The BolanderBooks 2018
There is a void that exists somewhere between the waking world and Iowa. A void where, for 364 days a year, all the universe’s nothing and nonexistence is stored. It is the epitome of emptiness, like the head of someone who voted for [enter name of politician you didn’t vote for here]. But there is one day a year when the shadows and the nonexistence peel back, like the curtains on a catastrophic nativity play, to reveal a place unlike any you have ever seen. A place where the snow never melts, the wind is heavy with the sound of jingle bells, and children celebrate the deaths of their mothers by buying shoes to put on their cold, lifeless…
Wow, that got dark fast.
Anyway, welcome to… The Christmas Zone!
(Intro Music Starts)
Porter Collins as himself
Sarah Heisen as herself
Tick as himself
Amber Pace as you get the picture
Today, at long last, the darkness takes shape. From the swirling mists of nothingness comes a shopping mall. Its doors are lit up with holiday festivity, and the parking lots are packed with people doing their last minute Christmas shopping, doomed to forever be known as the jerk who got their five year old nephew named Algernon a crappy Guitar Hero knockoff from Gamestop’s bargain bin because some scalper bought all of the freaking Nintendo Classics and sold them on Ebay and people like that deserve to die a slowly and painfully as...
Cheese and dog crap, what is wrong with me?
And in the center of that mall’s food court, where the smell of Panda Express and cheap Sbarro’s pizza greet every shopper’s nose, sits a throne of red, green, and glorious Christmas spirit. A line of people twenty miles long loops through the entire building several times over, each of them eager to meet the jolly man in red himself. But none stand out so much as our group of heroes who have, as always, been violently and painfully torn from their individual worlds in order to provide us with a few minutes of holiday related entertainment… you monsters.
“This is embarrassing,” Amber said, folding her arms stubbornly.
Porter shrugged. “At least we don’t have to memorize a script this year.”
The line was moving surprisingly fast, because I told it to, and it would only be a few minutes before it was their turn.
“Someone explain this to me,” said Toke. Inaska was practically hanging on his arm, her silver paper mask glittering.
“I’ve already explained it to you five times,” said the author in all his amazing awesome and totally not exaggerated in any way-ness.
Toke peeked around the line to get a look at the man who was waiting for them. “You’ve explained what we’re doing, but not why I have to sit on a fat guy’s lap.”
Zashiel turned to glare at the author. “We don’t have Christmas on our world.”
“Or ours!” Kulgan added.
The author wiped a tear of manly remorse (and handsomeness) from his eye. “I know. It’s so sad. Feel free to thank me whenever you want.”
Tick was the only one who looked in any way happy about the situation. He bounced up and down like a jelly bean in a blender, his mouth full of candy canes he had snagged from every tree they’d passed on the way there.
“Snnntrrr dvvvr-rrrs prrrssnnsss nnnn—”
“Tick!” Sarah snapped. “Not with your mouth full.
The white-tailed boy gave her a resentful look, and spewed all his candy onto the floor. “I said that Santa delivers presents to all the good kids in the world and he’s awesome and so cool and Santa Santa Santasantasantasantasantaaaaaaa!”
Porter glanced at Sarah, then down at Tick. “No more candy for you. Ever.”
Tick blew a minty smelling raspberry at him. “I’lljustaskSantaforallthecandyintheworldandhe’llgiveittomebecauseI’magoodkidandhe’sSantaandyou’renotsoneenerneenerfathead!”
“Uh…” Porter blinked. “Did you get any of that?”
“I think he called you a fat head, but I’m not sure,” Sarah answered. “Either way, it’s almost our turn.”
Kulgan pulled his hat down over his eyes. “I shouldn’t even bother, then. I’ll never get on his nice list. My… sins are too dark, too many, too—”
“Shut up, Kulgan,” the author snapped. “There’s no angsting in my Christmas special.”
The author held up a finger. “Hup! No angst!”
“I think it might be fun,” Adlis said, her ears turning purple to match her eagerness. “We don’t have anything like this in Tassendile.”
Za tugged timidly on her sleeve. “There’s the Day of Order, Miss Adlis.”
Adlis snorted, her ears turning green. “You mean the day when everyone cleans their houses to celebrate Embin’s organization? Spare me.”
