Christmas Takeover 20: Joanna Koch: Santa’s Eyeball

Santa’s Eyeball

A Story by Jaonna Koch
1,592 words

Lily looked at her eggs. The eggs looked back.

They shook when he laughed…

Her brothers thundered down the stairs. Two eggs sunny side up jiggled at Lily in time with the twins’ festive descent. They looked at her like yellow googly eyes on a slimy white face.

“I’m going to ride the Polar Whirlwind ten times!”

“No way. You have to take Lily on the Baby Reindeer Sleigh.”

“Mom, don’t make me waste my allowance on kiddie rides with her!”

“She still believes in Santa Claus, don’t you, Lily?”

The table rattled as the twins cavorted into their chairs. Two viscous aureoles accused Lily, unblinking.

He sees you when you’re sleeping; he knows… he knows

“No I don’t.” Lily stabbed one of the eyes on her plate to stop the wiggling. “I’m not a baby, either.” The dry crust of triangular toast burst open an invisible membrane holding back the quivering yolk. Gelatinous gold spread out and left a white crater of empty albumin. Lily gouged the second eye and smiled in triumph at the leaky sockets.

You better not cry, she thought and stuck out her tongue at her runny eggs, and then at her brothers for good measure.

Sadie, their mom, sat down with a fresh cup of coffee. “I feel so bad for poor old Santa when you kids rag on him like that. I’m just glad your father and I aren’t the ones getting bags of coal this year. We still believe in him, don’t we?”

Her husband failed to transition from phone to family. The twins sniggered. Sadie covered his confused silence with a helpful prompt. “We believe in Santa like reasonable people, don’t we, Jim?”

Jim caught on. “Oh, yeah. Heck yeah.”

“I suppose we don’t need to drag a bunch of mean-spirited doubters all the way to Elf Land for nothing. Let’s drop the kids at my sister’s. We’ll have Santa all to ourselves.”

Lily was thrilled. She dreaded seeing Santa every year. It was bad enough how he was always watching, making lists, and checking them twice with invisible, omniscient eyes. Face to face with him she felt terrified and exposed.

“Well, hot dog, that sounds like a date.” Jim winked at his wife. “Just you and me, out on the town. Grown-ups only.”

Scandalized, the twins abandoned their pessimistic stance.

“I believe in Santa. I never said I didn’t!”

“Lily’s the one who said it. Please, please, take us with you.”

Lily disdained their fickle shift. She knew they were lying. Worse, they were ruing her chance to escape Santa. Lily’s mom noticed her silence and conspired behind her coffee cup while Jim fielded the twins’ uproar. “You don’t have to pretend you don’t believe in Santa Claus, hon. Look at those boys. You’re more grown up than the two of them put together no matter what. Why don’t you finish your breakfast and put on your pretty new dress?”

Lily’s nibbled crusts stuck in the thick ochre sludge. “I’m not really hungry.”

“Okay, hon. Did you want some more juice?”

“No, thank you,” Lily said, and took her plate and silverware to the sink. She was a big girl, not a baby. She didn’t need her mom to clean up after her. And she had a plan for that miniature fruit fork she snatched from the table without anyone noticing. It would fit in her pocket perfectly after she washed and dried it.

You better watch out, you better not cry

Lily hummed the song as hot water melted the remains of coagulated eggs off her plate. She believed in Santa Claus, all right. She took the fork to her room and got ready to meet him.

Lily was glad she didn’t let her family drag her to Elf Land unarmed. The place was crawling with people, swarming like someone stepped on an ant hill that erupted with people instead of ants. People of all shapes and sizes, wearing jolly dazed smiles, red and white hats with clattering bells, jingle-jangling earrings and bracelets, and a wide variety of abhorrent crocheted tops. The Helpers, as management insisted they refer to the staff, practically danced with jauntiness and insistent grins as they performed servile, repetitive tasks.

The whole place trilled with holiday gaiety. Except for that one elf.

At least, Lily thought he must be an elf. He wore the green boots with toes that curled up on the ends and the askew pointed green cap. But he didn’t dance. He skulked. Lily kept catching him smiling strangely at her. Not the normal, vacuous smile of a Helper or guest; an oily, slippery leer. She’d spy him looking at her, turn to tell her mother, and when she turned again, he was gone.

“Of course people are looking at you, honey. You’re the most beautiful girl here.” Sadie held her daughter’s hand and followed the map to meet Santa. She stopped short. They couldn’t even see the photo booth from where they stood at the back of the line. “Oh, my. Look at all this.”

“I don’t really want to see Santa. It’s okay if you don’t want to wait, mom.”


“I’m not a baby anymore.”

“That’s true, honey. You’re growing up so fast.” Sadie smoothed the irritation out of her voice. She wondered why they didn’t have multiple Santas to get the job done more efficiently. The kids would never know. The photo booth was private anyway. “Let’s get your picture with Santa this one last time, okay? You look so pretty in your new dress. I bet if you tell him exactly what you want, you’ll get it, too.”

