I stare in horror at the sight before me, my mouth wide open. A deep rumble resounds from within the earth and my legs begin to shake – not from fear as they should be doing, but from the ground moving underneath me. And above the sound of my heart beating against my chest, I can hear a voice calling out my name.
(I have just walked outside, joining Pepper as he walks to the fence and stares down the hill at a deer that has crept out of the trees. It’s momentarily silent before my dog starts barking wildly at the deer. He freezes up and stares up the hill at us.)
Me: Pepper, hush. Leave the deer alone. You know, this is why I keep you inside when the reindeer come to pick me up.
(He continues barking until I go to pick him up. He grows silent, his eyes still turned toward the deer. I shake my head, then turn around to walk back inside with him.)
Mysterious Voice: Hello.
(I let out a squeak and turn my gaze toward the roof of the house to find a black reindeer staring down at me.)
Me: Oh, you scared me to death. Hello! I don’t think I’ve met you before.
Pepper: * starts barking at the reindeer *
Reindeer: I’m sorry about that. I came to get you for your North Pole Interview this year.
Me: Oh? Wasn’t Jack going to come pick me up again?
Reindeer: Something came up, so he’s a bit busy.
Me: * frowns * Ah, okay. Well, let me just go grab my coat and I’ll be right back.
Reindeer: * shakes head * There’s no time. We must go now.
Me: But –
Reindeer: * jumps from the roof and picks me up with his horns to throw me on his back before flying away *
Me: * hugs Pepper against my chest before realizing I am still carrying him * Oh, Pepper! Well, I guess this is your chance to go to the North Pole with me.
(We are silent for several moments before I start speaking again to the mysterious reindeer.)
Me: What’s your name?
Reindeer: Lance. * returns to being quiet *
Me: That’s a nice name. Why haven’t I seen you before? Are you new?
Reindeer: * silent *
Me: * dejected * Well, uh, okay. * looks at Pepper * Doing okay, Peps?
Pepper: * slightly whines *
Me: Ah, I know, it’s scary, huh? We’ll be back home as soon as we can. Oh, you and Snowflake can play together when we get there!
Lance: We’re not going to visit Santa.
Me: * freezes up * Wait, what? Of course we’re going to visit Santa. That’s the whole point of my North Pole Interview.
Lance: Not this year. This year you’re going to report the news of the destruction of Santa’s Workshop.
Me: No. That can’t happen!
Lance: * chuckles * Oh, it can and it will. And you’re going to have the best spot to watch the show from.
Me: Why are you doing this?
Lance: * falls silent again * There’s no reason for someone like you to know. Now just sit and be quiet. Unless you want me to drop you?
Me: Um, not at all…
(We are quiet the rest of the way to the North Pole.)
(Lance touches down outside of the entrance of the secret tunnels we used several years earlier when the yetis had attacked and captured Santa. I’m a little confused, but follow Lance as he heads into them. Pepper is shaking in my hands, the cold getting to him, so I try to quickly hurry into the caves where there is a nice heat.)
Me: * follows silently until we reach a huge opening in the cavern * Where are we?
Lance: * glances back before turning his head to stare at a huge machine that reaches the top of the cavern * This is where we’ll start the destruction of Christmas.
Me: So, that machine… It’s huge. What does it do?
Lance: You’ll see in good time.
Me: * thinks * Why do villains have to say that?
Lance: * shouts * Snow, I’ve grabbed the girl!
(A small elf comes out from around the machine, dressed in all black and a grey tint to his skin. He has a scowl on his face.)
Snow: How many times do I have to tell you not to call me that? It’s Murray, Murray!
Lance: * snickers * Okay Murray, Murray.
Murray: * rolls his eyes and then turns to me * So, you’re Brittany? I was expecting something else. Taller. Blonde, maybe.
Me: Um, I’m sorry?
Murray: * waves hand at me * It’s fine, it’s fine. You’ll do. We just need you to write your story.
Me: * shakes head * I’m not going to write about the destruction of Christmas, because it’s not going to happen. Someone’s going to find out about this, whether it be Jack or the Ninja squad or one of the reindeer…
Murray: * laughs * They won’t. Christmas is tomorrow and they have no time to search the secret abandoned tunnels that they always forget about. Plus, I’ve already captured the one person who would hold a threat to us.
Me: * suspiciously * And who is that?
Lance: * grins in only a way that a reindeer can * Your dear friend, Jack Frost. He’s probably dying to see you.
