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“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the lab, not a creature was stirring…well except for this lad,” says Yuki, who approaches her assistant.
A dour look is embedded on his face. He is scrolling through news headlines. He doesn’t respond to Yuki.
“Helloooo,” Yuki waves her hand in front of his eyes, “Earth to my assistant. You in there?”
Startled, her assistant nearly falls back in his chair. He lets out a stifled scream and places a hand over his heart.
“Jesus! Sorry, Yuki, I was just off in my own little world.”
Yuki raises an eyebrow. “From the looks of it, your little world is a it of a nightmare. What’s going on? You’re not your usual Christmassy, cheery self.”
“Oh yeah, sorry…,” her assistant replies, turning back to the computer screen, “I saw this article about the war and I went down a rabbit hole straight to Hell.”
“And…I dunno, it’s kinda hard to get in the spirit knowing all this,” he gestures to the screen, “is happening. Like, where’s their peace? Where’s their joy?” He leans back in his chair and sighs.
“I don’t blame you there, kiddo. It’s a completely valid feeling. Trust me when I say that you’re far from the only person with those thoughts. But it won’t do you any good to dwell on it.
“I won’t tell you what to do or anything like that, but if you’d rather not come to the party later, that’s fine. But we’d all love it if you’d join us.”
Some time passes, though her assistant is largely unaware of how long (despite the clock ticking away in the lower right corner; he’s immersed with the content in the center of the screen). A glow from the far side of the laboratory draws his attention away from doom scrolling. He stands up from his chair, his legs and back crackling.
The Void is up and running.
The assistant looks around the room; he’s the only one there. Yuki isn’t tinkering with anything at her workbench, nor is she at her computer. A bout of uneasiness washes over him, but he decides to investigate. If it’s an error that caused this, he has to make a report and see if it can be shut down normally. He hesitates only for a moment and walks over—
Someone is in the room with him.
Just outside of the radiance of the portal lights, a figure stands. A hooded figure…wearing a holly wreath around the top of its head…and a small candle is balanced right on top, burning away. The figure stares him down, unmoving.
The assistant squints his eyes. “Yuki?”
The figure slumps a little. “Aww. You knew it was me?”
Her assistant blinks. “Well, who the hell else is it gonna be? If it was our friend from the other world, he wouldn’t have wasted his time with the theatrics.”
“So why are you in all that weird stuff?”
“C’mon, it’s Christmas Eve, you’re having a crisis and you haven’t moved from that computer in hours. Now, if you were doing anything else other than browsing through all that mess, I would’ve let this go. But you’ve just kept digging and digging and digging. So, I figured this was probably the best time to get you out of your funk.”
The assistant sighs. “You’ve seen one too many Christmas specials.”
Yuki scoffs. “That may very well be, but I still think I can help.” She gestures to the Void. “After you.”
The assistant shakes his head and leads the way through the portal, doubtful that anything he sees will help. Yuki stands next to him in the Void. The little round window of their world fades and for the briefest of moments they are surrounded by total darkness. Color explodes all around them and the pair hurtle through the timelines. They stand in silence and watch the settings slow down and then they come to a stop with a jolt.
They are standing in a snowy field. It’s well after dark and the assistant starts to make out ramshackle housing across a narrow, crumbled street. A light flurry starts.
“Okay, I give,” the assistant says, “what are we doing out here?”
“Just wait. You’ll see.”
It’s the only answer Yuki gives and she goes back to waiting in quiet.
“Alright,” the assistant says and sighs once more.
The wind picks up and the white powder comes down harder. A smattering of Christmas lights twinkle in the background. Some of the windows were filled with a warm white light of their own. Everyone is hunkered down for the night, no cars drive by—there isn’t even a hint of traffic on any of the surrounding streets.
Right as the assistant grew impatient enough to prod Yuki further, the sound of sleigh bells overhead caught his attention.
“You gotta be kidding me…” He looks skyward, eyes searching. And then he sees it: eight reindeer leading a sleigh with a driver in a big red coat.
The assistant takes his attention away from the unbelievable sight and turns to Yuki, who is still watching the spectacle overhead, smiling.
“You see, there are countless universes in which Santa Claus is able to supply happiness and joy to the masses. I know sometimes life can bombarded with hardships and tragedies, but there is a greater amount of good in the world than you’d think. They just don’t make the rounds as much as the bad news.”
“I just wish there’s something more we could do,” the assistant replies and thinks for a moment and adds: “Are you sure we can’t use the Void to help more people?”
Yuki turns to her assistant, the smile fading from her face. “I’ve tried that—long before you came around. It…didn’t turn out so well.”
“Not at all. The butterfly effect—not just a bad movie—changes made for the better have a ripple effect on people and places near and far. Sometimes it’s immediate; sometimes it take decades to observe the changes made. And these aren’t always for the better. While there may be some instances where everything rolls a twenty, more often than not, you create even more misery, occasionally worse than the original problem.”
Yuki puts her arm around her assistant’s shoulder. “But that doesn’t mean you should stop trying to help people in the present. Whatever happiness you create in our world, no matter what, in the grand scheme of things, still counts. Time-and-space travel aside, I can help you with that.”
“I guess that makes me feel a bit better.”
“You damn-well should! I certainly can’t be the one to be sporting enough Christmas cheer for two!”
The two turn their attention back to the houses down the way and watch as the sleigh and reindeer stop at each house on the block.
“Merry Christmas, kid.”
“Merry Christmas, Yuki.”