“Ooh!” The author whipped out a notepad and pen. “Say that again, that’s a good idea.”
“Hey!” Porter exclaimed. “Where’s Mortoph? He’s usually here for these things, isn’t he?”
The author’s face went as cold as stone and as hard as ice (I think?) and said, “I sent him to the bad guy table before you all got here.”
Porter raised an eyebrow. “How come? Not that I’m complaining, but…”
“Because it would be incredibly irresponsible for me to put any of my villains in close proximity to Santa’s magic. If they were to somehow take advantage of it…” He shivered. “The Christmas Zone might never be the same.”
Zashiel rolled her eyes. “Wouldn’t that be a shame?”
“No, I said same.”
They didn’t get to discuss it further, because this is already almost a thousand words long, and it’s time for things to get started, so they were next in line.
“Next!” called the elf, who’ve I arbitrarily decided to name Willy.
“Me first! Me first!” Tick yelled, using Sarah as a diving board to leap into Santa’s holy domain before anyone could complain about cutting, butting, or baby coconutting.
Santa smiled when he saw Tick, for he is the friend of all the children in the holy crap, was that a tail? His smile vanished.
“What the h-oough!” he grunted when Tick launched himself into the old man’s lap.
“I’ve been really good this year, Santa, so I want a lot of candy!”
Santa blinked. “Candy? Is that all you want?”
Tick’s eyes opened wide. Was that all? He could ask for more?
“I guess,” he said more slowly, “that there is something else I want.”
Santa nodded for him to go on.
“Something I’ve always wanted, but… nobody could ever give it to me.”
Tick looked up at him with huge, teary little boy eyes. “I want… I want…”
“Don’t be shy! Go ahead and ask!”
“I want… A BAZOOKA!”
Santa nearly stood up in shock. “A what?”
“A bazooka!” Tick roared to the heavens. “To vanquish my foes with shrapnel and fiery death, and hear the lamentations of their—”
“Young man!” Santa shouted. “That is not at all what a good little boy should be asking for!”
Tick froze, and his eyes narrowed suspiciously. “You would deny me what is rightfully mine?”
Santa narrowed his eyes right back. “I think I might need to put you on my naughty list!”
“We’ll see about that!” Face red with rage, Tick sucked in a lungful of air… and began to sing. “Youuuuu willlll give meeee a bazoooOOOOOOkaaaaa annnd...”
Santa’s eyes went wide as Tick’s magical voice overrode his brain. Slowly, he began to nod.
“Aaaand alsooooo a buuuuuunch offfff—”
“Tick tock, time’s up!” the author shouted.
Grinning sadistically, Tick stood up on Santa’s lap, spun around so his tail slapped him in the face, and raced away.
“That was disturbingly out of character,” Porter muttered as the tailed boy ran to find more candy.
“Shut up,” said the author.
Nobody seemed to want to go next, so, finally, Inaska nudged Toke forward. Given no choice, he reluctantly crossed the sparkly green carpet and, even more reluctantly, sat down in Santa’s lap.
“Ah, you’re little old to be here, aren’t you?” Santa asked. “How old are you?”
“Twenty two,” Toke answered. “So, you’ll really bring us anything we ask for?”
“Well, within reason. So, what do you want?”
Toke thought for a second. “I want… a Jagglebreier brand wrench and screwdriver set.”
“Jaggle-what now?” Santa asked. “I don’t think those exist.”
Toke nearly fell off Santa’s lap in shock. “You what? They’re the best tools you can buy!”
“Young man, my elves are the greatest craftsmen on Earth!” Santa frowned. “They have every tool that has ever been known to man, and I’ve never once heard of anything called a Jagglebroozit.”
Toke relaxed. “That explains it. I’m not from Earth.”
Santa narrowed his eyes. “Don’t you lie to Santa Claus, young man.”
Toke looked at Zashiel, who shrugged—and Santa’s eyes widened. First a boy with a tail, and now a girl with wings?
“Ah, well,” Santa said, trying to bring things back on topic, “what do you want to build with these tools?”
“What?” Toke snapped. “Don’t judge me!”
“What on earth would you want a bomb for?”
“I told you, I’m not from—oh, forget it.” Before Santa could say anything else, Toke anchored himself to the ceiling, falling upwards out of his lap, and walked away upside down. Santa rubbed his eyes in disbelief.
