Christmas is the time of year when we remember things we should be thinking about all year through. The importance of giving. Being kind and earnest. Sharing your love and light to make the world better than when you found it.
Most of us gather with family and friends to enjoy the warmth of both the fireplace and of those who make our lives happy. Sometimes the people who bring joy and laughter to your life aren't people you have ever met face-to-face. We live in an age of technology that brings friends together from across the globe. I have met fellow artists who live across the U.S. and across the Atlantic Ocean. I've met dear friends I didn't know were just an hour's drive from me! No matter where your friends and family live, keep them in your heart.
This silly story is a gift to Jayel Draco: a fantastic artist, a kind soul, and someone who makes my world that much more pleasant to be in. I hope it brings a smile to the readers. Merry Christmas!
The Holiday Spirits
and the Cold Reception
Mrs. Claus paced the glowing family room of the log cabin. The crackling hearth gave her no warmth and the songs of elves caroling while they worked brought her no comfort. She hugged herself and vigorously rubbed her soft white gloves over the sleeves of her dress. She only stopped for a moment to dab at a small crystal tear beading up above her dark lashes.
"Aye aye aye!" piped another voice entering the room from the kitchen. "Oh Mrs. Claus, we're running out of time!"
A fragile figure hopped towards the dainty woman. She turned to her white and red striped companion and patted his curved neck reassuringly and kissed him with her soft red lips. Brittle as he could be, Peppermint was full of love and hope. Now though, he shared her fears.
"Oh do hurry, my sweet friends," she said below her breath.
As if to answer her soft cry, the drawn red curtains billowed. The ribbons swayed and the tinsel shimmered in the firelight. Someone rapped on the enormous wooden door. Mrs. Claus dared to smile as she picked up her layers of skirts and scurried to the door. She pulled the handle and hid her face from a cutting gale that let in spirals of blowing snow.
Three figures entered, their silhouettes strong and proud against the hearth covered in stockings.
One had a stout neck with a matte black head. His body sharply curved into a thick glass trunk. A black label with gold letters blocked some of the sloshing amber liquid within. It boldly claimed REBEL.
Beside him was his taller, more willowy companion. Her neck rose tall and dark. She was a slight, but handsome sort and the light curve from neck to body was accentuated by her dark label with shimmering white letters. BAILEY.
Between the two was their short and stout third. She was an unassuming and bright eyed mug with a wide lip and round stem. Her steaming eggnog body was decorated with marshmallow drops and praline shavings. The letters wrapped around the mug spelled BRANDI.
"The weather outside is frightful," said Rebel.
"But justice is so delightful!" Bailey announced.
Brandi tottered in place proudly. "The Ho-ho-Holiday Spirits have arrived!"
"Thank goodness!" Mrs. Claus shut the door behind them before too much cold invaded her home. "We must stop Christmas from becoming a travesty. My darling St. Nick has gone missing and it seems not even little Rudolph could find him!" She threw a delicate arm across her forehead, flattening her bouncing blonde bangs.
"Where'd he go?" pondered the bubbly mug of sweet nog aloud. "Goodness, it's Christmas eve and Santa has deliveries! No time to dilly dally!"
"He simply couldn't keep himself away from the cries of a nice child having a sour holiday. You've seen the movies. He has to make things right. But this time, he didn't make it back! No Santa, no red nosed light of hope, no Christmas!"
Some sad cries drifted in through the windows. They were the nervous whinnies of Santa's other reindeer from their miniature cabin in the backyard. It seemed they were just as put out about the holiday nightmare as the Claus's.
Peppermint hopped over to the Holiday heroes with a scroll held tightly in a nick of his sugary curl. The leathery parchment was bound with a golden ribbon and each corner was dyed red and green. Peppermint handed it over to the Spirits and it unravelled into a trail that curled along the bottom of the walls, up over the hearth, wrapping around the furniture, and ending back at the company's feet. One name was glowing by a section of the floor a few feet away from Bailey. She hopped over and peered close.
"Noah Johnson of Kelvin City," she said. "His name looks as blue as he must feel."
"Well if anybody knows cheer, it's us. And we're here!" Rebel already clomped back towards the door as his brooding tone filled the room. "Mrs. Claus, you better watch out and you better not cry. Santa Claus is coming home from town!"
"Thank you, Holiday Spirits! I can always count on your cheer!"
The bottles huddled close together. Peppermint opened the window just in time as the mug and bottles leapt into the air and zoomed out of the cabin. Mrs. Claus waved them off and then turned to her small candy cane companion.
"Perhaps you shouldn't be too far behind. I have a terrible feeling in my heart that Christmas needs as much cheer as we can give it."
The Holiday Spirits flew through the sky leaving a trail of cheery steam in their wake. It puffed like happy clouds smiling down on the snow covered cities below. Every building was strewn with colorful lights and the ice crystals from the cold glinted like fractured glass.
Suddenly the air became frigid. A gust of wind bowled into the Holiday Spirits, sending them spiraling in the air. They pulled themselves together against the force of the wind. There was no obvious sign of where the attack came from. The Holiday Spirits soon realized they had been thrown off course. There were no city lights below. No streaming sounds of Christmas carols. They appeared to be back in some wilderness.
