A faint sparkle caught Lisa’s eye as she browsed the shelves of the antiques shop her sister dragged her into. Normally, Lisa wouldn’t have shopped here since she really wasn’t into knickknacks but spending the day shopping with Natalie was rare. Their schedules often conflicted so, off they went, just two days before Christmas, to get some last minute shopping done. The two women were very close and treasured any time they could spend together.
The sparkle that caught Lisa’s eye so effectively came from a little Santa figure tucked away on the far side of a shelf against the wall. It was so far back on the shelf that Lisa was surprised any light managed to catch in the glitter lined coat this Santa was sporting. Natalie was always teasing her about how bland her home was decorated and this plump little Santa was so cute, Lisa picked him up and looked him over in consideration of her living room mantle.
He was about five inches tall with an aged patina of beige tint to him. The white on his hat and coat was covered in fine white glitter, thus giving the sparkle that had drawn her to him. His black boots were scuffed and worn, implying that he’d done a lot of toy deliveries in his day. This detail his creator chose to include when making him struck her as funny, given he was merely a little statue of Santa that could neither walk nor deliver toys. It was that small detail that caused her to take him, showing him to Natalie and then heading to the checkout line. Such a cute, funny little man this Santa was. He would make a fine conversation piece in her home, she thought as she dug for her wallet.
Having finished their day out, the sisters headed back to Lisa’s house where their husbands and children were waiting for the pizza and beer that had been promised. Lisa’s son, Brett, and Natalie’s son, Steven, were practically inseparable. Only six months apart in age, they had grown up not just as cousins but more brothers than anything else. These days, the two 10 year olds spent their time playing video games or working on Brett’s tree house in the backyard.
It was a great day for both families since Lisa and Natalie got to shop, their husbands got to watch their favorite superhero movies, and their sons were allowed to use extension cords to bring their video games out to the tree house. Everyone was in good spirits. As Lisa placed her little Santa on the fireplace mantle, Brett looked up from his pizza and stared for a moment.
“What’s that?” Brett asked with a mouth full of pizza.
“It’s a little Santa figure I found at an antiques store. You like it?” Lisa asked.
“Nah. That thing’s creepy.” Brett answered as Steven nodded in agreement.
“Awe! Don’t let him hear you say that. He might visit you in your sleep.” Lisa replied as she gave a smirk to both boys. Their eyes widened as they exchanged looks across the table.
“Don’t tell them that!” Natalie yelled from the kitchen. “Don’t you want to sleep tonight? Geez, sis. That’s mom-ing 101. Never scare your kid with a scary story involving sleep. His awkward, lanky, ten year old butt will be in your bed so fast.” Natalie said as they all laughed.
Later that night, Natalie’s family said their farewells and left. Lisa told Brett to brush his teeth and prepare for bed. She noticed him glance at the figurine on the mantle before leaving the room and knew, joking aside, her sister was right. Brett was going to be a chore to get to bed tonight. Maybe she could use it to her advantage to get him to finally clean his room. No, better not. Sleep is better.
“Mom, why’d you buy that thing?” Brett asked as she came in to hug him goodnight.
“I thought he looked friendly, like a hard working fellow who brought lots of toys to kids and was ready to retire in our living room.” Lisa replied, trying to keep it light and friendly sounding. Her attempt at smoothing over the creepy figurine issue was met with an eye roll as Brett rolled over to get comfy in bed. Lisa kissed his forehead and exited the room, closing the door on her way out. She was beat from a day of walking the length of the local mall and the strip mall her sister spotted on their way home. Sleep found Lisa quickly.
Brett stirred and turned over in bed, unsure at first of what woke him. A soft tap brought him back from the edge of sleep a moment later and he sat up in bed. His clock read six minutes after three in the morning. He hated to be awake at this time of night. It spooked him ever since his friend at school told him three to four in the morning was the witching hour when ghosts were most active. He felt pretty sure that wasn’t true but didn’t really want to find out.
As Brett began to lay back down, he noticed something terrifying. His bedroom door was cracked open. His parents never left his bedroom door open. They’d always told him it was safer to sleep with it closed, in case of a house fire. Why was it open now? The small tapping sound happened again. Faint and quick, but the sound of ceramic tapping against a hard surface, just the same. As much as Brett didn’t want to get out of his bed, he at least needed to close the door.
Summoning his courage, Brett jumped out of bed, clearing the bed by at least a foot in case of something under it, and hurried across the room to the door. Just as he reached it, he saw something he wished he hadn’t. The small Santa figurine was on the tile floor of the second floor hallway a few feet from his door with it’s back to him, as if walking away from his door. Brett gasped and shut the door, blocking it with his heavy gaming chair this time. If that creepy thing wanted into his room, it would have to move that big chair first, which would surely wake Brett in the process. There was no way he’d be falling back to sleep now. As he lay in bed with his covers pulled completely over his head, he listened to the small tap every thirty seconds or so as he assumed the Santa statue descended the stairs and returned to it’s given place on the mantle.
