13 Jan “The Reign Deer” – Creepypasta
This morning I saw Santa crying in an old, battered crossover. One of the back tires had been replaced with a donut, and I could see a small clothes rod hanging up in the space behind the front seat where the large man sat shuddering as he rested his wet face on white gloved hands—hands that gripped the car’s steering wheel as though it was the only life preserver bobbing in a black and wintry sea.
It wasn’t the real Santa, of course. The Harvest Mills Mall couldn’t afford both a cookie shop and a pretzel store, so the idea that they could pull in the real deal seemed highly unlikely. Besides, I knew this guy, or at least knew of him.
This weeping Santa was Taylor Lemons, a town drunk and regional cautionary tale. A few years earlier, his kid had disappeared around Christmas, never to be seen again. Before the holiday rolled around again, he had lost everything—his wife left him, he started drinking all the time, and before long his lucrative job as IT manager for the big office park outside of town went the way of his wife and little boy.
It wasn’t a small town exactly, but it was small enough that word got around. Whispered gossip of all that he had lost, men and women recounting the tale, embellishing it, wrapping it in the soft, smooth trappings of sympathy and regret, as though they hated so much what had befallen the man called Taylor Lemons.
But beneath that wrapping was a sharper, nastier thing. A perverse sense of glee and voyeuristic sadism. A look that would steal across their face as they recounted the implosion of a human life—a look that said they were glad it had happened. That maybe this man’s misfortune confirmed their own good luck or how high their chosen god held them in esteem. Or that at the very least, it was a sign that the angel of despair had passed by their own door without pause, thrown off the scent by blood already shed.
Watching this man in his late forties, tarted up in a shabby Santa costume as he sat in his car sobbing, I didn’t feel any glee or sense of blessing. I only felt shame and sadness and oddly enough, guilt. I almost went over and checked on him. Tapped on his window and wished him a Merry Christmas, or at the very least, asked if he was okay.
But then he glanced up, and my motivation withered. His eyes were so red and hungry. So raw and lonely. I couldn’t deal with that. I didn’t know him. Nothing I could say would help, and what if he was crazy or dangerous?
So instead, I just gave him a little wave and went on my way.
I could hear Uncle Mike’s loud mouth before I made it through the front door. I’d known he was coming for Christmas, of course. But the knowing had done little but give me the constant needle-prick of prescient dread—anticipation of loud stories as he steamrolled every conversation, awkward tension as he slowly got drunk and more obnoxious before turning the inevitable corner of being overly-sensitive and apologizing to everyone for being such an asshole. So far as I could tell, he only came because he was bored and lonely, and we only invited him because Mom felt sorry for him. But whatever the motivations, it got harder to stomach every year, and I found myself thinking up excuses to go run errands or hide out in my room as much as possible. I closed the front door softly, hoping I could scoot through to the back of the house without anyone noticing, but…
“Lottie, come here, girl. Give Uncle Mike a hug.”
He was already to me before I turned around good, crushing me in an awkward bear hug that flooded my nose with the smell of stale beer and clove cigarettes. Letting out a rumbling laugh, he swung me under his arm and guided me toward the living room.
“Come see what I brought to liven up our Christmas.”
My eyes had already found it—A monstrosity of a tree crowded into the back half of the living room. It had clearly been cut down quite a bit, and it still pressed against the ceiling as though it planned to burst through the roof and reach out to the sky. Mom was stringing lights on it while Dad watched her work dubiously.
“It’s um…it’s big.” I looked back to Dad, trying to keep the irritation out of my voice. “What happened to our tree?”
He went to answer, but Mom beat him to it, a strained smile on her face. “We put it back up, dear. Mike was good enough to bring us this beautiful thing, so we had to make room for it. Isn’t it great?”
I stared at her. “Um, yeah. Great.” Glancing at Mike, I couldn’t help but add. “But the old tree was pretty great too.”
Mike grinned and gave me a squeeze. “No, no. I saw that thing. It was old and ragged. Artificial too. No smell.” He sucked in a deep breath. “You smell that? That’s the real shit right there. Smells like Christmas.”
I slid out from under his arm. “Uh huh. Where’d you get it? It’s gigantic.”
