He woke with his body covered in unaccustomed pain. After a few minutes, he realized that most of it came from extremely stiff joints and a throbbing head. The anger in his stomach reminded him that he had too many cookies last night, and drank far too much rum and eggnog.
An eternity later, he felt able to open his eyes, and immediately regretted it. Even the dim light in his room stabbed his eyeballs, causing his stomach to once again rebel. He heard voices that were somehow both near and distant, as if he had gone almost deaf.
A blur entered his vision. He assumed it was a person because of the way it moved, but he couldn’t be sure. It appeared to be mostly green, but that could have just been his current outlook on the world.
“Santa, can you hear me?” the voice said. This time there was no denying it. Someone was talking to him. He groaned an answer that may be kindly taken as an affirmative, with certain polite concessions by the listener. The blurry figure bobbed in his vision, then was joined by another one, mostly red.
“That was a great trip last night. The way you dodged those missiles was amazing. We didn’t think you were going to make it this time.”
He grunted. Something was trying to gain his attention in the back of his mind, but he couldn’t quite grasp it. He tried to sit up, but couldn’t.
“Don’t try to move Santa. Your body took quite a beating, as usual. You need to relax.”
The panicked feeling was rising more. He realized what was causing it. Yesterday was Christmas, which meant he had made most of his deliveries. He had one left, which he feared more than anything. He tried to get up again, but he felt a restraining hand on his head now.
“Come on Santa, you knew this was coming since last year. It’s too late to fight it now.”
Another voice came to him. This one seemed older. “Kringle, it’s time. Take it.”
Santa felt someone reaching under his beard and taking something off his chest. A heavy amulet, hidden from the world under his beard, came off with its chain. There was a burning pain, as all the aches that he had ever known hit him at once, then everything was blackness.
The light returned, the pain gone. He was standing now, looking over the body he had once inhabited. The elves surrounded him as he took in the power.
One of the elves, standing at the body’s head looked at him. “Kringle? Are you OK?”
He looked down at his body, already starting to change. “Not Kringle anymore. Ho ho ho.”