Seasonal Help

πŸ“… Published on November 19, 2021

β€œSeasonal Help”

Written by Chisto Healy
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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Trevor walked in his front door with a sigh. He shut the door like it weighed a ton and put the chain lock in place. In truth, it was life that weighed on him, exhausted him so. Working retail during the holiday season felt like cruel torture they should designate for criminals who did terrible things to earn their fate. Customers certainly treated him like he was a criminal. They screamed and pushed and pointed, demanding and complaining in equal measures. If there was anything to get people out of the Christmas spirit, it was a grocery store in December.

Trevor shuddered, just thinking about it. He crossed the living room to fetch a cold one and passed by the Christmas tree on his way to the kitchen. He scoffed at it and kept going. He hadn’t put a tree up in as long as he could remember, but he did it this year to be more festive, to remind himself of the good of the holiday season. As he popped open his beer, he thought about what a joke that was. A constant reminder of how he was alone and had no one to share the holidays with, no one to put presents under that tree for, was not the fast track to happiness. It was stupid.

Often, Trevor wondered what he did to earn this life. He was generally a pretty good guy. He wasn’t a saint by any means. His childhood was full of trouble, but it was also thirty years in the past. For many years now, too many years, Trevor had just worked, paid bills, shopped for his meager groceries and went on with life. He tried to use the internet to meet people. That seemed to be how everyone did it these days, and he didn’t believe he could mingle with a stranger at this point. It was a small town as it was. He could imagine going to a bar and walking up to someone, only to realize that they were the person who demanded a can of cranberry sauce from the bottom case of a stack even though all the cans in the twenty-four can cases stacked twelve high above it were precisely the damned same. He’d end up just throwing his drink on them and walking away.

Using the internet allowed him to meet someone from a different town, close enough to be a short drive but far enough to not shop at his store. Not that it made a difference. He would chat with people in hopes of meeting in person, but most times, it never even got that far. He just wasn’t interesting enough. He didn’t have much to say. He worked, came home, binged Netflix and did his best to make sure his cat didn’t starve, and the litterbox didn’t stink. That was about the extent of it.

He looked over at the cat dish on the nearby table and sighed again. Groaning at his sore back, Trevor went to the cabinet and retrieved a can of wet food. His cat, Big Head Todd, who he hadn’t seen since he got home, appeared out of nowhere. Todd was sitting next to the empty dish like he’d been there the whole time. Trevor shook his head and rubbed at his tired eyes.

“I’ll never know how you do that, and I’ll never know where the hell you go all the time.”

Todd gave him a look that, to him, said, none of your business. Just feed me and go on.

Even the cat has no respect for me, he thought. “I don’t suppose you got me a Christmas present?”

The cat gave him another awkward glance and then hopped down from the table and trotted away. Trevor exhaled, his shoulders slumping. “Yeah. That’s what I thought.”

He did get Todd a few presents. They were already in his stocking, hanging from the doorway because his salary wasn’t enough for an apartment with a fireplace. He didn’t honestly believe that Todd deserved Christmas presents unless there was a kitty equivalent to coal, but he didn’t have anyone else to get anything for. He tried to continue exchanging gifts with his parents, but they yelled at him and told him to grow up and get married like everyone else. As if it were just so simple.

Trevor grabbed two more beers out of the fridge and took them into the living room with him. It was binge o’clock, after all. He kicked off his shoes and winced at how badly his feet hurt. His feet and knees were always throbbing after a long shift on those terrible floors at the store. He would feel like he was getting a vacation if he managed only to work an eight-hour shift. During the holiday season, eight-hour shifts were a thing of the past. He worked a minimum of twelve hours, sometimes as much as seventeen or eighteen. Those were the days that he worried Todd would kill him in his sleep. He left a bowl of dry food out for the cat, but Todd was far too good for that shit.

