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Greetings from Krampus

1996, Amstetten, Austria,

“Mutti, I c-can’t s-sleep… there are monsters behind the walls,” the seven-year-old sobbed. “I can hear them laughing.”

“Don’t let the noises trouble you, bärchen,” Marie said, sitting next to her daughter. “According to the landlord, it’s the faulty pipes.”

“No, he is l-lying. The monsters are watching us,” the daughter whined again.

“You are right—someone is watching you, but he doesn’t hide behind the walls,” she uttered in a low, hushed tone, locking her eyes with her daughter’s as if divulging a long-kept secret. “Do you know Krampus Santa’s evil partner knows it all?”

The little girl flinched as if smacked hard. Her eyes widened; she grasped the steel bed till her knuckles blanched. She thought about the curious postcard a classmate had passed around. “Gruss vom Krampus” (“Greetings from Krampus”), the holiday card said in bold lettering under a horrid picture. The image depicted a goat-headed beast stuffing a crying child into his satchel and hitting another with a bundle of sticks.

“He has demonic red eyes, giant horns, and a pointy, forked tongue. While Santa rewards nice children, Krampus punishes the naughty ones, hauling them off to Hell where he eats them,” the classmate had whispered with her fingertip hovering inches above the picture, as if a mere sniff of unruly behavior would awaken the devil.

Marie smiled when her offspring instantly shut her eyes and hid her face in the blanket. Though she felt guilty about using cheap scare tactics, she didn’t have the energy to drone on about imagined demons after a tiring day.

As she silently thanked Krampus, the Folkloric Satan, for never failing a fatigued parent, the vivid images of the annual “Krampusnacht,” Krampus Night, from her childhood, spilled before her. Adults in her small alpine town impersonated the medieval beast on a cold December night. They donned elaborate hand-carved wooden masks, shaggy pelts, claws, and fangs and paraded the promenade. The air pulsed with panic as the pretend demons chased the children clanging cowbells, snapping whips, and thrashing metal chains. The children screamed at the top of their lungs, scrambling to safety as the blood-curdling laughter and unflagging footsteps hunted them.

The hair on the nape of her neck stirred. Marie shuddered. She could never forget the loud screech of her friend’s nail digging into the wooden door when Krampus had grabbed her unaware. The devil had pulled her by her hair only to pelt and whip her because her parents considered it a suitable punishment.

Though Marie wasn’t too proud to use the fictitious hoax on her daughter, she was too tired to explore other options. She popped a sleeping pill and stretched next to her daughter. Soon, sleep mowed them down, and they became oblivious to the muted sounds of crying and wailing closing upon them. Disembodied steps and strange music skirted around their bed. Icy wind cackled, dancing over the sleeping forms despite locked doors and windows.

Marie wouldn’t have shrugged Krampus as a mythical beast had she known the evil ghoul stood on the sidewalk, glowering at her and listening to every word through the sealed windows. Krampus snarled through his whiskers, “Soon, schnucki! I will taste your delicate flesh.” He moistened his lips with a slow, sensuous sweep of his tongue and headed to the gaping maws of Hell, his secret abode. It wasn’t too far off. Under the fragrant garden that draped the property, buzzing with butterflies and tinkling wood chimes, lay a web of underground passage to the devil’s lair.

****

Krampus swung the heavy door and, from inside, growled an angry wind, ready to gouge the eyes of the intruders. However, a glimpse of him morphed it into a humble slave; it wrapped itself around his sinewy frame, nuzzling the hard lines on his face, seducing him to not advance further.

Shadows squirmed on the walls, balking at the thud of his footsteps; the temperature plunged, mirroring his callous heart. He liked how everything in the underworld’s belly—his kingdom conformed to his powers.

He snaked into the tangled passageways leading to a self-designed cave guarded by eight heavy metal doors. Who knew the Lord of evil had to have engineering skills! He chortled.

The light skulked behind him, enveloping him in a palpable darkness that quivered at his touch. He lit a paraffin lamp, the flame meek and shrinking under his glacial stare.

Not a single individual in the bustling town could suspect a realm of the damned reigned by God of the netherworld thrived under their feet. People went about trusting in the power above them, but no one imagined that the puppet master preferred to stay underneath.

