Terra is eight years old and just stopped believing in Santa Claus. She didn’t receive the doll she asked for. Instead, her father decided to buy her a telescope. Her father works on NASA’s Curiosity rover, so it took no time at all for her to realize that Santa had not brought her the telescope. She does love that telescope though. She stopped believing in me a few years ago. Her best friend, Suzy, asked her why fairies would be so concerned with collecting teeth. After thinking about Suzy’s question, she came to the conclusion that I must not be real. And if I am, she is afraid of me. This is the way it goes for people like me. I’m usually the first to go, then Santa. That’s why I’m at this meeting. The “Big Man Upstairs” is worried she may stop believing in all of us soon. He lives in the attic because Terra took the phrase literally when she first heard it. This forced him to actually live upstairs or else risk losing Terra’s faith in him.
When I walk into the meeting, I can see JC sitting at the middle of a table that’s covered by a bed sheet. Jesus likes us to call him “JC” for short now. He says it sounds more modern and there’s less stigma attached to it. He doesn’t wear sandals anymore and he even cut his hair and beard. Santa Claus is sitting to the right of him drinking a mug of dark beer and looks like he’s been drinking all day. He hasn’t changed his appearance in centuries. The belt on his jacket is unbuckled and the white shirt underneath is stained with spilt beer. He appears to be trying to tell JC something, but I can tell JC is politely ignoring him. He’s pretty good at ignoring people sometimes. I can hear what Santa is saying get louder as I sit down at the table.
“You know something, JC? I don’t even ever remember asking to become a Saint,” he slurs leaning onto JC’s shoulder. He’s had too much to drink and I can smell the alcohol coming through his pores. “I-I don’t remember asking for no flying reindeer sleigh neither. And I know I didn’t ask for no reindeer with a glow-in-the-dark nose. It ain’t no wonder why no one believes in me anymore!”
“Nicholas, you need to calm down,” JC replies. “Go home and get some—”
“Oh yeah? That’s a great idea! Mrs. Claus will love to hear that I’ve lost another believer. Terra was one of the best behaved kids too. I’ve been writing her name at the top of the list for almost a decade now. And she’s just going to kick me to the curb like that? You know, we don’t all have the fire and brimstone to keep the little ones believing in us.”
Santa’s always been nice to me so I try to butt in and calm him down, “Come on, Nick. You know JC doesn’t threaten little kids with hell. It’s no different than your little coal pranks you play on the bullies.” I can see Santa’s face redden as bright as his jacket is when it’s clean.
“I don’t need no reassurance from a flying stripper,” Santa snarls. “And another thing, JC, just because you’re bla—”
“That’s enough, Nicholas!” JC stands up and points to the raised ladder in the floor. “Maybe try to get yourself seen a little more often and you might not lose as many believers. This is a team effort, Nicholas. When are you going to realize that?”
“Well, we can’t all appear in toasted cheese sandwiches, or whatever it is you do to feel important about yourself,” Santa mumbles as he rises to leave.
“Are you sure we should be letting him drive home like this?” I whisper.
“He’ll be alright,” JC reassures, “I’ll have Christopher watch him.”
I watch Santa bend, carefully lower the ladder, and climb down. The opening in the floor slowly closes as the ladder collapses in on itself. JC stares at the table and shakes his head. JC has lost so many believers that he is normally unfazed when others lose them, but I can tell that today is different. Something is really bothering him.
“Are you alright, JC?” I ask. “I don’t think I’ve seen you like this before.”
“Not since Darwin,” he mumbles and then stays silent for a long time. He’s thinking about what to say, “We should wait for the others to get here. I’ll just tell them that Nicholas went home.”
He sits there thinking while the ladder is being pulled from downstairs. First the Knight in Shining Armor climbs up, then three gnomes and a leprechaun. I never know who’s going to show up to these things. At the last meeting, after the moon landing, even the Easter Bunny showed up. He got in a fight with JC and we haven’t heard from him since. Santa was on edge for months after that. It’s possibly why he started drinking.
JC looks around, counting heads. A large furry woman climbs up from downstairs and sits down on the floor at the end of the table. She’s tall enough that I can’t tell if she’s really sitting on the floor. It’s Sasquatch.
This is the first time I’ve ever seen Sasquatch in real life and I’m shocked that she’s a woman. I’m even more shocked that she’s wearing blue jeans. But that’s the way it is with most of us. The Easter Bunny is grey, Santa’s beard is orange, the Knight in Shining Armor has terrible manners and acne, JC is black, and Sasquatch is a woman wearing blue jeans. I’m not the size of one of Terra’s action figures either. I’m only a little shorter than JC. Even the gnomes and leprechauns are average sized…maybe a little shorter than me.
“Sasquatch, so nice of you to show up,” JC says excitedly. “I haven’t heard from you in years.”
I anticipate a low booming voice, but her voice is feminine. “Well, most people that believe in you aren’t trying to catch, film, or kill you,” Sasquatch replies.
