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  • We've had this weird little tradition to leave an extra meal on Christmas Eve in my family, just a bowl filled with food for an unseen guest. It never had to contain anything specific, just food. For as long as I remember, I can recall my mother filling an extra bowl with some sort of dish and placing it by the kitchen's window. Whenever I would ask about this bowl, my parents would tell me they're just thanking Santa for the presents he gifts us. Suffice to say by the age of ten I had figured out that my folks and other relatives were leaving the christmas gifts under the tree. 

    One thing struck me as odd though is that every year on the morning of Christmas, I'd find a birch branch laying by the window, next to an empty bowl.

    When I was thirteen, the sight of my mother placing an extra bowl next to the window sparked a memory. It was of a birch branch from the previous year that I had kept in our yard sparked my curiosity, and I've concocted a plan to catch whoever was eating that food and placing the birch during the night. 

    Thus, right after the clock hit midnight that year at Christmas, I pretended to be tired and excused myself to bed. I just laid there in my bed for the longest time. For a few hours I could only hear my family partying downstairs and the snowstorm outside. At some point, I was ready to give up and let sleep take over, but a sudden gut feeling told me to stay awake and wait some more. Eventually, the sounds of the party died down. Soon enough I heard the door downstairs shut one last time. Shortly after that, I heard my parents making their way upstairs to their own bedroom. 

    That's when I knew it was go-time; whoever was eating my mother's extra mill was going to show up soon, I reasoned. It just made sense to me that this so-called Santa Claus would show up after everyone's gone to bed. 

    Moments passed and nothing happened, moments turned to minutes and eventually I am sure an hour or so had passed before I started dozing off. I'm unsure what time it was, but it was definitely late. So, there I am, laying in my bed; finally falling asleep; forgetful of my disappointment of not finding out who gets that extra bit of food. 

    Thump

    A sudden booming sound echoed through the house. It was followed by the knocking sounds that had a rhythm to them, something akin to the sound of a heavy soldier's marching.

    I immediately shot up in my bed, “Gotcha…” I whispered quietly as I jumped out of my bed. Making my way towards the door, I halted once I reached it; gloomy thoughts occupied my juvenile mind, “what if it’s a Christmas blackmail burglar robbing mom of her food?” I thought for a moment, “No that’s silly, Owen, it’s probably just dad pranking us all,” I told myself. The idea of my father having an annual prank seemed rather plausible to my teenage self. My old man is quite a humorous fellow.

    I opened the door confidently and made my way to the stairs, “Dad, is that you in the kitchen?” I called from the top of the stairs quietly.

    As I stood there waiting for a response, I heard my father snore from my parents’ bedroom.

    “Uh-oh…” I whimpered under my breath as I saw a huge shadow make its way across the floor below.

    I waltzed back into my room as quietly as I could, hoping not to avert the attention of the intruder. In an act of stupid teenage bravado, I grabbed my baseball bet and made my way back out of my room. Quietly walking downstairs to the ground floor I made my way as stealthily as I could. Looking for this intruder I had my bat cocked in hand ready to strike. Mind you, now standing at 6"7 I was the size of some adults by the time I hit my teens. I wasn’t exactly the smallest kid around.

    I looked around for a few moments and nothing. As I reached the kitchen entrance, I could see a large dark figure standing by the kitchen window. I could clearly make out the crunching sounds its mouth made as it ate the pork ribs. I could hear the cracking of bones coming from next to the window. This thing was eating the literal ribs. I slowly made my way into the kitchen, trying to be as quiet as possible while adrenaline clouded my judgment. Everything seemed so slow and calm around me as I made each step closer and closer to the intruder.

    “Hey!” I yelled out before swinging the bat at nothing but air.

    Just as I swung at the shadowy figure, it dissipated into thin air. There was nothing, only the space between the window and myself.

    The bowl was gone. 

    “Wh- wha… what th…” before I could react, I felt something slippery and slimy wrap itself around my leg. A millisecond later I felt a throbbing pain coming from my nose. I could hear my bat rolling on the floor as tears began pouring out of my eyes. I was tripped face-first to the floor. As I rolled over to my back clutching at my bloody nose; I noticed it.

