Pluto’s Christmas Carol,
by Fynn and Rico Lighthouse
It was seven years ago today that Pluto lost his planetary status. You must remember this one thing, or nothing that follows will seem wonderful.
It was a cold, dark night in the Kuiper Belt, and Pluto was working later than usual.
“Pluto!” someone cried out. “Merry Christmas Pluto.”
“Eris. What do you want?”
“Sour as ever, I see. I’ve come to invite you to the annual Kuiper Belt Christmas Party.”
“Is it that time of year already? Bah! Humbug! You know I don’t go to parties, especially your parties. Now go away, I’ve got work to do.”
“Go!” he shouted.
Eris said Merry Christmas again, and departed.
Pluto heard someone clearing their throat.
“Please, Mr. Pluto” said Charon, his assistant, and sole employee, “It’s getting late, mayn’t I go home now?”
“But we’re not finished” said Pluto, “there’s still work to be done. Shall we leave off today’s work til tomorrow? No one ever got ahead that way.”
“But, it’s Christmas Eve sir, and Kerberos, he’s sick, and he needs me home.”
“Humbug” snorted Pluto, “very well, be here early tomorrow then.”
“But sir, tomorrow’s Christmas day” said Charon. She was beginning to feel hopeless.
“Fine” snarled Pluto, “take the day off. But it’s coming out of your paycheck! And I expect you to arrive early the next day, and to stay late.”
“Thank you, Mr. Pluto, thank you.”
“Humbug” grumped Pluto, “Now, be off with you before I change my mind.”
Charon skipped off home, pausing to talk and play with some of the unnamed dwarf planets on her way. When she got home her children, Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra greeted her warmly.
“Merry Christmas” they all said, orbiting in close around her. They rolled all over her, laughing and playing. Then Kerberos coughed, and they all told him to take it easy, and not to overdue himself.
Pluto did not go home. Indeed, for these past seven years, he’d done nothing but work. And while he worked he thought about the people on Earth who had demoted him from being a planet, and Eris, who was the reason they’d demoted him. Everyday he grew angrier, and his heart more bitter than the day before.
He felt a chill wind on his back, and shivered. A shadow of a trident moved across him and he heard a noise like a tornado. He turned around and there was Neptune.
“Neptune” said Pluto, “you scared the Dickens out of me.” Pluto’s fright was replaced by anger at being disturbed. “And what are you doing out of your orbit? Can’t you see I’m working? Go away, leave me be.”
“Pluto” said Neptune, “this is your last chance. You must change your ways, or else.”
“Nonsense” said Pluto. Something about the way Neptune was looking at him made him nervous, but he quickly composed himself. “What do you want?”
“Tonight” said Neptune, “you will be visited by three Comets. Pay attention to them, take heed what they say, or your fate will be dark and dismal.”
“That’s ridiculous” said Pluto, “I haven’t seen a comet in a thousand years.”
“Expect the first Comet at one a.m., Solar Standard Time. Take care, Pluto.”
Neptune was sounding ethereal, like he was drifting away. He shimmered, and Pluto could almost see through him.
“I and the other planets wish you the best, so long Pluto.”
The last part sounded so far away that Pluto wondered if he had imagined it.
Neptune shimmered again, flashed a couple of times, and then he was gone.
Pluto shook himself. “I need to get more sleep” he said.
In the middle of the night he was awakened by something he hadn’t felt in a long time- warmth. He opened his eyes and saw a Comet. Only this was no dirty snowball, it was a blazing ball of fire!
“Hello Pluto” the Comet said.
“Who are you?” demanded Pluto, furious at having been awakened.
“I’m the Comet of Christmas Past” said the Comet, “Didn’t you know I was coming?”
“I suppose that fool Neptune said something, but I thought he was making fun of me. He’s always making fun of me.”
“He cares about you” said the Comet, “and so do the other planets. It was not their decision to kick you out of the Solar System, you know, it was People’s.”
“Bah! People. Humbug. The most wretched beings God ever created. Think they know everything.”
“Come with me, Pluto” said the Comet, “there’s much to see, and little time.”
Pluto saw the stars swirling around him, faster and faster, until the only things not spinning were him and the Comet. A moment later everything stopped, and Pluto was looking at a scene in his life which he hadn’t thought about in years.
There was an old Man and a little girl, on Earth. They were outside looking through a telescope. They were laughing, and talking, and the old man said to the little girl “Venetia, I need some help with something.”
“What is it grandpa?”
“You know that new Planet we found, with the big telescope at work?”
“Yes, what about it?”
“Well, it needs a name, and I can’t for the life of me think of one. What do you think we should call it?”
“How about, Pluto!” said the little girl.
“Pluto. I like it. I’ll run it by the team and see what they think. Thank you, Venetia.”
The scene faded. Pluto smiled.
“That was a glorious day” he said to the Comet.
“Yes” said the Comet, “and ever since you have been the favorite. Pluto, the ninth planet in the Solar System. People still love you, you know.”
