By Sean Cochrane
Holidays were always steeped in tradition for the Johnson family. Some practices had been passed down from generations before, and others had developed by chance along the way. Thanksgiving, of course, was no different. In addition to watching football and dining on a gluttonous turkey dinner, Thanksgiving served as the official transition to the Christmas season. After dinner and dessert the family raised the Christmas tree and decorated it in a menagerie of ornaments collected over the years. Once the tree was adorned and the colored lights lit, Brett and Suzie Johnson each wrote a letter to Santa Claus. The children then put the letters in carefully labeled envelopes and placed them in the mailbox at the end of the driveway before heading off to bed. Later, before going to bed themselves, Chad and Cindy Johnson would retrieve the letters and create their holiday shopping list.
This year was different, though. Chad had been laid off from his lucrative job during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Once things returned to the new normal, his previous employer hadn’t bounced back enough to reopen his position. He was able to find a minimum wage retail job, but forty hours a week of being condescended to and abused by customers and management alike wasn’t enough to keep the lights on. Cindy, who’d filled her pre-Covid days with housekeeping, daytime talk shows, and mimosas, was pushed into the workforce as well. Their incomes combined paid the bills, barely, but left nothing for the lavish Christmas the family was accustomed to.
So, after Brett and Suzie had drifted off to sleep, Chad and Cindy retrieved the letters with more than a bit of trepidation. Returning to their bedroom they read the letters together, both silently wincing at each out-of-budget request.
“What are we going to do? They’re going to be so disappointed,” Cindy asked Chad.
“I don’t know, Cin. We can’t afford any of this stuff. We’ve already spent most of our savings on my new TV and your earrings,” he replied.
“We can’t tell them Santa isn’t real; that mommy and daddy are broke.”
“No,” Chad answered with a sigh, “but we can’t let them think Santa thinks they were bad kids this year either.”
The couple sat in silence for several minutes, searching for an easy out to the joyless situation.
“Well, we can return the earrings I guess,” Cindy resigned.
Chad protested, “No, Cin. That’s not fair to you. You’ve been through hell this year. What about the TV?”
Cindy paused before shaking her head, “No, no. You’ve been wanting a new TV for so long. That old thing in the living room has the ESPN ticker burned into the screen.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s kind of an ‘everybody gift’ too, right?” he implored her to confirm his justification.
“That works. And we can afford some stocking stuffers. New family TV, some candy, and Christmas is saved!”
Chad was pensive.
“What, honey?” Cindy prodded, “Your idea works.”
“It still doesn’t explain why, for the first time in their lives, Santa didn’t give them what they asked for.”
“I don’t know,” she mused, “Blame Krampus.”
Chad was confused, “Blame who?”
“Krampus,” Cindy explained, “It’s like some demon anti-Santa from Europe or something. Basically The Grinch, I think. I don’t know a whole lot about it, but they still believe in Santa so it won’t be hard to get them to believe that this Krampus thing stole their presents. Then we’ll make it up to them next year.”
“Look at us! Saving Christmas like a couple red-nosed reindeer!” Chad chuckled.
“Go destroy the evidence,” Cindy instructed, “Then come back here and we’ll get on the naughty list.”
Chad quietly walked down the hall and into the living room, stopping in front of the fireplace. He took a last look at the letters in his hand.
“Here you go Krampus. These are for you,” he spoke to the empty room before tossing the letters into the flames.
He’d turned away to return to his waiting wife too quickly to see that the letters went untouched by the flames. Instead, they rose up through the chimney in a swirl of black smoke.
Unbeknownst to Chad and Cindy, in their greed and ignorance they had successfully called the demon-beast. Their understanding of Krampus was lacking, though. Krampus is not a gift-stealing character lifted from the pages of a children’s book. No, Krampus is a fanged half-demon half-goat who brings punishment to misbehaved children. He has no interest in stealing gifts; instead he beats bad children with birch branches then drags them crying and screaming back to hell. Like his friendly counterpart Santa Claus, he manages to make his global rounds in one night.
Days passed, and November gave way to December. Chad and Cindy maintained a charade of normalcy with their children, not losing a wink of sleep over their planned deception. Brett and Suzie had no idea that Santa wouldn’t be coming this year or that their parents had sold them out to Krampus.
But Krampus knew, and as Brett and Suzie opened the tiny doors marked 5 on their Advent calendars before bedtime he smiled.
That night, the children lost in dreamland, Chad and Suzie were too preoccupied with fulfilling their carnal desires to take note of the cloven hooves clopping across their roof.
Krampus descended down the chimney, unbothered by the smoke and soot, and stepped into the living room unscathed by the fire. His eight foot frame was topped by gnarled horns. Heavy chains draped over his coarse black fur, and a large wicker basket hung on his back. A long tongue lapped over his protruding fangs in anticipation as he set off towards the childrens’ room, his bundle of birch sticks scratching along the baseboards as he dragged it along.
