First Story: Christmas Night
On Christmas night, when I was just 11 years old, I vividly recall the heightened anticipation that woke me in the middle of the night. It had become a yearly ritual for me to be the first in my family to greet Christmas Morning. However, that particular year marked a shift in my perspective, making me wish I had lingered in bed a few hours more.
Unable to contain my excitement, I sat up and reached for the small TV at the end of my bed, hoping to pass the time until morning. Like any child of that age, my thoughts were consumed by the imminent presence of Christmas night gifts. I tuned into the television for a few minutes, only to hastily mute it as a faint sound caught my attention.
A profound silence enveloped the room as I strained to listen intently. The tranquility shattered when the unmistakable sound of footsteps echoed through the living room. Unable to suppress my curiosity, I surmised it must be either my mom or dad, presenting an opportunity to get a head start on the Christmas night festivities.
Without a second thought, I leaped out of bed, flinging open my bedroom door, and excitedly darted into the living room, exclaiming “Merry Christmas!” The jubilant words, however, hung incomplete in the air as I halted abruptly. Positioned at the far end of the hallway, I not only caught sight of the beautifully adorned tree and the array of presents but also laid eyes on an unexpected figure in the living room — a figure that was decidedly not my parents.
I froze in the dimly lit hallway, my eyes widening as I caught sight of a mysterious figure standing tall before me. The man, clad entirely in black, seemed to materialize from the shadows, sending a shiver down my spine. Panic set in as I attempted to call for help, but an inexplicable silence gripped my vocal cords.
However, the festive atmosphere took an eerie turn when we heard a peculiar noise emanating from our son Ethan’s room. Although I initially assumed it was merely the sound of Ethan shifting in his bed, a sense of caution prompted me to investigate. Worried that his innocent curiosity might lead him to the living room, spoiling the surprise of his presents, I quietly treaded down the hallway.
Opening the door to Ethan’s room, I found him peacefully asleep in bed. My attention then shifted to the Christmas night stand, where he had left a note for Santa. Contemplating the best way to sneak in and take note without waking him, a subtle movement caught my eye. Turning my gaze towards Ethan’s window, I initially perceived nothing out of the ordinary.
However, persistent observation unveiled two small foggy marks on the windowpane, almost as if someone’s face had pressed against it. In an attempt to reassure myself, I reasoned that Ethan might have innocently peered outside to check for snowfall. Yet, harboring a lingering unease, I decided to investigate further.
I approached the front door and informed my wife that I intended to take a quick stroll around the house. Stepping into the darkness, I found minimal illumination, with the only lights emanating from neighboring Christmas night decorations. As I circled the house towards Ethan’s window, I scrutinized the surroundings for any signs of irregularity or unwelcome presence.
I cautiously made my way through the entire house, meticulously checking each shadow, my senses on high alert. Despite not spotting anything unusual, a palpable unease lingered as I reached the back door. My heart raced with a mix of anticipation and anxiety. Swiftly scanning the yard, I found nothing amiss, allowing a fleeting sense of relief to wash over me.
Returning inside, my wife and I completed our preparations for bed, the clock ticking past 2 a.m. Aware that our son, Ethan, possessed an uncanny ability to rise at 5:00 a.m. every Christmas morning, we attempted to steal a few hours of much-needed sleep. I closed my eyes, hoping fatigue would usher me into unconsciousness. However, my respite was short-lived as my cell phone abruptly pierced the silence with its insistent ringing.
Disoriented, I stumbled to the dresser on the opposite side of the room, only to find the call had concluded by the time I reached it. Glancing at the phone’s screen, I noticed it was our neighbor calling again. Concerned, I hastily checked for any missed messages but before I could do so, the phone rang once more.
I answered anxiously, inquiring about our neighbor’s well-being. The horror in his voice was palpable as he relayed that something was terribly wrong. Urging me to contact the police, he divulged the shocking revelation—I had forgotten to unplug the Christmas lights, and upon venturing outside, he had spotted an ominous figure by Ethan’s window.
Panic set in, and I turned to my wife, urgently signaling for her to dial 911. In a rush, I interrogated our neighbor about the person he had seen by Ethan’s window, his response sending shivers down my spine. A man, inexplicably dressed as Santa, had been standing outside, casting a sinister shadow over what was supposed to be a joyous Christmas night.
I hesitated for a moment at the front door, my instincts urging me to retrace my steps. Ignoring the chill creeping down my spine, I sprinted down the hallway to check on my son. Bursting into his room, I found him seated on his bed, hurriedly pulling on his boots. Bewildered, I asked, “What are you doing, buddy?”