Larry was dead. Well, metaphorically. He wasn't actually gone from this earth, but in terms of emotional and mental health, he was too far gone to be saved. Day after day, he put on his suit and tie and fancy uniform, getting in his fancy black car to undertake in another boring day's work. He was like all the others. Emotionless, time conscious, mediocre zombies, who trudged along the busy streets of New York, sipping their bland coffee, and eating their fatty, plain doughnuts. Upon first glance, he would look like the loneliest, saddest, most pathetic man who could walk the earth and still bear it.
It was Christmas Eve, and Larry sat at his large, black desk, staring halfheartedly at his little bowl of red and white peppermints, apparently debating whether or not it was worth the energy to take one in his mouth and savor the delicious, minty flavor of the sweet treat. After a moment's hesitation, he decided he was too busy for the bit of joy the treat could offer, and went about signing some patent papers for a new product he'd invented. It was for a new sort of spray, which people could apply to their Christmas trees to make them glimmer and glow with a mystic snow-white hue. It was a good idea, and one he was sure he would make a fortune off of.
"Mr. Daley," A woman's voice said through the intercom speaker.
"Yes? What is it?" Larry asked, putting down his ball tipped pen.
"I wanted to remind you about the pitch meeting tomorrow, remember? For the Sparkly Tree spray?"
"Yeah. Yeah. Looking forward to it. Hey, are those papers ready?" Larry asked, twisting the phone's cord in his fingers.
"Yes sir, Mr. Daley. All ready for tomorrow evening." The woman replied.
"Alright. Have the intern come and file these papers. I've gotta get home."
"Will do, sir. Goodnight, and Merry Christmas."
"Okay. Merry Christmas." Larry said, yawning.
He hung up the phone, and sighed. He looked at his watch, and saw that it was 10:59, and time to get home. He packed up what he had in his suitcase, and took the elevator to the first floor. He was alone in there, with "Jingle Bells" playing in a soft, musical tone in the background. Finally, he reached the bottom floor, and stepped out. It was chilly, and he wrapped his coat tightly around him. His breath billowed from his mouth in little clouds, and the flashing lights lit up upon windows and doors, causing the dusk darkness to glare in a spirited, joyful manner, but Larry could find no joy. He hailed a taxi, and stepped in.
"Where to?" The driver asked in a jolly voice.
"Walmart." Larry replied simply, pulling a slip of paper from his pocket.
"Last minute shopping, eh?" The driver asked, putting his foot to the gas.
"Got any kids?"
"A son, he's 12 now,"
"Ah. I've got a wonderful wife and three charming daughters myself. One three, one six, and one two month old."
"Her first Christmas then, huh?" Larry asked, staring out the window.
"Yep. First Christmas. When my shift's over, I'm gonna go get her a nice little toy, perhaps a little stuffed animal or something. Children sure are a joy, eh?"
"Yeah, sure are."
As Larry gazed out the window, the cab turned on a street he recognized. He then saw the site of his old job. The Museum of Natural History was wonderfully decked, with lights and wreaths on the large windows and doors. He saw the glowing lights of the giant tree he knew was within the walls, but noticed how dark the rest of the inside was. It had been two years since he quit his old job as a night guard, and he occasionally found himself missing it. But with all the money and fame he was getting, he questioned whether wanting to go back was foolish or not. A few seconds later the museum was behind him, and the cab turned into the parking lot.
Larry got out of another cab a while later, and fumbled with his keys, his numb fingers trying to grasp the golden piece of metal which stood between him, and a nice, warm bed. He finally managed to unlock the door, and flipped on the lights. He sighed when he saw how cluttered his house was, and was thankful that only himself and his son would be home for Christmas. This meant, luckily, that he didn't have to clean it. Not yet, anyways. He'd do it when he had time. He carefully put down the bag he'd been carrying, and took out the new Xbox game he'd gotten Nicky. He went to get the wrapping paper, but yawned, and decided to wrap it tomorrow. He'd have time.
