While doing her rounds as captain of the spaceship, The Glimmingdrift, Alvas checks in with the docking bay to find an unlogged vehicle consisting of eight reindeer and a red sleigh.
While sipping tea from a space gray mug with the text, “Best Spaceship Captain Mayor Ever,” Alvas stepped into the docking bay command deck for The Glimmingdrift. Her orange reptilian tail wiggled up to behind her back, allowing the door to close behind her automatically. The neon purple light bar that ran the room’s length under the ceiling reflected warmly on the white consoles, giving the small space a cozy feel. Purple was Alvas’ favorite color, as evident in her dark purple shirt and matching scarf she wore with her black suit work attire.
Seated through the five chairs were quadratums, a small furry cube-shaped species, and each person was a different color. Their white chairs were locked to the floor but had armrests, padding, and could raise up and down with the touch of a button as Alvas wanted her staff to be comfortable.
Alvas got on one knee to greet the red quadratum face-to-face. “How’s everything going, Vianola?”
“Everything is in order, captain,” she cheerfully reported. “We’ve just docked The Starbringer II, and they’re letting out their passengers.”
Alvas stood up and looked out the window. In the docking bay below, there were a few dozen spacecraft parked to visit The Glimmingdrift. The three-kilometer disc-shaped craft was a city known for its culinary and performing arts. Alvas was proud to have transformed the ship around from its infamous past.
Alvas tapped on the side of her black plastic glasses, trigging the view to zoom in on an unusual occupant stationed in one of the bays.
“What is that in Bay 15?” Alvas said.
Vianola pulled up the reports on her monitor. “I don’t see anything in Bay 15.”
Alvas looked at the security feed and logs on Vianola’s monitor, which showed nothing. She looked back at the bay herself to make sure she wasn’t mistaken, but there were eight reindeer attached to a bright red sleigh. The reindeer were lined side by side in two rows in front of an empty open sleigh.
“Odd,” Alvas said as she sat her mug down on the console. “Raise your seat and see for yourself.”
Vianola raised the seat above the monitor to look out the window. “That is odd. It doesn’t show up on the monitors, but there’s something there. That’s some advanced technology.”
“I’m going to go check it out,” Alvas said as she walked out of the room. “Keep an eye on me, please.”
“Will do, captain! I’ll let Magnolia you’re on the way.”
Alvas kept a brisk pace as she walked down the hall, down the stairs, and into the docking bay. Along the way, she warmly greeted the three personnel by their names that she crossed paths with while they carried about their jobs.
Upon entering the docking bay, Magnolia slithered up to Alvas. The gorgon’s snake-like half body was advantageous at navigating in the sometimes gravity-less areas of docking bays. Alvas has also appreciated Magnolia’s stone-transforming skill for unruly visitors, which thankfully, didn’t happen often.
“What’s the situation with Bay 15?” Alvas inquired as they headed there. “Is it something another ship unloaded?”
“I honestly don’t know,” Magnolia apologized as she tapped around in her tablet. “They must’ve been placed there when I was addressing Starbringer II.”
“And they’re not from that ship?”
“Not at all.”
Alvas and Magnolia approached the eight reindeer and red sleigh, splitting up to inspect them.
“What are these creatures?” Alvas asked.
“We’re reindeer,” one of them spoke.
Alvas stepped back. The Magnolia’s hair of snakes started to stir, ready to turn any threat into stone.
“They can talk,” Alvas said.
“They can talk,” another reindeer mocked.
Magnolia straightened her back, making herself taller to tower over the creatures. “Who is your captain, and where are they?”
Alvas could tell by Magnolia’s tone that she was on edge. It was a rare feat for anything to slip by Magnolia unnoticed. Alvas respectively stood back and let her manager do her job.
“He goes by many names,” one of them answered with a cheerful tease.
“Like Father Christmas,” another reindeer spoke with a sparkle.
“Or Saint Nicholas,” another commented.
“Or Kris Kringle,” another added.
“But you may call him Santa Claus,” the first one concluded.
Magnolia’s snakes began to hiss in agitation from the reindeers’ games. “Where is Santa Claus, and what’s he doing on this ship? And I want just one of you to answer me.”
Seven of the reindeer turned their attention to the one directly in front of the sleigh to the right.
“A child wrote a letter to Santa, asking for him for freedom,” he explained in earnest. “He’s deeply indebted.”
