A Merriment and Melancholy
There once were two children who lived in a quiet house near the edge of a dark forest. And they thought with all their heart that their mother loved them.On the night they were born their mother had collapsed onto the floor and wept in despair. She was exhausted and beaten. She watched the children enter her world through a fog. The two boys wailed, the mother whimpered, and the family tears drowned the house in a solitude and quietness that it never forgot. Though she took care to feed and house them as they grew, the mother despised her children for what they were. She spent her time outside and away from them, walking forever along the edge of the woods. The two boys spent so much time with only each other that they never knew what other families were like or how different they and their mother were.
One day the boys were out in the snow collecting sticks and leaves for a game they liked to play. It was a game their mother hated, but they did it every year. If they brought enough wood from the forest into their house and made it up in the shape of a grand tree, presents would appear below it the next morning. Every year their mother burned with a fierce anger as they opened their presents, but every year the children knew there was nothing she could do to stop it from happening.That night they made their way towards the house, laughing at their brilliance and cleverness. As always, their mother watched them from the edge of the forest, keeping one eye on the house where she raised the boys and one eye deep in the whitening wood. She stayed outside long after the boys ran inside. Her thoughts were bent on them. She thought about the stick tree and the presents. She thought about their pride and their greediness. She stood outside until the sun went down behind her and the snow fell all around her. She stood outside and in the cold, darkening world her heart hardened.
She made up her mind and walked into the forest at last.
* * *
She knocked again, harder this time. The old man still did not move. He heard the door creak long and low as it was pushed opened. The woman stepped inside, pulled off her gloves and walked through the hallway. She stopped when she came to a large, warm room.
He let her stand there for a long time, until the fire finally died away and the room darkened.
"This house is old," the man said. He was still facing away from her. "Older than you know and more ancient than you care to imagine. It does not welcome you."
The woman stiffened. "I don't need to be welcomed to make a request."
"And what is it you'd like to request?" the man slowly asked. The last word hung sourly in the air. "My work is nearly done for the year. Let the Winter's snow fall where it will and live out your days peacefully."
She hesitated, but only for a moment. "Don't do it this year," she said blatantly. "They don't deserve it."
Then the old man turned his head and laughed, looking suddenly young and fresh. He stood up and faced the mother. A surge of power rose throughout the house and throughout his voice. It was a magic that ran deep and filled the room with strange mix of a merriment and a melancholy. "I shall always do what I do," he said, and there was such power in his words that the mother trembled and backed away quickly.
The man sat down in his chair and the magic draped around him like a cape. "You know who to see," the old man said, his voice once again crackled with old age and time. "You know who to see, if you really want it to stop. Go to Him, if he is not already on his way to meet you."
The mother did not know what to do but walk to the door. She swung it open, turned her face towards the cold night air and stepped out.
The snow fell down like a soft blanket over her open, empty eyes. Krampus stood over her and watched as the world tucked her in for the night. He gave the woman's body a mock bow. Your wish is my command, he thought amusingly. He took a deep breath of white air before dipping behind the trees and making his way towards the woman's house.
* * *
The boys sat and talked about everything they wanted tomorrow morning to be. Krampus was there, listening. The children talked and imagined their words were like wishes flying into the air, but Krampus saw the weight of their words and knew they were falling heavy to the floor.
Suddenly, the candles in the house went out.
The boys shivered.
And then Krampus was there, standing over the children, tall and wicked. With eyes like flaming embers and a long, flickering tongue he told them what their mother had done.
Their mother that loved them. Their mother. Their mother.