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Christmas With the Devil

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, a creature was stirring.

“There is a beast in man that must be exercised, not exorcised.”

-The Satanic Bible

*


It was Christmas Eve, and Jolly Old Saint Nicholas had one last job to do. A job he dreaded.

He stood at an iron door in the side of a mountain at the top of the world, hesitating as he lifted a rusted key from around his neck. Did he really have to go through with it? Maybe this year, just for once, he could skip this last chore. Maybe everything would be better off if he just left well enough alone…

But no.; he shook his head, spilling snow from his crown of ivy. It was his duty to be charitable to everyone in need, and what soul needed charity more than this one? He slipped the old key into the heavy lock. It groaned as it turned, like an old ghost.

The door’s ancient hinges were still strong after nearly 1,700 years, and it took all of his power to move them. Once the cell door was open the moonlight spilled in and revealed a barren cell, its one small window obstructed by both bars and frost. A single prisoner sat on the cold stone floor; his chains scraped each other as he looked up.

The prisoner was not a man, although it had a face something like a man. It was not an animal either, although it had horns and hooves and hair in all places. It was a kind of blasphemous man-goat, bestial and ugly, and even the ever-compassionate Saint Nicholas flinched at the sight of it. The heaviest chains forged in all four corners of the world bound it from head to hoof.

They looked at each other in silence for a moment as snow drifted into the cell, blown this way and that by the north wind. Eventually, Saint Nick cleared his throat. “Well, Christmas has come again, you wicked old sinner” he, trying to maintain his customary cheer. “You know what that means.”

The great gray goat held out his wrists. Saint Nicholas fiddled with the big key, trying to make it fit the locks on the manacles.

“Try to do some good this year?” he said as he worked at them. He turned one eyebrow up, an expression that half a plea, half a chastisement. “Maybe help someone while you’re out there, if you can manage it?”

The chained figure only shrugged. He wasn‘t the type to make promises, even on a special occasion like this. Saint Nicholas, of course, knew this, but every year he lived in hope. Maybe this time will be different. Maybe…

With a sigh the saint unfastened the last of the locks and, free at last, the Beast of the Yuletide let out a hearty growl, stretched his legs, winked at Saint Nicholas, and, laying his finger aside of his nose, leapt out into the dark, snowy night, flying through the sky due south, with an unsuspecting world spread out before him like a morning buffet.

Saint Nick grumbled as the horned figure vanished. “I’m just a bleeding heart, that’s my problem,” he said, holding the empty manacles and shaking his head. “One of these days it’s going to get me into trouble.”

*

Free at last, the beast of the winter festival leaped through the night, letting the winter winds blow him wherever he was needed.

He had no name. Which is to say, he had many: On the coast of Scandinavia they called him Nuuttipukki, the Yule Goat. In the Bavarian mountains he was Klaubauf. In Germany he was Ruprecht, and in older times and more temperate climates he was called Azazel, Capricorn, Pan, Banebdjedet, and Baphomet.

His favorite names these days were Old Scratch, or sometimes Old Nick—his way of making fun of Saint Nicholas. But most often at this time of year, people called him Krampus.

Once, he had been the king of the Yuletide, with its dark midwinter feasts and great fires and ritual offerings. Then a new god came and took away his feasts and his nights off the calendar, replacing him with old men and angels and saints, and now they called this time of year “Christmas” instead.

But they couldn‘t do away with him entirely. He was too old, and his hold on people’s hearts too strong. And since Saint Nicholas was obligated to do a kindness to every creature in the world on Christmas, for one day each year the Krampus was free again.

It was the earliest hour of the morning when his hooves first touched the virgin snow in the village square. This was a sleepy town, isolated by wilderness and winter storms. A perfect place to start.

The first thing he did was sneak into a tailor’s shop and steal the most fashionable suit of clothes that fit him, pausing for a moment to groom himself at the tall mirror nearest to the big front window, so that the moonlight reflecting off the snow could illuminate him.

Admiring his reflection for a moment, he considered getting a hat to cover up his horns too, but decided against it. He liked his horns. Most people did.

Once he‘d fixed himself up, it was time to get to work. The Krampus slipped upstairs to where the tailor and his family slept. It was a humble little home, belonging to a most ordinary pedigree. The Krampus peeked at the family members one by one as they dozed, slipping from the shadow of one doorway to the next. Here were two daughters, still in small clothes, and a son near to manhood, all fast asleep in beds of their own.

The Krampus’ hooves touched the floorboards so daintily that they scarcely made noise at all as he crept in to peep at the head of the family, fast asleep too. As he looked he thought:

Here lies a tailor, all snug in his bed, while visions of prayer books dance in his head. But why (the beast wondered) does this man sleep alone? His wife’s pillow’s empty, as bare as a bone…

Curious, the Krampus crept to the spare bedroom, which had until only recently had been a workroom. Here the tailor’s wife slept on a cot, far away from her husband’s side. What was the meaning of this? The woman seemed to be fretting in her sleep. He pushed her hair out of her face.

