Nick was tired of the disintegrations.
He’d wanted to be the Chief Claus Officer (CCO) of The SANTA Division since he’d joined the organization back in the sixties. It was exciting to be Santa! He was the guy! Beloved by children around the world! He’d grown the beard, and had both beard and hair dyed. Being CCO was too physically demanding for anyone old enough to have white hair naturally. Especially once they began the daily regime of JollyPills™.
That was the problem, he was Santa every day. He’d been doing it for a nearly ten years, and it was getting to him. Of course, the only way they could keep up with the demands of the schedule was to have the CCO work eight-hour shifts, for three hundred days a year.
Well, that and the Polchinski Tunnelr™, of course.
As far as Nick knew they were only organization that had this technology – apart from a few critical employees at SANTA, only the CEO of their parent corporation even knew if its existence – and that was a good thing. It could do a lot of damage to the fabric of reality if not carefully handled. But they had many protocols that kept it safe.
And so, since they invented the Tunnelr™, SANTA had been delivering presents, one per child on the planet, every Christmas Eve. It was an expensive undertaking, sure, but the profits were insane. (Each and every present was embedded with its own patented ConsumerTron 12000™, a ‘mind-enhancing’ device that guaranteed those children would grow up and become loyal customers of whatever brands the parent company wanted.)
That wasn’t the problem. Nick had extensive morality augmentation work done, so this never bothered him. The problem was the disintegration chamber.
You see, traveling through the wormhole, there and back, created a duplicate Nick. Each trip produced another Nick. An identical copy. Well, not really a copy, because for all intents and purposes, he was the same person. But both couldn’t continue. The world would have been overrun by morally augmented, JollyPilled™ fat men, if they hadn’t done something about it. Billions of them by now. So, SANTA had created the Oblivion Closet™ before beginning the program, and on each return, one CCO was chosen randomly to have their atomic structure decohered.
It was practically instantaneous. But there was always that terrible moment, when the unlucky Nick realized his fate. He always screamed the same thing: “I’m the real one!”
Was he? Was there any difference? For really, the Nick consciousness would continue. Had continued. Billions of times.
Maybe it was time to retire. Or perhaps get another moral augmentation done? Nick had to admit, the carnage was starting to suck the fun out of the job. Nightly, his sugarplum dreams were rudely interrupted by the sounds of his own existential screams. Even the JollyPills™ couldn’t stop them.
Plus, the pills made everything taste like candy cane.
©2022 mark a. rayner