Note: This is a Choose Your Own Viewpoint story. The choices made did not affect the plot of the story, but rather through whose eyes we would  see the next part of the story.

Twas the night before Christmas

And all through the house. . .

Your eyes pop open of their own accord. You had just settled yourself for a long night’s sleep. Literally just ten seconds ago you gave a last fond look at your wife in the kerchief you always find so adorable, and then you put your head down on your pillow and closed your eyes.

What, in the name of all creation, is that clatter? You put the children all into their beds over an hour ago, but you know it’s hard for children to get to sleep on Christmas Eve. Which one of them got out of bed so intent on making mischief? And what, precisely did they break?

No. The sound came from outside. Oh, dear. The old tree. It was snowing before you shut the windows. Was the weight of that snow too much for the old tree? If so, it could get worse, and depending on where it falls, it could well land on the house itself. You spring from your bed to see what is the matter. After opening the sash and shutters, you have to blink at the light. With the full moon and the snow, it’s so bright it might as well be noontime.

The old tree stands resolute as it always has, but beyond it you see. . .

All right, first you pinch yourself. Hard.

But when the vision doesn’t dissolve, there’s definitely a miniature sleigh. That much isn’t odd but . . . Reindeer? Is this some bizarre Christmas circus come to your family’s home? And so late at night.

The driver, he can only be Saint Nicholas, calls out a lofty list of names. Odd that a Saint should name one of his animals after a Roman love-god, isn’t it?

And then you realize the sleigh isn’t slowing. Did he say something about the top of the porch? What can that . . .?

You bite down on your lip to keep from screaming. The sleigh leaves the ground, reminding you of dry leaves in a hurricane. It’s FLYING! You catch a glimpse of the underside of the sleigh as it comes hurtling toward your house.

The sound of the landing defies the speed of the flight. If you hadn’t been awake, you’d have missed it altogether. The prancing and pawing of each hoof sounds like no more than a family of squirrels on the roof.

Filled with wonder, you turn from the window just in time to see . . .

Chosen Viewpoint for the next Chapter: Why, Saint Nick of course. He’s about to make his entrance.

 There is some initial discomfort about fitting down through the chimney. It’s your least favorite part of this exercise. As you reach the bottom, you bound out of the fireplace. There is a man pulling his head out of a window who turns and sees you.This is bad.

He cannot see you. He cannot know what you are.

He doesn’t seem to notice when the neuron scanner goes off. You take a look at his thought processes. “Dressed all in fur.” Dressed. Not covered in it from head to toe. That’s a much more human way to perceive it. He’s mistaken your second set of eyes (the ones which see the ultraviolet spectrums) as reddened cheeks, and the species of white lichen which lives in symbiosis with you, he’s envisioning as a beard. Even the vapor which escapes from your secondary respiration system he is assuming to be the smoke from burning tobacco.

That is acceptable. You reinforce the first impressions so that a closer look will not reveal how obviously wrong he is. Further, you implant the image of a pipe such as the humans use to inhale those toxins, along with considerable extra body fat to cover the extra limb (or four).

His reaction is a giddy sort of laughter as the mental conditioning rolls over him. The man looks embarrassed, but you wink one of your first sets of eyes and twist your head in what you hope is a friendly manner. He apparently perceives it to be so. Heaven help you if he heard what your voice actually sounds like.

You don’t have much time. You place the presents within the confines of the leg coverings the humans have ceremoniously hung on the mantelpiece. It has something to do with Saint Nicholas and shoes. You remember that much from the academy.

And now, you’re inside the chimney once more. The man watches in wonder as the anti-grav technology lifts you up to the roof. Hopefully, the next house will have no more awakened humans. It takes too much time and effort to deal with them.

You’ve got to finish these rounds.  You’ve got to deliver these presents the way Saint Nicholas would have. It has to be done just so . . .

Otherwise the people might learn what has happened to your friend. And that would be disastrous.

Chosen Viewpoint for the Next Chapter: Has mamma really been sleeping through all of this?

What most people do not understand about the Astral Form is that there are sensations felt. For instance, as your spirit floats above the sweet little cottage you and your husband labored to build so many years ago, you are painfully aware of one thing.It’s so cold out here.

