Midnight Snack

by Mr. Scratch © 2002

Santa twitched his cherry-like nose the moment he landed at the bottom of the fireplace this Christmas Eve, sensing instinctively that there was something different about young Clifford Low's place. As he emerged from the fireplace, his unease only grew sharper as he took in the stark surroundings of Clifford's home. He was accustomed to being greeted by a warmer, more familial midnight setting -- the twinkling glow of a Yule tree's festooned lights reflected from brightly packaged gifts, the comforting green of ornamental wreaths, the proudly displayed holiday cards of friends and well-wishers. But here, only a dark gothic chamber, built of cold granite, ringed by tall medieval arches, and cast in heavy shadows. On the floor were barbarously jagged and dense scribblings and spiraling circular glyphs unlike Santa had ever seen in his many worldwide travels. The only light fell from a tiny candle upon his small reward, far across the gloomy cobblestone floor -- milk and cookies set enticingly on a crude black trapezoidal altar.

"Well ho ho ho!" chuckled Santa, "what a flair for the dramatic young Clifford has!" as he confidently strode toward the delicious confections, his bundle of toys already unshouldered to retrieve Clifford's gift. Santa mused to himself that children certainly were stranger now than ever before, what with their wantings of all manner of gory dolls and violent video games and whatnot...but arriving now at the altar to claim his goodies, he found not delicious baked goods, but the slimy, piled-up intestines of some unholy sacrifice. My goodness, how awful! Yes, children were very strange indeed nowadays! Why, what was it that little Clifford had wanted? Oh yes...a Calling Cthulhu Mystic Summoning Board!

That very instant, there arose such a clatter behind him, and spinning to face it, Santa's belly jiggled in terror like a bowl full of jelly. His droll little mouth, drawn up like a bow, quivered in a hopeless effort to keep from whimpering. All around him inhuman figures writhed and danced, slowly emerging from the shadows. The darkness crawled with nameless shambling monstrosities beyond imagination, hissing, whispering and cackling with bloodthirsty anticipation; all through the house the unnatural creatures were stirring...and growing closer now...closer.

Dreadful thoughts danced in his head, and Santa suddenly remembered how he had eagerly dashed from his workshop at the North Pole that night, without checking his list twice. Like a flash, as the unspeakable shapes closed in around him, he snatched his list from his pocket...and what to his wondering eyes should appear, but there at the top of the page, that terrible stark word, laid out black on white, like the gnawed and scorched bones of an unfortunate jolly old elf scattered across the new-fallen snow: "Naughty."

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