Short Fiction

The Bad Elf by David Christopher Johnston

Blood puddled like pureed cranberry sauce on the floorboards, seeping into cracks and staining the reindeer-skin rug. Erica the Elf sat in the cosy armchair by the fire – His chair – watching the red liquid trickle in tiny tributaries towards the television cabinet. She took a cigar from the box on the coffee table and lit it, letting the match scorch her fingers, the smell of smoke mingling with the metallic stench of death. Glancing at the Fat Man’s corpse lying semi-naked in the centre of the room, Erica dialled the emergency services number and waited.

‘Which service?’ a robotic voice asked after two rings.

‘Police,’ Erica replied.


‘What’s your emergency?’ a surly male voice grunted down the line moments later.

‘Good morning,’ Erica said. ‘I’m ringing to inform you that I have killed Santa Claus.’

‘I beg your pardon, Ma’am?’ the man spluttered.

‘You know, the obese fella in the awful red suit…’

‘Is this a joke?’

‘Well he certainly doesn’t find it amusing,’ Erica replied flatly.

There was frantic whispering on the other end of the line. ‘And you’re sure he’s dead?’

‘Oh, he’s definitely dead,’ Erica said. ‘His brains are splattered up the living room wall.’

More whispering. ‘Will you please hold for a moment?’

Erica grinned. ‘Sure, take as long as you need.’

The man was gone for four minutes. Erica passed the time counting streaks of blood on the wallpaper by the window.

‘My apologies for the wait, Ma’am,’ the man said upon return. ‘Can you please confirm your name and location?’

‘My name is Erica the Elf and I am at the Claus Family Cottage on the outskirts of Huldufólk Village, Kaffeklubben Island.’

‘Thank you, Erica. Please sit tight and our officers will be with you shortly.’

‘No need to rush, he’s not going anywhere,’ Erica said cheerfully before terminating the call and tossing the phone into the fire.

She glanced at her candy cane wristwatch – the one Jodie had given her last Christmas. Six a.m.. It would take the police three hours to cross the bay in this weather, but Erica still had much to do before they arrived.

‘I need a drink,’ Erica said to herself, stubbing out the cigar on the coffee table and tiptoeing barefoot across the living room to avoid the patchwork of blood and broken glass. The drinks cabinet was filled with bottles of eggnog; Erica tossed them over her shoulder one by one until she found the sixty-year-old bottle of Spey Valley single malt whisky hidden at the back.

‘This, young lady, is the most expensive whisky ever made,’ the Fat Man would often lecture Erica during her forced visits.  But he’d never let her taste it. Not once. She removed the cork, filled a crystal tumbler to the brim, and downed it in one. It tasted like fiery dirt in her throat. Erica grimaced then poured herself another.

‘Don’t know what all the fuss is about,’ Erica said to the Fat Man’s pink and bloated corpse. ‘This stuff tastes like shitty soil.’

The room looked like a stampede of angry reindeer had passed through; the old bastard had put up quite a fight in the end. The sofa was on its side, the Christmas tree too, and the floor was littered with broken baubles. Erica had picked up the old wooden chair and shattered it over the Fat Man’s head when his back was turned, splinters flying about the room like a pitying of startled turtle doves. Her hands still vibrated from the force of impact. But still the son of a bitch hadn’t gone down, turning instead and grappling Erica to the floor. As his sausage fingers had clamped round her neck, squeezing the last vestiges of life, Erica had grasped the handgun hidden in her left boot, placed the barrel under his chin and pulled the trigger. The noise was deafening, and she’d expected Santa Security to burst through the door and shoot her on the spot, but no one came – still asleep on the job following last night’s drunken festivities. It had taken Erica several minutes to wriggle out from under the Fat Man’s slumped, grotesque frame, and she could still hear ringing in her ears.

The phone exploded suddenly in the fireplace and Erica leapt backwards in alarm. ‘Goddammit!’ she cursed, lifting her foot to remove a shard of glass from her big toe. As she dabbed the blood with a handkerchief her wristwatch began to beep Jingle Bells. Erica downed the whisky, wiped her hands on her heavily stained white blouse and addressed the Fat Man. ‘Right Tubbs, I’ve got some things to fix before the coppers arrive. Keep an eye on the place until I return.’