JC raises an eyebrow before saying, “You sure? They used to.”
“Jesus, sorry—I mean, just sorry. I forgot,” Sasquatch lowers her head and looks down at the holes in her jeans.
The Boogeyman is the last to enter the attic. But he has no need of using the ladder. He just shows up wearing a black suit with his hair slicked back. He approaches the table with no intentions of sitting down. Everyone is silent now.
“No, Mr. B.,” JC says with authority, “you are not welcome here.” I’m confused as to why JC is calling him such a strange name. We all know who he is. Beelzebub, Belial, the Beast. JC just calls him Mr. B.
“Oh, I know,” the Boogeyman says in a salesman’s voice. He pulls a card from his breast pocket and slams it on the table, sliding it toward JC, “I already know why you are all here. But, if you should need any help convincing children to believe in you, you be sure to call that number. It should be an easy number to remem—”
“We all know your number, Mr. B.!” JC yells. “Now leave.” JC knows Mr. B. has to listen to him, but Mr. B. is cunning enough to get the last word.
“As you wish,” Mr. B. scoffs, “but, without me, you all know that it’s just a matter of time until this one small, and I do mean small, inconsistency in your dogma rids the world of all of you. And, JC, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But I’m not worried. As long as children fear the dark, I will remain. Because, as you already know, I am the god of this world. We’ll be in touch.”
Mr. B. leaves as if he were never there in the first place. We’re all waiting for JC to say something.
“No one calls that number,” JC says to all of us. “You understand?”
Sasquatch is still looking down. I’m shocked that she didn’t attack Mr. B., but I guess people like her aren’t as violent as you’d expect. And I don’t think she knows what the Boogeyman’s number is. She just knows it’s bad.
“You call us here for a reason or what?” the Knight asks. “The Boogeyman sure seemed to know something was up.”
JC looks at the Knight with refrained disgust, “I actually don’t remember calling you here. I’m guessing you heard from one of the gnomes or the leprechaun? Probably heard that the Tooth Fairy was going to be here, right?”
The gnomes look accusingly at the leprechaun and then to me. I notice the Knight staring at me as I try to add another inch to my skirt.
“Well, I’m sorry for that intrusion. Mr. B.’s and the Knight’s,” JC begins, “I’m also sorry that I have to gather you all here in this attic. As you know, I have to be in many places at once, but this place is particularly special, and it’s also the only place I live that can fit all of you. I’d prefer the Mt. of Olives, but this will have to do for now. Saint Nicholas had to go home early as he isn’t feeling well. I’ll trust that you gnomes will relay anything said here to your elf friends.”
The gnomes look at each other and nod in agreement.
“Good,” JC continues, “surprisingly, what Mr. B. said is true. We do have a serious problem. The little girl here has begun renounce anything that requires an imagination. But that is just one small example. She represents not just a child’s growth and maturity, but she also represents something that is about to happen all over the world. In a few days, it’s going to start happening to everyone. It happened to Thor. It happened to Zeus. It happened to Poseidon. It can happen to us. We are going to be phased out.”
“Every so often something comes along and shakes everyone’s faith,” He says with a tone of regret. “Galileo was the first. Darwin was next. The moon landing proved to be one of the bigger scares. Luckily almost no one questioned why a god would punish people for the Tower of Babel, but not for flying to the moon. But these are all minor threats in comparison to what’s about to happen.”
JC looks around the table, making eye contact with each of us.
“And what’s going to happen?” the Knight asks, already disagreeing with what JC hasn’t said.
“In a few days a biosignature is going to be found on Mars,” JC laughs nervously. It even sounds crazy to him, but he’s scared and we can all see it. “Terra’s father is going to find it. And he’s going to find more. It’s going to ruin all of us. It’s not going to be immediate either. But it’s safe to say that most of us will not make it more than a couple generations.”
I can see the Knight’s face turn red as he stands up from his seat, “Biosignature, huh? What are you talking about? Why does Mars have anything to do with us? And what the hell’s a biosignature?” He looks at me expecting me to laugh or to be impressed by his attempt at gaining authority over the conversation. I’m not.
I can’t stand the fact that he’s so comfortable staring at me, the light reflecting off his forehead, or the cockiness of his voice, so I yell, “It’s a sign of life, you idiot! A fossil…evidence of a fossil…evidence of life. B-I-O-signature. Life signature.”
“And how is this going to affect us? More importantly, how’s it going to affect me?” the Knight asks retaking his seat.
None of us quite know the answer. But something tells me that JC is right to be worried.
“It’s not going to affect us right away,” JC explains. “Like I said, it’s going to take a long time. That’s why I’ve tried to call as many of you here as I could. Some of us are going to go away soon. You’ll probably be one of the first to go. We’re not immortal. Once they stop believing in us, we disappear. We die.”
The Knight looks at JC, then to Sasquatch, “Yeah, that sounds likely! I’m the only one in here that’s even remotely believable.”
