Fun fact, the title is a shout out to Philip K Dick, another one of my favorites, who wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.
Here it is. Hope you enjoy. Merry Christmas.
Do Reindeer Fly in Space?
by Carey Torgesen
December 8, 3013
by Carey Torgesen
December 8, 3013
Holly Shepard gazed out of the window counting stars silently, her eyes reflecting the sparkle from a nearby sun. From behind her, the clanging of pots and pans woke her from her reverie. She blinked rapidly, then turned around and watched absentmindedly as her mom cleaned the dishes.
“There’s the automatic clean cabinet for that, dear.” Mr. Shepard wrapped his arms around Mrs. Shepard and nuzzled her neck.
“Oh, I know, but I still like doing things the old-fashioned way.” Her brown curls fell across her shoulder as she kissed him lightly on the cheek and resumed her self-mandated chore.
“Hey kiddo, whatcha doing?” Mr. Shepard scuttled over to the table where Holly sat drawing doodles on her holographic workpad with her index finger.
“Umm, trying to come up with some sort of myth to research. And I can’t find anything good. Everyone took the good ones.” Holly’s bottom lip stuck out.
“How about Zeus?”
Mr. Shepard furrowed his brow. “What about the boogeyman?”
“Dad,” Holly said in a singsong voice.
“Okay? What about Isis? Hera?” His eyes widened and he snapped his fingers. “I got it! The tooth fairy!”
Holly sighed. “Dad. No. No. And Puhlease.”
“Well, sorry kiddo. Looks like you’re outta luck. Your good ol’ Dad is tapped out of ideas. I guess your thirteen-year-old mind is gonna have to go it alone.” Mr. Shepard ruffled Holly’s hair again, and headed to the sleep quarters.
“Mom? Can I head down to the data library? Maybe I can find something there.”
“Sure, hon. Just be back before the night sensors go on.”
Holly closed her pad and made her way toward the learning quarters. Why had Mr. Camden made such a big deal about this assignment? Who cared about silly old myths? After all, they were long forgotten for a reason. But still, if she was going to have to do this lame assignment, she wanted hers to be “oh my gosh I’ve never heard that myth before, it’s incredible” so her peers would be impressed. She had to be the best. She had to be noticed. Because it was always Holly who was forgotten.
When all the kids shared what they did over New Moon break, Mr. Camden skipped right over her. When everyone had to get a partner for the gravitational pull experiment in science, Holly was the one who had to go ask Ms. Cooper to assign her to a group because everyone had already paired up. Not to mention, being one of the only “One Born” kids on the entire space ship was not just mildly embarrassing, it was downright awful. So this assignment had to be good. No, scratch that. This assignment had to make miracles happen. Sadly, Holly had lost faith in miracles. To her, they were just another myth people talked fondly about.
Pressing her fingerprint into the scanner, she waited for the alarm system to disengage so the door would slide open. After the familiar whoosh of the door, Holly stepped inside, holding her breath as she made her way to the back of the room. The initial shock from the smell of the dingy past always turned her stomach. But once she got acclimated after a minute or two, the smell was tolerable. In this room, among the digital libraries and the electronic artwork displays, they held on to relics from yesteryear. She followed the smell, old wood and must, to the very back where shelves and shelves of hard backed paper bound by glue and time huddled together. Books, they had called them.
Holly stood on her tippy toes, attempting to stand as tall as she could in order to read the words in gilded gold and black ink on each of the bindings. The Pearl. Gulliver’s Travels. 1984. Frankenstein. Words she’d never heard before danced before her. What was an Othello? And why would someone spend however many pages there were talking about one?
She walked along the wall, brushing her fingers along every shelf until she found one that seemed to be different from the rest. The words, scrawled in metallic red, almost gleamed at her, as if calling out to her.
“Twas the Night Before Christmas,” she read. She turned her head to the side and examined the words, trying to glean meaning. “The night before what?” she asked herself aloud.
She pulled at the book, making sure the stacks of books on top of it didn’t collapse in a heap of destruction. The front of the book was golden with a picture of some old man in a weird red outfit. His cheeks were way too pink and he was way too close to a burning fire to be believable.
“This is a myth if I’ve ever seen one.” Holly laughed to herself. Sliding onto the floor, she crossed her legs crisscross style and opened the book, the binding cracking as she did so.
Turning the pages, she read as a poem seemed to progress from just words to a story. A man, whose sole purpose was to bring to children all over what it was they longed for most. And these kids, they asked for things and got them, just like that. It seemed absurd. And kind of ridiculous. The idea of wanting something was hard to fathom. Nobody wanted anything anymore. They all had what they needed. And if something wasn’t needed, then why would you want it?