The mysterious sounds—the clanking of metal, the sickening wails altering with potions seething over stoves grew louder as Krampus slid further into the subterranean layers, unlocking one door after another. Enormous rats with fetid fur gathered at his feet in obeisance, squealing loudly, their blood-flecked feet marking the ground.

“Hau ab!” He booted the critters, crashing them against the sewer-soaked walls.

He pushed open the last gates of Hell. Like him, the door yielded unearthly powers. Like Hotel California, his favorite pop song—one could check in any time but never leave, he smirked.

The wind buffeted and charged, snuffing the lamp at once. “Isn’t the condemned worthy of only the never-changing light of the eternal prison? The thought widened his grin, exposing his crooked teeth.

“Hallo, Frau Perchta, my winter witch! How are you?” Krampus addressed the cadaverous wraith shackled to a metal post. Spindly arms hung from her torso; long and bony, her fingers ended in claws with curved nails. The ghost-like woman tugged the chains encircling her wrists and ankles; metal shrieked against metal, ripping her flesh with stinging bites.

“People think Frau Perchta is a belly slitter. A hag with a warty nose, killing kids by slashing their stomachs and cramming them with straw and stones. Or scraping their eyes out with glass. But they don’t know the truth,’ Krampus snorted, drawing near to the woman. “Perchta is a shining white lady, a goddess of in-between, caring for children and watching over domestic matters,” he said, unrolling the metal chain from her midriff.

The woman’s sunken eyes fixated into a dead gaze never moved, even when Krampus planted his face in the hollow of her neck, wringing it to an awkward angle. “Look how you care for the awful lot. How you cook your special porridge, perchenmilch for the minions hanging in a world between the dead and living.” Krampus turned to peer at the assortment of gruesome creatures held in his secret vault.

His gaze rested on the hunched-back Garden Gnome with tipped ears and cat-like yellow eyes splashing in the murky puddles formed by gutter water seeping from cracks.

A moldy-smelling, long-legged water sprite with a mask-like face hanging from a bone stood nearby, bent over something bubbling on fire. The edges of her translucent form dissolved into the air like mist.

“And here is my illustrious Lady Danube emerging from the twilight!” he said. The sprite turned her hole-like eyes at Krampus; her dry lips parted, revealing a set of rotten fangs and black gums.

The guttural chants deflected his attention to another creature of the dark. Besides a stack of foul-smelling rat carcasses stood a rangy ghost dressed in frayed rags, clenching a gnarled cane in his fist. The stick served both as a flute and a weapon to thrash the skittering rats to death. The lad even picked the furry critters in his paws as they flailed, gnawing at the raw skin of his fingers.

“The fabled Pied Piper!” Krampus flapped his hand in a dismissive wave. “The only reason I put up with your cronies is because of you, my Perchta.” He drew close to the chained entity. He pressed his body against hers, groping his naked breasts with his palms. “You are my Schiaperchten, the ugly witch, and my Schönperchten, the beautiful goddess!” He mumbled into her ear, dipping his hungry mouth into her face. Her head lolled further, threatening to snap.

But instead of succumbing to his brute force, she hissed in a hoarse disembodied voice, “Not too long now! For the evildoers will be cut off: but those who have faith in the Lord will possess the earth.”

“Hah! Dream on Perle! I am the Lord!” He yanked her hair and rubbed his coarse thumb on her rotting lips.

Her eyes crinkled to narrow slits; she squared her shoulders and spat into his face. “Teufel! I am your flesh and blood,’ she bellowed.

A blind rage rippled through him, turning his face maroon from his neck to the roots of his hair. He flung the wraith on the floor, pinning her body with his leather boots.

“Hure,” he sputtered through gritted teeth. “Fick dich! You need to be taught again. Come on, children,’ he hollered.

A jumble of noise stifled her—hasty feet, suppressed murmurs, and hushed rebukes rang in the dungeon; pale piteous ghosts huddled around her in a circle as if invoked by hypnotic seance.

Krampus bent over her, basking in the undivided attention of mute spectators.

A moment later, intense physical pain writhed through her as Krampus tore into her flesh, devouring her inside out. She felt as if she was drowned in boiling water, jabbed by a thousand needles, smacked by ruthless whips, and crushed under a falling tree, all at once. She clenched her eyes shut.