Me: What did you do to him? Let him go!
Lance and Murray: * both laugh *
Murray: * points into an adjoining cavern * Go ahead and see him for yourself. He’s not leaving anytime soon.
(I give them both a pointed glare, then walk over to the opening to where they said Jack is. A wave of heat hits me and I turn my face to the side with a gasp. If Jack is in there, I don’t know if he’ll survive. I look down at Pepper, unsure of whether or not to take him with me. After a second, I enter, knowing he would follow me even if I put him down.)
Me: Jack? * looks around until I find Jack trapped inside a cell, laying on the ground * Jack! * runs over *
Jack: *slowly turns his red face to look at me in shock * What… why are you… here?
Me: Oh, Jack. We need to get you out of here. * sets Pepper down and kneels down *
Jack: You have… to leave… Dangerous…
Me: * shakes my head * No, I can’t leave you here. Plus, I don’t think those two will let me leave even if I wanted to. They want me to do my North Pole Interview about them ruining Christmas and destroying the workshop.
Jack: * closes eyes * This is the worst….
Me: * goes to reach through the bars, but the metal is burning hot and pulls hand back quickly * Ouch. Jack, how long have you been here?
Jack: * softly chuckles * Oh, just a few… days…
Me: * in horror * A few days? Even I couldn’t stand to be in here that long. This must be worse on you. I’m getting you out.
(I look around to find that Pepper is nowhere to be seen. I stand up, my eyes wide in horror. I can’t lose him. I look at Jack, then back at the empty room.)
Me: Pepper! Pepper, come here!
Pepper: *comes running as his pawsteps resound throughout the cave walls *
Me: * leans down to pick him up * Don’t you dare do that again.
Pepper: * keeps looking down the hallway he came from *
Me: What did you find over there?
Pepper: * wags tail *
Me: * looks at Jack again before walking in the direction Pepper came from * It doesn’t hurt to check it out. Maybe something helpful will be over here.
(I walk for a few minutes down the passage, pausing every now and then to make sure that Murray and Lance haven’t noticed I’m not near Jack anymore. Pepper is still whining and I try to shush him to no avail. Finally I find several trunks and machinery parts lying around on the ground.)
Me: What in the world are these? * pokes at a metal cylinder taller than me * Maybe parts to that mysterious machine? It’s so strange.
Pepper: * whines again *
Me: Hush, Pepper. We can’t let those guys find us.
(I go to open a trunk and pick something up in my hands. It is a small explosive and I almost drop it to the ground in surprise. After I calm down, a small plan forms in my mind. I head back to the room I was just in.)
Jack: Brittany? Why are you… still here? You should have… escaped…
Me: I said I wouldn’t leave you. We need to get you out and go warn Santa and the rest.
Me: Well… I’m going to blow up your cell real quick. Can you move to the back?
Jack: * eyes shoot open and he struggles to get up before moving to the back of the cell * Are you sure…. about this?
Me: Sort of. * goes to put explosive down and presses a button *
(A moment later there is a small explosion. Some of the cave wall flies away, forming a hole. The cell bars are broken, bent, and otherwise destroyed. A small smile alights my face.)
Me: * jumps up and down * I can’t believe that actually worked!
Jack: * slowly shakes head *
Pepper: * starts wiggling in my arms and barking at something behind me *
Lance: What are you doing in here?
Me: * turns around * Um… Some redecorating?
Murray: * runs into the cavern room * What did you let her do, Lance?
Lance: Nothing! You’re the one who sent her in here!
Murray: Well… * looks at me * That’s not going to help you. He’s still weak from the heat.
Me: Jack? I don’t have a plan past blowing up the cell. Any ideas?
(Suddenly Rudolph bounds into the room, his nose lighting up the cavern walls. Lance and Murray part, scowls on both of their faces.)
Rudolph: One quick look in the underground passages and I find a potential hazard to Christmas right away. What are the two of you doing down here?
Me: Nothing much, just captured by Lance and Murray over there.
Rudolph: * looks at the two * I’ve never seen either of you before.
Lance: * glares * For a good reason. We would never be associated with you Christmas loving fools.
Rudolph: Brittany, can you get Jack on my back?
