“Wake up y’sloth.” A worn leather boot hit the elf’s green-clothed backside. The elf snapped to attention, grabbing a hammer with its pudgy hand.
“Sorry Father.” The elf squeaked. Father Christmas grunted and stamped away each step sending vibrations through each elf’s skeleton. Christmas marched his way through the sea of regulation uniforms: lime green pants and shirts, pale green hats for the workers, red for the foremen.
Christmas left the warehouse, entering the blistering cold; hats flew off several elves, causing them to stumble forward, as a gust entered the building. He paused outside, tapped his pocket, and pulled out a fat cigar. He cupped a hand to his mouth and lit the cigar. Blue smoke drifted out, curling in the cold air. Christmas puffed on the cigar, tucked his hands into his coat and walked to his mansion, his thick red cloak dragging in the snow.
It was a short walk to his mansion. With an army of elves continuously mining, Christmas’ mansion extended deep into the snow. The lower reaches of the abode provided home to a vast ice window, through which Christmas would watch the Artic fish. The door to his mansion opened with a creak, the movement causing snow to fall onto Christmas’ woollen hat from the overhang. He shook it off and walked into the mansion. An elf, waiting next to the door, clambered onto a stool and took Christmas’ cloak. Christmas walked down the hallway, leaving the elf submerged under the cloak, struggling to put it on its hanging peg.
“What’s that?” Christmas called, his nose wrinkling as his moustache lifted to provide a barrier to the smell.
“Dinner Father.” An elf’s voice said, drifting out of the kitchen. Christmas entered the kitchen.
“Get that outta here.” An elf rushed past, pointing up at Christmas’ cigar and the blue plumage twisting around the kitchen.
“Chef?” Christmas called.
An elf popped out from behind a pot, a spoon almost as tall as him in hand. “Father?”
“Hell’s goin’ on in here?” Christmas gestured at the elves running around. “Chaos. And that smell.” He waved his cigar over at the pot, hot ash falling on a passing elf.
“Minestrone soup, Father. Forgive me.” The elf ran over to a microphone, kicked a switch and said: “Please remember to walk not run, when in the kitchen.”
Christmas nodded. “Get it done soon. I’m hungry.” He turned to leave, and said over his shoulder, “Find that elf and fire him.” The Chef glanced at him. “How dare he tell me to put out my cigar.” Christmas said, fixing the chef with a glare.
The kitchen door swung shut with a click and Christmas stood in the hall, watching as the elf finally managed to hang up Christmas’ cloak.
Ice was beginning to form on the conveyor belt, causing it to shudder and crunch as it the black fabric rotated. Despite the elves asking, Christmas limited the heating to certain times throughout the day, he reasoned that the warm water he provided during the daily five minute break was enough to keep the elves warm; he thought nothing of the machinery, it was the mechanics that had to try and keep it working all year-round. Many of the elves contacted others in the haberdashery or the wrapping departments, getting them to send additional insulation to wear under the uniform. As the ice crept along the conveyor belt slowed until it eventually stopped.
The elves paused from manufacturing the toys, stopped adding little bits of plastic to larger ones, and stopped placing even bigger bits of plastic into brightly coloured boxes. They looked at their foremen, who looked back at them. Elf 451 looked at the elf opposite, the sprayed stencil on it’s chest telling him that it was Elf21B.
“What do we do now?” He asked. 21B shrugged and pointed with a finger to their foreman.
Around the warehouse other elves were muttering and shifting their weight from foot to foot, trying to stop the cold from setting into their bones.
A whistle blew and the foremen all walked into a huddle. They spoke for several minutes, during which time murmurs grew amongst the elves. Those near the pipework began to communicate with the other departments, utilising their variant of morse codes, tapping quickly and lightly on the copper pipe. Messages came back, the kitchen elves reported that Christmas was working them hard, forcing them to redo many dishes; the haberdashery reported blunt needles – nothing out of the ordinary, and the miners complained of working in the dark.
The foremen broke their huddle and one stepped forward, blowing on his whistle. The elves stopped talking and looked over. The chosen spokesperson, elf 48F climbed onto a pile of packaged gifts and looked at the crowds.
“Fellow elves, a message has been sent to Christmas, informing him that there will be delays to the production of this year’s gifts. However, continue we must, and innovate we must. It’s our duty to ensure that the good children receive their presents, that we make them happy.” He paused, allowing groans to emanate from his audience.
“I know we aren’t all happy, but we must continue to work. If we don’t-” He shuddered. “We’ll make Christmas angry.”
He clambered back off the pile of boxes. His audience didn’t move, remained quiet until 451 called out.
“We lost three elves yesterday, three good elves.” A few of the elves turned to him, and 48F paused.