“I’m dreaming,” he mumbled. “Mrs. Claus spiked my eggnog again.”
Amber went next, sitting on Santa’s lap with a scowl. Santa breathed a sigh of relief. She was a teenager, a little old to be coming to see him but not unheard of. More importantly, she looked normal… if a bit grumpy.
Putting on his sincerest smile, he asked, “And what do you want for Christmas, young lady?”
Amber eyed him with wolfish hostility. “How long do I have with you?”
“Um,” Santa scratched his head, “I try to keep visits at about five minutes.”
“Fine.” She folded her arms stubbornly. “We’ll both sit here for five minutes, and then I’ll go.”
Santa’s mouth fell open. “Why would we—”
“Don’t talk to me, you old fart!”
Santa’s face turned as red as his hat. “Young lady, what have I ever done to warrant such language?”
“Oh, you wanna know, do you?” Amber spun around on his lap so that they were nearly nose to nose. “Only the fact that I’ve been chased by a demon, a corporation full of psychopaths, and I even turned into a monster and tore a little girl’s arm off!”
“Turned into a…” Santa spluttered. “Wh- What does any of that have to do with me?”
Amber bared her teeth. “Where were you with all your magic and Christmas wishes when that happened? If you’re so good,” she jabbed a finger into his fat belly, “why didn’t you fix things?”
Santa didn’t reply for a long minute. Then, slowly, cautiously, he asked, “Did you put all of that on your Christmas list?”
Amber froze, and her eyes widened with shock. “I… no, but I…”
“Then how was I supposed to know?”
Tears began to leak from Amber’s eyes, and—
“Amber, this is way too depressing!” the author yelled. “Tell a joke!”
“Well, then what about that Easy Bake Oven I asked for when I was six?” Amber demanded. “I put that on my list and never got it, you fat, stupid, ugly fraud!”
With that, she got up and stormed off in a very comical and not at all depressing way. Santa glanced at his watch. Two and a half minutes. Good enough.
“Next!” Willy called, the grin on his face revealing how much he was enjoying this.
Note to self, thought Santa, dock his pay.
Sarah came next, and—
“Nooo,” Santa whispered in dismay as the sphinx prepared to leap, catlike, into his lap. Not only was this the weirdest one yet, but he was allergic to cats too! He grunted as she landed, proving to be every bit as heavy as she looked—
“Hey, don’t write that!” Porter griped.
The author grinned. “Make me.”
—and Santa sighed with resignation. “What do you want for Christmas, young… um, lady?”
Sarah’s cheeks reddened, looking almost as nervous as Santa was.
“Okay,” she whispered, letting out a long breath. “Okay, I’ve never done this before, but that’s okay. I’ve seen people do it on the internet.”
Santa nearly had a heart attack. “Excuse me?”
She took a deep breath, and…
“All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth, yes my—”
“What are you doing?” Santa exclaimed.
Sarah blushed. “Wrong song? That’s fine, I know some others.” Another deep breath. “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas! Only a hippopotamus will do!”
Santa slapped a hand over her mouth. “Look, I appreciate your enthusiasm here, but I don’t understand what you’re doing!”
“I’m…” Sarah looked to Porter, who shrugged. “I’m telling you what I want for Christmas.”
“And do you really want a hippopotamus?”
“Yes!” she exclaimed. Then, wilting, she said, “No.”
“I didn’t think so.” He smiled as encouragingly as he could. “So, what do you want for Christmas?”
Sarah looked away, thinking, her tail swaying gently behind her. Santa’s nose began to itch, but he scratching it would have been too unprofessional so he ignored it as best he could. Finally, Sarah’s eyes lit up and she turned to look at him again.
“I’ve got it!” she practically sang.
“Yes?” Santa leaned in. Lion-bird-cat-thing or not, at least this one seemed genuinely nice.
“I want… a bazooka!”
Santa slumped back in his seat.
“What?” Sarah asked. “Do you only have one?”
“Just go,” he groaned. “Merry Christmas.”
Reluctantly, Sarah hopped down from his lap. “Okay, uh… merry Christmas to you, too.”
“My turn!” Inaka shouted as soon as the sphinx was gone. “Me next!”
