This was written in response to a prompt for my writing group, but it fits into a holiday story I’ve been rolling around in my head for several years. I’m just
procrastinating waiting for the right time to really flesh it out.
The bleak white landscape of the Arctic was blindingly bright under the summer sun. It would remain that way for months, day after day of blazing sunlight and temperatures that rose to the freezing point at their warmest.
It was beneath this stark light that the Kringle Crew ran their drills, in the middle of a large, fenced-in area. Together they practiced in fluid movements, hundreds of elves moving as one body as they turned, leapt, jabbed, and dodged. To an onlooker, they might appear as a large crowd of undersized adults reveling in a sort of celebration. To an onlooker, they might appear to be filled with the joyousness and cheer so often associated with their kind.
The onlooker would be wrong.
The elves of the Kringle Crew were solidly muscled, and built to withstand the harsh environment of the North Pole. Left to their own devices, they would have no problem surviving on their own, using their stealth, agility, and needle-sharp claws and teeth to keep themselves fed and clothed. They were a small but ruthless species, and only the strict rule of their master kept them from erupting into a violent force that would most certainly spread to the rest of the world in short time, if left unchecked.
From several loudspeakers positioned atop the wire fencing came a jangling of bells, and immediately the elves ceased their drill and stood at attention. Row after unbent row they stood with spines rigid, arms to their sides, and eyes directed straight ahead. When the bells stopped, the only sound to be heard was the ever-present soft wailing of the wind. A few moments later, the slow, rhythmic beat of heavy boots could be heard crunching through the ice and snow.
Santa Claus stopped at the fence and waited while a female elf, a member of the Sleigh Belles, unlocked the door and he stepped through with no visible trepidation. Behind a mass of beard, his breath clouded in the cold air. Without a word, he stepped to the head of the ranks of elves and stood facing them.
With theatrical timing, the sunlight pierced through the few wispy clouds marring the sky and shone down upon the large man clad in red. As one the elves bowed…all but one.
Hundreds of miles to the south, a polar bear shooed her cubs away from what she intuited was a predator. The lone elf ignored the bears and continued on his way, bolting across the frozen ground on all fours. Under his breath, he softly chanted, “better be good, better not cry, better be good, better not cry…”