Harper felt her body turn to face the open door as her legs continued to move, propelling her forward. The inside of the room was strange. Loads of Christmas trees lined the walls along with loads of various Christmas decorations stuffed between them. In the center was a small toy train that sat on a circular track. Harper would have felt more confused if her brain was working, but at that moment all she could do was march deeper into the room.
Jingle ran her hand along the train and giggled to herself. "Freshly waxed, aren't you a lucky girl!" giggled Jingle before slapping a seat attached to the first carriage. "Get your butt down here!" She demanded as Harper marched forward before stiffly dropping down onto the seat. However, even in her seated position, Harper's legs continued to softly kick as the key in her back continued to drive her muscles, forcing her to move even if she didn't want to.
However, as she kicked, Harper felt Jingle wrap tight straps around her waist and arms, pinning her into the seat. Jingle then moved around to the front of Harper, a heavy leather strap hanging over her shoulder. She looked down at Harper's kicking feet before giggling. "Whoopsie," she giggled, "Let's fix that." She leaned over Harper, reaching behind her. Harper felt another poke in her back. Instantly, the fog cleared from her brain as her legs slowly stopped kicking and went limp.
As Harper's fog cleared, she looked around, taking stock of what was going on for the first time in several minutes. "What is this place?" asked Harper as Jingle bound her legs.
"This," began Jingle, "Is SC Ultra! In this room of dreams, Naughty Listers become Good!"
"But," protested Harper as she squirmed in her binds. "What does it do?"
"You'll see," Jingle smirked.
"I don't want to see," whimpered Harper as she continued to squirm. She wanted to escape the bonds and run, but she knew it was futile. This place seemed to be massive, and even if she could get away it was only a matter of time before she would be caught again.
"Don't worry," cooed Jingle as her chiming bells once again interrupted thoughts. "It is fun! I made sure of it! Being a Nice Lister is the best feeling in the world!"
"But," started Harper, only to stop mid-sentence. She wasn't sure if it was fear, the bells, or the key. But it felt pointless arguing. She felt weirdly placid, like some part of her had accepted her fate.
"We'll have fun!" giggled Jingle as she skipped toward a control panel that sat at the far end of the room. Once she did, she fiddled with switches for a minute before looking up at Harper. "Okay, are we ready!" she called.
Harper nodded her head gently, the feeling of defeat radiating through her. Jingle giggled and reached out towards the button. However, just as she made contact with the button, she let out a loud gasp.
"Oh wait!" shouted Jingle, causing Harper's eyes to go wide. Her heart started to pound as she thought she might be about to be let go. Maybe Jingle had realized that this was wrong or some massive misunderstanding. Jingle reached down under the control panel and rooted around for a few minutes before standing back up and putting a train conductor's hat on her head.
Harper's heart dropped. The sight was silly, but she understood what it meant. It meant she wasn't getting away. This, whatever this was, was going to happen, and there was nothing she could do about it.
"Okay! All aboard the Good Girl Express! Next stop, The Nice List! Choo Choo!" called Jingle as she pressed a button on the control panel. Suddenly, the room lights dimmed as the train started to move along the track. Harper looked around trying to work out what was going to happen, hoping she could at least comfort herself.
The train slowly picked up speed as it continued to follow around the track. As it moved, a faint sound hit Harper's ears. At first, she thought it was the bells on Jingle's shoes, but she quickly realized it was something else. She continued to listen as the movement got faster and faster. As the sound got louder, Harper realized what it was. It was sleigh bells. Jingling, jangling, sleigh bells.
However, before Harper could celebrate her revelation, the song suddenly jumped in volume as the lights on all the decorations and trees started to blink and flash. Harper let out a confused yelp as the Christmas song bounced around her head. She looked left and right trying to make sense of all the lights, but it was hard to keep track of where she was due to the train's constant movement.
The lights continued to flash and blick, the random show falling into a pattern as the song continued to swell, the room filling with the echoed sound of the sleigh bells. Harper started to feel dizzy, but it wasn't the dizziness she was used to. It was like her brain was spinning around in her skull like the entire world was twisting and warping around her like she was on a rollercoaster that defied every law of physics.
Each flash of the lights seemed to knock Harper's brain for a loop. She couldn't seem to string together thoughts. It was like she was delirious, like she had finally lost her connection with reality. However, before she could even try to fight it, someone started to sing.
"It's the happiest season of the year," sang the voice as the lights flashed in time with the melody. "Full of snow, joy, and flying deer. And everyone is well behaved. As if you're not, you get enslaved."
The voice echoed in Harper's brain as the movement of the train turned the lights in flashing blurs of color that seemed to fill Harper's perception of reality. She couldn't see the room anymore, just the pretty colors as they flashed and changed.
"So we're spreading some Christmas cheer, to make sure you're Good all year," sang the voice, every word burrowing into the spiraling void that was Harper's mind. Everything seemed distant yet vivid. It was like she was seeing reality through a slightly foggy kaleidoscope. She couldn't place the feeling and she couldn't fight it. It was wrapping around her, entombing her within it.
"Be a Good Girl, all happy and cute, wrapped up in a pretty snowsuit," added the song, the words bouncing around the inside of Harper's skull. She could feel a strange sensation washing over her body, like the twinkling of the lights was running through her body, like a weirdly euphoric form of pins and needles.
Harper let out a gurgle as she felt her head flop forward. The twinkling washed over her neck and brain. The world had vanished totally, leaving just the song and lights. She couldn't escape them. It was like a festive black hole with a gravitational pull was too much for her. All she could do was float helplessly within it.
