Here’s a special holiday story for all my fans on Christmas Eve (but, fair warning, don’t expect it to be heartwarming!)
Santa Claus Is Coming To Get You!
Kevin J. Anderson
’Twas the night before the night before Christmas, and all through the house little sounds were stirring … sinister, creeping, whispers of noise. Echoes of things better left unseen in the darkness, even around the holiday season.
Jeff stared up at the bottom of his little brother’s bunk. Ever since Stevie had gotten rid of the night light, he always feared that the upper bunk would fall on top of him and squish him flat.
A strong gust of wind rattled the windowpane. Wet snow brushing against it sounded like the hiss of a deadly snake, but he could hear that his brother was not asleep. “Stevie? I thought of something about Christmas.”
“What?” The voice was muffled by Stevie’s ratty blue blanket.
“Well, Santa keeps a list of who’s naughty and nice, right? So, what does he do to the kids who’ve been naughty?” He didn’t know why he asked Stevie. Stevie wouldn’t know.
“They don’t get any presents, I guess.… Do you really think Mom and Dad are that mad at us?”
Jeff sucked in a breath. “We were playing with matches, Stevie! We could have burned the house down—you heard them say that. Imagine if we burned the house down.… Besides, it doesn’t matter if Mom and Dad are angry. What’ll Santa think?”
Jeff swallowed. He had to get the ideas out of his head. “I gotta tell you this, Stevie, because it’s important. Something a kid told me at school.
“He said that it isn’t Santa who puts presents out when you’re good. It’s just your Mom and Dad. They wait until you go to sleep, and then they sneak out some presents. It’s all pretend.”
“Oh come on!”
“Think about it. Your parents are the ones who know what you really want.” He pushed on in a whisper. “What if Santa only comes when you’re bad?”
“But we said we were sorry! And … and it wasn’t my idea—it was yours. And nothing got hurt.”
Jeff closed his eyes so he wouldn’t see the bottom of the upper bunk. “I think Santa looks for naughty little boys and girls. That’s why he comes around on Christmas Eve.
“He sneaks down the chimney, and he carries an empty sack with him. And when he knows he’s in a house where there’s a naughty kid, he goes into their bedroom and grabs them, and stuffs them in the sack! Then he pushes them up the chimney and throws the bag in the back of his sleigh with all the other naughty little boys and girls. And then he takes them back up north where it’s always cold and where the wind always blows—and there’s nothing to eat.”
Jeff’s eyes sparkled from hot tears. He thought he heard Stevie shivering above him.
“What kind of food do you think Santa gets up there at the North Pole? How does Santa stay so fat? I bet all year long he keeps the naughty kids he’s taken the Christmas before and he eats them! He keeps them locked up in icicle cages … and on special days like on his birthday or on Thanksgiving, he takes an extra fat kid and he roasts him over a fire! That’s what happens to bad kids on Christmas Eve.”
Jeff heard a muffled sob in the upper bunk. He saw the support slats vibrate. “No, it’s not true. We weren’t that bad. I’m sorry. We won’t do it again.”
Jeff closed his eyes. “You better watch out, Stevie, you better not cry. ’Cause Santa Claus is coming to get you!”
He heard Stevie sucking on the corner of his blanket to keep from crying. “We can hide.”
Jeff shook his head in despair. “No. He sees you when you’re sleeping, and he knows when you’re awake. We can’t escape from him!”
“How about if we lock the bedroom door?”
“That won’t stop Santa Claus! You know how big he is from eating all those little kids. And he’s probably got some of his evil little elves to help him.”
He listened to Stevie crying in the sheets. He listened to the wind. “We’re gonna have to trick him. We have to get Santa before he gets us!”
On Christmas Eve Dad turned on the Christmas tree lights and hung out the empty stockings by the fireplace. He grinned at the boys who stared red-eyed in fear.