Trevor wrapped himself in a blanket, turned the TV on and started scrolling through the options looking for something to watch. Sometimes he was so desperate for something to shake things up that he spent all night scrolling through and never actually watched anything. He would fall asleep with the remote still in his hand. Living alone, his bed was all but unused. He would crash on his couch almost every day.

He didn’t want to scroll forever today, so he just picked something at random. It was a TV show about a girl haunted by the owner of the heart she received in a transplant. It sounded cool. Trevor enjoyed a good horror story though it rarely affected him like it did most people. He felt that real life was far more terrifying than fiction. He was far more frightened by the idea of working a seventeen-hour day the day before Thanksgiving, knowing he was going to be abused the whole time than he was afraid of a chainsaw-wielding maniac in the middle of nowhere. That family was running a business, and they were feeding customers to their customers. At this point in his life, Trevor thought, I get it.

The show was pretty good. The beer wasn’t, but it was cold at least. There was a short in the string of lights on his pitiful lonely Christmas tree, and it kept going off and coming back on. It was struggling to get through, just like the guy who wired it. Moaning with the effort, Trevor got to his feet, walked over and unplugged it. I hope if I’m unable to take care of myself, someone unplugs me too, he thought. I don’t have a wife or kids to hold on to. I’m not going to be like, “but I have to get back to the grocery store and make sure that bitch in the sundress gets the right alkaline water!”

When he got back to the couch, Trevor paused the show. He grabbed his phone, plugged it into the charger, so it didn’t die, and checked on his profile to see if he had any messages. He tried to put a nice photo on there, get his smile from the best angle, and fill the page with witty anecdotes someone might find amusing. It didn’t seem to be working. His inbox was empty. Trevor gave one of his usual sighs, punctuated with a deep frown. He started searching people’s profiles, trying to see if there was anyone on right now worth talking to. He didn’t care if they were three hundred miles away. He was just tired of feeling so alone.

He tried to start several different conversations, but no one seemed to want to bite. You can’t hate me yet, he thought, and you don’t even know how boring I am yet. Can you please find out first and then run away like you’re supposed to?

After a while, Trevor got fed up and tossed his phone onto the floor. Todd had been down there and yelled at him for throwing things without looking. Then the cat ran away to sleep on the giant bed that it had taken ownership of. Sometimes, on days like this, going on felt tough. He had to somehow wake up in the morning after this day and get up to do it all again. For what?

For the future, he told himself for hope. He was jaded and miserable but not hopeless. Sometimes good things came along when you weren’t looking. At least that’s what people told him all the time, and he chose to believe it because what else was there? One day something good was just going to show up at his door, and he needed to be around to take advantage of the opportunity.

As if on cue, there was a knock on his door. Trevor’s eyes widened. He choked on his sip of beer and coughed, wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand. “You gotta be shitting me,” he said quietly.

With another of his patented groans, Trevor pushed his aching body up off of the couch. The knock on the door sounded again. He almost yelled at them to chill out and hang on a sec, but he didn’t know who was on the other side, and he didn’t want to give the wrong first impression to his future life partner.

When he reached the door, Trevor kept the chain in place but opened the door a few inches so he could look through who was knocking. A short, well-kept man stood in the hall with a decent suit, eyeglasses, and too much gel in his hair. Trevor’s confusion only deepened.

“Precisely,” the man said with a beaming grin echoing in his eyes.

Trevor blinked and shook his head. If this was some kind of game or prank, he was way too tired to deal with it. “I’m sorry. Who are you?”

The man’s smile widened, and he added a wave. “I’m someone that has come a long way to offer you a job, Mr. Novak. I’m about to change your life and give you purpose if you give a few minutes of your time to entertain me.”

The guy sounded crazy, and there was a good possibility that he was, but what did Trevor have to lose if things went south? The guy mentioned a job, and there was nothing Trevor hated more in this world than this one. Besides, Trevor sized the guy up as soon as he opened his door. Some parts of his younger self never left, and he always stayed on guard. He was pretty sure that if push came to literal shove, he could take this guy pretty easily, though it wouldn’t do any good for his already sore back. He took a deep breath, unlatched the chain, and stepped back, allowing the man to enter.