"Just listen closely and it will be great," came the voice again, its cheery tune now having an air of almost godly authority echoing through it, "Soon you'll have a lovely happy trait." Harper's body spun faster and faster and the lights flashed brighter and more intensely until they were basically a strobe, pushing bands of blindingly bright color directly into Harper's eyes. The light was so bright it was painting her neurons, dying her brain cells in bright shades of red and green.
Harper felt her muscles becoming limper as she continued to feel lights pulse through her brain.Her neurons were twisting and being rebuilt. Another wave of light washed over Harper and as it did, she felt her grip on herself give in. She slumped forward, a trickle of drool escaping her mouth as the light washed over her and took her wherever it wanted to go.
As she let out another soft groan, the song faded until only the sleigh bells remained. Then the lights slowly came up, allowing Harper to see that Jingle was now standing at the front of the room.
"See?" she giggled. "I said it was fun!" The little train continued to take Harper around and around the short track.
"Fun," groaned Harper as she remained slumped over, the trickle of drool becoming more intense. Harper could still feel the lights pulsing through her brain. In fact, at that moment, her brain was more fairy light than thought.
"Great!" laughed Jingle, "So, why don't you listen closely while Jingle gives you her lessons of Goodness!"
"Goodness," echoed Harper mindlessly, her blank eyes staring forward as Jingle went behind the controls once more and pulled out a flipchart, bells jingling in time with the sleigh bells that continued to fill the room.
Jingle smiled as she flipped open the first page of the flipchart. She looked at Harper and snapped her fingers a few times before shaking her head when Harper didn't react. "Too far gone. Gosh, I'm just too good at my job," sighed Jingle as she went over to one of the trees and pulled the light off the top before sticking it on top of the flipchart. "Hey look! Look! Shiny pretty!" called Jingle patronizingly as she pointed to the light.
However, Harper was unable to be insulted. That required thought, and she and her illuminated brain were currently incapable of that. However, Harper's eyes obediently locked onto the light, keen to let it wash over her more and more. Jingle started to speak, but Harper felt herself slipping away into the lights, letting the words wash over her.
"Okay!" cheered Jingle as Harper heavily blinked. Her brain slowly restarted as the world came into focus.
"What?" groaned Harper as she stretched. "What is going on?" She looked around the room and realized that she was still on the moving train.
"We're done!" answered Jingle, her bells softly jingling as she walked beside the train. "You're a Nice Lister now!"
"I'm," started Harper, only to realize that she had been untied. She quickly jumped up from the train and looked Jingle in the eye. She felt something bubbling up inside her, all of her confusion had turned into rage, she couldn't believe the indignity Jingle had put her through.
"What is it?" asked Jingle.
Harper took a deep breath as she clenched her fists. She could feel the pressure in her chest building. She was going to give this crazed woman a piece of her mind. "Golly gosh!" huffed Harper at a normal volume. "You, Miss Jingle, are a Little Miss Rudepanties!" She stamped her foot. The second her foot hit the floor, her face dropped and her eyes went wide, Harper realized what she had just said. "Golly gosh!" she said again, her voice seemingly refusing to go beyond a normal volume.
"See?" chuckled Jingle. "Isn't it nice?"
"Gee willikers, what did you do to me?" demanded Harper, still trying to force her voice to shout.
"I made you into a Good Girl! Just think of all the gifts you'll get now! No need to thank me!" replied Jingle as she skipped towards the door.
"Fiddlesticks!" harrumphed Harper. "I don't want to be a Good Girl. Why can't I swear?! Why can't I shout?" Harper asked, trying to force her thoughts to come out of her mouth in the way she wanted them to.
"You'll learn to love it," giggled Jingle as she opened the door. "Being a Good Girl is a lifestyle, after all!" She waved at Harper. "Come on, let's get you settled for observation."
Harper sighed and followed Jingle. Though she was seething about her situation, she didn't want to be in this train room any longer than she needed to be. As she exited into the corridor, another elf ran towards them.
"Hey!" Shouted the elf, causing Harper to tense up. Jingle looked up before letting out a little gasp and slamming the door shut and quickly sliding the lock back into position.
"Oh hi," chuckled Jingle as she leaned against the door. "Everything good?"
"Yes Miss Jingle," nodded the elf before motioning towards Harper. "Is she done?"
"Yep! She's a Good Girl now!" assured Jingle, a hint of embarrassment in her voice.
"I'm no fudgenuggetting good girl!" argued Harper as she once again could neither yell nor swear.
"Aww, shucks," mumbled the elf, "I was hoping to see what you do. We're all super curious about what you do there! It must be super cool!"
"Oh, you don't want to know!" chuckled Jingle as she waved her hand dismissively. "It is all very grim and industrial. Very serious and boring. But, I do what I have to. For the good of the world, you know."
"Well, if you ever want to show us," started the elf.
"Oh, you wouldn't like it. Very grim and scary," Jingle cut the elf off awkwardly. Harper rolled her eyes a little bit, utterly done with Jingle's weirdness. However, as she considered saying something, she realized that this was her moment.
Harper started to run in the direction the elf had come from. She didn't know where she was going, but all she knew was that the further away she was from Jingle, the better.
The elf turned quickly on their heel. "Hey! Stop!" they shouted as they pulled something from their pocket. However, before they could do anything, Jingle grabbed the object and aimed it at the floor.
"Let them go," commanded Jingle firmly.
"But," mumbled the elf, "They'll escape."
"Forget it, Pudding," responded Jingle, "It's the North Pole."