A Christmas Fantasy
(Or follow the black powder path in fantasyland wearing a pink nightie!)

by JMDragon  


Christmas was coming! Yep like galloping reindeer herding them along for the short festive season.

Short for her anyway, she couldn't afford to celebrate it as she would have liked. As she gazed at the shop window that always fascinated her from the first day she saw it after losing her job three months ago. Now living off benefit but not for much longer she hoped, as she stopped at the recessed bay storefront and contemplated what could have been.

If it were Dickens times she would be like a beggar woman unable to clothe and feed herself, fortunately it wasn't that bad. Merely swallowing ones pride and stepping into the job centre every two weeks to claim the allowance the government allowed.

The only thing festive about her was her name, Noelle Mistletoe! Her mother had chosen it as she was born Christmas Eve. Not that she celebrated the event much, having left home for the big city several years ago, unable to admit to her parents that she had failed in her bid to make a fortune in the golden paved streets of London. Yeah fantasising again! Oh yes she'd seen an ad for Dick Whittington as she walked by the local theatre, funny how the imagination created havoc.

Starring into the shop window once more she saw a special edition photo print of her favourite show, those girls could certainly kick ass! Pity the series was coming to an end had in fact ended in reality but she was still trying to catch up.

Scanning the area around her she saw people scuttling by like ants busy with their everyday tasks and taking no notice of what was going on around them. At least that was one thing she had enjoyed having all this free time on her hands, the chance to take in her surroundings and talk with people again. Not that she did that much everyone in her apartment block had places to go but the odd retired person would stop and regale her with their news or simply moan as old people were apt to. Her in-built curiosity and compassion often let her in for some heavy moaning sessions from certain residents close by.

Moving away she snuggled into her muffler as the chill wind from the east made her think it was sub zero temperatures when the weather was relatively mild for the time of the year.

As she made to move away from the corner of the street that the shop straddled, she heard a gruff bark from the small dark alleyway to the left of the shop, another stray probably.

Watching the traffic left and right she was startled when she felt a tugging at her trousers, glancing down from her rather short height of five foot four, her blonde well cut hair swinging over her forehead, she spied who was at her feet calling for her attention.

"Grrrrr..grrrr." the rather scruffy looking Heinz 57 variety dog repeatedly pulled at her trousers.

Noelle was perturbed it wasn't large enough to cause her any trouble but it obviously wanted her attention.

"What scruff, what do you want?" She knelt closer to the dog and wasn't exactly enamoured at it touching her, it looked like it needed a good bath and grooming. Poor creature probably had never had a decent meal in its life never mind someone to look after it.

"Grrrr…woof,woof." Now the dog stopped it's antics and trotted back to the alley but stood at the top waiting for her to follow.

Okay, okay this is another fantasy world, now it's like Alice in Wonderland and instead of a rabbit I'm going to follow a dog. Yeah right! Shaking her head she softly waved her hands in a shooing motion convinced the dog would leave her alone and she could make it across the road and out of it's way.

However, that wasn't quite what happened as she did the waving around with her arms she didn't realise that she was making a spectacle of herself as she swung round to cannon into the side of another person who had turned the corner at that moment.

Noelle's flashing green eyes looked up at the tall figure and caught the laughter filled blue ones that caused her to gaze at the beautiful features of the woman smiling broadly at her antics.

"Is your dog running away from you or are you running away from it?" The twinkling blue eyes filled with merriment and Noelle was sure she was teasing.

"No! No of course not, I would never…that is, the dog isn't mine."

The woman who glanced at the dog thumping his rather straggly tail on the concrete, probably thinking if his first victim didn't succumb there was always a chance of another.

"Really? Could have fooled me, he looks like he knows you pretty well." The woman smiled at the red-faced woman who came up to her shoulders and then to the dog, who had a lop-sided kind of cute smile on its face.

"He doesn't. Never seen him before today." Noelle tried once more to explain and then looked at the dog who was giving her an adoring look…. sheesh how do you counter that expression?

The taller woman moved towards the dog that thumped his tail even more madly on the floor as she came closer. "He looks neglected, have you been feeding him?"

Noelle was exasperated now, how many more times did she have to explain this. "He's not mine I tell you, he's a stray I think."

"Okay, hey fellow what's your name? Mine's Holly Claus." The woman bent her tall frame and patted the dog sympathetically on the head, much to the dog's delight.

