Dee focused on the name, pulling strength from it. Jhon contained the cure. Dee
had to live so he could find Jhon. The cure was his way to correct all the wrongs he had
Dee ripped at the flesh surrounding him and clawed his way to the surface. The
guts of the creature spilled out onto the ground, and he fell with them. He coughed,
spitting out bodily fluids of the creature that had eaten him.
Dee rolled onto his side and threw up. The acidic stomach bile had left him
temporarily disabled. His hearing returned before his vision and he heard voices near
“That?” A boyish voice asked. “That’s what you call a great and powerful
“Trust me.” Another male voice said. “Throw the net on him and all your wishes
will come true.”
“What is he, a genie?”
“You can treat him like one. He will be able to grant your every wish.” The older
voice sounded familiar. Air rushed into Dee’s lungs, and his heart gave a painful beat.
“Throw it over him now, before his strength returns.”
“Santa,” Dee managed to say. He gritted his newly mended teeth and gave a low
growl. What did that man want now?
Dee’s vision returned in time for him to see a large, light- weight fishnet fall over
his head and shoulders, covering his entire body. There was something claustrophobic
about it. The more he struggled, the more of a mess he made of himself and the net.
“Stop moving around like that,” the boy said. Every muscle in Dee’s body
stiffened. “Straighten the net out and get to your feet.” Dee moved as quickly as his
wounded body would allow. His skin continued to burn from the acidic digestive juices
still covering his flesh. The child before him didn’t look nearly as young as he’d
expected. He was a teenager. And a dorky looking one at that, dressed in dark green
pajamas with a cowlick on the back of his head.
“Santa, what is this?” Dee asked.
“Show me a trick,” the boy said. Dee obediently raised his hand and created a
tennis ball sized orb of fire. It hovered in mid- air a few inches from his hand.
“He can do whatever you want,” Santa told the boy. “He is yours. No one will
miss him. They all think he is dead.”
Dee put the fire out and lowered his hand. Fear rose through his healing body as
he realized Santa was right. Dee had just crawled his way out of a dragon’s belly.
Everyone who knew him thought a giant winged lizard had digested him. Even if
someone searched for his remains, they would likely find nothing awry with his missing
“What is this?” he asked again.
“You’re my Christmas present,” the boy said.
Santa leaned in close to Dee. “The boy is clever, Dee. He caught me in a trap.
You wouldn’t want all the children in the universe to miss the joy that Santa brings,
would you? Of course, you wouldn’t. Therefore, I bartered with him. I gave him you in
exchange for my freedom. You understand, don’t you?”
“You gave me to him as a present? I’m not an object to be owned.”
“Well, let’s be honest here, Dee. Most of your life has been spent in exactly that
manner. At least this time your owner only wants you for your power, not your plague.
Consider it a blessing—besides you’ll still have my visit to look forward to every
My plague. Dee tried not to cringe at the reminder.
“Can you teleport him directly to the shower? He’s disgusting. My mother will
throw a fit if he brings all that goop into the house.”
“Then you’ll take him?” Santa asked, as though Dee were a puppy for sale at the
“Yeah, he’ll do. Thank you, Santa.”
“I should have thought of this years ago,” Santa said.
“Santa, please,” Dee said. “I have to find Jhon before Emperor Emanuel does.
He’s the only one who can cure the plague.”
“I’m sure Jhon will be fine without you, Dee.”