Tommy and the Krampus by David McAllister

Tommy and the Krampus

By David McAllister

Christmas was Tommy’s favourite time of year. Bedtime was Tommy’s favourite time of day. It was the one time that he had his father’s full, undivided attention. His father was a natural storyteller. Tommy would sit,covers pulled up to his chin, rapt with attention as his father created worlds that Tommy could get lost in. He would never fall asleep when his Father was telling stories. He would need to know how they ended. In the run up to Christmas, the stories became festive and for Tommy, the excitement was just too much to bear. It was one week before the big day and Tommy jumped into bed as his Father pulled up a chair. His Father was a mountain of a man with hands like shovels and broad muscular shoulders. His Father told him that he’d be like that when he grew up, especially if he assumed his role and worked in the forest that surrounded the town. You see, his Father worked long hours felling trees and shovelling snow when the weather demanded it. He told Tommy that he made up stories when he was out in the woods working and that some of the stories had been passed on from his Father who had also worked in the woods when he was a little boy. Some of the stories Tommy’s Father told him had been passed down through generations over hundreds of years. Tommy supposed that right back at the beginning some of the stories were true. He thought that if you strip away the exaggeration there would be a magical truth to the adventures that his Father told him. For Tommy this just added to the excitement. 

As Tommy snuggled into his covers, the wind and snow battered his bedroom window. Tommy smelt the familiar smell of honey malt whiskey on his father’s breath. He always found that comforting. His Father had told him that now he was a little older he would tell him a story that he had been told when he was first a teenager. A story that until now he did not think Tommy was old enough to hear. The story of the Krampus.

The Krampus was a half goat, half demon who would punish children who misbehave during the holiday season. The cloven-hoofed beast would be heard in the twilight hours jangling his chains, which the children would mistake for sleigh bells. When they went to investigate, the Krampus would bundle them into a sack and if they were lucky, he would drown them in a nearby river. Tommy asked why that would be lucky and his Father told him that the alternative was that the Krampus would drag them down into the depths of the earth and into the bowels of Hell itself. Tommy did not like the sound of the Krampus and told his Father so. He said he didn’t want to hear any more about the Krampus. His Father clearly wanted to tell him more and Tommy caught a glimpse of something in his Father’s face that he had never noticed before. To Tommy, it looked like complete and all-consuming fear. It left Tommy in no doubt that the Krampus was real. Somewhere back at the beginning before the embellishments that are added to all good stories, the Krampus stalked the Earth and took children from their beds. Tommy had never been so afraid in his whole life. He wanted to shout after his Father as he left the room but was afraid that his Father would think he was weak. He had been told he needed to start acting older and helping out around the  cottage and so Tommy stayed silent.

He barely slept that night. Not through excitement for the fast approaching Christmas day but out of sheer terror that at any moment he would been pulled from his bed by the Krampus. It was three days before Christmas. Tommy missed his Mother more at this time of year. It was a time for family, and for love and celebration. Tommy was lonely when he was in the cottage alone and his Father was out working in the woods. A part of him couldn’t wait to get out and work alongside his Father for this very reason. He was nearly old enough to do this. He wanted to make his Mother proud; especially as it was his fault she was dead. Tommy would sit and look at pictures of his Mother when his Father was out working.Before Tommy had come along, they looked happy and content. He would trace their story through the photographs and make up what they might be saying to each other or thinking in the pictures. He imagined his Mother to be a funny and loving person who would do anything for her family and friends. He felt like he knew this because she was always smiling in the pictures. As he got towards the last pictures in the album, as his Mother’s belly started to swell with another life growing inside, Tommy always felt sad because she was no longer smiling. She looked older, world weary and full of worry. He normally closed the album before he got the end; it made him feel too sad and too guilty.

