Yule Tale 2020

~Shelf-Elf Barry And The Christmas Pandemic Protocol Situation~

Cheeky Xmas elf sitting in a Xmas tree

[cultural note: the writer is British and by jumpers she means sweaters; also custard creams are a type of biscuit]
Two years had passed since Barry had almost destroyed Christmas with four accidentally overanimated ugly Christmas jumpers. He had been given counselling and gone back to work with an understanding support team. He felt older and wiser now just like Santa had said he would, although he still had the dreams from time to time.
He held up his Shelf-Elf storyboard, which was nearly finished ahead of schedule.
‘Seems like you’re getting on well. Chocolate raisins are always funny, hohoho! Just the last scenario to do, eh? Remember that mistakes are important for learning, Barry, I’ve made gazillions of them. So many I couldn’t  even learn from all of them or my brain would get too big and my head could explode. Do your best as often as possible, Shelf-Elf, allow a margin for error.’
‘Thank you Santa.’
‘Back to the drawing board, then. Get that last trick nailed down.’
‘Yes sir!’

Santa had patted Barry on the back, and was walking away when the Green Lurgy alarm began to flash.
‘Flipping angel bums…’ Santa turned back. ‘Do we remember the drill for a pandemic? Let’s convene a meeting to go over any updates on the policies, everyone: take a break and meet in the Ice Hall in 15 minutes. Larry, bring the biscuit tin. The big tin, Larry.’

Fourteen packets of custard creams, eight pots of tea, six toilet breaks and three sugar crashes later, Santa and his teams were up to date and making adjustments.
Gary, Santa’s secretary, jotted notes for a pamphlet of guidelines, ‘The Christmas Pandemic Protocols,’ which non-Elves needn't read in full (2,020 pages, an unlucky number).
Briefly the main points were:
Presents would be delivered by teleportation.
Shelf-Elves would work remotely where possible, as holograms, or be equipped with cute hazard suits and plenty of glittery sanitiser.

Alerted by the smell of custard creams, an Ice Snake slithered in through an air vent and overheard all of this.

One of Santa’s gazillion mistakes was to let the Ice Snakes live on his secret island. He had presumed they were natural to the habitat, but there was little that was natural about them.
They were in fact all spy robots for the Drama Trolls.

The eavesdropping gadget, powered by malicious glee, went straight back to Troll HQ to replay the recorded meeting.
‘Well, well, well.’ Head Troll Duncan Crispacket paused to look into the middle distance and grimace expertly. ‘We know exactly what to do with this information, don’t we?’
‘Mwahahahaha!’ Executive Trolls Aberforth de Flaffle, Eadwold Puddington-Hargrave, and Gondiver Flanlyman exchanged meaningful evil laughter.

Drama Trolls are mean, small minded and selfish beings, but they do have advanced tech skills. That’s how none of Santa’s crew ever knew that the Trolls lived on the island, and that’s how they were able to plan to ruin Christmas.
‘We can intercept the teleports, break or…  irresponsibly replace the gifts.’ Duncan smirked.
‘It’s good as evil plans go, but…’ Aberforth jerked to face Eadwold and Gondiver who paused maniacally before replying in unison:
‘The holographic elves will be the most horrible fun!’
‘Mmm,’ agreed Duncan, when the cackling had quieted, ‘let us get brainstorming, and sign this Christmas off with a flourish of genius!’

On the day before Christmas Eve the teleport room was busy. Tests had been a success: put the presents in, check coordinates, press a button and PING! All delivered.
Setting up hologram elves had been trickier. Poor Rudolph’s nose was rubbed raw from all the extra magic power required.
He was still tired from it now, not enough to be glad of staying at home though. He had gone for a nap in his stables feeling a bit lost, but before too long he was fast asleep and twitching as he dreamt of flight.
Luckily the efforts had been worth it. Santa had enjoyed watching the hologram tests. His Shelf-Elves had risen to the challenge, making lots of new holo-scenarios like appearing to be sticking out of a wall, or having their heads stuck inside a light bulb.
‘I’m proud of us all,’ he said, ‘these are weird times and we are doing a brilliant job. Get your PJs on, grab a hot chocolate, settle down with some jolly songs, get a good night’s sleep- it’s going to be different work but still a lot of work! Ho ho ho!’

