The 21st century is the era of bold decision and frantic pace of development. Gone are the days when people (and deers) ran away from their problems and then miraculously got rescue (or didn’t get any, it comes down to luck). The 2020s are coming – the time when even a red-nosed fawn can launch its own startup and make a revolution – if not a technological revolution, then a mental one. How exactly? Read it in a new Christmas story from Andersen.
Warning: in this story, you can find familiar characters. Be ready to see them in a different, unusual perspective.
“Next stop – Los Angeles!” Rudolph heard the announcement of the bus driver and was now fully awake. Yeah, very soon now, he will achieve his dream – a technological startup that will allow people to get rid of their insecurities forever and gain self-confidence. How many times has Rudolph suffered from other Christmas deers’ taunts… But now it’s all going to change: he will recover from his insecurities and help others do the same.
The very next day, Rudolph set to work and went out to get acquainted with the city. He visited rock bars, hipster coffee houses, and beach snack-bars. He even tried to get into an expensive restaurant, but a duded-up doorman didn’t let him in. And this was the kind of restaurants where deep-pocketed investors would have dinner – Rudolph saw this in a series about lawyers.
Having moved away from the restaurant door, Rudolph cast an eye over the street and saw a house-elf sweeping the sidewalk disconsolately. Excited by meeting another fairy-tale character (it turned out that there were not a lot of them in Los Angeles – everyone preferred flocking to Hollywood and playing themselves in movies), Rudolph decided to talk to the elf.
“Hi, why are you looking so sad?” he asked.
“I think I’ve become disillusioned with my profession,” the elf answered seriously. “My psychotherapist says I’m having post midlife crisis and prescribes gobbling Prozac pills, but I don’t believe in modern medicine and just feel blue.”
“Hmm okay…” Rudolph replied slightly confused. “But then why do you keep doing what you do not like? As far as I remember, Harry Potter set all house-elves free ten years ago.”
“Yeah, but you have to pay off the bills somehow.”
“You are a fairy-tale character, remember that! As for me, I live on the beach and don’t pay off any bills. I’m also up to launch my own technological startup. Wanna join? I just need someone who knows Los Angeles from the inside.”
“Hmm why not!” the elf brightened up. Having thrown the broom down, he secretly told Rudolph: “Sometimes I dreamed of coming to my arrogant jerk boss in his luxurious office, throwing a broom on the floor, and saying: I quit, I don’t want to work for a penny anymore, you fat hog!”
“Or… you can just leave without offending anyone,” Rudolph was slightly taken aback. Cause we are good guys, bro. Remember that, and don’t be a grudge holder. What’s your name, by the way?”
“Dobby!… Err… Bobby, I meant.”
Days went by, and new friends tirelessly searched for investors for the startup. Bobby was really inspired by Rudolph’s idea. Although, after some time, the elf noticed a tiny little problem – Rudolph had no clue about how exactly he was going to implement it.
“Okay,” once he asked. “Elaborate on how our project will work? What exactly is it going to be: a gadget, a program, a mobile app?”
“I myself don’t know yet, and it doesn’t really matter,” Rudolph said nonchalantly and then firmly added: “The main thing is that it will simply release people from insecurities and make them self-confident.”
Bobby could only spread out his arms. In any case, he liked visiting meetups and hackathons with Rudolph more than sweeping streets. However, as time passed, the elf began to get annoyed by the fact that all potential investors at meetings, hearing the unchanging “it will simply release people from insecurities and make them self-confident,” politely answered “we’ll call you back” and giggled behind their backs. Nobody openly ridiculed them merely because people in Los Angeles were already used to much more crazy and abstract ideas, so hardly could anything surprise the scorched venture investors.
Once Bobby came up with an idea that seemed saving to him.
“Rudolph, what if I just conjure up something that will allow people to get rid of insecurities?” he suggested. “I’m a magic elf, I can conjure up anything. We will present it as a prototype, attract investors, and then start developing whatever you like. What do you think?” he looked at Rudolph with hope.
“Bobby, how dare you!” the fawn became exasperated. “We are in a world of people, and we must play their game. Here everything is usually solved with the help of technologies, which means we should not conjure up but invent something that will simply release people from insecurities…”
“… and make them self-confident, I remember.” the elf answered sadly but decided not to argue with that.
