We hope you’ve been enjoying our 12 Days of Christmas, and all the bargains So far, our 12 Days of Christmas ebook promo has gifted you bargain copies of books from Andy RemicJustin GustainisJoseph D’Lacey and Matthew HughesFreya Robertson and Anna KashinaMichael BoatmanDanielle L. JensenJay Posey, and Marianne de Pierres. You can still get these titles at the bargain price by following the instructions below.

Today is the turn of Tim Waggoner and the first book in his Shadow Watch series, Night Terrors.

Here’s how to take advantage of our £1 seasonal special offer:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at www.robottradingcompany.com
2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket
3. Add the magic word ‘mincepie’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box
4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied
Festive bonus from Tim Waggoner:

The Lie of “Santa Claus”

Santa Claus, Father Christmas, St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Père Noël – whatever you call him, you must understand one very important thing: he’s not who you think he is. He’s not what you think he is. He’s not the jolly benefactor of humankind, a symbol of joy, love, and light, harbinger of a season of peace and goodwill. Oh, no. He’s something else altogether

I can’t tell you who created the lie of “Santa Claus” and why. Maybe people, deep down, sense the reality, and they invented the story of the philanthropic present-giver in order to hide the truth from themselves. Or maybe “Santa” has agents all around the world, human traitors who for whatever reasons help to spread the lie. They stand on street corners dressed as him, ringing bells, collecting for charity, wishing all who pass a Merry Christmas. They pose for pictures with small children, ask if they’ve been a good boy or girl that year, have them speak of what they’d like Santa to bring them, then give them candy canes and send them on their way.

So loving, so giving, so kind . . .

All lies.

Here is the truth.

He dwells far from the haunts of humankind, in the frozen climes of the North, where ceaseless winds howl and perpetual ice storms can strip flesh from bone within moments. He travels by night – only night – moving through darkness with ease, as if born of it, ever silent, always unseen. He needs no sleigh and no reindeer to pull it. He has other ways of getting where he wants to go. Secret ways. Hidden paths. Dark roads.

Why Christmas Eve? It’s the one night of the year when parents’ guards are down. Holiday stress leads to holiday weariness, along with a few drinks to take the edge off. Mother and Father may not get much sleep that night, but they are bone-tired, and the sleep they do get is deep. They won’t hear him when he enters their house and makes his way upstairs. They never do.

He doesn’t visit every house on Earth in a single night. How could he? He manages a few hundred at most, but even that is miraculous when you think about it. He has twenty-four hours (remember, we’re talking about the entire planet here), and in that time he is able to traverse the globe, make his stops, and return to his ice-blasted domain before a single ray of light can touch him.

How does he choose which houses to visit? This is unclear. Perhaps he operates on some atavistic instinct which even he doesn’t understand. Or perhaps he carefully selects his destinations for the night. Children do write to him, you know. And perhaps those missives somehow find their way to his hands – hands which, despite all the illustrations depicting them as perfectly ordinary-looking, aren’t altogether human – and he reads them. And he chooses.

However he selects the children, he enters their homes without touching doors or windows or, despite the stories, a single chimney. Once inside, he moves past the tree, not pausing to admire how precisely the ornaments are placed, how lovingly the garlands are draped on its branches, how cheerily the lights twinkle. He doesn’t stop at the tree because there are already presents arranged beneath it, wrapped in colorful paper and tired with ribbons and adorned with bows. Mother and Father put those presents there, and they always have. In all his long years – even back in the days before the coming of the Christ child, when he had another name and a far different appearance – he has never left a single present at any home he’s visited. He comes not to give, but to take.

Sometimes children leave a snack for him, most often cookies and milk. He thinks of it as an offering, and while he appreciates the gesture, small as it is, he passes it by. He’s hungry, of course. He’s been hungry since humanity’s fur-covered forbears first descended from the trees. But he has a very specialized diet, and cookies and milk – while he could ingest them if he wished – simply do not satisfy.

He carries a sack – the stories are correct in this detail – and it’s full to bursting. Despite its size, it doesn’t weigh him down, and he moves quick and graceful as a cat as he makes his way to the children’s rooms. He’s not interested in adults. Never has been. To him, they’re nothing more than breeders, useful only because they create what he desires, what he loves, what he needs.

He enters the child’s room. The door is never locked. What child would lock his or her door on Christmas Eve? Once inside, he glides across the floor to stand at the bedside. He gazes down at the child, sometimes for a few moments, sometimes longer. And then he sets his pack on the floor, loosens the drawstrings, and reaches one of his not-quite-human hands inside. He withdraws a globular mass that fits easily in the palm of his hand, and he pulls back the child’s covers and places the viscous thing on the sheet next to the sleeping boy or girl. The instant he pulls his hand away, the mass begins to change. By morning it will have reshaped itself until it resembles the child in every detail. It will look, walk, talk, and behave like the child in all particulars, fooling everyone. And it will continue to do so until the day – perhaps not so very far in the future – when its true nature will assert itself and then it will do something terrible, something unimaginable.

Santa always smiles with the larger of his two mouths when he thinks of this.

He then lifts the sleeping child from the bed and pulls him or her close to his chest and holds them tight. So very, very tight. It doesn’t take long. And when they are gone, with no sign left to indicate they ever existed at all, he bends down, pulls the drawstrings on his pack closed, lifts it onto his shoulder once more – his burden slightly lighter now – and he departs, making his way out of the house the same way he entered.

And when the night is over at last and most of the world’s children – but not all – have been spared, he will return to his home of wind and ice, and he will sleep, full, but not sated. And the days and nights will pass as he slumbers, his appetite building for next year. And he will dream of all the children who now dwell within him, and he will hear their voices calling his name. Santa, please! Let us out!

And he shall sleep well.

Tim and his sister Lisa in 1968
Tim and his sister Lisa in 1968

One Comment

  1. Sometimes a lie can be scarier than the truth.

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