Long Winter Night

Writing Prompt: “You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry. You’d better hide, and not make a sound. The great forges of the North Pole roll like thunder. Great beasts are yoked to their sleighs. Proud evergreen forests groan, fall, and crash. Bells toll across the globe. Santa Claus is coming to town.”

“Papa! Papa!” A young boy ran down the stairs to see his family gathered around the home’s hearth. “I can’t find my stocking.”

The Father stood up and quickly made his way to the stairs.

“Where did you put it, Sven,” The father asked.

“I don’t know. I’ve looked everywhere,” Sven said.

“I’ll look,” The mother stood up.

“No. You and Asta stay here and fill the stockings. I’ll search with Sven,” The father said.

The mother nodded and turned back to Asta.

“Make sure they are filled to the brim with the candy,” The mother told Asta as they put more hard candies into the stockings.

The father and Sven moved quickly to Sven’s room and they began searching through the room. The father tossed pieces of clothing aside.

“Search through the toys,” The father said. 

“Yes, Papa,” Sven nodded and opened up a wooden toy box, quickly tossing simple toys aside.

Outside the family home, snow was gently falling down, covering the town in a sheet of white. All throughout the town familles just like this one were hurriedly gathering supplies and bringing them to the central fireplace or hearth. Pine trees were cut down and dragged into the home where they decorated with paper ornaments and strings of garland made of popcorn and dried fruit. Stockings were being hung up and filled with small sweets. Trays of sweet pastries and a mug of goat milk was set beside the hearth. Everyone was preparing for the longest night and the creature that will soon be here.

As Sven and his father searched for the missing stocking, a loud ringing was heard from outside. All throughout the town, large bells were being run.

Sven’s father turned to him with fear in his eyes.

“Quickly, boy. Find it. Find it,” He said.

“Here,” Sven said, pulling the stocking from the bottom of the toy box. “I forgot I -”

“No time. Run to your mother. Now,” His father demanded.

Sven nodded and took off, running down the stairs.

The sitting room had a decorated tree, lit hearth, and trays of food. Sven’s mother and Asta were just finishing up with hanging the stockings on bent nails.

“I found it,” Sven said as he ran to his mother.

“Good. Now hurry to the closet,” His mother said. “Take your sister.”

“Yes, Mama,” Sven said. “Let’s go Asta.”

Sven grabbed his little sister’s hand and led her toward the door of the closet beneath the stairs.

“Mama, mama!” Asta called out as she reached out her other hand to her mother.

“Quiet, Asta. We must hide now,” Sven said as he opened the closet door and ushered his sister inside.

Sven’s mother hung up his stocking and used the rest of the hard candy and sweets to fill the stocking. The father walked down the stairs and picked up his woodcutter’s axe.

“Are we ready?” He asked his wife.

She gave a hesitant nod.

“I believe so,” She said.

“The bells are ringing. We better get ready,” He said.

They both made their way to the closet and pulled the door open. They quickly got inside with the children. The mother wrapped their arms and pulled the children to her. The father closed the door behind him and stood closest to it, axe in hand.

The bells in the city rang out and then suddenly came to a stop.

“Mama,” Asta said but her mother quickly shushed her.

“Quiet darling. You must be quiet,” Her mother said.

Asta quieted down a bit as they stayed underneath the stairs. The closet was dark but a bit of light leaked in as the hearth continued to burn. Sven heard the heavy breaths of his father as well as the crackle of the fire. In that quiet, they heard a large thump coming from the roof.

The mother covered her children’s mouths, but Sven brushed her hand aside. Sven’s father brought a single finger to his mouth to indicate they must stay quiet.

There was a series of loud footsteps coming from up above them followed by a howl of a caribou followed by several others. The footsteps continued across the rooftop and then stopped suddenly. The family all took a collective breath as a thud came from the living room, on the other side of the door. A cold wind whipped through the room and the flame of the hearth was extinguished. 

Sven’s father held the inside of the door, keeping it shut as he peeked through the narrow slit between the door and the doorframe. A large man dressed in heavy, red furs stood in the room. He faced the evergreen tree, holding a large sack. His boots were covered in snow and left bits of snow as he walked. The man then walked closer to the tree. He reached out a gloved hand and gripped the garland. He ripped it from the tree and shoved it into his bag. The tree toppled over and fell to the ground with a thump.

At that sound, Asta jumped a bit letting out a small squeak.

The man turned quickly to look for the sound and Sven’s father saw the man stare. His eyes were nothing but black like two pieces of coal. The man took a step forward and looked toward the closet beneath the stairs.

The family stayed quiet as the mother covered Asta’s mouth once again.

Not seeing anything, the man turned back around and then moved toward the hearth. He grabbed the stockings off the wall and quickly dumped the contents of them in his bag. Then he turned toward the platter of cookies and sweet pastries and dumped them as well. Finally he grabbed the mug of goat milk and lifted it to his lips. He poured the milk down his gullet, some of it splashing onto his beard and clothes. The man tossed the mug aside and it rolled across the room.

The man looked around the room once more before kneeling down next to the hearth. He spoke in intelligible gibberish and the fire reignited with a blue flame. He stepped into it and then vanished as the flames extinguished.

Again there was another series of footsteps on the rooftop and another series of caribou howls. Then there was silence.

The family stayed huddled together underneath the stairs for several hours. They remained as quiet as possible and Asta fell asleep cuddled up with her mother. Eventually the sun began to rise and Sven’s father let out a deep breath he seemed to be holding the entire time. He slowly opened the door and the family followed suit.

The tree laid there and the rest of the room was in a disarray, but the family was relieved that they were all ok. They had all survived the longest night of the year and had appeased the man known as Santa Claus. 

Header Photo Credit to Public Domain Review

Writing Prompt submitted to r/WritingPrompts by u/YWAK98alum

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