Holly thought and thought about what she would “want” if she could ask for it. Thing was, the only thing she wanted, the only thing that mattered, was to be noticed. Ever since she could remember, she never felt like people saw her. Even her parents were too busy with their own lives to see Holly. So, if there was this guy, and he could deliver anything people wanted, how would he deliver noticing? It wasn’t exactly the kind of thing you could wrap in a tidy package presented with a shiny bow.
Holly closed the book and held it to her chest. She had found her myth.
December 9, 3013
December 9, 3013
“So, I think I know what I’m doing my assignment on,” Holly mentioned while scooping up her eggs and bacon with a slice of toast.
“That’s nice dear.” Mrs. Shepard relaxed in the massage chair and closed her eyes, sighing contentedly every so often.
Just then, Mr. Shepard walked into the kitchenette, folder in hand, dressed in his work uniform. “Hey there, kiddo. Morning.” He pinched her cheek and gave a quick kiss to her mom, waved to them both, then disappeared into the transporter.
When she got to school, she looked around and watched as all her classmates buzzed about their chosen myth. The best ones had been taken. And here she was, book in hand, with some obscure thing no one had ever heard of.
At lunch, she joined Jackson, her one and only friend she’d had since her First-Year class, and laid the book on the table in front of him.
“What’s this?” He mumbled with a full mouth of hash.
“It’s my myth. It’s about a thing called Christmas.” She anchored her hair behind her ear and pointed to the man on the cover, “And that guy there? His name is Saint Nick. Also called Santa Claus.”
Jackson’s blond eyebrow arched almost completely covered by his floppy bangs. “What is a who now?”
“It’s this guy,” she opened the book and shuffled to a page where it showed Saint Nick with a bag full of gifts, one in his hand which he was placing under a green tree filled with lights and baubles of all kinds. “And he delivers to people what they want. Things they’ve wished for all year long.”
Jackson’s face wrinkled, his lip curling. “What? What would a person wish for?”
“I don’t know,” Holly said innocently, “What would you wish for if you could have anything?”
Jackson’s face went blank. A few minutes later, he shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess I’d want some playing cards.”
“I don’t know,” Jackson shrugged, “I’ve seen them in some of the digital catalogs from a long time ago. People used to play games with them. They looked kinda cool. I guess if I could have anything, I’d wish for a pack of playing cards.”
Jackson stood up, and motioned for the mechanical cleanup crew to take his plate and utensils. “Well, I gotta head to Ms. Clemson’s history class. See ya later, Holly.”
That night, after thoroughly researching just exactly what playing cards were, Holly hunted through the surplus quarters and found a ream of paper and some wax coloring tools and stayed up half the night fashioning a set of playing cards to give to Jackson.
What if this myth, this Christmas, was resurrected? What if for her assignment, she brought it back? Holly smiled at the thought of making Jackson smile. Her heart warmed at the very idea of anonymously giving her one true friend, the thing he wished for.
December 10, 3013
December 10, 3013
Pushing through the throng of kids, Holly peered over a shoulder to see what the commotion was about. There, on the table, wrapped in gold leaf paper, was a small box adorned with a card which read: To Jackson, From: Saint Nick.
Holly beamed. Jackson sat at his desk looking around. His eyes met Holly’s and she winked knowingly. He looked back down at the box, a goofy grin pasted on his face, picked up the gift and carefully peeled back the paper bit by bit. Holly tried to stand higher and higher on the balls of her feet with each agonizingly slow rip. She chewed on her upper lip. He was purposely going this slow just to tease her.
Opening the box, Jackson gasped as he pulled out the stack of paper, each one decorated by hand with numbers and shapes: hearts, clubs, diamonds, and spades.
“What is that?” One chubby kid asked in a high-pitched squeal.
“I don’t believe it! They’re playing cards.”
“What do you do with them?” Another kid asked.
Jackson shrugged. “You play with them, games and stuff.”
“What kind of games?” Someone else from the back asked.
“I don’t know exactly, but I guess I’ll research and find out.”
“Cool,” the chubby kid said.
In minutes, the crowd had dispersed. Holly just stood there, hands wrapped in one another, staring at her shoes. “So, you like them, then?”
“Like them? They’re awesome, Holly. Thanks.”
“Why are you thanking me? I didn’t give them to you,” Holly said matter of factly.
“What? Yes you did. The conversation we had at lunch? Now I have the thing I said I wished for? Please. I know it was you.”
“Hey, I’m just saying Saint Nick knows all. And he probably knew you wanted those. Thank him.” Holly smiled.
