I See You, Santa Claus  by Chelsea Sutton

Competition: Flash Fiction Challenge 2011, Final Round

Genre: Open  Location: A secret hideout  Object: A framed newspaper article

Original Illustration by Yevgenia Nayberg

There you are.  Slurping split-pea soup from a can that cuts your tongue.


Itís Christmas Eve.  No one knows youíre here.  But I do.  And Iím watching.


You slump in the corner of your faux North Pole cottage, a rickety plywood room built by the drama class of Hillburn High to add some dimension to the Santa Claus photo setup in the middle of Hillburn Mall, just midway between the food court, Victoriaís Secret and JC Pennyís.  


You think youíre clever.  Hiding here.  In the afterhours of chaos.


It began as a place to escape sticky fingers and sugared breath.  A place to hide from the stench of rotten, greedy children. 


But it became a place to take your spoils of the day Ė the single mothers, the lonely wives who got moist at the very sight of men like you.  A man with jolly guts and a grisly white beard and rosy cheeks, whoíd ask them, in a hot cocoa voice, if they had been good girls this year. 


Apparently, this is a thing.


They had been bad, of course.  All of them.  You knew that because youíre Santa Claus.  Itís Santa Clausís job to know these things. 


Your suspenders pinch your bare shoulders and chafe at your nipples, your fat spills over the red faux velvet pants, and I gag.  Or I would if I could.


You remember your first lay in here.  Youíre remembering her because Iím making you.  Iím in your head and Iím digging through shit and you need to see this one.  See her.


Her child was on your lap, a girl with thinning mousey brown hair and a sickly complexion, with bits of lollipop still clinging to her lips, and the mother stood in your eye-line, running her finger along the crease of her cleavage, adjusting her bra, pulling at the waist of her jeans two sizes too small.


You had to adjust the girl on your knee, so she wouldnít feel the bulge forming in your pants.


You are ashamed of that.  I know because I see the emotion skipping across your mind, like a pebble over a lake.


Can you feel me inside you?  Can you feel me running my tongue over your thoughts?  I see every damning, dirty thing youíve ever done.  Iím throwing them against your mind and letting them shatter and bleed into you. 


She had insisted on it.  Being in this room with you.  She was a bad girl, she said.


You almost feel it.  Me.  A chill around your throat and ears, a cold coming on.  Thatís what I am now.  Iím the mucus in your throat, the acid in your stomach.  Can you feel me gnawing at your organs?


They made it so easy.  The women.  Made it so clear what they wanted.  And you were more than willing to give it to them, werenít you?  Eager even.   I make them march across your vision.


Youíve made a bed of faux snow, a pillow of stuffing from the lining of the faux sleigh, attached to those goddamn faux reindeer that seem to see into your soul.


Forget the reindeer.  You should worry about me.  


Look, Iím not judging.  Most men in your position would take advantage of a prime opportunity while it lasts.  Because it doesnít last long.  Only from Thanksgiving until tonight.  Christmas Eve is the end of your fun.


You know Iím here, but you donít.  You begin to sweat. Thick gummy sweat that crawls down your face, into your real beard. They really loved that it wasnít a strap-on.  The women.  They loved that there was no padding under your costume. 


You lean back on your soiled bed, rub your belly, and your eyes fall to a single dusty frame, a photo of you as a little boy on Santaís lap.  And next to it, behind the same chipped yellow glass, is a fresh newspaper clipping from this morning.  A body of a woman was found in the mall dumpsters.  Chopped to bits.


You thought you were clever.  This time of year, no one notices these kinds of things.  Trash bags filled with wrapping paper and candy wrappers and body parts.


You circled the girlís name in red marker.  Cassie Brown.  You never asked her name.


She was a college girl.  She and a few friends thought it would be cute to sit on your lap and whisper their desires to you.    You saw that twinkle in her eye.  She had daddy issues but hadnít yet translated them into a loveless marriage.  Maybe she was a good girl, a virgin even.  That would really top off your year.  Something to keep you warm until next Thanksgiving.


Thatís why you took her wallet.


She came looking for it at the end of the evening.  The elves had left.  You lingered, like you always do.


You said you kept the lost and found in your dressing room.  Come on in. You shut the door behind her.  You wrapped your arm around her waist.  She tried to scream but you wrapped your plump hand over her mouth.  You forced yourself inside her, keeping your hand in place over her mouth.  These things had to be quiet, you thought.  This is probably how she likes it, you thought. 


I make you relive it.  You see yourself suffocating her.  You were greedy.  Naughty.


I keep a list too, you know. 


Can you feel me here?  Breathe a little deeper.   Feel how it catches in your lungs?  Feel how your throat constricts?  Try again.


Thatís me youíre feeling.


You feel me inside you.  Tell me you can, because I love how it sounds.


We can spend all evening like this, you and I.   You can look at that newsprint photo of me in that frame and Iíll share with you all those little violating pains you made me feel.  And I wonít be greedy about it.


Christmas is about giving, after all.




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Chelsea Sutton is a fiction writer, playwright and director in Los Angeles. She spends a lot of time baking pies and running half marathons very very slowly.




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