Editor's note: Here's the winning entry from the Krampus flash contest. You can find the other entries under comments here. Ace's story was lifted out of the other comments, as the winner, but the others are well worth reading! This story won because it was so unexpected but met the contest outlines in a truly inventive way. (If you notice a white outline around the font, it's just Blogger being impossible.) Merry Christmas Day!
As a rule, Krampus was happy. This was schadenfreude; after all, a demon who inflicted pain on bad children at Christmastime was in a fine position for enjoying the pain of others. However, once a year when Krampus ate dinner with Saint Nicholas to discuss their loosely coordinated partnership, he suffered through someone else’s joy. There was no one else on the planet who was as cheerful as Nicholas. His one compensation was that Nicholas hated him too, and by the end of their meeting, he was miserable as well.
Krampus always (deliberately) forgot where they were supposed to meet. Fortunately, he could not only walk and run, he could also fly. Looking down from far up in the sky, he saw a man with a long white beard and a hooded coat. Dropping suddenly to the ground, Krampus said, “So, Nicholas, what kind of food did you bring for us? Remember, I offered to bring along some roasted children, but you turned me down—again. I don’t know how you stay so fat.” Only, the man he was looking at was not fat. He was tall, pale, and powerful, but not fat.
“Disgusting,” the tall man said, “eating humans. You want food? There’s a table.” And indeed there was, made of ice, and translucent in the afternoon sun. A feast materialized as well, as icy as the table itself. “Eat your fill,” said the tall man, “the Tsar of Winter tells you that you may.” Krampus snatched at the food, but his claws bent back where they met the ice, and he screamed and growled in an eerie mixture of the two sounds.
The tall man listened, “What are you, little creature?” Krampus growled again at the adjective “little” and then rushed forward to attack. The tall man wrapped the fingers of his left hand around Krampus’s throat, lifted him off the ground, and said, “What are you?” slapping him with his open right hand after each word.
“Krampus,” he said, lying in the snow, “I am Krampus.
“Ah,” came the reply, “I am the Frost. Or call me Winter or Cold. The humans call me Grandfather Frost when I let them live.”
“You give them gifts,” Krampus said, standing up.
“Sometimes. Life, death, beauty, slow, cold sleep. You and Nicholas with your little Christmas mummery, you pretend to be me, as if a little good and bad, gifts and punishments could touch the nature of Winter.”
The Frost stepped behind Krampus grabbing him around the shoulders with both hands. “This is for calling me Nicholas.” The two of them shot up into the sky and then through the sky into space. Not far away the Moon glittered under dust that was colder than snow. “Tell me, Krampus, how do you like it here? Shall I take you away to my true kingdom in the dark places between the stars? From there, you would look back on this as though it were the land of summer.”
“Let me go,” Krampus pleaded. And, laughing, the Frost dropped him through the dark of space and into the blue scattering of the atmosphere. On reentry, Krampus began to heat up as though he were a spacecraft or a meteor. “Oh” he exclaimed, “I thought I would never be warm again!” He struck the ground with a sound like thunderclaps and lay there luxuriating. “I got away,” he shouted. “I got back. I will never complain about Nicholas again. And when I tell him this story, he won’t complain about me, either.”
It was then that Nicholas appeared. “You’re always late,” he said.