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Author's note: This story is my entry for Shadowswimmer77's Holiday Horror contest

Andrew awoke in the darkness. It was a noise from downstairs that woke him up, a kind of subtle rustling, and creaking of the floor. He glanced to the chunky glow in the dark clock on his bedside table. It was later than he imagined, nearly half past five in the morning. His drowsiness soon wore off as he remembered it was Christmas morning. Like any other excited four year old, he tugged off the covers and crept from his bed. Ignoring the coldness of the wooden floor on his bare feet, he headed for the door.

As Andrew left his bedroom he clicked the door shut behind him. Even in the faint light he could see the closed white doors of his parents and sister’s rooms, grinning to himself as he realised he was the first awake. Andrew gingerly wandered downstairs in the darkness, clinging to the bannister for guidance as he tested each step with his freezing toes. He missed out the one that creaked, nearly hugging the wooden rail as he lunged down. 

To his surprise, yellow light seeped out from under the closed lounge door. Andrew stopped in his tracks. “Santa!” he thought, as grabbed the door handle and turned it, pushing it open in one swift excited movement. “Oh, Andrew, honey, you’re up early,” said his mother, Michelle, as she put down a present onto the coffee table, and plastic supermarket bag full of other gifts onto the floor beside it. She went over to him and kissed him on the top of the head. Andrew looked past her, “But... but where’s Santa? Why are you putting the presents out?” 

Simon, the boy's father, was quick to respond, “Santa’s very busy y’know, buddy. You just missed him. He left all these bags but he’s on such a tight schedule he didn’t have time to lay the presents out.”

Andrew thought over his father’s reply, but it seemed logical enough to him and he smiled, “I understand, Daddy.” Andrew wriggled past his mother to look at the presents. Eagerly he scanned over them but there was no sign of what he was looking for. 

What Andrew wanted most for Christmas was an electric scooter. He’d seen one, bright red and shiny,  in the toy shop in town and had his heart set on it ever since. His mother had said it was too expensive at £250, but his father had told him to wait to see what Santa would bring. Andrew was a little disheartened but he hoped that maybe Santa had left it somewhere else and his parents hadn’t put it out for him to see yet. He picked up a small gift from the table near where he stood. “To Andrew.” read the tag. “Can I open one now Mummy, before Lily wakes up?” he asked, clutching it and studying the reindeer pattern of the wrapping paper.

His parents glanced at each other, “Soon sweetie, not yet, wait for your sister. Daddy and I still have more presents left in the bags,” Michelle smiled.

“Awh, okay Mummy,” said Andrew as he put it back, “see you in the morning.” He turned and left the room, pulling the door shut behind him as he headed for the stairs. 

“It’s Christmas!” yelled a voice that once again woke Andrew from his slumber. His grinning sister Lily was in the doorway, “You should see all the presents!” Andrew almost flew from his bed, leaving the blankets on the floor as he darted from his room with his older sister. The pair ran downstairs, into the lounge. Andrew knew his parents were right, they definitely did have more presents left to arrange; the table was covered with them, and they were heaped by the fireplace and under the Christmas tree. Simon and Michelle sat in their armchairs, still in dressing gowns, sipping their Christmas Buck’s Fizz. “Go on kids,” Simon smiled, as Andrew and Lily began tearing into their presents.

Andrew had saved the big box until last. All of the other presents had been opened. The floor was littered with bows, tags and torn scraps of wrapping paper. Lily was preoccupied setting up her new Nintendo DS game. Andrew’s last present was under the tree, wrapped in dark metallic blue paper with silver glittered snowflakes. Andrew crawled down and pulled it out, sliding it towards himself as he sat cross legged on the floor. He giggled to himself a little, the excitement making his hands shake as he found the edge of the paper and began stripping it off. It could only be one thing.

As he ripped off the paper, the plain black box inside was revealed. Andrew paused, staring at it, his head tilted to one side with scraps of the wrapping still in his hands. He wondered why his parents put the scooter in there. “Open it then honey,” his mother said from behind. Andrew grabbed the lid of the box and tugged it off. The box was full of colored pens and paints, stickers and glitter, pieces of card and pots of glue.  The lid of the box still tight between his hands. It was an art set.

“Daddy and I saw how much you liked doing art at school, you can make things at home now too.”

Andrew stared down into the box, putting the lid to one side. He rooted through it. “Thank you,” he said, trying to sound as cheery as he could, but in reality he was trying not to cry. There were no other presents. Tears pricking in his eyes, Andrew put the lid on the box and tucked it back under the tree, crawling back onto the sofa next to Lily.

Andrew couldn’t stop thinking about the scooter for the rest of the day. He made a gingerbread house with his sister and they all went for a walk down by the river, but he still thought about it. It was even on his mind as he ate his Christmas dinner. Lily had finished quickly, disappearing back to play with her new toys and games, yet Andrew just sat pushing a cold piece of stray carrot around in gravy on his plate.

“What’s wrong, buddy?” asked his father, crouching down next to him. 

