Author's Note: I wrote this for Christmas two years ago, posted it on Wattpad and Critique Circle last Christmas, and only remembered now to post it here – even though it isn't Christmas or even Halloween. Hopefully someone will enjoy it.
We Wish You a Scary Christmas
"Another letter?" Santa Claus groaned. "Do you realise that this is the twenty-five thousandth letter I've received in the past week?"
"The twenty-five thousand, six hundred and forty-seventh letter, to be precise, sir," said the elf to whom he addressed this remark.
"Good grief. I'll never be able to read them all."
"You could hire a secretary," the elf suggested.
Santa was too busy looking around at the piles of letters that covered his workshop to reply. Twenty-five thousand, six hundred and forty-seven letters received already, and it was only the first week of December? He could feel the beginnings of a migraine at the very thought of all the letters still to arrive. Then, all of a sudden, a solution presented itself.
"Hire a secretary if you want," he said. "I'm going on holiday."
"A very sensible idea, dear," said Mrs. Claus when he told her. "It's high time we had a holiday. But who do you plan on getting to replace you?"
He stared at her blankly. "Replace me, dear? What do you mean?"
"Well, someone has to take your place. Otherwise there will be no presents this Christmas, and we can't have that!"
"I've asked every elf in the North Pole if they could take my place," Santa said wearily that night, "and not a one will try. They're perfectly willing to read the letters, but no one wants the job of climbing down chimneys, flying the sleigh or appearing in shopping malls. It looks like we won't get a holiday this year."
Mrs. Claus frowned thoughtfully. "Or maybe you're just asking the wrong people, darling."
"The wrong people, dear?"
"Yes. You've asked all the elves, and none of them are willing to fly the sleigh, climb down chimneys, or appear in shopping malls. They are, however, willing to read the letters. Why don't you get them to read the letters, and find someone else to do everything else?"
Santa blinked, considering this. "I hadn't thought of that. But who would I ask? Who would be willing to–"
"How about the Halloween people?"
He was almost one hundred percent certain that he hadn't heard her say what he thought he had, so he said nothing. But as the silence continued for some minutes and he realised she was waiting for an answer, he began to seriously wonder if his ears hadn't been playing tricks on him after all.
"Did you say 'the Halloween people', dear?" he asked faintly.
"Yes. You can visit them in the morning."
"No," said Frankenstein's Monster.
"No," said the Mummy.
Santa couldn't find the Boogeyman, though he sent elves to look under as many beds as possible.
"You must be joking!" said the Skeleton.
The Werewolf slammed the door in Santa's face.
There was no answer at all when he tried the Vampire, but it was early afternoon, so she might not be awake yet.
"Absolutely not," said the Ghost.
"I'd be happy to," said Dr. Jekyll. "Under no circumstances!" said Mr. Hyde.
The Invisible Man was also nowhere to be found, and neither was the Headless Horseman. However, there was a sign pinned to the Headless Horseman's coffin that read, 'Gone to look for a head. Back five o'clock tonight'.
But did any of this discourage Santa? ...It certainly did.
"Everyone I asked said no," he reported to Mrs. Claus when he returned for dinner. Privately, he was quite glad about this, because he didn't like the idea of leaving Christmas in the hands of horror monsters.
"Oh, they did, did they?" Mrs. Claus said, a determined glint in her eyes. "We'll see about that!"
Santa suddenly felt very, very sorry for whoever was foolish enough to stand in her way with that look on her face.
"Now you listen to me!" Mrs. Claus said, glaring around at the assembled monsters. "Either you take my husband's place, or I'll report you to the Council for the Overseeing of Holidays!"
There was a rather awkward silence. No matter how averse they were to the idea of taking Santa's place, they weren't suicidal, and Freyja Patrekursdottir-Claus was a former Valkyrie with legendary fighting skills and an even more legendary temper.
Finally, the Skeleton decided that someone needed to say something, and it might as well be her. "But we have no experience in dealing with Christmas!"
Mrs. Claus looked at her. "Did you have experience dealing with Halloween when you were appointed to oversee it? Did any of you?"
No one dared answer, but the Headless Horseman pulled a face at her when she wasn't looking. How he did that when he had a pumpkin for a head was anyone's guess.
"We had the Council telling us what to do when we were appointed," Frankenstein's Monster said.
"You'll have the elves telling you what to do now."
There was a loud crash, and everyone jumped. A stack of chairs that had been leaning against the wall now lay on the floor, and the Mummy stood beside them, arms folded.
