This little holiday yarn originally dates from … 1997? 98? I did a little light editing, but aside from that, here it is.
And if you would rather read this directly on your ebook reader or phone without futzing about with the website, then feel free to download the EPUB version.
Virginia rubbed tiny fists in her eyes as she awoke. It was still dark outside. The house was quiet. She rolled over and pouted. “Christmas morning is never going to get here,” she thought.
She tossed and turned for a while, not really trying to go to sleep, but knowing if she got up now Mommy and Daddy would be mad. It wasn’t fair.
Then she heard a soft noise from downstairs. She bolted upright in bed, eyes wide with excitement. She was too old for things like Santa Claus, or so she told her parents. But still …
She heard a soft tinkle, as if the glass ornaments on the tree near the fireplace were being softly jostled. Daddy would be mad if he caught her out of bed in the middle of the night, especially if she saw him putting presents under the tree. But then what if …
She thought about it for a moment and finally made up her five-year-old mind. It was worth the risk to check it out. She tossed the blankets back and slid out of bed. Ever so softly she crept across her room to the door. She opened it as slowly as she could to make sure it wouldn’t squeak.
Her room was across the hall from her parents with the stairwell in between. The stairwell was dark. She crept over to her parents door, which was open just a crack, listening intently. She could just barely make out the muffled snoring of her father. Then, from downstairs, there was another muffled sound, and she thought she heard her mother sigh.
So, it was Mommy! Mommy wouldn’t be mad at Virginia if she caught her putting presents under the tree. Mommy would just chase her back up to bed. Ever so quietly she began to creep down the stairs, clinging tightly to the banister.
Halfway down the stairs she stopped and looked down into the living room. There was a soft red glow coming from the embers in the fireplace. Underneath her, on the couch, Mommy was laying down with her arms around Santa Claus.
Virginia caught her breath, then shouted “Santa Claus!”
Santa looked up at Virginia. A soft trickle of her mother’s blood ran from his lips into his thick white beard. Underneath him, Virginia’s mommy moaned softly.
“Santa, why are you sucking my mommy’s blood,” Virginia asked. “I don’t want you to kill Mommy.”
Santa sat back on the coffee table, clutched his big belly and laughed that legendary laugh. “Oh, ho ho ho, Virginia. I’m not going to kill your mommy. Santa’s just taking a little snack.” He gestured to her mommy’s neck, which had already begun to heal. “See?”
He gestured for her to come downstairs. Virginia walked down the stairs and around the banister to stand before him. He patted his lap and smiled. She thought about it for a moment, and then climbed up on his thighs. After all, he was Santa Claus.
“There you go, Virginia,” he said, pulling her further up on his lap. He smiled and reached into his coat to produce a candy cane. She took the candy cane and began to unwrap it, all the while looking up at Santa with the wide, innocent eyes of a youngster.
“You see Virginia, Santa Claus is what people call a vampire. Do you know what a vampire is?”
“Uh huh,” Virginia said matter of factly. “Like the Count on Sesame Street and Count Chockula cereal.”
“Ho, ho, well, not exactly, Virginia. You see, vampires are people that need to drink blood.”
“You mean you drink the stuff that comes out of your skin when you get a boo-boo?”
“Yes, that’s right. And I was just taking a little bit from your mommy so I can get through this long, long night. You know I have a lot of other presents to deliver to nice little boys and girls like you tonight,” Santa said.
Virginia thought about this for a moment. “Santa?”
“So how did a vamp, a vamp-ire, get to be uh Santa Claus?”
Santa smiled and stroked his beard, picking at the clots out of habit as a far-away look came into his eyes. He lifted Virginia for a moment and set her on his other knee. “Well, Virginia, it is a long story.”
The shepherd awoke to the cries of the villagers and the barking of dogs coming from the woods. Judging from the dim light from the east of the cloudy sky, it was almost dawn. It was another chilly spring morning in the Carpathian mountains. He was looking around to make sure his flock was still together when someone came stumbling blindly out of the woods, trying to run but limping badly. He collapsed before he reached the shepherd and his flock; the shouting and the baying of hounds was not far away now.
The shepherd ran up to the man, who was now laying face down in the field. He kneeled down and gently rolled the man on his back. His face was badly bruised and beaten. Blood trickled from the corners of his mouth and from small cuts on his face and hands. “God’s mercy, he’s as pale as death itself,” the shepherd said to himself. The stranger’s clothes were dirty and tattered, and bits of leaves, small twigs and earth clung to them.
Suddenly the man’s eyes shot open and he clutched at the coat of the shepherd. “Don’t, don’t let them catch me,” he rasped. “They will kill me.”
The shepherd looked up toward the edge of the wood. He could make out words now. Shouts of “oupyre” and “nosferatu” came to his ears on the morning breeze. He turned his eyes back to the bloody and beaten figure and quickly made up his mind. He ran back to the stone outcropping where he had made his bed for the night and grabbed up his rough, weather-beaten blankets, carrying them over to the stranger.
“Here mister, cover up now, while I gather my flock about us.” He whistled twice for his trusty dog, and they gathered up the sheep from the surrounding fields and meadows, encircling the stranger hiding in the middle underneath the blankets.
It wasn’t long before the several barking hounds came out from the forest followed by several villagers bearing touches, clubs and steaks. The hounds tried to run right through the flock of sheep, only to met by the shepherd and his dog.
“Ho good shepherd,” shouted one of the men, striding up to him as he fended the hounds from his sheep. “Have you seen anyone come this way?”
