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Santa's Coming to Town

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Santa's Coming to Town

There's got to be grounds for leaving your job when after shuffling down the stairs in the morning on Christmas Eve and then being confronted with a slightly transparent reindeer who is currently be cuddled by one of your teammates, like the dopey dog doll he denies owning but you all know he has, with a green spud zooming around the two of them gibbering unintelligibly, you do not immediately think: oh I'm only half awake and imagining things, or I must be dreaming, or even, oh, so this is what being mad feels like(a thought that pops into my head worrying often) but instead feel a sensation of deep dread settle in your stomach. The "oh, no, here we go again kind.

Best to at least attempt to make a logical approach to this. "What is that, and how the hell did it get in here?"

"Oh, hey Peter!" Ray finally looks up from practically rubbing faces with the thing. "I came downstairs just a few minutes ago and found it just standing there looking lost, and I took a few readings off it. It looks like it's a class six entity, but I've never seen one that so completely mimics an animal before! Isn't it fascinating?" All this said whilst literally cuddling the thing, which makes a weird, sort of happy sounding snorting noise.

Ray really does manage to combine the thought processes of a genius with a six year old's portion of common sense.

"It's a ghost reindeer and therefore creepy. Just let go of it and we'll quickly trap it and get it dealt with."

"Deal with what?" Egon rounds the last bend in the stairs and then takes the situation in with one assessing look between me and Ray, whose face is developing that stubborn look, the one that says the only way you're putting a proton stream anywhere near this thing, is if you prise it out of my cold dead fingers. Janine steps down after Egon and gasps.

Janine is a great looking woman, and in trying to communicate this to her, I have been repeatedly introduced to the stunning and fiery force of her personality. A well of sarcasm that can reduce the toughest man to a quivering, weeping mess (not that she's ever had this effect on me, no). The Janine I am used to is not the person currently cooing over just how sweet it is and how she always wanted to pet a reindeer.

Winston's currently gone over to his family for Christmas and so can't do anything. I was hoping that at least I could rely on Egon as backup with reminding everyone that this is a ghost sitting in the fire house, but it's clear that now Janine's gotten involved in the cuddlefest he isn't going to do anything except stand there with a slightly amused look on his face.

Though it is great what's happening with Spengs and Janine at the minute. All of us thought Egon was never going to respond to Janine throwing herself at him, but then I started seeing him giving her these looks, fond, almost, tender and recently they've definitely become much closer. You see them talking and just generally being around one another a lot more. My bet is they're not officially dating, just skirting around that at the moment. Wonder how long it'll take for that to change?

Anyway, I guess the reindeer is staying, though Egon's now got his "I have a theory!" face on. "The spirit of a reindeer appearing on Christmas Eve can't just a coincidence."

I have the distinct impression that I'm not going to like where this is headed.

Ray gasps, eyes wide. "You really think?"

Egon nods, "the possibility is there."

"Then, this is one of Santa's reindeer and evidence that he's a spirit!" The reindeer ghost thing makes another cheerful snorting sound and turns from Janine to nuzzle Ray's hand, and Slimer whoops and gurgles splattering the floor with snot green slime.

If you ever get tired of the emotion of surprise, then take up ghostbusting for a while. Shock, fear, horror, terror, these will all remain, but the phrase "this can't be happening!" becomes redundant. The unlikely phenomenon of Elvis Presley doing a tap dance on your lawn? You won't bat an eye lid. This job forces you to have an open mind. Sometimes, I think mine's been stretched so wide open, I'm waiting to hear the snap of it going at any point, but you've got to draw a line somewhere, haven't you? Winston isn't here, so clearly ol' Pete has to be the voice of sanity.

"You guys have sort of converted me to the Christmas spirit, but I'm still not a massive fan. Egon and Janine, you're both Jewish and Ray, you put leaves everywhere and go on about a couple of kings duking it out, and the sun coming back when nothing warms up for months. None of us would believe in Santa even if he wasn't a tale made up by parents for kids under the age of five!"

My rant produces a few moments of silence. Ray looks vaguely horror struck. "Okay, well maybe you believe in Santa then Ray, but he's supposed to be an old, alive and solid fat guy with a beard, not a spirit!"

Egon reaches up and adjusts his glasses, something he does often before he makes a devastating counter attack to an argument. I clearly remember university lecturers cringing every time Egon's hand came anywhere close to his face. "If we are to believe that Santa Claus is in some way real, then with the abilities he is credited for having it would make sense for him to be a spiritual entity. This would allow him to travel quickly in and out of houses, via their chimneys if necessary, and also explain how reindeer are credited with the power of flight. Besides after all that we've seen, is discovering the existence of Santa Claus really so surprising?"

