by Chris McGinty
He woke up alarmed. Not to the alarm. That wouldn’t go off for another five hours. If he was dead he wouldn’t hear it. He was sure there was an intruder in his home. It was neither the dog knocking over the Christmas tree (which he really needed to take down) nor the cat knocking over the broom while jumping off the top of the cabinets. Those things did freak him out; and sure, he thought he was going to die those times too. In those cases, it turned out to be nothing, but this time was really it. He was going to die. This was a real intruder. It was something about the sound of the movement.
He made it until 2024 and he was going to die on the first day. He should have gone to a party, got wasted, and passed out in someone’s bathtub. At least then, he wouldn’t have been home for the intruder to come in and kill him. Sure, it was years since the last time he did something so irresponsible, but why couldn’t he have done it last night? He was a responsible husband and father, that’s why. His wife was out of town with their daughter, but he was holding down the home front. That’s what one does. He should just lie in bed, let the intruder do their thing, and maybe the intruder wouldn’t find it important to execute him. Nothing in the house was worth dying over.
He couldn’t do anything anyway. He had a bat from his softball league days, but he didn’t have gun. It would be dangerous to face off with an intruder not knowing if they were armed or not. The cops had guns though. He needed to dial 911 and whisper his address so the intruder couldn’t hear, but what if the intruder did hear? Staying in bed and staying quiet wouldn’t work if he gave away his position with a phone call. It didn’t matter. It was likely the intruder believed the house was unoccupied, meaning they wouldn’t avoid the bedroom to not get caught.
He reached over and grabbed the cell phone. There was a text message from his wife. He read it: “We’re coming home early. Mom isn’t feeling good. We’ll see you tonight.”
He sighed with relief. It wasn’t an intruder. It was his family. This was wonderful. He was missing them terribly since they left the day after Christmas. Also, as an added bonus, he wasn’t going to die tonight.
He put the phone down and made his way from the bedroom to the living room ready to give each of them a big hug and a sweet kiss. When he turned the corner, there was a fat man loading a bag with their belongings. He froze in place. It was an intruder. If he didn’t quietly slip back into the bedroom and call the police, he was going to die.
He started to back up. No matter how quiet each step was, to him it sounded like he was stomping his foot like a child throwing a tantrum. With each step he took in an odd detail about the situation. Step one: The intruder was bent over near the Christmas tree. Step Two: The intruder was actually pulling something out of the bag. Step Three: The intruder was wearing all red. Step Four: He backed into the wall and knocked books off the shelf, which alerted the intruder. He was going to die at the hands of someone dressed up as Santa Claus.
It felt like a setup for a St. Peter at the gates joke. A man dies at the hands of a Santa Claus imposter and meets St. Peter at the gate. “I can’t let you in,” says St. Peter, “if Santa Clause killed you, then you were clearly on the naughty list.” The man protests, “But it wasn’t Santa Claus. It was an imposter.” St. Peter looks through his paperwork. “Well, wouldn’t you know it? You’re in the Santa Claus imposter murder folder. Welcome to heaven. You’re on the ‘Not-he’ list.”
The fat man stood up and turned to face him. It was weird because he expected a monstrous face. He expected someone who looked evil, but this man looked kindly. It was almost as if he had a twinkle in his eye. Santa Claus opened his mouth and spoke, “Sorry I broke one of your ornaments and woke you. I’m usually so much quieter. I guess I should explain why I’m here.”
He nodded at the intruder, unable to squeak out a response.
“Each year, I miss some presents in the hustle of visiting children all over the world. I come back to the houses to drop them off, and this year I forgot your little girl’s dinosaur set.”
“She was disappointed it wasn’t there,” he managed to say, still not sure what was happening.
“Now, I’m going to need you to walk out of the front door, and let me finish my job.”
Again, nothing in the house was worth dying for, so he stepped away from the wall and tripped over the books that gave away his position. He walked obediently to the front door and got out of the house alive. That was all that mattered.
The problem was at that moment he saw his wife and daughter were back and had already exited the ride service car. He needed to get them away from the house and call the police, but the car was pulling away. He rushed over to his smiling wife and sleepy looking daughter.
“I need your phone!”
It was at that moment that they heard the sound of sleigh bells. They turned to look at the house and saw there was something large on the roof. In a matter of seconds, it was lifting up from the house and flying off into the night.
His daughter took his hand, “Daddy, that looked like Santa Claus.”
He squeezed her hand tight, dumbfounded, “You remember that dinosaur set you asked Santa Claus for…”
Chris McGinty is a short story writer who wishes he wrote this story while on 34th Street.