How lovely (thought the Krampus), her skin, her teeth! And her hair, it encircles her head like a wreath.

Although his touch was gentle, it still stirred the tailor’s wife to waking. When she saw him standing over her she seemed neither frightened nor surprised. Indeed, she regarded him the way you might an old friend, although they’d never met before.

Pulling the blankets up over her bosom, she looked the Krampus up and down and said: “You’re not Father Christmas.”

The Krampus licked his lips. If he’d had a hat, he’d have doffed it now. Instead he just said:

“I’m Father Krampus, and I‘m here to assist; no need to check for your name on my list. I’m an excellent judge, and I’m sure you’ve been good; the bestest and goodest, if misunderstood.”

He laid a hand on one of the woman’s bare leg. She arched an eyebrow but didn’t object, and even tugged the blankets down a bit, revealing another tantalizing inch of bare skin.

“It’s Christmas morning,” she said. “Do you have a present for me?"

“I do, and I‘ll put it in your stocking with care." He gestured to the front of his trousers. “It’s the gift that keeps giving, a most generous affair.”

His hand crept further up her leg, but she swatted it away. “That sounds more like a present for you,” the tailor‘s wife said.

The Krampus was not discouraged. He spread his arms wide. “What do you want, dear? Calling birds? Maids a milking? Whisper a wish; no fooling, no bilking.”

The tailor’s wife leaned in, and her hot breath tickled his earlobe when she spoke. The Krampus grinned. “I should have known,” said the Krampus. “In fact, I did know. Human wishes are simple as quid and pro quo.”

“Can you get it?” said the tailor’s wife.

“Of course, my dear, and I’ll give you it now. I‘ve no use for such things myself anyhow. It wouldn’t be Christmas if I reneged on your wish. Here it is, turtledove, the very same dish.”

He reached into the pocket of his suit (which of course should have been empty) and drew out something like a bottle of perfume.

“The finest love potion from the land of the Nile. My gift to you, with a kiss and a smile. Your husband, of late, is idle in love, but this substance will give his libido a shove. Petition him now and you’ll find he’ll relent; I swear it, I promise, 100 percent.”

The tailor’s wife took the bottle with something like reverence. The Krampus winked, and then away he flew (like the down of a thistle), leaving the tailor’s wife alone. She swung her feet down to the cold floorboards and crept to her husband’s room, then shimmied out of her nightclothes and, mindful of the cold, slipped under the blankets next to him. The man woke with a start, but she stopped his exclamation with a kiss.

“Merry Christmas, darling,” said the tailor’s wife.

He shifted next to her. “Away,” he said. “It’s not morning yet.”

“It doesn’t need to be morning for this.” The tailor’s wife guided his hand to the warm, soft flesh of her naked breast. He froze, as if struck.

“Away,” he said again. “It’s a sin.”

“How can it be a sin when we’re man and wife?”

She rubbed his hand over her naked body some more and then rolled over on top of him, nibbling his lips with her pearly teeth and letting her long hair hang around him.

“We’ll have no more children between us,” said the tailor. “It’s not godly to do it except to make a child…”

“It‘s natural,” his wife said. “You’re a man; I’m a woman. What else were we meant for? Don’t tell me you haven‘t thought about it while you slept here alone?”

She kissed him some more while her hands ran down the length of his body, undoing the buttons of his nightshirt and laying her naked self against him. The tailor felt his blood boil but immediately stamped it down. “Forget Christmas for a moment,” his wife whispered. “The children will sleep for hours. You’ve no work to do today. Let me remind you how good things used to be.”

The soft coaxing of his wife’s lips and the feeling of her warm flesh close to his did indeed remind the tailor of other times, when he’d been young and hotheaded and eager to chase anything with skirts on. His body, it seemed, remembered such things too, rising to the occasion just as readily as it had in his youth.

"I...I can't..." the tailor whispered. His wife shook her head.

"But what if you could? Maybe this will help." She took out the bottle with the love potion. "One touch of this and you'll forget all guilt and all shame for as long as you want. My Christmas present to you."

"What is this? Witchcraft?" the tailor said, taking the bottle with two fingers.

"No," said his wife. "Just an answer to your prayers."

He looked at the bottle, then at his wife's eyes. Both had a gleam he thought he recognized. So before he could have second thoughts, the tailor broke the seal on the little bottle and, as his wife instructed dabbed a few drops on his open palm and inhaled. The fumes sent his brain reeling immediately, but it wasn't an unpleasant sensation. It made him feel young again. Eager, he took another breath.