The stranger stepped into his home and clapped his hands together happily. “Fantastic,” he said. “Oh, now look at this.” As Trevor closed the door and latched the chain again in case the man planned to rob him and run, the newcomer made his way over to the Christmas tree, eyeing it with fascination. “You put a tree up this year and put lights on it and everything. Now that is commendable, Trevor. Good on you.”

Trevor tensed. It was one thing for the man to know his name. It wasn’t too hard to figure something like that out, but to know that he didn’t usually have a Christmas tree up inside his apartment that no one ever went into but him; that was another thing entirely. Staying where he was and watching this stranger intently, he said, “Who did you say you were again?”

The man snapped his fingers and pointed towards Trevor, his smile returning. “I never did, actually. I always wait until I’m inside for that, or the door could get shut in my face and drastically complicate things. Trust me, Trevor. I learned this the hard way.”

Trevor sighed. He was growing frustrated. “Well, you’re in. So tell me who the hell you are.”

The stranger looked as if he’d been slapped. “Oh my,” he said as he adjusted his glasses. “Yes. Well then, my name is Wiggins. I’m a workshop officer for the man at the tippy top. Before you go getting an even hotter head, Mr. Novak, it would be easier understood that I am one of Santa’s Helpers.”

Trevor actually smacked himself in the head. He couldn’t believe he had just let this man into his home. He sighed and rubbed some of the stress from his face and eyes. “You’re mad. What do you want?”

“I assure you, I’m not,” the man said as he wandered into the kitchen. “Do you have any hot cocoa? I would love a cup.”

“I’m surprised you don’t already know the answer,” Trevor said, following him but keeping his distance. “You knew about my tree.”

The man gave a happy little chuckle and shook an index finger at him. “You’re correct,” he said, opening the cabinet next to the refrigerator and grabbing a cylindrical container of powdered cocoa. “I was merely trying to be polite and not overwhelm you. I tend not to help myself to people’s cocoa if they don’t offer it.” He held the container up. “Do you mind?”

Trevor found himself more curious than afraid of this strange man. Part of him wanted to toss the guy out on his ass, but another part of him reminded him that this was the most exciting thing to happen to him in aΒ  very long time. It was a story he could share at the store tomorrow and maybe help some of his coworkers to find a smile as well. “Help yourself,” he said. “It’s probably expired, though. I never drink it.”

“Correct again,” the man said, looking his way with a big toothy smile. “It doesn’t bother me, though. There are no mealworms. That’s good enough for me. Half those dates are for show.”

“Tell me about it,” Trevor said with a huff, thinking about the terror that was his job.

“Yes, right. I suppose you would know,” the man said as he filled a mug with water from the tap and stuck it in the microwave, setting the timer for two minutes. “But what if that terrible job was merely preparing you for your true purpose?”

“And what would that be?” Trevor asked, fighting back his own grin.

The man watched the mug in the microwave intently for a few seconds before answering. He seemed anxious to get that cocoa. His fingers drummed on top of the appliance. Then he stopped, rubbed his palms together and turned to face Trevor. “You, my friend, can be the brand new quality assurance officer at the North Pole.”

Trevor couldn’t contain his laugh this time, and he practically spit it out. “Santa’s looking for seasonal help, huh? Does he provide health insurance?” Trevor chuckled to himself as he decided to take the risk and venture closer. He opened the fridge and grabbed himself a beer. Twisting the cap off, he leaned against the doorway.

“Your health is insured,” Wiggins told him. “Oh!” he said excitedly when the microwave beeped. He opened the door and took out his mug, filling the hot water with powdered cocoa. Trevor watched as the man knew exactly where his spoons were, taking one as if he lived there to stir his cocoa. “More importantly, you would help ensure Christmas and assure that it runs smoothly and all those waiting children receive safe, functioning toys. It is a critical job, Trevor. May I call you Trevor, or if you prefer Mr. Novak.”

