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"A Once a Year Gig," by James Westbrooks

‘Twas the night before Christmas.  Yeah, that’s when it was.  I’d finished wrapping our son’s presents and managed to put together the new bike he’d asked for and arranged everything around the tree.  Well, with a little help from my wife, Kim.  I was about to turn off the tree lights and follow her to bed when outside in the front yard I heard a weird humming sound.  I stepped over and looked out the window, and there was this really strange-looking guy on some kind of thing that looked like a cross between a broom and a motorcycle.  It just hung there in the air when he got off of it.  He was dressed in what looked like red armor with a white helmet that covered his whole head.  He had a sack of something slung over his shoulder and he walked up on the porch like he owned the place.  Before I could make a move, the lock on the door clicked and clacked and the door swung open by itself.  Whoever it was in the red armor walked in and set the sack on the floor.  I finally got my wits about me and was about to lay into him, armor or no armor.  About the time I took a step toward him, there was a rasping click and a metallic-sounding voice came from his helmet.

“I am Santa 1138,” the voice said. “Here to deliver toys to good little girls and boys.”

“What?” I said incredulously.  “Well, if you’re Santa, then I’m the Great Cthulhu.”

“Is this 1066 Cloverfield Lane?” the voice asked while the helmet turned from side to side, apparently looking around the room.

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“I’m sorry, Mister Cthulhu.  We don’t have you down as residing at this address.”

“Look,” I said.  “Don’t get cute with…”

There was another humming sound outside, and before I could finish, another armored guy, this time with a green paint job, came through the open door.  Red Armor turned toward the new arrival.

“Santa 1789,” Red said.  “What are you doing here?”

Another electronic-sounding voice crackled from Green Armor.  “I’m here to deliver toys and other gifts.”

“Okay,” I said.  “Can you two just explain what’s going on?  Did my brother-in-law put y’all up to this?”

“Are your toys for the Great Cthulhu?”  Red asked as he turned toward Green.

“No, they are for…”

“Alright enough!” I said.  “I want to know what’s going on.”

Both of the armored guys turned toward me.  Green said to Red, “It appears that there has been a glitch in our destination programming.  We should verify our routes with Base.”

“I’ll set up the transceiver and call in,” Red said.

“Look can the two of y’all just take your sacks and…” I stopped speaking as Red pulled a huge flat screen TV out of his sack and somehow stuck it to the wall.  He punched some buttons on a remote and the screen showed static for a second, then somebody in an ugly black mask and a shiny black helmet that sort of looked like a German helmet from World War Two appeared on the screen.  The fuzzy red cap with the white pom-pom on the end did give the helmet something of a festive look, though.  When the mask on the screen spoke, its voice was really deep but had a metallic edge to it like Red’s and Green’s.

“Report, 1138,” He said.

“Yes, Lord Santa,” Red said.  “It appears that Santa 1789 and I have arrived at the same residence and it is occupied by the Great Cthulhu instead of either of the Terrans we expected.”

“Look,” I turned to the face on the TV.  “Can you explain why these guys broke into my house pretending to be Santa Claus?”

“You, Terran,” Black Mask said.  “Do not interrupt me.”

“Alright, alright,” I said.  “And don’t call me Terran.”

“1138 and 1789,” Black Mask said.  “Both of you leave your packages with Great Cthulhu and report back to Base.  You are the only troops who have yet to report in.”

“Troops?”  I said.  “You mean you guys are the army?”

“Yes, Terran,” Black Mask said.  “I’m currently known as Darth Santa and my troops are the remains of a clone army from a galaxy a long way from here.  We have contracted with a Saint Nicholas at the northern pole of this planet to distribute his products.  It’s a once a year gig but it keeps us in spice.”

“Spice?” I said.  “You mean like ginger?”

“Not so much,” Darth Santa said.  “But, anyway, I apologize for interrupting you this night.  I hope that our leaving this transceiver unit with you will make up for any inconvenience you have suffered.”

I looked at the TV.  “Is it HDR?”

“Double HDR, Mister Cthulhu.”

“Hey, we’re cool then” I responded. “And you can call me Clue.”

James Westbrooks is a “database guy” by profession and has written code since before it was cool. He spends his off hours reading SF and horror and writing the same. His haiku have been published on tinywords.com and was a winner in the SciFi haiku contest at the Nippon 2007 World SF Con in Tokyo, Japan. In a previous creative period he was an avid filker and had several songs in Xenofilkia, a filk fanzine. James’ current projects are a series of Cthulhu Mythos stories set at Miskatonic University. He resides in South Carolina with his wife and too many bicycles, computers and comic books.

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