Rick stared out the
window into his backyard. His
eye caught the occasional snowflake as it drifted down from the cold night sky.
If it were under different circumstances it would have been beautiful.
it wasn't beautiful. It was terrifying.
stared into the night. More than once he saw something dart by, but he could
never get a good look at it. He thought how it looked something like an elf:
small hunched-over creature with pointy ears and a malicious grin, but he
couldn't be sure.
the blinds, Rick sauntered into the kitchen to make himself a sandwich. He was
surprised he still had an appetite. He did, however, have to fight back the
terrible images in his mind of Mrs. Shelldack being sucked into a giant red
bag, just like the one Santa Claus used for all the presents.
two bites of his sandwich, Rick was startled by a sharp rap on the side of the
house. For an instant he thought it was Luke, his buddy who lived a few doors
down. He would frequently knock on windows or the siding of the house when he
would stop by.
then reality reared its ugly head and reminded Rick that it couldn't possibly
be Luke. Luke had been mauled to death by a group of reindeer. And he had seen
it too. One minute he was there, and the next...
to make matters worse, he could have sworn that one of the beasts had a red
pulled a steak knife out of the drawer and waved it in his trembling hand as he
held it out in front of him. "I... I'm armed," he croaked. "I'll call the police."
sound abruptly stopped and Rick was left alone with his imagination, which in
many ways was worse. He saw something slide past the window then, something
that wore a red hat with white trim.
Rick’s mind raced for an explanation
for what was happening. Every time he turned on the TV or radio, hoping for any
information from the authorities, all that was on were Christmas commercials or
specials. If he tried to use his cell phone, all he heard was Christmas music. White
Christmas and Jingle Bells were but a few of the tunes he heard over the phone’s
In short, he was trapped. And worse
than that, he didn’t even know how or by what.
The colorful blinking lights stretched
across the window. Something pulled the wire taut, jiggling the bulbs ever so
slightly. Whatever it was, it kept out of sight.
Rick couldn’t help but wonder who, or
what, was responsible.
And then he knew.
A hand appeared. Although it was more
like a mitten than a hand, a giant black mitten the size of a basketball. It
twisted the strand of lights deep within its folds as if positioning them to be
in just the right location.
Rick shuddered when he saw the arm of
the thing. He swallowed hard, trying to keep from heaving.
Snow! The arm was made of snow!
Moonlight reflected off the tiny
frozen flakes, revealing a thick appendage that moved as if it were flesh and
bone. And when the thing the arm was attached to stepped forward, Rick nearly
It was a snowman! A real,
honest-to-God snowman! It wore a black top hat, had lumps of coal for eyes, and
a corncob pipe jutting out of its impossibly wide mouth.
The snowman looked directly at Rick
and smiled. Jagged Christmas light bulbs made up its teeth, and each and every
one glistened with wet snow.
The music was next. The familiar
Christmas jingle Frosty the Snowman rang through the chilled night from an
unknown source. It was distinct and clear.
"’Frosty the Snowman …’"
Then came the inevitable: an arm
through the window.
Rick shielded his face from the
onslaught of flying glass. Several large pieces hit him in the face, but he wasn’t
hurt so he shrugged them off.
"Happy Birthday!" a warm,
familiar voice said.
Rick screamed and slammed the
steak-knife down into the arm as it reached into the house for him. It eagerly
stretched its impossible length toward him, only recoiling when the blade
sliced into its icy flesh. It then pulled back out of the window.
Rick caught a glimpse of the huge
snowman, Frosty the Snowman, lumbering away from the house. It disappeared into
a row of bushes near the property line.
Thinking fast, Rick yanked a cutting
board out from beneath the sink and wedged it into the opening. It didn’t
completely cover the hole but stopped most of the December wind from coming
through. The Christmas lights still dangled in the night, swaying in the cold
breeze, and Rick wanted desperately to pull them down but didn’t dare reach
outside. God only knew what might try to grab him if he did.
"All right,” he mumbled to
himself, "you need to get a hold of yourself.” He set the knife down and
ran his hands through his thinning hair. "There’s no way those things
outside are really what they look like. Elves? Santa’s reindeer? Frosty the
The sound shook the house, causing
light fixtures to swing and plaster to crack. Something had landed on the roof
and was dragging across it in a steady, madness- inducing rhythm.
Rick snatched the knife back up and
began to pace throughout his house. He followed the trail of whatever was on
his roof as best he could, bumping into walls and furniture as he moved along.
He could hear what sounded like hooves scampering back and forth, punctuated by
thick grunts and a heavy thud as someone landed on the roof.
The insane notion that Santa Claus
himself had landed on his roof tried to worm its way into Rick’s head. He tried
to dismiss it, but the fact that there was indeed someone on his house would
not let him.
The steps plodded across the roof.
They seemed to be without purpose, occasionally pausing only to shuffle along again
at varying speeds.
Unsure what to do, Rick found himself
withdrawing into a dark corner of his living room. He abandoned his attempt to
follow the footsteps on the roof; they were very erratic. If he holed up and
waited for help, then he might survive the night. He couldn’t begin to guess
what still awaited him outside (or up above).
When he first heard it, Rick couldn’t
believe his ears. After all the madness and terror he already experienced, this
one very well might have taken the prize. Trembling, Rick stood up and stumbled
over to the nearest window. He parted the curtains an inch, then two.
The pine tree towered over his house.
It was easily twenty feet tall, perhaps more, and moved by some unseen motion
beneath its bristling branches. It swayed in the cold breeze as it lumbered
toward Rick’s house, a series of brightly-lit lights dotting its dense hide.
Rick watched, open-mouthed, as the
beast glided across the street, carving a messy swath through the fallen snow.