"He doesn't speak you know." Noelle couldn't help herself from mentally smacking her forehead as she realised how stupid a remark that was.

"Yep I know, always wise to be polite you never know in this world what will happen next."

"I suppose, look I have to go…see you." The shorter woman made towards her earlier destination the sidewalk and her attempt to go over the road.

"See you Blondie."

Noelle once more stopped in her tracks as she momentary looked back around to decipher that odd comment. It was rather familiar for someone who had only met her little more than five minutes earlier. As she did so she was amazed to find that the woman and the dog were nowhere to be seen, having vanished into thin air.

Walking back to the top of the alleyway she shouted down expecting the woman to be there, the small dark alley was silent. Except for the blowing of wind in the recesses of the building, giving it an eerie aspect. Otherwise she couldn't see anyone or hear anything else.

"Where had she gone?"


Noelle had wondered not for the first time in a week what had happened to her that day she stopped at the shop window, surely it must have been a figment of her fevered imagination. After all, the very next day she'd taken to her bed with a particularly vicious flu bug. Today as she left the job centre she thought perhaps it might be a good time to go home. Had it been six years since her last family Christmas visits with her parents? Yeah it must be, this year Danny was going to be home from University and he was bringing home his fiancée too! Her mother had tried to convince her that she should be there, but with her finances in disaster she'd told them she was busy…it was only a white lie, who knew she might get a job and be able to make it.

Three days to go before Christmas day it wasn't looking good, not even a temporary job to help see her through the festive period. Her skills weren't exactly in demand and she had to admit that maybe it was time to reconsider taking up the retraining programme offered to her in computers. At least then she might be in a position to get some kind of job in the New Year.

As she turned into the familiar street that lead to the shop window she loved to look into, not really understanding why it was so fascinating, it was only an antique bric-a-brac shop. Rubbish in many instances but on occasion it did have some unusual and rather interesting pieces.

The weather forecasters had remarked that it might snow and sure enough as she pulled her rather inadequate jacket closer to her body she felt the snow slowly drift down, her eyes looking at the skies which appeared to be full of heavy snow clouds. As she did so a rather large snowflake dropped onto her nose and the moisture trickled down over her lips.

"Damn I'm going to get wet."

Deciding it was as well to carry on home as it looked like once the snow started it would carry on for sometime. Then she was accosted once more at her feet with the familiar sound of a small dog and it's tugging at her trouser leg.

"Oh no not you again? What happened you lost tall blue eyes and now you've come to find a second best?"

Smiling as she recalled the woman from the previous week, she had indeed been very beautiful in fact she reminded her of one of her action heroines, wonder if anyone else had ever compared her to the superstar. Those blue eyes of hers Noelle would have gladly drowned in any day of the week.

The dog let go as she spoke and ran towards the alleyway; this time she didn't hesitate she followed and stood looking down the small but dark alleyway.

"I know boy you've got a secret hiding place and it must be a weird place if tall dark and beautiful could disappear too. Want to show me?"

As she followed the dog who was now wagging his tail profusely, she felt the chill of the wet snow fall away as if she was leaving it behind in the street, and here in this dark alleyway she was in another land altogether. Oh god here she was being fanciful again, what did it mean was she hallucinating?

The dog stopped abruptly at the end of the alley, a red brick wall leading nowhere that she could gauge. In front of her the brickwork old and in someplaces the mortar no longer visible replaced instead with green mould, decaying would be the best description she could think of. What the hell was she doing here anyway?

"Okay Scruff here I am what next? Last time I heard walking through brick walls wasn't in my resume. Unless I've suddenly died and become a phantom, at this rate getting chilled to the bone it might yet happen."

Scruff the mongrel looked up at her with brightness in his eyes that made her wonder if he was enchanted, and then he turned and did exactly what she said couldn't happen, he walked towards the wall and disappeared!

"Wow…what in the world!"

Glancing around her she felt sure that this was a piece of trickery that surely was being carried out and she was the willing victim here. As she turned back to the wall she was amazed to see the dog's tail wagging inside the wall…or was it on one side and the rest of the other. Okay she was seeing things the meds she'd been taking for her flu bug must have some really strange side effects.

What was it that people said, in for a penny in for a pound, well this was sure some penny!