#

It was two days before Christmas and the day before Tommy’s thirteenth birthday. He liked having his Birthday at this time of year. He did after all; get double presents and his Father always made him feel special. His Father had normally finished working by this time and they would spend the day playing games together or preparing things for Christmas day. Plucking the turkey was usually Tommy’s job. He loved it, he felt like a proper hunter-gatherer from one of his Father’s stories, and it was always a good way to impress his Father and make him proud. That was all Tommy ever wanted. To make his Father proud and maybe one day he would forgive Tommy.

#

In the early hours of the morning of Tommy’s Birthday, he awoke with a start. By candlelight, he could see the snowflakes building up outside his window. He could just about hear the crackling of the fire in the hearth in the living room. At first, he was confused as to what had woken him up. Then he heard a jangling sound. His heart skipped a beat when he thought of Santa’s sleigh bells and reindeers and all the toys in his sack. It was only then that he remembered the story about the Krampus. He felt sick and wanted to cry out for his Father. His Father would say he was too old to be waking him in the night and would be disappointed in him, so Tommy kept quiet. He listened carefully and heard the jangling sound again. The more he heard it the more he convinced himself that it was the sound of Krampus’ chains. Tommy felt like crying but tried his best to stop himself. 

As Tommy tried to compose himself, he felt a coldness creeping around him. He knew that this meant the door to the cottage was open. Maybe his Father was up early working on a Birthday surprise. Or maybe the Krampus was in the cottage to bundle Tommy into his sack and teach him a lesson. As Tommy envisaged the hooved feet of the Krampus walking towards his bedroom door he could swear he heard the sound of hooves on floorboards getting closer. ‘Too many stories’ Tommy thought. He needed to grow up.Tommy decided to investigate and crept out of his bed to peek through the crack of his open door. As he got closer to the door, he could feel a presence on the other side of the door. The Krampus had come for him. As he looked through the slightly open door, he came face to face with the beast from hell that had come to take him. He tried to scream for his Father but no sound came out. He tried to scramble backwards as the door flung open but a clawed hand seized him by his arm, turned him upside down, and thrust him into a large sack, which was strapped to the beasts back. Tommy was upside down and in complete darkness. He screamed and screamed but his Father did not come. Tommy could feel the biting cold and hear the rush of the river getting closer. He was tipped out of the bag and must have hit his head on a rock. The world was spinning and he couldn’t move. The massive hands of the Krampus picked him up and thrust him into the freezing river. Why wasn’t his Father coming? The Krampus dunked Tommy in and out of the water repeatedly. Tommy screamed for his Father each time he came out of the water and tried to hold his breath when he was pushed back under. He couldn’t keep it up any longer and he breathed in a lung full of the freezing water. As Tommy’s life ebbed away, he looked into the eyes of the Krampus. He remembered what his Father had told him about the lucky children being drowned in the river. Tommy supposed that not going to hell meant that he was one of the lucky ones. His last thoughts were of the pictures of a mother he had never known, a Mother who had died bringing him into the world and a Father who Tommy always felt blamed him for her death. Strangest of all was the familiar smell of honey malt whiskey on the breath of the beast dunking him in and out of the ice-cold water. Tommy’s life drifted away with the ripples of the water as the clock ticked over to Christmas day and his thirteenth birthday. 

The End

Book Review – Dalek by Robert Shearman

Here we are then. Some new Doctor Who Target books. Dalek was an interesting choice for the novelisation treatment as it was an episode that was adapted from the Big Finish story ‘Jubilee’ from 2003. Russell T Davies asked Robert Shearman to adapt the audio story when the show returned in 2005 and it instantly became a fan favourite. So the question is, after two previous iterations, does the novelisation have anything new to add to the story?

The answer is a resounding yes. It’s a cracking book that I managed to read in just one sitting. Shearman has added back stories to some of the characters from the episode including the Dalek itself. My personal favourite is the backstory for Denton, the torturer of the Dalek. It’s clever and inventive and feels like a story from one of Shearman’s short story collections. It also has to be up there as one of the darkest sections of any Target book. Elsewhere, the Dalek story is really beautiful and evocative. Shearman really adds something to the Dalek that expands on the beats of the original episode.