With the ease of someone brushing aside a strand of hair, the tree swatted his
car, causing it to careen thirty feet down the road before rolling over into a
culvert ditch. Instantly, plumes of black smoke spiraled up into the night.
"You’ve got to be kidding me,"
But the tree was no joke. It was alive.
The sounds from the roof increased.
Footsteps scampered in all directions. Cloven hooves shuffled back and forth.
Drywall cracked, raining dust down into the house.
Realizing he needed something better
to protect himself with, Rick ran into his bedroom. He pulled open the closet
door and yanked down a large shoebox from the top shelf. Inside was his
handgun. He whipped it out and slid a cartridge into the handle.
Turning around, he listened intently
for any sign of danger. He knew it was all around him, threatening to crash
through a door or window at any moment, but since he had his gun, he felt
Stepping so cautiously that he hardly
made a sound, Rick tiptoed to the bedroom door. A sour odor permeated the
house, and with it a sense of foreboding that was as stark as a punch in the gut.
"Ho, ho, ho,” a deep voice said
from the living room. It rang throughout the house, punctuating the painful
silence like bullets in a wall. "Merry Christmas."
Rick steadied his gun. He inched
toward the door. His heart threatened to burst through his chest. His breathing
The smell gradually changed from sour
to sweet. A faint aroma of pine cones and candy wafted through the house.
Rick was as confused as he was scared.
Something was in his house, and he didn’t know what it was or how it got in. He
decided to do the only thing he could do: confront it.
It would have been bad enough if Santa
Claus himself was standing in his living room. That alone would have been
enough to crack the fragile state of his psyche. But what he saw was far worse.
The room was crowded with an eclectic
assortment of Christmas-themed creatures. There were elves, grimacing, hateful
things with pointy ears and clawed hands, and beastly reindeer complete with
bell-lined red straps and twisted antlers scraping against the walls. There was
a snowman, Frosty the Snowman if Rick had to guess, flexing his white arms in
grisly anticipation of getting a hold of someone. And even Mrs. Claus herself,
plump and jolly, but with an uncanny undertone of malevolence to her demeanor.
She was harboring evil thoughts and would most certainly act upon them if given
the chance. Outside the window, Rick could see the huge pine tree lurking.
Bright strands of Christmas lights were still draped across its branches, and
more than once it brushed up against the side of the house.
Without thinking, Rick raised his gun
and pulled the trigger. He almost laughed when the only thing that shot out of
the barrel were chunks of cookies. The pieces crumbled and fell to the floor.
Milk then dribbled out of the gun and pooled onto the cookies, creating a soggy
"That’s a shame," a voice
said from somewhere in the room, "I was looking forward to my milk and cookies."
Rick wanted to turn and run out of the
house, but couldn’t. The tree (and God only knew what else) would be waiting
for him if he did. And that would be if he could get past the things inside the
"Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas."
In the center of the room was where
the elves were most concentrated. They roiled and squirmed like worms after a
thunderstorm. Something then began to lift up beneath them. They struggled to
get out of the way, but mostly just fell by the wayside.
First, a hat, a red hat with white
trim and a white ball on its tip. Then a face, a jovial face that belonged on a
Christmas card or television commercial, not in someone’s living room.
Santa stood up, the last few elves
tumbling off his prodigious body. He raised a gloved hand and straightened the
enormous black belt that circled his waist. His eyes twinkled with a cold fire.
"Santa?" was all Rick
managed to say when he opened his mouth. He immediately felt foolish.
"Live and in person."
"B… but how? How could any of you
Mrs. Claus stepped forward. She kicked
a small elf out of the way. The creature growled as it smacked into a wall.
"We are as real as you are," she said in a grandmotherly voice.
"But we only get to play once every twenty years."
Santa raised a hand to his wife and
she quickly fell silent.
"What did she mean…play?" Rick
asked, although he didn't really want an answer.
Santa moved forward. His heavy black
boots were still wet with melting snow. "Just what she said. Every twenty
years I let my workers run loose, you know, have a little fun. And everyone,
and everything, is included. Not just my elves and the wife, but Christmas
trees, snowmen, and even decorations. Everything."
The conviction that Santa spoke with
chilled Rick to the bone. He could hardly believe that he was talking to Saint
Nick as it was, much less being threatened by him.
Santa smiled so wide it looked as if his
beard would fall off. Blood-encrusted teeth ground against one another in his
mouth. He burrowed through the sea of elves and assorted presents and
decorations, and came to within three feet of where Rick stood. He glanced
around the room. "You see, everyone needs to let off a little steam. If
they don't, things could get ugly." A strand of Christmas lights wrapped
around Rick's ankles then, binding him tight. Another strand secured his arms
to his sides. "We work all year long, every year, and all around the world
too." His tiny nose twitched. His face tightened. "So, my friend, you
are the unlucky recipient of our playtime."
"W…what do you mean
"The outlet to let off that steam
"But you’re Santa Claus. You can't
Santa pondered Rick's words for a moment.
He ran a mitten through his beard. Behind him, the elves, Mrs. Claus, and
Frosty were becoming agitated, but they stood their ground. "I've been
watching mankind for a long time, and one thing I've learned is that there's
good in everyone." He stepped up to Rick, nearly knocking him over with
his bulk. "And there's also evil in everyone."
Rick felt nauseated. The sour-sweet
smell was making his stomach turn. And Santa's breath was rank with it.
Mrs. Claus nudged up beside her famous
husband. Her normally happy appearance was twisted into a feral expression of
hunger. Frosty stood right behind her, an equally disturbing look on his round,
white face. The elves jostled for position throughout the room.
his hands on his huge
belly and let out a hearty laugh. "Okay, everybody," he wheezed,