Niranjan is an Indian word. You don’t know exactly what it means — its context and its full profundity — but you’ve heard that it means “one who is spotless and pure.” The world has never been like that, and neither have you. So why were you running? Why was anyone running after doing something wrong? Mass calculated evils are everywhere, every single day. Why does the evil of one person matter when faced with all the other wrongs out there? ALL is not evil, though, is it? No, it cannot be.
You eliminated a threat and apparently got clear away, at least for now. What you did will likely be chalked up as another random stabbing. They say New York City isn’t as violent as it used to be. Well, they should have seen you just a few hours ago!
Hours? It almost seems more like days now. Days stretched out on a blank canvass. Ever more blank, waiting to be utilized. There are still flaws on a blank canvass, right? Everything has flaws.
“…Officially died in the street…”
What was that? Another strange flash of words uttered in your brain? An alien, female voice? From where? From whom? Where the hell are you anyway? This place seems eternal, bright and beyond beauty or ugliness. It feels like you’ve always been here. Is it a real place, or the mere center of your being? Were you headquartered in terms of this space at conception?
Encouraged, you look for signs of anything tangible, aside from yourself. You get a faint whiff of fungus. It’s not particularly disgusting, yet very noticeable amidst all this nothingness. Are you in a forest now, near a giant mushroom or something? Did somebody feed you a mushroom and maybe cause you to dream all this madness? Somehow, somewhere you hear the clear sound of an airplane. If an airplane really exists here somewhere, you might actually be alive on the earth — on the actual earth! You also realize that there’s a type of ground beneath your feet. Well, that must be tangible! Right?
Miles into captivity you ran, and miles into captivity you shall stay. You sit down on what is probably a floor, or a ground. “…Regular basis…,” says a strong male voice. Your Santa signals used to make sense, but now they’re just like a pathetic bird trying to flap its broken wing.
Then you hear a voice, apparently speaking at you more directly: “You are like your own galaxy.” You groan, then counter: “Look, I’m not in the mood for any contemplation of existence right now, okay? Just put me back on earth, would you please?”
Then, as a man approaches, you realize it is Jerry Falwell. Goddamn, you see way too much of him. “What the hell is going on here, Jerry?” He laughs. “Hell is exactly what is going on here, Jeffrey. Or, more simply, our way of avoiding it for you.” You throw up your arms, saying “Well, isn’t that special?” “Dance around it all you want, boy, but you’re in a heap of trouble if you don’t listen up to me right now.” You stand up and say, “Oh yeah? Is that a fact?” “Yes, yes it is. In fact, it’s the only fact that ought to matter to you right now. And it does matter, Jeff. You can be sure of that.”
“I thought Hell was a myth, even according to what you yourself told me.” “Well, it is and it isn’t. You see, before you were a Santa, you were weaker than you are now. You were weak because that time you spent living and working was just fo the bare minimum of survival, and the bare minimum of comfort. As a Santa, you were asked to step up your game, to bear the bare maximum in life. Now, in theory you could be freed of this burden, but I ask you not see it as a burden to begin with. I want you to see it as a responsibility — a respectable responsibility. Do you understand?”
“Well, what choice do I have? I can say, ‘No, I don’t fully understand,’ but none of that would matter now, would it?” “See, I think you think I’m a bad guy. You think I was just some pompous religious leader, an asshole, if you will. As an asshole, you think I’m full of shit.” “Yeah, I guess so, if I’m being honest.” “Well, that’s fine, Jeff. You can indeed be honest. However, you should realize that I am here as God’s asshole. Therefore, my shit is God’s shit. God’s shit is good shit. It is holy shit. Do you understand?” You actually start crying a bit from holding back laughter, anger, fear, confusion and a strange, transcendent concern.
“Now, because of what you did — because of the man you killed — I’m actually going to ask you to write a letter to the police, explaining that you were the madman who did it, and that you are destined to do it again.” You look up at him, a bundle of nervous energy, angst and confusion. “You’ll have to be creative in what you say. It’s not like this article writes itself.” You hear an airplane sound again, and try to look in that direction.
“WRONG!” Mr. Falwell yells this so loud that you curl up in a ball. “You murderer! You bastard! How dare you sin so gravely on a mission from God almighty himself! You stabbed a human being — not just an elf, but an actual person possessed by one of our own! He was innocent! Perfectly innocent of whatever deeds the elf would have perpetrated.”
