Anita was so excited that Christmas Eve. She laid in her bed, trying her best to stay awake. Her mother and father had long since gone to sleep, but Anita was much too excited. This year, she was finally going to meet Santa Claus.
Anita had tried to stay awake in the past to meet Santa. Last year she tried to camp out underneath the living room sofa right next to the Christmas tree, but alas, her parents caught her and forced her back to her room. They insisted that the only way she’d ever get to meet Santa was if she was well behaved, and anybody who knew Anita knew that well behaved was not how you’d would describe her.
This year though, Anita had done her best to make sure that she’d be put on Santa’s nice list. There were several times during recess or after school where she wanted to mess with the boys in her class, but she knew that Santa wouldn’t like that. Perhaps Mrs. Claus would think those boys deserved it.
She did well in school: did her homework, studied for her tests, got good grades, and she even helped her cantankerous old teacher with after school programs; she did all these horrible things just to prove to Santa that she’d been good.
Last year, she’d been put on the naughty list, and her mother and father assured her that it wasn’t enough to just do nice things for people, but to actually be nice. However, Anita thought that was all bogus. She knew that Santa saw she was being good, and she was going to prove it!
Anita had written a letter to Santa in secret. She wanted it to be special: just for her and Santa to see. Normally, most kids would write Santa their wish list of toys, but instead Anita asked for one thing: to finally meet Santa in person. No tricks or funny business; just the real Santa. She even told him that if she could meet him, she wouldn’t need another toy or present for the rest of her life, though she did write that she wouldn’t be opposed to getting toys if he didn’t mind making them.
She sneaked an envelope and stamp from her mother’s room, wrote the address for the North Pole–1225 Jingle Bell Drive– and slipped it into the mailbox when her mom and dad weren’t home eagerly awaiting Santa’s response.
It took a while to get a response, and Anita feared that her letter wasn’t delivered. But, one day when she’d gotten home from school, Anita had found an envelope on her bed. Excited and nervous, she picked it up and saw the return address was from the North Pole! It even smelled of peppermint and gingerbread.
It was Santa! It had to be!
She greedily ripped the envelope open and tore out the letter, and to her amazement it really was from Santa. He said that she had been a wonderful little girl that year, and that he would be honored to meet her in person.
At first, Anita was skeptical. How could she know this was really Santa? It could just be her father trying to fool her.
But then, she read undeniable proof! Santa wrote about the time when she lost her first tooth. Specifically, where she lost her tooth.
As far as her parents knew, Anita had lost her tooth during recess. But, she’d gotten into a fight with one of her classmates: a smelly boy who’d shoved her down after she’d given him a black eye. It didn’t matter that she’d started the fight; she was just defending herself.
Anita couldn’t believe it! Nobody knew that. Anita made sure that her parents would never find out. She would never hear the end of it. The only person who would know would be Santa Claus!
So, she waited all night on Christmas Eve. She made sure to keep her back to the door in case her parents tried to peak in. She made sure to keep her mind active so that she wouldn’t accidentally doze off by making shadow puppets on the walls using the light from her nightlight, and she did her best to try and find shapes and faces in the creases along the ceiling. However, her eyes grew heavy and her yawning became more and more constant. It was getting harder and harder to stay awake, but she had too!
She fought valiantly, but in the end, the drowsiness was almost like a magical wave that overwhelmed her body, and Anita was lulled to sleep.
Anita’s eyes shot open as she woke from her slumber with a start.
“Oh no,” she mumbled. She quickly reached over and picked up her alarm clock, afraid that it was already Christmas morning, but luckily it was only 2:17 A.M. The little girl silently shook herself awake and tried to rub the drowsiness from her eyes as she quietly crawled out of bed.
She had to be silent, she thought. Her room was on the second floor, right next to her parents’, so she knew that even the slightest creak would stifle her plans. As gently as she could, Anita lowered her feet to the floor, readying herself for a load moaning screech from the floorboards, but strangely enough there was nothing. She quickly got down on all fours and started to slowly crawl to the door. Even then she noticed that the floor was totally silent.
As she crawled, she slowly pulled the door open and peaked through the crack. The hallway was silent and dark, almost eerily so. She peaked around the corner and saw that the doorway to her parents’ room was open ever so slightly, but the lights were off and the T.V. was on. All she had to do was make it down the hallway and down the stairs, and there would be Santa waiting for her.
She silently crawled, sneaking out of her room and past her parents. As she snuck past, she peaked in quickly to see that her parents weren’t there and the T.V. was on mute. There wasn’t a sound in the house. Everything was totally silent.
Anita stopped and pondered about her parents: where could they be? She began to tread even slower forward keeping herself close to the ground and making sure to not make a sound. If her parents did happen to be awake, this would be the worst possible time for her to slip up and stumble.