The small bedroom grew muggy with the heat of two bodies together. The tailor’s wife kissed her way down her husband’s bare chest, her generous lips sending sparks through him and kindling a fire that he thought he’d long since put out.

The truth was, the tailor HAD thought about such things on nights when he lay in bed without sleeping. That’s why he’d sent his wife to keep in the spare room, and spared himself that temptation. Whenever sinful thoughts crossed his mind he’d prayed furiously and, now and then, mortified his rebellious flesh.

This time he didn’t send her off, and she evidently had plans for his flesh that involved much more tender ministrations than he was used to. When her warm mouth opened around his embarrassingly erect cock he almost cried out at the scandal of it. But the firm, assuring feeling of her lips wrapping around him stifled it into something like a throaty groan. A sound of gratification, he realized, but it was too late to stop it now.

The walls in the little house were thin, so they kept as quiet as they could while the tailor’s wife tended to him with her sumptuous mouth and the little licking sensation of her mischievous tongue. When she tasted that he was ready she removed it and, favoring him with a wink, sat up in bed on all fours, her backside in the air in an invitation he couldn’t mistake.

Blood pounded in the tailor’s brain as he sat up. The sleek curves of his wife’s fine body coaxed a lecherous and lustful chorus of pants out of him that suggested anticipation he would never admit to in words.

But the smoothness of her thighs, the roundness of her behind, the taut line of her back all the way up to the point between her creamy rounded shoulders with her long curls spilling over them couldn‘t be ignored.

Her warm skin was exposed to the cold winter air, and he traced the gooseflesh on her thighs with a fingertip. When he finally moved to put himself inside of her, she surprised him by saying, “No.”

But she didn’t actually stop him; only positioned him a bit higher, to a place where, he was certain, no baby could ever be conceived, and where the town vicar would drive him right out of town and directly into purgatory for even thinking about. “There,” she said. “Right there. Slowly…slowly…ah!”

Her little cry hung like snowflake, batted this way and that by the night air. Inside, she hugged tight against his cock, her sensitive muscles rippling and squeezing him every time he moved. He leaned as far over her as he could, mounting her from behind like an animal and pushing out more snowflake exclamations from her with each thrust of his hips: “Ah…ah…ah!”

Eventually she laid down on her side, and he with her, never pulling out but remaining as far in as he could, the hard pressure of his hips against her backside creating a rhythm. The sheets twisted around them, first growing hot with the sweat of their bodies, then cooling fast in the winter air.

If you’d have asked him before, the tailor would have said that there was nothing more repugnant than sinning on Christmas morning. It was the kind of thing that was liable to keep Christmas from coming at all.

But he soon realized that he hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming. No, he realized (as he felt a sense of release, long and hot, rush through him and out of him and into his wife‘s body even as she licked her lips in satisfaction), it came. Somehow or another, it came just the same.

Meanwhile, the Krampus bounded over the snowy rooftop, and children and animals stirred in their sleep as he passed. When he came to what seemed like a good spot for people watchinng he hung his hooves over the edge of one roof and waited. There were no people out this early in the morning, but he felt certain that if he just waited he’d soon find what he was looking for.

Sure enough, he spied his mark in seconds: A strapping young man with a face full of tears trudged alone through the snowy nigh. He looked lost and drunk, tromping through the slush in the gutters.

The Krampus leaped down and landed right next to the lad. He was a sweet faced man of 20, and he smelled like an empty bottle of holiday cheer. With neither hesitation nor introduction, the Krampus threw his arm around the boy‘s shoulders and said:

“Now why should you cry, instead of make merry? What makes such distressing displays necessary? Are you hurt? Are you dying? Has help come too late? What blow has been dealt you by cruel Mistress Fate?”

The boy blinked in wonder, but the Krampus kept talking:

“I‘m your new friend, and you‘ll find that I‘m true; I‘ve arrived right on time, to answer your cue. Unfurl to me now this tale of your woes, and I’ll do my best to your problems depose.”

In the end, the boy felt so wretched that the appearance of this goblin provoked no reaction more violent than a shrug. “I’ll never be merry again,” he answered. “The whole world is one dark winter, and I’ll never again see spring.”

He leaned against the icy stones of the town’s well, and he sounded so devastated that the Krampus worried for a second that he might even jump in. Instead the boy just kicked a snowdrift, scattering it into meaningless particles. “I asked a woman to marry me tonight,” he said. “And she told me no.”

And then he moaned as if he’d been shot. Oh my (thought the Krampus), this one’s in a state. But I bet if I prod him, he’ll rise to the bait…

He picked the boy up and brushed snow off his collar. “Now lad,” said the Krampus, “heartbreak‘s sore, that is true. But now you’re still young; give it a week, maybe two. You‘ll discover your heart more resilient than most, and then with some new lass you’ll be most engrossed.”

