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And to All a Good Night

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Up in the North Pole, the elves worked tirelessly year round to ensure that all of the children around the world would have the toys they deserved and Santa's job was to supervise. Every year, he wanted to make sure that nothing but the best got put in his sleigh, so he walked with a determined stride through the aisles of work benches, bending at the waist to pick things up and inspect them before moving on down the line. They worked together with pride, smiling at each other with happy faces as they exchanged jolly banter and hearty laughter. With winter here and Christmas swiftly approaching, the workshop really lit up with cheer; literally too, Mrs. Claus in known for stringing up lights and decorations on December 1st every year.

"At the rate we're going, we'll have time to share some of Tingle's infamous hot chocolate!" The tinder of Santa's voice was loud but boisterous and jovial, punctuated with his trademark laughter that bounced from between his lips in a slow, "ho, ho, ho!"

The man in red noticed a missing elf and felt a string of lightning strike his belly and then curl up in knots. "Speaking of, looks like that little bugger wandered off early, I better go check up on him, make sure he's alright."

With his size and his girth, each step he took once he had made his way through the elves and into the snow swung his upper half away from the foot he was moving forward with, creating an alternating pendulum that made him look animated as he followed the little elf footprints left behind in the white powder. The reindeer's stables were less than ten feet away and it was in turning the corner to walk towards it that he saw little Tingle. He stood with his back to Santa, his winter coat missing, and as he got closer he heard what he swore was kissing. Still the elf did not stir, not even an inch, not even when the bigger man reached out and he was pinched. There was a scream, and when Tingle turned to face him, the Christmas spirit drained from Santa like liquid leaking from a broken thermometer. For Tingle was Tingle no more, but instead looked at him with dead eyes; strangely shaped lips speckled with lipstick and melted mini marshmallows.

"Tingle, what--" But Santa was cut off before he could finish, the elf lunged and there was no choice but to fight. The whole moment from when he had first set foot in the snow until the moment he found himself staring down at the motionless form of one of his dearest elves only lasted a few minutes. He could see it if he closed his eyes, as well as flashes of blonde hair and a face he wanted to remember forever. Then he remembered the scream and for the first time, he wondered where it had come from. Mrs. Claus. Dropping Tingle, he got up and made his way back inside, quicker this time though it seemed to take much longer.

When he got inside, everyone was still, staring at him with eyes as wide as saucers. When the lights flickered just right, it looked like their faces distorted, and when one of them ran at him with a candy cane stripped shiv in hand, he thought of Tingle. Was it something in the hot chocolate? The candy? The toys? Was it dementia? Or a disease outbreak? Lead poisoning? Or worse? Panic took those few seconds as the elf quickly came nearer, making Santa dizzy, his heart and stomach quick with fear. There were small evergreen trees lining the outer perimeter with sharp icicles glittering on them as decoration. They were the closest thing, he reached out, curled his fingers around one, and jammed the pointed end into that elf's cheek. It kept coming at him, babbling strange syllables, and he knew that these were no longer his elves as he plunged the icicle into its temple.

Someway, somehow, an outbreak had taken the North Pole. And it was an outbreak that had turned his elves into single-minded automatons, and instead of wanting to make toys, have fun, and bring holiday cheer, they bit and tried to tear from his flesh. He stood there in front of the door, the only exit, and knew he could probably turn around and leave. It was so loud that it was hard to think, but he saw Mrs. Claus sitting where they always sat together while overseeing the elves. She was scared, that much was obvious, and he knew then that he would have to kill them all to save her. They all rushed at him as if they could read his mind and he grabbed an icicle with each hand before rushing right back.

Tinsel flew as the scene progressed, with the hyper-vigilant Santa keeping his back to the exit as the zombie elves came at him. They bit and clawed at him, but his suit was thick. Because of the way they kept coming at him, he always went for the head, even if he saw arterial spray from a previous wound. He had to be sure. There was no telling what would happen if the outbreak spread, and it would do him no good to be taken down by one that was still crawling around under his radar because he had failed to end it when he had the chance.

Finally, he got close enough to speak to his wife and felt his heart lighten as he looked at her. "I'm here, it's okay." There was still fear etched on her features, but that was to be expected. He even understood when she ran passed him towards the exit. Leaving this awful place with his wife was what he'd been fighting to do. It was what he had risked his life for.

A shot fired through the air as he turned around, confusion pinching his brow as he looked on the uniforms in front of him and the flashing lights; but his were red and green, this was red and blue. Mrs. Claus stood among the navy sea and he stepped towards her and out rang another shot. Looking down, he saw two wounds. Had the elves gotten him?

As he fell to his knees, with the police stepping over the victims of his massacre as they swarmed, the mall Santa did smile. "Merry Christmas to all..." and with that, he dropped dead.