Pluto’s anger returned. “They’ve sure got a nasty way of showing it” he complained.
“Come now” said the Comet, “There’s much to see.”
The Comet showed Pluto many more scenes. Memories of little kids drawing his picture and hanging it on their bedroom wall, of scientists writing him into the textbooks, and of the other planets rejoicing at his happiness.
But then Mike Brown found Eris, who was bigger than Pluto, and further away, and everything changed. Other dwarf planets were found, named, and, after a meeting of Earth’s top astronomers, Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet. He was kicked out of the Solar System. He was so angry and hurt that he never saw the protests, the crying children, and the tears of the other planets, who all loved him.
But he saw them now, and he would’ve cried, if his anger had not taken over.
“Get me out of here now!” he yelled.
“As you wish” said the Comet, and he found himself alone again in his orbit.
He was just about to fall asleep again when he noticed another Comet floating next to him. This Comet did not glow, but was grey and had a tail that extended out for thousands of miles. The Comet seemed to like his tail, and curled it back and forth slowly, as if he were playing with it.
“Merry Christmas Pluto!” the Comet cried, “Ho Ho Ho!”
“Let me guess” said Pluto, “another Comet here to save my soul.”
“I am the Comet of Christmas Present” said the Comet, “and the Present is the best time of all.” The Comet laughed, and flicked it’s tail wrapping it around Pluto like a scarf.
“What’s so good about it?” asked Pluto.
“Hold on” said the Comet. And again, the Universe spun, faster and faster, until it appeared that Pluto and the Comet were in a tunnel of stars. The Comet led the way through the tunnel, and they came to a small gathering of planets.
“That’s Charon!” Pluto cried, almost happy to see his assistant, “and her kids, uh, uh, what’s their names…”
“Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra” said the Comet, “How long has she worked for you?”
“Not long enough” said Pluto, “and besides, I only see Charon at work. Leave the personal matters at home, that’s what I say.”
Pluto was thoughtful. “She did mention something about one of them being sick.”
There was a cough, and one of the kids left off his playing and rotated slowly. Much too slowly, Pluto thought.
“That one there” said Pluto, “what’s wrong with him?”
“No one knows” said the Comet, “but he needs more care. Needs his mother around him more. Her gravity makes him better.”
“Why doesn’t she ask for more time off?” said Pluto, forgetting himself.
“She did” replied the Comet, “and you threatened to have her replaced.”
The Comet’s words stung, because Pluto knew they were true.
Kerberos coughed again, and the others crowded I around him. “Thank God for Pluto” the little one said, “and for giving you tomorrow off, mama.”
Charon sighed, and smiled at Kerberos.
“Will he live?” Pluto asked the Comet.
“Come” said the Comet, “there is more to see.”
They traveled on and came next to Eris’ orbit. A party was going on, and Pluto recognized most everyone. There was Eris, of course, and Haumea, and Make Make, and Quaoar, and 2014 uz224, and even Sedna was there.
In spite of himself, Pluto’s resentment returned.
“What are we doing here?” he demanded, “I don’t want to see Eris ever again.”
Pluto made to leave, but the Comet wrapped his tail around him, and turned him gently back towards the party.
“Fine party you’ve got here” said Sedna.
“Yeah” said Make Make, “Eris always throws the best parties.”
“Ah” said Eris, “it’d be better if Pluto were here though.”
“I’m here!” yelled Pluto, whose heart was again softening.
“They can’t hear you or see you” said the Comet, “watch.”
“Well I, for one, am glad Pluto’s not here” said Orcus.
“Yes” said Quaoar, “he’s about the vilest planet that ever was. Why would anybody want him at a party.”
“I know” said Eris, “but he’s family.”
“Family, hmph!” said Make Make, “he hates you, and he blames you for his demise. As if it’s your fault that you’re bigger than him.”
“Yes” said Eris, thoughtful, “but we were friends, once, and I hope we can be friends again.”
“Enough of Pluto” said Haumea, “let’s talk about something cheerful, it’s Christmas after all.”
Pluto’s heartstrings tugged him in every direction. He stayed and watched the party for hours, getting caught up in the fun, laughing at the jokes, even the ones about him, and participating, in his own way, in the games. It was the first time in seven years that Pluto had fun, and only the Comet was there to see it.
Pluto opened his eyes. He was back in his orbit, and he was cold. Normally Pluto liked being cold. He lived a long way from the Sun, and he rather preferred it. But this was a different kind of cold. This was a cold that sucked the very breath of life right out of him.
He looked in anticipation and saw a dark Comet orbiting next to him. It was so dark that he couldn’t be sure it even was a Comet. It had the shape of one, but it was formed not by material, but by the absence of light, matter, energy, and time. Pluto felt like he was staring into the center of a black hole.
“Are you the Comet of Christmas yet to come?” he asked, trembling.
The Comet made no answer.
“It’s you I fear the most” said Pluto, “nevertheless I’m ready. Show me what I need to see. I’m ready to change.”
