“Just great.” I banged my head against the vending machine as the bag of chips that I just spent my last dollar on hung precariously from its hanger. I had thought about shaking the machine until I realized that it was bolted to the floor. Not so much to protect the machine but to prevent anyone or anything from tossing it to the other side of the room. That’s one of the hazards when you work with the Society, a secret organization that protects mankind from the supernatural while at the same time preventing mankind from abusing it in turn.
“Hey Revenant, looks like you got screwed by the machine.” I looked over as a Maxine Creswell walked into the room, wearing the ugliest Christmas sweater I had ever seen. Just like myself Max worked with the Society. I joined up several months ago after my girlfriend and I was killed by a necromancer. I would end up coming back to life a few days later a nearly invincible supernatural being that can see dead people. There really wasn’t a name for what I am since nothing like it had been seen so they’ve mostly have been calling me Revenant.
Max on the other hand is known as a technomancer, which is a newer kind of wizard whose magical abilities work through technology. She doesn’t go out in the field like myself but mostly works her mojo from a complex computer set up back in the Society headquarters. Through it she can hack into just about anything or get a signal to any device out there, which is really comes in handy.
The first time I ‘met’ Max was just after I came back from the dead. I did a google search on the Society and the two members who approached me. Max found out about it and communicated to me through my computer via an eye straining scrolling screen saver. At first I thought she was one of those obnoxious guys who spent too much time trolling message boards and online games. Never would I think she was a fiery petite punk rock girl with pink streaks running through her black hair.
“Yeah, you mind giving me a hand with this thing.” She smirked and pointed at the machine and the hanger twisted enough to finally free my bag of chips. She leaned against the wall as I opened my bag and started eating.
“So word is that you’re staying around here for the holidays, bummer.” I finished chewing the chip and took a seat before I answered.
“Yeah, well things are still a little weird for me with my family. I can’t exactly tell them what I do. ‘Yeah Mom things are good, I’ve helped ghost, fought demons and I even prevented a vampire civil war’. Hell things have gotten to the point where they forgot that I even died in the first place.” One of the strange things about working with the supernatural is that normal people, or norms as well call them, are unable to process it. Most of them will justify their encounter as a trick or forget about it all together. I’ve had people see me get shot in the head and heal from it only to think it was just a flesh wound.
“Yeah, things have been strange with my family also. One year I was dating this girl and things got awkward, two years ago I was dating this guy who was a roadie which wouldn’t have been that bad if he didn’t hit the liquor cabinet. And last year.” She paused for a moment and her normal cheerfulness drained away. “Well I just couldn’t bring myself to go.” And an instant later her energy and cheer was back along with a look that said she wanted a favor as she sat across from me. “You know since you’re going to be here maybe you can do something for me.”
“This isn’t going to be some weird sitcom like thing with your family is it?” This would actually be the most normal thing Max could ask me. She just laughed.
“Oh no no no. Nothing of the sort. Tell me of you ever heard of the Krampus?” Oh goodie, I was getting the feeling that she should have asked me to visit her family.
“In passing. Isn’t he supposed to be the anti-Santa or something?”
“Something like that. He’s a figure in most European folklore. He goes around and punishes the bad kids. Sometimes he scares them with rusty chains, hit them with switches and he goes so far as to outright kidnap them.”
“Ok, and what does this has to do with me?” Max grinned wickedly and leaned closer.
“As you know most legends and myth have a kernel of truth. Sometimes it’s just a normal person whose exploits are just exaggerated and other times it’s based on someone’s actual encounter with a demon or supernatural entity. Anyway they tell someone and that person tells another person with a slight change and it keeps going and going until we have what we have today. I think that the Krampus is actually some sort of demon or beast that is going to strike soon and we need to stop him.” I leaned back skeptically.
“Max, I’ve been told that Christmas is pretty much the only time the baddies don’t go out since all the good will towards man is so prevalent. I mean people go out in the dark just to sing songs and look at the Christmas lights when they would normally stay home. That’s why everyone is mostly going home.”
“I know, I know. But something like the Krampus is fueled by Christmas tradition, or at least the Feast of St Nicholas which has been turned into Christmas. I mean did you know that people have parades and celebrate this kid taking piece of shit. I mean seriously who celebrates a sicko that takes kids from their home. It’s bad enough we have real people.” Max was raising her voice as she went into her rant on to the point where she was yelling before I finally cut her off.
