Escaping the midnight chill, Needletooth slid under the front door and followed the trail of the sweet scent leading into the living room. The dazzling lights surrounding the Christmas tree cut through the darkness enough to bring him to a halt. Beside the tree rested a dozen presents.
The parents’ doing, of course. A string of lights formed a path on the wall that ended on a small table in the corner of the carpeted room. Needletooth didn’t need the lights to find the usual altar topped with cookies and a carrot.
Bless sweet Santa’s ghost that children left food for the reindeer these days. Those flying beasts were extinct, but Needletooth welcomed nourishment beyond the mountain of sugar.
Fulfilling his duty of eating the food offered on the night before Christmas, Needletooth’s razor teeth cut through the carrot.
“It’s you!” a voice called out.
Needletooth slid for the closest crack. The white carpet covering it split in a thunderous tear.
A little girl, damn. He moved beneath the floorboards to escape to the next room, but the footsteps above paced with him.
He reemerged through a crack in the kitchen linoleum.
“There you are!” she shouted. He popped back down.
Thousands of renegade children had tried to challenge his operations over the years, but he’d eluded them all. Was he getting sloppy, or was this inadequacy always his destiny? Just after Needletooth—then Nadelzahn—had been birthed from the union of heavy snowfall and rotten gingerbread, Santa, Krampus, and the others had criticized the value of his signature services to the pantheon of Christmas monsters. But they were long gone, and their qualms had died with them centuries ago. Needletooth was the last taste of Christmas magic left in the world. He had a job to do—he would devour each cookie on that plate.
He passed into the pantry, out of sight. Time to make his charge.
After gnawing on some pantry items, he slid under the door, gliding with tremendous power. The girl’s footsteps followed, but she couldn’t match his natural wonder. Needletooth began with the sugar cookies, welcoming the onslaught of sucrose. Before the girl could catch up, he had hurled each cookie down his throat, leaving behind a mess of crumbs.
Needletooth slipped through the tear in the carpet and raced under the floorboards. The girl again matched his movements. He darted in the opposite direction and doubled back. She followed well enough, but a few more erratic maneuvers sent her racing into the other room. Needletooth scuttled through the crawlspace and resurfaced in the foyer. He slipped back under the front door and escaped to the front yard to the familiar Christmas Eve chill.
The upstairs lights switched on, followed by the illumination of the lower floor and the muffled grumbles of agitated parents operating on little sleep. The girl would be in for some trouble, but, if any Christmas magic persisted in her mind, Needletooth had done some good.
Needletooth dived into the ground and burrowed a hole to the next house.
It was going to be a long night, but time passed like a cool Christmas breeze when you did what you loved.
Brad Kelechava is a professional blogger whose writing you might come across while searching for topics spanning from renewable energy to the history of rats. His short fiction appears in Tales to Terrify, Theme of Absence, Sunshine Superhighway, and elsewhere. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and their cat.