The long dark tunnel in the midnight glare of the moon transcended the originality of the mind. It had spider webs along the corners, running up and around pipes, draped over some of the steps and even on some left over molasses crates that were leaning on the wall. The soldiers dared not enter without proper authorization. When they came to the tunnel six armed guards stopped them and they had to show I.D. and explain who they were, what they were doing there and why they had decided to travel through the wrong side of Alaska.
Six days ago the two of them were driving down a zigzagging road in Rancho Cucamonga in California and now they were at the tunnel looking for someone. The California mission had been a simple touch and go. It was the small-men in green suits causing trouble again. They weren’t targeted for termination, though, just for the “freezing.” The company had a sense of humor when it came to these things. No one had helped them carry the mannequins back to the store but they had gotten a nice little bonus for the job. California was a rich state.
The six men with the guns were frowning because they were from a part of the world where the cold didn’t exist.
One of them was named Sergant Lopez and he had a mustache. It was allowed if it didn’t look ridiculous.
“One fat man down there?”
“It’s what we heard from the station,” Red said to the sergeant who had asked the stupid question. Red was an incessant pr*** when it came to details. Joan hated him because of this but still they had their “quest” to finish.
The other five men were trying hard not to laugh in their heavy-looking gear. They were overdressed in camouflage gear and large all-weather, all-terrain jackets with large steel-toe boots. The sergeant, who was a tall man and eager to yell at whoever was near that didn’t include civilians like Red and Joan, had halted them to see their colorful badges.
As if to mock the occasion, Joan was in a red sweater and Red was in a green one.
The badges hung around their necks by a black string. “Holdona sec, how’d you two get here, anyway?”
“We had a talk with the captain prior to our visit. Wilkins wasn’t too pleased to see us, what with the recent ‘accidents’.”
“You mean the gifts,” the sergeant said with a smile.
Most of them were grown-ups and could understand the predicament they were in. Someone had to deliver after all but what could have happened to the jolly old fool? They weren’t in the business of being escorts to a fable is what the captain had said. There were more important things.
Red and Joan were both wearing yellow fur caps with a bell on the top. When they moved the bells jingled.
Was it December already? It was probably more like the end of the summer because the moon still came out. In any case, the tunnel looked more like a creepy cave than a home for a drunken fool.
“He comes here?” Red asked Joan.
Joan said, “We’re not in the business of really needing to know.”
Red worked for the Long Necks, which supplied people information with the story of the Legend but were never really given any information as to how the legend began or if it was even real. This made the job more difficult to do.
Joan worked for the Not On Ready Time Company, which was a branch that worked in conjunction with the Long Necks in order to provide valuable information regarding the real whereabouts of rumors regarding said legend. The rumors were then turned into truths and then someone sold more presents.
It wasn’t supposed to be real.
The catch was that it wasn’t supposed to be real.
Can you imagine the chaos, the greed, the loss of innocence?
It was then that Red showed them the weapon. A small revolver came out of his pocket but it was a bright blue. The soldiers all laughed, thinking it was a water gun. Red said, ignoring Joan’s previous comment, “I’m sure it’s a simple matter of just click-click, ey, fellaws?”
“You’re not going to find anyone down there,” Sergeant Lopez said, “We been looking all morning. The only thing we saw was the odd shadow of a person. The person down there got scared sh**less when he thought he saw us–?”
The conversation was interrupted by a cellular phone. It was beginning to snow and they were at the top of the highest mountain in a region of Alaska known as the Dead Zone. The phone wasn’t supposed to work.
It was Vincent, their boss. The two companies were merging but everyone knew Vincent was the one to deal with. He was a bald-headed straight faced man that took no sh** from anyone. He was the leading type, always issuing out orders and making sure they were followed through. He had chosen his “best” soldiers for this quest. The presents had been dropping from the sky for months now, out of thin air. It was because he was in hiding and they had lost track of him. He had, in other words, escaped their prison and now he was up to his “old” tricks. That was when those in corporate had ordered his death because they didn’t want sales to go down. It was weird to be in the place because they had finally found him. He’d be dead in no time.
The phone’s ring was the sound of the most recent version of “Jingle Bells.”
“This is Red,” Red said, putting him on speaker.
“Red, it’s agent V. How are we progressing?”
“We’re at the tunnel now, Vince.”
“The partners are worried what would happen if things get out of hand down there. All our leads are bringing us false information but he can’t hide from us forever.”
“Fat f***!” Joan exclaimed, wiping snow from her brow.
“Joan, get in the tunnel, feel for his presence, then get out. He might be hiding elsewhere.”
