Do you want to hear a story?
It’s a very special story, so you have to promise not to tell anyone.
Do you promise?
Okay, I’ll tell you.
My name is Kaira. I’m six years old, my favourite color is green, my favorite food is pizza, and bunny rabbits are the best, even if my Mommy won’t let me keep one.
Sometimes I’m also a superhero called ‘Glimmer Girl’, and I rescue people.
One time I rescued Santa. That’s what this story is about! (Shhh, but don’t tell!)
The story begins a few days before Christmas.
I was a big girl then, in high school! And my friend Tanya was there, and we were drinking tea and coffee in a shop; not playing with toys like we used to.
For some reason me as a big kid didn’t like Christmas.
“You can always come and crash at mine,” Tanya said. “You’re practically part of the family anyway. My Mom would love to have you.”
“My Mom would kill me if I skipped Christmas,” I groaned. “So would Nana and Aunt Cathy. My cousin, Trevor, would never forgive me for making him suffer the holiday alone.”
She put her feet on the table, which was naughty. “Triple-teamed. Ouch.”
Big me laughed, except I don’t think she was being funny. “Even worse, my Mom’s using it as an excuse to use my dead name again, because nobody else in my family ‘believes in transgenders’ or whatever.”
“How can they not believe in transgender people when you are literally right there?” Tanya frowned.
“It’s funny; a big guy sliding down chimneys to give children presents they’ve got no problem with, but a condition recognized by medical professionals the world over as legitimate is where they draw the line.”
They talked a lot about things I didn’t understand. Maybe they’d be happy when Santa brought them their presents.
Suddenly, three magical elves appeared! Their names were Ferben, Dorothor, and Maedir. Ferben had black hair, Dorothor had blond, and Maedir had silver. All of them were very tall, and very pretty.
“It’s you,” Ferben said. “I can’t believe I’m getting to meet THE Glimmer Girl!”
I pretended not to know who Glimmer Girl was, even though it was a fib. People weren’t supposed to know! Glimmer Girl is a secret!
“Wait, Glimmer Girl, as in the superhero? She looks nothing like me.”
“You don’t have to pretend with us,” Dorothor explained. “We already know the situation.”
“Your secret is safe with us,” Maedir smiled.
My hands curled in my pockets. “I really don’t know what you guys are talking about,” I lied.
The elves then told us about how they knew about my secret; because they work for Santa, and Santa knows everything! It’s just like in the song; he knows when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good, and that’s why they were there, because superheroes were very good, and they needed me.
They also told me that elves aren’t small like everyone thinks.
“Despite seeing documentaries like Lord of the Rings people are still convinced we’re little people,” Dororthor added. “Not that we have anything against dwarves! Most of the time they’re lovely.”
“We need your help to save Christmas,” Maedir said. “Santa Claus has been abducted by his brother, Krampus, and we need the help of a young superhero to get him back.”
“Santa,” I repeated, “has been abducted… by Krampus… as in the Christmas demon?”
“Yes, that’s right!”
I wanted to jump up and say yes, but big Glimmer Girl didn’t believe that there was a Santa Claus. Didn’t the presents under the tree show that he was real?
The elves were really nice, though; they showed Tanya and me their sleigh, the reindeer, Rudolphs nose that was SO much brighter than it was in the songs, and took us with them to help save the day. We got in, and all of us started our journey.
“Where are we going?” I had to yell because the wind was very loud.
“The North Pole!” Maedir yelled.
“Duh, KC,” Tanya said. I should have known that!
The more I thought about it, the more my grimace turned hard. None of this made any sense.
“If there really is a Santa Claus,” I argued, “then why aren’t adults over the world freaking out by the appearance of presents under their trees every year?”
Ferben leaned back. “You’re thinking about the old man as a literal being! He’s not; he’s a spirit! He is both the product of and the perpetuator of collective human generosity made manifest on a day that belief in him is the strongest! His building toys is purely figurative, as he is the driving force behind the giving of gifts! Telling kids their gifts come from Santa is merely tribute to the powers that be!”
