It was three days before Christmas on a cold winter night in 1899. The city of Brooklin had the holiday spirit in full swing, there was no holding back. Carolers prowled the streets every night, skies lit up with the collective glow of Christmas lights, snow danced across the frost bitten air and stores were jam-packed with every holiday supplies imaginable. 

It was on one such festive night, that a bartender sat alone in his pub. Technically he didn’t close up until ten o’clock pm, but the place was deserted. A single lonely drunkard sat collapsed in the corner of the room, snoring loudly. 

The bartender himself was simply known as Mr. Clause. It was unclear whether this was indeed his name, or he had adopted it due to his unseemly resemblance to the jolly Christmas icon. 

Mr. Clause busied himself by cleaning some cups with a rag and listening to singing in the distance. All was quiet, until a group of loud chattering boys came by and piled into the taproom. They were the type of gang you avoided on the street, loud, rude, young, foolish. Stupid even. These are the reasons Mr. Clause smiled widely. He was afraid there might not be any tonight.

“What’re you lookin’ at gramps?” One of the boys sniggered as he sat down. 

“What’ll it be?” Mr. Clause replied, setting his cup back on the shelf. 

“Whiskey, for the lot of us.” He slapped down a handful of coin. 

“And try not to get hair in the glasses.” Another added, noting Mr. Clause’s long white beard. His friends laughed.

Each boy was given a bottle, then Mr. Clause sat back to watch his work. It took awhile, they drank and talked and laughed. Insulted the bartender once or twice. 

“Seems to me you need to lay off the beer, gramps!” The gang exploded into laughter at their joke, pointing to his round belly; one mimicked Santa Clause by going ho! Ho! Ho! And clutching their stomach.  

They ordered bottle after bottle. Each emptied their pockets and just… kept… drinking. They may have been teasing the old man but this brew was good! They marveled at just how much whiskey he had back there. 

It was around midnight when the stuff began to take effect. The oldest and most drunk of the crew reacted first. He was laughing at some stupid joke his friend made, when the smile dropped off his face. He coughed and bent over double, shuddering violently. Hacking and choking. His friends managed to pull themselves together enough to try and help him. 

“Mac, what’s wrong? Too many bottles?” A guy laid a hand on his shoulder just as the shaking boy collapsed on the floor. He turned cold and his body started changing, shrinking fast. Before anyone knew what was happening, Mac was gone and no-one could explain what lay on the ground in his stead.  

Someone dashed for the door, shrieking in terror, but he dropped too. They all did. Each shaking, coughing and changing. Every last one. All that was left were toys in each of their places. Not only had they changed, but their memories as well. No-one would miss this gaggle of miscreants, not even families.  

Mr. Clause rose to his feet and rubbed his hands together. He went around and gathered all the figurines lying on chairs, stools and floorboards. They made quite a tidy sum, he thought. At the back of the bar was a door, behind it a staircase and under that was a huge workshop. Shelf after shelf was lined with enough toys to satisfy every child in the world. From nutcrackers to dinosaurs, Mr. Clause had it all. He put each boy, now toy, in their proper places. It was nearly Christmas, just a few more nights and he would have all that he needed. 

“Oh all ye corrupt and wicked people. Do not despair! For instead, I have taken what was broken and will use give it to those who may yet need repair.” Mr. Clause took one more glance around and then hobbled back upstairs. There would be more to come.     

December 23, 2019 03:10

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