Day 125 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write about a character who is loved by all or feared by all.
Erin: My best friend was basically everyone’s best friend. I would be lying if I didn’t say that it bothered me slightly. A part of me felt like my best friend was a myth in that she was a different person for everyone. I tried to have faith in the fact that the version of her I got was the truest, but I don’t know that a true version of her existed.
Shannon: “So what’s it like,” I questioned.
“What is what like,” he didn’t bother to guess as he sat down on the couch with a big smile.
“Being everybody’s favorite person. They all love you out there,” I shared my observation even though I was sure he already knew. “Come on, it’s got to feel good.”
He shook his head and a caught a slight lip twitch followed by furrowed brow that bounced back quickly. “That’s not true. I know people who don’t like me.”
“You mean you know people who used to not like you, before you were famous and rich and whatever else makes people blindly like people,” I corrected.
He looked down and started futzing with his hands. “You don’t blindly like me, so there’s one.”
“Yeah, but I’m family so you can’t trick me into believing you’re perfect, or that you deserve all of this.” I gestured to the door.
He breathed out, “I don’t actually like being everybody’s favorite,” he revealed, conflicted.
“Really?” Now I was intrigued.
“I don’t have to earn anything. Almost anything I want is handed to me. I can’t even tell if I’m good, or if I’m just familiar. I used to be a scrapper, and I used to like being a scrapper. Even laughter is handed to me. It used to feel really good when I got a genuine laugh from people. I used to have to earn it, but now people laugh when I’m not even telling a joke,” he explained, with a frustration he was still trying to mask, even with me.
Is your character surrounded by love or hate?
By the time I managed to arrange an audience with the big man himself, Mr. Claus, I was beginning to piece together my main story and was just meaning to give him a chance to explain his side; whether I told my audience or not wasn’t really his concern. Unfortunately, when you run an entire town like the North Pole, you got busy and had to make choices as to who you were willing to keep waiting around and who was a priority. And, when said owner of town sees you as a gnat fluttering around his workers, without his express permission to boot, you end up on the bottom of that exceedingly long list. Already, I’d arrived at his headquarters, a large office-type building with candy cane striping along the windows and elves rushing around in those extremely tight outfits, three times to be left in the waiting room for over an hour, at which point the secretary said in her nasally voice that I’d have to make a new appointment. It wasn’t even winter; I’d hate to see how busy the guy was on the day before Christmas.
With a deep, already-frustrated sigh I stared up at the sun’s reflection on Mr. C’s wall of windows just after lunch. Around me, workers shot past with their heads down, barely registering a tall stranger in their midst, before striding toward the front doors. They slid smoothly to let me, as well as half a dozen elves carrying boxes full of toys that looked perfectly fine, into the impressive structure. On the first floor was a large lobby surrounded with a few smaller offices practising law in various capacities, and a small café where personnel were lined out the door and seated around a cozy fireplace. Centered in the vaulted-ceilinged room was a round desk where several staff members fielded calls and questions about the building; the security guard who resided there eyed me warily every time I came in.
Stumbling along, I made it to the elevator just before it closed; sticking a hand through since I’d learned no one held the doors for anyone else. It was possible someone was furiously punching the button to shut them faster, the look that greeted me as I slipped into the tiny space. As I passed the floor buttons, I pressed the top floor and a couple elves stared at my reflection in the chrome finish.
The elevator shot up and I got a chance to inspect the boxes of toys I’d thought looked to be in great condition. One carton held a set of dolls whose hair was matted and fraying, while another was full to the brim with race cars that were missing their wheels. Obviously something had gone wrong with them in one of the workshops, but I couldn’t figure out why they’d need to be sent here; they were all hand-made, weren’t they? If I hadn’t been in Mr. Claus’s office, I might have asked them, but I made a mental note instead.
After everyone else exited the elevator, I glanced around at my surroundings and took in a deep breath of peppermint-y air. Everyone in the town was terrified of the big man; even the burly elves that could likely bench-press him to the moon. It didn’t make much sense, in my mind, but I figured that was why I was here. I was here to understand the reverence and fear that was nearly as tangible in the air as the peppermint.
Stepping out of the lift I sauntered meaningfully down the hallway and stood before an enormous set of doors that were now familiar to me. They were striped with red and white, leading one into the big man’s waiting area. Forcefully throwing the heavy doors out of my way, I got a grumbled welcome from the squat secretary who didn’t even look up from painting her nails a revolting shade of green. “He’s too busy right now. You can wait or make another appointment,” she spoke in a high, nasal voice that reminded me of one of my mother’s sisters. I didn’t answer her; instead, I took a seat and prepared to wait until he went home if I had to.
Half an hour went by like cold molasses before I noticed the stack of pamphlets resting on the coffee stable and leaned forward on the faux leather couch to grab one. The thin, slick paper slid through my fingers as I flicked through it; the whole thing was about Santa’s contributions and outlined the expectations for workers under his namesake company. Slipping one into my bag for later perusal, I plucked another one from the pile and began reading.
It was no wonder everyone feared him; he was the law, not only in the town, but across the globe. His naughty list was, quite literally, used by law enforcement agencies around the world as fact, and he was scarily good at determining who deserved to be on which list. Ruling this town with an iron fist, he kept everyone producing product and participating in the public charade of joyful workers with spectacular efficiency. After I read through that book a few times, I decided I had enough evidence to expose this whole town for the falsehoods and elvish rights violations that ran rampant as a cold in a kindergarten classroom.
“You work for him, don’t you?”
Starry and Animalia share a look, then look to Ghost, “Who?”
The one of the group willing to talk stresses, “Him.”
The three wait for a better explanation.
“…You don’t know?” She asks.
Starry shakes his head, “We have no idea who you are talking about, miss.”
“Who? Do you know a name?”
She shakes her head, “He sends people out, for payment.”
Starry sighs. He leans over to Ghost, “Protection money.”
“People have been taken. Good people, but…” she sighs, “he wants their gifts.”
“Whoa, back up. Gifted?” Animalia asks. The girl nods.
“Only those with gifts are taken. But… most of those here are gifted, so…”
A car comes around the corner outside the building.
“Quick, hide! They’re here.”
“No, we’ll protect you,” Starry says quickly.
Ghost puts a hand on his shoulder, stopping him, “We need to know what we are up against.” The three go to hide in one of the small rooms around the open area. Ghost watches from the window.
A group walks in, weapons in hand. Then, a final figure walks in, with a mask and cloak hiding their head and major features. He looks at the people gathered, how they shy away and hold close.
This is not a normal ‘visit.’ This is the person they are afraid of. He narrows his eyes, trying to memorize everything he sees, right down to the number of guards and the color of the cloak. “Malea, find us a way out of here. We need to leave.”
“No, we need to stop them,” Starry whispers, “they are going to hurt those people.”
“And until we know about this new enemy,” Ghost whispers back, “there is nothing we can do without making the situation worse for those people.” He glares at Starry until he backs off, “We need to leave. Now.”