Special Mention - Trevor LaRene
Merry Christmas Evil
By Trevor LaRene
“Take him to Exam Room One!” the Emergency Department charge nurse barked at the
“We’ve got more squads coming after this one,” the lead paramedic reported. “It
was a Christmas Party between a fraternity and a sorority that went bad.”
The charge nurse looked at the overwhelmed emergency room. In all her years
as an ER charge nurse, Julia Wilson had never had a mass casualty event. “Dr. Geller!
How many more can we take?”
“I don’t know. I need to go to room one.”
Exam Room One was barely controlled chaos. Nurses set up IV pumps as the
paramedics transferred the screaming patient from the ambulance gurney to the bed.
Dr. Sara Geller tried to perform an initial assessment while the nurses connected IV
lines to the patient.
“Can you tell me what’s wrong?” the physician asked.
The screaming stopped briefly. The young man suddenly sat forward and
grabbed the doctor’s lab coat. He started to laugh. “We never spelled the name
correctly. We never knew. How could we know? We didn’t think it was real!” A wild
gleam flashed in his eyes as the doctor pulled away. “It should be spelled ‘claws.’ But
we didn’t know.” The laughter had turned to screams, and his face twisted into a frozen
rictus of absolute horror.
And with that, the man took both hands and plunged them into his eye sockets.
Blood splashed onto the doctor as the man kept screaming, “Claws. It is claws. Has
claws. Claws!” The patient’s voice had climbed into a near-falsetto, filled with obvious
The physician stepped back. “Nurse. Give 100 milligrams of ketamine
intravenously.” She pointed to another nurse. “Prepare to intubate. Use four-point
restraints as needed.”
The patient quickly stopped struggling as the nurse injected the medication.
“Doc! Get out here! We have three more!” Julia Wilson shouted.
She rushed out of the exam, stripping off her gloves and reaching for a new pair.
One paramedic crew had a sorority girl. She was not screaming, but blood was flowing
freely from her mouth. Fire department medics pushed two other patients on carts into a
large exam bay. Four police officers were also in the department, looking uneasy and
trying not to get in the way. And a volunteer dressed in a Santa suit was walking
through the waiting room, passing out candies to the patients.
“What’s wrong with this one?” Dr. Geller asked.
“You gotta see it for yourself,” the lead paramedic responded. “I just have no idea
Dr. Geller gently opened the girl’s mouth. “Hand me that suction kit,” as she held
her hand out. The nurse immediately handed her the sterile suction catheter.
The sound of blood being sucked into a wall canister briefly filled the room. The
patient never moved or blinked. Her face was frozen in place.
“Oh, meyn got,” she whispered, slipping into the Yiddish of her youth. “Look at
that,” she said without taking her eyes from the patient’s face.
A nurse leaned over to see. At first, she was puzzled. Then, very slowly, she said
softly, almost as if talking to herself, “Where is her tongue?”
“We didn’t know if a surgeon can reattach it, but we have it on ice,” one police
officer walked into the exam room and held up a clear plastic bag filled with ice and a
human tongue. Geller took a closer look. Was it ripped out? That was not cleanly
Dr. Geller looked at the girl’s vital signs and ordered the usual labs. “Get blood
and urine for a toxicology screen. Do that for anyone who arrives from this disaster.”
She stuck her head out the door and called to the charge nurse. “We cannot take
any more. Notify the administration and local emergency response that we are on full
diversion and activate the mass casualty plan. Call every surgeon—hell, call every
physician and nurse we have.”
“But, Doc, it’s Christmas Eve,” the nurse reminded her.
“I don’t care. We need them here.” She looked at the sergeant. “Are you able to
get our surgeons?”
The tall man just nodded and toggled his throat microphone. “All units. Prepare to
receive addresses for local pick-ups. I don’t care what they are doing; bring them in.
Lights and sirens!” He looked at Julia. “Can you send the addresses to our dispatcher?
We can do the rest.”
The doctor walked out of exam two and turned back. “Sedate using the standard
protocol. Intubate to protect her airway, then pack her mouth with gauze.”
She entered the multi-purpose exam bay. Both patients had been connected to
cardiac monitors and had intravenous fluids running. The girl had curled into a fetal
position, and Dr. Geller was surprised to see that she was sucking her thumb. The boy
was sobbing while using his hands to hide his face.
The doctor walked to the boy and softly said, “You are safe here. Why are you
covering your face?”
“It can’t see me if I can’t see it,” he answered between sobs.
“What’s your name?”
“Robbie, who came with you?”
Without uncovering his eyes, he said, “The girl with me is my girlfriend, Lexy. The
other two are Stephen Handler and Haleigh Peters. They set up the party between our
“Hmm. What did you see?”
The sobbing slowed, then stopped. With a shaking voice, he said, “Steve saw it. I
hid before it could find me.”