“You guys look like you’re so excited you haven’t been able to sleep. Better go on to bed—it’s Christmas tomorrow, and you’ve got a long night ahead of you.” He smiled at them. “Don’t forget to put out milk and cookies for Santa.”
Mom scowled at them. “You boys know how naughty you were. I wouldn’t expect too many presents from Santa this year.”
Jeff felt his heart stop. He swallowed and tried to keep anything from showing on his face. Stevie shivered.
“Oh, come on, Janet. It’s Christmas Eve,” Dad said.
Jeff and Stevie slowly brought out the glass of milk and a plate with four Oreo cookies they had made up earlier. Stevie was so scared he almost dropped the glass.
They had poured strychnine pellets into the milk, and put rat poison in the frosting of the Oreos.
“Go on boys, good night. And don’t get up too early tomorrow,” Dad said.
The two boys marched off to their room, heads down. Visions of Santa’s blood danced in their heads.
Jeff lay awake for hours, sweating and shivering. He and Stevie didn’t need to say anything to each other. After Mom and Dad went to bed, the boys listened for any sound from the roof, from the chimney.
He pictured Santa Claus heaving himself out from the fireplace, pushing aside the grate and stepping out into the living room. His eyes were red and wild, his fingers long claws, his beard tangled and stained with the meal he’d had before setting out in his sleigh—perhaps the last two children from the year before, now scrawny and starved. He would have snapped them up like crackers.
And now Santa was hungry for more, a new batch to restock his freezer that was as big as the whole North Pole.
Santa would take a crinkled piece of paper out of his pocket to look at it, and yes there under the ‘Naughty’ column would be the names of Jeff and Stevie in all capital letters. He’d wipe the list on his blood-red coat.
His black belt was shiny and wicked looking, with the silver buckle and its pointed corners razor sharp to slash the throats of children. And over his shoulder hung a brown burlap sack stained with rusty splotches.
Then Santa would go to their bedroom. Jeff and Stevie could struggle against him, they could throw their blankets on him, hit him with their pillows and their toys—but Santa Claus was stronger than that. He would reach up first to snatch Stevie from the top bunk and stuff him in the sack.
And then Santa would lunge forward with fingers grayish blue from frostbite. He’d wrap his hand around Jeff’s throat and draw him toward the sack.…
Then Santa would haul them up through the chimney to the roof. Maybe he would toss one of them toward the waiting reindeer who snorted and stomped their hooves on the ice-covered shingles. And the reindeer, playing all their reindeer games, would toss the boy from sharp antler to sharp antler.
All the while, Santa stood leaning back, glaring and belching forth his maniacal “Ho! Ho! Ho!”
Jeff didn’t know when his terror dissolved into fitful nightmares, but he found himself awake and alive the next morning.
“Stevie!” he whispered. He was afraid to look in the pale light of dawn, half-expecting to find blood running down the wall from the upper bunk. “Stevie, wake up!”
Jeff heard a sharp indrawn breath. “Jeff! Santa didn’t get us.”
They both started laughing. “Come on, let’s go see.”
They tumbled out of bed, then spent ten minutes dismantling the barricade of toys and small furniture they had placed in front of the door. The house remained still and quiet around them. Nothing was stirring, not even a mouse.
Jeff glanced at the dining room table as they crept into the living room. The cookies were gone. The milk glass had been drained dry.
Jeff looked for a contorted, red-suited form lying in the corner—but he saw nothing. The Christmas tree lights blinked on and off; Mom and Dad had left them on all night.
Stevie crept to the Christmas tree and looked. His face turned white as he pulled out several new gift-wrapped boxes. All marked “FROM SANTA.”
“Oh, Jeff! Oh, Jeff—you were wrong! What if we killed Santa!”
They both gawked at the presents.
“Jeff, Santa took the poison!”
Jeff swallowed and stood up. Tears filled his eyes. “We have to be brave, Stevie.” He nodded. “We better go tell Mom and Dad.” He shuddered, then screwed up his courage.
“Let’s go wake them up.”