*Hello, Clicky… /pats snout… Gonna post my Underdog Anthology Christmas story. Wanna help?*
*Whoa there, easy tiger… /lights up and smokes… Just chill out and put your fins up. I’ll do it…*
Dear Reader, I couldn’t leave my Halloween story ‘What Time Do You Finish?‘ to end where it did, so I wrote a follow up for the Christmas Underdog Anthology. With only six days left until the big day, Underdog Anthology XIII: Coronamas would make an ideal stocking filler present, and in an effort to persuade you, I reproduce ‘Christmas Death Wish’ for you, below. Enjoy! ❤
Christmas Death Wish
by Roo B. Doo
Death grimaced at the receptionist, who paid scant attention to the Grim Reaper sitting patiently in the God Lobby. The cavernous reception area was named the God Lobby as that was where those that wished to lobby God congregated in the hopes of an audience. The enormous space tended to be packed out with petitioners from either of the beseecher categories – the ‘Please God’ and ‘Dear God No’ – but at that precise moment, and apart from the goose manning the reception desk, Death was the God Lobby’s only occupant.
“Quiet here today… today… oday… ay…” Death’s voice echoed across the vast expanse between himself and the reception desk. The only response was a faint sound of scritch-scratching from the nib of the receptionist’s quill pen.
How long he had been waiting, Death knew not; it could have been any amount of time between a second and eternity. The God Lobby contained no clocks or shadows to mark the passage of time, only the oblique Mists of Time and even they appeared to have gone AWOL. At best, the most anyone could rely on in this place was their own body clock, but as Death had no body to speak off, he was already at a distinct disadvantage.
Hello, Big D.
Death didn’t need to turn in the direction of the friendly voice to know that God was filling the seat next to him. “Ma’am. I was just saying, it’s very quiet in here today.”
Quite. You wanted to see me?
Death shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “No, you wanted to see me.” Death turned to look God in the face; she was wearing a serene countenance, covered by a floral print face mask.
The scratching of the receptionist’s quill ceased and was replaced by the sound of chair legs scraping against the highly polished floor, followed by slaps of webbed feet as the goose receptionist approached, clutching a piece of parchment.
Thank you, Brian.
God took the proffered page and scanned it.
Ah. Apparently there was an unauthorised Armageddon occurrence on 31st October 2020. Do you know anything about that, Death?
The pause that followed could have been pregnant with octuplets, as Death felt the weight of God’s silence and Brian’s suspicious gaze fall upon him. Death was indeed intimately acquainted with the events that transpired on the Halloween in question. He shuddered at the memory of the brutal slaying of his occasional companions Famine, Pestilence and War in the back of a London black cab, driven by Old Scratch, the Devil himself. It was an abomination, an aberration, a fluke or trick, although Death had not as yet settled on which.
“Um, yes… some,” Death replied slowly. “My understanding is that the whole event was triggered by a misaddressed Christmas wish made by a pure soul. One Molly Darling, aged 6.”
A letter to Santa?
God swung her attention towards the receptionist. Death watched in amazement as Brian’s plumage turned from snow white to an embarrassed shade of pink. A big glob of goose fat trickled down one of his legs.
Brian, I thought we’d patched the Santa/Satan glitch.
The God Lobby’s haughty receptionist replied with a mournful honk.
Oh dear. It seems we have a bit of a boo-boo on our hands.
Death jumped down from his chair and bowed deeply before God. “Surely the situation can be remedied, Ma’am?”
God waited until Death straightened from obeisance to his full height of three foot three, before gently patting him on the the shoulder.
But of course. I have every faith in you, Big D.
“Me? …Me? …me? … e?” Death waited for the reverberation of his outburst to disappear before continuing in a more measured tone. “You would like me to, um, remedy the situation?”
You are the ideal candidate.
“But I only have one method at my disposal.” With a flick of his bony wrist, Death produced a retractable scythe from the armhole of his robe. He struck the ground with its shaft causing a death knell boom to thunder around the God Lobby.
God waved her hand over the scythe blade, allowing the lightning sparks that careened from it to latch on to her fingertips. She directed their chaotic dance along its keen edge.
Don’t underestimate yourself, Big D. Short of stature you may be, but in terms of resourcefulness, you are a giant.
Death had been around; he knew flannel when he heard it. “Ma’am, there would be dire consequences for moving a soul along before its time.”
Indeed, so it would be best if that were to not happen.
God stood up and Death bowed again; his audience was over. God started moving toward the reception desk but then paused.
