De Profundis – Day 24 of the Cupán Fae 2019 Advent Calendar

A short story by Leyla Telli.

Dublin city was bustling with harried shoppers dragging their last conquests home, presents to impress their loved ones on the big day tomorrow. Cars, monstrous buses and bicycles crawled through the crowded streets, fighting for space. The air was cold and wet, clouds drifted, lazy, across the sky. Big raindrops fell here and there, as if not sure whether it was worth the effort. 

He had put up the collar of his black coat and hid his face in a black woolen scarf, not so much because he was cold, but for the peace of mind of the others. Even though there didn’t seem to be an inch of pavement left free, as he walked among them, they all flowed around him as if they were the river and he was the rock. He moved with a pensive gait towards Christ Church Cathedral. Its squat spire was failing to reach the sky and yet, such beauty. 

As he walked through the gate and onto hallowed ground a thrill of something, excitement, fear, or maybe relief, went through him. An older man, his grey hair fluttering about his head, made his way towards the door and he followed him in, like a shadow. Once inside, he made himself invisible in a darkened corner, biding his time. The air smelled faintly of the wreaths that decorated the altar. Midnight Mass came and went. The heavy sound of the oaken door falling into its lock and the grinding of the key turning, brought him back to alertness. He waited, the absolute silence around him pressing in on him like the dark earth. 

Nothing. The cathedral  was empty, one lone candle that someone had forgotten to snuff was the only light. For him it was enough to see by, to trace the intricate carvings on the pillars and to reconstruct in his mind’s eye the pale windows into brilliant color. He stepped out of his hiding place and strode up the aisle between rows of empty benches until he faced the simple golden cross on the altar. He knelt down on the stones that had been polished by generations of believers and began his vigil. 

His thoughts wandered. His beginnings, humble and human, lay buried in the Dublin of the 1600s. A simple time, that passed in the blink of an eye. He was attending his first ball, in one of the grand houses of the era. It was an unusually warm night, the stars were bright in the sky and the smell of the garden flowers alluring. Sweaty and slightly inebriated from heavy red wine that had been shipped from Tuscany for the occasion, he stumbled out through the open garden doors to sate himself on the fresh breeze. The garden sprawled away from the house for several acres, ancient trees and artfully trimmed hedges providing an illusion of privacy and wilderness. Lanterns had been hung here and there, providing little islands of light and plunging all else into an even deeper darkness. He followed a narrow trail, until the house was mostly hidden by foliage and only the softest sound of laughter and music carried over with the breeze. 

A short scream pierced the air somewhere deeper in the garden. The hedges rustled and a young girl almost ran into him on her way back to the house. Intrigued, he moved forward. The green parted and there on the marble rim of a little fountain sat a young gentleman with a roguish smile on his face. He had seen him before, knew that he was English, with a boisterous laugh, and fierce in the pursuit of his own joys. His hair shone like bright polished copper, in contrast his face was very pale. He wondered if the gentleman was sick. Before he could ask, the man’s smile widened, beckoning. When he spoke his voice was like a dark balm, like something he had been yearning for, without knowing.

‘Come.’ Just one word, that swept over him like a compulsion. He followed the command without a second thought. When his teeth breached the delicate flesh on his neck, the pain was like nothing he’d ever experienced before. A bright burn that ate its way through his whole body. And yet, such sweet pleasure swept through his senses that he felt like he was drowning in it, torn along on a dark current. In his last moments, the long, drawn out second of his last heartbeat, the image of his mother and father, of his sister, crowded his dying mind. The knowledge of their anguish at his death brought silent tears to his eyes. 

His new master had taken him away from the Isle and he had seen the world. A lot of time had passed since then, and his master with the copper hair was long dead. 

He remembered others, beautiful men and women, human companions. He loved most of them. His last one was so young when she perished in his arms. She joined the others in the dark earth, decay gnawing the flesh from their bones.

He hasn’t seen his own reflection in centuries, has forgotten the look of his own face. His victims call him beautiful, and he sees the adoration shine in their eyes, before it is replaced by terror. This new age, that is filled with fluorescent false brightness that casts everything in harsh and unforgiving lines, an indifferent grey creeping in around the edges and tainting everything. It makes him feel tired.

Tomorrow is the feast day of the King. Of He who let His own heart blood flow freely as sacrifice. As he bows down before Him, he entrusts to Him his eternal soul, even if it is bound for darker spheres. The night passes as he holds his vigil in God’s empty house. 

When dawn breaks, he awaits it under the open sky, back to the west, welcoming the pale morning as crimson tears stain his cheeks. The first rays of the wintry sun touch his face in greeting. 

Christmas Mix-Up – Day 22 of the Cupán Fae 2019 Advent Calendar

A short story by Kat Dodd.

It happened every year. Every year, kids would write their letters to Santa. Most would get to him.

But every year some kids would misspell Santa and send the letters to Satan instead.

And every year Santa and Satan would fight over who should get to give the presents to the kids that sent those letters.

“Would you just hand me the letters already? You know that Timmy meant to address it to me,” Santa pleaded, already tired of the argument when it had just started. Or restarted, as the case may be, since they had the same argument every year.

Satan clutched the letters tighter. “No! They’re mine! They were sent to me and they’re mine! I just need to know if these kids were good or not, and what they got last year.”

“I’m not going to let you give them punishment presents! The last time you gave Oswald a snake!”

“That wasn’t punishment!”

Santa stopped and stared at him. “It wasn’t a punishment?”

“Of course not! He asked for a snake, I gave him a snake.”

“You gave him an anaconda!”

“Well how was I supposed to know that he didn’t want an anaconda?”

“Because it’s an anaconda! His parents had to call animal control!”

“They didn’t have to, they chose to, I included care instructions.”

And so it went, neither of them giving in, until Christmas Eve came, and saw Satan riding in his own sleigh pulled by hellhounds, dropping into children’s living rooms and giving them the presents that they’d asked for, carefully tagged as “From: Satan” which led to some consternation from the parents.

Unfortunately, as Oswald with the anaconda can attest, Satan is not very good at knowing what kind of presents little kids want. He read the letters, of course, but… well. Oswald had asked for a little snake, because he wanted a ball python or a Mexican Hognose. Instead he got a snake much bigger than himself that the bullies in his neighborhood were terrified of.

Lisa asked for a puppy. She got a hellhound puppy instead. But no child could ask for a better guardian, and that puppy kept her safe long after it was no longer a puppy, walking with her through parts of the city that no one else would go by themselves, because Lisa knew that she was safe with her dog.

