Up far north at the snowy North Pole lived a magical town named Christmas Town hidden away from mortal sight by invisibility spells. It was populated by short, handsome elves, living snowmen, and talking gingerbread men; it was painted gold, green, and red, and it was also decorated with giant candy canes, colorful lights, garland, Christmas trees, and giant candles. The town was composed of festive houses with unusual architecture, gingerbread houses, toy shops, candy shops, and igloos.
Sadly, the town was currently not as festive as it usually was because the founder and owner of the town, Santa Claus, was dying of extremely old age. His magic had kept him alive for many centuries but was now starting to fail him. Santa Claus was a wise, old saint with great magical power and great generosity. As he lay dying in his luxurious bed, his elves, snowmen, and gingerbread men stood around him to spend their last minutes with him. Santa's magic weakened with age, and his spells were not as powerful as they used to be; for example, he couldn't levitate objects without dropping them, and his Christmas charms would only work halfway.
As he lied in his bed, Santa breathed, "Do not be sad; this is not the end of Christmas." Santa reached over the side of his bed to grab his enchanted toy bag, but it was out of reach so an elf grabbed it and handed it to him. "Thank you," breathed Santa, "I will enchant this toy bag so that it will find the one worthy to succeed me. Help me, elves." Santa and all his elves stretched out their hands and projected gold dust out of them onto the bag for a minute or two. After that, the bag slowly floated up in the air and flew out the door and out of Christmas Town and into the horizon. Having used what little magic he had left, Santa breathed, "Farewell, my friends," and died in his bed. After lying there for a few moments, Santa's body and suit disintegrated into gold dust and followed the toy bag; everyone in the room wept bitterly.
After the toy bag and gold dust left Christmas Town, all the colorful Christmas lights faded out, and the town's festive colors faded to shades of gray. All the smiles on everyone's faces melted away; everyone walked slowly with their sad faces hanging down facing the ground. The once cheery and festive Christmas Town had now become depressing and gray.
The flying toy bag and its accompanying gold dust flew across the snowy plains of the Arctic, over the sea, through Canada, and finally landed in an old, small wooden tool shed in Snellville, Georgia. In the house near that same tool shed, a Scandinavian family called the Orens was partying because it was New Year's Eve; they were popping party poppers, snapping holiday crackers, and other such festive activities. At 11:59 pm, the father of the family hushed everyone down, and everyone began the countdown to 12:00. "15…14…13…12…11…10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1… HAPPY NEW YEAR!!" they cried and released a pandemonium of joyful noises.
Everyone in the family was partying, except for one member; a teenaged, 16-year-old boy named Nicholas Oren. Instead of partying with the rest of his family, Nicholas locked himself into his room and sulked for hours in the dark listening to depressing music as he did a lot. When he was much younger, Nicholas was a cheerful, energetic child who was always running around and playing with other children; however, as he got older, he became more depressed and more withdrawn. By the time he reached his teens, Nicholas hardly did anything but sulk; he wore black all the time, he dyed his beautiful blond hair black, he always slouched, he didn't seem to show interest in anything, he didn't interact with his peers much, and he paid little attention to his environment. It was almost as if Nicholas was somewhere between existence and nonexistence.
After a half-an-hour passed after midnight, the family was getting tired and decided to go to bed. Nicholas, on the other hand, was still sulking and listening to depressing music. After about a half-an-hour, Mrs. Oren, Nicholas's mother, came up to his bedroom door, knocked on it, and told Nicholas to turn off the stereo and to go to bed, but there was no response. After Mrs. Oren repeated herself several times, Nicholas shouted at her out of annoyance, literally punched the stereo off, and slipped into bed; Mrs. Oren returned to her bedroom feeling somewhat hurt by Nicholas's aggressive response, but Nicholas always behaved like that when annoyed enough.
After a few days passed, school started back up for all kids in Snellville. Some looked forward to it while others were dreading it; however, Nicholas didn't care like he didn't care about a lot of things. After Mrs. Oren dropped Nicholas and the other kids off at their schools, Nicholas dragged himself over to the high school campus and through the hallways. While all the other students were dressed in cheery colors, Nicholas was dressed in his usual black; while everyone else was talking to each other and laughing and having a good time, Nicholas was sulking to himself as he reached his locker.