He changed into his night-clothes, and he sank into his soft, king sized bed, pulling the covers around him. As he began to drift off to sleep, the phone beside his bed began to ring. Larry sat up, confused at who could be calling him at this hour. He slowly answered the phone, and said hello in a groggy, tired voice.
"Lawrence?" A voice said, familiar and slightly surprising.
"Wha….wait. Teddy? Is that you?" Larry asked, slightly startled. "How did you get my number…?"
"Sorry to bother you at this time, Lawrence, but we were wondering if you would come to visit us tomorrow evening? Like….like you normally do on the holidays."
Larry gasped. He'd completely forgotten! "Oh, um, sorry, Teddy, but, I-I'm pretty, pretty packed tomorrow,"
"So…you will not be joining us, then?"
"I'm afraid not, Teddy."
"I see. I suppose you are busy."
"Yeah. I've got a pitch meeting tomorrow, and I was gonna take Nicky out for dinner….."
"You've changed, Lawrence. What happened to the man you used to be?" Teddy interrupted, in a voice not too far from regret.
Larry was taken aback. "No, Teddy, I'm still me, I'm just busy, you know."
"Yes, I understand. You have your life now. I see that. I just wish you would come. It would mean a lot to us all."
"Yeah, I know. But I just can't make it tomorrow."
"Alright. I see you cannot be persuaded. Tonight, you will be visited by three exhibits,"
"Yes. Three. The exhibit of museum's past, present, and future."
"Really?" Larry asked, smirking slightly. "What am I? Scrooge? Don't be silly, Teddy. Nice prank, though."
"This isn't a prank, Lawrence. You will be visited by three exhibits. I hope you will then realize what you must do."
But the president had already hung up the phone. Larry sighed, collapsed down on his pillows, and drifted off back to sleep. He was curled in his blankets when the clock struck one. His alarm beeped, and he jumped, entangling himself in his sheets. He stumbled out of bed, and slammed his fist down on the blaring alarm clock.
"It is annoying, is it not, my liege?" A voice said from upon Larry's nightstand.
"Yeah, yeah. Very annoying….." Larry said, yawning. He then did a double take, and stared at the little miniature Roman who stood on his nightstand. "Octavius!?"
"Yes?" Octavius asked, smiling.
"Wha…what are you doing in my house? And how did you even get here?" Larry asked, searching for an explanation.
"Please, do not panic. I come only to talk to you." He said simply, sitting down on the edge of the nightstand.
"Wha….no, you can't be Octavius. You, you're at the museum, right? Yeah, you….you're at the museum….."
"No, I am not. And I am the Exhibit of Museum's Past. I am here to show you what you have forgotten."
Larry frowned, and laid back down in his bed. "I know you guys are upset with me for not coming tomorrow, but you need to work more on your practical jokes."
Octavius sighed, and reached out a tiny hand, touching Larry's shoulder. The next thing the man knew, he was drowning in a snow bank. Larry jumped to his feet, shaking his head while the snow flakes flew from his well-trimmed hair. He shivered, for it was a cold night. Around him, people walked calmly, singing carols, sledding, and even a fast-paced snowball fight was taking place on the side of the street. Larry yelped in surprise as a snowball sailed his direction, and was slightly astonished to see it travel right through him.
"Wha…..where….how….where am I!?" Larry exclaimed, whirling to stare in each direction.
"Look behind you, Larry," Octavius said, gesturing to a large building outlined against the half-moon.
Larry turned, and immediately saw that it was the museum. His museum. He followed the little Roman as he led the way, at a strangely faster pace than what would have been possible for one of his size, but with all the unbelievable things happening, Larry failed to question. He watched as they stopped before the massive steps, and Octavius reached up his hand.
"Touch my hand," He said, his voice commanding, but soft, like the way a mother speaks to a frightened child.
