DOWN THE CHIMNEY
by NATHANIEL BREHMER
Tim could not shake the thought. It had haunted him all year, ever since last Christmas. The very idea that this man (if a man he was) monitored children all year, studied their habits, marking them up like god awful school teachers to decide who was naughty and who was nice. It wasn’t fair. It simply wasn’t fair.
And Tim had had enough.
Yes, he had come out of last year’s Christmas relatively unscathed and had been just as terrified as he was now. But he had gotten lucky, of course. Santa Claus monitored children the world over, he couldn’t possibly see everything all the time. Maybe he hadn’t seen Tim tell Buddy Goldberg that a piece of dog poop was a burnt marshmallow and convince him to eat it. Maybe he hadn’t seen Tim spy on his older sister, Susie, in the shower. Just one time. Tim had never dared to do it more than once. After all, he knew Santa would be watching. Maybe Santa hadn’t seen these things.
But maybe he had.
And either way, one thing was certain: he was coming tonight. And there was nothing that Tim could do to stop it.
His parents were so excited that it was Christmas Eve. Tim had learned to fake his excitement better than last Christmas. It was easy to fake a smile. Of course his parents would be excited. They didn’t know what he did all year. Parents were blinded by the idea that they produced little angels. Tim knew that he wasn’t, and now all he could do was watch out the window as the sun slowly began to set behind the dark trees.
Darkness was coming.
And Santa Claus would shortly follow.
Tim had to do something. But what? His parents were going out tonight, his sister never stayed home anymore, and so it would just be Tim alone in the house until he showed up. Claus. The great and terrible. Tim had heard so many stories… that he lived forever, that he had magic powers. He had to be prepared.
When Santa Claus came, Tim would be waiting. He didn’t know what he would do, exactly, and he needed to think of something quick. Time was running out. Soon, Tim knew, his mother would send him to bed. Then they would be off to their important party. And Tim would be left to wait. That simply would not do.
At Thanksgiving, when Tim’s father could no longer stand to be in the same house as Aunt Margaret, he took Tim outside to teach him how to chop firewood. At only age seven, Tim became very handy with an ax. Once they left, he would go down to the garage and grab the ax and then he would wait, oh so patiently, for him to show up.
Tim’s mom had taught him that hurting people was bad. That killing someone was called MURDER and that was the worst thing you could do. But who kept track of the bad things, anyway? Santa. And so Tim imagined that if Santa was killed, he couldn’t punish boys and girls for being naughty anymore, and the world would be a simpler place that would actually start to make some sense. Tim looked forward to that.
It was not like Santa Claus could possibly be as great as the parents made him out to be, anyway. He picked on children. All of the children in the world. He decided for himself who was good and who was bad and then he punished them. He also spied on little boys and girls all year. He’d been told about that sort of behavior at school. Big old men who spied on kids. Tim’s Aunt Margaret called them “Peeverts”. And even though Tim was very afraid, especially now, as they sky darkened, he was also very brave. He was not going to let some Peevert get his hands on him tonight. No, sir.
It all happened very quickly; Tim’s mother left, his father tried on three ties in a hurry before dashing out the door, and then Tim was left alone in a house that seemed to triple in size the moment his parents stepped out of it. It was scary. The sky went black so quickly in December and the wind howled like wailing spirits. But it would bring worse things, and Tim knew this, and so he had to stick to the plan.
He ran to the garage. It was dark and freezing. Tim felt along the wall, but he could not find the light switch and with each second that passed he didn’t care about light, he just wanted to get out of there. Run back inside where it was lit and warm. He felt along the wall in pitch blackness until he felt the handle of the ax. He held it tight with small, freezing fingers, and dragged it back inside.
The ax was almost as tall as he was. About an even four feet. It looked so much smaller in his father’s hands. But big as it was, Tim had hoisted it over his head on Thanksgiving, and so he would have no problem doing it again tonight.
Ax in hand, Tim returned to the living room, dragging the thing along behind him. It was not even his bedtime yet, so Tim knew that it would be some time still before the Peevert came calling. He turned on the TV, pleased to find that How the Grinch Stole Christmas, his all-time favorite of the Christmas specials, had only just begun to play. Tim watched, and smiled, and laughed. And got hungry. There were milk and cookies set out on the table, but his mother had warned him about eating them.
“Those milk and cookies are for Santa and Santa alone,” Tim’s mother had said. “And it would be a very naughty thing to eat them. If you did that, Santa might not even come at all.”
That had made Tim a little hopeful, but it was probably wishful thinking. It couldn’t be that easy. So he would let the milk and cookies sit for now. It would be naughty to eat them. But soon, the naughty kids would be liberated, and once Tim had done his evening’s work, he would be able to indulge himself. As would all the little boys and girls, all over the world.
After A Charlie Brown Christmas, Tim found himself getting sleepy. He had eaten half the tin of popcorn that Aunt Margaret had sent. He had drank most of the soda his mom had hidden in the pantry. Tim had almost tasted one of Dad’s beers, but those, he reminded himself, were for after Santa. As another special began, Tim almost forgot what he had been waiting up half the night for, and began to drift off to sleep.
He was awakened by a sound on the rooftop. A loud thump. It sounded as if something heavy had landed on the roof of the house, out of nowhere. There was a small tinkling sound, like bells… and then the unmistakable sound of a man’s footsteps.
Tim turned the TV off. He threw the tin of popcorn off of his lap and grabbed the ax tightly with both hands.
He heard the man begin to force himself down the chimney, and suddenly Tim was very, very afraid. He didn’t want to fight Santa or save the naughty kids of the world. He wanted to run and hide and pray that the nasty Christmas Peevert didn’t find him. Santa. He was almost here.
