Krampusnacht - A Drabble
“There’s a monster outside my house.” The boy’s voice was a whisper filled with a terror that was somehow unique to children and those who believed in that beyond the ordinary. Most often, childhood fears were chalked up to an overactive imagination. A simple sound made larger by irrational thoughts blowing things out of proportion. Parents and other adults tended to be more skeptical and to be certain that simple assurances would ease those fears and make everything okay again.
‘There’s nothing under the bed, Johnny.’
‘No monster is in the closet, Suzy.’
These parents and other adults weren’t always wrong, of course. Sometimes it really was just a ‘scary’ noise that had a perfectly rational explanation that didn’t include ghosts or monsters or other frightening things that the young mind was quick to jump to as an answer to anything unknown. Especially in the dark, alone, when fears seemed a million times worse than in the light of day. But, other times the child was the one who was right and there really was a ‘monster’ under the bed or in the closet, or even standing over the bed peering down with black and bottomless eyes that seemed to peer into the very soul. Sometimes they were creeping just outside your home, patiently waiting for their opportunity to strike.
“Please…” The child’s voice trembled as he begged for her to help him, to believe him, with a single word. It hurt her heart and made her stomach drop because this wasn’t the first time the boy had asked for her to believe him. “Please, Raine.” She could hear how close he was to tears and knew she would try to help him even before she had any more information than that he was afraid.
They weren’t exceptionally close, she and this boy. In fact, they hadn’t spoken in over a year. Not since she and her husband had gone to his home to investigate ‘strange occurrences.’ A majority of the family thought it was just the young boy playing tricks. A broken item here, something moved there. Creaking doors in the night, footsteps and childish laughter in the darkness. The boy was an only child who had just learned that wasn’t going to continue to be the case. It wasn’t unusual for children to act out when they found out that their parents were adopting and another child would be joining their happy little family.
Not long after, these occurrences started picking up in frequency and intensity and it was soon quite clear that the boy was not to blame for the randomly shattering windows, the cold spots, the voices in the night, the mysteriously appearing bruises and unexplainable fear that would creep up when least expected.
That was when Lorraine and her husband had been called in to investigate. The parents still wanted to hold onto their belief that the boy was to blame, but that had gotten harder and harder as the days passed and was nearly impossible at this point. Yet, they still clung to the hope that having someone who knew about these things come and prove that they were indeed not of the paranormal variety would validate their desired thinking.
The opposite occurred and it turned out to be something much worse than a jealous child lashing out to garner attention and cause destruction in an attempt to show his feelings to the world. The entity haunting the family was actually a much darker one and had they not dealt with it when they had, it was likely that things would have spiraled into something much worse than it already was.
From the moment they had entered the house, Lorraine had felt a connection to the child. Not just because he was a child, an innocent wrongfully blamed for the things happening in his home, but for some other reason that she couldn’t quite pinpoint. The reasoning didn’t really matter, and even when things had been taken care of and the family was safe and loving once more, she had still felt that connection. That was why she had given the boy her number before leaving. Just in case he ever needed her again. It wasn’t something she did. Ever. They helped families, and especially the children involved in these cases, but they didn’t get attached. At least not like that.
She still didn’t know what had been different about that case, that boy, but she hadn’t really expected to ever hear from him again. So, this call came as more of a surprise than it probably should have. Hadn’t she told him she would help if he ever needed it? She always meant it when she told people that, but maybe this time was different and there had been a reason.
“What kind of monster, Josh?” She didn’t have to say she believed him, the question would do that for her. She had believed him before and she would believe him now. But, ‘monster’ could have many very different meanings and she needed to know what this could possibly be. Just as she didn’t have to say she believed him, she hadn’t had to ask who was calling. Even with the voice distorted with fear, she had known.
That the boy couldn’t give her a fully coherent answer didn’t surprise her. Terror did that to people, especially young ones. When he could only answer a few of her questions, he only seemed to get more upset because when adults asked a lot of questions it meant that they didn’t believe you and they were going to try to talk you out of what you knew was true. “Will you come?” The words were more desperate than all the others combined and there was no answer Lorraine could give but the one she did. “I’ll come.”