You might speak with dear Soda Pops. He’s jolly resourceful too and, as the intended recipient of Molly’s wish, he may care to have a say in the matter.
“An excellent suggestion, Ma’am. I shall seek out Father Christmas immediately.”
Just keep it on the down low, Big D. Things can get very tricky when one’s fallibility is called into question.
By the time Death had straightened from his bow, God had disappeared. He was alone in the cavernous reception room, save for a now somewhat chagrined Brian, who was once again safely ensconced behind his desk, furiously scratching away with a quill pen and doing his utmost to avoid unnecessary eye contact.
Death sighed; he would have to go to Lapland; he hated visiting Lapland. Not for the first time, it occurred to Death that the ‘God Lobby’ had been extremely well named.
The entrance to Lapland wasn’t obvious at first glance, set as it was in a shady alcove, next to a garishly lit 24-hour Kwiki Mart on a less than salubrious back street of London. The muted thump of drum and bass music playing loudly somewhere vibrated in the air.
Death rapped smartly on the bland and undistinguished door and waited. The flap of the letterbox, set high up the door, opened and quickly closed.
Death knocked again, this time standing back from the door to afford the lookout a better view of his personage. Again, the letterbox flap opened and a pair of beady eyes appeared to scan the street before alighting on Death.
“No children allowed,” the gruff voice behind the door barked, as the letterbox flap once more clattered shut.
Death flourished his retractable scythe and lifted the flap to the letterbox open with the tip of its crackling blade. “I am not a child. Let me in.”
The eyes, now wide with fear, reappeared through the gap. “What’s the password?”
“Ho. Ho. Ho.”
There was a clunk and a click before the door quickly opened, allowing Death admittance to Father Christmas’s main residence. Once inside, Death made his way up a short flight of stairs to what appeared to be the source of the residual music thumping in the street outside: Lapland lap dancing club – adulterating Christmas 364 days of the year.
“Hi, I’m Sally. May I take your cloak?” The beautiful elf that greeted Death was dressed in only a few strands of tinsel, strategically placed to leave everything and yet nothing to the imagination.
“No thank you, Sally. I need to speak with Soda Pops.”
“Sure, come this way.”
Sally led Death through a throng of tables that were laden with drinks, ashtrays and Christmas poinsettia, and banks of couches hosting drunken patrons enjoying all manner of attentions and gyrations from Lapland’s scantily clad hostesses. The air was so thick with smoke, sweat and noise that Death’s route through the crowd could be seen clearly, carved into the fug by the blade of his scythe. They crossed the dance floor and passed a stage set with a shiny North Pole, from which a simply stockinged elf clung, spun and straddled, throwing revealing shapes for the audience.
“He’s through here,” Sally simpered, pulling a beaded tree light curtain aside, and ushered Death into a large side room. The room was ambiently lit, and filled with a mass of sparsely clothed elven bodies, both writhing and languishing synchronously in what sounded like an ecstasy of delight. In the corner sat Soda Pops, a.k.a. Father Christmas, his face buried deep into the backside of a gently bleating reindeer, whose nose pulsed and glowed.
Death cleared his throat. “Excuse me, Soda Pops, may I have a word?”
“Bugger off!” Soda Pops bellowed, without looking up.
The reindeer appeared to catch a sudden glance of Death’s scythe and backed away nervously, hooves skittering.
“Fuck me, you’re keen!” Soda Pops pushed at the animal’s quivering hindquarters as they squashed further against his sweaty face. He caught sight of Death standing impassively in the doorway. “You! So, this is how I am to end?! Suffocated whilst pleasuring a reindeer!”
Death shook his head. “No, this is a strictly informal visit, I assure you. I need to speak with you. Alone.”
“Okay.” Soda Pops nodded and slapped the backside of the reindeer, sending the clearly terrified creature careering past Death and out through the door. “Listen up people. I need you all to get the fuck out of here. Now!”
The mangle of bodies rose up, slowly untangling itself. Death held the door’s beaded tree light curtain side, allowing the disappointed and sullen elves to troop out, until only he and Soda Pops remained.
Soda Pops pulled his vest out from his trousers and used it to wipe his face and dry his beard. “So, what can I do for you, Big D?” He patted the couch seat beside him.
Death eyed the stained couch cushion and decided to decline. “That’s okay, I’ll stand.”
“A short visit, is it?”Soda Pops gibed with a mean chuckle.
Death moved his head from side to side, taking in the whole room before replying. “One can hope.”
“Heh. What is it you want?”
