The Santa Matrix. Chapter 15: Box

For the previous chapter, click here! For the first chapter, click here!

Brookfield, WI. Al Capone apparently owned a place here, made some moonshine. You are now here, and ever so gently. No longer a tracker of rogue elves (at least not now), you are heeding a simpler call. Actually, it’s an occasion that you are supposed to attend, and not as Santa Claus. Quite simply, you are to monitor a local office, take some good ol’ fashion naughty or nice notes while doing some normal work, too. So far you haven’t seen that much of either. Basically, you’ve witnessed gossipping, saw someone rotate around in an office chair until they felt dizzy (while they should have been working) and a few instances of minor bullying. The best way to get in close? You have a temporary job here, which means people care less about your presence.

This is increasingly what your life has in store. It’s nice to have some semblance of normacy again. No outlandish beard, no Santa suit. You’ve rejoined the club of average Joes. In fact, you can even think sinfully without nosebleeds and splitting headaches. Right now, you’re studying directories at your desk. You’re bored as shit. Beautiful.

Neighborhood is nice. Falwell said you might also see Norfolk later, too. You’ve never been to Virginia before. A fly buzzes, a sure sign of spring.

As you sit at your desk, you wonder why Falwell suspended the regular rules. In fact, you wonder if they actually helped in the first place. You can still be a good person and have sinful thoughts — maybe not perfect, but not horrible. You only killed Andy in self defense! Still, the thought lingers in your mind, and you can’t read anything right now. You can’t focus.

You think of that blade — the power of it. How could one sharp little piece of metal end a life, and how could you be the one to do it? Then there are those threatening, crazy letters you were assigned to write to taunt police. How could you do it? And now office work — boring, mundane office work at an office supply company (an inherent redundancy). God’s plan seems a bit exotic, even for him.

You try to focus again. You are the guardian of this office. A temporary help, maybe, but you’re in charge of everything from taking phone calls to printing and attaching shipping labels. You don’t even know what your job exactly is. You just do what they ask, to the extent you can, regardless. You are almost done for the day anyway. Nothing bad happened to you, and thre were practically no sins.

On your way home, you encounter what could fairly be called a backwards baseball cap wearing gutterpunk. You instantly hate him, and how he thinks he’s so damn cool. You wish you could yank him by that backwards hat and have his head pop off with it, then hear it fall to the pavement with a dull thud (a sound should always represent its creator!).

You say “Hello” to him and he gives a barely conscious nod of recognition. Suddenly, a thought emerges: Could this be another escaped elf? You don’t know how many are actually out and about in the world. Tens? Hundreds? Thousands? There are plenty of hidden Santa’s shops in the world. Quite possibly these conduits are all over the world, doing wicked deeds and fleeing the bodies when prison life gets too boring.

You decide to ask this stranger a question: “How large is the average elf?” While he offers a confused look, you elaborate: “Some elves are pretty large, and others quite small, but they all want to be as large as possible.” He puts both his hands up and says, “Okay, whatever, man.” With that he spins around and continues walking away, faster. ‘The dropping-out-of-school thing was a good idea for this kid,’ you think to yourself. You consider the merits of what just happened. There aren’t any. You weren’t brought here to sniff out elves anyway.

As you get home — an apartment you are renting — you quickly get back to your actual job. You study one of your co-workers. He’s a deadbeat dad. He’s had a surprising amount of bastard kids, never seeking the custody thereof. He only pays child support because he has to. His face makes you wince. How could somebody so ugly get so many sexual partners?

You think of what fate you could send his way, even venturing into the realm of the fantastical. How about some bolts of lightning? Maybe a sinkhole opening up to consume his car? There are lots of delicious ideas here. However, you know you shouldn’t take things too far. It’s probably also a good idea to consider anything good about him. Larry Sanders is his name, assholery is his game. Right? Well, not totally.

Unfortunately, you’re getting damn tired right now. You’ll have to shut down pretty soon. The worst thing Larry did — aside from reproducing too often — was being too liberal with one of the company expense accounts. Basically, the guy is pretty clean, at least for a sleazeball. You turn on the radio and hear one of the DJs talk about a crime that occurred today: “…Police did not specify on the accused man’s identity, or the identity of the victim. Nor did they disclose specifics about the murder…”

You are writing notes on this emerging story. There are no psychic signals right now, just radio signals. Access to this story will be tricky, and you don’t like that. You wonder if it’s that punk you saw earlier. What would the odds of that be? It could be practically anyone. It could even be a woman, really. Maybe she hired a hitman or something. Blind speculation.

“I fuckin’ see the dead man,” you say aloud. You kind of do, too. Of course, the dead man you see is Andy. Lounge music is playing on your computer, blended with the classic rock station on the radio. It doesn’t sound right, all jumbled together, intermingled with your anxiety. The knock on your door doesn’t sound right, either. You quickly rise to your feet.

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