The List

CONTENT AND TRIGGER WARNING

THIS STORY IS OBVIOUSLY FICTIONAL, THOUGH THERE ARE ELEMENTS OF IMPLIED EXTREME PHYSICAL VIOLENCE. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

That said, please enjoy!

Hi everyone, I hope you’re all well and that you’re all full of holiday cheer! I’m sharing a short horror story with you today, festively themed as well (my favourite combo)! I hope you enjoy it!

The List

“Daddy, why are we hiding in the closet?” My daughter, Leila, is hunkered on the floor next to me behind the double sliding door, her little blonde head resting comfortably on the coats and sweaters hanging behind us.

“Daddy just has a headache, that’s all, and the closet helps because it’s extra dark and extra quiet.”

“But it’s Christmas Eve. Santa will be here any minute. How will he find us?” She blinks up at me through the gloom with tired eyes.

“I told you, you don’t have to sit in here with me. If you’re quick, you might make it back to bed before he gets here.”

She goes quiet and for a moment, it seems as though she might actually leave me. Selfishly, a part of me wants her to stay with me. As though everything will be all right if she’s there – the protective shield of innocence. The other part of me wants her to head back to bed. She’s only in here with me because she had a bad dream and came looking for me. And it’s okay for her. She’s still tiny, and she’s always been a good kid; she’s always been good-list material. Most kids are, generally speaking.

Adults, however, are a different story. We’re judged differently. We know better.

I’m relieved when she yawns and snuggles into my side.

“Will he still come if I’m not in my bed?” She sounds exhausted, her little voice barely a whisper.

“Of course, he will.”

She doesn’t understand that he always comes. No matter what. She doesn’t know how it works yet.

She doesn’t know that right now, across the world, adults like me are replaying every single moment of the last year in their minds, silently praying that they’ve been good every single day. She doesn’t know that if they haven’t – if I haven’t, I won’t be around to watch her open her presents in the morning.

I glance down at my watch. 00.15. He must be running late. This time last year, he was already here. He was already crossing my wife’s name off the naughty list.

I shudder at the memory of my wife’s blood-curdling screams from behind the bathroom door, of her scratching wildly at it as she tried to get out – of the fragments of skull that I still found embedded in the skirting boards even months afterwards. There isn’t even a lock on the bathroom door because Leila keeps locking herself in by accident.

It was all him.

The sound of Leila’s gentle breathing helps to focus my mind. I can’t think of a single bad thing I could have done, though that doesn’t matter much. Sometimes it seems as though what’s good and what’s bad is arbitrary as far as he’s concerned.

I put my arm around Leila. If I’m still here when the sun comes up, I’ll wake her and we’ll head down to open her presents before breakfast. I think I’ll be all right. I tend to keep to myself and try to keep my mind focused on doing the right thing.

I wait in the darkness of the closet. I’m so tired, I just want the night to be over.

Then I hear that familiar jingle. He’s here. I can hear the heavy hooves of his reindeer clomping along the roof. I can hear the blades of his sleigh slowly skid to a stop. And then, I can hear him throw his large, round frame down our chimney, where he lands in the hearth with an enormous clattering.

My breath catches in my throat as I hear him call, “Ho, ho, ho!”

I close my eyes tight.

I can hear him “oohing” and “aahing” over the mince pies and the glass of milk that Leila insisted we leave out for him.

See, Santa we’re good people. We’ve left you a snack. There are even carrots for the reindeer.

He begins to move around and I think I can hear him leaving presents beneath the tree.

Please leave us alone, I say over and over again in my mind.

Then everything goes quiet. So quiet that I can hear the clock on the mantle in the living room tick-tocking away.

I strain my ears but I can’t hear anything else. I think he’s actually gone. I’ve done it. I’ve been good for another whole year.

I stand up, gently easing Leila into my arms. She’ll be better off spending the rest of the night sleeping in her own bed.

Gingerly, I slide the door open with my shoulder and take a tentative step out into my bedroom.

The coast is clear. I’m relieved, thankful that Leila gets to keep at least one parent for at least another year.

I smile down at her and kiss her forehead and when I raise my head again, that’s when I notice the sheen on a pristine black boot. Two of them, in fact – in the bedroom doorway.

My eyes pan from the boots to the red pants, then the red coat with white fur-trim, pulled closed with a thick black belt with a large, shiny gold buckle and carry on up to his thick, curly white beard. His lips are spread wide and his sparkling eyes are crinkled in that bright, avuncular way he has.

It’s almost pleasant. Almost.

“You’ve been bad,” Santa says.

I start to protest, but he motions to Leila asleep in my arms and raises a finger to his lips.

“Shh.”

He motions to the bed with a gloved hand and I notice through the dim moonlight streaming through the bedroom window that his hands are covered in what I assume is blood.

“Lots of names on the naughty list.” He says it to me as if he’s talking to his buddy.

“Oh?” is all I can manage.

“You’ve been bad,” Santa repeats.

“I’m sorry!” I want to scream the words, but I don’t want Leila to wake up, so they come out in a whisper. I’d hate for her to have to witness what is sure to be a violent and bloody death.

“Why?” I whisper, knowing whatever crime has landed me on the naughty list will in no way befit the punishment I am about to receive.

“Everyone knows you should be asleep before Santa Claus Comes,” he tells me as he slinks his enormous brown sack off his shoulder. He rummages inside for a moment before retrieving his weapon of choice. A large mallet, already dripping with the blood of other naughty-listers.

“That’s the most important rule of all!”

END

As always, thank you for spending some of your valuable time with me today. It means the world!

Until next time,

George

© 2021 GLT



Categories: Creative Writing, Fiction

Tags: , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. This was chillingly fun! Please consider submitting it to ladyravensmirror.com — it seems like a perfect fit!

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. The Passing of Another Year – GEORGE L THOMAS

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