Saint Nicholas. Santa Claus. Kris Kringle. Father Christmas.
Whatever name you know him by, he exists. It was proven about seven or eight years ago; around 2016. The myths we all knew and loved turned out to be solid fact. He does live in the North Pole. His workshop is invisible. Elves really do all the making, mending and sorting. He does fly all around the world in twenty-four hours, stopping time and delivering presents to good boys and girls by virtue of flying reindeer and a flying sled.
There is no dispute about it anymore. You can’t say whether you believe or not because to say you don’t believe in Santa is like saying you don’t believe in water or grass. He is real; end of story. Get it? Got it? Good!
The class sat diligently at their desks. There was idle chitchat between the teens; each of them aged between fifteen and seventeen. They were awaiting the arrival of Mrs Tickler; their kindly old form tutor.
Johnny Snagglesworth sat alone. He wasn’t the friendliest of kids. In fact, he was completely rotten. People tended to stay out of his way; even his parents. His veneer was one of smugness and cockiness and it immediately alienated the people around him. He didn’t mind that. He found people to be nothing but annoyances. He liked his own company and preferred to keep it that way.
The voices dissipated to silence as Mrs Tickler entered the form room.
“Good morning, class,” she said in her typical upper-middleclass drawl.
“Good morning, Mrs Tickler,” the pupils said in unison; all but one of course.
She took the register and was satisfied to see that all pupils were present. Today was the last day of school before they broke up for Christmas holidays. Mrs Tickler was glad of the fact as it meant a decent break from all the hard work. Now deep into her sixties, the work was becoming a bigger ask, but she loved teaching. She could’ve retired years ago given that her husband was extremely wealthy; however, her love for the profession saw her press on. She looked upon the kids with a warm and genuine smile; her blue eyes twinkling behind a pair of thick rimmed glasses.
“This morning we shall all write our letters to Father Christmas”.
Mrs Tickler’s words were met with agreeable murmuring. All kids loved writing their letters to Santa; even ones as old as the students in this very classroom.
“I want to see neat handwriting and for all spelling, grammar and punctuation to be correct. We all know just how much he likes to see letters written properly. When you are ready, you may begin”.
There was a hubbub for several minutes as the pupils retrieved pens and pads before the room went silent again. They all scribbled away making their requests of St Nick and pleading their case as to having been a good boy or girl that year.
After about fifteen minutes, Mrs Tickler looked up from her desk to peruse the classroom and was happy to see all were happily engrossed in their task. She wasn’t surprised, however, to see Johnny Snagglesworth leaning back in his chair with his hands behind his head; not a care in the world. She took off her glasses and eyed him; hoping he would notice her admonishing gaze, but he was in a world of his own. She cleared her throat and a few of the pupils looked up; Johnny not amongst that number.
Johnny brought his eyes to bear on Mrs Tickler; looking about as bored as it was possible for a person to.
“Are you done already?”
“That was a little quick wasn’t it?”
“Yes, miss,” Johnny repeated once again.
Mrs Tickler stood and made her way slowly to where Johnny sat. A roguish grin appeared on his face and she knew from that moment that she was about to read something typically sarcastic and lacking in any kind of thought as was always the case with the difficult young man. She didn’t hate Johnny Snagglesworth. She despaired for him, but she didn’t hate him. She picked up the piece of paper on his desk, read it to herself before then reciting the short epistle to the class.
“Dear Mr Jellybelly”. This met with immediate sniggers from the rest of the class. Johnny looked very proud of himself. “This year I want a season ticket to Northam United FC, a dirt bike (a top end one – not some knockoff) and a PS6 complete with all the best games available. No, I haven’t been good this year, but that’s my business; not yours. I demand that you bring me all I’ve asked for and whatever extras you can cram into your sack…” Mrs Tickler paused and looked up from the letter at Johnny who was grinning ear to ear. “…or else! Demandingly yours, Johnny.Q.Snagglesworth”.
There followed a silence. Nobody was quite sure what to say. Some pupils looked at Johnny with pure disbelief. Mrs Tickler drew a deep breath.
“And this is the letter you would like to send to Father Christmas?”
“Yup,” Johnny replied succinctly.
“Do you think it is wise to test his patience like this?”
