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Short Story: The Last Day of Christmas

It’s October folks, the month of spooks and scares, and you know what that means: CHRISTMAS! Yes that’s right, Christmas is right around the corner! Stores are putting up Christmas decorations, Christmas music is playing in restaurants, and Christmas cheer is in the air! Now, I know that most people think October is the month of Halloween, but that’s why we have September, but in order to satisfy those looking for a spooky tale for the so-called month of spooks, I present you with: The Last Day of Christmas. Enjoy!

 

Anita wasn’t too impressed with her or her classmates’ Christmas trees.  That vile Ms. Gretch was forcing them to make stupid little paper-mâché trees for their monthly art project so they could hang them up in the halls right before Christmas.

It was stupid, Anita thought. They were spending so much time on these dumb little trees just so they could hang up for a few days before being torn down and then thrown in the trash. Anita hated art projects.

She looked across her classroom at some of her classmates and their stupid little trees. Her friend Tori had one that looked okay; a bit nicer and neater and obviously had a lot of care put into it, for some reason, but it was still and ugly stupid paper Christmas tree.

Anita got up to head over to the craft table to grab some extra green paper, not because she needed it, but as an excuse to chat with Tori for a little bit. Ms. Gretch didn’t mind talking during arts and crafts, but they had to continue working on their project at the same time. If they couldn’t, they’d lose their talking privileges.

As Anita passed her desk, she asked Tori if she’d like to come over after school. Tori nodded but said she’d have to ask her mom first.

“Will it be okay with your mom, Anita?”

Anita shrugged and said, “You’ll just have to leave before she gets home.”

“Won’t you get in trouble?”

Anita shrugged again. “What she won’t know won’t hurt her.”

Anita looked over her shoulder at the craft desk and quickly made her way over to grab her extra paper. She didn’t need Ms. Gretch yapping at her for talking and not working.

As she grabbed her paper and made her way back to her desk, she crossed in front of Luke, Ms. Gretch’s despicable bratty kid. Anita couldn’t stand Luke; he always acted so high and mighty because his mom was the teacher. He was twice the size of any other kid in their class, and he always picked on the other kids and got away with it too because there is no way his mom would punish him. He thought that with both his size and his mom, there was no way anybody would pick on him, but Anita saw write through that disguise. She knew where to hit him where it hurt.

She gritted her teeth as she passed by his desk and whispered, “Nice tree, fat boy.”

Luke’s face lit up and he glared at Anita as she walked past. She stuck her tongue out at him as he mumbled under his breath: “Bitch.”

Anita’s eyes flared up and she shouted, “What did you say?”

The class looked over at them.

“N-Nothing!” Luke shouted back.

Ms. Gretch stood from her desk and peered her little devil eyes through her glasses at the two.

“What is going on you two?”

“Luke called me a bitch!” Anita shouted.

The classroom gasped and Luke shook his head, looking between his mother and Anita. “Nu-uh! She called me fat and I told her to shut up!”

“Liar!”

Ms. Gretch clapped her hands and yelled over the top of them. “That is enough!” The room grew eerily silent. “Anita, I’m sorry but we do not tolerate that language in class.”

“But Luke said it too!”

Ms. Gretch made a gesture with her hands to zip her lips, and Anita did just that. Her face grew a bright red.

“At recess, you’re getting a five minute timeout.”

“But that’s not fair!”

“Would you rather it be ten minutes?” Anita bit her tongue. “Very good. I would like to talk with both of you after school, alright?”

The two students nodded: “Yes, Ms. Gretch,” they said in unison. As Anita made her way back to her seat, she and Luke exchanged vicious glares.

The rest of arts and crafts dragged on and on. Anita was furious. It wasn’t fair that Luke got off scot-free while she was the one to get in trouble when she did nothing wrong. As she continued to work on her Christmas tree, she began to fantasize about both Ms. Gretch and her wretched fat son being crushed by a tree in the woods. It made her smile for just a moment before remembering that it wouldn’t get her out of trouble.

The recess bell rang, and Ms. Gretch lined up the class in a single file line. Anita, unfortunately, had to stand at the back of the line. The students grabbed their winter coats and began to make their way outside for recess.

 

As the students ran to the snow covered playground, Anita was forced to stand by the wall and watch for five minutes as her friends and classmates got to have fun and she just had to stand.

