As many of you know, I spend way too much time thinking about horrible things. That’s what makes me worth reading. Today I wish to share some flash fiction with you. I’m sitting down to write it in one shot of under one hour (including editing.) I hope you enjoy it, but do not read it to your children. Before you accuse me of black helicopter issues, read the news. And be honest with yourself: it could happen, couldn’t it?
Besides, after two weeks of romance novel reviews, I needed this to get my man card back.
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Secret Santa: No elves or happy endings.
Carl Baker was one of 74 professional Santa’s who attended the midway dinner at the steakhouse just outside Chicago on December First. He was tickled to be there in civilian clothers and not his Santa suit. The men sat swapping stories with friends and reviewing the “Santa Season” at it’s half-way point. They needed the break on this Sunday night to recharge and face the next three weeks of sitting in that chair snapping photos. Between them, they were the most popular Santas in Chicagoland, controlling the biggest malls and private venues. Carl was a widower, and he missed his wife terribly. More than once during the dinner he drifted off into a world where she sat next to him, holding his hand and smiling at his antics. The final time he was interrupted by a clanging of silverware on water glasses.
Carl stood up and said, “Gentlemen, I can never tell us apart in those group photos. This year I have provided bright masks with a reindeer nose that each of us should wear for the picture. That way, I won’t be the only one who can’t tell who is whom. My lovely assistant, Melkania, will give you one as we enter the lobby to take the picture. Please play along and have fun!”
Each of the men smilingly took the mask from the young girl and put it on as they lined up for the picture. What they didn’t know, couldn’t know, was that Melkania had her cousin Nancy staying at her apartment for the last three weeks. That cousin was supposed to come and take pictures tonight but was too sick to make it to the restaurant. Instead she’d helped assemble the masks for Melkania that afternoon so that she could get the camera gear ready.
The masks were inexpensive, kind of rough, and the bulbous red nose was plenty big enough to put over the wearers own nose. This would be the lynchpin for the explosion of the Ebola virus in Chicago. Each of those noses had been moistened with her saliva so that Nancy could make it fit through the rubber edges of the mask. Nancy had become symptomatic earlier that day but was not yet so sick as to require medical treatment.
Pictures taken, most of the masks were put in coat pockets as keepsakes. Some were given to friends and grand children as a gag gift. All of the Santas carried away a very tiny Shepard’s crook in their nasal cavities.
For the next three weeks the men who’d attended that party grew full of the little virus. Some were concerned when the first few deaths took place in Chicago from Ebola. But the victims were confined to a neighborhood near Northwestern University and they didn’t recognize any of the names. Nancy and Melkania were never mentioned in the press, as the forged documents on them held different names. Both passed away at a small military hospital in Wisconsin where the outbreak was being handled.
Each day thousands of children sat on the laps of Santa all across Chicagoland. On the 22nd of December the first Santa called in sick at an outlying mall. His replacement hadn’t attended the dinner earlier in the month so he wasn’t exposed. But he did notice that the camera girl and some of the elves looked a bit rugged. Santa had taken picture of each of them wearing the reindeer nose the morning following the party. As the day went by, most of them went home sick as well. The next day some of the people in the food court were very ill, from the same rubber nose, and the mall was quarantined. It wasn’t the only mall: the authorities had very quietly put everyone in several major malls on buses for a camp where they could ride out the incubation period. Families, high-school kids, armored car couriers. If you were in the mall you went. Including Santa.
But the damage was done. Thousands of children from all over the area had cuddled with various Santas for that prized annual photo. They brought the virus with them to their daycare centers, schools, families, and to other parts of the country as they flew to grand parents homes for the holiday.
On December 25th, shortly before midnight, Carl Baker died, alone, in his bathtub. He was Patient 3 and the true primary vector. It was his final sleigh ride.
He finally rejoined his wife.