This story is purely fictional. With the exception of references to public figures, brands, well-known phenomena and existing places, as well as a holiday and a religious group, all of the events and occurrences alongside their part-taking characters are a product of the author's imagination and should be regarded that way. This story’s utmost goal is to entertain, and not under any circumstances to offend.
‘Cabin crew, please be seated for this next part.’ Myself, I never get spooked, but by this point the others had already figured out that something had gone wrong. People began looking in all directions, and at the flight attendants, which were slowly drawing back, away from the aisle. Some people began frantically asking around, more specifically demanding information from the few attendants which hadn’t gone back yet. Pfft, as if that helps. I bitterly take a bite out of my sandwich and push the tray table shut. I get up from my window seat. Might as well. The passenger on the aisle seat’s been away for a while and he might come back soon. I stretch my limbs. Might not get to do so for a while, and I’m not a limber person.
Precisely 124 seconds later, the ‘fasten seat belt’ announcement flickered on. When coming back to his seat, a man in a tan shirt and white slacks, wearing brown penny-loafers, knocks his drink all over his wife - was it his wife? - while trying to close his tray table. Maybe he stole his outfit off a grandpa. Not important. Wait, who is that? Who the hell is that? A man on the row across seems more agitated than the others. Unnaturally so. He must have some sort of disorder, man… he won’t sit down. In all the chaos, somebody sits in the aisle seat. That’s not a problem. But the guy’s wearing a suit. A suit.
…He looks completely different from my previous seatmate. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you kindly to stay calm. I cannot stress this enough - we are not in any danger-’. The captain's trying to calm the passengers down. Doing a poor job at it. Not really his fault per se. I scoot into my seat. The alarmed man across seems to have finally calmed down. I notice that the guy next to me’s wearing sunglasses. Expensive ones. Why he’d choose to wear them is beyond my understanding. It’s evening after all. Expensive sunglasses. Look like Chopard. Knowing these company names has no use. Will never be rich enough to call myself a customer. Although I guess it is useful in my line of work - being able to know where somebody comes from… what their social status is. I’m getting sidetracked. Complete silence engulfed the plane. The turbulence seemed to be over. Red-tinted rays. I look at the man who I’d suddenly started bumping shoulders with - literally so. Where’d he come from? I’m not one to remember faces. But I do remember brand apparel. And the man before was definitely not wearing such expensive attire. The red light I caught a glimpse of before is in actuality - a dot. Who would've guessed? And a shaky one at that.
I glance up at my dear seatmate. He stared at me blankly. From the corner of my eyes, I could just barely see his irises through his glasses’ lenses. Hazel. Hmm… Stale. Stale eyes. Mine too, admittedly. Although my goal was not to look longingly into his eyes. I was trying to see. See where the red dot was coming from. I ascertained that the lazer clearly came from way behind my seat and my jolly colleague’s, and from outside of the plane, for that matter. I also looked up since I was expecting something from him. A sign. Anything. And then the motion came. ‘Shhhhhhhh… Shhh.’ Shushing me. The man shushed me arrogantly. He was clearly aware of the red dot and as a surplus, seemed in on it. What was this ‘it’? Had someone put a hit on me? In one clean sweep - BANG - and I duck down. From halfway down my seat I look up for any bullet holes. None. The red dot was gone too. I wonder what’s been sniped. My attempt to save myself was abhorrent. The rifle must’ve been a Barrett… if not a McMillan. That must in turn mean… that the sharpshooter is presumably Canadian or American. The plane starts fiercely shaking. Here comes the damn frenzy. I suppose that in this moment I, as well as everybody else on board, became aware of our impending doom.
Aside from the plane’s quakes, we were now leaning slightly to the left. Then more. Even more. I was now consciously putting in effort to ignore the pressing questions floating through my mind. I was also keen on keeping the red dot I’d seen to myself. I mean, my seatmate didn’t exactly seem up for chitter-chatter either. The passengers were looking out the windows. As was I. I turn to the left fully to get a better view out the window. The propeller, which was nearest to my seat, was slowing down. Aaaand… stop. Damn. That can’t be good. By this point everybody was shouting - I don’t blame them. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we are having a small problem. We’re attempting to swiftly fix this and-’. I turn to face forward again. Wha- Where the hell’s the man in the suit? He’s vamoosed. Peeled off. Damn accomplice. I should’ve grabbed him then and there…
Where could he have gone though? Surely he didn’t jump out… And the laser? Why? Why did the marksman use a laser? What even was his vantage point? The pilot can’t get the airship under control.
