Christmas This Year by Matt Rowan

For Christmas this year, Santa Claus is a reptile, a holiday reptile.

Holiday or not, he is a reptile. We know this for certain. We have definite proof.

Children were the first to realize it.

They went to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap, to tell him about all the many things they’d like for Christmas.

When they got there, though, it wasn’t difficult to see through the Santa Claus-looking facade.

It wasn’t a human but a human-size Reptile. Lots of the children cried, but those who didn’t managed to keep their wits and state plainly to Reptile Santa what they wanted for Christmas. Occasionally Santa would lick around with a forked tongue and the children would pretend not to notice, or that would finally be enough to make them cry.

Parents noticed the tongue and the other reptilian features, too. They were quite rightly concerned. They became more concerned, much more concerned, when one of the most naïve and unaware of the children sat on Reptile Santa’s lap, and almost parodying Christmas’ clichés, pulled on Santa’s fake beard. But it wasn’t a fake beard, it was a white garbage bag filled with human remains, which tumbled to the ground, half-eaten with bite marks. The child started crying but kept his wits somewhat and hurried away.

Parents scooped up their children and ran screaming from the mall.

Reptile Santa skittered off, making a sound which mimicked brooms’ many bristles rubbing against the floor. We knew he was disappointed in himself. He’d ruined humans’ Christmas, or at least for the many humans he’d encountered in the mall. And we knew and he knew that, of course, humans would come hunting en masse. They would hunt him for his freakishness, and also because he had evidently eaten some humans, or most of some humans. And most of some humans was enough. It really wasn’t an overreaction by the humans.

He couldn’t blame them.

They had a right to expect their Santa Claus be human, and that said human Santa not be guilty of eating people. Reptile Santa didn’t know why it happened exactly, other than his hunger.

But it didn’t have to be for human flesh!

Yes, yes it did, he finally acknowledged, as we knew he eventually would. We knew he was an especially aware humanoid Reptile. We knew there was nothing he hungered for more than flesh of humans, too.

But that didn’t mean he was without conflict. These humans having so much culture, society, so much delightful infrastructure—had that need be destroyed? Hopefully not. And absolutely hopefully not by him, Reptile Santa. There was a lot about Reptile Santa we might deem commendable, despite his flaws.

We also knew there were still things to be done yet.

He’d found his way to in front of grocery store. He carried a bell and had a red pot used for collecting donations. It was dark now, so it was harder for people to immediately see he was something different from the average human being. Some teenagers saw him, and as is typical of teenage wont, they harassed Reptile Santa, thinking him some poor slouch of a regular human Santa.

Like in every horror movie, the teens were soon killed. In this case they were killed by Reptile Santa, who did, indeed, eat most of their bodies.

And we wondered what was to be done after that? Would it just be killing and eating, while dressed as Santa, for the humanoid Reptile? Couldn’t there be something more to what he was and what he did? Especially considering the spirit of the holiday season?

Matt Rowan lives in Chicago, IL, He edits Untoward Magazine with Ashley Collier. His fiction has appeared in (or soon will) PANK, Necessary Fiction, Big Lucks, Vector and Another Chicago Magazine, among others. His story collection, Why God Why, will be published through Love Symbol Press in June.x