With thanks and/or apologies to Sam Skyes.
We all know the old story: that there is a loving, kindly old man with a twinkle in his eye and a jolly laugh. At Christmas, he creeps into our homes under cover of night to leave gifts for our children.
In return we leave him treats — milk and cookies — that his hunger might be sated.
Few remember why.
Sometimes, in the darkness, he watches the small ones slumber, limbs loose and mouths soft. He did thus in the time before, when he was himself, when he was not yet paying his penance.
Sometimes the small ones wake with sleep still heavy on their lids and wonder full in their hearts. They run to him with squeals of unfettered happiness, for they have seen magic made real.
They are not afraid.
But if they knew the way his mind lingered on the beating veins in their throats, just as another's eyes might linger on their charming round cheeks, they would not sit upon his lap so readily. They would not press little arms around his neck, they would not wriggle toward his ear, they would not sigh in confidence all the things their tiny hearts desire.
It is at these times, when the smallest ones are so close, so vulnerable, so luscious — it is at these times that he suffers most. It as at these times that he remembers.
Once he was a demon. (He is still.)
Once his visage was horns and scowls, terror personified. (He has been cursed to look otherwise, for it is truly a curse to look other than yourself.)
Once he loved children, the delicious, smooth-skinned children, with their soft necks and pillowy bellies. Not for their laughter, no, but for the rich tang of their blood rolling over his tongue and the tender give of their flesh beneath his teeth. (He loves the children still. In his way.)
They called him Krampus and told one another dark stories in which he justly devoured only the naughty ones, only the ones who brought his attention upon themselves. (This was never true.)
But one child, a nursling pious and bright, cried out to heaven when Krampus came to her, his teeth bare and tongue ravening. An angel appeared to them, fiery and wrathful. The burning angel raised her sword and laid it gently on the demon's brow, and then, and then—
Now every day is Christmas for him. It is a sheer and impenetrable stretch of time that never moves, never changes. The cold is always with him, the ice. The suffering.
He lives only one day in a year, yet on that day must deliver an unending litany of small joys to all the children of the world. His labor is torturous, ceaseless and impossible; he envies Sisyphus the king's lesser punishment.
Sinterklaas watches the children, he thinks of them, dreams of them, more even than they dream of him. He sees love in their eyes and not terror, and year by year, his rage grows.
He hates them. He is hungry. And vengeance is sweet as the blood of children.