#picturefiction #flashfiction #krampus #santa #christmas
‘Twas mere days before Christmas and Santa was busy. Toy production was in full swing at his North Pole workshop and the naughty or nice list was constantly updating as children the world over either gave in to their bad impulses or remained true.
“Santa,” Mrs. Claus said. “I have a last minute errand for us.”
“You must be kidding, Martha,” the old elf said. “We only have this many days until Christmas.”
Santa held up three fingers however the fingers were hidden inside his furred red mitten rendering them invisible to his wife. It was an old joke he constantly played and it never ceased to bring a smile to his lips; his long suffering wife felt somewhat less amused after enduring the joke for over one hundred years.
“Seriously Kris, I know it’s close to the big day but there is an event for orphaned children that our presence would really enhance.”
Kris Kringle, also known as Santa Claus, could never resist a plea to help children, especially orphans. He pulled the mystical scroll which held the naughty/nice list from his pocket and unrolled it.
“Which orphanage is it?”
Mrs. Claus paused, unwilling to speak. Her lips pursed and her brow furrowed. She clearly did not wish to say but Santa’s steady gaze compelled her to speak.
“It’s the Gunpowder Ridge orphanage in West Virginia, America.”
Santa muttered over the scroll and green light flickered across the parchment. Words and numbers appeared on the scroll. Dozens of children’s names were shown as well as some adults who still believed. Since last Christmas most of the names related to the orphanage had moved in and out of the naughty column an inordinate number of times. Currently most of the names were showing as naughty.
“Now I know you’re kidding,” he said displaying the list to his wife. “Almost all these kids are naughty, even most of the adults fell off the nice list. Whoops, there goes the last one, not a single nice entry in the entire facility; what possible purpose could our presence serve?”
“They’re children Kris, they need Christmas hope and cheer. Even if they’ve been a little naughty they might be rallied by our presence to mend their ways.”
Santa returned to reading the list shaking his head in disbelief the entire time.
“Nope, nope, this isn’t youthful high jinks; these kids are out and out mean. Just take Tommy Wilson here; he hung two cats by their tails over a clothesline to watch them fight each other in their pain. That’s downright evil. A lot of the other kids are almost as bad. Mary Martin set a girl’s hair on fire and Harry Jones—I can’t even say what he did, it’s too reprehensible. Isn’t it Krampus’ duty to visit places like this and whip these hooligans into shape? Is he falling down on the job?”
“Darling,” Mrs Claus placed a soothing hand on his shoulder. “Krampus is over extended. There are so many naughty people these days that the poor beast is exhausted long before the end of Krampusnacht. Don’t you remember last year? We had to intervene and cheer him up just to keep him from giving up on humanity. The poor dear needs help. It’s not like he has a legion of elves at his disposal like a certain someone. I’m not surprised that he missed this place but maybe by showing up ourselves we can put the proper spirit of Christmas back into these children.”
“I don’t know Martha.”
“Please Kris, for me; for the children.”
Santa glared at the list once more and then at his wife’s pleading eyes and lowered his head in resignation.
“Have the elves ready the sleigh, I’ll do it.”
Santa’s sleigh swung low over the mountaintops as he came in for a landing in the large field behind the Gunpowder Ridge orphanage. The reindeer snorted and pawed at the ground showing their unhappiness at the unexpected exercise right before their big night.
“Easy fellows,” Santa said as he patted each reindeer in turn. “We’ll only be a little while and then I’ll take you home for some extra greens and maybe some mushrooms for your trouble.”
The reindeer bobbed their heads as if understanding the man’s words and calmed down immediately allowing Santa and his wife to walk arm in arm to the large orphanage.
Santa knocked on the door which was opened by a woman whose hair was in disarray. Dark circles made her eyes appear bruised and her skin was the unhealthy pale color of a person who is not eating or sleeping properly.
“Why hello Marian,” Santa said. “I heard you need a jolt of Christmas to shock the kiddies out of their naughty ways.”
The woman blinked several times and shook her head. She craned her neck to look past the red clad pair filling her doorway and her eyes widened as she saw the sleigh and reindeer.
“Santa? You’re really here?”
“In the flesh.”
Santa’s booming laugh filled the large foyer and his ample belly jiggled as he patted it, indicating the flesh of which he spoke.
“Wait,” Marian said. “Did Jose hire a Santa service?”
Santa was used to adults allowing skepticism cloud their belief.
