The Night Before…
It was cold out, he could tell; not that the frigid winds of the suburbs of Buffalo, New York could hold a candle to the icy wasteland he called home. Not that he was ever cold either. Still, there was an amazing beauty to the serene, peaceful city so late at night, coated with a blanket of freshly fallen snow, lights in the tall buildings glowing in the distance. He knew that in just a few hours that peace would be broken as the people that had to be up, out and about even on Christmas Morning went trudging to and fro, trampling the pristine beauty underfoot to muck and slush.
He glanced up at the waning three-quarter moon suspended high in the crystalline black night sky above. Stars shown in abundance despite the glare of lights from the city proper just a few miles south, only an occasional wispy cloud obscuring their brilliance. The peace and silence of the frozen moment were wondrous to him still, even after all these years.
But then, of course, a garish glare of crimson enveloped him, breaking him from his reveries.
“You okay, Boss?”
Nick turned at the sound of the gravelly voice, like rocks grinding through a crusher; the result of far too many cigars. He gave the slightest frown of annoyance at his scruffy assistant then sighed and smiled, knowing that he probably seemed the foolish old man. But they all knew how he got this time of year, especially on this night of nights.
“Fine, Max,” he said with a low chuckle. “Just day dreaming a bit. Douse the light, hunh, Rudy?” He saw the Ninth of the Nine skitter a bit then nod, the bright red glow slowly fading away. “Time to get back to work, boys.”
Nick turned away again and placed his gloved hands on the edge of the shaft, leaning over and in to peer down into its depths. Not so different than any other; a tight fit but that would be no problem, of course. Nor would the chicken wire stretched tightly over the opening. Probably put there to keep birds from nesting inside for the warmth. The magic would get him past and in like it always did. And no sign of a fire down below, thank goodness. That was always an extra complication that he did not need. People could be so inconsiderate at times. But then, he conceded, so few believed these days.
A wave of melancholy washed over him at the thought. He blamed the Internet himself, and the sudden surge in electronics. The world had grown so much smaller over the last score of years. There wasn’t any need to believe anymore when one could go online and instantly be transported to the other side of the planet, or immerse themselves in some social media or video game that brought all of their fantasies to life. Who needed to believe that a fairy would leave a quarter under your pillow in exchange for a lost tooth, or that a rabbit would leave a brightly colored egg for a child on Easter Sunday?
Poor Peter… He made a mental note to pay the bunny a visit at the rehab center soon, a little encouragement to help keep him off the sauce. And Chronos too, though Father Time did get a bit senile so close to New Year’s. He sighed.
“Got your ears on, Herbie?” he asked glancing back over his shoulder at his other assistant for the evening. He smiled tightly as he eyed the high pointed tips of the little man’s ears, his joke apparently lost as Herbie gave him a ‘thumb’s up’ sign, his blue tooth ear piece glowing softly as he conferred with the home base.
“Let’s do this then,” Nick said with a nod as he hefted his sack and sat on the edge of the shaft. “Time waits for no man, but me.” He laughed again as he adjusted his huge bag, which appeared full to bursting but was surprisingly light in weight. Another bit of magic that he had received from the Warlock, along with the shining sphere that he pulled from the folds of his jacket. It was about the size of a snowball, and in fact that is exactly what it was, once upon a time at least. Now it was a source of power that allowed Nick to do truly wonderful things with just a bit of concentration and wishful thinking.
Nick took a deep breath and thought ‘SMALL’ and felt the cold of the small globe intensify as it glowed in swirling, sparkling shades of silver and gold. Suddenly the world around him seemed to expand, growing to monumental proportions; nearby trees suddenly towering redwoods, quaint houses suddenly mansions. He saw the Nine shy back nervously despite the fact that they had witnessed the miracle countless times, heads bobbing and hooves sliding as Max held tightly on the reins. Of course he laughed as they all dwindled away, caught in the proximity of the spell and shrinking to just four inches or so; small enough to squeeze his girth through the wire mesh and make his way down the shaft and into the hearth and home far below.
He stood and shouldered his bag, standing at the lip of the deep, dark shaft now a wide maw to his diminutive stature. He shrugged and glanced back to his friends a final time, then with a wink and a smile Nick placed a finger alongside his nose, an act that made his assistants roll their eyes, and without a care or worry to his own safety he leaped into the black pit.
