I hate Christmas. I truly despise it in a way that cannot even be properly described with words. You understand, don't you? All the cheer and happiness and smiling children and laughter. It's utterly deplorable.
Why do we need happiness? It's overrated. Silly and frivolous. Now, nightmares and screams and cries of terroróthat is mother's milk. The fear and anger. It is the darkness that sustains me. But darkness cannot thrive where happiness resides. And so I am going to ruin the happiest day of the year.
This is a year of change. The elder Santa Claus passes the reins and the title to his son, Nicholas. Nick, as everyone calls him. His father is too old now to make the midnight ride. A pity, I'm sure. He was very good at what he did, unfortunately. And Nicholasódear, sweet, Nicholasówill drive the sleigh for the first time tonight. Rather, he is supposed to.
"Hello, Nicholas," I purr, stepping from the shadows into the dim workshop. He whirls around, mouth agape. It seems I've caught him off guard. But then, that was the point, wasn't it? The poor boy hasn't even put on his suit yet, still dressed in worn, brown britches and a loose fitting, long sleeved tunic. And he really isn't much more than a boy. Not even past his twenty first year, he's really just a fresh-faced youth. Brown hair snared at the nape of neck with a leather cord and a mere shadow of a beard across his jaw. And those chocolate brown eyes filled with unadulterated terroróthe epitome of beauty.
"Y-youÖ" he stutters, backing away. "You're not real. Papa said you were just a bad dream."
"Ah, you do remember me. I'm truly honored." I smile, revealing serrated teeth. Nicholas bumps into a table, trapped between it and me. It was cute watching him try to escape, but I must say, I like this much better. "A little disappointed, though, that ole Santa tried to pass me off as a figment of your imagination."
Nicholas recovers from his shock with admirable grace. Jaw set in grim determination, he says, "Get out. I don't know what you are, but I will not let you interfere with Christmas."
"Nicholas, Nicholas, Nicholas," I chide. "You know exactly what I am. I am the monster under the bed, the shadow in the closet that you can't quite convince yourself wasn't moving. I am the darkness in your heart. I am what you fear the most." I advance, shadows closing ranks behind me. When I'm close enough, I lean in close. His nose wrinkles at the damp, moldy scent that surrounds me. "Besides," I whisper in his ear. "You can't stop me."
A cold wind whips around the workspace. Toys are thrown onto the floor where they shatter. Tools clatter to the ground. Candles extinguish, plunging us into darkness. I'm on my home turf now. And I must say, there is no sweeter perfume than the scent of his fear. Overly sweet like rotten fruit.
Hands clasped loosely behind me, I stepped back. Reaching out with my darkness, I found exactly what I was looking for. "Well, Santa, I have a wish list this year. It shouldn't be too hard for you to get because there's only one thing I want. And I want it to be all wrapped up for tomorrow morning."
I use the shadows as another set of arms to bring to me what I need. Grinning evilly, I let the shadows do their work. Rolls of ribbon catch his wrists pulling them to his sides, binding them there. Snare his ankles with perfect red bows. There, now that he isn't squirming so much, I can wrap him up properly.
"You can't do this!" he shouts as the wrapping paper begins to circle his body. A gift is not properly wrapped unless it's done with wrapping paper, you know. It's incredibly amusing, watching him struggle. He tries so futilely to pull his hands from the silk bonds. How wonderfully pathetic.
"Of course I can, sweet Nicholas," I purr, watching as the last of the paper covers his shoulders. Tiny rolls of Scotch tape flit around his body, sealing the edges and gaps. "You can't stop me."
"You can't ruin Christmas. What about all the children?" he pleads. I ignore him in favor of the bright red ribbon that is tying bows in strategic places. Around his ankles again, at the knees and thighs. And a gigantic bow right in the middle of his chest.
"Ah, but don't you see? That is the point. Without Christmas, the children will be disheartened. Sad. Angry. They'll lose faith in all the good things." I pace closer and closer until our faces are only inches apart. His jaw in set in defiance, but I can see the fear lurking in the depths of his soul. "And then it will be so much easier to unleash my darkness on them. Without that faith in the light, they will succumb to the dark. Oh, how delicious it will be."
"Evil never wins. You can't stop Christmas. Someone will notice I'm gone and look for me. They'll find me, and I will ride that sleigh out to deliver the toys." He tries so hard to sound sure of himself, but there's a quaver in his voice. He even raises his chin and glares at me. It is so adorable.
"You make an excellent case, Nicholas." I grin and lean in very close, pressing against him. He jerks back, but there is nowhere to escape to. My lips brush his ear. "Too bad your sleigh has already departed."
I chuckle softly. "One of my little demons has already driven it off into the night. Posing as you, of course." His mouth opens and closes several times, like he can't believe what he's hearing. I'm disappointed that he underestimated me. Not that he'll make that mistake again. "Game over, Nicholas. I win."
The last the ribbon covers his lips and circles his head several times before he has the chance to respond. These wonderful little frustrated, angry grunts escape from under the wide red silk. It's almost enough to warm my icy blood.
Another freezing wind surrounds us and the veil between the dimensions thins enough that I can pull us both through to my home. I think I'll put my package under the tree and open him in the morning. Or perhaps I'll just leave him all wrapped up. He does look so pretty that way.
I suppose we'll just have to see what Christmas brings.