Christmas Eve was Timmy’s favorite day of the year. The little house where Timmy lived with his Mum and Dad was made extra cozy with all the glittering, cheerful decorations and the jolly pile of the eagerly anticipated presents neatly stacked under the beautiful Christmas tree which Timmy always helped his Mum to decorate. It filled Timmy with warm happiness just to be sitting there quietly on the sofa, looking at all this splendor.
However, the highest point of the day, the bit that Timmy enjoyed more even than his Mum’s mince pies, was the traditional afternoon trip with his Mum to the Christmas market held annually in the center of town. That’s where one could really appreciate the true spirit of Christmas! Timmy simply loved wandering among all the stalls filled with trinkets, baubles, sweets, pictures, decorations, perfumed candles and many other hand crafted objects which were mostly not needed but ever so attractive, mysterious and desirable. He could never hear enough of the Christmas carols pumped out through the loudspeakers all over the market. He had a continuous big smile because everybody else around him was in high spirits and smiling to each other.
This year the town was transformed even more by the unusually heavy snowfalls: it nearly made their trip impossible … but in the end Dad said that he would drop them off on the way to the pub where he would wait for them so that they could all go back home together.
When they got there, Timmy hardly recognized the market square: all stalls were covered with snow which kept on falling gently, the huge snowflakes reflecting glittering lights of the decorations, giving the market a magic look. Timmy could easily imagine he was walking through a fairy tale town.
Then, in the middle of the merry shopping crowd, Timmy noticed a booth of a small portable shadow theater. On Its lit screen Timmy could read “Dragon Theater ”. He ran up to it just as the tall bearded man standing nearby announced in a gruff voice:
“Come, come closer and see the dragons flying, the brave princes fighting, the dainty maidens getting rescued !…”
Now, if there ever was one thing Timmy was passionate about, it was dragons: he had a few books about or involving dragons and quite a collection of dragon figurines, including a couple he made himself with the help of his dad.
“Mum, Mum! Can I see it, please?!”
“But of course, you can, Timmy!…We will watch it together!”
The show was everything the grumpy man promised: there was a prince, a princess and, more important, there was an enormous dragon! Everybody watching the unfolding tale, Timmy and his mum amongst them, was glued to the spot and when it was over the crowd burst out with applause and cheers. Timmy’s mum gave him some money and he went to put it into the tin box in front of the makeshift stage. When Timmy sat down on his haunches to reach the box a part of the curtain was blown up by a gust of wind and to his great consternation mixed with delight Timmy thought he saw behind the stage a little black dragon slinking away.
“Thank you, my boy!” heard Timmy the gruff voice and a man’s trousered leg materialized between him and the stage. Timmy looked up and saw a crooked nose, a pirate’s beard and a pair of unsmiling charcoal-black eyes which seemed to be drilling holes in Timmy’s head: – “Now move along, move along!”
All the way to the pub where his dad was waiting for them, Timmy was very silent and even a cup of hot chocolate didn’t bring him out of his reverie. Dad was still talking to his friends; mum was looking over her last minute shopping and when Timmy finished his chocolate he raised his eyes and recognized the gruff man with the shadow theatre sitting at the next table. An enormous trunk was standing on the floor behind the man’s back on which the gold lettering boldly announced: “Dragons”.
Timmy could not resist. He quietly stood up and walked up to the trunk. His parents were not paying any attention to him and when he glanced at the unpleasant trunk’s owner he saw that the latter was busy talking over his drink to the fellow at his table, his back towards the trunk. Timmy sat down in front of the trunk; after a little while he thought he heard some sounds coming from it, so he bent over, leaned his ear on to the letter D and listened. Something was definitely moving inside! Timmy could not help himself: cautiously he tried the lid and it was not locked! So he lifted it a crack, just enough to slip his arm inside. Immediately, his hand closed over something wriggling and without a further thought , Timmy pulled his arm out, put his hand in his pocket and quietly slid back to his table.
Nobody noticed his little escapade and shortly afterwards mum said that unless they wanted to spend the Christmas Eve in the pub snowed in, they d better went home. While everybody was standing up and gathering their possessions’ Timmy furtively sneaked a look into his closed fist inside his pocket: curled up and fitting snuggly inside there was a little toy dragon! The dragon seemed to be sleeping, for its eyes were closed … although Timmy thought he saw a slight reddish glow emanating from under the eyelids. Timmy did not dare to pull the dragon from his pocket to take a closer look: he knew stealing was pretty awful, felt quite bad about his misdeed and did not know how to tell his parents or how to return the dragon to the frightening man. Besides, he was not so sure he wanted to give it back!
In the end he has just trudged along with mum and dad. When they got home Timmy quickly run upstairs to his bedroom and hid the dragon under the pillow on his bed.
Timmy was fidgety all through the evening and even his dad noticed.
“Can’t wait to go bed and wake up with all the presents to open up at last?” dad teased Timmy
“Naturally, – said mum, – Remember yourself when you were 9?”
At last it was time for bed and Timmy hastily brushed his teeth, put his pajamas on and went to his bedroom. Mum came along to tuck him in.
“Goodnight, Timmy!” -she said and kissed his forehead, – “I hope Santa will bring you everything you have asked for… after all, you have been a brilliant little man all the year around!”