“No, I haven’t seen your thief or whoever you are looking for mister, or even an oupyre or a succubus. Nonsense! Now get your dogs gone before they run off my sheep!”
“I’m sorry, good sir, but I — “
“Dammit man, get these hounds out of here! They’re scattering my sheep! I’ll not be chasing them down in the woods all day for the likes of you!”
The man threw up his hands and shouted to the others to hold off the dogs. They soon withdrew back into the woods to try and pick up the trail.
The shepherd made his way back to the stranger hiding under the blankets. “It’s okay son,” he said as he knelt down and reached to pull back the blankets. “They’re gone. Now what is it that they were — “
“No!” the stranger shouted, pulling the blanket back over his head. The shepherd jerked his hand back as the stranger stumbled and stood up, keeping the blanket over his head.
“Forgive me,” the stranger said, looking at the shepherd from underneath the blanket. “But the sun will rise soon. I must find shelter!”
At this the shepherd’s eyes grew wide as he realized finally what the shouts of the villagers had meant.
The stranger saw this and fell back to his knees and beseeched the shepherd with bloody tears in his eyes: “please, please, you must help me. I don’t know what has happened to me! Please! I beg you.”
The shepherd thought for a moment and looked up at the sky. Were it not for the clouds on the horizon the fields would already be bathed with light. He pursed his lips and looked down at the bloody and disheveled stranger as he made up his mind. “It’s the Christian thing to do, I suppose,” he muttered to himself and then stood up. He bent back over to help the stranger to his feet.
“Come on lad. My cabin isn’t very far from here. We can make it if we hurry.”
Santa paused for a moment, still picking at now invisible clots from his whiskers. “The man’s name was Krinkle,” Santa finally said. “He and his wife took me in. That first day he put me in the covered shed he kept his sheep in when it came time to shear them, and slaughtered an old, sickly goat and gave me its blood to drink.
“I was so confused. A few days before some robbers had jumped me while I was walking through the forest. I figured out later they had killed me and buried me in a shallow, unconsecrated grave deep in the forest outside the village. But I didn’t know that at the time the shepherd saved me. Or what I had become … “
The shepherd grimly watched the vampire drink the goat’s blood, gulping greedily from the wine skin.
“Thank you,” the vampire said when he had sucked the wine skin dry. “How did you know to give me blood?”
The shepherd looked out the door at the last rays of the setting sun. He didn’t say anything for a long time. And then: “I sent my wife into the village to gather what news she could after I got you settled in here. She heard about a boy who was thought to be attacked and killed by bandits in the forest; some of his belongings were found scattered on the road a few hours walk from the village. And she heard about the cow found drained of its blood, and the villagers chasing the oupyre who was thought to have done it.”
“Why didn’t you give me up to those men?” the vampire asked.
The man scratched his chin and thought about it for a moment. “Well lad, you certainly didn’t look like a demon laying face down on the ground all bruised and battered. And it sounds as if you didn’t ask to be what you’ve become.
“I guess it was the only Christian thing a man could do.”
“You see, Virginia, those nice people let me stay with them for a long time. They weren’t afraid of me and kept me hidden from the rest of the village. I watched the shepherd’s flock at night for him, and they taught me about what it means to be a good person. In honor of them, every year on Christmas I bring gifts to nice people like you and your family.
“And that’s how I came to be Santa Claus.”
“Wow,” Virginia said, munching on the last of her candy cane. “So what did you bring me for Christmas?” she asked matter-of-factly.
“Oh ho ho, I think you have to wait until the morning to find that out. In the meantime, I think you should go back to sleep.”
“But I’m not sleepy,” Virginia announced, folding her arms in front of her and thrusting out her lower lip.
Santa smiled, and a special twinkle came into his eye. “Oh, I think you are, Virginia. I think you are. You’re going to go to sleep now,” he said. And with that she nodded off. He stood up gently, cradling the now sleeping Virginia in his arms. Ever so gently, he turned and placed her next to her mother on the couch. Her mother instinctively wrapped her arm around her and sighed.
Santa smiled down at them and then turned back to the Christmas tree. After he made sure his work was done, he slowly dissolved into a mist and floated back up the chimney, materializing on the rooftop. He reached into his sleigh and pulled out a bag of fresh, bloody chicken entrails and offered them to his team of reindeer. They grunted when they saw the bag; they were skittish and eager to resume their flight.
“A little snack for you lads. We’ve got a lot more houses tonight.”
Virginia’s mother woke with a start. Sunshine was streaming in through the living room curtains. She looked down at tiny Virginia nestled in her arms.
“What on earth?”
At the sound of her mom’s voice, Virginia woke up, wide-eyed and excited.
“Mommy, Santa came last night!”
“He did,” Mom replied, looking down at her daughter with a smile.
“Did you know he’s uh vamp-ire? He drank some of your blood for a snack!”
“Virginia, honestly, where do you hear these things!”
“It’s true Mommy. I saw him do it and then he told me how he gots to be uh vamp-ire and how he became uh Santa Claus. Then he told me to go to sleep and I did.”
“You’ve got some imagination child. I think maybe you were dreaming.” But as she said that a strange look came into her eyes, and she reached up to scratch her neck.
Fun Fact: those three stars — *** — used to separate text? That is called a dinkus. No, really.
Fun Fact Two: I have no idea what medieval farmers and townspeople from Transylvania were actually like, how they spoke, etc. — nor how it would translate into English. One of these days. …