Merry Christmas… from my family to you. Today, since it is such a special day, I offer you TWO Christmas Takeover stories from TWO really awesome authors with a lot of talent. This first one, Naughty Claus, is from Chris Miller.
A Story by Chris Miller
Caleb’s mother kissed him goodnight as his father stood by his bedside, beaming a smile of pride.
“Good night, baby,” his mother said as she rose next to his father.
“You go on to sleep right away now, you hear?” his father said, a humorous look on his face, his finger waving. “Santa’s going to be along any time now, and if you’re awake, well…”
He trailed off, shrugging.
“I know, I know,” Caleb said, nodding furiously, a deadly serious look upon his face. “If we’re awake on Christmas Eve, Santa won’t leave us any presents!”
“That’s right, pal!” his father said, giving him an affectionate squeeze on his shoulder. “Now, off to sleep.”
As his mother reached for the lamp next to his bed, Caleb asked, “You have to make sure Rachel goes to sleep, too! Tell her she can’t get up like she does all the—”
“Yes, yes,” his father placated him, waving his hands before him like a pair of palm branches. “We’re going to her next, don’t you worry.”
Caleb smiled—relieved now—and pulled his comforter up to his chin as the light was switched off. The soft glow of the moon filtered in through the crusted snow and ice outside his window causing shadows to dance across his walls. He could imagine Santa out there now, riding his sleigh, slipping down chimney’s and delivering joy the world over. At eight years old, Caleb had already begun to hear the awful rumors that Santa Claus wasn’t actually real, but he dismissed these claims outright. His parents had never lied to him, he was sure of it, and they said Santa was a real as they were. So, he had to be real.
He closed his eyes against the glow of the moon, his face nearly split in half with a smile as he heard his parents saying good night to his sister Rachel. He hoped she would listen and not get up. It would ruin everything if Santa didn’t leave them any presents because she broke the rules about getting to bed on Christmas Eve.
The door to Rachel’s room shut in the hallway with a quiet click, and Caleb peeked one eye open just a sliver. His own door hung open a quarter of the way, and he could see his mother coming down the hall, his father close behind.
“Finally,” his father was saying, a long sigh chasing the word. “Now we can get a fucking drink.”
“Richard!” his mother said, spinning around to face him. “Caleb might still be awake.”
“Are you kidding me?” his dad said. “Janie, honey, that boy’s so terrified of Santa not stopping by, he probably knocked himself out with a hammer as soon as we left the room, for Christ’s sake.”
“Well,” his mother said, resigning to his reasoning, “maybe you’re right.”
Caleb kept his body still in the dark room, his right eye the only giveaway that he was awake as he watched his parents interacting in the hall outside his door.
“You’re goddamn right I’m right,” his dad said. “So, let’s get those drinks, what do you say? Then I’ll show you why they call me Big Dick.”
Caleb’s mom was laughing softly now, her hand on his dad’s chest.
“Oh, I have an inkling as to why the call you that. Maybe, if you’re really nice, I’ll show you why I’m so…anal.”
Now they were both laughing as they moved on past the door and down the stairs.
“Ooh, you’re so naughty!” Caleb heard his dad say as their footfalls descended the stairs.
He had no idea what they were talking about. He’d heard his dad’s friends call him Dick plenty of times. Dick was short for Richard, after all. That’s what his mom had told him. And he had some faint memory of his father griping at his mother about how anal she was with the ‘damn hangers’. But what was shocking were the dirty words his dad had said. He’d never heard him talk like that before. Caleb had heard those words at school from some of the older kids, but never from his parents. Did they know those were bad words?
He didn’t know, but decided he’d let them know after presents and breakfast tomorrow. He didn’t want his dad to get in trouble for saying bad words.
Caleb rolled over and went to sleep. He dreamt of presents.
