Short Story - Santa in Space

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Short Story - Santa in Space

Post by SLMatts »

Hello everyone! I wrote a short story, and any feedback/comments are welcome. :) Since it's getting to that time of year, I went for the traditional Christmas type story with a little sci-fi flavour to it. Suitable for all ages! I hope you enjoy it, and Merry Christmas!

Santa entered his workshop. It was December the twenty seventh.
“Where have you been?” asked Mrs. Claus. “I was beginning to get worried.”
“Did you know,” replied Santa, flopping down in a chair, “that there are space colonies now?” He sighed. “This is the first time that I have ever, ever, been late delivering presents.”
“Oh, but everyone knows that there isn’t a faster way to travel than reindeer. Maybe the space colonies will have to wait a little bit for their presents.” Mrs. Claus tried to soothe her husband, and put the kettle on the hob to make some tea. Tiddles the cat jumped up onto his lap and curled into a ball, purring noisily.
Santa shook his head, giving Tiddles a tickle under his chin.
“That’s no good. They’re not Christmas presents if I don’t deliver them on Christmas. Besides, when the colonies expand, and stretch across the galaxy, I’ll be working until June to get them all done.”
“Maybe it’s time to get some help…” Mrs. Claus tried, but Santa shook his head again.
“Do you remember how Krampus worked out? He did really well in the interview, but…”
Mrs. Claus frowned; she tried not to think about that particular employee.
“Well, you can’t replace the reindeer.”
“I know,” Santa sighed, “but I have to do something.”
“Well, don’t worry about it now.” She handed him a cup of tea. “It’s a whole year until you have to do your rounds again. At least forget about it for tonight.”

January came, and the workshop was quiet, save the wind rattling at the windows. With the elves all away on holiday, the dark and the cold of the North Pole’s winter seemed doubly oppressive. Only the light from the fire in the kitchen hearth struggled against it.
Santa folded the last of his clothes into his suitcase. He had been looking forward to his holiday, but thoughts of how he was going to cope with the extra distance to his yearly round were still bothering him.
“Are you ready?” Mrs. Claus called up to him.
“Yes…” With a great effort he squeezed the lid of the case shut and clipped it closed.
The reindeer had been harnessed and were impatient to go. Santa put out the fire, locked up the workshop, and bundled their cases into the sleigh.
“Off we go!” With a flick of the reins, the reindeer leapt into the sky, galloping through the frigid air with ease. It took them almost no time at all before they were over the coast of Australia, and minutes later they were setting down in the garden of a beautiful large house overlooking the sea. The sky was a cloudless blue, and the air pleasantly warm after the freezing temperatures of the north.
“Welcome!” The owner of the house came to greet them; he appeared young, with tanned skin and dark hair that almost glowed in the sunlight.
“Khepri!” Santa clambered out of the sleigh and shook hands with his old friend. Every year Khepri was kind enough to host their visit to the warm climes of the world.
“You are looking as lovely as ever, Mrs. Claus.” The Egyptian god offered his hand to help her down from the sleigh.

Soon they were unpacked. The reindeer had happily wandered off to relax in the shade, Mrs. Claus had gone to the shops with Khepri’s wife, Raet, and Santa was sitting in a deckchair in the garden.
“So, how were the colonies this year?” Khepri passed Santa a cool drink, then settled into the chair next to him.
“Getting bigger.” Santa explained about how he had been late delivering the presents. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do this year. I’ve heard they’re planning to set up on another world in a few months.”
“What you need to do is figure out how to automate.”
Khepri nodded.
“Find a way to send the presents all at once, without ever having to leave home.” He raised a finger to make the point. “Take me, for example. For years I had to turn myself into a Scarab beetle every morning, and push the sun across the sky. And trust me, it’s hard work to push something that big.” He grinned. “And then I thought ‘why am I pushing this big old thing around the worlds? It would be much easier if I just set the worlds spinning around it.” So I did.” He shrugged. “Well, it wasn’t quite that simple. I had to do a lot of calculations, but it all worked out in the end, and I got to retire.” He raised his glass to the sky.
Santa really wasn’t sure about that. He didn’t trust this new-fangled automation, and besides, he took pride in doing a personal job – he even still made his lists and checked them twice manually. Still, he didn’t say anything in front of Khepri - just nodded and sipped his drink thoughtfully.

