Placing a flashlight under his chin, and remembering not to smile while trying to appear scary, my Father begins his annual Halloween ghost story, “Most of you have heard of Santa Claus, but I’ll bet that few know he had an evil brother.”
I sigh mentally, and try to appear attentive. I am accustomed to Father’s yarns, but every year I worry about how my party guests might react. Some cry too easily. Others laugh too much. This year, I am most concerned about Silent Sammy. Damn strange kid, never says much, but always seems to get his way. He cannot use force because he’s small for his age. Surprisingly, despite his smallness, all bullies leave him alone. After looking into his eyes, any bully retreats.
Father continues, “His name was Santa Claws!” To clarify, he places his flashlight on the table and slashes the air with clawed hands. “Unlike his good brother, this Santa did not love children, he only loved to have them for dinner. While leaving Xmas toys, the good Santa always shouts ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!’ While murdering and baking any child, the evil Santa would always shout ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!'”
One of my friends raises his hand and asks, “Why haven’t I heard of Santa Claws before now?” Father replies, “Because he’s dead.”
“How did he die?”
“Many Halloweens ago, he accidentally poisoned himself by eating too many children who had eaten too much candy. Our ancestors buried him in the town cemetery, or at least tried. He was too big to bury completely, so they left the top of his head sticking above ground.”
“Why haven’t I seen this head?”
“Have you ever noticed that big rock just inside the main cemetery gate?”
“That’s no rock. That’s the top of Santa Claws’s skull.”
“What bull! Anyway, why bury him in our town?”
“Probably because he died here. Or, maybe God is punishing our town for its past sins. Although God condemned Santa Claws’s spirit to Hell, his ghost is permitted to return here every Halloween to hunt greedy children. If he catches one, he takes it to Hell and adds it his collection of eternal, sizzling snacks. Therefore, children, be careful while trick-or-treating this evening. The ghost of the evil Santa Claws is already out hunting. Keep your hearts pure. If you sin by begging too much candy, or even by wishing for too many Xmas presents, evil Santa’s ghost will catch you, take you to Hell, and then bake you forever.
As we all prepare to pair off and go trick-or-treating, Sammy approaches me and says, “I want to go trick-or-treating with you.” I look into his eyes and agree immediately. As I’ve said, he always gets his way. Have any of the other kids ever noticed? No one has said anything.
When I ask Sammy why he has no mask with his costume, he merely shrugs. After we visit our first few houses, I realize he needs his candy providers to see his eyes. He always goes first, and gets two or three pieces of candy. I follow, and get one. This continues until his nearly bag is nearly full while mine remains nearly empty. So, I ask him, “Sammy, please give me some of your candy. You got more than I did.” Looking at me, he says, “No. Remember what your father said. Don’t be so greedy.” Of course, I do not argue. I have seen his eyes.
At the next house, the lady gives Sammy three candy bars, and then says to me, “Oops! I just ran out of candy. Wait right here and I’ll get you a nice apple.” Under a street light, I examine the apple to find it not so nice; it’s small, shriveled, and a bit soft. As soon as I throw the apple away, I regret not throwing it at Silent Sammy. It’s not fair that he gets what he wants so often. He’s small and week. I never get what I want. I’m large and strong. The world and its candy should belong only to the strong.
Realizing I can have Sammy’s candy without needing to look at his eyes, I sneak up behind him, grab his candy, and run. I can hear him running right behind me. Somehow he keeps up despite his stubby legs. He starts yelling, almost in my ears, “Ha. Ha! Ha!” He repeats “Ha! Ha! Ha!” continuously, chilling my spine but speeding my heart. I start running faster, as if my life depends on it. It really might.
As I finally pull away, the “Ha! Ha! Ha!” fades, but seems to have a deeper, more-adult tone. After I pass the cemetery, the “Ha! Ha! Ha!” stops. I glance back and see that Silent Sammy no longer follows. He is gone. However, the streetlights reveal a tree falling behind the cemetery wall, near the gate. A top of a head, rock-colored, emerges behind the wall. As Santa Claws steps from his grave and destroys the cemetery gate, I see his burning face and obese, rotting body. His Santa suit is black with gray trim.
Santa Claws sees me and screeches “Ha! Ha! Ha!” He begins his attack, shaking the ground with his steps. Thump, thump, thump! Santa Claws is way too fast for his size, he nearly has me! “Ha! Ha! Ha!” Thump, thump, thump! He grabs me with his claws, breaking my arms and ribs. I scream in pain as he drags me back to the cemetery. I am beginning to pass out as he throws me into his grave.
Ah! Peace and painlessness at last! Blessed, quiet void. Eternal rest.
Oh no! Please no! Please God, no! I smell sulphur!