A Most Unexpected Encounter
After placing her foot onto the first step of the escalator, and then holding on tightly to the fast-moving banister, Alice began rising from the ground.
“This is indeed a fast escalator,” she said as she tried to admire the countryside that was soon far below. “It’s a pity it’s so fast, though, I might have enjoyed the view immensely if I had risen at a more leisurely pace.”
As the picturesque countryside grew smaller and smaller beneath her, the speed of the escalator increased, forcing Alice to hold on for dear life in the increasingly blustery conditions that she was exposed to. Nevertheless, Alice was enchanted by the many wonderfully coloured birds she saw flying above and below her, and all of them enjoying the weather more than her. “Oh, this wind is just too much, “she complained, trying to stop her hair from flying about as fast as the birds. With her hair flapping wildly in her eyes, Alice never saw the top of the escalator as she approached it. And tumbling ungainly off the top step, she made an ungainly entrance to the top of the world.
On hands and knees, Alice inspected the place she had entered, hoping to see the White Rabbit’s neat house, and thus putting her silly game of catch up at an end. But she didn’t. It wasn’t. All that she saw was snow, snow and yet more snow.
“It’s so cold up here,” she said, shivering, her teeth chattering like mad, “this must surely be the top of the world. I must have wished too hard, and gone all the way to the North Pole itself!”
It began snowing. At first Alice danced around in delight, marvelling at the beautiful particles falling upon her. But in spite of their beautiful appearance, these snowy particles were cold, so cold Alice soon realised that she had to find something warmer to wear, and fast. “A fur coat, a hat and some gloves are what I need,” she said, “lest I catch my death of cold out here. But where will I find such things, when all that I can see is snow?” Slapping her arms around her back, Alice tried her best to keep warm. “And a pair of fur boots, if I do say so myself, will keep my toes snugly warm,” she added.
The snow fell heavier and heavier, and thicker and thicker until poor Alice was almost totally covered by the white stuff. Shaking her head, setting free the white particles that had settled upon it, Alice wished and wished and then wished again, that someone – anyone – might come to save her from being frozen to death.
Bells, Alice heard the sound of bells in the distance. “Where are they?” she said, her eyes searching the frozen landscape, with intent. “Oh, where can they be?” she huffed, trying to see through the heavily falling snow. Then she saw something, Alice saw something coming closer and closer. “I wonder what it might be?” she said, straining her eyes, trying to see the mysterious object.
“Whoa, whoa,” a voice boomed, “whoa.”
Alice blinked; only half believing her eyes.
“Whoa, good, stay, stay,” the voice boomed out again.
“It’s a sleigh, a dog sleigh!” she said in sheer disbelief, watching as the fur-clad man settled his dogs, before making his way across to her.
“Here you are,” he said, offering Alice some fur clothes to put on. “And when you are ready, I will bring you somewhere warmer.”
Even though Alice had no idea who this man happened to be (he might well have been Jack the Ripper for all she knew), she obediently donned the fur clothes – coat, hat, gloves and boots – before jumping onto the sleigh and burrowing deep into the mountain of fur blankets heaped upon it.
“Rarr,” the man shouted, urging his dogs on, “Rarr,” he shouted again as the sleigh, with Alice snuggled warmly inside, disappeared into the blizzard…
When the sleigh had finally come to a halt, the same kindly voice as before said, “There you are, little girl, safe and sound.” Searching their way through the many blankets heaped high upon the sleigh, two large, timeworn old hands tried to locate Alice.
Peeping out from under the mountainous heap of warm, snug blankets, squinting in the bright light, Alice wondered where she had been taken, hoping against hope that it might, just might be the White Rabbit’s little house. “Where are we?” she asked.
The round-faced, bearded old man replied, “You are in Santa’s workshop, of course.”
“Santa’s workshop – are you sure?” she asked, her head turning round and round, inspecting the room, with curious eyes.