Contrary to Bobby’s fears, there was one person in Los Angeles who took Rudolph’s project very seriously. The person heard rumors that another romantic enthusiast was attracting investment in a project that would “simply release people from insecurities and make them self-confident.” After hearing that, this mysterious resident of Los Angeles could no longer think of anything else…
This mysterious person was the billionaire Ebenezer Scrooge, the head and largest shareholder of the giant corporation for the production and sale of cosmetics, weight loss products, as well as the owner of the largest network of plastic surgery clinics. The whole empire of Scrooge reposed on insecurities of people and their desire to comply with generally accepted beauty standards. And Scrooge perceived Rudolph’s project as a threat to everything he had been building for many years.
“Come on, Eb, this is a pile of crap,” loungingly said Waternoos, his companion, during an extraordinary meeting of the board of directors. “The thing that deer offers is impossible to implement. Besides, I saw him with an elf at a conference. They are no entrepreneurs! Just buffons, and that’s all…”
“You are the one who is a buffon!” Scrooge hissed viciously. “That’s why it’s me who is the Chief Executive, not you. I see and understand what your addled brain is not able to catch. These guys are dangerous, and we need to stop them.” He looked at Waternoos grinningly and added: Unlike you, I will never lose my company, and I won’t allow anyone to undermine my business!”
Waternoos gave Scrooge a baleful look but didn’t dare to answer back. He asked instead: “So what do you suggest?”
“We will buy them with giblets,” Scrooge grinned nastily. You are right in one thing – they don’t understand a damn thing in business …”
“Therefore, we offer unlimited financing, the possibility of implementing all your ideas within the framework of a given project and all further ones, as well as a stable salary, a full social package, and many other advantages!”
A man in a business suit shone with his dazzling smile and kept talking, talking… Anyway, Rudolph stopped listening to him a long time ago, because he heard the main thing: someone needs his projects, he finally found an investor.
“You see, Bobby,” Rudolph whispered enthusiastically, “everything is like in those films about America I watched on long Lapland evenings. If a guy has a cool idea, then sooner or later, a businessman comes in an expensive suit, offers a lot of money …”
“And then robs your project and flings you out into the street!”
Everyone in the large meeting room raised their heads and looked in surprise at the troublemaker. It was a donkey: gray, big-eared, unremarkable at first glance. But as soon as he opened his mouth, he revealed a set of huge sparkling teeth, which were so impressive that the Sales Manager of the corporation could only bashfully cover his mouth. Meanwhile, the donkey continued:
“Yes, that’s how Mr. Scrooge acts: he offers you golden mountains, and instead acquires shares in your startup and squeezes you out of the business!” Taking advantage of everyone’s confusion, he walked over to the table and took the contract. “Bah, honey bunnies,” he looked sympathetically at the elf and the fawn, “he won’t even need to squeeze you out. You’ll simply lose it immediately after signing these papers. Are you aware that you are about to sell your project and all property, including intellectual one, to this person?” He pointed a finger directly at Scrooge. “becoming employees of his company – though I’m not sure you would have worked there for more than one day…”
“Who let this maggot in here?!” Ebenezer Scrooge woke from a stupor. “Why can any trash just go and enter my meeting room?! Throw him out of here!”
“I still have friends in this company, Scrooge,” the donkey answered with a brazen grin. “Actually, I don’t understand why you are so angry. After all, you took everything from me and sent me out… err… empty-handed.” He turned to Rudolph and Bobby and asked in surprise: “Guys, why are you still here? Oh my God, these little animals really want to be faked out like jackasses…”
At that moment, security men came, caught the donkey, and literally carried him out of the meeting room. There was an awkward silence in the room.
“Err… I guess we gotta go,” said Bobby uncertainly, squinting at completely confused Rudolph. “We need… err… to think. We’ll be in touch,” finished the elf almost confidently.
“Wait, friends!” The negotiator of the corporation tried to save the situation. He squinted at Scrooge, but saw him pounding in dumb rage, realized he should not expect any support, and continued: “It’s just a misunderstanding… After all, everything was going on so well …” And he again smiled widely.
