The Blitzen Confessional

The Blitzen Confessional / Zachary Fillingham / 2013

Forgive me Odin. I have let you down.

It would be better to tell the full story: how things were when we started, and how it all fell apart. But there’s no time. They’re already here, the whole fascist troop by the sound of it, screaming orders and pounding on the door with those tiny fists. Once they break in and see the old man… Well, that’ll be the end of it.

To think we were on the same team for so many Christmas seasons, working side-by-side to brighten the lives of unfortunate children – working to turn your vision into a reality, Odin.  Back then they were just elves who had come in from the cold to find purpose in the toy workshops. And I was just a magical reindeer who had seen one too many bloodbaths in the forests of northern Sweden.

Hans the Christmas Goblin ran the commune back then. You remember Hans, I’m sure. He was your original replacement, the shy, green-skinned one who spit up whenever he spoke. Hans was never meant to be the face of Christmas, but he was an honest goblin and he treated us with love and respect. Looking back now it all seems like a dream.

The exact moment when shit got real is easy enough to pinpoint: it was when the man in red stepped down from his Coca-Cola airplane and took over as boss of the NP. The position had opened up two weeks earlier, when Hans died under circumstances that, though strange at the time, aren’t the least bit mysterious in hindsight.

If Santa’s reforms had come all at once, he would have faced a lot more resistance from the commune’s old guard. But it was a slow and gradual process that dismantled our polar Eden and built up a Christmas empire in its stead. He began by dividing us: “Ho-ho-how can an elf achieve full potential if they don’t specialize, oh-ho?” And thus class was introduced to the NP, spanning from the lowly line rats, to the whips looming over them, and all the way up to the praetorian elves – Santa’s own security detail. All this added efficiency and output created a need for more recipients on Christmas, so a general amnesty was declared for the master gift list. It no longer mattered if a kid was starving, saintly, or spoiled to the core; any brat with a pulse would do. And when the market for children became saturated, we moved on to adults, and when that well dried up, we started on the dogs and cats.

All the while Christmas was booming, life only got harder at the NP. Wages dropped, accidents became commonplace behind the windowless walls of the mega-plants, and those lucky enough to survive their workday risked mugging or worse on the streets of the residential quarter.

These changes were decades in the making, a slow burn through which all of us carried on doing our jobs. I was no different, maintaining a wilful ignorance towards everything around me as I went on training for the Christmas run. Rumors would sometimes make their way to my unhearing ears, whispers of rising oceans, expanding deserts, and powerful typhoons, but I dismissed them as the apocalyptic daydreams of some embittered line rat.

And so life at the NP may have gone on forever if not for one incident that breathed a terrible life into the rumors. It involved Donner, sweet and gentle Donner – the only reindeer I ever loved. With him in the next pen I could have endured another hundred years of Santa’s reign. But events beyond my control made it so I never had the chance. It happened on one of our nightly walks along the perimeter. One minute Donner and I were pronking under the floodlights, the next I was staring in dumb shock at a hole in the ice, too much a coward to jump in after him.

It would be impossible to describe the torment of the weeks following Donner’s death, dear Odin, so I won’t even try. I can hear the praetorian elves on the other side of the door, chipping away at it with their child-sized swords. It’s time I got to the end of this story.

If that had been the end of it I might have numbed myself and carried on, destined to die a depressive and alcoholic reindeer. But there was one final insult left in store: Donner showed up at the stable a few weeks later. Not the real Donner, but a Donner all the same. No show of gratitude for his hard work, no memorial for a life lived, no tears shed, no nothing.

That’s when I decided the man in red had to die.

I knew from the get-go that a coup would be difficult. Like any other tyrant, Santa’s paranoia was legendary. The man refused to be in the same room as a line rat, and in the rare instances where an exception had to be made, the praetorian elves were always there, hands on their swords and ready to strike at the first hint of trouble. My coworkers were also out of the question. None of them could be trusted, and even the faintest whiff of dissent would be reported by Rudolph.  That reindeer had his nose so far up Santa’s ass that it’s incredible the old man didn’t shoot lasers whenever he spoke.

It took a few hushed inquiries along the production line to get noticed by the right elves, one of whom slipped me the address of a safehouse deep in the slums of the residential quarter. There I was greeted by someone who had been serving for nearly as long as I had. Everyone called him old Mosley, and I later learned that he was the one hiding all the line rats that the authorities had identified as potential union organizers.

After swapping a few stories about the old days under Hans, we got down to business. He told me that uncontrolled growth at the NP was part of a much bigger process: Christmas was gaining in popularity worldwide. Wherever the holiday broke new ground, local industry expanded, which meant more fuels burned, more toxic sludge pumped into underground rivers, and more resources taken from our planet’s limited stock. On top of all that there was an even bigger environmental crisis in the making. The Earth’s climate had begun a slow and irreversible warming, the kind that could send a reindeer plunging through the ice in one of the coldest parts of the world.

