’t get tempted to move the other fancier ones around too much.

“We don’t really know,” she shrugged, putting down a tiny crochet eye decoration closest to the area that Toby usually emerged from. “We only just found this place a few months before we met you and this is our first Christmas here. You should ask Will. He’s been here longer.”

“He’s also been to different places than this, I think,” Stuart said, painting a little trinket he’d made with silver paint. “Though I don’t know if I want him to tell us more about things that he’s seen or let us just enjoy the holidays.”

“Not much to enjoy when you don’t have much for family,” Matt sighed. “I used to get a card from an old foster home that I was in but that was a while back now and I was still a kid when they were sending those out. They stop doing that when you age out.”

“Well, my family doesn’t do much except on the day itself and usually my father works even on Christmas day so it doesn’t actually feel like a holiday in our house. A few years ago we stopped even doing the tree or anything,” Stuart shrugged.

“My family makes me go to church and we aren’t allowed to do anything else, like look at lights or go skating or even just watch fun movies,” Lydia frowned. “My mom always says it’s too cold to look at lights or go skating and my dad doesn’t like most secular movies because they’re too commercial.”

“Well, when I was in one home, we got to hang ornaments that we made like you’re doing,” Matt encouraged her. “Couldn’t we make some for your apartment and make it feel a bit more festive for you? You could teach me and I’ll help.”

“We can make them together,” Stuart offered. “Will and Dolly should be back soon. Dolly said that the movie we’re watching should be a lot of fun for everyone and I’ve got enough paint here that we can make some things for whoever wants to take stuff home.”

“I think I enjoy it more here,” Lydia sighed. “At least here, we can all look at it and I won’t have to take it down the second I get a phone call. And besides, it’s more fun with you all here. Even Toby.”

“I think he likes them too,” Matt smiled. “I notice one of your bats has gone missing.”

“The really over stuffed one?” Lydia smiled, looking at the shadowy edge of the web.

“Toby does like things that he can squish,” Will said, shaking off a little bit of snow from his shoulder with one of his spider legs. “He’s also fascinated by round shaped things for some odd reason. He really likes balls but doesn’t like the bouncy ones.”

“What did the outside look liked?” Lydia asked, excitedly, as Dolly came in with her arms full of branches.

“It’s snowier than I thought it would be,” she replied, shaking her head to get the wet strands of hair out of her face. “Colder too. I’m grateful that we don’t have to contend with my wheelchair here. Trying to move around in that thing in the snow is such a huge pain.”

“And thankfully we didn’t have to go that far to get extra firewood,” Will replied, helping her with the load she was carrying. Matt and Stuart came forward to help as well.

“You’re sure that this kind of firewood will help keep the Haven up for longer and we won’t have to work so hard?” Matt said, adding some kindling to the fire. Toby wandered in to grab another ornament before disappearing again.

“That’s what I am told,” Will said, piling up the sticks close by. “Looks like it’s working too. Look at the flames. They’ve got a kind of green glow at the bottom.”

“I think you had this conversation without us,” Stuart said, putting away his paints. “I knew you were getting firewood but I didn’t know that you guys were getting anything special.”

“Will explained it to me while we were gathering,” Dolly said. “It only grows for the month of December but there’s a special kind of root that grows out there in the graveyard. It’s covered in it out there, by the way, so there’s plenty to go around if we want to extend our visit.”

“And it keeps this place open?” Lydia said, hopefully. “For how long?”

“For a while,” Will nodded. “Longer than we could on our own. From what I read, the root only grows when the world is at its darkest. It slows time and makes the nights longer. It’s something to do with the way that the night pools in the roots and when they burn, it releases a kind of magic or something. I admit that I’m not entirely sure how they work but it’s also a way to induce insomnia for people who want to pull all nighters.”

“Sounds like it would be more effective than coffee,” Matt said.

“With some nasty side effects,” Will agreed. “It’s fine for us to burn it now, especially when it’s fresh. From everything I’ve read, people can eat it but I’ve read a lot of accounts of the roots going kind of off after about a month or two. By spring it can cause you to stay up for days and by summer, you’d be lucky to get any sleep at all. It can also cause blindness and a raging case of insanity and auditory hallucinations so it’s not entirely worth replacing coffee as far as I can tell.”

“Yeah, I think I’ll stick with my tried and true methods of script writing,” Dolly said, settling in on the fainting couch. “But I think for tonight, it will be nice to just relax and enjoy getting warm again.”

A bluster of winter air suddenly filled the room and made the webs flutter around them. The fire flickered and snapped a bit higher, making the group jump. For a second, the draft was deadly, icy cold and felt almost like there was a window open. Before anyone could speak, a loud clock chime rang through the chamber of the Haven, echoing off the stone floors. The fire seemed dimmer as the clock let out nine booming chimes. They seemed to shake the very foundation and Dolly wondered when they had brought a clock into the situation and who would have done it. She looked around the room to see the ice crystals in the webs, glittering in the firelight.

“That was rather dramatic,” Will said, dusting himself off. “I’m surprised that we didn’t get covered in webbing. Toby isn’t used to the sound of clocks.”

“Speaking of which, when did we get a clock?” Dolly asked, confused.

“I thought of one once but that was when we started,” Stuart offered. “I couldn’t get anything that didn’t look like plywood so we scraped it.”

“Maybe that was enough to keep it around?” Lydia offered. “There’s other stuff that only Dolly remembers and some of my stuff now too. Maybe it came from there. Did you remember a clock, Matt?”

“The clock has always been a part of this house,” an unfamiliar voice replied.

“Where is this house?” Matt said, looking around.

“Unfortunately,” the voice mused, “it is home.”

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