Santa tried to get into my mind last night. I poured a circle of salt around the bed.
Shadow-shapes, small and menacing, dash along the edges of the motion light’s reach. The wind rattles the windows, and the tinkling of dead bells on tiny shoes and hats follows.
A gingerbread man turns to ash in my mouth, sugar and butter and burnt edges. My teeth find his eyes and sink in.
Courage comes with the clear liquid I pour into my egg nog. But so does the desire for sleep.
I’m afraid to close my eyes.
His reindeer speak in my dreams, offering their blood for my soul, their animal-mouths twisting and snapping in a sharp mockery of human language.
The gifts were under the tree the next morning, wrapped in glimmering paper, a metallic sheen reflecting fading Christmas lights. A faint hum came from within the smallest box. When I’m not looking, I hear shuffling and movement along the stained carpet. Something’s inside.
There are no children here.