“What!?” both Alvas and Magnolia said, shocked.
“There are no indentured workers allowed in my city,” Alvas boasted. “If this is true, then I’ll personally get to the bottom of it. Who’s being forced to work for who?”
“The child’s name is Tim Crotchet, and he’s working for a director who goes by the alias of Scourge,” the reindeer continued. “He got Tim a brand new mechanical leg, and he’s been working hard to pay him back.”
Alvas’ tail curled up in thought. “I don’t know any kid by that name, but I do know of this Scourge. He’s a bit of an egomaniac and kind of cheap when it comes to paying anyone, but people seem to enjoy his dark comedies. If your story checks out, I’ll forgive you for improperly boarding. Now, can you describe Santa for me?”
“He’s no illusion, he’s a human who wears red from head to toe,” a different reindeer answered, poetically.
“With a fluffy white trim, that doesn’t make him look slim,” another added.
“With a little round belly, that shakes like a bowl of jelly,” another finished with a giggle.
Magnolia rubbed her temples with two fingers in frustration.
“Magnolia, please keep watch in the docking bay while I go investigate,” Alvas said.
* * *
The Daily Art Desk once said in a travel guide, “If you’re visiting The Glimmingdrift and you don’t see a show at Dionysus Circle, then why are you even at The Glimmingdrift?” Consisting of twelve independent performance venues, Dionysus Circle was the ship’s largest and most visited district. People would travel from neighboring solar systems to catch a live in-person show there.
The pleasant aromas from the various pop-up food vendors scattered throughout Dionysus Circle always made Alvas hungry, even when she just ate. She walked around, looking for a human in a red suit. Security wasn’t showing anyone by that description, but if the reindeer and sleigh were invisible to it, Alvas figured Santa was too. Instead, she tasked them to track Scourge, who was last seen outside Lamina Theatre promoting his newest production.
Alvas cut through the crowd surrounding Scourge as he hyped his show. Being a seven-foot-tall minotaur in a three-piece red suit with a silky black cape, on top of his bright red fur, Scourge had no issue attracting attention.
“We’ll be starting the next performance of A Disastrous Carol in one hour,” Scourge said. “There are only a few seats left, so get your tickets at the box office now.”
Scourge stepped off the mini-stage to cheers from the crowd. Compared to Scourge, a tiny human boy with a robotic leg followed the director inside the theatre. The boy scrolled around the tablet and said something to Scourge that Alvas couldn’t make out. As Alvas tried to follow, she bumped into another person.
“Excuse me,” Alvas said before realizing who she found. “Wait a second. Are you Santa Claus?”
“Ho, ho, ho,” he replied, his belly shaking like a bowl of jelly. “Why, yes, I am, Alvas.”
“How do you know–”
“Why I know everyone, especially good people like you.”
“You’re here to help me rescue Tim Crotchet, aren’t you?”
“Well, yeah, if this Tim Crotchet requires saving, like your reindeer claim.”
Santa chuckled as he took off his red cap hat. He reached inside, his hand going deeper than the length of the hat (which was not an impressive feat as Alvas had pockets that were bigger on the inside, too), and pulled out a crystal ball. “Your answers are here.”
Alvas took the crystal ball. It was pleasantly warm, and she felt connected to the object. The crystal glowed, playing a video montage of Tim’s tragic life. She saw Tim getting adducted, being take away from his home on Earth, getting sold in an auction where Scourge bought him, and how Scourge has taken advantage of the child ever since. The montage ended, and the crystal stopped glowing, leaving Alvas feeling disconnected and heartbroken at what she witnessed.
“Oh my,” she said.
Santa took the crystal ball and returned it inside his hat. “Will you help me?”
“Thank you. Perhaps as the captain of his ship, I was hoping you could have a word with him.”
“Scourge doesn’t listen to anyone,” Alvas said. “That I know. He’s an arrogant writer slash director type who shrugs off anything negative as nonsense.”
Alvas kept the idea of using force to herself. She never wanted to be that kind of person like her predecessors.
Santa rubbed his chin in thought. “Then perhaps like a writer, we shouldn’t tell, but show.”
* * *
All of the drawers and cabinets, which consisted of 75% of Scourge’s private room, were bursting with costumes and props. Tim had been with Scourge for months and still had no idea how Scourge organized anything, but Scourge always seemed to know precisely where to find what he needed. However, Tim had a hunch that Scourge didn’t know and only pretended that what he found was what he needed.