Quick as a flash, Soda Pops’ massive bulk shot from his seat, grabbed Death by his cloak, and slammed his small form up against the wall. His face, barely inches from the impenetrable void of Death’s cowl, was contorted with rage. “Now let’s get something straight between us, mush. I don’t deal in kids.”
Death gulped. “I-”
“I don’t care whatever smear the bastard tabloids have cooked up. My only interaction with children is the occasional Santa mall gig if I’m short on readies. That’s it. As far as kids are concerned, I don’t fucking exist.”
“If you… could… put me… down,” Death croaked and pawed at Soda Pops’ clenched hands with his free arm. “Have… scythe… not afraid… to use… it.”
The razor-sharp point of Death’s scythe slowly hove into view of Soda Pops’ angry eyes, lighting his face with fizzing, electric blue. He blinked and slowly slid Death back down the wall, his eyes never leaving sight of the blade hovering in front of his face. “Talk.”
Death straightened out his robe and indicated to Soda Pops to take a seat. “I’m not looking for a child. I’m looking for a specific child. A pure soul. She wrote a letter to you, but you didn’t receive it.”
Soda Pops rummaged through the detritus on the table in front of him until he found the butt of a cigar. He wiped it clean and lit it. “Don’t tell me. Santa/Satan?”
Death answered with an expressive shrug.
“I thought they’d fixed that!” Soda Pops settled back into his seat and puffed on his cigar. “For fuck’s sake. What a fucking joke! What happened?”
Death ran through the events that had occurred on the night of 31st October 2020. How the Devil had connived to enact a false flag Armageddon that had resulted in the savage expulsion from existence of Famine, Pestilence and War.
Soda Pops was aghast. “What the fuck! War’s gone?”
“I’m afraid so,” Death advised solemnly. “I took the liberty of googling ‘middle east peace treaties’ and found a number of them have recently been signed. Shortly after Halloween in fact. It’s strange though that there’s not been much of a hullabaloo about them in the press.”
“And Pestilence, poor sod.” Death shuddered in horror at his memories of that evening. Poor, sweet Pesto who never had a nasty UGH! to say about anybody. “With Pesto gone, you can bet your life Covid has too. Yet they’re still locking people down. It doesn’t make sense.”
“It does if there’s no more Famine.” Soda Pops banged on the arm of the couch and it lifted up to reveal a refrigerated opening filled with beaded cans of liquid sugar. “Red Bull?” he offered.
“No thank you. How do lockdowns make sense if Famine is gone?”
Soda Pops cracked open a can and chugged the entire contents before answering. “People are stuck in their homes with nothing to do but watch telly, eat and get fat.”
Soda Pops belched loudly. “All people have to look forward to is a weekly food delivery from their supermarket of choice. I tell you, kids aren’t excited for a delivery from Father Christmas this year. Now it’s Amazon. As far as kids are concerned, I don’t exist.” Soda Pops suddenly wailed and broke out into noisy, wet sobs. He wiped the snot and tears that streamed from his face along the headrest of the couch.
Death waited for Soda Pops to calm down. “Can you help me find the child?”
Soda Pops wiped his face again with the front of his grimy vest. “Do you have a name?”
“Molly Darling. Old Scratch told me he received the letter from her last year, but the letter wasn’t dated; I saw it. All I know is that Molly was six when she wrote it.”
“Wait.” Soda Pops sat forward, frowning. “You know Molly’s name, her age and that she’s a pure soul. Why can’t you find her? You’re Death, you find everyone.”
“Eventually,” Death sighed and risked perching on a corner of the couch, “and that’s the problem. The Grim Reaper Service is very much run on a just in time delivery model these days. Only a handful of us are needed to service the entire world. It’s really quite efficient until a major spanner, like 2020, is thrown in the works. It’s been chaos. We’ve been inundated with lonely deaths this year and we just don’t have the resources to transition these souls properly.” Death paused and leaned in closer. “And I’ll tell you something else, the God Lobby is completely empty. I’ve just come from there.”
Death stood up primly. “Yep. Not a soul there. Something isn’t right.”
“Still, that doesn’t answer my question to you: why don’t you find Molly yourself.”
It was a good question, one that Death had thought deeply on. “Because I don’t want to.”
“Ah.” Soda Pops thumped the arm of couch once more and retrieved two cans of chilled nectar. “Ethics?”
“Ethics.” Death accepted a can from Soda Pops and tucked it into the folds of his robe. “I can only interact with souls the one time. Thank you. I’ll save this for later.”