“I’m as sure as I can be,” the old man replied, laughing heartily, “considering the fact that I am Santa Claus”
“Santa Claus?” Alice spluttered (you see, she really did believe in him), recalling the wonderful present he had given her, last Christmas, the very same one she had asked for in the letter she had taken so much time to compose. “Are you really Santa Claus?” she asked.
The old man nodded. “Though, I have to admit that I prefer to be called Father Christmas. I’m a bit a traditionalist at heart. Santa Claus sounds so colonial.”
“And I am Alice, “she said, trying to find a way out from under the heavy blankets.
“I am pleased to meet you, Alice,” he replied, with a jovial laugh. “Let me help you,” he said, lifting her out from the sleigh, onto the heavily waxed floorboards.
Still struggling to believe that he really and truly was Father Christmas, Alice asked, “Where is your red and white suit?”
Chuckling, he replied, “That’s only for Christmastime – another import from our colonial friends across the water, I’m sorry to say. For the rest of the year I find these clothes more comfortable.” He pulled at his loose-fitting jumper and jeans.
Up until then Alice had not even noticed what the old man was wearing, but now that he had pointed them out, she laughed at the very thought of Santa – Father Christmas – wearing jeans and a woollen Fair Isle pullover.
“Why are you laughing?” he asked, truly ignorant of the reason.
“Oh, it just seems so funny,” she said, with a mischievous giggle, “you wearing such ordinary clothes.”
“I used to wear a green and white suit for Christmastime, in the old days,” he confessed. “I’ve been playing around with the idea of returning to that colour scheme – what do you think about that, Alice?”
“I think it sounds like a splendid idea,” she replied. “Much more Christmassy than red and white, if you ask me.”
Changing the subject, Father Christmas, clicking his fingers, said, “You must be hungry?” Alice nodded that she was.
Two little men suddenly appeared (Alice assumed they were some of his elves), each carrying a tray, the first piled high with crispy, tasty-looking biscuits, and the other with the largest mug Alice had ever laid eyes on, full to the brim with piping hot chocolate drink. Bowing, they offered her the refreshments.
“Take them,” said the old man. “And there’s more where that came from. Oh, I almost forgot,” he said. “If you want sugar, just wish for it.”
After she had finished the wonderful repast (without having the need to wish for any sugar), Alice felt strong enough to resume her quest to find the Rabbit, but being in Santa’s – Father Christmas’s workshop, a thing that most children would give their eye teeth to see, she held back on saying so. And, anyway, she had so many questions to ask the old man, like what he did during the rest of the year, when the rush of Christmastime was over, and was he really considering returning to the green-and-white theme, she was in no rush to leave.
“I suppose you would like a tour of my workshop?” Father Christmas said, stepping away from the window he had been looking through. “It’s still snowing, out there, so you can’t be in any great hurry to go, can you?”
“I love the snow,” Alice replied. “But I do admit that I was getting a bit too much of it, before you saved me.”
“I found you,” the old man insisted. “You were in no real danger. There are so many of my elves out there, going about their business, I’m surprised that no one spotted you before I did.”
“Why were you out there, anyway?” Alice asked.
“Sport,” Father Christmas replied, “sport and exercise, to be precise.”
“But with dogs?”
“Of course,” he replied, “Now don’t get me wrong, reindeer are top dog up here (he laughed at this comment), but for sheer excitement, on the ground, you can’t beat a dog sleigh.”
“It was rather exciting,” Alice giggled, “even hidden beneath all of those blankets…”
Rubbing his long beard (you know, Alice was sure she saw rainbow colours shimmering within it), the old man asked, “And might I be so bold as to enquire what you were doing out there?”
That question returned Alice’s attention, and with a start, to the matter of the missing Rabbit, and she told Father Christmas her story, from the Rabbit’s sudden appearance, to how she had ended up being lost in the snow (though Alice omitted to say anything about her really being a grownup, with no idea how her adventure had begun).
“My, my,” said Father Christmas, rubbing his beard once again. Alice watched in amazement as some rainbow-coloured particles fall slowly from it. “That is quite a story.”
“It’s the truth!” she said, fearing he did not believe her.