“Oh, come on! What d’ya think he’s gonna do? He’s nothin’ but a big, fat, cuddly teddy bear. He’s full o’ hot air. Says kids have to be good, but always brings ‘em what they want anyway. I guarantee he’ll bring me everythin’ I’ve told him to bring me”.
“What makes you so sure, Mr Snagglesworth?”
“’Cuz he’s a mug,” Johnny said with a sly grin.
Mrs Tickler smiled humourlessly. She leaned in closer to Johnny.
“Might I advise you do not test Father Christmas by sending this letter, Johnny. I have a feeling that he really shan’t appreciate it”.
“I don’t care,” Johnny said simply. “I’m postin’ it. I’ll be the one laughin’ Christmas mornin’ when I get all my nice new things. I’m not rewritin’ nothin’. That’s the letter he’s gettin’ off me”.
“As you wish, Mr Snagglesworth,” Mrs Tickler said; the warning in her tone more than evident.
It was Christmas Eve and Johnny went to bed relatively early as was his usual custom. He looked forward to getting the gifts he’d demanded of Santa. Naturally he hadn’t left him the required mince pie, glass of milk and carrots for the reindeer. He’d leave that to his stupid little sister and his equally stupid parents. He fell quickly into a fitful sleep.
A noise awoke Johnny sometime later. His eyes slowly opened and he turned his head to look at his radio alarm. The display blinked 00:00. Great, he thought; the damned thing had been unplugged and plugged back in causing it to reset, though he couldn’t recall it being unplugged. It had been showing the right time before he fell asleep.
Johnny was distracted by the noise again. It sounded like it came from the window. He sat up and looked towards the window. There was an eerie green glow. He shuffled out of bed. The noise continued. It was becoming more distinct. It sounded like…sleigh bells. The sound only grew clearer the closer he stepped towards the window and the green glow intensified. His hand hesitated as it took a hold of the curtain before he pulled it away to reveal the window.
The sound stopped and a quick glance out onto the snowy ground below revealed nothing. He looked around, but Johnny could see nothing that might have been the cause of the glow.
“Weird,” Johnny uttered.
He shrugged his shoulders and closed the curtain. When he turned to face back inside the room his heart jumped into his mouth. The silhouette of a tall and rotund man stood at the end of his bed. He didn’t have time to say another word before there was a whip crack sound and something wrapped tightly around his neck. His eyes went wide and hands reached for whatever was around his neck, but he was soon forcibly pulled inside the room. He crashed into the portly figure and fell to the ground; the whip still wrapped around his neck.
The man released the whip and pulled Johnny up to his feet with no effort. He was huge; at least six and a half feet and dressed in a bottle green suit with a white fir trim on the golden buttoned jacket that bulged owing to his considerable girth. A pointed hat of the same colour and also trimmed with white fur adorned his large head. The face was stout and friendly looking with a big, bushy white beard and thick white eyebrows above gleaming eyes and a stubby nose. The big man bent down so his face was directly in front of Johnny’s and he smiled a smile that was somehow both calm and manic simultaneously.
“Ho…ho…ho,” the man said quietly before breaking into raucous laughter.
Johnny opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. There was a sudden brilliant flash of light that blinded Johnny and he had to shield his eyes.
Things felt weird when the light finally dimmed. He couldn’t quite put his finger on why they felt weird, but they did. Then it all became apparent in a flash as Santa appeared in front of him now dressed in red with white trim and looking about forty years younger. His hair was suddenly brown and his stomach much flatter. He might have looked handsome, but Johnny couldn’t tell because Santa was upside-down. He leaned in towards Johnny with that same jovial but insane grin from earlier.
“Hello,” he said simply.
“What’s going on,” Johnny struggled to ask.
“Funny you should ask,” Santa said with a chuckle. “You’re tied upside-down with fairy lights to the tree outside your house”.
Johnny looked down and quickly realised he was in fact looking up. Santa wasn’t lying. He was tied upside-down to the tree in the back garden. Panic suddenly set in for Johnny. None of this made any sense.
“Why are you doin’ this to me, you idiot?”
“I received your letter, Johnny Snagglesworth, and I don’t mind saying I didn’t much care for it. So what I thought I’d do is invade your dreams to show you that I’m not one to be trifled with”.