Nicholas was perhaps the least popular kid at the high school and the most bullied. Once Nicholas reached his locker, a football player wearing a jacket with the high school mascot on it walked up to Nicholas and insulted him. "Whatever," said Nicholas as if he didn't care. Then, suddenly, the football player shoved Nicholas to the ground and kicked him in the hip. "Hey! Stop!" yelled the principal as he ran up to the football player; the principal yanked the football player by the hand and said angrily, "In my office."
After that, a pretty girl from the watching crowd came to Nicholas's side to see if he was okay; her name was Catherine, and she was Nicholas's girlfriend. She was the only person in the world who could seem to make Nicholas happy. "Oh, baby, are you all right?" purred Catherine. "I'm fine," said Nicholas like nothing happened. After Catherine helped him back up on his feet, Nicholas gathered his books from his locker and walked with Catherine to the classroom.
"You shouldn't have to put up with things like that," said Catherine out of concern. "What difference does it make," said Nicholas with a tone a depression. "It makes a difference to me," said Catherine still with concern, "I love you, Nick." That very statement touched Nicholas's heavy heart and lifted his spirit by a few inches. "I guess so," said Nicholas with a ghost of a smile, and Catherine smiled and giggled.
For the rest of the day, Nicholas attended his usual classes. Nicholas was a bright kid, but would always remain silent during classes and not answer questions. During lunch break, he would sit either by himself or with Catherine. After all his classes were finished, instead of doing his homework like he should, he would lock himself into the old wooden tool shed and would either draw or sculpt. After supper, he would himself into his bedroom and sulk for hours.
For the rest of the year, things were rather routine, and the enchanted toy sack still remained undiscovered until that year's Halloween. When Halloween came, all the houses were decorated with lights, jack-o-lanterns, fake webs, sheet ghosts, and other such spooky decorations. Because Nicholas was the oldest child of the family, he was the one who would take the younger children out for trick-or-treating. The children all had their costumes picked out; some were ghoulish creatures while others were popular movie characters; one of them was even dressed up as a hot dog.
Nicholas was dressed like a goth for Halloween because it suited his personality. All his clothes were black. His sleeves were like fish-net stockings and his face was covered in black and white makeup. Nicholas would borrow his mom's car and drive his siblings from neighborhood to neighborhood so they could trick-or-treat.
Then, Nicholas and his siblings stopped at a house decorated with a wide variety of sheet ghosts and jack-o-lanterns and two of the upstairs windows had liquid yellow cat eyes. When Nicholas and his siblings got out of the car and walked up the driveway, Nicholas saw a group of young children in costumes carrying away bags full of candy. When he laid eyes on them, he heard an eerie, hissing voice inside his head telling him to murder the children and steal their candy repeatedly. He was about to obey the voices when a familiar voice called to him interrupting his thoughts.
It was Catherine who, like Nicholas, was taking her little brother trick-or-treating. She walked up to Nicholas and said hi. Catherine was wearing the same exact outfit Nicholas was wearing except her shirt was a skimpy crop top. "I see you're taking your siblings trick-or-treating," she commented. "Yeah," said Nicholas with an awkward smile. "You like Halloween?" she asked. "Mmm, it's okay I guess," replied Nicholas indifferently cocking his head to one side. After a little bit of small talk, the two lovers bid each other farewell and headed to different houses.
After a long night of trick-or-treating, everyone except Nicholas was so tired that they went to bed; Nicholas felt like drawing a little before bed. Once he entered the old shed and closed the door behind him, he noticed something he hadn't noticed before. He saw a decent-sized red bag lying in a corner of the shed. He wondered what it was and who it belonged to and how it got there. Nicholas slowly approached it to get a better look at it; it looked like an ordinary bag.