But Nancy asked for a horse, and got a NightMare, its bat wings stretched out in the sunlight and scaring other kids away. But Nancy was convinced that no other horse was as fast or as loyal as hers, and when she rode she felt like she was flying.

It happened every year, and they argued every year, and the presents Satan gave the children that wrote letters to him were never quite right and yet turned out to be exactly what they needed even if not what they wanted. They argued every year, and Santa gave in every year because even Satan gets a Christmas Present.

Operation Snowblind – Day 21 of the Cupán Fae 2019 Advent Calendar

A short story by Tommy Arrigan.

Jasik Thacker was cold as cold could be. He’d been hiding among the snowy bushes for hours now, waiting patiently. He huddled, he stood, he stamped around his little hideout, trying to little avail to hold some warmth inside. There wasn’t much day left by now; the winter sun was dipping towards the hills on the opposite side of the valley. If it was going to happen at all it would have to be soon.

Both the valley itself, and the sleepy village of Trogsvale that nestled below Jasik’s vantage point, lay blanketed in pristine snow. Dark clouds were moving in swiftly from the north, against the sunset: more snow was on the way. Jasik wondered where his friends were, whether something had disrupted their carefully-planned assault.

Every so often he’d part the branches around him and peer carefully out from his thicket to survey the enemy compound, half-way down the hillside. A handful of scouts patrolled the courtyard vigilantly, but someone had also lit a bonfire, and most of the rest of them, especially the younger ones, were gathered around it toasting marshmallows.

Jasik envied the rich kids. All the village kids did. They envied them their marshmallow fires, their ski trips, their elevated private school with its majestic view of the bay. They came down to the village at weekends to hang around the main square, where they boasted of their foreign holidays, their many possessions, their countryside mansions. Jasik’s mum would often wonder aloud at tea-time on Saturday evenings when these kids had last seen their parents, and whether having all the fancy toys in the world made up for that. Jasik knew she was right, but he envied them still.

The minutes passed slowly. The sun sank further, and the laden clouds came rolling in quickly, spreading out to blanket the darkening sky above. Lights winked on in the village. Windows glowed yellow, the lit snow beneath them sparkled gold against the ice-blue snowstreets.

Jasik felt a sting on his cheek; the threatened snow had arrived. He squinted down towards the village, trying to make out the time on the clock tower. The village Christmas tree illuminated the clock face just enough. Five-forty. When the clock struck six today’s game was over; and tomorrow, before the private school kids went home for the holidays, would be their very last chance.

No one knew when the Winter Wars had first begun. The boarding school had been founded in the late eighteen-hundreds, and Jasik’s grandfather claimed that his grandfather had played an early version of the game. It had all begun with a pilfered apple pie, it was said, and both sides still denounced the other for that original sin. Rules, honour, etiquette had all been formalised over the years. The weeks leading up to the first snowfall were always full of excitement and anticipation. That was when it started, with a ceremonious exchange of flags half-way up the hill and a solemn march back to both bases, up to the school and down to the village. And then: avoid the snowballs, capture the flag. The village kids hadn’t had claimed a win in seven years, which had badly dented the pride of villagers of all ages; any that had ever gone to battle. And Jasik had turned twelve last month, so this was his very last chance.

The snow was coming on thick now, and visibility was decreasing. Jasik could just about make out the enemy snowman in the centre of the schoolyard, its bright red flag the trophy they were so desperate to seize. The village kids’ own snowman was located on the far side of the main square’s frozen pond this year, flanked by built-up embankments, almost as defensible a position as the boarding school courtyard.

And that was the problem; if neither side claimed the flag, last year’s winners won again. So the Snow Boarders, as they called themselves, could afford to play it safe and guard their fortress. The Village Pillagers had to be more aggressive, exposing themselves to the snowball strikes that meant elimination for the day and left them vulnerable to counterattack.

The whole world seemed muffled by the falling snow. All was perfect silence until a piercing clarion call split the night. No angel blew that trumpet. No, it was big Henck Harfjord, the Pillagers’ fearless leader, finally sounding the charge. Jasik now knew why they’d waited so long: Henck had known the snow was coming, was hoping poor visibility would improve their chances. Jasik leapt into motion; it was finally time to act. The Pillagers were depending on him.

He left his hideout and pulled his toboggan out from underneath the bushes. Shrieks and ululations rent the air below as twenty village children charged from the tree-line below towards the school’s open gates. The Boarders had left them open out of arrogance, inviting the Pillagers to have a go any time they liked. They rushed to defend their fortress, arming themselves from stockpiles of burnished snowballs as they went. No one was looking up the hillside towards where Jasik had lain all afternoon in wait.

He sat down on his toboggan and aimed it carefully. The packed-snow ramp he’d constructed with Henck under cover of darkness last night had remained undiscovered all day, its peak just below the shoulder-high schoolyard wall. This was it, no time to hesitate. Jasik kicked off, and tucked in his feet.

The slope was precipitous. Cold air burned Jasik’s face and howled in his ears as he plunged towards the wall. As the wall rushed towards him. Their little ramp was narrow, and Jasik was a little too far to the right. He shifted his weight just enough to make it. The world flipped backwards as he shot up the ramp; before him, briefly, was only sky.

The toboggan’s runners clipped the top of the wall, and Jasik leaned as far forwards as possible to prevent a backflip. He’d spent the last three days practicing ramp jumps. Boy and toboggan sailed together through the snow-filled air. He landed cleanly, but his earlier course-correction left him spinning wildly across the courtyard, right into the enemy snowman where he tumbled off in a heap.

Battle was raging away to Jasik’s left. Henck Harfjord towered above the other children, awash in flickering firelight, dodging, throwing, bellowing wildly with ferocious joy. Many Pillagers had already fallen, but no-one had spotted Jasik yet, thanks in part to the flurrying snow. He struggled to his feet, plucked the enemy flag from the snowman, and sprinted towards the schoolyard’s opposite side. A shout went up behind him.

“The flag! He’s got the flag!”

Jasik glanced back, saw Henck go down to a snowball to the head. Their assault was crumbling. Boarders were running towards him. Some were taken out by snowballs from behind, but not enough. He reached the wall and scrambled up it. A snowball flew past him. He slipped as he jumped.

He landed awkwardly, twisting his knee. Something popped. Jasik stood, stumbled, fell. Pain shot through his leg. He rose, staggered forwards, fell again. He’d never make it. Behind him two Boarder girls had mounted the wall and were reaching back to be handed snowballs to finish him off with.