Sasquatch looks up and laughs, “You’re the most endangered one here. No one believes in you! You’re the closest to extinction. Women just don’t need you anymore.”
“Oh, you’re a woman now? I’m not exactly trying to appeal to the last Sasquatch,” the Knight says as he turns to ogle me again.
“It’s true,” I laugh, “No one needs you. We don’t need you. No one has ever needed you. Terra is never going to need you. Scientology and Xenu are going to outlive you. You even being here is a waste of our time.”
“She’s right,” JC says calmly. “You’ve expressed no concern except for yourself since you’ve been here. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
The Knight glares dumbfounded as he rises from the table, kicking his chair behind him. This isn’t the first time he’s been kicked out of a meeting. He leaves in a burst of ego and self-importance. I’m relieved he’s gone, but I know it’s not over.
“Keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn’t do anything foolish,” JC says to the leprechaun and gnomes. “Try to keep him away from any phones.” They follow the Knight downstairs.
“What are we going to do?” Sasquatch asks. “Are we going to stop it from happening? And what exactly is going to happen? How far ahead can you see?”
“Terra’s father is going to come home and tell her mother what he found. NASA and the rest of the scientific community have been waiting years for this to happen. The information isn’t going to go public for another couple months. They’re going to have to be absolutely sure about what they found. And when they are, it’s going to be an international race to see who can send the first group of men and women to Mars. This could take anywhere from twenty years to thirty. It’s hard to tell. I can’t gauge time that well, never been able to. But it’s going to happen, and Terra’s going to be there. It’s not going to be a return mission. As the humans slowly destroy Earth, venturing out into space is going to become necessary for their survival. They’re going to start inventing new beliefs, religions, superstitions, fears. Everything.”
“And what are we going to do about it? Can’t you just stop it?” I ask.
“We can adapt. You might have to give up your tooth thing and become a regular fairy. I never really understood the tooth thing, but hey, none of us got to pick what we do,” he says. “We need to talk to Terra. Maybe she’ll think you’re an angel if you come with me.”
We all get up from the table and look at each other. Sasquatch looks confused and asks, “What about me? What am I supposed to do?”
“You shouldn’t be worried,” JC says, “you’re real. Your life isn’t dependent on their beliefs. I just wanted to tell you to enjoy the rest of your time here, because, as far as I know, you are the last one.”
“That’s nice to know…that I’m real, I mean,” she stutters. “Maybe I’ll see you around?”
None of us know what to say, so we just nod our heads at each other before Sasquatch climbs down the ladder.
I’m worried about the Boogeyman. I’m worried that the Knight is going to call his number. I’m worried about changing into an angel instead of being a fairy. I’m worried about Santa. I’m worried about the people that didn’t show up to the meeting. I’m worried about Terra and if she has any clue about how important she is.
JC heads over to the ladder and turns around, “Well let’s go talk to her,” he says.
When we reach Terra’s bedroom she is already talking to Mr. B. and the Knight. The Knight must have taken the number. Terra is sitting up in her bed and can see me and JC peeking through the doorway. She doesn’t look scared.
“Don’t you want to grow up and have a family, Terra?” Mr. B. asks, “You can have little kids of you own.”
“No, I don’t think so,” she says. We can see her looking at us before shifting her focus to the Knight. “Not with him. He’s ugly.” The Knight is trying to remain calm and charming.
“Oh, but your knight won’t be,” Mr. B. says, “He’ll look however you want him to look.”
“But I don’t want a knight,” she says stubbornly, “I want to marry an astronaut. But I don’t want to have to move my family to space.”
“Is that right? Well, what if you never make it to space, Terra? What if something bad happens?”
I try to push by JC and enter the bedroom, but he stops me and whispers, “Let’s see what she says first. They can’t hurt her. They can only scare her.”
Terra rubs her chin before saying, “Well, Daddy said he has a secret that he can’t tell anybody yet. He says that his secret is going help me get to space when I grow up.”
Mr. B. looks furious, “But a lot of people are going to die before anyone starts a family up there. You don’t want to die, do you?”
“Maybe if it’s in space.”
“So you’re not afraid of dying?” the Knight asks.
“Nope,” Terra answers shaking her head, “nope, nope, nope.”
Mr. B. whispers an unspeakable word under his breath. As they both turn to leave, they realize we have been listening to their entire conversation.
“This little girl is going to kill you too, you know?” Mr. B. says to JC.
“Get out,” JC says. “You are never allowed back inside this house.”
“That’s fine,” He snarls. “You enjoy your slow demise.”
The Knight has either seen a ghost or turned into one as he walks past us. I can tell JC isn’t worried anymore. But I can’t help myself from asking him, “Are we still going to talk to her? What if Mr. B. is right and she is going to kill you?”
JC smiles and looks at the palms of his hands and says, “I don’t think we need to talk to her, or stop her. She saw us. She believes in us. And if she forgets about us, it’ll be alright. I’ve been killed for less.”