My Dearest Children,
I find myself penning this letter to you against the day that God’s largesse comes to an end. Among other failings, I lack the courage to speak the truth to you in person. I wish it were not so, and many times I’ve convinced myself that today would be the day we all sat down and I could come clean. I’ve failed each time. So here, hiding behind Death’s cloak, I’ll tell my tale. Our tale.
To begin, I was born human, not of the fairy realm as I have always told you. It was a few centuries after the time of Jesus, in Roman-controlled Lycia. My childhood was unremarkable and I married a brewer, a man I thought I loved with all my heart. About three years later, though, when I was unable to produce a child for him, he cast me out, blaming my barrenness on practicing witchcraft and consorting with demons. I was already devastated and these unfounded accusations he used as cover for divorce led me to, well, snap. I most certainly was not a very forgiving Christian.
While many of my family didn’t believe his accusations, my father did. He allowed no one to associate with me. I had to flee and turned to begging and other less savory things to survive. I prayed to God to save me, to set things right, but it seemed my voice fell on deaf ears. With the fire of revenge burning deep in my soul, I turned to a woman purported to be a real witch. That old crone told me what I needed to do and I eagerly proceeded without thought to the consequences.
On the next full moon, I stood naked on the shores of the Dalaman River, the blood of three sacrificed kittens smeared across my body, and called forth the demon. (Yes, dear children, surely this comes as a shock. I apologize, for this is among the least of my sins. Should you wish to stop reading now and curse my memory forever, I will understand.) Sinterklaas, named by the old witch, appeared before me like ink’s shadow against the dark of night. I could feel the heat of his immense form – standing upright as a man on cloven-hooves, scaly of skin, and with glowing red eyes that laid bare my dark soul. He reeked of decay and sulfur. I was afraid, yet so far gone in my thirst for revenge that I stood my ground and begged him to slay my husband in the most painful way imaginable.
The demon agreed, contingent upon my sworn devotion to him, that I would remain his consort until death and beyond. Furthermore, I had to bring him fully into this world. I was young and foolish and prideful, and I agreed. I bound Sinterklaas to this world by taking him as a lover, his lust and depravity contagious. It shames me to admit it, but I reveled in the demon’s evil.
Sinterklaas wasted little time in hunting down and killing my former husband. I watched and laughed and encouraged the demon as he tortured and then ate the liar’s new wife, forcing him to witness the entire thing before becoming the demon’s next victim. There is no forgiveness for my role in that affair. I may not have been entirely of my own mind by then, but I brought that state upon myself.
The demon and I moved across the region in an orgy of death and unspeakable carnal pleasures. I soon discovered that Sinterklaas had a keen fondness for children – ambrosia to the beast. I was there for it all, for so had I promised. I helped, both in finding targets and then…worse.
It was every bit as horrific as it sounds, and I was lost in my love for this demon. Things changed before long, however, when I realized I was with child where I’d thought such a thing impossible. Oh, I was still consumed with evil, but now I saw glimpses of a future. Before that point, there was nothing but destruction – unending until the Apocalypse. Sinterklaas saw the physical change in me, for I became swollen in a matter of weeks rather than months, and he looked forward to his spawn becoming a blight upon the world. He thought it would curry him favor with the devil himself. I was so proud and eager to bear his child.
After a month, I gave birth. Not to one child, but nineteen. They were small and stunted, with yellowed skin, pointed ears, and born with small, sharp teeth. The touch of the demon was unmistakable, yet I bonded instantly to them as any mother would to her child. I was overwhelmed with a joy that now competed with my lust for evil.
Unfortunately, Sinterklaas’s taste for children surpassed the desire to see his offspring’s destructive potential. One night, after stepping outside the home we’d coopted for but a couple minutes, I found the demon had skewered every last child with a wooden pole and hung it over the fire. I remember clearly how that forked tongue licked his lips while his dark red scales glistened with the fires of the pit. He told me with glee how we would share the finest of feasts that night.
It was then I snapped out of the demon’s influence. Surely, the connection between mother and child is a thing of God, more powerful than the influence of a demon. I could feel his pull, that sworn vow feeding an immense desire to join and feast and let him take me over and over, but I resisted and fled. Sinterklaas must have assumed I would soon return, for he didn’t follow.
I wandered, lost and broken, until I found myself on the outskirts of Myra. One thing I’d learned in my time with the demon was that it avoided holy sites. He never spoke of it, but I had picked up on this aversion and wondered if a priest might be a match for the foul creature.
I found the church in the heart of Myra, far grander than what I’d grown up with in the small village. It was very early in the morning when I stumbled into the courtyard and I hesitated there when I saw a young boy praying at a statue of Jesus on the cross. I couldn’t make out most of his words, but it was clear that he was praying for his father’s health, that the man might work again. The demon’s influence still touched me and I’m sure I scowled even as the boy’s plight tugged at a softer part of my soul.
While the boy’s back was turned, a man in priest’s vestments slipped in quietly and knelt at the boy’s bag which was laying on a bench several feet away. I watched the priest place a few coins and an orange into the bag and then just as quietly slip away and pretend to enter from another direction. He consoled the boy and said to trust in prayer.
