The sun was low on the horizon and this time Jingle wore sunglasses that fitted him. Around him people walked and talked and Jingle found that he could hear them with his own ears and see them with his own eyes.
It had never occurred to him before that he didn’t actually see things in the real world, that his eyes were plastic baubles and that he saw the same way he heard; through the people who surrounded him.
He was wearing pale blue shorts that sported cartoon yacht’s and water-skiers, his antlers were still large and made of felt but his cloth hooves had been replaced with four felt fingers on each hand.
He noticed with some mild distress that his nose was still blue and he guessed, though he couldn’t see them, that his antlers were too.
None of the people around him seemed to notice anything untoward about his appearance, the sight of a man-sized soft toy stirring not so much as a look.
Jingle looked around; a few feet away a man sat in a reclined seat connected to a corkscrew of sails above him. The man peddled frantically and the corkscrew twisted into the air uselessly. A little further away another contraption sat on the sand, this one consisting of nothing but levers on which another man leaned and writhed.
The more Jingle looked the more oddness he saw and he understood why no one looked at him twice.
There were simply stranger things to be seen.
Jingle felt his gaze pulled away from the sea, towards the jigsaw of sandstone houses that made up the horizon. Voices emanated from over there, he shouldn’t have been able to hear them over the sounds around him but he could; and Jingle realised that this wasn’t just imagination he’d stepped into, but the memory of a dream.
The Man climbed the steps from one shadowy home, another man walked next to him and he was a much stranger sight than a mere six foot reindeer.
The person who walked beside the Man had no face; or rather he had all faces. His features subtly changed from moment to moment as did his build and height. One moment he was a young man who was tall and strong, he would shrink in size and his face would age; before Jingle knew it the man was now a little old lady, hunched and wizened.
As the figures walked passed him Jingles fell into step behind them.
They didn’t notice.
The Changing Man was speaking to the Man, asking questions that the Man answered readily. Some were the questions of an acquaintance: where are you working or do you like your job. Others were more intimate and Jingle realised that the Changing Man knew more about the Man than the Man realised.
Though Jingle could see the dawning of some realisation on the Man’s face as they spoke.
Across the horizon the blue sea darkened, storm clouds gathering. Lightning flashed in the far distance and if Jingle owned a heart he knew it would be filled with fear at the sight.
A huge rock leaned over the ocean, as though it had once been some sentinel at the beaches end but had tipped over time until it kissed the waves. The Changing Man leapt upon it and the Man called for him.
The dull rumble of thunder rolled towards them from the storm.
The Man pursued the Changing Man up the rock.
The world around him was moving too fast and Jingle seemed to be able to feel the earth turning beneath him. As strange as this world was he knew that stranger things were drawing closer and that storm on the horizon symbolised something deep and dark in the Man’s psyche.
The Changing Man reached the rocks pinnacle and leapt into the electrically charged air above the waters.
But he did not fall; instead something unfolded above him like a sail.
Without a thought the Man followed and they both sailed upward entwined in a mass of ropes supported by the huge triangle of fabric.
Jingle stood on the sand and watched the sail grow small as it flew toward the stormy horizon.