“Ok, yeah. Sure. Saint Nick.”
December 11, 3013
December 11, 3013
“Holly Shepard. You’re up.” Mr. Camden stood by his desk, his auburn hair neat and tidy, and motioned for her to stand up and head to the front of the class.
Holly nervously stood, held the book close to her heart where it had burrowed in and taken a hold, and shuffled to the front, feeling everyone’s eyes on her. She wanted to be noticed, but not in the “we’re all watching and judging you” kind of way.
She stopped, turned, and bit her upper lip; her cheeks reddened and her heart raced.
“We’re ready when you are, Holly,” said Mr. Camden.
Really? Because Holly would never be ready.
“So, my myth is about a tradition from the old days, back on a place called Earth.” She stopped, glanced over at Mr. Camden searching for some reaction. But he just stood there, aloof, stoic as always.
“Uh,” she continued, “So, the myth goes that there’s this man who lives in a place called the North Pole, and all year long he watches all the boys and girls on Earth and taking notes on if they are naughty or well behaved. Then, every year, on December 24th, he would ride in a sleigh pulled by animals called reindeer, and they would fly him all over the place. And he would bring gifts to everyone. He would give them what they wished for most. And the next morning, everyone wakes up and opens their gifts and spend time together.”
Holly looked over at Mr. Camden again hoping she’d said enough. Judging by his confused expression, she guessed she hadn’t. “Ok, then. Anyone have questions for Holly?”
Every hand in the room shot up and Holly shrunk back in fear. She didn’t quite know what to do. She pursed her lips and called on the kid in the front row, his name was Willum she remembered.
“So, you’re saying this guy flew with animals…in the sky? And gave every person on Earth gifts?” Willum laughed uncontrollably. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
The classroom erupted in laughter.
“It is not!” Holly yelled. “It’s sweet and kind. It’s about people giving to one another because they care about them. It’s about love and hope and family. It’s about being together. And being noticed.” Holly barely felt the tears rolling down her cheek, but she knew they were there. Her mouth tightened and she glared at Mr. Camden who stood there like a statue, not doing anything.
Holly booked out of the room, ran down the hall and into the nurse’s office. Feigning illness, she asked to go home. When her parents got home, she stayed in her bed with the covers drawn. She never wanted to go back there again.
December 12, 3013
December 12, 3013
Holly decided to stay home from school. She remained in her bed all day long, reading ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas from cover to cover, repeatedly.
December 15, 3013
Holly woke up, and got ready for school. She got dressed in her school uniform like she did every day. She wrapped a red ribbon around her ebony locks like she did every day. And she ate breakfast—toast, eggs, and bacon—like she did every day.
But when she got to school, Holly saw something she did not see every day. As she entered Mr. Camden’s class, there, on three desks, were gifts wrapped in gold leaf paper adorned with red bows. Each had a tag labeled with someone’s name (Lily, Brutus, and Geoffrey) and all said From: Saint Nick.
Holly’s stomach tightened. Was this some kind of mean joke? Were they taunting her? Making fun of something she suddenly held so dear? And why didn’t Mr. Camden do something about it?
Red faced, Holly clenched her fists and marched to her seat and sunk down in the chair. She would not let them get to her.
But to her surprise, Lily, Brutus, and Geoffrey ran to their desks, shredding the paper and tearing into the gifts. One was a pencil set. One was a bracelet made out of odd knick knacks, and one was a set of magnets. Each child held their gift in their hands and beamed, sheepishly looking around trying to figure out who had given them the lovely surprises.
And something else was different too. When a few kids walked by Holly’s desk, they smiled at her and said “hello”.
Was the Christmas myth spreading?
December 16, 3013
December 16, 3013
Holly’s jaw dropped when she walked in to Mr. Camden’s class. On every single desk, including Mr. Camden’s, lay a bright red and white striped cane smelling of peppermint, ornamented with a ribbon. They all had a tag which said: From Saint Nick.
December 17, 3013
December 17, 3013
Walking with Jackson through the halls to the lunch quarters, Holly noticed a strange smell. It was sweet with hints of cinnamon. She didn’t know quite what to make of it until they turned the corner. Right there, in the middle of the lunchroom, on a table, was the most beautiful array of gingerbread houses. It was an entire city made of gingerbread. Or at least what Holly imagined a city might look like. She’d only seen them in the history films.
Candy crusted walls, brick and mortar made of chocolate bars and icing, it was more breathtaking then Holly could have ever dreamed. It looked exactly like one of the pages in ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. A Christmas miracle was happening.