Tim could hear him slithering down the chimney, making his way down, inch by inch. Just like the Grinch. The wait seemed to go on forever. Tim could hear him coming closer and closer, but the more it dragged on, the more Tim thought about how silly all of it was, and thought to himself that maybe Santa wouldn’t come at all. Maybe it was a big joke. Maybe he was dreaming.
Thick, large black boots touched down in the chimney. Red trousers followed them.
Tim swallowed. His throat was dry. His body turned to ice.
Black-gloved hands curled around the brick of the chimney. Grunting, Santa forced himself out. He stood tall now, stretching, stepping out into the room. He was even more enormous than Tim had imagined, taller even than his father. Taller than the Christmas tree. Santa reached back into the chimney and pulled out a sack, smaller than Tim had been expecting. Of course, it all made sense. Santa would have gone to the good children’s houses first, and left the rejected, unwanted toys for the naughty kids. Despite size, Santa looked almost exactly like Tim had expected. Big and fat, dressed in red with white, puffy trimming. A great white beard hiding the lower half of his face, and a pointed hat hanging limply over his eyes, as if somewhere in his travels, the hat had died from the cold.
Tim held onto the ax and did not make a sound. He did not move. He did not even pee himself despite how much his body wanted him to. He simply stood still, thinking maybe Santa would leave. Just go right back up the chimney and not bother anyone, and then there wouldn’t have to be any trouble.
Then, as if reading Tim’s mind, Santa slowly turned his head. “Ho, ho, ho!” he bellowed. “What are we still doing up, little Timmy?”
He knows my name. Oh, Mommy, Daddy, please help me, he really knows my name.
But it was all right. Tim had expected this. Santa stepped closer. “Are you feeling all right?” Another step. “Now, you better get on upstairs. You don’t want Santa to think you’re naughty… do you?”
That was it. Tim had had it. He raised the ax over his head.
Santa’s big, sweaty brow furrowed. “What’s that you’ve got there… hey!” Seeing it clearly, Santa took on a sterner tone. “Somebody could get hurt with—“
The ax swung. While it had been heavy to lift, it seemed light as a feather now. Tim’s arms felt relieved. Then his entire body felt the same. The blade caught Santa at the collar bone, splitting him open right at the base of the left side of his neck.
Tim had only seen blood a few times in his life. Once when he skinned his knee and the others when he watched his father clean a deer. His mother couldn’t stand the sight, but Tim had never much minded it.
Santa dropped to the floor and started flopping around like a fish. Freshly caught, just hooked. Tim imagined the ax as a fish hook as he swung it again, this time into Santa’s lower back. Santa, who had been wheezing and coughing up blood, now tried to scream. But it came out in a rumbling cough.
Looking at him now, Tim didn’t know what, for the life of him, he had been afraid of. The more Santa flopped around, covered in his own blood, the more he just looked like another deer dad had brought home. Just a big, stupid dead animal.
But still dangerous. He still knew all the secrets of the naughty children. He still had his magic powers. He was still alive. Tim didn’t know how many swings of the ax it took to kill someone, but he imagined it was like a Tootsie pop: you know when you’re there.
He swung the ax again.
And then Tim’s arms were very tired and Santa was no longer moving, so he decided to stop. He dropped the ax and stepped back to look at what he had done. There was blood all over the place. All over the floor in a great, crimson pool. It splattered the walls. One of Santa’s hands was a few feet away from the body. His legs, only inches removed. There were scratches on the hardwood floor from where Santa had dug his nails in, trying to crawl away. And something else that caught Tim’s interest.
Somehow, when Santa was crawling and struggling on the floor, his beard had come off. Tim reached down and picked it up. It was stained with blood, but now that he touched it, it didn’t even feel like real hair. More than that, it appeared to be held on with string. Tim dropped it, disgusted, and kneeled down to gaze into Santa’s face. He removed the hat (also soaked with blood) and tossed it aside to get a better look.
The glossy, dead eyes that stared back up at Tim were not those of Santa Claus, but of his father. Tim’s eyes widened. He fell back on the floor.
Tim had been naughty. He had been very, very naughty.
This wasn’t Santa Claus. There was no Santa Claus. There had only been his father, and now there was nobody. Tim felt a rush of panic subside as he tried to figure out what all of it meant. Tim was a murderer now and that was the most naughty thing a boy could be. He hadn’t killed a Peevert, he had killed his dad. There would be no liberation for the naughty children of the world.
Santa was not the watchful monster that monitored all the bad things children did all year. It had never been Santa that Tim had been so afraid of, it had been his parents all along. They were the ones who were always watching boys and girls, waiting for them to slip up. Parents were the ones who saw them when they were sleeping. They were the Peeverts.
It would still be a few hours before Tim’s mother would be home. And that was good. He was very tired. When she saw what he had done, she would be very upset and she would probably scold him. He didn’t want to think about that now. First, the milk and cookies. It would be very naughty to eat them, but he had done naughtier things, and he was quite hungry. After that, he would settle in for a long winter’s nap.
And oh, what visions would dance in his head.
Nathaniel Brehmer has been writing horror nearly all his life, and has no intention of slowing down in this lifetime. He is a graduate of the University of Maine at Farmington with a BFA in Creative Writing. His previous publishing credits include Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, Sanitarium Magazine and The Sandy River Review.
The authors published at HelloHorror retain all rights to their work. For permission to quote from a particular piece, or to reprint, contact the editors who will forward the request. All content on the web site is protected under copyright law.