While all of Santa’s helpers and reindeers and the hefty old fella himself slipped into lovely fairy-lit dreams, the Ice Snakes were slithering in, up to no good.
First they rerouted the teleporter...
Then they reprogrammed the holograph central control…
Then they jammed all the signals from Santa’s HQ…
Finally they hid themselves ready for the next day’s nefarious deviousness.

Santa woke early. He took his coffee down to the teleportation room, still in his pyjamas. He picked up the first sack of toys out of habit: before he could set it back down he was shoved into the teleporter and beamed to no-one knew where.
The Drama Trolls were watching through the snake-cams, snorting out evil laughs till they ached. 
The snakes shot down the corridors to do their next damage, which was to glue shut all of the Elf Office doors, trapping the Elves inside as they had gathered for their pre-delivery briefings.

Barry and Larry were in the Shelf-Elf Department, running over final Christmas Eve storyboard notes, waiting for Senior Elf Darren to give his usual pep talk.
‘Forgot my glasses,’ Darren said, going back to get them: and that’s when they realised something was wrong. The door would not budge. The intercom was hissing. Above them the old projector whirred into life, quite unexpectedly, and began to show them some shocking sights.

Shelf-Elf Barry watched in horror as his holograph was - doing a large bathroom business on the chopping board!!! That was not like his story board at all!! That should have been a chocolate raisin!!!

‘I can’t ruin Christmas again,’ Barry said, ‘We have to find Santa, he can reverse this. Larry, we can help each other climb up through the air vents. Everyone else- biscuit tin’s just there, keep your strength up, we will sort this out.’
‘Got those nice iced ones back,’ Darren added.

Barry and Larry scrambled up the cramped air vents to the teleport chamber.
‘That’s Santa’s special mug,’ Larry said, as he landed with a light thump, ‘it’s half full and still warm- and there’s a toy sack missing.’
Barry jumped down beside him, and picked up the radio to alert the reindeer. ‘Signal’s jammed… hang on, there’s some paperwork here.’
Barry held up the toy sack’s content list. ‘First item is a gps tracker, it says!’
‘That’s convenient,’ Larry noted. ‘But we can’t track from here, all the signals are jammed. We’ll have to go to the humans’ houses.’

They put on their facemasks, checked their packs for sanitiser, got into the teleporter and instantly realised that they couldn’t both go - one of them had to press the teleport buttons.
‘I’ll go.’ Barry said, before Larry had a chance. ‘I have experience in the field of everything going horribly wrong. Last time Santa rescued me, this time I can repay the favour.’
Larry went to give Barry a hug, remembered the protocols, and held out his elbow for an elbow bump instead.
‘Good luck,’ he said.

Barry had never teleported before. It was not terrible, just a tingling itch through every cell of his being, and it was thankfully very quick. He felt a twang as all of his atoms pinged back to solidity which was disorientating, especially as he had appeared in the Christmas tree and the needles were sticking in his bum. This reminded him that he had better get to the chopping board quickly and sort out the holograph poop.
‘Oh my gourd!’
Too late. Barry heard Mum yelp.
‘What- oh, thank god, it’s not real! It’s a light show! Oh that’s brilliant! Lily, Bertie, come and see this!’
Barry tapped his foot. The chocolate raisin would have been funnier, he told himself. Anyway, he had a mission to focus on and although this thought snapped him out of a grump it also dawned on him that he wouldn’t be able to teleport back until Santa was rescued and the mystery of how the signals were jammed was solved, which was a bit stressful. Luckily he had had extensive stress management training which kept him back from the edge of absolute panic.