When Nicholas picked it up to examine it, he felt a strange tingling in his veins. His lean muscles wasted into fat, his abdomen swelled, all his hair became white, and his face grew a long white beard. Not only did his body change, but at the same time, his clothes changed dramatically. His shirt and pants became a warm, fuzzy red long jacket and pants with fluffy white borders that had golden tangled designs and a big black belt around his waist, his hands were gloved, his shoes became black, leather boots, and on his head was placed a conical red hat with a fluffy white rim with the same golden tangled designs and fluffy white ball at the point. When Nicholas looked at himself in the only mirror in the shed, he did not see himself in the mirror; instead he saw Santa Claus. This meant that he was now Santa Claus!
Nicholas was greatly disturbed by this sudden, drastic change not only in appearance but also in mood; instead of feeling depressed as he usually did, he felt jolly and festive. This greatly disturbed Nicholas. How could someone like him become a jolly old saint like Santa Claus?
Then, the bag started floating up in the air and began to lift Nicholas off his feet. Then suddenly, the bag burst through the door of the shed and flew high up in the air. Nicholas screamed a deep scream out of terror, but at the same time, he felt thrilled like a kid on a roller coaster. When Nicholas looked down, he could see that he was flying over the United States and Canada toward the Arctic; Nicholas began to think that the bag was taking him to the North Pole. As Nicholas approached the North Pole, he began to see what looked like a black-and-white town.
After the fast, windy flight, the bag crash-landed several meters from the perimeter of the town causing Nicholas to land face down in the snow. Nicholas pulled himself up and shook the snow out of his face and newly-grown beard; Nicholas looked at the town before him and its unnatural shades of gray. When Nicholas walked inside the town, he saw gray elves, gingerbread men, and snowmen with sad faces and heads hanging down.
When one elf finally noticed Nicholas, he shouted with a smile, "HE'S HERE! HE'S BACK!" and everyone looked up at Nicholas, and their moods lighten as they did. The elves, snowmen, and gingerbread men gave a loud, joyful cheer at the sight of Nicholas. Then, the dull grayness of the town was washed away by festive colors like red, green, and gold. Elves, snowmen, and gingerbread men alike rushed up to Nicholas to give him a hug. There was a pool of praises and comments like "He's returned!" and "Christmas is saved!"
Then, all the elves, snowmen, and gingerbread men picked Nicholas up and paraded him around Christmas Town. Everywhere Nicholas looked, he saw bizarre, festive houses, toyshops, gingerbread houses, giant candy canes, giant candles, forests of Christmas trees, and other Christmas stuff.
After the unexpected tour around Christmas Town, Nicholas was taken to what looked like a red and green mansion with golden roofs and garland and wreaths around the windows and lights strung all around. In the front and backyard were all kinds of Christmas lights and big, inflatable balloons and other such decorations. There was also a fence surrounding the mansion composed of candles and candy canes.
Once they passed through the fence, a pompously dressed elf standing next to the door opened the door and said, "This is your home, Santa," and they all tossed him in, the elf closing the door behind him. Nicholas could hear the muffled cheering and praises coming from outside through the walls. "This is so awesome; just like the old Santa promised," said the elf with a big smile. "What is this all about?" inquired Nicholas as if he had a bizarre dream though he could still feel the jolliness within himself. The elf replied still smiling, "You're the new Santa; when the old one died, he sent his toy bag and spirit away to find the one worthy to succeed him, and the worthy one has been found."
"But how could I be worthy to succeed jolly old St. Nick; I'm just a depressed teenager. Ho ho ho," said Nicholas quickly covering his mouth with his hand with a startled look on his face.
"The bag and the spirit are infallible," replied the elf, "but be proud of yourself; hardly anyone gets honors like these for eons."
"But I didn't want to be Santa," protested Nicholas.
"You may change your mind eventually," said the elf calmly, "but I'll let you get some sleep; tomorrow's a big day."
"How will I get back home tomorrow?" asked Nicholas.
"Your reindeer will pull your sleigh to your house," answered the elf, "but you'll only be there for a short time; we told your parents that you've been accepted to a prestigious school in London and that you will only be able to visit occasionally. Good night."
"Well, good night," replied Nicholas with a hint of uncertainty.