Jasik bowed his head, wincing in agony. He clutched the enemy flag to his breast. So close, a voice inside him said. You almost made it. He fought back tears.

And then, a shout to his left.


He looked. Grethal Thungar was sprinting around the perimeter towards him. Little Grethal Thungar, the tagalong they’d all dismissed as too small and slow for this boisterous game. Jasik cursed inwardly despite himself as she reached him. If only it was someone faster.

But Grethal stuck out a hand, determined, imperious.

“Give it here. Now!”

Something in her fierceness awed him. Jasik rose, renewed, and handed over the flag, roaring “Go!” as he turned to face their pursuers, shielding her body with his own as she fled. A pair of snowballs struck him in the face and chest, and he staggered and collapsed again, pain searing his leg. Grethal was away, but the two Boarder girls had already jumped from the wall and run past him in hot pursuit. She’d never make it back to their base.

Jasik struggled to turn and watch brave Grethal as she was overtaken. Then Henck was there beside him, and unexpectedly, another eliminated Boarder girl he didn’t know. They helped him sit up. Henck pointed, spoke quietly.

“Jasik. Look.”

Jasik raised his head. He hadn’t noticed. Grethal was wearing rollerblades.

The last rays of sunset illuminated her as, crouched low, Grethal shot downhill like a cannonball, the Boarder’s flag a blood-red pennant fluttering behind her. Into the village, into the square, across the frozen duck pond. She rose and plunged the flag deep into their snowman, alongside their own.

And Jasik passed out with Henck bellowing jubilantly beside him, as the clock struck six.

Solstice Sacrifice, Day 19 of the Cupán Fae 2019 Advent Calendar

A short story by Kat Dodd.

This was the first Solstice that the betrothed could spend together. In the previous years, Ren had been busy avoiding his duties and running around the countryside with his squire, while Cricket had been on the run, avoiding her uncle’s armies until she’d managed to reach sanctuary. As such, the royal couple hadn’t exchanged gifts before.

Ren hadn’t known Cricket long, and was at a loss at what to give her. His squire was no help, being worse with women than he was, and suggested that he just “get something pretty”. Ren asked his friends for advice, thinking that the more people he could get input from, the better it would be, but Alain’s advice appeared to be the best, which meant that Ren was roaming the Solstice stalls, trying to find something to give his fiance.

It wasn’t a love match, because royals didn’t get to have that. But he was fond of Cricket, and he wanted to give her something nice, that was appropriate to their stations and to their relationship.

He found a cloak that he was pretty sure was her favourite colour, since she wore a lot of clothes of a similar shade. It was thick and soft, and cost more than he’d prefer, but that just meant that it would be better to give her.

He couldn’t wait to see her face when she opened it. Surely she’d love it.

Cricket unwrapped the present, letting out soft sounds that proved she was pleased with the red cloak, praising its colour and softness and warmth.

And then to Ren’s absolute horror she threw it into the fire before Ren could move to stop her.

“Why would you do that?” Ren cried, still staring at the flaming cloak. Even if he pulled it out now, it would be ruined beyond all repair.

Cricket didn’t seem to understand why he was so upset. “It’s the best thing I owned.”

“So you threw it in the fire?” Ren’s voice cracked, and if his friends had heard it they would never let him live it down.

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever owned, what was I supposed to do?” Cricket tilted her head at him in confusion.

“I don’t know, wear it? Use it? Not burn it within minutes of me giving it to you?” Ren’s voice was getting higher and more irate.

“Ohhhhh,” Cricket breathed out, “I think I see the problem. You don’t know my culture.”

Ren stopped short. “What?”

“Where I’m from, for Solstice, we destroy the thing that matters most to us as a gift to the gods,” Cricket explained. “A sacrifice that costs nothing is no sacrifice, but a sacrifice that is felt deeply… that is a true gift. We used to give people, but my grandparents put a stop to that practice.”

Ren just blinked at her. “What would you have done if I hadn’t given you something you liked?”

Cricket pulled a necklace out from under her dress. “My mother gave this to me, before she was killed. It has a lot of sentimental value, but no monetary value. I think the gods will prefer your cloak, because it has both.”

Ren thought for a long moment about the best way to go. It was true that he didn’t know very much about Cricket’s culture. She’d embraced his in most ways, but he hadn’t tried to learn about hers, and that struck him as deeply unfair. “Could you help me pick out something to burn, then? And tell me more about your gods?”

Cricket’s smile was blindingly bright as she covered his hand with hers. “I would be honoured.”

Next year, though, he was giving Cricket her Solstice present after she’d made her sacrifice.

A Man in Black – Day 18 of the Cupán Fae 2019 Advent Calendar

A short story by Paul Carroll. Originally published in Old Gods & Wicked Things.

The coming of December came with a knocking on the door, three times for good measure. Ireland was a cold place at this time of the year, especially after everything that had happened of late. All that misery, all that anguish, and the damn weather couldn’t hold off. Niamh and her brother were living together again; Sean had lost his job, and she her husband.

Since then, every time there came a knock on the door, she ran to answer. He wasn’t a dead man, and they weren’t separated, so she thought, maybe – maybe – he might return.

She couldn’t deny that the man looking at her from outside looked very much like her husband. He had Declan’s face, except that his mouth was a little crooked, and his eyes were a little darker than she remembered. But the nose was the same, and the hair, though slicked back with too much gel, was the same, thick and black.

“Don’t look so surprised,” he said to her simply. She shook her head, and closed her gapping mouth. “Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

She nodded slowly, stepping aside. “Sean, he’s back!” she called into the house. “Come in Declan,” she added, shutting the door quickly after him. The heat had already escaped the house, but she didn’t mind. She had him back, even if he was different. He walked with a swagger, and with a clip on the floor. Thick boots, she noted. Heavy boots. Black as his hair, black as his suit.

Niamh wasn’t as turned off as she thought she might be.

Sean embraced his brother-in-law. Those two had always been close, Niamh thought. “Tea?” Sean offered. He was typically Irish, even with the world gone to crap.

“Please,” Declan responded dryly. He took his wife in his arms the moment Sean’s back was turned, planting a kiss on her lips. She wasn’t used to it anymore, she realised. Too much time with her lips to herself. She kissed him back, trying to find some way to make it work, to make it comfortable and real, as if he hadn’t been gone for weeks on end.

It was easier said than done, and though she forced her tongue to meet his, there was nothing familiar about the experience. She got a mouthful of tongue in return, shivering and pulling away.