My uncle hooked his fingers in his belt. “Got it from my new job. Security and ranger for the Mercer estate up north. Lots of woodland.” He jerked a thumb toward the tree. “One of the fringe benefits is getting to bring a kickass tree for Christmas.”
I wanted to ask if he’d actually had permission to take one of the trees he was supposed to be guarding, but I suppressed the urge. No point in stirring up shit this early. Things would inevitably go downhill without my help anyway.
“What’s that noise?”
Mom glanced at my father with a raised eyebrow. “What noise?”
It was getting late now—dinner had been eaten, a single present had been unwrapped by everyone, and now we sat in the stupor, staring at some sappy greeting card movie on t.v. while Mike punctuated the bad acting and heartlessly chipper soundtrack with thick, wet sounding snores that made me more than a little queasy.
Dad was sitting up more now. “There’s…I don’t know. There’s a funny squeaky sound coming from somewhere.” He glanced around before locking onto the tree. “I think it’s coming from that thing.”
Mom frowned at him. “I doubt that seriously. You think there’s a squirrel in there like in that movie?”
He returned her frown, irritation wrinkling his brow. “No, but I know what I…” He froze for a second, cocking his head like a dog catching a sign of his quarry. “There. Did you hear it?”
I nodded. I had heard something. A strange, softly shrill sound, like a screen door squealing shut in a distant room. But the noise hadn’t been far away. Dad was right, it was coming from the tree. He was on his feet now, pulling out his phone to turn on its light while walking up to it. I could tell Mom was getting ready to poke fun at him, but I didn’t think it was going to matter. He was determined-looking as he reached the tree and lifted one of its heavy branches. I could only see the side of his face, but it was enough to see him squint as he shined the light into the dark interior of the tree. Enough to see his eyes widen as something small and black leapt out onto his face.
He stumbled back with a scream, which was all the opening the thing needed. It scuttled up from his chin and was gone inside even as he fell to the floor and began thrashing as he clawed at his throat. I could hear myself screaming now, eyes rolling to Mom for her to help, to fix things, to make me understand that this wasn’t really happening at all, something.
But there was one crawling into her ear, black legs sliding out of view as her eyes fluttered closed and she began to jerk-slide her way out of her chair and onto the floor. My last hope, unconscious Mike, was no hope at all. He hadn’t stirred in the commotion, and even as I reached out to shake him awake, I heard a screeching sound as something sailed past my face and landed on his chest. I was going to try and swat it off, but then I felt something on me too, digging sharp feet into my back as it crawled up toward my head.
I stood up to shake it off or take off my shirt, but my legs weren’t working right. Nothing was. I couldn’t move my arms. I couldn’t breathe. I fell to the carpet, barely feeling the impact as the world contracted to a pinprick of terror and then was gone.
I woke up to snow fluttering down onto my cheeks.
I was in a field. Some strange field I didn’t recognize, covered in thick snow, and beyond that, a lake and a black winter forest unlike any I’d ever known. My parents and Mike were nearby, dead or unconscious on the ground, and my initial confused panic became more focused as I remembered the tiny black things that had attacked us from the tree.
That was when I heard a loud snort behind me.
I turned and let out a gasp at what was slowly approaching—nine massive deer with thick, shaggy fur and jagged horns that gleamed like metal in the cold moonlight and looked wickedly sharp. I felt no sense of wonder or joy at seeing them—instead I felt abject fear warring with icy dread in my chest as my mind tried to fully take in what was coming toward me.
They trudged across the snow lightly, spindly white legs ending in heavy black hooves that echoed loudly despite leaving barely a trace on the winter skin of the world. Several of the deer had legs that moved at odd angles, and one seemed to have six legs instead of four. But all of this was secondary.
My eyes were on their king.
He was smaller than the rest, but only in stature. He carried the air of royalty, the surety of command. As if to confirm my impressions, a burning crown of red fire began to form between the warped nests of bone that sprouted from the sides of his head. I squinted against that brilliant beacon even as I heard its rough voice clawing in my head.
Are you ready to do what you promised?
I lifted my arm to block some of that terrible crimson light. “Promised? What are you talking about?”
