The mall was covered in twinkling lights and absolutely jam-packed with people. In fact, most of the mall was shoulder to shoulder with crowds forcing people to move in directions they hadn't intended. In the center of this mass stood Olivia and Harper, doing their best to make their way through the mass of people.
"I can't believe you talked me into this," Olivia groaned as a child accidentally elbowed her in the hip.
"Yeah, yeah," mumbled Harper, "I left gift buying a little late."
"When have you not?" retorted Olivia. "Anyhow, how much more do you need?"
"Just a few nieces and nephews. Maybe a few great-aunts," replied Harper, raising her voice to be heard over the noisy crowd.
"Right," sighed Olivia as she pointed to a less full corridor. "Can we duck down there? I need a break from this crowd."
"Sure," agreed Harper as she and Olivia started to push through the crowd. It took the pair a few moments but they eventually found their way into the side corridor. For the first time in several minutes, they could move their limbs.
"Thank god," sighed Olivia. She stretched, feeling a sense of relief. "My arms can move again. Before we head back in there, do you have any idea what else you're going to get?" she asked, looking towards Harper.
"Hell if I know," shrugged Harper, "Just playing it by ear."
"You picked the worst time to do that," grumbled Olivia as she rubbed the bridge of her nose.
"You worry too much," Harper chuckled. "It’s just a crowd, no need to get your panties in a knot." She started to move through the corridor. "But hey, there are some toy stores this way, perfect for my nephews."
"Do you know what toys they like?" asked Olivia as she quickly moved to catch up.
"Not a fucking clue. But, I'm sure we can work it out," replied Harper. "How hard can it be? It's just toys."
Olivia rolled her eyes, keen to get this over with as soon as possible.
The pair continued to snake through the corridor, past the various decorated storefronts and signs advertising other stores that could be found in the sprawling mall. After a few turns, they arrived in a brightly light plaza.
Olivia winced a little as her eyes strained to adapt to the bright lights. While she had been in this plaza before, she had never seen it lit up like this. The usually empty part of the mall had been turned into a Christmas wonderland packed full of trees, fairy lights, and fake snow dunes.
"Well holy fuck," gasped Harper as she looked around, her eyes slowly adapting to the light. While this mall usually went all out for the holidays, this year’s display was new to everyone. However, as Harper looked around, she quickly spotted the reason for this display. At the far end of the plaza was a series of small cardboard houses sat around a large velvet-covered seat on a small raised platform. Based on the signs around the houses, this was meant to be a Santa's village setup complete with elf workshops and reindeer barns.
“Hey!” Hissed Olivia, “no swearing, there are kids around!” She added as the girls continued to look. They realized that several short girls in elf costumes were milling around the area, the bells on their clothing letting out a soft jingle with every step.
"Cute," Olivia said and smiled as a woman clad in a Santa Claus suit walked out from behind the cardboard houses and sat on the chair. Harper moved forward and read a sign sitting in front of the village.
"Oh fuck!" called Harper as she waved Olivia over pointing at the sign with a grin, "Let's go!"
"Sweetie, it's for kids, ones without potty mouths" started Olivia. But she quickly noticed that she was wrong. The sign said that pictures with Ms. Claus were open to adults as well, as it was part of a mall charity drive.
"Come on, it will be hella cute!" continued Harper.
"Nah, I'm okay thanks." replied Olivia, shaking her head as she did. She had already had enough of people today, and she didn't want to deal with any others.
Harper folded her arms. "Oh come on. Like you don't see it."
Olivia raised an eyebrow, unsure. "See what?"
"Lady Santa is smoking hot. In a Mom way."
"Yeah, I'm not into girls. But if that's what you're into, more power to you."
Harper shrugged, unmoved. "So?"
"I'm not going to have an awkward selfie just so you can get off," sighed Olivia. "And if you're that keen on her, you don't want me in the picture."
"Okay," mumbled Harper. "I'll do it on my own then." She quickly turned and made her way to the empty queue line. As she did, Olivia continued to look around the area only to notice that one of the elves kept glancing at her, almost like she was waiting for something.
Harper made her way through the line and ended up in front of the chair. Once she got there, Ms. Claus looked at her and smiled. "Ho! Ho! Ho!" she shouted, her voice echoing around the plaza. "Come up and see me, young lady!" She smiled as Harper stepped up onto the platform.
