From day one, I insisted that the convenience store where I worked was haunted.
At night, after closing, it was part of my job to walk around the empty store and organize all of the products on the shelves while my manager would count drawers in the office. By that time, all of the customers would be gone, and the doors of the store would be locked. Yet, I swore I would constantly see movement or silhouettes of people out of the corner of my eye. I would hear footsteps and merchandise falling off of the shelves a few aisles over, despite being the only person on the floor. It finally got to the point where I refused to be out on the main floor of the store by myself at night because I was always experiencing something creepy.
I had been experiencing strange things in the store at night for months, but things got worse in October. It all started a week before Halloween. Much to my dismay, my manager, Chris, had started putting out Christmas decorations, right alongside the already-displayed Halloween ones. Among the new, intrusive decorations were half a dozen life-size Santa statues.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked as I stood toe to toe with one of the Santas near the front register. “It isn’t even Halloween! Why the hell are we decorating for Christmas?”
My manager, Chris, laughed and shrugged. “I don’t control this shit. Corporate wanted us to put these out today. Besides,” he laughed again, “Santa is literally as tall as you!”
I rolled my eyes and checked the price tag attached to Santa’s arm, “Yeah, he’s five feet tall. Only one inch shorter than me!”
“Cheer up, Grinch! You have a customer,” Chris said, as he walked away.
For the remainder of my shift that night, I couldn’t stop my eyes from wandering over into the direction of where the nearest Santa statue was standing. Every time I looked over, my gaze was met with Santa’s dead eyes staring back at me. It finally got to the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. When there was a break between the long line of customers, I quickly walked over and turned Santa, so he was facing away from the register.
“That’s better,” I mumbled to myself, as I walked back behind the counter.
A half hour later, after being slammed with yet another long line of customers, my eyes naturally gravitated back toward the direction of where Santa was standing. To my horror, Santa’s dead eyes met mine, once again.
“What the fuck?!” I whispered, as I picked up the phone by the register and paged Chris to come to the front of the store.
“Hey, you need change?” Chris asked, strolling toward the counter.
“No, I’m good. I just wanted to ask you why you’re fucking with me.”
Chris stopped in his tracks. “What are you talking about?” He asked, tilting his head in confusion.
“Did you turn Santa back around?” I asked, gesturing frantically at the creepy statue to the right of the register.
“What are you talking about?” Chris repeated, rolling his eyes, “I was upstairs, trying to organize the mass quantities of overstock of old man diapers that we have.” He walked up to the counter and leaned in, lowering his voice as he continued, “These old guys really need to stop peeing their pants. Maybe then, the warehouse will stop sending us so many of these damn diapers-“
“No!” I crossed my arms in front of me, attempting to fight off the sudden chill that hit me, “I turned Santa, so he was facing away from the register because he was creeping me out. Then when I looked up, he was staring at me again!”
“Maybe a customer moved him.” Chris shrugged. “It wasn’t me, I haven’t been down here.”
I couldn’t keep the discomfort that I felt from showing on my face.
“Hey,” Chris said in a soft voice, his smile fading, “You good? Maybe you should go on break since I’m here now.”
“Yeah,” I shrugged. “Thanks,” I said, as I walked away from the counter, keeping my eyes on the floor and quickening my pace as I passed all of the Santa statues that stood on display, lining the path to the break room.
The rest of the evening was uneventful, but I couldn’t wait to leave that store. Santa’s presence right next to the register made me uneasy for the remainder of my shift. When I finally clocked out, I left so fast that I forgot to grab my coat. I didn’t go back for it, either.
My next shift wasn’t until a few days later. As soon as I walked in the door, all I could see was a dozen pairs of Santa’s dead eyes staring at me. It was almost as if they had been waiting for my arrival.
“Oh my god, they’re multiplying!” I said to Chris, gesturing toward the creepy Santa statues as I clocked in.
“I know! To be honest, they’re starting to creep me out a little bit now, too.”
“Why, did something happen?”
Chris turned his eyes to the floor and shrugged. “You probably just got in my head, that’s all.”
“Tell me! What happened?” I urged, blocking Chris’s path so he couldn’t walk away.
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” he sighed, “But yesterday, during my whole shift, they were all facing each other, lining the pathway in the center of the store that leads to the break room. The way that they have been for the last few days.”
“Go on.” I urged, ignoring the customer who was walking up to the counter.
“Well, last night, after closing,” Chris lowered his voice to just above a whisper, “After I counted drawers when I was coming back up to the front, I noticed that all of the Santas had changed positions. They were no longer facing each other. Instead, they were all facing the entrance to the store.”
I asked if John, our coworker, had moved them.
Chris shook his head. “No. John ended up going home a couple of hours early because he said he was feeling sick. It definitely wasn’t him. I don’t know, maybe a customer moved them and I didn’t notice right away, but it really creeped me out.”
