Editors Note: This is the winning entry of our 2020 Holiday Horrors Flash Fiction Contest.
Robby, seated in the living room on Christmas Eve night, recites The Rules to himself to the trembling grind of Daddy’s snoring.
1. Santa visits every home on Christmas.
2. Santa enters through the chimney.
This seems to break Rule 1, but Mommy quickly amends.
2.1. Where there is no chimney, Santa makes one.
She shows him a clip from an old movie of a chimney growing from the middle of drywall, yawning open like a jolly, laughing mouth.
2.2. The chimney appears where the stockings are hung.
It must, because every year there was a present from Santa and a full stocking. Robby runs his hands over the wall where they pin their stockings, imagining. It shows no bruising, no sign of having been torn apart and restitched. Robby tugs sleeves down over scars. The wall is not flesh.
3. Santa gives what you want most.
Robby never argues, but it’s wrong. Santa gives a new handheld, maybe clothes.
This year will be different.
What he wants most is for Mommy and Patty, Mommy’s secret friend, to take him to live in Florida like he heard them talk about. Florida, with the ocean and Disney and no trips to the E.R. for Mommy or Robby when Daddy’s been drinking too much.
4. Santa won’t come unless you’re very, very quiet.
Quietly, he unpins the stockings from the wall. Quietly, he drapes them over Daddy’s sleeping body. Quietly, he recites The Rules in his mind, and waits for Christmas.