I sigh, stretch, and push myself away from my laptop. I let the chair spin for before lazily dragging my foot to stop it. I had been working on a new story. One about Christmas, and the horrors it includes. It was pretty cheesy, and all the ideas felt recycled. Psycho elves, murderous Santas, hungry reindeer, you know the drill. I want to give up, but I have abandoned enough projects. My cat, Sam, rubs against my legs and purrs. I pick him up and he lays on my lap for a minute. Sometimes, I don’t mind this life. I stay by myself and nobody bothers me. It’s moments like this that I feel guiltiest for wanting more. I know I’ve got nothing going on. If I died right now in my chair, nobody would notice. I look at the time, and realize it’s past midnight already. I pull myself out of my chair and flop face-first on my bed. I rearrange my covers and close my eyes. Right as I drift off, I swear I hear tiny footsteps, a giggle, and the ring of a bell.
My eyes snap open. I prop myself up on my elbows and check my clock. It’s only 2 AM. I look out the window and see snow. It’s Christmas day. I can’t believe I forgot. The snow is falling so perfectly; it almost feels like my story. I hear that damn bell again, and turn towards my door.
I cautiously walk out of my room and turn my hallway light on. I quietly make my way downstairs and turn on all the lights in my house. Nobody’s here. I notice a present under my tree. It’s a medium-sized box, wrapped in dark red paper. I don’t remember putting it there.
I kneel down as I approach the box. I carefully tear off the paper. The box is red, too. I open the box and immediately vomit. My cat is in it, his formerly gray and black striped body now red. An eyeball has fallen out of its socket. His entrails have been used to tie his paws together. Mutilated beyond recognition, the only way I know it’s him is because of his dark blue collar sitting on top of his matted fur. I vomit again and start crying. I pick up his collar. His name has been crossed out.
I run back up to my room and slam the door. On my wall, ‘Merry Christmas’ has been written on my walls, in what looks like blood. I run to my computer to check for internet connectivity. My phone was left downstairs, so that is out of the question. My computer turns on, and there, displayed on the screen, is my story. I read through it, and it starts sounding familiar. The main character’s pet gets brutally slaughtered, and then the main character must fight for her life against Christmas gone wrong.
I know what will happen next, and I’m terrified. Every cliché in the book is about to become alive. Everything that I laugh at in my stories is about to kill me. I do a quick check of my closet and under my bed before plopping myself down in front of the door. I start crying again, but shut up when I hear something prancing on the rooftop, and right on cue, out jumps good old Santa Claus. The reindeer are here.
I scramble to my feet and start barricading my door. I hear slow, heavy steps coming up my stairs. I open my window and throw my fire ladder out. I run to my backpack, empty it out, and put my laptop in it. I need to keep track of my enemies. Suddenly, I’m determined to survive. I pull my tangled hair into a ponytail, slip-on shoes, and put on my jacket. Something starts pounding on my door.
I swing my leg over the windowsill and start climbing down. My door splinters open and two elves riding a reindeer burst through. I consider jumping, but I’m on the second floor. I climb faster, but only get about halfway down before I see an elf peek out the window. He looks like something you would see in a Christmas movie. He has pink, rosy cheeks and shiny black hair. He smiles cruelly and pulls out a knife to cut my rope. He smiles and waves as I fall.
At first, I can’t breathe. I desperately gasp before finally getting a short breath. Something cold lands on my face. I feel around me. I landed on snow. It’s snowing! The wind picks up. It’s like it started just for me! I start laughing. My hysterical laughter rings through the yard. I wave my arms around me, making this strange snow angel.
I stand back up, brushing off my clothes, and bump my backpack. My laptop! I landed right on top of it! I can’t believe I forgot about it!
I shrug my bag off and unzip it. My computer is in two pieces. I don’t know what to do next. I can’t remember what happens next. How will I survive?
“No,” I say to myself. “I will not be beaten by a children’s legend and furries!” I decide to go in through the back door, mainly because my fence is too tall to climb. I must have left it unlocked last night, because it swings open with ease. I don’t trust this, but I’m out of choices and time.
A horrifying scene greets me upon entry. The walls are streaked with blood. It looks fresh. The stove has a big pot boiling on it. I take a knife from the block and slowly approach it. I turn off the gas and peek inside. In it, there’s a bright red Santa hat. Why would he boil his own hat? Nothing they do makes sense. This isn’t how the story goes. I broke the only copy of the story, so it should stop! Right? What if since they aren’t bound to the story, they are free? If they are free, only one thing will distinguish my character from me. My character will have survived. I grip the knife tighter and continue through the kitchen.
I make my way through the living room and back to the Christmas tree. The “present” is gone, but the memory and bloodstains are not. I hear bells again. I whip around violently and face the chimney. I hear someone softly chanting “ho, ho, ho” over and over. I want to scream and cover my ears, do anything to stop it. It’s not jolly or happy. Just a monotonous mantra.
I want to light a fire under his ass, but the logs have been removed. Instead, I run back upstairs, knowing they’re all watching me, chasing me. I’m not just paranoid. I can hear them whispering, laughing at me. Following me. I slide under my bed. My elbow hits something and I feel a sharp, stabbing pain. I pull the mystery object out of my arm and inspect it. It’s a piece of wood. It’s painted midnight blue, with silver and gold stars. It’s a part of my door. My door has been destroyed and is scattered around my room. I have no other cover.
Heavy, deliberate footsteps ascend my staircase, followed by light, quick ones. The heavy ones must be Santa and the light ones must be the elves. His reindeer are gone. Shiny black boots appear at my door and I hold my breath. They slowly meander over to my bed and stand in front of it.
I remember that when I was little, I was scared of Santa. I refused to sit on his lap. Or write letters. Or recognize Christmas. For me, it was just another day. I’m not sure why I was so scared of Santa back then, but I know why I’m scared now. In all honesty, I feel I have the right to be petrified of Santa if I survive this.
Who am I kidding? There’s no way I stand a chance. There are no superheroes to save me. No mom to sit with me so she could just get one goddamn picture.
My name is Aubrey Green. I am 24 years old. Last week was my birthday. I have red frizzy hair and freckles. I code for a living. I never met my neighbors. I haven’t spoken to my mother in almost a year and I haven’t seen my dad since I was 10. I was bullied a lot as a kid and have self-harm scars. I’m still wearing my pajamas, a pink and black tank top, black shorts, and pink knee-high socks that look like cats.
I hear sirens.
In a few hours, my mother will receive a call. She’ll fall to her knees and cry, but she’ll be okay in time. The sirens are closer, but not close enough. Someone cared about me enough to call for help. The only problem is, soon, none of that will matter, because in a few seconds, I will be dead.
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