Joan had met with the real him before and she hated him because the companies had worked so hard to make money out of the fake him. If it turned out he was real, they’d be ruined. Plus his stupid sled had slashed her nose open when it flew out of her sight.
They progressed down into the dark tunnel at close to eleven at night. The guards followed closely.
“What’s with the get-up anyways?”
“We’re hoping he mistakes us.”
Joan felt the wall. “He’s definitely here.”
Red looked back at the soldiers, “From here on in we go alone and we ask you to be really quiet.”
The sergeant put a hand to his M-16 and took the safety off. Red already had his gun aimed at his chest.
“You serious, kid?” The sergeant asked with a smile. His soldiers were smiling. “You want to shoot me through my bullet proof vest with a weirdly-painted .38 revolver? It wouldn’t–?”
Red fired the gun in his direction once.
The soldiers were behind the sergeant at his shoulders.
There was a small sound like: POP!
A gum like substance, pink and bubbly flew at them and exploded outward, engulfing them in the sticky stuff.
Then, the men’s bodies disintegrated. Their clothes and skin became meshed and they turned into pieces of paper that flew away with the wind.
Joan got mad at him, “Was that necessary?”
“F****** a*** was getting on my nerves.”
“Shhh, here comes something.”
They heard a scary sound coming from the end of the tunnel. They ran in silence, their footsteps drowned by the fluffy red slippers they wore. It wasn’t anyone’s fault that they wore these. They were perfect gifts and they were on sale.
They ran past the barrels of molasses in no time and were walking along the path of the webs. The tunnel branched in three different directions they realized but not so far away, where they had heard the noise was something that looked really odd. It was a red boot.
Joan stared at it for a second and ran on ahead of Red.
Red caught up to her in a hurry.
She was skinnier than him. Red wasn’t the chubby type but he liked his occasional snack but was otherwise still dedicated to his job.
“A light!” Red screamed looking intently at the tunnel on the right.
Joan turned around from taking the tunnel straight ahead and followed Red, who was walking fast but quietly along the right-hand side tunnel. The moon still provided plenty of light for them to see. They were experts in the darkness, though. This was their territory, not the fat mans. What they saw then surprised them both. It was a full grown deer with large horns. It had a flashlight strapped to its head. It looked like it was staring at them walk toward it but then, it just stepped out of sight. The end of the tunnel forked on another side to the right, although it looked like it kept going straight.
“Where does this lead?” Joan asked.
“To the river, don’t worry. We can’t get lost.”
“Freaking deer, I almost killed the stupid thing but we’re supposed to ice the big man, not his servants.”
“Anything close to the real thing falls subject to elimination,” Joan said, professionally.
“But come on, who’s a bigger catch. I was promised an executive position at the company!”
“Forget you, Red! They’re going to make me Vice for this one.”
“Yeah, you’ll be the first on Vincent’s kiss-butt list.”
When they turned they quieted because they didn’t want to scare him off.
They shouldn’t have made that right turn, thinking back on it.
Thinking back on it, rivers only run in one direction. Three paths usually lead to the same thing. They never turn or twist to trick you.
From the top of the tunnel what a person saw was a huge patch of ice falling off of the tunnel.
A sled suddenly appeared buried half into the tunnel and half slightly tilted up in the air.
Nine reindeer suddenly appeared. These were in front of the sled suspended in mid-air. They weren’t moving. One, the one with a slight blush on the nose, was looking from reindeer to reindeer impatiently.
A frozen fat man in jolly gear was at the reigns.
Then, they heard a loud “HO-HO-HO!”
At the first HO, a trap was set off under their feet. A rope caught both of them by the feet and put them upside down.
The deer had been an illusion.
Red and Joan’s bodies looked above them because that was where the trap had been set. The ropes were tied to two big metal bars. Part of the bars where sticking through a grated piece of steel at the top of the tunnel.
Fire blew through the steel.
A loud roar like an engine that doesn’t work deafened them but then they felt a shake like a sudden jolt.
The names of reindeer being called out like the sand in an hourglass running out, alerted them to something that didn’t quite fit the puzzle.
Red said, “We’re tied to the stupid sled!”
“Oh, s***, what happens when he’s done with the last name?”
“I think it flies, the book says it flies!”
“It doesn’t fly, how could it fly, they don’t even have cars that fly. Get your gun out. Shoot up at it, shoot it!”
“My gun dropped when the trap sprung us up! I can’t see it. The stupid sled is blocking the light from the moon!”
“Is he taking us captive?”
“No! You see the bolts on that piece of steel, we’re going to go through it but not in one pie–?”
The sudden jolt of a sled taking off ceased their conversation forever.
And Santa Clause, unfrozen on his sled cried out to the night sarcastically, “Merry Christmas and to all a good night.!”