Krampus quietly entered the room where Brett and Suzie lay asleep. He grinned slightly at the peaceful children before rattling his chains to announce his presence. Both children roused from their slumber, terror and tears immediately filling their eyes. Before they could scream, Krampus raised a single clawed finger to his black lips.
“Shhhhhhhhh… I come not to harm you,” his voice raspy and barely above a whisper.
Brett and Suzie lay in their beds, frozen with fear.
“I am Krampus. Your parents summoned me. They intended to deceive you and use me as their scapegoat. However, it is not within my nature to punish the innocent,” he explained.
The children were puzzled, yet their fears abated and they sat up in their beds.
Krampus reached into the wicker basket perched on his back and withdrew the childrens’ letters to Santa. He laid one letter on each of the children’s beds before raising the thick bundle of birch sticks in front of him. He divided the bundle into two parts and tied each tightly with a length of twine.
“Santa is not visiting this year, and it is due to your parents’ greed and selfishness. They’ve given gifts to themselves, but your holiday wishes are gone,” Krampus explained, “They conjured a plan to lie to you and blame me for stealing your gifts, but as you can see your wishes were never sent to Santa Claus.”
Garnering all his bravery, little Brett asked, “How did you get our letters?”
“Your father threw them into the fire and said they belonged to me.”
“So are you going to bring us presents?” Suzie piped up.
“I do not bring presents. I only bring punishment and anguish,” Krampus laid a bundle of birch sticks on each child’s bed, “The only gift I can give is retribution.”
The children, finally understanding the situation, crawled out from under their covers and took up their arms. Silently, they followed Krampus down the hallway, the sound of the twigs scraping the walls drowning out the sultry moans emanating from their parents’ room.
Chad and Cindy didn’t hear the bedroom door open. Nor did they see their pajama-clad children enter, chaperoned by a demon and armed with bundled sticks. Chad was on his back, eyes fixated on his wife’s body. Cindy, straddled over Chad, had her back to the door. To the lovers, nothing existed outside of one another’s naked form.
Until Suzie took her first swing.
The blow elicited a yelp from Cindy, and she collapsed onto Chad. He, still unaware of the assault, proceeded to run his hands down her back. It was the bite across his knuckles from Brett’s attack that let him know something was wrong. Cindy rolled off of her husband, and they both faced their attackers.
“Brett! Suzie! What are you doing?” Chad shouted as Krampus stepped in front of the children to shield them from both the adults’ nudity and anger.
“Turn away, children,” Krampus said gently, and the two did as told.
Chad and Cindy were immobilized with horror.
“You stole Christmas from your children and summoned me as a scapegoat. I have come as you asked, but not to accept blame. Instead, I bestow gifts of penalty and punishment for your deeds,” growled the horned beast.
Krampus again ran his elongated tongue across his gums and to the points of his fangs. Then, with the forward thrust of his clawed hands, his chains flew from his shoulders to restrain the nude pair. To ensure the children weren’t inappropriately exposed to their parents’ nakedness Krampus swiped at Cindy’s chain-bound torso, leaving a bloody streak of mangled flesh and fatty tissue where her breasts had been moments before.
Cindy howled in anguish, but Krampus ignored her cries. He raised both hands high over his head before a demonic howl accompanied the slamming of his fists down into the couple’s nethers. Chad and Cindy screamed as tears poured down their faces. A pulp of broken bone and meat was all that remained of their most private regions.
“Come, children. Take your pound of flesh,”
Brett and Suzie turned towards their sobbing, bloodied parents.
“You’re on the naughty list!” cried Suzie, and both children resumed beating their parents.
The children were tireless, seeming to relish in their parent’s pain as the birch twigs tore away small pieces of flesh with each blow. Cindy begged her precious little angels for mercy, and Chad pleaded for forgiveness. Little Brett and Suzie Johnson giggled and laughed gleefully as blood spattered their faces and turned the pale birch wood crimson.
The beating continued until Chad and Suzie’s cries stopped. Their hearts no longer pumped fresh blood to the surface, and their bodies lay lifeless.
Brett and Cindy turned to Krampus and held the bloody stick bundles out to him.
“Here you go, Mister Krampus, you can have these back now,” Brett said.
A dramatic wave of a claw returned the binding chains from the corpses to hishulking frame. He turned to face away from the children and knelt down.
“They are yours to keep,” he looked back towards them, “Now come! We have more gifts to give!”
The siblings excitedly climbed into the big wicker basket. Krampus stood, and his cloven hooves started back towards the fireplace.
Find out more about Sean on his Amazon Author Page.