“Children, you better go to bed now before Santa Claus can slide down our chimney and leave you guys your presents.” Haylie said to her children, Cami and Dylan, who were staring unblinkingly at the new ornament Haylie bought earlier that day. The ornament was for free – a guy dressed in a Santa outfit was standing in front of the supermarket handing each customer one of these shiny baubles. Haylie must admit, it is mesmerizing to stare at that crimson bauble.
“Kids!” Haylie spoke louder. Cami and Dylan didn’t move an inch, they continued to stare at the ornament. Haylie stepped closer and waved a hand in front of the children’s faces. Nothing. It was as though they’ve been hypnotized. Forcefully, Haylie pulled Cami away. As soon as Cami lost eye contact with the ornament, she turned to her mother, “Mama, it was beautiful.”
Haylie picked the little girl up and frowned, “What is, sweetie?”
“What Santa was showing us.”
“What was Santa showing you?”
Cami shook her head, “I’m not supposed to tell anyone.” She whispered, “It’s a secret.”
“Well, whether it’s a secret or not, you and your brother need to get to bed. Otherwise, the big man won’t be able to give you guys your presents.” Cami jammed her thumb rebelliously in her mouth as Haylie bent and picked Dylan up. “Come on, Dill, time for bed.”
The second Dylan broke eye contact with the ornament, he screamed and began punching his mother’s leg, “Mom, how can you pull me away from that. It wasn’t finished.” Dylan had calm down but in tears by the time they made it upstairs to his bed.
“Dill, you okay?” Haylie asked as she tucked Dylan into bed. Dylan nodded. Haylie smiled and kissed Dylan on the forehead just as she had kissed Cami a moment ago. “Sweet dreams.” Haylie padded across the hall to her room.
Haylie had just fallen asleep when she heard a squeak. “Hello?” She said, reaching for her robe. Wrapping her robe around her and slipping into her slippers, she padded down the hall to the children’s room. “Kids, are you…” She gasped as she realized the kids’ beds were empty. “Kids?” Haylie raced downstairs and found the front door wide open.
“What in the world?” Haylie found herself muttering.
Children from every household in the neighborhood were on the street. They were walking like zombies, in a single-file line, no talking and touching. “Timmy!” Her next door neighbor, Mrs. Baker, shouted at the little boy dragging his teddy bear on the ground. “Haylie, what in the world is going on?” Mrs. Baker asked anxiously as she crossed the lawn.
“Did you get that free ornament at the market today?” Haylie asked.
“Duh, it’s free.”
“I think that’s what’s causing this. Cami and Dylan were staring at it all night. Cami said Santa showed her something.”
“What? That’s preposterous.” Mrs. Baker waved her hand, rejecting the claim but after a moment, she asked curiously, “Wait, what did he show her?”
“Cami wouldn’t tell me.”
“We have to stop this.” Pulling up the sleeves of her robe, Mrs. Baker marched toward Timmy and tried to pull him out of the line but Timmy wouldn’t budge. Mrs. Baker tried again. It looked as though she was trying to haul a boulder.
“Any ideas?” The other next door neighbor, Mrs. Montgomery, asked.
Haylie studied the children, the more she watched them, the more they were looking like sleepwalkers. “I-I think… they’re sleepwalking.”
“Well, great, let’s wake them.” In her robe and slippers, Mrs. Montgomery caught up to little Jimmy and shouted, “Breakfast is ready.”
“Huh? Where?” Jimmy perked his head.
It work? Haylie realized and immediately hurried to her children, “Oh, I have a dozen blueberry muffins ready in the oven.”
Both Cami and Dylan’s heads perked, “What are we waiting for?” Dylan said and then looked around him, “What are we doing here?” Haylie sighed with relief and escorted her children back into the house. That is one ornament I am not keeping.