Tanya tilted her head. “So Santa doesn’t visit every house on Christmas eve?”
“Oh, he does!” Ferben said, “but not to deliver gifts! It’s more a symbolic gesture than anything else!”
I don’t know what all of that meant, but it means that Santa is real. Big Glimmer Girl still didn’t believe it, though.
Soon we reached the North Pole. The snow disappeared and instead there was a huge castle made of ice with colors dancing under the rainbow in the sky. It was so pretty, like something out of a painting!
I blinked and shook my head. “This doesn’t look like Santa’s workshop.”
“You were expecting a village of wood cabins filled with merry song?” Dorothor smiled.
Ferben offered his hands to me and Tanya as we stepped out of the sleigh. “If you’ll follow me to the alchemical lab, please. We haven’t much time!”
Past the main gates and through the foyer, the elves showed us through the castle and lead us down the frosted spiral to the lower chambers. Every level grew darker; at first there were windows of every color, though they were fewer the further we went. The walls made of ice that glowed at the entrance did not shine down below.
“What are we doing down here?” Tanya asked. “I thought we were going to rescue Santa.”
“We are,” Ferben said, “but first you must prepare!”
“As you’ve gotten older, so has your belief in Santa Claus diminished,” Maedir said. “Santa cannot be rescued by one without belief, which is why we needed to choose a younger hero. You’re not young enough, but… we have a solution.”
Dorothor walked across the room and reached for a pink bottle. He held it very carefully.
“Drink this,” he whispered, and gave it to me.
The drink was sweet, hot and fizzy, like soda that had been sitting out. It tingled through my body; down my arms and legs, down my chest and back, and swirled around my head like a merry-go-round. Then things got lighter, and everything around seemed so much bigger.
Tanya blinked. “KC, you’re…”
“Yes,” Maedir smiled.
The other two elves reached for a tall mirror and placed it in front of me. When I looked into it I saw that I had completely changed. Instead of a teenage girl I was small, under four feet tall, with chubby cheeks and a brand new superhero costume with a tutu instead of a skirt.
“I’m a little girl!” I squeaked.
“A little girl superhero,” Dorothor noted, “with all the faith in Santa Claus that we need to rescue him from Hell.”
Tanya looked up to him. “Wait, we’re going to Hell!?”
“Yes,” Ferben said. “That’s where the Krampus lives, after all.”
I stomped my foot. “It doesn’t matter where he is! The Krampus stole Santa, and all kids all over the world will cry if we don’t get him back! Come on, it’s time to save Christmas!”
Tanya held my hand as Ferben, Dorothor and Maedir lead us further down the stairs. She held tight, and I did too.
It was getting dark, and cold; not just normal cold. It made my insides hurt.
“We shouldn’t be doing this,” Tanya said.
Maedir shook his head. “There’s no other way. If there were…”
I squeezed her with both hands and looked up. “It’s okay. I’ll be brave for both of us.” It was a good thing that I was a superhero, or it would have been really scary for her!
Soon we came to a flat place where a pair of gates stood. They were made of stone, and were older than the oldest mountain, and higher than the highest peak. On both sides were endless walls that nothing could climb over.
I folded my arms. “Is this…?”
“Yes, little one,” Dorothor said. “This is Hell.”
Tanya leaned down and took my hands. “We don’t have to do this,” she told me. “No matter what anyone says we can both turn around.”
Ferben looked upset. “But we must to maintain natural order!”
I smiled my biggest smile to Tanya, even though it was just pretend. “It’s okay. You don’t have to go alone. I’ll protect you!”
She looked confused, then laughed. “I’m more worried about you, kid. Going into Hell? It’s a tall order for anyone; especially a pint size.”
“Who are you calling a pint size?” I huffed. “Besides, we have to save Santa, and that’s that.”
Tanya turned to the elves. Why wasn’t she talking to me? “I know she’s a superhero, but can’t we leave her behind?”
“No. We need both of you,” Dorothor said.
“Tanya,” I told her again, “it’s going to be okay. I’ll protect you!” Didn’t she know it was going to be okay?
