This is in response to a comment from someone on the 'We The Infected' forum. It's just a bit of fun ... in a Bah Humbug sort of way.
The premise is that Håkan has a job in a shopping mall as Santa. Who would make a better Santa than Håkan? He loves children ... maybe a little too much. Knowledge of the book Låt Den Rätte Komma In is recommended.
Eli watched as the last little child left the mall, raising her hand in response to the energetic waving that carried so much friendship, gratitude, and innocent unknowingness. She could hear Håkan packing the left over gifts into the over-large red sack, edged with white fur. "Wait", she said. "Just let me..." She picked up a wrapped box and shook it, heard a rattling, dropped it into the bag. The next was a book, that was easy to tell.
"A book?" she said, looking at Håkan with raised eyebrows.
"Hey, kids need an educa..." he stopped short, as he realised that Eli hadn't had the luxury of going to school.
"Would I like it?"
A slightly puzzled look appeared on his face, "Can you read?"
"A little. Mostly older books".
"Then, no. You wouldn't like to get this book as a gift". He left the Grotto, and went to start picking up sweet wrappers and flyers that people had dropped on the floor. Leaving Eli to her thoughts. She heard him muttering about how people had no respect any more, no respect for either themselves or others.
Turning her attention back to the pile of gifts, she picked up the next one to go into the sack, a small box that didn't rattle when shaken. She tried to think about the things she had, back at the flat, that would fit into the box, and weigh about the same. It was pointless, there were too many things like that. She pressed the paper against box inside to see if she could make out a word on the packaging. No good, the paper was too thick. There was a gap where the selotape hadn't completely sealed the join in the wrapping but she couldn't see anything that would tell her what was inside. She looked around inside the grotto, no-one there. She checked on Håkan, no-where in sight.
Retiring into the shadows she sat cross legged on the floor, hands in her lap, holding the gift. "I never get presents" she thought.
"Would it really be so bad if I took this one, for myself? All those other kids got one. Yes, I think this will be 'my' present."
Carefully peeling the selotape away, Eli slowly unwrapped the gift. She wasn't going to just rip at the wrapping in a frenzy, this was special, this was an event. She was going to savour it and...
"Anyone there?" A young girl's voice.
"Hello" responded Eli, still from the shadows.
"Oh! You startled me", said the girl with her hand on her chest, over a rapidly beating heart.
"I'm sorry, I was just..." Eli stopped there. What could she say? What wouldn't sound a bit strange about sitting in the dark in an empty Santa's Grotto?
The silence grew. Broken by the girl, "I ... er ... that is ... I just wanted to ... erm ... when I was here earlier with my parents ... I noticed that you seemed..."
Eli just stood there, silent, looking into the girls eyes.
"You seemed ... sad. Like you were giving away all these presents and ... well, you seemed sad".
Eli thought about the present she had been unwrapping and realised it isn't a real present if you just take it, it must be given, willingly.
"Anyway, I thought you might like a present of your own.
The girl nodded.
"I … er".
The girl stepped closer.
"I don't get many presents"
Håkan made his way slowly back down the stairs. He thought it was wise to use the staff toilets, he avoided public toilets as much as he could, ever since the Stockholm Library ... event. One wall of the stairwell was made of strengthened clear plastic that looked out onto the main floor of the mall. He could see the cleaners putting the cleaning equipment out ready for when the mall officially closes in ten minutes time. They looked like small animals from this angle and height, not human at all. He could see some of the shops had already closed the shutters, prematurely. He tutted, "No commitment these days". He watched as a young girl made her way along the row of shops. He watched. Shook his head, and carried on his way down to the next level. As he went past the clear plastic wall again, he glanced out onto the shopping area. The young girl was still walking along towards the ... "Towards the Grotto?". He quickened his pace, he had a bad feeling about this. "I should never have left Eli alone" he berated.
Finally on the ground floor he paused momentarily to catch his breath, he was not as healthy as he had once been. Without running, he walked as quickly as he dared. All the time trying to convince himself that Eli wouldn't do anything stupid, "Would she?". He half burst, half stumbled through the door to the Grotto, pulled up quickly as he saw Eli, blood on her face, blood on her costume, one fake Elf ear knocked askew. "Håkan. I...". He looked to the ground, to the bundle of flesh and clothes that had once been a person, a child.
"Oh, Eli". A sinking feeling that threatened to overwhelm him, grabbed at his heart and pulled him down to the ground. "Why?"
"Can't I have one thing? Can't I just do one thing to make children happy, without hurting them?"
"I couldn't help it. She said she wanted to give me a present. I misunderstood..." Håkan looked across at the young girl lying on the floor, motionless, eyes open ... seemingly still looking up at Eli's eyes. A pattern in the blood on her neck, a lip print, Eli's lip print.
"Quick, empty that bag" he motioned towards his 'Santa's sack'. Lifting the child he was grateful that Eli hadn't yet 'broken the connection' He wasn't sure he could stand to see that done to a child. "Never a child" he heard in his head "Never a child". The girl's arm dangled loosely below her, her hand still gripping a small, hastily wrapped, package. He placed the girl in the bottom of the sack, smoothed her hair, told her he was sorry. "I'm going to put the things away outside. You had better ... do what you have to do ... to stop the infection". He couldn't bring himself to say it, but in his head he could hear the noise, the snapping, the crackling.
Alone again in the Grotto, Eli moved over to the sack and its gruesome contents. Sitting on her chest and gripping the girl's small head in her hands, she turned it, twisted it, all the way round. It had to be done. A small corner poked into her leg as she moved to get up. The present. The present the girl intended to give. Eli took it from the dead girl's hand and put it in her pocket.
When Håkan returned, he was relieved to find that Eli had covered the girl's corpse with the gifts that had been left over. At least he didn't have to look at the girl's face again. Not until later, at least. By nine o'clock Håkan, Eli, and a ridiculously heavy Santa's Sack were waiting at the rear of the shopping mall for the taxi to arrive.
"Don't speak to me".
"I said be quiet" Håkan shouted as he dropped the sack on the floor of the kitchen.
"But..." A stare that could stop a rampaging succubus at twenty yards cut her off, after only one word.
"I have to deal with this", he said pointing to the red sack, with a slightly different red colour to one side at the bottom. Eli retired to the bathroom, locking the door. She could hear Håkan pacing and muttering in the other room as she clambered into the bath and lay down.
She didn't like the restrictiveness of the Elf costume she was wearing, and wriggled around to get comfortable. Suddenly she remembered the present that the girl had wanted to give her, and that she had put it into her pocket earlier on. She pulled it out and examined the wrapping. It had been torn a little on one corner, where some plastic was showing through. Slowly unwrapping the paper, she revealed a little toy bunny, on a keychain, in clear plastic packaging.
"Hey. Bunny," she said over her shoulder, "You have a new friend".
Håkan lowered the Sack to the ground outside the front door to the block of flats. It was cold, and there would soon be new snow. He looked about to see if there was anyone around, the coast was clear.
"Now, where did I put that sled?"
Notes - Yes, I am aware that Eli was once Elias, but if I want to refer to Eli as 'she', then I will.