“No,” said the boy, looking at the snow on the nearby churchyard as if it was the abyss of death. “She broke more than my heart tonight. She hurt me to my soul.”

“A soul is a trifle; barely a trinket. You’ll bounce back right away, if only you think it. With my help, dear boy, you’ll have love’s own purview. You’ll have girls enough for ten sweet lads…plus two!”

“But ho would ever love me? I’m nothing. She said so.”

“I would suggest that her tastes are astray. Let’s find a new girl, who’ll suit for today. And tomorrow and the next you can always meet more. Life’s a great game, and it’s time you keep score. A wife you’ll soon know, when the time for one comes. Spend the years in between on the sweetest of plums.”

The Krampus began steering the lad away from the town square and down certain alleys, leading him to the edge of town and the river and some of the less respectable corridors. Here were lanes and avenues that the upstanding people of the village never frequented but still couldn’t help thinking about in their midnight hours, and even glancing toward now and then when they passed by after dark…

“As it so happens, I’ve a great girl in mind. She’s a personal friend, and her charms most refined. You can trust in my tastes, because I am your friend. (I have been since we met, as I’m sure you’ll contend.) Let me be matchmaker, and you’ll soon be impressed. Come now, follow me, to the north, the northwest!”

They were at a house with a candle still burning in the uppermost window. The boy peered at it curiously. “Does anyone really live here?”

“She lives, she loves, she thinks, she breathes. She’s waiting for you now, up there in the eaves.”

“She won’t take strange visitors at this hour. On a holiday?”

“A girl this profound makes no fuss of the time. To sample her charmings, we need only to chime.”

The Krampus rang the little bell by the door, and the girl did indeed come to her window. She squinted through the night and the snow, and when she saw the Krampus’ smiling face she broke into a grin of her own.

“Darling!” the girl said, for the Krampus had friends in every town in the world, and made more every year.

He cried out in return: “Sweet dove! What a treat it is seeing your dear face above. But come now to your door, and your welcome extend. It’s Christmas, my chestnut, and I’ve brought a new friend.”

The girl, a fresh thing of 19, dutifully slipped downstairs in her nightclothes and invited them both inside. She greeted the Krampus with a hug and a kiss, then turned her attention on the boy.

At first he wasn’t sure why she was looking at him so intently (except maybe because he was dripping snow all over her floor, of course…), but then she pointed over his head. “Mistletoe,” she said.

The boy swallowed, but the girl stood on her tiptoes (her feet were bare despite the cold), and he had no choice. Her lips were soft, and tasted like her own bated breath.

The Krampus went to the hearth and started a great, rousing fire that soon had the entire house as snug as a dove. The girl played hostess and poured them mulled wine, slipping her fingers briefly into the boy’s hand when she gave him the mug. He blushed, and hoped that it was too dark to tell.

All three of them sat by the fire, chatting and laughing like old friend. The boy stared at the girl, his looks becoming more and more bold as he dran. She returned his gaze often, but never for more than a few seconds before turning back to the Krampus, who entertained them both with songs, bawdy jokes, and stories of Yuletides past.

Eventually the girl finished her wine and, very deliberately, licked the last of it from her lips. Through his alcoholic haze, the boy felt his blood simmer. Now she turned her full attention on him, sitting back in her chair and crossing her legs.

“You’re a shy one,” she said. “Is it your first time?”

The boy choked.

“Now, now,” said the Krampus. “The question is fair. She wants you to answer, not squirm in your chair.”

“I don’t mind,” the girl added. “It’s all the same to me as long as you pay.”

“Quite right,” said the Krampus, “how rude to forget. A present for my darling, to settle the debt.”  From the pocket of his suit the Krampus produced a fat purse, overflowing with silver coins. When the girl judged that it was enough she took off her clothes, standing as naked as Venus in front of them both.

The boy swallowed again. The Krampus nudged him in the ribs. “She’s all woman, my lad, as you see with your eyes. She’ll fill all your needs, as each ones arise. A wink of her eye and a turn of her head will let you know now that you’ve nothing to dread.

“I’ve been here myself, and I know all her tricks, all her ways and her means, all her quicks and her picks. Satisfaction’s guaranteed, that’s a promise, dear boy. As your friend, I share only what I know you‘ll enjoy.”

“I think there’s been a mistake,” the boy said. “I’m not interested in…um, that is to say, I don’t want to pay for it.”

The girl stood up straight and gave him a contempt-filled look that made him blush. “Tut, tut,” said the Krampus. “For the first of our facts, I’m paying, not you, so you’re all square on that. More importantly, boy, what have you in your head? Are you ill? Are you feeble? Are you closer to dead? This is your chance; carpe diem, I say! A girl like this doesn’t come around every day.”