When the boy left, the priest saw me and beckoned me inside. I was afraid that I might burst into flame on crossing the threshold, but nothing happened. He was young, maybe a few years older than me, with curly hair and a full beard and friendly eyes.
I asked him why he had helped the boy in secret, since it seemed deceptive – like faking a miracle. The priest just smiled and said he felt it was his obligation to help those in need, to give to the poor, to act as God’s emissary on Earth. Children, he said, had a particular need.
And when he mentioned children, I broke down and told him my tale. All of it. I wasn’t sure he believed me, since neither he nor God smote me on the spot, but it turned out that he was aware of the stories of our misdeeds and saw my appearance as a sign he might be able to help end the killing. He felt that with the strength of his faith, the demon could be banished back to hell, and then I could seek absolution for my sins.
I disagreed on both counts. Yes, I believed the priest probably could have sent the beast back to that fiery pit, but I refused to allow Sinterklaas off that easily. And, furthermore, I didn’t believe it was right of me to ask forgiveness. I wanted to suffer for the horrors I’d committed. I deserved nothing less.
I told the priest I wanted the demon to suffer commensurate to the pain it had inflicted during its time on Earth. He seemed unconvinced piling more vengeance upon my original sin would make anything better, but when I told him the idea that came to mind he at least agreed to let me go ahead and try. As he put it, everything was in God’s hands, and this would be a test of my faith to see it through.
I returned the next day to Sinterklaas, but the demon had already moved on. I feared I had lost my opportunity, but then I heard rumor of deaths in a nearby town that smacked of the demon’s handiwork. I followed that lead to the next and the next, each leading me farther from my home and always north. I wondered if the demon wasn’t fleeing – either me or the priest. Was it able to know where I had gone or my intentions? I don’t believe so now, but couldn’t say for certain what its motives were back then.
After nearly a year, traveling on foot through foreign lands and begging charity from those whose languages I couldn’t speak, I finally caught up with the demon near a remote village in the northernmost mountains. It was a realm of snow and cold and dark, unlike anything I’d ever known to exist, and its own sort of hell. The hearty folk who lived there, however, seemed a cheerful lot save for those touched by the demon’s hunger. It was in a dark, icy cave not far from one of these villages where I found Sinterklaas, who just gave me a fanged grin as if he’d known all along that I would chase him.
What then, dear children, do you think I did? Why, I gave myself to him in contrition, or did a very good job of pretending. I laid with the beast and begged for more, trying to distract it from one lust for flesh with another. As before, I was soon carrying the demon’s offspring and I further used this to entice it to stay close that it might feast again upon their succulent flesh. The creature of deception, fortunately, was susceptible to it as well, for it never saw my true intentions.
When I gave birth, this time to seventeen sons and daughters, the demon’s hunger was such that it could wait no longer to indulge. Before it took a single child, though, I held aloft the priest Nicholas’s blessed cross. Sinterklaas laughed, shaking my faith, and told me I lacked the power to banish him after pledging myself to be his consort for eternity. I agreed and told him I had no intention of leaving his side. Rather, his punishment would be mine as well.
I proclaimed there and then, humbled before God, that my love for you, my children, was inviolate. That I would protect you and cherish you for all time, in this world and the next. That I wouldn’t stand for Sinterklaas stopping your lives before they could fulfilled. And, toward this end, I would help serve out the demon’s sentence – that it remained bound to that icy cave save for one night each year when it would be allowed out only to bring gifts and joy to the children of the world. And on that night, to fulfill my sworn obligation, I would lay with it. The demon screamed in rage and lunged at me, but could cause me no harm. The cross burned him and me as well, binding us to this arrangement. I wept tears of joy, touched by God’s love that I felt completely undeserving of, and left the cave with all of you in my arms.
So yes, dearest children, I may call you my little elves, but you are really the offspring of demon and human. Given your kind natures and boundless love, I think the freewill of man in you has overwhelmed any of the inherent demonic influences save the superficial. I’ve been blessed to have spent these centuries with you, doing good work and bringing joy to children, and I hope that you feel it’s been a worthwhile endeavor in spite of the circumstances that brought it about and my keeping this dark secret from you. You also know the truth, painful as it might be, that the man you’ve always believed to be Santa is in fact your father and nothing like the fiction I created. He doesn’t keep his own counsel each day of the year save Christmas in careful observation of the children, but rather is safely locked away in that cave where he can do no harm.
If you’re reading this, then I expect it is because I’ve passed on from this world to the next. I never did ask for absolution and don’t believe I could have been fully forgiven for my deeds after binding myself to the demon. While I’m uncertain, I believe when I pass it will be with Sinterklaas as well. By now, the popular influence of the legend of Santa Claus will live on even without our presence on Earth. You may find yourselves at a loss for what to do next. Perhaps you’ll pass on to the next world, a better one, as well. I just don’t know. What I can say, though, is I don’t fear for your fates. Be good, be true to yourselves and to one another, and you’ll always walk the bright path.
Yours forever in love and Christmas spirit,