“No, I’m the real thing Marian. Remember on your fifth birthday when all you wanted was a Cabbage Patch doll and all the stores were sold out.”
“But I got one with a note saying: Merry Christmas, Love Santa”
Marian’s voice was distant as she relived the memory.
“You’re real. I’m sorry; I doubted that you really could be. I mean, it’s not like I’m a kid.”
“That’s perfectly fine dear,” Mrs. Claus said. “It’s harder for adults but trust me, we’re real.”
“This is amazing,” Marian said. “We’re actually having a Christmas party for the children right now and they’d love to see you.”
“We know,” Santa said. “That’s why we’re here.”
Marian led the duo to a large room where dozens of children ran amok. There were shouts and screams, shrieks and crashes. It was more like a riot than a Christmas party.
“Children,” Marian shouted. “Look who’s here; it’s Santa.”
Many of the children paused and stared at the pair. Most returned to their raucous play but a few drifted toward the Clauses.
“What a crappy fake beard,” said a young boy who Santa recognized as Billy Marlow a youngster prominently featured on the naughty list.
“Oh it’s real Billy, just like me.”
The youngster snorted in derision and turned away to join the youthful riot on the other side of the room.
“I told you this would be a mistake,” Santa said to his wife.
“Please Santa,” Marian said. “Come, sit. I’ll bring the children to meet you. I’m sure they’ll all be wonderful once they’ve run out their energy. It’s just sugar and boredom.”
A pair of large chairs were fetched and set up at the far side of the room. Santa and his wife sat and surveyed the continuing carnage. Most of the children returned to their mayhem but one little girl shyly approached.
“Are you really Santa?”
“Of course Sharon; I came all the way from the North Pole just to meet you lovely children.”
The girl didn’t seem fazed that Santa knew her name; he was the all seeing avatar of Christmas after all.
“I asked for a Barbie last year and didn’t get anything,” she said.
“Well honey,” Santa said. “You were naughty last year. Remember how you stole that candy from the store? Naughty children don’t get Christmas presents.”
“Well you suck,” she shouted and then ran to join the other screaming children.
“That’s it,” Santa said. “Martha I know you mean well but these children are irredeemable. We should leave.”
Santa looked up to see a woman who he could have sworn had not been there a moment before. She was dressed in a black cloak with a long striped skirt showing beneath. Her hair was a silver white and fell in soft waves over her shoulders. She had a twinkle in her eye and her skin was as pale as new fallen snow.
“Can I sit on your lap and tell you what I want for Christmas?”
Santa realized he was staring stupidly when his wife elbowed him in his ample belly and cleared his throat.
“Of course …” He didn’t know her name. It was the first time in five hundred years that he didn’t know who someone was.
“I’m sorry I don’t know your name,” he said as the woman sat lightly upon his knee.
“My name is Grýla, I’m not from around here.”
“What a lovely name,” Mrs Claus said.
“Well Grýla,” Santa said. “I’m sorry you’ve been subjected to these extremely naughty children. Krampus has not been doing his job. They should all have been punished by now. That’s neither here nor there though; what would you like for Christmas?”
“Oh Santa, you’ve already given me my present.”
A flicker of light raced across the woman’s form, startling Santa. He stared in shock as long red and black horns grew from beneath her hair.
“I was a single mother, alone and unloved,” Grýla said. “Then last year you gave Krampus a new lease on life and he in turn gave me one.”
Grýla stood up and produced a bundle of birch branches from beneath her cloak. She raised her fingers to her mouth and let out a piercing whistle.
“It’s time to work lads,” she shouted.
Thirteen men filed in through the door. They each wore woolen clothing and hats. Their long hair and beards nearly reached their waists. The men spread throughout the room and raised bundles of birch branches similar to those held by Grýla.
“Oh I forgot,” she said. “I didn’t properly introduce myself. I’m Mrs. Krampus and these are my Yule lads. We’re here to help out my new husband. We’ll straighten out these naughty kids in no time Santa.”
The cries of terror and pain filled the hall as Grýla and her Yule lads chased down and delivered much deserved punishment to the residents of the Gunpowder Ridge orphanage.
Santa offered his wife a hand up and the pair left the building.
Good for you Krampus, he thought.
Krampus had found himself a lovely wife and thirteen sons. Santa was sure that the naughty list would begin to shrink to almost nothing in very little time.
A jolly ho ho ho echoed across the valley as he left, counter pointed by the crack of birch switches and cries of the wicked.
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