The Krampus refilled the boy’s mug.

“Life’s sweet, my dear lad, if only you taste it. Too many sad folks taste not life, but waste it. If you’re not living, you might as well die. Death comes ever sooner, if life‘s treats you deny. Why not live now, this moment, this hour? No one will know, except we in this bower.”

“But I want love,” the boy said.

“Then love her, you dear fool. Love everyone and all one, that’s my go-to rule. Love her tonight, all you like, as you wish. Come back in a week, or a month, or a tish. She’ll love you all days, when all or whenever, as often as you like or as often as never. And her love is true! No less true than silver. An honest love, honest as penny and guilder.”

The Krampus picked the boy up by the scruff of his neck and pushed him forward. The girl watched with an amused expression.

“Try it once,” said the Krampus. “That’s my motto in life. If you find you don’t like it, then away to some wife. You’ve nothing to lose, neither money nor skin. No one even need know what you’ve done, or where been.”

The girl put out her hand out. She looked as though she had lost her patience long ago, and the boy realized it was because she’d known all along what he was going to do anyway.

He let her lead him upstairs, her footsteps light and easy on the stairs, his stumbling and awkward. Her bedroom was small, but the lacy cloud of her bed curtains shut everything out, making it easy to imagine that the entire world or nothing at all were around them.

She undressed him one bit at a time, batting his hands down whenever he tried to assist or jump ahead of her, teasing him about every little button and catch and cooing over his soft, skinny, boyish frame. Though he was older than her she seemed mature, confident, at ease.

When she was finished she laid him back against the pile of cushions at the headboard and climbed on top, kissing him while her hand crept down and, suddenly, unbelievably, encircled him down below, wrapping a finger and a thumb in a ring around his balls and giving a firm, encouraging squeeze.

He gasped, but she swallowed it into another kiss and eased him along, fondling him some more and then wrapping her quick, light fingers around the base of his shaft and stroking him sweetly until he was hot and ready.

“Now,” the girl said, “tell me you love me.”

The boy paused. “I—”

“Not like that, silly,” she said, putting a finger from her free hand to his lips. “Tell me the real way. Like this.”

She guided his hands to her naked breasts, where his fingers touched pale white skin and trembled as they explored the softness and smoothness of her from neck to hips. Her tiny, cherry-red nipples stood out firm as he rolled his palms over them, and she favored him with a thin smile.

“You see?” she said. “The body is everything. The whole wide world is here, in your flesh and mine. Do you understand?”

“No…” he said (although at that moment he found he didn’t particularly care whether he knew what she was talking about or not). She chided him with a soft tap on the side of the head.

“Can you feel my body?” she asked him, pulling him up to kiss the side of her neck and bury his face in the long tresses of her hair, all while her body melted against his until their lines and curves responded to every move of the other. “Can you feel that?”

“Yes…” he said, kissing the delicate turn of her earlobe and feeling her shiver as he did.

“And you feel it with your own body, don‘t you?” she said, spreading her legs around him and shimmying down to the point that the hot, tight, delicate space between her thighs hovered just a few inches above his cock.

“And that’s how you feel the sheets, and the bed. And if you were to go outside right now that’s how you would feel and see and hear and know the snow and the wind and the sky and the world. The whole world is flesh, because without the flesh you’d never know the world exists. Do you see?”

“I…think so?” the boy said. His drunken brain turned her words around and around, trying to make sense of them. Only when she slid further down him and he felt the tip of his clock slide into the warm wet entrance to her did what she’d said—and everything else—come into focus.

He cupped her smooth behind in both hands as she rode up and down on top of him, gliding against one another and rocking the frame of the old bed. “That’s right,” the girl said, leaning back and enjoying him as his young body squirmed underneath hers. “You see everything now, don’t you?”

“I do…” the boy said, kissing her breasts and tasting the smooth, soft, white skin. The girl’s legs squeezed him tight and she moaned as she thrust up and into her again and again.

“Nothing’s sacred,” she said, “except for the world and the flesh, and all of that is one.”

He saw everything and felt everything, and by the time morning came he knew all there was to know.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, the vicar sat by a modest and dwindling fire, still trying to write his Christmas sermon. He’d been trying all week but the words wouldn’t come, and his pen was dry.

He’d sat all night scribbling by the hearth, hoping for inspiration, but what he got instead was the Krampus, who dropped down his chimney with a bang and a thump and then emerged, unburnt and only slightly sooty, from the fireplace. The vicar rubbed his eyes and wondered, blearily, just how much brandy he’d put into his tea.

“Good morning,” said the Krampus. “It is good, I trust? I hate to intrude, but I sense you’re nonplussed. Perhaps you heard me, up there on your roof, the prancing and pawing of each of my hoofs?