Maedir put his hand on the door, and it groaned. It opened by itself, and the dark poured out of it. The air got even colder.
Already Hell was making my tummy hurt. It was a mix of bad dreams and rotten fruit, but it wasn’t going to beat me. I was Glimmer Girl, after all.
I yelled at the dark and flew into it. “Ready or not, here I come!”
One of the elves called, “no!”
Tanya yelled, “KC! Wait!”
But it was too late; I was inside and on the search for Santa. He had to be somewhere in the cold that lasted forever.
Soon I could hear other kids playing. They were laughing, and one said “tag, you’re it!”
I went toward the sounds. The closer I got the better I could see what it was; my pre-school!
Everything was there, like the swings, and the jungle gym, and the play fort, and the slippery slide, and so much more! And there was all my old school friends, like Mitchell, and Katie, and Simon, and Janita, and Sarah…
They were having so much fun, running around and playing.
All I wanted was to be a part of that, so I ran to them, giggling and waving my arms, “hey! Over here! Can I play too?”
Every kid stopped and turned. They looked down like hungry giants and frowned big frowns. Before they even said anything I knew that I’d done something wrong.
“It’s that weird boy who thinks he’s a girl,” one of them said.
I curled my hands up tight. “I’m not a boy!” I yelled at them, but they didn’t listen.
“No one wants to play with you because you’ve got boy cooties and girl cooties,” another one said.
“I don’t have anyone’s cooties! I’m just a normal girl!”
They started singing mean words at me, “Girly-boy! Girly-boy! Girly-boy!”
Even though I could fly really fast they were still really close, and I couldn’t make them be quiet. Why were they picking on me? It made no sense! I just had to make it stop somehow!
Then, in the fog I could see a man sitting in a chair. He was wearing a red suit and had a shining white beard. Could it be…?
I flew to his side and reached for his hand. I pulled it, but he didn’t move. He just smiled and he asked me, “have you been a good little boy this year?”
My head shook, no. “I’m a girl,” I told him.
“Nonsense,” he laughed, and reached into his sack. “Here, I have a present for you. It’s what you’ve always wanted.”
He gave me the toy, and I frowned. It was a set of robots; the kind that Tanya wanted, not me!
“No, I wanted the princess dress!” I stomped my foot and sniffled. It was hard not to cry. Didn’t he see that I was a girl?
“Little boys aren’t supposed to be princesses,” he laughed, but this time it was a different laugh. This time he was making fun of me, and all the kids at the pre-school were joining in. They laughed, and they laughed so loud that I couldn’t even think.
“Girly-boy! Girly-boy! Girly-boy!”
“Stop it!” I screamed, but they wouldn’t.
One of the boys came and pushed me to the ground. When I turned around I saw who he was; Adrian Dempsey, the bully who would never leave me alone. Everybody laughed, but he laughed louder.
“Justin’s wearing a tutu,” he pointed. “Do you think you’re a girl? You’re ugly! Ugly and dumb!”
Then, just as things couldn’t get any worse, someone appeared to shove Adrian out of the way. “Gods, were you always such a brat?” Tanya huffed at Adrian. She seemed happy about pushing him into the dirt, and then smiled at me.
“Did you find her?” Maedir asked.
She took my hand and looked behind her. “Yeah, she’s over here,” she said to them. “Don’t race off like that, kid. Hell is a scary place for someone your age; it’s also scary for someone my age.” She looked over the kids and frowned. “At least your nightmares are G-rated. We should be able to fight them off.”
I sniffled. Bubbles of snot formed under my nose. “T-Tanya, they were all being mean, and they said I was ugly and not a girl!”
She leaned down. “Yeah? Well that’s because they’re jerks. Every one of them. They were when we were in grade school, and they are now. Thing is, you grew up to be a lot stronger than them.”
Their voices kept singing, “Girly-boy! Girly-boy! Girly-boy!”
My shoulders went hard and Tanya rubbed them. “Don’t listen to a word they say,” she told me. “You’re not a boy. You’re a girl. You’re the realest girl I’ve ever met. I’ve known you for years and saw a girl in you even before you told me.”