Lily checked her pocket for the fruit fork with her free hand. She nodded up at her mother. She was rewarded with a warm smile.

Lily loved her mother’s smile.

Hours seemed to pass. The line moved like a river of mud. Tinsel laughter trickled from the shore while the line lagged. The suspicious elf slipped in and out of the crowd like an eel. Lily glimpsed him more often as they moved to the head of the line. When it was Lily’s turn to enter Santa’s private quarters, the eel-elf stepped up and took her hand to lead her inside.

Lily held on to her mother. The elf grinned furiously. His lukewarm hand tugged on her like a moist rope.

Sadie tried to shake Lily loose. “Go ahead, honey. Don’t be scared.”

A burly man stepped out of line several paces back. “Look lady, if you can’t control your kid, mine is more than willing to–”

“Excuse you.” Lily’s mom shot the man a stern glare. “Be patient. These are our children. We each wait our turn.”

“Lady, I been being patient, and all I’m saying is your kid better move it or lose it.”

Murmurs and nods rippled down the line.

“I’m not scared.” Lily didn’t like the man making her mom a target. She let go and slid through the heavy curtains into Santa’s chamber. She fingered the fruit fork pressed in her pocket.

Inside, the photo booth spun with fake snow, walls decked in red and white stripes, and a huge tree with multicolored lights. Silence sparkled. The angry crowd echoes didn’t pass through the curtains. Lily heard the sound of real snow outside, the tiny chitter of ice hitting the roof.

In the center, Santa sat on a white and gold throne. The oily elf led Lily near. She forgot about his soft, damp fingers and peekaboo leer. Santa looked like a sleeping mountain. Never had Lily met a man of such girth. The elf gestured toward the mountain’s lap. Lily thought the figure might be a giant plush statue. It wasn’t until she clambered up that she noticed the sonorous suggestion of a snore.

Santa glowed and pulsed. His suite was more viscous than velvet. Round red baubles rolled from his pockets as Lily upset his stasis. They clung like anemones and drained away color where they stuck. Feeling her breath go black and white, Lily gasped. Baubles bound her to Santa’s lap.

The oily elf slithered behind the camera, his spindly stockings completing the points of a pentagram with the legs of the tripod. He cloaked his head under the back of the box and held up a flash tray set to ignite. “Smile.”

Lily frowned.

“You better not pout.”

Without further warning, the eel-like elf triggered the flash. A pyrotechnic blast blinded Lily for an instant. While she recovered her vision, all the round ornaments on the tree winked open and watched. The red anemones rolled upward and gaped. Santa sputtered and blinked. He bubbled and chortled with glee, one eye crusted shut with gluey magma. His good eye opened and shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.

He laughed and laughed at Lily’s scowl. The bulging globe juddered loosely in the socket as he shook. Lily bounced on his lap, not amused. Santa’s hilarity escalated to tears. His eyeball streamed with thick, yellow rheum. Lily spit the ichor away as it spattered her face and dress.

She grabbed the fork from her pocket. The orb wiggled free, lidless and sticky, trailing an elastic optic nerve. The liquid-coated membrane of Santa’s eyeball touched Lily’s cheek.

The eyeball crawled up and squished against her eye, rolling around her iris like it was trying to get inside. Lily saw the world inverted through the back of the foreign lens.

She plunged the fork, fast and deep.

Author Joanna Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. Her short fiction has been published in journals and anthologies such as Synth, Honey & Sulphur, and In Darkness Delight: Masters of Midnight. Look for her novella, The Couvade, coming soon. Consumer her monstrous musings at Horrorsong.

The compromise to do specific projects without giving up your own editing business seems wise, but only if it pays well enough and gives you a credential to flout. Then again, if you’re making it work now and living comfortably, why give up autonomy? A difficult decision. Do you mind my asking what horror authors I might be familiar with who you’ve edited for? Yes, I’m shopping a little bit. May want to try getting together a collection in the next year or two.

The Couvade

Halloween Extravaganza: Evans Light: STORY: The Treat-or-Tricker

A Halloween story from Evans Light is almost a tradition now here on Halloween Extravaganza. In fact, he was the first author that gave me one in lieu of a guest post. Even though he spoke of having no more Halloween stories in him, he surprised me with this… and, as usual, did not disappoint. Make sure you read this one with the lights off…

It was nearly nine-thirty when the doorbell rang.

Awfully late for trick-or-treaters, the man thought. The last group had stopped by almost an hour ago, and the man had just gotten comfortable in his recliner and lost in a TV show.

Teenagers, he guessed, making their final rounds. Cleaning out leftover candy.

He set his remote down on the coffee table, grabbed the bowl of Halloween candy from the kitchen counter and headed for the door.