“It’s been too long,” he insisted, and before she could say anything he led her through the house. He knew his way around, still, even with the furniture rearranged around the fire. “Christmas is coming,” he noted. “Have you been good this year?” he asked her.

“Oh yes, Santa, I’ve been really good,” she jeered, dropping into her rocking chair. She didn’t think to sit beside him, and he noticed. “We just need to warm to each other again, I think.” He nodded in response, taking the cup Sean offered him. “I was just thinking, Sean, the three of us need to get out of the house soon.”

“A day out?” Sean asked. “We could do with it.”

“What’s the rush?” Declan asked them. “I’m barely back ten minutes and you’re talking about leaving? Are you that eager to get rid of me?” Niamh shared a nervous look with Sean, and her husband let out a laugh. “You two have always been too easy.” He sipped at the tea, a glint in his eye.

“It’s just… we’ve been cooped up here, waiting for something to happen,” Sean tried to explain. “You know how it is, Declan. Eventually, you run out of things to do.”

“And food,” Niamh added quickly.

Declan nodded and stood up from his seat. Niamh’s eyes followed him as he walked around the room. “You kept our wedding photo up,” he said to her. He ran a finger down the picture, and the frame fell from the wall. Niamh jumped at the sound of smashing glass, dropping her cup to the floor.

She didn’t see Declan reel up behind her, his hands gripping her shoulders tightly. His tongue licked her neck, and she thought it might have been seductive, if she couldn’t see his reflection in the spilt tea, and the look on Sean’s face. His tongue was black as his suit, a foot in length, and moving as if independent from his body. He lashed it back into his mouth, his eyes turning over black and red.

“What are you?” Sean asked him nervously, stepping away from the fire, away from Declan and Niamh.

“Something else,” Declan responded, gripping Niamh’s neck from behind and lifting her to her feet. He eyed the floor, where the tea had spilled. They’d run out of milk a while ago; the brown water acted as a mirror for Sean. He looked at Declan through the tea, his face black and distorted, his hair, where slicked back, containing two sharp horns, and his whole body painted black. He had the legs of a goat, and a look of evil in his eyes.

“Sean…” Niamh whimpered, and she was behind him. He spun on the spot, seeing Declan inches from his face. “Sean… he’s fast.”

“More than fast,” Declan added, raising a rifle from behind Sean. “Tut tut, Sean. You know I don’t approve.” The barrel crumpled in his grip, and he dropped the gun to the floor. “You’ve been a bold boy, Sean, and you Niamh alike. We’ve always known it.” He grinned savagely, sharp teeth on display. His tongue lashed out, dancing seductively in the air.

“Bold?” Sean asked dumbly.

Declan’s jacket whipped around Niamh in an instant, thrown with a single hand. She disappeared with a cry, and nothing more. “Very bold,” Declan muttered, “And right before Christmas.” He slashed pointed nails across his brother-in-law’s chest, drawing blood and tears, before whipping the coat around him, and holding it over his shoulder loosely. “Right before Christmas,” he repeated, stepping with a clunk from the room, and a glare in his eye, “And not a moment to lose.”

Read more stories from The Rebirth Cycle in Old Gods & Wicked Things, or start the series with Balor Reborn.

Operation Finland- Day 14 of the Cupán Fae 2019 Advent Calendar

A short story by Tommy Arrigan.

“Gentlemen, ladies, please. Order!”

A general sort of settling-down ensued, although not without mumblings and grumblings from the assembled personages. Medals of honour twinkled and tinkled as well-fed buttocks shifted in search of comfort, straining the pants of uniforms that had once fit better. A morning of discomfort awaited. Their room, small and windowless, was sparsely decorated, just some plastic chairs facing a whiteboard, a squat lectern and a projector.

“Now,” General Falstaff resumed. “As you all know, we’re here today because this,“ he looked around, “venerable institution, has for many generations been home to genius, to a proliferation of rare and brilliant minds who have provided us with so many advances over the years. Advances which, no less, have helped to protect our preeminent nation from the constant threat of foreign invaders.

“And,” he continued, “for this they need money. Funding.” He paused to take in his surroundings. A single strand of tinsel had been draped atop the whiteboard.

“Perhaps they need it more than we realised. But, we need to treat ‘em mean to keep ‘em keen. In exchange for our money we need to see progress. Results! So with a long day ahead of us let’s jump right into our two morning presentations. We’ll break then to enjoy some of Professor Kennedy’s homemade mince pies and eggnog before resuming.”

A wistful half-smile drifted dreamily across the General’s face. He’d been coming to the Halem Institute for many years, and had been younger and more vigorous, once. As had Professor Kennedy.

“First up: Gerstmann. Operation Finland.”

He nodded towards the opposite corner as he sat. Unnoticed there until now stood a calm-looking, scrawny young man clasping a laptop. His festive bowtie and braces jarred garishly with the rest of his ill-fitting attire. All-in-all he looked as miserable as the whiteboard.

George Gerstmann, twenty-three year old genius, walked over to the lectern, where he spent far too long fiddling with his laptop before he finally straightened and turned towards his audience.

An array of powerful faces faced him, but they were the faces of men and women that, once lean and ambitious, had been softened by too many years of comfort and success. Their steel lay underneath a puff-pastry crust. Except for one.

She sat in the second row, whippet-lean, upright, hands resting lightly on her knees. She was among the oldest of them, sixty at least, perhaps seventy. Cropped silver hair crowned a neat, dark uniform, with none of the trappings of ceremony save for a single angular insignia that none of the others displayed. Her grey-blue eyes were fixed on George.

He had heard of her. Everyone in the faculty had. Susan Schumer, Head of National Intelligence Operations, answerable only to the President. Known to all as Sun Tzu. She was a brilliant strategist, a crystal-clear thinker with a reputation for knife-sharp incisiveness that had cut many a funding pitch into ribbons.

George breathed calmly before beginning his presentation. He’d practiced. He believed in the science. This was going to be easy.

He clicked his clicker, and a familiar figure appeared on the projector screen. A ripple of chuckles spread through the audience. Perhaps this would be more entertaining than they expected.

“Now,” George began. “I bet you’re all wondering if this is a joke, right? The time of year being what it is. I assure you that it isn’t. We’ve been tracking this person for many years now, and let me assure you that both he, and the threat he represents to us all, are very, very real.”

A titter escaped the lips of Admiral Bailey in the third row. Sun Tzu turned her head just the smallest fraction, and he snorted loudly in his haste to swallow it.