Filthy of course, the stone walls were covered in soot, the black ash adhering to his red coat and pants each time he made contact as he descended into the darkness. He leaped from side to side of the shaft to slow his fall, age old practice made perfect as he descended the seven or eight meters to finally land in a cloud of swirling ashes on the stone floor of the hearth. He wished that the spell that froze time for him would also freeze those things that he came in contact with, but the bubble of static about him and his crew up on the roof allowed interaction within a confined area. As a result, he stepped from the fireplace blackened and filthy, coughing a bit at the dry soot he had half-swallowed.
Nick scrambled out onto the hearthstone and doubled over, hacking and spitting and wishing that people would clean their chimneys once in awhile. It was far better back in the 1800’s when chimney sweeps abounded as the fire brigades of the time were unreliable and always at war with one another over their territories. These days, people just did not care.
Nick hawked and spat some gray tinted mucous onto the hearthstone and stood upright again, drawing a deep, cleansing breath and hoping that this family had left him some milk and cookies. It was only then that he saw the shadow falling over him, the glow of the multi-colored lights flickering far in the background making it dance wildly about him. He gave a yelp of surprise as he looked up and saw the flash of pink; the gigantic hand, fingers splayed wide, swooping in like a bird of prey and wrapping about his tiny form. Huge fingers that curled into a fist; trapping him in a fierce grip and shooting him swiftly skyward. His bag fell away as the massive fingers squeezed the breath from him and he stared in horror as the snowball dropped from his limp grip, falling to shatter on the warm stone now far below.
“I knew it!” a voice boomed, warm, sugarcoated breath roiling about him and blowing through his white beard and hair. His cap blew away and fluttered to the ground as he squirmed and writhed in the grasp of…
A child: a little girl to be precise.
She was huge to him though. Gigantic despite the fact that she was only ten-years-old as he recalled. A sweet, cherubic face aglow with excitement and long, golden locks, pink lips full and curled into a wide toothy smile as she examined her prize holding him close to her mammoth face. She was dressed in a long, pink and white-laced flannel nightgown, matching fuzzy pink slippers on her feet against the chilled floor. Nick struggled to recall her name: BuffaloNYstop8132HalseySt… Nellie.
“I knew you shrank,” the girl exclaimed with excitement, her fingers crushing into him as he wriggled and gasped for air. “Billy said you were a con… contor… con…”
“Contortionist,” another voice explained and Nick craned his neck to see a boy of thirteen years looming near and leaning in to peer at him closely. He had sandy brown hair and a face twisted with a mocking, mischievous grin. He was dressed in pale blue and red pajamas depicting Spider-Man in various poses. Another gargantuan child and the second at this stop.
“Yeah!” the girl squealed in delight, her fingers digging into Nick’s chest forcing the air from his lungs. He gasped and struggled, his gaze drifting to the snowball that was his salvation slowly melting into nothing but a useless puddle on the floor. “Con-tor-tion-ist!” the girl announced with glee. “I knew I was right! Told’ja! Santa Claus has magic!” The huge girl giggled and stuck her tongue out at her brother in the classic ‘I told you so’ gesture of youth.
It was a job hazard, Nick knew. There were always kids waiting up to try and see Santa, but usually most of them were out cold and dreaming of sugar plums when he arrived or trapped in the frozen time bubble for the duration of his visit. These two were apparently a bit more wily and well within his perimeter of Real Time. They had probably been right at the fireplace when the sleigh had touched down on the rooftop. Definitely not a good thing. And now, with the snow globe evaporating away he was more or less helpless in the girl’s clutches until he could create another, which did not seem likely anytime soon.
“What’d ya bring me, Santa?” the girl almost shrieked in her glee. Nick squirmed in her grip feeling the tight pressure on his ribs, trying to gather his breath to answer.
“I… “ he gasped pushing uselessly at the huge fingers holding him so tightly. “I… brought you… a dolly that… laughs and… cries…”
The little girl so titanic raised the jolly old elf up closer to her face to stare at him in confusion. “That’s it?” she asked in disbelief. “I asked for a Wii and like, a ton of games for it. And a pony. Figured I wouldn’t get that. And you brought me a doll? I’m like almost eleven. I don’t play with dolls anymore.”
“You got my X-Box?” the boy, Billy asked, cutting off his sister as he picked up the tiny, fallen bag. Opening it and peering he peered inside. “What the fuck? It’s like, all gray in there,” he mumbled, turning it over to shake it above his upturned palm. Nick sighed with relief that the contents did not come spilling out. It looked so small in his fingers but Nick knew that his Bag of Holding held the wishes and dreams of the whole wide world. Enough toys that they would all be consumed and buried alive.
“Be careful with that… Billy,” Nick croaked as little Nell’s thumb squeezed a bit harder against his aching ribs. “I brought you a hammer… and tacks,” he wheezed out, “Also a ball… and a whip that cracks.” The gigantic boy looked up from the bag and stared dumbfounded at the tiny old man squirming in his sister’s hand.
