The Veil was ripped in the most inconvenient of places.

“We can come back after they’re closed.” Reggie said. “Doesn’t Jamila work here? We can text her and -”

“She got fired.” Chels sighed.

“Why? This is the easiest job on the roster.”

Boring. The most boring job on the roster. And Jamila once contained a German fire demon — solo — so I’m not surprised she couldn’t make it as one of Santa’s little portrait elves.”

To the outsider, the little gray splotch on the emerald green carpet in front of Santa’s candy cane chair was just another spill from some overeager kid who’d waited in line with her parents for an hour for a picture.

There were rules for the Mall Court Santa’s Workshop Experience — rules about age, rules about touching the reindeer statues, rules about the number of times you could walk the Toyland Maze and still get a candy bag prize for finishing it — but the rules that got broken more than any other were the food and drink rules.

No food. No drink. Under any circumstances.

It seemed simple enough, but parents didn’t bother with rules when the lines for pictures with Santa were often up to an hour long.

So the gray splotch, to the outsider, was the ghost of a spilled Pepsi or the unscrubable remains of some chocolate or maybe ketchup.

But to Chels and Reggie, it was an unqualified emergency. It was a rip in the Veil. The beginnings of a doorway between the World of the Dead and ours.

Trouble. Big trouble.

“All we need is for some army of the undead to push their way through the Veil while some three year old is on Santa’s lap.”

“Hell of a Christmas,” Reggie said under his breath.


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