There we sat, in a booth. A lovely dinner. Me, my girlfriend, and her daughter. A lovely girls by the name of Christina.
Christina advised me that I had to put together my Christmas list sooner than later, so it could be sent to Santa in timely manner.
“It would be terrible if Sinterklaas didn't know what you want!”, she said.
Alas. How could I tell her? How could I tell her I had an inside line. Could I tell her in just 2 weeks, I would be returning to the North Pole... to resume my position... protecting the world while Santa delivers presents.
I smile at her, and tell her that I will work on a list. I will give the list to her mom, and then she can mail the list to Santa along with hers. That on Christmas Day, I won't look any older... even if years will pass...
If you're reading this, then you're ready for the inside story. What follows is more or less the truth, which I'm not really authorized to tell, but here I am telling it anyway... cause I'm rebellious like that.
In the early days, Santa Claus was a 1 man operation. A lovely man by the name of Kris Kringle, who received the gift of a book filled with magical information... As a child, Kris was treated by his father as if he were little more than a slave. A small, two-legged humanoid pack mule.. destined for nothing but working in the fields, shlepping loads to and fro, beckoning at the call of a sorry excuse for a human being.
A child who's birth was never celebrated. A mother who died young, burned to a crisp and ground into powder by the relentless toil of field work.
With that magical book, he discovered the means to create things out of thin air. To get in touch with magical realms, and convinced the denizens to help him in his one minded goal: to give gifts to all the children in the world. How to decide who's good, who's bad... and monitor everything without being noticed.
They taught him how to make animals fly. They taught him how to make a sack which would hold untold treasures in relative weightlessness. It began small... no one really remembers what year, but it was after the birth of Christ... a symbolic date, picked for its power, profile and relative requirement for celebrating.
As the years roll on, the population of the earth grows larger... and larger... and larger. By the mid 1950's, there are so many worthy children to deliver gifts to, Santa had to decided exactly how to reach all those children in a single night. Would he have to up the standards on who's good? Who's bad?
Well, 10 years earlier, a really smart guy... named Robert Oppenheimer, developed the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb was used on the Japanese people in 1945, and it killed over a million people... each time. It was the single deadliest thing ever created, and ever implemented...
But his children were good. His family was good. Should Santa deliver to them or not? Does Santa visit the sins of the father upon his family?
Robert Oppenheimer decided not to take the chance. He hated himself, and what he created... and had no way to repay the world, or bed forgiveness... so he wrote to Santa.
Santa felt his pain, poured out in a heart breaking letter... and decided to give Mr. Oppenheimer a chance to redeem himself.
“Robert, I can't deliver toys to all the children in the world”, Santa said. “I don't have enough time!”
Robert thought about that. Santa already explained the magic...
“... but isn't there some kind of magic that will create a time dilation?”
Santa is taken by surprise.
“Time Dilation? What does that mean?”
“It means locally slow down time within a given sphere of influence.”
“Alas. I have no spell of this sort, no power... how would we create such an effect? That works upon the entire world?”
Robert sat down in his chair, looking into the roaring fire... Santa worried pacing in front of him...
“I can see how it would be done, but we don't have... the technology yet.”
“Tell me. Tell my elves. We'll get you what you need...”
So Robert wrote everything down. The blue prints to the most wondrous and incredible spell ever created. A mixture of magic and machine, designed to create a world wide time dilation, allowing Santa the ability to deliver to ever more children as the years wore on... the population of the world increased yearly... Robert Oppenheimer lived until 1967. And each year, he helped run the machine...
The Time Dilation Device didn't stop time, it just slowed time down for everyone else... haven't you ever noticed how Christmas Eve seems to be the longest night of the year? Your parents always told you it was just anticipation... but children are better at recognizing the effect of time dilation.
Time Dilation slows down time a a geometric rate equal to how long the delivery will actually take. For example, in 1957, the first year the device was used, it took Santa 3 whole day to deliver all the gifts. 72 hours. For Santa, time moved normally. For everyone else, time moved very. Very. Very. Slow. So for 72 hours, only 8 perceived hours were experienced. If anyone had been able to see Santa moving, he would have appeared to be a red and white blur, whooshing past the fire place...
These days... the machine is run by someone else. Santa and his elves need to find the best and brightest, most capable and most worthy (or so I've been told)... to run the machine during the time required. Each candidate starts 12 months before Christmas. They must figure out how long it will take to deliver all the toys to all the children, and how long the time dilation device must remain in effect. They must determine the amount of fuel required to run the machine... EXACTLY. They must keep the field stable, so as to not cause a permanent time distortion... and they must keep their eyes on the sky...
