Christmas War

December 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm (Short Stories)

This Christmas Eve was shaping to be one of the coldest in recent memory. Gerald Morris stumbled through the snow drifts piling up in the deserted streets looking for shelter. He wore three coats and four pairs of socks but he was still chilled to the bone. Gerald was homeless and being homeless in St. Paul, MN is a bad thing in the Winter, your life depends on finding shelter and Gerald was not having much success with that. At one point he had been a successful real estate agent, but after the housing market dove he had eventually lost his job, his wife and his house. He had gone from Sunday brunches to fighting for leftover pizza behind the Papa John’s. This current struggle was one of the most desperate he could remember though. The snow was coming down thicker now as he peered into each unfamiliar alleyway he passed. He was looking for a manhole that he had found recently, it led into a quiet relatively dry area of the sewers that would be perfect for a night like tonight. There was also a steam vent from one of the buildings above and if he laid underneath it he could stay pretty warm, if a little damp. So as the clock ticked towards Christmas Gerald searched on.

He found it finally. It was almost midnight and his heart gave a great leap as he began to recognize the alley he had found. He rushed over to where the manhole was and frantically began clearing away the snow covering it. This task complete, he pulled up the cover and descended into the depths. It was hideously dark in the sewers. He hadn’t remembered it being this bad. Being homeless he was fairly comfortable with dark places, but this was different, this seemed unnaturally dark. He stood for a minute waiting to see if his eyes would adjust to the dark. They didn’t. He sighed and began shuffling through his pack for a book of matches. Something ran into his knee. Later, when telling this story, he would leave out the shrill scream that he uttered at this very moment. Whatever had run into his knee seemed equally concerned. It yelled too and began waling on his knee with what felt like a small bat.
“Hey! Cut that out!” He shouted and tried to shield his knee.
The blows stopped briefly and then there was one more delivered for good measure. A light blazed and Gerald stood blinking in the sudden brightness.
“Who are you?” A small, rough voice asked.
“I’m Gerald. I was looking for someplace to sleep. Who are you?”
The voice didn’t answer, it just asked another question, this time to someone else.
“Have we locked everything down already?”
“Yes sir! Nothing is getting out for a while.” Another voice piped up from somewhere.
“Looks like you are coming with us. Let’s go” The bat struck the back of his knees, not hard but with enough firmness to encourage Gerald to walk forward.

As his eyes began to adjust to the light Gerald began to get a good look at the owners of the voices. They were tiny men wearing green cloaks and marching about the sewers very briskly. There were probably twenty of them in this group, but he could hear shouts a long way off and wondered if there were more. There was a question bubbling in the back of his mind that he desperately wanted to get out, but he was afraid it would be terribly rude. So he decided to try and be tactful.
“I’m sorry, excuse me. Do you prefer to be called dwarves or midgets?”
The small man looked affronted.
“I prefer to be called Terry because that’s my name. Do you prefer to be called ignorant or pudding brained?”
Gerald realized that maybe he hadn’t been as tactful as he had originally planned and began to stammer out an apology but Terry cut him by smacking him with the bat again.
“And we are elves. Not midgets, not dwarves. It’s Christmas Eve, that should have been easy to figure out.”
“Ha! I was right! Why are you down in the sewers though? Shouldn’t you be making toys or something?”
“No we make toys all the rest of the year.” Terry said very seriously. “What this is right now? It’s the reason for the season.”
“Are you bringing toys to homeless men?” Gerald was very excited about this prospect.
“No!” The bat came up quickly, but Terry decided against using it. Gerald was grateful for this.
Terry began waving at his other elves.
“It’s almost time! You all spread out and get into position. I’m going to see if I can’t recruit some extra help.”
The rest of the tiny men laughed to themselves, a little more derisively than Gerald thought necessary, and began to move on ahead.
“Look at me”, Terry said. He reached up and grabbed Gerald’s jacket, right around his belly button and tried pulling his face down to meet his. Gerald got down on one knee obligingly, but he eyed the bat warily.
“This is really important and you need to pay close attention because we don’t have time for me to repeat myself, got it?”
Gerald nodded.
“Good. You’ve heard of Santa Claus right? Toys, presents, good boys, good girls?”
Gerald nodded again.
“All true. All real. Right now Santa is flying around delivering presents and coal. Not one really. An army of Santas. One man can’t do all that work. What made you think there was only one? Ridiculous.”
Gerald was a little stunned by this revelation but kept silent.
“There is a really good reason why Santa flies around and gives toys out for free. Did no one ever wonder about that? Idiot humans. Anyway, Santa is a distraction. Christmas Eve, everyone who has someone to love goes to be with them.”
Terry eyed Gerald critically when he said this last part. Gerald became uncomfortable and more than a little sad.
“So no one is out and about on Christmas Eve this late, or very few are. We timed it like that on purpose. We set up Christmas to be a distraction.”
“What?” Gerald was in shock. “What about Jesus’ birth?”
“Jesus wasn’t born on Christmas Day. It was just a handy excuse. Do you really think Jesus would want you to throw money and presents at each other in a blind greed fest? That was all us. That’s exactly what we want. Focus on being home with your family and free things are a great way to convince people to do that.”
Gerald didn’t particularly like the content of what the elf was saying but since he walked all over the city to get free meals on a regular basis he couldn’t exactly argue with him.
“So why do we want everyone to stay at home on Christmas Eve? Because we have to kill monsters.”
“Wait, what?”
“Kill monsters. Who is telling this story? Be quiet and listen.”
Gerald was quiet, but he could hear a nervous chatter coming from the other elves who had taken up positions nearby. They seemed scared. That didn’t comfort him much.
“On the winter solstice each year is when the Wargles appear. They are creatures spawned from the lies and hatred and evil from humanity throughout the year. They grow in damp places, sewers swamps. They are born on Midnight on December 21st and are perfectly translucent for the first three days while they grow. So what that means for us is that on Midnight on Christmas Eve the Wargles become visible for the first time. That’s when the elves go out all over the world, and while the Santas distract the world, we kill the Wargles..”
Gerald was shocked.
“Wait. You kill them? Just like that?”
“Yes. Just like that. They all must be put down or else they will attempt to slaughter humanity. The Black Plague? We let two Wargles survive that year. TWO! Two Wargles caused the Black Death and killed 100 million people. We slaughter every one of them. Any problems with that?
Gerald’s doubts had begun to fade at that.
“So what can I do to help?”
“Take this bat. Come with me. If you see something black and terrible skittering towards you hit it.”
Terry handed Gerald the small bat that he had been using to abuse him. It was small in Gerald’s hand, but it had a good weight to it. He hefted it experimentally. It was reassuring and that was good because there was a sharp feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. As he walked towards where the elves had set up their barricades, he heard the shouts starting, elves that looked hardened and grizzled had fear in their eyes, yelling and pointing at something the size of a small dog coming at them out of the dark corridors. It made a hideous scraping sound as it scrabbled across the concrete towards them and Gerald could hear more of them coming up behind the first. He gripped his bat a little tighter, feeling for the first time in years a sense of purpose and belonging, and he rushed to join the fray. This was going to be a good Christmas after all.

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1 Comment

  1. Infininte said,

    What’s in it for the elves?

Go ahead, make my day.

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