Given that this is one of the earliest stories since the show returned it is testament to Shearman and the quality of the story itself that this feels like an essential Doctor Who read in 2021. Highly recommended.

A Holly Jolly Christmas by David McAllister

I haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact point that I slipped through into a different reality. At first I thought it was pretty much the same as our world; I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I always avoided drinking on Christmas Eve for fear of ruining the big day but since I’d just got a new job with a bit of a pay rise, I was celebrating. I may have gone a little too far. I’d meant to leave the bar hours ago, but the huge electrical storm and the fact I’d left my coat at the office was giving me an excuse to stay for one more drink. A selection of Christmas dinner treats were put out at the bar for us. Turkey, roast potatoes, parsnips, carrot and Christmas pudding. And of course there was Alice. Alice had started at our office a couple of months back and we had really hit it off. I’d been looking forward to this night for weeks. Just one more drink and I’ll go over and ask her out properly. At least that was the plan.

The last thing I remember before passing through was going to the bathroom at the back of the club. The floor was wet and I slipped and must have hit my head. Maybe I’m dreaming, maybe the electrical storm has made the walls between parallel worlds thinner than usual. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get to find out the truth.

I wake in darkness. I’ve got a splitting headache and it’s clear that I’m tied down at the wrists and ankles. I call out and no one answers. The air feels different here. It’s clammy, and it’s hard to breath. There’s a smell that reminds me of pine mixed with the smell of nature, like a garden centre or a farm. I feel movement all around me and I can hear ruffling and scraping sounds. The cover is pulled from my head and I see I’m strapped to a table. There are lots of eyes staring at me. Not human eyes. Animal eyes.

If these creatures weren’t six foot tall I’d swear they were turkeys. They start to gobble in tandem and the sound becomes deafening. It sounds like a brass band from the bowels of hell. I strain to bring my hands to my ears and remember that I’m tied down. The giant monstrosities bear down on me and begin to peck at my flesh. Searing pain cripples my whole body. As I struggle to try to get free I see another shape at the head of the table.

A large decorated Christmas tree.

In the confusion I could swear it was moving towards me. What I first thought were baubles appear to be large glowing eyes and where the tinsel is coiled around the tree, large silver teeth drip saliva as its gaping maw gets closer and closer. I think about Alice and the slices of turkey from the buffet. I remember hacking a dying Christmas tree to pieces every year with a saw to dispose of it. I wonder how they’ll dispose of what’s left of my body?. The last thing I realise is the Michael Bublè version of Holly Jolly Christmas is playing in the background. Hey, they have Bublè in this universe too!

Book Review – Biohacked & Begging by Stephen Oram

Some of you may remember my review for Eating Robots and other stories by Stephen Oram. It completely blew my mind. Needless to say, I had high expectations for the follow up. I was not disappointed.

The stories follow a similar theme of technology and near future imaginings. If anything, the stories in this volume are like more mature older siblings to the stories in Eating Robots.

The highlight for me was ‘The Envoy of the Ultimate Observer’. Essentially the tale of an alien lifeform observing the human race over a period of twelve months. He tries to make sense of out handling of currency and relationships and eventually tries to fit in to pur way of life. It wonderfully crafted, funny and thought provoking.

The wondrous experience of carrying this book on the commute and being able to dip in and out is what makes it so special. Oram is like the grand master of near future fiction. Highly recommended.

You can buy the book now on Amazon.

Biohacked & Begging: And Other Stories (Nudge the Future) https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1781328579/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_av5jDb7SNCG96

Books That Changed My Life – Part One – Beaver Towers by Nigel Hinton

For the first in a new series of blog posts about the books that have affected my life the most over the years I’ve selected my earliest ever book memory.

