Krampus Tales 2: A Bag of Cinders by Amanda Mason; Snowball by Sarah Peploe

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. Today we are publishing A Bag of Cinders by Amanda Mason and Snowball by Sarah Peploe.

 

A Bag of Cinders by Amanda Mason

 

Krampus by Kathleen Jennings © 2014

Krampus by Kathleen Jennings © 2014

“And what’s Father Christmas bringing you this year?” said the old lady as she leaned back in her chair by the fireplace and laughed.

Kimmie didn’t like the house; it was dark and it smelt funny, and Nanny Sal lived there all alone. She wasn’t her real Nanny, she was Adam’s Nanny, but because they lived with Adam, she and her mum, she was Kimmie’s Nanny too, and now they visited every week. Her real Nanny didn’t write or phone anymore, nor did her proper Dad.

 

Kimmie wasn’t sure why.

 

It was Nanny Sal who told her about Santa’s helpers, only she called him Father Christmas, because she was old.  She told her how they sat at the top of the chimney, where you could write to them, and tell them what you wanted. If you wrote your letter on a white paper square and let Nanny drop it into the fire – she always had a proper coal fire going – the paper would crackle and burn and they would read it.

Only you had to be good, everyone knew that, and if you weren’t, on Christmas morning you’d open your pillowcase – no measly stockings in this family – and all you’d get would be a bag of cinders. The cold grey bits left behind when Nanny let the fire go out; dirty nasty stuff – scooped up and poured into a pillowcase by the helpers.

 

Kimmie knew exactly what they’d be like. Thin creatures, with big ears and eyes and big hands too – hands like shovels – and they’d be grimy and grubby and cold.

“They’re watching you all the time,” said Nanny, “and naughty children get nowt but a bag of cinders.”

And they laughed, the grown-ups, to think of a bad girl, crying on Christmas day, before they dropped Kimmie’s letter – the one she’d written all on her own, and folded up tight – into the fire where it unfurled then crumbled, orange and black, into ashes. Kimmie wondered if they’d read it, the helpers, and she crossed her fingers and promised to be good.

 

She woke early on Christmas morning and lay still, eyes closed, trying to guess what had happened in the night. She could feel her pillowcase at the end of her bed, thick and lumpy, solid against her toes. But when she finally heard her mum’s bedroom door go, it was Adam’s voice she heard.

“Cup of tea, babe?”

She felt it in her tummy, the cold sick feeling.

If you had been good, a voice whispered, we would have listened; if you had been really good, he wouldn’t have left at all.

On went the voice, on and on.

Kimmie opened her eyes and sat up.

And there, at the end of her bed, was the helper, with its big grey hands and its grimy smile, squatting on top of the pillowcase, her bag of cinders.

 

Biography: Amanda Mason lives in York. She’s had short stories published in collections produced by Cracked Eye, The Fiction Desk, and Gumbo Press.

 

Snowball by Sarah Peploe

 

Krampus by Gustavo Ortega © 2014

Krampus by Gustavo Ortega © 2014

Every year it starts earlier and comes later. Or seems to. Or is that just something people have always said, like kids these days? Either way, since September she has itched. Can’t turn her head without copping an eyeful of promise, red and shiny.

 

But as it gets closer, it seems to lose momentum. Everything is diluted now. She sits, E-cig in one hand, lemonade in the other. She picks at a bowl of nuts. Another once-a-year thing. The cashews remind her of his fingernails. Once she painted them, his nails, in a festive colour scheme. They were both drunk on the brandy she couldn’t pronounce, a whetstone sound. They never did it again but every year after he would raise them, glossy and glittering, and laugh. Pretty? Pretty.

 

Still the wait. At first he comes gradually, out of the shadows and edges, as he always has. Between the sundered cardboard boxes, the pulse of the lights in tinny time to Little Drummer Boy, a long lick of wrapping paper. She drops her vape and it rolls leisurely off the table. She reaches for it and it’s right then, final and sudden. The wolf-on-a-bonfire smell of him. Here.

 

Drink? He says.

The sun’s over the yardarm somewhere in the British Empire, she says, which she knows makes no sense to him.

 

His hooves spark on the floor. Which considering it’s lino she’ll admit to being impressed. He makes a swooping bow and comes up with a lit cigarette, a real one. Oh they don’t make ‘em like him anymore. But he has seen the acorn before the oak and he will see the sand after the mountain, so they don’t have to. He crushes her flimsy plastic consolation underfoot and they get comfy.

 

He runs his tongue’s tip down the inside of his wrist, splitting his bristled flesh. His blood is thick and cool and as yellow as the suns on the drawings on the fridge. She exhales and clamps her lips to the wound. Sweetest from the source, this once-a-year thing where you can forget, because he’s here to remember for everyone, that there can be no indulgence without abstinence. No pleasure without payment. No black without red.

 

Her eyes roll back.

 

I must go, he says, like they do. Then she’s waiting again ’til next year, if there is a next year. But she’s not one to begrudge. She sits back, relishing the taste through gulps of lemonade and the shrieks from the other room. It’s for the kiddies really, isn’t it.

 

Biography: Sarah Peploe loves glühwein, mixed nuts, genuinely rancorous karaoke renditions of I Believe in Father Christmas, writing and drawing. She lives in York.


You can read the first two Krampus Tales that we published yesterday here.

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

 

 

Terry Whidborne © 2014

Terry Whidborne © 2014

 

 

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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