“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”
Can you believe this? Like there is ever a house silent the night before Christmas! Not in my house at least. This tale takes part only a couple of minutes after midnight, which would make it the 25th of December, therefore it is the day commonly known as Christmas.
He had worked a lot longer than he had planned on, he realized as he looked up to see the clock. The house was dark, the streets completely silent. Small specks of snow floated in the air. Winter had come late that year, and even now the snow only lingered as it seemed unsure whether or not to move into the season. Damian sighed and slouched in his chair, closing his laptop and opening his calendar. It would surprise some people that he still had appointments for the next day, until an hour before his friends expected him to show up. As his family lived all over the world, many of them constantly moving, he was assigned to hold down the fort. Christmas eve was therefore usually spend alone, while listening to the sounds of a city alive and buzzing. Christmas day was busy as well, never a moment of rest, but his friends had started the tradition to invite him to one of their houses and families years ago. They worried too much, but he thought it sweet.
As for now, there was still so much work to do. He could barely get himself to relax for even a second, let alone go to sleep. Damian sighed, while scanning the names he was supposed to meet the next day. It seemed to be executives mostly, transport and distribution, those were easy. He picked up his phone to enter the most logical route to drive from the one to the other, when suddenly the page glowed. Bright lights glowed on the page as a name started to form. A name written in a beautifully decorative handwriting. Damian looked up again, his eyebrows turning down just slightly. The name that was just entered to be the last of the day was one he did not like to see on any day, but most especially on the 25th of December. He knew it always meant trouble if it showed up, and it annoyed him that it always showed up unexpected and at the last moment. He needed time to prepare for meetings with the CEO, they knew that and yet they never seemed to consider his inconvenience for even a second.
Damian dropped back in his chair, a hand running through his thick black hair that was so unlike most of his family. Not all of them though, as they all travelled the world and had mixed with everyone and everywhere. They would find it cheesy that he liked Christmas, even though he had barely any time to enjoy it. He liked the lights, the movies, the cheesiness of the whole festive season. It made him feel warm inside, waked a slight longing for his family to be around him, even though Damian could not remember the last time when the whole family was around. As far as he knew his father, as well as his uncles and his aunt always worked. The easiest time was in the summer, when things were quiet. During those months, they usually gathered for a small holiday, lounged around in the heat of some tropic country as if they were plants, reloading on the sun and summer heat that was absolutely necessary to live and grow.
Happy thoughts, happy memories, warm feelings that would have to wait for another week at least. With a movement of his hand, Damian opened his laptop. Several different screens started glowing as if they were happy to be back in his life. Multiple spreadsheets, two word-files, a program running in the background to calculate all expenses of this year, the poor little laptop only stayed alive thanks to some serious modifications. It would have fried a long time ago if it wasn’t for his youngest nephew, their wonderboy when it came to hard- and software. The boy had just turned 14 years old and already he had created, re-created, and upgraded every piece of hardware that the older family members used. He had to buy him a really cool gift, as thanks for all his hard work, Damian thought while cracking his neck. “Focus Damian. Just one more night,” he mumbled to himself. He nodded to the coffeemaker in the corner of the room. The machine came alive, blinking lights beeped a mechanical hello to him and the sound of water being boiled and beans being ground to dust followed quickly. Coffee on Christmas eve, it seemed so wrong and yet Damian knew that if he didn’t drink it there was no way he would have the proper files ready for his meeting the next morning. He would think ‘tomorrow’, but it was already past midnight so technically that would be incorrect.
With a sigh he pressed some buttons and had his computer open the latest information while he got up to walk a small round in the library. Just to stretch his legs, his back, his aching shoulders. A small wave towards a slim black box started music. The smooth voice of Frank Sinatra’s Santa Clause is Coming To Town filled the room, created a smile on Damian’s face while he closed his eyes for a second and hung his head backwards. He should have gone for a swim today, it would have helped him focus, but it was too late now to go to any gym. Damian had refused to set anything up in the house, although it was big enough for it. It was much bigger inside than it looked on the outside, his family had made sure of that when they had bought it and set it up as their headquarters. “There is so much you can do, with the proper tools and knowledge.” His father had said that a million times to him, every time he had forced Damian to study harder, to learn more, to gain new skills every year. Damian was grateful for all that training, now that he was the only one running headquarters, and yet he sometimes wondered what life would be like if he hadn’t had any of that responsibility growing up. If he hadn’t been an only child, destined to take over his father’s place one day as head of the family-business. And what kind of business! When his father retired, Damian would be responsible for Christmas! The idea alone terrified him, had done so all his life. Which was the reason that for years, he had insisted on creating a proper system, a well-oiled machine that could be run from the main office. He was, in that retrospect, everything his father as not. While Nicholas Claus was somewhere on the other side of the world, doing his work with a paper list in his hand, Damian ran every data program imaginable to make sure his father, his uncles, aunts, and his cousins could do their work. He distributed the regions, the routes, calculated the patterns that storms would take, made sure no-one forgot a country, a region, a city, a street, a house. They made fun of how he ran things, and yet he saw that they were grateful. Ever since he had taken charge of this system some 80+ years ago, every year had run smooth, even in areas that were extremely dangerous and hard to reach. The Claus family was the only one that could go everywhere, no matter the time or place.
