Santa stepped out of the electronic toy factory and looked out at the other, surrounding buildings, each a factory that made different types of toys. He breathed deeply of the cold, dry, clean air of the North Pole as he watched elves scurry this way and that, getting ready for Christmas that was three days off. They were in the homestretch, preparing for their biggest day of the year and everyone was working hard.
He smiled as he stepped down off the landing onto the stairs leading to the courtyard. The smile disappeared when he slipped on the ice-coated concrete and his feet went out from under him. He fell hard, smacking his head off the edge of the landing.
Cinnamon Sparkle was coming out of the Cocoa House Café with her cart, ready to make her deliveries to each of the factories off the square. She glanced up just as Santa fell and knocked himself unconscious. For a moment, she just stood there with her mouth hanging open, not believing what she’d just witnessed. But the sight of his bright red blood leaking out of the wound on his head and freezing in long thin trails on the stairs as it met the ice convinced her what she was seeing was reality.
She darted back into the Cocoa House Café and screamed, “Get help! Santa’s hurt!”
All activity inside the café halted. Elves that had come to the café on their break, to enjoy some hot, fresh cocoa froze with wide eyes and mugs in midair to stare at her. Servers kept pouring cocoa into mugs, overflowing the dark, hot liquid onto the candy cane stripped circle tables. The workers behind the counter stopped what they were doing, oblivious to the workings of the machines they were using as they whined on.
As if as one being, waking up from a nap, all the motion returned to the café in an instant. And the name on every elf’s lips was “Santa!” in a single cry of concern and anguish.
The flurry of activity continued as everyone charged out of the café’s door, knocking Cinnamon Sparkle out of the way as they went by. The elves streamed through the door and spread out in various directions, some going to help Santa and others going to various locations to get the medical team and more elves to help if they were needed.
All progressive toy making and preparation activity came to a halt. Every elf in the North Pole was now concerned about their leader. Without him, there would be no Christmas.
Mrs. Clause sat beside the hospital bed that held her unconscious husband.
“There’s nothing you can do for him?” she asked Dr. Tinsel without looking up from Santa’s slack, expressionless face.
“If there were, I would have done it already,” the doctor replied. “He’s in a coma. He could wake up in an hour or a year.” Dr. Tinsel shrugged. “There’s no way of knowing.”
Mrs. Clause turned her eyes to the doctor; unshed tears clung to her white lashes.
“What about Christmas?”
Dr. Tinsel sighed, opened his mouth to speak, shut it again without uttering a word, and shrugged.
He turned and left the room.
Mrs. Clause looked back at her husband and let her tears flow as she sobbed.
Claws clicked and scratched against hard, hot rock as a lowly demon rushed into the throne room of Hell.
“Master, master,” he cried, coming to a halt at the feet of Satan, “I have news for you, master!”
“What do you want, you sniveling wretch?” Satan asked, annoyed with the intrusion of his sanctuary. He was planning out the regiment of torture to be dealt to the most recent souls sentenced to his lowly domain.
“Master, I have news from Earth,” the demon hissed out swiftly, knowing he’d better talk fast to save his own hide. “Santa Clause is injured.”
Satan lifted an eyebrow. “Why should I care about Santa Clause being injured?”
“My master, be kind to your servant and hear me out…” the demon implored and watched for a sign of permission to speak.
Satan sighed and waved his hand, giving the demon the go ahead. He figured the sooner he gushed out his pathetic thoughts, the sooner it would be over and he could get back to his evil business.
“Thank you, thank you,” the demon gushed, and then continued. “My master Satan, you and Santa have the same letters in your name, but in a different arrangement. Would that not give you enough name power to take over his identity?”
“I can only do that if the subject is dead,” Satan said with an air of speaking to someone simpleminded. “The soul must leave the body completely for me to take the possession I would need. I’m much larger than you mere demons and require more space, you know.”
The demon shifted his weight excitedly from foot to foot while wringing his tail in both his claw tips paws nervously.
“But, master, Santa is in a coma!” he squealed. “His soul has left his body for now. It’s the perfect time for you to destroy Christmas like you’ve always wanted.”
Satan stood from his thrown with a roar. “What?!”
Every demon present in the throne room cowered and whimpered. The demon in front of Satan, who had brought the news, threw himself prostrate in front of his master with a fear-filled cry of anguish. His entire body shook with terror.
“Is it true? Is it possible?” Satan asked the room at large. “Someone find out if it’s true and possible! Do I have the name power to take over Santa’s identity?”
A flurry of activity took over Hell as all available demons rushed to do his bidding.
“Rise up, lowly coward,” Satan said to the demon that had brought him the news. “If what you say is true and it’s possible for me to ruin Christmas, you will be promoted to an advisor’s position.”
The demon rose slowly, bowing every few seconds with many thanks uttered from his mouth.
