Inflatable Santa

Horror Flash Fiction

Photo by Wesley Tingey on  UNSPLASH.

The neighborhood was quieter now. Folks felt guilty when they accidentally found themselves enjoying the calm.

Eleven in three weeks. That’s how many children had disappeared.

The inflatable Santa, magically moving from yard to yard, each morning in a different place. A prank. One that Larry or possibly Eileen had started years ago. No one ever knew who moved the life-size Saint Nick around the neighborhood.

Frank considers the prop with surprise. It had appeared on his lawn yesterday morning; he thought it would be gone this morning. He stares at it, chewing. The winter wind was biting and merciless through his gray housecoat, his slippers useless in the foot-deep snow.

Christmas morning. Sheila wonders why Lily isn’t awake today of all mornings. Groggy, still not awake herself, it takes a second for her anxiety to do its thing.

Weeks of terror had left her nerves raw hyper-alert. Apparently, even terror needed to sleep.

She sets her mug down; coffee splashes a neat Nike swoop onto the counter. Long strides to Lily’s bedroom. No knock, just barging in.

Something is wrong; Lily never made her bed without being told. A voice in her head is telling her it hadn’t been slept in, not last night it hadn’t.

Christmas eve. She tries to push it down.

Please, God, no. Not Lily.

Outside Frank finds one red sneaker wedged under one side of the inflatable Santa. Lily’s shoe.

He steps back and gapes at the red round fat man.

His grin was especially loud today, an obnoxious smirk. Perhaps because this is his day?

Still holding the butter knife and toast, he drops the bread and slashes comically at the lawn ornament until it pops and the tiny teeth spill out.

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