At a tip-top spot of the northern-most climate, as everyone imagines, flickers a red sphere on a pole striped red and white. No boisterous music accompanies the sight of it; no credits scroll across the snowy landscape n cursive – though it all may have, at one time.
Wind broadsides small buildings of a ghost town. Glass is dim and dirty. The ground hasn’t been shoveled and the only indication of movement is a knee-high trail leading over and beyond some of the endless, white hills.
I hear the cries from my living world, carrying across the frozen landscape. A botched birthing experience, soiled wardrobe, lonely Thanksgiving, fallen feline, home revoked: these are only some of the things I travel with. The woes are not mine – they’re the things I learn as I struggle through my own worry. They’re my limited capacity for wounds and flames of every size.
Always a downtown plaza, with a skating rink or grandiose sculpture of some sort. Always a happy little center where the colony comes together for tales to fill children’s books. The ballroom entrance is never locked. With considerate relief I knock the snow from my boots onto the front steps.
An old, wooden door creaks open and there is darkness inside. The wind in my hair, echoes and high ceilings, these sort of things always make me want to sing.
The sight of me startles elves that disappear down the hall. Their minds are complicated with thoughts about what to do, now that the cycle is broken. Were they taken advantage of? What do they want? Should they want what they want? Who are they and who are you? Perhaps it was better, perhaps they were happier, when they were working.
Jack Frost approaches like he has been expecting me and says, I came to mind last night, that he felt it when I needlessly brushed the snow away from the emblem on the hood of my car before leaving from work.
He says, he understood.
I find the lot of them in an office off to the side. It is some sort of ridiculous holiday bomb shelter that I don’t entirely understand. One of the dead Christmas crooners (whose public image was perfect amidst beating his wife) is in the chair, poised in his prime, deep in thought. The others must have needed someone assertive to lead.
Assertion isn’t everything.
Ebenezer’s arms are folded as he stands, staring at the bookshelf. I can only begin to imagine the sort of blame he puts on himself and the despicable men of the world. Guilt is something he must share with others, lest he be crushed by the weight of it. The lows of selfishness, the highs of gratitude – do not be fooled; Mr. Scrooge will always be a miserable prick who is not easy to love.
There is also a robed man sitting on the desk, wearing sandals. He is the figure that has been missing since I bought my used nativity scene at a garage sale. His name is Joseph. He smiles at me and I am at a loss for words. I don’t dare say what I’m thinking.
Do I believe in you? Will I ever truly know your importance, if you are crucial or just another good person in the story? Do I need to include you, Joseph, or do I just want to?
He leans to the side and reveals the one I came for. Crowded together like this I didn’t see him, at first. Santa is here, the captain of fantasies, and he’s looking out the window in a manner that reminds me of looking in from the other side.
The technology competing with dated tales, the wit and intelligence of new generations who have not been raised to harness their energy wisely… Bullying. Harsh realism. Shorter childhoods. Santa is too lost to address me, directly. I have to walk up close beside him and pull on his sleeve. He turns slowly, a mystified look on his face, and he says to himself and the room in general,
“I’m not even real.”
Dead silence. That feeling. That awful feeling in the air gets stronger and almost makes perfect sense when I hear a beastly snort behind me. Terrified, I look over my shoulder.
The dance floor is massive and flat like a field with wooden floorboards. Positioned in the center, looking straight into me is a magnificent deer. We are all-alone and take turns walking around the other, closing in. It’s almost like dancing. His antlers are a little scary and he has a bleeding slash running from his nose to his neck. I consider that there is an underlying reason I haven’t found, yet.
I am going to let him guide me back.