“No, we need to go,” said Bobby more firmly and jabbed his elbow into Rudolph’s ribs. “Stand up and let’s go. Now!” and he literally pulled Rudolph out of the room, mumbling “This offer seemed too good to me at the very beginning. Now it’s clear what the punch line was…”
Rudolph was frustrated and didn’t reply. They kept silent while going down to the hall and leaving the glass skyscraper. Rudolph realized that for the first time, he was ready to doubt his idea and the possibility of its implementation.
Suddenly they heard a familiar voice:
“Why are you upset, bunnies?! Judging by how quickly you left the evil house, you didn’t sign that fatal paper, which means there are still grounds for hope!” A slightly battered, but not discouraged donkey sat on the curb and looked at them with a fervent smile.
“What is that to you??” Bobby asked suspiciously. Being already skeptical, the elf was one step away from becoming paranoid after what just had happened. “Who the hell are you, and what do you want from us?”
“I am Donkey,” the donkey answered without any embarrassment. “I want to help your project see the light. I liked you right away, guys – people like you are almost no longer remained in this city. But above all else, I’ll lay myself out to spoil Scrooge’s mood. Once we were partners, as he said, and then he tricked me and took everything away. Taking revenge is the main goal of my life, so you can rely on me. Besides, if not me, your project would now belong to Scrooge. So, will you take me to your squad?”
Bobby looked doubtfully at Rudolph. The fawn shrugged and nodded.
“Why not, if you want it… But we have no investor, no money, no office or laboratory – nothing at all!”
“Cheer up, my ungulate friend,” the Donkey cheerfully answered. He familiarly threw the front hoof onto the back of the slowly wandering fawn and confidently said: “You know, when I heard about your idea, I thought it was some kind of nonsense. But then, when Scrooge became interested in it, I realized that it’s not so simple. Well, tell me, how is it going on now? Is a program written? Is a prototype ready?”
“I told you, we don’t have anything yet…” said Rudolph exhaustedly. – “We are just looking for investors.”
“Okay, tell me at least how this thing’s gonna work?” Donkey didn’t let up.
“It will simply release people from insecurities and make them self-confident.”
The donkey stopped and looked disconcertingly at the silent elf. He simply shook his head and followed Rudolph.
“Yeah, it seems I was right,” Donkey muttered, puzzled. “Not a damn thing is gonna work, and Scrooge will remain on horseback. It’s good that he doesn’t know about it yet – let this bastard get a little crazy!”
“So, Eb, did you manage to buy a startup from a deer?” Waternoos asked with an unctuous voice.
“Why are you grilling, idiot?!” threw Scrooge in annoyance. “Have you forgotten that this company is yours too? More precisely, her tiny share,” Ebenezer could not resist the joke, “but still. Is this the opportunity to lose your last assets that make you so happy? Because if these blessed ones really do what they have in mind, we are done!”
“So what do we do?!”
“If I have one idea… If you can’t buy anything, you have to steal it. Or, in our case, to destroy. I even have a special candidate for such work, an excellent professional. This guy could even steal Christmas from a whole city…”
On Christmas Eve, three partners sat in the empty hall of the startup hub. There were not many candidates for investors in recent days. Several small funds got interested in them after the rumor about Scrooge’s proposal circled the city. However, investors would disappear as soon as they understood how exactly things with the project were going.
That evening, before Christmas, Donkey planned a serious conversation with Rudolph. Having finally made sure that the idea was blank, Donkey wanted to persuade him to sell all the rights to the project to Scrooge, but at the same time, at least get as much money as possible. It would be at least some kind of revenge – Scrooge would suffer for a long time, realizing that he had paid a lot of money for nothing.
The donkey wanted to start the conversation, but suddenly heard something stunning.
“Rudolph,” said Bobby looking seriously at the fawn. It was evident that he had been preparing for a long time too and finally had gained determination. “I still think we should use my abilities. We just have no other options. Stopping the deer, who wanted to protest, with a gesture, he continued. We have nothing at all. Except for my magic. We wanted to help people, and the only way to do it is to use my magic. Why else is it needed, if not in order to do good things?”
“Wait, what?” said shocked Donkey. “We were wasting time wandering around the city and fruitlessly searching for investors, while the elf merely could conjure up what we needed? My honey bunnies, do you even know how much we can earn on this?!”