"I can do this, if the dog can do this I can. All that can happen is I'm going to hit the wall and break my bloody nose!" Pivoting on her heels once more to see if anyone else had decided this dark alleyway was the place to visit on a cold snowy December morning. No!

"Right Scruff here I come!"

Walking with her eyes closed towards the wall hoping against hope that she did hit it with a crash and she was back to reality….


"Tobias you could have warned us that your new friend was mute."

"She wasn't when I was on the other side, humans never know how to enjoy themselves when they come across a good thing."

"Tobias, if the female opened her eyes maybe she could see what she's missing, ask her?"

"Oh okay, there's no time to lose if we want to get to the inn on time."

The blue-sky overhead turned a pale grey with rapid speed soon it would be dark and they would have to make up a campfire.

"Time to open those pretty green eyes human."

Noelle heard a rather gruff voice bringing her mind into focus, as she opened one eye to peek at her surroundings. When the wall didn't hit her and she could feel the warmth of the sun on her face, she knew this was a dream, another fantasy of her overworked imagination, albeit about the only thing that was working in her life at the moment, ironic really.

Closing the eye quickly she really hadn't ever dreamed like this before…had she been secretly drinking too?

"Come on pretty lady, it's time to move along you can't stay here forever, we have things to do." The gruff voice again attracted her attention; although it wasn't familiar it wasn't frightening either.

I can do this, I know I keep saying the same things over and over again but I'm sure I can.

This time Noelle opened both eyes squinting at the sight before her. Definitely figments of her imagination, what the hell, she might as well go along for the ride, what else had she to do today.

Glancing around her the brusque voice asked her if she was okay.

Staggered at the possessor of the voice she weakly replied. "But you're…you're Scruff the scraggy dog from the alleyway, except you look different."

"Aye, I had better young woman. Out in your world it helps to look like you need a helping hand. In my world I prefer to look my best, you never know who you might meet along the way."

"Why Tobias you womaniser! I thought I was the only one for you?" A higher pitched voice responded emanating from a squid with a musical instrument held in two of its tentacles.

"You're a squid? You can talk?"

Noelle's eyes nearly popped out of her head as she was given a wide smile from the squid. Okay this was turning out to be a menagerie of animal antics.

Whatever next?

"Of course she talks, we all do. Here in fantasyland nothing is what it seems. Now to get to business, Sandy should be along shortly, its time to hear what the task ahead is." The dog shook his black glossy coat and the odd hair shed itself into the air, causing the squid to sneeze and the instrument she held dropped to the floor.

For no other reason that she needed something to do, Noelle picked up the strange object and handed it back to the squid.

"I've never seen anything like that before, what do you call it?"

"Ah my dear it's called a lyre. I was given it a long, long time ago by a dear friend that finally got himself together and didn't need it anymore. Do you play?"

Noelle shook her head and smiled, this was weird. "I have many skills but unfortunately playing an instrument isn't one of them. Will you play for me?"

"Why my dear yes but we must wait for Sandy she tells a fine tale and I usually help her out when she needs a break. Between you and I dear, Sandy can be a little over zealous in her tasks and she wouldn't take kindly to me taking her limelight."

Noelle wanted to laugh this was ridiculous but fun, a dog who talks, and a squid who talks and plays a lyre, in love with a dog. Yep, she was heading for the funny farm for sure.

"Sally come along we need to make up the campfire that will surely bring Sandy out of her web, time is a wasting." Tobias the dog scratched his back with his left hind leg and a flea bounced out of the hair that fluffed up.

"Do you have to evict me so soon? I only found this residency this morning." The flea spoke affronted at landing on the saddlebag that was lying to the left of Noelle.

"Sorry old chap, you know how it is got to keep clean for my girl over there." The dog flicked his tail towards the squid, which was gathering firewood in all her tentacles and piling them up for a fire.

The flea gave a slighted snort and flew close to Noelle, "Hey not me old pal I'm sure my girl wouldn't want to find me with a flea either."

The flea buzzed closer and realising it wasn't going to get a decent bed at this campfire flew off into the night, which had closed in suddenly.

Noelle felt a chill as she dragged her jacket and muffler closer only to find she was no longer wearing a muffler, in fact she wasn't wearing anything but a pink nightie. Closing her eyes she couldn't believe it, no proper clothes and insane too! Why ever not.

