The Sad Tale of A Short Existence and A Broken Dream

Everybody will know me by one name or another, I'm Saint Nicholas, but children gleefully call me Santa Claus. Not many people know this, but I'm not just a person sat in the North Pole for 364 days a year. I'm so much more than that, I'm an idea. I'm the very spirit of Christmas, a constant embodiment of festivity. I live in everybody, I live in their hearts and their hopes, in the ink of every Christmas list. I can take different forms, I can be the evergreen conifer that stands in your house, covered in tinsel and lights. I could be the snowflakes that fall and melt in your hair, clinging to your warmth and listening to the joy that comes this time of year. I can even embody Christmas toys on shop shelves, for kids and pets alike. That's how this story really begins, the story of my short life.

My first memories were the bright lights, the grinding of the factory machines stuffing more soft playthings to bring happiness. It was so familiar that I welcomed each sensation, the only things missing being the fresh scent of gingerbread baking that blows through the workshops at home. I almost don't want to be packed in the cramped cardboard box. But at the end of an obviously uncomfortable journey, I get a chance to witness Christmas joy with my own eyes, not coming just before the lights come on and presents come out. I'm the only toy with consciousness, there are no exciting whispers or curious expectations flowing around me. I'm alone, squished between cold toys that don't hold any festive warmth.

The box stopped shaking, my journey at an end. The box opened and more light assaulted my plastic eyes, and the store clerk roughly pushed me back against toys just like me on the shelf, piling some in front of me. It was harsh, but I understand. Nobody wants to work around Christmas, it's a time to be enjoyed with family and friends. I scanned toys around me, holding to get an idea of what toy I was. It's hard to know without a mirror, but I guessed based on the other softies surrounding me. I was a small cat toy, a Santa tied to a glittery stick. There were penguins and Christmas tree at my sides. Being on this shelf fueled my excitement, hearing the footsteps of everyone passing by reminded me I would become part of a family. I may have been a cat toy, but there were no nerve endings in my fabric. It would simply be playfighting to me.

Every day, people would walk down the aisle, looking for cat food, cat litter, and stuff like that. They'd see me the fellows around me, the lucky few being plucked from there place, but it was not my time. I was further back in my line, and with other options to choose from I had no reason to think my time was so near. Regardless, when I caught the sweet florescent lights as my fortunate comrade in front of me was taken, it was a sign of my time.

Then, not soon after, I turned to see a small family of four heading my direction. The large man with my famous figure, jet black hair going grey in streaks, caught my attention first. Then there was a woman beside him with the trolley, a dyed blonde whose roots were showing. Then I saw the cute little girl in front of them. She had blonde hair, so bright you could say it was orange, and shiny, blue-grey eyes. The little girl looked around contently, but her face broke into a smile at the sight of me. She ran over to me and picked me up, the light of the holidays glimmering in her eyes.

"Emily, I've told you so many times. Look with your eyes, not your hands," the dark-haired man frowned.

"But daddy, I want it. Please," this Emily begged.

"It's not a toy for you."

A teenage boy I had not previously noticed stepped up to her and frowned at me, asking why she'd want a cat toy when she wasn't a cat. She glared at him and stuck her tongue out, walking off to her parents.

"Please mummy, Jimmy and Jasper will love it. Please!" Emily whined.

"Alright honey," Her mother said.

They dropped me in the trolley and continued their shop. The young girl's voice was like the jingle of the bells on the reindeer, light and dripping with Christmas spirit. I was slid over a scanner and taken in the father's hands. Her words rang out again, wanting to hold me for the car journey home. Once again, her parents smiled and relinquished me to her care.

"I hope you're happy to come home with us," she giggled. "You're a part of our family this Christmas."

None of her family understood her compassionate words. They saw merely saw me as a toy, as everyone does when they grow up and learn the truth of Christmas. But her mind still shone with imaginative ignorance, I was real to her, she saw Christmas everywhere inside everything. This was Emily-Louise, the sweet 6-year old I was telling Mrs Claus about before I emerged in this form. Her parents went to visit her grandparents in their apartment block, a solitary tree swaying leafless in the winter wind. Her childish mind saw a tree shaking in the cold and removed her scarf to tie around it. What laughs we shared, over a child who tried so hard for everything to happy at Christmas.

"Jimmy! Jasper!" Emily cried as she opened the door.

It was the door to their living room. It wasn't a very big room, nor was the furniture luxurious, but it everything was personal and homey. It brought warmth to my soul. She carried me behind her back, and when she flipped me into view, I saw only one black and white cat. Its eyes went wide at the sight of me, and they were filled with something aggressive. I wanted to meet this Jasper, in the hope he would play without such malice, but I was still strapped to the cardboard back of my packaging, trapped as the angel brought me closer.

"Ok Jimmy," she giggled, freeing my body and resting my stick between two chairs, effectively holding me in place. "I need to go help pack up the rest of the shopping, play nicely and share with Jasper."

She skipped out of the door, leaving me with the cat's hungry eyes glaring at me. I slowly fell back to rest against a chair, hands flung up in a sign of surrender, but it didn't care. It pounced, crumbling on top of me. I tried to push it away, but I was only felt and stuffing, and soon it was too late. The monster sunk its sharp teeth into my neck, growling demonically. It ripped at my neck and I soon felt the seams loosen. My stuffing poured out my neck, but I didn't even feel a tingling sensation and the cat just carried on. It pulled back and glared at me, before gripping the top of my hat between its fangs and pulled with so much force, my head was ripped clean off.

I heard Emily's scream and the older boy laughter. I wished she hadn't come in, for her innocence to be tainted by this violence. Even with this outcome, I couldn't regret being chosen. I had achieved what I wanted, to witness the joy I bring each year to remind me the stress is worth it. I felt gentle hands cradle my head, my cheeks becoming damp as her tears fell on my cheeks. I didn't want her sad, but I didn't know how to tell her it was okay.

"I'm sorry. I didn't think he'd be so mean, I wanted you to be happy here." She sobbed, pressing me to her face, "I just want you to know, I didn't want this. I love you Santa."

Her sweet jingling voice lulled me to sleep, a slumber I knew I wouldn't wake from, but that I welcomed. This was only one form of my many, even though its existence was so short. As long as there were boys and girls like the little angel Emily Louise, who believed in Christmas with their heart and soul, I would go on. Who knows, we could meet again, I could be a bauble on her tree next year. So in her dreams, I whispered not to grieve for me, that she would see me again one year, and I would not leave her so soon again.