This year, Santa’s little helpers have been more than generous and we’ve got a bumper crop of wonderful Christmas short stories for you – from the dark to the whimsical and all stops in between. So put your favourite Christmas jumper on, pour yourself a mulled wine, grab a mince pie and sit down for another great criminally festive read.
The one problem is that there are times when it’s Santa’s little helpers who are the ones you have to watch out for, as Phil Rowlands beautifully explains in this seasonal tale of greed and ambition.
I Never Intended to Kill Father Christmas by Phil Rowlands
I never intended to kill Father Christmas.
I am not the most violent of his band of helpers by a long way. I accept that I have my moments, but there are many who are far more cold-blooded, aggressive, and masochistic than me.
So how and why did it happen?
You could say it was one of those sliding doors of fate. He should never have made me lead gatherer on the live insects, arachnids, arthropods and reptiles. And I should have refused, regardless of the consequences.
I wasn’t having a good year and that day had been worse than all the other three hundred and sixty-four put together.
None of it was really my fault.
Alright, I admit to a drink problem. It’s a fifty per cent alcohol brew that I had spent many years perfecting. I’d shared it only with a couple of close friends, or rather ex friends, as they had both lost their sight and bladder control after a particularly volatile batch.
I’d managed to keep my problem secret until…
Well, there was this one night when I trashed the new trial single seater sleigh and badly injured Dylan, a trainee reindeer. Poor Dylan had to be sent to the dark woods to recover. He was really doing well, getting better, but then he met this bear, a hungry and ferocious bear. It was my fault. I was drunk as an Elf can be and hadn’t made sure the enclosure was secure. All that was left were baby antlers, tatters of skin, a few bones and a trail of blood. Hey ho… ho… ho.
But despite all that, old FC, being the generous, forgiving, and loving soul that he is, gave me another chance. But there was a condition. I had to go through alcohol reversal treatment at a dark, cold, secure place at the very edge of our world. It was run by a mad, sadistic Elf, whose only joy was inflicting pain and misery on those who were already suffering from withdrawal of their choice of addiction. But I did get through it. Tougher and more determined than I thought. The boss had even kept my job open and my small room in the senior helpers’ hut ready for me to come back to when I was, if not cured, at least an abstainer. The clinic gave me an implant too. If I even caught a whiff of the perfumed nectar or a glimpse of an open bottle, I was thrown off balance, into a terrible spin, launched high into the air then dropped at great speed onto the hard packed snow or whatever lay below me.
I know! I know! Too much back-story. I will stop rambling and get to the point.
It was the day of “show and select”, for the living gifts. I was last up and almost missed my slot because a large spider had escaped, and it had taken me hours to find it and summon up the courage to net and re-box it. I should say that I am an arachnophobe, and our dear leader knew it. I suppose he thought it could be a sort of therapy, to help me get over it, become more like him. He of course loved everything that lived and breathed, even if the one purpose in its life was to target, terrify, torture and terminate.
Anyway, we had chosen the four hundred wrap-ups we were due to do that day and I had managed to get through all the touching and handling by wearing thick gloves and a mask and closing my eyes to a slit, so I just saw the edges of the box in which to drop them. We had even talked through my fears about the scariest of the arachnids, the multicoloured and small to gigantic sized spiders and scorpions. They had, of course, all been through the venom milking lab, so there was no real threat to life unless you count being scared to death. There was one spider though, that looked at me with an array of angry eyes, blaming me for its embarrassing and ignominious situation. I had a telepathic connection with it and could hear its thoughts on what it would do if it got its fangs into me. Well, not surprisingly, that distracted me from the job in hand which was finding the right size glass case for a viper, a snake that I knew had a nasty bite but was no real danger to mortality. The boss, being the kind and sensitive soul that he is, kept checking that all was well with me. He probably also wanted to make sure I hadn’t succumbed to the Elfin gin that was the end of the day treat for the workers over the final week of the packing for present distribution. It was the only time of year that we were officially allowed any alcohol. The punishment for breaking this rule was dismissal without reference. I was though a special case and had received an unfair advantage.
I was different to the others.
I had few friends now amongst the other workers and there were those who would take their dislike to extremes given an opportunity and a lax moment by me. But I didn’t really care and managed to get through without too much damage to my person or ego. I was arrogant and knew that my position within the firm and family was protected.
It was two days before the Christmas runs and the tension and stress were sky high. Who would ride in the golden sleigh with the boss? Who would get Elf of the Year and a promotion to supervisor for next year’s month of festive insanity?
I didn’t have time for all that.
I just wanted to get today over and done with.
Anyway, as I was dropping the snake in, one of the Elves, with whom I’d had many fights, grabbed it, then tried to push it into my face. Naturally, I reacted quickly and deflected it into the closest thing to hand – the long thick white beard of the old man. His chuckling became a choking. He struggled to free the snake. I picked up the box containing the angry spider and flipped open the lid. The spider bungee-jumped out and sped towards the Elf, who screamed and ran. That’s the thing about spiders, they can’t tell one Elf from another. At that point FC sighed heavily and dropped to the floor, his large, heavy body crushing the spider as it rose to strike. Everyone froze and as they realised what had happened, gathered round the large, red robed shape. Nobody knew what to do. The Chief Elf was in tears, shaking his head back and forth, not really believing what had happened. As he approached me, I was already removing the belt of office from the body and fastening it around my waist. It was just big enough. I was fatter than the old Father Christmas.
How had this happened? It was impossible to understand, the snake wasn’t dangerous… was it?
True, it was a viper, not the innocent and harmless version though but a South African one, the venom of which would not kill a fit and healthy young man, but to one who was old, overweight with a heart problem and diabetes, it would be fatal… as indeed it just had been.
It had taken me all year to plan and find the right live weapon to use to succeed the boss as Number One in the best loved list. Although he had died, Father Christmas lived on. In me. I am now the Main Man.
So, hand on heart, I can truly say that I never intended to kill Father Christmas… but I did my own father. Succession can only follow the demise of the closest blood relative. All I had done was help it along.
We hope you enjoy our festive tales. On behalf of all our authors, we’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
You can find Phil’s books on his Amazon page.