-Intermission. -Hm… not quite.
I do this trip a handful of times each year. This has never happened before, not once. I try to focus - this part’s crucial: regaining control of the plane shouldn’t have posed any special challenges for the pilot, but who knows what’s happened - I’m the only one here right now (well, me and Duane). We’ve got to make it right.
‘We shouldn’t get involved, C. I keep telling you, this good of yours will end with us failing at some point.’
‘Failing to what - deliver over 5 billion presents across the world? No… I mean, hm… legitimately? You think we have chances of failing? I’ve never considered it, truthfully, and you make a good point, but we’ve been doing this for a while and with your help I reckon tha- Ho Ho Ho!’
‘Oh come on, Nick, get yourself together!’
I look down at my watch - courtesy of the missus. We should be able to make it if we knock a plan out quickly, execute it, and then move on to the next continent, double-time.
‘Don’t you get like that with me! You know that wasn’t a chortle - I mean surely I don’t need to remind you every. Single. Time! It’s pseudobulbar for Christ’s sake? Is that what you want to hear? Now can we please focus on the task at hand? We’ve got around 200 people to save, I’d say that’s more pressing! Wouldn’t you?! And I need your aid!’
I’m a tad shocked by the long pause Duane’s taking - something he rarely does, if ever.
‘Yeah, yeah, ok… I’m sorry C. I just, y’know… I’m having doubts.’
I make the sled hover closer to the pendulous propeller. ‘C’mon, Duane. We’ve done this thousands of times before… Alright, let’s brainstorm this one… Perhaps a strong hovering device could help prop up the left side of the plane again?’
‘To be frank I think I’d go the extra mile for this one. Instead of leaving the plane unsupervised with merely a device we could have a few of the reindeer - maybe Donner and Blitzen, the sturdy ones - sustain the wing from below until the plane’s at a suitably safe altitude.’
‘I… lllllike it! Way to go Duane.’ I reach forward and slightly pat Donner’s back since he’s the only one of the two I can reach. ‘Y’hear boy? You’ve got this don’t ya? Ho ho h- ack!’
A choking fit overtakes me. Both I and Duane heard a second shot go off - something that startled me greatly. I take a moment to regain my composure. Just then, though, my eyes darted over to the propeller blades, now breaking loose and flying off one by one. ‘Damn… Damn it! Whoever’s doing this vile deed, they’ve done it!’ And alas, the two of us don’t even get to use Duane’s plan, because seconds later I look down to see a propeller blade lodged deep into my abdomen. I phase in and out of consciousness, as expected, but I’m able to hear, in between my dozing off, ‘C! What should I do? Tell me! Come on! We can’t save Christmas if one of us is missing!’ I was… well honestly, I was too far gone to be able to help steer the situation in our favour. And just then, as if Duane wasn’t in enough trouble already, our trusty reindeer began breaking formation, one by one, leaving us to fend for ourselves. One, however… one remained. Couldn’t make out which. By this point I was blacking out again.
‘Please bring me the pictures from my vacation to Aarhus, dear boy! Dominic here cannot believe that I managed to catch that massive pikeperch, which by the by, happened while-’. I don’t wait for him to finish, I place the nutmix he’d just asked for down, and I fly up the stairs to the second floor. The sooner I’m done with all this, the sooner I get paid and get to leave this place. My mom’s paying me to be here, but I won’t get into details. All I’ll say is that it seems even she’s aware of the harrowing nature of these annual parties. I rummage through the desk drawer in my uncle’s bedroom, looking for said photobook. He still prints them and compiles them - the ones he takes on his ‘monumental’ travels, which he’ll talk your ear off about. I find the page and he’s the only one in the photo. He doesn’t even seem to have any friends. Yet today tens of people are packed like sardines into uncle’s holiday home. They’re all members of a Jehovah’s Witnesses musical supergroup, and they’ve brought their relatives - most of them hate uncle. How’d he get them here? Well, that’s easy: even though uncle may hate Christmas, he’s well aware that the holiday season’s the only time everybody’s willing to meet. I mean, nobody wants to take a trip all the way up here just to listen to this sly walnut’s braggadocious tone. But he’s the ‘de facto leader’ of all of the Jehovah’s Witnesses subunits in this region of the state, and so he had to figure out a reason to reunite all of them. Dominic was part of the synth-pop subunit if I’m not mistaken.