    Standing over me was the silhouette of a massive hairy beast. It must have been around the seven feet in height as its horns were almost touching the ceiling. The beast had hooves for feet and a wrinkly barely human face to it. Not to mention the fact that it looked to be as wide as two football players standing side by side. It had no clothes to speak of besides what appeared to be a leathery overcoat draped over its form. There was some sack hanging over one of its shoulders. The monstrosity held a birch trunk in one of its hands while the other was holding our bowl.

    “Oooooh, so John forgot to put his kid to bed… hmmmm” the beast spoke in a hoarse voice before disgustingly grabbing another rib with its enormously long tongue.

    I just lied there, paralyzed by fear and awe of that thing in front of me, unable to make a sound.

    “You know, boy, it’s impolite to swing baseball bats at guests, especially guests who had saved your father’s life,” the beast scolded me while chewing on the rib.

    I couldn’t believe the things this thing was saying, there was no way in my mind for this thing to be possibly able to save my father. It looked like a man-eater rather than a lifesaver. I was too shocked to even come up with an answer and so I just stayed there, on the floor, unmoving and fixated on the shape of this goat-man.

    Noticing my inconvenience, it decided to place the bowl down the table beside us and then try to reach out to me with its hairy arm. Seeing this thing’s attempt at making a contact I wiggled farther away from it whimpering in fear.
    The beast turned its neck sideways in bafflement as it watched me crawl backward awkwardly before saying, “I am not going to hurt you.”

    “I-I-I don’t believe you” I cried out still clutching at my nose.

    “Oh, come on, kiddo!” the beast mocked, “I saved your daddy once!”

    “You’re lying!” I darted at the beast.

    The beast pointed its finger in my direction and flexed it back down to his palm, and I found myself unwillingly getting back up to my feet. Before I could make a sound, I was face to face with the monster. Its long neck was stretched unnaturally to allow it to be awfully close to me.

    “Is that so?” the monster hissed at me.

    There was a sort of sincerity in his tone, or maybe it was just the things ability to manipulate our bodies like this that made me stop doubting him.

    “I give favors, grant wishes if you will!” the beast said as it elongated its neck even further.

    I know it’s a dumb question to ask, even for a kid but I asked anyway, “Are you the devil?”

    The beast twisted its neck in a way that its head was upside down in relation to mine, making me feel dizzy before it said, “No.”

    “Well, you kind of look like the devil and you do grant wishes like the devil so you must be him, sir…” I responded.
    The animal let out a throaty laugh at my remark before settling down and saying, “Ahh… No. I am a… Never mind actually, your kind cannot pronounce my kind’s name anyway. Your people called me many things throughout the ages; be it Daimonos, Satyr, or Faun, Leshi, Aos si, evlenfolk, do you know any of these?" the thing questioned.

    I shook my head, being unfamiliar with the terms at the time.

    "I've even been called Krampus,” the beast proclaimed.

    “I know that one that! Are you Santa Claus helper?” I yelled out excitedly, without even noticing.

    “You could say so, Old Nick couldn’t quite perform miracles. I did all of that for him. Just like I ensured your parents are deeply asleep so we could have this conversation.” The beast slowly said twisting its own head into its natural position.

    “Did you hurt mom and dad?” I inquired, worried at the creature’s latest remark.

    “No, no, no! I gave them a good night’s sleep, so I could eat your mother's tasty goodies!” the thing called out in an attempt to calm me down.

    “Why does she even give you food?” I questioned.

    “Well, you see, when your parents were younger, your dad, he was very sick. Your mom prayed for help and you never know who might answer those prayers. Luckily for your father, it was me, the generous Jerielobas! I fixed up your dad in return for something, other than your mother’s delicious food.”

    “What’s that?” I inquired with the utmost curiosity.

    “I don’t think I could tell you, my boy, you’re a little too young for that.”

    “Oh come… on! I’ve already seen you, what can be so much worse?” I inquired.

