In 2020, Haunted MTL brought you the 13 Days of Krampus. Now we offer another exclusive series of holiday horror stories: The Twelve Nightmares of the Holidays. It’s day three of 12 Nightmares of the Holidays. If you missed it yesterday, check out Nicole C. Luttrell’s yule terror!
He had been sitting in his blind for about three days now. The quarter-moon beamed soft light onto the surface of the fresh snow. Earlier, a light dusting had come through, masking all signs of activity on the ground. The hunter took a swig from his canteen and sighed quietly, his focus beginning to waver a bit from the exhaustion.
His mind wandered slightly, back to before setting out for the hunt. Packing his equipment onto his sled, his cherubic wife hurried out from the warm orange comfort of their shared workshop. She draped a large white overcoat around his broad shoulders, claiming it would help him hide in the snow. She kissed him on his cheek, handed him a thermos full of piping hot chocolate, and lastly, sent him on his way.
All of a sudden his consciousness snapped back to the present moment as he noticed a large, dark shape stride into the clearing. He quietly leaned forward and stared, laser-focused on the shape as it carefully moved into the dim moonlight. It continued to paw and sniff at the ground, until moving into the clearing and looking at the sky.
There was no mistaking it. Caribou. And it was massive. Simultaneously, the hunter’s stomach did a small jump and his clutch tightened around the edge of his stool. The hunter quietly, but urgently grabbed at his rifle and a coil of rope moving swiftly from behind the blind.
The moonlight outlined the nightmarish shape. Patches of black hair jutted out sideways, resembling enormous quills. Thick, mucousy sludge fell from its lips between large clouds of breath. Dotted across its body were bleached white bone fragments, whether caught in its coat or piercing out from under its skin. It was too dark to tell. Its legs were thick and pulsing with muscles as if it planned to dash away – or towards – any slight provocation. The antlers sticking out of its head were twisted and jangled like a bunch of broken fingers.
Its’ terrible eyes scanned the nearby area, gradually changing from a deep red to a bright white glow as they moved. It stomped its front foot into the slow and whipped its large head into the air and let loose a bellow that echoed for miles.
The hunter moved into position, behind a tree out of the beast’s eye line while clutching the rope. Indeed, the best way to take this monster alive would be to wrap its antlers and drag it down. The rifle is only for if things go bad. Straightaway, he tied several knots in the rope while moving himself around to behind the trees. Luckily the large white coat was doing a lot of work hiding him from the fresh snow.
Carefully, and quietly, he moved into range and prepared to launch his assault on the monster. His boot slipped on a rock hidden under the snow and scraped against the ground. He saw the monster’s leg muscles tense up into giant knots as it swung its huge head around in his direction. He held his breath as the caribou looked directly into the trees and overgrowth where he was standing. Eventually, the caribou began to look away, deciding that there was no danger present.
In one swift motion, the hunter threw his massive arms. He launched several lines of rope that landed across the caribous’ enormous shoulders and antlers. With a start, he bucked up and bellowed so loud it knocked snow out of some nearby pines. The hunter quickly yanked on the ropes, pulling the caribou’s head down toward the ground. Antlers grazed against the snow, leaving large gouges in the fresh powder.
In retaliation the caribou swung its entire body around in the opposite direction, jerking him out of the brush line. He stood there, momentarily stunned as the caribou turned to face him. Their eyes met. The caribou lowered its head and pawed at the ground, snorting madly. The hunter quickly fumbled for his rifle, shakily aimed it at the caribou, and clicked the safety off. He knew what was about to come.
The caribou pushed off the ground and threw itself at the hunter, heading towards him at an impossible speed. The hunter popped a shot off his rifle, but his aim wasn’t true – it grazed the caribou’s left shoulder but didn’t slow him down. The caribou seemed to glide across the snow with incredible ease and there was no time to reload the rifle. He held the rifle out in front of him as the caribou pulled its antlers up and a loud CRACK echoed across the forest.