“You’re kidding, right?” Billy said. “The whip sounds cool, but a hammer and tacks? What the fuck is that?” Nick winced at the boy’s foul language, his mind racing as he tried to think up a way out of his predicament.
“It’s… what I thought you would like… most.” Nick turned his attention back to the girl and looked up at his young captress imploringly. “Please, Nellie… Let me go. What would your mother… say about this?” he asked gasping for air again as her mammoth fingers wiggled their grip about him. Nellie giggled as his struggling tickled her hand.
“Mom’s out cold,” Billy provided while scrutinizing the tiny sack again. “She came home drunk from her office party late last night and crashed as soon as she hit the bed, dead to the world. She won’t be up for hours.” Nick frowned at that knowing he would get no help then on that front. Time for more drastic measures.
“Please… I can’t breathe…” Nick said pushing at the gigantic fingers crushing into him. Little Nell’s expression changed flashing brief concern and she eased her grip just a bit and Nick gasped in relief. With room to move he dipped his hand into his jacket as quickly and discreetly as possible and produced a slim, silver whistle, which he set to his lips and blew with all his might; a silent blast too high-pitched for the children to hear. Nellie stared at him quizzically, cocking her head to one side.
Immediately there was a noise coming from up on the rooftop, the sound of prancing and scrabbling hooves trying to gain purchase.
CLICK… CLICK… CLICk…
Up on the housetop as reindeer paused…
“What the fuck?” Billy said as he and Nellie both looked to the ceiling, then to the hearth as a wrenching sound of metal echoed down the shaft of the chimney.
Then a flurry of motion as a miniature sleigh pulled by nine tiny reindeer came swooping out of the fireplace. They shot out and up soaring high into the room, swooping in a long arch around the Christmas Tree and then again towards the two children watching in awe and staggering back. A red glow erupted from the lead deer and little Nell gasped in delight.
“Rudolf…” she whispered as the tiny sleigh swept about the ceiling, circling.
“Let me go!” Nick shouted pushing at the titanic fingers encircling him but Nell held him tight, locked in and close to her cheat as her eyes followed the tiny, flying sleigh. He watched helplessly as Billy suddenly stepped forward and swatted at the reindeer and the sleigh, the seasoned steeds barely avoiding the blow diving and arching in tight formation. Max guiding at the reins and Herbie holding on for dear life in the rear, they dove straight at Billy, swerving sharply as the lad waved his hands again and staggered back. The sharp turn kept the sleigh out of harm’s way, but in the act Herbie lost his grip and was tossed free to go spiraling into the air tumbling head over heels.
Nick’s heart plummeted as the young elf screamed all the way to the floor where he hit hard and bounced, his spindly thin body cracking and breaking as it finally rolled to a stop right at the toes of Nell’s pink fuzzy slippers. He groaned and barely moved in obvious agony.
“Oooo… “ Nell gasped as she stared down at the battered miniscule form on the floor at her feet. She nudged the broken body lightly with the toe of her slipper and Herbie screamed with new pain. With her attention diverted her grip eased just enough and with a show of sudden strength that would make the Grinch proud, Nick shoved the titanic fingers away and finally struggled free. He dropped to the ground using the talents that Donner had taught him ages ago, floating down and landing lightly beside the battered, broken body of Herbie, the poor elf that had wanted to be a dentist. Nick knelt beside his friend knowing that he was too late to save the young elf, tears welling in his eyes.
“Sorry… Santa,” Herbie said as blood gurgled out between his lips. His face was already swelling, tainted violet and Nick could see, ironically, that several of his teeth were shattered. From somewhere high above there was a harsh glare of red, Rudolf angered at the looming death of his old, best friend. “Guess… I messed up… hunh?” Herbie coughed and blood spewed over the front of his elfin green tunic. Red on green; the spirited colors of Christmas. Santa bit his lip as the light of hope faded from the young elf’s eyes, his happy spirit dimming and finally going blank.
Nick looked skyward at the shout in time to see the tiny sleigh and the nine reindeer shooting past the giant Billy’s face, five of the Nine raking their sharp antlers into those cherub cheeks and lashing out with their hooves. Billy staggered back swatting at the assault, but the sleigh arched out and away again. Up and out of reach of the giant, flailing hands. He saw too that Max had pulled a tiny toy popgun from one of the spare toy bags littering the floor of the sleigh and was firing rubber slugs at the boy’s face. Probably not enough force in the pellets to hurt, but definitely adding to Billy’s confusion.