"Goodness!" cried Brandi. "What the Holiday Heck was that?"
Rebel looked below for any kind of landmark. "I'll bet if we find the source of that wind, we'll find our Christmas Grinch."
The Holiday Spirits soared back on course. Not long into their flight, they could see a streak in the sky. It grew wider and it roared the closer it got. It was a jet stream of icy wind, a funnel of pure cold. The gust erupted from a point almost directly below.
"Split up!" Rebel commanded.
The Holiday Spirits dove like turtle doves. Each one arced in a different direction and the jet stream plowed through the spot where they once were. By the time they reoriented themselves, the jet was long gone and they couldn't tell exactly where it came from. The Holiday Spirits shared a glance and dove down to the white tundra below.
The two glass bottles landed in the snow and sunk in up to their labels. Rebel didn't mind. His kind of holiday cheer tended to air on the side of chilly. A moment later Bailey and Rebel heard a soft PLOP and snow sprayed their faces.
"I'm okay!" came Brandi's muffled shout from a few inches into a ditch as wide as her mug.
Bailey and Rebel helped Brandi wiggle out of the pit of her own creation. They took in the scene around them. They were in a chasm between snowy mountains. Each one was dappled with cave entrances and radiated a faint glow of blinking colors. The Holiday Spirits didn't understand how this wild region could have shown up right in the middle of these neighboring cities. Brandi glided across the snowy path towards one of the mountains and peeked into the cave. Much of the snow trailed in from the blustering wind outside, but she could easily see the metal walls and doors. There were tipped over tables and a generic plastic Christmas tree with shattered ornaments on its branches.
"Strangest cave, I've ever seen," Brandi said to herself.
She turned around and waved the others over, but they were already inspecting another cave. When she joined them she could see this cave mouth also led to a metallic lobby decorated for Christmas and trashed by the wind and snow. They stepped inside and heard a small sniffle from behind the tree that was shunted into a corner. Rebel flew over and tossed the tree aside. A little boy sat curled up against the metal wall, hugging his arms as his teeth chattered. His dark hair looked gray from the layers of snow and ice clinging to each strand.
"P-p-please bring back the warm," he piped up. "I d-d-don't have anywhere t-t-to go!"
"What's your name?" Bailey asked. She let her cape wrap around the boy for what little warmth it could offer.
The Holiday Spirits looked at each other with understanding. This was the sad boy from Santa's nice list. He must have gotten lost when the heavy snow hit. It didn't explain the strange metal mountains. Rebel stepped away as Bailey and Brandi comforted the boy. He looked at one of tipped over tables and saw an ice sheathed folder. The logo was that of the Kelvin City police department. It was clutched in the frozen palm of a human sized ice pop.
"Hey guys. These ain't no caves," Rebel said. "These are buildings! And everyone inside may as well be Frosty's cousins!"
Bailey cried. "Who would do this?"
Brandi shook with anger. "And right before Christmas!"
Wind burst through the front door, flinging the metal from its hinges and tossing around the forgotten tables and chairs. The Holiday Spirits spun around as a shadow fell over the room. They heard soft clopping in the snow. It was a steady beat like an animal who knew its way through a storm.
"Achoo!" A flash of red. Then another frigid funnel tore the room apart. The Holiday Spirits tried to brace themselves, but the vortex of air scooped them up and tossed them aside like porcelain dolls. They worried their glass might shatter as they tumbled about. "I knew you'd be showing up soon, Holiday Spits!"
A small reindeer stood in the doorway. His antlers were frost covered and he was only half the size of the reindeer that Santa had always depended on for his holiday deliveries. This one had a nose so bright, it could guide any jolly man through a storm at night.
"Rudolph!" Brandi hopped back in surprise. 'But why?"
"Don't try to play the nice guy," Rudolph said. "You're as bad as that fat jolly man and his other reindeer. Santa never really cared about me. He only used me for my talents. My bright shiny nose saves Christmas and all I get is abuse for my promotion to head reindeer! If Santa really cared, he'd stop blundering Blitzen and Dopey Donner from always picking on me and pushing me around. All of them kept it up and I couldn't say anything or it would just get worse. Not that Santa would care. So now, I'm taking matters into my own hoofs. I'll destroy Christmas for everybody! Then we'll see who's the big shot!"
Rudolph kicked his hoof in the snow as his head reared back and he gasped.
He let loose another rocket of icy wind. Rebel jumped up and spun in place, loosening the cap atop his neck. It flung forward, piercing the blunt force of the gale, and striking Rudolph in the nose. Then, like a boomerang, it sailed in an arc and landed back on Rebel's neck. The momentum of its spinning sealed it in place.
"Owwiiieee!" Rudolph whimpered.
He glared at Rebel who returned the look. Rudolph's nose began to glow brighter than anyone had ever seen it. "You're gonna pay, Holiday Suckers! You'll be nothing but soft serve when I'm through with you."