Me: * nods * I’ll try. *walks over to Jack and helps him over to Rudolph *
(Lance charges at Rudolph. Jack, now on the reindeer’s back, groans as Rudolph dodges and jumps into the air. I run forward and go past Murray, who tries to grab at me. I am just out of his reach. Rudolph lands in front of me and I jump on, albeit clumsily, trying to keep Pepper comfortably in my arms. Before I can get settled, Rudolph is racing through the tunnels and out into the snow-covered land of the North Pole.)
Santa: What does the machine do?
Me: I’m not sure, Santa. But it’s huge, maybe twenty, thirty feet high.
Jack: Probably taller.
(Jack is sitting in a chair, the window open beside him as he sips on a glass of water filled to the brim with ice. His skin has reached is normal, pale tone. Santa, Mrs. Claus, Jack, Rudolph, and I sit around a table as we discuss what we found under the workshop. Pepper and Snowflake are laying down beside each other on the couch next to me.)
Rudolph: It looked ridiculous, there were so many pieces and knobs to it. And those two… They were strange looking.
Me: * nods * They were like shadow versions of the reindeer and elves here. So much hate for the North Pole and for Christmas.
Santa: It’s the night of Christmas Eve! I don’t have time to worry about the North Pole being destroyed.
Mrs. Claus: * worried * This is just not good at all.
Me: * shakes head * It’s not. We need to get this solved, and fast. I just don’t know how to destroy that.
Jack: Once I get back to full power, I can freeze it.
Rudolph: We can’t wait for you to charge. Let’s get the ninjas.
Santa: Fine. Gather the ninjas. Rudolph, I can’t let you go. We have to leave within the hour.
Rudolph: But Santa-
Santa: * holds up a hand * No buts. We can repair the workshop by next year, but we can’t fix this night if we don’t head out.
Rudolph: * sighs *
Mrs. Claus: Don’t worry, dear. We’ll handle this here.
Santa: * kisses Mrs. Claus on the forehead * Oh, I know it’ll work out just fine. Brittany, I’m sorry that we’re not getting to do your interview again this year.
Me: It’s not a problem at all, Santa. I’m more concerned about saving the North Pole.
Santa: * smiles * And that’s why you are forever on the Nice list.
Me: * chuckles * Good to know, Santa.
Santa: * stands up * If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go get my red suit on. Come on, Rudolph. Go get ready for lift off.
Rudolph and Santa: * leave room *
(I’m back in the caverns, this time with the ninja squad behind me. Pepper is behind with Mrs. Claus, safe away from any danger. Jack stayed back since he wasn’t recovered yet from his capture. Some of the elves joined our party along with a few yetis. Tim and George are both beside me as we creep through the tunnels.)
Tim: * whispering * You never get to see a simple Christmas anymore, do you?
Me: Well, the same goes both ways.
Tim: * chuckling * Touché. So, what do you think it does?
Me: The machine? Something bad. As long as it’s not a giant bomb…
George: * growls *
Me: Ah, I wish Comet were here to translate. I’m sorry, George, I don’t understand.
George; * growls and shrugs *
Ninja Warrior: * motions for us all to stop right before the entrance of the cavern room where the device is *
Me: * pushes toward the front and stares inside to see both Murray and Lance working to press buttons on the machine * That’s not good. We need to stop them.
Ninja Warrior: * nods and motions for everyone to rush into the room *
(We all enter the room, the ninja elves taking out their weapons and racing toward Lance and Murray. Growls reverberate off of the cavern walls as the yetis walk in. Murray jumps on Lance’s back, who flies out of reach. I run up to the machine, trying to find a button to stop whatever is about to happen but everything is unreadable.)
Murray: * laughing * There’s no way that you can stop it now. Say goodbye to the North Pole.
Lance: There’s no home for any of you here now. * dodges as a throwing star wizzes past him *
Me: No, we’re going to stop it!
(The ground starts shaking underneath us as the machine begins to creak and groan, its pieces whirling and moving. Several stalactites fall from the ceiling and crash into the ground, George barely jumping out of the way. I cling to the machine and glare up at the two hovering above us.)
Tim: How do we stop this? Tell us!
Murray: * laughs * You don’t. Your world is going to come crashing down around you, literally, and you won’t be able to do anything to stop it.
Lance: Santa hasn’t left yet and I don’t think he will be going on his trip this year.
Me: * starts looking at the buttons again * We’re going to figure a way out of this.
Tim: * joins me at the machine * If we just start pressing any random buttons, it can’t be any worse than what is happening now.
Me: Unless we speed the process up.
Tim: Aren’t we supposed to be positive around Christmas time?
