’Tis the Season
by Max Booth III
The cat’s heart had been placed on the kitchen table a few hours before the Man in Red arrived. Flies hovered above it, amazed at their tasty discovery. The Man in Red was not annoyed by the bugs. He preferred their presence and their taste.
Beside the heart was a glass of warm milk.
The boy hid in the closet, watching through a crack in the door. The Man in Red moved through the living room, a hefty velvet bag thrown over his shoulders. Despite his massive weight, his feet made no sound as they strode across the hardwood floor.
The boy feared the Man in Red would notice the whites of his eyeballs, hiding in the darkness of the closet, but could not bring himself to close his eyes. He needed to see this, needed to know that the monster had taken the bait.
The boy remembered last Christmas Eve. His sister’s room was still as she’d left it. This year, the Man in Red was coming for the boy. He would not be as weak as his sister.
No child had ever fought back. They were all too weak. Not him, though. He was strong. He was brave. He was ready. His parents would be proud. The village would make him their new god. He would be king of the universe.
The Man in Red approached the Christmas tree standing in the living room. He knelt down and rested his velvet bag on the floor. He untied the cord and opened the bag.
He pulled out various gifts for the upcoming seasons, gifts to ensure the family’s survival. The boy watched this, thinking the gifts wouldn’t do one damn bit of good to help him survive. These gifts were for his parents.
He briefly heard his little sister giggling, but knew the sound was only in his head. His sister couldn’t giggle now that she’d been taken to the North Pole. Laughter wasn’t allowed there.
What would his parents do next year? The boy was the last of their flesh and blood. They’d have to create more babies together. More babies to hand over to this disgusting monster.
No. The boy would put a stop to this. It was time someone finally took a stand.
The Man in Red finished strewing the gifts around the tree and stood back up, cracking his neck. He tied the bag shut and slowly made his way across the living room, toward the serving table. Now he would feast on his snack, and then make his way up to the boy’s room for the complete offering.
He would never make it to the boy’s room.
The boy watched as the Man in Red approached the cat’s heart. The foul creature stood in front of the table, staring at the plate. His tiny pink tongue stuck out of his bushy white beard as he licked his lips.
Eat it, the boy thought. Eat what you deserve.
The Man in Red bent down, smelling the rotting heart. He let the scent linger a moment before unhinging his jaws and biting down. Like a starved dog, the Man in Red fed. He did not use his hands. Maybe he was saving his hands for the boy. Or maybe he’d eat the boy the same way.
After the cat’s heart was consumed, the Man in Red downed the glass of warm milk in one gulp. He belched loudly, and the boy wondered if his parents could hear the noise from their bedroom. Were they awake right now? Were they listening? Would they keep listening as the Man in Red entered the boy’s bedroom, or would they pretend everything was perfectly okay?
What would they do tomorrow morning, when the breakfast table needed one less seat to serve?
It wasn’t going to happen. Not this time. The boy had been prepared.
He gripped the empty bottle of poison in his hands, smiling. He’d done good. Tomorrow, his parents would be proud. No longer would they lose any more children.
The boy watched as the Man in Red groaned and doubled over, holding his gut. Further cries of agony emitted from his lungs and gullet as he slowly fell to the floor. The Man in Red cried louder and louder, pleading for help.
No help was given.
After The Man in Red finally fell silent, the boy exited the closet and tiptoed toward the large body. He stood above him a moment, smiling, just as the Man in Red had stood and smiled at the cat’s heart. The cat, who had belonged to the boy. Now, the boy had no more cat. The boy had no more sister. The boy was finished with losing what he loved.
It was time for these insane traditions to end. Christmas was over. For good.
“I won,” the boy whispered. “I beat you. Now I claim your beard, for it is my trophy.”
The boy bent down and ripped off the fat man’s white beard. It peeled from his face with surprisingly little resistance. It took the boy a moment to realize the beard was fake.
The boy stared at the Man in Red’s face in horror, and backed up, lips quivering.
Copyright © 2014 Max Booth III