Santa couldn’t help but stare as what might have been the most beautiful woman he had ever seen pranced giddily up to his chair. She had the body of an athlete, or maybe a warrior, and her long hair was as white as his own. She, like most of the others, was too old to be coming to see him, but he found he didn’t have it in him to complain as she sat down on his lap.
“So,” she said, batting her eyelashes at him, “I just tell you what I want, and you give it to me. That’s how this works, right?”
Santa cleared his throat. “Er, well, within certain guidelines. H- Have you been good this year?”
As if I even need to ask, he thought as she smiled mischievously. I’ll have to put myself on the naughty list if I’m not careful!
“So,” she said thoughtfully, pointedly ignoring his question, “what I want is…”
“Yes?” Santa asked.
“It’s, ah,” she leaned closer to him, and Santa leaned in as well. “I want…”
She whispered it into his ear. Santa’s face immediately turned as red as his suit, and when Inaska jumped up from his lap, he fell backwards, chair and all.
“I’m fairly certain that’s not even legal,” he croaked with his feet sticking straight up into the air.
“Too late!” she giggled. “I’ve already asked, so now you have to give it to me!”
With that, she dashed away, leaving Santa on his back. Willy lethargically made his way over and, with a groan, heaved the Christmasinator’s throne upright again.
“So, what did she ask for?”
Santa shook his head. “She doesn’t need the naughty list. She needs to go to confession!”
Willy turned to watch her leave. “I like her. She has a nice walk.”
Santa gave the elf his least Christmas spirit filled glare. “One more word, and you’ll find coal in every meal for a thousand Christmases! Who’s next?”
“Me, I guess,” said Porter, stepping forward.
Santa relaxed a little as the boy tentatively made his way over and sat down. He was still too old for all this, but at least this one wasn’t a bloody adult. That didn’t keep him from wincing at the young man’s weight on his knee.
“So, what do you want for Christmas?” Santa asked.
Porter shook his head. “Nothing.”
Santa raised his eyebrows. “Nothing? Well, I can’t say that’s something I get to hear very often. Why not?”
“I dunno.” Porter shrugged. “I guess I just already have everything I want.”
“Well, ho ho ho!” Santa ho-ho-hoed, his cheeks turning a more cheery shade of red. “That warms my heart, young man!”
While they were talking, Zashiel nudged the author. “Hey, where’s Eve? She’s always here for these things.”
The author cringed. “Eve is… no longer in a state where she can enjoy Christmas.”
“What does that mean?” Zashiel demanded. “You didn’t hurt her, did you?”
“Of course not! Well, no more than her story was already going to hurt her…”
“Why you little—”
“Shh!” the author put his finger to his lips. “We’re kind of in the middle of something.”
“But surely, surely, there’s something I can bring you for Christmas,” Santa persisted.
Porter thought for a second. “Well, I guess there’s one thing. How about…”
Santa’s good spirits vanished. Oh, no.
Santa sighed, slumping forward in defeat. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Porter’s face lit up with a smile. “Thanks, Santa! I knew you’d come through for me!”
As the young man left, Santa muttered to himself, “If this keeps up, I might start wishing fewer people believed in me.”
“I’m next,” Zashiel said, shoving the author out of the way and storming up to Santa’s chair.
Never before had Santa been visited by somebody so… intense. She was beautiful, just like Inaska had been, but there was a fire burning in her eyes with the heat of a hundred thousand yule logs. She even managed to sit on his lap with a weird sort of military decorum, back rigid and eyes locked with his.
“O- Okay,” Santa agreed. “What can I get you for Christmas young, um…” he eyed her glowing yellow wings, “lady?”
“Justice!” she declared without a moment’s hesitation. Her ice blue eyes bored straight through Santa’s eyes and into his soul. “I’ve heard about you, fat man.”
Santa leaned away from her as far as he could. “What do you mean? From who?”
She pointed at the author. “He says you’re magical. Practically a god!”
“I never said that,” the author called.
“You see everything and everyone!” Zashiel ranted, her face turning red with anger. “You know when they’re sleeping or awake, and if they’ve been bad or good, right?”
Zashiel leaned in close, her eyes bright with fury. “There is evil crawling all over my world! Why haven’t you done anything about it?”