Trevor smirked. He was glad he wasn’t sipping his beer, or he may have to spit it everywhere. “Trevor is fine. So you randomly came to my home to offer me a job as a Christmas elf,” he said, barely containing his laughter.

The man stopped stirring his cocoa and looked up at Trevor, losing his smile for the first time. “Elves are not immortal, you know. They pass like everyone and need to be replaced to maintain order. My job is to locate and hire their replacements, and I assure you, Trevor, your selection was far from random.”

Trevor took a deep breath and raised his hands. “Okay, I’ll bite. Why me? How did I get selected for this essential job?”

Wiggins nodded. He took his cup of cocoa and walked past Trevor into the living room, gesturing towards the couch. “Do you mind?” Trevor looked at him with surprise, but he shook his head. Wiggins nodded in return, sitting down and sighing happily before sipping at his cocoa. When he looked back at Trevor, he said, “Well, we keep the naughty list files for this reason. We follow them. I’m sure you know that you spent a good deal of your childhood on that list.” Trevor’s eyes widened. He left the doorway and crossed into the living room. Was this guy serious? Wiggins continued, “We watch for which of those candidates go on to have lives like yours.”

“What kind of life is that?” Trevor wasn’t smiling anymore. He was ready for this prank to be over. He had to sleep before another long day of work.

“A lonely one,”Β  Wiggins said, sipping his cocoa. “We look for someone who can walk away from their lives and not have to feel guilty for leaving a family behind, someone who won’t be missed and cried over.”

Trevor felt suddenly angry. He set his beer down on the end table next to the couch and stared at the man, happily sipping cocoa like a child. “Who are you? Who put you up to this?”

“I assure you that I’m exactly who I say I am, and trust me, Todd will get on just fine without you. You are a convenience for him, not a necessity.”

Trevor’s anger didn’t diminish, but he felt that the part about the cat was probably true. “Alright then. Show me some kind of proof that you are who you say you are.”

“The light-up power sword,” Wiggins said without looking up. He continued to enjoy his hot beverage. Trevor squatted before this couch so his glare could meet the man’s eyes. He had asked for a light-up power sword that he saw at the store, put it in his letter to Santa they made him write at the juvenile detention center and then received nothing, essentially seeing it as proof that Santa didn’t exist or didn’t care. “Tell me who you are,” Trevor demanded. “I’m not going to ask you again. How do you know the things you know about me?”

“I’ve already told you that,” Wiggins said, placing his now empty mug down next to Trevor’s beer on the end table. “Thank you for the cocoa. It was delightful.” He got to his feet, walked to the front door and undid the chain. Trevor stood as well, watching him. Wiggins opened the door, looked down at Todd and said, “he’s not coming back here.” The cat looked up at him like he somehow comprehended what the man said. Then he strolled past him out the open door.

Trevor felt like he’d been punched in the heart. That cat was all that he had in this world. “You have some nerve,” he growled. “I can’t believe you just let my cat out. You said I’m not coming back. You plan to kill me because it won’t be so easy.”

“Simmer down,” Wiggins said with his usual friendly grin. “The workers at the North Pole don’t work just during the Christmas season. They have to work all year to keep things going smoothly. It’s a full-time position. You would essentially have to give up your life here and move to the North Pole.”

“Well, shouldn’t you find out if I want to do that before you release my cat?” Trevor was not simmering down, not in the least. “I want you to get out of here. Now.”

“No, you don’t,” said Wiggins. “You’re angry at yourself, at life, at years of loneliness and a world that left you with nothing to abandon. You’re just projecting that anger at me. In the end, you’ll come with me. They always do.”

Trevor snarled like an animal. “And how would we get there? Christmas magic? Reindeer? A flying sleigh?”

