Krampus Tales 1: When Krampus Comes by June Taylor; Christmas Wishes by Kelda Crich

We are delighted to support the brilliant Brisbane based Tiny Owl Workshop for a second time, in their innovative Krampus Crackers competition to find 12 flash fiction stories inspired by the mythical Christmas demon Krampus – a half-goat, half-demon, mythical beast, terrifying ‘wicked’ children into being ‘nice’ for Christmas- accompanied by some fabulous artwork by Simon Cottee, Kathleen Jennings, Terry WhidborneKirsty Greenwood  and Gustavo Ortega. Over the next few days we will be publishing some of these terrifying tales. We start with When Krampus Comes by June Taylor and Christmas Wishes by Kelda Crich.

 

Krampus by Simon Cottee © 2014

Krampus by Simon Cottee © 2014

When Krampus Comes by June Taylor

Winter had stripped the willow bare of its leaves, but its long flowing branches still trailed across the lawn.  My sister was crouched beneath them.  Like the willow, she was weeping.  A breeze gently toyed with her hair and puffed out the branches of the tree, as though trying to make them both weep more.

 

They say you can feel him long before you see him. 

Dark eyes, they say. 

Grotesque.

Big curly horns.

 

I was enjoying my sister’s pain too much to dwell on such nonsense.  Parents trying to scare their children into being good.  So childish.

 

Bertha wiped away the tears with her sleeve, then with her plump little fingers she examined first the arms.  Then the legs.  The torso was still in its maroon velvet gown.  She left the head till last.

 

They say he takes you if you do bad things.  And you’re never seen again. 

 

My sister’s sobs punched through her chest as she teased out the long black hair from neatly-pinned ringlets.  Real hair.   Then she ran past me, carrying the body parts in her upturned dress.

 

I crept out of my hiding-place.

 

What were you doing, child?”  His voice, deep and shadowy, reached down inside me as if to wrench out the truth.

I didn’t answer because there was nothing there.

As I ran towards the house I felt my lungs chill with breaths of winter.  And the voice came again, carried to me in a whisper.  “I. See.”

 

When I reached the steps, panting furiously, I turned around just to be sure. Of course, nothing.

 

“Agnes!”  It was Mama.  I’d backed into her.

 

“I hope you’re not being nasty to Bertha again,” she said.

 

“Oh.  No, Mama.”  My breathing was back under control.  “She – she broke her doll.”

 

Mama gathered up her skirts and with a meaningful swish went in search of my sister.

 

It was a special doll, we’d both asked for her, but it was Bertha who’d ‘received’ as usual.  Last year her pile of presents touched the tip of the chandelier.  I had to settle for one measly chocolate in a plain box.

“And you know why,” Papa had said.  I’ve forgotten now, but for some small thing.   “He’ll get you next year, Agnes, if you carry on in such a fashion.”  I remember giving him a silent raspberry.

 

We buried the doll on the croquet lawn.  My idea.  Papa would be furious, but he was away ’til Christmas and Mama was still inside.  Bertha dug the hole whilst I made a cross with two sticks.  She stuck it into the top of the small grassy mound.

 

Bertha sobbed back to the house.

 

As I walked towards the willow I felt a hand in mine.  Mama’s.  She’d come to ask more questions of me no doubt.  The grip was firm.  It had a coarse, slightly spongy texture to it.  Cold.

 

“Ow, you’re hurting, Mama.”

 

The grip tightened.  And my legs were gone from under me.

 

Biography: June Taylor is a writer from Leeds who can only make sense of the world by making up stories and looking at things sideways.  Or upside-down. Tweets @joonLT

 

Terry Whidborne © 2014

Terry Whidborne © 2014

Christmas Wishes by Kelda Crich 

She was chained in iron. Her eyes were green as the fir tree, multifaceted as a dragon-fly’s. “What’s your wish?”

Álmos was ten, much too old to believe in fairies. “I don’t want anything.”

“You want these.” Books and videogames, and an army of model figures materialised on the basement floor. The things on Álmos’ Christmas list.

“Not like this,” he said. “Who are you?”

“I’m Tündérek, and I beg you: release me.”

Álmos wanted to, he really did. “I can’t.” Peter might hurt Mother.

Peter had been Mother’s boyfriend for a year. At first, Álmos had found his stories amusing; tales of a good natured man making a living in a hard world. Lately, his stories had grown serious, criminal, vicious, organized. “You’ve been granting Peter’s wishes.” That explained the new cars, the plasma TVs, the booze, the drugs.

“And the wishes of the men he brings to me. To the extent I’m able.”

That explained the visitors to the house each evening.

“Release me, táltos. Use your magic.”

Within Álmos’ left shoe his sixth, tiny toe curled. A birth imperfection that he knew was the mark of magic. “I don’t know magic.”

“It’s not the knowledge, it’s the intention.”

“I’ll be back soon, Tündérek.”

 

Álmos left the basement. Tonight was the eve of Saint Nicholas’ Day. Tonight Krampus was said to roam the streets, frightening children. It was no coincidence. If Tündérek were real, then other things were too.

 

Álmos wrote his wish on a scrap of paper. He burnt the paper in the grate, before running upstairs to Mother. “We need to leave, Mama.”

“Peter will be home soon.”

“I’m in trouble, Mama. I need you to come with me.”

“No.”

“Someone bad is coming, Mama.”

She gasped. “You know? It’s Peter’s boss, the head of the organisation.”

“You have to come with me, Mama.” Álmos trembled. What if Krampus took his mama?

“No.”

What could Álmos do, except wish for a childhood that wasn’t this? Sunlight laddered through the darkening sky. In the twilight a baby cried.

Álmos understood. “It’s Eloise, Mama. You must go to her.”

“My baby?”

Álmos led Mama outside into winter’s cold breath. “You were so very young, Mama. It wasn’t your fault. All your life you tried to fill the hole she left, and you never could.”

 

He saw two men enter the house, followed by a tall figure, the horned and clawed man. Álmos imagined his black hairy hide, his cloven hooves, his long, red tongue. The light snapped off and on.

Krampus had his prize, taking the two men to Alsó világ.

“What have you done, Álmos’?”

“I’ve made things right, Mama. Now we need to release Tündérek.”

“Where’s  Eloise?”

“Eloise is gone. Even Tündérek couldn’t bring her back. You’ve got to be good, Mama, and in many years you’ll join Eloise in Felső világ.”

Mama sighed. She stroked Álmos’ hair. “Yes. Another year to be good.”

 

Biography: Kelda Crich’s work has appeared in the Lovecraft E-zine, Journal of Unlikely Acceptances, The Mad Scientist Journal and in the Bram Stoker Award winning After Death anthology.


Look out for two more chilling tales tomorrow.

You can find out more about Krampus and the Krampus Cracker project here.

Fiona Gell

Fiona is a lifelong reading enthusiast and book lover. Her career started as a bookseller and has never really veered away from the written and spoken word. It was a dream for her to be a founder member of The Leeds Big Bookend. Fiona is its Coordinator and Marketing Director of the Northern Short Story Festival.

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