Thursday, November 24, 2011
I don't know who came up with him first. Who saw him first, or maybe who made him up, but sometimes I just feel the need to remind kids who say, "There's no such thing..." that Santa Claus does exist. And why wouldn't he? They say if you believe in God, then you have to believe there's a devil. Well, since I've seen the opposite of Santa Claus, it's only logical to think that the story about the Jolly old elf with a sack full of toys has some basis in truth.
Fact is, I was probably one of the few teenagers who still believed in Santa Claus. I made it a habit of scaring little kids in the family by reminding them that Santa Claus was watching (like some Seasonal Big Brother) and that I knew how to reach him to let him know who was naughty and who was just plain annoying.
I even had an idea, however ridiculous it was, that Santa Claus didn't keep an actual tangible, paper list. No. The list was just some cosmic alert system. If you believed, Santa left you something. If you didn't believe, you didn't get anything. The end.
And why did I believe all this? If you've never heard of Black Peter, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: The Grinch is not entirely fictional. Somewhere, somehow there's a darker, creepier and perhaps sinister version of the Smiling, red-cheeked old man on a Coca-Cola can.
In tradition, Santa Claus (Or Sinterklaas) is loosely based on Saint Nicholas, a 4th century Bishop who was known for his generosity. In Iceland, Santa Claus is in fact no different from the God Odin. The fact that Father Christmas is associated with a God is probably what should raise a few eyebrows among Ancient Alien Theorists.
Odin road around on a sky chariot being propelled by a magical creature similar to a reindeer. The creature was eight-legged, and originally (before Rudolph was invented), Santa Claus had eight reindeer. But Odin only left gifts for the children who fed his eight-legged beast.
Now, Black Peter, although never associated with evil, was (according to the Dutch) a helper of Sinterklaas. Not much else is known about Black Peter and maybe what I know as Black Peter isn't really him at all, but everything has an opposite, and if Santa Claus has one... I've seen him.
I was twelve and honestly, to this day I don't exactly remember why I decided to sleep on the couch. But I was the sort of kid that always wanted to prove something truth or false. I vaguely remember a pact with my sister to see if Santa Claus was real, but it's vague and I can't be certain. What I do remember is falling asleep on the couch, in front of the Christmas Tree.
It took me a while to finally knock out because the pulsing lights danced behind my eyelids. When I did fall asleep I was abruptly awakened by the fact that I was in complete darkness. The lights were no longer flashing in my eyelids. I had the unnerving feeling that something was standing over me, blocking out the lights.
Growing up in a haunted house, you learn a few things. First, never open your eyes when you KNOW something is standing over you and, Second, never ever assume it's just your mom. I had run in's with that kind of stupidity. Thinking the lady in white standing by my window was my mom, or the vague outline of a dark mass standing at the foot of the bed was my mom. Not this time. I was hyper-aware that whatever was standing over me was radiating a malevolence that my mother did not possess.
I remember talking myself into breathing calmly. Into making the thing, whatever it was, believe that I was still asleep. I had succeeded because eventually the darkness was replaced with the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree. But whatever it was, it wasn't gone. Yet.
Plink! Plink! Christmas ornaments were dropping to the floor. Had it not been for the Skirt around the tree, they would have made enough noise to rouse my mother. Instead they fell with dull thuds, surviving the impact only to be crushed moments later by something making its way around the tree.
I listened to the crushing and crackling of smashed ornaments and the rustling of the tree before realizing that the dark foreboding I had felt moments ago was gone. It was safe to open my eyes. Or so I thought. When I did, I tried the 'slit-method'. A method practiced by millions of kids across the globe. It is the act of opening your eyes just enough to see but not enough to be seen.
At first I saw nothing. It wasn't until I opened my eyes wider and focused that I realized the tree was misshapen. It was bent over from the top and behind it stood a being so tall it had to crook it's head slightly to fit under the ceiling. It was as black as coal, and furry, not like an animal, but just like The Grinch. A humanoid with tufts of hair, in a dirty red suit. The kind of thing a drunken and battered Santa Claus working at a local food mart would wear.
Worst of all, it had red eyes. Not glowing red. Not evil red. But more like a crimson, or fiery red that burned as it looked at me. And what I got from the creature wasn't a feeling of absolute evil as much as a feeling that this thing was OUT-OF-PLACE. It did not belong here and it knew it. It shouldn't have been there and the fact that it was meant something else was wrong.
Even more odd was the sense that it was more afraid of me. But at the same time, it scared the hell out of me. Tall, dark beings in tattered old Santa suits do not hover over you on Christmas morning. I wish I could tell you more but the last thing I remember is blacking out.
The next morning the memory of Black Peter was vague and I didn't mention the encounter at all. We ate breakfast and we played Christmas music as we opened our gifts and I had all but forgotten about that 'weird dream' from the night before until my mother made her way to the back of the tree in search of more gifts.
"Who broke all of these ornaments and hid them behind the tree?" She said. Earlier that morning she mentioned the fact that the tree looked sparse, as if some ornaments were missing. Let's just say, I have yet to see proof of Old Saint Nick, but I have seen proof that however ridiculous a story may be to you as you come into adult hood and shun your child hood beliefs, just remember one thing: Every story begins somewhere.