“Good man!” Soda Pops drew in an almighty breath and released it with great gusto. “Well, there’s only one thing for it.” He reached behind him and pulled on a silver cord. The tinkle of sleigh bells had hardly stopped before a reindeer stepped through the doorway. “Don’t worry, Big D, we’ll sort you out.”
“Er, thank you no, that isn’t necessary.” Death had not had much dealings with reindeer; the only one before had just charged past him in a state of shock at the length of his scythe.
“Vixi darling, can you get me some paper and a pen?” Soda Pops asked the reindeer as it nuzzled his neck. “And tell Rudy she can come back once our guest has gone, okay?” he whispered, as he nuzzled the reindeer back. “There’s a good girl.”
After Vixen left, Soda Pops turned his attention back to Death. “You need to make a Christmas wish. Write it down. Pass it to me, which I will accept and grant. Guaranteed.”
“Now wait a moment.” Death bristled. “Wishes are dangerous. We’re in this disastrous situation precisely because of a wish.”
“True!” Soda Pops laughed. “There’s always an unintended consequence with wishes, but I don’t see that you have much of a choice, chum. Look, make it simple and on point. In English if you must, but be warned, that language has built-in wiggle room, so be careful. Also, your wish can’t be about you; it has to be for Molly.”
Death sat stock still and recalled the childish scrawl of Molly’s handwritten note. She too had made a wish not for herself. “I know.”
When Vixen returned, Death wrote down his wish for Molly on a sheet of paper, folded it and passed it over to Soda Pops. “Please Father Christmas, grant my Christmas wish,” he intoned.
“Yeah, the speech was unnecessary.” Soda Pops opened the folded page and read what Death had written. “Heh. I can see all kinds of potential, but for your purpose, that should do nicely. Wish granted.”
Rudolph re-appeared, shyly edging forward, giving Death a wide berth. “Come here my little Rudy red nose,” Soda Pops cooed. “There’s no need to be scared. Let Pop-Pop kiss it all better.”
Death decided it was high time he left Lapland; he’d had quite enough hind sight in 2020.
The Mists of Time were back and so were the beseechers. A queue of souls snaked endlessly throughout the God Lobby. Death watched its progress, inching from one side of the great expanse to the other; backwards and forwards, guided only by the barrier ropes that directed the queue’s path.
Death approached the reception desk. It was empty, which was unusual. Probably a shift change, Death thought.
No, no. I’m here. Working. Doing my bit.
The empty chair behind the reception desk suddenly spun round of its own volition.
Hello Big D. Have you come to see me?
“I have indeed, Ma’am.”
Oh goody, I’m now one for two, although, I’m afraid I’m having to go incognito. One glimpse of me could cause a stampede.
Death approved. He had seen the aftermath of many a stampede; they were to be avoided. “And you’re not wearing your mask.”
No. Well, I can hardly go unnoticed wearing one of those, dressed like this. Very uncomfortable things, but that’s fashion for you.
Death gazed once more across the great expanse of queuing souls. “I believe the Halloween 2020 situation has been suitably remedied, Ma’am.”
Excellent. What did you wish for?
Death whirled back toward the empty reception desk. “You knew I would make a wish?”
No, but I hoped.
“Yes, well the alternative was too unpalatable. I wished that Molly Darling, aged 6, had been born with the innate ability to spell correctly.” If Death had lips, they would have been tuned in to smug-mode.
So you foresee a career in witchcraft for young Molly? I see.
“Ah…” Death hadn’t thought of that.
Or maybe she’ll be an actress or a singer then. Or writer. They also cast spells. Innate ability, you say?
Well, whatever passion path you’ve cut for young Molly Darling, she’ll probably be jolly good at it. Well done, Big D. I can always rely on you.
Death felt his rib cage expand with joy at the compliment, and watched in amazement has his pinky phalanx turned from bone ivory to a delicate shade of blush.
“Oh, I almost forgot.” Death delved into the depths of his robe and pulled out a still dewy can of Red Bull. He held it aloft. “Merry Christmas, Ma’am.”
The can of soda levitated out of Death’s grasp, flying smoothly through the air until landing perfectly on the surface of the the reception desk, all seemingly unaided.
Wings! No one has ever given me wings before. Thank you, Big D.
Death felt the warm blush explode out of his pulsating pinky and course throughout the rest of his being.
Merry Christmas 😀
*Oh you’re back are ya? I hope you’re in a better mood now, Clicky…*
I will be writing a further follow up story for the Spring 2021 anthology, as well as a new Harry Egg story because… Well, quite unbelievably, I have had a couple of requests for one…
*People seem to like Harry, Clicky… /shrugs and stubs butt…*