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‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring; except those in Wesley’s room. They’d been there since he could remember, creeping in the shadows, crawling beneath his bed. Long, sharp talons scratching lines in the wood floor that only he took note of. His parents called it an overactive imagination, and disregarded his terror as childish fantasies.

Christmas was the one time of the year when his fears seemed to have abated until just recently. To dissuade him from peeking when Santa came to visit, his stepdad told him that if Santa ever caught a kid up on Christmas morning, he would snatch his eyes right out of his head, blinding him for life. In just that instant, Santa was morphed from a fat, jolly man to an evil, twisted creature with long, bony fingers and sharp teeth that he would use to chew the soft, gooey eyes of small children.

Anyone who knew Wesley knew he wasn’t your average playful kid with a vivid imagination. Quite the contrary, he didn’t watch TV or cartoons, and he preferred learning about science and arithmetic as opposed to reading and writing. His constant fears were a result of numerous phobias that assailed him, from nyctophobia to coulrophobia. He even cried incessantly in big crowds as an infant.

So when at the age of 9 he still wanted to crawl in bed with his mom and dad on a nightly basis, Bruce finally put his foot down. Since then he dared not set foot in his parents’ room after dark for fear of another ruthless beating. Wesley began seeing a child psychologist for the next two years, but his crippling fears had still not been put to rest, and his poor, tired mother was convinced they never would.

Where, then, were his strange morbid fantasies of elongated white faces with empty peering eye sockets and gaping bloody mouths coming from on a near nightly basis? Why, when there was nothing physically wrong with him, did he wet the bed so frequently? Certainly it couldn’t help his condition any that his stepdad often threatened to hang his piss-stained bed sheets on a wire in the front-yard for the neighbor kids to see.

Wesley had been awake for the past five hours, shivering in terror as he awaited the visit from the Evil Saint Nick. He kept his blanket pulled all the way up over the top of his head so he couldn’t see them (that way they couldn’t see him). He made not a sound as tears moistened his cheeks. It was the dead of the night when he heard the soft plodding of hooves on his roof. It was him, it was Santa Claus!

He knew this should bring him joy but he couldn’t help but visualize the horrid creature breaking into his house. Dressed in a large red coat that hung from him like a robe, Evil Santa hopped from his sleigh. His sunken cheeks covered in a grizzled white beard, he hauled his bag from the sleigh onto his back. Wide, bloodshot, lidless eyes peered every which way as he crept to the chimney. Boney fingers tipped in razor sharp talons whipped the sack from his back and dropped it down the chimney ahead of himself.

He could hear as the ancient creature slid down his chimney, kicking up soot in his descent. Apparently he wasn’t the only one who could hear this, he realized, as he heard a lamp click in his parents’ room across the hall. Soft whispers preceded long slow shuffles across the polished wood floor into the hallway. He could hear the rattling of the baubles on the Christmas tree across the house as the footsteps leading from his parents’ room neared the living room. He could feel his kidneys filling, as his terror mounted. He could envision his stepdad stepping into the living room to see the ever-so-old creature bent over in front of the Christmas tree, placing gift boxes. He could see the sharp knots along his spine pressing through the cotton of his red coat, and the knees of his long legs bent as he crouched, absorbed in his work.

His fantasy dissolved as he heard a sudden awkward yelp, and then silence. The silence was the worst part…because any number of things could be happening now, but he could not see them in his mind. The silence was thick and oppressive, and he pulled the bed sheets tighter about him as he felt the darkness closing in. The ringing in his ears gained pitch and he squeezed his eyes shut tightly, until finally the silence was broken by a soft whish from the direction of the living room. There was another soft pitter patter of footsteps across the roof, and then he could hear the hooves, loud like thunder now, stomping across the roof. Then more silence, unbroken until daylight.

That morning, Wesley found a number of great presents under his tree. Toys he’d wished for but never dared ask for. And for just that brief time, all his fears and worries were forgotten, until he got to the final box with a crude hurried label “To: Wesley – From: Saint Nick”

He ripped the packing off, and unfolded the lid. Wrapping paper inside, stained red, started his heart beating faster in his chest. His mother drew close to his side as he pulled it away. There lay Bruce’s head, empty sockets peering up at him, jaw gaping in a silent scream. He could hear jolly old Saint Nick laughing mischievously somewhere far, far away.

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