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Christmas Fantasy Horror

He led her down the stairs. Bright tinsel snaked its way along the balustrade, and people were already gathering in the Christmas wonderland below. They were all waiting for her. It was Christmas Eve, and Rudolf had chosen this day specifically.

Her anxiety grew as they descended. She focused on the large

overly adorned Christmas Tree in the corner but looked away with a shudder of

revulsion when her eyes fell on the fat Santa shadowed in the corner of the

room. His ruddy cheeks and twinkling eyes were strangely at odds with the fear

that rippled through her at the sight of him.

She hesitated on their downward spiral, and Rudolf looked at her

with slight annoyance.

Inclining his head, he softly said “Come now Noelle, this will

be a Christmas like no other.”

She looked up at him, unsure of his meaning, and saw that the

momentary flicker of irritation had been replaced with his charming smile. She

must have imagined it. She could still not fully rely on her fragmented mind.

At least the fog was starting to clear now, and she was finally

getting stronger with each passing day. Her frustration at the slow progress

was eclipsed by the constant dread that gnawed at her, particularly as

Christmas Eve had drawn nearer. Perhaps just fear of the unknown?

Even her own life seemed like a shadowy cavern right now.

The faces below swam before her in a sea of bright Christmas

reds and greens, and the realization that she was not yet ready sank heavily

within.

Not ready to face a group of strangers she was supposed to know.

Not ready to face the wicked world.

Not ready for another Christmas Eve Ritual!

That sudden thought brought her to an abrupt stop. Ritual? Why

had that flashed into her mind?

Rudolf sensed her falter and held her arm a little tighter. He

glanced at her, and then bowed to the waiting crowd.

Sweeping his arm out as if to present her at a Royal Court, he

theatrically announced “Behold Noelle – my beautiful wife and a blessing to us all –

alive and well, and ready to join us on this special occasion!”

A fleeting vision flickered through her mind of being presented

in the same way at a real Royal Court of Lords and Lady, court jesters, and other

members of the gentry, dissipated before she could fully grab onto it.

The silence was shattered by jarring applause. Noelle had a

sudden memory of walking down the same wide staircase with another man and the

same feeling of helplessness. She shuddered again, but the vision was gone as

quickly as it had appeared.

She shook her head slightly. This was her loving husband next to

her, tightly holding her arm and leading her back into the world that she had

known and loved.

At least that is what he kept telling her.

He had been preparing her for this special Christmas Eve for

weeks now, reminding her of how much he loved her, and how much she loved him.

How her family was missing her. How her friends gathered each Sunday evening

for their weekly vigil, willing her to recover and re-join them in time for the

festivities.

How could she not be grateful for this man who called himself

her husband?

Rudolf had lovingly nursed her back to health, but she knew his

patience had been running thin with all her recent questions, and she had

caught him looking at her quizzically a few times. Somehow, she knew this was

dangerous. Perhaps it was time to just accept his explanations - and guarded

affections.

Why was she feeling so fearful, though? Why did she feel the cold

prickle of dread creeping over her, every time he came near?

Rudolf had told her over and over about his bedside vigil as she

lay unconscious for weeks after the accident, holding her hand and begging her

to return to him. His tight lips and narrowed eyes, however, contradicted his

tales of his patience at her lack of recognition when she finally returned to

him.

Her lack of affection. Her inability to accept him. She was

grateful, but try as she might, all she could feel when she saw him, was this

heavy sense of foreboding. She had tried so hard to conjure memories of their

life together, and while his name was familiar, his face was not. His cold eyes

held no warm memories for her at all.

She mentally shook herself and stood a little taller and

straighter.

Smiling she softly said, “Hello everyone. I am so happy to see

you all and be here with you today. Merry Christmas.”

But the shocking truth was, she did not see one person she

recognized.

How she had hoped Rudolf would be proven right tonight. He had

felt it would be better to see everyone together to melt the lingering mists

away in one lightning flash. He had prepared her well with the stories, names,

and connections - but refused to let her see any photographs.

He had painted a colourful picture of their life together but

was always vague with her questions about children. They obviously didn’t have

a family, but had they spoken about it? Did he want children? Did

she?! His stranger’s eyes would slide away from hers every time she

wondered out loud.

Sitting on the window seat in her room for hours at a time, she

would watch the mothers on the street below pushing their prams, always feeling

a sad tug in her belly and a twinging sensation in her chest. She could almost

feel a soft, warm bundle in her arms. Almost hear an angry cry from a tiny face.

But then the mists would roll in again and sweep the sensations away.

Why was Rudolf so evasive on this topic, when he had such

detailed stories for everything else?

She hoped that everyone here tonight would handle her confusion

as well as he had. Sometimes she wondered why he was so accepting of the

situation when she was not. But every time she pushed him for too many answers,

he would say that she was “over-taxing herself” and give her another pink

tablet for her anxiety.

She had a little secret though.

She had begun to realize that these pink pills were causing her

fog to thicken,

and in fact, causing her more anxiety. So, in preparation for this big moment

tonight, she had stopped taking them completely a week ago.

