Teaser Intro 7: The Last Noel
Jingle bells, jingle bells, it's Christmas in July, and we've got a special one here.
Many years ago I worked with a publisher, NorGus Press, Look What I Found - "Anonymous Portrait" and Undertaker Tale - "Gravedigger's Apprentice". They have since closed their doors (RIP) but the last time we worked together was unique for me. It was early November of 2011, and NorGus decided to put out a horror themed Christmas anthology, that same year. With less than two months to put the book together, they invited authors that they had previously published to submit for the antho. However, because of the reading and editing times it take to put together a professionally published anthology, authors only had two weeks to submit a story.
At the time I received the email, I hadn't written something that would fit the theme, meaning I'd have to start a story from scratch and complete it in near record time. I so badly wanted to be a part of the anthology, partly because I'm always eager to get published more, partially because I liked the theme and cover of the antho, but mainly I wanted to be in this book because it was the first time I was invited by the publisher/editors to submit to a project. It felt like a rite of passage that I was bestowed upon early in my writing career. I couldn't let them down.
I put on hold anything else i was writing, and focused on Christmas in October, and I had nothing. My mind wasn't there. Everything I thought of was a rehash of something already regurgitated ad nauseam. I was ready to give up on the antho when I decided to look at a list of all Christmas song titles. Still nothing jumped out at me as easily a play on some horror theme. I saw The First Noel, thought of what would become the title of the short, and started thinking of what the last Christmas might look like. What would bring it about?
Ultimately, I didn't go with that story per se, but It planted the seeds for what you're about to read below.
Why have you never wondered where Santa’s elves came from? They’re introduced to us as children and we grow up already comfortable with the notion that this jolly fat man has a race of pygmy slaves in his isolated snow kingdom. Well I’m here to answer all the questions you didn’t think to ask; like why an ever-young hottie like Mrs. Claus would be with that portly home invader?
I went through all the typical stages of Christmas myths every other American does, other than the Jews of course. Sure I believed in Santa religiously as a kid, waiting wide eyed in bed for my gift list to be fulfilled. That faith slowly gave way to doubt over the years, only to be shattered in an awkward moment of revelation. We all had that moment, even though the details the differ; some of us see our dads sneaking back away from the tree in a cheap facsimile of the iconic red suit, or have a classmate ruin it for us by opening their big mouths marking the beginning of what will be months of ridicule for still believing the obvious lie.
Or is it?
After filling my son’s head with the same absurdity he was taken from me at the age of four, before he could even discover the truth, some disease that I still can’t pronounce correctly. But the pain of his death was too much for my marriage, so my wife left me for a world tour of foreign cocks. Feeling like I was utterly destroyed already I got sloppy and was fired, or “let go”, from my job as a blog journalist.
At this point you might be asking what my sob story has to do with Santa, well one particular Christmas Eve the shit that life threw at me drove me to the edge and I decided to jump off. Miraculously I was stopped long before hitting the bottom. Disorientated it took me a bit to realize where I was. Santa had caught me in his sleigh.
“You have no idea how hard it is to time a catch like that, let’s not try it again, okay?” The actual real life non-mythical Santa Claus saved my life mid-air and quipped about it. Aside from his cavalier attitude his voice is exactly like you imagined as a child. “You’ve been a good boy Sammy…” Oh my god, I can’t believe he actually says that, “…you don’t deserve what’s happened to you, but unfortunately I can’t give you what’s on your list. Darryl is dead, I can’t bring him back.”
He sees the obvious disappointment in my face, and places a giant mitted hand on my shoulders. Despite its size, his hand feels almost weightless. I think he smiles but it’s hard to tell through his beard, you can barely see his mouth open when he talks. “I am sorry about your son, and while I can’t make it up to you, how about a different gift? Here.”
He gives me the reigns in his hands and for the first time I notice the reindeer just floating in air before the sleigh, “Holy shit… sorry to curse sir but this is all a lot to take in. How is all this possible?”
“It’s all just a reality, different from and yet very much like your own. Now give the line a good whip and tell these fellas where you want to go. Anywhere in the world.”
Excitedly I ask with half breaths, “Even to…”
The big man cuts me off in as polite of a manner as possible, “Yes, they can take us to the moon and beyond, but you wouldn’t survive the trip.”
“Ah makes sense, OK…uh…on Prancer?”
“No, no those aren’t really they’re names. Just say the destination and they’ll do the rest.”
A little more disappointed than I should have been, I dropped my shoulders, “OK” It takes me a moment to think of where I want to go, but of all the bucket-list locations that came to mind like Paris, Japan, or Italy they all feel too romantic to go with Santa and that’s when it hits me. What better place to go with Santa by his reindeer. “Take me to the North Pole.”
Santa laughs with a “Ho Ho Ho,” that makes the hair on my neck stand giddy, “That’s where they all pick.”
I go from giddy to jealous faster than I would have thought possible, “What do you mean ‘they’?”
Once again placing a weightless hand on my shoulder he explains, “I choose you Sammy for a reason. I’m sure you know that this time of year the rate of suicides sky rocket and while I’d love to, I can’t save everyone. But I saved you because I have a favor to ask.”
I ask “Of me?” but to my ears they sounded more like nonsensical grunts.
“You’re situation and your former profession makes you the perfect person to ask. Every few generations one person is chosen to reintroduce the legend of Santa Claus to the world. My image has become a shill for corporate sponsorship, but you’re going to use your journalistic abilities to invigorate the ‘myth’.” He finishes his sentence with air quotes, which I typically hate, but seeing Santa do it is warming, possibly because of the mitts he’s wearing.
I’m about to ask him what exactly I’m supposed to do when I notice how cold it’s gotten. Seeing me try to warm my arms Santa suggests, “Look in the bag of gifts behind you, I have something with your name on it.”
Reaching into his velour bag that’s deeper than it looks, I find a heavy winter coat is revealed, and sure enough on a tag hanging from the zipper is my name. I put it on, and the chill just melts away, “Wow, this is the warmest jacket ever, thank you sir.”
“Please call me Santa, or Chris, or Papa… the different people I’ve gotten over the years tend to choose a name they think will be more relatable to their countrymen.”
“Hmm, well if it were up to me…”
“It is up to you, as of now, my entire lore is up to you. No pressure, Ho Ho Ho.” He jokes, but it is a lot of pressure.
“Ok then, as an American, I’m partial to the classic, good ole Santa Claus… it’s…” the rest of my thought trails off as does the air in my lungs and surrounding space.
Santa takes the reign and cracks the whip with what looks like anger in his eyes, “Hey you shits, I told you when I’ve got someone in here with me you can’t fly so damn high!”
The sled drops altitude and air returns to me, “Thank you, Santa.” The display of anger still throwing me off. While it’s a natural reaction for anyone, I imagined him, freaking Santa Claus to be above such things.
“These shitheads almost killed Josefina a few weeks back. They think because they’re immortal I won’t punish them.”
Choosing to focus on the only thing in those statements that wasn’t negative, I ask. “Is Josefina Mrs. Claus?”
“Ho Ho Ho, no she’s this fine piece of Brazilian tail that’s got that Memento thing going on. Poor chick can’t remember she bangs the real Santa every few months, so she can’t tell people about me. Ho Ho Ho.” The bass of his laugh vibrates in my lungs, but I don’t find the joy in it I did mere minutes ago. “I like you Sammy, feels life I could be myself in front of you.”
You were warned, this is a horror story, and not just because of blood and guts, but because of what it does to your childhood memories of the jolly fat man. What happens next!? If you want to find out, you can pick up the book here or here or at the AzarRising Mobile Bookstore.