As the flea left the area, a loud crackle indicated the squid had lighted the campfire. Noelle and Tobias turning to the heat of the flame settled down beside it, Tobias with Sally and Noelle on the opposite side to them both.

"By the way my name's Noelle."

The dog was smiling she was damn sure of it, as he shook his head or was it nodded. "Why that's a beautiful name and so fitting here in fantasyland, who would have thought it, don't you think too Sally? As you have heard I'm Tobias, not Scruff as you originally delighted in calling me, although that was better than some who called me rather harsh names. This is my darling Sally, she plays the lyre as if born to it, and can swim like a fish."

Looking into the depths of the fire rather than Tobias and Sally, who were in anyone's fantasy a rather strange couple, to say she would swim like a fish…well wasn't there a strong relationship there?

"Exactly where am I?"

"Why you're in fantasyland, where all is not what it seems and Christmas dreams come true."

"Dreams come true? How?" That was the answer she hadn't woken up yet, everything was a dream so far.

"Ah, you will have to wait for Sandy to let us into that secret. She'll be along soon, never could understand her longing to live in all that sand, but she loves it and old father time lets her have the odd vacation in his hourglass. Reminds her of a roller coaster she loves it, whatever she means by that I wouldn't know of course sand isn't my favourite habitat." Sally squid remarked conversationally as she placed two tentacles around her beau and two around the lyre, picking out the odd note.

"Why me Tobias?"

"Noelle it was your time. Unfortunately you let the first time go to another, the second time you didn't appear and today I was thinking you might not take up the final offer. I was wrong and here you are."

"The first time?"

"Oh yes the first day we met, you let Holly take your place that day. She loves it here and didn't want to go home again, however she knows humans can't stay here in this land indefinitely. They have to go on and make their own way in this lifetime."

"Tall dark and beautiful loved it here?" Noelle was sure the woman had been a trick of her imagination too, now she wasn't so sure.

"Ha so you noticed her, not that I blame you she was kinda good looking for a human. Sandy was taken with her, though Holly wasn't exactly happy about that arrangement. Must have been the sand rather than the six legs."

Sally laughed at Tobias's comment. "Why my love you simply adore numerous appendages."

"That I do darling that I do." The dog sniffed the tentacle close to him and licked it several times as the squid squealed in pleasure, the dog bit her neck (did she have a neck?) in the morning the squid was sure to have a hickey.

Should she be witnessing this? Placing a hand over her forehead she wondered if now might not be a good time to wake up. Come on girl lets open those eyes and see the bedroom's comfortable if shabby décor.

Then the silence of the evening was broken, as they all listened to a shuffling of something coming from the hill to the left of them. Neither Tobias nor Sally seemed to be disturbed as they snuggled closer together giggling.

Suddenly out of the darkness, Noelle nearly shot out of her skin as she came face to face with a gigantic sand spider. Oh shit, what should she do now?

"Sandy, why I'm glad you finally decided to join us." Tobias spoke amiably and Noelle bit back her need to scream in fear. Never exactly favouring spiders at home.

"As you should be, as you should be. Now who have we today?"

The spider spoke in a clear precise voice; it's eyes taking Noelle in quickly as it found a place to sit beside the heat of the crackling fire.

"This is Noelle, she should have been here before but Holly came in her place. You remember Sandy?"

The sand spider swivelled towards the dog, "So this is the one that allowed me to meet Holly? Well in that case lets get to the heart of the matter shall we? Pass me the scroll from the saddlebag female."

Noelle shot them all a surprised glance, before walking over to the saddlebag and rummaging inside for the requested object. The left compartment held a rustic red kite, obviously well used and loved but not a scroll. The right compartment was stuffed with various items, a whip, horseshoe and finally several scrolls.

"Which one?"

"Why anyone Noelle it's your journey, not ours."

Selecting the first that came to hand, she pulled it out and shut the other items back in the saddlebag passing it over to the sand spider.

"Thank you, now to tell the story of Noelle and how she can reach her Christmas dream."


"Hey I don't think my life is quite like that!" Noelle protested as she listened to the spider spin a tale that entranced and enticed you into its storytelling web.

"It is what is on the scroll and you brought it to me, it is your story is it not? Are any of the facts wrong?"

"Why no, but you have rather glorified things, I didn't realise I came out looking quite Miss. Goody Two Shoes."

