The Night of Merry Massacre
December 24th, 1836
Yule sat at his brick carving station, scraping out the wood around the letter “A” as quickly as his numb from the cold fingers allowed. He sang while he worked. Not because he was feeling particularly happy, he had started to hate the song and his throat was sore from signing and the freezing air. But Mistress Claus insisted. Anyone caught not singing was in deep trouble. And God help the poor bastard who dared get into a coughing fit.
He brushed the wood shavings off the block and placed it on the pile of alphabet blocks he had already finished that morning. Yule did a quick count. Relieve washed over him. He reached the morning quota; he would get lunch today. Freshly motivated he sang a little louder as he clamped a fresh block of wood onto his workbench.
“Ouch. Darn it!” the elf next to him suddenly yelled out.
Yule risked a quick glance. Cheery was sucking on his finger. The poor sob had cut himself. There was blood visible on the block he was carving. Yule quickly turned his head back, a little shiver running down his spine. He returned to his own work with vigor, only the slight tremor in his singing voice betraying the fear he felt for poor Cheery. He hoped with all his heart Mistress Claus had been too busy to notice.
Cherry had no such luck. Without making a sound Mistress Claus appeared behind them. Only the slight smell of sulfur told the elves she was there before she spoke.
“Cheery, Cheery, what am I going to do? Look at this! You got blood all over the block you were carving.” Her voice was sickly sweet. If sounds could be associated with a smell, then the smell of the sound of Mistress Claus voice was the smell of rotting flesh covered in vanilla frosting.
“I…I can clean it off” Cheery replied desperately. “I can fix it!”
Yule didn’t have to glance over to know Cheery looked terrified. It was obvious from his voice. The stench of fear radiated off him. Yule could even hear Cheery’s heart beating wildly in his small chest.
Mistress Claus was making tutting sounds. “But you know you can’t. Blood doesn’t come out of untreated wood Cheery. Think of what you’ve done. Some poor good little child is going to happily run to the tree on Christmas morning, excitedly open up their present, and find your dirty blood all over their new wood blocks. Think how devastated they will be.” Her voice was all regrettable tones. Yule imagined her face to be in a matching regrettable expression. You would almost believe she really gave a damn about the good little kids on Christmas morning.
“Is that what you want, Cheery?” she continued, venom slipping into her voice now. “Do you want to make some child unhappy on Christmas morning?”
“N..No! No of course not.” Cheery quickly responded, sounding horrified.
“But that’s what you just did!” She yelled at the poor quivering elf. “You ruined someone’s Christmas! And you tried to cover it up! You evil, selfish, little monster!”
Two big elves, dressed in coats in the deepest red color, suddenly showed up at either side of Cheery. One of them carelessly elbowed Yule while grabbing hold of Cheery’s upper arm. Yule’s chisel skipped with the impact, almost cutting his own finger. Only Yule’s lighting fast reflexes, aided by the adrenaline racing through his system saved him from the same fate as Cheery.
The big elves were Mistress Claus personal helpers. She handpicked the tallest elves, none of them too bright, and all of them with a temper problem. If there was something like an elf bully, they would all be found in Mistress Claus guard. They were her enforcers. It was said she picked the deep red color for their uniforms, because blood stains didn’t show on them. Yule believed it.
The two guards carried Cheery off, his heels dragging over the floor, while Cheery shrieked at the top of his lungs how he could fix it. He would work twice as hard. He would make the best blocks any child had ever seen.
Misters Claus simply said: “I know.” You could hear the smile on her voice. Nothing good ever came of Mistress Claus smiling. “And I’ll make sure you won’t forget.”
A shiver ran down Yule’s back again, and a his own voice, still singing the mindless jolly working song wavered for a second, as his mind reflected on the horrors that Cheery would soon face. He could sense Mistress Claus stride away, following the three elves. Only when they were long gone he dared to look up for a moment. The elf on the other side of the bench glanced up as well, looking pale. Their eyes met briefly, and they exchanged a terrified, knowing look. No elf would want to be in Cheery’s curled slippers right now.
A harsh buzzer sounded throughout the workshop. It was time for lunch. At once all the elves stopped their song and stood up. No one spoke a word, relived to give their vocal cords a moment of rest. The elves of Mistress Claus’ guard walked past the long rows of workbenches, inspecting each worker’s output for the morning. Those who reached their quota received a slip of paper with which they could collect their lunch in the mess hall. The elf inspecting Yule’s blocks quickly scribbled his initials on Yule’s lunch voucher and handed it to him with a barely audible “Well done.” This little show of solidarity surprised Yule. He nodded gratefully to the guard and shuffled off to join the line for food.
Lunch consisted of a small piece of gingerbread and a small cup of hot cocoa. It was hardly enough to keep their strength up. Yule was happy to get at least this much. There had been plenty of days where he had gone without. Again his thoughts returned to Cheery. He knew the elf hadn’t made his quota in three days. And of course, after what happened, he would not be getting any lunch today, either. As he slowly chewed his dry gingerbread, he wondered how long Cheery would be able to continue like this before breaking down completely. He hated to think what would happen to the poor bastard once he did.