Flying deer dropping back to earth

Editor’s note: This is the seventh chapter of the 12-part holiday tale “The Snow Elf,” running daily through Christmas morning. Parents are encouraged to read aloud to their children.

By MEGAN SMITH

Tribune Chronicle

The ground fell away from them as the deer ran through the air, soaring high above the tree tops. Anna clung to her deer, resting her cheek against the rough fur of the doe’s neck as she watched the trees below whiz past in a blur.

This was so much fun, she could hardly stand it! She looked over her shoulder at her brother, giving him a huge grin.

Alex smiled back so hard that his cheeks hurt. He was sure nothing in his life would top this feeling of exhilaration as he stared down at the world below, flying high above on the back of a deer.

He laughed out loud, clutching tight to the buck’s antlers. They’d been in the air for a good while and he had no idea how far they’d come, but they were passing over a city and the vehicles moving along the grid of streets looked like the toy cars he’d played with as a child.

Suddenly, the buck wobbled in the air and dropped down rapidly. Alex yelped, holding tighter as it kept up its descent. The other two deer were rapidly falling too. Next to him, Anna clung to her doe for dear life, her eyes squeezed shut.

“Just hold on tight, Anna!” he yelled. “We’ll be fine!”

He wasn’t sure he believed his own words, though as the ground rose up to meet them. He followed Anna’s lead and squeezed his eyes shut, bracing for impact.

The crash landing he expected never came. Instead, the buck landed softly on the ground, running a few feet before slowing to a stop. The animal knelt down, which Alex took as his cue to slide off.

When his feet hit the ground, he wobbled, still shaking from an unsettling mixture of fear and adrenaline. He immediately looked around for Anna and found her sitting on the ground next to her doe. He ran over to her and wrapped her in a hug.

“Are you OK, Banana?” he asked, and she nodded into his shoulder.

“Yeah,” she said as she pulled away. “The flying was really fun but falling was super scary.”

“Sorry about that,” Georgie called out from a few feet away. He patted his deer on the neck and in an instant, all three took off, disappearing into the woods. “They aren’t practiced fliers and this was as far as they could take us.”

“So where are we?” Alex asked.

Georgie sighed. “Well, I believe we’re close to the access portal, but I can’t be sure.”

Anna pulled her hat down over her ears. “What do we do now?”

Alex looked around at the woods. A few hundred feet away, lights from a shopping mall twinkled through the snow-covered trees, and he pointed toward it.

“Let’s get inside and warm up for a little while,” he said. “Then we can figure out what to do next.”

As they made their way out of the woods, Anna looked at Georgie in his bright, colorful outfit. “Won’t people know Georgie is an elf?”

Alex laughed. “It’s almost Christmas. I’m sure one will question someone dressed up as an elf.”

The parking lot of the mall was crowded, and they carefully maneuvered between the parked cars. Above the entrance, a sign proclaimed the building to be the Riverton Valley Mall.

Alex had no idea where Riverton Valley was, and he tried to shrug off the wave of uneasiness he felt at being so far from home. He held Anna’s hand tight, looking down at her little stocking-capped head, and silently promised her that he’d do everything in his power to keep her safe.

“The Snow Elf” continues tomorrow with Chapter 8.

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