He thought back to the Pandemic Protocols pamphlet- ah yes, page 202: the Do As You’re Told* spray! He unslung his backpack and got to work spelling out his urgent message in the tree tinsel, then poised himself on the doorframe, spray at the ready.
(*patent pending, Mrs Santa’s Science Kitchen)

Barry was fairly sure that Lily and Bertie would believe the tinsel instructions, even if they hadn’t been sent back to their bedrooms to open stockings, so he used the spray for Mum and Dad as they brought their Christmas coffees into the living room.
‘5am, better than last year,’ Dad was yawning, so the spray went straight into his mouth causing a slight cough.
‘Did you cough?’ Mum pulled back but not before she too had inhaled the Do As You’re Told spray.
‘I’m fine-’ Dad stopped as he noticed that the Christmas tree was giving them an urgent mission. ‘I just need to get the computer sparked up so we can find Santa.’
‘Yes, of course,’ Mum complied, ‘I’ll fetch the sack of carrots to manually summon his reindeer.’

The sack of carrots wouldn’t be quite enough to call in all of the reindeer, Barry was going to have to chuck some fairy dust over them: a fairy dust fumble was how it all went wrong for him with the ugly jumpers. Mum had gone back indoors to see how Dad was getting on with locating a Santa signal. Barry took a deep breath. It would have to be now, or he would definitely fail. He tipped the dust into his hand, folded the bag shut, and ran to the carrot heap. He did trip over Lily’s scooter but the dust landed as it should this time.
‘Calling all the reindeers!’ Barry whispered into the twirl of sparks.
(He knew all their names but time was short.)
The sound of hooves and sleigh bells was most reassuring. Barry ran inside where Dad was typing in the tracker code.
‘Oh, Santa won’t like it there.’ Dad said.
‘The inhospitable sharp hot rocks of Volcano Island,’ Mum read over his shoulder. ‘Oh dear!’
Oh dear indeed! Barry speed-noted the coordinates, ran from the little home office-cupboard, somersaulted across the tree to undo the tinsel-spelt instructions, and dashed out in time to jump into the sleigh.
‘We have a Santa and a Christmas to rescue!’ Barry yelled. He felt quite heroic except for the nagging worry of having left his human’s tree in such a mess. It wasn’t the grand finale he had planned but rescuing the hefty fella was more important.

Rudolph’s hooves struck the air as though it were compacted snow, making a crunchy thud that splintered into tiny sparks of ice. It was beautiful, in spite of the difficult circumstances. Barry watched the starlike sparks trail through the sky as they travelled.
They landed on a beach of scorched spiky rocks, where the tiny sparks evaporated into mini-puffs of cloud.
‘Santa!’ Barry yelled, and the reindeers grunted loudly.
One of the red rocks moved, and stood up. It was clutching a sack of toys, it had a fuzzy beard…
‘Santa! Over here!’

Santa got into the sleigh too puffed to speak. He smeared on some sanitising hand gel, patted Barry on the back and nodded his thanks. Barry dragged the toy sack on board, and flicked the reins.
‘We’ll go home first, Santa. You’ll be needing another coffee I think.’
Santa smiled wearily, smoothing down his face-frizz.
‘Iced coffee, please. And some beard balm. What on earth happened?’
‘We aren’t quite sure,’ Barry admitted, ‘but we’ve got you back sir, so that’s a positive!’
‘Mrs Santa is going to be furious, you know.’
‘Yes sir. But she will probably have it all under control, whatever it is.’
‘Indeed. The Christmas cards and stories never quite do her justice do they?’
‘Best kept secret, sir.’ ‘Ho ho yes!’

This is exactly where the Drama Trolls had made their fatal mistake: they had underestimated the power and skills of Mrs Santa. She had just taken out her beard curlers when her admiration of the ensuing glossy locks was interrupted by a Code Red alarm.
‘Someone,’ she said, drawing herself up to her full and impressive height, ‘someone is messing with Christmas, and I haven’t had my morning coffee yet. Someone is in trouble!’
In her feathery edged satin pajamas she stormed the corridors, scuffing her toe on an Ice Snake. She plucked it up before it could scarper. Under its lifelike skin she felt metal and wires.
‘Aha. This could be a clue.’
Into the workshop she marched: if the Drama Trolls had done their research properly and not been too busy puffing themselves up thinking that they were clever they would have known that Mrs Santa had the skill to interrogate and reprogramme one of their own spies. She was not just a pretty beard!

