I have been out of commission from writing fiction for a while now; I have been rather busy and have been dealing with some personal issues that have haunted me for years but only now have begun to seek help. These issues have sucked me out of past years' rhythm and I have written very little this year. Part of me was afraid that my fiction writing days were over, with my sophomore year at a prestigious university in full swing.
No. I have rejected that. This, my annual holiday tradition, I intend to be my triumphant return.
Without further ado:
HOW THE CHEKA STOLE CHRISTMAS A HOLIDAY TIMELINE COMING TO AN ONLINE DISCUSSION FORUM NEAR YOU 12/4/16 BY SPANISHSPY
Every Who Down in Whograd Liked Christmas a lot...
Russian winters were brutal as they were known to be. The Khans withstood them, but the Swedish and the French could not. Elves from the North Pole, however, had a knack at surviving in the cold.
Santa Claus himself commanded this sleigh, loaded with not gifts, but food aid and weapons. His destination: the little elf-inhabited town of Whograd.
Whograd was home to elves who were kin of the North Pole elves. Indeed, the elves of the North Pole only moved there during a series of expulsions, from the Mongols to the Tsars and everyone else who had run over Russian plains and fields. Whograd was all that remained.
“On Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, and Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen!” he cried out. He did so to keep them alert, keeping them active in this land fraught with danger. “And you too, Rudolph!” red nose shining in the night like a ruby under a lamp.
Flanking Santa Claus were several elf cavalry. Yes, the sleigh was armed, but no, the North Pole had not yet acquired anything based on the lumbering monstrosities that the last war had created, those treated iron beasts called ‘tanks.’ Claus’s sleigh was ironclad, but it had to sacrifice some armor for mobility.
“I see nothing, my liege!” called out one of the elf cavalryman. “Nothing at all! We’re coming very close to Whograd and there are no signs of any reds at all!”
“Surprising!” barked out Claus. Faintly, he could hear artillery in the distance.
Reds and whites were engaged in their fight over the city of Tsaritsyn, and bands on both sides roamed the countryside on patrol. The whos, that race of elves who had survived for generations, were now under threat of extinction.
They celebrated Christmas as their most beloved holiday, but the forces of the atheistic Bolsheviks threatened to put a stop to that, forcing them to whatever fate they might.
Santa Claus was determined to stop that.
The convoy came upon what appeared to be a person, not a human, per se, but a person. An elf. He was laying stone slabs, attempting to build what appeared to be some sort of fortification.
“Elf! Who may you be?” called out Claus.
“I am the man who arranges the blocks!”
“The wall! To keep the bandits and the soldiers out!”
“Very well!” replied Claus, satisfied. “Which way to Whograd?”
“You’re headed the right way!”
“Thank you!” called out Claus. It occurred to him that Rudolph’s red light may have given his identity away.
“Whos! Whos!” cried out a town crier, as Claus and his defenders entered the town of Whograd. “He has arrived! Ded Moroz is here”
As the town turned to jubilation, he rode through the streets to the town center with the town hall-turned-defense complex. They cheered him as he rode through. They came to a stop in the central square, where they would meet the Lord Mayor, whose name was Yolkov.
As they came to the stop, and the crowd cheered, Claus disembarked and made his way to the fortified compound. Crowds cheered their beloved Ded Moroz.
Except for one. A young girl, standing in an alleyway, looking at Claus dejectedly. Claus saw her pain.
Then he recognized her, and walked towards her.
“Snegurochka?” he asked.
“Father?” she replied.
“Vasily! Anatoly! Stop dawdling and get over here now!” Mikhail Tarasovich Stegnov barked at his subordinates. These two were doing something they ought not be doing. Whatever they were doing, if they didn’t stop doing it the Whites would take control of the area. And who was to say that Mikhail was wrong?
“There’s a cave here!”
“So what? There are caves in plenty of places in all Russia! You can go spelunking whenever you please after we have deposed the Tsar!”
“But Mikhail Tarasovich!” called out Vasily. “There appears to be a light inside.”
Mikhail paused. “Do you think it’s the whites?”
“Stay there, then! All men, follow me to this cave!”
In the snow, the light flickered in a way that was almost welcoming. In this kind of cold, there was no unwelcome heat. Mikhail peered into it, gun at the ready.
“Be prepared for a firefight!”