Erica put on her tights, boots and winter coat and stepped out of the cottage into the pre-dawn air. The moon was asleep behind the clouds, the December wind bitter, making Erica’s whole body shiver. ‘Pull yourself together, it’s just a bit of cold!’ Erica scolded herself, thinking of Jodie. Pulling her hood over her head, she marched grim-faced through the snow towards Huldufólk Village.

The village was dark and deserted when she arrived – although that was no surprise. The cute Greenlandic houses, with their high-pitched roofs and brightly coloured walls were empty shells, a façade to trick tourists and pesky international dignitaries who plagued their tiny island for half the year. Welcome to Huldufólk Village, Land of the Christmas Elves!, the Christmas-Tree-shaped sign gleamed at the south entrance of Main Street. But it was all bullshit; the smiling, happy elves following the Fat Man’s orders to avoid becoming one of The Disappeared – unfortunate elves stolen in the night, never to be seen again. The smell of freshly baked bread and cookies was fake too: produced by a special machine hidden inside the pretend bakery. The real Land of the Christmas Elves was absent of joy, a lightless labyrinth of dungeons buried deep beneath Santa’s Workshop, and if those idiotic holidaymakers taking pictures in the snow had any idea of the truth, they would likely vomit into their cashmere scarves.

Erica stalked from house to house, checking the explosives she had planted the previous day. Climbing a wooded bank behind the village, she retrieved a duffle bag from a snowbank which contained a detonator, charges and several magazines of ammunition. Erica removed the detonator from the bag and looked darkly towards Santa’s Workshop twinkling to the east.

The pretty little houses of Huldufólk Village ignited like toilet paper on a bonfire, erupting in fireballs that licked the stars. Soon the entire village was aflame, smoke rising in dense clouds into the night, so hot Erica could feel the heat on her face even at this distance. Siren’s bellowed from the guard towers surrounding Santa’s Workshop, and it wasn’t long before Erica heard the sound of approaching snow mobiles. The dreaded Santa Security raced towards the inferno. As their vehicles drew near, Erica recognised the man on the leading snowmobile as Head of Santa Security, Brad Fenser. That bastard had broken her arm last year after her second failed escape attempt, laughing while she’d screamed in pain.

‘Stop your whining or I’ll reunite you with your precious Jodie,’ he’d mocked as she wept.

She was glad he would be first.

Brad Fenser’s snowmobile hurtled over the tripwire at the edge of the village and the ensuing fireball evaporated him and his hapless henchmen in an instant. When the flames subsided, all that remained of the Fat Man’s private army was a charred crater of metal and body parts. Without another glance, Erica slung the duffle bag over her shoulder and headed for Santa’s Workshop. In the trees, the croak of a rock ptarmigan welcomed the dawn.

Erica strolled through the main atrium of Santa’s Workshop, whistling Santa Claus is Coming to Town as the metal detectors screamed objections to her lethal luggage. She crossed the factory floor, the machines silent and still in the lull between the day and nightshift, and headed for Human Resources.

‘Holidays! Why would we give a worthless elf a day off? the Head of Human Resources, Holly Winters, had scoffed when Erica asked for leave to care for her dying mother. ‘Vermin don’t take holidays, you stupid girl.’ It was Holly who had stopped Erica from going to the police after Jodie’s disappearance, threatening to Disappear Erica’s father if she didn’t keep her mouth shut. It was Holly who’d said that Jodie deserved it; Holly who’d said only humans deserved rights.

Erica climbed the metal stairs to Holly’s office and as she opened the door the stench of vomit and shit hit her like a baseball bat. The ex-Head of Human Resources was sprawled across her desk, face blue and foaming at the mouth.

‘Happy Christmas Eve, Ms Winters,’ Erica had said on this very spot twelve hours earlier. ‘I made you some cupcakes to say thanks for all your support this year.’

‘Leave them on the table and get out of my sight,’ Holly had huffed without looking up from her desk, and Erica had obeyed, knowing that the greedy bitch couldn’t resist stuffing her face, knowing the rat poison wouldn’t take long to work, knowing death would be every bit as painful as Holly deserved.

