Oh, go on then, since it’s Christmas. These anthologies don’t make any money anyway so here’s my other story from Underdog Anthology Ten.
Note: certain religious people might not think it as funny as I do…
A Christmas Infection
“How the hell did you catch syphilis, you hairy idiot?” Tiddles the elf stood with his fists on his hips. “And why didn’t you tell us before now?”
“Yeah, I probably should have said something sooner.” Santa stared into his whisky glass, his last drink before the big event tomorrow night. “It’s not an easy subject to bring up, you know?”
George tapped Tiddles’ shoulder. “Like that time you had crabs. You didn’t like to talk about it.”
Tiddles closed his eyes, raised his fists and drew a breath. “Shut up George. Just, you know, zip it. This is not about me and not about the past. This is here and now and we have an infected Santa about to go out tomorrow night and spread a Christmas present nobody wants.”
“Only if he shags them.” George grinned.
Santa swirled the last of his whisky. “Well, I could maybe use condoms…”
“Oh yeah,” Tiddles sneered. “We could fit a condom machine to the sleigh. That’s going to look great on Christmas cards.”
“Just a suggestion.” Santa shrugged and stared out of the window.
“You are supposed to be the very epitome of purity and cleanliness.” Tiddles paced as he talked. “You are there for the children, not for some random tart with ‘we never close’ tattooed on her thighs. How the hell did you do this anyway?”
Santa raised one eyebrow.
Tiddles raised both hands. “No details. An outline will do.”
“Okay.” Santa took a sip of whisky. “I’m stuck here for the whole year with nothing to do then I get busy on one night. For Christmas Eve, time means nothing to me. I have all the time in the world within minutes.”
“We know this.” Tiddles glared at the overweight bearded man and tried to avoid the pictures entering his head. “Get to the point.”
“Well.” Santa sighed. “These days there are a lot of single mothers out there. Their kids need presents too, and a few of those mothers get pretty lonely over Christmas…”
Tiddles realised his jaw hung open, and closed it. “You mean… you mean you’ve been trading sex for presents? That’s… that’s…”
“No, of course not, I—” Santa’s face reddened to match his suit.
“That’s brilliant.” George nudged Tiddles. “It’s a great scam. Even better than—Oof.” Tiddles’ elbow connected with George’s ribcage with rather more than a nudge.
“George.” Tiddles placed his hands on George’s shoulders. “I want you to do something for me. It’s really important. Will you do it?”
George rubbed at his side and scowled. “I suppose.”
“I want you to guard that sleigh and supervise the loading of the presents. Don’t let anyone near it unless they’re working.” Tiddles leaned in close. “Especially Santa.”
“Huh?” George raised his eyebrows.
Tiddles spoke quietly. “I don’t know what effect his magic, when it kicks in, will have on his infection. Might cure it or it might send him mad. Go guard that sleigh.”
George nodded. “You mean like the time he turned all the toy guns into real ones, after we made him give up smoking? It took some serious work to clean up that mess.”
“Exactly,” Tiddles said, while thinking; I really just need you to bugger off.
“Shouldn’t we be looking for a replacement then, if he’s dangerous?” George peered at Santa.
“We have less than twenty-four hours before launch. We have to sort this one out.” Tiddles guided George to the door. “Just make sure the sleigh is safe. And don’t tell anyone about Santa’s illness. We don’t want to start a panic.”
“Right.” George stepped through the door. “Bye, Santa,” he called as Tiddles closed it.
“You do realise I heard every word of that, right?”
Tiddles turned to face Santa. “Oh sure.” He waved his hand and headed for the drinks cabinet. “I think this calls for one more before we lock this up, don’t you?”
Santa’s glass was on the cabinet before Tiddles could blink. “Make it a large one,” he said, “or I dig deeper into whatever scam you two are pulling.”
Tiddles filled two glasses. “Never mind that. We have an immediate and serious problem here. How long have you known about this infection?”
Santa settled into his chair. “Just over a month. I found out on my last visit to Doc. I wasn’t feeling good so he checked me over, and diagnosed the problem.”
“Doc? The dwarf? You know how much he drinks, surely?”
“Of course.” Santa raised his glass and winked. “Why do you think I visit him?”
Tiddles took a deep drink. “Never mind. So how come it took you so long to realise you had it? You must have caught it a year ago.”
Santa stared into his glass. “Maybe longer.”
Tiddles stared into his own glass and then at the drinks cabinet. He felt like finishing the bottle. “How long? How long have you run your one-man gigolo business?”