Larry obeyed, and found himself standing upon the roof of the museum, staring in at the people below him from the large window that looked down upon the main entrance. He saw himself, a few years back, sitting at a piano which stood before a massive, glowing tree, with all his nearest, dearest friends about him. Teddy and Sacagawea sat before an electric fireplace, which had stockings hung for each exhibit. Even little, thumbnail sized stockings for the two miniatures, who sat together upon the fireplace, chatting good-naturedly about this and that, and the goings on in their own exhibits. They all sung carols, and Ahkmenrah stood beside the piano, fascinated by the way it worked, while Attila and the other Huns gathered around the tree, arguing quietly in their own language about how such a shrub could grow within the walls. Rexy stood nearby, swinging his tail back and forth slowly, happily, his normal throwing bone wrapped in a bright red ribbon. And Dexter, with a cute, cheesy little grin on his monkey face, sat atop the highest branches of the tree. Sacagawea and Teddy sat holding hands, sipping from cups of warm, chocolatey hot cocoa, which fogged up the president's spectacles, causing him to miss his mouth. Everyone laughed, and Teddy couldn't help smile. It was a picturesque scene, with all merry and bright.
Larry couldn't help but smile slightly. He remembered that Christmas as the Christmas when Teddy Roosevelt needed a dry cleaner. It had an interesting tale to tell to the kind woman who ran the dry cleaner just a few blocks away. Still, the "it was a prop for a play," excuse worked. As he stared, he didn't notice the look in Octavius' eyes. There was a look of happiness, but also a dark drape of sadness and regret.
"Is something wrong?" Larry asked, finally glancing down.
"Oh, no, Larry, nothing is wrong." Octavius replied, staring longingly at the room below. "I just…"
"You just…?" Larry said, raising his eyebrows slightly.
Octavius sighed. "I just miss the old days, when everyone was happy."
Larry felt a little wave of shame wash over him, and sat down, leaning against the window. "The museum's still the same," He pointed out, trying to sound cheerful.
The little Roman shook his head. "Not since you left. We all miss you, Larry. We really, really do. We all wish you would come back."
"I know you do. But I just can't. I have a good business now. Money to buy things. People who look up to me, who love me, who enjoy and love my products and inventions. I like my new life."
"No doubt you do. But you are blinded by your accomplishments to see what you have become. We have all suffered, Larry." Then, Octavius' gaze drifted to Jedediah, who was handing the past Octavius a little bow wrapped in green paper. "Some more than others."
Larry followed his gaze, and saw the past Roman open the gift, seeing a leather sword sheath in its center. He smiled, and handed the cowboy a box, which contained a new Stetson. After that, the vision of the exhibits and the night guard vanished, and Larry found himself back in his room. He sat up, looked around cautiously, and flopped back down onto the pillow. He saw the time, which was 1:35 a.m. He sighed, and closed his eyes, his tired self sinking into a deep, dreamless sleep. But not for long.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Blared the alarm clock, causing Larry to jump and roll from his mattress.
"Ow!" He yelled, struggling to stand in the tangled mass of sheets than entangled him.
"Larry! Come hither." A voice said from the hallway.
Larry finally untangled himself, and dropped the bundle of white sheets onto the foot of his bed. He yawned, and looked toward the hallway, which was not dark, like it had been earlier, but bathed in golden light. The sounds of merry laughter came from a ways down, and Larry smelled something rather nice. He slowly walked over to the door, and followed the light. He stopped, with his mouth gaping in astonishment, when he reached the living room. There, he saw Ahkmenrah, dressed in his normal, golden linen robes, with his golden crown atop his head. He was sitting on a massive golden throne, which Larry realized was his black leather couch, which had been turned into a plush, extravagantly carved wooden bench, with stuffed red throw pillows on it for cushions. The old gray carpetwas replaced with red velvet rugs, and shiny sandstone tiles shown through the areas which the rugs did not cover.