They entered with great trepidation. The light was clearly that of a torch, cared for with great sensitivity. It was a winding cave, with a few more torches spaced out to give just enough light to see.
They heard skittering. Mikhail scanned the cavern, now opened to some kind of room.
“Who goes there?” asked a voice.
“Soldiers of the Red Army. Are you a White? A Tsarist?”
“The Tsars never did a damn thing for me, and neither did the Whos,” said this raspy voice. “I have no love for them.”
A figure stepped out. Mikhail couldn’t describe it as human. It was this green thing, not a man per se, but manlike, covered in fur, with piercing eyes and a wisp of hair on his head. He didn’t have hands, but limbs that ended in two tendrils per hand. His feet ended in single long wisps of hair, and he had a plume of hair around his neck.
"What are you supposed to be, then? A 'Grinch?' What does that mean?" asked Mikhail incredulously.
"An outcast. A freak. A creature." He paused. "Something not deserving of human dignity."
The Grinch paced around the room. "They thought me something not worthy of their respect. They thought of me as a monster!"
"Why would they?"
"Look at me!" he wailed. "Look at me! After living with them for so long they threw me out for reason other than I didn't look like them! I'm a freak to them!" He gathered his breath. "And now they celebrate their Christmas without me!"
Mikhail paused. "Tell me, Grinch, you know of Whograd, yes?"
"That I do. I know the town very well."
"Then, Mr. Grinch, perhaps we could work out a deal."
He gestured to the exit. "Come with me."
Santa Claus extended his hand to Snegurochka, his daughter that he had almost forgotten about. The centuries would do that. She returned the gesture and shook his hand in a mitt. His glove became soggy as he felt her icy digits.
"My heart has been cold since you left," she said. "As cold as the Russian winter."
"Will you not even attempt to atone for the crime of abandonment? Or are you ashamed of the gestalt you have created?
"We went over this when the hordes came. You had a choice."
"No, you had a choice. And you chose to abandon me."
"This was for the greater good of the humans!" shot back Claus.
"And yet, despite all your efforts, you have failed. Miserably. Do you not see their awful war now?"
Claus couldn't say anything. He remained deep in thought. "I'm sorry you feel that way."
"As if you gave me barely any ability to feel." Snegurochka walked off, eyes looking deadly into the alleyway."
"Comrade!" called out Mikhail. "I have some interesting information!" The Grinch followed right behind him, given a coat and a pistol in case the Whites came by.
"Yes?" asked his commandant, a stone-faced Tsaritsyn native by the name of Grigory. "It had better be good. Joseph Vissarionovich is tiring of your prattle and your unimportant news."
"I have found a creature that knows of Whograd and its people!"
"You mean that godforsaken village of elves harassing our patrols and shipments?"
"Good, then, good!" he responded cheerfully. "Because I have orders from Felix Dzerzhinsky to raze that damnable village to the ground!"
The Grinch's mouth formed a twisted smile, and his hairy antennae formed a twisted heart.
The Grinch had been reading. He had been appointed a mentor from the Bolshevik secret police, called the Cheka, by the name of Arseny Vladimirovich Markov. Markov had been appointed by the orders of Dzerzhinsky himself to teach the Grinch the ways of Communism. They had read Lenin and Marx and all the great thinkers of that intellectual tradition.
He learned with great joy. This explained so much, how Who society was built around the notion of satisfying a plutocratic elite, and how that elite had used their hatred of his own looks to throw him out to maintain an enemy around which to build a society.
It all made sense now.
Markov also taught him to fight. To shoot. To kill.
"Good job, Grinch, good job!" cried out Markov. "You're mastering the rifle! Soon you will be able to infiltrate Whograd for us!"
"With pleasure, with pleasure!" he responded.
Snegurochka returned to her little cabin on the outskirts of Whograd. She breathed heavily.
What was the point of anything? She asked herself that question often.
She reclined on her chair in the dining room, with a small lantern lighting the room.
She had some small roast beast (as they called the local game) on her table. She ate it. It was dreadfully bland, but she did not have the resources to afford many spices.
Outside the window were two young elves, one boy and one girl. They were old enough to have discovered the opposite sex but young enough not to have had their own families. They were clearly enraptured with one another. They even kissed, once.
How Snegurochka envied them.
When she was created by Ded Moroz, or "Santa Claus" as he presented himself to the West, and his wife, "Mrs. Claus" as she did the same, out of snow and ice, they neglected to give her the ability to love. She was not aware of how precisely they were to do that, but they had not done so.