Because Nicholas was many miles away from his studio in Georgia, he decided his only option was to get some sleep. He searched around the mansion until he found a door with a sign that said "Santa's room". When he opened the door, he was greeted with an expansive room the size of a living room and bedroom combined decorated with garland and lights. The room also had an enormous red bed and cozy red furnishings with green cushions.
Nicholas approached the bed, slipped off his suit and boots, and slipped under the bed's covers. With his eyes closed and before he was totally asleep, Nicholas quietly laughed, "Ho ho ho". For Nicholas, this was a bizarre but wonderful experience; Nicholas never thought in his whole life that he was destined to be someone as great as Santa.
When morning came and the sun yawned its light on the North Pole, Nicholas and all the other elves, snowmen, and gingerbread men woke up from their beds; it was strange for Nicholas waking up in an unfamiliar room. After yawning and stretching, Nicholas got out of bed, dressed in a huge red robe and red slippers, and made his way downstairs. Nicholas searched around downstairs until he found the kitchen; he found a young lady in there cooking breakfast for him. "Your breakfast will be ready in a few minutes, dear," said the lovely young lady. Nicholas thanked her and decided to wait in the dining room. Nicholas looked out the large window of the dining room to see the front yard and Christmas Town snowy as ever.
Then, suddenly, Nicholas was startled by a cheery voice exclaiming, "Good morning, Santa." When Nicholas turned around, he saw that it was that same pompously dressed elf from yesterday. "Do you knock? Ho ho ho," asked and laughed Nicholas with at first a smile and then a puzzled look. "Sorry if I startled you; I just came to tell you that your office is next door and that you will be examining children's lives and judging whether they're naughty or nice while I'll run the toy factories and everything," said the elf with a big smile. This elf is just like an annoying commercial actor thought Nicholas. Once the young lady from the kitchen delivered Nicholas's breakfast to him, the elf said, "I'll leave you to your breakfast; see you at the office," and left the mansion.
The young lady cooked sausage, pancakes, and eggs for Nicholas with a glass of orange juice. The young lady waited until Nicholas had taken a bite out of his meal to return to the kitchen. When Nicholas cut off a piece of pancake and ate it, he laughed, "Ho ho ho, this is delicious, thank you." The woman thanked him and returned to the kitchen. It was still strange for Nicholas to feel jolly inside.
After Nicholas finished his breakfast, he performed morning rituals such as showering and brushing teeth which he used to not do; when he finished, he dressed up in the Santa suit and headed to the office. It was very cold outside which made Nicholas glad he had magically gained weight. When Nicholas turned left outside the mansion's gate, he found Santa's office which was gold, red, and green like the mansion.
When Nicholas entered the office, he found that it was warmed by several fireplaces which gave it a warm, welcoming orange hue. It was decorated with green garland with red ornaments hanging from it, and a Christmas tree stood in one corner. He also found two desks in the room, one unoccupied and the other occupied by the pompously dressed elf.
When the elf noticed Nicholas, he said with a smile, "Good morning, Santa. Here is your desk; all you have to do is study the lives of children and stamp them as naughty or nice. There are a lot of children to look over, but I've done a little myself. Good luck."
"Thanks. Ho ho ho. Hmm," said Nicholas in response. Nicholas was starting to get used this whole jolly thing.
Nicholas sat down at the unoccupied desk which had a golden throne for a chair and looked at the world snow globe on the desk not knowing how to use it. Next to the world snow globe was a long list of names which must have been miles long which also had naughty and nice boxes next to each name; this must be Santa's list thought Nicholas. When Nicholas read the first name on the list, James Thompson, the world snow globe which had a map of the world in it clouded up and then revealed all the naughty and nice things he did. Unfortunately, there were more naughty deeds than nice deeds; for example, he let his dog loose on a mailman which caused the mailman to acquire serious injuries. Then, Nicholas read the next name down, a girl, and she too had more naughty deeds than nice deeds. Child after child, Nicholas found more naughty deeds than nice deeds; Nicholas found this depressing.
It took Nicholas about a month to examine all the children in the world because he had help from the pompously dressed elf who eventually introduced himself as Jolly. When Nicholas finally finished examining all the children in the world, he approached Jolly's desk and asked, "Jolly?" Jolly looked up from his work to acknowledge Nicholas. Nicholas continued, "If all the kids in the world are naughty then why are we still producing toys for them?"
