Pests are a problem everywhere. There are roaches in the city, mice in the country, and gremlins at Mackerel Valley Airport. Roaches are filthy and almost indestructible, mice chew on things and leave droppings all over, but either are preferable to gremlins. You see, any inconvenience mice and roaches cause humans is purely accidental. They are just creatures trying to survive.
Gremlins, on the other hand, intend all the frustration they cause. Nothing delights them more than seeing a normally patient human snap. How a creature’s entire existence could center around annoying people, was a puzzle to scientists and philosophers alike. That is until a certain gremlin by the name of Squabble shed some light on the mystery.
Squabble lived in the B-Terminal at Mackerel Valley Airport. Like all the other gremlins, he was short, green, warty, and had a nasty array of pointed teeth. His diet consisted mostly of wilted kale and lemon rinds.
He had a strict routine for irritating people. He would begin his day going into one stall in every restroom across the terminal and shredding an entire roll of toilet paper. He would cover the floors and the walls with paper pieces and then throw the remainder of the roll into the toilet bowl. Then he would stop by every gate area and disconnect all the charging stations. Lastly, he would go to every newsstand and markup the price of water bottles by two dollars.
Things got really bad though, when he started hacking the Intermittent Airlines computer system. He would randomly change gates, reassign seats, and add fees to anything and everything he could. Sometimes, he would sit across from the customer service desk and snicker as the lines of enraged passengers vented their frustrations.
One day, Squabble decided to sit at one of the gates by the podium where he had a clear view of the agent. He was wearing a trenchcoat and a hat with the brim tipped low over his face, so that no one would recognize him as a gremlin. He was jittering with excitement as he thought of the misery he was about to cause. He opened up his laptop, found the next departing flight, and reviewed his options.
He noticed an empty seat in first class and had an idea. He was going to find the poorest person on the flight and reassign him to that seat. He laughed as he thought of how disgusted the first class passengers would be at the idea of sharing their cabin with a mortal.
It took some internet stalking, but he was able to find a suitable victim. After reassigning the seat, he watched for the gate agent to see what would happen. She called the passenger on the intercom. Squabble watched the first class customers as the man approached the podium. He was a scruffy, college student with a backpack held together with duct tape. Most of the first class passengers were on conference calls and didn’t notice him at all.
When the gate agent told him about the upgrade, the elites neither noticed nor cared. But the college student’s face brightened and he whole-heartedly thanked the gate agent. She was smiling, he was smiling, they were so… happy. It was the complete opposite of what Squabble intended.
It gave him a feeling he’d never felt before. It was a warm and toasty feeling right where his heart would have been (if he had a heart). He felt good, then he felt uncomfortable. Making people happy wasn’t supposed to make him feel good. It was contrary to the teachings of all the greatest gremlin philosophers.
He shook off the feeling and looked for something else to do. Over the course of the next week, he mixed up baggage, stuck gum in the bottom of the security bins, and sat behind the information desk giving travelers bad directions.
When he finally returned to hacking, he noticed another empty seat in first class. He couldn’t help but wonder if that warm and toasty feeling would return if he upgraded someone else from coach. He shook his head. It would be unethical for a gremlin to do something like that. (To gremlins, the unethical was ethical and vice versa.)
Still, the curiosity was nipping and tugging at him. He decided to try it. Could making one person feel good really be so bad?
He watched as the gate against called the passenger to the podium. The woman smiled, thanked the agent, and immediately pulled out her phone and called someone. Squabble could hear her telling the person on the other end about how excited she was. The feeling returned. That lovely, warm feeling seemed directly related to making people happy.
He needed to be sure. Over the next few days, Squabble upgraded five passengers and each time the result was similar. Not only that, but the demeanor of the gate agents seemed to change. They weren’t used to making people happy. Intermittent Airlines policy strictly forbid it. He heard them speculating about whether corporate was doing some sort of promotion.
Squabble began to wonder if doing other things to make people happy would have the same result. He decided to experiment. He borrowed a motorized cart and started giving the elderly rides to their gates. He told people where they could find the shortest security lines and working charging stations. (There weren’t many, but Squabble knew where they were.)
The more he did these things, the more he experienced that warm and toasty feeling. But these behaviors also had some effects he didn’t expect. Wilted kale and lemon rinds started making him sick. Instead, he started craving mint candies and jelly beans. His teeth started to straighten and his warts faded away. His skin was losing its green color. His fellows mocked his bright eyes and rosy cheeks. He was hideous, almost as ugly as a human.
Still, he wasn’t quite human. He maintained his short stature and pointed ears and didn’t really feel like he belonged anywhere. He almost wondered if he should return to his gremlin ways. The gremlins were bitter and mean and horrible company, but as a gremlin, he knew where he belonged. Now he didn’t belong anywhere.
He spent many long hours fighting with himself, trying to decide if the joy of helping others was worth the identity crisis it caused. He wasn’t really sure, but each of his subsequent actions indicated that it was.
Then one day, he found his answer (or it found him). He saw a massive herd of rosy-cheeked, pointy-eared, tiny, little people coming through security. They were riding the bins through the x-ray machine per the TSA officer’s instructions and squealing with delight as the bins bumped down the rollers on the other side.
Squabble was used to seeing people grumble and complain as they came through security, but these little people were saying things like:
“Isn’t it nice that they let us ride in the bins? We didn’t even have to take our shoes off!”
“Look he stamped my boarding pass AND gave me a sticker!”
They also had a compliment for every TSA officer they encountered. It was like nothing Squabble had ever seen before. They made him feel warm and toasty all over.
When the entire group was through, they waited patiently until they were joined by an old, bearded man in a red sweatsuit. He did have to take his boots and belt off and go through the metal detector along with the rest of the humans, so he was delayed in joining his tiny companions. Then, they all made their way toward the B-gates.
Squabble ran after them.
“Hey!” he cried.
One of the little creatures tailing the group noticed him and called:
“Don’t fall behind! We only have one hundred eighty-two days until Christmas and can’t afford to miss this flight!”
“What flight? Where are you—we going?”
She glanced back at him again. “Oh, sorry! I thought you were with us!” She giggled. “Just not used to seeing other elves in Mackerel Valley, I guess.”
“I’m not an elf,” Squabble objected. “Elves are tall and really ugly. I mean really ugly.”
“You’re funny!” She laughed.
Squabble scowled. He didn’t see what was funny about it.
“Where are you going?” He called, scurrying to keep up.
“Anchorage!” She replied. “To get the reindeer, then back to the North Pole.”
At once, Squabble darted toward the nearest ticketing kiosk. With a little hacking, he managed to secure a ticket and before he knew it he was seated among the elves thirty-thousand feet above the ground. They were all so talkative and excited that it took them awhile to notice he wasn’t a part of their original group.
An eight hour flight left plenty of time for questioning, so it was that the elves managed to extract the truth. It took some doing since Squabble wasn’t forthcoming. He was concerned they wouldn’t accept him if they learned of his gremlin upbringing. Had he known anything about Christmas elves, he wouldn’t have been concerned. They decided to adopt him before the plane even touched down. They gave him a job as a programmer and changed his name to Sour-apple Cherry Tart.
So it was that the origin of the gremlin species was discovered. They were simply the descendants of Christmas elves gone bad. Every so often, another airport gremlin experiences the call of his ancestors and turns from his evil ways. If you are ever in Mackerel Valley Airport and experience a random upgrade to first class, the most likely cause is a gremlin having an identity crisis. I guarantee it isn’t Intermittent Airlines doing.