Tim sat in a makeshift chair of dirty clothes while Scourge sat in a plush recliner chair as he ate his lucky pre-show sandwich. Scourge tossed Tim the ends of the crust as he approached them. Tim grabbed and devoured the scraps.
Three gentle knocks tapped on the front door. Scourge waved Tim off to answer the door, to which he complied. When Tim opened the door, no one was there. Tim peered down the lush red velvet hallways. No one in sight.
“Who’s there?” Scourge asked, annoyed he even had to inquire.
“No one, sir,” Tim said as he closed the door.
The moment the door clicked shut, every single item of clothing erupted out from their spot. Scourge screamed, dropping his sandwich, while Tim froze in place, watching the clothes swirl around in the air like a tornado.
“Show yourself!” Scourge shouted over the noise. His hands trembled.
The clothes formed a colossal human head that engulfed the room from floor to ceiling. Some clothes still swirled around like a tornado as the neck.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas,” the head said with a threatening rumble.
“What-what’s a Christmas?”
Tim smiled. He knew.
“I know how you came in possession Tim Crotchet here,” the head said. The head transformed into a stage, using the clothes as puppets to show Scourge buying Tim at the illegal auction. The clothes retook the shape of the head. “If you do not wish for the media to uncover your wickedness, then I suggest you surrender Tim to the authorities.”
Scourge dropped to his knees. “Yes, yes, of course. Who exactly should I leave him with?”
“The ship’s captain, Alvas Sunback, will do nicely. Now, do not disappoint me, Scourge. You won’t like it if I have to come a second time.”
The clothes collapsed onto the floor.
Tim and Scourge stared at each for a moment before Scourge snapped, “You heard the Ghost of Christmas. Go find Alvas whatever and not a word about this or me, or else I’ll rip off your new leg.”
Tim nodded and ran out down the hallway. Tim had no clue who Alvas was, but he figured if they were the ship’s captain, anyone should be able to help. As Tim ran down the hallway, he realized he was the farthest he’s ever been away from Scourge’s side. The thought made him turn a corner and run into a group of people.
“I’m sorry,” Tim said.
“It’s quite all right, Tim.”
Tim’s eyes beamed with glee. “Santa?”
Santa chuckled and winked. “Yes, Tim. I got your letter, and I’m here to help.”
“Then could-could you take me to an Alvas Sunback?”
“Already here,” Alvis said as she got down on her knees to talk with Tim on his level.
“I’m lost. My parents live on Earth. Could you get me home?”
“I’ll certainly try. There’s some bureaucratic tape we’ll have to cut through.” Alvas turned to Santa. “I don’t suppose you can’t just take him home yourself?”
Santa sighed a breath of sadness. “I’m afraid my powers are limited. I’m only able to even be here because Tim wrote a letter to me. But, I have faith you will figure it out.”
Alvas turned back to Tim. “While we get things sorted, how about I get you some proper food.”
Tim nodded. “Okay. Thank you.”
Alvas stood up and held out her hand for Tim, which he took. She turned to face Santa, but he was gone. The bracelet around her wrist vibrated. She tapped on it, and a 3D hologram image of Magnolia popped up.
“The reindeer are gone,” Magnolia blurted out to her boss. “I swear, I only turned my back on them for a moment.”
“Santa is gone too. He was with me just a second ago. But, good news, I have Tim with me.”
“That’s amazing. I can’t even wrap my head around how this Santa Claus knew everything and evaded us.”
“That’s Santa,” Tim said. “He’s magic.”
A Rescue Request to Santa was inspired by the following writing prompt: “As captain of the city-sized space shuttle, you get a notification that a ship has just entered your landing bay, but when you go to check, all you find are 9 reindeer attached to a sleigh.”
I thought this prompt would be a fun way to kick off my December short stories. It took me some time to build the world for this spaceship city, but I had fun and I may come back to it for other stories. In my mind, I’m placing this story after Who Killed the Toymaker Aboard Starbringer? and The Glimmingdrift was where Detective Psychon was heading to for work.
As I got to the second section, I got stuck on how to proceed until I read an article about the various “squeals” to A Christmas Carol, which was prompted by some random discussion between my wife and me. While I didn’t use the sequels for inspiration, I did use the main story as a structure guide.
I hope enjoy this fun holiday story. Maybe someone will read it to their kids?