Little Danny sat up suddenly. He thought that he had heard something. He stared into the darkness, waiting for something to happen. He was met only with silence.
Perhaps it was just a dream. Danny thought hopefully, but those hopes were destroyed by a scraping sound from above him. More specifically, from the roof. It was that creature, there was no denying it. He glanced at his clock and saw it was almost half past midnight.
Supposedly, no one had actually seen the creature but he had been visited by it last year. The shadowy figure towered over him and warned that if Danny remained the way he was, it would return for him. Danny had told the adults what had happened, of the terrifying creature, but they told him he had a nightmare. After awhile, he began to believe it himself, but now he knew it was never a nightmare, but true horror.
Another scraping sound and Danny darted down the hall to his parent’s room and attempted to wake them, but to no avail; when he tried to shake them, they felt like immovable statues. Another scrape echoed through the house as he screamed and wailed at the figures before him to wake up and do something, but they remained still. The scraping sound was now almost to the chimney.
Danny panicked and ran for the stairs. He dashed past the towering grandfather clock, not noticing that its massive pendulum had been halted mid-swing; permanently frozen at 12:25. He ran to the fireplace and saw the logs his parents left for decoration; since the family had gas heating, they never actually used the fireplace. Danny grabbed a lighter off the table and threw himself in front of the logs. He fumbled with the lighter, trying to light it. Finally, when the lighter had a steady flame, he shoved it under the nearest log. Being only five, Danny didn’t understand how fire worked or why the log developed a black spot but refused to ignite. Danny began weeping with fear; the scraping had finally reached the chimney.
Danny threw the lighter away in anger and ran from the chimney. He made it a few feet before he stumbled and fell. He could hear something falling down the chimney, smacking off the sides as it flipped and rolled ungracefully down. He heard a loud final thud and looked back to see a giant, red-stained, cloth bag filling the fireplace. Feet fell silently to either side of it. The feet were small, attached to spindly legs, and in a quick sweep, one of the feet knocked the bag into the room.
The creature in the chimney crouched so low that its knees were touching its chest, but the fireplace still only showed up to its shoulders. Its head began to tilt further and further to the side until, with a sickening crack, it was dangling nearly upside-down. The face was pale with sunken eyes that had dark bags under them. It wore a tired, aged expression, staring blankly at Danny.
It reached its arms through the fireplace and, with sharp, snapping sounds, bent them backwards. With hands to either side of the fireplace, it pushed itself out and up until it was standing upright. Its arms snapped back to their proper angles. It then grabbed its head and, with a final crack, straightened it. Never once changing its expression. Never once grimacing. Never once breaking eye contact.
Danny was frozen in place. The ghastly pale creature before him was about eight feet tall and unnaturally thin; its skin seemed stretched and clung to the bones, as if too small for its frame. The creature wore a tattered white suit covered in what looked like blood stains of varying shades. Its face bore an expression of dull exasperation.
The creature stepped toward Danny, clearing a forth of the room in a single stride; Danny took off instinctively. He ran down the hall and through a doorway to the kitchen, frantically looking around the room for a place to hide. Then he saw it: a set of kitchen knives in their wooden block. He felt something change in him; the knives had awoken that part of him. The part that had driven him to start those fights. The part of him that had driven him to steal those toys. The part of him that had driven him to do everything that he knew was wrong. Danny was normally afraid of that part, but now, he welcomed it.
Danny grabbed the largest knife and held it firmly in one hand. He made a few slashes at the air and smiled. His fear seemed to be replaced by excitement and hope. Deep down, though, a part of him was terrified. He wanted to drop the knife and run away because he was taught that playing with knives was dangerous, but the fear of that creature was far greater right now.
This time, the creature entered the room with a lackadaisical grace. It casually arched its spine and tipped his head back as if playing a relaxing game of limbo. As soon as it cleared the doorway, its body snapped straight again; its cold, dead stare upon Danny once more.
Danny screamed, charging towards the monumental creature. He raised the knife high into the air and brought it down into the creature’s thigh. The knife barely pierced the creature’s clothing before hitting a bone and ricocheting off at an odd angle. This sent the knife flying out of Danny’s hand and onto the floor as the creature dropped to his knee, almost as if in slow motion. Danny rushed to the knife, hoping to attack the creature before it was able to get up again. As he picked up the blade and spun around, the creature’s hand was already almost upon him. Danny blindly stabbed the creatures hand, but its fingers instantly snapped shut around Danny’s, simply allowing the blade to pierce it. Danny tried in vain to pull away, but the creature’s bony grip was ironclad, even as the struggle dug the knife further into its palm and blood trickled down it before dripping to the floor.
Danny was desperate and did the only thing he could think; he bit one of the creatures fingers. The creature didn’t react, so Danny clenched his teeth tighter, but the creature didn’t even seem to notice, so he clamped down even harder.
The finger gave suddenly and Danny’s mouth filled with a coppery liquid. He spit everything out, noticing the grip had loosened slightly, so he ripped his hand, and the knife, free. The creature brought the wounded hand to its face and stared at it; there was a hole in the palm and a finger dangling by just a sliver of skin. Despite this, the creature maintained a dull expression, unstained by anger or pain. Danny charged forward again, this time plunging the knife into the creature’s chest before throwing his body into it. The creature began to fall back, and it tried to catch itself with its wounded hand, but the blood oozing from it caused it to slip away from the creature, and it fell flat on its back, the injured leg folded under it.
There was little to cushion Danny as he landed on top of the creature, but he was quickly back up, kneeling on the creature's stomach. He gripped the knife in both hands, raising it high above his head and plunging it down into the creature’s chest.
He did this over and over again until he could no longer remember how many times he had stabbed the creature. Finally, he crawled off and stood next to the creature, its blood dripping off him and the knife he still held in his hand. He began backing away, allowing the knife to slip from his hands and clatter to the floor. A smile crossed Danny’s face; he had actually defeated this creature. He continued to back away till he stumbled and plopped down. He sat there for awhile, panting heavily, relieved that it was finally over.
Just then, the creature’s head snapped to look at him and, before Danny could even understand what was going on, the creatures torso stiffly shot up. Before Danny could manage to crawl further away, the creature brought its feet together, flinging its torso into the air. Danny noticed the creature’s jaw was clenched now, and he knew that he had only succeeded in upsetting it.
In an instant, its palm was flat on Danny’s head and its fingers curled down to his chin. It ripped Danny into the air and brought him mere inches from its face.
“You cannot escape your fate,” the creature whispered in a raspy voice. “I warned you last year of what would happen if you did not change, but you ignored my warning. Now you must pay the price.”
The creature dropped its arm, still gripping Danny, to the side and briskly walked back to the chimney. Danny saw that the house seemed to be cleaning itself, as signs of the struggle disappeared. By the time they reached the fireplace, the house looked exactly as it had before the creature arrived, even the lighter was back on the table.
Upon reaching its bag, the creature ripped it open, and Danny saw inside for the first time. The space inside seemed to stretch away far below where the bottom should have been, but it also had some kind of divider in the middle. On the right side, there were billions of presents, but on the left side, there were dozens of children. The children all appeared to be about Danny’s age, and, despite some being covered in blood, none seemed to actually be injured. The creature tossed Danny into the left side, adding another bloody child to its collection.
Written by Stanly Sheddie