It wasn’t long before the intel that Santa was in a coma was confirmed. However, the name power wasn’t 100% confirmed. The demons could only come up with enough information to confirm that there was a 72% chance of it being enough power, since all the letters were the same, but in a different order. With that percentage, Satan knew he could take over Santa’s identity, but his time allowance would be limited. If Santa started to pull out of the coma, in essence, his soul returning to his body, Satan knew he would slowly be pushed out again.
Satan decided it would give him just enough time to bring terror to the people of Earth for Christmas, and that’s what mattered to him.
Satan gloried in the news and rushed to get his “Santa suit” on, as he jokingly called it.
Mrs. Clause sat beside her husband’s bed, holding his hand and talking to him, hoping he would wake up.
She gasped when Santa squeezed her hand.
She looked at his face with a huge grin, overjoyed that there was a sign of life from him. The grin slowly melted away when she saw the malicious, twisted smirk on his normally merry face. His eyes darted all around the room, taking everything in before he lifted his head. His eyes finally settled on her, and while there was a margin of recognition, there was no warmth or love in their depth.
“I’ll get the doctor,” Mrs. Clause said in a hoarse voice, trying free her hand from his without making too much fuss. She was freaked out and she hoped the doctor would say this was all normal and she was overacting. She didn’t feel things were…right with Santa. He wasn’t himself – she was sure of it.
He let her go and sat up slowly. He focused his attention on his hands flipping them over and back, looking down at them while a grin spread across his face.
“Excellent,” he said in a husky, deep voice.
Mrs. Clause had a hard time not fleeing from the room. She was deeply disturbed, but forced herself to walk calmly. Once she was out in the hall, she stopped to catch her breath and compose herself. She didn’t want to seem frantic and scared when she spoke to the doctor. She didn’t want him to think there was now something wrong with her.
With each step toward the nurse’s station, she noticed the grim expressions on the faces of the elves that worked in the North Pole hospital. She took note for the first time how hard it was for them to smile at her when they made eye contact. It struck her how much Santa’s injury had drained the joy and Christmas spirit from all their lives. She just hoped that Santa’s return to consciousness would lift their spirits once more. She hoped the magic of Christmas would be re-sparked. The children of the world were depending on it.
“Santa,” Dr. Tinsel said as he entered his patient’s room, “how are you feeling?” He was smiling, excited that Santa had come back to them so quickly. He couldn’t wait for it to be announced that Santa was back and Christmas wasn’t going to be cancelled.
“I feel great,” Satan-Santa answered, grinning at the doctor.
Dr. Tinsel paused and his brow wrinkled as he looked at Santa. Something was off with his voice; he hoped it was just from the time of unconsciousness. It wasn’t that strange for someone in a coma to get a dry throat and have a hard time speaking when they awoke. But that was usually someone who had been in their coma for weeks or years, not a little less than twenty-four hours.
“Wonderful,” Dr. Tinsel said, extracting Santa’s chart from the foot of his bed. “A nurse is going to come in and check your vitals, and if everything is okay, I’m going to release you from the hospital.”
“In time for Christmas?”
“Yes, Santa,” Dr. Tinsel said, feeling relieved to see a glimpse of the Santa he knew; his face lit up when he mentioned Christmas. “You’ll be released before Christmas if everything on your tests looks all right. We wouldn’t want to disappoint the children, would we?”
Satan-Santa laughed. “No. We wouldn’t want to disappoint the children.”
The hairs on the back of Dr. Tinsel’s neck stood on end at the sound of Santa’s laugh. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t a merry, jolly sound, but evil and sinister.
He glanced over his shoulder and spied Mrs. Clause standing just outside the doorway, frowning. He could tell from her expression that she was noticing the differences too. When she glanced at him, he smiled. He planned to explain that a head injury could cause some temporary changes and they just needed to exercise patience until everything was healed and back to normal.
Satan-Santa stood at the window to Santa’s office with the fingers of both hands entwined behind his back. He was grinning as he watched the elves scurry this way and that, trying to meet the new demands he’d placed on them for the Christmas deadline. He couldn’t believe how much power he had over the entire work force. At that very moment, he was waiting for elves to bring him the naughty and nice list. He was going to completely reverse it all so the naughty children would get the presents they wanted and the nice children wouldn’t.
He turned at a brief knock at the door to watch ten elves bring in box after box of papers containing the naughty and nice list.
“Is this all of it?” he asked.
His assistant, the head elf, Hazelnut frowned and shook his head.
“No, Santa, this is just for the children whose last names start with the letter A.”
“Ah, yes,” Satan-Santa said, “I’d forgotten. My head injury… Things come and go for me, but it gets better all the time.”
Hazelnut smiled sympathetically and ushered the other elves out of the room.
“We’ll leave you to it. Let us know when you’re ready for the letter B section of the list.”
Satan-Santa nodded and they all left him alone with the list. In minutes he had it done, using his evil powers to make the changes quickly and easily.
He sent for the B section, then the C section, and so on and so forth until he had the entire list redone. He knew the delivery mix ups alone would cause chaos for the emotions of the children that believed in Santa, and that pleased him. He planned to go well beyond just the list though, to spread his evil on Earth, and he needed to hurry before Santa’s soul found its way back to his body.
