THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!
The breeze sneaked through the crack in the window as the noises in the house disturbed Adam Ballinger from his slumber. He rustled under his covers, feeling the cold tickle his feet. This was no ordinary Christmas Eve; there was something whispering in the trees. Lifting himself from the bed, the young boy rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Another thump from downstairs made him thrilled that Santa had finally arrived. He swung his feet from the bed and tiptoed across the oak floor. Not one little peep came from the boy’s mouth.
A jingle and jangle echoed from the tree downstairs just around the corner from the last step of the stairs. He pressed his back to the wall, cautiously creeping to investigate the noises, but there was something sinister in the air. It was not jolly and filled with joy. Tonight the cold air was like a ghost warning him to run back upstairs and hide under his bed.
The wicked giggle broke the silence. An eruption of sparks and whistles cascaded around the corner. Adam continued to the final stair and when he peeked around the corner Santa was not there. It was an estranged elf sitting at the stoop of the fireplace. A cigar balanced between his fiery red lips and his round doll eyes twinkled with a blaze of hate. The boy stepped into the doorway and watched the elf blow a puff of smoke from his mouth. The bell jingled from the end of his hat as he rubbed the stubble across his jaw.
“Where is Santa?” Adam asked with a shiver. “And why are you not in his workshop?”
“Kid, it’s all a lie. There is no Santa Claus that funnels down the chimney or reindeer that fly. Your mother and father lied. It is all a hoax to distract you from reality.” The elf coughed and got to his feet. His green shoes curled back like the ends of candy canes.
“Who are you? Why are you saying those things?” He stepped back to the doorway. His eyes rolled over to the staircase, where the shadows toiled from the tree branches outside.
“I’m the helper that haunts your dreams on Christmas Eve. The Christmas spirit you never hear about in the dark abyss.” The elf walked towards Adam and flicked the cigar into the tree. The embers caught the rug on fire and the branches engulfed in flames instantly.
Adam watched as the joy turned to horror. He tripped on the first step and crawled to the top landing. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw saliva dripping from the elf’s sharp teeth, the elf’s eyes thirsting for Adam’s blood. He ran down the hallway, but the door extended further from him. His tiny little fingers wiggled in the air, but he could not reach the door handle. A tug on his ankle made him roll across the floor. When he flipped over onto his back, he saw the elf overpowering him and glaring down at him like an insane elf from hell. Adam crossed his arms over his eyes.
“Mom, Dad, help me!” His cries rattled the walls of the hall and a light consumed the darkness. “Help!” he screamed as the elf’s sharp nails dug into his neck.
The bitter cold no longer gave him chills. Heat underneath his back and around his face made him cry harder. Flames surrounded him and smoke billowed overhead.
The noise pounded in his head as a hand grabbed him from the hallway. His body was whipped into the air and he was hung over someone’s shoulder like a sack. His eyes burned from the heat and he dared not try to speak. A final jolt through the front door brought the cold Christmas air rippling down his back. He looked up into the sky at the white specks of snow, the moon hanging high, and the trees rustling in the wind. When he saw the fire truck and the police cruisers in the cul-de-sac, he realized the fire had consumed the house.
“You’re going to be okay, kid!” the firefighter yelled, plopping Adam onto the back of an ambulance. The man turned to the police. “I’m going back in to find any other survivors.”
Adam watched the windows explode, shards of glass glistening in the air. Pieces of the curtain fabric blew through the broken windows. It was a ruined Christmas for Adam, but was the elf only a dream? He looked up towards his parents’ bedroom. There was the menace, blood dripping from his lips. The glint from his mother’s wedding ring twinkled from the severed hand. It was not a dream, the fire was a distraction and Christmas was the fuel that awakened the beast.
A blinding light flashed over Adam’s shoulder. He saw his father running towards him with another woman – the neighbor a few houses down. Adam closed his eyes as tears rolled down his cheeks, but all the chaos disappeared in a matter of a blink. A chill brushed his sleeve, and when he opened his eyes, he heard the sound again.
THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!
The room was black and the chill from the open window tickled his feet. He was excited because Santa was finally here. Adam flipped his feet over the side of the bed and ran to the door. He raced down the hall to the stairs where an orange glow lit the foyer below. When he turned the corner, the elf was waiting with a blood-stained grin. The elf dragged his feet towards the boy and flicked the cigar at the tree. Flames engulfed it instantly.
“You thought you could run. How did that work for you? You even hid like a mouse in a hole. You will always remember this night especially because you caused your mother’s death.” The elf gestured its head towards the floor.
Adam looked down and there was the culprit: a pack of matches between his feet. He turned around to discover the fire consumed the walkway behind him. The elf’s lips curled back into his mouth as he reached out to grab Adam.
“They all think they can escape their nightmares, but your fate was already decided when you died with the flames…”
William Lloyd Biography
William Lloyd has a home in Atlanta, Georgia, where he enjoys spending his days playing music and watching football. His specialty genres are horror and suspense as well as science fiction/fantasy. He released his first novel Horizon in May 2014 and is currently working on a new novella called Afterlife: What Happens Next. He loves playing golf, video games on PlayStation 3, and reading horror novels in the evenings. He attended college at the Art Institute of Atlanta, where he studied Audio and Video Production.