“T.E.” Klara shouted. She dropped to her knees beside him. He jumped and nearly dropped his bottle. He stuffed it back into his pocket.
“Go inside, kid. Your mom won’t be happy if you’re sick on Christmas.”
“I won’t go. Not until you help me.”
“What now?” T.E’s voice was desperate. “I answered your questions.”
“I want you to help me get my sister off of Santa’s naughty list. Can you take me back with you so that I can talk to Santa in person? It’s really important.”
T.E. laughed dryly. “Sorry, kid. No way. I’m not getting banished so that you can talk to Santa. No human has set foot in the North Pole and you’re not going to be the first.”
Klara’s shoulders slumped. Defeat filled her little heart. This Christmas would be ruined because of her failure. Because she couldn’t convince Tiny Elf to take her to Santa. Because Santa had eaten too many cookies and stopped coming to bring joy to the world.
T.E. pulled the bottle from his pocket again. Klara caught a glimpse of the words scrawled on the side. Magic Eggnog. He raised it to his lips.
“No!” Klara screamed. “Take me with you!”
T.E., who was already jumpy, dropped his bottle. It landed upright in the snow. In a flash, Klara had it in her hand. She held it up with a toothy smile.
“Magic Eggnog, eh?”
T.E. jumped up and down, trying to reach the bottle that was just out an inch too high. “Give it back. You don’t know the power that has. It’s mine.”
Klara raised it to her lips. “Maybe I’ll just try some and see what happens.”
“No!” T.E. shrieked. “Don’t. I’ll take you to the North Pole. You can talk to Santa. Just don’t drink that.”
“Yes, yes, I promise. Now give it to me.”
Klara handed it to the elf. He hugged it to his chest and let out a loud sigh of relief. Then he took Klara’s hand, closed his eyes, and took a tiny sip of the eggnog.
There was a flash of light, a flurry of snow and the overwhelmingly delicious smell of Christmas cookies. When it cleared and Klara ran a hand over her face, she found herself in a world of miniature.
Almost everything was tiny. The tables, the chairs, the scissors, tape, ribbons and bows were all mini. The top of Klara’s head brushed against the ceiling. The only things that were normal sized were the rolls of wrapping paper and giant boxes that were flattened against the walls. It was empty now, but Klara could imagine it bustling with hundreds of little elves, wrapping gifts and getting ready for the big day.
“You’re in the North Pole.” T.E. whispered, glancing around with a furrowed brow. “What do you want?”
“I already told you. I want to see Santa. Where is he? I don’t think he’d fit in here.”
T.E. grabbed a handful of his smooth hair in his fists and gave it a tug.
“Oh, nothing. Nothing at all.” T.E. hissed. “I’m only bringing a human into the elf world, which is strictly forbidden. Then I’m just going to waltz into Santa’s room with you following. He’ll be thrilled for sure.”
“I hope so.”
T.E. sniffed. “I’m so banished. No more elf dances. No more hot coco fights. No more late night trips to tease the reindeer.” He pounded his forehead with his little fist. “You didn’t hear that.”
“Let me guess, elves aren’t supposed to be near the reindeer.”
“You really have been spying on us! How? How! I demand to know your sources. Is it a rouge elf?”
Klara giggled. T.E. found nothing funny about the situation.
“So where’s Santa?”
T.E. pointed across the room to an inflatable Santa that stood under a sign. The sign said, “Keep working. I’m watching.”
“There he is.”
Klara crossed her arms. She was getting tired of T.E’s hesitation. The night was racing by and she had to talk to Santa before Aria woke up.
“Take me to the real Santa, T.E.”
T.E. hurried through a doorway (one that Klara barely fit through) and into a large hallway that stretched far into the distance. On either side were doors with nameplates. Klara assumed that was where the other elves lived or worked or did their elf stuff. As they walked, the halls got taller and wider. Soon the ceiling was high above Klara’s head.
“Are we almost there?”
T.E. snapped, “Quiet, kid.” He mumbled to himself, “I’m just glad that the other elves are still out on gift duty.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, there was a pop and a sparkle and then a little elf (dressed in green) appeared in front of them. T.E. waved and Klara smiled. The green elf’s mouth was open, but a scream didn’t come out. He stood completely frozen with terror. A human girl in the elf world!