While in the coma, Santa’s soul was essentially a balloon filled with helium, still connected by a thin string to his body. When all the helium made its way through the rubber as it aged, he would slowly sink back into his mortal self and Satan would be kicked out of the “Santa Suit” he was now wearing.
Christmas Eve dawned bright and cold at the North Pole. The elves were in a near panic finishing up their work in a surge of unbridled excitement. They’d even finished making the strange scary-looking dolls Santa had ordered them to make at the last minute. They didn’t like them, but they’d made them, figuring Santa knew what he was doing. He was their leader and had never steered them wrong before; they trusted him blindly even though he seemed a little…off.
Everything was prepared, just as it always was, right on time.
All the elves gathered in the square to see Santa off; they lived and worked their entire lives for Christmas and didn’t want to miss a single moment of the joy and excitement.
As Satan-Santa stood in the sleigh, waving at all the cheering elves, he couldn’t believe how easy it all was. He was positive that elves were the stupidest beings on Earth. He was going to enjoy every second of ruining Christmas. He was overjoyed that he would have access to countless innocent children to do what he wished with them. Never before had he had such broad access to human children all at one time. He was drunk with the power, and that drunken state came across as overwhelming joy and happiness to the elves. They thought it was Christmas spirit and that’s what he wanted them to think.
In minutes he was off, calling out the names of each reindeer in turn as he knew he was supposed to. He’d learned all of their names just for that purpose – he had to keep up his ruse.
As the sleigh took to the air and all the elves cheered, Satan noticed that his vision became blurry for a moment and he felt a mild weight settling over him. In that instance, he knew Santa’s soul was beginning its journey back to his body.
“Just wait a little longer, you fat jolly bastard,” Satan mumbled. “I have terror to unleash!”
He sailed through the sky, off to visit the houses where children slept, waiting for someone kind, loving, and full of Christmas Magic to bring them what they were hoping for.
The first house he stopped at was that of a naughty child. He left five presents for the child, since there was a surplus of toys from the original naughty and nice list – there had been more nice than naughty children then. That made it possible for him to be overly generous after he changed the list around.
The next house he came to, there were two nice children. For each, he left one of the strange dolls he’d had the elves make, after chanting a short incantation over them. As he turned his back to leave, their eyes started to glow red and their little arms and legs began to twitch. He knew that by the time he was off to the next house, two demons would inhabit his version of voodoo dolls and would torture the children and kill the adults in the house. Once their deed was done, the demons would be welcomed back into Hell, birthed to a new rank and position in his kingdom for their faithful service.
As the sleigh glided from the house’s roof, Satan-Santa heard the bloodcurdling screams coming from within. In his mind’s eye, he imagined the walls of the children’s room being painted red with their parents’ blood when they came to check on their screaming children. The children would be left alive, because their young innocence would deny him their souls. But the adults – most of them – would become his in Hell. And when the children grew up orphans, they would carry pain and sorrow in their hearts. One day, their souls would belong to him too, since most would fester in that pain for the longevity of their lives.
Satan-Santa went from house to house, repeating his gifts for the naughty children and the nice children. Each house he stopped at, he felt more and more pressure settling over him. Until, halfway through the night, he could barely breathe. He knew his time in Santa’s body was over, so he landed the sleigh in the middle of a city, spoke his incantation over all the remaining dolls, and left Santa’s body.
It took a little over an hour for Santa’s soul to return to his body completely. When he became aware of the world around him it was to the sounds of people screaming in pain and children calling out and crying with fear and loss. He didn’t know what was going on, but he knew he was in his sleigh, in the middle of it all.
He wasn’t sure if he should take off or stay where he was, but when thousands of little blood-soaked dolls with glowing red eyes surrounded the sleigh, he knew he had to leave; the reindeer kicking the evil dolls out of the way as they took to the air. He knew Christmas had to continue, that he had to move on. He didn’t know why he didn’t remember the last few days or how he’d gotten to where he was, but he didn’t have the time to dwell on it.
As the sleigh crested the rooftops, he was surrounded by war planes from the local military. While Santa was trying to figure out what was going on, below and in the air, missiles were deployed in his direction.
Santa had time to breathe the word “no” just before the missiles hit and the reindeer were blown to bits in the center of a fireball. Just as he realized what had happened, he was consumed as well.
Satan watched from Hell as Christmas was ruined forever. He hadn’t reached as many homes as he’d set out to, but the loss of Santa was more than he could have hoped for. He hadn’t counted on the households without children calling the police and the police calling the Air Force to take care of Terrorist Santa.
He wouldn’t make it to the rest of the houses, and that would let down the children that still believed. The news reports about the night would have ruined his reputation, but with no Santa at all, Christmas would have no hope except for Christ. But he’d fooled the majority of Earth’s population into not believing in Him long ago. Now Christmas had nothing left.
All the demons of Hell celebrated their master’s success.
©Rebecca Besser, 2014. All rights reserved.