Jolly answered with a smile, "Because every kid does bad stuff every now and then; that doesn't mean that they don't deserve a gift from Santa. Besides, that whole lump of coal thing is just to scare kids into behaving."
"I know, but the kids I've seen have been doing naughty deeds almost every day; it's unnatural," added Nicholas.
Jolly replied after much thought, "You see, Santa Claus is a spirit of good, he also has a counterpart who is a spirit of evil named Krampus. Krampus likes to manipulate children like toys and make them do all kinds of naughty things, yet Santa is the one who keeps him under control. Ever since the old Santa died, he has been causing mischief around the world."
While he was speaking, Jolly pushed himself from his desk, grabbed a ladder and climbed it, pulled a book from a nearby bookshelf, and opened it on his desk to a page which showed a great horror; it was a picture of Krampus. Krampus was a fiery, satyr-like creature with a head like a skull and horns growing out of its head and fiery serpents protruding from its eye sockets. Nicholas cringed at the sight of the behemoth.
"Krampus is also repelled by anything pertaining to Christmas," added Jolly.
Ever since Nicholas laid eyes on that picture of Krampus, Nicholas remembered all the voices in his head telling him to do bad things. He began to wonder if that was Krampus speaking to him. Was Krampus trying to take control of him and stop him from being Santa Claus?
Halfway through December, Christmas Town was faced with a problem; the elves were not producing toys fast enough because they spent most of the year in depression. Nicholas, using his new magic powers, duplicated each elf to double the productivity, and enough toys for every child were produced by the time Christmas came.
About a day before Christmas Eve, Nicholas was becoming homesick and wanted to see his family again. With Jolly's permission, Nicholas used his flying sleigh towed by flying reindeer to get to Snellville. At first, Nicholas's ride was bumpy because he never used a flying sleigh before, but after a few minutes, he got the hang of it. When he got closer to the ground, Nicholas used an invisibility charm to hide the sleigh and reindeer from view. Once his sleigh landed, Nicholas changed back into his old, teenaged self; as a result, he felt much colder in the winter air. Nicholas carefully climbed down the house's front wall and knocked on the door.
It was a pleasure for Nicholas to see his family again. During his visit, his family noticed that he was much jollier instead of depressed. While everyone was sitting at the dinner table having a meal, when his family asked what had changed about him, Nicholas decided to tell the truth.
"Nicholas," said the mom, "the last time we saw you, you were very depressed; but now you're all cheerful and jolly. What has changed?"
Nicholas thought about it for a minute and then answered, "If I tell you what has changed, will you promise not to tell anyone?"
"Sure," replied his mom with a puzzled look.
"I'm Santa Claus now," confessed Nicholas.
The children burst into laughter, and his dad said, "Seriously, Nick, what has changed?"
Nicholas replied, "If you don't believe me, watch this."
Nicholas got up from his chair and stood in the doorway between the dining room and kitchen. Then, he underwent the same transformation he went through the first time he became Santa. The children's jaws dropped at the sight and his parents were dumbfounded by it. For the rest of the day, Nicholas's family bombarded him with questions about the North Pole, reindeer, elves, and other such things. When the day was finally drawing to a close, Nicholas climbed into his sleigh and returned to the North Pole. He wished he could visit with Catherine for at least a few minutes, but there was not enough time; Nicholas figured he could do it tomorrow night while delivering presents.
When Christmas Eve finally came, the elves worked tirelessly to prepare the sleigh and reindeer for flight and to manufacture the very last gifts. When nighttime came, Nicholas was told by Jolly to go down the chimneys, take the milk and cookies, and set the appropriate gifts under the tree, and off Nicholas went in his flying sleigh. Nicholas followed the instructions Jolly gave him for each house he visited; Nicholas enjoyed the milk and cookies part of his job.
Nicholas had delivered gifts to all of Canada and most of the United States when he saw a strange light in the sky; it was an orangey color, and it was either getting bigger or coming closer. As it got bigger or drew closer, Nicholas could see more detail of the light source up to the point where he found out what it was. It was a large, fiery skull with horns growing from its cranium and winding serpents protruding from its eye sockets; it was Krampus!
