The tree was covered with tinsel and ornaments. The house was lit and smelled of evergreen and peppermint. Father and mother had gone to bed secure in the knowledge that little Willie was sleeping soundly with visions of sugarplums or whatever visions danced in the heads of little boys on Christmas eve.
Willie waited until he heard his father’s sonorous snores rattle the walls before sneaking out of his bed. He was an expert at lying to his parents. Many a time he had faked a cold or fever to skip school. He was determined to be awake when Santa came to visit.
Jack, from Willie’s third period science class, had said that Santa wasn’t real but Willie was still unsure. He wanted proof. He knew that Santa would come on the stroke of midnight and he was determined to catch the jolly old elf in the act.
He’d show that doubter.
Willie snuck downstairs and took up a station in the bay window near the tree. If Santa was coming he’d have to come down the chimney near the tree. Willie could curl up on the window seat and keep an eye on the fireplace with ease.
The moon was full lighting the snowy landscape outside as bright as day. Willie loved the woods around his home. He spent many hours each day racing between the trees and pretending to do battle with monsters and woodland spirits.
The clock on the mantle chimed. It was the first stroke of midnight.
Willie fairly vibrated with excitement. Soon Santa would arrive and he’d prove that Jack the jerk wrong.
On the eleventh chime Willie began to wonder. Santa had not emerged from the fireplace. He glanced outside, nervously considering that Jack might be right. Far across the yard he noticed a figure trudging through the snow. In the moonlight he could make out dark clothing with light trim and a large sack which trailed the figure as it moved toward the house.
“Santa,” he whispered.
Willie leaped from his perch and raced to the front door. He would meet Santa outside, get his present and finally prove Jack wrong.
Willie pulled on his galoshes, threw open the door and raced out into the snow.
Santa continued to slog through the snow toward him. The sack of toys must have been brimming. Santa was dragging the bulging sack behind him. Wilie could hardly wait to see what it contained.
Santa stopped his forward progress and waited as Willie ran to meet him. He wasn’t dressed like the Santa at the mall, he wore a long robe of red trimmed in white fur with a hood rather than the long pointed hat Willie expected.
Willie noticed that the snow where the bag had been dragged was stained with something dark, something in the bag must have sprung a leak.
“Santa I knew you were real.”
Santa remained silent.
Willie came closer. For some reason Santa kept his head down and refused to look at the boy. Willie noticed that Santa was a lot thinner than he had been led to believe.
“Santa, have you got a present for me?”
Santa raised his right hand and curled a finger to beckon the boy closer.
Willie ran forward, eyes on the bag. Santa’s sack was an off white with dark blobs that looked wet.
“Did something leak Santa?”
Santa remained silent but began to untie the sack. Willie only had eyes for the bulging bag. The stained rope was unwound from the mouth of the sack and then Santa opened it. Willie peered inside expecting gaily wrapped presents but instead the bag was full of balls, furry balls. Willie reached into the sack and grabbed one of the balls. He lifted it free of the cloth and screamed as the ball stared at him with dead eyes and a gaping mouth. It was a head.
“You’ve been naughty,” Santa said in a raspy voice.
Willie looked up into Santa’s face. The elf wasn’t jolly at all. His eyes glowed red and his mouth was huge and filled with piranha teeth.
Santa grabbed the naughty boy with a grip like iron and the last thing Willie saw was the dagger teeth before they closed on his neck.