The white light reflecting off snow-covered rooftops lighted on his face and woke Caleb. He sat up in bed, rubbing his eyes and sluffing off sleep. Little crusty particles fell from the corners of his eyes as he did—eye-boogers is what these were called by the other kids at school—and then he was swinging his feet off the bed. He checked his clock and saw it was 7 A.M. Time to get up, get his sister, and get to opening presents. He couldn’t wait to see what Santa had brought them in the night. He’d awoke at one point in the night and thought he’d heard Santa down there, though he couldn’t be sure. Santa had seemed to be grunting loudly and making sharp “Ah-ah!” sounds now and then. It had almost sounded like two people, but Caleb knew Santa worked alone. He hadn’t wanted to make Santa angry, so he’d forced himself back to sleep.
He rushed down the hall and flung open Rachel’s door to wake her up. But she was already standing there, rubbing her eyes.
“Is it time for presents?” she asked through a yawn.
“Yeah! Come on!”
They both rushed down the hall and descended the stairs, their footfalls thumping loudly as they went. Their excited breathing heaved in and out loudly as they went.
“Mom!” Caleb cried out as they neared the ground floor. “Dad! Come on, let’s see what Santa—”
He stopped. Rachel was a second behind him and she ran face first into his back, right between his shoulders, causing him to stumble into the living room another step before righting himself. Then she was frozen next to him. Their jaws were twin, gaping yaws, reaching nearly to their waists. At least it felt like it. Caleb couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He was at first terrified, finding such a sight in his dad’s chair by the Christmas tree. But his fear quickly diminished as his young brain soaked in and began to process the information.
It was Santa Claus. He was sitting there in his big red suit, his white beard spilling down over his chest in wavy disregard. He held the glass of milk Caleb and Rachel had set out with the cookies before bed, and Santa was dunking a chocolate chip cookie into the glass. As he stuffed the dripping cookie into his mouth, his eyes flicked up as if he were only now noticing them, even though they’d been bounding loudly and shouting as they’d come down the stairs.
He took a big bite.
“Hey there, kiddies!” Santa said in a jolly tone, bits of cookie visible in his open mouth, his cheeks rosy with good cheer. “Caught me getting my snack!”
“Wh-wha—” was all Caleb could muster. Rachel continued reaching for the floor with her chin.
“You kids were my last stop of the night, and I thought I’d rest up a bit before heading back to the Pole,” Santa went on, taking another bite and eliminating the cookie. “Fine cookies, these are, I sure do appreciate you kids leaving these out for me!”
Caleb continued to stare in amazement, searching for his voice. Finally, he found it.
“Y-you’re really here?” he said in a wavering voice.
“Ho-ho-ho!” Santa bellowed gleefully, throwing his head back in laughter. “You see me sitting here, don’t ya?”
His voice was deep but soft, almost gentle. The voice of a loving grandfather. The light spilled in behind Santa, the white sheen of sunlight partially silhouetting him.
“Don’t snow much around here,” Santa went on absently. “It’s always nice to have a white Christmas, don’t ya think, kiddies?”
There were more ‘ho-ho-hos’ of laughter as Caleb and Rachel inched into the room. Where were their parents? How had they not heard all this commotion? Caleb wanted them to see Santa here, too. He couldn’t wait to tell the older kids at school about this. Their lies about Santa not being real were totally bogus, and he meant to set them straight.
“Snow is beautiful,” Rachel said through her missing teeth. It came out Snow is bootifall.
“It sure is, little lady,” Santa said smiling and leaning forward in the chair. “You should see my house, snow as faaaaar as the eye can see. You’re both welcome to visit any time. Mrs. Claus makes the best hot chocolate you ever did taste. You kiddies like hot chocolate?”
They both nodded emphatically, their eyes bright and wide.
“I’ll bet you do, ho-ho-ho!”
Then Santa’s cheery-red face grew serious.
“Have you kiddies been nice?” he asked in a flat tone. “Or have you been naughty?”
“Nice!” the both exclaimed in unison. Caleb’s breath had caught in his throat.
Now the smile returned to Santa’s face.
“Good!” he boomed cheerfully. “Well then, what say you open your presents, eh? I’ve got a few doozies here just for you!”