Nick gasped as Nell’s gigantic hand swept into his line of sight, taking up his field of vision. He could see the huge girl’s grinning face through her spread fingers as she bent down to scoop him up again. Her gold spun hair washed about her shoulders like a waterfall as she giggled in delight, her feet shifting in innocent ignorance to crush the last of Herbie’s broken remains into a crimson smear. The sound of bones shattering, the flash of spurting blood spattering out from under her slippered foot set snapped Nick to action.
Nick charged across the floor running right between the girl’s tremendous feet and popping out from beneath her long nightgown behind her. With one eye on Billy still chasing the sleigh, he leaped high, floating through the air as reindeer might up to the hearthstone where he gracefully landed. He hurried across the stone and finally stood above the dwindling puddle, all that was left of his shattered snow globe. Behind him he could hear the thunderous footfalls of slippered feet approaching, a slight tremor rippling through the stone with every step. He knelt down and quickly removed his gloves, tenderly touching his fingers to the damp spots before him. All he needed was a drop or two, and a wish. Willing the moisture to coalesce and reform he concentrated with all his ,might, gathering all the magic that the Winter Warlock had endowed upon him. He heard a startled yelp directly above and behind him as silver light flared…
Nick stood finally, a snowball in hand sparkling with all the energy that he could muster, all the magic of Christmas. He looked up and saw Nell wide-eyed and mouth agape, backing timidly towards her brother. He stared at the giant boy watching as the mammoth monstrosity flailed at the strafing runs of the sleigh and the Nine, blood streaking his face. A random, lucky strike hit the back of the sleigh and sent it and the team spinning out of control.
Nick held the reformed snow globe high and wished. Light shimmered and danced about the crystalline ball and the boy, Billy shrieked in pain. He bent double, clutching at his stomach as his body convulsed and twitched, starting to shrink and compress, darkening. Changing…
“No!” he heard little Nell cry out and Nick turned his attention on her, his own eyes growing wide with fear.
She was frantic watching as her brother dropped to his knees then flat to writhing on the floor. She raced forward and her hands flew out, accidentally slamming into the Nine still trying to regain control of their flight. Rudolf, Dancer, Dasher, Vixen and Prancer went spiraling madly with the impact, the force of the blow snapping through the bridal and reins. The sleigh too heavy for the rest of the team fell from the sky, toys spewing in every direction as it plummeted down to the cold, barren floor. The sleigh hit hard with a crash and the reindeer sprawled, tumbling and scrabbling for traction.
Nick saw Max fly from the downed sleigh at the impact, landing hard to roll and tumble across the threadbare carpeting. He called to the old elf, then screamed; his eyes wide with terror as he helplessly watched as the enormous pink, slippered foot slammed down and crushed the tiny elf’s life from existence. He heard the crunching of bones, saw the spurt of blood that shot out from under the foot as it twisted the body into the floor like a spent cigarette butt. He stared dumbfounded and useless as his friend died, ground underfoot by a little girl and he would take Max’s final, piercing scream with him to the grave.
And the Holiday Spirit left him…
Nick stared up at the giant girl frowning nastily down at him. “What did you do to my brother?” she hissed, tears sparkling in her eyes but he ignored her words, rage boiling in his body, as he had never felt before. He was the Spirit of Peace, but right then he had become the avatar of vengeance. Justice needed to be served. Retribution needed a time as well.
Nick looked again at the red splotch on the ground that had been Max.
“You fucking knee-biters,” he hissed, staring then at the shattered, bloody smear that had been his friend, the ever-happy elf, Herbie. He heard the gigantic boy screaming as his transformation continued, his voice choking and fading, his arms and legs receding into his blackened torso as he slowly shrank more and more. The girl turned at the scream and started wailing in distress and horror at what was happening to Billy.
Nick saw a flurry of motion as the two teams of reindeer had once more taken to the air, converging on the girl now and soaring close to her face. The bright flash of Rudolf’s nose cast her terrified visage in crimson, making her blink and then the port team of Dasher and Prancer slashed their antlers along her left cheek. Nell shrieked in shock and pain, turning away and into Comet and Donner cut into her right cheek, their own antlers coming away bloody.
“Damn Cookie Crunchers!” Nick shouted as he focused on the gigantic sobbing child, clutching the snow globe as his friends continued to hit and run, close and distract. He felt no pity for her as he leaped from the hearthstone to the floor and ran for the dropped and forgotten bag, scooping it up and digging blindly inside as he stared up at the gigantic girl. He easily found what he was looking for and pulled it free with a flourish, his arm rearing back, then swiftly forward. Nell screamed as the whip coiled out, stretching and wrapping about her ankles.