“Whoa, calm down Max. No need to yell at me about this.” She took a deep breath and slumped into her chair. She remained silent for a bit just looking down at the table.
“I’m sorry. It’s just. Well it’s just stuff like this really hits me hard. Remember how I told you I couldn’t go back home last Christmas? It’s because early that year something bad, something terrible happened.”
“Well I guess it began the Christmas before. I got my little brother a computer that I built for him myself. He always looked up to me and was so excited for the new computer. Well somehow he ended up using it to get into a chat room that he wasn’t supposed to go into.” I didn’t need to hear the rest of this to know where it was going.
“I’m sorry Max.”
“Yeah well you’re not the guy who raped and killed him. I’ve been blaming myself since it happened. I was the one who gave him the computer and I was the hacker sister who inspired him to go around into places online that he shouldn’t have gone to.”
“But it isn’t your fault.” She looked back up and me and yelled tears streaming down her face.
“Yeah, well that doesn’t change the fact that it happened or makes me feel better when my parents look at me. I can’t even bring myself to look them in the eye. And don’t give me any of that crap about you know how it feels because of Beth.” My eyes widened for a moment while I suppress the urge to scream back at her. She instantly stopped and we sat in silence for a few moments before she broke it, wiping tears from her eyes.
“God I’m sorry I shouldn’t have said that.” I didn’t say anything, I may have only known Max for a few months but I knew that times like this it would just be better to let her talk through it. “It was a low blow and you’ve been so nice to me. You know it was because of all this that I joined the Society. You see afterwards I started hacking into the most secure areas I could find hoping to expose guys like that. Then one day I found something so locked up, so protected I was sure I had hit the mother lode.” She smiled a little bit. “Can you imagine how disappointed I was to find it wasn’t kiddie porn but a bunch of stuff about vampires, monsters, and World War 2?
“I didn’t think much of it until the next day Marcus and Grith broke down my door with a tactical team.” Marcus Wilmingham, and Simon “Grith” Grithins are both members of the Society. In fact they were the two members that found me after I came back to life and offered me a membership. Marcus is an arrogant, obnoxious Wizard but when the shit hits the fans I can’t think of anyone I would want backing me up. Grith can only be described as a real life government men in black spoof. “Next thing I know Grith is holding a gun at me telling me to turn on my computer without touching it. Almost shit myself until it did come on.
“That’s when Marcus told me what I was; that the only way anyone could have gotten past their protections was to have a supernatural edge. Then I had a choice, I could either sign on with them or face some jail time for some of my less than righteous hacks I pulled off.” I chuckled lightly.
“Damn, you must have pissed someone off if that was you had to choose between jail or all of this. I mean they didn’t do that to me.” She smiled lightly for the first time.
“Well you didn’t see the file they had on you. The higher ups were pretty sure you would sign on if you didn’t find the killer.” I would have been offended if it was pretty much true.
“Alright, I’ll do it.” I sighed, regretting it the moment I said it. Max almost beamed as her eyes widened and she shot up out of her chair.
“Oh thank you, thank you, thank you. I knew I could count on you Revenant and I’m sorry about what I said.” She wrapped her arms around me and hugged me thither than that demon did when it was trying to kill me. “Oh I should warn you through there might be a little snow.
* * *
You know, people always want a white Christmas. They want to wake up Christmas morning and see everything covered in a fresh snowfall, preferably several inches. And really who can blame people, I mean it looks wonderful and feels magical especially when you’re spending the day at home and not have to worry about all the problems that snow usually brings. Just those bothersome things like icy roads, falling tree branches, and in my case the freezing cold as I found myself sitting at the edge of a suburban neighborhood on Christmas Eve night.
The white winter coat I took with me worked for the first two hours or so but with the heavy snowfall reaching at least a foot I started to realize this thing wasn’t really meant to be used in these conditions. “Are you sure about this?” My teeth clattered as I rubbed my arms against myself in an attempt to stave off hypothermia, not that it would kill me but I would really not like to pass out and wake up hours later for someone to find me like Jack Nicholson at the end of “The Shinning”.
“Well not as sure as I was when you first came out here Revenant.” Max sighed through my Bluetooth headset. “But like I said when I first asked you this was pretty much a longshot.”
