Here he is again, you can hear him coming. Not me–no, no–I am your fearless narrator, I am your friend. But he, well… you’re going to have to make up your own mind.
Jingle-jangle, that’s the sound he makes and a whoosh as the runners of his sled carve through the snow and there is another sound, like muffled thunder, the sound of hoof beats.
“Ho ho ho!” he cries into the night and his eyes twinkle. He is omniscient, this figure all-in-red, he sees all and so he does not need to be told.
And his rugged, majestic beasts convey his sleigh through the winter’s night, a night frozen both in temperature and time, for neither of these things affect him. He sees everything. He travels everywhere. His is an ancient and eldritch magic.
Beside him, resting on the bed of the sleigh, is a gigantic sack. And the sack moves as though living things are trapped inside it, clamouring to get out. It is a disconcerting sight, but do not worry, it is simply the contents of the sack wrestling against the limitations of Euclidean geometry.
What I am trying to say is, the sack is bigger on the inside and this causes it to behave in such a way that can make it appear like it is pulsing, at times, like a gigantic human heart.
“Ho, ho, ho!” the man repeats and he tugs on the reins indicating that his beasts of burden should slow. He has come to a house at the very edge of the forest, a house resting in the shadows of the trees.
And now he exits the sleigh, one heavy boot at a time. The sack he slings across his shoulder and he stomps towards the house. Crunch, crunch.
There is a carrot on a plate on the doorstep and the old man frowns at it and kicks it away. He enters the house between the cracks in the wood, through a process referred to in some realms as thinning. Then, inside, he is whole again. He is whole and he is fat and his feet stomp loudly on the floorboards.
There, a mug of mead has been left out for him. The candle beside it burns low, the pool of melted wax glows. The old man drinks the mead, but it is not to his taste. Besides there was barely any mead in the cup at all, what a pitiful offering.
In the corner of the room there stands a tree, and the tree at least, hewn fresh from the forest in its infancy is almost satisfactory to the man in red. He goes to the tree and he brushes his fingers through the needles of the foliage.
There is only one stocking this year, though last year this very same house had three. It is hung up beside the tree, hanging from a loose thread from a nail on the wall.
The old man reaches into the sack and a thousand tiny hands clasp and claw at him. He shakes them away and removes a large lump of coal. This he tosses against the wooden floor, where it comes to rest at the base of the tree.
And then the old man passes back through the walls. He thins himself and then climbs back atop his sleigh. For those asleep in the house, this is but one night, but for the man in red it is his ever-existence. For him it is always this night, or the next one, or the next one. His existence is bound to the rituals of this night and this season.
Tidings of joy.
“Ho, ho, ho!” the old man says and grasps the reins.
This post was originally published as “20122021“.