Author: BrDPirateMan PM
Santa Claus dies in a freak accident and is sent to the UG, so without him to deliver the presents, is Christmas doomed? It's up to Konishi, Sho and Higashizawa to take his place for the time being. But they make a real mess of it...Rated: Fiction T - English - Humor - Sho M. - Chapters: 3 - Words: 17,178 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 14 - Updated: 12-21-11 - Published: 12-08-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7619013
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Reapers' Christmas (Part 1)
'Twas the night before Christmas…
All of the world's children were fast asleep at this time of the night. And all of them were dreaming the same thing, the same dream. It existed in many different flavours and versions, but they all amounted to one unanimous wish: to get lots of presents on Christmas Day.
And one old soul was busy scouring the night for houses to visit. He had a great number of gifts to deliver, and his job was far from over.
But it was his passion, and he loved it despite the tedium and difficulty.
After all, he was Santa Claus.
A long night had gone by and he had visited many countries already, ticking them off his checklist. Now, he had finally arrived in Japan, via magical flying sled, of course. And the first pit-stop was the city of Shibuya.
He drew a hand over his forehead as he gazed at the sleeping metropolis, and thought to himself, Another country where the houses don't have chimneys. I guess I'll have to use the front door or any other possible route in.
With a jerk of the reins, he guided his sled downwards towards the nearest building, which was an apartment. His merry band of reindeer pulled the sled with gusto and fervour, led by Rudolph, who was at the front doing a wonderful job lighting their way through the mild city smog with his bright nose.
Santa was so thrilled at the prospect of delivering more happiness to the world that he couldn't help himself as he descended. He broke into a hearty laugh, the most famous of its kind.
"Ho ho ho!" went his voice through the night air. "Merry Christ–"
At that moment, however, he happened to look upwards, and what he saw nearly stopped his heart. "–mas?"
He saw something in the sky above him. Something unusual. Was it a bird? No, it was too big. Was it a plane? No, it was too small. What could it be? The unidentified object was growing larger by the second. It was hurtling towards him! He yanked at the reins urgently, trying to veer out of the way, but it was too late. At the very last moment, it was right in his face, and that was when he realized what it was.
…It was a bus.
And it just fell from the sky for some reason… and hit him.
HO HO HO WHAM!
When Santa came to, the pain was the first thing he was aware of. He hadn't even opened his eyes, and already it had seared him through the head like a knife. It hurt pretty badly.
He pried his eyelids open, and white light flooded his sight. Soon enough his eyesight adjusted itself, and he could see that he was sprawled on the floor in a room that was as white as snow. He even mused to himself, Am… Am I back in the North Pole? But no, he clearly wasn't back home in the Arctic.
As he struggled to his feet, he saw a person strolling towards him slowly. The mystery man was dressed all in black, except for the white shirt underneath his open jacket. And the sunglasses perched on his nose were so dark his eyes could not even be seen. Before Santa had the chance to ask just what the heck was going on, he introduced himself.
"Greetings, Mr Claus," said the man, standing ramrod straight. "I know it's abrupt and you have questions of your own, but let me speak for a bit." A clearing of the throat and he continued, "My name is Megumi Kitaniji, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are now dead."
Santa frowned, and while he was a patient person, he certainly wasn't very patient now. In fact, seeing himself all alone without his crew of reindeer, he became worried. "What are you talking about? Where am I, and… where's my sled? !"
"Relax," reassured Megumi, "your reindeer and everything else are in good hands. I must apologise, however, for the current circumstances."
"You see, this place isn't just… any place. It is the UnderGround – the UG – a place where the souls of the departed converge to play the Reapers' Game. Now, long story short, if you're here, that means you're dead. And if you're dead, you have to play the Reapers' Game."
Hopelessly confused, Santa waved his hand, a gesture to stop him from talking. "Slow down, slow down. Whatever nonsense are you babbling about?"
Chuckling softly, Megumi lightly placed his hand on his forehead as a sign of slight exasperation. "I'm tired of answering that question. But what I just said was the truth. You've just died. And for that, I'm sorry because my subordinate is to blame for that."
"Subordinates?" Now the old man was growing alarmed. "Are you hitmen sent to kill me? !"
"No, no, nothing like that. But one of my Reapers was busy training, and well, telekinesis isn't easy to wield when you pick up something heavy like a bus."
