by J. G. Buckley
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
The hidden doors were wide open and Santa crawled up into the sleigh. There was an eerie silence that was punctuated by the bite of sub-zero weather wafting its way into the workshop. Santa gave a look back to Mrs. Claus and then a quick nod to Growler, then the snap of the Moroccan-leather whip and the sleigh and deer were airborne.
Santa punched up the console control panel and focused on this night’s flight path. He quickly noticed the special indicator by a certain family in the New Jersey area, the Alucards. For a number of years the five-member Christmas Council had offered to those that could afford it a special Christmas package that included a personal visit from Santa.
Generally, these people were somehow connected to the world of magic. Santa had not liked this idea at first, but even he grudgingly admitted the need for additional revenue to help the overall effort of making Christmas happen. So, he bit the bullet and went along with the plan.
The Alucards were probably some yuppie family that had made it on the dot.com market of a decade ago. Plenty of disposable income, so why not give the kids a thrill? Santa had done quite a few of these visits over the years, but always for the betterment of the workshop and the elves.
Usually the people who purchased the Extra Special Super Deluxe Christmas package were distastefully boorish people trying to impress their equally distasteful and boorish children. But hey, no harm, no foul. So a nine-year old in Grosse Pointe with his own 45-foot yacht wanted to meet Santa. Santa could do it.
He wondered what the Alucards would be like. Curiously, they had requested to be his last stop on the big night. That was unusual. He checked his map quest program again to see where these folks lived and saw it was that garden spot of the eastern seaboard: Newark.
“Well, it could be worse, coulda been Miami,” he muttered under his breath.
He was now speeding south to the continent and on. The whole planet in one night was always an ambitious flight plan. But then again, he was Santa Claus. Having completed the European, African, Asian and South Pacific vectors of the trip Santa headed for the South American land mass. So far, so good. No major problems, one quick replacement of a running light panel and that was about it.
It was nearly 4:00 a.m. Christmas morning and the mountains of Cuba and the low-lying Florida Keys flew past beneath the speeding sleigh. Santa hit Florida and then turned west so he could loop back and finish his trip zooming over the Jersey area. Onward and onward, and soon the grid-work of lights that mark the northeast of America was visible.
It was nearing five in the cold morning hours as the Alucard household came into view. For their very generous contribution to the Christmas workshop fund they were entitled to a noisy sleigh landing on the roof, a surprise encounter under the tree and a memorable escape up the chimney by Santa. Pretty much a standard deluxe package.
Santa brought the sleigh in with just enough downward draft that the impact was noticeable for those living below. As he slowly exited the sleigh and slung the special sack he had for these occasions over his shoulder he heard excited talking below.
“He’s here, children,” a voice said with a decided European accent. Czech or Romanian, if Santa wasn’t completely wrong.
Santa utilized one of the elves’ most cherished devices to suddenly move from the roof to the living room right next to the tree. He noticed that a family of four stood in front of him. He unslung the sack from his shoulder and looked toward the group of four.
A father, mother and young son and daughter met his scrutiny. They all looked a bit pale, but then they did live in Newark.
“Ho, ho ho,” Santa said with his best cheery intonation.
“We are so glad you could come,” the father said with a subtle note of smugness.
The children did not move and seemed extremely subdued, given the fact that Santa was standing in the flesh right there in the living room. The real tree had been meticulously decorated with odd-looking ornaments that appeared to be small vials with some liquid inside. Must be some obscure Christmas custom from the old country, Santa surmised.
The man stepped forward and introduced himself, “Vlad Alucard. This is my wife Hecate and our children Drago and Serpentina.”
Santa couldn’t help but think these kids must have a hell of a time in school with those names. Something just didn’t feel right, and Santa felt the earlier wave of apprehension return. Still, these folks had paid for the special Christmas package, and he would deliver.
He started to rummage in his big sack when Vlad moved closer and said something in a strange language while staring intently into Santa’s eyes. Santa felt an odd sensation of listlessness as Vlad moved closer. Santa felt hypnotized by the eyes boring into his own.