Whenever she saw two elves enraptured with one another, she felt a palpable jealousy. Santa Claus had neglected to give her that. And he had the gall to abandon her to the rest of these elves when they went up north! Was she not important enough?
She remembered seeing him in his sleigh flying off in the massive exodus to the North Pole after the Mongols had finally been repelled and Muscovy had come.
She clearly mattered little to him.
"My people served in Crimea! In Poland! In Siberia! Hell, even in Alaska!" declared Yolkov, the high elf of Whograd. "And yet they have the gall to abandon us!" He practically growled. "What of Krasnov and Wrangel and Denikin? Nothing!"
"There is no need to be so histrionic!" cried out Claus. "We are here!"
"And I trust you'll have more?"
"Good. The fortifications are being built."
"And why weren't they already?"
Yolkov stammered. "We only had so much materiel!"
Claus remained silent. He knew Whograd had access to forests and mines.
Yolkov must have sensed Claus' apprehension. "And we were giving so much men and materiel to Brusilov!"
"Excuse me, sires?" asked an elf coming from the back.
"Ah, Mr. Jingeling!" remarked Claus. Yolkov seemed confused.
"I have a letter for Mrs. Claus back up to the North Pole," said Claus. He brandished a letter.
"What does it concern?" asked Jingeling.
"Snegurochka. Tell her that our daughter needs a heart."
"I see her. Red light and everything." Koliadov, a Who, peered through the lenses of his binoculars. "Candycane, tell them to fire the star shell."
"Yes, sir!" replied Cornelius Candycane, a North Pole elf, who dashed back towards Whograd with haste. Within minutes, a shell fired up from an artillery gun within the ramshackle fortifications. There was a flare of light, and the shell released a lantern that slowly drifted to the ground. This flare illuminated the ground and showed the runway that had been hastily constructed.
The sleigh carrying Mrs. Claus descended towards the runway. All clear.
A crack rang out. "What? Who's there?" yelled Koliadov. He brandished his rifle.
More cracks. Bullets. He ducked down, and ran whilst crouching back to whograd. "Bolsheviks! They're coming!"
He looked behind him and saw a plethora of men of the Red Army, or so he presumed. What scared him more, however, was the rapid whirring of engines.
Armored cars mounted with machine guns led the charge. The brunt of modern warfare was being deployed on Whograd without any remorse. This was a new type of warfare, a twentieth century warfare unlike anything the world had ever seen.
He heard artillery coming in from the attackers' side. He ran faster.
Whograd and North Pole elves, the former in white uniforms, the latter in green (the North Pole usually prioritized red, but in light of their opponents that was considered unwise), came charging out of the fortifications, some on foot, others on sleighs. Howitzers fired, and two armored cars went up in smoke. The rat-tat-tat of machine guns, Vickers he believed, were fired off at the charging Bolsheviks.
Most reassuring was Santa Claus at a gun.
"It's not pleasant, and it's loud, I know," said the driver to the Grinch, cooped up inside an armored car well away from the fighting. "From our estimates, we think the bulk of their defenses are at their southern wall. They are utterly unprepared for an excursion from the north."
And north they were. The armored car clambered through the snow, with only the driver, Anton, and the Grinch inside. They took care not to go too fast lest to let any elf know.
They followed a wall, looking for the least covered area by scouts or sentries. The whole line of defenses seemed deserted.
"It's just wood!" exclaimed the Grinch.
"So much the better!" remarked Anton with great excitement. He slammed the gas pedal and broke the wall by sheer force of tons of metal at high speeds.
"Do you have your gun?"
"Yes," replied the Grinch.
"Do everything you can do destroy food stores and ammunition dumps, as well as any vehicles or animals that they might be using for the war effort. Then, slip out however you can."
"I heard the briefing," said the Grinch, cocking his gun. He leaped out and dashed away from the car, which backed up and drove away.
He took refuge in an alleyway, gun at the ready. He scanned the area and found a pair of eyes staring him in the face.
A young elf girl, shivering in fright. She must have heard the stories.
She must think he was evil. Some sort of demon for just being ugly.
This was the kind of revenge he had wanted for so long.
Snegurochka heard a knock on the door. She heard the noise of battle, the thunder of the guns, but she was no son among Whograd's sons. They were fighting, she was idling. Women didn't fight, not here and not anywhere else.