"A… bus?" Somehow, that sounded familiar, like he had seen one not too long ago…
"Yes, terribly sorry about that. Apparently, he wanted to test his might, so he threw it into the air. Catching it was another matter altogether, though. He failed. And so, that bus hit you, and you died."
Santa had been on guard this entire time, but what he had heard was so ridiculous that he refused to listen to anything more that Megumi had to say. "Okay, nice story, boy, but I have presents to deliver. Merry Christmas to you, and goodbye."
"Do you even know where the exit is?"
Oops… that was a good question. Santa couldn't see one when he looked this way and that. Was he trapped in this white room with a lunatic?
"And also," said Megumi, "please take a look at this news piece. Very recent."
With a casual air, he fished out his cell phone and tapped on its touchscreen several times before showing the display to the old guy. What Santa was looking at was live news footage that had just been broadcast, and what he saw shocked him.
The scene in the broadcast was one of the many streets of Shibuya, and smack dab in the middle of it was a horribly mangled bus with smoke billowing from every corner. It was being doused liberally by a group of firefighters, and many people had gathered to gawk at the sight.
"This just in," said the reporter. "There's been a terrible accident near Udagawa. It sounds very bizarre, but according to witnesses, a bus had fallen from the sky and landed here before exploding." To illustrate the extent of the event's strangeness, she managed the slightest of frowns as she talked. "No one has any idea how it happened, but it appears that there might have been a single casualty."
The camera zoomed in on the shadow underneath the bus. "A red Christmas cap was found beneath the wreckage. There is no visible body, but the presence of this cap might imply that someone had been crushed underneath – "
At this point, Megumi turned off the broadcast. There was no need to show anymore of it, as Santa was slowly beginning to come to grips with his situation. The latter, with all the speed of a glacier, reached up to his head with trembling hands. Much to his horror, his cap wasn't there, sitting snugly over his skull. It was gone… and it was probably the one found snagged beneath that bus!
"That bus… really killed me? !"
Megumi was apologetic, but more for his subordinate's blunder rather than his death. "I will personally reprimand that Reaper so that he takes his training more seriously. Now, as per the rules in the UG, you will have to play the Reapers' Game…"
Santa panicked, perspiration beading on his shiny forehead, face as pale as the snow in his homeland. "Wait! Stop! How could this happen to me? ! I'm Santa! I have to give presents to everyone in the world! I can't be dead at a time like this, or at all! Are you some kind of ghost? ! Am I a ghost? !"
Seeing Father Christmas look so unlike the cheery self as he was often depicted made Megumi smile. Not because he was cruel, but because it was somewhat amusing. But things had to be done as they were, so with a sigh, he decided to give the spiel he always gave to the newly dead. And as there was always a steady influx of them, he had practically memorized every word of it.
"I guess I don't have a choice, now do I? Mr Claus, allow me to explain to you how this whole thing works. And what better place to do it than the living room? Come, I'll give you some refreshments."
In the Dead God's Pad, a bar-like room filled with smooth jazz music, Santa was clinging onto each of Megumi's words like a bloodsucking parasite. He had been offered a glass of orange juice, squeezed fresh from the fruit itself, but he hardly touched it. Why drink when he was already dead anyway?
But thanks to the Conductor's words, he now understood the gist of how things operated in the world of the dead. However, he was not very happy. "So I'm a Player now, and to come back to life, I have to play the Reapers' Game and win it. But look…"
"Hmmm?" Megumi was casually sipping on a can of coffee. Yes… as casually as he could. After all, he was already dead himself, so what was the rush? And what's more, decaf was his favourite, meant to be enjoyed slowly. "What is it now, Mr Claus?"
Frustrated with his predicament, Santa had transformed from jolly giver of presents to grumpy old geezer. "Don't talk to me like that! The Reapers' Game lasts an entire week, but by the time I clear it, Christmas will be long over! And there are still children out there who haven't got their presents! Damnation, seven days from now when I'm alive again it'll be New Year's Day!"
"Oh yes, that's a problem alright." Megumi took another nice loooooong sip… Ah… decaf.
"Stop drinking your darn coffee and listen! You know I don't and can't give late presents! It's just not done doing that!"
"I do understand your plight, Mr Claus. That's why I'm making arrangements."