From behind her, Dr. Geller heard a muffled voice say, “About an hour after the
party started, Steve said that Santa had joined the party. None of us knew what he and
Haleigh had planned. But right after that, he said it wasn’t Santa, but a demon. With
claws.” She sucked her thumb furiously. “That’s when the screaming started, and I hid.”
Geller turned. The girl still had her thumb in her mouth, but her eyes were open.
“I’m Dr. Geller. Are you Lexy?”
The girl nodded.
“Does anything hurt?” Dr. Geller performed a rapid assessment while talking to
the girl. She found no evidence of injury.
“No,” Lexy answered.
Lexy was silent and then said, “Robbie saw it. That’s what happened.”
Dr. Geller just looked at the girl. She noticed stains on the girl’s shirt. Besides the
obvious mental and emotional trauma, there were no physical injuries. She quickly
shined a penlight into her eyes and saw pupils so dilated that her irises were obscured
entirely. “Did you vomit?”
The girl shook her head, indicating that she had not vomited.
Dr. Geller reached out with a gloved hand and touched the stain with two fingers.
It was sticky. Cautiously, she brought her fingers near her face. As it approached, her
nose told her the answer—egg nog.
She went over to Robbie. He was also covered in the holiday treat. “Julia, go look at the
other two. Do you see any egg nog on their clothes?”
The nurse checked the patients in both rooms and called to the doctor, “Yes, on both. How
did you know?”
“It is in here, too.”
Geller shouted for a lab technician. “Come here! I need you to take a sample.
The technician walked over. “What do you want?”
The doctor pointed to the girl. “All four of these kids have egg nog on them.
Scrape a sample from each and run a toxicology panel. Bring those results and those
from the blood and urine. I need to compare the tests.”
She left the room and walked to the police sergeant. “Can you send a unit to the
scene of the party?”
“Sure. I can go right now. What am I looking for?”
“A punch bowl full of egg nog.” She gave him two pairs of gloves, an N-95 mask,
and a sterile lab cup. “When you get there, don the mask and double glove. Get the
sample and bring it here. As fast as you can!”
“Why the precautions?”
“It might be nothing. But it might be something. We can’t afford to have you
incapacitated.” She looked around the room, then turned back to the cop. “Go!”
Julia walked up to the doctor. “Here are the preliminary results. Check it out,” she
said, pointing to one lab value.
“I suspected as much,” Geller said.
A sudden scream from behind her made her spin around. Robbie was pointing at
the doorway to the exam bay with one shaking hand. “It’s Santa!” he screamed. Julia
and Geller saw nothing standing at the door.
Suddenly three parallel slashes appeared across his throat. Blood sprayed as he
continued to shriek, “Claws! It has claws!” His shrieks turned into gasping gurgles as his
throat filled with blood.
Without thinking, Geller and a nurse ran to apply pressure to the wounds, but
they were too deep. There was nothing they could have done. A steady tone began
sounding from the overhead monitor. The nurse looked at the doctor, the unspoken
question hanging between them.
“I have no idea,” Dr. Geller answered.
Squad cars began to arrive with surgeons and emergency medicine doctors. One
walked to Geller and asked, “What are we getting into?”
“Mushrooms. Psilocybin. I think someone spiked the egg nog, and these are
some awful trips.”
“Kids. The things they do.” The surgeon snorted. “Where’s the tongue? I need to
get to work.”
Geller pointed to Exam Two. She looked at Julia and asked, “What is going on?”
The charge nurse just mutely shrugged. The shock was evident on her face.
“What happened to this boy?”
From behind them, they heard the girl say quietly, “He saw Santa.”
“There was nobody and nothing here,” Dr. Geller said.
“That’s because you can’t see it,” Lexy mumbled around the thumb in her mouth.
“We opened our eyes. We can see things now. We see reality while you still live in your
A cop rushed into the room. “They found a pitcher of egg nog. And they found
mushrooms in the fridge next to the eggs. They did a quick search of the building and
grounds. They didn’t find any empty egg nog cartons. That was homemade egg nog.
Not only that, but they raised chickens behind the house. Guess what they found?”
Without waiting for an answer, “Mushrooms were growing on the chicken droppings in
Dr. Geller nodded. “This was probably accidental. If the chickens ate the
mushrooms, the eggs could be tainted. And they stored the eggs next to the shrooms in
the fridge, where they could have picked up spores.” She looked at Julia. “Notify area
hospitals and state poison control about this. We need to get ahead of this.”
As Julia rushed away, Dr. Geller saw movement in her peripheral vision. The
Santa volunteer was slowly plodding through the department directly toward her. As he
walked, his feet left muddy boot tracks. It hasn’t rained or snowed in days. Where did he
pick up that mud?
She was tired. She only volunteered to work this holiday so that her partners
could have time with their families. As she rubbed her dry eyes, egg nog from her
gloves touched them. As she pulled her hands away, her vision briefly blurred. When it
came back, she saw those were not muddy but bloody prints. And that was when she
saw Santa’s hands, clad in black leather gloves, transform into razor-sharp claws.
Her last thought was The kid was right. The stories never spelled the name