“I am sure that it is,” he chuckled. “And it seems that you could do with a hand in finding this Rabbit of yours?”
“Oh, yes please,” she said clapping her hands with delight.
“I think we can kill two birds with one stone,” he said, clicking his fingers again.
“Kill two birds with a stone?” Alice asked, worried for the birds, wherever they might be (you see, she had never before heard this expression). He laughed; Father Christmas laughed his Merry Christmas laugh.
Three elves, entering the room through a small, green painted door that Alice had up until then not seen, approached the old man and listened to his instructions. Then exiting through the same door, they disappeared from sight.
“Where are they going?” Alice asked, watching the door close behind the last elf.
“I have asked them to ensure that everything is ready for our search,” he replied, standing erect in his jeans and pullover that Alice found so amusing. Then strolling over to a regular-sized green painted door, adjacent to the smaller one, he asked, “Are you ready for your tour?”
Jumping up, Alice clapped her hands again, answering, “I still can’t believe that I am actually here, in Santa’s – sorry – Father Christmas’s workshop.”
“Come on,” he said, opening the door, leading the way through…
Passing through the doorway, Alice found herself transported (as if by magic) to a huge room – a workshop – where a multitude of elves, both male and female, were feverishly working on the toys for Christmas.
“I always wondered what you did during the rest of the year,” she said, marvelling at the piles of toys reaching almost to the ceiling. “It must take the whole year to make this lot!” Picking up a simple black cube, Alice asked, “What sort of a toy is this?”
“I was hoping you’d ask me that,” said Father Christmas, picking up another one of the cubes as he spoke. “It’s new,” he said proudly. “We developed it ourselves…”
“But what does it do?” she asked, confused by its simplicity.
“It’s a wishing cube…”
“A wishing cube?”
“Yes, go on, give it a go,” he insisted. “You never know what you might get…”
“I just wish for something?”
“That’s it – but don’t tell me what you are wishing for, it has to be a secret – go on…”
Alice thought hard and long of all the many things she might wish for, but in the end there was only one thing she felt important enough – the whereabouts of the White Rabbit’s neat little house. So closing her eyes, she wished and wished and wished…
All of a sudden, Alice felt a tingling in her fingers, and this tingling slowly began travelling up her arms and into her body. Opening her eyes, she gazed at the cube; it was now filled with bright shining stars, too many to count. The cube then began fading away, slowly, slowly, until it had all but disappeared, but the stars, the wonderfully coloured stars, now growing in size and intensity, surrounded Alice. They began spinning, round and round they went, and faster and faster until Alice was feeling quite dizzy. Just as she was about to complain, to say how sick she was feeling, they stopped, giving her leave to study their full beauty. And they were so beautiful. Alice might have watched them forever. But this beauty, like all things in life, was transient, blurring and fading almost as fast it had appeared.
At first, Alice thought her eyes were playing tricks on her, but as the stars continued to blur, transforming into a foggy whiteness, she started to panic. “How will I ever see the White Rabbit’s house,” she bemoaned, “in this dreadful fog.” Forgetting about the invisible cube that she was still holding, Alice began waving her hands, trying to disperse the troublesome fog. Crash! Falling from her hand, the cube struck the hard floor, shattering into thousand pieces, scattering the fog and with it any hope she had of seeing the Rabbit’s neat little house in the near future.
“Oh no,” Alice sobbed when she realised what she had done. “How will I ever find the Rabbit’s house, now?”
Two elves running across to Alice, one holding a brush and the other a dustpan swept up the broken pieces. Watching them sweep away the last pieces of cube, Alice felt hopeful again, and she said, “It was a cube – that’s
it! There are loads more! Oh, dear Father Christmas, can I please try another one?” she asked him hopefully.
Although he was a kind, caring man, Father Christmas replied, “I’m sorry, but afraid that you can’t…”
“I can’t?” Alice whispered, gazing across to the rest of the cubes on the table.
“I’m sorry,” Father Christmas continued, “but their magic will only work on each person, the once.”
Alice was devastated, to be so close to finding the whereabouts of the Rabbit, but to lose it for so foolish a reason was unforgivable.