"Ahk….Ahkmenrah…?" Larry asked, bewildered to see the pharaoh sitting there in his living room.
"Ah! There you are, Larry! I feared you would never come to investigate the strange glowing light emanating from your lounge room." He said sarcastically.
"What…how…" Larry stuttered, not believing his eyes.
"The same way Octavius did," Ahkmenrah said, reading Larry's mind. He then stood, and smiled. "I, am the Exhibit of Museum's Present."
"But...how did he get in here?" Larry asked, ignoring Ahkmenrah's introduction.
Ahkmenrah smiled, and picked up a plate of some strange-looking food. "That, you will discover later in your journey."
Larry went to ask what the Egyptian meant by the term "his journey," but was distracted by what the pharaoh was eating. It didn't look like any normal food one might expect to find, nor did it look like the fancy cuisine served at fine dining restaurants. To Larry, it looked like a platter of fluffy white bricks made of foam, and little strips of some sort of dried meat. It didn't look appetizing, but at the same time, it looked rather enticing.
"Um, what are you eating?" He asked curiously, raising his eyebrows slightly.
Ahkmenrah gulped down a mouthful of the fluffy white substance, and smiled. "Why, I am eating gibna domiata, and some dried flamingo jerky."
Larry gagged slightly. More for the flamingo meat rather than the other strange food the Egyptian ate. "What is….giba domita?" He asked, slightly confused.
The pharaoh laughed a little, and smiled kindly. "What is gibna domiata? Why, it is Egyptian cheese. It is fluffy like this because it is made of buffalo milk. Would you like to try some?"
"No, thank you," Larry said, paling slightly. "I don't think I'd like it."
Ahkmenrah shrugged. "Suit yourself." He swallowed the last bit of, "gibna domiata," and made his way to the front door. "Coming?" He asked, gesturing to the exit.
Larry shook his head, and took a few steps back. "No, no. I've had enough adventure for one night. I've seen enough."
Ahkmenrah's joyful face turned grim, and a deep frown replaced the happy smile. "Larry, there is much that you have not seen, that is dire to your circumstances. Octavius only showed you the past, but what matters the most is the present."
Larry opened his mouth to protest, but with a snap of the pharaoh's fingers, he found himself once again in front the museum. This time, he stood upon the steps of the great building, the door a glowing portal of light, waiting for the two to enter its glowing realm. Ahkmenrah gestured for Larry to go first, and he hesitantly stepped through the door, and was surprised to find himself safe and unharmed on the other side, staring up at the giant Christmas tree in the center. Ahkmenrah walked up beside him, and gestured to the main hallway. As Larry walked forwards, he saw Ahkmenrah walk out from his chamber, and cross the floor to another room. Larry froze. No, Ahkmenrah was behind him. But that was most definitely Ahkmenrah…
"Ahkmenrah, how can that be you?" He asked, watching the golden cape disappear around the corner.
"Like Octavius, only a small fragment of my consciousness visited you. So small a fraction, in fact, that he has no recollection of the event, nor will I, when I leave you again."
Larry nodded, understanding just slightly what he meant, and continued walking. He stopped when he heard the familiar voice ofSacagawea.
"Teddy," She said, walking over to the president, who smiled, but could not hide the sadness in his eyes. "Is everything alright?" She asked.
The president sighed. "Lawrence…will not be joining us tonight, or tomorrow, for that matter. I'm afraid, we'll have to spend this Christmas without the company of our dear night guard."
The young Indian woman frowned, and hugged the president. "We will still have fun," She said gently, her voice as soothing and soft as always.
"I know, my dear, but I am afraid it will not be the same without Lawrence."
Larry sighed, and felt a little ashamed that he'd let his good friend Teddy down. Suddenly, a roar was heard from behind him, and he turned just in time to seeRexy stalk in, slowly, and without purpose. He tried to get out of the way, but was unable to. He braced himself for the impact, and was mildly startled to find the massive fossil walking straight through him. He looked around, expecting to see the little car drive by with the bone, but did not. He turned toAhkmenrah, confused.