Erica grabbed the workshop master keys from the hook behind Holly’s desk and left the miserable wretch to rot. Making her way to the canteen, she approached the metal double doors that led to the dungeons – disguised in plain site as a meat freezer to ward off suspicious health and safety auditors – opened the heavy chain padlock, and made her way down to the lower levels, shooting the guards in the control room and initiating manual override to open the cells that had held her people captive for decades.

‘This is Erica,’ she announced into the intercom system wired into every cell. ‘The Fat Man is dead; I killed him myself. So are Holly and his henchman. I have unlocked your cell doors and you are free to leave. Please get as far away as you can from this hellhole before the police arrive.’

For the next fifteen minutes, elves flooded into the canteen in their hundreds, shielding their eyes as the dawn sun peeked through the windows. Their faces were gaunt, bellies empty. There used to be thousands of us, Erica thought with sadness. A group of young elves armed with the dead guard’s guns led their people out the fire escape and into the car park. Cutting a hole in the barbed-wire perimeter fence they streamed across the frozen tundra, desperate to be anywhere other than here. But Erica knew most wouldn’t make it a mile: it was minus twenty outside and most of these poor souls didn’t even have shoes on their feet.

A female elf leading her three young children hugged Erica as she passed. ‘Thank you. You have saved my family,’ she said.

‘You’re not free yet,’ Erica replied. ‘Take your children and head northwest towards the Frozen Bay. From there you can cross into the Boreal Forest. And take this,’ Erica said, wrapping her winter coat around the woman’s shoulders.

‘I couldn’t possibly—’ the woman began.

‘Take it. I won’t need it,’ Erica demanded. ‘And take my boots too.’

As her people scattered out across the horizon Erica wondered how far they would get  before the humans apprehended them, and if any of them would escape with their lives, but she was determined to give them as much time as she could. She checked her wristwatch again – the police would be here in less than an hour. Time was running out.

A few strategically placed explosive charges in the boiler room made swift work of Santa’s Workshop, shaking the permafrost beneath Erica’s feet as she raced back to the Claus Family Cottage on Holly’s pink snowmobile. Stopping at the stables, Erica put a bullet in Dasher’s brain – a Santa loyalist to the end – set the remaining reindeer free, then burnt the wooden structure to the ground, watching without emotion as the gold paint of the Sleigh twisted and peeled in the heat, flames reflecting orange and blue in her empty eyes.

Erica was first summoned to the Fat Man’s cottage for a night-time visit (as he liked to call them) when she was sixteen years old. Every female elf lived in fear of those visits. Many of her friends had been summoned before her, her mother too (decades earlier), but when Erica’s time had come she had frozen and refused to go. Brad had dragged Erica from her cell by her hair, savagely beating her father as he tried to stop him, and taken her to Holly, who had dressed Erica in a ridiculous Christmas elf costume before escorting her to the Fat Man’s cottage. In the eleven years since that first visit, Erica had stopped counting. Each visit stealing a little bit more of her soul.

That’s why they had tried to escape, to save Jodie from the monster’s clutches. But it was futile. They had barely made it ten miles before Brad and his henchmen had found them, hiding in a rotting barn on the north-western coast.

‘So this is how you repay me, is it?’ the Fat Man had roared in Erica’s face. ‘After all I’ve done for you.’

Erica’s mocking laughter had infuriated the Fat Man, turning his face the colour of Rudolph’s nose. But after a long brooding silence he had turned callously towards Brad and said: ‘Take the little one up to the mountains and get rid of her.’ And that was that. Erica had screamed and pleaded as they dragged Jodie out of the barn, but it had made no difference.

‘There’s no escape for you, Erica. You belong to me,’ the Fat Man had whispered coldly in her ear before marching out of the barn.

When Erica re-entered the Clause Family Cottage, the Fat Man was still sprawled face-first on the floor in his off-white underpants. Sitting once more in His armchair, Erica lit another cigar and turned on the television, flicking through the channels until she found the BBC World Service.

