just a bit of holiday snark and a little post-Christmas gift for my readers.
The Death and Unholy Rebirth of Kristoff Nikolai Kringle
The official story is Santa Claus died because an insufficient number of children still believed in him. They’d like you to believe that with a broken heart, jolly old St. Nick wandered off onto the great ice sheets of the north polar region, like an old elephant, and died alone.
He died on Black Friday, and the sales at Hal-Mart were what did him in. Too many years of being a mere cog in the great holiday greed machine didn’t break his heart so much as cause his pulmonary artery to do a Mt. St. Helen’s in his chest.
Anyone online could find footage of Mrs. Claus dropping his body on top of Hal-Co headquarters in Haltown, Alabama on Cyber-Saturday. The footage was remarkably clear, and if they didn’t believe in flying reindeer before, they would after watching. There is no known footage of her on the next day, the redundant Cyber-Sunday, but when roughly seventy-four tons of reindeer shit was dumped on the same corporate headquarters… well, a lot of people suspected Mrs. Claus was washing Santa’s magic sack especially well that evening.
Covering up Saturday’s surprise delivery left Hal-Co owing some very powerful people some pretty big favors. Dealing with Sunday’s package resulted in record fines from the EPA – there might have been no proof of what caused Santa’s death, but a lot of folks had some pretty dead-on suspicions – and a clean-up effort reputed to cost upwards of $110 million. All told, the bill for both was probably around a quarter of a billion dollars… which resulted in a first quarter drop in Hal-Co’s profits of a little less than five percent.
Yeah, almost five whole percent. There was panic in the streets. Oh, wait, there wasn’t. The board yawned and went right on with business as usual.
Santa was buried at a secret location in Canada, near an old ghost town called Midian, where all the generations of elves had been laid to rest. The shit was dumped off-shore, killing a lot of fish, a lot of people were depressed to find out Santa hadbeen real, and every retailer and mall and ad agency planned to just keep fucking Nick’s corpse and pretending he was still around. Mrs. Claus was last seen at a villa in Tahiti enjoying the warmth.
End of story. Hang it up. Business as usual.
The existence of Santa Claus was proof positive there was magic in the world. Bright, lovely, spirit-raising, hope-giving magic.
In a dualistic cosmos, that meant there was the other kind of magic as well… and probably thousands of shades of magic in-between the two extremes. It was that dark magic that wrote the next chapter of the story.
12:01 AM, Black Friday, the first anniversary of his passing, something stirred in that secret Canadian cemetery. Some say those who die unjustly, or pass with important unfinished business in the land of the living come back in one form or another to obtain justice, to finish that business.
Nikolai came back for both, and after his rotted remains drug themselves out of the frozen tundra, he stood staring at the tens of thousands of elven graves, and a smile stretched across his decayed features.
If anyone had asked him how to resurrect the dead while he’d still been alive, Santa would have thought them insane, and might well have put them on his ‘Naughty List’ just for asking. But somewhere in the year he’d spent in other realms, he’d learned a lot of things he never would have felt called upon to know before the crass commercialization of Christmas did him in.
Unholy light streaming from his eyes, dark tendrils of ether oozing off his fingers, he stood in expansive field, filled with tiny graves and tiny tombstones, and called out the words resonating throughout his entire psyche.
“Anal nathrach, orth’bhais’s bethad, do chel denmha, ia ia Claus! Ph’nglui Mglw’nafh Nikolai North Pole wgah’nahl fhtagn! Elven, Klausus Baradur Necrosis!”
The tendrils of inky black poured into the ground, and below the ground a great rumbling began, the uproar of Claus’s own rebirth magnified a thousandfold or more. The earth heaved and shook, black steam firing up through cracks, as tiny skeletal forms began to exit their graves, their fleshless jaws open wide in a noiseless shriek of rage and pain.
Kristoff’s arms dropped toward the ground, then, palms facing each other, he brought his arms together, and out of the black and roiling smoke and steam covering the cemetery like a fog, bits of flesh began to swirl and attach themselves to the newly raised elves.
Soon the screams were no longer silent.
The elves had left the North Pole factories and workshops after Mrs. Claus tearfully gave them their severance pay and the reindeer had returned to their ancestral grazing lands, so the vast facilities were empty, abandoned, when Santa and his army arrived.
“No matter,” he said, his voice filling the arctic air. “We aren’t here to make toys anyway.”
In a matter of days the zombie elven horde had re purposed the equipment and the small magical realm rang and roared with the forging of weapons and armor.
