I wrote this at two in the morning after finishing Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and then stumbling onto this story by Joey Comeau.
Santa Claus was lying in our fireplace. Dead. Very dead. The little brown tiles he had landed on, head-first, were covered in a growing pool of ruddy blood. His huge booted feet were still up the chimney. A grimace of sudden shock was plastered across his jowly, bearded face.
“I don’t think that was supposed to happen,” said Mina. She was not my identical twin, but looked a lot like me anyway. She was tall and blonde and bright, and standing in the middle of the living room in her pyjamas and looking at Santa’s body.
“No, I really don’t think so either,” I said. Santa smelt like pine needles and wet fur and reindeer musk.
“The reindeers are probably still up there on the roof!” I moaned. “Reindeer? Reindeers?”
“Who cares?” yelped Mina, then glanced in the direction of our parents’ room. “Alright. Quick. Think! We have to do something – get rid of Santa’s body.”
“We do?” I said. The corpse grimaced at me painfully. I was perfectly happy to climb into bed and pretend nothing had happened.
“Yes, we do!” she whispered angrily. “We can’t just leave him! Our parents will notice! There’ll be questions!”
“They might not notice… they don’t believe in him…”
“Sam, you moron, it doesn’t matter how much you don’t believe in someone if his body is crammed up the fireplace and bleeding all over your tiles! Ugh.”
“Right. Yes. Fine. Uh, let’s…” I stopped. “Is he heavy? Can we take him somewhere?”
I thought for a bit. Somewhere with no people. Or reindeers. Reindeer?
“Ooh!” I remembered. “The skip at the back of the supermarket down the block. There’ll be nobody there.”
“Alright. Let’s drag him.” We grabbed an arm each, after shifting the Christmas tree, and pulled him out of the living room and into the hall. His head dripped little rubies of blood onto the carpet, and his body smudged them into wet stains as we pulled. He was heavy, after all – very heavy, like a sack of bricks, and just as bad to pull. Mina’s pulling helped more than mine and I kept trying to pull harder to catch up to her. We managed to get him through the living room door, past our parents’ room and past little Maddy’s – I think we woke her up, but little Maddy’s the sort of really quiet kid who doesn’t ask questions at two in the morning, so she just stared at us with big white eyes from her bed and then lay back down.
The hardest part was dragging him out onto the street. The front door was okay, and then there were steps, but just when we thought the coast was clear, a big gang of drunks came wandering down the street, and I felt scared even though I had Santa’s corpse with me. But after they left, we still had all the block to go to get to the shops. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life – harder than the beep test, harder than a marathon or a hundred metre race or anything. My arms felt numb and pained and blistered all at once, and the fact that Santa’s expression changed at one point – we must’ve bumped him against the path really hard – really didn’t help make me feel better. We dragged in silence, panting and puffing. Some of the reindeers trotted with us, a few steps behind, and even though they seemed concerned and friendly, it made me feel uneasy.
But finally we got him to the skip, which was behind the supermarket through a little alley closer to our side of the road, which was good. The skip smelt awful, and we had to have the heavy metal lid of it open for so long, what with trying to lever and push and pull Santa’s body into it, that I felt like I’d smell of old fish and sour milk and vegetable peelings forever. It wasn’t easy, but we managed it in the end. When we’d finished, you could only see the tip of one of Santa’s shiny boots sticking out a corner of the skip, and we both decided we weren’t keen on the idea of climbing in there with Santa and rearranging his limbs so he’d fit better, so we just walked home. The reindeers stayed behind, all big and silent. I felt desperately tired. But when we got back home, we still hadn’t finished, because Mina handed me a sponge and we had to clean the carpet. It did very little. You can still see the stains pretty clearly, but our parents never asked about them much.
When school started, the next year – we were in year six, which was fun because we were finally in different classes so people stopped asking us if we were twins (yes) and were we identical (no) and how come we looked the same (don’t know) and did we have to share our clothes (only our school uniforms, sometimes) – we asked around how our friends’ Christmases were. Most of them seemed better than ours. We decided ours was the worst Christmas ever. But then Frankie Black came up to me at the end of lunch and said Santa had had a heart attack on his nice living room sofa, and Annie McClaren told Mina that Santa had fallen off her roof and gotten impaled on the garden fence – so we worked out it happened to some kids some years and some kids others. But Santa definitely won’t be coming to our place again. Except maybe for little Maddy. But I really hope she’ll wake us up when she finds him dead, because she’s very small and not very good at walking to the shops by herself.