Mary Christmas 2: Christmas in July – Chapter 11
Continued from Chapter 10.
The conference room was notably silent after the noise of the Yootoob video abruptly ceased.
Angela broke the silence. “So, what did we notice?”
The blonde in the corner spoke up for the first time. “It’s the milk,” she said.
Someone turned the lights back on.
“Why do you say that, Dr. Schultz?” Angela asked.
“Actually, Alice said it, but, like, she wanted me to tell you all, since she’s, like, too small for you to hear her.”
“Is Ken awake?” Angela asked.
“Yeah, I’m up,” the little girl said. “I’ll put Alice on the table.”
“Thanks,” Angela said.
Ken, the little girl in the big shirt, set the doll-sized woman on the conference room table. Alice made sure to adjust the tissue she was wearing before walking over to the middle of the table.
“It was the milk that did it,” Alice said in her little voice. “That’s the only consistent thing through each of the videos. Play back the start of the Yootoob video again.”
The video started over. First, the camera focused on Amy sitting alone. Then, it turned to Jen and Brittany.
“Stop it there,” Alice said, and the video paused. “Look, both girls are drinking milk, and we know that Amy was also drinking milk because it was spilled on her. They were all eating different things except for the milk.” Alice turned to Carol. “You said that the daycare kids were drinking milk, right?”
“Yeah,” Carol said.
“And, all of them changed,” Alice said, “every one of them. How about the middle school kids?”
Carol checked her notes again. “Yes, some of them had milk as well.”
“And only some of them changed,” Alice said. “It’s the only thing that fits all of the situations.”
“It can’t just be the milk,” Steve said.
“It’s the only thing it can be,” Alice said.
“Then, why are some kids getting older and other kids getting younger?” Steve countered. “Those are two different spells.”
“Um, actually…” Candice started to speak, but was cut off.
“If there are two effects, then there have to be two causes,” Steve said.
“The milk is the only thing that fits,” Alice said. “It’s doing both somehow.”
“That might be…” Candice said, before being cut off again.
“Maybe what the milk does is random,” someone else suggested.
“All the daycare kids got older,” someone else said. “That’s not random.”
“Quiet!” little Ken shouted. Everyone turned to her. “I think the elf has something to say.”
Angela turned to Candice and said, “You are the only one who’s actually created enchantments here. What are your thoughts?”
Every eye in the room was focused on Candice. “Well, what I was trying to say was that Alice was right. The milk can do two things.”
“How?” Steve asked.
“It’s part of how magic works,” Candice said. “Spells work like… computer programs. They are a list of logical instructions that take inputs and give outputs. Without the instructions to follow, the spells would go wild and wouldn’t accomplish what they’re intended to do. This spell in the milk seems to have two steps to its instructions. The first step is the delay that someone spotted during the first video. When the milk enters someone’s body, it waits a few minutes before the next step of the instructions. The second step must be a conditional statement. You know, like, ‘if this is true, then make that effect happen.’ The spell detects something about the person that drank it and then uses that input to decide if that person will get older or younger.”
“So,” Steve said. “What’s the ‘input’ being detected?”
Ken said, “Puberty.”
Alice said, “Of course!”
“What?” Steve asked.
“The little kids got bigger and the big kids got littler,” Ken explained and yawned. “I want to go to bed,” she said and returned to Dr. Schultz’s lap.
Carol said, “That does fit what we know about Mary. She’s got a sadistic sense of humor. Making kids into adults and adults into kids would be just her thing. Plus, that delay on the start of the spell would make it easier for more people to be affected by it. If the kids changed immediately, then people would stop drinking their milk. That’s also good for hiding the source of the spell. Because of the delay, no one was sure at first what caused the change. I bet she was trying to confuse us even more by making two things happen with one spell. She probably thought we would go testing all the food to find both causes, which would slow us down.”
Angela said, “Then, this puts us a step ahead. We know the cause now, and we can track down the source of the milk.” She turned to Carol and said, “Find out where that milk came from. I want the name of the company that packaged it and the location of every single cow that made milk for it.”
“I’m on it,” Carol said, gathering up her things. “I’ll call Foodways to see if anyone is still there at this hour. If not, I’ll have the info tomorrow morning.” She opened the conference room door and left the room to continue her investigation.
As soon as she was gone, the general appeared in the doorway with his arm wrapped around a garbage can. “I’m all done,” he said. “It was a bit awkward for both of us, but she’s drained now. Where do you want me to put the milk?” he asked, nodding toward the garbage can. “There’s an egg waiting in the conference room as well.”
Candice felt that something seemed odd about the general. Then, it hit her. “General,” Candice said. “Didn’t your hair used to be gray?”
“My hair?” he said touching the dark black hair on his head. “Did something happen to it?”
“He’s younger now,” Angela said. “Did you eat anything in that room?”
“No,” he said. “Not a crumb, I swear. I didn’t drink anything either.”