She opened the door and saw someone she had not seen in many, many years.
"Mother," she said blankly. "It has been a long time," stressing 'long' with a disdainful emphasis.
"I know. Your father told me everything," responded Mrs. Claus.
"And yet you never gave me the ability to feel the emotions the other elves could," she spat. "I can see the irony now; you pleading to me about how you love me so and yet I cannot feel love at all."
She felt a blankness to this and every action. She couldn't feel much attachment to anything. And yet, intellectually, she felt wronged. This was no passionate hate; this was a cold, calculated lack of endearment due to an injustice that had been extensively qualified.
"What if I told you I could change that?" asked her mother, pleading to her to listen. "I have come to atone for our mistakes."
"Now you do? How about when you left as the only woman elf in Whograd to leave with Ded Moroz to the North Pole! Why would you abandon your own people, and me, to live with a people who cared so little about me? Why?"
Mrs. Claus looked into her daughter's eyes with great remorse. "I don't have an answer. All I can say is that I am sorry, and that I have something for you."
She put forth a little box that fit in the palm of her hand, made out of some sort of dark wood. "Implant this where a heart would be on an elf, and you will feel love in time."
Snegurochka took the box. "Thank you." The look on Mrs. Claus' face was hopeful.
"I said go!" Snegurochka ordered. "You've made your peace. I have no more business with you."
This wasn't just a warehouse. This was a barn, lit by torches; electricity had not yet come to Whograd.
All the better to burn, though the Grinch. He had some matches, a pistol, some knives, and some dynamite, to cause explosions should he need them. Those wouldn't be now.
He took one of the torches and threw it into a bale of hay. The fire crept from bale to bale, barrel to barrel, crate to crate, and eventually immolated the building. As much as the Grinch would have loved to behold the chaos that he was creating, he ran off to avoid anyone seeing him.
There was a lone house. There were probably supplies in there, or at least something somebody could use to defend this town from the Red Army. Best to destroy it.
He smashed a window and clambered in. There was a shriek, a feminine cry of desperation. He drew his gun.
There was an older woman elf, brandishing a pan in her hands. He could hear children in another room.
"Creature!" she cried out.
Without letting her so much as begin to charge, he drew his gun and shot her in the forehead. The carnage covered the wall.
He began to rummage for his matches.
"Could that be Santa?" he heard a child's voice from the back. They began moving forward.
He swore to himself. He had to think of something. "Yes, this is Santa! I will have a present for you soon!"
He drew a stick of dynamite from his belt, and set it on the dinner table.
"What kind of gift?"
He lit the stick.
"A candle! Come on in!"
He dashed out the window.
He heard their screams as the house was immolated.
Still, no time to dawdle. He ran off, and found another house.
As he attempted to clamber through a window, he tripped.
"Now who would you happen to be?" asked a figure, like a woman elf made of snow.
The two misfits of their own societies locked eyes; on one side, the snow-elf crafted millennia ago, and on the other, the green, furry creature that Whograd had shunned. The two of them looked into each others' eyes with a palpable shock. Neither had seen anything other than elves and humans for a long, long time.
And yet, as the cacophony of cannon and machine gun roared in the distance, they found something approaching a peace, the peace two outcasts know when they see each other.
"I can only hope that explosion was done out of military necessity and not of sheer sadism," remarked Snegurochka.
"That's what I'd like to think," replied the Grinch. "You don't look like a regular elf."
"You would be right in making that assumption," she replied coldly, as she always did. "I was made by Ded Moroz and his wife millennia ago as an experiment, as an idle thought, and they never thought to consider that they had created a living, breathing being. My name is Snegurka, but many call me Snegurochka."
"And they call me the Grinch."
"I've heard the stories about you. Were you not expelled?
"They thought I was ugly. A creepy, filthy animal and not one of them. Even those that took me in in the days of the Mongols eventually shunned me in the days of the Tsars."
"Why would they do that?
The Grinch inhaled heavily. "It was an inspector, sent by Ivan the Terrible, I think. Or Peter the Great. I honestly don't remember. Anyways, I was seen as hideous and unworthy of being Russian. And so, I was thrown out."
"So we are more alike than we had thought. I was simply left when Ded Moroz left Whograd for the North Pole. He took my mother with him."
"How cruel of them, elves."
"Now, I must ask," inquired Snegurochka, "why did you blow up that house?"
