It was cold enough to freeze your balls off; he wanted nothing more than to be back at home, sitting in his big green recliner and sipping a hot cup of cocoa with little marshmallows floating in it. But no, the little bastards needed their toys. That was bad; worse was that those toys had gotten more complicated (and more expensive to make) over the years. Once upon a time, a little red truck or a simple rag doll would have been enough. Hell, even the days of the Etch A Sketch and Easy-Bake Ovens hadn’t been so bad. A few brats burned themselves with those ovens, but was that his fault? No, siree; they’d asked for ‘em, and they’d gotten ‘em.
Kids didn’t want hula hoops and Glo Worms anymore. They wanted gaming consoles with octa-core processors and a terabyte of storage space. And don’t you forget about the high texture rate. He had no earthly idea what a texture rate was, but it was important to the brats for some reason. Did they care that the elves in the workshop had to work themselves ragged, going seven days a week for nearly the entire year just to get all of those consoles built in time? Did they care that the manufacturing costs were sure to send him to the poor house sooner or later? Of course not; as long as they got to play their new games on Christmas morning, then all must be right with the world.
God, he hated kids. He hated their stupid faces, their stupid voices, their stupid beliefs. Those idiots actually thought there was a giant bunny that came around on Easter to leave painted eggs and chocolate replicas of itself for them to stuff their faces with. Meanwhile, every December the selfish shits sent him their lists, gimme gimme gimme, I want I want I want. Didn’t matter that they’d been naughty all year, picked on their little brothers and sisters, teased the chubby kid in the class, kicked over anthills for no good reason, looked at those dirty websites while they were alone in their bedrooms. They still expected something, and they’d cry if they didn’t get it.
“Down!” he cried.
When the dumb animals kept right on stampeding through the air, as if he hadn’t said anything at all, he picked up the whip and lashed the rump of the one on the back right. Was it Dasher or Prancer? He couldn’t remember. They all looked the same, so that didn’t help much. The whip did the trick, and they started to slow, descending toward a big green house with red and green lights strung all about it. They brought him down to a gentle landing on the roof, and he grunted as he climbed down out of the sleigh. He grabbed the sack out of the back and headed for the chimney. As he passed the reindeer, Comet (or maybe it was Cupid) dropped a load of dung onto the roof. He took care not to step in it.
The chimney was a dark tunnel with a faint light at the bottom of it. He tossed the sack in first, and it tumbled down, landing with a plop. It was time for him to follow the sack down; he had a bitch of a time fitting himself into the bore of the chimney. He supposed he really should start working out, maybe lose a few inches around the waist. His doctor would be pleased; his blood pressure was borderline high even with the medication.
When he was halfway down the chimney, he got stuck. Squirming to free himself, he cursed under his breath. It would certainly be embarrassing if he had to holler for help, if some bleary-eyed parents had to come and tug down on his legs to get him out of their chimney. Normally, he would worry that getting stuck would lead to a lecture about his weight from the missus, and the ribbing the elves were sure to give him when they found out. He didn’t need to worry about that now; the missus had left him (for good this time, she said). And the elves? Well, they wouldn’t have much to say about anything from now on.
After a brief struggle, he managed to unstick himself, and he landed on top of the sack. He climbed down and ducked under the fireplace lintel, stepping into a stranger’s home. The room was lit by the lights wrapped around the pine tree in the corner. There were also a few candles placed about the room, the flames dancing. Those candles were a fire hazard, and he thought about snuffing them out but changed his mind. If they started a fire, so be it; let the house burn, and everyone in it.
Reaching down, he grabbed hold of the sack, pulling it out of the fireplace and onto the stone hearth. Four stockings were hung on the mantel, two big ones (they had the words “Mom” and “Dad” embroidered on them) and two small ones (“Jeffrey” and “Tommy”). He untied the top of the sack and looked inside for just the right thing for all of them. The long list of names and presents that he would usually have on hand was still sitting on the desk at home; he was winging it this year.