She glared Luke like a bird of prey, wanting to knock him out cold for getting her in trouble. It wasn’t fair. She saw him look over at her and sneer at her from across the playground. She clenched her fists. Would it be worth it to run over and give him a punch in the mouth, she thought? Probably not, but it would feel good.

Anita decided to just be patient. She figured five minutes wouldn’t be so long. She’d just count to 60 five times. She slumped down and sat on the grass by the wall and began to count. As she counted, she stopped paying attention to her classmates and began to stare off into space.

She started thinking about Christmas coming up: what kind of gifts would she get? Her mom and dad had said she’d been behaving exceptionally well this year and that Santa was bound to bring her something good. That was all crap though. Anita knew Santa wasn’t real, and it was insulting that her parents still pretended that he was the one who brought her presents.

As Anita thought, she couldn’t help but wonder about the origin of Santa Claus. Where did people get the crazy idea that a fat man in a red coat riding on a flying sleigh would just deliver gifts to kids across the world. It was totally stupid.

The thought of Santa didn’t sit well with her. He was supposed to be an overweight man with a jolly face and red nose, but he couldn’t think of him that way. He was instead a massive shadowy figure that towered over her. Worst of all was his face: featureless and blank except for two bright white eyes that stared right at Anita.

He was surrounded by little green gremlins that looked like little twisted versions of her classmates. One chubby gremlin looked just like Luke; she wanted to punch its teeth out.

But just as that thought crossed her mind, she noticed something about Santa. His piercing white eyes began to bore into her; she felt his horrible gaze pierce her skin and look deep into her heart. It was like Ms. Gretch’s stare, but hundreds of times worse.

Anita felt it was hard to breath and all around her she felt hundreds and hundreds of tendrils creeping around her, slowly making their way to her. The gremlins around Santa began to chant and cheer as Anita felt as the world around her became smaller and smaller as the presence of Santa Claus surrounded her and she slammed her eyes shut.

“Anita,” Ms. Gretch said tapping her on the shoulder, “you can go play now.”

Anita popped back to consciousness, her eyes straining against the snowy playground, her heart thumbing vigorously in her chest.

“Now, are you going to behave,” Ms. Gretch asked?

“Y-Yes, Ms. Gretch,” Anita said softly.

The teacher nodded and tapped Anita on her shoulder. “Good, now go have fun.”

Anita struggled to her feet. Did she accidentally doze off and have a brief nightmare about an evil Santa? What a stupid dream, she thought, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t creep her out. As she made her way to find Tori amongst her classmates, her heart wouldn’t stop beating.

She found Tori playing by the monkey bars along with some of their other friends.

“Hey, Anita,” Tori said, “you wanna play chicken?”

Anita shook her head: “No thanks, I don’t feel good.”

“You gonna throw up,” Tori asked?

“No, I don’t think so,” Anita said. “I just don’t feel good.”

“Well don’t throw up on me, okay?”

“I said I’m not gonna throw up,” Anita shouted!

The other kids all looked at her with bug eyes. Anita hated being the center of attention. She pursed her lips and looked around at the other kids staring at her.

“What? You guys got a problem?”

“Ugh! Can’t you keep quiet?”

Anita and Tori looked to see Billy Dewer, one of Luke’s stupid friends, hobbling through the snow towards them with Luke right behind. Anita hated Billy just as much as Luke. He wasn’t as loud or as obnoxious and he didn’t get away with as much crap, but he was just as mean, rude, and twice as fat.

“Why are you always shouting?”

“Shut up, Billy!”

He rolled his eyes and said, “See? You’re always so loud!”

“I said shut up!” Anita shoved Billy down into the snow.

Tori and her friends laughed at Billy as Luke helped him stumbled up to his feet.

“Why’d you push him,” Luke asked.

“Because you two are annoying,” Anita said sticking her tongue out. “Now leave us alone!”

Luke ran up and shoved Anita down. As the other students laughed and teased her, she felt an urge to punch Luke in his stupid fat face.

She stumbled through the snow up to her feet, her face burning red. She glared at Luke and brandished her teeth. With a quick shout, Anita tackled Luke and began punching him as hard as she could.

It felt wonderful, she thought. Luke deserved it. For everything he’d gotten away with; for everything he’d ever done to make her life miserable; for all the times he’d called her names; for all the times he’d picked on her!

The image of the little gremlin surrounding Santa popped back into her head. She saw herself smashing its face, blood squirting from its eyes and ears, teeth flying out. It felt good to finally take out all her anger on this disgusting little monster.

