Leave No Reindeer Behind

Leave No Reindeer Behind

by Gavin Biddlecombe

 

Santa’s muscles tensed, fighting the freezing gale biting its way to bare skin through the holes of his heavy red jacket.

“Keep going,” he screamed. Tired hands gripped the reigns, steering what was left of his reindeer into the oncoming blizzard. He glanced over his shoulder and, seeing nothing behind, eased his grip on the reigns as they crossed over into the Arctic Circle. He took his seat for the first time in hours as Dancer, Prancer and Vixen slowed to a steady pace.

Inspecting his torn clothing, it was then he realized his gloves were gone and had no idea when or where they’d been lost. The how on the other hand… Maybe if he could remember where, he could return tomorrow when the chaos had settled.

As he ran a chilly hand through his hair, he jerked upright, then tapped the top of his head just to make sure.

“No, no, no.” he said, spinning round and searching the back of the sleigh. His wife had advised him against wearing it and now his favourite red hat had been lost as well. He slumped down and urged the tired reindeer on. It wouldn’t be long now. Home. The dog-house most likely.

He racked his brain. If he could handle the whole world in one night, then a Black Friday sale should’ve been a piece of cake. He tugged at the reigns and steered the reindeer back South. “We’re going back,” he said as they cast worried glances. “We’re getting everyone home.”

With renewed vigor, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen charged out of the blizzard and into the fray.

 


 

Leading Up To… (Part 2)

Leading Up To… (Part 2)

by Gavin Biddlecombe

As the last two marshmallows dropped into the contents of his steaming mug, Dave inhaled deeply, enjoying the thick, rich smell of chocolate. There’s definitely an upside to working here, he thought, even if the days are long and the uniform takes some getting used to. He removed a couple of coins from his waistcoat pocket and stacked them on the cashier’s counter, looking around. Where has Cookie Jingle got to?

He leaned back on the counter and scanned the usually tidy canteen. Empty round oak tables surrounded by displaced red and green painted wooden stools dotted the room. It was quiet now. Everyone was hard at it down at manufacturing and they’d be busy with the latest list of requests.

Pushing himself away from the counter, Dave took another sip from his mug and made for the door, stifling another yawn. He was still getting used to the 40-hour days in this part of the world. He wasn’t sure where along the journey it happened but this time distortion allowed more to get done than back home. The next shift would be arriving within the hour so it was best to get going.

A panicking figure raced through the doors right into Dave, sending them both sprawling to the ground. Dazed and confused, he picked himself off the floor, trying to understand what had just happened. He glanced at the figure lying in a heap beside him, the contents of his mug staining their green jumper. Looking down at his hand, Dave realized he only held the handle.

“What on earth was all that about?” muttered Dave, chucking away the handle as he reached down for the murmuring individual. “Are you okay?”

“Oh, that hurt,” moaned Garland Tinsel as he was helped to his feet, wiping the thick liquid from his eyes. “Been looking for you everywhere.”

“Why?”

“We’re at a standstill. Manufacturing are waiting on the next list to proceed.”

“Already?” asked a surprised Dave. “I only just left the Listing Department ten minutes ago. Quickly, now.” Racing out of the canteen with Garland on his heels, Dave ran down the corridor to his office, heaved open the ancient book and brought up the next list of names. The monitor beside him blinked to life as he fired up the computer.

“How long will it take?” asked Garland.

“Well, I’ve crossed referenced most of these already, so give me a couple of minutes and I’ll print out the next set.”

“Oh, do hurry,” said Garland, hopping from foot to foot nervously, “I wouldn’t like a repeat of that year.”

“Don’t worry, we’ve stocked up on the goods this year,” replied Dave eyes flitting between book and screen like a spectator at a speedy tennis match, the blurring movement of his fingers typing away at the keyboard.

“No, not last year… that year. It’s very rare for us to stand around doing nothing down at manufacturing and it can be quite eerily silent.”

“Silent?”

“Well, yes. We sing when we build,” said Garland, “and when we’re not building we’re, well…”

“Not singing?”

“It’s only happened once before.”

“Mm-hmm,” uttered Dave, still focused on preparing the list.

