(For a 713 word speculative fiction contest in December 2011 with the theme "Who is Santa?", didn't win)
"I know who Santa is," Iris whispered to me after dinner. Her blue eyes were even wider than usual and she seemed serious.
"You're nine. You're not supposed to believe in Santa," I told her.
Iris is autistic - they can't decide if it's Asperger or not - but I suppose all kids have a vivid imagination.
"No, you don't understand." She looked frustrated.
Later she knocked on my door, clutching a stack of paper in her hands. I thought she was looking for help with her homework.
"Please read this," she said. I was puzzled, but did as she asked, all the while she just stood next to me in silence. She had neatly underlined or circled the most important parts. All kinds of fancy words, some I didn't even understand, buzzed by as I went through the papers, puzzled both by the complicated language and the typewriter font I'm not used to reading.
"I'm not quite sure I have this right," I said.
So Iris explained to me, like I was a child. Whenever she speaks, I often feel she's the older one of us.
"Santa keeps track of what we do, the good and bad things," she said. "For real. Not just for kids, but adults too. Everyone. Codename ELVES. You probably don't want to know which words the abbreviation comes from."
"You mean we are being spied?" I asked, still mostly in jest, but beginning to feel uncomfortable.
"Exactly," she said, pointing to the third page of the stack, of which I could understand very little. It was full of similar abbreviations, possibly explained elsewhere.
"Old geezer, fat and probably senile, seems oh so innocuous. The red coat and the beard? You thought those were made up by a multinational soft drink company. Not a chance. Billions of dollars worth of research has gone into this. I have the budgets too. Fascinating stuff."
My sister was sounding more and more triumphant.
"How do you have all this information, anyway? I'm not saying it's not true, but how do you know it is?"
"You ever heard of Anonymous?" Iris asked. She was almost smirking.
"The hacker group? You know those people?"
She leered at me.
"Hackers, whatever. I could have done that in my sleep. The admins didn't even salt their passwords."
I leafed through the print-outs, trying to make sense of the parts that had been circled. Near the end of the stack I noticed several pages about toy development.
"Yep, they're controlling that too," she said. "Every toy ever invented in the modern times had something to do with them. If you ever really wanted a toy, felt like you totally couldn't live without something, you can be sure the idea was most carefully planted in your head by them."
I didn't like the way she emphasized each mention of "them." I looked at my Xbox. And then something even worse occurred to me.
"Not Legos. Please don't tell me Legos too."
My voice was growing weak.
"I'm not sure, but I think so. Lego Technics for sure. Barbies, Furby and Playmobile. Monopoly, Scrabble and Twister. All your toys."
Everything I own was beginning to feel tainted. Could someone else have chosen it all for me?
"Sorry," Iris said.
"Can you get to the actual database of good and bad people?" I asked.
"Yes," she replied. She knew I was going to ask that. And it seemed like she was amused I even needed to.
"Did you look at my file?"
I was getting sweaty.
"We really need to do something about this," I said. It was hard not to think about my Space Legos.
"No," she said.
"What do you mean, no?"
"I'm afraid there is no way we can fight them. No one can. Not even Anonymous."
Iris was really annoying me, the way she was so calm and matter-of-fact, like a newscaster.
"So, we do nothing?"
"If you have any special Christmas wishes, just tell me and I'll have them taken care of," Iris said. "Oh, and I may have erased that quibble with Mrs. Davidson from your records."
"Thanks," I mumbled.
"Ho ho ho," Iris said as she left the room. Her robot-like voice had never creeped me out as much.