With the arrival of February, Santa and Mrs. Claus returned to the North Pole. The elves set to work making toys, and came up with some fantastic new inventions. The workshop was bright and cheerful, full of jokes and laughter. Even so, it didn’t cheer Santa up much. He knew he had to come up with a way to make his sleigh faster over the interstellar distances he now needed to travel.
“So you need to go faster in space?” Fore-elf Bob, one of the lead toy designers, was sipping coffee in the break room.
“Couldn’t you put rockets on your sleigh?” asked Pip, pouring a liberal amount of sugar into his cup.
“The reindeer already go faster that rockets can,” Santa sighed.
“Well, what if you put rockets on them?” Pip tried the coffee, frowned, and carefully measured another teaspoon of sugar into the cup.
Santa imagined the disaster that would result from a row of reindeer, one in front of the other, with rockets strapped to them.
“No. I’d rather not get rocket-blasted in the face when I’m sitting in the sleigh.”
“Besides,” Bob pointed out, “the future is in clean energy!”
“Well, if you think of a way to harness some to speed up the reindeer, let me know.” He had known it would be a long shot to ask toy makers if they knew anything about faster than light travel, but he had hoped. The problem was, he wasn’t sure who to ask next.

It was late February before Santa ran into Jack Frost. It was a particularly cold morning in Norway, and Santa spotted him painting the windows of the pet store with delicate fern patterns.
“Hello Jack.” He called out. Jack looked around and then grinned, waving to Santa.
“Guess where I’ve been!” He giggled.
Santa tried to recall if he had seen any frost patterns in Australia. It wouldn’t be unlike Jack to try and confuse people by drawing on their windows in the summer, although it would be unusual for him to be anywhere so warm.
“Space!” Apparently Jack couldn’t wait for Santa to take a guess.
“To the colonies?” Santa asked.
“Yes, and further.” He did a flourish with his brush. “Did you know, in the 55 Cancri system, they don’t have anyone to paint frost patterns?” He burst out laughing. “Their scientists have been trying to puzzle out where they come from for weeks.”
“There are humans out there?”
“Of course not. They’re…” Jack frowned. “Puppy Moos.”
Santa doubted very much that was what they were called, but he decided not to push the matter.
“You should go there sometime. There’s someone a lot like you there. They call him Pupper.”
“Well, I’m not sure I’d have the time…” Even now there was a lot to organise to get ready for his huge trip. Flying all the way across the cosmos would be an inconvenience at best.
“It doesn’t take that long.” Jack hopped down from the window and stood back to survey his work. “Pupper could do it in a few minutes.”
“Really?” Santa frowned. “His reindeer must be faster than mine, then.”
“He doesn’t use reindeer. They’re too slow.” Jack noticed someone walking down the street without a scarf or hat. “’scuse me, got to go nip that fellow’s nose.” He scampered off after the man, quick as a flash.
“This Pupper has something faster than reindeer?” Santa wondered aloud. “But everyone knows reindeer are the fastest way to travel…”
As soon as Santa got home, he checked his charts, and bought some new ones, finding the 55 Cancri system marked in the constellation of Cancer. It took him most of the next two days to plot a route that he could take which would allow the reindeer sufficient rest stops. It was a very long way indeed!
He put the chart away with a shake of his head. Jack was known for making mischief. For all he knew, Pupper wasn’t even real. Surely there were other things he could try first…

It was May before Santa was reminded of his conversation with Jack. The midyear break was approaching; already the stockroom was piling up with toys, and the bustle and organisation of the workshop had kept him busy and distracted. He was taking a coffee break one morning and flicked on the news. The cheerful voice of the news reader spilled out of the television, to images of a station on a faraway world.
“…first settlers in the Highgate Yellow system have established a working colony. They say that it is now ready for scientists to arrive, and with luck, further colonists will follow later in the year.”
Santa choked on his coffee; that was it! They’d finally gone one colony too far. He had thought he would have another year at least before he had to travel so far away from Earth.
Abandoning his coffee, he leapt up and scrambled out to the stables. Fortunately, the reindeer needed some exercise anyway.
“And a good exercise it will be!” Santa thought to himself. He harnessed them to the sleigh and dug out the chart he had made of the route to the 55 Cancri system. Part of him thought that it was a silly idea to look for Pupper, but with half the year gone already, he needed to do something.
“Where on Earth are you going?” Mrs. Claus had seen him hurrying past, and called out from the workshop window.
“Nowhere on Earth!” he yelled back over his shoulder. “We’re going to space!” Santa threw some sacks of carrots and hay into the sleigh for the reindeer, and several big bottles of water.
“You’ll need some sandwiches then.” Mrs. Claus said matter-of-factly, and hurried to the kitchen to make sure he had enough for the trip.

