How Elves are Made

Dear Santa

A few Christmases ago, I lost my father. The night before, we went to sleep like normal. When we woke up, there were gifts under the tree, but my father was missing. I haven't seen him for months and miss him a lot.

My mom, brothers, and sister have all completely forgotten about him, but I haven't.

This year, I don't want any toys or gifts. I just want my father back.

Thanks, Angela

PS: Please help.

At the time, I was so desperate that I sent the letter in July to be doubly sure that Santa got it in time to find my father and return him to me. In October, I received a letter back

Hello Angela,

I have received your letter and can assure you that your father is safe and sound. I am more than happy to bring him to you on Christmas, but there will be a price.

If you are willing, please meet me at 1:03 AM next to your chimney on Christmas

Thanks, Chris (AKA Santa)

And that leads us to Christmas Eve. I asked my mom if I could stay up late for Santa, and after a bit of pleading, she reluctantly agreed.

So I sat on my rocking chair, hot cocoa in hand, covered in a warm Christmas blanket. My eyes were constantly flickering between the clock and the fireplace, where flames quietly cracked and hissed. Every now and again, the wood would shuffle a bit and sparks would fly, but I wasn't paying attention to the fire, itself. See, it was midnight. Santa would be here in an hour, and he would be entering through the chimney. I felt a bundle of different emotions: excitement, anxiety, confusion...

Why was my father with Santa to begin with?
Why did no one else in my family remember anything?
Why was Santa willing to meet me when he usually worked in secret?

No matter the case, I would have my answers soon.

With every tick of the clock, I could feel my eyes droop, and with every blink, more time seemed to pass. Suddenly, I was awoken by a light tapping on the roof. My eyes jolted open and darted to the clock. It was 1:00 AM.

Santa was here.

I stared intently at the fireplace, where the smoldering cinders still glowed slightly. Any minute now, I would get my answers. Soon, a splash of water fell down the chimney, creating a plume of smoke as it extinguished the remnants of the fire. Through the smoke, I saw the silhouette of a large man, carrying a sack of gifts.

As the room cleared, I began to make out a red costume and large, white beard. The man's face was withered with age, and his glasses were trimmed with gold. He chuckled to himself as his blue eyes settled on me.

"Ho Ho Ho!" He said with a grin, "You must be Angela! I have been looking forward to this!"

"Santa!" I screamed, "I can't believe you actually came!" I ran to him and gave him the biggest hug I could.

"Ho Ho Ho, my dear!" He patted my head and pushed me away slightly so he could kneel down to eye level. "Now about your father..."

"Yes, where is he?" I asked. "You said I could see him?"

"Yes, but it comes with a price."

"I'll pay anything! Just let me see him!"

"Ho Ho Ho! Very well, but I warned you." In that moment, his eyes seemed to glow a bright amber before fading back into blue. He then moved his sack to the floor and reached into it, pulling out a wooden doll, no taller than 2 feet. "Here he is."

I stared at it for a bit. It was dressed from head to toe in a strange green outfit with black shoes and a large black belt. It did look a little like my father. It had a trimmed beard and slightly-thinning hair. Its build was also similar, with a broad chest, but thin legs. It stared up at me with somewhat lifeless eyes before tilting its head to and fro and walking closer to me to hug my leg. It began muttering something in a strange robotic language, "I -- I -- I --" It was clearly a little broken. No matter how much it might have resembled my father, it was still a toy.

"This isn't my father." I said. "Is it an elf? A toy?"

"It is all three. Elves must come from somewhere." Santa said, his voice now sinister. He then pulled out a small mirror from his sack and said, "Here. Have a look."

My heart started beating faster than ever before as I looked at myself in the mirror. My face was becoming smooth, and my hair synthetic. I could feel myself shrinking as my pajamas fell to the floor, leaving me naked and trembling in the cold. My grip loosened on the mirror as my hands became wooden, and I could feel a new outfit begin to wrap around my body. First came the boots, and then the tights, followed by a green dress and hat.

I was now the same height as the toy that was once my father, who was still stuttering, "I -- I -- I -- I am so sorry." Even through the transformation, my father had done his best to hold me tight.

"Ho Ho Ho!" Santa said again. "It looks like we are done! Don't worry, dear elf, what comes next will be fun!"

"I -- I -- I --" I began stuttering like my father once did. I had so much to say, "I don't want to go with you!" or "I can't believe you have done this to me!" But mostly, I just wanted to hug my father one last time and say, "I love you, dad."

But as I did so, I did not feel any warmth or joy, just the wooden surface of another toy.

[Prompt: Your father disappeared during Christmas, many years ago. You have searched the world for him, but to no avail. On the verge of losing hope, you decide to try out the one thing that has never failed you: writing a letter to Santa Claus.]

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