The scents of Christmas – cinnamon, pine, the muted sharpness of oranges – were starting to feel oppressive. He’d lost his taste for mulled wine this year, and the warmed-over dregs of a cheap rioja, with shards of broken star anise floating like driftwood on the surface, disgusted him. The snow settling outside depressed him, made him feel trapped and lonely.
“Humbug,” he muttered, pleased with that at least. His face itched in the glow of the roaring log fire. He had been unable to find his razor, and his fresh beard was irritating him as much as anything else. Soon he would be out in the fresh air, and he relished it. Only good part of the job. A thousand years he’d been delivering presents and still it surprised him how enjoyable that was.
Last year he’d almost died. A slip on a loose tile. He was always so careful but was now overconfident and simply ignored the warning signs that had always kept him safe. Slates were always bad. Slippery at the best of times, this one rattled down the roof and he heard it shatter on the ground long after it fell, even as he was still sliding to the edge.
He’d got to stop. He was old now. No one cared if he came or not. There were no adorable children to restore his faith in Christmas. Not now. This would be his last round. After that, if everyone believed it was their parents, well, they’d be right.