With another sigh, Damian stood before the large bookcases that filled every piece of wall in the large office. He cracked his neck one more time and raised his left hand. Several books started to glow, a light wind ruffled some pages on his desk, made his hair move. The smell of pinewood filled the room, quickly followed by a tingling sensation that made the hairs on the back of Damian’s neck stand up. A door creaked, followed by the sound of feet shuffling over the old floorboards. Damian didn’t pay attention to the person walking up to him, he knew it wasn’t an intruder. Burglars had tried before to get into the house, but they never made it past the front door. A book flew towards him, a gentle motion, as it opened and flipped through the pages. But he didn’t see what he needed and quickly a couple of others came towards him. The pinewood scent shifted, to the earthy-aroma of freshly ground cacao. This was the fastest way to get through the books, with only the vague idea that he had of what information the executive’s would want. Let alone the CEO that had crammed himself into his agenda unannounced.
“You should be asleep.” The quiet voice almost made him jump. Almost, but Damian was used to Zan sneaking up on him. The small female elf looked up with a smile, a plate of food in her hand which she put on the desk. Damian looked around when the smell reached him, a smile covering his face. Roasted chicken with sweet potatoes. “Thank you Taika. What would I do without you?” That was a serious question though. During days like these, it was the staff in the house that kept him alive so he could work. Taika smiled. She had lived in the house longer than she could really remember, she had babysat on Damian’s father when he had been little and they all knew that the magic in the house kept the family Claus running a lot longer than normal. “Well, you certainly would go hungry,” she joked with a soft voice. “You should take better care of yourself Damian. Starting with that sleep.” Damian had always loved it how quickly she could go from soft, motherly, and warm to rather stern although still motherly. He chuckled. “I will Taika, as soon as I figure this out,” he promised. Taika nodded. “Okay. I’ll make sure Zan is up early tomorrow.” But before she could leave, she saw the young Claus shake his head. “No need Taika. I’ll drive myself. You all should enjoy Christmas.” It was still a bit bewildering to Taika to hear Damian talk about Christmas. The rest of the family saw it as a day of hard work, but the boy (as he still was in her eyes) enjoyed it to the last drop. Every second of the day was special to him, even if he was completely overwhelmed by the work. But it also made her smile. “I’ll tell him you said hi.” Damian nodded. “Please do so.”
As soon as Taika left, Damian sighed and waved his hands, moving all but one of the books back to their places on the shelves. He turned around and looked at the steaming plate of food. Damian couldn’t help it, Taika’s food always made him smile, and the fact that she made his favourite this evening made him feel warm inside. He grabbed his cup of coffee, although extremely misplaced with the rest of the food it was needed that he stayed awake a bit longer, before he sat down to eat.
The book floated towards him, hung in the air, flipping through the pages. Damian took a bite of the chicken while reading. Books might not help with the latest numbers, but he knew that CEO liked the facts from the latest research on anything that could involve the Claus-family-business. When it came to that, the library had this funny habit of keeping itself up to date on published works, books, magazines, research papers, everything that could be remotely relevant simply appeared and stocked itself in the old, wooden bookcases. Damian had given up on understanding how that happened a long time ago, the house seemed to have some mind of its own on that. Once, he had spent half an hour arguing with the bookcase on why it never stocked something “fun to read”. He never got an answer, and Zan had told him he looked like he had gone crazy. So Damian had stopped doing that, although he couldn’t help but leave notes on the shelves from time to time requesting a title. Sometimes it appeared, and sometimes it did not…
The bookcase, although stubborn as an old goat, had its benefits though. It was helpful to read the papers and know what was going on in the world. So Damian spend most of his nights reading and eating at the same time, and this night would not be any different. If he wanted to blow away the CEO-that-had-rudely-crammed-himself-into-his-calendar, he had to bring his a-game. Because impressing his father, Nicholas Claus, the big head of the Claus business, he would have to do some serious research. The man was always up to date on everything, which was remarkable since Damian had tried to get him to pick up a smartphone for years now. He was sure his dad did not even have an email-account, let alone a laptop. The only thing the ‘heir to the company’ could hope for was that his dad wasn’t planning on staying for dinner…
“Look what the cat dragged in,” Arthur boomed with a huge grin on his face. “If it isn’t mister Damian Claus himself! You got everything sorted out again this year mister Big Shot?” Damian rolled his eyes, which Arthur couldn’t see because of his shades. Shades needed to hide the fact that he stayed up all night and day to make sure this day was brought to a success. And Arthur knew that, yet he still was too dramatic about his last name. “You know that I only do the back office work. The others are around the world, providing it with the magic.” The magic that was responsible for the concepts of ‘good luck’ and small wonders, the stuff that kept the world happy. It was fickle stuff, lasted for only a year and then it was required to be redistributed yet again. It was his family’s task, as well as it’s curse to do so until there was no more magic left in this world. Arthur patted him on the shoulder. “And without you, they would be utterly lost. Now, come in and let’s eat. And take of those shades man, we know how tired you are.”
More and different short stories, can be found through here.