For the record, my original story ("Millions of Cats") is finished here.
A Gifted WizardPart 1 by Andrew Linder - Part 2 by Caitlin McColl Part 3 by - Hana Frank - Part 4 by Mozette
Mary loved Christmas because it was the comfiest holiday. Sitting on the floor before a modest pile of gilded presents, surrounded by family, sipping hot cocoa—hot cocoa!—she was experiencing true, Christmas bliss. She pet the cat beside her as it nuzzled her knee. Her brother handed her a perfectly wrapped gift. She reached for it, but he yanked it away, laughing. She laughed too. This happened every year. “Mom!” she said, directing her voice toward the kitchen, “Danny’s being a jerk!”
But she snatched the present from him anyway and pulled at the ribbon. Then the front door burst open and a gaunt, bearded man in ripped jeans and no shirt stumbled in. He had a large, pointy hat on his head. He glanced around at the startled faces, settling on Mary’s. She knew him, and stuttered, “U-u-uncle Martin?”
He nodded. “There’s magic afoot, niece…You’re a wizard, Mary”. Seeing her confusion, he pointed at the cat. “Look, the cat can talk now.”
She looked down at Bubbles. Bubbles looked up. “Hey,” Bubbles said.
Mary stared. “Hey.”
Uncle Martin pulled a folded up hat, like his own, from his back pocket. “Here! Take this wizard hat and follow me.”
Mary jumped up and with a glance over her shoulder at the confused faces of her family, she followed her uncle out into the crisp fall air. She wondered how he could be wandering around without a shirt when she was wearing a long sleeved sweater. Maybe wizards generated internal heat? "Wait! Hold up!" She jogged to catch up to him. "You can't just throw a crumpled pointy hat from a cheap Halloween costume at someone, make the cat talk, then leave again! I have questions. Lots of them!"
"I'm sure you do," Martin said nodding with brief glance at Mary as he kept walking.
"Like, did everyone else just hear Bubbles talk back then? Or do they think you're crazy for bursting in like that. They probably think I'm crazy now too!"
"No, they can't, just you can. ‘Cuz you're a-"
"You're a wizard Harry!" Mary said in her best mock-Hagrid voice. "I'm not friggin’ Harry Potter, Uncle. I’m a thirty three-year-old nursing student from Portland, not some kid in a story book with a magic wand!” She grabbed Martin’s arm and turned him to face her. “Seriously, Uncle. What’s going on?”
"There's a problem. And we need you."
"Me?" Mary let go of his arm. "Look, whatever this is about, I'd love to help. Really. But shouldn't you get a more experienced wizard?" Martin didn't answer. His eyes were lifted to the sky. "Uncle?"
The faint sound of jingling bells made her turn and look up. Huge clouds parted to reveal a team of reindeer pulling a red sled. The animals drifted down, landing beside Mary with the grace of ballet dancers.
The head reindeer nodded at her then jerked its head at the sled. "Hey Marty. We've gotta go. Like right now dude."
"Mary." Her uncle's voice was a plea. She stood frozen, staring at the reindeer, her fingers crushing the paper wizard hat. "The great Wizard Claus needs our help." Martin shook his head. "Something went wrong and now he can't get back into Real Time."
"Tell her about it on the way dude." This from one of the reindeer at the back.
"Yes. Yes of course." Martin held her arm, gently steered her towards the sled steps. "We've only got an hour left Mary."
Well, she decided, talking reindeer and a sled were way cooler than the magic cars Harry Potter flew in.
Uncle Martin didn’t wait for her to sit down as he grabbed the reins and snapped them gently, urging the eight reindeer to take flight as gently as they had landed; pushing her back into her seat.
“So, what’s the big emergency you need me for?” she heard herself ask as he steered the team up into the sky and above the cloud cover. The sun shone blindingly bright and made the cloud tops look like meringues fresh and ready for the oven.
“Well, like Comet said, Santa is stuck in there, he’s lost his way.” He muttered, “And right now, he’s holed up in a psych ward. He knows who he is, but the doctors are trying to make him not believe…” he looked over at her briefly, “… and you know what will happen if he stops believing in who he is, don’t you?”
Her gut turned cool, “Oh, god… Christmas will disappear forever for all the children around the world.” Her eyes wandered to the reindeer and over the gorgeous sleigh as tears pricked her eyes, “Okay, what do I have to do?”
His eyes glimmered, “Good, you’re with me on this.”
“We’ll break him out,” Marty continued. “No time for anything else.”
“But I d-don’t kn-know anything about being a wi-wi-wizard.” She could hardly say that word even if her teeth hadn’t been chattering with the cold wind.
“Yer the decoy, darlin’ girl.” Comet again. “Leave the wizardin’ to Marty.”
Of course, it wasn’t quite like that. Uncle Marty taught her a few spells, though she knew they’d never work. At the hospital, Mary jumped out and ran in to go distract the employees. But no one was at the front desk, and a sound of laughter suggested they were partying in a back room. She kept moving down the long, sterile hall, skidding to a halt before a door labeled “Nicholas.”
She didn’t even pause to knock. She shouted the unlocking spell at the door, and it flew open, revealing a fat man in a red suit.
“They took my boots, blast them,” he said. “But these slippers will do.” The slippers had bunnies on them.
“Come on, then.” An explosion interrupted her, and the bars on the window blew to bits. She got Santa shoved through just as the sleigh pulled up underneath, and followed him out, landing in a heap in the back seat as the old man took the reins.
“Dash away all!” came the shout, and the sleigh showed what it could really do.