The measurements needed to adjust the Wonderworkers algorithm were nearly complete. Nikolaos the 33rd was personally making a few of the final observations. He needed to do that, to be hands-on, to strongly feel the connection.
He saw a unique couple in the fresh produce area in the supermarket that was part of a sparkling clean, secure, shopping mall. He recorded them as they moved down the aisles together. The man and woman were striking. He couldn’t take his eyes off them. Their manner, their body language projected a quite new valency. Their togetherness had a balance he’d never seen before. The man was slightly taller and heavier, but only slightly. She was quicker, more athletic. There was absolute parity. They were enjoying themselves, almost as if they were just getting acquainted, by way of Christmas shopping. He made a note of them.
The 33rd Nik was no Santa Claus, not at all Nordic in looks, more Mediterranean (Arabic, Italian, who can tell), clean shaven, lean, elderly, dapper, switched-on, pushing a shopping trolley with a few things in it, for cover, looking around the place and referring occasionally to a high-end tablet that might have been his shopping list, but into which he entered the last, routine bits of information that would wrap up this year’s grand algorithm, guiding who gets what with greater precision than previously possible, ready to launch the annual, global, secret, gift giving programme.
In his lifetime, technology revolutionised the great tradition, saved it really, considering the population explosion. It had been a wild ride. None of the 32 Nikolaoses before him could have even imagined it, although in the past couple hundred years his immediate predecessors had struggled, as the work had become more detailed, more complicated and more personalised, more embracing of casual participants, such as people with multiple spiritualities. Hindus, for instance, who liked to have the odd present under a tree.
Sometimes he felt a real kinship with the first Nik, because there had never been a time of change like this - not since the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. The first Nik, Bishop Nikolaos of Myra, had been there. They called him the Wonderworker. He was a very devout individual with the habit of secret gift-giving, an historical person, born on March 15, 270, and died on December 6, 343, aged 73.
The 33rd Nik saw the special couple move towards him, carrying packages, loading the trolley, keeping the tradition alive.
Three lifespans later, Nik the 36th, enjoyed a deepening sense of satisfaction, as the people of the world realised that the ability to give and to receive, and the capacity to surprise and to be surprised were at the heart of humanity.