Andrew feared sounding ungrateful, “I just wanted that scooter Daddy, all those other things are really nice but…” he didn’t say anymore, just returning to nudging the carrot around with his fork.

His father ruffled his short dark hair and gave a half smile, “Maybe Santa just forgot it this time, he has so much to remember. Maybe we could fix up your bike sometime, I’m sure that wheel’s easy to replace, you could play on that instead if you wanted,” he offered. Andrew gave him a weak smile back.

“I know,” continued his father, “how about you make some nice Christmas pictures for Granny using your new art things?” Andrew nodded and the pair headed to the lounge, his father patting him on the back.

Lily was silent as she played her new virtual zoo game. "Look at all my monkeys, Andy, I bought twelve and it cost all my coins!" she tittered, nudging her little brother and pointing at the pixelated animals on the screen. Andrew looked briefly, his eyes scanning across the dull image, before slumping back on the sofa. Lily went back to her game without another word. Michelle was out in the kitchen, cleaning the plates. Leaning on a piece of cardboard from the box of a toy, Andrew coloured in a picture of his missing scooter he had drawn with his new art supplies. It was bright red, like the one in the shop, and he had put glitter on the silver handlebars to make it sparkle. The TV played a seemingly looping playlist of the same Christmas tunes Andrew had been bored of by the middle of the month. The drawing was finished; it wasn't exactly perfect but it was the best he could do. "Do you like my picture Daddy?" he asked, holding it up.

"Hmm?" murmured Simon. He didn't look up from his laptop, where he was tapping away as usual, occasionally glancing at his stack of papers on the arm of the chair beside him.

"My picture for Granny."

"Very nice, next time we go over you can put it on her fridge," he replied, only looking at the drawing for a second. Andrew sighed. He thought maybe his father would at least stop working for a little while on Christmas Day. Andrew knew that his mother worked at the care home for the elderly people, but he didn't understand what his father did. Almost every evening Simon sat typing up from an old spiral bound notebook or from sheets dug out of dusty dog-eared folders. Sometimes Andrew peeked at the documents that his father had forgotten to put away in the safe he kept in the kitchen, but the long complicated words meant nothing to him. Andrew slipped the pens back into the art box taking one last look at his picture of his missing scooter before laying it face down on the table. 

Huddled up under his blankets in his new pyjamas that night, Andrew tried to get to sleep. He hugged a soft fish toy that his sister had bought him. “Why did Santa forget my scooter?” he wondered, “Am I on the naughty list? That must be why. That time I knocked Mummy’s tea on the floor and when I stole that cake from Lily’s lunchbox… and when I lost my maths homework…” he thought tiredly over everything he had done wrong over the year, his drowsy fears almost bringing him to tears, “That’s why Santa forgot it, I’m a bad boy,” he said to himself gloomily as sleep overcame him.

The sound of footsteps downstairs woke him later that night. He stared around, blinking around his pitch black bedroom. The clock said it was only ten past five this time. All of the worries of the night before drained away as Andrew sat up in bed. “Santa must’ve remembered! He really did just forget my scooter! I’m not on the naughty list!” he thought with glee as he scampered from his bed. He crept downstairs as he did the night before, one step at a time and taking care to miss the creaky stair. He almost ran down the hall towards the lounge. The door was open and the light was off. “I wonder if he heard me coming.” Andrew sat down in his mother’s armchair. There was a little lamp beside the chair which Andrew switched on. The room was illuminated in a yellow glow. Andrew took a chocolate from a tin on the floor, pulling off the wrapper and scrunching it into a ball before popping the chocolate in his mouth. He scanned the room as his eyes adjusted to the light. There was no sign of the scooter. Just then, a soft murmur made him sit bolt upright in the chair. It came from the kitchen. Andrew peered down the hall from where he sat, switching off the light. “Maybe Daddy’s talking to Santa about my scooter?”

As he tiptoed past the dining room, he noticed the door was open too. The doors in the house were always left shut. Andrew stopped by the edge of the kitchen door frame. A gust of December air brushed against him. Andrew shivered and hugged himself. The front door was open a crack, swaying. “S-Santa?” he asked out loud, his quiet trembling voice fracturing the silence.

He peered into the kitchen. Dim light from the street flooded into the room. A figure dressed in black was hunched by an open cabinet, pawing through it. There were papers all over the floor. Andrew gasped in surprise and the figure shot its gaze round at him. Human eyes met his. Andrew was frozen to the spot, quivering as the hooded man just stared back at him.  The orange streetlamps outside gleamed off of the blade of a knife in the man’s hand. He wore thick winter gloves and scarf covered the bottom of his face. A chipped crowbar lay beside him. He was surrounded by files and stacks of papers, his father's work, that had been pulled from the broken into safe under the sink. That's what they must have come for. The only sound Andrew could make was a small frightened squeak as he backed away from the figure. A black van he had never seen before was parked up on the street outside. He could feel a presence behind him, and before he even had the chance to turn, a gloved hand shot round from behind him and pressed its palm over his mouth.

Written by Jet.98
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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