“This cannot be real.” he whispered after a particularly loud clank of the ceramic figure on the stairs.
Lisa was up early the next morning, getting things ready for their annual Christmas Eve dinner. Natalie’s family and their parents would be coming over to eat and exchange gifts as they always did the night before Christmas. She was turning on the gas fireplace when her gaze fell upon her newly acquired Santa figurine.
“Huh. That’s strange. I’m sure I put you over there.” she said aloud as she took the Santa into her hand and stepped toward the other side of the mantle. Just as she was about to place him in his spot, Brett yelled at her from the other side of the room.
“Mom! Don’t touch that thing!” Brett yelled, almost causing Lisa to drop it on the tiles in front of the fireplace.
“You scared me!” Lisa said with a start. “I nearly dropped it! Why can’t I touch it?” she asked.
“I know what you’re going to say but I swear that thing came upstairs last night and opened my door. I saw it in the hallway as I was closing my door. Where did you find it?” Brett asked.
“On the mantel, honey. It’s just got you creeped out. That’s all.” Lisa said as she placed the Santa back where she’d put it the first time. She dared not tell him that it wasn’t where she’d left it. That would just scare him further. Of course the Santa hadn’t walked all the way upstairs and opened her son’s bedroom door. That’s impossible.
“Mom, I didn’t put it back downstairs.” he said with pure fear in his eyes. “I was scared when I saw it on the hallway floor so I just closed my door. I left it there. How did it get down here?” Brett was genuinely afraid now. Lisa could see it in his eyes. That made her fearful, too. It wasn’t like Brett to make something like this up. He was a pretty straightforward kid.
“If it really was in the hallway, your dad probably moved it and simply put it back. Maybe he’s pranking us.” Lisa said.
“Dad!” Brett immediately shouted for his dad. He wanted to know if this really was a prank. If so, he was about to be one angry kid.
“Yeah? What are you two doing down here? What’s all the commotion?” Brett’s dad asked.
“Did you move this Santa thing last night?” Brett anxiously asked.
“No. Why would I do that?” his dad answered.
“Brett is convinced that our new Santa friend snuck upstairs last night and opened his bedroom door in true horror movie fashion.” Lisa answered while chuckling a bit.
“It’s not funny, Mom. I actually did see it in the hallway outside of my opened door. If neither of you moved it, how did it get there?” Brett was feeling flustered now. Tears welled in his eyes and he quickly tried to stop them from forming fully. “Never mind. If you’re just going to prank me and make fun of me, I’ll just go outside.” he said as he grabbed his shoes and jacket, walking out before even putting them on.
“Are you pranking him with that thing?” Dave asked, angrily.
“No, babe. I honestly thought you were.” Lisa answered sincerely. “He was probably just dreaming about it and was still half asleep when he thought he saw it.” she said.
“Just don’t mess with him anymore. That thing is creepy enough just sitting on the shelf. Putting it outside of his room is a bit much.” Dave said while walking back up to his office to continue writing.
“Maybe you can use this in your next horror story, babe!” she jokingly called after him. She knew he was in the middle of a bout of writer’s block. That comment would probably irritate him but he’d get over it. An award winning author such as him would be bound to struggle for new material every now and then. She didn’t stress about it nearly as much as he did. Then again, we are all our own worst critics, after all.
The rest of the day went without incident and Christmas Eve dinner was great. Wine, family, food, and gifts. What else could anyone possibly ask for? Once the guests were gone and teeth were brushed, Lisa went to tuck Brett into bed so the real Santa could do his thing. Not that Brett still believed in that but Lisa still enjoyed the routine of it all.
As she left his room and shut the door, she hesitated in the hallway and heard him put a chair against his door. Normally, she’d go back and make him move it. It wasn’t safe to sleep barricaded in a second floor room. But, she would let it slide this time. Just this once. After about an hour, Lisa and Dave unloaded the gifts under the tree and headed up to bed themselves.
“I really didn’t touch that Santa figure, you know.” Lisa said to Dave as they climbed into bed.
“I know. He must’ve been dreaming. Maybe the excitement of Christmas Eve will make him forget about the whole thing.” Dave said.
The house lay quiet until about ten after three in the morning, when Brett awoke to a sound coming from his door. Startled and instantly awake, Brett sat straight up in bed and stared at his door in disbelief. It was still barricaded shut but something was softly scratching it. He couldn’t see any shadow in the crack between the door and floor but the scratching continued. Frozen in fear, Brett sat staring, unable to find the motivation to move, hoping the sound would simply stop and he could duck under his covers and pretend it never happened. No suck luck.
After a good ten minutes, the sound stopped and Brett mustered the courage to make a break for it and run to his parents room. He no longer felt safe by himself. Besides, maybe the figure would be in the hallway and he could prove to his parents that what he said about the Santa was true.
Pulling the chair away from his door, Brett slowly opened his door and peaked out, looking for any sign of the creepy statue waiting for him. Nothing. Instead of darting for the safety of his parents room, Brett decided to go downstairs just far enough to get a view of the mantle and see if the Santa was still there. If it was, he didn’t want to disturb his parents. They’d probably be mad at him, or worse, they would make fun of him some more. That’s the last thing he wanted.