I fell in love with Beaver Towers in primary school. It was magical, surreal, exciting and a real page turner for 8 year old me. I recently read it again and it brought those memories flooding back. It’s a delightful children’s story. Very Harry

Book Review – Marionette by Wilbur Seymore

Here’s something a little different. What if Pinnochio got angry at a world that wouldn’t let him be a real boy. What if the resulting story was less a fairytale and more a creepy horror. One look at the cover of a quick read of the blurb got me excited for this book. It doesn’t disappoint.

The blood flows from the first few pages and never stops and Pinnochio stalks anyone and everyone who he thinks has wronged him.

The world is painted in just enough detail to make it convincing and the cast of characters and their fear of Pinnochio is expertly done. It’s a very unique horror fairytale

It’s a quick, gory read and great fun. Recommended.

Book Review – Lovegun by Gavin Jefferson

So, where to start with this one?

The electric pink cover?. The tub of sperm on the back?. The crudely drawn penis?. The fact that the authors name isn’t on the front cover?

How about the tagline ‘A dark comedy from a nobody writer’. Which by the way has to be one of the best taglines I’ve ever come across. This of course could only apply to an author completely unshackled from expectation. Stephen King or Gavin’s beloved Neil Gaiman this is not.

If you’ve read ‘Almost Surely’ you’ll know what a great writer Jefferson is. Lovegun confirms he can do it in a completely different genre. Lovegun made me feel sick, made me laugh out loud and got me some pretty strange looks on the commute. This is NSFW fun and in parts pure filth. I say parts, it’s pretty much filth from start to finish. And all the better for it.

A man wanking to release bullets and murder people is an equally bizarre and genius concept for a story. For lesser writers, this could fall flat. It has to be funny, it is. It has to be over the top, it is. It has to be brilliant, it is.

Read it now. Preferably in paperback on public transport. Trust me, that pot of cum on the back really gets a reaction. Top stuff.

LOVEGUN (Gavin Jefferson’s ‘Lit’ Grindhouse) https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1794524614/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_4-5PCbRFZW8MP

Book Review – The Ethereal Squadron by Shami Stovall

I must admit, I was a little dubious of the use of magic in a WW1 setting. This is cleverly explained in chapter one and by the brutal end of chapter two I knew this book was something special.

Geist is a fantastic female lead character and is convincingly drawn by Stovall. The other characters are just as memorable especially antagonist Prince Leopold who is particularly evil and unhinged and adds a genuine sense of threat to the story. No one feels safe. It had to be this way, being set in The Great War, but it’s done very well here.

The battles that the characters encounter are historically spot on and it’s clear that Stovall has done her homework. The world that she has created here feels real and foreboding. I got completely lost reading this story. For me that’s the highest praise possible. This is an interesting, exciting and addictive story that I would highly recommend to lovers of magic, war stories or fantasy.

The Ethereal Squadron: A Wartime Fantasy (The Sorcerers of Verdun) https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07KWT5BHK/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_luImCbKET163H

Book Review – The Last Titan by Craig Wainwright

Do not be fooled by the front cover of ‘The Last Titan’. This is no child friendly superhero story. What it is, is an intense and enthralling page turner of a book.

Daniel White thinks he’s a normal man. His world gets turned upside down when a mysterious woman tells him of his true heritage. Cue intrigue, different worlds and the introduction of an evil that will really put him in harms way al oing with a man struggling to control the powers he never knew he had.

The realistic way the characters are crafted was my favourite thing about the book along with the world building. Everything feels real. When the subject matter is as sci-fi as this story, making things feel so convincingly real and believable is a true credit to Wainwright.

The door is clearly left open for a follow up and I challenge anyone to not dive straight into book two after you’ve experienced this one. Fans 9f fantasy, sci-fi and superheroes are well catered for with this excellent story. Check it out now.

The Last Titan https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07G6PS6G6/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_JbImCbEA8T2Q2