A sea of scorpions chittered. The air swelled with loud gnashing of teeth.

And then everything quieted down; the cold, concrete walls swallowed another hideous nightmare with practiced ease.

However, outside the dungeons, the weather did not toe the line. Rain lashed with unbridled fury. Fog swirled like a penumbra of spirits, whispering dark secrets to the wind.

A seething conspiracy of ravens soared into the grey sky before snooping down. They cawed in tandem, creating a grim cacophony. Some old folks in the village regarded the birds as a portent of death—the lost souls of the damned. But no one took them seriously.

****

Twelve years later,

A deluge of media trucks clogged the quiet street. Police installed an electric fence to thwart camera teams from creeping into the damp, airless cellar of the three-story apartment complex belonging to a trained engineer.

A neighbor whose upstairs windows overlooked the back garden said to the reporter, “Imagine all this happening under our noses! We did not know such a devil existed in our midst.”

A tenant skimmed the newspaper’s front page for the umpteenth time.

 ^^^^

May 2, 2008, AMSTETTEN, Austria

The gruesome case sent shock waves in the picture-book town.

Austrian police arrested the 73-year-old property owner, who allegedly imprisoned his daughter for twenty-four years in a rat-infested, windowless basement, where she bore him seven children.

Reportedly raped by her father at the tender age of eleven, drugged and cast in the cellar at eighteen, the daughter was tied to a pole for months. For a quarter-century, her only options were being raped in front of her children or starvation. Many of her children never saw sunlight until they emerged from the dungeons last week.

 ^^^^

On the other side of town, Marie gawped at the haggard form of their previous landlord on TV. He looked nothing like the real-life boogeyman, the all-powerful, invincible Krampus he believed himself to be. She hugged her eighteen-year-old daughter; after all these years, Marie realized that the child had been correct. However, she had no idea that her daughter’s fear of monsters leading to a shift of accommodation had saved her from Hell.

The images of the landlord’s daughter and her children, who suffered unspeakable horror, emerged next. Marie strained to read their names. Of course, she didn’t know they identified more by the fanciful names their captor had given them—Frau Perchta, Lady Danube, Pied Piper, and Garden Gnome.

****

Man’s enemies are not demons but human beings like himself.

****

Author’s notes

This story is conceptualized around the shocking true story of J. Fritzl. You can read more about the case here- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritzl_case

****

Glossary

Mutti (German)- Mother

Bärchen(German)- little bear

Schnucki (German)- Sweety pie

Teufel (German)- Devil

Hau ab – Get lost

Perle (German)- pearl

Hure- whore

Fick dich (German)- Fuck you

For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord, shall inherit the earth- Psalm 37:9 (NKJV) Bible

Frau Perchta – Frau Perchta, also known as the Christmas witch, is a demonic witch in Alpine folklore. Read more about her- https://boroughsofthedead.com/frau-perchta/

Lady Danube, Garden Gnome, and Pied Piper- characters in Austrian folklore.

Man’s enemies are not demons but human beings like himself- Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, and writer.

*****

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Preeti Athri

    I sat down to read this story with a cup of tea. I was instantly transported to a cold winter’s evening in Austria. The story unfolds itself beautifully, and what I related to the most was the bit about how tired parents resort to scary tactics to get their kids to bed. Brilliant.
    Visual detailing is spot on and I loved, loved, loved the connect to monsters that actually live among us. The end was clever as well, and my skin and tea both had turned cold, thanks to this chilling tale. If there was only one thing I would change about it (purely my opinion) is that I was lost for a second when several entities were introduced at once. However, reading it again put me back on track as quickly as it had taken me away.

  2. Avatar
    Sraman Dasgupta

    This was a wonderful read. The imagery and the twist in the tale was superbly executed.

  3. Avatar
    Arpita Bhattacharya

    A story ripe with vivid descriptions of ferocious beasts. Cringed at the descriptions of the beasts. A nail biting story no doubt!

  4. Avatar
    Amrita Sarkar

    Hi,
    I am so in awe! I have read so many wonderful stories during the HHHWORLDTOUR, but this will leave its mark for a long time! Your imagery, the frightening setting and language is so immersive. Loved the line about the puppeteer living underneath everyone. Brilliant stuff! Thank you for sharing!

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