Wiggins smiled. He stepped away from the door, closer to Trevor. “Christmas magic is the correct answer.” He pulled a plastic-wrapped candy cane from the inside pocket of his suit jacket and extended it towards Trevor. “All you have to do is eat this. It’s wrapped, so you know it’s not poison or anything silly like that. Take one bite, and you’ll be right where you need to be.”

Trevor snatched the candy cane from the man’s hand. Of course, he didn’t believe it was magic, but he also didn’t think it was poison. This was some kind of big joke, and he wanted to get to the end of it. He wanted to look for Todd and hopefully get home in time to get some sleep before getting up for work. He unwrapped the candy cane while staring furiously at the man grinning back at him. Then he chomped down, taking a big bite out of the curved top of the candy.

Suddenly, Trevor found himself somewhere else. He was in what looked to be a warehouse. He was seated at a table with what had to be hundreds of other people, all looking exhausted, sickly and miserable, their mouths sealed shut tightly. In the center of the table was a conveyor belt sending toys between the people at the table. Trevor felt real fear for the first time since Wiggins arrived at his door. He saw the man standing next to him, still wearing his obnoxious smile. There was a clanging sound, and Trevor looked down to find his wrists wrapped in shackles that came from chains that ran to the floor.

Trevor tried to demand to know what was happening, but his mouth wouldn’t open. He looked at Wiggins with wild eyes. Wiggins, on the other hand, never lost his smile. Trevor flinched and realized that someone had just put an IV into his hand. What in the name of God was happening? “I’ll be back shortly to administer the feeding tube,” the nurse said.

“Delightful,” Wiggins said back. Then he clapped his hands and looked at Trevor. “The IV and the feeding tube will keep you nourished and healthy for a long time, and when they’re no longer enough, you will be replaced by someone else just like you. You’d be surprised by just how many there are, Mr. Novak. I know it’s a lot to digest at the moment, but I need you to pay attention. You need to use your hands to check the toys that go past you for mistakes and dangers. The chief toy officer will explain in greater detail. You must do your job, or you will face terrible consequences, none of which will be death. You will not be allowed out of the contract you agreed to by biting the candy cane. Pain and suffering is an option; death isn’t. It will do you well to keep that in mind.”

The frighteningly thin unshaven older man across from Trevor looked at him with fearful eyes and shook his head before he grabbed an action figure that came down the belt before him. Trevor realized that the man couldn’t talk any more than he could. None of them could be imaginary, and this guy was trying to warn him that it wasn’t worth it not to comply. Trevor felt tears fill his eyes and spill over his lower lids to careen down his cheeks.

“Now now,” Wiggins said, patting his shoulder. “You’re doing a good thing, Trevor. I mean, there’s a reason we select from the naughty list, as I’m sure you now understand but consider all the smiles you’ll bring to those millions of children on the good list. That is your payment and reward for the lifetime of service you will now give. Welcome to your glorious purpose.”

Wiggins left then. Trevor watched him walking away, and he jumped up, realizing that his legs were attached to the legs of the chair. The whole chair moved, but it seemed to be bolted down. Trevor tried to scream, but there was no sound. It was just fear that raged in the silence of his own mind. Around him, the others looked at him with wide, fearful eyes and shook their heads. They all tried frantically to grab the passing toys with nervous fingers as if he were going to get them all in trouble. Trevor’s body trembled as he began to weep. Then a man walked over to him, holding a clipboard. “Greetings, newbie,” he said. “I’m the Chief Toy officer. Pay attention because I’m about to show you what you’re looking for, and I don’t like to repeat myself. This job is all there is for you now, so you want to do it right. There is nothing else but the job, the job and the consequences of not doing it. Welcome to Santa’s Workshop, elf.”

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Chisto Healy
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

πŸ”” More stories from author: Chisto Healy

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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Ana Jones
1 year ago

It is a great article.

8 months ago

Nerdle game is for all the math nerds out there. Because what could be more exciting than solving math problems in a game format? Who needs action, adventure, or even a decent plot when you can spend your time staring at numbers and equations?

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