"Arrangements?" A tiny glimmer of hope rose in his aging cholesterol-clogged heart. "You mean… I can come back to life right now instead of having to play the Game?"
"Well, yes, that. I'll have to take this up to the Composer… no promises though. But in the meantime, seeing as you're dead and can't deliver any presents, I'd gladly get some of my men to help out."
A wave of relief washed over Santa. Even though the thought that he may have to slog through the Game wasn't comforting, at least the rest of the world wouldn't need to spend Christmas empty-handed. But he certainly hoped that these Reapers whom Megumi spoke of were reliable… This bad feeling in the pit of his stomach couldn't get any worse.
Nonetheless, gratitude was in order. "Thank you, that'd be most splendid," he said. "And please do start immediately. Christmas Eve doesn't last forever."
Megumi took his leave and cranked a door open. "I'll get to it right this minute. Please make yourself at home in the meantime, Mr Claus. I even have some nice music playing." Then a soft click of the door behind him, and he was gone.
But the music was the worst choice he could have chosen for Santa. It went…
All my sorrows seem so far away…
Now I know that they are here to stay…
Listening to this song reminded Santa of his predicament and only served to intensify the feeling of dread he already had in him.
The three senior Reaper officers serving directly under Megumi were enjoying some time off this Christmas Eve. But instead of diving into the Christmas spirit, they were fulfilling their own hobbies. The festive season was nice and all, but it wasn't really something they were crazy over. As such, they regarded this day as a day off and took things slowly.
Now, the Reapers in question were a colourful trio indeed…
Yodai Higashizawa was proud of his culinary skills, so he was busy cooking dish after dish tirelessly. The kitchen was his oyster; he could remain there for hours at a time, doing everything from julienning and dicing to steaming and stir-frying.
So caught up in his own little world that he didn't even bother to check out what his colleagues Sho Minamimoto and Mitsuki Konishi were doing. These two were sitting at a table minding their own business for the most part, except when Sho interrupted the peace with a bad joke.
Sho was renowned for his ability to grasp math like no other person could. But he was eccentric to such a fault that most people simply thought of him as insane. Perhaps he really was. His speech was always laden with mathematical terms that were all but suitable or necessary. And for some unfathomable reason, he loved trash. Garbage cans were art to him.
What was he doing now? He was solving Sudoku puzzles by the dozens, but he couldn't find any harder ones out there, so he had to make do with the relatively "simpler" ones. His boredom grew with the stack of finished Sudoku puzzle books at his feet.
On the opposite end of the table was Konishi, an elegant woman with a cold, distant and calculative personality. Little is known about her, but those who have met her were quickly intimidated by her strictness. They learnt not to underestimate her, not to get on her bad side… and because of her no-nonsense attitude, she was dubbed – behind her back – the "Iron Maiden". She loved to strategise and plan out her moves in a crafty and careful way, so it should come as no wonder that she was now indulging herself with a copy of How to Crush Your Enemies and Make Them Kill Themselves. Her all-time favourite book (luckily no one she's dealt with has committed suicide… yet).
Occasionally, Sho might let his mind wander, and this was when he would think up of a self-made joke and tell it to an uninterested Konishi.
"Hey, Konishi, listen," he said eagerly. "What do you get if two numbers have a love child?"
She tried to mask her annoyance, though she wasn't very good at it, not that she really bothered to. "What?"
"A son of a digit! Ha ha ha ha!"
With a sigh and a roll of her eyes to the ceiling, she muttered, "I don't get it." Then she returned to her book.
Sho snorted, his spirit slightly deflated from another failed attempt at comedy. "Inverse matrix! Can't you see I've got a zetta sense of humour?"
"If 'zetta' means bad," deadpanned Konishi, "then I believe you."
Sho was about to shoot back a clever retort (clever to him, anyway) when Megumi showed up.
"You two, get a hold of Higashizawa," he ordered, pushing his sunglasses further up his nose.
"Is something the matter, sir?" asked Konishi politely, who had stood up from her seat, ready to serve and follow orders. Sho just sat there, disinterested.
"Yes. I'd like to talk to you about something."
All three stood before Megumi, with Higashizawa still in his apron. The Conductor explained the situation and, with the exception of Sho, they took it all in with admirable professionalism. Sho was grinning and the occasional rude snigger escaped from his throat every now and then, prompting Konishi to smack him behind the head at least once.
