The town of Butterscotch was fast asleep this Christmas Eve night. Snowflakes fell from the sky in small flurries, wisping around as the wind carried them. All the lights were out, the residents patiently waiting for the morning to come and bring with it presents under their trees. All was quiet except for the sound of big leather boots crunching against the snow.
In the home that sat on the very top of Blueberry Hill lived the Evergreen family. They were a happy family consisting of Jonah and Debra, the parents, and their three children, Annie, Charlie, and David. Like everyone in Butterscotch, the family was fast asleep. Charlie was tucked under his covers, clutching his stuffed frog. David was dreaming of remodeled trains and the gifts-to-be. Jonah and Debra were laying on opposite sides of the bed, connected by their intertwined fingers underneath the sheets. All were asleep except for Annie.
Yes, she was awake. She just couldn’t sleep. There was a mix of emotions swirling around in her tiny little body. Excitement from the thought of how many presents she would get sent electricity all throughout her. And then anxiousness.
Why was she anxious?
Well, she did something bad. She lied to her teacher, which was a grave mistake if you asked her. Her classmate was just too smart for his own good, and his answers had been right there. How could she not cheat?
Annie thought long and hard about her dilemma. She would’ve gotten a bad grade on that test if she didn't cheat. Bad grades meant no snacks at dinnertime! If anything, she had saved herself. If she didn’t cheat, she would’ve starved! To death! But cheating was supposed to be bad, right? If she didn’t cheat, she would’ve stayed honest. How could she fix this?
The noise echoed through the house, startling Annie from her thoughts. What was that sound?
Annie peeled the sheets from her body, exposing her pastel pink nightgown.
Hurriedly, she opened her bedroom door and peeked into the hallway. To the left, no one. To the right, no one. She listened hard, but no other sound came. Quietly and as sneakily as she could, she stepped into the hallway. With each step against the cold wood, Annie got closer and closer to the stairs. Peeking yet again, she poked her head through the railing to see if the sound came from downstairs. Lo and behold, she saw a lump of red fabric bending near the tree.
Annie ran down the stairs in a crazed fervor, excitement bubbling beneath her skin. As she got closer to the figure, she started to smell him. He smelled of pine and cinnamon, hot chocolate and gingerbread. The smell tickled her nose, filling her with nostalgia and warmth. With her tiny little finger, she tapped thrice against the fabric of his back.
Annie took a step back, waiting for the man to notice her. She chose not to yell or scream, not wanting to wake up the rest of the house. Santa had stopped what he was doing but hadn’t moved yet. Her excitement quickly turned to impatience, and she took a step forward and tapped again.
“Santa?” She called to him quietly, but with enough urgency to ensure that he would hear it. The man finally moved. With his back still turned, he began to unfold, standing higher and higher until the red fabric resting on his head brushed against the ceiling. Annie’s smile was still wide on her face, but as he slowly turned to meet her gaze, it fell, and all she could let out was a light breath of air. She gasped as Santa bestowed his true form.
Unlike fairytales, he was covered in fur, with long antlers sprouting out of his forehead like paint splattered against a canvas, scraping against the ceiling like nails on a chalkboard. His eyes were big and dark, and his mouth, well, that was the most terrifying of all. It was fitted with rows of jagged, misshapen teeth and from these shards were long strings of drool that dripped on the floor. When Annie looked closer, it was as if Santa were grinning at her.
“Santa?” Annie asked again, this time in a more shocked whisper. His lips furled and unfurled against his teeth, making wet popping noises. She dared a glance at the tree, where she saw four towers of perfectly placed presents at the base. She could see little cards delicately placed on top with their designated initials. She saw a C for Charlie, a D for David, a JE for Papa, and a DE for Mama. But where’s mine?
She looked back to find that Santa had moved closer, close enough that she got a whiff of something metallic. Due to his closeness, she became aware of his coat of fur, which shone in the light of the Christmas tree. If she really looked hard, she could see something staining the coffee-colored coat, something much darker and moist. Santa outstretched a hand–paw?–towards her. It had fingers, yes, but they were thickly padded and covered in the same dense fur as the rest of him. Each finger was adorned with long, sharp, brown nails. His hand finally reached her shoulder, resting for a second before gripping roughly.
With his other hand, he fumbled around a sack tied to his waist and pulled out a scroll with a pretty red bow. Expertly, he unfurled it with one hand and shoved the textured paper in Annie’s face. She shivered as she read the beautiful calligraphy stating: “The Naughty List.” The scroll rolled all over the floor, the paper going on for ages. It wrapped around the couch and the tree, even going up a few stairs before bouncing before her feet. Her body stopped entirely when she read the first name that stood out to her, peeking out just above her left pinky toe: “Annie Evergreen.” She looked at Santa with fear-filled eyes.
“Santa, please, I didn’t mean to! I really didn’t!!” She pleaded. He didn’t respond, only carefully wrapped up the scroll and placed it back in his sack.
He was now gripping both her shoulders with his palms.
They caught a bit against the fabric of her nightgown, a battle between rough and smooth.
He then let loose his tongue, dark red and thick, which rolled out of his mouth like a carpet.
It moved to her face, lapping at her cheeks and leaving them wet with his saliva.
His jaw then unhinged fully.
Annie could hear the popping of the bones, similar to the firewood behind him.
With one fatal charge, Santa ate Annie whole.
The sound of crunching snow began again as Santa descended Blueberry Hill. The sack against his shoulder was lighter than before, and his stomach all the fuller. He licked his lips as he set his sights on the next house, letting out a deep “Ho, Ho, Ho!”
Art by Willow Troise