“Because I heard you, vicar friend, I heard all your worries, I heard all your troubles, your doubts, and your flurries. But it’s Christmas, my vicar, and worries are through. Here’s Krampus to settle all troubles for you.”

The vicar’s hands shook as he put his spectacles on. “I haven’t slept,” he said. “Yes, that’s what‘s the matter. I’ll nap before the service, and this will all be a dream.”

“Dreams!” said the Krampus. “A word I adore. What‘s your dream, my vicar, what’s your sleeping mind’s store? Do you dream of hosannas and miracles on high? Or does this world your choicest of dream stuff supply?”

The Krampus pulled the vicar out of his chair and whirled him around the room like a dance partner, and then the horned beast kicked up the pages of the vicar’s sermons until the cottage was a virtual blizzard of parchment.

The vicar harrumphed. “Now see here!”

“But I do see!” said the Krampus. “I see all, and I know. Your problem, my vicar, is here in your stow. The stow of your heart, as I mean to say. You’ve grown bored of Christmas, yes, bored of the day. You’ve preached it on high and you’ve preached it on low, you’ve preached far and preached wide, preached the sun and the snow.

“You’ve preached to the good and you’ve preached to the damned, you’ve preached to the true and you’ve preached to the shammed. You’re all preached-out, vicar, you’ve not one word left. What you need is a break—before YOU break, bereft.”

“But what about my flock?”

“Leave them to me, take me to your church, and I’ll see that your folks don’t end up all in a lurch. Vicar Krampus is here, full of gospels and truth, as good for the aged as I am for the youth.”

And he smiled as wide as he could. The vicar wasn’t so sure this sounded like a good idea. He also wasn’t sure that he hadn’t just suffered some kind of stroke. The Krampus, though, is nothing if not persuasive, so with a bit more cajoling (and a bottle of very good French cognac from the pocket of his coat), he convinced the vicar to put on his boots and his scarf go to the little steepled church together.

There, the Krampus covered the crucifix with a sheet, and put up curtains over the stained glass windows, so that none of the old prophets and forefathers could play Peeping Tom today.The Krampus was old enough to remember a time when churches chained their Bibles to the pulpit, so he did that too—chained it shut, that is, and then shut the whole pulpit away.

Then he sent the vicar away to enjoy a day off, while the Krampus set to ringing the bells, hanging on the ropes with all his might. (It’s a myth that devilish spirits hate church bells; bells have been around much longer than churches, and the Krampus had always been fond of them.)

When the townsfolk arrived in their best attire to answer the ringing they found not a vicar up on a platform but just the Krampus, sitting right on their level, grinning his monsterly grin.

Some tried to leave, but whenever their boots turned toward the door inevitably they felt themselves drawn back. One by one they took their seats in the pews, muttering to each other and giving the Krampus anxious looks. Some tried to pray but found suddenly that they couldn’t remember the words; others realized that they’d never actually known any words to begin with.

Once everyone was assembled and the doors closed, the first thing the Krampus did was round up all of the children and all the teens and send them right back out of the meetinghouse.

“Go play,” said the Krampus, “in the fields and the towns. You’ll know to come home when the sun’s going down. Form up a troupe where you’re all in command, and be comrades and partners to each in your band.

“For rations filch bonbons, and sweet cakes, and tarts, and divvy them up so that all get compart. The fruit that’s forbidden is sweetest, you’ll see, so for Christmas let ALL hours be cake and high tea.”

The children hesitated for a moment, but the Krampus gave them candies from his pockets, and to some of the older ones he gave golden branches too, and off they went to turn the whole town into their kingdom for a day, and none of their parents tried to stop them.

That left only the Krampus and the grown folk of the town, from the youngest couples to the long-married pairs, and the widowers and widows whose beds and heads were both old and gray. Everyone shifted in their seats. It was clear this was not going to be any normal Christmas sermon, and none of them knew quite what to make of this new vicar.

But the Krampus put them at ease with kind words, big smiles, and gifts. He told jokes, flirted, made friends with all, and soon the meetinghouse felt warmer and livelier than any of them could remember. When the Krampus struck up a song, everyone sang with him. Soon, they forgot anything was unusual.

Eventually, people noticed that one of the village girls, a young thing set to be married in the New Year, was sitting on the Krampus’ lap and kissing the cheerful beast. She even held mistletoe over his horned head.

And here and there and everywhere, couples (and sometimes more than couples) kissed and touched, overcome with a sudden and in some cases uncharacteristic admiration for one another. Blood that had been cool for too long now heated, and the rebel flesh began to stir.

When the betrothed of the young woman on the Krampus’ knee realized what was happening, he jumped up in alarm and tried to haul her away. The Krampus let her go instantly, but the girl herself proved stubborn about keeping her seat.