At this point I felt the need to interrupt him. The awful state of the environment wasn’t not at issue here; what to do about it was. How could we kill the bastard? We couldn’t do him like he did Hans the Christmas Goblin because Santa gets servants to taste all of his food. An ambush would also be risky because his personal guard might cut us down before we got through to him.

But Mosley had something different in mind. All we had to do was ask to speak to Santa about something so filthy, so absolutely disgraceful that he wouldn’t dare to discuss it in front of another living soul. And as luck would have it, he knew of just the thing.

Our plan was put into action during Santa’s next official inspection of the stables. As he was passing my pen, I leaned over and whispered, “I heard about your harem – very festive.” His piggish eyes widened in alarm, but only for a moment. He then replied in a voice loud enough for all to hear that he’d love to discuss it further in his office.

Later that evening, amongst the crystal decanters of vintage scotch and the fading pictures of Santa with various luminaries – on the links with JFK, sharing a cigar with Carnegie – there we were, unattended in the very nerve center of Christmas. He didn’t bother with any pleasantries, asking outright what I knew and how I knew it. I told him I didn’t care about his revolting habits; I was there because Donner had gone through the ice. At this Santa looked relieved, even regaining some of his trademark joviality.

“A terrible shame what happened to Donner, but that’s El Nino for you,” he said, “It’s really wreaking havoc on our weather this year.”

Can you believe that shit, Odin? El Nino…

Taking a step towards his desk, I told him that it wasn’t El Nino or any other passing fad – the world was warming up and we were to blame. His response was typical: where was my proof? Did I want to destroy Christmas for children everywhere? Did I want the children’s parents to lose their jobs, dive into a bottle, and then ruin every other calendar holiday? On closing the remaining distance between us, I said:

“I am doing this for the children, the ones who live on the coast.”

We made our moves simultaneously: his a lunge for the intercom, mine a rear up on my hind legs in preparation to strike. My hoof slammed down on his left hand with an audible crunch of broken bones, and just as he was opening his mouth to scream, I landed another crushing blow to his forehead. His scream imploded into a gurgle, and he slumped over the desk. Santa was dead.

I have had plenty of time to consider my actions, dear Odin, watching the blood trace a path through the Bilderberg status reports and Wal Mart shareholder outlays littering his desk. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me, even if it wasn’t any particular love for the environment guiding my hoof, but revenge plain and simple.

I will have your answer soon enough. The guards are almost through the door…

 

** In the spirit of Christmas and democracy, please choose how you would like the story to end!

 

Option #1 – Christmas Cheer

The door came crashing down and praetorian elves filed in with their swords drawn. Something wasn’t right though; these weren’t like the normal guards. Their uniforms, usually immaculate, were torn and streaked with blood, and a few were missing the ornately sequined beret that conveyed rank. But most shocking of all: they actually looked pleased to see Santa lying face-down in a pool of blood.

One guard stepped forward, sheathed his sword, and extended a hand. He said he wanted to be the first to congratulate a hero of the revolution.

They led me outside into the freezing rain, where the rest of the praetorian elves were mingling with members of the NP workforce. Old Mosley was up on a stage along with a few others I didn’t recognize. He was addressing the crowd:

“Killing Santa doesn’t bring us victory, not by a long shot. He was just an obstacle, a big fat blockage on the onramp of the road we must walk. His removal gives us the right, no, the opportunity to walk it. It gives us the opportunity to accept the severity of our present situation and to do something about it. From this day forward, we will no longer close our eyes and push away the unpleasant thoughts. Today, under lukewarm rain and atop thinning ice, we will seize this opportunity for hope. And tomorrow, our grandchildren might grow up amid the polar snows as we did…”

Option #2 – Christmas Drear

The door came crashing down and praetorian elves filed in with their swords drawn. Something wasn’t right though; these weren’t like the normal guards. Their uniforms, usually immaculate, were torn and streaked with blood, and a few were missing the ornately sequined beret that conveyed rank. But most shocking of all: most of them actually looked pleased to see Santa lying face-down in a pool of blood.

One guard stepped forward, sheathed his sword, and extended a hand. He said he wanted to be the first to congratulate a hero of the revolution.

They led me outside into the freezing rain, where the rest of the praetorian elves were mingling with members of the NP workforce. Old Mosley was up on a stage along with a few others I didn’t recognize. He was addressing the crowd:

“Killing Santa doesn’t bring us victory, not by a long shot.

But he stopped abruptly. No one was paying attention to him. The crowd was murmuring in speculation over the source of a low-pitch humming sound that was steadily getting louder and louder. Mosley called for silence, but even he couldn’t help scanning the sky for whatever was making the sound. And then he found it:  A bright red Coca-Cola airplane broke through the clouds on the horizon, followed by an escort of three Blackhawk helicopters.

“They’re gonna fucking kill us!” One of the elves in the front row screamed.

And that’s how Christmas was saved for children, adults, and dogs and cats around the world.

The End

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