Illustration by Jon Ahmed Durano
He’s coming for me.
The stories speak of a disfigured mass of a man with the head of a goat, menacing bulbous horns twisting around each other on either side of his head. His face, mangled. Muzzle, covered in scars from the brave ones who tried to fight back. Black sludge trickles out of his fanged mouth. Or at least that’s what they say. My father says that every Christmastide, he comes.
The monster comes for us naughty children. They say the devil is within me. That it sometimes takes control of my body, making me do deviant things and voicing out blasphemous thoughts. My father tells me to pray the devil leaves before Krampus comes to force it out of me; his large hand will encompass my tiny body before his sharp claws tear rifts across my skin, and the devil will come bursting through. His venomous sludge will burn beneath my skin, incinerating the remaining demons with hellfire.
They tell me not to resist, but in laying the offering of milk and cookies for the man in red, the glass slips from my fingers. I sweep the shards in front of my bedroom closet. There, I hide in the dark behind coats, knees tucked under my chin, with only scant light from the cracks from the door.
It is quiet for hours.
Then the hairs on my neck quickly stand and a tingle runs up my back. Something furry suddenly encircles my ankles in a tight grip. I scream, but the sound comes out muffled. There’s something in my mouth. I try to scream again, and this time large maggots come crawling out. I’m forcefully dragged out by an invisible hand, breaking through the closet door.
I set my eyes upon Krampus, and tears and snot run down my face as absolute terror washes over me. Maggots continue to spill from my lips with every attempt at a scream. His monstrous form takes most of the room. His beady red eyes are unforgiving and unfocused. I realize that he does not see me. Instead, he sees the devil hiding under my skin.
Krampus will have no mercy because he does not see someone human.
“You will die with the host if you do not leave,” he says in a thundering voice that shakes me to the core. He takes my right leg and snaps it. I’m paralyzed with fear as I hear bones snap instead of feeling them, and I scream. The maggots crawl out of my mouth soaked in blood.
Krampus rips off the hanging limb with his mouth with a snap and a crunch. The splatter of blood joins countless others around his mouth.
“Leave,” he warns one last time, shaking my tiny body. His claws violently slash across my face, clawing out one eye while barely missing the other.
He throws me into the large sack hanging on his back. I fall on top of other bodies, and some squirm. I do not think about the unmoving limbs that surround me. The sack jostles as Krampus moves to the next child.
Surrounded by disfigured children with only the sensation of a phantom limb and the sound of hoarse cries, I find comfort in knowing that I will leave Krampus’ lair as a new, healed man.
I will be rid of my demonic thoughts. I will be rid of my demonic urges. My eyes will not stray to other men or to the skirts and dresses in the windows. That deviant behavior will leave me. I will no longer be a danger to others or an embarrassment to my father.
When I leave Krampus, I will be scarred, but forever changed for the better.
I will no longer be the naughty girl.
I will be the good boy.