Nick heaved on the whip as the two teams of reindeer slammed their hooves into the girl’s face and forehead in passing. Nell staggered, her feet tangled and suddenly flying out from under her. Nick watched as the titanic little girl swayed backwards, her balance lost and falling as though in slow motion finally to hit the ground with an earth shuddering crash that almost knocked him to the floor himself.
Nick was moving as the girl moaned, lithely and with a grace and speed that belied his weight and age. His reconstructed snow globe was glowing brightly as he leaped easily up onto the little girl’s chest, then stepped right up towards her face where she could see him. She was crying, great hacking sobs, but Nick still had no pity for her. She and her brother had killed two of his friends simply out of greed and want for better toys than he had offered. Herbie’s death might have been construed an accident, but he had seen the vicious look that had twisted the little girl’s angelic face as she had willingly ground poor Max into paste.
They hadn’t been on the ‘Naughty List’, but he recalled that they had been very, very close. He knew that their father had left their mother the year before, and that Virginia Rose had had a hard time dealing with that, and was working hard to survive now by herself and to support her two children. He knew that it had been hard on them as well, but what had happened here tonight; for that there was no excuse.
He glanced at what was left of Billy and nodded in satisfaction. The transformation would not last forever, but hopefully it would last long enough for him to learn the error of his ways. Cleanse him of his foul mouth and bad attitude. He looked back to the scarred face of little Nell, frowning as she whimpered, trying to control her sobs.
“Do you know what little girls are made of?” he asked and the girl sniffled then slowly shook her mammoth head, her pretty golden locks spilling to the floor stained with her blood. “Sugar and spice, and everything nice,” he offered, holding the snow globe high before her. “You showed none of that tonight, you little brat. You should have been nestled all snug in your bed, but instead you waited up to see what you were never meant to know.” The globe sparkled as he spoke: silver and gold… silver and gold…
“Please… Santa…” she whimpered, but Nick regrettably shook his head.
Nicholas Clause, Kris Kringle to some but Santa to most wished, and it was so.
Virginia groaned as she slowly came awake. Her heavy eyelids achingly fluttered open and she winced at the brilliant sunlight streaming through the half-open blinds covering the window closest to the bed. Hissing against the glare she rolled away from the light and moaned as throbbing pain pulsed through her head.
“God…” she mumbled, wincing as her whispered complaint sent a new spike of pain rattling around inside her skull. Her mouth was parched and felt full of cotton she thought as she licked her dry lips. She laid there very still for several long moments trying to assess her condition. Trying to remember just what she had done the night before to deserve being so hung over. How much had she had to drink?
She vaguely remembered John from marketing lusting after her for most of the evening; leering at her ample cleavage that had been bubbling from the low-cut red dress she had worn for the holiday party. She recalled him trapping her under the mistletoe for a long, sloppy kiss. God, did she tongue him? And she was certain that old man Briggs had grabbed her ass at one point, but that was nothing new. Her lecherous boss was nice enough most of the time but all the women in the office knew that deep down he was nothing but a dirty old man and took liberties when he thought he could get away with it.
And she seemed to recall that the drinks were flowing freely. She remembered toast after toast and well wishes for Christmas and the new year as well. It seemed she had had some form of alcohol in hand all night long. She flashed on the memory of the staggering walk out into the cold, clear night, she, John and Isabel her secretary flagging down a taxi and the long, cramped ride in the back seat of the smelly car through the snow-slick streets. John’s hand on her thigh as she rolled down her window fighting back the urge to vomit. Isabel had not been so lucky.
John had helped her to her door and had offered to take her inside but she had fended him off. “We’re too drunk,” she had said, “and my kids are home… The baby-sitter…”. Had she kissed him goodnight? That was lost in the fog.
There was a sketchy memory of paying Karen for her services, giving her a healthy holiday tip that was probably way too much remembering the wad of bills she had pulled from her wallet. She remembered looking in on Nellie and Billy, her two little angels fast asleep, visions of sugar cubes dancing in their dreams, or however that went.
She remembered kicking off her red, leather heels, starting to get undressed…
Collapsing on her bed…
Bracing herself against the glare Virginia gingerly opened her eyes again, blinking several times in quick succession trying to focus. Her head was still aching but that initial pounding had dimmed a bit and thankfully the room was not spinning. Thank God the nausea of the night before had faded. She hated throwing up and felt a pang of pity for poor Isabel. She would phone her friend later. Much later she decided, knowing that the ringing phone would pierce the poor girl’s senses. She glanced at the clock on her nightstand then, blinking in surprise.