“The primary goal of our research has been to understand just how he does it. We believe he’s utilising technology that could be invaluable to our national security, and which, if it falls into the hands of a more hostile nation, could spell disaster.

“Think about it. Millions of homes, all over the world, in one night. No security system exists that can stop him. Incomparable reach, which means incomparable power in this world of connectedness and big data.”

There was some uncomfortable shifting of chairs. The entire thing was laughable, but still, no-one liked this kind of talk.

“And nobody knows how it’s done,” George continued. “No-one’s ever been able to study him closely enough.” He paused for dramatic effect. “Until now.

“Last Christmas Eve, one of our interns hid in a rooftop snowdrift for many hours until, when our subject was busy downstairs, she managed to plant a tracking device on his sleigh. It beamed a wealth of GPS information and other data back to our satellite relays, which have proven invaluable in helping us to understand how he operates.

“The tracker had a five-year battery life, and transmitted five years worth of data to our systems. Everywhere he went, how long he spent there.” George regarded them solemnly. “All in the space of twenty minutes, before its battery died.“

Charts and graphs followed, as well as detailed maps of the subject’s movements. George moved to the whiteboard to better illustrate the science behind it all. He sketched swiftly, excitedly. This was his passion project, his particular pudding.

“See. We tend to think of time as continuous and linear, always moving forwards. Sure you get time loops where time circles back around and so on, but it can still be quite easily imagined as having point-to-point linearity. Just like, say, a festive ribbon. Now, imagine if you had the technology to generate, in physical space, a bubble—“

“More like a bauble,” someone in the back row interrupted. A quick glance from Sun Tzu silenced the general mirth.

“—a bubble, inside which time is turned sideways, relative to external time, for the duration of that bubble’s existence.”

George glanced around. Confusion abounded.

“Let me explain what I mean by sideways. Lay a deck of cards out on a table, side-by-side and they’ll run to a certain length. Imagine those cards to be segments of regular time. Now, what if you take up some of those cards, and turn them sideways,” he twisted his outstretched hand from horizontal to vertical, “so that only their thinness contributes to the overall length? You can fit a large amount of sideways time into a short span of regular time.

“We now know, thanks to the GPS timings, that this is what Santa Claus is somehow doing inside the bubble. He’s stacking slices of time sideways, spending ten, twenty minutes in each house, which for everyone outside the bubble seems to pass by instantly. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the real magic of Christmas, and one of the most significant discoveries in this Institution’s storied history.”

They got it now, George could see. They understood. A ruckus erupted, people too used to being listened to all speaking at the same time. He had them. He raised a hand for silence.

“And here’s the really big thing. It seems that molecular ageing somehow stays in regular time. This contradicts what we know of lightspeed travel but, if true, will let us spend near-infinite time working on something before presenting the results a moment later. We could storm an enemy stronghold in an instant. They’d be inside the bubble with us too, but there’d be no time for outside help to arrive.

“The only downside we’ve discovered is that the energy expenditure is tremendous. We think that’s why he eats all the Christmas cake and drinks all the whiskey, why the reindeer eat so many carrots.

“But we’re just at the beginning of this really, there’s so much more to learn. We need funding to infiltrate their facility in Lapland and-”

Cries of “Done!”, “Well done boy!”, “Give him as much as he needs!” rang around the room; the excitement of schoolchildren swept up in the moment.

But one among them was silent. Susan Schumer was thinking, thinking hard. She already understood far better than any of them what this meant. She could see the immense change that this augured, and the repercussions.

But she wasn’t just thinking; she was remembering also. Remembering a particular winter’s night almost sixty years ago. A night with magic in it, that had stayed with her as a twinkling star of gold against the darkness of her difficult, sometimes brutal life. It had lost none of its lustre, and in some ways was the only shining, innocent thing she had left. A night of truancy, hiding under the sofa, peeking, gleefully seeing, finally, black boots stamp softly in the candlelight, shedding coaldust and melting snow. And then hearing a softly uttered Ho-Ho-Ho.

As Susan slowly came out of her reverie she noticed General Falstaff looking her way quizzically. She seemed unlike herself. He raised an eyebrow. She shook her head, just once. He sighed and nodded. It would be done quietly, but Operation Finland was no more.

Snow Day – Day 10 of Cupán Fae’s 2019 Advent Calendar

A short story by Paul Carroll

Christmas was coming. The date was marked on the calendar, encircled with a red permanent marker. In the run-up to Christmas Eve, Jack Frost’s social life was busy, and involved his peers. A couple of weeks before Christmas, the Winter Folk held their Winter Ball, an event to which all three must attend, with an assortment of other figures – many of them made from living snow.

Jack was not overly fond of the Winter Ball. It was a formal occasion, its origins lost to him. He had attended ninety eight times, now, and still looked thirteen years old. His body was frozen in youth. The power he had over the Winter March didn’t work, otherwise.

While Jack considered himself the joker of their trio, he still took his duties to the Winter March very seriously. Despite his lack of regard for the formal affair of the Ball, an event from which he would not stumble home from until Christmas Eve, the March was significant for him. It marked the time of the year when he was free to unleash a storm of cold and snow. He was allowed to bring about snow days when the climate was just right, and even when it wasn’t. Jack was allowed to play jokes on the world that wasn’t supposed to know he was really, and truly, a living boy. Technically speaking.

He had once asked Nick – the consistent leader of the group – why it was called the March, when Jack soared on the air as light as a snow flake, followed by a magical carriage. He received a mince pie in response, and that was that.

Now, on his ninety eighth Winter March, Jack soared through the sky over America. He had grown up on a farm in Connecticut, in the days before he could really remember being himself. He wasn’t Jack Frost then. He wasn’t anybody worth mentioning at all, then.

Sometimes, he couldn’t even remember becoming the boy wonder. It was lost to him, hidden behind a snow storm in his mind.

He saw a farm that might have been his down below, and lead the March across its fields. Great snow clouds were bulging overhead, waiting for the signal to unleash a flurry of snowflakes. He slowed to a halt at a window, watching a girl and a boy at work in the house. Jack guessed that the boy was nine, and the girl fourteen. He tried not to think that she looked older than he did.

“Why can’t Santa come early?” the boy asked her.

She smiled, and handed him a plate for him to dry. She was standing by the sink, washing up after dinner. “Because, silly, Christmas wouldn’t happen if Santa came early. Everything has to be just right before Santa can come.”

The boy sulked, and Jack couldn’t stop himself from smiling. “But Allie, it’s not fair. Everybody else in my class already has everything I asked for. Why can’t we ever get anything nice?”