An idea came to Candice, then, like a couple of puzzle pieces fitting together in her mind. She asked him, “You got milk on your hands just now, didn’t you?”
“A little bit of it,” he admitted. “It’s hard to avoid when you’re milking by hand.”
“I know how she did it,” Candice said. “Of course, there’s a chicken and a cow.”
“What do you mean?” Angela asked.
“There was one thing that was bothering me about the whole situation today. This was a big spell, but I never detected it with my equipment,” Candice said and nodded towards her suitcase. “You see, the other elves have been tracking Mary all over the world. Whenever she performed a large enough spell, they could pinpoint her location. They even came close to catching her one time in Europe. They followed her all the way to the East Coast of the US, but then they lost her. Either she stopped casting spells at least a month ago, or she found a way to hide her spells better. That’s why they brought me down here. I was supposed to help improve their ability to detect her magic.”
“What does this have to do with the chicken and the cow?” Angela asked.
“Eggs and milk,” Candice said. “They’re basic ingredients for making food. She could hide her spells in food, like she did with the food she left here. That’s obvious, of course, from what we saw today. The really clever thing she did was the way she enchanted the eggs and milk in the first place.”
“How do you think she did it?”
“If she had just bought eggs and milk and enchanted them, then we would have detected her. Instead, she must have transformed herself into a chicken to make eggs and a cow to make milk. Then, she could enchant the eggs and milk… um, biologically, I guess is the best way to put it. She could create spells with her animal body that were too subtle for us to track down.”
“Wait, let me get this straight,” Steve said. “Mary turned herself into a magic cow and got herself milked to make magic milk that would turn other people into magic cows that made age changing milk? And, that’s what happened to Bill and Justin?”
“Exactly,” Candice said. “She used the same spells on them that she used on herself. That’s why the general got younger by touching the milk that the cow made. That milk he’s holding must be a super-concentrated version of the milk that transformed the kids. It only took a few drops absorbed into his skin to make him years younger. Somewhere out there, in some dairy, there’s at least one cow making the same milk, and that’s what made all the age changing happen today.”
“So,” Angela said. “That’s the source we’re looking for. I guess we should thank Mary for reusing some of her spells in the treats she left for us. Since we now know how Mary transformed everyone today, does that mean that you can find a way to transform everyone back to normal?”
“Well,” Candice said, “that’s actually no problem at all. Transformations caused by something like food usually have short-lived effects. Once the enchanted substances are digested and filtered out of a person’s body, the changes should quickly revert back to normal.”
“How soon?” Dr. Schultz asked.
“Probably a day or two,” Candice said. “It depends on how concentrated the substance was, but you should probably be back to normal by tomorrow.”
“Did you hear that Ken?” Dr. Schultz asked the girl on her lap. “We’re going back to normal tomorrow.”
“That’s nice,” the half-asleep girl said.
“And, the kids in the schools?” Angela asked.
“Yeah, them too,” Candice said. “Making people ingest an enchanted substance is a quick means of distribution, but it’s not likely to cause long-lasting effects.”
“Well, that’s a relief,” Angela said. “I’ll have to inform the president after the meeting about all of this. He’ll be happy to hear that the cleanup will take care of itself.”
“Someone should tell Bill and Justin,” Steve said. “I’m sure they’d be happy to hear that as well.”
“We’ll tell them,” Dr. Shultz said and stood up with Ken. Ken picked up Alice from the table and the three of them left.
Angela checked the clock and said, “It’s getting late. Do we have anything else to discuss before we go?” No one replied. Angela stood up and said, “Then, we’ll call it a night there, everyone. Tomorrow, we’ll go hunting for magic cows and the elf who made them. Go home and get some rest. Third shift will keep an eye on things here.”
Everyone stood up and filed out of the room. Candice waited for the crowd to pass. Then, she grabbed her suitcase and wheeled it behind her as she followed Angela to Carol’s desk.
Carol hung up her phone and said, “No answer at Foodways.”
“You’ll talk to them tomorrow,” Angela said. “Go home and get some rest. I want you fresh and ready to go in the morning.”
“Sounds good to me,” Carol said. “I might just be able to tuck my kids in if I leave now.” She checked the time on her cell phone. “Actually, no. They ought to be in bed by now.”
“Oh,” Angela said. “One more thing. Candice may have figured out how Mary created the magic milk in the schools. How about you drop her off at her hotel? She can brief you on her theory on the way there.”
“She’s staying at the Western Hotel just down the road, right?”
“Yes,” Angela said.
“Sounds good. It’s on my way home,” Carol said and gathered up her things. “Okay, Candice, let’s hit the road.”
“Thank you,” Candice said.
As she followed Carol from her desk, Candice noticed the cow and chicken in the conference room with Dr. Schultz, Ken, and Alice. Dr. Schultz had her arm draped over the cow’s back in a sort of hug. Ken was gently petting the chicken as Alice sat on the table next to them. All of them seemed relieved as they waited for life to return to normal.