Elvin pressed the sanitiser bottle and two dollops of clear glittery fluid landed on his palms. He rubbed it all over his hands and between his fingers. His nose twitched accommodating to the smell. This ritual was new to him. He was told this was compulsory because of a novel virus outbreak which had rapidly spread across the world.
“Okay back to work, we got loads of packing to do!”
“Do you think he will take us along for the mission?”
“I don’t think so. There are social distancing guidelines in force.”
“But how will he manage alone? It’s so risky nowadays, I heard some people have even installed cameras.”
“Yeah, he was almost caught during last year’s transaction… he escaped just in time. Mary managed to distract the people by creating a commotion.”
“But people are staying home nowadays. Not much movement outside.”
They heard footsteps approaching and a booming voice asked, “What are you two whispering about? Is our consignment ready?”
A plump man entered the warehouse along with a frail Rudy tagging behind him.
“Working on it Boss …packaging almost done.”
“Write the proper address on each package.”
“Correct Sir. Almost done.”
“I have a plane to board in 2 days.”
“2 days??? I thought we had at least 2 weeks.”
“No! You have only 2 days to finish all of this.”
“Security is tightening day by day, Me and Rudy got to leave as soon as possible for the transaction.”
“So you are the chosen one?”, whispered Prancer.
“Take care Rudy, things are bad outside.”
10th of December 2020
Rudy and his Boss land at a mostly deserted airport. Many flights have been postponed due to the Covid outbreak. Well, the lesser people the better.
They pull their suitcases and make their way towards the first checkpoint – Temperature check area, where their temperature is checked with a handheld infrared thermometer. After that they head for the Covid test. A long Q-tip-like stick is inserted in their nostrils reaching the back of their throat.
Rudy goes into bouts of sneezing, his nose turning a bright red, while his Boss doesn’t even flinch.
“Why was that inserted so deep? Are they scraping out our brains with that?”
“Don’t be dramatic! We have to keep it low-key. We are looking for someone in a Black suit with a green tie, look for him!”
Rudy squints to discern the tie colours among a wide array of black suits walking around. Finally, he spots a man talking on his phone. He is dressed in all-black from head to toe, except for a pine green tie. They approach him, and Boss leans towards him and whispers: “Snowman let loose.”
“After a shot of booze,” black suit replies pursing his lips.
They share a surreptitious glance for a fraction of a second. The man adjusts his sunglasses and motions them to follow him into his car. The moment they get inside, he pulls up the tinted car windows.
“Am assuming Prancer came up with this password?” Black suit asks curtly.
“Yes, he did.”
He rolls his eyes.
“But the codeword is important. You remember how things got messed up last time.”
Black suit kept quiet.
“Your colleague mistook me for someone else and took another person in your car. The police got alerted and even the media got involved.”
Black suit shifts in his seat, visibly flustered. After a while, he clears his throat and hands him a black briefcase lying next to him.
“This is to assure your protection. This has to be with you during the whole mission Sir.”
The car halts in front of a lodge nestled among tall pine trees and shrubs.
“You will be required to isolate yourselves here away from prying eyes for a fortnight. Rudy will be in the other room. Your meals will be served directly to your rooms along with a temperature check twice a day.”
He sends their luggage to their respective rooms, bows, and leaves.
It’s Rudy calling from the other room.
“So, we are supposed to be in this room for FOURTEEN days? Fourteeeeen? Quarantiiiine? What is that?”
“We can’t bend the rules”, replies Boss stroking his long white beard.
He unlocks the black briefcase in which he finds – gloves, sanitisers, masks carefully arranged in three neat rows. And a red hat with a white bobble on top.
“New get up for 2020, now does my beard go inside the mask or not?”
He opens his suitcase takes out his red woolly suit, “This year my suit got a size larger… must be those lockdown treats,” he mumbles while hanging it on the coat hook.
“Boss what will I do all alone? I miss Elvin and Prancer. Do we have a time turner or something to make 24th of December come faster?” whines Rudy.
“I don’t know about that, but I do know that I won’t notice how time flies once I start writing little notes for each child along with their gifts. A handwritten letter from Santa will bring them a smile during this pandemic.”
“Co-vid pandemic. So-lid polemic. The clock does not tick! I think am getting sick!”
“There you go. Work on those rhymes Rudy. Am sure you will have a song ready by the end of this quarantine.”
Santa presses the soap dispenser and started singing- ‘Jingle bells jingle bells‘ while lathering his hand with soap and scrubbing all the way. At the last line of jingle bells, he jiggles his wet hands and dries it.
Ho! Ho! Ho! Masked Santa is coming around with his sanitiser spray!
Leena Auckel is a Doctor residing in Mauritius. Her pen and paper have been her 'alter universe' since high-school. Poetry and stories are a therapeutic release from her busy schedule. She believes that the body is healed with knowledge and the soul is healed with written words. Reading is one of the habits you can indulge in without moderation. Her short-stories and poems have been published by e-magazines like Eve Poetry, Active Muse and ZenGarden.club.