Aberforth de Flaffle read the all-clear signal from the Ice Snake. He checked his hair looked ruffled enough for the selfie he was planning to take as they infiltrated Santa’s Grotto and redistributed all of the presents to unsuitable recipients.
‘I would ask if you're ready,’ he enunciated, ‘but it would be rhetorical, wouldn’t it?’
Duncan Crispacket tidied his eyebrows, and arched them at Eadwold, who flicked his tail coat to dispel creases. Gondiver patted imaginary dust from his top hat.
They swaggered from Troll HQ to the Grotto, then followed the signs to the Teleport Room.
‘It was jolly good of the elves to help us find the way.’ Duncan scoffed.
‘What jape first?’ Gondiver pondered. ‘A new chainsaw for little Tammy, who’s two? Mwahaha!’
‘Dog calendars.’ Eadwold said. 
‘What?’ Aberforth frowned.
‘To all cat lovers; you get the picture, mwahaha!’
Eadwold opened the door as their laughter rolled into- a store cupboard.
‘There’s no teleporter in this roo-’ were the last words of Eadwold Puddington-Hargrave.
Mrs Santa, stepping out of hiding, wielding a sledgehammer, flattened him to a disk so quickly the other trolls could not believe their eyes. If they’d been a bit quicker to believe they might have escaped the same fate, but thwack thwack thwack the other three were struck down.
‘Get between me and my coffee,’ she growled, ‘try to ruin Christmas! I’m sending you to space, trolls.’

As the sleigh descended back down to the secret island, a disc of flattened troll whizzed up.
‘Flipping angel bums!’ Santa exclaimed.
‘Yippee kiyay!’ Mrs Santa was yelling, as she spun up the next one. ‘Yippee ki-yay! Yipp-ee-ki-yayyyy!’

The dramatically flattened trolls came back to earth burning up on re-entry and making a surprise meteor shower.

Lily and Little Bertie were looking out of their bedroom window. They saw the showering sparks, and heard the echo of Mrs Santa yelling.
‘Look Berto, it must be Santa’s magic!’
‘Oh my Gar!’ 

Mrs Santa, coffee in hand, mended the teleporter. The packing elves sang as they sent presents off to the right people. (Little Tammy got the teddy bear of her dreams; the cat lovers had kitten calendars, and so forth.)

‘Don’t worry Barry, I can mess with space-time remember?’ Santa, cooled down and suited up, beamed at the Shelf Elf. ‘Rudolph can drop you back to your human’s house to finish your work.’
‘Thank you Santa.’ Barry said, although in truth he was too tired to attempt his grand finale. He would have to improvise.

Back at the house, Barry picked up the tinsel and wrote FARTY SPROUT PANTS across the tree. He had used that same trick three years ago, before all the disasters hit.
Luckily this was covered by the Christmas Pandemic Protocols pamphlet: ‘in a Shelf-Elf emergency it is deemed acceptable to fall back on a classic scenario, as long as the ratio is minimum 3:1 new ideas or newly approached old ideas.’
And the protocols hadn’t even taken into account that the Drama Trolls had nearly beamed Santa down a volcano!
He stood atop the tree and sighed, looking down over the peaceful humans who had fallen asleep very cutely whilst watching classic Christmas films.

He misted Forget About It* dream-spray over Mum, Dad, Lily and Little Bertie as they lightly snored and twitched.
Lily was smiling and muttering as she dozed:
‘Yippee Kiyay Mother Christmas!’

(*™ Mrs Santa’s Science Kitchen)

Sparkly gold lettering in middle of a pine wreath, reads 'Merry Christmas.'


Hooray for Mrs Claus. The unsung hero. And soooooo many human's emulate her.
Lisa Southard said…
She's a favourite with me, might have to have her own story one year :-)
Haha, well done working Die Hard in there at the end.
Lisa Southard said…
Punishably proud of myself for that :-)

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