“Holy shit!” she hissed as her voice sent another lance of pain through her head. Groaning she looked to the clock again, the red L.E.D. reading 10:23.
“No fucking way,” she whispered in disbelief. It was Christmas Morning. No way in Hell that her kids- angels that they were- would let her sleep this long today. Christmases past they were always up at the crack of dawn and in her bedroom waking her and Bob and demanding they get up so that they could open their presents.
“Bob…” she said aloud, ignoring the pain. Bastard! He better fucking come by today with presents for the kids. And leave that little tramp at their fucking condo. She knew that he was scheduled to have the kids for New Year’s until school started up again, but it was fucking Christmas for God’s sake. He better come through big time or she’d have her divorce lawyer all over his ass first thing tomorrow.
And then her focus returned to her kids. Anger over her Ex suppressed she slowly propped up onto her elbows, waiting for the throbbing to subside. Then she sat up fully in her bed and groaned in dismay as she saw that she was still wearing her red dress from the day before. It was pulled down to her hips, but wrinkled beyond repair. Hopefully the dry cleaners could set it right, but that was a chore for tomorrow.
‘What are they up to?’ she thought as she swung her legs off of the bed, hissing and wincing as her nylon clad feet touched the cold, hardwood floor. She glanced down and saw that the throw rug beside her bed was crumpled and pushed halfway under the frame. She toed the edge and pulled it back out, her black canvas slippers appearing as well. She kicked the old, scruffy shoes about, noting as she slipped her feet into the toes that she should get another pair soon. Maybe the kids had gotten her a new pair, as that was on her Christmas list and not beyond their means, but she doubted it.
For the past year they had been all about themselves. Partially her own fault she supposed, trying hard to make them feel loved with the sudden abandonment of their father; Bob the bastard. She had tried to buy them things they had wanted, within her means of course and going deeper in credit card debt in the process. She had looked the other way at times, when they were bad or bratty, when she probably shouldn’t have. They had apparently caught on to what they could get away with too, as recently they seemed to walk all over her. Virginia sighed. Not the little angels she portrayed them to be after all, she supposed.
She did not bother to hike the heels up as she slowly stood up off of the bed, her left hand on the nightstand for support. Her head throbbed for a long, harsh moment and she swayed a little bit but finally got her sea legs under her again. With a sigh she slipped out of her ruined dress, tossing it and her bracelets and bangles onto the rumpled comforter covering her bed. She scooped up her robe from the back of the chair of her vanity and slipped it on over the lacy black bra and panties, garters and stockings that she had worn the previous day and all night long. She frowned at the run in her nylons where John had been rubbing her thigh; twenty bucks down the drain. Belting the sash she finally headed for the bedroom door and out.
“Kids?” she called as she moved into the hall, treading softly and rapping on Nellie’s door. “Nellie?” she called before pushing the door wide only to find the bed empty and unmade. Likewise, Billy’s room was barren and void of her son. Virginia wondered where they were and what they were up to.
“Fine,” she mumbled to herself. They were probably hiding and waiting to scare her, jumping out and yelling ‘Merry Christmas’ when she finally came into the living room. Ginny smiled at the thought. She would play along, but first a detour to the kitchen. They wanted to play games, well, she could too. They could wait until she had some coffee in her.
Five minutes later Virginia was leaning against the kitchen counter and sipping coffee from her favorite mug. She smiled as she read the inscription: ‘World’s Best Mom’. A birthday gift from Nellie and Billy three years ago, but she knew that Bob had paid for it, the bastard. She bit her lower lip in frustration, the Holiday Blues overwhelming her for a moment. Sometimes she wished she could just make all the pain and heart ache go away.
With a sigh she refilled the cup then strolled into the living room ready to be shocked and surprised when the kids jumped out at her…
She looked about the living room, squinting against the glare coming through the open drapes of the wide front windows. The Lights that she had painstakingly stapled about the frame were blinking and winking maniacally, glowing mainly red and green. Beyond the ice-edged glass she could tell that it had snowed again last night apparently after she had gotten back home. She waved as her next-door-neighbor, old Mister Elmore passed by walking his dogs, two huge Dobermans straining at their leashes and dragging him along.
She glanced at the tree and noted that the presents beneath remained untouched. Not a lot she mused with regret. Times were hard, after all. She had mentally fought with herself between getting the Wii that her daughter wanted against the X-Box that her son longed for. She could not afford both and finally settled on the Wii thinking that maybe they could both have more fun with that. There were smaller packages too, of course; gloves and scarves, underwear and socks. Needful things rather than frivolous toys.
