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Christmas.

Such a lovely, heartwarming holiday to relax and enjoy with your family. Everyone has at least one fond Christmas memory, and if you say you don't, well you're just straight up lying to yourself. I am no exception to those with happy memories of the festive day. Drinking cocoa, relaxing by the fire, hanging up ornaments with my family, the usual things a child would enjoy during the holiday season. However... There is one Christmas I would never forget.

But not in a good way.

The year was 2009. I was 5 years old, living in a large farmhouse off in the rural Fairmount, Indiana. We usually spent Christmas at my grandmother's home, but this year we decided to do it in our own home. The setup was perfect. We had lights on the front of the house and the barn, festive tablecloths, and of course the big, shining pine tree in the living room, decorated with lights, ornaments, tinsel, the usual works.

December went through quickly. Joyful occasions and activities were done with the family, and everything went through normally. Soon enough, it reached Christmas Eve. The young me bounced around with relentless, unending energy in my pajamas around the home. Each time I went past the living room, I eyed the tree, and of course, the gifts that lined the floor under it, just for me. Well, and my step-siblings, of course, but that didn't matter.

This little routine continued for several minutes, until my mother told me it was time to go to bed. With some protest, I was eventually tucked under the covers and sent to sleep, my unlimited bounty of energy now seeming to have been depleted entirely. It wasn't long before my eyes closed, and I drifted off into the grasp of sleep, with hopes of Santa coming through the night in my thoughts...

I was awakened by a loud thud. My eyes gently fluttered open, still droopy and my body groggy. Through my hazed and exhausted vision, I could just make out the figure of something in front of the front door, assuming the thud had been the slamming shut of it. It was tall and incredibly thin, looking almost sickly. I couldn't make out any facial expressions, with it being so far away and me being so tired, but I could see that its face was partially shrouded by a veil of thin, disheveled, greasy gray hair, that was missing clumps from the scalp area, as if it had forcefully torn it out itself. Adorning its head along with the hair were two long, twisted horns, like some sort of billy goat.

The sight was enough to make my head spin. Was this Santa? That's what went through my mind as it looked around, hunched over, like an animal searching for prey to pounce on. Eventually, it seemed to have locked its gaze on me. Its head turned, popping sounds coming from its neck like it were painfully cracking it with each change of an angle.

My body immediately froze, a light gasp trying to leave my throat, but not a single sound came out. My sleepy eyes were now wide, locked onto the hidden face of the thing, as it tilted its head curiously. I couldn't see a mouth, but it just... Felt like it was giving me a malicious grin.

Quickly my hands threw the covers over myself, clutching them and holding them like a shield over myself; something any child would do for comfort in this situation, believing that the blankets were valuable protection. Almost as soon as I did that, a rasping, harsh breath could be heard from the creature's direction. I began to hear light thumps against the creaky wooden floorboards of my room.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Footsteps. Approaching slowly, monotonously.

Now, my room was very large. It was actually one of the two living rooms, turned into a room for me while my parents took my older, smaller one, and gave their old room to one of my step-siblings, just so all of us kids could have a room of our own. Even so, and with the slow pace of the footsteps, it seemed like it was growing closer rapidly.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

The footsteps were closer and closer, and almost lined up with the sound of my heartbeat. My breath was shaky and quick as it approached. Before...

Nothing.

The footsteps stopped, just beside my bed. I did my best to now hold my terrified breath. I felt something thin and jagged touch the blanket, at my feet; a finger, I believe it was, though it could have been anything. Slowly, very slowly, it was dragged upward. Passing my feet, running up my legs through the blanket.

My body trembled, my face beginning to burn from how long I was holding my breath. It traveled at a painfully slow pace. Trailing up the covers, feeling me through them, until it stopped at my head. It pressed down, rather hard in a spot on my temple. I let out a strained cry, unable to hold it in anymore.

The thing seemed to hesitate for a moment, before I heard what I believed to be a gravelly, raspy chuckle, and it continued to press down. I swear that it ended up tearing through the blanket, because I could feel the bony fingernail digging into my flesh. It was as if the thing was testing me to see how much pain I could take.

I sobbed softly to myself, trying to call out for my mother to come and protect me, but like all of my other futile attempts to produce words, nothing but air exited my mouth. Soon enough the thing began to trail down my face again with its fingernail, however this time it was still pressing down forcefully. The nail left a small, one-inch cut along my temple, before the pressure was relieved, and the finger was pulled away entirely.

Something that sounded like a painful gurgling rang throughout my room, until my eyes were met with a shadow in front of me, seen through the thin blankets. It must have been that creature, getting face-to-face with me. My eyes were still wide in horror as it grew closer, and closer, until I could feel its hot, sour breath puff through the cheap fabric.

And after that, the feeling was immediately gone.

I heard the footsteps again, except this time they were moving away from my bed. Back into the direction they had come from. Another gurgling sound filled my ears as it left, lingering in my thoughts. Soon enough, I heard something moving its way up the stairs, opening a door, and closing it, before everything seemed to stop.

After a minute of agonizing silence, and the prayers that it was completely gone, I shakily lowered my covers... To reveal nothing.

I don't recall much of the rest of that night, other than me cautiously going to the bathroom to clean up a bloody nose that had suddenly made itself known after I revealed myself from my covers. At the time I chalked it up to the humidifier, which had the tendency to make my nose bleed rather frequently at night.

The next morning, I opened my presents slowly, without a word. My mother had noticed the small nick on my head and, concerned, questioned me as to what had happened. I lied, saying I was tired and had tripped and fell against my bedpost. I didn't want to frighten her with any mention of that thing that had been in my room.

After that Christmas Eve night, I haven't seen any trace of that... thing. No evidence that it had even existed. Though, to this day, I still ponder, each Christmas season, when I remember it at the corner of my mind, just what exactly WAS that thing? A sick, messed-up person dressed in a costume, looking more terrifying because of my grogginess? Some sort of... Dare I say it, demon? I can't quite tell for sure, but I do know one thing.

That was NOT Santa Clause...

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