"I speak only the truth of the scrolls, are they a forgery?" The spider's multifaceted eyes glanced her way; at least she assumed that, not being very familiar with how a spider views life. In multiple visions she suspected from her TV understanding of the creature in real life. As it was in this rather strange dreamscape anything could happen, look at the dog and the squid!

"No! No of course not. I wouldn't do such a thing." Noelle replied quickly, she might be somewhat impoverished right now but she didn't care for underhand dealings.

"Good. Now it is up to you what you want to see written, we are here to help you."

Shaking her blonde head she smiled carefully at the three creatures. Under normal circumstances she could forgive herself for thinking she was going mad, however this all seemed plausible. What the hell why not, at least it was turning out to be enjoyable, weird but fun.

"Okay what do I do?" The sky above turned a bright orange and the sun began to meander across the horizon. Hadn't they only just settled for the evening?

Tobias extricated himself from his ladylove and scratched his back with his back leg as he answered her.

"Noelle all you need do is follow the black powder path and it will take you to what your heart desires."

"black powder path? Come on Tobias how can it know what's in my heart?"

"Yes the black powder path." He lifted his right front paw and pointed in the direction immediately behind her left shoulder. Turning to observe where he was indicating she gasped as she saw a path of black glittering powder seemingly extending for miles and miles and miles.

Gasping slightly she swiftly asked, "and my heart?"

"Ah that is a little more complicated and you will need to see the Old mother to explain that."

Closing her eyes as yet another element dropped into the conversation. "Old mother?"

Sandy the spider snorted and refused to do more as Sally the squid shuffled around on her tentacles also refusing to furnish further information.

"You have to find out about Old mother in your own time Noelle, come lets put the scroll back in the saddle bag and continue onwards down the black powder path.

"Well I'm game if you are." Noelle bantered back wondering if the pink nightie she wore would still be pink after a walk down this peculiar path.


It was a rather strange entourage that eventually approached a building appearing from out of the blue. After they had negotiated a particularly difficult part of the black powder path, so difficult that the squid had become trapped several times. Now instead of her pink flesh she was multi-coloured, pink face, red neck where the hickey stood out for all to see, and black on her tentacles, quite an interesting mix really.

Not that Noelle could really comment her pink pink nightie was covered in black smudges when she'd gone to the squid's aid, and after battling with tentacles that thrashed around clinging to her in fear, she was as marked as Sally was. Tobias didn't appear to have a problem and Sandy had merely attached herself to a web along the way to remove herself from the treacle substance the black powder became when the sun warmed it sufficiently. All in all they looked a rather motley group, thank goodness they were hitting civilisation!

As the building came closer it appeared to be a coaching inn, a place of rest for the weary traveller. Although Noelle guessed they had been travelling less than an hour, she felt as if it had been twenty-four!

"Old mother isn't here to greet us." Tobias growled and proceeded to scout around the building for any evidence anyone was home.

"Well, I don't mind at all." Sandy announced huffily, obviously she and the 'Old mother' didn't see eye to eye. Wonder what creature this mother was?

As they tried unsuccessfully to open the door of the inn, Sally grunted, she really had wanted to have a nice long soak in a salt-water bath and maybe Tobias would have scrubbed her back for her with one of those soft sponges. The very thought made her shiver in anticipation.

Noelle flicked back her hair and contemplated the door of the inn as she felt a stiff breeze of arctic proportions looking skywards she saw snow clouds mounting and they didn't look very nice snow clouds either, very dark and un-welcoming.

"Tobias, Sally, Sandy I think we need to take shelter there's a storm brewing."

"Don't be silly Noelle it isn't the time of year." Sally dismissed the comment and vainly looked at her rather black tentacles and the promise of a cold tub of water.

"I'm not Sally, it's becoming colder and look at those snow clouds." Noelle pointed to the sky, which now she had time to look closely speeded by, much faster than in her reality.

"Tobias, get the kite and lets see which way the wind is blowing." Sandy shouted for the dog that returned and skidded to a halt at the saddlebag retrieving the kite from inside.

"Exactly why do we need a kite?"

"My dear Noelle everyone knows that a kite will tell you if it's going to snow or not, where were you educated in a zoo?" Sandy informed her dismissing her question as if she were an idiot.

"Well…well that isn't very nice and I don't think I'm the one who could have been educated in a zoo!"

"Be quiet dear, Tobias needs to set the kite." As they watched the dog run for a few seconds and then let go of the kite Noelle shook her head, what would this prove exactly?

