Joe and Chrissy spent several hours organizing and assembling parts. Slowly, the sleigh began to take shape.
Turning the page in the manual, Joe read the next step. Engine testing, part 1. He handed the book to Chrissy, found the controller test button, and gave that to her.
“Just follow the instructions while I get things ready.”
“Are you sure about this, Joe?” Chrissy said, studying the manual. “It doesn’t look right.”
“Look, I know what I’m doing. When I say so just push the button so I can test it.” Joe stood at the back of the sleigh near a huge exhaust pipe.
“Why does Santa’s sleigh even need a booster engine?” Chrissy asked. “I mean isn’t that the job of the reindeer?”
Joe looked around the sleigh. “Grandpa said they added the booster when the number of kids got huge. Even flying reindeer have limits. He ducked back behind the sleigh. “Now push the button.”
“Okay, here it goes.” All the elves came over to stand next to her. Although she noticed some hiding behind the reindeer stalls. Hmm, she wondered, maybe they know something I don’t know. She shrugged, grabbed the controller, and pushed the button.
She pushed it again.
“Did you push it?” Joe yelled.
“Okay, whatever you do don’t push it twice.”
“Uh-oh,” she said as the rest of the elves began to scatter. It started as a low rumble, then grew to an enormous roar. A huge flame shot out the back of the nozzle, igniting a pile of hay. The engine went silent. Elves poured water to douse the flames.
Then one more explosion erupted from the engine followed by a huge black cloud.
Joe stumbled from behind the sleigh. All she could see of his face was his eyes. Black soot covered everything else. He brushed himself off as he leaned against the sleigh rail.
“You pushed it twice, didn’t you?”
“Perhaps you should have told me that before we started the test.” Chrissy handed him the controller. “Stupid boys, never tell you the whole story.” Then she started to laugh. “You look ridiculous. You better clean up or your mother will kill you if you drag all that soot into your house.”
Joe tried to look angry, but then joined in the laughter. Several elves ran over and poured buckets of water on him. “Hey, how am I gonna explain being soaked to my mom?”
With that, one elf opened a compartment in the sleigh’s side. Pulling an enormous red blanket with initials NM from inside, he wrapped it around Joe. Within seconds he was dry and warm.
“What is this?”
“That,” said the elf, “is Santa’s warming blanket. He hits all kinds of weather in his travels; ice, snow, wind, and rain. The blanket keeps him warm and dries him if he gets wet.”
Joe handed the blanket back to the elves. Spotting the initials again, he said, “Who is NM?”
The elves looked at each other and scurried away, all except for one. He put his hand on Joe’s shoulder. “When the time comes, you’ll learn the whole story. You’re not ready, yet. I think you’ve done enough for today.” He placed the blanket back in the compartment and moved off.
“Well, I guess that’s it for the day. Let’s go.” Grabbing their jackets, they headed back out into the cold. As they got to the edge of the woods, Joe stopped.
“Did you hear something?” he said.
“I did, and I think it’s over there.” She pointed to a huge pine tree. At least she thought it was a tree until it moved. Another one moved. Then a whole army of trees began moving toward them.
A voice—raspy and hissing—came to them on the wind. “I warned you to stay away. Now, you’ll learn to listen.”
“Run, Chrissy, run.”
They took off with Chrissy in the lead and Joe right behind her. The trees tried to cut off their escape. Joe dodged one of the swinging branches, but another caught him from behind, knocking him to the ground. He could feel the roots of the tree wrapping around his feet.
Chrissy, realizing Joe was not with her, ran back. Grabbing a large stick, she wacked at the roots until Joe was free. Helping him to his feet, they dodged their way back to the bike path.
“Thanks,” Joe said, “I thought I was a goner.”
“No worries, that’s what friends are for.” She pointed to the wall of pines, stopped at the edge of the path, blocking the way. “How we gonna get back there?”
Joe didn’t hesitate a moment. “Let’s get back to my house. My grandfather will know what to do.”
Part VII Defeating the Piney Army
P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.