Around 1978, one of my predecessors left a report stating that 19 days of time dilation were required. During those 19 days, there were “massive inbound unknown objects entering the atmosphere, then exiting.” The history books we are required to read are... extraordinary. Just spectacular, and I can't imagine writing anything equal. Every year since 1978, there's more and more reports of extra orbital activity. Like outside civilizations are visiting, just during Christmas, to see what the heck is going on. Why does time slow down on THAT lil blue/green planet? Who's the fat guy with a white beard and a red overcoat, going around and pulling billions of items from a magic bag? How's he doing it?
I keep thinking that some alien Captain Kirk is up there... asking his alien Mr. Spock to explain the activity... and coming up without any logical answer.
“I would surmise,” Said Alien Spock, “That it's some kind of world wide hibernation ritual to save food stuffs, and all of the locals are awarded with various desires upon awakening?”
I digress. It's now my job... and I'm not really anything special, you know? I work in a Public Library, and run computers. I help people find stuff on the Internet, teach them how to use computers, and occasionally tell them to stop looking at naked people online. I make Librarians into Super Librarians. At least that's my day job... at night, I go home and run complex equations and read arcane usage manuals on Whole Planet Time Dilation devices.... I even get to run tests.
Since I've run the tests, I can tell you what it's like to be on each side of time dilation. It's really quite complex... when you're in the “Santa” position, everything appeals still. Nothing appears to be moving at all. You can stare as a drop of water, and it will never appear to move, even if it does. Yet, you can move and interact with the environment easily. It's advisable NOT to touch anything living because it tends to scare the hell out of them when they wake up (which I've experienced... even knowing that it was coming, the results are extremely spooky!) We have tools laden with spells that will unlock anything. Santa doesn't go down the chimney any more, he just waltzes in the front door. We're still working on a materialization spell, but everything we have tried thus far affects the magic bag. The last time we tried re-materialization, the magic bag exploded with presents... which required more dilation to clean up the mess. Luckily, no one really comes here...
Oh, more to the point: there's so many people now, that there really aren't any places left on the planet to hide. So the “North Pole”, so to speak, was removed from the North Pole sometime in early 80's. Well, sort of removed... Santa and one of my predecessors figured out a way to deliver bi-existentialistism. Basically, the North Pole exists half underwater (20,000 feet down in the Laurentian Abyss) and half on the Dark Side of the Moon. By existing in both places simultaneously, it's unobservable by any conventional means.
Another side effect: we have to spend a lot of time gathering and collating information, to determine if the general public ever creates technology capable of bypassing the bi-existentialist cloak.
If my calculations are correct, this year, Santa will require 3 months (!) to deliver all the presents. At that rate, each tick of the clock amounts to several days. I'm not even sure if the machine will last that long or dilate to that level of complexity. I don't know where to get the fuel at this point... and it's only 35 days till Christmas... and my girlfriend's daughter is asking me to create a list of what I want for Christmas...
So, just after Christmas last year, I was moping around. I went to the mall, and bought myself a paid of shoes.
It was there I was recruited. By Santa himself.
I walked into the shoe store, and a shoe salesman approached me.
Oh, by the way: did I mention that I'm deaf? Yeah. Completely deaf in my left ear, and I can hear a little bit in my right ear. I wear hearing aids. Most people sound like adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon (wah wah wah waaaah?) Especially “new” people, like sales people. But this sales man walks up to me, and speaks in a completely clear voice.
“What can I do for you today?”
Taken aback, I answer. I have never heard anyone speak so clearly before.
“I'm looking for a comfortable pair of shoes. I thought I'd try on a few pairs.”
The Salesman, who had a full white beard, nods.
“Hang on, I know exactly what you need...”
“Wait, my shoes size is...”
“10 and a half wide, actually more like 10 2/3 2E, but they don't make em that size and you like some freedom between your toes, right?”
I'm stumped. How the hell?
So the kindly shoe salesman walks into the back... and re-appears with a pair of original Jordan Air... the type I wanted for Christmas when I was 10 years old.
“Let's try these on”
“How much are they?'
“How about we try these on first?”
I'm confused. I'm thinking of just walking about.
“It's okay. This is weird, I know. But once you try these shoes on, it'll all make sense....”
“What are they, magic Jordans?”
“You could say that....”
So I tried on the shoes. They fit better, felt better than any pair of shoes in the creation of man kind. I stand up, and walk around... it's like walking on clouds...
I looked down to look at my shoes and see how they look... and I realize why it feels like clouds. I AM WALKING ON CLOUDS.
I scream. Bloody freaking murder scream.