Chris shifted his weight uncomfortably before continuing, “When I walked out of the office, the Santa statues all had their backs to me, and they were facing the entrance of the store. It was almost as if… they were waiting for someone. It really creeped me out, so I just left them.”
“Are you fucking with me?” I accused, crossing my arms in front of me, suddenly cold again.
“No,” Chris shook his head, “Not this time, I promise.”
I searched his face for any trace of dishonesty but found nothing. The customer at the counter cleared her throat loudly to remind us of her presence.
“I’m sorry, how can I help you?” I asked her, walking to the register.
“Hi, I was just wondering how much those life-size Santa statues were.”
“I’ll give you a discount if you’ll buy all twelve of them right now,” Chris jokingly chimed in, “Hell, I’ll even throw in a couple of them for free!”
The lady laughed, “Well, that is a tempting offer. They are very cute, but I don’t have room for them all. Just one will do.”
That night, after closing, I sat with Chris in the office while he counted drawers.
“What’s the matter, did you see some more of your ghosts while cleaning up the shelves again?” Chris laughed as he counted a handful of quarters.
“Shut up. No, I just don’t want to be out on the floor by myself with the Creepy Santa Squad.”
“Oh come on, they just wanna be friends!” Chris laughed.
I shook my head in irritation. “You admitted they creep you out, too, don’t pretend now that they don’t.”
“Oh, stop. You know we are probably just sleep deprived and letting their creepy fake smiles and lifeless eyes get to us. Besides, we already sold one today. With all of the weird, Christmas-obsessed old ladies in this town, they should sell quick. They’ll probably be gone by Thanksgiving.”
I glared at Chris and opened my mouth to say something sarcastic when the security camera screen over his shoulder caught my eye.
“Chris! Look!” I pointed to the monitor behind him.
Chris turned just in time to watch one of the shelves at the front of the store collapse, all of its displayed merchandise falling to the floor.
“What the fuck?” we both said in unison, as we watched another shelf on a completely different side of the store collapse and spill its merchandise, seconds later.
“Do we have to go out there?” I asked, my voice shaking.
“Look, I know that was really weird, but there has to be a perfectly logical explanation for it. Maybe they just collapsed under the weight of too many products being on the shelves.”
“At the same time? In two completely different parts of the store? You really believe that, Chris?”
“Okay, look. Just grab a couple of these drawers and we will go out there together. But stay right behind me, okay? I’m sure it was nothing.”
I did as he asked and grabbed the drawers and followed him. As soon as we stepped out of the office, we both gasped.
All of the Santas had turned again, this time facing the back of the store. Their dead eyes and more-sinister-than-welcoming smiles all greeted us in unison.
“Okay, I know they were facing the opposite direction 10 minutes ago when we walked back here to count drawers,” I whispered. “I know neither of us moved them!”
“Okay.” Chris whispered in a calm voice, “It’s okay. Just stay with me. Stay right behind me, understand?”
We both walked quickly past the Creepy Santas, to the front of the store. We returned the drawers to the register without saying a word. I started walking toward the collapsed shelf at the front of the store, ready to clean up the mess, when Chris grabbed my hand and pulled me back.
“No,” he whispered. “We are leaving.”
I looked at him in confusion, and he pointed to the Santas in the middle of the store. They were all facing us now.
I didn’t protest when Chris pulled me by the hand and lead me out of the front door. He locked the store, then walked me to my car.
“When do you work next?” He asked me, in the parking lot.
“Not for a few days. Halloween, I think.”
“Me too.” He said, with a strange look on his face.
“What is it?”
“If anything happens, I will make sure we’re ready.”
“What are your gonna do? Should I bring anything?”
Chris shook his head, then looked me right in the eyes and said, “Don’t worry. We will be fine. I will see you on Halloween, but I’m bringing a gun.”
Any other year, Halloween couldn’t have arrived fast enough. This year, I wished it wouldn’t come at all. I wasn’t ready for whatever horrors it might bring. I almost called off, but I knew I couldn’t leave Chris alone in the store with all of those Creepy Santas. Especially since we were the only two who seemed to have any disturbing experiences with them.
As soon as I walked behind the counter and punched in, Chris rushed to greet me and slammed a newspaper on to the counter.
“Read the fucking obituaries!” He whispered frantically.
I looked at him, then did as he said. There, at the top of the page, was a picture of a familiar face smiling back at me.
“No!” I shook my head violently, as I pushed the paper off of the counter in front of me.