“Come on.” T.E. hissed between clenched teeth. “Quick, before more get back.”
As if in answer to his words, three more elves appeared in the hallway ahead of them. One fainted. One looked horrified before darting into one of the doors and disappearing. The last, who was dressed in red, ran away with his arms flailing in the air. T.E. grabbed Klara’s hand and raced down the hall.
T.E. was too busy wondering what banishment would be like and if he would be able to take all of his stuff, that he didn’t notice the sinister smile on the face of the Red Elf. Red grabbed the tiny phone (which looked a lot like a chocolate bar) and quickly dialed a number.
“Santa? Yes. I’m reporting that Tiny Elf has broken the number one elf code. Yes sir. That’s right. He’s brought a human girl to the North Pole.”
Red enjoyed the sound of horror in Santa’s voice. He put the phone down and smoothed his vest. Tiny Elf – that annoying newby who couldn’t keep secrets (and who accidently got Red in trouble for teasing the reindeer) – he was going down.
Red threw back his head and let lose his maniacal laugh. If a human happened to walk by at that moment, she would have thought that Red’s deep, horrible giggle sounded a lot like a rat squeaking with great magnificence.
“We’re almost there.” Tiny Elf said, between heavy breathes. “Just a little –”
His words were cut short by the loud thud of heavy footsteps. They were coming towards the terrified elf and the awed human girl. All other elves that happened to be in the hall, scampered away like mice when a cat approaches. T.E. gulped as he trembled in his little bell-adorned boots.
Klara held her breath. Santa – or maybe a bear or something equally large and heavy – was coming towards them. She felt strangely afraid and safe all in the same moment. Within seconds, a giant figure, taller than any Klara had ever seen, came running down the hall.
Klara grinned despite herself. The giant wore a big, floppy red-and-white hat. His coat and pants matched. His beard was longer than Klara was tall. Yes, it was Santa. He was real. So much realer than those fake young guys who dressed up and sat in Walmart so that little kids could have a picture with ‘Santa’. She stared at him as he came closer, his boots thundering on the smooth floor. This man was filled with an old, old magic. It was something no amount of fake beards or red outfits could create.
T.E. shrieked when he saw the giant cup of eggnog that Santa held under his arm. It sloshed back and forth as he ran, and Klara hoped that it wouldn’t accidently land on her before she could talk to him.
Santa, seeming to not see the girl, grabbed T.E. by the collar with his free hand and held him up face-to-face. T.E. whimpered.
“You violated our number one rule, Tiny Elf.” Santa boomed. His eyebrows were scrunched down and his face was red. “You have betrayed the North Pole.”
“Yes, but –”
Santa sighed and raised the eggnog, “You know the rules. I hereby banish you to– ”
“Wait!” Klara’s voice echoed through the empty halls. “It’s my fault.”
Santa blinked, turned around and noticed Klara for the first time. His eyes grew wide. No human had been seen in the North Pole for as long as he could remember. It was a necessary protection. But the pleading eyes of the little girl reminded him of his own daughter, Little Santanya, when she was young.
“I’m sorry, Santa.” Klara whispered. “I wanted to talk to you and I made T.E. take me. Please don’t banish him. It wasn’t his fault.”
T.E. nodded eagerly. “Listen to her. She’s telling the truth.”
Santa glared at the elf. “Quite.” Then he turned to Klara and took one of her hands in his big, hairy one. “Come with me.”
Santa led Klara to the end of the hallway where a beautifully carved door (with pictures of Christmas and winter scenes) stood. He opened it and motioned for her to step inside. She gasped.
She was standing in the hugest, most gigantic room that she had ever seen. It was all decked out with Christmas decorations – garlands, ornaments, trees. The very air felt festive and joyous. Piles of cookies, feet high, were scattered around the floor. A giant vat of milk was warming over the fireplace. At the back of the room there was a desk that stood far over Klara’s head. On it was a big book.
“Welcome to Christmas Central.” Santa smiled.
And the rest will be posted tomorrow! MERRY CHRISTMAS, FRIENDS!!!