Santa’s eyes glowed red as I died; a deep scarlet hue that clashed with both his ruddy cheeks and the cheap polyester of his suit. As his fat slug lips puffed and spat with exertion, the milky droplets reflected the garish Christmas tree lights that were blinking, boldly behind his wilting hat. It was a sodden firework display for an audience of one. When my head was spinning and my ears were ringing, I found it funny. I don’t find it funny now.
Many years later and Halloween descends upon me with a hint of foreboding. From my perch I watch children, grotesquely dressed, in shredded sheets and doused with lumpy fake ketchup blood that smells of glue. They tell horror stories around sparking campfires, marshmallows burning and dripping into the flames as enraptured mouths gape and stomachs roll. Eyeless faces enveloped in musty grey cloaks are chasing them within their innocent minds, they are tense and ready to jump and I long to cry out to them. Oblivious are they to the monster sitting cross-legged among them, he who wrapped thick, plaid blankets around their goose bumped legs to keep them warm in the bitter night air. For Santa is not Santa until winter.
December spurs a nauseous tingle that creeps from my toes like an arresting vine of poison ivy and I am gripped tightly in its shackles. My world becomes a cacophony of scent and sound; uneasy sensations crash relentlessly over me, leaving me blind and helpless. By December Santa is hunting.
Since my death I have been stuck here, suspended over Santa, connected to him like a stuffed parrot sewn onto the arm of a television pirate. I dream of breaking free and flying, weightless, into the air but I can’t; I am attached to invisible strings, like a disapproving attendant puppet. I often wonder why I’m alone and the many others he’s killed are not here with me, keeping watch, like a brigade of airborne sentries. Why just me? Why, for me, is my torture unceasing?
That first year, I felt that I could stop him, so I waited, hunched and coiled; ready to spring when the time was right. I watched as Santa peered through crystalline windows, a quiver playing upon his top lip as he hid in prickling rose bushes, watching intently as attractive young women tipped claret mulled wine into wide, greedy mouths. A drip or spill onto their shirts would cause him to catch his breath with longing and my hollowed gut would lurch. I could feel his excitement building as he imagined dipping his fluffy, white whiskers to their chests while metallic ruby liquid bloomed on his eager lips.
I would follow, fearfully, as Santa’s coal black boots clomped discordantly in the path of calf-legged girls in ill-fitting stiletto heels. I would swoop violently above them, willing with all my might that they’d feel my forceful warning. Although they tugged tighter on their oversized scarves; the tension in the cotton marking tracks on their milk-white necks, or quickened their steps in time to their anxious heartbeats, they continued on their journeys alone. They walked willingly into the velvet darkness of whichever Park or forest that offered the shortest way home. And the best hunting opportunity to Santa.
In desperation, I would gust a deep blue wind that shuffled and rattled the trees; and I would force discarded bags of plastic up into the air to perform beautiful acrobatic tricks, yet, the girls travelled onwards. Santa followed at an easy distance behind, his determination and excitement growing with each thudding step. I tried pushing him back, garnering all my strength to become a wall in order to slow him down but his hunger was relentless. He walked through me like I was nothing, committing more careless assaults on my being.
When the first girl spotted Santa, she released a sigh of relief and a smile spread widely on her mouth as he approached her. I willed her to run, to hide among the trees that cast angry shadows on the nearby boating lake. But she didn’t. Instead, she paused, then waited for him to approach her. A large red sack and black gloved hands are not so frightening on Santa Claus, even when he has the sack firmly over your head and your mouth gagged; a musty tang of smoke and blood emanating putridly from the ragged material.
Each girl was the same. They all acted the same. Even me before them.
When they were drugged, he would drag them, like drooping rag dolls, through streets thronged with party goers. He would wave at passers-by and shout a jolly “ho ho ho!” They were a drunken couple returning from a festive event, they blended right in. Santa grew tall at this time, he was a celebrity devil stalking proudly among the converted as his followers waved, shouted and cheered as, like a sacrificial white lamb, his victim is paraded to her death. Santa can do no wrong.
I screamed until my throat was dust, yet the screams were swallowed by carols and chiming charity bells. Eggnog glazed eyes peered, unblinking, through the husk of my body that Santa had drained, I was invisible.
He would take them to his little log cabin in the woods, like the gingerbread house in the fairytale it was sweetly inviting. Festooned in green, gold and red, it had a glowing sign in the garden that read, “Santa lives here.”
I cannot enter the house when we arrive; after my death, I never could. Instead, I perch, dejected, on the drooping branches of an ash tree that sways outside a small window; the dirty glass now cracked from my wearied thrashing and thumping. I’m too tired to fight the inevitable now. I am weak and cold, and so very sad. I know that I can do nothing, every Christmas more souls will be released, to go wherever the others are able to go. I hope it is somewhere lovely, somewhere warm and sunny; somewhere Santa doesn’t exist.
Each year, Santa grows larger and bolder and I cry, keen and purge my distress into the deaf cover of cloud above.