"Let's think about this logically for a moment," he said. "You want us to take over Christmas, and you say the elves will help us. Now, suppose something goes wrong that the elves can't help us with? Suppose one of the reindeer takes ill, or the sleigh crashes, or we give someone the wrong presents by mistake? We wouldn't know what to do in one of those situations. No, you should get someone more qualified, someone who wouldn't ruin Christmas by mistake."
"The reindeer have never taken ill during Christmastime yet, the sleigh is magicked so it will never crash, and you'd have to be blind to deliver the wrong presents."
"We should give it a try," said Dr. Jekyll. "You're out of your mind if you think we will!" said Mr. Hyde.
"Isn't this fun?" said Dr. Jekyll. "Like I said," grumbled Mr. Hyde, "we're all out of our minds."
"I should never have left my coffin," the Vampire groaned.
The other monsters were too preoccupied with trying to recapture nine runaway reindeer to voice their opinions. The Werewolf tried to grab Donner and got a hoof to the face for his trouble. The Boogeyman and Frankenstein's Monster lunged at Vixen, missed, and crashed into each other. They went down in a tangle of arms and legs as Comet raced by with the Headless Horseman clinging to his back. The Ghost tried to pull the Horseman off the reindeer, but her hands went right through him. The Skeleton got as far out of the way as possible in case someone bumped into her and broke her bones.
"This isn't working," said the Invisible Man.
"You don't say," retorted the Mummy. Dasher had gotten hold of one of his bandages, and monster and reindeer were now engaged in a tug-of-war over it.
One of Santa's elves appeared with a bucket of meal in hand. "Supper!" it called.
The reindeer obediently trotted over to it. The monsters got up and dusted themselves off.
"I'd say that Lesson One: Learn to Harness The Reindeer to The Sleigh was an unmitigated disaster," the Skeleton said, judging it safe to venture out of her hiding place.
The Headless Horseman, who had fallen off Comet and landed in a pile of manure, nodded miserably.
"You shouldn't have let the reindeer out of the stables," the elf reproved them.
"And how, pray tell, are we to harness them if we don't let them out of the stables?" the Vampire asked through gritted fangs.
"You bring the sleigh into the stable, of course." The elf looked at them as if they were all incredibly stupid. "Then you bring out one reindeer at a time and harness it in."
A very uncomfortable silence descended on the assembled monsters.
"Now why didn't we think of that?" the Skeleton voiced what they were all thinking.
The reindeer were all securely harnessed to the sleigh. The sacks full of presents were piled high in the back of the sleigh. The monsters as one decided that they had earned a nice break before setting out. They sat down in Santa's living room and helped themselves to cookies and glasses of milk.
One of the elves poked its head through the door. "Begging your pardons, sirs and ma'ams, but shouldn't you be heading to the malls now?"
Everyone looked at everyone else. Then everyone said at the same time, "Malls?"
"Ho-ho-ho," said the Ghost miserably, ringing the bell so slowly it sounded like a funeral dirge.
"Try to sound a little more cheerful," Dr. Jekyll hissed. "There is nothing to be cheerful about," Mr. Hyde grumbled.
They were wearing a truly garish Santa's Elf costume. It was bright red with green tinsel draped over it, silver Christmas tree designs on it, and gold shoes that came complete with little bells. It might have looked festive on a human. On a rake-thin, green-skinned monster the effect was closer to a goblin that had been caught in an explosion in a paint factory.
The Ghost looked every bit as odd. She wore a Santa costume that was padded with pillows. The problem was, since she was a Ghost the pillows kept falling through her and her arms went straight through the fabric of the sleeves. She looked more like a badly-made puppet than Santa Claus.
"I hope the others have better luck than we have," she sighed, ringing the bell again.
"This is the most humiliating experience of my life," the Mummy said flatly.
"Oh, stop whinging," the Werewolf snapped. "At least your costume fits."
"Remind me to murder Santa when I next see him," the Invisible Man growled, struggling to keep his fake beard in place so it concealed his invisibility from the children milling around.
The Headless Horseman didn't reply. He was too busy pulling his pointed hat down to hide the fact his "head" was a pumpkin and a hastily-painted mask.
"I will never be able to show my face at Halloween parties again," the Boogeyman said, as a particularly obnoxious child grabbed his cotton wool beard and tugged.
"Nor will I," the Vampire sighed. "How the other Vampires will laugh when they hear about this!"