Leaving the workshop in Mrs. Claus’ capable hands, Santa and his reindeer rose high above the Earth, and travelling with great speed he was soon so far away that the planet looked no bigger than a football; then a marble; then it was nothing but a tiny blue dot.
He set his course by the stars and they galloped away, leaving Sol’s system, passing comets and clouds. The days passed, and they rested at colonies which had grown from simple scientific outposts to vibrant cities. They went beyond the furthest reaches of human exploration, discovering wild planets with strangely-coloured skies and frozen oceans, glittering asteroids that tumbled chaotically through the darkness, and fizzing comets leaving crystallised trails from sparkling tails.

Finally they reached the binary star system of 55 Cancri. A red dwarf danced around a yellow sun not unlike Sol, their light over several planets. Santa turned the reindeer towards the most hospitable-looking one; a swirling orb of blue, pink and green.

They landed in a forest clearing near the outskirts of a silver city. The suns were high overhead, and mottled green and pink leaves swayed in a gentle breeze.
Santa jumped down from the sleigh and stretched. It had been a long trip, even for him. He patted each of the reindeer in turn.
“Nice work, team. Now, how are we going to find Pupper?”
A rustling in the undergrowth caught his attention. One of the reindeer snorted and pawed the ground. From beyond a large purple frond, he spotted a pair of eyes peering out at him.
The eyes blinked, then a small creature came bouncing out into the clearing. It almost looked like a child’s sock toy – short fur, floppy ears, long limbs and a long tail with a tuft on the end, and covered all over in vibrant pink and green stripes. On its head was perched a headband fitted with springs, glittery gold stars bouncing on the end, and it wore a silver jumpsuit. It blinked again, its shiny black eyes glittering with curiosity.
“I like your hat,” it said.
“I… like your stars,” Santa replied, uncertainly.
“I’m Pupper,” the creature said with a spin, ending in a graceful bow.
“Santa Claus.” Santa decided to skip the spin and just bowed.
“What are these?” Pupper hopped up to the reindeer.
“You mean you don’t have reindeer? How do you get around so quickly without them?”
“Portals,” Pupper said, as if it was obvious, then clicked his fingers and a bright blue ring appeared with a whomp. Through it, Santa could see a different landscape. “Come on, I’ll show you.” The creature hopped through.
Santa shrugged and followed him, the reindeer trailing after, their noses twitching in curiosity.
They stepped out onto a sandy shore, over which the suns were setting. A house of rolling silver cogs overlooked the pink ocean.
“Welcome to my home!” Pupper led them up to the house. It was similar to Santa’s workshop, in that a busy group of Puppy Moos were busily dashing about, mixing ingredients and chattering away, while sparkles and coloured clouds of smoke puffed up from various pots.
“I deliver stars to children so that they can wish on them,” Pupper explained. “This is where we put the wishes in.” They continued through to a room where hundreds of coloured stars hung from the ceiling. “If someone says my name, on any day or night that there is an eclipse, I take a star to them.” He peered up at Santa. “I heard you say my name today, and even though there isn’t an eclipse, I was curious, so I came to see what you were.”
“I was searching for you to ask you – I need some help.” Santa explained his problem about not being able to reach the colonies, and that Jack Frost had told him about Pupper.
“I see.” Pupper hopped up a step ladder, to a golden star. “I know how to use the portals, but I am not the keeper of the secret.” He pulled the star down, and handed it to Santa. “But I can help. Take this with you, and on the next eclipse, use it to wish on; then the secret keeper will be revealed to you.”
Santa thanked Pupper, and Pupper kindly created a portal for him to return home by.

As soon as he was back in his workshop, Santa checked the NASA website to find a list of eclipses. To his surprise and delight, there was to be a lunar eclipse in only a few weeks.
He spent the next days trying not to worry about what would happen if the star didn’t work, instead concentrating on toy production and route planning. By the night of the eclipse he had two charts prepared; one a straightforward reindeer run, the other used the reindeer and portals.
He watched the moon darken, and then held up the softly-glowing star.
The light from the star grew as Santa thought of portals and made his wish, until it vanished with a dazzling pop!