“This…this is just a dream,” Johnny asked.
“Indeed it is, but don’t rest so easy. What I’ve got in store for you will feel nothing at all like a dream. No; I’m going to teach you a long overdue lesson. This letter was the final straw,” Santa said ominously; suddenly producing Johnny’s letter from his pocket. “It’s time I gave you what you deserve as nobody else seems to want to”.
“You don’t scare me, Santa,” Johnny lied.
Santa looked back at Johnny with an amused grin momentarily before gesturing with his right hand. Over trotted a red nosed reindeer. Johnny felt a touch of amusement. Rudolph snorted as he looked at Johnny before turning around; his backside facing the boy. A slight nod from Santa and Rudolph unleashed a ferocious kick with both his back legs that caught Johnny hard in his sternum and sent him swinging. He cried out with agony as the sounds of Santa’s laughter rang in his ears. The pain was excruciating and it felt very real.
“You’re crazy,” Johnny cried out.
“No; the crazy one is the kid who called me Jellybelly and then made demands. The best bit, however, was when he said ‘or else’”. Santa leaned into Johnny again. “Or else what, Snagglesworth?”
“This isn’t real,” Johnny muttered. “This is all in my imagination”.
Santa shook his head disappointedly before drawing in a breath. It took around a minute before he stopped sucking in and his chest swelled up to about four times its original size. He then expended the air in an almighty cold blow that sent Johnny swinging. The snow on the ground kicked up and the little white shards pelted him; feeling like tiny flecks of glass on his face as he was suspended horizontally. It took a while before Santa’s breath was depleted and Johnny swung violently for several moments. He groaned aloud as he did so and was having to fight hard not to throw up.
“I can keep this going all night long, Snagglesworth. I can stop time remember,” Santa said with raucous laughter.
“You’re insane! You’re completely nuts,” Johnny yelled.
“No, Snagglesworth; I’m angry! I may be immortal and have magical powers like stopping time, flying and invading people’s dreams, but I still have feelings and you hurt mine extraordinarily. I still don’t think you get it. Maybe the third test will make you realise your wrongs”.
“Best of luck, fatty,” Johnny cajoled.
Santa stepped back into the shadows; only his eyes visible. Suddenly, a number of short men dressed in green stepped forwards. Elves! Each of them carried an oversized candy cane and wore a snarling grin. Johnny tried to gulp, but gravity fought his swallowing. He closed his eyes as the first of the giant candy canes struck him.
It hurt like hell! Johnny could tell himself this wasn’t real all he liked, but it hurt like he was fully conscious and it was actually happening. The strikes from the little men were vicious. They kept coming and they didn’t stop. Every part of his body was a target and they made sure to hit each one. All the while he was greeted by the sound of Santa’s laughter.
The beating didn’t stop and he couldn’t shut out the pain no matter how he tried. He couldn’t be sure initially, but it felt as though his stomach was tearing. He lifted his head slightly and immediately copped for a giant candy cane around the ear. The pain rang through the side of his head, but he vied to lift it again.
He caught a glimpse of his midriff and the skin was most definitely tearing. This caused him further panic before another cane to the head sent him dangling once more. He yelled at the cackling elves to stop hitting him, but they weren’t interested in his pleas. Santa’s eyes continued to glow in the darkness, only they now glowed red. He isn’t Santa; he’s the devil, Johnny thought.
Then he felt a pain unlike any he’d ever experienced and he screamed in agony, only the sound came out as a joyous choir singing ‘Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town’. Even after he closed his mouth the choir continued to sing.
The elves cheered and danced as countless sweets and candies fell onto the snowy ground around Johnny who hung there feeling as though his guts were spilling out. He chanced another look towards his midriff and could see he’d been busted open. The sweets and candies were pouring out of him. They weren’t stopping either. The elves played with them; throwing them in the air and letting them rain down. Johnny could feel himself fading. Could he actually die in a dream?
Santa came forth from the shadows. This time he wore a grey beard and his clothes were made from simple brown rags. The eyes still gleamed red, but the smile that had been ever-present up to that point was now gone. He looked menacing. It was only accented further by the joyous sounds of the singing choir and the sight of the elves playing with his candy innards. They’d used him as a piñata!
