It was Christmas Eve, and Roman couldn’t sleep. His four-year-old brain was buzzing with excitement for the morning. He wanted it to come as soon as possible, but he h
ad a problem. Even with his eyes shut as tight as they would go, he couldn’t seem to drift off.
Then, something happened that made it even harder to fall asleep. He heard something, a creaking, squeaking sound coming from the living room down the apartment hall.
Roman sat up in bed, wondering what the sound was. His older brother, Russell, was snoring in his room next door to Roman’s. It couldn’t be him.
Thinking that it might be his parents still up, he crawled from his bed. They’d told him that they were going to sleep just as soon as he did! If they weren’t in bed, Santa wouldn’t come. What were they doing?
The temperature was much colder outside in the hallway. He shivered in his pajamas, and continued toward the living room. He was fully prepared to tell of his parents in the most four-year-old manner possible.
When he reached the living room, though, he didn’t see his mother or father. Instead, standing in the light of the Christmas tree, was a tall man, dressed in a red, furred suit with white trim.
He was bone thin, his suit hanging from a skeletal frame. The suit itself was far from clean. It was covered in tears and burn marks and stained with something that had caused the fur to stiffen up and darken. Parts of the white trim were red as well.
There was a foul smell coming from him, sweet in a way but wrong. The man turned around when he heard Roman come into the room. He was holding a black trash bag. Something was squirming inside of it, making a faint whimpering sound.
“Ho, Ho, Ho!” the man said, grinning at Roman. “Merry Christmas, little boy! Shouldn’t you be in bed?”
His face was as thin as the rest of him. His eyes and cheekbones were protruding, his skin stretched over the bones like a sheet on a bed.
“You, you’re not Santa,” Roman said.
“Not Santa?” the man asked. His voice was high pitched, almost enough to hurt Roman’s ears. “What do you mean, I’m not Santa? Who else would I be?”
“Santa’s fat,” Roman said.
The man laughed again and reached into his trash bag. “But if I’m not Santa, why do I have a present for you?”
He pulled out a shoebox, old and wet. There was a red bow on top that looked like it was stained as well. “Here you go,” he said, holding it out for Roman.
The little boy took the box and pulled off the tattered lid. Inside was a black handgun, shining in the light of the tree.
“Merry Christmas!” the man said, grinning.
And without another word, he went to the open window and climbed out onto the fire escape.
“Wow,” Roman said, pulling the gun from the box. It was heavier than any of the other toys guns he’d owned.
From down the hall, he heard his brother’s bedroom door open. Russell stumbled out, scratching his head. “Hey, little man,” he said, “Who were you talking to?”
“Santa!” Roman said, excitedly. He held up the gun and pointed it at his brother. “Look what he brought me!”
Copyright © 2017 By Nicole C. Luttrell
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