Santa sat on his couch, eating a plate of gingerbread cookies and listening to Mariah Carey’s Christmas album while double checking his naughty/nice list (which these days was kept on his iPad, so he’d check a few names, then go back to playing Simpsons Tapped Out).
Mrs. Claus was in the kitchen baking another tray of gingerbread cookies, knowing the ones she had made an hour ago would be gone by the time these were ready. She had a pair of Beats over her ears and was listening to Run D.M.C.’s “Christmas in Hollis” while she baked.
Just outside of the house, Rudolph was leading the other reindeer in a game of capture the flag. Ever since that fateful night where his red nose saved Christmas, the other deer had invited him to play in their reindeer games, but secretly they regretted it. Not because of the red-nose prejudices they had harbored before. No, they were long past that. It was just that Rudolph turned out to be an overly-competitive jerk who taunted the other reindeer when he won and complained bitterly when he lost.
Elsewhere on the compound, the lights were still on in the factory as the elves worked in endless shifts to get all of the toys manufactured by Christmas. A few of them joked that they wanted to transfer to an iPhone factory in Asia because they heard those workers had better hours, but for the most part they were all in good spirits, singing as they worked.
Most of the elves who weren’t on the clock were at home resting up for their next shift. A few of them were up calling relatives at the Keebler factory. Others were down at the Candy Cane, the only bar on the North Pole, drinking spiked egg nog to helped keep their spirits bright.
The only elf not either working or relaxing before his next factory shift was Hermey, who lay in his dentist chair with his hat pulled over his eyes as he slept. His snores echoed through the small office. In his dreams, he abandoned the dentistry and became a veterinarian, his first client a majestic narwhal.
A few dozen miles away, all seemed quiet on what was once “The Island of Misfit Toys.” Long ago, all of the toys had been rescued and sent to good homes. Not a creature was stirring on the surface of the island.
But down below was a different story. Five hundred feet below the surface sat a secret underground prison. It was guarded, in shifts, by the most ruthless and brave elves in Santa’s team. The elves lived down there, agreeing when they took the job to sever all ties to their fellow elves and to instead guard their prisoners in secret.
There were five cells, four of them containing men the world forgot about; men that Santa wished to keep buried in order to hide his shameful past.
There was Le Père Fouettard, “The Whipping Father,” whose face was covered in soot. He sat quietly in his cell with the hood of his dark robe pulled over his head, rocking back and forth as he dreamed of his long-gone days as an innkeeper, a job he had happily held for years before Santa recruited him to punish the naughty children.
In the next cell down was Belsnickel. He was a man who had always looked a bit disheveled as roamed the German countryside scaring kids into behaving, but the years in isolation had only served to make him more unkempt … and more terrifying.
Just past Belsnickel, poor, sweet Knecht Ruprecht ate an apple and sang softly to himself, convinced that at any moment Santa would come down and tell them all the years locked down here had been a big misunderstanding.
Next was Zwarte Piet, who carefully studied a travel guide for Spain that he had managed to smuggle inside with him. A tear formed in his eye as he saw a photo of the Sagrada Família. He dreamed of one day returning there, hopefully with a sack full of naughty Belgian kids slung over his shoulder.
The final cell sat empty. It had been built for the only one of Santa’s former sidekicks the elves had failed to capture – Krampus.
Santa and his elves had spent years searching for Krampus, hoping to lock down the demonic creature. The irony was that they would soon get their wish. Krampus would soon be headed to the secret prison. But he wasn’t surrendering. He was on a mission to free his forgotten brethren.
Soon, so very soon, Christmas would once again be theirs.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.