"Well, there you have it," said Megumi at last. "With no one to deliver presents, we're stuck in a rut until I can get the Composer to clear up this gray area."
Although Konishi was amazed by this bizarre turn of events, she still maintained her seriousness. "What should we do?"
"It's nothing that I can't cook up," chimed in Higashizawa.
"You probably could have guessed by now," said Megumi, "but I'd like the three of you to take Santa's place for the time being and help to deliver those presents in his stead. In his state, he can't do much."
The three Reapers had differing views on the whole matter, and differing levels of enthusiasm. Konishi was one to take on any job that her superiors gave her, and she was always willing to do it. "Hmmm… Yes, you are right," she said, "in that I'd already guessed what it was. It's just as I predicted."
Higashizawa had been planning to cook up a storm for the remainder of Christmas Eve, and was sorely disappointed to find out that he'd have to work, but he was a loyal officer to the end and he just went along. "Yes, sir, Mr Kitaniji, we'll do it. We'll gladly serve up the platter of Christmas happiness to children everywhere."
Last but not least, there was Sho. He pumped his fist in the air. "Alright, that zetta rocks! Maybe this'll subtract my ever expanding boredom!"
"You will start immediately," ordered Megumi, "and everything has been prepared. But first, I'd like you to at least meet the man himself." He looked at each of his three officers in turn and then cleared his throat like he always had a habit of doing. "Introduce yourselves to Mr Claus. And… do his old heart good by making him feel at ease. He's already feeling quite jittery as is."
Led into the guest room by the Conductor, the three walked in and were astonished to find Father Christmas in the flesh. So he really wasn't just a story cooked up by scheming parents… He lacked the trademark jolliness he was known for, though.
They stood in a line in front of Santa for him to see. The old guy gave them a once-over and it was obvious from the deepening frown on his brow that he wasn't impressed.
"Mr Claus," announced Megumi robotically, "these will be your replacements for tonight until we sort things out. Please get along."
Higashizawa was the first to speak up. With as polite and normal a greeting he could manage, he said, "Merry Christmas, Santa. Do you still eat cookies and milk every time you visit a house? You should be careful. Milk is good, but too much of it is bad for you, especially if it is the full-cream variety. And it goes without saying that cookies do the waistline no good… I should know."
He had tried to sound friendly and concerned with his advice, but Santa didn't take it too kindly, seeing it as a veiled insult.
Resident math freak Sho Minamimoto was up next. From out of nowhere he pulled out his megaphone, yelling into it without a care for everyone's eardrums. "Merry zetta Christmas, you factoring hectopascal! ! ! Let me tell you something, old binomial. I don't believe one digit about your ability to give millions of presents in one night."
Santa glared at him in confusion. "What?"
"C'mon, that's just not zetta possible. Either that or your sled's been zetta tricked out so it can travel at 299,792,458 m/s, which is even less possible! Which would make you a mathematical anomaly! Ha! 3.1415926…" His tirade of numbers was cut off when Konishi whacked him in the back of the head.
"I apologise for his behaviour," she said curtly. Her greeting was shorter than those of the other two, but was liberally peppered with her inhuman coldness. "Now, aside from the fact that you are now dead, Mr Claus, I predict that you will have a very merry Christmas. Theoretically, anyway."
Santa just stared at them in total disbelief, unsure of what to say.
Feeling slightly bashful for his men, Megumi muttered, "I'm sorry, Mr Claus. My subordinates are all… good people. Really."
"You expect me," stormed Santa, "to place my trust in the likes of them? !"
"Your rudeness notwithstanding," said Konishi coldly, "you'd be terribly incorrect to underestimate us as inferior, Mr Claus."
There was the ghost of a smile on Megumi's lips, as though he was amused at seeing how wrong his unwilling guest was, in contrast to the preciseness of his most trusted aide Konishi. It was always like her to guess things correctly… to predict things. "I have to concur with her," he agreed. "These Reapers aren't your average riff-raff. They're officers and they've proven their mettle; I've personally seen their personal development for myself. Anyway, rest assured, Mr Claus, they'll deliver… both literally and figuratively."
Santa gave a sigh and appeared to sink deeper into the couch. "I don't see that I've really got a choice here… Beggars can't be choosers, and apparently dead people are the same way. Fine."
