This week’s prompt was light, so I decided to go ahead with the Krampus story because that’s what’s in my head at the moment. The saint and the demon hae just started to approach their first stop of the evening…
As they approached the village it became easier to see actual details of the little houses. It was so easy to think of towns as collections of ragged thatched roofs, walls that would need to be repaired after another hard winter, doors that kept people out as much as they welcomed. Deep under the fur, under the horns, under the maelstrom of dark feelings, something in Krampus twisted.
He ignored it as he always did, and strode through the deep snow, ignoring the wet chill that seeped into his bones through his bare feet. His clawed hand clung to the sack that dragged ominously behind him; he had a duty to do. It was not time to feel. He was past feeling.
Tiny, tiny sparks glowed behind frost-coated windows. They were brief pops of orange and red flame; tiny little lights in a world of dark. They flickered happily, almost defiantly, as if the little specks could hold off the rest of the world, forever preserving the warm feelings inside those mocking walls. He sneered, showing decaying teeth over his long, flopping tongue that sensed the taste of human flesh as much as it detected good will hiding other, more ill feelings.
It was the ill intentions, the malcontent that he focused on. It might be small during the holiday season, but it was there—oh yes—it was there. Parents resenting what their lives had become, growing adults fearful of their futures, and the little unassuming children…those were the best. They were so primal, so much like Krampus, himself. They tried to be good, yes, and those good deeds shone just like those little lights in the windows, but they were also small and brief when compared to the other nature that children held. Most of them still had much to learn in the way of acting in society. Many of them snuck off and did things their parents would never want to know about. They were much more able to tap into their darkness and shout out their hate, shove and hit someone who angered them, take what they wanted because they wanted it. They could smile charmingly and be as adorable for Sinterklaas as they wanted, but their goodness was only a tiny, bright little light that could easily be extinguished in opportune times.
And once that light was extinguished, even for a few moments, they were marked as potential prey for the demon. Most would just get the switches, enough of a warning to reignite those little flames inside them. Yet they wouldn’t be good because they wanted to be…the reignited flames would be false fire, born of having to do what they was expected and not because they wanted to be that way. Still, there were always one or two whose little lights would never re-spark because they had to, would never spark because they wanted to. There were always one or two that would remain empty, dark windows, complete voids behind the winter frost.
Those were the demon’s favorite. They let him in. They were his food. They were his everything.
Beside him Sinterklaas tromped with his giant horse, probably thinking about all the cute little faces that beamed when they saw him. Maybe, just maybe he was thinking about those that would cower and snivel because of who he had to bring with him. Maybe, just maybe he remembered the one who was cast out because there always had to be one. Perhaps he recalled a window so dark that no light would ever reach through the frost, a soul so bleak that there was nothing for it but to send him into the woods, to let him be the one that there always had to be.
Krampus hated the old man with a wild, primal passion that would have terrified the saint, that epitome of restraint, that do-er of all good. He hated all that he stood for and had since he’d been drawn out of Hell so long ago to do service. And yet…
There was another part of him, that part that had run out into the woods, terrified, petrified, that part that had longed to prove itself, wanted to show its strength, so it had picked up the mask, picked up the sack—
The demon growled and the tiny, nearly-dead spark in that part of his rotting soul blew out, leaving only the faint shiver of smoke under the creature’s skin. After tonight he wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. After tonight, that part would be food, and another feast would be prepared for the year-long trial.
Because there always had to be one.
Sinterklaas cleared his throat and tugged the nervous horse’s reigns. “Lovely, aren’t they?” he asked, nodding to the candles in the windows. “It’s nice to be welcomed.” For a moment the old man’s face was far away, and Krampus wondered if he remembered, if he regretted, if that so-called saint could ever admit what he’d done. “The light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness cannot overcome it,” Sinterklaas whispered, coming back to himself with a wistful smile, probably anticipating the festivities of the sixth. There was no way the man could wistfully recall the trials of December 5.
Krampus snorted and ignored the dripping mucus from his nose that froze along his nostrils and the edge of his fur-covered lip. He glowered at the mocking little flames that thought they were so triumphant, growled quietly at the thought of all the happy people that tried to ignore what was coming, who tried to be so lovely once a year, who didn’t admit to all the pain and evil they were capable of the rest of the time. The light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness cannot overcome it…
Krampus looked up at the saint and gave the old man his most unsettling smile. “Yes it can, old fool, yes it can. The fact that I am here and you walk beside me is proof of that.”
© Selah Janel 2013