A Krampus Carol
It's the most wonderful time of the year, and Sam Hain is looking forward to enjoying a quiet and relaxing Yuletide season. However, only a few days before Christmas, a teenage boy comes to seek Sam's help to save his family from an ancient supernatural evil…
A one-off Christmas Special short story in the Sam Hain series.
It was the week before Christmas, and all through the house an argument was brewing between a son, mother and spouse. Their voices were raised and cut through the air, until one bellowed out that it just was not fair...
“It's not fair!” The boy exclaimed, his voice striking that delicate pitch somewhere between being deep and yet shrill. “Why do I have to stay here?! The other guys aren't being forced to stay home.”
“You're not going to Barbados for Christmas, and that’s final,” Sharon intoned. Her words were crisp and sharp - not unlike the winter weather - and she was trying her best to not snap. With Christmas only days away, she didn’t need the extra stress. “We’re having a nice family Christmas at home. We said this weeks ago.”
“But that was before the squad bought their tickets!”
“And you’ll have plenty more opportunities to go on holiday with your friends in the future. It’s not even a week until Christmas, and you don't want to disappoint grandma and grandpa do you?”
Tyler spat in frustration. “I'm sixteen, mum, I can do what I like!”
“Don't you dare spit in this house, Tyler!” Sharon snapped. Her mask of remaining calm and collected had been broken; the pent up stress of making everything perfect for Christmas, the difficult negotiations with parents and in-laws trying to ensure everyone was happy, and now a petulant teenager who wouldn’t think twice about leaving his family behind at Christmas was too much to pretend to cope with. She shouted with an anger which seemed to be drawn from another dimension, and was more gutteral, more primal than one would expect from a middle-class woman. “That's disgusting and there is no excuse for it! There's no way you're even dreaming of going anywhere now.” She spun on her heels to face her husband. “Are you not going to say anything, David?!”
David - or Dave, as he preferred to be called in all but the most serious of situations - was halfway up a ladder trying to fix a series of fiddly ornaments to the very top of their eight-foot Christmas tree. He leaned precariously off of the ladder, trying desperately and futilely to hook a bauble onto one of the branches. “Your mother's right, son, and don’t spit in the house,” he said, but offered no further input.
“That's not what you said to Becks! How come she's off with her boyfriend and I'm stuck here?!”
“They're having Christmas Day with his family this year, and Boxing Day with us. That's how relationships work! She's not jetting off for a party with other irresponsible teenagers!”
“Listen to your mother,” Dave chimed in, trying to seem supportive, albeit somewhat distantly. The baubles were proving to be a bit too heavy for the topmost branches and were threatening to slide off at any moment.
“Yeah, really helpful, Dave, thank you. We've got your parents and mine coming in a couple of days. This place isn't even half decorated yet and we're having this stupid argument!”
“I'm decorating the tree, aren't I? You're not the only one stressing out about it all!” He bellowed, accidentally dropping one of the glass baubles on the floor and shattering it. “Oh for Christ's sake!”
“Is it too much to ask to just have a nice family Christmas?!” Sharon railed at no-one in particular. Her eyes were wild and her face was turning progressively redder.
“Ugh, you’re ruining my life! I hate you! I wish you'd just butt out of my life,” Tyler shrieked, and he stormed out of the room, making sure to slam the door dramatically behind him and putting extra effort into stomping up the stairs.
The sound of conflicts fading and reigniting carried on until midnight, when Sharon and Dave eventually decided to put it to rest, turn out the lights and head for bed, ready to deal with things, ideally more rationally, in the morning. A few hours later, the muffled sound of thumping could be heard coming from the roof, but it was barely enough to rouse any of them from their sleep.
It wasn't until the following day, when Tyler reluctantly decided to leave his self-imposed sulk in his bedroom, that he noticed something wasn't quite right. He had been dreading coming downstairs, knowing the argument was likely to continue, but to his surprise there was no further confrontation. No arguments, no shouting, and no cold shoulders. Even more surprising was the fact that his parents were not anywhere to be found at all. Normally, having the house to himself would’ve been a dream come true for Tyler, but something about it felt wrong. He wandered around the house, calling out for his mum and dad, but he neither saw or heard anyone else. It was as if the house had been abandoned.
It was then that he saw the note. An aged looking piece of parchment hung from one of the branches of the Christmas tree, a message scrawled across it in a sharp and aggressively scribbled handwriting.
If you do not from this lesson learn,
For your misbehaviour you must burn.
You have one day to set things right;
Pray I need not return this night.
Beneath the note was a shiny red bauble, the screaming faces of Tyler’s parents reflected on its surface.