When I was eight-years old, I did the most despicable thing.
On Christmas Eve 1970, I told my five- year old sister that there was no such thing as Father Christmas. She was horrified.
Telling her that Father Christmas did not exist was the worst thing I ever did.
My mother was so angry with me. She sent me to my room.
I missed supper. I missed the carol-singers outside our house.
I missed seeing the first snowflakes of what was to be my first white Christmas. And I missed the evening of Christmas Eve, my favourite time of the year.
However, worse was to come.
I cried myself to sleep, blaming Father Christmas for what had happened.
Sometime during the night, I was woken by hands around my throat.
“You evil boy!” boomed the voice. I was too frightened to open my eyes.
“Open your eyes, boy! Do it, or you will never see Christmas again.”
He forced me to open my eyes. I don’t know how he did it but he somehow did.
I couldn’t believe what I saw.
I was shocked beyond belief. It was Father Christmas who had his hands around my throat.
“You never, never tell anyone ever again that I do not exist. Do you understand me, boy?” I tried nodding my head, despite being in complete shock.
“Good. Now, look deep into my eyes.”
Seconds later, I saw a flock of robins in his eyes and, before I knew it, they were propelled into my eyes.
The screeching sound they made hurt my ears. I could not scream for help to my mother or father because of the tightly gripped hands around my throat. I finally managed to close my eyes and the screeching robins and hands around my throat disappeared.
Terrified by what had happened, I crawled under my bed. I curled up into a tiny ball and shivered the night away. Sleep did come but only briefly.
It was the sound of laughter that woke me.
I could hear the muffled voices of my family. It was Christmas morning and they were already downstairs.
How could they have forgotten to wake me up?
I crawled out from under my bed and made my way past the open door of my bedroom. On the floor, at the top of the stairs, were two empty Christmas stockings. How could they have emptied their stockings without me?
I ran down the stairs and into the lounge, which was lit up with Christmas lights.
“Mum, Dad, Julie…I’m sorry,” I cried, but none of them took any notice of me. “Please forgive me, don’t spoil Christmas.” But it was no good, they just ignored me.
That’s when I saw the strange boy.
“Oh, that’s lovely, Hugh. Grandma sure knows how to knit Christmas jumpers,” laughed Dad, as he hugged the strange boy.
For the rest of the day, I watched as the boy with my name took my place. Nobody bothered me. Nobody even noticed I was there. It was as if I were a ghost.
I finally went to bed and cried myself to sleep. The whole family had arrived at our house and a Christmas party was in full swing.
The next morning, my mother woke me up.
“Are you feeling better, Hugh?”
“Are you talking to me?” I asked her.
“Of course, I am. Who else goes by your name in this house? Come on, it’s Boxing Day and we need to get over to Grandma’s house.”
I didn’t ever say anything to anybody about what had happened, and I didn’t see the strange-looking boy with my name again.
Well, I didn’t see him until the following Christmas Day when the whole thing happened again. And it’s happened every Christmas since then.
You see, my place is now taken by a ghost, but only on that one day of the year when I become a ghost.
I’m so happy and thankful that it’s not Christmas every day.
Do you believe in Father Christmas?
Story taken from the short story collection Glimpses – Available on Amazon.
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