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There used to be an old horror story about an old man that once lived in an old, single-story house. If you lit a candle — even if you bought it from the 99 cent store — he would appear, thinking it was his wife. Apparently, she loved candles; she loved them so much she would sit at the dining table and watch the flicker of the fire until the wick burned out. Two weeks before Christmas the old man — Phil, we’ll call him — decided to have a little fun. He bought the “new and improved” Elf on the Shelf that had two camera lenses in his eyes. He figured he would make a film of all the times it would scare her, and if she talked to it at all, then he'd give it to her for Christmas.
She found it after the first ten minutes he hid it in the fridge. She had giggled and slapped her husband on the shoulder playfully, exclaiming “Oh Phillip!” It went on like that for a few day; each time the old woman would find it, giggle, and ask the elf where he’d walk to the next day. Philip had never been so happy. His wife didn’t so much as glance at candles anymore, she was always looking around for the sneaky elf.
One night with his wife tucked into bed, her mouth slightly open and small snores whistling past her lips, Philip got out of bed — as usual — to hide the elf in another place; but when the old man went to the Christmas tree to retrieve the doll, it wasn’t there. He searched all over, but couldn’t find it. Perhaps Marge had taken her turn to hide the elf, he had thought to himself. When he asked her in the morning, however, she shook her head and chuckled as if he were the one pulling the prank on her.
“Mister Elf!” She called. Phillip played along, still believing that she was messing around. It took less than a few minutes for Marge to “find” the elf in the guest bedroom with the covers tucked up to his limp shoulders. “Ah!” Marge called excitedly. “Found him, Phil.” She kneeled beside the elf and whispered, “Sorry for disturbing your sleep, Mister Elf.” She patted its head with the tip of her finger and stood. She brushed past Phillip, telling him to let the poor thing sleep. Phil wondered when she had put him there. No matter. He would hide it later. The weekend, however, was no different. He wouldn’t be able to find the doll, and in the morning it would be in a different place than the last. He assumed it was Marge. He was glad she was having fun, but a little upset because he wanted to surprise her with the Elf’s footage of her discovery.
That’s when he remembered…the footage. If he could look at the video, perhaps he could tell what time she usually gets up at night to hide the Elf. While Marge went out to shop for Christmas, Philip took the doll to their office room and plopped him on the table. He unzipped the doll’s shirt from the back, exposing dozens of wires. He plugged it in and waited for the files to upload. When they were done, however, there was nothing but a black screen. However, the audio had made it. He could hear “Oh Phillip!” and “There you are, Mister Elf!” A couple of times he heard static, shuffling noises and light tapping. He brushed it off as a cruddy camera and unplugged the doll. So much for that Christmas present.
He had put the doll back in its place and waited for his wife to come home. She took longer than expected, and knowing that she would be stressed and tired, he decided to cook his famous lasagna. When he heard the car door swing open and slam shut, he hustled as quickly as his old, frail legs could take him and opened up the door for his wife. However, what greeted him was flashing red and blue lights, a man with his blue cap twisting in his hands and an Elf on the Shelf doll in a plastic orange evidence bag. That same painted smile that delighted Marge just a few hours before seemed menacing now. Almost downright evil.
“Mr. Rodkens,” The officer said gently. “May I come in?” Philip's eyes never went away from the doll. He said nothing and stepped back to let the officer inside. As the officer went in with his head ducked down, Phillip took a closer look at the doll. It wasn’t the one Phillip had bought. It was a girl elf with a pretty pink bow on the tip of her Christmas hat.
Phillip cleared his throat and shut the front door. He walked to the kitchen and offered the officer a seat and a slice of his lasagna. The nervous cop refused, but made a point of directing the old man to his own chair.
“Sir,” he began. His breath hitched with the words he couldn’t get himself to say. How does one say, your wife is dead and it was basically the bloodiest scene I’ve ever experienced? Enjoy your night and Merry Christmas?
“What is this about, sir? Is Marge in trouble? My wife?”
“Then what is it?”
The uniformed man cleared his throat and dropped the elf on the kitchen counter. Phillip seemed to coil away from it. “I’m sorry to be so sudden with this, but… Your wife is dead, sir. We identified her by her ID.”
Phillip was never one to show much emotion. He always thought that it was better to express yourself with words. When he was happy about something Marge had said or done, he’d bake her a cake. If he wanted to tell her he loved her, he would buy her dozens of flowers. If he was angry, he would go to the bar he absolutely hates, just to prove a point.
Now was no exception.
Phillip’s fingers curled into a fist, all color drained from his face and he did not speak. He listened as the policeman explained—in as little detail as possible—how Marge died. “We thought she was having a heart attack. She was screaming as she collapsed to the floor. We called 911, but before they got there her—” He paused. He wasn’t sure if he should go any further. Phillip urged him. The officer explained, and the horrific story brought Philip to tears.
We never got to hear the story of how the woman died, and supposedly the old man wrote his will, giving it all to the officer who came to the door. He had no grandchildren, or any children for that matter. No family except for Marge. They were lonely people.
He killed himself on Christmas day. His death was confidential, the people don’t know how he did it. There were rumors, though. They believe he burned himself with hundreds of candles surrounding him. Some say he slit his wrists. Others think the doll killed him. Ridiculous, if you ask me.
He hung himself. The poor old man hung himself with his will at his feet and my father, the man who Philip left everything to, found his body. We moved in a few months after his death, despite my protests. We were planning on selling the house but after the finalization of the divorce between my parents it was a done deal.
Poppa helped me and Dad load and unload our things. He had tears in his eyes when he said goodbye. I didn’t hug him back, and pulled away when he brushed my hair behind my ear and tried to brush off lint from my dress. Dad didn’t even bother to look him. What he did was unforgivable. He cheated on Dad with a girl.
As we started unpacking the boxes, I noticed that Dad wouldn’t go into the guest room. He wouldn’t even look at it. When it came to the box for the guest room, he asked me to unload the decorations for him while he ordered Chinese food. I pushed back my curiosity and did as told. When I walked into the room I was practically blinded by how white the room was. The floor was faux white fur, the walls white, the bed sheets, the rocking chair. All white. I decided to add a splash of color by dropping the boxes contents onto the floor and on the bed. No, I decided, this wouldn’t do. I was going to ask my dad if we could paint it a different color. "We can’t very well paint with things around the room, so this was dumb,” I grumbled to myself, kneeling down and putting the things back into the box.
When the first box was nearly full I noticed something that wasn’t in the box before. A… hand? Plastic. I reached under the bed and wrapped my fingers around the plush body of a doll. I pulled it out and gasped. When I settled down I realized it wasn’t the Elf on the Shelf doll that was in the story. Instead, this one had combed, plastic, peppered gray hair. The others were a girl, and a boy with black hair. I wondered if he had grown an obsession with Elf on the Shelf like his wife did with candles.
It’s just a story, I reminded myself. Just a story.