My eyes hurt from crying. “R-really?”
“Really,” she said. “And you know what? You’re better than a regular girl, you’re also a Glimmer Girl! You’re a superhero! How many other kids do you know who can fly?”
Santa stood and looked at me with red, glowing eyes. “You’ve been very naughty,” he growled.
My tummy hurt.
Tanya squeezed my hands. “Hey, that’s not the real Santa. That’s a bad guy pretending to be Santa.”
I whispered, “how do you know?”
“Because even if you were naughty, the real Santa wouldn’t make a little girl cry. Don’t you think that’s right?” She smiled and put her hand on my cheek. “Don’t you think that’s right, little one? You came here to rescue Santa from nightmares just like this one.”
Tanya was right; I’d completely forgot!
“You’re not the real Santa,” I yelled at the man with glowing eyes. “You’re too mean!”
He laughed, but in a way that wasn’t nice. “Oh, you’re very naughty; very, very naughty. You’re not going to get a gift this year, and everything you eat will taste like bean sprouts!”
Ick. I hated bean sprouts!
Fire blew up from my body as I turned into Glimmer Girl, and I shot at the man with everything I had. When my hand hit him he broke like glass into a million pieces, and the smoke that covered everything started to disappear.
The room was black again, but this time I wasn’t alone; Tanya was right there holding my hand. With her there I knew we were going to win.
Across the dark there was another chair, and Santa was in that one too, except he was tied up. I told Tanya, “he’s over there!” and we ran to him as fast as we could.
“Not. So. Fast.”
Suddenly, a monster appeared! He was covered in fur and had great big horns coming out the side of his head. Sharp teeth pointed from his loose jaw from where a yucky smell blew over us.
“You’re the Krampus,” Tanya said.
“Indeed,” the monster hummed, “and you can have my brother back soon enough; but first I’m going to remind you of the reason for the season.”
He reached and pulled out a spear from thin air. It was ten times taller than I was! How was I going to fight that?
This wasn’t what Christmas was supposed to be about at all!
Krampus lifted his arms, and with them he grew and he grew. Soon he was the size of a mountain, and fire erupted around him as he summoned flame from the abyss. His hairs stood like knives, scaring anyone who would get too close.
“We need to find cover!” Maedir yelled.
The other two elves, Dorothor and Ferben, joined him as they pulled arrows into their bows, and fired on the monster two, three, four at a time. Even though they were magical arrows, they got lost in the Krampus’ fur and didn’t hurt him at all.
Tanya grabbed my hand and tried to pull me away. “Come on, we need to go!”
“But we have to rescue Santa!” I cried; that was why we’d come all that way.
She didn’t listen, so I squirmed to break free. Tanya was crying when I flew away from her, but everything would be okay; all I had to do was stop the monster that was older than… than dinosaurs!
As I flew the Krampus turned his head and watched me. “So you brought a child,” he roared. “Ugh, she reeks of goodness, but no matter. You’ve brought her to me, and I shall make her my prisoner in the underworld, just like my brother!”
“Give Santa back!” I yelled, and shot lasers at the monsters horns. They didn’t seem to hurt him.
He swatted a hand the size of a house at me, and barely missed.
“What does he matter to you, child? Santa or no, you still get your gifts. That’s all children care about!”
“We need Santa,” I told him, “because without Santa everyone would forget Christmas, and then everyone would be sad!”
I soared toward his face, and blasted him right in the nose. The Krampus was very angry.
With a mighty blow he brought his fist down, right where Tanya and the elves were! When he lifted it they were gone, and he was laughing.
“You’re next, little girl,” he grinned. His teeth shone.
As fast as I flew he was only a step behind, and soon was able to grab my feet and brought me to the ground. The Krampus hung over me, licking his lips, as I trembled.
“I’m not scared of you,” I yelled, but that might have been a fib.
Suddenly, he stopped. He noticed that his palm was wet. I blushed and looked away.
“Did… did you just wet yourself?”
“No,” I told him. “Only babies do that!” I couldn’t look him in the eye.
