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“They retreated?” the elf general cocked one bushy eyebrow.
“It appears so, sir.”
“Well,” the general told his staff, “that was one disappointing turkey shoot.” A ripple of high-pitched chuckles went around the tent. “But the Big Guy won’t care. We’ve seized Thanksgiving, with almost no casualties. With the former occupants deserting, we won’t have any trouble anywhere in November.” He paced in front of the staff, mostly for effect. “You know what that means, gentlemen?”
“We accelerate the timetable?” one of the elf colonels asked.
“Exactly. Hallowe’en won’t be an easy nut to crack, but now we can deploy our full force. No worries about supply lines or occupation. Once we take October, Labor Day will be a cakewalk. From there, the other holidays will surrender, and the Big Guy will have the gift he always wanted!”
“Christmas year-round!” the staff shouted. The forces of Christmas got back to work.
The general extended his brass spyglass and looked at the border. It was as dark and gloomy as the scouts said, and it gave him a shiver. Bah, he thought. Kids dressed up as spooks, and decorations, is all it is. Still, he wished the Big Guy had changed his mind about keeping the Nine close to home. Rudolph’s schnozz would have come in handy when they went in, not to mention possibilities for aerial recon. But you go to war with what the Big Guy gives you…
“Units, report,” he said into his handset.
“Infantry One, ready.” “Infantry Two, ready.” “Cavalry One, ready.” One by one, each unit signaled its readiness. The cavalry, mounted on prancing reindeer, armed with barbed branches. Infantry, carrying glass ornaments and dazzler tree toppers.
“Any word from the scouts?” a colonel asked.
“Not yet. They’re overdue.”
“How much longer do you plan to wait?”
“Not long. I have to assume they’ve been captured or incapacitated.” He lifted the handset again. “Units, move out, Plan A,” he ordered. “Have the troops keep an eye out for our scouts.”
The infantry marched forward, lighting their dazzlers. Cavalry hovered on the flanks, ready to charge in if needed. Infantry Unit One slipped across the border and into the gloomy trees. The major sounded tense. “Enemy sighted. Sort of. They’re staying just close enough where we can see movement—hold your fire!” A brief pause. “Some of the troops are a little eager, sir. No engagement yet… look out!” The transmission cut off.
“Cavalry, go!” the general shouted into his handset. Shouting battle-cries, the elves urged their reindeer forward, faster, faster, disappearing into Hallowe’en territory. The noise of battle carried back into November, and it sounded fierce. “Units, report at will.”
“Infantry Two— it’s— ohnoAHHHHHHGH!”
“Something’s wrong,” the general said, then riderless reindeer came bounding out of Hallowe’en. Eyes rolling, they dashed through the staging area and kept going, probably all the way to Christmas Eve.
“All units, retreat!” the general barked. “Regroup at the staging area!” He heard horns blowing the retreat signal, and stunned elves finally bolted from the spooky woods and into the staging area. Not a terribly orderly retreat, but not quite a rout.
The news was bad. Half the troops were still in the woods, presumed killed or captured, three-fourths of the surviving cavalry had lost their mounts, and the survivors were too shaken to give coherent reports. The only thing he could get out of them was something most said: we have to fall back before it gets dark.
“Sleigh bells, what a debacle,” the general muttered. Maybe the Big Guy hadn’t taken this as seriously as he thought. They’d done well with Thanksgiving, but it was one brief skirmish and then the inhabitants deserted. He always knew Hallowe’en would be the real test, and… well. “Form ranks!” he bellowed across the staging area! “Orderly march up-calendar! Fall back to Thanksgiving!”
Shouts and screams drew his attention to the border. The general stopped and gaped at the sight of zombie turkeys and pilgrims shambling forward. The dazzlers seemed to have no effect, and ornament grenades only stopped them when they took off the heads.
“They went Hallowe’en!” a colonel gasped. “What’s next?”
“Flying barbecue forks from Labor Day?” the general suggested. “I don’t think we want to find out.” He lifted the handset again. “Full retreat,” he said, deflated. “Back to December, elves. We’re beat.”
“Sir,” the colonel said. “If the Big Guy would loan us a couple of the Nine, maybe we could drop beachheads down-calendar. Something like ‘Christmas in July.’ If we get them established, we could come back and hit the We’eners from two fronts.”
“We’re not done for good,” the general said, “just for now. We’ll look into that idea, colonel. Or you will. When we get home, I figure myself for the scapegoat.”
Zombies by day, vampires by night, harassed the forces of Christmas all the way back to December. Only a few returned to tell the tale.