Frankenstein's Monster was actually enjoying himself. In his Santa costume with its fluffy fake beard, no one could see his stitched-together face. The Skeleton, on the other hand, was as miserable as the other monsters.
"What a skinny elf!" a child exclaimed, staring at her.
She glared balefully at it from behind her elf mask. It didn't even notice. She tried to make herself appear less like a skeleton. She failed.
Finally, finally, the day was over. The monsters returned to the North Pole a miserable, humiliated bunch. They gathered in the living room. An awkward silence fell. No one quite knew what to say or where to look.
"Let us never speak of today again," said the Boogeyman at last.
"The next time I see him," the Invisible Man growled, "I'm going to give jolly old Saint Nick a good, hard kick up the–"
An elf cleared its throat. It gave him a disapproving glare as it said, "It's time for the sleigh ride rehearsal."
"Now what?" the Ghost wailed. "What have we done to deserve this? Did we shirk our duties last year? Is this our punishment? Does someone up there hate us?"
"Stop whining," the Vampire snapped. "If today is the only time we're humiliated while this farce continues, we'll be luckier than I expect. Now let's get out there, and try not to embarrass ourselves more than necessary."
"It's really very simple," one of the elves was saying. It might have been the same one that fetched them; none of the monsters could tell. The dratted creatures were just too alike. "All you have to do is get in the sleigh. Shout "Away" and the reindeer will take off. Shout "Whoa" and they'll land. Pull the reins on the left and they'll turn left. Pull on the right and they'll go right."
"That sounds easy enough," Dr. Jekyll said. "You fool! Now you've jinxed it!" Mr. Hyde complained.
The monsters stood as far back from the sleigh as they could without actually leaving the stable. Each of them waited for someone else to make the first move.
"Oh, for–" The Skeleton's patience ran out. She stalked forward and climbed into the sleigh. "Hurry up, you lot, or I'll leave without you."
No one wanted to go near the sleigh, but no one wanted to let a "bag of bones", as the Vampire put it, do something they were too afraid to do. The monsters gingerly approached the sleigh and climbed in. The Skeleton waited until they were all settled securely in their seats.
"Away!" she shouted.
The reindeer lurched forwards. The monsters held on for dear life – or unlife, as the case may be – as the sleigh slid out of the stable and down the runway. Faster and faster the reindeer galloped. Faster and faster went the sleigh. Santa's workshops whizzed past in a blur. The end of the runway rushed towards them. Then the reindeer leapt into the air, and the sleigh left the ground. Suddenly, instead of being horizontal, the sleigh was vertical, and the backs of their seats were only things keeping its passengers in it.
The monsters clung to their seats, or to each other, and roundly cursed Santa's decision to take a holiday.
"After this," moaned the Invisible Man as the reindeer ceased climbing and the sleigh levelled out, "I'll need a holiday."
"I think it's fun!" said Frankenstein's Monster. He looked over at the Headless Horseman, who was sitting next to him. "Don't you?"
The Horseman might not be able to speak, but he still managed to convey disbelief, disgust and outrage at this question.
"Fun?" the Vampire repeated. "Fun? Say that again and I'll throw you off this refugee from a rubbish tip that Santa calls a sleigh!"
The argument was abruptly halted when the Skeleton pulled the left reins. The reindeer obligingly veered to the left, and the monsters went back to hanging on tightly.
"I think I left my stomach behind," the Boogeyman groaned, looking queasy. "Can we please land now?"
"Not yet," the Skeleton said. "I want to be sure I know how to fly this thing."
"Easy for you to say." The Boogeyman glared at her. "You don't have internal organs. I do, and they're trying to switch places."
Everyone except Frankenstein's Monster was relieved when the sleigh finally landed. Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde was so dizzy after the flight that his first action upon climbing out of the sleigh was to be sick all over an unfortunate elf. The other monsters were too miserable to sympathise with either him or the elf.
"Would you like some supper?" another elf asked, ignoring its compatriot's plight.
The Werewolf groaned. "Please don't mention supper."
Christmas Eve arrived both far too soon and not nearly soon enough. It was too soon because none of them were ready for it. It was not soon enough because all of them wanted the inevitable disaster ahead to be over and done with as quickly as possible. Then they could go back to their actual jobs and pretend none of this had ever happened.
The elves went to the trouble of preparing an early Christmas dinner for them before they were due to leave. It was a delicious meal, with turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce and a huge Christmas cake for dessert, among many other things. The only trouble was, none of them were hungry.