Me: Yes, but right now we’re in a cave and it’s collapsing and I don’t want to destroy the North Pole before we can save it.
Tim: * silent a moment * Good point.
(Several ninjas are trying to attack the machine at this point. The sound of metal on metal fills the air. Suddenly the vibrations in the earth grow worse and I am thrown off of my feet onto the ground. A crack starts forming from the machine to the cave walls and up toward the ceiling. I stare at the crack in wide-eyed horror.)
Me: No, no, no.
George: * growls and picks me up, setting me gently on my feet *
Tim: * leaning against the earthquake machine * We need to get out of here before we die.
Me: * bites lip * But we need to stop this.
Tim: I don’t think we’re going to be able to do that in time. The best thing would be to try to escape the North Pole before something happens.
Me: I… I… I guess so.
Lance: There’s no hope. You won’t make it out in time.
Murray: We still need the girl to write the story about our deeds. Let’s take her.
Me: What?! No way. I’m not writing anything for you.
Murray: We have ways to make people do things.
(Lance starts flying toward me just as there’s another large shift in the earth below us. Everyone falls to the ground but I rise up as Murray grabs me by the arms. I struggle to get out of his grasp.)
Me: Let me go!
(Suddenly I feel his hands retract and I am falling down. A scream rises from my throat and then suddenly I am in the arms of George, who looks down at me with a smile. I snuggle against his warm fur, so thankful to have him there.)
Jack: Sorry for taking so long.
Me: Well, you were just a little late. But you made it.
Jack: * grins * Yeah, well, I couldn’t let those guys steal you away now, could I?
Me: That would have definitely been uncool of you, sir.
Jack: And I’m the coolest person you know. Literally.
Murray: Blah, blah, blah! All this talking is so irritating. Accept the fact that you are all doomed.
Jack: Nope. Not doomed at all. I’ve already disengaged your system and crushed the engines. My ice is back at full power.
Me: * suddenly notices the ground is still again *
Jack: You’re kind of defeated already.
Murray: * growls * No.
Lance: I knew he’d ruin everything.
Murray: Don’t worry. This isn’t the last time you’ll hear from us. We’ll be back and we’ll destroy everything.
Jack: Good luck with that! * blasts a stream of ice at the two, but they dodge and escape through the opening of the caverns *
(We’re back in Santa’s workshop. Santa has left to start his travel around the world and the rest of us are all outside, celebrating the start of Christmas and the survival of the North Pole. Pepper is in my lap as I sit in a chair around a bonfire. I sip on a cup of Mrs. Claus’s famous hot chocolate.)
Jack: * comes up and sits beside me * I’m sorry you had to go through all of that.
Me: * shrugs * It’s fine, honestly. I’m used to having some crazy adventures up here with all of you. I love it.
Jack: * chuckles * You’re a strange one.
Me: Which means I’m awesome.
Jack: If you say so.
Tim: * walks up with his kids * Thanks for everything, Brittany, Jack. You two are always there and ready to help out.
Me: Anything for everyone up here.
Jack: * nods in agreement *
Tim: Did you get any questions in for your interview this year?
Me: * shakes head * No, not at all, but I don’t really mind. I think this was probably the craziest adventure yet.
Tim: Well, tell your readers that Christmas almost really didn’t happen this year and that they should make sure to enjoy the holidays to the fullest extent.
Jack: And to stop whining about their weather. Just live and have fun with their family and friends.
Tim: Also, tell them to expect something awesome coming to them this year.
Me: Oh? Something awesome?
Tim: We got a new system this year and were able to get some extra special presents made for children all around the world.
Me: Nice! I’m sure they’re all going to love that.
Pepper: * moves in my lap and raises his head to stare up at me *
Me: * leans down and kisses his forehead * I guess I should get you home. Jack, will you take me, please?
Jack: * stands up * Always! Let’s go!
(I’m now home, bundled up underneath my blankets and relaxing with Pepper right beside me. This year’s visit to the North Pole was definitely different, but I’m glad that everything turned out all right in the end. I just wonder what will happen with Murray and Lance. Will they come back as they threatened? Why do they hate the North Pole and Christmas so much? They are so full of hatred and it is concerning. But, wait. That’s not what is important right now. Right now, Christmas starts here in ten minutes. When will Santa stop by? Probably soon. Get your cookies ready, my dear readers. And don’t forget, expect something amazing. But above all, have a wonderful and blessed Christmas!)