An extract from Santabot a short story by LN Denison and one of the stories you can find in Sparkly Badgers' Christmas Anthology All profits go to help the Avon Riding Centre for the Disabled, helping disabled people to learn to ride.
After about ten minutes, Christopher began to calm himself, taking in longer, normal breaths as the silence engulfed him, but it was too early to lift his head from underneath the covers. There was still that little niggle of doubt in his mind as to what he might find if he dared to peer into the darkness of his room, and the feeling that he might not be alone also played on his mind. He thought of the prospect of finally coming face to face with the bearded man after all those disappointing years of trying to wait up for a glimpse. slowly, the covers came down, and his eyes glimpsed over the rim of the cotton fabric of his sheet.
For a moment, a sense of disappointment replaced what remained of Christopher’s fear as he looked into the stark emptiness of his room. But the fear that gripped him returned anew as the sound of heavy clanging could be heard coming along the landing that led to his bedroom. Christopher’s eyes widened as a bright light shone through the crack at the bottom of the bedroom door. He couldn’t seem to stop himself from shaking.
He held his breath, but this time he refused to cower under his covers. It had to be his mum, surely? Was she finally ready to read him a story?
There came three raps on the door, which made Christopher jump out of his skin.
“Mummy?” The frightened seven-year-old whispered.
Again, three knocks on the door, but this time the scared little boy tugged the sheet over his head.
“Go away!” Came the muffled cry from under the covers.
Christopher sobbed with fear as the door knob squeaked, and the door pushed open, hitting the side wall hard.
“Leave me alone!”
Eerie shadows floated above the sheet, reflected by the light on the landing. Through the thin cotton that covered him, Christopher could make out the silhouette of a large, bulbous object hovering over his bed. In an instant, he curled up into a ball. He could feel the sheet being dragged, then found himself exposed to the temperature of his room. The coldness of metal wrapped itself around one of his arms and pulled him up to his feet.
Christopher’s eyes widened further and his mouth flopped open as he looked on the shiny, red and white, Santa-looking thing, which just stood in silence. Curiosity more than anything else, now took hold of Christopher’s mind as he tilted his head and knotted his brows.
“What are you?”
Christopher felt his voice tremble as the words fell from his mouth.
The Santa-looking metallic object whirred, readying itself to respond. With a couple of little surges of energy, the bot finally spoke.
“I am Santabot One, and I have been sent to re-educate you on the myth of Santa Claus.” It’s voice sounded tinny, but not robotic – almost human.
The bot regarded the little boy.
“Oh, Christopher! Do you want to know the real secret behind Santa?” The bot tilted his head slightly, and watched as the child considered the offer.
The Santabot led Christopher from his bedroom, across the landing and down the
stairs, where they had to pass the living room to get to the front door. Christopher looked over at the seating area, where his mum, dad and their guests were sitting frozen. For a moment he wondered if they were playing a game of Musical Statues. The Santabot saw him looking.
“They will be fine. It’s just a gas induced sleep. We had to make it so.”
LN Denison is a usually a writer of near-future dystopian sci-fi. You can catch up with her on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter.