Cherenkov radiation flared from the edges of the hole that appeared over the North Pole. Such radiation is usually expected to be blue, shading towards violet, but the exotic matter from other dimensions, spilling over the edge of the perfect circle, caused all the colours of the Aurora Borealis to be emitted.
The sled, pulled by the traditional eight reindeer, burst through the hole in time and space and, as suddenly as it had opened, the hole closed behind nearly, but not quite, cutting off the brass lamp that projected on a pole from the back of the sled.
The driver checked his instruments, brass trimmed and set into a walnut board in front of him. The chief of these was a vast clock that commenced to count down from the moment that the sled was in the clear, cold air of the utmost North. Around the deer and driver little sparks glittered in the air as dust and micro-debris impacted on the forcefield and either glanced off or were burnt up. The driver twirled dials and flipped switches. Buttons were depressed and gauges tapped. Balancing the various fields acting on the sled, he called out to the deer:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!”
And if there had been anyone to see this strange sight, they would have seen that deer and driver all were wearing thick, protective goggles.
Coordinates were checked and rechecked, a flight plan made ready, reins cracked and the sled sped away into the swirling snow.
Minutes later, a series of more ragged holes were ripped open and, anyone who had been around to hear would have heard baying preceding the arrival of fearsome, grotesque hound-like creatures, who, pausing only to sniff the air, set off in pursuit of the sled.
The first target showed up on the screen, blinking phosphorescently on the grid. The driver shook the reins and the deer plunged into a dive. He toggled a switch, and the brass chasing on the sled seemed glow blue before the whole assemblage shimmered and seemed to disappear. Anyone looking now would find their eyes watering as the sled seemed to be simultaneously travelling at supersonic speeds and at the same time travelling so slowly – as it passed through the walls of house – that the driver was able to negligently lean over to one side with a carefully wrapped gift in his hand and place it exactly in the right spot under the tree.
They passed through the other side, the switch toggled, the reins flicked, and they were off, dodging chimney pots: up, up into the sky. He glanced at the screen and fed in the new coordinates, noting as he did so the trailing traces of his pursuers.
There were nineteen more deliveries to make, and each time he slipped into this delivery mode, he knew that they would gain on him. He’d done this countless times before, and knew a few tricks – like the one where he slipped into this special mode and went through mountains… Still, there was the time limit to bear in mind as well…
The hunt continued through the long night. He felt old, older than ever. This might be the year that he didn’t make it, that his pursuers won…
One more delivery and then the dash for the North Pole. He needed to shed this reality as quickly as possible, but the Pact demanded not only the presents, but the ritual. So tired now. The deer were feeling the strain, flagging. Ears pricked as they heard the baying. How could the hounds sound so vigorous, so fresh? Weren’t they tired of the chase? The Pact must be maintained, must survive. There must be something that he could do?
He slipped into delivery mode for the last time, and as he was reaching to put the parcel in place he saw it, and reached for it, and snagged it: a bottle of brandy. As he exited the house and flicked back to normal, he sloshed spirit on his handkerchief and stuffed this in the neck of the bottle. Looking at the display in front of him, he lit the handkerchief from his pipe, and at the last moment executed a barrel roll that put him over the top of the hounds. As he threw the bottle at the lead hound he turned off the forcefield long enough for the bottle to drop away. He watched the bottle hit the lead hound on the nose, smash and spray burning brandy onto several hounds, throwing the pack into disarray.
All this, took but a moment and he flicked the reins to urge the deer on – the timer was ominously close to zero. Righting the sled, he looked at the screen again. This was going to be tight. He flicked the reins again, and again, and felt the deer pick up the pace, almost as if they could see the finishing line themselves and were determined to win.
The hole in space and time opened ahead of him and the deer and sled slid through with the timer on three seconds. With a final burst of Cherenkov radiation, the hole closed on a chuckle:
“Ho ho ho!”
And he was gone.
© 2017 David Jesson