As she was leaving her home, her gaze was drawn to the calendar on the wall. There was nothing special about it at all, but her focus briefly rested on that day’s date: December 5th. It didn’t seem important and she couldn’t figure out why she had focused so intensely, if briefly, on that. It was just another day, right?
Though it wasn’t a long trip at all, it was dark by the time Lorraine arrived at her destination. Dark and cold. She shoved her hands into her pockets in an attempt to warm them for a moment as her shoes crunched through the snow that led up to the front door. There were no other cars in the driveway or parked in front of the house, which indicated an absence of the parents who resided there. Not a pleasant thought with such young children inside. Josh was only eight, his adopted sister six. Why would anyone leave them alone?
She shook her head because that wasn’t why she was here. She was here to help Josh with whatever this ‘monster’ he swore was lurking around was. Another glance around as she climbed the three small steps to the porch revealed nothing obviously out of place and she frowned a little more. Obvious didn’t always mean more real, but if something was creeping around out here, she would rather know where it was.
Pulling one hand out of her pocket, she raised it to knock on the door. “Josh? It’s Lorraine.” She hoped that he wouldn’t open the door to anyone unidentified, so she waited for him to connect her voice with her identification of herself and to open the door, glancing down as she did so. Doing a double take, she knelt down to see what it was that lay next to the door. A bundle of sticks. That was strange. It wasn’t logs like firewood or anything that would be useful to a household. It was literally sticks. Birch, if she wasn’t mistaken. Shaking her head again, she stood as the door was opened by a blonde-haired boy with wide eyes that stood out in stark contrast to his pale face.
Before she could say a word, his hand was grasping her wrist and tugging her forward. “Hurry! It’s out there!” He let go of her wrist only to slam the door behind her once she was inside, twisting the lock and peeking out the small window in the middle of the door. “Did you see it?” The words were nearly breathless as he turned around to face her, studying her face for any signs that she had, that she knew what it was that was stalking his home.
“I didn’t see anything.” Lorraine replied, looking briefly around the house before she returned her attention to the boy. “Josh, where are your parents?” Shouldn’t they have been the first ones he called for help? Unless he felt like this would only turn into a repeat of the last time he swore there was something ‘scary’ haunting them. Maybe they wouldn’t believe him this time either, might even blame him. At least with Lorraine, he knew that wouldn’t be the case.
Josh’s gaze dropped to the floor for a moment before he answered, as if he had been caught doing something wrong, which he hadn’t. At least not as far as she could see. “They’re at a Christmas party.” He finally replied softly. “They left me and Anna here. Said we’d be okay for a few hours.” Normally that would be true, even at their young ages. Especially if their parents didn’t go far. But, this wasn’t a normal night. “I don’t think they could help anyway.” This was even more quiet, as if he wasn’t sure he should be saying it at all, or that he wanted it to be heard.
“All right.” Lorraine nodded a little, offering a look of understanding as the boy lifted his head once more. “I’m not so sure you’re giving them enough credit here, but I understand.” The boy looked relieved. “I knew you would.” He replied as if he had never had any doubts about that.
“Where is Anna?” That was the next logical question. He had said the parents had left them both home, so where was the girl? Having never met her, Lorraine wasn’t sure what to expect. She hadn’t come to the door when Josh had and she wasn’t there now to see who had arrived. Josh shrugged, as if that weren’t really important. “She’s upstairs in bed. She was being mean.”
Lorraine glanced toward the stairs and then back to the child as she gestured for him to follow her. She needed to at least look in on this girl she had never met. “Oh. Is she always mean?” ‘Mean’ could cover many things from sibling rivalry type things to worse. She was curious as to which this was, but leaning toward the first since both involved were children.
Moving to follow her without question, Josh nodded. “Uh-huh. I don’t like her. She’s mean to me and to mom and dad. She’s even mean to people who try to be her friend.” He shook his head, clearly not understanding why anyone would be that way. “I don’t know why she can’t be nice to people when they’re nice to her.” He frowned. “People are supposed to be nice, right?” He cocked his head a little. “Especially when it’s almost Christmas.”
Before Lorraine could answer that, both her head and Josh’s jerked upward at the sound of clomping above their heads. Almost like hooves on the wood floor of the hallway upstairs, followed by the creaking of a door and rattling chains. The sounds were enough to briefly freeze both of them where they stood. Until the sound of a whip of some sort hitting flesh rang out, accompanied by the cries of a female child that could only be Anna.