Ms. Claus patted a stool next to her chair and Harper quickly sat down. The blush in her cheeks was becoming even more obvious as she continued to look at the woman.
"So," began Ms. Claus. "Have you been a Good Girl this year?"
Harper let out a soft giggle as she looked around. "No, I've been very naughty." Olivia cringed at the sound, unable to believe that Harper had said that. She looked around, mentally debating if she should leave just so she wouldn't be associated with Harper.
Ms. Claus' eyes went wide as a look of shock came over her face. "Could you repeat that?" she muttered. "I might have misheard."
"I've been very naughty," replied Harper, nodding her head as she did. Olivia felt like she was going to pull a muscle, she was cringing so hard. However, as Olivia turned to leave, she realized that all of the elves had stopped moving and they were all staring at the chair.
"Are you sure?" asked Ms. Claus, her voice becoming firmer as her eyes widened.
"Reeeeally fucking naughty, yes," nodded Harper, seemingly oblivious to how uncomfortable Ms. Claus was.
"I see," muttered Ms. Claus as her one hand slowly reached across the arm of her chair. "I see," she said again before pressing on the underside of the arm.
Suddenly an alarm blared as the fairy lights changed to red and started to flash. "What is going on?" gasped Olivia as she looked around, trying to work out what the emergency was. As she looked, she saw several large metal walls burst out from the cardboard props, surrounding Harper and Ms. Claus.
Olivia wanted to repeat her question but before she could open her mouth, the elves started to produce guns from inside their costumes. "Code Tinsel! Code Tinsel!" shouted one as they produced a rifle and ran towards the chair, aiming at Harper as she did.
"We've got a live one!" screamed another as she swept left and right with the gun, her voice almost drowned out by the constantly blaring alarm. Olivia was frozen to the spot, unable to work out what was going on.
“What the fuck?!” Screamed Harper as she looked up at Ms. Claus with terror in her eyes.
"Beginning capture protocol!" called another elf as it emerged from behind the houses. More and more elves continued to pop out of various places, each of them carrying a gun. They speedily surrounded the chair and aimed their guns at Harper.
Olivia grabbed an elf as it ran past her. "Excuse me? What's going on?" she shouted, trying to be heard over the droning alarm. The elf quickly turned and glared at Olivia.
"We've got a non-combatant," shouted the elf before it ran forward.
"Non-combatant?" Olivia blinked with confusion. However, before she could say anything else, another elf ran up to her.
"Neutralizing target!" shouted the elf as she reached into her pants and produced a small spray bottle. Olivia opened her mouth to say something but before she could, the elf sprayed the bottle directly at Olivia's face.
The smell of pumpkin spice filled Olivia's nostrils as the world started to spin. "What the hell?" groaned Olivia. It felt as if the mall had turned into a fairground ride. Olivia's eyes blurred as the elf's bright outfit turned into a strange smear. Her knees started to wobble. "What's going on?" She groaned as she clawed towards the blurred shape, trying to hold herself up. However, no matter how wide Olivia swung her arms, she didn't grab hold of anything.
Olivia's brain felt heavy. It was like her mind was dissolving into mist. She tried to speak but she couldn't focus on words and her jaw just felt so weak. She sloppily tried still to claw at the shape, hoping to find some salvation, but quickly darkness fell on her mind and she felt herself falling and fading to nothing.
As Olivia crumpled to the floor, Harper let out a scream. "What did you do to her?! What's going on?" she cried as she looked between Ms. Claus and the elves pointing guns at her.
"I can't believe it," sighed Ms. Claus. "I had such high hopes."
"What do you mean?" asked Harper as she started to rise from the stool. However, before she could fully stand, the elves started to scream.
"Get down! Down!" demanded the elves. "On the chair!" Not wanting to make matters worse, Harper sat back down.
"I'm confused," mumbled Harper as she looked at the guns. But, just as she tried to make sense of the situation, she felt a sharp prick on her neck. Harper yelped and turned around, only to see that Ms. Claus was holding a needle. Harper wanted to say something, but a wave of cold ran across her body as her eyes rolled up into her head. Her vision started to blur as she tried to scream, but only a soft gurgle came out. The world fell away from her until there was only a dark void.