    The beast once more elongated its neck for our eyes to meet again. The atmosphere in the room began to shift; it became heavier, much heavier; you could almost touch the tension in the air. I could feel the hairs on my body stand up as we were looking into each other’s eyes. The beast broke eye contact and moved its head towards my ears, to whisper something in my ear, something that made me shudder.

    “Your father's hide."

    “His what?” I asked, confused, back then I still did not know that human skin was the same as an animal hide.

    The beast dropped its sack on the floor with a mighty noise before shoving one of its arms into it, he quickly pulled it out holding something in it. Before I could notice, the beast’s neck was wrapped around mine, sucking the air out of me while its hand was shoving something sweet down my throat.

    The monster let go of me as I swallowed the substance and collapsed to the floor with a sweet flavor in my mouth.
    Everything turned so dull around me. As I was losing consciousness, I could make out some sort of rift in the air. The beast walked into the rift while the stench of rot and iron filled the kitchen.

    “One day, I’ll take your father’s skin…” were the final hoarse words I heard before everything faded to black.

    When I woke the next morning, my nose wasn't broken. All my happy confidence that it was just a nightmare fled when I saw a birch branch on top of my blanket. My stomach knotted up when I remembered what the beast had said. Dad has Leukemia, apparently. It went into remission, and now it's Christmastide. I'm worried the monstrosity is after my father's skin right now.

    I can only pray I’m wrong.

      Loading editor
    • Bloody Spaghetti,

      English: If this were close to the final draft I would report several issues. Nothing horrid. Extra commas, missing commas, etc. You have a LOT of what I would consider run-on sentences that I would split. We've been through that debate with that story about the guy driving the Mini van to the Dead Sea. No point in going through it again.

      I advise reading it out loud to yourself several times.

      Prose: I'll repeat my generic call for merciless editing.

      Your prose is repetitive.

      I woke up the next morning in my room, with no broken nose. I dismissed the whole ordeal as a nightmare, that is until I got out of my bed and found the birch branch leaning against it. Just thinking about what I’ve seen that made my stomach knot, so I kept the whole thing to myself. Until now, that is. My old man has Leukemia, apparently, he went into remission and it’s Christmas season again, so maybe I should pray to the beast or maybe it’s too late now the creature is just coming to collect my father’s skin.

      I would rewrite the first two sentences as something like

      "When I woke the next morning, my nose wasn't broken. All my happy confidence that it was just a nightmare fled when I saw the birch branch covering my blanket. My stomach knotted up when I remembered what Krampus had said. Dad has Leukemia. It went into remission, but now it's Christmas. Should I be praying to the beast so he doesn't take Dad's skin?"

      Shorter, stronger.

      I think you could take a third off the story in tightening the language - but wait. I remember saying something like that over the above mentioned minivan story. Never mind. It's your story.

      Plot: It's pretty reasonable. The real Christmas spirit isn't at all what we believe it to be. It's a pre-Christian spirit. The old ones don't die, they just change names and wear a cross.

      The ending seems wimpy to me. If I thought that if I sacrifice a chicken to Krampus it may well save my Dad, you bet I would be sacrificing that chicken! Not like someday - like immediately I would be gathering birch branches and dancing naked for Freya. He has seen the deity and he has seen evidence of its power. Not to do so would be illogical.

        Loading editor
    • DrBobSmith wrote: Bloody Spaghetti,

      English: If this were close to the final draft I would report several issues. Nothing horrid. Extra commas, missing commas, etc. You have a LOT of what I would consider run-on sentences that I would split. We've been through that debate with that story about the guy driving the Mini van to the Dead Sea. No point in going through it again.

      I advise reading it out loud to yourself several times.

      Prose: I'll repeat my generic call for merciless editing.

      Your prose is repetitive.

      I woke up the next morning in my room, with no broken nose. I dismissed the whole ordeal as a nightmare, that is until I got out of my bed and found the birch branch leaning against it. Just thinking about what I’ve seen that made my stomach knot, so I kept the whole thing to myself. Until now, that is. My old man has Leukemia, apparently, he went into remission and it’s Christmas season again, so maybe I should pray to the beast or maybe it’s too late now the creature is just coming to collect my father’s skin.