He cast a fierce yet imploring gaze at them. "Please help me out, you three. I'm counting on you, or rather, the whole world is counting on you."
Higashizawa gave his chest a gentle pound from his fist to show his confidence. "Watch. We shall turn this terrible mess into a mouth-watering delicacy."
"Why eat it," Sho almost shouted, "when you can calculate it? ! Sine cosine tangent!"
Konishi herded her two fellow officers out the room to get themselves ready for the task ahead, and strangely enough she didn't say a single word. But knowing her sharp tongue, this might have been all for the better.
"Great," groaned Santa, "so the fate of Christmas is now in the hands of a bunch of weirdos."
Popping open another can of coffee, Megumi had this to say, "Well, they may be a little rough around the edges and they do have their own little quirks and such, but once you can see past that, they're pretty decent."
"I certainly hope you're right. Now what about letting me off the hook? I don't want to play this Reapers' Game you're always talking about. I'd rather be out in the field doing my job!"
"That's not for me but for the Composer to decide. If He so wishes, he could reincarnate you on the spot… or erase you. Or keep you around for amusement."
Santa shuddered. Just what kind of monster was this Composer?
How he rued the moment he got hit by that airborne bus!
Elsewhere in the Reapers' headquarters, the three Reaper officers were getting geared up for the night.
There was little debate when the time came for the most important decision to be made.
The air felt very stuffy as Konishi took a deep breath. "Mr Higashizawa, seeing as one of us will need to play the part of Santa Claus, I think that since you are the most… corpulent of us three, it would be just right if you assumed that role."
He stared at her. Then slowly he spoke, "Ms Konishi, if you want to say I'm fat, then just say it. I… appreciate the honesty. And the feedback."
"I… I see," she muttered, in a rare display of slight discomfort. "Well, good to know we're all open-minded." She could tell from his body language that despite his words, he was very sensitive about his weight and figure. It was best to leave things as they were lest she should upset him further.
Sho took it upon himself to mess up this delicate balance though. Whether it was cruelty or because he was naturally insane, it was difficult to tell – with him, it was difficult to tell a lot of things. But in any case, what he said, with an extra-large shark grin, was:
"Open-minded? Zetta awesome! Then I guess you wouldn't mind if I told you that your waistline is undergoing exponential addition! In other words, you're getting heavier. If I were to calculate the amount of body fat you have, I'd have to use an atomic calculator that can round off to the nearest one million digits, and I'm being generous. The point is, lose weight already, you zetta 000!"
Overwhelmed by such a brutally honest opinion, Higashizawa was reduced to a fetal position in a corner of the room, staring at the wall and with clouds of gloom hanging over his head. "My bones are just big," he mumbled to himself. "My BMI is normal, right? Yes… yes, it is… I think."
Konishi was not impressed with Sho, as usual. "Tact, Mr Minamimoto," she hissed angrily. "Tact!"
"Tact is garbage," he snorted. "CRUNCH!"
It would take a good while for Higashizawa to regain his crushed spirits and don the red outfit. As reluctant as he was to do it, even he had to admit that he looked the part. If it weren't for his dark dreadlocks, his perpetual scowl, and the absence of a flowing beard, he would probably be mistaken for Santa Claus. Probably. It was a start, at least.
Once Sho and Konishi put on similar red coats, the three of them trooped down to another part of their headquarters where the famous sled and its reindeer were waiting, tended to not by merry hardworking elves, but by shady Reaper underlings wearing hooded jackets. The reindeer were so frightened by this change of environment that their antlers were jiggling in fear. Rudolph's nose glowed especially brightly in alarm.
Everything was in place. Even Santa's magical bag of gifts was in the sled. But upon seeing it all, Sho immediately voiced his discontent.
"What the pi?" he huffed. "It's all wrong! How does that old binomial drive something so factoring lame?"
"It's a sled, Mr Minamimoto," reminded Konishi. "Not a sports car."
"That's not it; you're missing the point, hectopascal! That sled screams 100% ugliness. There is no beauty! How can something like this have negative beauty? CRUNCH!" And he stalked off to inspect their ride with even more disgust.
"I can never understand this person," she grumbled under her breath.
"Neither can I," seconded Higashizawa.
