Back in November we announced the winning authors of ‘Krampus Crackers‘ – an innovative flash fiction project from Brisbane-based publisher Tiny Owl Workshop. Run in both Australia and the UK, Tiny Owl Workshop sought 12 short stories to be illustrated by artists (including Terry Whidborne, Simon Cottee, Kathleen Jennings and Gustavo Ortegar) before being made into Krampus Crackers – replacing our conventional Christmas cracker jokes with the winning flash fiction.
The short stories were all inspired by the mythical Christmas demon Krampus and we published a sneak peek into each winning author and their story here. After their launch on December 4th, the crackers are now available to pick up in venues across Leeds including Mrs Atha’s, Outlaws Yacht Club, Heaven, Friends of Ham, Leeds North Bar, Sandinista…and many more.
Over the next couple of weeks in the run up to Christmas, TSOTA are bringing you four of the twelve winning Krampus Crackers stories that you may well find in your cracker. The second in the line up is ‘The Yule Ghoul’ by Nick Clark, illustrated by Terry Whidborne…
The Yule Ghoul
by Nick Clark
Illustration by Terry Whidborne
Santa Claus flees through the woods. One waterlogged boot clumps after the other, puncturing the snow. Panic constricts his wind pipe, unknown stars cripple his mind. They etch strange ideas.
It’s a dark old world, November. The advent of advent, the hooded month.
Unless – in that cluttered, expense-strewn clamour, behind the yammering of surplus want and egotistic worry, over the squalling of exalted gluttony – you hear it.
Perhaps – amidst the pious clanging of advertisements, through the zealous footfall of the faithful, treading the aisles of Mammon’s shrines – you sense it.
Maybe – through the flayed tatters of lore pressed into gaudy simulacra, beneath the sagging, brightly-coloured death mask of the Last Season – you glimpse it.
Yes: that callous dissonance; for a moment, it breaks.
You see it.
You hear it.
The eyes find you.A relief, perhaps, to slip from that confusion; to arrive at the peak of a world far removed, long forgotten – a shard buried in the piggy eye of this festive vortex. Savour its absence. Revel in the uncomplicated request of fear, the overriding desire of escape. The ecstasy of the hunt.Claus runs, his stinking body lathered, his belly sloshing its contents, rich with the brandy he shouldn’t have had. His hat, long gone, caught on a low branch, his cheeks scratched by alien night.
It’s a dark old world, November.
The fat man stumbles, his boot jettisons, foot adrift in cold. He pauses, shrieks out a breath, flails on. Not the guts to glance behind, nor the hope to look ahead.
But he’s tiring. Adrenaline wears thin, the cold draws near.
The snow devours: he sinks knee-deep into its embrace, falling awkwardly. His coat splays open, revealing a greed-stained vest. His beard tangles, and he palms it clear, but wishes he hadn’t.
He sees it.
He hears it.
The eyes find him.
A grimace. A visage of tooth and horn, holly-bush sharp, robed in smoke. His scales are the verdigris of hidden ways, his eyes the glowing chinks of barrow mounds. See the gesture of his carving-knife claws, the gnashing of his puca’s maw. The tongue of the devil’s daughter. It weaves the space between them.
Santa screams, his heart raging – even as it empties its vital ink upon the ground.
He has it.
He licks the mortal sour from his vixen nails, scours the plastic bristle from his gravy-dark gums.
The beard flops to the earth, its elastic ribbon limp and soiled.
Another clone. A replica of the mythic dish. It is good that Krampus is hungry, his appetite stoic. There are many more to come before the season is spent, many yet to fall through his funnel-web burrow.
Yule requires only your heart.
Author biography: Biography: N G F Clark is an English and History graduate from deepest, darkest Yorkshire. He reads and writes speculative fiction. Follow Nick on Twitter @ngfclark
Follow the Krampus team on Twitter @tinyowlworkshop & @vickypointing and for more on the Krampus Crackers project and where you can pick yours up from, visit vickykpointing.wordpress.com/krampus-crackers
All 12 stories are available in the limited edition crackers around Leeds – the challenge is to collect them all! You can find the first 8 stories published by Leeds Big Booked – bigbookend.co.uk/category/blog