Then, Anita snapped back to reality. She was horrified to see what she’d done. Luke’s mouth was bright red, and his blood was sprinkled across the snow. She looked around at her friends and classmates who were all shouting at her to stop, but she couldn’t hear them. Everything was silent. She couldn’t even hear her own thoughts.

She looked at her knuckles, which were painted with Luke’s blood, and she scrambled to her feet. As she did, the other students backed away slowly and Ms. Gretch came running over to the group of students. She was furiously shouting at Anita, but she still couldn’t hear anything. She was still trying to process exactly what she’d done. Anita could see that Ms. Gretch wanted to scream at her, maybe even hit her herself, but she held herself back.

Anita wasn’t sure exactly what happened after that; but next she knew; she was getting a ride home, and a vicious scolding, from her mother.

“What were you thinking, Anita,” she said. “Did you think it was okay? Did you think you wouldn’t get in trouble?”

“I wasn’t thinking of anything,” Anita mumbled.

“Nothing? Really? Well I guess that explains it,” her mother snipped back. “Perhaps next time, you’ll think about your actions before you decide to start beating up your classmates.”

“It wasn’t my fault,” Anita shouted!

“Oh really,” her mother asked, “and whose fault was it?”

“It was Luke and Billy, mom! They were being jerks and were trying to get me in trouble!”

“And it looks like they succeeded. Honestly, Anita, your father and I have enough to worry about, we don’t need to worry about you lashing out at other kids and getting into trouble.”

“Whatever,” Anita mumbled.

A few minutes passed in silence before Anita’s mother broke the silence. “You know,” she said, “if you keep behaving this way, Santa won’t bring you any gifts for Christmas this year.”

Anita rolled her eyes. “Santa’s not real, mom.”

“You think so,” she asked.

“Duh, it’s all you and dad.”

“Well, then I guess its safe to say that you won’t be getting anything from us this year then.”

Anita slumped in her seat. She knew it would pointless to argue. She stared out the window at the lightly fallen snow. Why did she get so mad? Why did she attack Luke like that? She’d been mad at him before, and they’d gotten into fights but never like that.

She thought about Santa again. Her skin began to crawl and the hairs on her neck began to stand. She felt sick to her stomach, and the visions of Luke’s battered face flashed to mind. She clenched her eyes shut and tried to shake the image from her head, but it was stuck, and it refused to leave.

As they got home, Anita immediately ran inside to her room and threw herself onto her bed. She was furious at Luke. She clenched her fists and began to punch her pillow viciously. This was all his fault! If he wasn’t such a jerk; if he didn’t call her a bitch; if he was never born, she wouldn’t be in trouble.

The longer Anita pummeled her pillow, she began to see the gremlin’s face again. She saw its face, bloody and beaten, spitting up blood. The sight repulsed her, but she couldn’t stop. She was too angry. Blood began to squirt from the gremlin’s face and spray onto her hands, face, and across her room.

It wasn’t until the gremlin stopped moving when Anita stopped punching her pillow. She’d forgotten she wasn’t actually attacking someone, but instead just her pillow. She looked down at her hands and noticed there wasn’t any actual blood on her, nor splattered across her room.

Anita let out a sigh as she slumped onto her bed. She felt sick: her head was pounding, and her stomach felt like it was in knots. As she lay on her comfy bed, she felt herself slowly dozing off. In her last bit of consciousness, her mother stepped into her room.

“I’m heading back to work now,” she said. “Your father and I will have a word with you when we get back.”

Anita shrugged, and her mother left in a hurry.

In just a moment, Anita had drifted off to sleep.

 

When Anita woke up, she was totally alone. The house was dark, and the sun had set. Were her parents waiting for her to wake up? Were they even home? The house was eerily silent. If her mother and father were home, surely they’d be talking about her, right? Her dad had a notoriously loud voice. If mom had told him about her fight at school, she’d hear him ranting about it.

She stumbled through the house, calling out to her parents, but there was nothing. Where could they be? She began to tread even slower, afraid something terrible might’ve happened.

As she trailed through the house, she stumbled into their living room. Huddled in the corner was their Christmas Tree, something that would normally put a smile on most children’s faces. But when Anita saw it, her heart stopped.

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.

Anita realized she’d seen this creature before. “S-Santa?”

In a hushed whisper, the figure said, “That’s right, Anita. It is I.” 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 that swirled like living vines. 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 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, maliciously gazing down.

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.

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