The women stood in the lobby of the Secaucus Holiday Inn, a small pond of melted Snowmen splashing against their ankles. Slushy piles of Snow Goons were dragging themselves toward the door, their whittled fingers clawing against tile and carpet, desperate to make their way to the nuclear winter outside. Half of the room’s lights were out, the other half flickering, the water soaking into the many, many strings of holiday lights laid out on the floor.
“Wonderful job … gi– ladies,” Santa Claus wheezed, leaning against the hotel counter and kicking halfheartedly at passing slush monsters.
“Thank you, Santa Walrus,” said Boudica IX.
“Are you sure? None of the Coca-Cola cans at the art museum ever had anything that looked like you on them.”
“Artistic license,” he explained. “I promise.”
“When did you go to an art museum?” asked Queen Victoria XXX.
“Someone spray-painted an F on the sign,” said the redheaded queen. “We thought it was something else.”
In a dark corner of the hotel lobby, against an exterior-facing wall, a half of an Abominable Snowmen raised his knobby, stick hand.
“Don’t … Don’t trust him,” the ice creature burbled.
“No,” roared Santa Claus, springing to life suddenly, “don’t trust him!”
“That was awfully defensive,” said Queen Victoria XXX, cocking an eyebrow.
“He’s not …” A huge chunk of the Snowman’s face fell to the ground. “He’s no’ what he sheems!”
“So he is a walrus!” accused Boudica IX.
“No,” gurgled the Snow Goon. “He’s not – Ther’sh – bomefing wiiiii …” The snowman was reduced to a slushy puddle, his carrot nose jutting upward.
“Why were those snowmen hunting you?” asked Queen Victoria XXX.
“Because they were evil,” answered the fat man. “No more complicated than that. I’m Santa Claus, girls. Would I lie to you?”
“You did fake your death for fifteen years.”
“That was … different. Extenuating circumstances. I wasn’t –” Something flashed in the old man’s eyes, something dark and primal. “Ooh, are those cookies?” The bloated sack of a person waddled toward the table of treats like a penguin that had swallowed a series of bowling balls.
“Those are for the customers,” said Boudica IX.
“Surely,” said Santa, licking his lips, “you can make an exception –”
“Don’t let him eat the cookies!” shouted the Snowman, his face packed back together like a Picasso painting.
“– for me?”
“Nooo!” The Snow Goon was clawing frantically, his brittle stick fingers tearing through his melted comrades, snapping against the floor.
Shoving cookie after cookie into his face, Santa Claus began laughing jovially, his belly shaking like a defective atomic bomb moments before detonating.
“Are these gingerbread?” he asked, flecks of sugary dough flying. “You can really taste the – Oh. Oh no.”
In a grotesque – and gross – display of contorted physics, Santa Claus, the full two tons of him, erupted in a series of implosions and ballooning fat pustules, his body squishing and popping and warping in an orgy of innards and skin, like David Cronenberg directing the end of Akira. A lean, lengthy, leathery arm shot out from the twisting fat ball, followed by another, by a pair of gnarled legs. What was left of the hellish anatomy lesson transmogrified into a ragged and elongated torso, into the horned head of a malevolent reindeer-beast.
“– DOOM!” roared the creature.
“Well, fuck,” said the Snowman.
“What? What did we do?” asked the dark-haired queen. “What are we even looking at?”
“The Krampus!” shouted the half-formed ice creature, pieces once again sliding off of him. “The anti-Shanta, a being of purr evil that exshists only to wreak hav’c and feed on joy! We were trying to shtop him, been trying for yearsh, only –”
The Abominable Snowman exploded like a pint of ice cream with an M80 tucked inside, an immense, dark hoof where his head had just been.
“Thank you for freeing me,” snarled the Krampus, its voice like boiling molasses. “Prepare to die.”
“No thank you,” said Boudica IX.
The beast was nearly ten-feet tall, hunched forward and rasping, thick tufts of fur covering its chest and shoulders, its chin, its bathing suit area. The rest was a calloused hide, stretched tight over angular bones. Horns rose and twisted from its temples; its eyes glowed red.
Staring at the two women, the Krampus snapped its long fingers, its charcoal-colored skin sparking like flint. A dull chittering grew louder and louder, and louder still, until a horde of gremlins poured through what was left of the doors, climbing over one another, leaping and charging into the lobby and immediately wrecking shit up.
“God damn it,” said Queen Victoria XXX.
Gremlins, despite popular notions and a couple of wildly inaccurate movies, were nothing more than mutated North Pole elves. The immense amounts of radiation released during the explosion of Santa’s Workshop had turned the pointy-eared workers into feral monsters, boiling and burning their skin, elongating their teeth and nails, and melting their bones a little. They were every bit as angry as they had previously been jolly, a direct one-to-one inverse ratio.
And Santa Claus had only employed the jolliest of elves.
The Krampus whistled, and shouted, and called his gremlins by name: “Now, SLASHER, now, CANCER! Now, STABBER and HELLCAT! On, VOMIT! On PUTRID! On JEFFREY DAHMER and BLITZKRIEG! To the top of the counter! To the top of the wall! Now smash away – bash away! Crash away all!”
“Except the tree!” shouted Boudica IX, putting her hands out. “Don’t crash away the tree! That was the last one they had and –”
The gremlins crashed into the tree, the two-foot-tall lizard-skinned monsters hurling themselves bodily into the douglas fir, knocking it to the ground, shattering ornaments, and undoing literally minutes of hard work by the two queens.
The red-haired clone of a Druidic warrior queen shouted something primal and unintelligible and maybe a little Celtic. Then, seeing nothing but puzzled looks on the gremlins’ faces, she added: “Prepare to die yourselves, jerkholes!”
“Now you’ve done it,” said the other queen, wrapping a cord of shattered Holiday Day Week lights around her knuckles.
“Crap,” said Thor, stopping on the brick pathway, the smashed up doors of the Secaucus Holiday Inn just out of view. “I gotta get a card for Jesus. It’s his birthday this week, too.”
“I thought he hated you,” said Chester A. Arthur XVII, turning with his friend and heading back towards the car.