And as she had hoped, the mists had begun to clear.

It started with flashes of the name Rudolf. Then strangely

familiar faces leering at her. And always lurking in the periphery mist – fat Santa

with his ruddy cheeks and twinkling eyes.

Whispered memories of tightening ripples across her swollen

belly left her feeling unsettled, and the confusion conjured by the prams

outside her window also became more vivid causing spasms of sadness that she

could not understand.

She had truly hoped that Rudolf was right, and she would laugh

and fall into their waiting arms as he had promised her. But the reality was

far different. Rather than a cleansing summer downpour of familiarity washing

her winter mists away, she was struck by a dark storm of confusion and

disappointment.

She looked around at the smiling faces again and slowly realized

that she did

recognize some of the men after all. She had seen them before, but their smiles

now seemed menacing.

Noelle glanced at Rudolf and smiled hesitantly. She turned and

walked slowly into the crowd. As they closed in around her, she looked back one

more time and felt a sudden jolt as a memory suddenly formed out of the

now-rapidly thinning mist.

“A Christmas like no other.”

She had heard these words before but by another Rudolf. Someone who looked a

little like this

Rudolf, but with different eyes. She looked back up the staircase and saw an

image of herself walking down just as she did tonight but looking very

different.

Her hair was wrong. It was drawn back into a chignon, and she

was wearing a beautifully extravagant ballgown from a different century. The

tinsel and large Christmas tree were the same, but there were no Christmas

lights. There were no lights at all, only hundreds of candles in elaborate

candelabras.

But there he was again - the fat Santa lurking in the shadows.

Suddenly another memory of a different time took shape. She had

walked down the same stairs on yet another Rudolf’s arm. This time her hair was

cropped in a sleek bob at her ears, and she was wearing a Christmas-red flapper

dress.

With a sudden burst of clarity, she realized she had done this

Christmas Eve parade many times before through many different eras in history.

How was this possible? Her fractured mind must be imagining it all.

She saw Rudolf’s chilling smile as she looked into his

stranger’s eyes – and saw fat Santa reflected in them.

She turned away in horror – straight into the crowd of

strangers.

“Hello Noelle, I’m James. Your younger brother. I am so happy to

see you.”

“Hello darling, I’m Peter, your oldest brother. You are looking

wonderful.”

“Hello, my angel. You look amazing! I am Jonathan, Sam’s

husband.”

“Oh Noelle, don’t look so terrified! You will remember us all

soon my dear.”

They were all Rudolf.

Now it made sense why she recognized his name, but not him.

Rudolf, her loving husband, had been played by many different men, over many

years.

The last of the mists parted like the curtains of a stage to reveal

the truth with shocking clarity.

Noelle remembered how one night a few weeks ago, she had awoken

from a terrible dream of screaming babies. Creeping downstairs for some

soothing tea she had stumbled upon this Rudolf and all these other Rudolfs talking

in low voices.

“I need to increase her dosage! She’s asking too many

questions!”.

“Keep her under control Max! She is almost ready for the

Christmas Eve ceremony. Double the dosage and make sure she’s ready by then.

It’s been twenty years since the last one was delivered, and he needs another.

Keep her happy ‘til then. We can’t have her remembering anything now, it’s too

close to the conception date.”

“Keep her calm Max. She must trust you! We’ve never had issues

before. Don’t screw this up - he needs another one, and he won’t accept

failure”.

She’d crept away quietly, knowing she’d overheard something

terrifying but all she’d questioned that night was why they were calling her

Rudolf by a different name.

She had stopped taking the pink pills the next morning.

As the truth settled over her, she turned back in horror to look

at him on the stairs.

The sensation of being pregnant was real! She remembered all the

times she had held her tiny baby before it was ripped away from her - a

different Rudolf with her each time, playing his role perfectly until the first

angry cry of her infant. His empty eyes then sliding away to find fat Santa

waiting in the shadows, moving forward to drag the newly born elf into his

scarlet-clad arms. His twinkling eyes dancing with greedy glee as he looked at

his new addition.

How many elves had she given him through the centuries?

How was this possible? Who were these people?

Who was she?

The questions struck like bolts of lightning. Could Santa be

real?!

The realization that it may be safer not to remember anything

else sliced through her horrified haze, and casting her eyes downward, Noelle

moved forward into the comforting unknown.

Her pink pills would keep her shielded in the mist and safe in

her own oblivion once again.

June 10, 2022 21:09

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2 comments

L.C. Schäfer
08:21 Jun 16, 2022

Santa has always given me the heebie jeebies, and now I know why. Why is he yoinking babies? 😳 Its suffused throughout with her anxiety and confusion, and you get infected by it as you read through, till you totally identify with her.

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Andrea Doig
08:47 Jun 16, 2022

Haha! Thank you! Yes I thought it was pretty creepy to make such a beloved and innocent (or is he?!) character so malevolent and evi!! Sorry that I reinforced your heebie jeebies about him with my story hehe. Thanks so much for reading it and commenting! X

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