Author's note: The fan reactions to the Nightmares at 3 AM horror anthology were INCREDIBLE! Thank you to all of you who have been supporting and following my work, I am truly thankful for you. And now, for an important announcement:Nightmares at 3 AM: Volume II coming 2019...
If there was anyone to be found on Santa’s naughty list, it was surely Cindy’s older sister, Maddie. Cindy was eight, and Maddie was three years more and had never said a nice thing to Cindy in her life, or so it seemed.
Cindy’s my favorite, Cindy’s so pretty, Cindy-this, Cindy-that. These were the words from Maddie’s mother that rang in Maddie’s head through every day of the year, but especially around Christmastime when Cindy was talking sweetly of gift-giving and decorating and loving her family and friends.
Cindy was sweet, but it was authentic. All she really wanted was to be loved by Maddie the way she herself loved Maddie. Since Cindy was a baby, Maddie hadn’t liked her. Some of Cindy’s earliest memories revolved around the constant sideways looks she would receive from Maddie. The passive aggression. The endless competitions for mom’s affection. Cindy was always the one to receive it, but on certain days she would ask her mother to pay Maddie some attention.
Oh, your sister’s fine, her mother would say. Your sister gets plenty of attention. And after saying this, her mother would usually give Maddie a halfhearted pat on the head and then go right back to giving Cindy all the affection a child would ever need. It left a hollow place in Cindy. And when she tried to give Maddie the love she so desperately needed, Maddie would shun Cindy as if Cindy were a leper.
Now this year, Maddie had been extra bitter. Perhaps it was the additional attention Cindy garnered for her performance in the school’s Christmas play. Or maybe it was the way mom constantly bragged about Cindy’s acting. She’s the next Meryl Streep, I’m telling you, Cindy’s mother would brag.
But whatever the reason, Maddie took every chance she saw to torment her younger sister. Cindy woke up one morning with gum in her hair. Another day, she found that her underwear was soaked in honey. Her favorite dolls would go missing. The TV in her room—which Maddie wasn’t allowed to have—was constantly unplugged.
Yet Cindy’s desire for her sister’s acceptance continued through the month of December. She continued to be kind. She persisted in giving Maddie compliments when mother did not. The gift at the top of Maddie’s Christmas list was a brand-new makeup kit. Cindy made sure that she would be the one to give it to her Christmas morning.
Despite all this, Cindy had felt a wear-and-tear from all of Maddie’s torments throughout the month. And it all came to a breaking point on Christmas Eve.
The family sat at the Christmas Eve dinner table and ate ham and mashed potatoes and Christmas cookies. Cindy’s mother had been bragging shamelessly all night long about Cindy’s acting. There was no mention of Maddie. Not at any point. Maddie was stewing and Cindy could see it. At one point through all of the bragging and praising and gloating, Maddie chimed in.
“I don’t think Cindy’s acting is that good,” she said, matter of factly. It was though a bomb had gone off in the room. Everyone looked at Maddie like they were unsure they’d heard correctly. It was like blasphemy.
“What kind of a thing is that to say?” asked mother. Maddie shrugged.
“I don’t know,” said Maddie. “I just think you’re exaggerating a little bit. I mean, she’s decent.”
All of the memories of Maddie’s torments began to broil and fester in Cindy’s mind. And now here was Maddie, disparaging Cindy at the dinner table in front of the entire family, in front of all of the aunts and uncles and cousins and friends.
“At least I’m good at something,” Cindy blurted. And just like that, Maddie retracted into a pit of shame, Cindy’s words ringing true and humiliating. Mother added fuel to the fire by shrugging at Maddie in a matter of fact manner.
“Your sister’s got a point,” said mother.
Cindy felt horrible as she watched Maddie sulk and trudge off toward the bathroom like a beaten dog. Cindy hated the power she held in her hands.
That night everyone hunkered down in their beds and waited for Santa to leave his gifts below the tree. But Cindy had trouble sleeping. It was midnight now. Cindy rarely found herself awake at this hour. But she knew why.
Cindy removed her covers and hopped out of bed and tiptoed across her room. She was careful not to wake anyone. She opened her closet and grabbed Maddie’s wrapped gift. She tiptoed down the dark hallway and dragged her fingers along the wall so as not to stumble around in the dark.
I’ll give Maddie her gift and tell her I’m sorry and tell her I love her, Cindy thought to herself. That’s what I’ll do. And she’ll be happy and she’ll forgive me and maybe she’ll even say she loves me, too.
When Cindy arrived outside of Maddie’s door, she heard strange shuffling noises coming from inside. Perhaps Maddie was preparing another prank for Cindy. No matter. Cindy was going to walk in and give Maddie her present and try to make amends.
Cindy opened the door just a crack. She was careful not to startle Maddie. It was so dark inside the room and she couldn’t see a thing. But she could hear a great deal of shuffling inside the room. Cindy stared into the room for quite some time, patiently waiting for her eyes to adjust to the gloom.
When her eyes adjusted, she saw an empty bed. She saw Maddie’s wide-open window. She saw a seven-foot figure standing in the shadows. She saw the rounded cage upon its back. And she saw Maddie sitting in the cage like a frightened bird.
As Cindy’s terrified eyes further adjusted to the dark, she saw the figure more clearly. It had a goat’s head with large horns on top. Its eyes were red and impish and hostile. It wore a suit much like Santa Claus and it even had jingling sleigh bells hanging from a few ends of the garments.
Cindy stood frozen with fear as the creature glanced at her and gave her a nod and wink. The creature made its way toward the window. As it did, the last Cindy saw of her sister was a look of fear and sadness and regret. And then the creature left as Cindy stood there with the present in her hands.
Down the chimney he will come
With his great big grin
And you’ll find that even the kiddies
Are very liable to sin
What will Krampus say
When he finds everybody sinning?
What will Krampus say
When he hears them sin, sin, sinnin’?
Written by Jake Wick