Trying to take her mind away from the broken cube, to cheer her up, Father Christmas, putting his arm around Alice, resumed the tour of his workshop. As he took Alice around his workshop, showing her so many wonderful, fantastical toys she had never imagined it possible to make, let alone wish for, she forgot about the unfortunate accident.
As the tour drew to a close, Father Christmas called for his elves to come closer. “I am sure Alice would love to hear one of your songs,” he said.
“I would, I would,” she replied in all honesty. The elves drew closely around them. “I know it’s not Christmas yet,” she said, “but might you sing me a Christmassy song, anyhow?”
After discussing it amongst themselves, the smallest elf, raising his hand, said, “Especially for you, we are going to sing ‘Oh, why wait for Christmas?’” After coughing discreetly, to clear their throats, they sang:
“Oh, why wait for Christmas when you can have it every day,
Be it June or September, March, April or May.
The thing to remember is not the date or day,
But the feeling that goes behind it, so share it right away.
Enjoy your time for living; enjoy your time on earth,
A time for celebration, a chance to spend in mirth,
Each day will go brightly as you strike out forth,
And all of this made possible because of the virgin birth.
Oh, why wait for Christmas when you can have it every day,
Be it June or September, March, April or May.
The thing to remember is not the date or day,
But the feeling that goes behind it, so share it right away.”
Alice clapped; she clapped so much for the beautiful song the elves had performed – and especially for her. “Thank you,” she said, still clapping “Thank you so much, each and every one of you,” she added in true appreciation for their wonderful, impromptu performance.
“I think it’s about time we were off,” said Father Christmas, exiting the room, to the loading bay outside, where he approached his sleigh.
Following the old man, Alice asked, “Where did that come from?” Stroking his beard, he just smiled, releasing some rainbow coloured in the process.
Understanding that it was by magic, Alice said, “Can I say hello to the reindeer?”
“Of course you can,” he laughed, “And where better to begin than at the front?” Leading the way, he brought Alice to the head of the line of waiting animals, to the liveliest one, Rudolf.
“He’s a bit frisky,” she remarked as Rudolf reared up on his hind legs.
“He had some oats this morning – they all had some,” Father Christmas chuckled. “It always does that to them,” he said, chuckling again.
After Rudolf had settled down, Alice asked, “Can I pat him?”
As if he understood her every word, Rudolf lowered his huge antlered head, allowing Alice to pat him as much as she liked.
“He seems to have taken a shine to you, Alice. That one was always a good judge of character…”
“He’s lovely, just like I always imagined,” she replied.
“Come on, Alice, you still have to meet the rest of them,” said the old man, leading the way down the line of reindeer. “This one is Dasher and next to him Dancer. He can also be a handful, that one.”
Alice offered a hand to Dasher. He also lowered his head, ready for a pat. Not wanting to miss out on the attention, Dancer also lowered his.
“I told you he can be a handful,” said Father Christmas laughing.
“They’re funny,” Alice giggled, sharing her hands between the two friendly reindeer.
“Come on, we still have the rest of them to see,” said the old man making his way further down the line of reindeer. “Next we have Prancer and Vixen, then Comet and Cupid, and last but certainly not least we have Donner and Blixen.”
“I love them all,” said Alice, giving Blixen an extra special pat before following Father Christmas to his sleigh.
“Now up with you,” he said beckoning for Alice to step up.
Poor Alice did try to get up, into the sleigh, but the step was simply too high for her child-sized legs. Laughing, Father Christmas clicked his fingers. Two elves, carrying a small set of steps between them, ran over to the sleigh and placed them against it. Thanking them, Alice stepped up and boarded the sky vehicle.
As Alice settled into the comfortable bench seat, one of the elves climbed up and tucked her in snugly with a warm, thick blanket. Waving a goodbye, the little man jumped down from the sleigh. Before she was able to say Jack Robinson, Father Christmas was shouting, “Rarr, rarr,” and the galloping reindeer whisked them up and away into the cold of the night.
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