The hunter was thrown backward against a tree and slumped to the bottom. The caribou managed to run a deep cut against his left shoulder. Crimson blood was beginning to soak out of the wound and into the coat. The hunter looked up. The caribou was standing over him, staring directly into his eyes undoubtedly daring him to make the first move. He finally could get a good look at this enormous beast. His head and shoulders were crisscrossed with all kinds of wounds and scars. Its huge figure shuddered with every breath. The glancing blow from the rifle shot seemed to have done more damage than initially thought.
The rope he had managed to land into the antlers was still there. Other bits of rope and netting from others who had tried before dangled in the cold air. He noticed there might be enough rope left over that he could make one last-ditch effort to break this animal. Launching himself at a loose rope by the beast’s side, he swiftly rolled out of the way. The antlered head took a massive swing at his location and smacked hard against the tree.
The caribou was stunned and the hunter took his opportunity to grab the loose rope and drag it into submission. The animal bucked wildly, left and right, shaking its head and honking loudly at the hunter. With every shake of its mighty head, the beast would sling another loop around its antlers, slowly constricting its movement with every wild buck.
The hunter finally got the beast tied down enough to control it easily. He placed his mittened hand on its nose, shushing it into quietness. It was now under the hunter’s control, fully respected as the winner of their battle of strength. He climbed to his feet and gently adjusted the rope around his neck so he could lead him to his new home.
“You sure gave me a struggle there, lad!” he exclaimed. He winced as the sharp gash in his shoulder suddenly reminded him of its existence. He took the rope in his hands and began to guide the caribou off out of the clearing.
“The wife is going to let me hear it about ruining her new coat,” he chuckled as they both began to walk out of the clearing. “but maybe she’ll change her mind when she sees what a strapping buck will be joining our family. And a quick one too! I’ve not seen one move as fast as you before! Perhaps I will call you… Dasher…”
Some Bewitching Line Drawing by Jennifer Weigel
This month we are going to explore more fun marker art from Jennifer Weigel, starting with black and white line drawing. Jennifer is getting ready for her big Life Is Brilliant solo show in March and has snuck in a few spookier themes, so she wanted to share them with you here.
The magic is strong in this Witch Way line drawing with its fun witchy head-topper, complete with striped hat band and star dangle. No self-respecting wizard’s ensemble would be complete without it.
And now the adorable Kitty Witch will don the Witch Way hat and cast a spell of cuteness on you. You gotta wonder just how the hat stays on but best not to question these things. We all know it’s magic…
The devil is in the details in this Not Today Satan line drawing, and boy is he pissed!
This She Devil is just plain goofy. Maybe she’s coyly playing innocent; it’s not a look most devils can pull off, seeing as how innocence really isn’t their schtick…
This little spider came down to your tuffet to remind you to Hang in There. She is very well-intentioned and is only looking out for you. I guess maybe she’s not so little though, she is an Argiope after all…
LTD Tripped Out Motivational Posters
Tripped out… in case you just couldn’t get enough of Everything Everywhere All at Once and the return of the infinite bagel with EVERYTHING on it…
Artwork description: kaleidoscopic image of pink hairy horror (This is actually a fink fuzzy frond plant not unlike a Cockscomb but with longer thinner flowering feelers rather than the fuller protuberances you see on a full-bodied Cockscomb plant. I have no idea what it was, but it was very odd so I had to snap a photo.)
Image text reads: Mixing Magic Mushrooms & Peyote Just remember: once you open that Pandora’s box, you’re never going to get the pink hairy tarantulas back in it…
Artwork description: kaleidoscopic sunflower backlit by the sun with text and rainbow eye overlay
Image text reads: Eye See You Eye See All (in circle text so you can start and end reading wherever). In an ideal context this would be printed in the bottom of your tea mug or on a record that can slowly spin.
For more crazy tripped out fun, check out Weird Al’s post on Craig’s List…
The Elves Reunion, a short story by Jennifer Weigel
I had heard tale that The Elves dwell in these woods. Many underestimate The Elves; they have a fondness of heart for Tolkienesque Middle Earth fantasy stories and tales where Elves are the most highly civilized, virtuous and intelligent. They forget that those are just myths, save for The Elves being cunning. Remember that the Pied Piper was an Elf, and the children he took were not destined for such a glorious fate.