"Where's…" He began.
"Go see for yourself," Ahkmenrah said, his smile dashed for good and replaced with a grim line.
Larry slowly made his way to the Hall of Miniatures, and heard a voice coming from within. He recognized it as Octavius', and stopped at the entrance.
"Jedediah, please, do not be sad." He said, standing beside his friend, who sat slouching in a depressed manner.
"I can't, Octavius. I've tried, but I just can't." Jedediah replied, his head bowed.
"But, Jedediah, it is Christmas Eve, and tomorrow is Christmas. You must be happy, my friend."
Jedediah sighed sadly. " I can't be happy knowin' Gigantor ain't comin' tomorrow," He said, still staring at the floor.
They were silent for a moment, and then Octavius spoke again. "Jedediah, I know you are upset about Larry not coming, and I am upset too. But the rest of us are still here, and we will not allow you to have a gloomy night tomorrow. Come. Let us ride for a while, andgive the giant lizard some joy."
"I ain't goin'." Jedediah said, refusing to move. "I ain't leavin' 'till Gigantor comes."
Octavius sighed, and sat beside his friend. "Then I will wait with you."
"No, Octavius. Don't waste your time."
"I am not wasting my time. You are my friend, Jedediah. If I see you upset, then I try to make you happy again. But if I fail, then I share your sadness, and perhaps lessen the load you must bear."
The cowboy didn't reply immediately, and stared out the window longingly. They heard the roar of the dinosaur just down the hall, and Jedediah looked up at Octavius. "Go give 'ol Rexy some joy, Ockie. I'll be fine here."
"Ain't no use the two of us bein' down. Git' goin', Octavius. There ain't much night left."
Reluctantly, Octavius left with a friendly pat on the shoulder and a good night for his friend, and walked off to find the car. Larry stepped in quietly, and stood nearby, watching the little blonde cowboy as he stared up at the sky. Ahkmenrah waited at the entrance, and watched on silently.
"You know," Jedediah said suddenly, startling Larry. He looked down, and saw the cowboy staring at the moon with sad, tired eyes. "Sometimes I wish ya never left."
"I'm sorry, Jed," Larry said sincerely, a pang of sadness traveling through his heart.
"He can't hear you," Ahkmenrah pointed out.
Larry nodded, and went back to listening.
"Life ain't been much good since ya left. I miss ya a whole bunch. Everybody does. And now, I find myself down and depressed on Christmas Eve." Jedediah sighed, and closed his eyes, and a slight smile appeared on his face. "I remember the nights now long gone, ya know, when you played that piano, and we sang, and drank that hot stuff you called cocoa…not as good as coffee, but still alright. Now, we live every night blanketed in a mist of sadness,waitin' for ya 'ta come back to us. But you never do."
Now, Larry was swallowing back a few tears. He had no idea how deeply his absence affected them all!
"Now, I sit alone on Christmas Eve, staring at a starless sky. You've no idea how much I wish you were here. 'Least 'olOckie still shows up. But I think he might give up on me soon. If he does, I don't know what I'll do."
"Sometimes, it feels like yer so close, Gigantor, so close, and yet, yer so far away. I miss you, Gigantor. We all do. And…..and I wish….." Jedediah paused, and a few tears slipped from his blue eyes. "I wish you would just come home."
Slowly, the vision began to fade, and Larry found himself in the main entrance, with the real Ahkmenrah sitting on Rexy's podium, and the Exhibit of Present or whatever Ahkmenrah behind him. He watched as the little car slowly drove in, and Octavius stepped out. He walked with his head bowed over to the Egyptian, and sat down with a sigh on the edge. The pharaoh looked at him, and frowned.
"Are you alright?" He asked, staring down at him.