“Four years. But I don’t know when I got infected. And it’s not a business. I’m lonely, they’re lonely, there’s nothing more to it. I do not make sex a condition of delivering presents. Sometimes it just happens, that’s all.” Santa glowered from beneath bushy eyebrows.
“Four years. Shit. This gets worse and worse and we’re not even at the bad part yet.” Tiddles drained his glass, crossed to the drinks cabinet and brought the bottle over. He sat opposite Santa, refilled his glass and placed the bottle between them.
“You mean the part where it drives me mad?” Santa took a gulp of whisky and refilled his glass. “Do you think that will happen?”
“Non a shance.” Tiddles waved his arm a bit more forcefully than usual, hiccupped and composed himself. “Not a chance, I mean. Now you know it’s there you can cure it with magic as soon as your power kicks in tomorrow night. I just told George that to get him out of the way. No, that’s not the problem.”
“Ah.” Santa set his glass down. “You think I might have been spreading this disease without knowing it.”
“Oh I know you have.” Tiddles smacked his lips. This was particularly good whisky and his head was starting to spin. “That’s still not the problem. How many women are we talking about here?”
Santa took a deep breath. “Well you know, time doesn’t mean anything when I have my power on Christmas eve so… probably quite a few.”
“How many fews? I mean, are we in tens, hundreds, thousands?”
“Hey, I’m not a tart.” Santa took a drink. “Hundreds. Probably. Maybe a few hundred. Maybe a lot of hundreds. It all gets a bit of a blur when time is irrelevant, you know?”
“And you didn’t once use a condom.” Tiddles buried his face in his hands.
“Well I wasn’t expecting to be so… able. You know, overweight, drinking, smoking, I couldn’t have managed more than one or two. Take away the drinking and smoking though and I was packing a spring that could hold up a truck, if you know what I mean.” Santa grinned. “Thanks to you taking away the booze and my pipe, I’ve had a great time the last few Christmas eves.”
Tiddles held up his hands. “Don’t smile. Really. Don’t. This going to be horrible and it doesn’t help to know that we elves caused it.” He sighed and sat back in his seat, his eyes wandering the room. “It happened once before, a very long time ago. Before this was called Christmas and before your predecessors were named Santa. It’s in the records and there are dire warnings not to let it happen again. Now it has. Last time we blamed the remedy on a Middle Eastern king called Herod. I wonder who we can blame this time?” He narrowed his eyes. “Maybe a prince…”
“What are you talking about?” Santa’s face contorted. “Remedy for what? If I’ve infected anyone I can fix them with magic when I visit tomorrow night. It’s all sorted. No problem.”
“You didn’t use a condom and you were full of magic.” Tiddles tried to fix Santa with a hard glare but he had started to blur. “You will have impreg – impregnated them all. Lots of new kids. Your kids.”
“Ah.” Santa winced. “I see.”
Tiddles banged the table. “No you don’t. You made kids with magic in them. Santa magic. If they reach the age of thirty they will have the same powers as you. All the time, not just at Christmas eve. They can do what the hell they like. Imagine that. Thousands of them, with absolutely no restriction on what they do.”
Santa stared at the bottle on the table. “Well, perhaps one of them could be my replacement. I could retire.”
Tiddles grabbed his glass and downed it. “So what do you propose? Some Highlander-style ‘there can be only one’ competition? The Santa Games? Mad Max and the Santadome? How are you going to reduce the numbers to one and how are you going to convince that last one to become Santa? They don’t need to. They already have the magic. These children are potential monsters.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes until Santa said “So what do we do?”
Tiddles poured the last of the bottle into their glasses and took another from the drinks cabinet. He cracked it open and placed it next to the empty one.
Staring into Santa’s eyes, trying hard to focus, Tiddles took a breath and spoke. “We have to identify every single one and kill them. Before they reach their age of power and before anyone else finds out what they are capable of. Then we have to find someone to blame because a rash of mystery child deaths will not go unnoticed.”
“You said it happened before,” Santa took another drink. “But you fixed it last time, right?”
“Almost.” Tiddles resigned himself to a vicious hangover in the morning and poured another drink. “We missed one. Just one. When his powers kicked in, you know what he did?” He giggled and almost spilled his whisky. “You would have been so proud. You know what the first thing he did with his magic was?”
Santa shook his head. “No. What?”
Tiddles roared with laughter, heedless of the drool he felt on his chin. He might as well drink, there was no way he’d sleep tonight. Finally he managed to get the words out.
“He turned water into wine.”