Thursday, 17 October 2013

Santa’s Little Helpers

This story was written for the Tales by the Tree Christmas Flash Fiction Anthology

Santa's Little Helpers
Author Nick Johns
Word Count 912
Genre
E-Book - Yes
Dedication: For David Grubb and Morag Joss, who encouraged and assisted my early writing.


The hand reached out of the darkness and grabbed her shoulder.
“Millie, you’re going to die tonight. Unless you come with me”
She peered in the direction of the hissing voice, but its source was shrouded in deep shadow.
“Cardboard never makes for great blankets, especially when it’s soaking wet. Tonight is going to be twenty below. Now come on. Take my hand...”
She was pulled to her feet, emerging from her sodden shelter and stretching her cramped arms and legs. The guy holding her hand looked weird, but then everyone under the underpass looked weird.
“Where are we...?
She felt a sharp jolt through her shoulder and her feet left the ground.
Looking down from a hundred feet and rising swiftly, Millie abruptly stopped squirming and gripped the stranger’s hand until her knuckles cracked.
 “How do you know my name?”
“I’m offering to help you, isn’t that enough?”
“What’s in it for you?”
“I get a new member of staff. I’m shorthanded, you see...”
“...and me? What do I get?”
“You get a job, a place where you’ll be warm, and dry, and fed.”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Of course. Just let go of my hand.”
Millie’s eyes watered in the wind and she shivered violently.
They swooped across the city, Millie barely registering their direction, until, with a stomach churning dive, they dropped towards the city football stadium. Gathering speed, the centre line rushed up to meet them.
“What the...!
Her words were snatched away as, with a pop like your ears equalising in an aeroplane, Millie stood in a dim, dark hallway, lit by a single bulb.
Blinking to clear her vision, she looked around her.
A small, wiry figure, dressed all in black faced her.
From winkle picker boots, bowed legs, bony elbows, up through wicked, vicious looking fingernails, he was all angles. Above a black roll neck collar, she saw a pointy chin, and a nose like a Herring Gull’s beak.
“Come along.”
He strode away with a peculiar, springy gait. Millie had to run to catch up.
“What am I doing here? And who the hell are you?”
He turned and a slight parting of his pale lips revealed razor sharp teeth, glinting in what looked like a grin from a hungry shark.
“I told you. You’re here to work, and I suppose you might have grown up calling me Father Christmas.”
“Yeah, right! You’re a... what are you?” Millie spluttered.
“A fairy, a pixie, I’ve even been called an elf, though that has unfortunate modern connotations...”
“But Father Christmas...”
“...is really a fat, laughing, red coated buffoon? No. He’s just an actor. A campaign designed by central marketing... and then only in some parts of the world.”
He turned again and Millie noticed that his ears were pointed..
 “So you deliver presents to girls and boys all over the world?” she asked.
“No, of course not. I just hold the franchise for this part of the continent.”
He pulled at a huge sliding door and suddenly Millie looked into what appeared to be a vast, dingy warehouse that stretched into the distant gloom..
He strode away with a peculiar bow legged, springy gait. Millie had to run to catch up.
“What the hell...? Where the hell...?” she stammered.
He turned and a slight parting of his pale lips revealed razor sharp teeth.
“Dealing with you questions in order. What? This is my manufacturing and distribution centre for this area. Where? Under the football stadium, didn’t you see when we approached?...”
“Underneath? Don’t the owners...?”
“We’re deep here, far too deep for them to even know about us.”
“A football stadium?”
“Magic mounds are so... medieval. They got too small - too far away from the people. Anyway, it’s the same thing, a modern alternative if you will... People attend occasionally, for special events, usually under the influence of intoxicants, and most important, they bring their hopes and dreams – and leave them here. Some of my relatives moved beneath picture houses. They’re regretting it now. Declining numbers, you see. But sport is an enduring, cross cultural, phenomenon.”
A horn blared to her right and she jumped back, narrowly avoiding being impaled on the spikes of a speeding fork lift truck.
“You’ll find you know many of the current workforce. I tend to recruit widely amongst hobos and derelicts...”
“Hey! Who you callin...?
“... oh, I suppose you prefer some modern euphemism? As I was saying, I use... street people?...” he raised a quizzical eyebrow before continuing. “... because, frankly, no one notices their whereabouts, or even cares really. Most eventually accept that regular food and shelter, even if accompanied by hard work, is preferable to starvation, disease and agonising, solitary death.”
Millie leapt aside as a trolley train, bursting with presents, thundered past. She tripped, and sprawled on the dusty floor. What had she done?
“I also use runaway children for some of the more intricate tasks, and there’s always a steady supply of old people. They’re often good with logistics... anyone who won’t be missed. Everyone tells me they like it here... I’m sure you will too, my dear.”
The shark’s teeth appeared once more, but the smile never reached his pale yellow eyes.
“Well, you’ve got work to do. You can start working any time you want to start eating.”
He stalked off into the gloom, pausing only to call back over his shoulder.
“By the way, Millie, you can call me Santa.”

___

912 Words
@nickjohns999

This story appears in 'Tales by the Tree' an anthology of flash fiction - 75 stories from over 40 authors
It is available to purchase at Amazon in print or for Kindle (these are Amazon Uk links but it is available at .com

8 comments:

  1. It started out a very different, more heart warming tale, but just kept veering off into the dark!

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  2. Definitely veered...not sure what Millie's got herself into! lol

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    1. I was not sure even as I wrote it! :-)

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  3. A dark, creepy, even sinister side to Santa's operations. Feeling for Millie and all the other lost souls he appropriates. x

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  4. Oooh, Millie, didn't your mother ever teach you not to go off with strangers? Very creepy! I do hope Santa isn't like that at all! haha

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    1. Thanks Mary. It didn't start out as a creepy story - really!

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