"I feel like I'm committing a crime, letting this lovely dinner go untouched," the Invisible Man sighed, pushing a slice of turkey around his plate.
"Who cares about food?" the Skeleton asked waspishly. "In less than half an hour I will have to fly that sleigh. And it won't be like our practice runs. I have to fly it all over the world."
"And the rest of us have to climb down chimneys," the Mummy said. "We have much more important things to worry about than the food."
If anyone had been awake and outside late at night, that Christmas Eve, they would have been astonished to see Santa's sleigh careening wildly through the sky, accompanied by shrieks and yelled instructions like, "Stop here!", "Watch out for that chimney!", "Get your pumpkin out of my rib-cage!", and similar, equally puzzling comments. Luckily for the monsters, the magic to keep humans asleep when Santa's sleigh was abroad stayed intact. The same could not be said for the sleigh.
"Look at that!" the Werewolf said angrily, trying to shout in a whisper. "The paint is covered with scratches on this side!"
He jabbed his paw at the sleigh's side, creating a few more scratches.
"Well, what do you expect?" the Skeleton asked peevishly. "These chimneys and weather-vanes and trees come out of nowhere. I'd like to see you do better!"
"Everyone shut up," said the Vampire, who was studying a map. "I think we've missed a whole village."
"This is not my idea of fun," Dr. Jekyll lamented. "You can say that again," Mr. Hyde growled.
He was trying to squeeze down a chimney. The only problem was, the chimney did not want him to squeeze down it. It was far too narrow for both him and the sack of toys, and attempts to shove the sack down first had ended with the sack stuck in a flue. At present he was standing on the sack, which was half-way down the chimney, and hopping up and down on it in hopes he would dislodge it. He wasn't successful, and the noise he made was enough to wake a graveyard. He hoped the house's residents were away for the night; he didn't quite trust the magic to keep them asleep through this whole rigmarole.
"I'll see if there's a window open somewhere," said the Invisible Man after several minutes of this. "We'll see if pulling it down from below will help."
He tiptoed down the roof, stepped carefully onto the porch roof, and slid down one of its pillars. Then he searched for a way in. Had a human been watching, they would have been baffled to see a suit of clothes with no one in them pacing around the house.
"The doors are locked," he reported. A few minutes later he added, "And the windows are shut. Unless we break one of them, I don't think–"
The sack finally gave way and slid down the chimney. Unfortunately for Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, it did this while he was standing on it. He shot down the chimney, into the fireplace and across the living room before he realised what was happening.
"Hmm," said the Invisible Man, listening to his fellow monster's yells accompanied by the sound of shattering ornaments. "That solves that problem."
"Excuse me, Vampire?" The Boogeyman nervously studied the present he was holding. "I think we're made a mistake. This present is for a boy with an unpronounceable name who lives in Russia."
The Vampire stared at him blankly. "I fail to see the problem."
"We're in New Zealand."
The Vampire looked from him to the present she was about to place beside a child's bed. "...Oh."
"Mix-up with the presents: solved by a long, uncomfortable detour. Difficulty in getting down chimneys: solved by sending someone thinner. Ability to fly without crashing into things." The Skeleton paused, looking as embarrassed as she could look. "Er, we're working on it?"
"Are we finished yet?" Frankenstein's Monster asked hopefully.
The Mummy looked at the large pile of sacks in the back of the sleigh, and the map dotted with locations they had yet to visit. "No. We've still got South America to do."
Frankenstein's Monster groaned. "Do you think the South Americans would be too upset if we skipped them?"
"Do you want jolly old Saint Nick – or worse, Mrs. Claus – to report us to the Council?"
Everyone shuddered. The Headless Horseman shuddered so violently that his pumpkin head rolled off. There was a scuffle as several different monsters tried to grab it before it fell out of the sleigh.
"South America, here we come," said the Ghost gloomily.
The sun was creeping over the horizon when the sleigh returned to the North Pole. It contained a pile of empty sacks and an assortment of exhausted, unhappy monsters.
"You know what?" said the Vampire. "Why don't we go on holiday this Halloween and leave Santa in charge? See how he likes it."
"Now that," said the Skeleton, "sounds like a good idea."
Santa and Mrs. Claus returned from a lovely holiday to find a note nailed to their door.
We did your job this Christmas, it said. Now you can do our job this coming Halloween. We need a holiday. We hope you enjoy yourselves as much as we did.
"Oh dear," said Santa.