The Roman sighed. "No, I am not. I fear for Jedediah. He is all alone, and will not allow me to help him. He misses Larry so much, and I fear he may never be happy again."
"Don't say that, and don't despair. He will be fine, in time," Ahkmenrah said, trying to sound hopeful.
"I hope you are right," Octavius replied, sighing again. "Because I do not see much good in our future if Larry does not return."
Now Larry understood. He understood why the earlier Octavius had taken him to view past Christmas', and he understood why Ahkmenrah had taken him to view the present Christmas the exhibits were experiencing. He understood it all now.
"Oh, Ahkmenrah! How could I have been so stupid!" He yelled, slapping his hand to his face. "This is all my fault!"
"I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is. But you can change what might happen if you go back." Ahkmenrah stated, beginning to fade away.
"Wait! Ahk! I can change! I WILL change! Wait!" But the Egyptian was already gone, and Larry watched in frightened curiosity as a deep fog descended over the museum and himself. The light of the moon vanished, and the air became icy cold; so cold, that it nearly froze the man's heart.
Suddenly, a large, dark, shadowy figure moved swiftly from behind a nearby tree.
"He-Hello?" Larry stuttered, slightly nervous. "Hello? Who's there?"
As the figure walked closer, Larry took a few steps back. But soon, he found himself stuck between the trunk of a tree, and a large, frowning Hun.
"Attila?" He asked, his fear turning to confusion.
The Hun nodded, and crossed his arms.
"Huh. You must be the 'Exhibit of Museum's Future', then?"
Again, the Hun nodded.
"So, then, you'll tell me what will become of you guys?"
Once again, the Hun nodded, and gestured to a nearby window. There was something menacing about it, and Larry felt once again felt fear gripping his heart. But under the gaze of the watchful Hun, he went forth through the snow, and stopped at the window. He looked through. There was no tree, and icicles hung from the ceiling. Larry knew that was a sign the heater was broken. The fireplace that had once brought Christmas warmth and joy was gone, and not a decoration could be seen. But worst of all, not an exhibit was out. Larry slowly opened the door, followed by the Hun, and saw what looked like a ghost town, and noticed that all the exhibits were in their places, and none attempted to leave.
"What happened here?" He asked, seeing that even Rexy stood on his podium, not even moving his tail.
The Hun didn't reply, and gestured towards the Hall of Miniatures. Larry frowned, and felt the dread again. "Do we have to go in there?" He asked, his voice a mere whisper.
The Hun nodded, and gestured towards the hall again. Larry gulped. He slowly made his way over to it, andwas astonished at how quite it was. All the miniatures were in their places, and the glass coverings were closed, letting only the lonely, sad eyes of the little people within see out, and letting their minds wish they were free. Larry sighed, and turned to Attila.
"Why have you brought me here?" He asked, longing for this nightmare to end.
The Hun shook his head, and gestured to the windowsill. Larry glanced over, and noticed one of the exhibits sitting upon it, head bowed and shivering in the cold of the night. He made his way forwards, and realized it was Octavius, staring sadly out the window. He also noticed the poor Roman was crying, and Larry saw the Stetson he held in his hands. He realized with growing dread what must have happened. But he hadto be sure.
"Attila, what's happened?" Larry asked, turning once again to the Hun.
Attila gestured to the little Roman, and Larry paused, listening.
"Why did you have to go?" Octavius whispered, a few tears slipping from his eyes. "Why did you have to run away?"
Now Larry understood. He turned to the Hun with a desperate look on his face, and pleaded. "Please, tell me how to change this!"
The Hun shook his head, and gestured once again to the Roman. Larry turned just as the little man gasped, and noticed his brown eyes fill with fear. He then noticed the figure of a night guard standing in the entrance to the hall, his shadow falling over the terrified Roman.
"Hey!" The man barked, grabbing Octavius before he could run. "What are you doing out?"