“I think I’m starting to see why no one wanted to do this for you.” I brushed another layer of snow off my coat and took another look around. What should have been a brightly lit street filled with Christmas displays was blanketed in new fallen snow, but the wintery hazemixed with the street lights was enough to illuminate the night.
The house in question was a little ways ahead of me, surrounded by a white picket fence. I had a good view of the back yard with a single grill and patio set. When I first arrived a few hours ago all the lights were lit, but as time went by and the temperature plummeted each light went off until finally the house was dark.
Inside lived a second grade brat by the name of Dylan Stevenson. If everything wasn’t digital his permanent record would take up its own drawer. He picked on kids, stole from them, yelled at his teachers, and anything else a kid his age shouldn’t do. The notes that Max hacked showed that the parents were very liberal and pretty much blamed the teachers, kids, and everyone else but themselves. After reading his file I was tempted to just let the Krampus have his way with the kid, but didn’t have the heart to tell Max, especially after telling me about her brother.
“I’m sorry Revenant. I really thought this would work out for us. I’ve got the home security hacked and looking at their camera system and I’m getting nothing. You’re probably turning into a popsicle right now and if you want to call this off I’d understand.” Let’s face it I might think of myself as some sort of badass hero figure rushing headlong into danger to save the day but the truth is I’m a sap with a bleeding heart.
“No its ok, this isn’t the worst thing I’ve had to do for a friend.” Max laughed and started singing.
“I have a friend, I have a friiieeennndddd!” Yeah Max was one of those girls people didn’t hang out with too much in school which might explain why she spent so much time in front of a computer. “Hey, look at the time! It’s Christmas Day. Merry Christm, oh my shit!” My attention snapped to the house to watch something quickly move past a ground floor window from within the house.
“I think I saw something too Max. What are you getting on your end?” I stared moving closer to the fence as Max made the transition from her normal playfully energetic self to a matter of fact demeanor as she went to work.
“Nothing on motion detectors but I’ve got a few cameras showing mild static tracing a path from the front door to the stairs.” That’s never a good sign. Most things that go bump in the night don’t like to leave any evidence behind when they go about their business. Vampires or other corporeal creatures will outright avoid any camera and places that have them. If they did come to a place light this it would be shock and awe just breaking in. While I can see ghost and spirits clear as day there isn’t a camera that can catch them. However some of the more powerful beings such as demons can conceal themselves leaving only disruptions or static on video cameras.
I jumped the fence taking off the coat, feeling the ice cut through my shirt like it wasn’t there. While it kept my warm I wouldn’t be able to thrown down with its large bulk holding me back. Plus it’s a nice coat and a fight like this was going to destroy it.
“I’m getting something in the kid’s room right now, correction make that nothing the camera is gone.” I could feel a change in the air as I rushed the house, and it wasn’t just the weather. It was wrongness in the air, the kind of which that would tell a person to run away and hide under the covers. No doubt that whatever was causing this was also taking out the camera and most likely prevent little Dylan’s parents from hearing what’s going on in their home.
“I’m going in Max.” I yelled as I hop, skipped and jumped up to the second story window that every instinct in my body told me to stay away from. I went head first through the glass, feeling sharp pangs of pain as the shards of glass cut into me. But it was easy to ignore it as I felt the wondrous warmth of the house’s heating system wash over me. Just getting out of the freezing would make slamming through a window worth it.
A quick tuck and roll later and I was kneeling on the ground looking up at the legendary Krampus. The demon had to crouch to fit in the room and even then his goat like horns brushed against the ceiling. He was covered in black hair that made him blend easily into the shadows. On his back was a large wicker basket from which the muffled screams and cries of hundreds of children emanated. I could see a spectral child climb out of the opening only to have several ghostly hands reach up, pull him back in for another to try to escape. On each wrist were rusted shackles with long chains. One hand held long thorned switches as the other reached for Dylan who was screaming his head off clawing at the wall.
“Who dares?” The Krampus looked at me with his dark yellow eyes and hissed through spiked teeth as a forked tongue flickered between them as his whip like tail cracked against the floor. He turned toward me, but kept himself between Dylan and the door. Without hesitation I leapt at the demon smashing him against the wall.