‘Here you are, uncle.’ I hand him the photobook. He doesn’t take it - he’s too busy talking. I hate how he always flails his arms around like a pitiful little man.
‘And then I grabbed the cretin by the collar of his shirt and threatened to toss him off the Infinite Bridge!’
‘Oh dear! Your uncle White’s a dirty liar, isn’t he, Josh?’ Dominic asks me in between laughs.
Oh, the irony. As a matter of fact, yes, he is a liar. I nod to Dominic solemnly. Uncle’s got such a lack of personality that everything’s scripted with him. He plans his conversations ahead. That’s precisely why he told me where the photobook was beforehand, and it’s precisely why it was in this damn place to begin with, when he only comes up here for the Winter holidays.
‘Oh hey, I just realized - Dominic, have I told you about the time I met Billy Ray Cyrus? Josh, boyo, hurry and bring me the hat - get this Dominic: Billy Ray Cyrus gave me his hat!’
I swiftly leave with the photobook and go to the coat hanger where he’d inconspicuously let me know the hat was, way before the party. When I come back, he’s yet again pontificating. Not about Billy Ray Cyrus of course, no - but about whether or not the Jehovah’s Witnesses power metal subunit, ‘Holy Scorching Light’ deserved to win the Best Jehovah’s Witnesses musical subunit at last year’s party. He’s expressing his dogmatic opinion that his group, the Aqua inspired, europop ‘Vinea’ should have won instead.
‘I - well, I got the hat you wanted.’
‘Oh, mmm, yes, of course, one second - and I told him: surely you don’t expect me to pay for something as minor as brushing you with my car! I didn’t even fully hit you, it was more of a graze, so let’s ju-’
‘Mind your manners, Josh, don’t interrupt me. Be nice to our guest Dominic here, he clearly wants to hear the story.’ he said, whilst yet again flailing his limbs wildly. Only this time, my outstretched hand, holding the hat, was a bit too close. He smacks the hat out of my hand and it lands straight in the fireplace. I catch my mom’s eye. She seems to be giving me a ‘I’ll soon give you the cash and we can eagerly leave.’ sort of look. Oh. Oh no, wait. It’s more of a ‘You’ve massively screwed the pooch’ look. I look back at uncle just in time to see him start choking on the salted almonds… presumably a reaction to the charred Billy Ray Cyrus hat. Who’s to say?
I bolt out the front door - I mean, I need to assure my own safety first. The Jehovah’s Witnesses mob could’ve easily encircled me. I don’t want to have the death metal subunit sicced on me. Just as I do that, I see a red whatchamacallit careening towards my neighbour’s lawn. I pop my head over neighbour Frank’s fence. He was sleeping before but I sort of doubt he is now, after having heard a literal crash taking place in his yard. I hop the fence - I’ve never done this before, I might be trespassing, but might as well - I’ll be dubbed the ‘uncle killer’ soon, anyway. And what I see shocks me to my core. Literally. A shock is sent from this life-sized sled. I feel my body lose its power and I ragdoll to the grass floor. The last sight bestowed onto me is that of a bloody old guy dressed in a Santa Claus costume, which looks like the neighborhood hobo, Mark - and what looks like a dwarf sitting in the passenger’s seat. Seems like he’s the one that fired on me.
As I lose awareness, my last thought is that I don’t want my grave to read ‘Josh White - underpaid worker for the Jehovah’s Witnesses musical supergroup - died in a festive burglary at the hands of a hobo and his dwarf accomplice.’