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Twenty-Five Years Ago

“Babe!” the man called out to his wife, who was excitedly bouncing their baby boy in her arms as she stood in line to meet the Mall Santa Claus “If you jostle him anymore, then he’s going to get a concussion.”

The woman sent a glare over her shoulder, her blonde ringlets settling prettily around her face.

“Oh hush” she scolded her husband “Cooper is tough like his mama. Besides, he’s just excited as I am for his first picture with Santa.”

They looked at their son who was looking at the bright lights and chewing on his fist with a gummy smile.

The man grinned as the woman kissed her son’s wild tufts of blonde hair.

The couple started whispering excitedly as they edged closer to the front of the line.

By the time that they were finished with their Holiday photos as a family, it was eight at night and the few remaining stores in the Mall began to close shop for the night.

The woman beamed down at the photos in her hand as the man pushed their sleeping son in his stroller through the mall’s parking garage.

“These are going in his baby book!” she said excitedly “Look at his face! He’s smiling up at Santa!”

The man chuckled at his enthused wife “I think he’s smiling at the twenty foot reindeer.”

“Either way” she rolled her eyes “This is the best picture I’ve ever seen of a baby with Santa Claus! Did you see my sister’s annual Christmas photo this year? She had a crazy smile on her face and my nieces were mid-cartwheel when the picture was taken. Our photo is perfect.”

The man snickered “Always competing with your older sister.”

“She competes with me!” the woman nudged her husband’s shoulder with her own “It’s not easy being the younger sister with a neurotic detail oriented competitive older sister.”

“Speaking of neurotic” he said, wrinkling his nose in thought “Why did we have to take these photos today? Couldn’t we have come back tomorrow right when the line opened and got out of here faster?”

“NO!” she said vigorously “Christmas is a week away and we have dinner with my family tomorrow and then your family on Wednesday. With work and Coop, today was the only day we really had time to get this picture done.”

She grabbed one of her husband’s and started swinging it, walking backwards as they spotted their car.

“Can you believe this?” she said excitedly, looking down at their sleeping son “A few months ago, we were scrambling to find a name for him and now we’re taking Christmas photos with him in matching outfits! I just can’t believe that this is our life now! I’m the luckiest woman on this planet.”

The man smiled and was about to comment something when a smoky voice sounded from behind them.

“How sweet” the voice said sarcastically “Cinderella found her Happily Ever After.”

The man turned and saw a woman, dressed from head to toe in black, leaning against a pillar in the park garage.

Chills slithered up the man’s neck and he pushed his family behind him.

His wife stiffened and he felt her hand grip the back of his sweater.

“Take Cooper and lock yourselves in the car” he murmured softly to his scared wife “Under no circumstance do you get out of that car.”

“Honey...” she whimpered as their son let out a piercing screech “We can’t leave...”

“Now” he said more firmly “I-”

His voice cut off suddenly as his throat closed, the air leaving his lungs in a whoosh.

The woman smirked at him, holding out her hand and flicking her wrist.

His wife cried out from behind him and he turned and saw her on the floor, clawing at her throat as her face turned an unsightly shade of purple.

“We’ll” the man managed to choke out “ family...alone.”

She suddenly appeared behind his wife, grasping her curly hair in a tight grasp.

“I can’t leave you alone” she smiled wickedly “Because you have something I want.”

Her eyes drifted to the stroller and his heart stopped in his chest.

“Please...” he ran to his son as fast as he could but his legs felt like they were weighed down “We have money. Take the car.”

“I don’t need the car” she smiled “I need the child.”

“Please” his wife cried “He’s our son...we’ve tried so long for a baby...he’s our world.”

“Your sacrifice will not be in vain” The evil woman gazed down at her with an unsympathetic smile “He will go to a loving home and will never want for anything.”

Before they could even blink, they started choking on their own blood.

The man watched the life drained out of his wife’s eyes, blood coming out of every oriface like a horror movie.

His eyes were blurry and he took one last look at his son, who was crying his lungs off in the woman’s arms.

She ran a finger across his stubby red little cheeks.

“You will be my Salvation Little One” she cooed “And when the time comes, you will become the King.”

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