He quickly grabbed me and tossed me through another wall into the parent’s bedroom. I looked over as they woke up finally aware that something was going on. “You might want to take Dylan and run!” I yelled at them as the Krampus came at me, swinging his switches at my head. I could feel my face being torn into shreds as the branches and thorns ripped against me. Blood stared running down my face as I realized that the wounds weren’t healing as fast as they normally would against more conventional attacks, which only happens if I’m hurt by something mystical.
Before he could swing again I grabbed him by the arm and tossed him against the window. I quickly channeled spiritual energy into my right hand, setting it ablaze with pale blue light and threw it at the Krampus, setting off a small explosion of power smashing him out of the house. As I walked to the opening I could hear him laughing.
“Oh oh oh! What a nice little trick.” The Krampus stood at his full height unphased by my attack as I jumped into the snow, leaving the warm embrace of the house. The demon towered above me as his guttural voice vibrated through me. “You didn’t think that would kill me did you? You have no clue of what you trifle with.”
“Yeah, I get that a lot.” I tried to stand a little bit taller as I wiped the blood out of my eyes.
“I have pierced through the barrier of good will towards man to claim what is rightfully mine.” Krampus smacked his switches against the snow and stepped towards me. I returned the gesture and clenched my hand channeling more spiritual energy. I could only use this energy to attack once or twice before it starts being fueled by angry spirits that want to harm whomever I am attacking, which in turn does bad things to me. But from what I’ve seen so far the only spirits angry at the Krampus were kept secure in his wicker basket too busy to keep each other from escaping to be of any help.
“Look, I don’t care if Santa Claus and the baby Jesus himself gave you a Christmas Day pass. You’re not getting this kid.” The Krampus reared back to swing his switches at me. I turned to avoid the attack only to discover it was a feint as his other hand swung the long chain, hitting my head. Everything went blurry as I was swung around from the blow. Before I could recover the Krampus was behind me wrapping the chain around my neck choking me.
I grabbed for the chains, unable to get my fingers beneath them as everything started to go black. No doubt I would recover from this but in the time it takes me to wake but up from being killed he would be long gone with Dylan. I reached behind me finding Krampus’ wrists. I grabbed tightly and fell forward the momentum tossing him back into the house.
I gasped for breath as I walked into the house, Dylan and his parents at the bottom of the stairs just feet from where the Krampus landed. He started to get back up quick to notice the family nearby.
“Child! You have been judged to be wicked. As soon as this pest is dealt with I shall give you the punishment you rightly deserve.” I tackled the Krampus and we landed into the Christmas tree. We traded punches rolling about crushing several boxes of presents. It felt like I was punching a brick wall, and his blows were tenderizing me. I wrapped my arms around him finding the wicker basket. My eyes widened as flashes of the Krampus’ cruelty flashed before my eyes.
I took my hands away from the basket with a bad idea in my mind. “Merry Christmas Krampus!” I channeled as much spiritual energy into my fist as I could into my hand the room awash in pale blue as I drove it into the basket smashing it open in flashes of blue and white.
The Krampus tossed me away as it snarled, reaching and trying to snatch at the flood of spectral children that flowed out of the broken basket. Dozens of them escaped and quickly turned on their capture, clawing and biting him. Krampus howled in pain as the dragged him down into the floor opening a small portal at engulfed him as well as the tree and gifts. In a few seconds they were all gone.
I fell to my knees and breathed heavily, thankfully that the fight was done. ”Revenant? Are you ok? I don’t hear anything being smashed. Did you beat him?” Max asked.
“Yeah Max. It’s done.” I felt something kick at my back. I turned around to see Dylan hitting my screaming about his gifts while unleashing a string of curse words, racial slurs, and homophobic insults. His parents just stood there dumbstruck, not sure of what they just saw.
“Sweet!” At least Max appreciated what I did. “I’ll take care of things on my end, may have to wake a few people up. You should probably get out before the authorities arrive.” I looked over at the parents again while Dylan continued on his rant.
“Hey, you two want to do something about this kid? I just save his ass from a fate worse than death because of his bad behavior. A thank you would be nice.” They quickly snap out of their daze.
“How dare you talk to us like that? You’re the one that smashed into our house and destroyed all of Dylan’s gifts. Of course he’s going to be mad at you.” I was too weary to argue with them and got up, flipping them the bird as I walked out into the freezing cold still wondering if I did the right thing.