On the thirtieth anniversary of his personal life Hermey the Elf was given his walking papers by the Christmas Town Toy Factory where he had been receiving the means for his existence.

The Head Elf nodded when Hermey entered his office. “The ElfOrg administration reported your slow tempo and tendency to drift off in thought during shifts. How will you answer, citizen?”

“I was thinking about dentistry.”

“You know that NorPolMed has a labor surplus. Do not be an opportunist!”

Hermey turned toward the door and allowed his gaunt legs to carry him out of the building. His tongue wandered around his molars, taking pleasure in their glassy feeling. Hermey wondered whether his protruding clavicle, pelvis, and ribcage were also so glassy underneath the thin layer of skin that covered them. The earth would inevitably triumph over the human form and welcome all Hermey’s bones back into its cold embrace.

The next morning, the reindeer games began, with dozens of little hearts exerting themselves in preparation for life.

“We must hide his nonconformity,” said Donner as he rubbed his son’s nose with mud.

“Pa, I don’t want to!”

“Just endure, Rudolph.”

Having eaten his norm, Rudolph thanked his mother and joined the other young reindeer.

“Attention, comrades!” shouted the leader of the games. “We must prepare to serve our number-one citizens: Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.”

But the reindeer were not listening. They had begun laughing at Rudolph’s red nose.

Rudolph wiped off the remaining dirt from his nose and then trotted off into the distance. The other reindeer resumed their attempts to fly. Work and be useful, work and be useful… But every flight ends on the ground, just as every life ends in the grave.

After days of walking, Hermey noticed a bright red light in the distance. The appearance of an ElfOrg search party didn’t frighten him. But the approaching light was, in fact, coming from a small reindeer. Just as Hermey and Rudolph finished their introductions, another figure came rushing toward them.

“My name is Yakutsk Cornelius,” said the man as his sleigh came to a stop. “And I have been sent to ensure the dekulakization of the Arctic!”

“Why are you alone, uncle?” asked Rudolph.

“Ekh, I discovered bourgeois elements in my associate. He abandoned the mission to search for silver and gold!”

Hermey was silent. He was beginning to understand that consciousness is heavier than any load.

“We must proceed with caution!” shouted Cornelius. “The Abominable Snow Monster lives in these parts, and that nose of yours won’t help matters. Let us organize ourselves!”

Hermey and Rudolph climbed onto the man’s sleigh and allowed their fatigued bodies to be carried forward.

The next morning, Rudolph decided to part from his comrades. He crept out from their shared blanket and set off once more into the snow.

He felt the ground shake before he heard the grunting. The Abominable Snow Monster’s cave was up ahead. Rudolph’s eyes fixed on a small weed poking out of the snow, and he was touched by the universal, pathetic striving of all living things.

As soon as Rudolph entered the cave, the monster struck him with a stalactite and his nose dimmed to a dark brown, the color of dried blood.

When Rudolph awoke, Hermey and Cornelius were standing over him. They silently led him to the edge of the pit beside the monster’s cave. Rudolph looked down. That enormous, shaggy body had become dead material once more, indistinguishable from the snow around it, and its bellowing groans had been repossessed by the wind. Rudolph tried to say “hooray,” but only a thin trickle of spittle escaped his lips.

They returned to Christmas Town on the darkest day of the year. Donner handed his son a letter. “Santa requires your service.”

Rudolph opened it and read, “Rudolph, with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

As the sleigh bells outside grew louder and louder, Rudolph knew he would go down in History as a noble foot soldier in the march toward the worker’s paradise of the future. He already felt as though he had been alive for a very long time.