Sunday 24 December 2023

Krampus Nacht by Meighan Williams, Glühwein and Apfelkuchen

 The wicker poked and scratched at his flesh and all around him he could hear the cries of the other kids as they jostled and clambered in their vain attempts to break free. Despite the snow outside, it was impossibly hot in the basket, and sticky with the breath of a thousand screaming children desperate to avoid the fires of hell.

Dieter hadn’t believed in the superstition before tonight, but that clearly hadn’t spared him. If anything, it had helped to damn him. He had not only ignored the warnings and pleas of his younger brother Gustav, his parents, and teachers, but he had gone out of his way to be as wicked as possible, to push the very boundaries of human decency. He had feared no consequence, his father having always been far too soft on him and his mother, afraid of him. She had seen his true potential for cruelty when she had caught him taking his knife to the family cat, Tinkerbell. How do you punish something that vile? She had been frightened he would retaliate had she attempted to.

Dieter had assumed, if there was to be any punishment whatsoever, that it would likely be something superficial, such as one less present than last year, or having to go without Kinderpunsch and Stollen for the night. These things didn’t bother him for he would simply steal Gustav's.

Contrarily, Gustav was what one might call a goody-two-shoes. His brown-nosing sickened Dieter, who would regularly bully his younger sibling as a result. Yet even so, Gustav had done his best to encourage Dieter towards the path of kindness and had regaled him with cautionary tales of the Krampus in hopes he would take heed. These events had usually culminated in a beating. On one occasion, Dieter had even broken Gustav’s little finger.

Earlier that night, the men of the village had donned their scariest costumes, his father included, and taken to the streets for the annual Krampusnacht tradition. They were supposed to just scare the children, but one or two had taken the opportunity of anonymity to wallop Dieter with their birch rods on the way past, such was his legacy in the town.

Dieter had been nursing such a whipping when one of the men, who had been lurking at the rear of the pack, stopped just behind him and stretched a clawed hand toward him. He was menacingly tall. Dieter had assumed he was on stilts. He scoffed and punched the man in the midsection, hoping he would lose his balance. The suit felt like it was made of real goat hair. The creature didn’t so much as flinch, but Dieter’s fist stung from the impact. He glanced down at the caprine hooves, too realistic for any store-bought affair. Tension bristled in the air and Dieter had sensed the danger far too late as the chains snapped closed around his feet. The next thing he knew, he went hurtling through the air and landed within the infinite basket of Krampus, the Christmas Devil, who had disguised himself amongst the sea of imposters. Most of the naughty children would receive a mere lashing, but he reserved a special place in hell for little psychopaths like Dieter.

Later that night, the family continued with their annual Yule traditions as though nothing was amiss. Gustav received double the number of gifts, and his brother’s absence was never discussed. Gustav’s mother had found the letter to St Nicholas.

Dear Mr Klaus, I have taken great pains to be extra good this year and tried my best to help Dieter see the light. You will no doubt be aware that I failed miserably at this task. Therefore, I would like to request that in lieu of any material gift this year, you send Mr Krampus to teach my older brother a lesson. Kind regards, Gustav.

She had been impressed by her young son’s vocabulary, and far from becoming upset, she had stamped and mailed it for him.


About the author 

Meighan writes to escape the monotony of small-town life. She is an old soul/new writer. Her stories appear in Snakes for Breakfast and Friday Flash Fiction. In the absence of ideas, she’s likely fronting her rock band or bothering her cats. She resides with her partner in the Australian tropics. 

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