It was the evening before Christmas. Our home, decorated with a regal evergreen resplendent in ornamentation and with stockings that had been hung with ritual precision by the mouth of the fireplace, was deathly quiet. I could not sleep that night; it seemed as if the great yawning silence of the house pressed upon my mind. Fitfully, I tossed and turned for endless hours, wishing for nothing so much as the sound of a mouse as it scurried over the floor—anything to take my mind away from this terrible stillness. It was as though the entire world was holding its breath in anticipation of some arrival…
The Strange Events on the Eve of Christmas: Or a Nighttime Visitation from Mythic St. Nicholas
Turning over, I looked across the room to where dear Carolynn slept in her bed. In the darkness, all I could easily make out was the shape of her body beneath the heavy bed-covers, which rose and fell with the rhythm of her breathing. The top of her head, wrapped as it was in a kerchief, peeked out from the top of the enveloping mass.
As I contemplated her sleeping form, my mind drifted to our two austere children—Edward and Charles—themselves sleeping at this bewitching hour. What strange dreams they must be having, I thought, on this unusual night. Who knew what chimerical images flickered through the vistas of their slumber.
For longer than seemed possible, I lay there in that stillness, my nerves on edge.
And suddenly, I found myself leaping from my bed, stifling a cry of terror—for such a clatter came from outside that it should have rousted the dead from their graves! I turned to see that darling Carolynn had heard nothing… her slumber had been uninterrupted. My mind demanded, how could this be? How is it possible that she should not have heard this mad cacophony?
I raced to the shuttered window and threw it open, leaning into the frozen New England night, eyes blinking away the cold. The full moon hung mockingly in the sky above, casting the light of midday upon the glistening snow below me. I squinted into the night, trying to make sense of this dreadful clamor… and that is when I saw it.
An ancient sleigh, led by eight antlered things. I recognized them as reindeer. What the Eskimo people of the north call “caribou.” But natural they were not, as they walked upon the air as though it were the solid ground. Astride this mystical sledge was a miniature man of clearly antediluvian origin—yet alive with an unnatural vitality. My breath caught in my throat.
Could this eldritch elf, this haunting vision, be the legendary St. Nicholas himself? Known as Father Christmas in yellowed English tomes, Kris Kringle in crumbling Germanic texts, and Santa Claus in the secret manuscripts of the Miskatonic University’s most restricted libraries?
I stood paralyzed with fear as this sight sped toward my home faster than a bird-of-prey swooping toward its meal. A great booming voice shattered the silence as this spirit urged on his coursers.
“On, Dasher! On, Dancer! On, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
What strange names he called these enchanted be-antlered beasts! And yet, I knew them, each, from those old dusty tomes I had read in my younger days. How I had laughed at what I thought were fanciful myths! Oh the blissful ignorance! If only I had suspected that such stories could indeed be true! What new vistas of my mind were being unlocked by this nighttime apparition!
The sleigh skimmed over my yard, and then disappeared to the roof above me. I heard the sound of hooves tromping overhead and great weight shifting toward the chimney. Heart pounding, I glanced again at sleeping Carolynn. Envy crept over me… if only I, too, could be asleep—and be spared the knowledge I now possessed.
I fled from the room, and raced down the stairs in a frenzy, just in time to see the little man-thing erupt from the chimney in a cloud of soot. He was garbed in red furs to protect him from the bone-chilling cold of the arctic that clung to him like the smudges of ash from the chimneys he had stolen down this evening. Over his back was slung a great bulging burlap bag, filled near to bursting with his arcane trinkets and toys.
His unnatural appearance was accentuated by the twinkling of those ancient eyes, beholden to eras long past and witness to hoary passages of time long forgotten. His face was indescribably jolly.
Seeing me, this archaic sprite burst into booming laughter, shaking his entire form to its very core. A strange giddiness overcame me, and it was with a detachment that I became aware that I, too, had started laughing.
A preternatural calmness then came over me, freezing me to the spot. The spiritual visitor set about removing wrapped packages from his satchel, placing them beneath the tree, and stuffing our stockings. Then, without another word, he closed that bag and stepped back into the fireplace. Laying a finger upon his nose, this timeless wizard gave a nod and wink… and then rose with such blinding speed up the chimney that I could not contain a gasp.
Removed from his calming presence, cold fear again gripped my spine. I flew once more up the stairs as I heard this being stomping upon the roof and returned to the still open window of my room. There I bore witness that terrible sight once again, as the sleigh swept from the rooftop, riding atop that cold northern current.
Then I heard again that booming voice, causing my shaking legs to finally give out beneath me.
“Merry Christmas to all!” That old elf cried as he sped away. “And to all a good night!”
I was found the next morning cowering in the corner of the now frigid room. They claim I had a mental break that evening, that my stress had finally overtaken me.
The fools! If only they knew! These are no mere legends! St. Nicholas is real! Nothing will ever be the same again…
Ia ia! From the kobolds to you, have a fhtagn holiday!