Short Story Contest Entry by Savannah
“Elves Don’t Carry Guns”
The Christmas Eve I first met Claire was, in retrospect, a terrible evening.
It was my first time as a deliverer, and I promptly broke about thirty-two of the Code’s forty rules.
I was quite near the beginning of my route, when it happened. I was starting to feel confident as I jammed my transporter into a drift on the roof of my next house. Checking the stun gun strapped to my hip, I pulled my black gloves back on. I hadn’t had to use the weapon yet―it could leave a human disabled for a short amount of time, and wipe any extremely recent memories―but it was standard procedure to check your weapon before entering a home.
I snuck in through the upstairs window nearest me and promptly set my bag on the carpeted floor, pulling my ski goggles up onto my forehead so I could see more clearly in the dim hall. My navigation pad said that there were four in the family―the parents and two children. I had two more houses in this neighborhood, and then I’d move to the next town. If I stayed on schedule, I’d have enough time for a coffee break at ten o’ clock.
“Five minutes, no more.” I mumbled to myself.
I looked up and froze. A human was standing in front of me. She was holding a gun pointed at me, and I was certain it would do more than simply knock me out.
“Put your hands in the air.”
I obeyed, thinking frantically. The human was young―at least, no older than me―and she looked as frightened as I felt. Maybe all I needed to get out of this situation was a little false confidence.
“You’re just a kid.” she said suddenly. I shrugged.
“So are you.”
We stood in silence for a long, awkward moment before I said,
“Can I put my arms down now? They’re getting kind of tired.”
The girl hesitated before nodding.
“Okay. But don’t try anything. And hand me your weapon.”
I lowered my arms slowly, noting that her gun was still trained on me. Pulling the stun gun from my belt, I handed it to her reluctantly. I had a brief thought of shooting her with it as she reached for it, but she might shoot me as she fell, and the last thing I wanted to do was end up full of holes.
“Are you a robber?”
I looked down at my black clothes.
“Then what are you doing here?”
“I’m, ahh, here with the power company.”
“Sure. Dressed in black and sneaking in through a window? I don’t think so.”
I gave up on finding a plausible lie and pulled up my license on my navigation pad.
“I’m here for the CDS of North America. Why are you awake?”
“What’s the CDS?”
“Christmas Delivery Service.”
“I’ve never heard of it.” She crossed her arms skeptically.
“We try to keep a low profile, seeing as you humans are kind of inquisitive and all.”
“What do you mean, you humans?”
“Well you don’t think I’m a human, do you?” I said with a derisive snort.
“You look like one to me.”
“Well, I’m not. I’m an elf.”
“Really? Where’s all your tinsel and bells and candy cane striped tights?”
She didn’t sound convinced.
“You really expect me to silently deliver presents all around the world wrapped in jingle bells and Christmas lights?” I asked dryly. “You have no idea how difficult it is to keep humans asleep, even with my extraordinary skill and cat-like reflexes.”
She snorted a laugh.
“But I thought Santa delivered presents.” Her tone made it obvious that she had long since grown out of that belief.
“In, like, the sixteenth century. That was before improved medicine, and the huge world population growth, and Walmart.”
“So now you do the work?”
“Well, I don’t believe you.”
“Why not?” I assumed my best wounded expression.
“Elves don’t carry guns.” she said bluntly.
“I do.” I said, raising an eyebrow and crossing my arms defensively. “Do you have a problem with that?”
“Whatever.” she shrugged. “So what’s your name?”
“Owen? Shouldn’t it be something more…elvish?”
“I hate to break it to you, but this is reality, not Middle Earth.”
“I’m Claire.” She paused before asking, “How do you deliver presents? You don’t have a bag or anything.”
“Of course not.”
I held up my navigation pad and typed in the delivery code. Authorizing the load, I put my fingers on the glass and pulled them up. A 3D digital model of a wrapped gift hovered above the screen.
“Are you crazy? It’s not real―it’s just a projection.” she protested.
“Do you want your present or not?”
She reached out and took it. As she did, it suddenly grew heavy and real in her hands, and she almost dropped it on my pad.
“Watch it!” I warned, but the first time she didn’t reply for several moments.
“Whoa.” she breathed, her blue eyes sparkling. “You were telling the truth.”
“Well, you lied about the power company.”
My cheeks went red, and I scratched the back of my neck awkwardly.
