Harper continued to sprint through the corridor, passing door after door. She wasn't sure what she was going to do; all she knew was that she had to find an exit. There had to be some way to escape this facility. Part of her considered opening one of the doors in the hope of finding someone who could help her, but it felt too risky to bother.
Harper's feet stung as she continued to move through the labyrinth of corridors. She continued furiously to look left and right, desperate for an exit. However, as she turned a corner, her heart suddenly jumped. At the far end of this corridor was another door, but this one has a tinsel-covered "EXIT" sign above it.
Without thinking, Harper dashed forward. But, as she moved, she quickly spotted a sign out of the corner of her eye. The bright white sign featured red-blocked text reading, "No Running."
Harper’s pace slowed instantly as she read the sign. "What?" she gasped as she tried to run again, only to find that she couldn't. Much like with her attempts to shout, it was like the thought was getting twisted somewhere between her brain and her legs.
No matter what Harper did, she couldn't increase her pace. She pushed through the door, doing her best to keep moving despite her disobedient legs.
Past the door was a large lobby, but at the far end, Harper saw her salvation. A glass door that seemed to lead to the snow-covered outside, and while Harper didn't recognize the place, she knew the outside was safer than inside this place.
She tried to move towards the door as fast as she could, fighting with her legs every step of the way. Despite her worries, none of the elves seemed to pay attention to her and she arrived at the door without incident.
As she walked out into the cold winter air, Harper let out a gasp. While she had expected this place to be cold, she hadn't expected it to be this cold. In fact, this place was far too cold to be her city. She must have been moved quite far while she was unconscious.
Despite her body starting to shiver, Harper continued to move, keen to find a road or some sign of human civilization. Despite the cold, Harper's legs refused to move at a speed above a gentle stroll.
"Gosh darn my life," thought Harper, only to cringe when she realized that she was now thinking in Jingle's silly censored terms. She shook her head and tried to motivate herself to keep going. Harper walked for several miles, trying to ignore the cold. The only thing that let her know that she had been traveling was her view of the buildings getting smaller and smaller on the horizon.
Just as Harper's resolve reached its limit, she saw a light in the snow. She moved forward, silently praying it was a sign or a bus stop or anything that might help her. However, as she got closer, she realized that the light was coming from a sign.
The sign was made of rough wood and featured a neon sign of a kicking reindeer. Harper's brain rang with confusion as she moved closer. However, when she was within a few feet of the sign, she realized what it said.
"Warning," declared the sign. "No Good Children past this point. Please ring the bell and wait for collection."
"What?" mumbled Harper as she stumbled a little bit. She looked over the sign, only to realize that there was a small bell attached to the bottom corner of the sign. However, just as she saw the bell, she started to laugh. The idea of this sign was preposterous. Like anyone was going to listen to a silly sign.
Harper tried to move her legs, but they refused to move an inch. All Harper could do was sway on the spot. "Why can't I move?" Harper wondered desperately as she gritted her teeth and tried to get her body to respond to her thoughts.
Harper grunted as she struggled against herself but as she did, her eyes locked back onto the sign. "No Good Children past this point," she mumbled. "I'm a good child," she added without thinking before shaking her head.
"No, I'm not," grunted Harper as her body trembled. "Not a Good Girl. I'm a bad girl. A fudgeberrying, snickerdoodling, dagnabbitting, golly goshdarned bad girl," She added as she felt a strange tension in her muscles.
"I'm a Good Girl," whispered Harper's mind reflexively, "I'll wait here for collection."
Harper grunted, trying to block the thought out. It was like another person was in her head, thinking in her brain. "No," groaned Harper as she tried to force her muscles to comply with her. "Not good. Golly gosh not good," she moaned as she continued to shake and tremble. She tried to look away from the sign, and as she did her eyes locked onto the neon reindeer. Something about the light was odd; it seemed brighter than most neon. The animation seemed weirdly smooth.
"I'm a Good Girl," groaned Harper aloud this time as her eyes fluttered. "No," she added as she continued to watch the sign, "Not a good girl. Cheese and crackers, Jiminy Crickets, I'm not a good girl," she said softly as the tension grew in her body and her eyelids started to flutter more.
The tension in Harper's muscles continued to grow as her brain started to chant the words on the sign. Harper continued to fight, trying with every bit of herself to get herself to move. It was futile. Nothing was listening to her. She was trapped, a passenger in her own body.
But, just as the tension increased once more, a wave of realization washed over Harper. She suddenly realized what the sensation reminded her of. It was like the key was in her back again. It was like she was a wind-up puppet, matching to Jingle's tune. Harper wanted to panic, but before it could fully set in, she heard a soft ring.
Harper looked down and realized that while she had been having her revelation, her hand had rung the bell. She wanted to scream, she wanted to run, but it was futile. Her body wasn't functioning. And, before Harper could think another thought, her eyes locked onto the sign and she got absorbed in the colors once more. Her mind fully accepted her fate.
In fact, Harper was so absorbed by the lights that she didn't even notice the cold anymore. She simply let the world around her fade away until everything was just streaks of light once more.
The next few hours were spent in a delirious haze of color, broken by short flashes of lucidity, but even those flashes felt strange and distant. She remembered Jingle taking her back to the facility. She felt her clothes being removed as the song from the room looped over and over.
It didn't matter if she was lucid or not. Harper couldn't do anything but let it happen. She could just let the light wash over her and let it all happen.