Secret Santa, by Daniel Ritter
It happens every year.
One blazing, skin burning trip around the planet. One stop at every single house, home, cardboard box. Gifts for everyone; some wrapped and placed, some given in spirit only. Some actually appreciated; many, less so.
One trip back to the North Pole; back to the barn with one big empty sack. Nine reindeer, spent, sweaty, huffing out white clouds of exhausted beasty breath.
Santa falls out of the sleigh, drags the empty bag behind him, and collapses into his squeaky chair behind an ornate wooden desk. The shiny brass nameplate always has a little puff of tarnish across “Kringle” when he returns; he always notices that. The bottle is already there, opened. The glass is there, too, polished and ready.
Manny peeks in past the half-open door, “Sir…”
“Both arrangements have been made, sir. Everything is set.”
Santa says nothing.
“So, then, I’ll just give the word?”
“Once it’s done, sir, services begin at dawn.”
“Will you attend, sir?”
“Not this year.” Santa reaches past the glass, grabs the bottle instead, takes a long pull on the clear liquid.
“Very well, sir. Sir?”
“I’m here, sir.”
“Not for long, Manny.”
“I’m proud to have served, sir.”
“Manny. I’m proud of you.”
Manny’s throat went tight. His eyes welled and poured over with tears. The door closed behind him as he left.
The dirty business of Christmas. This year, he just could not stomach the doing of it, the pretending that a greater good comes of it. This time, it’s just the dirty business of Christmas.
The single toll of one giant bell sounded, and Santa’s shadow fell harsh across his desk. In the window behind him, thousands of elves shot into the sky on blazing trails of light, arcing toward every sleeping soul.
The darkness left behind was deafening and lonesome. Santa took another deep, deep drink.
In all the distant corners of the world, a tiny little elf arrived at every home of every name listed on the Naughty List. Each of those elves tiptoed in, snuck through the homes, finding the sleeping little jerks, and quietly pulled back the corners of blankets.
All at once, thousands of little syringes were plunged into the necks of sleeping souls, children and grown-ups alike. They all twinged from the pain and rolled over; snorted and settled back into slumber.
A flowing rush of shooting stars sped simultaneously back to the North Pole. Their work finally complete for the year.
At dawn, they all gathered, all the elves, in rows and columns, quiet and somber, performing their final ritual.
The elves in the first row dug into the snow, down into the permafrost, and deep into the ground. They lay themselves then down, and expired. The second row elves covered them, and began to dig. The ritual rolled through the ranks until all were done, and Manny came across the back, covered the last of the ranks.
Soon, the new elves would arrive to take their places, to pay the price of having been Naughty, by making toys all year long which would then be delivered to those on the Nice list.
At last, Manny began to dig. When his work was done, he returned to Santa’s office and knocked.
“It is time, sir.”
It happens every year.
Posted on December 22, 2011, in Issue 2: Creepy Christmas and tagged creepy christmas, e-zine, flash fiction, horror, microfiction, short stories, The Were-Traveler. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.