‘Good morning and Merry Christmas. I am Charman Chopra and you are watching the BBC World Service,’ the reporter began. ‘In breaking news, a series of videos released online this morning by an unknown source appear to show Santa Claus and his security team involved in various acts of violence towards elves at the Claus Family Complex. The videos, which number in their hundreds, have already received over one billion views on social media. MI6, Interpol and the CIA have confirmed that they are investigating the videos, adding that their initial findings suggest the videos are authentic—’

Erica switched the television off. It had been her father’s idea – a few months before he died – to plant cameras in the Fat Man’s living room and around the Workshop. ‘To catch the bastards in the act,’ he had said with bitterness. Her father had been an electronic engineer, leading a team whose job was to keep the Wi-Fi and computer systems working in Santa’s Workshop and, at times, at the Claus Family Cottage itself – that’s how they’d planted the camera in the cuckoo clock above the fire. The Fat Man and his cronies were too stupid and arrogant to realise what was happening.

Over the next year they’d hidden the recordings in the servers, waiting for this day, and after Erica put a bullet in the Fat Man’s brain she’d initiated an automatic upload to You Tube and other various online sharing platforms using the Fat Man’s own computer (which had the fastest Wi-Fi in the complex). Over three hundred videos has been uploaded so far, and there were still over a thousand to go. ‘Thank you, Dad,’ she said to the cuckoo clock. ‘We got the bastards.’

The sound of approaching sirens filled the room. Finally, Erica thought as patrol cars with blue and red flashing lights screeched into the driveway. Erica removed the detonator from her pocket and held it in her free hand, glancing briefly at the duffle bag beneath her feet.

‘Erica,’ a policeman’s voice shouted from outside. ‘We need you to come out slowly with your hands above your head.’

‘No, thank you,’ Erica shouted back.

Erica thought of her people fleeing across the open tundra to safety. She had done all she could to help them escape, drawing police attention to her, turning Santa’s Workshop into a bonfire. It would be hours hopefully before the powers that be had any inclination of the mass elvish escape.

Her wristwatch started to beep Jingle Bells again, and Erica smiled despite her pain.

‘Open it, open it!’ Jodie had yelped on Christmas Day last year. Erica had torn the wrapping paper from her gift as fast as she could. ‘Do you love it, Mummy? Do you love it?’ Jodie asked with eager eyes.

‘I do, darling. I love it,’ Erica replied, hugging her daughter close and kissing her forehead. She had worn the watch every day since then, and even now when she closed her eyes she could still smell her daughter’s hair, hear her laugh, feel her warm embrace.

‘She was ten years old you piece of shit!’ Erica screamed at the Fat Man’s corpse, tears streaming down her face. ‘Ten years old!’

‘Break it down!’ she heard a policeman outside command; the old wooden door shook in its hinges.

Erica flicked the butt of the cigar onto the reindeer-skin rug, which swiftly caught fire. Now the world would know, she thought bitterly as the sound of splintering wood and stamping feet filled the hallway. Thinking of Jodie, Erica closed her eyes and pressed the detonator button with her thumb.

David Christopher Johnston

Image by Heather Hunter from Pixabay 

13 thoughts on “The Bad Elf by David Christopher Johnston”

  1. David–

    Now that’s one Bad Elf. Very funny in a violent sort of way, but there is also the serious element that speaks of not only the North Pole. Erica’s actions, by me, are justified in context, but in the greater sense, if word got out, she would be just another killer in the public view–especially vilified by retailers. So it goes with revenge and the Christmas Corporation. Well done.



  2. What an interesting take on what is typically a sweet story! Completely believable main character and I thoroughly enjoyed the unrestrained revenge plot.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What an interesting take on what is typically a sweet story! I thoroughly enjoyed the unrestrained revenge plotline and found the main character very believable!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi David,
    I loved this.
    It is a dark (Very dark!!) fantasy but it is much more than that. Sadly there are a few parallels in this regarding oppression, manipulation, take, abuse, disregarding and misuse of power towards far too many!!
    This is a very clever and cutting piece of not so much dark (Very dark!!) fantasy
    but more accurately, observational fantasy!!
    Hope you have more for us soon.


  5. Thanks everyone for your kind comments, I’m glad you enjoyed Erica’s trail of destruction. originally I’d intended this to be a dark comedy, but after writing the first draft I realised it wasn’t very funny, just dark! But hopefully it made for both an entertaining story while also making a serious point about exploitation and power. Cheers to everyone who reads it 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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