December 18, 3013
December 18, 3013
Holly jumped out of bed, eagerly throwing on her school uniform. Barely sweeping a brush through her hair, even forgetting the red ribbon which usually held her locks, she flew into the kitchen, stuffed the toast and eggs in her mouth, and rushed out the door. She wondered what today would bring. Each day bested the one previous. What would she see today? People dressed like elves? Mistletoe? Stockings hung by imaginary mantles?
With long strides she hurried through the hall, her head whipping from side to side waiting to be shocked and surprised by some new thrill of Christmas cheer.
But her hopes sunk lower and lower the closer she came to the classroom. Nothing was new. Nothing had changed. Her pace slowed, and her smile vanished.
“It couldn’t last forever,” she said to herself.
She reached for the scanner to open the classroom door when she heard something coming from the other side. She lowered her hand, cocked her head to the side, and leaned in, trying to identify what it was exactly. Something like…music. She leaned in closer. Singing. It was definitely singing. And it wasn’t just one person. It was a group of people. A large group of people.
She grinned as she scanned her finger and the door opened.
“Silent night. Holy night. All is calm. All is bright.” Everyone in the class was in a circle hovering around a holographic piano which played a tune. And they were all singing. Mr. Camden looked over at Holly, smiled brightly, and walked over to her, placing a piece of paper in her hand. She looked down at the paper and noticed words. Lyrics, she thought.
Holly squeezed in next to Willum, who turned and nodded, and she started singing with them.
December 19, 3013
December 19, 3013
Holly walked through the hallway to class with Jackson. They marveled as day by day, the space ship, once cold and gray, transformed into a living, breathing Christmas postcard. The walls were covered in gold leaf paper, bells hung intermittently from the steel rafters, and hundreds of twinkling lights raced and sparkled in random patterns reflecting off the shiny floor giving the ship a candlelit glow. Holly’s heart swelled with pride and happiness.
December 22, 3013
December 22, 3013
A loud click was heard over the intercom, followed by some static and then a voice. “Good morning, fellow citizens, do we have a treat for you. Would all citizens on the C Deck come and meet in the commons. Would all people on the C Deck please report to the commons. Thank you.”
“I wonder what’s going on?” Mr. Shepard said, his work folder in his hand. He’d almost missed the announcement by being in the transporter.
“I’m not sure, but we’d better hurry up. It must be important,” Mrs. Shepard tidied her hair and put on her heels.
Holly followed her parents’ fast clip, making their way past the halls and lunch quarters to the Great Common Room. Once there, the large room was already packed with people, all crowding around the stage area, where the President and captain of the Infinity Starship stood. She tapped the clear computer screen in front of her and her image projected large and three dimensional above everyone’s heads.
“Good morning all, I know this is quite unprecedented. But it has come to my attention that certain things have been occurring on this ship lately. Cookie houses, carols, gifts, traditions of a generation long since passed. At first, I grew concerned with this sudden interest in traditions which really have no place here anymore. But I ignored it, hoping it would go away. But, it didn’t. Instead it became a contagion, spreading. I intended on immediately putting a stop to it because some old traditions can be dangerous. But then I noticed something. The people around me, smiled more. I heard laughing more often. And people generally seemed to be listening to each other more. Reaching out. So I let it continue. Then, the other day, my son came to me, and asked me what I would wish for if I could have anything. I told him, the only thing I wanted was more time at home with him, his sister, and their father.”
The President paused, sniffled, and patted her rosy cheeks. “And the next day, he’d arranged with the Co-President, for me to have a day off. He planned activities for us to do. For the first time in years, I spent the entire day with my family. It was a dream come true. I realized, though we have come far from the world of our ancestors, this tradition, Christmas it’s called, should be brought back. So, I’m giving to you the gift I was given. Time off from your jobs, from school, from your community responsibilities to take care of your first responsibility, your family. So, from now on, December 24th and 25th will be holidays. And you will all be given the time to spend at home. Merry Christmas.”
The image of the President dissolved and she waved from the stage and blew air kisses into the audience. Everyone around Holly cheered. She looked up at her parents, who were looking at each other, then down at her, and then they smiled and joined hands.
Holly had never felt so happy.
December 23, 3013
December 23, 3013
Jackson nudged Holly. “You did this.”
“What do you mean?” Holly asked, concerned she was getting blamed for something.
“This.” Jackson fanned out his arms, motioning toward all the decorations and people who moved about them smiling and humming jolly holiday tunes. Adults had now gotten into the gift giving spirit. Everyone everywhere had arms filled with small packages, some clearly unwrapped and some on their way to some lucky recipient. None of the gifts were extravagant. Just simple things, given to people to in efforts to make them feel appreciated and loved. A locket here, a paper bouquet there, and sometimes even a simple handmade card. Thing was people were thinking about each other in a way they hadn’t thought about others in years. Maybe even centuries.