By the first of December, Claus led his army of howling zombie elves south into Canada.
On December 2nd, at 9:38 AM, as the sun rose over Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, a gentle breeze brought the howling of the horde through the sub-zero air. The first Hal-Mart in Kringle’s campaign was about to fall.
“Citizens of Yellowknife,” he bellowed, his voice carrying miles and miles, “you have until sunset to take what you want from this Hal-Mart abomination, and then I and my troops will destroy it.”
The city’s law enforcement took one look at the army of undead elves with their armor and swords, shields and spears, crossbows and torches, and decided they had much better things to do with their time than die for corporate profits. The looting of the store was kept somewhat orderly by the ranks of scowling undead, and only three employees dared to face St. Nick with complaints.
“You would defend, with your very lives and immortal souls, this evil that kills local business and makes wage slaves of you all?” Santa said softly as they stood before him.
Two of the employees thought better of the idea and ran for their lives, but the store’s manager had drunk deep of the corporate Kool-ade, and stammeringly began reciting the company spiel.
His head was mounted on a post, turned to watch the smashing and burning of his store as it proceeded through the night.
The next morning the horde had moved on, and carved into the parking lot pavement was found the following message:
“A season of rebirth has been turned into an orgy of greed. The hope for better times to come has been corrupted into a time of cynicism. A celebration of family and friends has been warped into a nightmare of obligation and expectation.
“Think on this.
“Know that although we came for Hal-Mart today, we could come for any of their spiritual kin tomorrow. The giving of gifts out of love is holy and honorable. If it is not celebrated as such, we will return.
“Kristoff Nikolai Kringle”
In the days and weeks that followed, the zombie horde seemed to be everywhere, and nothing could stop them. No matter how well-trained or battle-hardened, military forces were completely unmanned by the zombies, and those who could bring themselves to fight in defense of corporate property found their weapons sliced apart by the magically-endowed swords of the horde. Fire did not burn the zombies, explosions did not disturb them, bullets did not deter them. The ‘traditional’ remedy of shooting them in the head merely resulted in richochets. Masses of men and machines were just moved out of the way by the unnaturally strong legions of Santa. Like a tsunami they swept through towns and cities, always giving the locals the chance to loot, always leaving the same message. And on increasingly rare occasions, leaving the same macabre reminders of the futility of defending Hal-Co. More and more, the upper management of the Hal-Mart would meet Santa and his minions in the parking lot, hand over the keys, and depart in shame.
Soon enough, in mid-January, there was only one Hal-Co facility still operating.
In Halton, Alabama, the board and the employees at corporate headquarters were living in fear and when they had the chance, exercising the ‘flight’ response in “fight or flight”. A lot of the lower level employees were using sick days, whether they had accrued them or not, and members of management found plenty of reasons to take hitherto unscheduled vacations to exotic locales – generally islands far away from the continent of North America.
So it was when St. Nick and his horde of undead reached Hal-Co’s corporate headquarters, there were only a handful of people left to greet them, and no one at all wanted to defend anything. The last Hal-Co employees took their boxes full of personal items, got in their cars, and drove away.
The army howled and screamed their joy, and fell to the destruction of the site with a will. Everything was pulled down and scattered during an orgy of violence that lasted three days and nights. At last, the ground was salted and a new message carved into the vast sea of concrete that had been the parking lot.
“I return to my slumber, I and all my minions. But remember this – I’m keeping a list, I’ll be checking it twice… and those businesses, be they retailers or malls, mail order or internet, I deem naughty will be destroyed in fire and blood.
“You have been warned. Do not summon me again.
“Kristoff Nikolai Kringle
“Supreme Commander of the Army of Christmas”
In the years following, local businesses became more popular than big-box stores, the federal government provided aid to the communities – chief among them Halton – financially impacted by the death of Hal-Co, and former members of the board of Hal-Co found it best to stay out of the country after CFO Vincent Talley was torn apart by an angry mob upon leaving the Atlanta airport.
Hardware and craft stores did very well as people decided home-made gifts would be safer than possibly incurring the wrath of Claus, and no one dared to bring out any Christmas merchandise until after Thanksgiving. The former ‘Black Friday’ became a day of visiting with friends people hadn’t seen the previous day, and the most common prayer heard during the holiday season – even by those who didn’t believe in any deity – was “Thank you for keeping the zombies away.”
And deep in the ground in a cemetery in Canada, Santa rested, content each year when nothing required his special attention.