“Ah, just the thing.”
He grabbed out a part of a small arm, the stump still wet, and put it in Dad’s stocking. Mom got a foot; it still had a slipper on it, the bell at the end of the footwear jangling lightly as he stuffed it down into the woman’s stocking. Jeffrey received three loose fingers, and Tommy got a handful of broken teeth.
He tied the bag and was about to climb back into the fireplace when he saw the milk and cookies sitting on a little table near the couch. Always milk and cookies. He walked over to the table and ate the cookies. He looked at the glass of milk, then picked it up, spit in it, and set it back down. Lactose intolerance was a bitch.
He had a hard time pulling the sack back up the chimney. It would’ve been easier to just walk out the front door with it, but then he’d have to get the attention of the reindeer so they could come down and get him. The fuckers were so stupid that they would probably just go on standing there on the roof, oblivious to his calls and shouts, until the sun came up. On the roof again, he stowed the sack and got back into the sleigh.
“Up. Up, I say!”
Another lash of the whip got them going. They lifted off the roof and climbed quickly into the sky. The speedy ascent made his stomach lurch, and he leaned over the side of the sleigh and puked. He imagined some dumb kid going out into their front yard in the morning to find their snowman covered in dried puke that still had bits of undigested cookie in it. The thought made him giggle.
At the next house, he nearly slipped off the roof when he stepped on a patch of ice. He just barely managed to stop himself from tumbling down to the ground, where he would probably have broken his back. He climbed back to his feet, got the sack from the sleigh, and was able to get down the chimney with little trouble.
He looked about, but could find no stockings. There was no tree, either. No tinsel, no lights, no nothing. Cheap bastards didn’t want to spring for decorations; so much for the holiday spirit. Their kitchen was clean and tidy. Spice rack on the wall, checked cloth on the table, a few dishes sitting in the rack by the sink. He checked their refrigerator and found a plastic container with some leftover spaghetti in it. He ate it cold, washing it down with a beer from the fridge, letting out a loud belch. He placed the empty plastic container and the fork he’d used in the sink, and tossed the beer bottle in the trash.
As he walked back to the living room, he saw a menorah sitting on a small table. Four lights had been lit. So that was why they didn’t have Christmas decorations. He shook his head, grabbed the red sack, and pulled it toward the chimney. Then he stopped, deciding to be a good sport; he would leave them something anyway. Digging around in the sack, he found something that he thought could serve as a present for the whole family. He took the severed head out of the bag and tossed it onto the couch. It bounced off and fell to the floor; he sighed as he walked over to pick it up, setting in carefully on the couch this time. It left behind a red smear on the white carpet, and he hoped the homeowners wouldn’t be too upset about it.
Looking at the head lying there on the couch, he had the feeling that he was forgetting something. Then he remembered, and he went back and searched in the bag until he found the pointy little hat. He propped the head up so that it was in an upright position. When he got it to stay without falling over, he placed the hat on top of it, then took a step back to admire his handiwork. The eyes were partially open; there was an empty look in them. The thin lips were pulled back so that one could see the little guy’s perfect teeth.
Then it was back up the chimney, and shortly after that, he was in the air again. So many houses, so many kids, so much want and need. Well, these days it was mostly want. He spied a house down below that had a plastic doppelganger of him displayed on the front lawn. This faux version of him was riding in a plastic sleigh that looked much like the real one, and the sleigh was fronted by eight plastic reindeer. The plastic man didn’t have a whip, but the real one did, and now he used it, driving the beasts down until they landed on the roof of the home.
Once again, he had trouble getting down the chimney, but eventually, he made it to the bottom. He pulled the big red bag into the middle of the family room. On the coffee table, he found a plate of little gingerbread men. Their eyes were raisins, and their smiles were white frosting. There was no glass of milk, and that was just fine by him. He picked the raisins off the gingerbread men and tossed them away, then ate the cookies, mashing them into his mouth all at once. He gazed around, but found no stockings. No big deal, he’d leave a present anyway.