“I was too young to remember,” said Garland, glancing round the room nervously, “but the elders used to tell us the stories. It was chaos they said and people stopped believing. Those old stories scare me to this day.”

“And… There,” exclaimed Dave as the printer whirred into life, filling blank sheets with names and lists. He spun round on his chair to face Garland. His satisfied look melted away as his now unoccupied brain took in those last comments. “Stopped believing?”

“Oh yes, a very serious matter. Apparently, our reputation took a massive hit and it lasted years before people regained the spirit again”.

“Well, I won’t let it happen on my watch,” said Dave. “I’ll get on with the next batch immediately and phone through for collection when it’s ready.”

Unfurling his frown, Garland perked up at the positive note and turned towards the door, the list neatly tucked under his arm.

“And be sure to let Merry know next time she comes up for them to check there are sufficient names to keep you guys busy for longer than ten minutes. I’m certain there was enough for at least the next two shifts.”

“Erm. Merry?” asked Garland anxiously.

“She collected the last list,” said Dave, looking round.

“Oh dear.” Garland’s nervous twitching returned.

“Oh dear what?”

“In my panic earlier I forgot to ask whether you’d seen her. She volunteered for the last pick up and we haven’t seen her since”

Dave jumped off his seat, panic setting in. “Now then, I think we may have a problem.”

“I didn’t see her on my way here,” said Garland.

“And I left her heading your way as I went into the canteen.”

Dave thought back. Merry had been eager to deliver to manufacturing. She wouldn’t have deviated. “Right, get those back as quick as you can and I’ll search this area to make sure she didn’t come back. I’ll meet you in the canteen shortly.” Garland shot off to deliver the package, his legs travelling faster than the rest of him could manage.

The wrinkles on the side of his eyes creased as he shut them tight and thought back to earlier. Merry had not mentioned going anywhere else. She hadn’t wanted a drink at the canteen for fear of arriving late. Could she have turned back? The only place up this end is the archives room.

Without further hesitation, Dave stepped into the corridor towards archives.


 

Leading Up To…

Leading Up To…

by Gavin Biddlecombe

Sat at his desk and poring over the new intake of e-mails that continuously filled his inbox, Dave reviewed the names alongside the ancient, over-sized book beside him. He glanced over at the clock on the wall of the large office as it slowly ticked away. Almost 15 o’clock. Grimacing, he removed his specs and rubbed his eyes, stifling another yawn.

“Are you finished with the recent ones yet?” asked Merry Sparkletoes, startling Dave. “We need to get the list down to manufacturing as soon as possible.”

“Yep, here it is.” Dave reached over his desk, almost knocking over the remnants of his mug. He handed over the list. “We’ve only just finished Halloween and they’ve already been mailing us. I know there’s a need to get them in well in advance but this is ridiculous.”

“At least we can get ahead of the game. The quicker these are made, the better.”

“But they’re still chewing on their Halloween candy. Surely there’s plenty for them to get on with in the meantime?”

“They’re riding the sugar wave, excited at the next prospect”.

“I suppose,” said Dave climbing down off his seat “although we’re anticipating a lull the week after.”

“The sugar crash,” agreed Merry.

“Indeed, but it won’t last long.” Dave saved his place in the enormous book, collected his mug and followed Merry out of the office, down the long corridor to manufacturing. “The flood will start in a couple of weeks. It’ll be e-mails and letters galore”.

“I almost forgot about that. I’ve somehow blanked out last year’s mayhem. Poor old Garland Tinsel almost had a nervous breakdown”

“We’ve got the emergency team on standby, don’t we?”

“They’ve been called in immediately. We’re not taking any chances this time around.”

“And the supplies of extra hot chocolate and marshmallows?” Asked Dave.

“Order placed months ago and in stock. It steadied Garland’s nerves and put him back in the game.”

“Good. Good.” Dave nodded, stepping into the canteen. “Hot chocolate top up?”

“Not just yet. I need to get this list down to manufacturing. They’ll be finishing their current batch and need them to remain ahead of schedule.”

“Yeah, won’t be long before the kids start writing to us too.”


 

Leading Up To…(Part 2)