A little boy, about eight or nine years old, stood alone on the porch.

He was not wearing a costume.

“Treat or trick?” the boy said.

The man didn’t recognize the boy from around the neighborhood, and no car waited on the street.

The boy held a clear plastic bag full of candies. They were all the same kind, not the hodgepodge assortment one would expect a child to have towards the end of Halloween night.

A small cardboard box sat on the porch beside him.

“Treat or trick?” the boy said again.

The man laughed.

“’Treat or trick?’ Don’t you mean ‘trick or treat?’ Where’s your costume?”

The boy didn’t flinch.

The boy didn’t smile.

“No, I said what I meant to say. Do you want a ‘treat’ or a ‘trick’?”

The absolute seriousness of the child surprised the man. It was amusing, so he decided to play along.

“Well, let me think . . . no one really likes a trick, except the person playing it. So I suppose I’d rather have a treat.”

“You do know tonight is Halloween, right?”

“Why of course,” said the man.

“Then you should also know that you need to be wearing a costume. You do know that, right?”

“But I don’t have a costume.”

The little boy sighed, as though immensely burdened.

“I figured you wouldn’t. That’s why I’ve brought some with me.”

The boy unfolded the flaps of his cardboard box and withdrew two large rubber masks. One was a zombie head with an eyeball dangling onto the cheek. The other mask was some sort of tree monster with a very long twig for a nose.

“My, aren’t those frightful!”

“Please pick one quickly, I have many houses yet to visit,” said the boy, all business.

“You want me to wear a mask?”

“Yes, please. Halloween must be done correctly or else it’s not Halloween.”

The man scratched his head, puzzled. “I’ve got some candy left over. You can have the rest of it if you want,” he offered.

“I asked you first,” said the boy. “I asked if you wanted a ‘treat’ or ‘trick’ and you said ‘treat’. Now please pick a costume. As I said, I have the rest of the neighborhood to visit this evening.”

The man wondered where the boy’s parents were, why he was out so late all by himself. He considered dropping a candy into the boy’s bag and shooing him away. But the child was so earnest, he decided to play along. Doing otherwise appeared as though it might cause the boy great stress.

“Okay,” said the man. “I’ll be the zombie.”

“Excellent choice,” said the boy. He gave the mask to the man and waited for him to put it on. The man adjusted it until his eyes blinked out from behind cut-out holes.

“Arrggh!” said the man, extending his arms as though he’d joined the ranks of the living dead.

“Very nice,” said the boy. “You really scared me. Now, what do you say?”

“Thank you?” guessed the man.

“No, not ‘thank you’. At your age, I’m surprised you don’t know this. To get the candy, you should say, ‘trick or . . .”

“Oh right!” said the man. “Trick or treat!”

A broad smile spread across the boy’s face. The porch light reflected in his eyes, twinkling like a swarm of fireflies. The boy reached into his sack, extracted a single hard candy and handed it to the man.

“Happy Halloween,” the boy said.

“Happy Halloween to you, too,” said the man, his voice muffled inside the rubber mask.

“Well?” said the boy.

“Well what?” said the man.

“Aren’t you going to eat it?”

“Right now?”

“Yes, right now. I want to see if you like it.”

The man held the candy up to the mask’s eyehole to get a better look. It was red and round and individually wrapped. The man had eaten none of the treats he’d passed out that evening. He’d specifically purchased candies he didn’t like to avoid temptation.

One little piece of candy wouldn’t hurt. In fact, it looked like something he’d enjoy.

“You can eat it through the mouth-hole, if you want to,” the kid said, his voice suddenly bright and full of cheer. “It’s so funny to see a zombie eat candy.”

What the hell, thought the man. He popped the candy out of the wrapper right through the rubber hole, into his mouth. His tongue explored the raised ridge that ran around the middle of the confection. It had a strong cherry flavor that was thrilling and delicious.

“Thank you,” the man said. “It’s wonderful.”

“I’m glad you like it. Can I have the mask back now, please?”

The man pulled off the mask and returned it to the boy, who packed it neatly into the box, carefully folding each flap back into place. Once done, the boy collected his things and bowed slightly.

“Enjoy the rest of your Halloween,” said the boy.

“You as well,” said the man. He closed the door and headed back to finish his television show. What a weird ass little kid, he thought as he bit down hard, crunching the candy.

Foam filled his mouth as the sweetness of cherry gave way to caustic bitterness, causing him to gag. He jumped up from his chair and took two steps towards the kitchen. Then he fell down, dead on the floor.

At the house next door, the doorbell rang.

A man and his wife exchanged puzzled looks. She grabbed the bowl of leftover Halloween candy from the kitchen counter and headed for the door.

A little boy, about eight or nine years old, stood alone on the porch.

He was not wearing a costume.