He searched the sack and came out with a plastic container whose lid was taped shut to keep it from popping open. Red fingerprints stained the top of the lid. He tried remembering what he’d put in the container. After a moment, it came to him: it was a collection of eyeballs, green and blue and brown, some with a bit of the optical nerve still attached. He placed the container on the plate where the gingerbread cookies had been left for him.
He turned to leave, but stopped when he heard a muffled giggle. He searched around the room. There was another giggle, and then the sound of someone shooshing the giggler. The noise was coming from the dining room, which opened directly off of the living room. He saw the bottom of the tablecloth flutter.
“Quiet,” a young voice said. “He’ll hear us, Sarah.”
Oh, he had heard them all right. They were being very naughty, and they were breaking the rules. They should have been asleep; when they awoke, they would have found their present. But they just had to see him. Well, then let them get a closer look. He walked over to the table, reached down, and pulled the tablecloth up. There were two of them hiding under there. The girl, Sarah, broke into a fit of laughter.
“You found us,” she said merrily.
The boy wasn’t laughing, though; perhaps the kid had seen something in the red-suited man’s eyes that told him this was no laughing matter. Maybe the boy was just scared that the jolly old man would take their presents back to punish them for staying awake on Christmas Eve.
The girl’s laughter caught in her throat when he reached down and grabbed the boy by the arm, pulling him out from under the table. The boy tried pulling away, but he was small and weak.
“Hey,” Sarah said. “Where are you taking Billy?”
There was no merriment in her eyes now, only fear and confusion.
“Ow! You’re hurting me,” Billy said.
He kept going, dragging the boy along.
“Run and get Mom and Dad,” Billy told his sister.
Sarah didn’t move, watching as he pulled her brother toward the fireplace.
“Go get them right now!” the boy cried.
She moved then, crawling out from under the table and running down the hall toward the bedrooms.
“Mommy! Daddy! Santa’s gone crazy and he’s trying to take Billy!”
He looked at the big red bag full of gruesome treasures; he knew he’d never make it up the chimney with both the boy and the bag. He chose to leave the bag, and pulled the boy behind him as he made his way up the chimney.
“Let me go! Let me go, you fat bastard!”
Today’s youth were so disrespectful. He thought it came down to lax parenting.
The reindeer chuffed as he dragged the struggling boy along the roof, and he tossed the boy into the sleigh before climbing in. With whip in hand, he got them up into the air again, and the house below got smaller and smaller as they left it behind. The boy was crying, and snot was running from his nose.
“Take me back home,” Billy said.
“Shut your trap, kid.”
“I thought you w-were s-s-supposed to be n-nice.”
“And I thought you were supposed to be asleep.”
“I’m sorry. We’ll never do it again, I swear. I’m so sorryyyyy!”
The kid was irritating to listen to. He grabbed the boy by the shirt and lifted him off the floor of the sleigh.
“Tell you what, Billy. Since you apologized and promised never to do it again, I’m going to let you go. Okay?”
Hope dawned in the boy’s eyes.
“Yes, yes, thank you, I promise, never do it again, thank you…”
“Okay, shut up.”
The boy stopped babbling.
They were passing over the lighted downtown of some unknown suburb.
“So long, fuckface,” he said as he heaved the boy over the side.
Billy screamed as he fell; the scream was cut off as the kid landed in the middle of an empty intersection.
He was glad to be rid of the bothersome boy, but now he didn’t know what to do. He had no more presents to deliver because he’d left the sack at Billy’s house. He could go back for it, but he supposed the family wouldn’t be too keen on returning it to him. With nothing left to do, he headed back north. A lot of kids would go without presents tonight, but so what? They wouldn’t’ve been grateful anyway. He was going to head back home and make himself some of that hot cocoa, and then he’d sit back and catch up on some of his favorite shows. The place would be nice and quiet now that the elves were all gone.