My sister lost her firstborn to The Elves. She hadn’t noticed the Changeling until it was too late. Her baby had already long since been stolen away. She was so distraught she refused to eat or speak. She locked herself in her room. Or my family locked her into it as she succumbed to the madness. Such are the ways of the family, for all of our protection. We never question but follow as expected, as a means of self-preservation. It has kept us all alive.
But I couldn’t get the sinking feeling out of my stomach; the grief became too overwhelming. That is why I came here. I know I will not be able to rescue the child, nor my sister. But I seek to avenge their meaningless deaths. To ensure that it doesn’t happen again. My family will never act. I am tired of the Village Elders just shrugging these things off in hushed whispers and badly shrouded secrets. It happens time and again. We are all expendable. They never do anything.
So here I am, in the Elven wood. Alone. As soon as my family figures out that I’m here, they will disown me. They probably already have. Again, it is for our own protection. I’ll be just another casualty of The Elves. Everything is so structured, so regimented. Anyone who dares act in opposition to the rules vanishes. We are all so afraid.
I lay in wait. It’s just a matter of time before the portal appears. The Elves use the portals to travel across time and space. They appear where and when they wish. But this time, I will go through first. I know not what is on the other side, just that the portals allow only one to traverse in each direction. We will trade places, if only for a moment until another portal forms. Hopefully that will be enough time.
The trees shift and morph. Falling leaves drift slower and slower towards the ground. There is a stillness that I cannot fully express. My breath hangs heavy in the silent air. There is no sound, no smell, no taste. It is time. The hairs on the back of my neck and arms rise. I can sense the opening forming. There is an uncanny familiarity in this moment, as if I have been here before.
As soon as the portal opens, I dash through. But something isn’t right. No one came through from the other side. Or did they? I cannot tell. I am alone, in limbo between states of existence. The world spins around me. I can feel the drift. Is this what death feels like? Cold unbroken silence? I feel distant eyes upon me everywhere, all around me, in the trees, the clouds, pinpoints of light that shimmer through.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Maybe this is all according to plan. But who was orchestrating the exchange? My idea was only half formed in those passing pensive moments I am able to think for myself, few and far between. My family, the Village Elders… no one allows time for freeform thought. I hadn’t considered what would happen after the portal exchange. I never really got past step one.
A voice greets me from the trees. It is hauntingly familiar but seems only a distant memory.
“I’ve been expecting you.”
The world slowly comes into focus. Clarity restored, the leaves circle me in an embrace. My sister emerges, her dark eyes smiling. She cradles the baby in her arms.
“You made it. You escaped,” she sings.
“I didn’t see anyone,” I retort, skeptical. I hadn’t recalled having seen any Elves, dark nightmarish fiends that they are, wild, unkempt, uncouth. Savage beasts like Pan or Krampus. Is this an illusion? My sister seems so lifelike, so much herself. She is the joyful young mother I had known her to be. Filled with love and laughter. Light dances about her, and she shimmers.
“Not in passing,” my sister clarifies. “You have been living among them your whole life. I had done so as well until the baby was stolen. My heart broke; I had to follow after. That was when I learned the Truth.”
“Why do you think we are so sheltered? Why are we forbidden to do anything? They do so to protect us from the Truth about who and what we are,” she continued. “We’ve spent our lives evading that which we truly know ourselves to be. We were the stolen ones, not the other way around…”
I notice that the portal I came through is still open, reinforcing my idea that no one had passed through the other way. It is as if the portal was opened specifically to call me through. My sister extends her hand, beckoning me to join her. There is a gleam in her eye I cannot pinpoint. She seems happy, but something still isn’t quite right. I’m still uncertain why I am here, in this time and place, as if destined to be present in this moment, in this decision.
The Village has fallen away to the woods. There are no breadcrumb trails to follow home. The idea of home itself seems distant like yet another illusion. Nothing makes sense anymore. I am unsure whether I am coming or going. Two paths lay open before me. Which shall I take?
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