“You see we have some Christmas traditions of our own, Santa Meister,” Vlad said in a suddenly menacing voice. Santa was rooted to the living room floor. He heard his team of reindeer snorting and pawing on the roof as if they sensed something wrong. Santa’s mind was racing, trying to figure out just what the hell was going on with this bunch.
Santa felt distracted and unfocused, like the effects of good weed. The unseen tendrils of controlling thought wrapped around him like poison ivy. A second feeling hit him and he saw that the wife, Hecate, was moving closer, her eyes intently bent on his own not-so-twinkling blue eyes. Santa was rooted to the floor and wasn’t sure if he could move at all. This sucked.
The two children looked at him with a menacing hunger in their eyes as they made soft guttural noises. Santa could see the distinctive canine fangs on all of them now, and he remembered a Christmas Eve some seventy-five years ago in Romania. The family’s name had not been Alucard but Dracula. He had been much younger then and it had still been a close call.
“See children, soon the great Santa Claus will provide our needed winter nourishment,” Vlad said with smug certainty. He and the wife moved slowly closer. They were just a couple of steps away now and Santa was trying to come up with a plan but nothing seemed to make much sense.
“Yes, Santa, so you finally see. What a wonderful Christmas treat for Drago and Serpentina: Santa’s blood fresh and warm on the eve of all eves.”
The noise on the roof became more pronounced as if the deer were trying to tear the whole roof off. Suddenly, the fireplace seemed to explode in a mixture of fire and snow that came barreling down the chimney. The ashes, embers and wet snow filled the room and caused the two adult vampires to shrink back momentarily. But, more importantly the intense spell was broken and Santa realized he was free at least for a few seconds.
“Good move boys,” Santa said in a voice that showed no fear.
He hadn’t been Santa for nearly a hundred years because he was incompetent. But, he wondered briefly if they would have got him with this trickery ten years ago. Maybe it really was time to retire. Retirement was one thing, these assholes wanted to kill him and drink his blood. Santa looked at Alucard with a black look in his eyes.
Santa could now move and his mind was working pretty damn good under the circumstances. He remembered something Growler’s predecessor, Dobbie the Elder had taught him. It had saved him seventy-five years ago. He knew he did not have much time.
Vlad and Hecate were already exerting all their hypnotic powers at him but now he was alert and ready. He could hold them off for a moment. The deer continued to raise hell on the roof and Vlad looked upward with an evil look.
Santa was rummaging in the deep folds of his toy sack. Hoping the thing he was looking for had been packed this year. Not used in seventy-five seasons. He hoped Growler had made sure it was in the sack.
Alucard suddenly sensed Santa’s intent and looked dismayed. He moved toward Santa with an outstretched pale hand and tried to grab Santa. But, before his clammy hand could touch him Santa dug furiously in the deep sack and pull out a special Swiss automated crossbow.
One black-booted foot kicked Alucard across the room and bought Santa precious time. The crossbow was already loaded with six wooden arrows in a rotating carousel crafted by some very talented Swiss elves.
He did not hesitate and caught Vlad square in the heart with the first arrow sending a screaming shriek through the air that shattered all the windows. Santa aimed again and nailed the bitch through her vampire heart. She began to crumble and disintegrate immediately.
The children had moved back into a corner but Santa knew they were as dangerous as the parents and rapidly sent two arrows into them that pinned them momentarily to the wall behind them as they made horrible death sounds.
What in the hell is the world coming to? Santa thought.
“Screw this noise,” Santa said with a bit of the old Christmas cheer evident in his voice. Vlad had crumpled into a pile of dust and Hecate was there next to him. The children were smaller piles.
Santa slowly tied up his sack, threw it over his shoulder and with a twitch of his nose suddenly found himself on the roof next to his team. The deer were relieved to see their old friend and snorted accordingly.
“Let’s get the hell out of Jersey, boys.”
The sleigh bells tinkled in the pre-dawn darkness and suddenly they were airborne.
“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”
Copyright © 2011 by J. G. Buckley