As she made her way further down the hallway, she began to hear rustling coming from the base of the stairs. She tensed up and started to listen closely for the voices of her parents. She’d heard rumors at school that it was just the parents who put the presents under the tree every Christmas, but that wasn’t possible. Her parents slept like logs every night. There’s no way it could be them.
She slowly leaned in and peaked down the stairs, but she couldn’t hear much. There were definitely no voices; only the faint rustling sound.
Anita slowly stood up and began to gently make her way down the steps. Like everything that night, the stairs didn’t creak. The stairs were just as silent as the floor. Could this be Santa’s magic? Was he helping her by keeping everything silent so that way she wouldn’t wake her parents? A mischievous grin spread across Anita’s face.
Anita could hardly contain her excitement, and as she got to the last step and turned the corner, her heart skipped a beat. And then, it sank.
Standing in front of her Christmas tree, towering amongst the presents and toys, was a tall skinny figure wearing a baggy red coat and hat with a large white sack hurled over his shoulder. His skin was shriveled and gray. He had no face–no mouth, nose, or big fluffy beard–except for his large unblinking empty white eyes. But, strangest of all, was the creature’s extremely long arms that trailed all the way down to his knees, and his gangly gray fingers that trailed even further down to his ankles.
“W-Who are you,” Anita asked.
In a hushed whisper, the figure said, “Anita, it is me: Santa Claus.” His voice was cold and sharp; like a knife slowly grinding across concrete.
Anita shook her head and said, “You don’t look like Santa.”
The man gave a soft whispering laugh that echoed through the room. “I’ve been around a very long time,” he said. “The stories about me have changed and changed. Even I myself have changed and changed.”
Anita’s heart began to race, and a lump formed in her throat.
“S-So, you’re the real Santa?”
The man nodded almost unnaturally so. The way his neck bent didn’t look right, she thought.
“I’ve brought you a gift, Anita,” Santa said. His arm bent awkwardly as he lifted his bag up over his shoulder and placed it down in front of himself, never letting his looming white eyes off the little girl.
As the long gangly fingers of his left hand opened the bag, the fingers on the other hand slowly crawled in, weaving around the others. They pulled out a small box decorated with white paper and adorned with a red ribbon. His fingers delicately placed the present in the palm of his hand as the arm reached out and offered the gift to her.
Anita stared at the present which was centered so perfectly in the palm of Santa’s hand, surrounded by his long gray fingers. She was almost hypnotized by it; it was a real gift from the real Santa Claus. This wasn’t just something given to her by her parents or left under the tree without a word; this was special. However, her hands trembled, and she wasn’t sure why.
As she reached out for the gift, Santa recoiled his arm back, his arm almost spiraling into itself before it straightened out at his side.
“Nuh-uh,” he taunted, “what do you say first?”
“Th-Thank you, Santa,” Anita said.
There was no expression on Santa’s featureless face which scared Anita. His eyes never shifted, and they showed no emotion. Nothing at all.
Santa raised up his arm and opened his hand so that the present was just below his face; his fingers, almost autonomously, frolicking around the ribbon. However, he never stopped looking at her.
“Miss Anita, I was curious,” he said, “would you like to come work with me at my workshop?”
Anita shook her head, confused: “W-Work?”
Santa’s head slowly turned to look down at the present.
“My workers up at the North Pole don’t stay with me forever,” he said. “Eventually, I return them home, but now it has left me a little short-handed. I need more workers for next year’s Christmas, you see.”
“How long would I be away? Would I get to see my parents?”
Santa slowly shook his head from side to side. “Working for me is a full-time job. You could see your parents on Christmas, but I’d need you to be working for me day and night, so we can get the toys made for all the good little girls and boys.”
“I-I’ve been good, haven’t I,” Anita asked.
Santa didn’t say anything. He re-extended his hand and gently placed the present on the ground in front of her.
Anita kneeled and, just like with her letter, began to greedily open the present, almost out of her control.
She ripped off the ribbon and the wrapping paper around the box, carelessly tossing it aside, exposing a plain brown wooden box. She threw open the top and when she stared inside her heart sank.
She stared with dread at the contents of the gift, tears streaming down her face. She looked up at Santa, who was now looming directly above her, gazing down with malice in his eyes.
Anita tried to get up and run, but Santa’s fingers stretched out and began to coil around her legs, slowly dragging her into his arms.
“You’ve been very naughty, Anita,” said Santa Claus, “and like all naughty girls and boys, you will come with me.”
Anita tried desperately to cry for her mother and father, but everything was silent. She couldn’t so much as scream. She looked up at the beautiful Christmas tree that loomed behind Santa and thought about her parents. She tried to beg to be let go. She promised she’d be good; she promised she wouldn’t lie or steal; she promised she’d do exactly as her parents and teachers told her. But nothing worked.
She sobbed silently as Santa slowly opened his sack of presents and toys that would be given to other good little girls and boys and threw her inside; everything going dark. Everything silent.