What she hadn't expected and she really should have in the circumstances, the kite froze in the sky and several snow flakes floated down from its position. Sandy tut tuted with her mandibles and Sally tucked her tentacles around herself.

"It would be a good time for Old mother to come home." Tobias remarked as he fluffed up his fur in reaction to the cold.

Noelle was freezing, a pink nightie wasn't' exactly the attire of a winter's day, not in the open anyway.

"I'm freezing to death here, what do we do now?"

Sally placed a tentacle on either side of her round jolly face and smudged its pinkness with black spots, as she appeared to concentrate on the question.

Then suddenly as if a light bulb went off in her head she shouted in glee. "A lock pick!"

The spider, dog and human female all looked at their fishy friend as if she had lost her mind.

"A lock pick my love?" Tobias asked warily.

"Why yes Tobias a lock pick in the saddlebag, Noelle will have to do the honours of course but she can do it with a natural incentive."

"A natural incentive?" Noelle squeaked out, she wasn't a criminal! Merely out of work at the moment.

"Yes, you don't want to freeze to death do you? Please hurry the snow is getting rather heavier."

"I can see that, I really can." As she wiped away several snowflakes from her face and realised that now she was soon going to be a great advert for a snow person. It might therefore be at least wise to try her hand at picking a lock.

Ten minutes later Noelle was still trying, as she looked around her all three of her companions were covered in at least two inches of snow. Oh well it was Christmas! It made a great snow scene as she turned back to her task and heaved a sigh of relief. She heard a snick, triumphantly looking back to her friends. Just as she was about to shout to them she heard a voice ask in a bored tone.

"If you had knocked harder I might have let you in rather than you try to pick my lock."

Blue startling eyes pierced her green ones and she thought they looked familiar to her but the wizened features of the woman belied that.

"I'm sorry, really I am. The weather closed in on us and we needed shelter…we thought you were out."

"That makes it alright?" as the woman waved her candle out of the door briefly to take in the spectacle of her companions.

"No, no of course not but…."

She stopped as a low attractive laugh came from the Old mother as they called her.

"Well if it isn't the grotto threesome, how very attractive you look."

"I knew she would be like this I told you I told." Sandy remarked with a huff in her tone and tried to shake the steadily accumulating snow.

"Oh how can you call my love a grotto Old mother?" Tobias replied affronted at the remark against his squid love.

"I think you should just let us in Old mother." Sally pushed past everyone including the old woman slipping her way into the inn.

Noelle wanted to laugh but she was freezing and her teeth were chattering. This really was getting beyond a dream; she could do with waking up to a nice hot cup of tea.

"Come in come in, I was only teasing you all."

As they shuffled, walked and padded into the inn, Noelle was amazed to find that it held little but a wooden table with six chairs and the most gigantic fireplace with a gorgeous spitting fire welcoming them home. Now this was the Christmas spirit she had read about for years in books.

"It's out of a fairy tale." Noelle breathed out and was pushed aside by Sandy who was desperate to divest herself of the cold wet snow that covered her body.

"Fairy tale indeed! Noelle I do think that you humans need better educating."

"Don't mind her she's always grumpy when she doesn't look her best. You should have seen her last time she brought someone to me there had been this terrible storm and her mandibles were all array not a pretty sight, especially if you are trying to have someone notice you for your good looks." Old mother explained conspiratually as she motioned for Noelle to sit at the table.

"Who was she trying to flirt with?"

"Why my granddaughter of course! Not that she had much chance she's taken that one." Blue eyes smiled warmly at Noelle and she felt herself thawing out from the snow as it dripped into a puddle at her feet.

"Oh I see." Noelle didn't really and she wondered just for a moment who the granddaughter was and who she had been taken with.

"I'll leave the candle for you as I see to those three, now their task is done they will rest for the night and then go on their way."

Noelle turned up anxious eyes at the comment, where did that leave her? Oh yeah of course it was a dream she would wake up and wondered why she hadn't already. Then again as a child she had always wanted to be Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, in a way this was her over imaginative mind's attempt at an original take on the old story.

"They're leaving me here?"

"Oh yes Noelle, your black powder path has ended it's time to choose." The Old mother remarked obscurely and left her to think about that as she proceeded to make arrangements for her guests.