      I would rewrite the first two sentences as something like

      "When I woke the next morning, my nose wasn't broken. All my happy confidence that it was just a nightmare fled when I saw the birch branch covering my blanket. My stomach knotted up when I remembered what Krampus had said. Dad has Leukemia. It went into remission, but now it's Christmas. Should I be praying to the beast so he doesn't take Dad's skin?"

      Shorter, stronger.

      I think you could take a third off the story in tightening the language - but wait. I remember saying something like that over the above mentioned minivan story. Never mind. It's your story.

      Plot: It's pretty reasonable. The real Christmas spirit isn't at all what we believe it to be. It's a pre-Christian spirit. The old ones don't die, they just change names and wear a cross.

      The ending seems wimpy to me. If I thought that if I sacrifice a chicken to Krampus it may well save my Dad, you bet I would be sacrificing that chicken! Not like someday - like immediately I would be gathering birch branches and dancing naked for Freya. He has seen the deity and he has seen evidence of its power. Not to do so would be illogical.

      Ahh thank you, good doctor. Ill see what I can do with the run-ons. I like your suggested prose, im going to tweak it and use that.

      As for the whole point of the story; the father was saved and in return the beast wants his skin. The trick here is its not implied when or how he will take it. The notion of him reigniting an old mans leukemia is uncomfortable and the pratagonist is left wondering whether this is the case or not.


      The whole food thing is just a nod to your Christmas tale - he just enjoys the gift of the famiy.

        Loading editor
    • Bloody Spaghetti,

      It's just my head but I think "If Krampus can save my father once, maybe with enough offerings, sacrifices, ceremonies and service I can get him to save my father again." Jerielobas saved him once, apparently adding years to the account balance of his life. That's a gift and eventually that time he was given runs out.

      Let's do a little thought experiment. What if you knew that if you served this Jerielobas all your life that it would give your father another ten good years. Would you make that contract? What would your emotions be at the time? What would you be thinking? What would be your creepiest fears and greatest horrors?

        Loading editor
    • DrBobSmith wrote:
      Bloody Spaghetti,

      It's just my head but I think "If Krampus can save my father once, maybe with enough offerings, sacrifices, ceremonies and service I can get him to save my father again." Jerielobas saved him once, apparently adding years to the account balance of his life. That's a gift and eventually that time he was given runs out.

      Let's do a little thought experiment. What if you knew that if you served this Jerielobas all your life that it would give your father another ten good years. Would you make that contract? What would your emotions be at the time? What would you be thinking? What would be your creepiest fears and greatest horrors?

      If I knew that I could serve the monster to save my father, I'd take my pants down and bend over if it was needed. I am never told I can serve him however.

      I do like how your mind fills in the intentional holes I've left there. It's meant to be kind of empty to interpretation.

      Someone told me, before I posted this, that this Krampus can be just a trickster in the course of the plot. Meaning that the remission has nothing to do with him and he was just poking fun at the kid.

        Loading editor
    • BloodySpghetti wrote:


      Someone told me, before I posted this, that this Krampus can be just a trickster in the course of the plot. Meaning that the remission has nothing to do with him and he was just poking fun at the kid.

      The kid offering anything to Krampus and finding out that it was all just a trick and that Krampus was poking fun at him is pretty darn horrible. Consider that shock, rage, and anguish to really ratchet it up a notch or two.

        Loading editor
    • DrBobSmith wrote:

      BloodySpghetti wrote:


      Someone told me, before I posted this, that this Krampus can be just a trickster in the course of the plot. Meaning that the remission has nothing to do with him and he was just poking fun at the kid.

      The kid offering anything to Krampus and finding out that it was all just a trick and that Krampus was poking fun at him is pretty darn horrible. Consider that shock, rage, and anguish to really ratchet it up a notch or two.

      Yep, that's why I'm keeping it up for interpretation like that. 

        Loading editor
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