“We are doing this not for the sake of money!” exclaimed Rudolph. “Do you even know how it feels to be an outsider, to tolerate constant ridicule? Here nobody cares about my red nose, but everything was different in my homeland!”
“Oh, you blessed little beast!” Donkey said impatiently. – These goals are not mutually exclusive. We will help people, and earn money, and poke the nose of this bastard Scrooge in the dirt. Bobby just needs a little magic, and everyone, everyone is happy.”
“Happy?!” erupted Rudolph. “Did you not read fairy tales or watch cartoons in childhood? All you’ve probably read in your life are Forbes and the Wall Street Journal… Magic always has consequences. If you choose the easiest way, be ready to pay a hundred times more. I don’t know what exactly our magic will turn out to be for the world, but be sure – if we go for it, then we will regret it bitterly.”
He wanted to add something else but was interrupted by the sound of an opening door. Friends saw only a figure in the doorway. It was someone large and furry, with bright and evil eyes burning in the dark.
“Who are you?” shouted Rudolph to the stranger.
He silently took a few steps forward. The light from the lamps, which were burning only in the corner where the three partners were sitting, pulled him out of the darkness.
“Grinch!” Donkey and Bobby screamed.
Rudolph spent too little time in Los Angeles and hadn’t faced the dark side of this city yet. Meanwhile, all the locals heard about the most dangerous and elusive thief on the west coast. No one knew where he came from and when, but his deeds in Los Angeles were constantly talked about. And mostly in a whisper. It was even rumored that once he had stolen Christmas from a whole city…
“What do you need?” asked Donkey. Despite the fear, he tried to speak confidently. “We have neither money nor valuables – nothing that could be interesting to you.”
“Are you so sure of that?” Grinch broke the silence. “Because I need him.”
And he pointed to Rudolph. Rudolph instinctively backed away, causing Grinch’s contemptuous grin.
“Come on, deer, there’s nowhere to run,” said the green furry monster. “Let’s do it fast, and then disperse.”
“Dddddo what?” both scared and perplexed asked Rudolph. Dedicated Bobby moved silently to the fawn half-covering him, but Grinch paid no attention to it.
“Firstly, I will erase your memory,” he said in a bored voice, “and secondly, you will tell me everything you have in mind.” – After a moment, he corrected himself: “More precisely, first, you will tell me everything you have in mind, and then I will erase the memory of you all, and we will disperse.”
“Erase the memory of us all? But how?!”
“Okay, you won’t remember that, anyway. My employer – I think you know who he is – gave me this thing.” And he showed something resembling a small ball-pen. “He even boasted that he had bought it from an agent with the code name XXXL from a very secret organization. It is enough to press one button, and you will forget everything I want you to forget.”
“But before that, you want Rudolph to tell you everything about his project, right?” Donkey began to understand something.
“Exactly. Come on, fawn, spit it out!”
“Okay,” Rudolph shrugged and repeated what he had previously repeated to hundreds of potential investors. “We want to develop a project that will release people from insecurities and make them self-confident.”
“And?” said the Grinch impatiently. “How exactly will it work?”
“It will simply release people from insecurities and make them self-confident,” repeated Rudolph.
“Are you kidding me, you forest cattle?!” Grinch lost his temper. “I can change my mind and do something worse instead of simply erasing your memory. I’ll start with this talkative one, he annoys me a lot…” and he stepped towards Donkey.
“Wait a minute,” the puzzle was finally solved in Donkey’s head. “All that Scrooge needs is to destroy our project. But for some reason, you want to find out all the details first… You yourself are interested in what exactly we are developing, right? For personal use? I understand that, having such an appearance…” he looked appraisingly at the green furry carcass, but seeing the fierce look of Grinch, quickly continued: “Listen, it’s not necessary to take everything to the extreme. Yes, we really have not even begun to implement our project, but we have something better – we have an elf!”
Grinch looked doubtfully at the little big-eared man who bravely overshadowed Rudolph. Donkey quickly continued:
“I understand your doubts. But don’t pay attention to his ugly look, he is a real wizard. He can conjure up anything – including helping you with your… hmm… problem.”