This drove them into action and they pounded up the rest of the stairs together, Lorraine careful to keep in front of Josh as they approached the now open door to the girl’s room. “Stay here.” She reached a hand down to stop Josh where he stood, not wanting him to see whatever was happening inside, not wanting to see herself even as she carefully approached and looked inside.
There was no doubt that this was the monster that Josh had been so afraid of. Her first thought was ‘Devil’ as her hand shot up to grasp the gold cross on the chain around her neck. It was bipedal, vaguely humanoid in appearance, but it had the legs of a goat ending in cloven hooves. Covered in dark, coarse hair, with large horns on the top of its head, a forked tongue darting out of its mouth as it hit the girl on the bed again with what looked like a whip made of horsehair while she trembled and screamed before him.
She barely had time to register the bundle of birch sticks in its free hand, covered in the snow she had seen outside, the chains wrapped loosely around its torso as if keeping them handy or the large sack it carried on its back in something reminiscent of a kind of anti-Santa Clause before she was moving toward them, crying out for it to stop as she yanked the girl off of the bed and momentarily out of the creature’s reach. The fathomless dark eyes turned upon her in anger as she stumbled away from it, seeking the door and the safety of the rest of the house, her only thought to get the children out and away. She could deal with whatever this was once they were out of the picture.
“Run, Josh!” She nearly tripped over him as she came barreling out of the room with Anna, still sobbing, in her arms. “Downstairs and outside!” The command came quick and sharp as she shoved the boy back in the direction they had originally come, the clomping of hooves and menacing growls of the creature left behind almost overtaking them before they got even halfway down.
Reaching the door, Josh tried to yank it open, forgetting that he had locked it. His own terror mounting, he clumsily attempted to turn the lock, to grant them all their freedom, but he wasn’t fast enough and the creature was on them before he could succeed. Still holding Anna close, Lorraine reached out to jerk Josh to the floor with her as the creature’s hand struck the door above them, where her own head had been only moments before.
Another growl and she looked up into those angry eyes, swallowing hard because there was nowhere for them to go, the monster was large enough and quick enough that it was blocking their escape. “Don’t let it take me!” Anna was whimpering now as Josh cowered into her side, unable to form words himself. “Don’t let it take me!”
Somehow she knew the girl’s terror was justified. This creature wanted her. “You can’t have her!” She spat the words as if she could truly stop it from taking what it wanted. She kicked out at it as if she could really hurt it, knowing even as she did so that she couldn’t. Its only reply was to blink down at her for what seemed like an eternity before it reached down to yank the girl from her arms against her desperate and vehement protests. Shifting to wrap her arms around Josh, still clinging to her for dear life, she attempted to get to her feet, to take one of the weapons the monster carried, to do anything
to save the girl it had come for. Halfway up, she felt a blow to her head that she hadn’t seen coming and before she could register what had happened, a darkness enveloped her and she knew nothing more.
When consciousness slowly began to return, the first thing she was aware of was a pounding in her head. Opening her eyes was a chore that took more than one attempt and she wasn’t entirely certain where she even was. A slow look around showed an unfamiliar house with none of the lights on to help her identify her location. The next sensation to register was that there was a little person in her arms. Dropping her gaze revealed the blonde boy whose call had brought her to this place that she was slowly remembering as lucidity began to return.
His eyes were closed, but his breathing was even. A quick examination showed no visible wounds and he appeared to be nothing but asleep. She might have thought she had imagined everything if there weren’t obvious tear tracks running down the pale cheeks of the boy she still held. He might be sleeping, but getting there hadn’t been peaceful.
The word came out as a croak and she had to swallow hard and try again, shaking the boy just a bit in an attempt to wake him without startling him too much. “Josh. Wake up.” As he began to stir, there was a faint click, something that sounded an awfully lot like a record dropping on to the turntable of its player. After a moment, in time with the opening of the child’s eyes, music rang out from one of the other rooms.He sees you when you’re sleeping.
He knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been bad or good.
So, be good for goodness sake…
Lorraine Rita WarrenClairvoyant Protector
"You better not shout, you better not cry..."