“I should show them the carving. But I can’t, for the same reason that I can’t take it back where it came from.
“I destroyed the evidence.
“I remember the the foul acrid stench — as if I was burning flesh rather than wood. That was nothing to the smell left in the bedroom after that first dream: as if a feral tom cat had marked its territory on our bedspread in the night, and imbued it with the entrails of decomposed birds and small mammals it had mauled, together with the reek of dead leaves long-immersed in putrid, stagnant water. You didn’t seem to notice, as you reclined in the afterglow of the kind of languorous, satiated bliss that I could never give you.”
It’s that time of year, of course, when we turn on the twinkling fairy lights to keep the dark at bay. If the figure of Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus, has come to personify the bright gaudy spirit of Christmas, Krampus is his dark shadow, wielding a bundle of sticks to torment naughty children where Father Christmas rewards the good ones with the carrot of gifts, playing Old Nick to Saint Nick. To mark the season, Eibonvale Chapbooks are releasing my story ‘How I Learned The Truth About Krampus’, in which a post-graduate student visits Austria to research the mythology around this malevolent figure and comes across a sinister yet strangely compelling carving. I wrote this story, a winter’s tale of madness, obsession and folk horror, for reading during the long, dark months to come, preferably in a snowbound isolated cottage…
“Behind her, in the windows, I could see my own face smiling back from the darkness where the snow fingers blindly groped at the panes, leaving melt prints. For a moment I thought I saw two points of light above the face, but they couldn’t have been stars on such a night.”