“Yes!” Chris said, leaning in over the counter. “Debra Collins. 62-year-old woman from Wayne County, well known by the children in her neighborhood for always having the nicest Holiday displays. The same woman who bought that fucking Santa statue a few days ago.” Chris stopped for the first time to take a breath, before continuing, “I looked her up online, and apparently, she was murdered. Stabbed to death in her own home, but there were no signs of forced entry into her home. Her daughter found her the day before yesterday, and the coroner stated that by the time the body was found, she had already been dead for over 24 hours. That means-“
“She died the night she bought Santa.” I finished his sentence.
We both stared at each other, then slowly turned our heads to look at the Santa nearest the register. Of course, the statue was conveniently staring in our direction.
“He wasn’t facing the register when I walked in five minutes ago. He was facing the door.”
“Of course. He fucking moved by himself. They all keep moving by themselves. We have established this. They are alive, and they know we are on to them.” Chris grabbed the counter to catch his balance.
“Are you okay?” I asked, noticing the dark circles beneath his eyes.
“No, I’m fucking not! Not at all!” He whispered harshly, “I haven’t slept more than a few hours in the last three days.”
“Me neither,” I said, gesturing to the shadows beneath my own eyes.
“And to make it worse,” Chris continued, “It looks like we sold two more Santas since the last time we were here! You know what that means.” Chris sighed, “Look, we’re gonna be okay. I have a plan. Just try to make it through this shift, and we will take care of this once and for all, tonight.”
I closed my eyes and nodded my head slowly. “I sure hope so.”
Despite it being Halloween, and people coming into the store wearing cool costumes, it was almost impossible to stay focused on the customers in front of me. I could feel Santa’s dead eyes staring at me from the other side of the counter as each second passed. I just knew he was calculating the time before the sun went down and the store was closed, and we would be alone. I knew that there was a good chance that I wouldn’t survive through the night. But I had to help Chris stop things before they got worse before anyone else died.
“This is it,” Chris whispered, as he pointed to the clock. “We close in five minutes. Get ready.”
With a heavy heart, I watched as the last customer walked out of the store, and Chris locked the doors behind them, two minutes early.
“Meet me in aisle four!” Chris yelled from the front door.
“The Halloween aisle?” I asked as I ran.
“Just trust me, I have a plan!”
As soon as I reached the Halloween aisle, I noticed that all of the decorations had been rearranged. Suddenly, I understood.
“I see you were busy,” I said to Chris, as he met me, and guided me to stand behind the row of life-size skeleton decorations that he had lined up in the middle of the aisle to create a protective barrier.
“I figured this was worth a shot,” Chris explained, “I finally noticed today that the Creepy Santas weren’t the only decorations that seemed to be moving and changing positions on their own.”
As if right on cue, Chris’s phone alarm went off, indicating that it was 10 o’clock: Closing time.
We watched as the skeletons all around us came to life, readjusting their postures. Chris and I just stood there, paralyzed in disbelief, as we watched the Santa statues entering the aisle from both ends.
“This is war!” Chris whispered.
“Do you have the gun?” I reminded him.
Chris pulled the gun out from underneath his shirt and took aim as we stood back to back and watched the nightmare continue unfolding all around us.
One of the skeletons in front of me ran toward the Creepy Santas, grabbed a ceramic pumpkin off of the shelf, and smashed it over one of the statue’s heads. The Santa’s head shattered into small pieces, and the statue fell to its knees. The skeleton smashed another Santa in the face, breaking off his nose, but not completely destroying him before he grabbed the skeleton’s head and ripped it off, before charging towards us.
Another skeleton stepped in and elbowed the Santa in the face, causing his head to shatter the rest of the way before he collapsed into a lifeless pile on the floor.
I heard Chris shoot another Santa behind us, causing him to join the other ceramic casualties on the floor.
I had one Skeleton remaining, and two Santas still charging toward me.
The skeleton ran toward one Santa, as I grabbed a heavy pumpkin spice candle off of the shelf and threw it at the other, shattering his face on the first try. The last Santa and Skeleton took turns throwing each other into the shelves before the Santa ripped off the Skeleton’s head. I punched the remaining Santa, shattering his face with my fist. Unfortunately, also cutting my knuckles open in the process.
Behind me, I could still hear Chris’s gunfire. I turned around to see all of the Santas on his side of the aisle were also dead, except for two. One of which was currently fighting the last remaining skeleton. The Santa and the Skeleton took each other out, as the last remaining Santa tackled Chris.
I watched in horror as they wrestled on the floor in front of me, both fighting for the gun.
Until suddenly, the gun went off. Twice.
I screamed as Chris went limp, a puddle of crimson defeat growing beneath him.
I began to lean forward to reach for him, but a hand on my shoulder stopped me and pulled me back.
“Don’t.” I heard Chris whisper from behind me.
I turned around and saw Chris standing behind me.
“I-I’m so sorry.” He said.
“What-“ I repeated.
“Don’t look down.” He instructed.
