On December 4, 2017, Sam Sykes tweeted:
I have but one request this Christmas, guys. Take the #WarOnChristmas hashtag and fill it with accounts of the horrors of battling elves across snowy fields and firing anti-aircraft missiles at sleds streaking overhead.— Sam Sykes (@SamSykesSwears) December 4, 2017
Good enough prompt for me! Bonus restriction of 280 or fewer characters! Here we go…
#WarOnChristmas War, as the saying goes, is hell. It’s brutal, disgusting, and brings out the worst in all of us. The look on one’s face as they rage into battle is horrifying. Sadness lives there. Grief. Anger.
#WarOnChristmas They also say hell is frozen over. Perhaps it is, in some places. Here though, it’s a balmy sixty-five. The sky is offensively clear. You can see for miles and miles and miles.
#WarOnChristmas Children are there, playing. Families. Parents going to work, bickering over dinner, fussing over packed lunches. Dogs, cats, even some ferrets and mice, a good many of which we must have delivered ourselves. Whole families, unaware.
#WarOnChristmas And then there’s us. The advance crew. Ahead patrol of the fifth arctic division - Rudolph’s Rough Rangers, though no one calls us that but ourselves - sweating and miserable in this heat. “Melting,” we’d joke. “I’m melting. Oh what a world.” Elf humor, perhaps.
#WarOnChristmas Our job is usually so horrifying. Blood spilling beneath peppermint knives. Abbreviated gasps rather than screams. We come on our velvet shoes, do our work, and return, grim-faced, to our jolly battalion leaders. Ho ho ho motherfuckers, and all that.
#WarOnChristmas I never understood that humor. I was a branch manager, supervising five of Santa’s large factories. We worked primarily in textiles, sewing together garish garments. Plant managers complained about me walking so quietly that I needed bells bells. Now look at me.
#WarOnChristmas Today, though, none of our team is laughing. None of us are smiling. None of us even feel the satisfaction of a job well done. “Guerrilla warfare is out,” brass said. “We need to bring the drones on the offensive, rather than keeping them behind the lines.”
#WarOnChristmas So there we were, spotting team for the new offensive drone detail. Our job was patrol and backup. We watch, wait, and, when the time was right, cause havoc. And there, there above us, an angry swarm comes whipping in from the north.
#WarOnChristmas It’s a horrifying sound. Quiet. Implacable. Old Hermey covers his ears. “Shoulda been a dentist, shoulda been a dentist, shoulda been a dentist,” he mouths over and over, his own private litany to stay the horror of his work.
#WarOnChristmas Our first hint of battle is a series of dull pops, and then the faintest whiff of peppermint. We tug the masks from around our necks and fit them to our faces. Elves can stand a lot of peppermint, more than humans, but we have our limits. Masks it is.
#WarOnChristmas And so we descend upon the town, skirting the edges of peppermint and gingerbread clouds, leaving chaos in our silent wakes. We are cold, efficient. Dancer herself hovers above the field, providing air cover for us and the drones.
#WarOnChristmas There’s no way to feel good about this. Elf ears pick up screams just better than our human opponents. They also start to pick up the crackle of defensive fire. A pop, louder than the rest, and a blossom of pain in my shoulder. Another, and my leg is useless.
#WarOnChristmas My assailant staggers from around the corner, coughing and retching, tears streaming down his face and blood from his nose. Peppermint poisoning. I raise my hand, but he bats it away and rips my mask off, pressing the hot muzzle of his pistol to my forehead.
#WarOnChristmas “Merry fucking Christmas,” he growls. My last act is a strangled laugh. Then an impossibly loud bang and darkness. War is hell, and I’m done for.