“Kids” she called out after taking a sip of her coffee, looking about the room and wondering where they could be hiding with a bit of annoyance. Whatever their joke was, it was starting to wear a little thin. She hurried and looked behind the sofa, then behind her recliner, all the spots that might hide a child, but nothing.
Brow furrowed in confusion now, she started to worry. Where were they? Had Bob come by early and picked them up? The bastard! Had he left a note? She scanned the room…
She saw the empty milk glass and plate sitting on the edge of the coffee table, a Post-it note sitting amongst the cookie crumbs. She hurried over and picked up the small square of paper and read it. Then read it again aloud:
‘Yes, Virginia. There IS a Santa Clause. Ho- Ho- Ho!’
“What the fuck?” she whispered looking about the room again, this time more intently. What was Bob up to? Had he kidnapped the kids? Bastard! She’d have his ass locked up so fast-
Virginia stared at the small red stain set in the carpeting. What was that? She wondered, certain that it had not been there the day before. Wine? She stepped up and stood towering over the offending spot, looking down on it. It almost looked like a ketchup packet had exploded. AND it looked like someone had tried and failed to clean it up properly. She extended her foot and toed the stain with her slipper, noting that it was still damp. It almost looked like blood ahe thought with a shiver.
Worry pushing her hangover aside somewhat she spun about turning in a circle to scrutinize the room once more. Nothing seemed out of place that she could tell. Nothing…
Her eyes lingered on the three stockings tacked to the mantle above the fireplace. Three big red stockings with cottony white fluff at the openings, their names emblazoned in black stitching on each; Nellie, Billy, Mom. And they each held something. She knew that she had been way too drunk when she got home last night to remember to place the tiny gifts she had bought into the stockings. AND there was something in hers as well. “Bob?”
Worried, Virginia set her coffee mug down on the end table and stepped to the hearth. First came the stocking of little Nell. She reached inside and pulled out the prize. She held the tiny doll in her hand, staring at it. It was maybe five inches tall and dressed in a long, pink flannel nightgown. Golden hair flowed about its shoulders and face, tears streaming down its pink cheeks as its blue eyes opened and closed spastically as it gave the occasional laugh. Ginny was taken aback at how lifelike it looked as her fingers pressed into the soft… plastic? Rubber? It almost felt warm.
Virginia looked up and around hearing her daughter’s voice, weak but definitely Nellie. She did not see her little girl though and turned her attention back to the doll. The tiny thing looked a lot like Nell, she noted. Even the nightgown and fuzzy pink slippers on the feet. The golden hair and sweet face.
Had Bob done this? Had the bastard snuck in last night and left gifts for them all in the stockings? Doubtful. Even at the height of their love and marriage he had never been that deep. But if not him, then who?
Curious now she dipped her hand into Billy’s stocking. Her eyes narrowed as she felt something hard within. Not a ball, but about that size, it had a jagged, irregular shape. She wrapped her fingers about it, whatever it was and withdrew it. She stared at the black thing in her hand.
It was a lump of coal, she was certain and she recalled the old tales of Santa leaving such for all the little boys and girls on his ‘Naughty List’. Just what the fuck was Bob up to?
She was certain now that he was behind this as she turned the coal about in her right hand, the left still holding the doll down at her side.
Virginia gasped and the lump of coal dropped from her suddenly limp fingers to hit the floor with a thud. She stared down at the black, rock-like thing feeling a shiver of fear race through her. The nausea that she had suppressed before raced up through her and she leaned over bracing her hand on the cold stone of the fireplace, vomiting on the hearthstone.
She retched until her stomach emptied, spewing bile all over the hearth. Finally gagging and rasping she swallowed and stared down at the chunk of coal and saw the eyes embedded within staring forlornly back up at her. Sad eyes that she well recognized.
“Billy…” she whispered, watching as tears flowed from those eyes, eroding the coal a tiny bit as they trailed rivulets to drip darkly on the floor. “Oh, God…”
She held the doll up to her face again, peering intently at the crying face, the winking, blinking eyes…
“Ma-Ma!” the doll sounded.
Virginia screamed and staggered back, falling. She hit the floor hard landing on her ass but feeling nothing. Her gaze shot back and forth between the doll in her hand and the lump of coal near her feet. Her children…
“Oh my God…” she whispered rocking, holding the doll of her daughter to her breast. “Oh, God…” she said again, her foot shoving the lump of coal bouncing away.
How had Bob done this?
Her mind awhirl, she remembered the note.
‘Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Clause.’