"I'm with the Bolsheviks now. They sent me to do sabotage given that I knew the territory. That's why the assault comes when it does."
"An interesting time, certainly. Today was the first time I had seen my mother in years. She had neglected to give me the ability to love when she made me. She finally gave me something she said that would give me that ability."
"That seems good of her, if centuries late."
She looked into his eyes. "Come, sit with me. I imagine we will get along quite well."
The two misfits, Snegurochka and the Grinch, sat warmly, huddled around each other, on a log near the former's home. The Grinch's weapons were on the ground in the crystalline snow; he wanted to appear nonthreatening. She was cold, not in the sense one feels when a cold wind blows, but in the sense that her very being was that of coldness.
As they talked, and they understood each other's predicament and their misery, the battle still raged. Artillery went off and collided with the ground. There was screaming and crying and the roar of the engines of armored cars and the clopping of the hooves of reindeer cavalry and the crackle of rifle fire and the rat-tat-tat of machine guns.
And yet none of it mattered.
They understood each other, these two, the snow maiden and the green fluffy creature.
There they were, arms around each other.
There had been a quiet, a peace, punctuated only by artillery fire.
The stars were beautiful that night, with little diamonds pockmarked across a black abyss.
"The one place not corrupted by capitalism," the Grinch uttered, "space." His voice trailed off in awe of the magnificence of everything.
"You think that the creatures up there are communists?" she asked.
"If there are any, I'd imagine they'd be more rational than humans in that regard." Their long conversation had expounded upon his ideology, and why he joined the Bolsheviks.
"Why would they be more rational."
"Because capitalism is a ruthless and exploitative ideology that no sane being would accept."
Snegurochka looked at him confusedly. "Why would they conform to our notion of sanity?" Elves and humans were stubborn. Much like the Grinch.
"I don't know. I've never thought of it that way."
"You admit that, at least. It makes me like you more."
The Grinch blushed, his antennae curling up in glee. "You're the first ... being to tell me that, as long as I can remember."
"Indeed I like you in a way that I haven't felt before. It's more intense."
The Grinch looked at her. "Your arm seems to be warming."
"Perhaps this is what they meant, about feeling love."
"But we've just met!"
"It's a fickle thing, love, as the elves have told me." Snegurochka sighed wistfully. "It doesn't have to be rational."
They just sat there, thinking about this new sensation of hers. Was this love? This electrifying feeling of understanding?
She warmed, physically. Her icy body began to feel as warm as it ever had.
And the stars were beautiful.
"Snegurochka?" asked the Grinch.
"You're feeling wetter than usual."
"Am I?" she asked.
She broke from the embrace and looked at her arm. Sure enough, it was very watery.
"They said love warmed hearts!" she exclaimed. She leaped to her feet. "Not melt bodies!"
She looked at herself, scanning by swiveling her head. On every part of her water cascaded down, decomposing her.
Her thoughts became hazy. She could see the ice composing her head dribbling down her face. She was losing the ability to think, to feel.
To love, ironically enough.
"Thank you for everything," she said to the Grinch.
Soon, there was nothing left of Snegurochka beyond a puddle of water, her garments, and the little gem her mother gave her.
Was it tears? Was it the water that had been Snegurochka on his hands? The Grinch couldn't tell.
Frankly, the Grinch didn't give a damn.
She had told him everything. How that cold-hearted bastard Santa Claus, or Ded Moroz, had betrayed her and all of Whograd. And he had made his own daughter so fragile that the energy of passion would melt her very body. That was negligence.
That was cruelty.
He looked about his surroundings. Again, the battle sounds pierced the air, making this whole miserable scene all the more frustrating.
In the center of the town, he could see, the Whograd elves had amassed a massive tree with a radiant shining star lit up with candles atop it. This was their beacon.
He would destroy it, he decided, to bring down their hope, and with that, their morale.
And then, as he had received word from the men he had met in the Bolshevik camp, the Cheka, with orders from Dzerzhinsky himself, would come to enact a purge on this here village.
He began barreling towards the tree, rifle at the ready. He took potshots at elves he saw, mostly women, and threw matches into houses that looked like they would burn.
And so would the tree. As he stood at the base of the tree, he saw the culmination of a year of goodwill, of charity and goodwill that shepherded the weak through the valley of darkness. The Whos here were truly their brother's keeper.
It was pitiful.