She lowered the plate into the sink and put her hands on his shoulders. “How many of your friends in school have a sister who would do anything for them?” she asked him.

“I don’t know.”

“How many of your friends give out about their older brothers and sisters all the time?”

“A lot. They don’t like them. They always say they’re not allowed hang out with them.”

Allie smiled at her younger brother. “And how many of my friends love having you with us while we watch movies mom and dad don’t want you to see? Or just like having you eat with us?”

“All of them?”

“All of them. Because they like that I like having you around.” Jack didn’t want to stay. He didn’t want to keep watching them. He could already feel an icy tear clinging to his cheek. “We might not have a lot in this world, Ken, but we have each other. We’re friends, not just brother and sister, and I promise you that will mean so much more to you when you’re older than whether or not you have the latest X-Box game.”

Jack pulled away from the house. He couldn’t take it. Vague and hazy memories returned to him of life without enough coal to keep the fire going through winter, and days spent running through the trees and the fields because he didn’t have anything else to do. He held on to the last memory that came to him, when he was happiest in the winter: snow day.

He wiped his eyes with a chilly sleeve and turned his head to the clouds. “Order up!” he cheered.

In the response, the clouds exploded overhead, thick white snowflakes falling by the thousands in a matter of seconds. The house was immediately coated in the tell-tale signs of winter. Even from way overhead, Jack could hear Ken and Allie as they ran into the garden in delight, their parents following them with coats and laughter.

The Winter March, by its nature, was practically invisible. Aside from the trio that made up the Winter Folk, nothing could ever be seen or heard by accident. With this in mind, Jack lowered himself once more to the ground, hiding behind the house as Allie and Ken danced in the snow storm.

The family still had a coal shed, its supplies running low. “Nobody gets a sack of coal for Christmas, even when they need one,” Jack said to himself. With a click of his fingers, the shed filled to the brim, nearly overflowing. “Merry Christmas, kids,” he whispered, taking to the air once more, and leading the Winter March away.

Mere moments later, Allie discovered his footprints, clear as the snow was white. She followed them to the coal shed, her jaw dropped. Just before he vanished from sight – and she never really believed it – she saw him, hovering in the sky over the fields, taking the Winter March with him.

The Professor Who Saved WinterTide – Day 8 of the Cupán Fae 2019 Advent Calendar

“…and the fallen bridge has cut us off completely, so we can’t get any special food for WinterTide and my little brother and sister won’t get their presents this year.” Robin read again, “Please help us, Professor! Everyone says how clever you are – you invented the telephone and those Hopper machines that carry the post…” 

She set the letter down. It was a rather sweet and affecting story to be sure, although –  “Odd place to build a house, on a rock spur in the middle of a canyon,” she noted, looking out from the edge of Higham Canyon towards the house in question.

From the other side of the wooden frame and rails they were putting together, Professor Wilson Scarecrow beamed benevolently at her.  “Well, with house prices as they are, dear assistant, I suppose some people have to take what they can get.”

Robin did her best not to seethe at the ‘dear assistant’, instead she looked across at the house on the spur. “Will there be enough space for you to land?” she asked.

“Of course! Dear assistant, I have planned for every eventuality!” The scarecrow simpered smugly. “I have a scientific and exacting mind, you know. You could learn a lot from it.”

Robin clenched her fists. Generally, the Professor wasn’t a bad old stick to work for – well, broom-handle actually; he got very annoyed at the implication that his backbone was a stick. He paid well; working hours were good. He’d given her a three week holiday for WinterTide, and had bought her a ticket on the new train the Dwarves were running, that would take her nearly all the way to Naughtingham. She was greatly looking forward to that. It felt like an age since she’d Left Home To Seek Her Fortune. However, good though he was, when he was enthused and active, the Professor could get – well, ‘pompous’ and ‘condescending’ barely covered it. 

She took a deep breath. Once he was flying, she could be off home.

She began setting up the counterweight on the frame, as the Professor moved his large ‘Plain-Sailor’ flying device onto the frame’s wooden rails and connected it to the rope from the counterweight. It was a larger Plain-Sailor than the other ones he’d experimented with – it had to be. As well as the presents that the postman hadn’t been able to bring across the gorge, there was the fearsome array that the Professor had bought for himself, together with three large hampers of festive food and drink, a spool of metal wire, and a tin horn to connect the house to the phone-lines.  As he got the Plain-Sailor settled on the rails and clambered in, the Professor chuckled to himself. 

“Ah, dear assistant, it’s a fine thing we’re doing here today. Helping someone in need at WinterTide, when they’re marooned and in danger of having the holiday spoiled by the uncaring ways of the State.”

“Actually, the bridgebuilders reckon they’ll have the bridge repaired in a week.” That would too late for WinterTide, but Robin felt the Professor was getting a little overblown. As usual. 

“But they their humble entreaties reached my ears!”

“You don’t have ears, Professor.” Which was true – the grass-haired football he had for a head had some nice ears painted on, but not actual ears. 

And I shall save WinterTide with Science!” the Professor bellowed. 

“It’s the kind of thing they write heartwarming festive stories about,” Robin said caustically. She agreed it was a nice gesture, but he was making a bit of a meal out of it.

“Indeed!” The Professor affected to look modest. “The Professor Who Saved WinterTide. It has a nice ring to it, wouldn’t you say?”

And who was it who spent the last two hours helping you assemble a frame in snow? And was up all night helping you make the Plain-Sailor? “Quite.”

“And your diligent service will not be forgotten!”

Robin sighed. “Ready to go?” she asked.   

“Indeed! People in need, as posterity too, wait for no man – or, more correctly, for no scarecrow!

Robin moved towards the lever to release the counterweight. Then paused. “Er…Professor?”


“But… you’ve overlooked something!”

The Professor swelled up with pride, looking mortally affronted. “Indeed I have not! Nothing has been overlooked! Mine is a keen, finely-honed mind. It overlooks nothing! Certainly nothing you could have discerned!”

Robin growled, “Very well, Professor. Launching.”

She yanked the lever. There was a loud thud, then the Plain-Sailor was hauled from the rails. It shot forwards, sailing majestically over the gorge and trailing the telephone wire behind it. As that played out, Robin took out her mobile telephone-horn and length of wire, and hooked it onto the longer wire. 

Watching, she saw the Plain-Sailor come to a halt – very nearly going off the other side of the spur in the process. She saw the Professor, very far away but just discernable. She watched as he clambered out and was swarmed by children. She could only just see him then, as he began to dispense packages and hand the huge hampers to a woman. Then, taking up the wire, he carried it proudly to the house.