“Don’t look at me that way,” the girl said. “I just want to be kissed, that‘s all. What‘s wrong with that? You can kiss me too. Come on.”

The young man backed away. “We’re not married yet…” he said.

“So what?” said the Krampus. “Who cares? What’s the gag? Is your liver all empty, is your tent pole all sag?”

Here there came some grumblings from the pews and those who felt this wasn’t necessarily appropriate talk for a church. The Krampus spoke louder:

“And who here can judge you, from amongst this cabal? Who has the right to scorn you at all? For I see in all hearts where the embers still burn; I see those who lust, and who ache, and who yearn.

“And it’s good that they yearn, and it’s good that they lust. It’s good that you’re flesh and you’re blood and not dust. For I swear to you now, lust’s as old as mankind. Take one from the other, and both would unwind.”

“But isn‘t it a sin?” a voice asked.

“What‘s a sin?” said the Krampus. “What’s a rule? What’s taboo? They’re nothing but words, and I’ve got words too. My words are as good as a vicar’s, at least. As good as a Bible’s, as good as a priest’s. And for Christmas, well hell, I’ll tell you now folks, the best gift on Christmas is the breaking of yokes.

“For you’ve yokes on your necks, and chains on your feets, and locks on your hearts, all made of conceits. You don’t see them or feel them, but trust me, they’re there, and they’re fastened with hymnals and rosaries and prayers. You lock yourselves up and you shuffle along and you feel quite unhappy and you don’t know what’s wrong.

“So this is my Christmas day sermon to you: You’ve still time to live, ‘fore living is through. Heaven can mind its own business for now; it’s the job of the angels to scrape and to bow. You’re people, not angels, with blessings and flaws. Do what thou wilt should be the whole of the laws.

“Live this one day as the beasts of the field; rejoice in the flesh, and desires unsealed. Look not to heaven and fuss not for souls; the here and the now is when the bell tolls. Love each other, not gods, for love ISN’T divine. It’s the language of bodies, like yours and like mine. Gather ye rosebuds while each of you may, for who knows when you’ll sniff of life’s final bouquet?”

The young couple listened to the Krampus’ words while looking at each other. The Krampus stood between them, like the minister at their wedding, joining their hands together.

“On this day I come not to join, but to break. To shatter vain customs, and old lies unmake. For him and for her and for all of you here, all who would have life before life disappears. Today you’re all free, with no gods and no kings. Become like a beast, the noblest of things. It’s high time by now we put angels away. From now on, let Christmas be a beast’s holiday.”

Somewhere in the middle of all of this the young couple began to kiss. Not small, chaste kisses, but long and passionate ones, twined in each other’s arms. And for every person in the church who looked at them disapprovingly, three more saw what they were doing and thought that it was good.

The Krampus’ words had agitated the assembly. No one was quite sure how the next part started; it was like the beginning of a dream, or maybe like waking up for the first time. But soon, most of the couples in the pews were lost in long kisses and embraces with each other, until the rows began to become quite heated.

Few people were paying attention, then, when the young woman tore her dress down, exposing her naked breasts to her fiancé’s lips and while pulling his shirt up and halfway off to run her nails up his back and listen to the sharp hiss as he drew his breath in and held it.

He fumbled with his belt for a moment while she hiked up her skirts, and then, right there on the altar, they consummated the blessings the Krampus had given them minutes before, her on her back and he on his knees over her, forgetting for a moment where they were and who they were, exchanging the church for a tableau of young, innocent flesh, spotted with perspiration and the persistent rhythm of two bodies thrusting together until one overflowed and filled the other.

When they finished, the young woman uncoupled herself from the man and went to the Krampus again, kneeling while still wearing the half-tattered remains of her Sunday dress. She undid his trousers and took the Christmas beast’s large, vulgar cock in her small hands, stroking and teasing it until it stood away from his hairy body, warm and erect, and then she passed it into her mouth, taking it all the way in with a series of swallows.

She felt such an abiding affection for the monster now that it only seemed right to include him in the consummation. Her little mouth slid up and down, a moan trapped in her throat by the swelling of it as she sucked, eager to draw out and savor the first drops of this particular Christmas morning communion.

And her young man looked on this scene amiably, without anger or objection. Possibly his good nature about it had something to do with the fact that he’d attracted extra attention of his own; his bride-to-be’s sister, older by a few years and a widow at an early age, had long prayed for relief from the treacherous fantasies about her future brother in law that crept into her dreams.

But now she suddenly joined him on the altar, and in moments he was enjoying all of her curves, the whiteness of her breasts, and the pink, welcoming invitation of her mouth, without any guilt or hesitation on his part. One couple coupling had become two, almost without anyone noticing.