“That was just on this line, more throughout the warehouse, and the miners are dying every day.” 451 looked at the elves around him, 48F turned back to watch.
“Yeah we can make the kids happy, we can try to make Christmas happy.” The crowd sniggered. “Yeah it’s unlikely, but we can try. But-” 451 paused. And pushed himself onto the conveyor belt so he could see more of the warehouse. He raised his voice.
“But, are we happy? Day in day out, the same toys, the same cold, same food.” He pointed at himself and then the crowd.
“I’m not happy, are you?” He pointed now at the conveyor belt, at the ice that was forming on its surface.
“You know as I do, Christmas won’t fix this, that once we remove this ice more will form.”
The foremen’s spokesperson, 48F raised his arm and spoke.
“451, we can’t do anything, return to your post and resume work.”
48F laughed. “But we can. Together we can.” He knelt down and picked up a hammer. “Together we can become free, together we can avenge the deaths of the miners, make children different toys each year, rather than the same things.” He pulled at his uniform. “Together we could get rid of this.”
A cry came from the crowd. “Get rid of Christmas?”
“Exactly.” 451 said, “Get rid of Christmas himself.”
The crowd began to murmur again.
“What say you?” 451 said to the crowd, “What say you?” he said, pointing at 48F.
A few of the elves broke away from the group and began tapping furiously on the pipes, making them vibrate with messages. Heads began to shake up and down throughout the elves. 48F turned to the other foremen, who looked at him and shook their heads.
“451’s right you know.” One said.
“I know, and that’s what scares me. Christmas will kill us all if this goes wrong.” 48F replied.
“Then we’d better make damn sure this works.” Said another foreman.
The chandelier that hung from the carved stone ceiling was the only source of light in Christmas’ study. Hundreds of little candles burnt on the chandelier lit, at Christmas’ command, by an elf. Christmas sat at his desk, a large mahogany construction, checking through a list. His body cast a dark shadow across the desk, darkening the stacks of paper and the scattered biros. Christmas alternated between sipping at whiskey from a crystal tumbler, and scratching through names on the good list. He grumbled as he did so, groaning about bad manners and insolent children. The remains of the minestrone soup lay drying in the bottom of a china bowl, breadcrumbs littering the desk around it.
“Freedom!” A thousand tiny voices cried as one, a mass of bodies thundering forward across the thick rug. Christmas turned from his desk, his eyes widening in shock as the carpet of elves ran closer. He stood up and grabbed his chair, holding it out in front of him. He swung it from side to side, swatting at the advancing elves. He struck several of them, causing them to fall back onto their comrades, but still the army pushed forward. Hearing a cry from above, Christmas looked up. Elves dropped from the chandelier, swinging themselves down on string ropes. He dropped the chair, crushing two elves, and batted at the elves falling towards his face. Christmas felt himself wobble as he battled the airborne threat.
The elves on the ground parted round his legs, looping sparkly tinsel around the back of his ankles. As more elves dropped from the chandelier, the ground force pulled on the tinsel, causing Christmas to fall. His body crashed to the ground, his head resounding from the floor with a crack. Christmas was knocked out for several seconds, which the elves used to their advantage, dragging coil after coil of tinsel around his wrists, before driving the tinsel into the carpet with wooden stakes.
“I told you to put that out.” An elf said, pulling the cigar that was still clenched in Christmas’ fingers. The elf rotated it, slamming the lit end down into Christmas’ palm, twisting hard. The smoke stopped seeping from the end, and the elf dropped the dead brown log. A ring of dark pink smouldering flesh was left on Christmas’ limp hand.
A group of elves scaled the desk, lifted the tumbler and dropped it. Christmas’ eyes widened as he saw it fall, then he shut them tight. The crystal tumbler shattered against his face, crystal embedding into his skin, tearing it open. He roared and writhed in pain, throwing elves across the room. He tried to stand, pulled against the tinsel, but the elf army held them tight; he collapsed back to the ground.
Christmas woke to find elves sawing at his beard, hacking his hair off with axes. Hundreds of wooden hammers cracked at his bones, with sharp snaps resounding from his shins. The kitchen elves clutched at their forks, stabbing them into his legs. Christmas cried out as beads of blood dropped from the incisions that mazed across his skin. Three elves from the haberdashery clambered onto his head, scrambled over his face, and held his lips together, whilst another punctured his lips with a needle, sewing his mouth shut. An elf swung a hammer like a golf club, slicing it through the air; Christmas’ nose split to the left, blood instantly spraying out, covering some of the elves.
Elf after elf swarmed over Christmas’ corpse, until his breathing no longer caused them to rise and fall, until the carpet around was drenched with his blood.
Until they realised that they were free.