The Comet said nothing, just hovered there. Pluto felt himself being drawn towards it, drawn into it’s nothingness.
“No” he shouted, “No!” Blackness enveloped him.
He heard a noise. Someone was weeping. He opened his eyes and saw Styx, Nix, and Hydra. They were crowded around Charon, who was crying. “It’s gonna be okay mama” one of the children said.
Pluto still did not know which one was which, and he resolved right then and there to learn.
“Yeah” said another, trying to comfort the weeping planet, “we took him to the Asteroid Belt, so he could be closer to the Sun.”
“Kerberos always did love the Sun” Charon said between sobs. She tried to smile, a little.
Pluto turned to the Comet of Christmas Future.
“It can’t be” he said, “It can’t be my fault that he died. I didn’t even know him.”
Again the Comet said nothing.
Pluto felt himself being pulled again. He closed his eyes and fell into the Comet.
When he opened them he was looking at a very somber scene. Eris was the sole attendee of someone’s funeral. The dead planet looked familiar, but Pluto couldn’t quite place who it was. Eris nudged the dead planet and sent him sailing away from the Sun, beyond the Kuiper Belt. When he turned around he had tears in his eyes. “Good-bye Pluto” he said.
Pluto turned to the Comet, “That’s me, isn’t it? How can that be me? It didn’t look like me.”
The Comet said nothing.
“Is this the future that must be?” asked Pluto, “or is it a future that might be only? Why are you showing me this? Is it too late to change?”
Pluto was again drawn into the Comet.
“Please” he said, “I’ve seen enough.”
And then he was plunged into darkness.
When he opened his eyes he was looking at a scene on Earth. He was inside the control room of the Hubble Space Telescope, and there was a crowd gathered there. “I’m sorry” a man was saying, “but Pluto’s gone. We don’t know what happened, but he’s just not there.” There was a spontaneous weeping, and not a dry eye in the room.
The scene changed. He was watching a mom tuck her little girl into bed. She was hugging a Pluto pillow. “I don’t care what the scientists say” she was telling her mom, “I think Pluto’s still there. I think he’s just hiding.”
“I hope you’re right” her mom said.
The Comet showed Pluto scene after scene of people on Earth mourning his death.
Pluto didn’t realize he was crying. “They love me” he said, “and all this time I was mad at them.”
He turned to the Comet. “Oh Comet, please tell me this can change. That I can change. I have changed, you know. I have.”
Pluto was being drawn into the Comet again. “Please” he cried, “Please!…”
Pluto opened his eyes. He was back in his own orbit. There were no Comets. Everything was as it should be! And he was- what was this strange feeling he was feeling- he was happy! “Oh Thank you, Thank you” he cried aloud.
“I know just what to do” he said, and he flew over to Eris’ orbit as fast as he could.
“Pluto” said Eris, a little surprised, “What are you doing here?”
“Merry Christmas!” cried Pluto, “I’ve come to accept your invitation to the party, and to ask you to forgive me.”
Eris didn’t know what to say.
“Oh Eris, I’ve had a change of heart. I’m as light as Saturn, I’m as happy as an Earthling child.”
Pluto told Eris everything that had happened, and Eris rejoiced in the tale.
“I’ll be back in time for the party” Pluto said, “Merry Christmas, Eris.”
“Merry Christmas, Pluto”
And with that, he headed off to visit Charon.
When he got close he tried to make himself look as mean as possible.
“Charon!” he snarled, “why aren’t you at work?”
Charon and the kids all jumped. But Kerberos looked at Pluto with a curious smile. Pluto winked at him.
“Mr. Pluto” said Charon, “well I, uh, you gave me the day off. It’s Christmas, remember?”
“Christmas is it?” barked Pluto, but he couldn’t hold back his joy any longer. If he had a knee he would’ve gotten down upon it.
“Charon” he said, “I’ve come to make you my partner, and to give you as much time with your kids as you need. More even. Heck, I’ll pay you to stay home with them! And Charon, I’m begging you to forgive me. I’ve been an awful planet.”
“Why, sir” said Charon, “I, I don’t know what to say.”
“Say yes, mama” said Kerberos.
“Why, yes! Yes, of course I forgive you.”
Kerberos went and orbited Pluto. He rolled around on him and played on him.
And indeed, ever after, Pluto was like a father to him.
Pluto took Charon and the kids to Eris’ Kuiper Belt Christmas Party. After the initial shock the other dwarf planets relaxed, and everyone enjoyed themselves greatly. And Pluto, the old Humbug, was the life of the party. And Kerberos, how he sparkled and danced and played.
The night wore on, and was the most perfect Christmas any of the dwarf planets could remember.
But Pluto still wanted to do something for the people who loved him. To thank them in some way. So, the next chance he got, when the New Horizons satellite flew by him to take his picture, Pluto turned his heart towards the camera, and said “I love you” to all his friends back on Earth.
And in the words of Kerberos, who did not die,
GOD BLESS US EVERYONE!