When the young woman finished with the Krampus and sat back, licking her lips, another woman from out of the pews was already waiting to substitute for her, and the cheerful monster found himself swapping one warm mouth for the next. The new girl let the beast untie the laces of her dress (like the bow on a Christmas present) and strip her half naked on the church floor with his cock still in her mouth.

Shortly, a third woman pulled up her skirts and bent over in front of the beast to let him mount her from behind, moaning like a whore with her cries muffled thanks to the fact that her mouth was full with her husband and, once he was finished, with the young bachelor who lived across the street (and with whom she’d confessed the occasional Sunday dalliance before).

One by one, all the women of the village came: The good mothers, baring their naked bodies in front of the entire town, and the young virgins, forgetting their modesty as they shed Sunday dresses and spread their legs too.

Some would say later that there had been magic in the Krampus’ words that made them do it, but the truth was that the real power that compelled them was their own, and that once the first crack appeared in the dam there was no way to hold anything back.

The husbands and young men in the assembly didn’t object to seeing their wives and sweethearts take their turns. They were busy too, indulging longstanding cravings of their own, entertained in the past only with discrete shame but now spilling over in frenzied embraces on the floors and in the pews.

Bodies tangled, pinning one another down or against the very walls and creating a chorus of gasps, moans, whispers, and cries. And when the Krampus finished with each woman’s embrace she turned to attack her next lover with even more enthusiasm, bare flesh glistening with sweat and her lips or thighs wet and gleaming.

Everywhere he turned the Krampus found a new sight to delight: men and women undressed, liberated, freed, couples and triples and more. No mouth went unkissed, no body untouched, no fantasy unspoken, no appetite unfulfilled.

Someone broke into the wine and began proposing toasts to the Krampus, who accepted them graciously and then poured his cup onto the naked body of the first girl who had kissed him. Picking her up freshly anointed, he sat her on his lap again, sliding his enormous cock inside of her and feeling her shudder as she put her arms around his neck, kissed him once more, and rode him until her heart was set nearly to burst.

Her fiancé approached from behind, sliding between the curved cheeks of her ass as she went up and down, and soon the young man and the Krampus were splitting her between them, one in front and one back, filling her as full as she would go.

The sweet girl’s eyes rolled back and she nearly broke her neck twisting this way and that with kisses for both of her lovers, pressed tightly between them until first one and then the other came inside her, leaving her quivering and wet all over.

It wasn’t until he finally took a break from all of this merrymaking that the Krampus noticed the newcomer; a man with a white beard and a crown of ivy and a decidedly disapproving expression had let himself into the church without anyone seeing. Saint Nicholas’ frown was so deep that it seemed almost bottomless.

“So this is what you’ve been up to!” he said. “Why you old Goat of Mendes, you idle idol! When I let you out for the day I told you to help people!”

“So I did,” said the Krampus, sweeping his arm across the nave. “Do these look unhelped? They just needed to be prodded, invited, and skelped. They’re quite happy now, as I’m sure you can see. Relax! Take a load off. Have some Chablis.”

“This is obscene,” said Saint Nick, averting his eyes.

“It’s life,” the Krampus said. “It’s not wicked or damned. It’s not hurtful nor harmful nor vexful nor scammed. A bit sweaty, I’ll grant you. Unflattering, at times. But it’s truthful and loving and —”

“Enough of your rhymes!”

The Krampus kicked back and laughed. Then he graced the saint with a particularly self-satisfied look and said, “Well what will you do? Take me back to my chains? Break your word and your bond and inflict on me pains? Then I’ll go back with you, if that’s your desire. My present to you, on this day of retire.”

He put his hands out, as if waiting for manacles. Saint Nicholas scowled again, but shook his head. Once his promise was given, he couldn’t back out of it. Not on this day of all days. The Krampus kicked his hooves in delight.

“Then away I will go, so lively and quick, all will know in a moment I must be Old Nick. I’ve good news to spread but only one day, and I think time will run out ‘fore I go all the way. But just watch me, dear Santa, if I don’t do my best, and by the time it’s all done even you’ll be impressed.”

And maybe Saint Nicholas was impressed (although he’d never dare admit it). Because the Krampus did range far and wide that particular Christmas, bringing his own peculiar cheer to everyone he met.

The lessons people learned weren’t necessarily ones they could put into words (no words that were fit for polite company, anyway), but lessons they were all the same. And for the rest of their lives, each person carried the lesson of the Krampus engraved on his or her heart.

Once the holiday was done and the Krampus wore his chains again, it seemed he carried them much more lightly than he once had. He even had a spring in his step as he returned to his prison, and an air of satisfaction that Saint Nicholas found frankly annoying. The old iron door closed again, shutting the Krampus up and sealing him off from the world.

But they heard him exclaim, as he was locked in his gear:

“Merry Christmas to all. And I’ll see you next year.”

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