“Really?” asked Grinch incredulously. “How?”
“Unfortunately, I don’t know this. We have not tested this method yet, you know… But what are you risking with? You won’t achieve more from us, and you will always be able to erase our memory and please Scrooge … What do you lose?” and he again gave Grinch an eloquent look.
The last Donkey’s phrase made Grinch’s eyes flashed violently again, but Rudolph could not keep silent:
“We will not conjure up anything! Didn’t you hear what I told you before?” he turned to Donkey. “The magic…”
“Yes, the magic always has consequences, I’m not deaf,” Donkey interrupted him. “The magic will occur here anyway, the only question is whether it will be good or evil! I personally don’t want us all to lose our memories!”
“I’ll do it,” said Bobby. “If there is any perfect time to use my magic, it’s now. Are you ready?” he turned to Grinch.
“Okay, elf, work your magic, before I change my mind,” he answered hoarsely. And then added menacingly: “Don’t mess up…”
Silently, Bobby walked over to Grinch and climbed a chair so that he could reach the monster’s shaggy head with his hands. Grinch himself was shaking, waiting a miracle. However, nothing enchanting happened. After holding his hands on Grinch’s temples for a moment, the elf wearily lowered them and said:
“So? What do you feel?” asked Donkey impatiently.
“I don’t know…” he answered in a hoarse voice. And added uncertainly: “It seems to have worked.”
“It seems?” continued to pry Donkey.
“Yeah, it has worked.” said Grinch grunting with excitement, but already with a firm voice. “Well, I’m not so bad, huh?” he looked around triumphantly at the others. “And what thick and fluffy wool I have! See?!”
“Yeah, yeah… Awesome wool, to the envy of all,” Bobby and Donkey spoke excitedly.
“Okay, elf, your magic seems to have worked,” Grinch turned to Bobby.
“Aaaand?” asked Donkey with hope.
“And that’s it. I won’t touch you,” said Grinch with a grin. “I no longer work for Scrooge, and besides, I am going back to my homeland. It seems that I need to fix a lot there… And here is my Christmas present for you.”
He put the pen-eraser on the table and quickly stepped back into the darkness.
The friends stood silently for another minute. Suddenly, Rudolph let out a long moan and fell on the chair, exhausted.
“Hey, Rudolph, it’s over!” Bobby began to encourage him. “Grinch has gone away, we can start all over again…”
“There’s nothing to start, Bobby,” Rudolph interrupted dejectedly. “You still don’t understand? We have no startup, all we have is my vague idea, and I don’t know how to implement it!”
“Come ooooon! Really?! But we thought…” Donkey began sarcastically, but getting a kick from Bobby, he shut up.
“Actually, we have something,” said Bobby, smiling. “And it’s not about my magic. We are really a great team. So great that we even managed to outwit one of the most dangerous criminals in Los Angeles. Moreover, we were able to make him completely different… simply with infusion!”
Seeing that friends had already begun to understand, but were not yet ready to believe it, Bobby exclaimed:
“Yeah, I didn’t use any magic! I just pretended. And the Grinch believed!” He burst out with a laugh. “Oh, how many times my psychotherapist told me about the power of self-hypnosis, positive attitude, and other things. And no matter how I tried, it didn’t help me. But it was worth trying to convince someone else that he was better than he thinks – and it worked. It worked for us!”
“Well, yes, we did it! I actually tried very hard too, praised you a lot…” Donkey was doing his own thing. “Listen! I know what we need to do. Let’s open a school of personal growth! We will do exactly what we wanted to…”
“Release people from insecurities and make them self-confident!” finished Bobby and Rudolph, laughing.
“Guys, Christmas has already come!” said Rudolph, seeing the festive fireworks over Los Angeles in the window. A roar of fireworks filled the room. “Merry Christmas!”
“And happy birthday to our new project!” added Donkey. “My honey bunnies, do you realize how much money we can earn on this?!”
“You know, Bobby, maybe you should use your magic today…” Rudolph said thoughtfully, “and make Donkey a bit less greedy. Let it be a little Christmas miracle. And you don’t even have to work your magic, Grinch left his pen – we just make Donkey forget what money is…”
Donkey’s protesting scream drowned in the next volley of fireworks.