The Shoe Salesman chuckles.
“That's good. That was probably the loudest I've ever heard. Just like you told the doctors you'd do in the operating room.”
I'm now convinced this is the weirdest thing that could ever possibly happen. I'm walking on clouds, and a shoe salesman knows what I said in an operating room when I 4 years old... and woke up in the middle of an operation in which they had drilled holes in the back of my head... and I told the doctors not to hurt me, that if they did, I would scream so loud, all the glass in the room would shatter.
Foregoing common sense, I asked the obvious question.
“Who are you?!?!?”
“The Germans called me SinterKlaus.... The Italians called me Babbo Natale...The Fench? Pere Noel...The English? Saint Nicholas... and in America? They call me Santa Claus ”
I look down... I'm still floating on clouds. And the bench and shoe pedestal are still there... and so's the guy who says he's Santa Claus. He's smiling, and nodding.
“See, this is why I'm talking to you. You're smart enough and wise enough to recognize immediately that Sherlock guy knew what he was talking about”
“I've eliminated the obvious, but I'm not completely accepting you're Santa yet... you may well be the object of an acid flash back for acid I never knew I took, or you could be God, Jesus, or the Holy Ghost... or you could be an alien.”
“How about none of the above, and pick E. Some dead old guy?”
“You look to be... rather alive, so...”
“Alive or dead, how can you tell?”
I look down. Another allusion to knowing me well... my favorite personal crafted poem line: Alive or Dead, Heaven or Hell, without the pain, how can you tell?
I suck it up. This is just to weird to say anything except the first thing that comes to mind.
“Alas. I cannot cause it. So it must be neither.”
I nod. Whatever is going to happen.. is going to happen. Go with the flow....
“Alright... let's say you're Santa. What can I do for you, sir?”
“ho ho ho...” he unleashes the stereotypical, yet apparently completely accurate sounds. “It's not what you can do for me, son... it's what you can do for the world....”
Santa waved his hand in my face. I thought it was some kind of joke. Am I being punked here? But then a sparkle began to arise... and I saw a veil of stars appear before me. The stars coalesce into a form... there I see, my nephew.
His mom and dad, point towards Santa's lap... A quiet whisper between them, unheard, but obvious in notion. They're discussing how to get all his presents... My nephew, sweetly looks at Santa and says “I want mommy and daddy to live in the same house again.”
“That's a nice wish, little boy, but I cannot force the human heart to do anything.”
“What's that mean? Can I have an iPad too?”
“Well... my eleves might be able to finagle that. You noticed I didn't ask if you've been good or bad this year?”
“I'm ALWAYS good.”
“Ho ho ho! Of course you are! Now, smile, my boy. The camera!”
A flash... and more... and more... the same thing, over and over... all the mall Santas... there's a smidgeon... maybe just a spell of Santa in each of them, and all the visits with all the children, flow into this... glowing veil of wishes.
“I don't do this for me. I have little forgiveness left to beg. My job is to GIVE... it's not true happiness, no. An iPad doesn't make anyone happy. Money doesn't make anyone happy... but a little boy's heart is warmed knowing his mom and dad will still love each other...”
“Why me? Why would you... of all the people... reveal yourself... to me?”
Santa settles into a chair, I never noticed was there. He crosses his boot over his right leg, just like I do...
“because you're a problem solver. And I need someone to solve problems.”
“I work in a Library, sir. I solve... small, meaningless... encapsulated problems.”
“Poe-tay-toe. Poe-tah-toe. They're both still tasty mashed.”
It must be magic. How could this... rogue from a thousand story lines come to being, step in front of me, and confront me with my own imagination, my own humor, the very essence of my being? How could the stars fall from the sky and show me my nephew and his dreams? Magic... He just may be...
“alright, I asked the wrong question before. What can I do for everyone?”
Santa's eyes light up, and he nods firmly.
“THAT is right question, my boy... but the answer... oh ho. You'll understand why I come to you... “
Santa holds out his hand, pointing towards a car. Attached to the front of the car, is a small, single red light... that blinks.
“is this.. the new sleigh?”
“It's bigger inside than it looks.”
“How fast is this thing?”
“Speed? Son, we don’t need speed where we’re going... Hop in. This space coaster will ride a fantasy, to a place where dreams are fast and free, and then you’ll see it’s reality.”
I think to myself for a moment... “yeah, I don’t have anything better than this to do today, so...”
And he was right. It had NOTHING to do with speed. Just “blinK” and we were there. No even a flash of light,but more like a scene cut between 2 pieces of films.
We had arrived, to be certain... I believe this is the North Pole.