Your sobbing eventually subsides, and you ask about the airplane. He laughs. “You know what that is? The airplane. One of the greatest inventions of the twentieth century, turned into an utter monstrosity very soon into the twenty first. I know you know what I’m talking about.” He starts pacing back and forth casually, as talkers do.
“The physical origin of the airplane doesn’t matter to the average person anymore, does it? What heralded in a bold new dawn of man became — very quickly — something to yawn at, or merely be annoyed by while on one’s way to some place else. That was until September 11th. That day may have been evil as hell, but you know what? It made us respect the power of air flight again. We were reminded that it was dangerous — is dangerous. If one thing goes wrong up there, it can easily prove catastrophic down here. People died who had nothing to do with anything — be they good or bad, they were killed like ants. Sure, some would be offended by how I say it, but it’s nonetheless the truth. Therefore, devastation is truth. Fear is truth. Fatality is truth.”
He straightens up his suit a bit. “And so, when you write this letter, I want you to strike fear into people. Remind them that random chaos is out there, so they had better be careful what they say and do. Even if they don’t believe God is watching, they’ll at least look to the sky and know that something or someone is out there. If not a plane crashing into their den of sin, it might be a bit of nature itself — a tornado, hurricane, or hail the size of golf balls that could kill upon impact. When people respect mortality, they’re potentially more likely to cling to the people and things they actually love. They’ll see problems in the world and realize that good things are rare, so they ought to be appreciated more.”
“Is that really how this works? I’m not so sure.” You wipe your eye of tears, and sniffle. “Oh, sure,” Jerry continues, “Some will use tragedy as an excuse to act worse. They’ll say ‘The world is rotten, so why even try?’ But you know what? Not everyone will do that. Some people will gain strength by bonding with others. You will give them that strength.” He extends his hand, smiling. You grab it and left him lift you up, off of what might have been a ground.
Back in your office. You didn’t realize it, but you wanted to be back here more than anywhere else on earth. How could that be? You hated it here. Ah, but the beast of familiarity has its claws deep into your soul, and your body is its puppet! You are a creature of habit, and more habits are forming all the time. Before much time passed, you wrote the letter as requested by Falwell, and you wrote it well. As time has passed, you’ve read a lot as well — not through inter-library Books, but by your strengthened mental awareness. It has indeed grown stronger over the years, like the skills of a child on a bike. Just keep riding and soon it will be like second nature!
Your crazed letter received plenty of feedback in the press. You warned of further stabbings, but placed it in a context appropriate to Falwell’s assignment. You urged the people of earth to love their relatives, homes, possessions, but also told them that these things are all fleeting, as life itself is fleeting. You emphasized how your stabbings will just be ripples in a great lake, although the public will interpret them as tidal waves by the time you’re through (or you at least said something very much like that). The currently accepted theory about your letter? You are a pathetic psychopath trying to appear as some genius intellectual. Of course, if they knew the actual, unvarnished truth, they would plainly shit their pants.
At this point, existence seems quaint. Christmas is still far away, but the mission is never over. As time marches on, you don’t even want it to be over anymore. You have settled into your role. In some ways, that letter actually helped you. It was cathartic. At the same time, you couldn’t expect it to change the entire world. In fact, Santa himself isn’t for the entire world. In China, only a very small segment of the population is Christian. Therefore, Christmas is a marginal affair over there. In India, Christianity is slightly more common, but still far from significant. This is why, contrary to what Jerry Falwell used to say on earth, Christmas can’t just be about Christianity. If it’s to be appreciated at all, it has to be something that transcends religion.
“Niranjan,” you say aloud. What would it take to make everything spotless? You wonder if that is including the sky. A spotless sky would have no human pollution in it; no airplane, no tourists, no terrorist hijackings. None of it! Just pure nature. Then you think of the almost mythic Wright Brothers, and how their aspirations must have seemed perfectly innocent and pure at first, too. Oh, what a world full of wonders!
You smile at the magic capabilities in your office. Your mail slot, which can send out mail in all directions uniformly. Incredible! The letters just appear in mailboxes out of nowhere! It’s not the most powerful magic one could imagine, but how dare anyone not accord it some respect?
Now, as you ponder the image of Andy’s dying ass slumped on the sidewalk, you wonder if the other elves are really taking it in stride. Figs in a dish, one and all. If you wanted to, it seems you could pluck any one of them up and do whatever you wanted. But you don’t! You respect their boundaries, maybe they’ll respect yours. Andy was an exception, which you killed on the sidewalk. Any of them fuck with you and your organization, they might get knifed on the sidewalk. Gutted like a fish.
“Niranjan,” you say aloud.