Krampus pulled back, stared and tilted his head. Why did he have to look at me like that? Big meanie…
“Are you happy now, brother?” It was Santa; he lifted his head, and looked tired, but he was still smiling.
The monster was smiling as well. “Yes… yes, I am very happy, brother!” he declared. “It’s been a very long time since a small child wet themselves in fear of me.”
“I did not!” I whined, but they weren’t listening.
Santa hummed and looked to me. “It’s alright, little one,” he said. His voice was very warm. “We’ll get you taken care of. Ferben, Dorothor, Maedir! Come help young Kaira will you?”
The elves ran to my side and helped me up. The monster did nothing to stop them.
“What about the Krampus?”
“Oh, never mind my brother,” Santa said. “He was just having a tantrum. It’s to be expected. Christmas means a lot of things to different people. For him it’s scaring children, but most people have forgotten about that.”
Krampus turned away and began to shrink in size. Soon he was as big as a normal person.
Tanya looked around and crouched by my side. “Who are you talking to?”
Confused, I looked to Santa. “She is too old,” he explained. “Only you can see me, because you’re still young enough to believe.”
“But I don’t want to stop believing,” I cried. “And now I know you’re real I won’t stop! I promise!”
“It’s alright,” the jolly man smiled. “Even if one day you don’t believe anymore, there will be someone else who will believe for you. Christmas lives in the hearts of children, after all.”
Tanya was still looking around until Ferben put a hand on her shoulder.
“Come on,” he said. “We’re done here. Let’s get everyone home.”
“Not so fast,” Santa said. “First we need to give little Kaira her present.”
A present? Of course there was a present; he was Santa Claus! I wondered what it could be.
I woke in Tanya’s bed with her sitting at the computer. The room was dark save for the light coming from her monitor. She was playing a game, so she probably didn’t hear me stir. She did, however, notice when I propped myself up and pushed the blanket away.
“Hey,” she whispered and pulled away her headset. “How’re you holding up?”
For whatever reason I was wearing the same clothes I was earlier. What happened? I didn’t remember anything, except…
“I had the strangest dream,” I muttered. “I was a little girl, and I had to save Santa Claus from a demon.”
Tanya laughed. “That wasn’t a dream, KC. I was there.”
“Quit jerking my chain,” I told her; most efforts were spent on keeping my eyes open, not on trading quips.
She reached for her bedside lamp and illuminated the room. “I’m serious.”
Tanya slid a photograph from her desk and placed it in my lap. I took it and examined it closely; it featured a child dressed as Glimmer Girl, same blond hair, but in pigtails and wearing a tutu, sitting on the knee of Santa Claus.
“That’s a kid in a costume,” I reasoned, “and that’s just a regular mall Santa, right?”
She raised an eyebrow; yeah, I knew better.
I held the photo and ran my thumb along the edge; no matter how many times I did the object continued to be real.
“Then we did it,” I gasped. “We… saved Christmas.”
“Yeah, we did,” Tanya grinned. “Now what I want to know is, what did Santa get for you?”
I searched my thoughts and remembered something about a gift, but I wasn’t sure what. It took a moment, thinking back to the night before that had seemed like years ago, to when the old man kissed my forehead and magic exploded; then it all came flooding back.
“He got me…” It was hard to explain. “I remember playing with my friends,” I whispered, “and twirling in gowns of so many colours, and playing with other kids, and painting, and singing…”
Tanya bit her lip. “I don’t remember any of that.”
Hot tears rolled down my cheek. “I do.”
Immediately she threw her arms around me and pulled me close. She didn’t understand; how could she? Not that it mattered, I guess.
“I remember being a little girl,” I chuckled through sobs. “There’s a whole lifetime I thought I missed out on, and now it’s there.”
She said nothing for a while, then laughed. “Damn. All I got you was pre-paid game cards.”
“It’s the thought that counts,” I grinned.
We lay in her bed and considered the universe. New wonders had been shown to us, and we’d been changed by them.
“Merry Christmas, Tanya,” I said.
“Merry Christmas, KC.”
And it was.