Shaking her blonde head of the water that was dribbling down her cheeks she pondered the remark but couldn't come up with an answer, perhaps here there wasn't one.

Ten minutes later the Old mother came back into the room alone sitting opposite Noelle, placing her candle in the centre of the table.

"Time to choose Noelle."

Startled green eyes widened as she sought the blue, familiar in some way, eyes of the old woman, choose what?

"I hope you don't mind my ignorance Old mother but choose?"

Laughing softly in a very attractive and spellbinding way the Old mother answered.

"Why Noelle what wish do you choose for Christmas?"

"Oh you mean I get a wish?" Chuckling at the thought it really was like being in a fairytale.

"If that is what you call it, what do you wish for?"

"Hadn't really thought about it before, it's only in dreams that you wish for things isn't it?"

"Perhaps, then again some dreams are others reality, choose Noelle time is running out and you need to go back."

Glancing round the sparsely furnished room that although dark in many recesses didn't make her feel uncomfortable, far from it, she felt decidedly comfortable and warm inside like a home from home.

"Actually there are two things, I'd like a chance at a job and… someone to share my life with."

The old mother smiled in understanding at her predicament, both were needed in this young woman's life but alas she had to choose.

"Choose Noelle or you will run out of time."

Closing her eyes briefly she hoped and prayed that she made the right choice. "I'd like to share my life with someone."

There it was out, after all it was a dream and why shouldn't she dream of love in her life, this was her Christmas fantasy.

"So be it. Are you ready to return?" the Old mother smiled warmly at her nodding towards the fire that was spitting ferociously in the fireplace.

"I guess. How do I get home?" Noelle couldn't see a door, not that there had been one to arrive here…perhaps the wall again?

"The fireplace, just walk through the flames and you will be back where you started."

"You're joking of course!" Noelle gave her a look that bordered, for the first time in arriving in this fantasyland, on fear. No way absolutely not! She'd burn to death before she got on the other side.

"I don't joke! Come Noelle it's time and you did want to share your life with someone if you don't travel now you will miss the opportunity."

"Won't I get burnt?" she asked tentatively not wanting to sound as cowardly as she felt inside.

"Burnt? Why no! We respect our guests Noelle after all it's Christmas time. Take this horseshoe for luck it will be your passport home." Passing over the object to Noelle who looked at it with a degree of scepticism. Everything else had been fine so far guess it wouldn't hurt to trust to luck with this as well, after all it was a dream wasn't it?

"Do I get to say goodbye to the others?"

"Look up Noelle towards the stairway." As she did so, Tobias with a paw around Sally squid were both waving at her madly. Sandy the sand spider was pruning herself and waved her mandibles a couple of times before she scuttled off to her new warm web and a well deserved rest from strange human creatures.

Noelle felt a lump form in her throat, it was a dream, admittedly a very vivid one and she knew it was all her own imagination, still they had become friends in a bizarre way. Smiling she lifted her hand to wave at them and then felt a hand on her shoulder.

"Time to go Noelle your wish awaits you." With that she was pushed, with a force she wouldn't have expected from one so frail looking, into the depths of the fireplace the flames licking at her heals.


Was she dead? As she was pushed she didn't feel the heat of the flames but she did feel the impact of trashcans that echoed loudly in the alleyway where she had originally departed.

Looking around she saw that she had landed quite literally into a couple of cans, which were situated on the opposite side of the wall from where the adventure had begun. Now seated on the snow-covered ground amidst the packaging that had been placed in the trash. Other than her dignity she didn't think anything else was injured.

As she considered moving off the cold damp ground the door to the back of the building opened and a dark head peered out. Familiar blue eyes glanced around capturing Noelle's green ones, which had taken on a sheepish ambience with her current position.

"Are you okay?" The tall woman she had met a couple of weeks previously asked anxiously, as she ventured out of the building into the alleyway, helping Noelle to her feet.

"Yes, I'm fine. Thanks for asking I must have slipped in the snow. Sorry about the mess." Noelle pointed at the debris on the ground.

"No worries, I'll soon have that cleared away. You look cold; want to come inside and I'll get you some tea? You can on occasion suffer mild shock after an unexpected fall."

"Oh I wouldn't want to put you to any bother." Noelle couldn't believe her luck, tall dark and gorgeous was asking her in for tea, WOW!