Well, when he puts it like that. Ray's got his head down next to the reindeer ghost muttering "Donner? Um, Dasher? Blitzen?" Janine next to him joins in throwing names at it. Is it just me or is the reindeer actually, shaking it's head at them? As if it understands what they're saying?

"If this is Santa's reindeer, then what's it doing in here and not up in the North Pole or Lapland or wherever?"
Ray's practically bouncing up and down next to the thing, "maybe there was a storm and it was thrown out of the stables and it came to us for help!"

"Sure," I say, trying for Ray's sake to not put too much sarcasm into my voice, but there's clearly no point in me trying to argue anymore. "Well, let's just wait till tonight, then we can go onto the roof and if Santa does come, he better have a good present for us for babysitting his reindeer."

Janine and Ray inform us later that apparently the reindeer's name is "Comet." Right. It's interesting seeing Egon and Janine gravitate closer together during the day. Spengs' definitely getting less afraid to actually shown signs of affection towards her that can be detected by normal people, not just someone who's been around him for years and knows all there is to know about how humans (and specifically ladies) tick. Ray's bouncing off the ceiling. He's got the spud worked up too, but at least it's keeping away from me and (miraculously) from the fridge. I think my threats to stick Slimer in a trap and not let him out til the new year have finally sunk into that pea sized brain. Though I can't really blame the spud for scooting around today. Ray's energy is infectious normally, and right now he's just broadcasting: "We're gonna see Santa! We're gonna see Santa!" Our Tex is such a kid. Yet, I can't take my eyes off him. There's always just so much honest joy in him, and the way it's radiating off him today, it's amazing. Just being near him is like soaking in a warm bath of cheerfulness.

It's just gone dark outside and the thi... Comet, suddenly comes charging through into the room making these urgent noises, before it just leaps off the floor and flies up through the ceiling.

Yes, this is what happens in my job. You learn how to say those kinds of sentences with a straight face.

Of course, we all charge up after Comet, who's standing on the edge of the roof staring out into the distance. There's the faint sound of bells, that's gradually getting louder and louder. A red light appears in the sky, and then a shadow that slowly forms into different shapes.

I would really like to be able to say that I'm dreaming or even possibly hallucinating from something right now.

The sledge looks solid enough, it doesn't have the tinge I've learnt to associate with the supernatural, but the reindeers, including the one at the front with the red glowing nose (looks like Rudolph is real too folks) all have the same transparent tinge to them as Comet. As does the guy in the sleigh, though he's the most solid of the lot.

Long white beard? Check. Red suit? Check. "Ho ho ho-ing"? Check. If anyone's Santa Claus, it's this guy. Egon's got the PKE meter out, "several class sixes and one class nine entity," he mutters, which I guess solves the whole "is Santa a spirit" thing.

The sledge lands with the lightest of thumps on the roof, and all the reindeers turn to Comet and make welcoming noises, and Comet runs forward to butt noses with them. Then, I can't believe I'm saying this – Santa, gives us this enormous smile. Ray squeaks next to me - Santa definitely has a fanboy here.

"Thank you for looking after Comet. He got separated from us whilst we were having a practice run, and I was afraid we'd lost him for a few moments. Allow me to show you my gratitude."

He routes around in the bulging bag on the sleigh and then pulls something out for each of us, something which makes Ray cheer (he blushed bright red as Santa came over), Egon make a small exclamation, Janine gasp and gets a high pitched cheer from the spud and the familiar sound of something being slurped down. Then he turns to me. "I hope this suffices," he says and there's this blue bottle clasped in his hands with a large sticker over the front of it, proclaiming ANTI-SLIME in bold printed capitals. "A few drops of that will quickly dissolve any ectoplasmic slime, and it gives your hair a nice shine" Santa tells me and actually winks.

Screw, a whole lifetime of not believing in Santa before and not particularly caring about Christmas or the fact that the guy's some kind of spirit. For a few seconds I am actually tempted to throw my arms around the guy. These are not tears of gratitude, there are no tears what so ever.

Santa grasps Comet's bridle and leads him round to the empty place in the reindeer pairs and secures him into the harness. Then he gets into the sleigh, and the reindeers all leap up and the sleigh seems to just float up after them. "Have a merry Christmas!" Santa calls back, waving as he and the reindeer climb up into the air and vanish.

So, have I now fully embraced the Christmas spirit? Am I now lying in bed awake and cuddling my ANTI-SLIME in the same manner that Ray is clutching his stay-puft marshmellow doll because I can't sleep with the anticipation for tomorrow?

No, to be perfectly honest, I'm just taking in the fact that tomorrow I'm not going to wake up with my stomach in a knot of dread that mum and I are going to be let down again, but instead wake up with my sarcastic, intelligent, enthusiastic family here, surrounding me. Plus, I need a minute or two to savour knowing that I now have something that works on slime. Clearly my life has improved.