“I forgive you. At least you aren’t here to rob us.”
“I wouldn’t have been here to scare you if my nav-pad hadn’t said you were all gone. It must have had the wrong house.”
“We were supposed to be at our church’s Christmas Eve service, but our car broke down and we had to ride with our neighbors, so there wasn’t enough room for me.”
She sounded a little sad.
“Well, I’d better finish up here.” I said awkwardly, pulling up another present. “Where’s your Christmas tree?” I asked as it loaded.
I followed her down a flight of steps and we put the remaining packages around the tree with others.
“I bet you have a lot of fun doing this.” She said as we finished.
“Yeah. Until you get caught at gunpoint.” I said with a grin.
“It’s my brother’s pellet gun.” she said, blushing.
“Well, it works great for inducing heart attacks.”
We were quiet for a moment before Claire asked,
“Can I come with you?”
“Just for half an hour.” she explained in a rush. “I could help you deliver presents, and still get back home before everyone else. Please?”
“Sure, bring a human girl along with me for the evening.” I shrugged, considering her plan. “It would only land me back at base for the rest of my life!”
“You get grounded?”
“If we blatantly break the CDS Code, yes.”
“I’ll give you back your stun gun.” she bargained. “And I won’t tell a soul―not ever!”
“You can’t be serious.” I felt my heart sink. “You will not get a single present next year―I can guarantee that.”
“There’s always birthdays, you know.”
“I will contact the Birthday agency myself.”
I groaned inwardly. If I said no, she’d have my gun and she probably tell her family that she’d caught an elf breaking in through the upstairs window. After that, every human in North America would be trying to catch us, and I’d be toast back at base. On the other hand, if I let her come, I might have a chance to survive. Besides, I was eating away at my break time.
“Fine. Half an hour. I get my gun back, you keep quiet.”
“Yes!” she said, jumping with excitement. “Be right back―I’ll grab my coat and boots!”
“You’ve got three minutes.”
I headed back up the stairs to the window I’d entered and pulled my ski goggles back down.
Two minutes and thirty-four seconds later, Claire and I were crawling out onto the snowy roof of the house. It wasn’t steep, but her boot laces weren’t tied, and I steadied her as we stood.
“So where’s your reindeer?”
“Reindeer? Do you ride a horse-drawn carriage to school?”
I pulled my transporter out of the drift I’d wedged in and activated it. My nav pad had already calculated the next address I needed to visit, and I stepped into its glassy, circular surface.
Claire stepped onto it beside me, I hit the transport button, and we were gone in the blink of an eye.
We popped up at my next destination, and I stepped off, looking up at the dark, quiet house in front of us. Claire didn’t move.
“That was amazing.” she breathed. “What just happened?”
“It’s a transporter. You type in the address, and it takes you where you want to go. Quite simple, really.”
“But how does it work?”
“I’m a deliverer, not an inventor.”
We snuck in through the living room window, dropping onto the carpet as silently as possible. Unlike Claire, this house had no stray humans wandering about, and there was little difficulty in dropping off the gifts and sneaking back outside.
“I feel like a robber.” Claire giggled as I shut the window softly behind us.
“Now do you understand why I wear black?”
We managed to get in and out of the next several houses without waking anyone, although a close call with a large dog nearly made me fall over with fright. Claire, surprisingly enough, did not wake the neighborhood, although she did hum Christmas carols under her breath for the majority of the evening. By the time we’d finished with all the nearby houses, I’d caught up to my schedule, and was trying not to acknowledge that having a friend with me―human or not―was nice. We transported back to her house, and sat side by side on the rooftop. I watched her tip back her head, gazing up at the stars like she’d never seen them before.
“Shooting star!” she gasped, her face lighting up as she pointed to a streak of light. “Hey, do you grant wishes?”
“I’m an elf, not a genie.”
“What can I get for a shooting star?”
I pulled a candy cane out of my pocket and handed it to her.
After a moment, she pulled the stun gun out of her coat pocket and handed it to me.
“Here. Thanks for letting me help.”
A car turned in at the far end of the street. “I think that’s my family,” she said. “I’d better go. See you next year!”
She ducked into the window and disappeared before I could tell her that I didn’t know whether or not I’d be back next year. After all, I might end up as a packing elf.
But she was counting on me to come.
“Okay. Next year.” I said. “See you soon.”