The Last Christmas

November 11, 2010
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Emily Shien lay awake on her flower printed bed. It’s Christmas Eve. She can’t force herself to close her eyes and wait for sleep to drag her into blissful unconsciousness. As much as she wishes for her dreams to take sweep her away, terror of what waits in the hours to come keeps her mind whirling. Tonight’s the dreadful night when Santa Clause comes to town; or as she likes to call him, Cringe Cringle. Every December 24th he rides into town on his reindeer pulled sleigh. The other kids adore him. They say he’s giving and loving and wishes for joy to spread to across the world. But she knows better than to believe what anyone else says.

Ever since Emily was four years old, Santa Clause has haunted her Christmas. Every Christmas Eve, he sneaks into her home and tears through her family’s possessions. He smashes the photos on the walls, rips apart the cabinets, and destroys the Christmas decorations that fill each room. It’s as if he breaks his way into her home in search of something. What that something is, however, she has no idea. Every year he leaves at midnight, cursing at Edgar, his elf companion who accompanies him on his Christmas deliveries. Loving and giving? Emily thought, more like terrifying and tear inducing. She waits for him to come, staying up until he’s gone and her house is safe once again. When he finally takes off, she sneaks down the small flight of stairs leading into her living room to perceive the destruction the ghastly Cringe Cringle had left behind. Funny thing is, by morning the mess is always gone. Perfectly wrapped presents are always tucked neatly under the glowing tree, her torn home put back together as if Santa Clause didn’t come the night before and destroy everything. She wishes to tell someone about Santa’s true character, but with the destruction gone by morning, how would she prove it? With neatly wrapped presents, and stuffed stockings hanging on a mantel? Or maybe even half eaten chocolate chip cookies and an empty glass of milk? Yeah, people would really believe Santa is actually an evil psychopath that destroys little girl’s homes for no good reason with that evidence.

A loud thump on the roof above causes Emily’s heart to stop for a brief second, before pounding into overdrive in her tiny chest. She can hear two pair of feet flop onto the roof. He’s here and, from the sounds of the footsteps above, has brought Edgar along as well. She opens the window next to her bed and listens quietly as the ghouls above speak.

“Why do we bother coming back to this house? We’ve searched this place over and over for the past six years, and nothing has ever turned up.” It was Edgar who spoke first, his squeaky voice irritated.

“That little brat down there has the Sacred Cane, Edgar. I can feel it. And I’m not leaving this house until it’s safely in my hands.” Cringe Cringle spoke as though his precious Edgar were getting on his nerves.

Emily wonders in the dark what the ghouls on her roof are talking about. She takes deep, steady breathes to try and control the pounding in her ears. She strains to hear the two creatures more clearly.

“And how exactly do you plan to do that? Beat the child senseless?” Edgar spoke teasingly with a hint of trepidation laced around his words.

“You think I won’t? That stupid little girl is down there with the most powerful artifact in the North Pole. I’ll do whatever it takes to get it from her; even if I have to bring out the machine to do so.”

What’s the machine? Emily has a horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach that she would soon find out exactly what this machine was. A soft whimper escapes her dry lips. She thrusts her hand over her mouth before the creatures above realize she’s awake.

“You could be wrong, Clause” Edgar protested. He sounds concerned about something. “And I’m not letting you take me down with you if you are.”

“I’m not, and I won’t. Besides, I always have a backup plan. I know some people who will clean up the mess if this doesn’t end well.” Santa was beginning to sound impatient with his little friend.

What on earth is going on? Emily thought. What do they want from me? Emily could feel panic rise from the pit of her stomach, threatening to escape her lips in a cry for help. She bites down hard on her pillow to silence the unwelcomed plea. The backs of her eyes sting as salty tears begin to form in their ducts. The first droplet makes its way silently down her freckle dusted cheek.

“We should be certain that the girl has the Sacred Cane before we start thinking about taking such drastic measures.” Edgar’s stern voice held a hint of outrage. Santa didn’t seem to notice.