Without any compunction, the Grinch drew a match, lit it on one of the branches, and laid his vengeance upon the people that had ostracized him and the snow maiden.
The fire ascended the wooden branches and immolated every needle, every ornament, every wooden crate with wrapping over it. He could smell the ashes, almost overwhelming. He didn't care.
And nobody could stop him.
"I've been guessing you were behind this," he heard a voice behind him.
There he was.
Santa Claus, rifle cocked, aimed right at the Grinch, looking right through the sights.
"Give me one good reason to keep you alive," spat Santa Claus, pointing his rifle directly at the Grinch.
"Because doing so would prove me right. That you are an ostracizer and a bigot and a cruel father to boot."
"Cruel father?" asked Claus. "What do you mean by that?"
"I met your daughter, just after she melted in my arms. Why, you may ask. It's because you let her love at last, and the feeling proved too much for the body of ice you crafted for her!"
Claus lowered the rifle. The moment had a palpable sense of realization, made only more poignant by the blaze slowly consuming Whograd, and the artillery and machine guns in the distance.
The Grinch's mouth curled into a smarmy smile. "You know what I mean. And you know you abandoned her. Why? To serve in the abstract all humanity whilst you leave your own people here. Including your daughter. You are a ruthless, evil man, and nothing you can do can ever change that, in my eyes or in the mind of your daughter, because she is dead."
Claus paused. The Grinch could tell he was deep in thought.
"I left because I saw the ugliness of humanity here, be it the Huns or the Mongols or the Tsars or whoever else ran across these plains. I left to assuage all the pain that this species could inflict upon itself."
"And look what happened!" sneered the Grinch. "These elves helped the Tsars in their pogroms with gleeful abandon! Your elves are no better than humans. Not a tad. And they never will be."
The flames burned higher, and blazing branches fell from the tree that had been erected in the center of Whograd.
"So, Claus, come at me. Take me down, and prove everything I have said right."
"And you killed so many innocent in this inferno. I heard that you killed children from my scouts and from witnesses. I heard that you were a brazen hypocrite and you are a criminal in the eyes of morality."
The Grinch's yellow eyes opened wide, and his grin got wider. The quills on his head formed the shape of a heart.
Claus pulled the trigger, and the Grinch's head exploded like a poppy.
Claus inhaled heavily. He stood among the flaming ruins, trying to figure out what he would do next.
"I see you've taken care of our agent," spat a Russian voice. Claus looked back.
"My name is Arseny Vladimirovich Markov. I am the man who was the liaison between the Cheka and the Grinch. And, as you can see, the Cheka have come for a purge." Markov was surrounded by a detail of Bolshevik troops.
"Don't act so incredulously. You knew this was coming. We have come to purge this vile little village of all life. Your elves are falling back. Look up, over yonder, and see your failures."
Claus and Markov both peered into the skies, and saw sleigh after sleigh flying into the sky northward.
The defense of Whograd had failed.
Markov gestured to his troops. They threw an elf corpse onto the ground in front of him.
"Yolkov," he whispered. The esteemed leader of the Whograd elves had been killed.
"Thanks to this creature you condemned to misery and solitude, we were able to destroy enough of your infrastructure that you could not keep up the fight. Your ranks broke, and now they are fleeing with what little they have. And the rest? They will die. By the Cheka's guns, on Felix Edmundovich's orders himself."
Claus was silent.
"You have a choice. Take yourself and your wife and get the hell out, or die with the rest of your miserable species. Take your pick."
They raised their guns.
"I have a people elsewhere. I must see to their further prosperity."
"Follow us." The Bolshevik troops raised their guns.
And so they escorted him to the landing strip. Claus averted his eyes as he saw every Who in the town, man, woman, or child, soldier or civilian, be shot by Cheka men. He closed his eyes and followed Markov's orders.
"Open your eyes, Ded Moroz," spat Markov. There was his sleigh, staffed with reindeer, Rudolph in front, and Mrs. Claus in the seat.
He got in. He said nothing to his wife, who nodded as if she understood.
He took one last look at Whograd, now in flames, hearing the screams of agony in the background.
And so ends How the Cheka Stole Christmas. I would like to apologize for the truncated length in comparison to my previous specials; as I have said, I have had health issues recently combined with academic issues, which I have only recently somewhat resolved. I hope to get to writing more this coming year with more stories, one currently in the works.