The Man in Red

That Christmas Eve Timmy decided to stay awake and wait for Saint Nicholas. He lay in bed, excited and nervous, aware that he should be asleep. But he really, really wanted to see him. As he had been able to fool his parents into thinking he was already sleeping many times, he hoped Saint Nicholas would be fooled as well.

With his eyes closed, he followed every noise in the house. He heard when his parents went to their room and when the cat meowed downstairs wanting to escape to the streets. Listening to the wind through his window, he hoped that a white carpet would cover everything outside the next morning. The clock in the hallway outside his room rang twelve times, and after the twelfth Timmy noticed that the ticking had stopped.

Then there was another noise. Timmy froze. He heard his window sliding open and felt a cold gust of wind. He was here. His heart was pounding strongly under his pajamas, and he prayed that the sound of his heartbeat wouldn’t betray him.

Yet he opened his eyes, just a sliver, just enough for him to take a peek.

But he didn’t see Saint Nicholas by the window. In his place was a small creature dressed in the colors of the forest. The small elf smiled with its numerous pointy teeth shining under the moonlight. It walked slowly, every step a silent one, trying not to wake the child. Timmy had seen that same expression on his cat once, right before it had caught the mouse that had evaded so well every mousetrap they had put in the kitchen.

Timmy closed his eyes briefly, hoping that the elf would go away. But when he opened them again not only was the creature still in his room; it was closer. Timmy held his breath and felt the warmth of his pee spread.

The elf hopped to the top of his bed, flexing its slender fingers in anticipation, and this time Timmy closed his eyes; maybe for the last time, he thought. But instead the cold wind caressed his face again and he heard quick steps followed by a muffled squeak. Timmy peeked once more.

There was a man covered in furs that once had been white in his room, holding in one of his hands the now-helpless creature. His hair was white as snow and his eyes were wild as a wolf’s. From his bed Timmy could see the growing crimson puddle on his carpet floor and the fresh red stains on the man’s garments. Then the Man in Red said a few words in a forgotten language that almost sounded like deep laughter.

Timmy closed his eyes hoping that the wild man would not notice him and did not open them until he heard the clock hands moving again. The man and the elf were gone, his window was closed and there was no blood on the carpet. He almost thought he had imagined everything; but there –just at the end of his bed– was a bicycle just like the one he had asked for in his letter to Saint Nicholas. Only the color was wrong, the one in his room was forest green.

©2011 Santiago Casares

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