Note: This is part 5 of me and my brother’s Advent Letters project. For an explanation of the project and to get caught up on past letters, click here.
My dear young Mellemas,
The past year certainly has flown by. To think that Sam is nearly three, and singing the first two verses of “Frosty the Snowman.” And that Susannah, Piper, and Noah are walking and climbing stairs. I especially commend Shepherd for his sage decision to choose crawling instead.
As you know, we at the North Pole monitor the world’s children throughout the year. Whenever you five all visit your grandparents’ house, we have to bring in extra gnomes to keep up!
But I’m doing it again. Avvu told me that last year’s letters rambled on so much about myself that it got in the way of the story. I assume he’s right. Any faults notwithstanding, Avvu is a brutally honest editor, and his judgment is sound. As such, I’ll keep my personal asides to a minimum this year. Those who don’t like it can address their complaints to Avvu the Polar Bear, 5 Kringle Road, North Pole.
Kanute’s sphere zoomed into the clouds, and the world became a blur. Steam poured over the gears and Kanute pulled levers. Through the domed windows the mountains, then forests, then glaciers whipped past them. The boys grabbed each others’ shoulders and tried to scream.
As quickly as it started, the sphere stopped. It hovered for a moment before lowering like an elevator. After a crunch of ground, the lid opened with a hydraulic wheeze. The boys spilled out on top of each other.
“As requested: the North Pole.” Kanute said. The boys looked around in wide-eyed amazement.
Matt’s first thought was Oxford pictures he’d seen in books, but more so. Dreaming spires wound heavenward all around them. Each looked ancient in its own way, buttressed by stone work and marble and inlaid with stain glass. On the street were shops dappled in lamplight and selling everything from toys to flowers to gingerbread men. Among the buildings wove giant pipes and gears. They somehow complemented the stone, shining brass and silver and spiraling through the town.
The streets, paved in cobblestone and lined with evergreens, were bustling. But not with people. There were more gnomes. They all shared Kanute’s ruddy frown, and most fiddled with some gadget. Other creatures were about Matt’s height, but with spindly limbs, pointy ears, and fine cheekbones. They must be elves, Matt thought. Most amazing of all were the animals–penguins and rabbits and raccoons and foxes, to name a few. But they were not wild. Instead, they walked humanely among the crowd. Some wore sweaters and scarves. A few were even buying cider from the street vendors.
The sky above was a dance of green and gold. It was the aurora borealis, so bright Matt could read by it if he wanted. Up amid the colors were flocks of geese, dirigibles, and . . . were those flying reindeer?
All of this criss-crossed and merged in a menagerie of light and bells and song, or bright packages and steaming engines and belly laughter. And all around them, rising up from the pole itself, was a reverberation like music.
While Matt and Jer gaped, Brian recovered his senses. And those senses locked on a twinkling in a store’s lamplight: a gumdrop the size of his head. Eyes sugared with desire, he darted toward it across the street.
By the time Matt and Jer noticed Brian was gone, the crowd had already swallowed him.
Brian, meanwhile, had reached the store. He was just working out how he could pay for the gumdrop when something in the shop’s eaves stole his attention. An antique lantern, with candy-cane stripes and light from within. A shining silver something flitted in and out of it. Looking closer, Brian gasped. A fairy. No more than six inches tall, he dressed like a lost boy from Peter Pan. His pearlescent wings folded neatly as he entered the lantern. Gasping louder, Brian realized that the “lantern” was actually the fairy’s house.
Climbing on nearby crates, Brian peered through the house’s front window. There was a tiny rocking chair, fireplace, and even a table set for dinner. But no fairy. Without thinking, Brian tapped the lamp like it was a fish bowl. He instantly regretted it.
The fairy dashed out the door, glowing not silver, but a violent crimson. His head swivelled, looking to vent his rage. He found Brian, and his little body tensed. Then he charged.
Being attacked by a fairy was so strange that Brian didn’t know whether to laugh or scream. He shooed him away, thinking that was the end of it. But instead of returning home, the fairy made a string of sharp chirps. In two wing flaps, a swarm of thirty fairies, all crimson and scowling, had Brian surrounded.
Now Brian knew to scream. The fairies all grabbed different parts of his shirt and hair and pajama pants. Suddenly the combined fairy rage lifted Brian into the air. Rising above the rooftops, Brian was too scared to scream. Then all at once, the fairies let go, and Brian dropped from the sky. But before he could panic, the fairies caught him again. The fairies weren’t red and vengeful–they were laughing.
Brian wasn’t being punished anymore. He was part of some fairy game.
The fairies laughed and danced and whirled Brian above the North Pole, tossing him back and forth, laughing all the louder as Brian started screaming.
Down below, Matt and Jer had been picking their way through the crowd trying to find Brian. Hearing his scream, they looked up to see Brian twenty feet off the ground, being flipped and twirled by an army of giggling fairies.
Header illustration by Brian Mellema