Without warning, a beam exploded from the little reindeer's nose. It struck Rebel in his glassy chest. The black label immediately froze and crumbled away, but the beam reflected off of him and struck one of the walls. A patch of ice formed just feet away from Brandi's marshmallows. She gasped and jumped back.
"Watch it!" she said to the others. "Our cheer should keep us warm, but that's still gotta hurt!"
"You're telling me!" Rebel spun his cape around for protection just as Rudolph let loose another beam of freezer burn.
Rebel ducked out of the way and kept moving as the laser fire continued. Each blast left layers of ice in its wake. Bailey slipped while dodging one of the beams and felt the metal against her glass that was so cold it nearly burned.
"I've got you now!" Rudolph cried out victoriously.
The world seemed to slow down to a crawl as one more red burst of light shot through the air at Bailey. She cringed as the beam struck her and threw her back against the wall. She felt the sting, but it didn't shatter her glass. The cold laser bounced off of her and made a beeline for the corner of the room where one sad little boy was shivering with wide eyes. The light hit him square in the chest. Frost crept across his skin and it thickened into a solid sheet of ice. His terrified stare was frozen in time.
While Rudolph was distracted by his unintended target, Rebel, Bailey, and Brandi jumped at him. Rebel came down on his snout like a club while Bailey scooped up the mug and rolled her at Rudolph's feet. He came crashing down like a tower of gifts on Christmas day. Then Brandi sat on top of him to make sure he wouldn't move anymore.
"You'll pay for this, Holiday Spirits!" Rudolph said breathlessly. Then he started to cry little ice crystals.
"Santa will deal with you," Brandi said. "Where is he, anyway?"
"He's just cheering up another kid. I made it look like there was trouble so I could lure you out and give you the deep freeze. Then I could finish my plans without your meddling."
"Well you're out of luck, Rudolph," Bailey said. "Just because you're getting bullied doesn't mean you can bully other people."
"Guys, what do we do about Noah?" Brandi chimed in. She stood beside the boy encapsulated in ice. His eyes were so lonely and sad. Santa must not have been able to find him without Rudolph and with no home address. "He needs some cheer to melt this ice away, but after that battle, I don't think we have enough to give him." She noted the spills across the already slick floor. Her marshmallows had dropped a good few inches.
It seemed this would be the last of the sad Christmases that Noah would celebrate.
A new voice spoke up from the doorway. "Aye aye aye! It looks like Mrs. Claus was right! That boy needs cheer!" A curled candy cane hopped into the lobby. He was coated in a layer of frost and few cracks wrapped around his body like he had made a long journey in the cold.
"What are you doing, Peppermint?" Bailey asked.
"I'm gonna bring this boy some cheer. What's better for cheering someone up than a little Christmas candy?"
Before anyone could stop him, Peppermint bounced over to the frozen boy and hooked around his icy hand. He started to glow. The red stripes pulsed and the white stripes became blinding. The hook of his sugary neck was impossible to see anymore. It was as if the warmth of that embrace melted him and he was nothing more than the sweet air of Christmas itself.
Dripping sounds filled the room. Everywhere there was ice, it began to melt away as the warmth from Peppermint reached every corner of the lobby and even the street beyond. Noah Johnson began to wiggle his fingers and his skin brightened from blue to pink. A sweet smile formed on his face. It was a little crooked as if he hadn't smiled so brightly in years. In his hand was a sugary smudge of red and white.
"Ho ho ho!" The iconic call of Christmas filled everyone's ears. Noah squealed with delight as a round man with a bright white beard and suit as red as his cheeks walked in. "It seems we've got ourselves in a bit of a pickle here. Rudolph, why didn't you tell me you were so unhappy?"
"You wouldn't listen," the reindeer said. "You only care about my nose!"
"Oh my dear little friend, I care about you being happy. And I'm afraid my naughty and nice list doesn't tell me about reindeer. I'll be having a word with the others when we get home. I promise there won't be anymore mean spirited jokes at my workshop. We only bring joy!"
Rudolph looked unconvinced as he continued to pout. Santa patted his side and kissed his furry brow.
"I'm sorry, old friend. I guess I must earn your trust like anyone else. Come now. Let's all go home. It's nearly Christmas and we've gotten a little sidetracked." Santa kneeled in front of little Noah Johnson and saw the smudge on his palm. He smiled at the boy and invited him for a ride in Santa's sleigh while they figured out how to make his Christmas and New Year sweeter than ever before. He pulled out a small handkerchief and dabbed the boy's hand. When he unfurled it, a tiny stub of a candy cane was giggling in his palm.
"Thank you for your help, my friend," he whispered. The ends of his cotton-like beard tickled the baby Peppermint.
Together, Santa, Rudolph, Noah, and the Holiday Spirits walked out into the city street. The snow was melted just enough to reveal the buildings underneath and all of their strings of lights. The unfrozen citizens began their Christmas preparations anew. They smiled kindly and helped each other shovel and right the fallen tables, chairs, and Christmas trees. Santa chuckled to himself as he saw Rudolph smiling. There was hope for his renewed happiness and that was the key. Everyone deserved to have a merry Christmas.
The Holiday Spirits saluted Santa and leaped into the air to enjoy their own Christmas until they were called upon again.