The reindeer released cries of terror at the monstrous sight. Krampus vomited a fireball at the sleigh, but Nicholas quickly enveloped his sleigh and reindeer in a magic force field which blocked the fireball. Once he deactivated the magic force field, Nicholas fired a bolt of Christmas magic at Krampus which hit Krampus in between the eye sockets causing him to screech monstrously. Then, an eye socket serpent stretched out toward Nicholas's sleigh and reindeer to swallow them, but Nicholas veered to his right diving downward.
Nicholas was accelerating downward at a high speed when he saw Catherine's house. He decided to land gently on top of Catherine's house. When Nicholas looked up at the sky, he saw no sign of Krampus. After Nicholas climbed down the house's chimney, set gifts under the tree, and climbed back into his sleigh, he saw the satyr-like Krampus standing on the roof holding Catherine in his fiery arms; his arms felt scalding hot through Catherine's pajamas.
"Deliver another gift, and the girl dies," threatened Krampus in a growling voice.
"Not while I'm St. Nick," replied Nicholas with a serious look on his face.
Then, suddenly, Nicholas summoned a Christmas wreath around Krampus's neck which choked him causing him to let go of Catherine; Catherine screamed as she rolled down the roof and fell to the ground with no serious injuries. Krampus burned the wreath to ashes and shot a bolt of fire at Nicholas; Nicholas luckily dodged the fire bolt in time. Nicholas then shot a bolt of Christmas magic at Krampus which stunned Krampus for a moment. Krampus summoned a ring of fire which closed in around Nicholas, but Nicholas jumped out of it just in time. Nicholas summoned a Christmas tree from the roof which accidentally broke a hole through the roof and tipped it over onto Krampus; Krampus burned the tree to ashes. Then, Krampus levitated Nicholas off the roof and slammed him onto the backyard; Nicholas's aged body ached severely from the impact.
Krampus then jumped down from the roof and slammed himself onto the backyard feet first causing the earth to shake. When Nicholas slowly and painfully got up, he summoned a ring of Christmas trees around Krampus which tumbled over onto Krampus; Krampus burned the trees to ashes and got back up on his feet. Krampus slammed his fists down onto the ground which shook the ground knocking Nicholas off his feet. Then, Krampus leaped toward Nicholas to slam his clenched fists down on Nicholas, but Nicholas rolled away before any harm could be done and got up on his feet; the impact of Krampus's clenched fists shook the earth. Nicholas dodged a large, long blast of fire from the palms of Krampus's hands. Then, Nicholas summoned a long strand of garland which tangled Krampus up. While Krampus was struggling to break free, exhausted from the long battle, Nicholas charged up a super-blast of Christmas magic which knocked Krampus out unconscious; the battle for Christmas was now over. Krampus became a stream of fire and flew away into the distance.
Nicholas hurried over to Catherine, who was shaken by the bizarre experience, to see if she was okay. Unbeknownst to Nicholas at the time, Catherine's parents came out of the house to see what the commotion was; they stared at Nicholas in disbelief. Nicholas explained that he was Santa Claus and that the fiery satyr was Krampus; Nicholas even summoned a few Christmas trees in the backyard and changed back into his teenaged self to prove he was telling the truth.
Then, Nicholas had an idea.
"Catherine?" asked Nicholas, and Catherine acknowledged Nicholas. Then he continued, "Would you like to live with me up at the North Pole?"
Catherine replied, "Oh, Nicholas, I'd love to."
Then Nicholas asked, "Is it okay with your parents?" and they both looked up at Catherine's parents.
Catherine's dad replied, "We're okay with it, as long as you bring her down occasionally for visits." And Nicholas agreed to just that.
For the rest of the night, Nicholas finished delivering all of the gifts to the homes with Catherine by his side. When Nicholas finished delivering the gifts, he and Catherine returned to the North Pole and slept in Santa's mansion. The next day, Nicholas and Catherine were married by Jolly, and Catherine became Ms. Santa Claus, and they spent the rest of their years together up at the North Pole.