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Last on Santa's List

Hailey Piper's short fiction has appeared in publications such as Black Rainbow, The Bronzeville Bee, Planet Scumm, and more. She and her wife live in Maryland, where rather than go on adventures, she haunts their apartment making spooky noises. Find her on Twitter @HaileyPiperSays or at haileypiper.com.

The chief elf kicked open the workshop door. "Boss, we got one!"
Santa checked his calendar. Christmas Eve? They had little time. "Ho-ho-ho?"
The chief elf saluted and then whistled, pulling elves from the woodwork. "Make everything! Dolls, video games, even a lump of coal just in case!"
Outside, Santa slapped the dust off his best red-and-white suit. Elves hitched the immortal reindeer to his sleigh. The chief elf tossed a bulging sack aboard and handed Santa the coordinates. "Might be nice or naughty. Suppose it's all relative now."
"Ho-ho-ho." Santa climbed into the sleigh and whipped the reins.
They flew from the sandy North Pole across dusty Canadian wastelands, pockmarked by skeletons. Their bells jingled empty echoes through Manhattan, where the Creeping Sea lay toxic and stirring.
In Virginia, the sleigh landed beside a dusty broken house with no chimney. Sack at his back, Santa stepped inside.
He found her on the floor beside a dead woman--the last child. Her face was overripe, wrinkly. She hardly opened her eyes when Santa leaned over her. He saw no milk and cookies, but it was enough to bring toys to a child once more.
"Ho-ho-ho!" He dug a doll from his sack and thrust it at the girl's face.
She only lay staring at him.
"Ho-ho?" Santa offered a smartphone, a stuffed monster, a book.
She reached for Santa's face.
Oh, he understood this. Shy children needed to whisper what they wanted in his ear. His whiskers brushed the dust off her clothes.
She dug into his beard, nestled her head on its pillow-like white puffs, and hugged his face until she was still.
He buried her behind the house on Christmas morning, with her mother and the toy sack.
"That was it," the chief elf said upon Santa's return. "The last human."
Santa and the elves watched the baked horizon. No Christmas Eve next year, or the year after. The coming eons would bring only crumbling buildings and bones while the Earth healed, and they would spend recovery waiting for something else to evolve.
Something that wished for toys.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, December 25th, 2019

Author Comments

When creating dark Christmas stories, writers too often jump for evil Santa or, lately, Krampus. I wanted to try another path where the villain wasn't a magical monster. The end result was born of frustration, but also hope and belief that life goes on.

- Hailey Piper
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