Of course, I didn’t listen to him. I looked down, only to discover my own body on the floor, right in front of me.
“W-wait. We’re BOTH dead?”
It was then, that I heard the evilest laughter coming from the Santa behind me.
Chris pulled me back, away from the statue. The Santa continued with his maniacal laughter as he scooped up the limbs of his fallen soldiers, as well as the bones of ours. Chris and I watched in silence as the Santa stuffed everything into trash bag after trash bag. Until finally, it was time for him to move our own bodies.
“Don’t fucking touch me!” I screamed as I watched the Santa grab my lifeless body by the ankles and drag it into the cooler.
“He can’t hear you,” Chris said, “We’re dead.”
The Santa came back for Chris’s body. Before dragging his body to the cooler to join mine, the Santa picked the gun up off of the floor and emptied the final bullet into Chris’s body.
This triggered yet another fit of maniacal laughter from the evil creature before he spoke for the first time.
“Stupid people,” the Santa said, in a non-human voice, “Don’t you know the spirit of Christmas beats the spirit of Halloween, every time?”
Then, the creature grabbed Chris’s body by the ankles and dragged it over into the coolers.
“What now?” I asked aloud, still in shock, as we walked out of the Halloween aisle.
Chris and I both gasped when we turned the corner, to head back toward the office.
There, standing before us, were at least a dozen other people. They were all smiling. Some even held their arms open, as if ready to embrace us.
“Oh dear,” said the woman in the front of the group, with her arms out. “I am so terribly sorry it had to be you two.”
“Yeah,” chimed in the man next to her, “They were my favorite of all of the staff at the store.”
The woman sighed. “Well, it had to be someone.”
“Always has to be someone,” repeated a man from the back.
“Wait, what the hell are you talking about?” I demanded as Chris and I approached the group.
“Oh, you poor things. We tried to warn you, but you didn’t get the message.”
“They never listen,” said a woman in the back, shaking her head.
“You see,” said the woman in the front, taking a few steps forward and closing the distance between us, “This happens every year. Our district manager is Pagan. He sacrifices a couple of employees every year to ensure that our store has the highest sales and best business in the country.”
“Those evil fuckers killed all of us, over the last several years.” Said the man in the back.
“They put those horrible Santa statues out a week before Halloween every year, so they can feed off of the customer’s and employee’s hatred of them. I think that is what makes them so evil and vengeful.” Explained the woman. “They go after the employees who hate them, and hate Christmas, the most.”
“Wait,” I said, putting my hands up in front of me, “You mean to tell me, for the last several months that I have been here, it was you guys that I kept seeing out of the corner of my eye while I was out here on the floor alone?”
“Yes,” said the woman, nodding sadly, “And we would try to knock things off of the shelves to scare you. We hoped that you would quit if we frightened you enough.”
“But it never seems to work,” Said the lady in the back.
“It never works.” Replied the man next to her.
“Well fuck,” Chris said, putting his hand on my shoulder, “I’m so sorry. I should have listened to you. I should have believed you.”
Out of nowhere, Chris began laughing.
“What the hell is so funny?” I asked.
“I-I’m sorry,” Chris said, trying to catch his breath, “It’s just, well, now we know why the carpet is so fucking disgusting in this store! All of the stains, they’re-“
“Blood. From the victims.” I finished his sentence. In a sick, twisted way, I couldn’t help but smile, too.
“Okay, so now what?” Chris asked the group.
“Well,” said the woman at the front of the group, “I suppose now you choose an aisle. Which one would you like to haunt? With any luck, maybe you can scare some of your coworkers into quitting, so they don’t have to meet the same fate next Halloween.”
“Oh! I want the incontinence aisle!” Chris said, jumping up and down, “I wanna scare the old people and make them pee themselves! It’ll probably help with the sales.”
All of us laughed.
“I mean, I guess I’ll take the candy aisle. I have an obsession with chocolate,” I admitted.
“Ah, yes,” said the man from the back, “I noticed. That is my aisle, and I saw that you visited a lot.” He chuckled, then winked at me “I wouldn’t mind sharing the aisle with you.”
“Okay, but wait, what happens to the surviving Santa? Or the other Santas that have already been sold?” Chris asked.
“Well, after midnight tonight, they become lifeless statues once again. They never come alive again. The Santas that don’t sell will be destroyed, and the ones who already sold have probably already murdered their purchasers. Next year, there will be new Santas sent here to take their place. The cycle will continue.”
“That’s terrible!” I replied.
“Oh, the nightmare has just begun.” Insisted Chris.
“Why do you say that?” I asked, confused, “We are already dead. How could things possibly get worse?”
“Because,” Chris sighed, “We are dead, which means we are trapped here. And starting tomorrow, our store is going to start playing Christmas music!”