Santa Stop Here

Written by Sophie Ramshaw

Photograph by   Dmitry     Bayer

Photograph by Dmitry Bayer

There wasn’t a house more Christmassy than Old Man Yarwin’s. The cabin-like home sat in the middle of a snow-drenched field as if God Himself had used a gigantic sieve to sift a years’ worth of icing sugar all over the property; Christmas lights streamed across every surface. The wooden foundation stuck out of the its surroundings, adjacent to plastic signs reading “Santa Stop Here” embedded in flower pots by the front door.

Through the frosted windows, a myriad of tinsel could be spotted lining each and every table, and homemade stockings filled with candy canes hung loosely from a stone fireplace. There was a train set surrounding a Christmas tree, choo-chooing as it circled and circled the stump, while trinkets of all kinds had been dotted around various surfaces.

At dusk, the place lit up like a carnival and could be seen throughout the neighbourhood. Parents with their small children would often waddle by to gaze at it with holiday spirit gleaming in their eyes. Yarwin would wave at them through his window and offer cookies and eggnog in Styrofoam cups to those who came to gawk.

The man simply loved this time of year. But tonight was always the most exciting part. Christmas Eve.

Not a sound was heard through the dead of night, save an owl or two hooting here and there. Yarwin sat comfortably in his thick suede chair and stroked the ends of his greying beard expectedly. The decorations had been switched off, the tree was dark, the fireplace cold, and not a single light beamed through the darkness, except perhaps the faint moonlight seeping through the curtains.

A tray of sugar cookies in the shape of wreaths sat beside him, slowly getting cold. An ancient-looking letter lay on top of them addressed “To Santa” in child-like writing.

He lifted a glass of sherry and sipped it quietly while his tweed jacket made a faint rustling noise as it scraped against his prominent stomach. The man stared at the fireplace in front of him. Leering at it with quiet anticipation and eager eyes.

No movement.

No sound.

Then there was a squeak of a door. The sound pierced through the dark and silent home like a gunshot by a grave. Suppressed footsteps quickly followed. It was apparent someone was inside.

Old Man Yarwin lived alone. Not another living thing occupied his festive cabin and the sudden noise briefly startled the old man. He sat stone-like on his armchair and waited.

A dark shape about six-foot-tall cautiously entered the living room. It carried with it a grey backpack and what looked from the shadows like a wooden baseball bat. It bypassed the man and his armchair and began quietly sifting through the bookshelf in the corner.

Yarwin narrowed his eyes at the intruder as he shoved the old man’s Christmas trinkets inside his horrid backpack, chewing obnoxiously on a stick of gum. A black beanie clung to the man’s head and an ill-fitting set of sweatpants swayed in the still air as he continued to search for items to steal.

He still hadn’t noticed the old man from the darkness.

A golden opportunity Yarwin couldn’t surpass.

He fondled the side of the table where his baked goods sat, and discreetly peeled off the red tinsel that encased the edges of the wood. It briefly made a crunching sound, however, if the burglar had heard, he was too busy to really take it in.

Yarwin lifted his body out of the comfy armchair and softly strode towards the man – making sure to use the balls of his slippered feet with each tiny step so as not to make a noise. The old man then lurched forward – wrapping the frilly plastic around the neck of the intruder. The material felt taut and frail – like it would snap at any second. He quickly wrapped it around the intruder’s neck a few more times, gripping the ends tightly as if aggressively tying a shoelace.

The man coughed suddenly, dropping his bag of stolen goodies and baseball bat, and franticly clutched his throat. He instinctively jolted backwards in a desperate attempt to free himself from his bindings. But it was no use.

Yarwin tightened the tinsel even further and craned his head as far away from the man’s erratic hand swings as he could. An idea popped into the old man’s head. He lifted his foot and brought it down as hard as he could on the inside of the man’s knee.

There was a gross scream and the man buckled to the floor.

Sweat began to glue Yarwin’s wispy hair to his forehead. He brushed it aside with an elbow, and knelt behind his victim. He could hear faint gurgles which sounded a lot like: “Get the fuck offa me!”, “I’m sorry!”, and: “I’ll leave, I’ll leave!”

All this, of course, was in vein.

Soon the man’s face turned a deep red, eyes popped wetly from their sockets, and his husky breaths became slower and slower. And with a final gurgle of the throat, he slumped over.

Yarwin continued to strangle him however; just to make sure the man was really dead and the threat completely eliminated. When he was satisfied, he stood back up with a crack or two from the knees, and checked his watch. It read 12:39. The next part he knew was going to be rough, so he straightened out his jacket, patted down his trousers and nodded to himself before lifting the lifeless corpse by the feet, dragging it through the small home until they reached the basement door.

The wood creaked open. With a brief look into the dark abyss at the bottom of the stairs, Yarwin heaved the limp body over the first step and listened as it thumped its way down. There was an unsettling snap followed by silence. Yarwin plodded his way down begrudgingly, switching on the light once he reached the bottom.

The corpse was now jagged and ragdoll-like, with different sections of its body jutting unevenly from different places. He took a big step over it and headed for a large freezer in the corner of the room. The old man liked to keep cuts of meat from deer and pheasants he had hunted, and save them for dinner’s later in the week. However, now the freezer had a more convenient use. Yarwin opened the lid and began awkwardly stuffing the broken appendages of the burglar inside, trying desperately to cram it in there like badly made turkey stuffing.

With much effort and a few beads more sweat, the deed was finally done. A few pheasant breasts had to be removed, but he figured that could always be donated to the local homeless shelter. That way the meat wouldn’t go to waste. He turned the lights back off, mumbling to himself “at least that’s next year’s Halloween décor sorted” as he cautiously climbed back up the basement stairs.

The comfy suede chair had gone cold in its owner’s absence, so Yarwin quickly sat back down and eased into the cushioning, hoping to rectify that matter promptly. The cookies were now freezing, but the night was just as quiet as it had been before. Yarwin picked back up his sherry and took another sip, returning his eager stare to the silent fireplace. Waiting.

And waiting. 

For someone who had never, and would never come.

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