On the tenth night of December, a terrible storm was approaching from the north. A thousand lightning bolts skewered the stars, and thunder rolled across the pitch-black sky with a sound like a derailed freight train.
Niklas Goodfellow, a Santa Claus by trade, didn’t notice any of this. He lay fast asleep inside his caravan, snoring peacefully, while Twinklestar, his reindeer, pulled him through the clouds high above the sleeping world. Lightning licked the ramshackle caravan like a snake’s tongue, but Niklas dreamed of almonds and marzipan, as Santas usually do.
Twinklestar galloped faster and faster through the black clouds. Still he could not outrun the storm. The frumbling darkness aswallowed the stars, and lightning crackled between his hooves.
Terrified, Twinklestar reared up, broke his reins, and bolted down toward the earth. Niklas Goodfellow’s reindeerless caravan swayed from side to side like a boat on a churning sea. Then it toppled forward into the swirling clouds. Niklas tumbled out of his bed, hitting his head on the leg of a chair, and rolled helter-skelter under the table.
“Whoa there!” he shouted. “What’s going on?”
But by then he and his caravan were already plummeting toward the ground.
Niklas’s ears roared and his head reeled as if it were going to explode. The wheels of the caravan brushed against some treetops, bumped against a chimney, tore off a few TV antennae, and then landed with a crash in the gutter of a narrow street.
A flock of carrion crows rose from the branches of a bare lime tree, cawing angrily. A fat gray tomcat nearly fell off a roof. And the people kept awake by the storm thought: What a thunderclap! As though the moon had dropped from the sky.
Niklas Goodfellow’s caravan rolled a little farther, then it leaned to one side with a groan and stopped.
Niklas took his hands from his ears and listened. No more roaring and raging, no crashing—only the rumble of thunder. He crawled from beneath the table. “Matilda? Emmanuel? Are you all right?” he called while he felt for his flashlight in the dark. But of course it was no longer whre it had been before. Nothing was in its place anymore.
“Oh dear, oh dear! Oh dear me!” someone twittered. “What happened, Niklas?”
“If only I knew!” Niklas replied, gently prodding the huge bump on his forehead.
A match flared in the dark, and a small, plump lady angel fluttered down from the cupboard with a candle in her hand.
“Gracious me, what a misfortune!” she fussed, fluttering anxiously around Niklas. A second angel peered in shock from the edge of the cupboard. The young Santa was still sitting on his bottom, dumbfounded—in the midst of scattered books and broken crockery.
“Matilda,” he said, “could you please check on the elves?”
“Oh them!” Matilda put the candle on the table. “They’re all right. Can’t you hear them swearing again? Ugh!”
There was a commotion in the top drawer of the upturned dresser. Excited voices were shouting over the top of one another.
“Yes, yes! I’ll let you out,” Matilda shouted back. “But first you must stop swearing. Otherwise I won’t lift a wing, understood?”
Niklas rose and staggered across the tiled floor, toward the caravan door. Cautiously he peered out into the night. No living thing was to be seen. Yawning, he put on his red coat and climbed down the two rickety steps, almost tripping over a bent street sign that poked out from underneath the caravan. MISTY CLOSE, it said. “Blast!” Niklas shook his head. His caravan was leaning precariously into the gutter, two wheels broken.
“Look at this!” He sighed. “Aren’t I the lucky one?!”
And his reindeer was nowhere to be seen, either. Which was no surprise. All Christmas reindeer are invisible—but greedy, too. Niklas took a few bits of gingerbread from his pocket and held them out hopefully into the darkness.
“Twinklestar?” he called out quietly, clicking his tongue. “Twinklestar, food! Now come along, you faithless nag.”
othing. No clattering hooves, no bells, no snorts. Just one last roll of thunder. A raindrop landed on Niklas Goodfellow’s nose. Splash. The very next moment it began to pour, and Niklas stumbled wearily back into his caravan, while the rain poured down onto Misty Close so heavily that even the crows sought cover in the bare trees.