Back in the 90s I worked at a mall one Christmas, stocking shelves for an American Eagle Outfitters. A godawful job.
This mall the store was in was just a basic rectangle, with stores on either side of a big central hall. It was two stories tall, with big department stores at either end, and a food court in the center.
And this time of year, Santa’s photo booth was near one end.
In addition to the main hallway, the mall had two smaller hallways, which ran behind the stories, accessed through the backs. These weren’t for the public. They were narrow, maybe six feet wide, walled in cinderblocks and ran almost the entire length of the mall—hundreds of yards. Lit high above with dim fluorescents.
It was like something in a horror movie.
On this evening, my manager sent me to get some more shelves from our storage area—accessed via this secret hallway. I had a little rolling cart with a stubborn wheel and I was making my way down the hall, when behind me I began hearing boots running: clak! clak! clak! clak! Coming closer. Getting louder. I turned to see who was coming towards me so quickly, and it was Santa.
He was coming right at me. Hard.
There was a moment when I thought to myself: I’m about to be fucking murdered by Santa Claus.
“OUT OF THE WAY!” Santa yelled at me, waving a big hand. The guy they had this year was probably some kind of biker. Tall and beefy, with a big white beard—and obviously much better with the cardio than the real guy.
I flattened my back against the cinderblock wall, and extra-large Santa banged right past me in a rush of red velvet and jingly buckles. “Sorry, running late!” he yelled over his shoulder, and gradually the man in red grew smaller and smaller as he ran off.
I got the shelves and brought them back to the store without another incident. And I quit before Easter, just to be safe.
Jim Towns is an award-winning filmmaker, artist and writer. His short fiction has been published in print and online by Burial Day, Switchblade Magazine, FunDead Publications, Castle of Horror, and more. His first book American Cryptic was released in 2020 by Anubis Press, and in November 2021 saw the publication of his Depression-era vampire novella Bloodsucker City. He lives in San Pedro CA with his wife and two mysterious cats.
Jim’s piece is included in our Mall Rats anthology. Purchase a copy here!