Poor Pappa. It isn’t his fault that he must remain so ignorant of this part of you. You were a guardian of this kind of magic since before he was born, some might even argue before you were born. For his part, he is a loving husband. That is his path, and you know better than to compare the loads you must each bear.

The furry creature springs to his sleigh and gives and odd sort of command. With his alien voice, it comes out as more of a whistle. You look at the contents of the sleigh with all three eyes.  The mouse did make it into the sleigh as she promised. And now comes the dangerous part of the plan.

There is no name for that thing which took the shape of the little bird. It is the antithesis of things which have a name. It bides its time until the reindeer have left the porch route. When the magic of the take-off has been depleted, the sleigh will be at its most vulnerable.

But when it strikes at the sleigh, it has forgotten something. The magic of the sleigh may have been depleted, but the magic of your home, the magic of your safe, sleeping family on the night before Christmas, the magic of your husband’s wonder . . .

That could never be stronger.

You strike out with the power of your home. The shield becomes a club, which then becomes a chain. You bind the thing, wrapping it in the warmth of your hospitality like you were swaddling one of your infants. The love, the joy of your household diminishes the thing. With a pain which is closer to longing than anything else, it screams, but your husband and children cannot hear that. There is another sound as the recorded voice of Saint Nicholas bellows out from the sleigh.

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

The thing is but a whisp of itself, but so small, it escapes from the bonds of affection and care. It takes to the sky in a form like black lightning. There can only be one destination. It returns to where it’s taken Saint Nicholas. Your part in this is done, and now you shall return to your bed and your sweet family.

But it doesn’t notice it’s not alone.

Chosen Viewpoint for the Next Chapter: The mouse which rides the thing’s back, unnoticed and unobtrusive.

When a mouse experiences spectacularly cold weather, there is a phenomenon called Torpor which comes into play. Torpor isn’t exactly the same as hibernation, but the principle is similar.

But despite the fact that the cold pierces more than just your body, you fight back against the onset of Torpor. You are not just a mouse. You are the rescue party, or at least the first wave.

This thing must know you ride on his back, and it draws strength from your fear and your misery. But you are only a mouse. Compared to the beating it took, it cannot regain much of its power from you. Besides, you mean for it to survive until it reaches him.

The cave is anywhere. The point is that it is anywhere, anywhere at all where no one else is. You look over your shoulders, and just before you enter the cave on its back, you see the reindeer. They know where you are, and they will wait for the next step.

The thing feeds on fear, despair, anger, and hate. It meant to take the little one, drag it here and leave it in the cave, bringing food and water enough to survive, but nothing else. Saint Nick made it take him instead.

He is a saint, but in the face of such misery, even he cannot help but feed the thing. As it lashes into him with a pain which will leave no bruises, he cries out, wanting solace or something to strike back at. He tries to calm himself, to pray, but the darkness only strikes at him again. Tears stream down his once plump cheeks.

Neither of them take notice of you, and if it weren’t for the shiny red ribbon on the minuscule package you were sent with as it catches the smallest beams of the full moon, the old man never would have. He stares at you, uncomprehending, but you boldly make your way past the thing  and set the gift at Saint Nicholas’s feet.

His hands are trembling, and he can barely pull the ribbon from the tiny box. What is inside doesn’t matter, really. It’s a tiny bauble meant to be pretty. It is a useless gift which simply indicates friendship and generosity.

It nearly destroys the thing.

The simple act of showing friendship, of giving hope, sends the thing screaming from him. This second assault on it, even having fed from Saint Nicholas and you, is too much. It lies against the wall of the cave, too weak to move. It howls a sound that isn’t a sound.

And then, after patting your head in thanks, Saint Nicholas turns from you, and offers the gift which saved his life to the thing that nearly took it. You can see he doesn’t want to. He wants to run in fear, to strike and kick at it while it is helpless as he was helpless.

But he does what Saint Nicholas does instead. And by the time his arm straightens, offering the little gift, sincerely hoping the thing can find a way to take joy from it, the thing is no more.

You want to help him to the cave entrance, but you are only a mouse. The reindeer and the furry one come for him soon enough. Nicholas turns to you, extending a hand to take you back to your home. But no. This cave is no place for a man, but it’s a lovely place for a mouse.

He senses your decision, smiles through cracked lips, and manages to say to you. “Happy Christmas.”