Virginia looked up at the final stocking; her own. There was something in it. She knew that Bob would no longer waste money on her, but who else? Santa Clause?
But, then who?
Tentatively Virginia stood, still clutching the doll that she suspected was her daughter and approached the remaining stocking.
She shivered but otherwise ignored the voice as she reached into the stocking and pulled free an envelope addressed to her. ‘Virginia’, it read in a smooth, flowing cursive. Hands shaking she slipped the doll under her arm and opened the envelope.
There was a Christmas card inside. A print of a Currier and Ives painting showing an idyllic, winter scene of a happy town decked out for the holidays; Carolers strolling the streets singing Christmas tunes, angelic children building snowmen and throwing snowballs, ice skaters on a frozen lake and dog carts plying through the snow. Fumbling, Ginny unfolded the card and a green bill fluttered to the floor to land beside the lump of coal at her feet with the eyes staring plaintively up at her. She read the note:
Sorry for the mess. Sorry for the children, but they got what they deserved. Naughty children get naughty gifts. They will be fine with time, reverting to their former, selfish selves. Hopefully they will have learned their lesson, though I doubt it.
My gift to you is something you asked for when you were fourteen. Your mother had died and your father was abusing you. You asked me for a new start and a new life. Forgive me for not answering your prayers then. Hopefully you will use my gift to you now.
No one will know but you and I, whatever you choose to do.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Virginia reeled. No one knew of that prayer; a wish she made on a star when she was fourteen one Christmas Eve. Wishing for her mother to be alive, her drunken abusive father to burn in hell. A new start, a new life that never happened.
She read the note again, and a third time before setting it aside. She looked down at her feet and saw the lump of coal that she now knew was her son, Billy staring back up at her. She saw too the faded green bill and bent low to pick it up. She turned it over in her hands.
Virginia stared at the image of Woodrow Wilson on the $100,000 Bill, Gold Certificate. She had the slight inkling that the bill was worth far more than face value. She was fairly certain that few were printed initially, and that even fewer were still in circulation, let alone existence.
She was rich, she knew. Rich beyond her wildest dreams, and no one would know.
“Shut up!” she snapped rubbing her fingers at the bridge of her nose against the throbbing in her head. Virginia pulled the doll from under her arm and tossed it carelessly onto the sofa. It bounced and finally settled up against the back, tears streaming from its winking eyes. Virginia plucked up a cigarette case from the drawer in the end table next to the recliner and pulled a cigarette free, lighting it. She inhaled deeply, feeling the soothing nicotine invading her body even as she hacked and coughed. She regained her composure, then stepped up over the chunk of coal lying on the floor at her feet. She nudged it with her toe. The eyes in the lump went wide as she placed the sole of her slipper squarely over the thing that used to be her son. She felt it shiver underfoot.
“I don’t know what you two did to piss off Santa,” she said taking a long draw off of her cigarette. “But I don’t really care, either.” Her voice was cold as she stared long and hard into the wide, tear-filled eyes peering over the tip of her slipper, considering. She glanced at her daughter the doll and felt the money in her hand, weighing her options.
Virginia scowled at the doll on the couch, blowing smoke that direction with a sneer. Her foot pressed down a bit and she felt the coal shudder again.
“I’ve got a new chance at life, here. No burdens. No bastard husband. No ungrateful kids. And money…” Ginny eased her foot forward pressing her weight onto the lump of coal underfoot. “And I’m going to take it.”
Virginia pressed down feeling her son; the lump of coal crack and start to crumble underfoot. She ground down feeling suddenly free and unburdened as she crushed the coal under her foot, grinding it to dust. Did she hear his screams? There was something, but she ignored it. After a minute of crunching she pulled her foot back and looked down and saw the granules and nuggets, tiny and black as she shifted her foot over what once was Billy, her son. With a casual effort she swept the remains aside, later for the vacuum.
Virginia looked at her daughter the doll and smiled wickedly.
Her pussy was hot and wanting suddenly…
Wanting for a cock… A dildo…
Even better, a naughty, tiny girl trapped in a doll’s body.
Virginia licked her lips and grabbed up her helpless daughter as she sprawled on the sofa, her legs flung wide. She tugged her black, lacy panties down and pressed what used to be Nellie against her dripping lips.
“Ma-Mmmmmm!” She ignored to tiny things screams as she shoved it head first into her vagina, pumping it deep, in and out…
It was going to be a Merry Christmas after all, and an even happier New Year.
This one popped into my head a few days ago. I wrote it in a couple days and edited it in a cou[ple more. A Christmas story. Hope you like it.
The Night Before…
Comment if you like. Happy Holidays to all!