The big man stepped towards Johnny menacingly. The sweets still poured from inside him and the pile was getting so big that it was starting to gather around his head. He could see the golden wrapped toffees as they came closer to his eyes. Santa said nothing. He just looked at Johnny sans compassion. Rudolph appeared at the side of Santa with a nasal snort that ejected twinkling fairy dust. Santa patted Rudolph’s head affectionately and the reindeer’s nose glowed bright red. All they did was stare.
The sweets continued to fall and soon covered Johnny’s eyes and ears. He could see nothing but the golden colour of the wrappers and the sounds of the choir and elves was distorted. The sweets soon climbed to cover his nose and mouth. Breathing became difficult as a result and the dread reached critical levels. He was in the worst pain he’d ever felt and was suffocating too. Johnny knew in that moment that he was going to die. He wept with fear.
“I’m sorry,” Johnny said quietly.
Johnny woke with a bloodcurdling scream. He sat bolt upright in his bed and reached immediately for his stomach. All was intact. There was no hole. There was no pain.
It really had been a dream!
He blew a sigh of relief. A sudden queasiness overcame him and he had to climb out of bed and run to the bathroom to vomit. After emptying the contents of his stomach into the toilet bowl, Johnny looked in the mirror. His eyes were bloodshot and his skin pale. It may have only been a dream, but it felt so real. He could remember the pain vividly. He could remember everything; the crazy look in Santa’s eyes, his freezing cold breath and the biting snowflakes, everything!
His attention was grabbed by a thud from downstairs. Ordinarily he’d have thought nothing of it, but he was at sixes and sevens and had a fearful urge to discover the source of the noise. He left the bathroom and crept slowly downstairs. An all too familiar green glow could be seen emanating from the front room. Every fibre of Johnny’s being told him to go back upstairs, but he was too curious to see what the glow was. Am I still dreaming, he mused.
As he reached the bottom of the stairs, the scene in the front room came into view. The tree looked resplendently beautiful with white lights aglow and the baubles and presents reflecting colours all around the room. There was one present that stood out amongst the throng; a large cubed box wrapped in shiny green foil wrapping paper and adorned with a gold ribbon and bow. The cause of the green glow.
Johnny stepped towards it and looked at the tag. It simply read ‘Johnny Snagglesworth’ in elegant handwriting. The trepidation quickly dissipated. He was intrigued and excited. He looked around him and wondered whether he should wait until all the family were there, but he was too keen to discover what his gift was. Could it be his PS6?
He lifted the box and brought it over to the couch. It wasn’t heavy and he felt immediately crestfallen about that, but he sat down and began to undo the ribbon and remove the wrapping paper. Inside was an unmarked box the same colour as the wrapping paper and Johnny was puzzled. He opened the box and inside was what looked like powdery snow.
When he dug his hands in, he realised it was powdery snow; freezing cold and wet. He dug through it; uncaring of the fact that the snow was landing on the carpet and couch making everything wet. Once he’d cleared the box of most of it, an object came into view. He pulled it out and his pulse started to race.
A simple toffee in a gold wrapper.
He gulped. The wrapper gleamed in the light and he dropped the toffee onto the floor. Then something else caught his attention in the box. He cleared more of the snow and revealed a Polaroid photograph. He began to quiver uncontrollably. The image was Santa dressed in brown rags standing next to Rudolph whose nose gleamed bright red and a group of giant candy cane wielding elves. There was a pile of toffees in golden wrappers on the floor too, but all of that was irrelevant compared to the other figure on the photo.
It was himself strung up from a tree with fairy lights dangling upside-down. His midriff was torn open, his mouth hung open and dead eyes stared ahead. There was a message scrawled underneath the photo that read “or else what…?” and Johnny heard an ominous, echoing “ho…ho…ho” as he read it.
Johnny let out a loud yell, threw the photo away and ran back upstairs to his room. He slammed the door, locked it and none of his family saw him for the rest of Christmas day.
From that day forth, Johnny suffered nothing but nightmares every night for the rest of his life. Santa had killed his dreams.
It doesn’t pay to mess with Mr Jellybelly!
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!