“Treat or trick?” the boy said.

Evans Light is a writer of horror and suspense, and is the author of Screamscapes: Tales of Terror, Arboreatum, Don’t Need No Water, and more. He is the editor of the well-received anthology Doorbells at Dusk, and is a co-creator of the Bad Apples Halloween anthology series and Dead Roses: Five Dark Tales of Twisted Love. He most recently co-edited the new anthology series In Darkness, Delight, the first two volumes of which are now available.

Evans lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, surrounded by thousands of vintage horror paperbacks, and is the proud father of fine sons and the lucky husband of a beautiful wife.

Corpus Press ** Amazon ** Goodreads ** Facebook ** Twitter

Screamscape: Tales of Terror

Ten twisted tales designed to delight fans of modern horror.

Razor-sharp scares and Tales from the Crypt-style mayhem lurk within these dark stories of possession,obsession, deception and revenge… this is one collection you don’t want to miss.

In Darkness, Delight 1: Masters of Midnight

Midnight strikes like an invocation, clock hands joining in prayer to the darkness. After the twelfth chime, there’s no escaping the nightmare.

Fear reigns supreme.

In Darkness, Delight is an original anthology series revealing the many facets of modern horror—shocking and quiet, pulp and literary, cold-hearted and heart-felt, weird tales of spiraling madness alongside full-throttle thrillers. Open these pages and unleash all-new terrors that consume from without and within.

Midnight is here. It’s now time to find . . . In Darkness, Delight.

Featuring stories by:
Josh MalermanOne Thousand Words on a Tombstone – Delores Ray
William MeikleRefuge
Jason ParentViolet
Ryan C. ThomasWho Are You?
Mark MatthewsTattooed All in Black
Evans LightOne Million Hits
Lisa LepovetskyKruze Nite
Israel FinnThe Pipe
Patrick LaceyIn the Ground John McNee: Dogsh*t Gauntlet
Michael BrayLetters
Monique YouzwaRules of Leap Year
Billy ChizmarMirrors
Espi KvltPulsate
Paul MichaelsAngel Wings
Andrew LennonRun Rabbit Run
Joanna KochEvery Lucky Penny is Another Drop of Blood

In Darkness, Delight 2: Creatures of the Night

Predatory eyes flicker in darkness, a legion of abominations seeking human destruction. Slashing claws and gnashing teeth, hungry for flesh, eager to kill. Clutch onto hope and pray for dawn. Creatures rule the night.

In Darkness, Delight is an original anthology series revealing the many faces of modern horror— shocking and quiet, pulp and literary, cold-hearted and heart-felt, weird tales of spiraling madness alongside full-throttle thrillers. Open these pages and unleash all-new terrors that consume from without and within.

The creatures are here.
It’s now time to find . . . In Darkness, Delight.

Featuring stories by:
Josh Malerman: One Thousand Words on a Tombstone – Bully Jack
Jeff Strand: The Last Thing You Want to Be
Ray Garton: A Survivor
Richard Chizmar: Father
Mary SanGiovanni: The Giant’s Table
Tim Curran: White Rabbit
Chris Motz: Scales
Kev Harrison: Snap
Evans Light: Gertrude
Mikal Trimm: Infestation
Mark Cassell: River of Nine Tails
Mason Morgan: The People in the Toilet
Andrew Lennon: Silent Scream
Chad Lutzke: He Wears the Lake
Adam Light: Valley of the Dunes
Eddie Generous: The Newell Post
Frank Oreto: The Worms Turn
Gregor Xane: The Ugly Tree
Kristopher Rufty: Hinkles
Glenn Rolfe: Human Touch
Curtis M. Lawson: The Green Man of Freetown

Doorbells at Dusk

Halloween has always gone hand-in-hand with horror. The holiday gives many children their first taste of terror, the discovery and overcoming of fears. For those who find they love a good scare, that first taste can grow into a voracious appetite.

That might be why you’re looking at this book right now. If so, you’ve come to the right place. Doorbells at Dusk is a treasury of brand-new Halloween tales from both modern masters and rising stars of dark fiction, horror and suspense.

These are the thrills you crave, packed into a collection of stories that’s pure Halloween.

Carve your pumpkins and turn on the porch light, Halloween frights begin with the sound of…DOORBELLS AT DUSK.

Featuring stories by:
Sean Eads & Joshua ViolaMany Carvings
Amber FallonThe Day of the Dead
Charles GramlichA Plague of Monsters
Joanna KochOfferings
Curtis M. LawsonThe Rye-Mother
Lisa LepovetskyMasks
Adam LightTrick ‘Em All
Evans LightRusty Husk
Chad LutzkeVigil
Josh MalermanAdam’s Bed
Jason ParentKeeping Up Appearances
Thomas VaughnThe Friendly Man
Ian WelkeBetween
Gregor XaneMr. Impossible