“All I did was research a myth.” Even though a part of her knew he was right, Holly wasn’t so bold as to take credit for such a miracle.
“You brought back Christmas. Before you, no one even knew what Christmas was. Now, look around you Holly. It’s amazing.”
Holly fought back a wide smile. “Maybe it was Saint Nick that brought it back.”
Jackson rolled his eyes. “Yeah, ok. Saint Nick.” He chuckled.
December 24, 3013
December 24, 3013
Holly got up and stayed in her bed clothes. She scuttled to the kitchen and was stunned at what she saw. There, in the corner of the kitchen which adjoined to the family quarters, was a tall man-made metallic tree, complete with glass ornaments and a shiny gold star at the top. Underneath the fake branches were three gifts wrapped up and arranged neatly. Holly gasped and giggled and twirled around. From behind her she heard stifled laughter. She turned to see her parents, still holding hands and watching Holly gaze at the tree.
“Mom. Dad. Did you do this?” Holly skipped over to her parents and threw her arms around them both, attempting to hold them both in one single show of affection.
“We sure did, Holly. We wanted you to have what you wished for,” Mr. Shepard said. “Your very own Christmas. And look,” Mr. Shepard pointed to the book laying open on the table which had been Holly’s nightly read since the day she’d found it. Holly looked at the open page, a tree exactly like the one standing not two feet in front of her, and she glowed with joy.
Though it wasn’t exactly what she wished for, it was close enough for her.
December 25, 3013
December 25, 3013
Holly jumped on her parents’ bed, plopping right in between the two sleeping mounds.
“It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas! Time to get up and open presents.”
With a wrinkled brow and a scowl, Mr. Shepard glared at Holly. “Can you give us five minutes to get up and ready before you maul us?”
Mrs. Shepard grumbled.
“Fine. Just five minutes.” Holly climbed over her dad, then hopped and skipped into the family quarters. She sat with her legs crisscrossed and stared at the presents just wondering what they could be.
Five minutes passed and as promised, her parents had come out, with robes over their bedclothes, and sat down. Holly grabbed each present and read the tag aloud.
To Beverly Shepard, From: Saint Nick. She passed the gift to her mom.
To Jeremy Shepard, From: Saint Nick. She passed the gift to her dad.
Then she finally grabbed the last gift. To Holly Shepard, From: Saint Nick. Seeing those words, with her name attached, even though she knew very well there was no Saint Nick, made her heart skip. She hugged the gift. She didn’t even need to open it. She could have held it forever just as it was and it couldn’t have been any more special. Holly was sure of that.
First Mr. Shepard opened his gift. A knitted blanket in his favorite color, crimson.
Then Mrs. Shepard opened her gift. A new dress, a black evening shift with gloves.
Holly hesitated. Whatever was inside wasn’t near as important as what she had right now; time with her family. It was all she’d ever wished for. Almost.
“Go on, Holly. Open it.” Mr. Shepard said.
Holly pulled at the paper carefully, trying to breathe in every moment, every feeling of this day, her very first Christmas ever. Inside the paper was a box. She lifted up the lid. Inside the box, was a journal. On the front, in silver scrawled etching it said: Holly Joy Shepard, our One Born. She picked it up carefully, opened it, and flipped to the first page.
July 16, 3000. Our baby girl was born today. She is the most beautiful thing we’ve ever laid eyes on. We are so lucky. I love our family.
Holly’s breathing hitched. It was a book. About her.
She flipped through more pages.
Today Holly lost her first tooth and Today Holly went to her First Year class. It is very lonely around here. I miss her. Pages and pages of events, both major and minor were all chronicled almost daily. Holly flipped to the one of the last completed pages.
December 8th Today Holly went down to the old data library to do some research. She seemed kind of sad. I wish I could take away all her unhappy thoughts. I know I don’t say it much, but Holly is the best thing that ever happened to me. And I love her so much.
A tear welled up in Holly’s eye and her throat tightened. She clenched her jaw and stole a look at her parents. Her mother and father had taken turns writing in the book. Some entries showcased the rounded bubble script of her mom, some the harder, straighter lines from her dad.
She turned to the final entry. It was dated December 24, 3013. Last night. One sentence was all that was written. One sentence that said so much.
Our amazing Holly singlehandedly brought back Christmas.
It was at that moment, Holly realized she’d gotten exactly what she wished for so many weeks ago. Undeniably, her parents had noticed her. All these years. Every single day.
It was a very, Merry Christmas indeed.