The two began a little discussion about strategy amongst themselves, opting to leave Sho out of it; nine times out of ten he wouldn't listen anyway, what with his strident attitude and nonsensical rambling. They were so absorbed in their talk about how to enter houses without chimneys and how to essentially become Santa that at first they didn't notice him doing something to the sled. Then came an uproar from the Reaper underlings which demanded their attention, so they looked to see what was up.
They almost fainted. Sho was redecorating the sled, and not in a good way!
Konishi found him painting the sides with bright yellow letters. "Mr Minamimoto, what on earth are you doing? !"
He looked up briefly to address her. "Well, Christmas is in the air, so I thought to multiply the mood and add to it. I'm just iterating our ride, is all. Santa's sledge is so zetta boring-looking, his taste is like garbage. CRUNCH!"
"You are turning every child's dreams out there into a nightmare by hanging all these trash can lids onto the reindeer!" She proceeded to rip off a few and as she was doing so, she suddenly noticed the letters that he was painting. She shook her head in horror. "Mr Minamimoto? !"
"What? Its equation of beauty isn't complex enough, and – "
"Get your spelling right! For goodness' sake, it's spelled 'SANTA', not 'SATAN'!"
Sho merely shrugged. "Who gives a digit? All the letters are accounted for, man. Besides, I doubt those kids can read, stupid binomial brats that they are!"
Konishi slapped her forehead. The one who can't read is you, Mr Minamimoto.
Exasperated with the math-crazed Reaper, she did something that she seldom would do. She gave up. She threw her arms into the air in disgust and huffed, "Fine. Do what you want, Mr Minamimoto. I wouldn't stop you." Higashizawa, on the other hand, was so embarrassed that he didn't know where to look.
Sho took that as a green light to do whatever he wanted and gleefully proceeded to give the sled a complete makeover, making it look even more hideous with scraps here and there, much to the dismay of the Reapers nearby. But nobody could stop the self-proclaimed math whiz. The reindeer were so mortified that they had half a mind to trample him underneath their hooves.
All the while, he was humming a song to himself, sung along to the tune of "You're A Mean One, Mr Grinch", but altered significantly:
You're a weirdo, Mr Sho
Math is all that's in your head
You're obsessed with decimals
And you eat pi in your bread
Your love for mathematics is
Thicker than even lead!
You are crazy, Mr Sho
You sing praises to a graph
And for you when students fail at math
It'll induce a silly laugh
Stop laughing already 'cause that's
Really more than enough!
You're a nut job, Mr Sho
What the heck does "zetta" mean?
You take pride in mangled language
Much like how a bird would preen
I'll bet inside your brain there's
So much cheap junk to clean!
I'm convinced now, Mr Sho,
That you are a lunatic
'Cause formulas, fractions and such
Are the things that make you tick
Go get a better hobby
One that others would pick!
You're abnormal, Mr Sho
Calculators make you smile
Just pressing on those buttons and
You will pant so very vile
You are perverted and you're
Worse than a crocodile!
You're a strange one, Mr Sho
You exasperate us all
What you spout is hardly logic
And your claims are very tall
The way you talk is enough to
Drive people up the wall!
By the time he had finished his self-praising song, everything was ready and so was the makeshift Christmas present delivery team. Even the final touches of humiliation had already been added courtesy of Sho: a pair of exhaust pipes welded to the sides of the sled to look like some Frankenstein's Harley-Davidson. And pinned to the back was a self-made flag that read "Got math?"
"So what do you hectopascals think?" he said proudly, expecting a positive answer.
And like usual, all Konishi could do was shake her head and try to pretend Sho never existed. "I need an aspirin." Higashizawa was already taking one.
"Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally! Numbers and equations cannot describe how sweet this looks right now. Now this is beauty! So let's get a zetta move on already. What're you waiting for, Christmas? Oh wait…"
"…Let's just get going."
And so, Higashizawa – Santa 2.0 – climbed aboard the sled together with Sho and Konishi as his helpers. Without wasting another second, they were airborne. One or two hiccups handling the reins made flight a little unstable, but otherwise everything was in good order.
Thus started their long night to save Christmas.
As they soared through the night sky, the sled seemed to chime merrily with the festive spirit. It was peculiar considering how the name "SATAN CLAUS" was clearly visible from the sides.