A figure glided up to him in the darkness.
“Hello, Tiddles.” Santa reached down to stroke the cat.
“Hello Santa,” the cat replied, to Santa’s surprise. “What was that noise?”
“I was wishing on a star for some help. You see, I need to deliver all the presents to the boys and girls of this world, and all the colonies in just one night, and the reindeer just aren’t fast enough.”
“Why not use portals?” Tiddles purred.
“You know how to use portals?”
“Of course. All cats do. How do you think we get back so quickly when a tin of tuna is opened?”
“Would you show me how to use them?” Santa asked.
“Hmm. Okay, if I get to ride in the sleigh this year. It has such a comfy cushion for sleeping on.”
Santa agreed that Tiddles could come along with him, and in return the cat showed him the secret of portals.

Twas the night before Christmas, when in the lounge of the house,
A sub-dimensional rift occurred, startling a mouse.
The edges were afire, glowing with blue,
And with his sack of presents, Santa stepped through.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Filling space pods with gifts, then turned with a jerk,
And with a wink of his eye, and a soft chortle,
He gave a nod, and disappeared through the portal.

He sprang to his sleigh, as quick as a whip,
And away they all flew, to the next colony ship.
A Puppy Moo waved as he flew overhead,
Wished a Happy Christmas to all on his star, and then went to bed.

(Edited to correct spelling mistake!)
Last edited by SLMatts on Sun Dec 09, 2012 7:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Short Story - Santa in Space

Post by Bmat »

This is charming! I love reading Christmas stories during this season. I don't have any suggestions to offer you. Maybe your three stanzas at the end could be reworked to keep the dactylic (I think) flow to them. - example:

The edges were afire and were glowing with blue
And sack full of presents dear Santa stepped through.

What I actually see with this short story is it made into a children's book with illustrations- maybe a book for 3rd graders and up. An example, the first paragraph would be preceded by a drawing of Santa flopped into an easy chair with Mrs. Claus in apron and cap in the background. It would be especially nice if the pictures could have a bit of Victorian detail to them.

Thank you for the smile this morning, and for something I hadn't considered about Santa's task.

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Re: Short Story - Santa in Space

Post by Asp Zelazny »

Very enjoyable; a fun story, well-designed for an illustrated book as Bmat says.
Couple of very small issues: typo vs mis-spelling at the beginning of paragraph 3: should be wAndered instead of wOndered.

Should elves be drinking coffee?? Everybody knows it "stunts their growth" afterall ....

and there is a logical breakdown in the issue of Santa's concern about needing to figure out FTL travel (after discussion with the elves), and then travelling to 55 Cancri in several days. But then, well, scientific logic isn't necessarily a strong point in Santa stories, I guess.

Also, you should be congratulated for excellent use of the classic Checkovian device:"if you show a cat in the first act, you must use it in the third act." :)

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Re: Short Story - Santa in Space

Post by SLMatts »

Thanks for the comments! :) Ah "wondered" and "wandered", I am terrible for getting those mixed up. I always read what I meant to type, instead of what I did! >.<

I like the suggestion for getting the flow back in the poem at the end, thanks for that too!

Heehee, I did consider actually sitting down and working out how fast Santa does travel, and how long it would take to get to 55 Cancri, but as you say, I figured a little bit of artistic license on that part to avoid the maths... although now I am curious how that would work out!

I'm glad you enjoyed the tale! :)

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Re: Short Story - Santa in Space

Post by Asp Zelazny »

On a quick Wikipedia check, the nearest star (Proxima Centauri) is 4.2 light years away; 55 Cancri is 41 light years away. Even travelling at the speed of light, Santa would have had to carry an awful lot of sandwiches.

We suppose Mrs Claus would have to fill in for him during the 83 (minimum) years he was away, and since everyone knows how much more efficient women are at doing things that men just putter around at, that would solve the delivery problem right there. At least, 'til Santa got back.

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Re: Short Story - Santa in Space

Post by Ariel »

I'm still a kid at heart and just loved your little story!!! :smt111

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Re: Short Story - Santa in Space

Post by SLMatts »

Thanks for the comments. :) Wow, 41 years worth of sarnies! Good job he is magic! Although maybe he already goes faster than light to get around the earth and make all those stops in one night! And he just needs to go even faster! :O

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