The elf scampered up to the tree. His small frame allowed him a certain amount of stealth, an aspect that he usually hated. But this time, in this place, he reveled in it.
It was a clear night, with only a faint hint of a breeze. Every house on the street was decked out in holiday cheer. Some more than others. One house even had a complete blow-up nativity scene, complete with the Three Wise Men and a pair of matching camels.
The elf ran a long finger through his curled mustache and pointy beard. A devilish grin spread across his pale face.
"Perfect. Everything is progressing perfectly," he hissed in a high-pitched voice. "Everyone's asleep. Nobody suspects thing."
The movement caught the elf’s eye. Something was rustling along one of the houses. It was small, far smaller than the elf was, but was still cause for concern. The mere presence of it could ruin everything.
The snow on the ground was fairly thick, possibly up to four inches deep, so the elf had little difficulty concealing his steps. He would leave footprints no doubt, but by the time morning broke he’d be long gone.
The irony of the thought struck the elf then. His long, pointy years twitched with excitement. "Morning," he drawled. "There won’t be any morning when Santa’s done."
The elf sprinted across the street and hurried into a copse of dense bushes. His small body hardly penetrated the snow as he moved across it. His beady eyes narrowed as he focused on the origin of the movement.
The dark shape hunched over a decorative stone on someone's front landscape bed. The creature, motionless as it obviously sensed it was discovered, carefully looked in the direction of the elf. The fur on its back stood straight up.
The elf shot forward with speedy grace that the feline itself would have envied. In the span of a few seconds the cat’s life was snuffed out in a bloody spray of gore. The snow all around the carcass turned pink-red.
"Hmmm," the elf chuckled. "I wonder if the other elves back at the North Pole could make a toy like this." He dipped a crooked finger into the quickly freezing soup of the cat’s innards. "A cat that comes apart. Interesting idea."
With experienced ease, the elf whipped out a small box and scooped the remains of the cat into it. A bright red and green ribbon topped the grisly present off.
Sensing additional movement, the elf spun around and scanned the street with his beady eyes. His night vision was finely tuned to darkness so seeing everywhere, every corner, every shadow, was far from difficult for him.
The house directly across from where he had killed the cat (a nearly identical building with two pickup trucks in the driveway) suddenly lit up. Two rooms became alive with a soft yellow glow as two figures made their way through them. Each was carrying boxes and was as quiet as the grave.
The elf hunched down in the snow and watched. "Must be putting presents under the tree," he chuckled to himself. "Just keep doing your stupid lies. Telling your kids that Santa will bring presents, while all the time it's really you that are buying them." He glanced up into the cold sky. A black dot, distant but slicing through the night with frightening speed, caught his eye. "He's coming. You stupid, stupid people lose your belief in him as you grow older, but he's real. He's real and he’s coming to make some changes."
The lights in the house went out then, immersing the street in comforting stillness once again.
"Be still!" the sharp voice rang in the elf’s ears. "You're making too much noise!"
The elf turned around slowly. He recognized the voice. It was his boss. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.
The larger elf put his hands on his hips. A shiny black belt shifted around his small waist. "You should be!" He looked up into the sky, and seeing the object zeroing in on the neighborhood, nodded his head in approval. "Good. He's coming. The others are already here." He gestured all around them. "We'll start the preparation."
"Yes. There has to be access to all the houses. Otherwise he won't be able to get in."
The elf was confused. "But I thought he comes down the chimney?"
"Not tonight. He wants to go through the front doors."
The elf suddenly became aware of others of its kind nearby. "I see," he said to the larger elf. "So stealth is not part of the plan then?"
"No. I want you to join the welcoming troops. Santa will be landing shortly."
"Yes sir," the elf replied.
As he made his way across the snow-covered lawns and sidewalks, a small army of other elves materialized out of every shadow. There were dozens of them. They stretched out into the open, trampling one another in the process.
Elves scampered every which way. They moved with speed and agility despite their numbers and apparent lack of concern over being detected. They had the power of Santa himself backing them up and were not about to be intimidated by anyone or anything.
Two particularly large elves bullied their way through the crowd. One wore bloodstained clothes, the red meshing in with the similar-colored bands of his outfit, while the other had a blue and green ensemble that was also splattered with blood. They had both eaten smaller members of their species, and reveled in their superiority. They planned to be the first ones to partake in the New World after Santa was finished.
Up and down the street the elves moved. Santa was coming in for a landing, so they were quick to prepare a suitable spot for him. If they weren’t ready they would surely pay the price.
