None of the kids in town, or the world, would dream of being deemed a trouble maker. That was thanks to the disturbing Christmas folklores our parents told us. These sick fairy tales were passed on from generation to generation, forcing children to believe. And if they didn’t, there wouldn’t be any presents or worse, Santa would get you.
But my brother, Kevin, and I didn’t believe in Santa Clause, no matter how haunting the tales might’ve been.
Every year, worldwide, everyone boarded up their windows and doors, and made their children sleep in the living room near the fireplace. The night long fire offered the best defense to Santa’s primary choice of the entrance. People would decorate their homes with vibrant lighting and leave presents wrapped for their ‘good’ boys and girls under a tree. Kevin and I laughed at how people believed that if you didn’t follow these precautions that some guy was going to break into your home on Christmas Eve. The other kids looked at us as troubled boys and avoided playing or even talking to us. But we didn’t care because we had each other and our own beliefs.
My brother was the only kid I’d ever known who tried to be bad by pulling pranks. But there was one year when he was really bad. He’d sabotage, bully, and steal. My parents warned him about his unfavorable behavior, begging him to be good or he would be placed on the naughty list. Of course, he laughed at them. Getting in trouble was his full intention. He was desperate to prove that nothing would happen to him on Christmas Eve. Though I agreed, I thought he was petty. Why go through the trouble?
Anyway, he got his wish. My ninth and his eleventh Christmas was approaching and my parents only boarded up the windows in their bedroom. The fireplace wasn’t prepped, and there were no colorful lights or presents.
What the hell, I thought, maybe they finally get that this stupid tradition is just that, stupid.
My parents wanted me to sleep in their room with them and Kevin to sleep in the living room, by the fireplace, alone. This request sent Kevin and I rolling on the floor in a puerile frenzy, but we agreed because Kevin was going to prove that Santa wasn’t real.
“Don’t worry, Max. If he is real, I’ll punch the fucker in his fat gut,” Kevin told me before I disappeared into my parent’s room, and closed the door.
That night, I laid in bed nestled between Dad’s snoring and my Mom’s restless fidgeting.
I heard a gasp coming from the living room and decided to go check on Kevin. Maybe he was still awake.
Carefully, I climbed over Dad and hopped out of bed. I crept across the fuzzy carpet, gripped and slowly turned the doorknob.
I chuckled softly when I caught a glimpse of dim lighting coming from the living room. Kevin must’ve been afraid of the dark, so he snuck his night light.
Something else to tease the wuss about, I remember thinking.
I peeped, hoping to find an opportunity to frighten Kevin. But I found myself glaring in absolute horror at a tall, bald figure that stood over my brother’s speechless, shaking form.
The creature’s thin silhouette read not human as its pruny ivory skin seemed to glow in the dim room. It stared down at Kevin with its milky golf ball shaped eyes. I wanted to scream. But couldn’t. I could only stare at Kevin who was sitting on the couch staring back at the emaciated figure.
The creature opened its mouth full of long, sharp, leaky fang-like teeth. They were covered in thick crimson liquid that pelted the floor.
The monster lifted its hands and flexed its long fingers, showing its machete like claws. Slowly and gently, it wrapped its hands around Kevin’s torso, hoisting him in air before its pale face as if it were studying him. Kevin watched the monster back, whimpering as if he were trying to speak or even breathe. Before Kevin could do either, the monster shoved him into its mouth, head first. Blood splattered across the room onto the unboarded windows, the unlit fireplace, and the couch where Kevin had been sleeping. I thought I heard him screaming, but I was so horrified by what I was seeing, my sense of hearing was temporarily seized. I wished I went blind too.
“Santa,” I whispered as the creature continued to devour Kevin. I could hear the crunching and ripping of bone and flesh between every chew. Blood oozed from the sides of its mouth and in between its teeth. Its hands were coated with viscera and chunks of skin. The thing devoured Kevin without giving me so much as a bat of its milky eyes. It probably didn’t care that I was there. Maybe it didn’t see me.
Before I knew it, Kevin was gone and the monster turned and sluggishly dragged its feet toward the fireplace. Its swollen belly led the way. It scaled up the chimney using its long, bony legs to propel it upward.
I stood there fixated on the blood-spattered living room, for what seemed like hours, awestricken, confused and petrified. What had just happened? Was that thing gone? Was Kevin dead?
When I found the courage to leave my spot at the door, I turned to see Mom sitting at the edge of the bed sobbing softly and Dad lying down gaping at the ceiling.
“Wh―,” I began but stopped. I hung my head, lost in my brother’s last moments.
“We told you, guys,” Dad murmured, still staring blankly at the ceiling.
“I―,” I gagged as the image of the monster chewing through Kevin’s bones played in my memory.
“I’m sorry. But it had to happen. That’s how Christmas goes,” Mom mumbled through her sobbing, “If we hadn’t given him up, then another child less deserving would’ve gotten eaten. Take this as a lesson learned, Max. Please don’t make us go through this again.”
My heart thumped at my chest. It was impossible to breathe at a steady pace. I couldn’t decide if I felt any emotion because I was stuck, reliving what I had seen. My brother had just been eaten by a creature before my very eyes. The truth made my knees numb as life bled out of me. I collapsed under my own weight. Before I hit the floor, my brain shut off and everything went dark.
It had been years since Kevin died, but I never forgot his last moments. He became known as the kid who dared Santa Clause. And I, his kid brother, became known as the kid who lost his mind and is currently living out his remaining days in the insane asylum.