She left and Timmy felt a little rotten: he had known for quite some time that there was no Santa and that made him a liar, besides his recent transformation into a thief.
Timmy reached under the pillow and pulled out his loot. The little dragon looked very real and felt a little warm to the touch. And although it was exquisitely carved from some dark material with the minutest attention to each scale on the dragon’s body, there was no mysterious glow seeping from the tightly closed eyes. Simply looking at the little figurine filled Timmy with a sense of warmth and security: he yawned and within seconds was fast asleep.
Something woke Timmy up; he was not sure what. He laid quietly on his back, keeping his eyes closed: for some reason he felt scared, in fact he was so afraid he tried not to breath… He knew somebody was moving around his room; it was confirmed by a vicious whisper:
“Stupid boy! It’s not my night and he is going to be here pretty soon! Bastard Drake! Let me lay my hands on you! Your dragon hide is not going to save you from the thrashing you are gonna receive!”
Timmy very slowly half opened one of his eyes and tentavely peaked around: to his utter horror he saw a man’s shape moving around his room, clearly looking for something, although god only knew how it was possible in the dark with only a little light seeping through a crack in the curtains. Finally the man turned towards Timmy’ bed and as the tiny beam of light fell on the man’s face, Timmy recognized the hook-nosed individual with the shadow theater. At the same time Timmy felt something moving against his leg under the blanket … but instead of giving him an even bigger scare, it made him feel stronger and braver. Timmy remembered that he was not alone, he was with his dragon! He also suddenly understood that his dragon needed help! Timmy decided it was time to be brave! He waited quietly until the man leaned over his bed and at the very same instant Timmy threw his blanket into the man’s face and screamed at he top of his voice:
“Go away! Go away! Go away! The dragon does not want to be yours! I am his friend and I will defend him!”
At first the man was too surprised to react and than he burst out with a wild and totally evil laughter. When he stopped laughing he leaned over even closer, his mean black eyes burning holes in the little boy all the way towards his poor flattering heart, stretched out his hand and hissed into Timmy’s frightened face :
“Give Drake to me!”
Timmy felt his eyes filling up with tears and tried very hard not to cry:
“My mum and dad are going to call police on you!”
Timmy felt rather desperate! Where were his mum and dad? Surely there was enough racket to wake up the dead!
”Ah-Ha-Ha-Ha!” – the dark stranger’s laughter became considerably nastier, and then he spat venomously into Timmy’s face –“They are happily asleep, they do not believe in … in fact neither do you! Do you believe in S…? “
Timmy felt hot tears spilling over his cheeks. He also felt wrong; he felt he could move neither his legs nor his arms. It was terrifying. He looked down and saw, although he could not feel it, the little dragon sitting on top of him with its yellow eyes staring at Timmy and growing bigger … No! Timmy realized that it was himself that was shrinking!!
“Let the boy be, Claudius! You have no right to be here on Christmas Day! “ – Timmy heard a quiet voice although he could not see who it belonged to; his eyes felt like they were glazed over with some dark viscous film.
“No! Its still Christmas Eve and you are not …” –
“You are wrong there, Claudius, its exactly one second after midnight!” – said the quiet voice. Timmy heard the bis grandfather’s cloak chiming midnight downstairs.
“Noooo!!!!” screamed the man called Claudius.
“As for beliefs, the boy believes in right and wrong; he can spot evil in your despicable act and what’s more he was brave enough to help the unfortunate previous boy you have turned into your toy dragon! That is more than enough belief for a nine year old!”
To his great relief Timmy felt the dark film melting away from his eyes.
All of a sudden the nightmarish man began to lose its shape and solidity and in no time at all it turned into a shadow on the wall which then quickly run up to the window and slid through the gap between the curtains and disappeared. Timmy thought he heard a distant threatening call:
“You will regret defying Krampus!”
Timmy discovered he could move again and judging by the fact that he was filling his bed up nicely, he was back to his original shape. He glanced back into the room: there was another dark shape of a man, only this time it was not scary at all: his outline was portly, he seemed to have a generous beard and longish curly hair both of which were shining with a silvery glow; Timmy could clearly see now that the man was dressed in a crimson coat, his cheeks were also crimson red and his eyes kind and smiling, in short he looked like …
“Santa?!!” exclaimed Timmy, – “ but… but …you…”
“I do not exist!” Santa smiled kindly, – “Neither does my twin, Claudius! Which reminds me! Come on Drake! You can come out now its safe!”
Timmy saw a little dragon slide from under his blanket. He turned his head towards Timmy and leaned his head in a gesture of gratitude.
“You were very brave indeed!”- said Santa to Timmy, – “ you stood up to the true spirit of evil and thus helped Drake here to get free! Keep that big heart of yours full of kindness and love and free of fear, Timmy!”
Then both Santa and the dragon suddenly began turning into two shadows which were rapidly fading away into nothingness. Timmy only just managed to catch a faint whisper “Merry Christmas!”
When Timmy woke up next morning he thought he had a strange dream which he could not quite remember: it evaporated away too quickly . He run out of his room and saw mum and dad downstairs sitting together in their pajamas in front of the Christmas tree drinking coffee.
“Merry Christmas, Timmy!” – they cried out together.
Timmy smiled happily and run up to the tree, picked up the top present and ripped the wrapping paper off: there was a crimson box and when he opened it he saw smiling up at him an intricately carved little dragon .