“Well, you see, I’m a gift giver, not a—”
“I don’t want your excuses, old man!” Zashiel stood up in his lap, flaring her wings intimidatingly. “I want you to do your smiting job! You have magic, you have an army of elves, you have flying smiting reindeer. So get off of your fat—”
“And that’s enough of that,” the author said, snapping his fingers. A gust of wind roared through the mall, catching Zashiel’s wings and whipping her off of Santa’s lap. Where she ended up landing, nobody knows (because I don’t feel like writing about it).
“Kulgan!” the author said, waving him forward. “We’re more than 3,000 words long. Get a move on so I can wrap this up!”
The Gray Ranger scowled at him, but stepped forward regardless. Santa noticed the twin pistols holstered in his belt with some discomfort, and the black arrowhead pendant that hung from his neck radiated a sense of… evil that made his skin crawl. He had no idea what it was, but he was suddenly sure it was the exact opposite of Christmas. Saint Patrick’s Day, perhaps?
To his surprise, the gray haired young man didn’t sit in his lap. He stood as far from Santa as he could get, head bowed so that his cowboy hat hid his eyes.
“They say you can get a man anything he wants,” he said quietly.
“Within…” Santa sighed. How many times was he going to have to explain this? “Yes, yes I can.”
“But what can you take away?”
Santa cocked his head. “You… want me to take something from you for Christmas?”
“That’s what I said, old man.”
“Um, okay.” Santa drummed his fingers on his armrests uneasily. “What?”
Kulgan didn’t answer immediately. Finally, he reached up and felt the pendant on his neck.
“Have you ever done something so horrible that it made you the enemy of all creation?”
“I, er…” Santa’s face paled. Was he referring to… no, he couldn’t possibly know about that. Santa hadn’t so much as touched any of that since the sixties!
“Have you woken up knowing that you’re a trespasser no matter where you go, an intruder on existence itself?” Kulgan made a fist around the pendant. “With the knowledge that you’ll wake up every morning until the day you die thinking the same exact thing?”
“Have you ever looked at your own reflection and known that the face looking back at you, the face you were born with, was nothing but a mask? That deep inside, the real you is… a monster?”
“I don’t see where you’re going with this.”
“Have you ever been so ashamed of what you are that you murdered your own friends to keep your secret?”
Kulgan took a step forward. “What I want from you, fat man… is forgiveness.”
Those eyes of his weren’t right. Just like Zashiel’s had burned with the fire of a warrior, Kulgan’s were… broken. They reminded Santa of every glass of expired milk that had been left out for him on Christmas Eve.
“I don’t understand,” Santa said, doing his best to scoot his big, heavy chair away from the gray haired man.
“Forgiveness for my sins!” Kulgan’s eyes turned pleading, and he fell to his knees at Santa’s feet. “Forgive me, father, for I have sinned! I have sinned so much, and I hate myself for it! Take them away! Take them all away, I beg of you! Please!”
While Kulgan groveled, Santa stood up in his chair, boggle eyed with horror.
“I am not a priest!” he yelled down as Kulgan began to roll back and forth across the floor. “I can’t forgive sins, I’m just a toymaker! Just- Just go away, please!”
Kulgan stopped rolling, and slowly got to his feet. “If you can’t do that, then there’s one other thing I want.”
“Yes, name it! Anything! Just so long as it gets rid of you!”
“Then,” Kulgan climbed back to his feet, “you will bring me…”
“Oh, let me guess,” Santa groaned.
Kulgan leaped into the chair so they were face to face. “Bring me a bazooka!”
“Fine, now get out!”
Apparently satisfied, Kulgan jumped down from the chair and went to brood somewhere else. Santa watched him until he was gone, and then sat back down, his heart thundering in his chest.
“Willy,” he called. “Bring me a drink. Something strong.”
“Some liquorice?” the elf asked, boredly.
“Yes, that’s fine.”
“Already drank it all.”
Santa looked up, shocked. “I have an entire cellar full of it!”
Willy belched. “Had an entire cellar.”
Moaning, running a hand down his face, Santa settled back into his chair. “Fine. Whatever. I only have, what, two left before this we’re done? Let’s get this over with.”