"No bother, I was struggling over an ad I want to put in the local paper. Maybe tea will help me to word it correctly. Aren't you Noelle Mistletoe we met a couple of weeks ago?"

"Yes we did didn't we, you're Holly Claus. Thanks I'd love some tea. The weather turned bleak suddenly and I'm not exactly dressed for it."

Laughing softly the taller woman nodded and glanced down at her attire smirking. "Yeah I can see that."

Noelle closed her eyes unable to look down at her dress. Oh no, it wasn't a dream and I've been sleep walking in my pink nightie. "Well, I …that is."

"Yes I know those thin jackets aren't much use in sleet and snow are they? Makes you look like you're in a bathing costume."

Looking down at her clothes, relief was overtaken with embarrassment as the weather had caused her clothes to stick to her like a second skin, which didn't hide much at all. She really should have put her bra on this morning.

"Tea you said?"

"I did, this way. Maybe you can help me Noelle, any experience of writing an ad for a shop assistant?"

Gasping as she entered the backroom of the building, recognising some of the items in the small shop. This was her favourite place, the shop on the corner. How wonderful!

"Do you run this beautiful place?"

"Sure do, it's been handed down from generation to generation for as long as I can remember. My dad wanted to sell but my mother wouldn't let him and my brothers didn't want to take it on so here I am. Decided to branch out a little so I need help here now, although it has to be someone special this is a real special place. I call it fantasyland for us adults who aren't really supposed to act as kids anymore."

Holly chuckled at her rather absurd admission; not exactly something you admitted to a complete stranger, except Noelle wasn't was she…

Noelle blinked several times, could this be her chance at a job? What she wouldn't give to work in this place. It was so quaint and old fashioned, time appeared to be standing still inside. This wasn't what she wished for though but hell second best; perhaps she would have a great Christmas after all?

"How special?"

Holly smiled, her blue eyes pierced Noelle's green ones. Reminding her of the Old mother. Yes! That was it, the familiarity she had seen it before, Holly's eyes had starred out at her from the Old mother's, how could that be?

"Someone who would love the place as I do. I guess it's filled with treasures that only a person with a wandering imagination would appreciate. Haven't met anyone like that in my life yet, when I do I'll keep them in my life forever." The tall woman grinned at her and walked towards the kettle, switching it on to make the tea.

"Everyday for three months, once I found this place, I've looked in the window and wondered what it would be like to work inside." The wistful tone was not lost on Holly who turned and leaned against the counter where she was brewing the tea.

"I know."

"You know? How?"

"Hey, I'm not blind Noelle. When a beautiful woman stares into my shop window everyday for weeks and weeks, I'd have to be blind not to notice."

"Beautiful?" the word came out in a whisper; Holly appeared not to hear it, as the old style-whistling kettle demanded her attention.

"Make yourself comfortable, I have a wonderful leather armchair near the bookcase and I'll bring your tea."

Noelle did as she was bid, settling into the brown well-worn chair, which welcomed her as an old friend with a hug. Oh god here went her imagination again!

Maybe this is my chance? It might not be the choice I made but that was only a fantasy after all.


Holly smiled broadly as she made the tea, picking an object up off her paper-covered desk. Opening the back door into the alleyway, she whistled softly. Waiting only a few moments, before the scraggy looking dog that obviously made a home for itself in the boxes when it wasn't in one of Noelle's fantasies, came towards her wagging it's tail profusely.

"Toby take this back to grandmother, tell her I don't need it now. I've found what I'm looking for and thanks to everyone, I'll see you all soon." Patting the dog on the head she put a golden apple in its mouth, as he ran off towards the wall and disappeared without a trace.

Shaking the snowflakes that settled off her dark head turned back into the shop and picked up the cups of tea.

As she entered the part of the shop where Noelle was sitting like a small child. Perfectly comfortable, waiting for a story to be told like in the old days, when at this time of the year it was a common occurrence or had been for their family anyway.

"You wouldn't happen to be interested in being my shop assistant would you Noelle? I'm sure I could work out a decent package."

Noelle's green eyes almost fell out of their sockets, as she was captured in a gaze that told her this package would have some very wonderful personal side benefits.

"I'm your girl!"

"Oh I always knew that." Holly said softly grinning as she settled on the arm of the chair. Both women sipped on their tea, contemplating what a wonderful Christmas this was; now they had someone to share it with.


End or was it……

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