Robin waited, then heard the horn whistle. “Hello?” she said, her voice travelling clearly across the taut wire.

“I landed!” the Professor boomed. “It worked! And you should see all these happy faces! My word!”

He did, to his credit, sound happy at the joy of others. So Robin felt a slight pang of guilt before bursting the bubble. Only a slight one, though.

“How are you going to get back?” she asked.

“Eh? Oh, I’ll launch…” A long pause followed as the Professor trailed off. “Ahhhhh… I may have made a blunder!”

“No! Surely a keen and finely-honed mind such as yours couldn’t have made a blunder!”

The Professor coughed. “I…I wonder, dear assistant, could you…”

“Oh, I don’t think I can do anything, Professor! Not when I have so much to learn from you. After all, if you can’t work something out, what could I do?”

The Professor coughed again. “I…eh, I believe that I may have been somewhat hasty, dear assistant, but…”

Robin grinned. “The bridge should be finished in another week, Professor. I’m sure that the Professor Who Saved WinterTide will be welcome in the family home until then. Merry WinterTide!” She unhooked the wire as she turned to walk away. 

This would be a good holiday. She wasn’t the least bit worried about her job. Where else would the Professor find someone willing to put up with him?

George’s Christmas Present – Day 6 of Cupán Fae’s 2019 Advent Calendar

A short story by Mark Kielty.

We run a tight ship here at the North Pole. Because to travel around the world in one night is no easy task. We all have our roles to play to make it happen. We’ve got the workshop-elves, who make and wrap the presents. We’ve got the elves at the sorting office, dealing with all the children’s letters and getting them ready for Santa to read. And we can’t forget about our wonderful reindeer who travel at lightning speed to get Santa to where he needs to be. 

Then, of course, there are the lists. You know, THE LISTS – the ones that tell us who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. Santa is in charge of those. He studies them every day throughout the year, hoping that the naughty list becomes smaller and the nice list becomes larger. 

But there is another list that people don’t know about. The one I’m in charge of. Because you know what they say; behind every great man there’s an even better woman. And I am no exception. After all, I am Mrs. Claus. 

So, what’s this other list? I hear you ask. Well, as you know, Santa reads all the letters he receives from children across the world. He loves reading them and he remembers every single one. However, it isn’t the letters he receives that I’m worried about, it’s the letters he doesn’t. It’s my job to make a list of all the children who don’t send any letters at all. 

Believe it or not, not all children send letters, which is fine. Not everybody believes and everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, there are some children who do believe but don’t send anything. And that’s a problem.

Nine times out of ten, they just didn’t send it on time. No panic though, I usually visit them and collect their letters directly. Or if they didn’t get a chance to write anything down, I simply ask them what they want and pass on the message to Santa. 

Just in case you get any ideas and “accidentally on purpose” forget to send your letter – just to meet me – then you’ve got another thing coming!  I use a memory spell so the children don’t remember meeting me. I have to. If I didn’t, everyone would catch on and I’d never get any peace. 

There are other times though, when children have other reasons for not sending their letters and it’s up to me to find out why.

That’s how I met George. Eight years old and he hadn’t even a word or an idea jotted down. It was Christmas Eve and time was running out. It would’ve been a shame if there was nothing under his tree on Christmas morning. 

When I went to the orphanage where he lived, I was delighted to see how well the reception area was decorated. There was a beautiful tree with a gorgeous angel sitting on top. Hanging from each branch were coloured baubles and purple streams of tinsel were wrapped around the tree like scarves. 

One of the walls had a lovely, life-sized, cardboard cut-out of Rudolph. It had a red light-bulb nose that really lit up. It made me swell with happiness to know that this orphanage took such great care of the children living there. 

“Can I help you?” the kind receptionist asked with a smile. 

“Oh, I wish you could, Vanessa, I really wish you could,” I said with pitying eyes. 

I pulled a handful of fairy dust from my pocket and blew on it. The gold glittering powder jumped from the palm of my hand and filled the room. It went flying through the doors and up the stairs until it filled every corner of the orphanage.

Vanessa stopped what she was doing and sat very still, staring into space with a goofy smile. 

Hopefully she won’t have to drool like that for too long, I thought. 

She was frozen and, if the spell did what it was supposed to do, everyone else in the building would be frozen too. Everyone except for George, of course. 

“Excellent,” I said to myself. “I have five minutes.”

As I walked through the orphanage, golden fairy dust hovered in the air. However, I knew that as soon as the glittering gold disappeared, it would mean the end of my spell. 

I searched every room until I came to the only one with a child who didn’t look like he was playing musical statues. Sitting on his bed, reading a book, was George.

I’ll never forget that sweet brown-haired boy. He sat there, wearing a red Christmas jumper which had a large snowman stitched into its front. He was reading a book about a boy who discovered he was a wizard and attended wizarding school. I loved that story. And I loved that he loved magic.

He looked like a normal, healthy boy. In fact, he was extremely clever for his age. So why hadn’t he written his letter to Santa yet?

“George, I am here to talk to you about Christmas,” I said. 

The little boy looked up from his book. He noticed the golden sparkles that floated in the air and when he looked at me, I could tell he recognised my outfit. Red was always a good colour on me. It brought out my rosy cheeks. 

“I knew it!” he whispered. A large grin began to stretch across his face. 

“Knew what?” I asked.

George snapped his book shut and shuffled to the edge of the bed.

“You see, I write a letter every year, so I knew if I didn’t write one this year, Santa would get worried and he’d try to find out why – maybe even send somebody to investigate. But I didn’t think he’d send you of all people! I thought I’d meet, like, an elf or something,” George explained.

“That was a risky move, how did you know he’d send anybody? You could have been left with no presents on Christmas morning!” I said.

“I knew Santa wouldn’t let me down. And besides, I’m not sure you can give me what I want anyway!”

“What makes you say that?” I asked. 

“Don’t you see? I knew if I pulled this off, it would be the best thing I’d ever done! But I also knew if Santa were to send somebody, there’d be a catch! I know that when morning comes, I won’t remember any of this. You’ll cast a spell to make me forget and I won’t remember meeting you. I won’t remember the best day of my life,” George explained with a saddening face. 

“And you know this how?” I asked. I knew George was clever, but I hadn’t expected this. 

“Because, if children remembered, you’d have every kid in the world pretending to forget to send their letters – just to meet you. And you wouldn’t have time for that.” he said.

