|Art by Francis
Santa rode the hellhound ragged.
"Onward, beast!" he cried, kicking his heels into the creature. "Onward! Onward!"
The beast obeyed as best it could. Its supersonic speed made the pair look like a blur to anyone they passed.
It had been a cruel trick, but that's what comes of making deals with the devil. It seemed like a shortcut. It seemed like a good deal. Don't they always?
The problems started when the sleigh broke after dodging a particularly nasty bout of anti-aircraft fire. Santa and crew had managed to limp home and patch things up enough to finish the rounds, though Prancer and Dancer would take months to recover. The whole mishap caused a rift in the North Pole community.
A debate raged through January and into February as to what fundamental changes should be made to the sleigh and present delivery system. One major camp wanted to up-armor the thing and issue flak-jackets - at least for use through active war zones. The other major camp pushed for speed above all else - why worry about being hit if you can't get hit? Terms like "acceptable casualties" and "titanium bathtub" were bandied about. The cost, both in materiel and man-hours, was another sticking point - if there was a lucky strike or other issue, would any of this be worth the trouble?
It was into this fray another red-clad figure stepped. Satan, visiting the North Pole to belatedly pass along some mis-addressed mail, listened with interest. Attuned to strife, he quickly formulated a plan. An offer. It was simple enough: the reindeer would work for Satan for a time and Santa could ride a hellhound. It couldn't pull a sleigh, but it was faster and impervious to the weapons of man.
When asked why he wanted the reindeer, some words about worming into children's hearts were spoken, though they rang false. The issue at hand, however, forced Santa to make a decision. After much haggling and contract-writing, a bargain that ensured Satan would never harm the reindeer was struck. Provisos for the repair of the sleigh and other improvements to Santa's workshop were included. It was too good a deal to pass on - especially as it was only to last one Christmas. Or, at least, that's what Santa had thought.
The deal had originally been set to end at 11:59pm on New Year's Eve the next time New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve were on the same day of the week. The wording had been waved away as magical formality when first questioned - the to Eves were seven days apart and are always on the same day of the week (if Christmas Eve is a Thursday, New Year's Eve will also be on a Thursday).
At the last minute, however, Satan asked for a one day extension. He asked to change New Year's Eve to New Year's Day and Christmas Eve to Christmas Day. No one worried too much - after all the bargaining back and forth, what was another 24 hours?
As you may have guessed, not all was fine. While Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are seven days apart, Christmas Day and New Year's Day are 359 days (360 days on leap years) apart. Barring manipulation like the switch from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar, Santa had signed a permanent deal.
"Onward! Onward!" he cried again, pushing the beast to its limits. Every ounce of hate he had for himself for sentencing his reindeer to servitude to Satan came out in his treatment of the hellhound. Where once he was jolly with a belly full of jelly, he was now hateful with a heart full of spite.
The Devil, for his part, watched and laughed. He wondered what Vixen was thinking as Santa whipped him, seeing only his hellhound form.
|What I saw in the drawing.