A short story written for the WDC What A Character competition, December 2020.
| Slaying The Sleigh
Reginald Grimswald was a man that was weighed down by a lot of baggage, that of the emotional kind. He found it hard enough to forgive his parents for labeling him with the name. That, together with his tall, thin frame, had led to a lot of his nicknames; particularly 'Reggie the Grim' or worse still, 'The Grim Reaper'.
Reginald could perhaps have coped with the name-calling if it had not been for his mother's and father's attitude towards Christmas. From the earliest age that he could recall, Reginald had never received a single present.
It wasn't as if his parents could not afford it, for in fact they were one of the wealthiest families around. While those from much poorer families would spend January bragging about the gifts that they had received, Reginald kept increasingly to himself, silently cursing the man in red.
"Why does Santa never come and visit me?" he had asked them one year, when a group of boys had cornered him and demanded that he tell them what he had been given.
"Because Santa doesn't exist," his father had told him.
"Because we don't want to make you think this life will give you something for nothing," his mother continued.
"But... but it's not for nothing," Reginald had said. "Santa rewards children for being good."
When both of his parents had laughed at his words, Reginald had fled to his almost toy-less bedroom. There was a Santa, everyone said so, which could only mean that he was not being left a gift because he, Reginald Grimswald, was very, very bad.
As the child became a teenager he became increasingly resentful. Where his classmates were being given pricey mobile phones, games consoles, or designer labelled shoes or clothes, Reginald still received what he had always been given - nothing. He would, he vowed, get his revenge.
Of course, there was no way he could take out his anger and hurt on his parents because they held the purse strings. No, there was only one person that he could target with his revenge, and that was Santa himself.
It wasn't easy being a nineteen year old who persisted in not only believing in, but also abhorring, the big man in red. He would track him down eventually. Reginald poured all of the money he could get his hands on into tracing the exact location of the workshop. He knew it was in the north, most likely near to the North Pole. Other people had not managed to locate it for one simple reason; by the time they were old enough to discover its whereabouts they had already lost interest. Reginald would never lose interest, and because of that, he found it.
The next thing he had to do was to work out not only how he was going to get there but also what he would do when he arrived. The travel logistics were complicated, but he'd found a way to divert money from his father's bank account into his own. Reginald could afford the airplane tickets and the hire of a dog sled, no problem. A few phone calls and all was set. Whatever he planned to do, he would do at the very last minute. Christmas Eve was when he would carry out 'Operation Slay the Sleigh'!
In all of his studies, Santa had used a sleigh pulled by reindeer to somehow zoom around the world delivering millions and millions of gifts. Well, that was all about to change. Not only was the big man about to find out what it felt like to fail, but all of the kids were going to experience the disappointment that he had lived with, year upon year.
"You're going to wish you'd never forgotten me!" Reginald snarled at a picture of Santa he kept taped to the inside of his closet.
He knew exactly what he would target. All he had to do was disable the sleigh, or better still, destroy it. Not knowing how to make a bomb, Reginald decided that he would take with him a big can of gas and a lighter. That was all it would take to make Santa's plans go 'Boom!'.
Knowing that he could not trust anyone else with his plans, Reginald had to take a crash course in driving a dog sled, and luckily for him the snow was soft, for he seemed to excel at the 'crash' part. He was beginning to fret that he would not arrive in time to put his plans into action, and in fact did not arrive at the workshop complex until after dark on Christmas Eve.
Next on the list was to find the sleigh. It was a big thing, not easily hidden. Reginald was pretty sure that it would not be too hard to locate it. When he came across the stables where the reindeer were housed, he was certain he was on the right track.
Santa must be a man that liked to cut things fine, for it had been dark for a long time and yet the reindeer had not been reined. Reginald had a very clear picture in his mind of those straps with their bells, fastening the sleigh for the reindeer to pull. He really felt sorry for the creatures having to race around the globe dragging all that weight behind them, but perhaps with flying it was not so bad.
He could not afford to waste time in feeling pity for the beasts though, for although he had hoped the sleigh would be nearby there was not so much as a sign of it. Reginald trudged around, carrying the can of gas, hoping that none of the staff would notice anything unusual about his footprints. Several times he had been forced to duck down behind a snowdrift to prevent himself from being spotted.
In spite of the layers of clothing he had wrapped himself in, Reginald was beginning to feel uncomfortably cold. He was almost on the verge of giving up when he spotted a piece of red wood peeking out from beneath a tarpaulin. After checking that the coast was clear he walked right up to it and pulled the plastic cover back, just enough to show the intricate gold swirls that wove around the edge of the red paintwork.
"Yes!" he cried, and then ducked down quickly, afraid that his show of jubilation might have given him away.
There was no one in sight. They really did like to leave things until the last minute then. Even so, Reginald knew he did not have a moment to lose. Carefully, he eased the gas can underneath the front of the sled. Once in place, he pushed it as far back as he could get it and only then did he drop in the end of a long length of gasoline-soaked rope.
Reginald began to uncoil the twisted fibers to their full extent, stumbling several times as he tried to rush backwards. They would be loading the sleigh up at any second. Much as Reginald longed to wait until the big man was seated in the driving position, he knew he would not have it in himself to go through with it. Vindictive, he might be, but Reginald did not think he was capable of real violence.
It had to be approaching the midnight hour. It was now or never, and after all the effort that he had put in, Reginald simply could not settle for 'never'. He struck a match, which flared for a second but was extinguished before it had made contact with the rope. No luck the second time either, but the third match flared that bit brighter and a spark took to life and began to trace along the make-shift wick.
The flame had traveled for about half of the length when the roar of an engine split the silence. Reginald stood and watched in open-mouthed shock as a shiny new sleigh took to the sky without the aid of even a single reindeer. Santa had gone into hyper-drive and the reindeer had been retired!
There was a glimpse of a black glove, a red sleeve trimmed with white fur. To banish any doubt as to who it was that was behind the wheel, a loud 'Ho, ho, ho!' made its way to Reginald's ears, before the sleigh and the man disappeared.
No longer caring if he was discovered or not, Reginald stood up and shook his fist at the sky. "I'll get you for this," he yelled.
Had he forgotten the gasoline and the flame that was eating its way towards it? Whether he had or not, the boom knocked him from his feet as bits of splintered wood lifted up into the sky and rained down on him.
"You... you..." Reginald's words were buried beneath an increasingly loud rumble as the snow, dislodged from its resting place by the explosion, headed straight towards him. The workshop was shut up safely and was built to withstand the threat of avalanches. The workers, enjoying a mug of cocoa after all of their hard work, could only watch in wonder at the sight of a man running as fast as he could, pursued by a huge wave of snow.