“No, I suppose you’re right,” I answered. “But there must be something you want for Christmas? How about you tell me what you really want and I’ll see what I can do?” 

“I want to remember meeting you,” he replied. “I want to ask questions about the elves and the North Pole. And I won’t tell anyone, I promise. I just… I want something magical to happen to me. I don’t have many friends and life here can be a bit lonely at times. I just want something special to happen to me for once.” 

“Well, what you’re asking for George, it’s never been done before,” I answered. “I’ll… I’ll have to think about it.”

When I left the orphanage, I was stumped. I was kind of hoping we’d just cobble an Xbox together and leave it under his tree. But unfortunately, what George wanted couldn’t be put in a box and wrapped up with a bow. He wanted something different. 

I thought about the book he was reading. I wondered had he hoped that on his eleventh birthday, a friendly giant would come along, tell him he was a wizard and take him away to a magical school.

Then it hit me – an idea. But could I bend the rules just for George? Could I give him what he wanted? 

I returned later that night, fairy dust at the ready and hoped that Vanessa wouldn’t drool quite so much this time. She left a little bit of a mess before and it wasn’t flattering to say the least. But I suppose it wasn’t her fault. 

George sat on his bed, patiently waiting for me.

“You didn’t wipe my memory,” he said excitedly. “Does that mean you’re going to give me what I asked for?” 

“Hmm, I did think about it,” I replied. “But we have a saying in the North Pole. Why give someone what they ask for when you can give them what they want?”

George raised his eyebrow, confused. 

“You say you want to ask questions, about elves and such,” I said. 

“Yes, I want to know everything!” 

“I thought as much,” I continued. “And of course, you’ll want the memories to go with it. I’ll just have to make sure that this is a night you’ll never forget. We could tell you what you want to know, but wouldn’t it be better if we showed you?” 

Right on cue, Santa stepped into the room. He wore his iconic red suit and gave that smile which always made my heart skip a beat. 

“Merry Christmas, George,” he said. “Want to go for a ride?”

Operation Walrus – Day 3 of Cupán Fae’s Advent Calendar 2019

A short story by Tommy Arrigan.

[This story is dedicated to the bayakou of Haiti]

Santa Claus sighed. He missed the old days. How had it come to this? Progress, that was the problem. Modernisation. More, more, more of, well, everything really, had forced the world into this new way of being. So many people now, living like too many trinkets stuffed into a stocking. And to his mind, it just wasn’t right.

The problem wasn’t that he had so much more work to do these days, although he certainly did have that: more toys to deliver, more homes to visit. And it wasn’t the light pollution from so many cities and motorways, or their raucous cacophony, either. And it wasn’t even the airspace regulations of a hundred different nations. Although he had to deal with all of those now, as a matter of course.

Nor was it, although he mourned its passing keenly, all that was soon to be lost to the world that was bothering him so acutely in this particular moment. He missed deeply, already, the pure pleasure of slicing through the cold air above snow-draped, coniferous forests that went on forever. He missed the incredible peace of those stretches. He missed the flickering glint of window-candles shining bravely out into the darkness, and the cries of discovery from his eager spotter elves. He missed the tugging on the reins; the reindeer’s excited grunting; the banking, downwards arc of the sleigh towards each and every isolated homestead in its turn.

He missed, too, how a jolly Ho-Ho-Ho and a shake of the sleigh-bells used to carry through the crisp night air for miles, enticing adults and children alike from hearth to porch to gaze upwards in wonder. He missed their laughter upon the air. He missed the panoply of the stars.

Yes, that those times were fading was tragic. But when one got all the way down to the heart of it, it wasn’t any of this that had Santa Claus so unhappy. Not really.

No, his primary problem with these modern times was another change in how people lived now; one which made his job so much more unpleasant, so much harder for him to enjoy. And that change was the gradual disappearance of the chimney-pot, the extinction of the flue.

Not that it had ever been the perfect ingress. Teddy-bears weren’t exactly fireproof, and his toes had been roasted more times than he could count. But there’d been a certain charm to it all the same. It always looked very well on Christmas cards.

Yes, true enough, keeping his suit clean had been a nightmare, but Mrs. Claus had never minded a bit of smut. She would welcome him home at the end of each year’s odyssey with arms outstretched and a twinkle in her eye. These days it was twelve hours in the decontamination chamber before she’d so much as take a look at him. And he couldn’t really blame her for it, either. Santa sighed again, a second time. It was what it was.

They’d had to do something, was the thing, or that would’ve been the end of it all. One had to keep up with things or fall away, become forgotten. And things were changing fast.

Recent years had been particularly challenging. He’d gotten stuck behind too many stove doors shut tight from the outside. He’d picked the locks of too many apartment doors, set off too many security alarms. Santa Claus was a visitor, not a burglar. He was a craftsman, not a Jack-of-all-trades. They’d needed to find a fresh approach that worked everywhere, something universally useful that he could refine to the point of perfection. And they had, in the end. Although fresh wasn’t exactly the word for it.

With all the reluctance of a child on the way to the principal’s office, Santa hoisted his sack onto his back. He glanced back towards his sleigh, which lay parked in the shadow of a nearby alley. His chief elf, Bob, offered him an encouraging thumbs up from where he sat perched upon Dasher’s shoulders.

His other two helper elves had dragged the manhole cover away, and were standing back respectfully. They’d worked with him for years, and knew full well how difficult this was for him.

Yes, this was going to be unpleasant. But he was Santa Claus, he reminded himself sternly, and this sewer system led to forty-two apartments, to sixty-three expectant kids who needed some Christmas magic in their lives. The children were the only thing that really mattered. He cast his eyes downwards, and stared into the abyss. 

The blackness was absolute, terrifying. One never knew how far down the water lay. And fussing about with flares and the like only made the whole thing worse. Well. Plenty more after this one. Best get on with it then.

The main thing, he reflected philosophically, was to make sure no more children spotted him disappearing back down the toilet bowl afterwards, reaching back out to mop the floor with his hat as he went. For as long as this new approach of his remained largely unreported, he still had his dignity. And perhaps things would change for the better in the future, he thought hopefully. Perhaps this was only a phase.

Resolved to his fate, Santa Claus lowered his goggles and bit down on his snorkel. He laid a finger on each side of his nose, and stepped forwards into nothingness. He sighed for the third time as he plummeted. Oh-Oh-Oh.

Read more stories by Tommy in Cupán Fae’s anthologies.

Read our interview with Tommy here.

Come back tomorrow for another piece of our 2019 Advent Calendar!