The Roman said nothing, for his throat was choked with fear and tears. The man then opened the glass covering his exhibit, and roughly tossed him in, slamming the door closed. After muttering some things under his breath, the night guard went to leave, but paused when something on the ground caught his eye. He picked it up, and saw it was a cowboy hat, which the Roman had dropped when he was picked up. He turned to the Roman, and waved it before him.
"You want this?" He asked, smiling.
Octavius nodded, wiping his eyes.
"Well, you can't have it."
Larry watched as the guard opened the window, and tossed the little garment out. He then slammed it closed, locked it, and left, laughing as he went. Then, the room changed, and Larry found himself outside, in the freezing cold, with only the light of a street lamp. He didn't recognize this place, but followed the Hun as he led him over to the lamp. It looked completely normal, except for the ominous fact that a little cowboy sat, huddled against the seemingly massive slab of concrete, and shivered as a cold wind blew against him. The rays of the sun began to show on the horizon, and the miniature cowboy gasped. He ran for the shadows of a few trees, but his attempt was futile, and Larry watched as the final rays reached over the buildings, and all that remained of the miniature was a little pile up dust.
"No…." Larry said, horror in his eyes. "No! This can't happen!" He cried, covering his mouth in shock.
The Hun said nothing, and motioning with his hand, ushered on a new picture. It was an office, with a fireplace which wasn't lit, and the room was dark and gloomy. An old man sat slumped over a banking book, and was scratching down notes on a sheet of paper beside him. There was a knock on the door, and the man's harsh, scratchy voice spoke through the gloom.
"Come in," He said, not looking up from his work.
"Dad?" A young man asked, opening the door. Larry recognized him as his son, Nicky.
"What? What do you want?" The man said in a gruff tone, looking up. When his face caught the light that drifted in through the door, Larry was shocked to see the old, wrinkly, some what mean looking face of himself...his older self.
So this is what I become, Larry thought, frowning. He watched on in silence.
"I was wondering, dad, if you would like to join me and my wife for dinner tonight." Nicky said, smiling. "The kids would be very happy to see you."
The older Larry looked as if he was thinking, and then made a "humph" sound, and went back to his work. "Can't. Don't have time this evening.
"But, dad, it's Christmas Eve. I thought, you know, you could leave your work for a few hours, and spend some time with family. Maybe go down to the museum…"
"Museum?" The old Larry asked, pausing his writing. "What museum?"
"The one you used to work at, remember? With the exhibits? The Tablet?"
The older Larry paused thoughtfully, then shook his head. "A distant memory. The only tablet I worry about now is the one with my appointments on it."
Nicky frowned, and had a hurt look on his face. "Alright. I see where you stand. Goodnight, dad. Merry Christmas."
"Yeah alright. Bye. Oh! I almost forgot! Your gift." The older Larry scooted out from behind his desk, and handed his son a wrapped present.
Nicky smiled, and opened it to find…a calendar. His smile was still on his face, but was obviously forced. "Oh...uh...a calendar...gee, thanks...dad…"
"You're welcome. Now you'll never be late for work. I also got mini ones for the kids."
Larry had seen enough. He turned to Attila with a desperate look on his face, and a pleading look in his eyes. "This can be changed, right?" He asked.
The Hun said and did nothing, but just stared at him. Larry tried again.
"Please, Attila, tell me this can be changed!"
Still, the Hun refused to speak.
"Why won't you answer me!?" Larry exclaimed, falling to his knees. "This can be changed! I can change! Please! Tell me it's not too late to change!"
The Hun, seeming softened by the man's pleas, smiled slightly, and nodded. He raised his hand, and the next thing Larry knew, he woke up in his bed.
The clock read 8:00am. It was Christmas morning! It wasn't too late! He leapt out of bed, and quickly threw on his clothes. He went to put on his tie, but decided to wear something a little more festive. He rummaged through his drawer, until he found his old night guard uniform. He slipped it on, and ran out of the room. He paused at his bookshelf, and pulled down an old book that belonged to Nicky. He then put on his shoes, and ran out the door, slipping A Christmas Carol in his coat pocket. He hailed the nearest cab, and hopped in.