Front porches were overrun with the creatures. They lined up ten deep on lawns and against windows. There would be nowhere to escape to when the time came for their attack.
Santa's sleigh cut through the air with silent beauty. It was a streamlined vehicle, specially engineered to move with the utmost efficiency. The reindeer that pulled the sleigh were nothing like the fictional creatures of lore. They were skeletal to the point that their bones jutted through their mangy hides. Their faces were festering sores, void of any intelligence or compassion. Their jagged teeth ground in their oversized mouths.
Santa himself was as plump and jolly as he was known to be in the countless movies and drawings he was portrayed in. His red and white suit fluttered in the breeze, and his huge arms twisted and pulled on the reigns.
But there was a dark undertone to his familiar persona, dark and wholly evil. He and his minions had spent centuries fabricating the false image of a jolly old elf, but it was all a façade. It was just a ploy to gain their trust.
And then, when the time was right...
The sleigh skidded to a halt in the middle of the street. Instantly, a battalion of elves ran up to it. Some secured the reindeer while others merely jostled for position around it.
Santa snarled at his workers, causing the crowd to back away. He stepped down onto the street, his enormous black boots crunching snow. He surveyed the neighborhood with a keen eye.
Without saying a word, Santa motioned for his lead elf to start the night's activities. He wanted everything to go smoothly. With the number of elves he was expecting, he couldn’t afford for anyone to stumble onto his plan too early.
The lead elf, a rail-thin creature decked out in a bright red and yellow outfit, quickly instructed his underlings to disperse. The other elves scattered off in all directions and surrounded every house. Their leering faces pressed against windows and up and down doors.
The lead elf spun around. He viciously shoved a few smaller elves aside and bent down in the snow. A knowing grin reflected on his pale face.
After a few seconds passed, the elf clasped his bony hands together and rammed them straight into the ground. The other elves merely stared in amazement as a gaping rift opened up in the snow. A mixture of different-colored light (green, red, yellow, blue) lit the chasm from deep below.
Santa waddled up behind the lead elf. He wanted to make sure there were no problems. "Good," he said in a hush. "Very, very good."
The lead elf, beaming with pride that his magic was working, smiled even wider. The tips of his pointy teeth drew blood as they sliced into his lips.
He didn’t notice.
Down in the ever-deepening hole, something was working its way upward. Frenzied; violent; hungry; the creatures were relentless in their ascent, never pausing to rest.
Santa and the elves stepped back from the hole. Their expressions were anxious and excited. Their time was near, and nothing would stop it now that it had started.
The first hand slapped down onto the snow that rimmed the opening. It was immediately followed by several others that varied in size and color. Some were small like that of a child, while others were as big as a grown man's hand.
Santa looked over at the lead elf and nodded his head in approval.
The elves poured out of the hole in droves. Literally hundreds of the creatures swarmed out onto the street, spilling over lawns and sidewalks. They merged with the elves already there, forming a burgeoning army that engulfed the unsuspecting houses in the neighborhood.
The seething mass of bodies was disorganized due to the agitated excitement of their mission. It took Santa a few minutes to settle them down. He didn't want their presence detected just yet. He raised a gloved hand and snapped it forward.
Instantly, the mass converged into a rough semblance of organization.
"You only need to give the word," the lead elf grunted at Santa’s side.
Santa opened his mouth wide, parting his greasy beard into a mockery of joy and happiness. Three-inch fangs popped out of the cavernous maw and came to rest against his lower lip. A drop of blood hung from each canine.
"Well, Santa?" Another elf asked eagerly.
All the elves then started to break into the houses. They used unnatural stealth to hide their actions, slicing through wood and glass with silent and effortless ease.
And more elves were coming out of the hole. In seconds, nearly one thousand of the creatures clogged the streets. In less than a minute, almost two thousand
Santa smiled so wide his beard began to tear, revealing the glistening scales beneath it. "Good," he scowled in a deep voice. "Very, very good."
* * * *
Little Susie tiptoed down the carpeted steps. Her tiny feet barely made indents in the plush carpet. She knew what she was doing was wrong, but she couldn't help herself. She just had to see what Santa had left under the tree.
The room was lit only by the strands of lights on the Christmas tree. Green, red, and blue colors splayed out across the room, giving just a hint of the various-sized presents on the floor.
Susie stopped at the foot of the staircase. She had hoped to catch a glimpse of Santa when he stopped by her house. To actually see him would've been something she could brag about to all her friends.
But Santa wasn't in her living room. Instead, illuminated in the colorful light the Christmas tree, there were dozens of his elves.