Caleb and Rachel both cracked smiles so wide it hurt, but they didn’t fight them. They ran towards the tree and Santa in the chair as he pulled a large red bag out from beside him and sat it down before them. He pulled out four presents, two for each of them. The paper they were wrapped in were bright, dazzling shades of red and blue and silver, with glittery bows adorning them all.
“Now, open these here first,” Santa said, handing over a pair of presents.
They tore into them with fury. Paper flew through the air like confetti and rained down all around them. Santa sat there, laughing loudly as ripped open the boxes.
Caleb had a Batman LEGO set he’d asked for specifically in the letter he’d written to Santa. His jaw fell open and he said ‘thank you’ somewhere in the neighborhood of forty-seven times within the space of two seconds.
Santa laughed all the more. “You’re welcome, Caleb!”
Rachel got the precise American Girl doll she’d asked for and similarly shared her thanks.
“Alright, kiddies,” Santa went on, handing over the other two presents. “These here are the big ones! You didn’t ask for them, but I sure think you need them.”
Confetti littered the air once more. Caleb noticed this new present was much heavier than the one with the LEGO set. He’d had to leave it on the floor instead of his lap, but that didn’t matter. He wondered what it could be as he got the bow and paper out of the way and tore open the box at the same time Rachel opened hers.
They both froze, the excited smiles still adorning their faces, but beginning to melt away like ice in rising temperatures. What Caleb was seeing simply couldn’t be. Santa had been right, he had not asked for this. But he hadn’t wanted it either. He couldn’t imagine how Santa could possibly think he needed this.
Rachel began screaming, the high-pitched shrill only a six-year-old girl can achieve. Caleb felt a similar sound building up from his stomach. Santa was laughing somewhere before them, though Caleb could not wrench his eyes away from the terrible present in front of him.
Their parents’s severed heads stared out at them from the boxes, eyes glazed and gray, tongues lolling out hideously. Blood smattered the inside of the boxes and there was an acrid odor now smarting Caleb’s nostrils.
Rachel was up and running for their parents’s bedroom. He was aware of the absurdity of this, as if there were anything in there that could do them any good, but Caleb found himself right on her heels all the same.
“Found ‘em being naughty, ho-ho-ho!” Santa boomed from behind them as they fled. “Ain’t that nice?”
Fresh guffaws of laughter issued from Santa as they burst into their parents’s room. Fresh screams of horror exploded from the children as they took in the sight.
Their parents’s bodies were on the bed, naked, their mother’s bent over on hands and knees. Their father’s headless corpse was locked in place behind her, his lap against her butt, hands gripped in a tight lock on her hips.
Blood was everywhere. It looked as though it had been slung about in strings and ropes, and it looked as though a bucket of the stuff had been dumped all over his parents and their bed.
Caleb and Rachel turned back out of their parents’s room and stopped as they saw Santa stalking towards them. He held something at his side, but Caleb couldn’t tell what it was at first with the light of the icy morning spilling in behind the jolly fat man.
“Naughty, naughty, naughty!” Santa said, chuckling all the way. “You know, it’s my job to check who’s been naughty or nice!”
Caleb couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe. Rachel seemed to be similarly transfixed.
Santa moved in closer, revealing what was in his hand. A large, red axe.
It dripped with blood.
“And let me tell you,” Santa said, all cheer draining from his face and voice alike, “You’ve all been naughty little fuckers!”
Their screams lasted only a moment.
Chris Miller is a native Texan who has been writing from an early age, but only started publishing in 2017. Since the release of his first novel, A Murder of Saints, he has released a novella – Trespass – another novel – The Hard Goodbye – a single short story – Flushed – and has been inducted into multiple anthologies, including the acclaimed And Hell Followed from Death’s Head Press, where his story “Behind Blue Eyes” appears alongside stories from Wrath James White, Jeff Strand, and The Sisters of Slaughter, just to name a few. He has another new novel coming soon, the first part of a trilogy of horror, and will be featured in more anthologies throughout the year. He is happily married to the love of his life, Aliana, and they have three beautiful children.