"To the nearest store. Fast!" He said, running his fingers through his hair, which he'd forgotten to brush. When the cab stopped, he leapt out, and ran into the building, purchasing gifts for all his friends, and grabbing a bag of thick sticks of white striped candies. He then hailed yet another taxi, and went to the place where he would be spending his night.
Later that evening, inside the museum, the inhabitants sat together, each trying to portray a glimmer of happiness, but was oppressed by the pain of sorrow. They were waiting to light the tree which stood in the center of the room, and waited for just the right moment. Teddy went to plug in the lights, but before he could, they seemed to flip on by themselves. Everyone stood in amazement as their good old night guard stepped out from behind it, holding over his shoulder a large sack.
"Lawrence!" Teddy exclaimed, taking the night guard in a rather tight embrace.
"It's...good...to see...you too...Teddy...gotta...breath though…" Larry gasped.
"Oh, right. My apologies, my good man. It's good to have you back." Teddy replied, a smile on his face.
"It's good to be back. Now. Where's Jed?" Larry asked, looking around. Now that he thought of it, he didn't seen either miniature.
Teddy sighed, but quickly regained his happy mood. "In the hall. Go on! Go see him, man!"
Larry made his way to the Hall of Miniatures, followed by a procession of eager exhibits. When he reached the entrance, he saw how dark and gloomy the room was, and didn't see a soul in sight, since all the miniatures had gone to the front, and had followed in the very back of the crowd, careful not to tread underfoot of the larger exhibits. He looked around, but saw no one.
"Where is he?" He asked, turning to Teddy.
The president shrugged, and frowned. Then, from behind the bench, the sound of a little engine was heard, leading to the sight of the little car driving out into the open. As soon as it turned towards the entrance, it stopped, and there were a few seconds of awkward silence as the motor slowly turned off. A moment later, the driver's door was slowly swung open, and Octavius stepped out, a look of excitement and disbelief on his face.
"Larry?" He asked, not quite believing what he saw.
Larry nodded, and bent down on his knees, looking keenly down at the miniature, who looked back up with a smile of joy. "Yup. It's me alright." He replied.
"This is great!" The little Roman exclaimed, practically shaking with excitement. "I must tell Jedediah!"
Octavius bolted towards the western exhibit, and called up in an eager tone to his friend. A few seconds later, a little blonde head popped out from a tent, and a smile lit up the once sorrow filled face. The cowboy ran from his tent, and ran to the night guard, his expression one of awe and astonishment.
"Gigantor you came back!" He said, hugging Larry's shoe.
Larry smiled, and picked him and Octavius up, hugging them both.
"I thought you'd never come back," Jedediah said, hugging part of the night guard's coat.
"It's okay now, I'm here." Larry replied, a warm smile on his face.
"You're part of the family, Lawrence," Teddy said, patting the old night guard's shoulder. "And family can't easily be forgotten. Especially on the holidays."
"Yeah." Larry said. A smile then appeared on his face, and he turned to the exhibits around him. "Group hug!" He said. And he found himself in the center of a large mass of loving friends he now realized how much he missed.
Later that evening, with the fire blazing in the electric fireplace, after the gifts had been opened, and the joyful party had ended, the exhibits sat calmly together, and Larry began reading A Christmas Carol aloud, smiling at the faces of his friends, who listened in wonder to the tale he had experienced first hand. And as he finished the final chapter, he felt a warm sensation flowing from his heart, and knew he couldn't forsake the people he'd grown to love. He also knew that he might never get his old job back, but no matter what, he would make an effort to always visit, and be there during the holidays. Their Christmas' would always be spent together, and nothing would ever change that.
As he closed the book, he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, and threw it aside. It was Christmas night, and no work was more important than his friends.