Tiptoeing down the hallway, Brett took each stair slowly and with purpose, all the while keeping his eyes peeled for any sign of that awful Santa statue. He had to go more than halfway down the stairs to get a view of where the Santa should be sitting. When that spot came into view, Brett was terrified to confirm that the Santa was not there. In fact, it wasn’t on the mantle at all. A very dark realization came over Brett. If the figurine wasn’t in the hallway and it wasn’t on the mantle, where was it?
Brett suddenly decided that this was a terrible idea and turned to go back upstairs when his worst fear was confirmed. The Santa could in fact move because it now stood on the top stair above him, as if it had been following behind him all along. He knew for a fact that it hadn’t been there when he’d gone down the stairs. Brett yelled out and stumbled in surprise, missing the next step down and tumbling down the last few stairs until he hit with a thud at the bottom. The Santa figure didn’t move. It just stood there as if that’s exactly where it belonged.
Brett became aware that he was going to have to wake his parents for help. This wasn’t something he wanted to deal with on his own. He tried to stand and go for the fire poker a few feet away when he realized his left ankle was hurt from the fall. He couldn’t put any weight on it at all. Just then, he heard his dad call out to him and appear at the top of the stairs. Yes! Saved, at last! His dad would definitely believe him now!
“Dad! Look! The Santa! It wasn’t there before. I didn’t put it there. Break it! It’s after me!” Brett yelled at his dad from the floor, sounding frantic and speaking fast.
“Son, slow down. What’s going on?” Dave said, sounding calm and collected. Brett yelled again for his dad to break the Santa but his dad just shook his head.
“This is great. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. You are helping me so much more than you know, kiddo.” Dave said with a smile. Brett was thoroughly confused and managed a shaky “What?” in response.
“My next book is due in just two months and I haven’t even got the first chapter written out. Nothing I thought of was working. Fresh ideas are hard to come by when you’ve written as much as I have. Everything was sounding stale until your mom brought that Santa figure home.” Dave explained.
“Where’s Mom? Mom!” Brett yelled for his mom, not fully understanding what his dad was talking about but knowing that something wasn’t right.
“Your Mom won’t be coming downstairs. At least not on her own, anyway.” Dave replied.
“What did you do?” Brett stammered as he started to inch toward the fire poker, sliding slowly across the floor.
“She didn’t understand the pressure I’m under. She thinks I’ll just think of something all the sudden and a book will fall out of my damn head in two months. That’s not how it works. There are deadlines to be met, son. This expensive lifestyle doesn’t pay for itself, you know. Of course you don’t. You’re just a kid. You think money magically appears in my bank account, don’t you?” Dave was descending the stairs now, slowly but steadily. He reached down and picked up the Santa figure as he passed it.
“Where’s Mom?” Brett asked again, tears streaming down his face.
“She said I shouldn’t mess with you. She said this was not the kind of inspiration I needed. I had to hit her in the head pretty hard but she’s sleeping now.” Dave spoke with a spark in his eye Brett had never witnessed before. He couldn’t fully absorb what he was hearing. Dad hurt Mom? Why would he do that?
“She was wrong, by the way. Your Mom was wrong. I feel quite inspired! Once you go to sleep, I’m sure this book will flow from me like my favorite Christmas song. You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout, I’m telling you why…” Dave sang as he reached for his son just as Brett’s hand found the fire poker. He whipped it around and almost caught his dad in the head. He hadn’t really intended to strike his dad, just scare him and get him to back up. Something about hitting his dad seemed completely wrong and would land him in a lot of trouble.
“You sly little shit!” Dave yelled with a smile. “That’s a fun little trick you just tried to pull. I’ll have to use that in my story.” Holding the little ceramic statue in his already blood stained hand, Brett’s dad raised up his hand and prepared to bring the statue down on his son’s head just as a loud thud sounded and Dave fell like a rag doll onto the floor in front of Brett. Behind Brett’s dad stood his mother, blood dripping from her head. She immediately reached down and helped Brett to his feet, embracing him tightly.
“We need to go, honey.” she said as she helped him limp to the front door of the house. “Dad’s had a bit of a mental break so we need to call for help.” she explained as they rushed out the door and to the neighbor’s house.
The scene that followed was chaotic, with police tape and an ambulance and lots of questions about what had happened. Aunt Natalie ended up taking Brett back to her house while his mom had to stay in the hospital a little longer. Her head wound required scans and stitches before she could be released. Dave was referred to a psychiatric ward where he ultimately killed himself with a sheet from his bed and a low hanging pipe in the wall. Brett took many years to come to terms with what happened to his family that Christmas morning. He never again observed Christmas in the same way and avoided all images of Santa that he could, even into adulthood. He seemed to be doing well until one day, on the way to work, a familiar song came on the radio that gave him pause and caused a slight spark in his eyes.
Santa Clause is coming…..to town.
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