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Extremeskins

A Christmas Tale


Bang

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Hi all,

I wrote this for my son when he was 3 and it was just he and I on our own for Christmas. I figured I'd share for the season, and I hope you like it.

The small man sat and looked out through his window. The streetlamp below shone it’s usual pale yellow, transforming the familiar landscape he saw during the day into a place of stark contrasts and deep shadows. He thought for a moment about how many times he had walked below that streetlamp, and about the many thoughts he had thought during the brief instant of his passing beneath it’s cold unblinking stare. Having slightly amused himself, he climbed from his chair and with a small smile curling the edges of his lips, set about checking his preparations.

His name was Nob, which to many with whom he had spoken over the years had seemed to not only be an odd name, but something funny, as if his name fit him in a way as to be uncouth, or childishly insulting. But Nob was his name, and he had earned it in the way of his people. (Where Nob was from a name was not given, you see. A name had to be discovered. However, that is a tale for another time.) He had taken to calling himself Robert, or Bob over the last few decades, as the Old Names became more and more scarce. But to himself and those who truly knew him, he was Nob, and it will be Nob that is finally inscribed in the Book of the Dead when the time came.

He bustled about the room inspecting his supplies. He had to be prepared to the slightest detail. If even a moment was lost from The Schedule, it would be disastrous. Oats, straw, carrots, sugar, he mentally marked each item off as he checked and re-checked his plan. His feet danced nimbly between the pails of water, having memorized the steps ages ago. The massive red pack was secure, and Nob gave a final tug on the gold velvet ropes that held it closed. As usual, he discovered it no looser than when he had checked ten minutes ago.

The bulk of the pack always made Nob think of the Master, and that always filled his heart with warmth. Nob had been with the Master since the beginning, ever since he had arrived upon the snows and freed Nob’s people from the cruel slavery of the Ice Trolls. Nob had been young then, and had fought with a zeal that had not been dulled by years of laboring for the trolls in the mines. The battle had been hard, but the Master was strong, and his Magic was pure and good. With freedom won, they decided to carry out a deed to promote kindness and good will throughout the world. And the rest, thought Nob with a smile creasing his cheeks, is history.

Nob went into the kitchen and pulled the cork from his bottle of wine. He poured a small amount of the ruby liquid into his goblet, and after replacing the bottle, returned to his chair by the window. He looked down the into street before he sat down, and saw a couple walking away from him up the sidewalk. Brave to be walking around here at this hour, he thought. He glanced at the clock as he settled back into his chair. He decided he had plenty of time, just over thirty minutes, and took a sip from his glass.

He set down the glass and picked up his clipboard from the carved oaken table beside his chair. (A beautiful piece, it had been a housewarming gift from the great King of the Northmen, Heimgaard IV. Within its carving was depicted the epic tale of the slaying of the fearsome Frostwyrm Shabraxys, and Nob found that particularly exhilarating.) On his clipboard was his Master List, and as was his habit at this exact time every year, he checked it, and then checked it twice. The Master used to do it himself, but times had gotten hectic and the job was getting bigger and tougher to do each year.

It was not as though their work went unnoticed; he was sure that someone somewhere had a pure heart and appreciated what they did. But it was getting more and more difficult to continue, what with everything becoming so commercial. It was hard to compete with Sony and Nintendo.

But still they managed, and he knew that tomorrow an innocent smile of joy would be smiled just for him. It would be genuine and warm and filled with the delight of one truly deserving, and it would give him strength and purpose enough to do it all over again next year.

He glanced at the clock again. He decided it was time to get ready, and placed his nearly empty glass in the kitchen. Again he checked his supplies, and then he opened the door to the large rooftop terrace that accompanied his apartment. (In the off season it was a place of peace for Nob, a place where he could enjoy the warm rays of the sun. Powerful magic protected the rooftop and made it appear to others as nothing more than a typical tar-stained roof.)

He pulled the barrels of grain and such out into the crisp cold air, and then the nine buckets of water were placed just so, each in their own specific place. He glanced at his watch and looked up to the sky just in time to see a curious shadow dart across the bright face of the full moon. Right on time, he thought.

It never failed to amaze him when the Master approached. The sound of the jingling bells danced and tinkled on the icy night air and made him remember a time when the world was a wonder, a time when miracles and happy things occurred every day. Flying in that ridiculous sleigh, all decked out in that red suit drew happy laughter from anyone who happened to be lucky enough to see him. Or course, there weren’t many who could actually see him anymore, few minds were open enough these days.

The sleigh landed perfectly upon the terrace, the reindeer’s hooves clattering noisily upon the stones, and the skids of the sleigh sliding as effortlessly as they ever did. The reindeer came to a stop in front of their respective pails, and immediately bent their heads to drink. The Master sat high upon the seat, and the instant the sleigh came to a stop he touched his finger to his nose. Suddenly he was beside Nob, and then walking briskly past him, thrusting three large empty sacks into his hands. Nob was already moving and tossed the empty packs into their proper basket. He put two carrots and a small bag of oats in front of each reindeer, and when he thought the Master could not see, gave Comet an apple. Nob had a shine for Comet, whom he felt had the best jokes of any of them.

He then clambered up into the seat and immediately swept away the inevitable cookie crumbs and an empty Big Gulp cup. He made sure the reins were properly secured, and then left the Master List he had prepared in its proper place. He leapt from the seat down to the terrace just as the Master re-appeared with the huge pack Nob had prepared. With a smile, he twirled his fingers above the pack which then grew smaller and smaller and was soon lifted easily into the sleigh. The Master continued to spin his finger and in a wink was back at his place behind the reins. He gave them a sharp tug, and the reindeer all leapt to attention. The Master then looked down to Nob, and with the twinkle in his eye that made him who he was, he said “Good show, Nob. I’ll see you next year.”

And with a jingling of the bells and a scramble of hooves, he was gone once more.

And come the following morning, somewhere a child will dig through the piles of video games and designer clothes and he will find a small car crafted by one of Nob’s cousins, and it will bring him joy. His parents will look at one another and smile, each assuming the other had bought the small gift.

But the child will know.

At least for a little while, anyway.

~Bang

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