Manny worked toy assembly for almost 100 years, but was still lacking the seniority needed to request a transfer. Most of his confederates had been promoted without benefit of seniority to the plusher jobs of sorting, wrapping and loading. But Manny suffered what in his mind could only be discrimination.
Like every other elf, he had started off working in a southern plant cataloging names and GPS coordinates, sometimes working with the women in the paint shops, once he spent three shifts in the mine with a jackhammer. The work excited him, but the North Pole promotion was all he ever wanted.
The day he received notice to report to headquarters was the greatest day of his life, or so he thought until he arrived at vast complex of workshops. All through school, during his apprenticeship and journeyman stints, he was considered the best of the best. Never once was there a bad grade or a disparaging remark on one of his performance evaluations, so he had come to think of himself as a super-performer with above average intelligence, and remarkably diverse abilities. The problem was that everyone who made the trip north was of like ability, intellect and talent. Manny became one of ten thousand other elfin workers with no way to set himself apart from the others; the once “big fish” was now only a non-descript guppy in an ocean of other guppies.
Disappointment breeds dissatisfaction which in turn breeds despair. Manny quickly lost his innate elfin humor and instinctive smile. His work never suffered from the depression that ate at his diminutive heart, and drained the life from his soul. The last century of monotonous averages had drained him of the ability to enjoy even the great Feast of the Sleigh. His participation in the social and sexual cotillions had become more of a labor than the festive relief and generational procreative events that they were intended to be. His last three concubines had failed to conceive during the week-long coital dances. This added to his deepening sense of insignificance and futility.
The only times that Manny felt any of his old self begin to stir was when he secretly binged on cookies and fudge and laced his cocoa with Irish whiskey. Unfortunately what started as an emotional crutch became a habit and then an addiction. His secret diet began to take effect on his body; first his face became puffy often reddened with hypertensive blush, then his weight blossomed adding inches upon inches to his once tiny elfin waist line. As his addiction worsened, he became more and more isolated from the other workers, taking breaks hidden in corners where the smell of the sugar rich snacks and alcohol laden drink would not be noticed. The more recluse and rotund Manny became, the more his personal hygiene suffered. He allowed his hair to grow long and without the regimen of perms and dyes, his locks became wavy tresses of unkempt gray. He retired his razor and shaving mug letting his facial hair grow as disheveled as the hair on his head. The once proud elf had morphed into an arctic derelict.
It was during the midsummer coital cotillion that Manny wandered near the genetics lab where they modified young reindeer to fly and luminesce their noses, nearly blind drunk, he never saw the normal size humans approach from his right. The abduction was swift and violent; Manny would never have had a chance to resist even if he was able.
The lights of the hospital examination room blinded the middle-aged elf. A sea of strange humans was busily measuring his height, weight, girth and body fat index while Manny laid helplessly strapped to a gurney. Someone started an IV through a port in the top of his left hand. He watched as the clear liquid snaked its way through the clear tubes and entered his veins. A unexpected transformation instantly overcame the hapless elf. His ordinarily clouded thoughts reached a clarity that he had never known in the past. He was then flooded with infinite memories and experiences of lives he never lived; he reeled with the sudden revelations of talents and accomplishments never known before that instant. His body shuttered and then relaxed. The human attendants released the restraints and helped Manny to sit upright. The strange tall people that were once his captors, were now his saviors.
The tallest of the female humans stepped forward and took his right hand. “You will never again drink alcohol, but the effects will take some time to work out of your system. Are you feeling, okay?”
Her words were not the language of the North Pole, but he understood her perfectly. What came as no surprise was that he could answer her in that same foreign tongue. “I feel fine, although I do have the shakes pretty bad. If you don’t mind me asking, where am I and why did you bring me here?”
“We have been waiting a long time for the change to take place. You have much to learn in the next six months, so we had better get started.”
The explanation that followed answered questions asked by children the world over. Manny became Santa #4,258,165 with the responsibility for the villages of the Pyrenees Basque Country. The impossible task of delivering toys to the children of the world was never left to one supernatural Santa Claus with a supercharged sleigh and bottomless sack, but to an army of elfin mutants driving genetically altered reindeer. Merry Christmas, and I bet you never knew where baby elves came from.