You must do what you promised. Complete what was begun. Or all is for naught and they go into his mines. And you, oathbreaker, will fare far worse.
Wincing, I forced myself to look at the thing with the blazing crown. “I haven’t promised anything. I don’t know what you are talking about.”
I felt heat coming off the creature as it stepped closer, towering over me. Its breath was fetid, boiling down as it boomed its poison across my mind.
Really? It retched and spat something out onto the snow at my feet. Then what is that?
I felt my stomach shrivel as I looked down and recognized what had been deposited there. It was a folded piece of paper, clearly written in a child’s version of my handwriting. On the side facing up, it said: “To Santa”.
I looked back up at the deer thing and saw in its gaze that it knew that I recognized it. That I remembered what it said. Despite my fear, I frowned at it.
“I never got anything. I only asked for one thing, and I never got it. So I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Don’t lie, child. We know what you promised in your heart. You saw the boy that very day. Hated him just for the sake of hating. How happy he seemed when you were so sad and lonely, with your shabby toys and shabby friends and shabby life. So you went home and wrote a letter asking for the one thing you wanted most in the world. That you’d do anything for. Give anything for. And you deserved it, you said, because you had been such a very good girl that year.
Taking a step back, I glanced around desperately. Should I try to run? Where could I go? And what about my family? I…”What do you want me to do?”
The voice thundered again in my skull as the world broke apart.
What you’ve already done. Just remember it, and do it again.
I shivered against the cold as I looked up at the second floor of the house. I thought I knew what window was Toby’s but I couldn’t be sure. The idea of being out a night, all alone and up to no good, scared me, but it excited me too. And this was the riskiest part. If I could get him to the window, I could talk him outside. I was good at talking people into things, especially kids my own age.
So I threw a pebble. Then a second. As I was readying a third, the boy came to the window. He looked sleepy and a little scared until he saw me stand up from the bushes. I was a year older than him, and I knew he liked me, thought I was cool. It only took a few moments of whispered encouragement to get him to put on his coat and come down to the yard. I had something cool to show him, after all.
He didn’t get nervous until we were five minutes into the woods behind his house. Scared didn’t come until I was hitting him over and over with the rock until he didn’t move any more. There was a large overflow pipe nearby—I hadn’t known it was there, had never been in those woods before, but I hadn’t had any trouble finding it when the time came. Even then, I guessed they’d find him eventually. One day the next week I’d hear about how little Toby Lemons was beaten to death and found in the rain pipe, and I’d have to act surprised and sad.
But they never did find him, and I never got what I wanted, and before long, it was easy to think it had never happened at all. Until the deer brought me back to it. Had me do it again. Choose it again. And I felt his head give as I mashed that rock down into his stupid fucking face.
I gagged at the stench of the reindeer as I came back to the now. It had lowered its face to mine, and so close, the smell and heat were unbearable. If only I wasn’t too terrified to move.
The master keeps his word. Your family will be free, as will you.
I nodded and felt a small, hopeful smile creeping onto my face.
When they wake, you will all be back in your beds. And they won’t remember what happened to them, but they will remember your fulfilling of the pact. What you did in the woods.
Gasping in cold air, I shook my head. “They…no, they never knew that. Any of that.”
There was a rumble from the creature that might have been a laugh.
They do now.
With that, the deer turned and began walking away, the procession of horrors parting for him even as he paused to look back. Giving me a final baleful glare, he retched something else out onto the snow before turning to walk away. I recognized it before it hit the ground, though I’d only ever seen one on t.v. years ago. I heard the burning deer’s mocking voice in my head again.
Here’s what you asked for. What you deserved for being such a good girl. Enjoy your new doll.
I stared at the slime-coated bit of plastic and cloth that was already disappearing into the snow, barely able to even recognize it now. In my peripheral vision, the snow-covered mounds of my family were fading away with everything else, and I could already feel myself slipping back into warm darkness. None of this made sense. It wasn’t fair.
I looked up, ready to call out, demand an explanation or another chance. But the reindeer and their king were already gone into the dark, and I wasn’t far behind. I awoke at home in bed, my soiled prize tucked under my arm.