Victoria tapped on the glass Christmas bulb and it twinkled with a life of its own, swinging back and forth, sparkling and reflecting lights encircling the tree. Dancing from the tiny wire, it threatened to leap off the branch.
It slowed to a stop.
She watched, expecting the ball to continue, then peered closer.
“I see me,” she said.
She moved her head this way and that, checking her reflection. Her eyes sparkled back. She checked her teeth, imitating Mommy.
A ray of light burst from the ball, blinding her. With a squeal, she scooted away.
“I’ve come to take your presents. You’ve been bad.” A voice boomed from the ball.
Victoria gasped. “No. Not my presents. Please. I’m supposed to get a me-size doll.” She looked up, wide-eyed. “What have I done? My brother is badder than I am. Are you gonna take his presents, too?”
“That … I’m warning you … little girl. You must clean your brother’s room, or the Ghost of Christmas Present Stealing will steal your presents.” The ghost cleared its throat. “Is that clear?”
She chewed on her nightgown sleeve and nodded.
“I didn’t hear you. Is that clear?”
“Yes. Yes.” She hugged her knees. “I’ll be good. I’ll … help my brother.”
“No. I said, clean his room.” The ghost’s voice ranged deeper. “You must clean it, not help him.”
She gulped. “Who are you?” She leaned closer.
“Don’t come any closer. There is torture for those … who venture into my realm. Understand?”
Victoria emitted a deep sigh. “Can my brother help me?” She pouted.
“No. Not at all. He is meant … for greatness.” The Great Christmas Ball Presence shone even brighter.
“Ahem. Greatness, like cleaning the garage, Oh Great Christmas Ball Presence?”
Victoria gasped. “There are two of you?”
The light clicked off.
The tree swayed, and the glass ball twirled.
Out stepped Brad, her brother.
And behind him, stood Mommy, leaning against the door jam, sipping her morning coffee, a smirk on her face.
Victoria looked from one to the other. “You mean there’s no … ghost?” She hugged a present to her chest. “I can keep my presents?”
“Sure you can, sweetie.” Mommy leaned down and tousled her hair. “I’m not sure about the Great Christmas Ball Presence, though. He might be donating his to the charity tomorrow night.”
“Mom. It was a joke.” Brad followed her into the kitchen. “She wasn’t even scared. In fact …”
Victoria huddled by the Christmas tree, peering up at the ball.
As she watched, it radiated inner light.
No one behind it. No flashlight.
She squinted and reached to tap the glass. “There’s a tiny light inside.” She squinted. “I think I see,” she gasped, “tiny angels.”
She backed away.
“Victoria.” Mommy called. “Come and eat. We have to get going.”
One last look. She smiled sweetly at the ball.
She ran for the kitchen.
Daddy emerged from behind the tree and clicked off his tiny flashlight, smiling at the dark Christmas ball. “See you later.”
Kids, Mom and Dad hustled.
The backdoor slammed.
Garage door opened and the van backed out. The garage door closed.
The Christmas ball began to swing. Back and forth, slowly at first, then faster. Until its tiny wire released from the tree.
The ball floated to the carpet, landed softly and rolled to its side.
It stopped in front of Buster.
One eye opened.
He scooped the ball to his face, sniffed, licked it and cupped it beside his muzzle.
The eye closed.
A door slowly opened and a tiny ramp lowered to the carpet. Short, fat figures roly-poly-marched down the ramp and stood next Buster. The Last One tripped, rolled and bumped to a stop.
Buster was awake now.
The leader spoke. “This is a solemn occasion. For we are witness to something I have wondered about my whole life. Earth’s Christmas.”
He walked to the tree with his quantum molecule reader and scanned the lower branches. “Odd.” He scanned again.
“I detect Oxygen. Nitrogen.” He studied the screen. “But, plastic?”
The Last One sat up. “With all respect, sir. Plastic? On Earth’s ancient holiday? The Great Creator’s birth?”
A vehicle drove up outside.
A car door slammed.
Back door opened.
The soldiers froze.
Victoria burst into the room. “Ohhhh, little men.” She reached toward one, but became distracted by a horn honking.
Her hand hovered. She grabbed him, then Mommy’s purse and ran.
The van zoomed away.
Heads bowed. “One sacrificed for all.” The leader led them in a salute. The Last One bugled with his lips.
Silently, they marched to the ball, climbed inside, closed the door.
Hovering above the carpet, the ship blasted to the tree, swinging again from the wire.
Buster yawned, stared at the tree, then the doorway. He licked his chops, scratched, rolled to his side and closed his eyes.
The ball stopped.
“Cut!” The ten-year-old director hollered. “That’s a wrap. Great work everyone. Time for a break.”
Voices trailed to the kitchen.
“I didn’t think we’d ever get that ball to swing right.”
“Buster did great.” A pat on his head. “Good boy.”
Victoria lingered, squatting under the tree, and stared at the humble ball. “I wish you were real … like in our movie.”
As she stared, a glowing Presence filled the room, drawing them.
The young director slowly backed into the room and sat, spellbound.
“Woah ….” Four extras sank to the floor, mesmerized.
Brad emerged from the kitchen, a carrot stick dangling from his mouth. “Holy gasp. An angel.” The carrot dropped.
“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news.”
They huddled closer together.
“Good news of great joy which will come to all the people.” The angel raised his hands. “For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord!”
“Cut!” The Director raised His hand. “Excellent!”