He closed his eyes as Willy let the next guest in, and rubbed his temples. This was by far the worst Christmas he had ever experienced. At least he would have the last laugh. As soon as he got back to the North Pole, he would get the last laugh. They were all going on the naughty list. Every last one of them!
“Um, sir?” asked a shy and timid voice.
Santa, still with his eyes closed, breathed out through his nose. Sir. That was a good start. Maybe this one wouldn’t be so bad. He opened his eyes, and…
“What the hell is this?” he blurted out before he knew what he was saying. “Some kind of scarecrow?”
Za froze, the face he’d painted onto his sackcloth mask looking shocked though still expressionless. Then, with a high pitched whine, he turned and fled.
“Oops,” said Santa.
“Smooth boss,” said Willy. “Very smooth.”
“I am beyond caring,” Santa said. He desperately needed an Ibuprofen. “Fine, where’s the last—”
“You rotten, bullying puken!” Adlis shouted. “How could you say that to him?”
The zik girl shoved past Willy and stormed up to Santa. Before he could notice how Christmas-y a shade of red her rage had turned her ears, she slapped him in the face.
“All I want for Christmas,” she yelled, grabbing him by his coat, “is your two front teeth!”
She drew her fist back, and Santa flinched. The punch never came, though. Slowly, Santa opened his eyes—to find himself alone. Adlis was gone, as was the line of people waiting to sit on his lap.
“Wh- Where is everyone?” he asked, sitting up straight and fixing his glasses.
“I sent them home,” said the author from beside his chair. Santa jumped with a yelp. “Things were getting a little too violent for a Christmas special, don’t you think?”
“Home?” Santa echoed. “Home where?”
The author shrugged. “If I told you, it would tear your brain in half.”
Santa eyed the author, in all of his rugged sexiness, as he walked around the Throne of Christmas. Even Willy was gone, he noticed.
“They were yours?” Santa asked. The author nodded. “You’re on the naughty list for the rest of your life!”
The author smirked. “You’ll have to be more creative than that. I think of scarier punishments for my midnight snack.”
“What do you want?”
“Oh, I thought you’d never ask!” The author pirouetted with unbelievable grace to sit in Santa’s lap. “Okay, Santa, here’s what I want.”
“If you ask for a bazooka, I’ll force feed you coal.”
The author waved dismissively. “Nah, it’s way better than that. What I want… is for all my readers to know how much I appreciate them.”
Santa blinked. “For what?”
“I’d be nothing without them,” said the author with an awkward shrug. “Just a loon with a crappy job and no life. So I want them, every single one of them, to know how much they mean to me. That I can’t wait to give them a whole ‘nother year’s worth of awesome stories in 2019. And wish them a very merry Christmas while you’re at it, okay?”
A tear came from Santa’s eye. This was… not what he expected. The author’s love for all his reader’s was so powerful, so undeniably strong, that it warmed even Santa Claus’ old heart.
“Can you do that for me, Santa?” the author asked.
Santa looked at him, and then at all the readers reading this stupid, corny Christmas Special. All of them, even the ones who didn’t read this on Christmas.
“I think I can do that,” he whispered.
The author grinned and climbed from his lap. “Thanks. I’d better go now. So should you. The Christmas Zone won’t be around much longer.”
Santa nodded as the author smiled, waved, and vanished into thin air. The entire mall was empty now, the food court abandoned, the shoppers and visitors all returned to where they had come from in preparation of the big day. The author was right. Santa should be on his way as well. After all, he still had to deliver toys to every house on earth tonight. But before he did that, he closed his eyes. This had been, without a doubt, the strangest Christmas he had ever lived through. But maybe, just maybe…
Someone cleared their throat.
Santa’s eyes shot open to find that he was no longer alone. Four men stood before him now. A mountain of a man in a pitch black duster, a man wearing black and green armor and carrying a spear, a man with pitch black eyes and razor sharp teeth, and a man in a monk’s robe with slate gray skin.
The gigantic man bent over a little so that he and Santa could look each other in the eye, and smiled.
“My name is Drake Mortoph, and I bring greetings from the bad guy table.”
Before Santa could reply, he had grabbed the old man by the throat and raised him up out of his chair. The other men crowded around, grinning eagerly.
“Now,” said Mortoph, “let’s talk about what we want for Christmas!”
TO BE CONTINUED