“Now you listen to me, Edgar. That little girl has the key to enslave the entire world. If she has to get hurt, or die even, in order for me to get my hands on that Cane, then so be it. What’s one meaningless life for a thousand years of power?” When Edgar didn’t reply, Santa continued. “Now, if you’re quite finished doubting me, let’s get a move on. There are only a few more hours until midnight, and we haven’t even started yet.”

Emily’s stomach does uncomfortable flips as she concentrates on the muffled sound of shuffling feet above. They’re on their way. When the shuffling stops, she focuses her attention once again to the voices on the roof.

“What do you have behind your back, Edgar?” There was a hitch in Santa’s voice, and Emily realized he was suddenly taken off guard. “Where did you get that?”

“What, this little thing?” Edgar’s voice held amusement as he spoke. “I found it four years ago in the girl’s bedroom. As I suspected, you’re too dumb to have noticed that I’ve been keeping it hidden from you all these years.” His voice suddenly took on a superior tone.

“Give me the Sacred Cane, Edgar.” Santa’s voice seethed with anger.

“You know? I don’t think I will, Clause.” Edgar obviously has the upper hand.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Santa couldn’t hide the threads of fear weaving its way into his strangled voice.

“I’m giving you one last chance. You can give up and go home now, or I can finally rid this world of your vile presence.” Edgar spoke to Santa as if he were a parent scolding a child; annoyed and a little unconcerned “Choose wisely, Clause, you’re running out of time.”

“There’s not a snow-ball’s chance in hell I’m giving up. I’ve worked on finding that cane my entire life! You can’t take it away from me, I won’t allow it.” Santa’s voice was a fake wave of rage. He’s trying to intimidate Edgar. It isn’t working.

Edgar let out an impatient sigh. “You’re done, Clause. This is it; the end of the line.”

Emily sat in her dark room, puzzled. This is nuts She thought, her heart still pounding. It’s official; I’ve completely lost my mind.

“Why are you doing this?” Santa’s voice is ragged; beaten. He can’t win and he knows it.

“Do you really have to ask?” Edgar’s voice is deadly calm.

“You’ve tormented little children for hundreds of years, trying to find the Sacred Cane. You’ve weaved a delicate web of lies through the minds of millions to get the world to love you. I’m surprised The Council had let this go on for as long as it had. But we had to ensure the safety of the Sacred Cane before we could do anything about you.”

Emily listened as light foot-steps sounded across her ceiling.

“Edgar, stop. You can’t do this to me! Think about all of the power. All of it could be ours; we could rule the world together!” Santa pleaded; the failed last attempt at winning making him seem weak.

“I don’t care about power, Clause. Unlike you, I actually care about the children.” Edgar’s voice was fierce as a blinding flash of pink light filled the sky.

An earsplitting scream filled Emily’s ears, followed by a muffled thump on the ground beneath her window. She opened the screen leading outside, and stuck her head through the small gap to look at the ground below. Lying face first in red-tinted snow is Cringe Cringle. Emily covers her mouth as a scream threatens to escape. She turns her head towards the roof and sees Edgar looking down at her.

“See you around, kid.” Was all he said before giving Emily a reassuring smile and winked. He set off into the frosty winter night; nine reindeer leading the way back to the North Pole. Emily caught a glimpse of something shiny tucked securely under the elf’s arm. That must be the Sacred Cane, She thought to herself. She looks at the ground below once again. A sparkling light engulfs the still body lying in the snow. Santa’s corpse slowly dissolves into a glittering flash of bright, yellow light. After a moments time, nothing remains of the dead man but a slight tint of red and an imprint of his frame in the white blanket casing her back yard.
Emily wakes from her hideous nightmare in a cold sweat on Christmas morning. It was only a dream? She thought; trying to rub her fierce head-ache away through her temples. She looks out her window and gapes in horror. In the snow lays the same red-tinted imprint Cringe Cringle had left when he had fallen from the roof-top the night before. “It wasn’t a dream at all,” Emily says aloud, “It was real.”

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