The old giant lowered his fist, which he slowly unclenched. His beard, once long and silver, was now partly black and half burned. His energy was gone. Pure hatred, however, was still very alive in his red eyes.
I’ve got him, thought Nicholas. I’ve finally cornered the old bastard!
“Why?” yelled the old man. “Why are you getting in my way? I was almost done! Almost done!”
“Because you’re a criminal,” answered Nicholas. He was huffing and puffing, but he knew he had the upper hand. “Stop beating around the bush. Stop pretending otherwise. You’ve broken into so many houses. You’ve scared so many children, traumatized so many poor folks. I won’t let you hurt anyone. Not anymore. Not on my watch.”
“You’re making no sense! I have never hurt anyone!” He was howling. “I’m doing the right thing! I’m doing what needs to be done! You should know that!”
“No. Not anymore. The old ways need to die.” Nicholas pointed his finger towards his opponent. “Your twisted crusade ends now!”
A gust of wind blew through the snow-covered street. A few snowflakes were torn from the ground and flew between the two opponents. A blow Nicholas had taken earlier had caused warm blood to trickle down in his right eye, so he actually welcomed the chill.
The old giant gave out a sigh so deep it seemed to Nicholas the earth rumbled in front of him… And then, there was a change. The fiery, bloodshot eyes seemed to relax. He seemed to be staring into an emptiness somewhere past Nicholas. His fighting spirit had left him.
“Fine,” he said in an exhausted, small voice, so unlike the roaring commands he had bellowed as they were fighting. “You win. You win! I can no longer fight anyway. And dawn is here. You win.”
Really? I’ve won? Really? It’s not a trick? Is this really how it ends?
It seemed true. His opponent made no further motion, and was just looking at him. Feeling his exhaustion finally catching up with him as the adrenaline was washed away from his system, Nicholas felt his knees buckle, and let gravity do its job, falling on his butt.
The old man’s eyes narrowed and flared.
He was lying he’s got me oh god I’m dead!
“No,” said the man as if he was reading Nicholas’ thoughts. “I’m not going to do anything anymore. You’ve won. I’m fading.”
Nicholas was unable to comprehend what he meant… until he realized that he was actually starting to see the rising sun through the man.
“This is what it means to prevent me from doing my work, son!” shouted the man in a booming voice. “This is it! This is what you’ve been fighting for! You’ve won! Since you are right and I am wrong, since all the things I’ve done, I’ve build, I’ve protected are so awful to your eyes, then go on, hero! Live your life in this new world without me, and let’s hope you never regret your choice!”
And before Nicholas could even say a word, could even ask him what exactly was happening, he had completely faded, his crazed laughter echoing in the street, echoing on the snow, seeming to go on, and on, even long minutes after he had completely disappeared.
Thirty years later, Nicholas walked down the remains of that same street. It was as eerily quiet as the day he had triumphed… But there was a different quality to the silence.
On that fateful night, everyone had been asleep at three in the morning, warm and safely tucked between their sheets. It had been a golden silence. Now, it was just a dead silent.
Everyone was gone. Buried six feet under if they were lucky, mangled under the concrete rubble if not.
A cold wind gusted and torn snowflakes from the ground. They landed on his face and melted on his tears. The chill he felt was unbearable.
“You were right, after all, father. Your ways were twisted, but you did the right thing… And I never understood it until it was too late.”
He had thrown away his birthright and destroyed his father’s legacy, and was now living in the aftermath, in the desolation his actions had brought.
He had been wrong.
The world really did need a Santa.