Posts Tagged ‘short story’

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The Shape in the Doorway

August 22, 2016

The other night… There’s shouting outside in the parking lot facing my apartment, so I get up to take a look. My door is open, but I can’t see anything between or beyond the luminosity of my back-lit front room and the darkness outdoors. I take a hit of medicinal marijuana, my third or fourth this evening, go the door holding my breath, squint then look outside.

I spot a full grown man, my neighbor’s son. He’s parked right outside my apartment and shouting something unintelligible at an assumable friend. I don’t know either’s names. And I’ve never met the man personally. I’m certain we’ve spied each other in the daytime, but neither of us have stopped, closed the gap between us and introduced one to the other.

The moment I’m ready to expel the therapeutic vapor from my lungs, that son sees me and he just stares, looking blindly at my shadowed shape in the doorway. He eventually says, “Hello, big man.”

“Odd,” I’m thinking. “Who shouts hello from parking lots to strangers after dark.

I reply with a muffled and stunted, “Hello.” And I wait until he turns away before I blow smoke.

Not much time has passed, but in truth, after four hits of marijuana, I’ve already transcended the temporal. In any respect, he – as in the man outside – he turns away and he speaks to his obvious friend. I am released, at least from that restraint on my lungs. I’ve still said nothing more then returned a greeting when those other two begin walking away. Everything seems normal, peaceful once again. But then that son turns his head and strains his neck and stares at me again.

“Odder still,” I quietly wonder. “Is he on drugs, drunk?”

“Probably,” I answer myself. “It is Friday night. Summer.” Yet his fixed gaze is disturbing, disquieting. The guy stares at me like I’m waving my dick at him.

While he disappears into darkness – the opposite direction of his mother’s apartment, I wonder, “Where is he going?” We all know there is a homeless guy in that direction, one who sells methamphetamine. The LA cops have busted the operation a couple times. They even fenced off the nearby dried-up streambed where derelicts would camp. All the same, even today, there are disaffected transients roaming outside peddling anything from yarn jewelry to much harder stuff.

“Carpe diem,” I mutter aloud and out of earshot of the strange passerby’s. “Caveat emptor.” And they are gone.

In modern American English, I still think, “Don’t stare at another man’s dick, son.” I will need to speak to his mother about this.

– Mr. Binger

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Once Gramps Had Come – A Christmas Story

December 19, 2015

An essential piece of Christmas has been missing forever, almost as if it has hidden itself. In the story Once Gramps Had Come by Matthew Sawyer, that hidden piece comes out to perhaps breathe clean air, eat or maybe stretch its legs. Whatever is done, this short tale starts in a Nursing Home. A homely man who calls himself “Gramps” offers immortality and the holidays are coming up.

Once Gramps Had Come by Matthew Sawyer

Once Gramps Had Come
Matthew Sawyer

Thursday, November 21, an ugly, old man comes to the Nursing Home. He is not the slightest seemly; not handsome like the weathering of a familiar leather jacket, nor noble like the bark of a gnarled oak. The man is ugly. Frightening, yet he looks a lot like that knotted tree and ragged hide coat. Presumably present for the terminal long-duration care and rehabilitation available here at Nueva Buena Vista, the terrible creature introduces himself to other residents. He calls himself, “Gramps.”

Mr. Breckell, who regularly assesses his own hearing, believes he has misheard the name. He shouts from his seat of padded linoleum. “What did you call yourself? Cramps?”

Mr. Breckell assumes and also asks, “Is that what’s wrong with you?”

The ugly old man lumbers near the only fellow whose spoken to him. This Gramps or cramps sits down on the stiff, yellow cushion next to Mr. Breckell. The new old man creaks and his joints crack when he bends his legs then he adjusts his seat. The racket is disquieting to everyone in the day-room. Mr. Breckell tells the creepy, wooden man next to him, “You sound like you’re going to break.”

“I do fear it,” Gramps answers.

Before he forgets, Mr. Breckell asks him again, “What did you call yourself?”

“Cramps,” Mr. Breckell swears he’s heard again.

He suggests to the badly weatherworn stranger, “Cramps, I would change that nickname. You could then go talk to someone else.”

“I think you are mispronouncing it,” Gramps tells him.

“Me? How about you?”

Gramps, or still possibly cramps, immediately interrupts the fresh argument. “Are you afraid of dying, Mister…”

“Breckell,” Mr. Breckell automatically replies.

“Sure,” he then insists. “Yeah-”

“I can help you live forever.”

Mr. Breckell finishes his thought. “But I get less fidgety the older I get.”

He then pauses, gazes into impossibly seeing and dense cataracts then tells cramps, “I don’t think you can help yourself. By the look of you…”

Mr. Breckell shakes his balding head.

“I know the worst of it,” Gramps promises his indignant comrade. “You can help me.”

The idea makes Mr. Breckell chuckle. “I will see what I can do.”

With yet no response, he asks the ugly stranger directly, “Who are you?”

“Everyone has forgotten me.”

Mr. Breckell tells him, “Welcome to Anonymous-Anonymous. The ladies across the room cry about the fact at weekly meetings.”

Gramps adds, “And any who do remember me, and if they still believe, they think I have gotten lazy over centuries.”

Mr. Breckell assures him. “That’s just how it feels.”

Pink light glows behind the opaque eyes of the stranger. “I’m telling you, Mr. Breckell, there is another way. You can live forever.”

Mr. Breckell laughs and the sound grows. He stops his guffaw when Gramps admits, “But there is a horrible exaction. There are crimes you must commit.”

“Go figure,” Mr. Breckell says entertained and newly curious. A meager rush of adrenaline reminds him of the shadow of being a young man and alive. Enthused that little bit, he grins and banters. “What evil things must I do. How many children do I need to eat?”

“The children are never eaten,” Gramps declares.

Mr. Breckell tells him, “Then that explains why you’re so scrawny. Tell me, mister, who are you?”

“I told you.”

“Oh, no you don’t. I am not about to wake up tomorrow and remember my name is Al Z’heimers. Who are you?”

The ugly stranger next to Mr. Breckell tells him, “The Krampus. The, the Krampus.”

“Huh?” Mr. Breckell grunts without purpose. His recollection is vague. He goes on and says, “Remind me who that is. Are we talking about Christmas? The elves and the magical Saint Nick, right? Not the Jesus and Christian Santa Claus, correct?”

“And not the American who drinks Coca Cola,” specifies the Krampus.

The name, or its shaded memory, fits the horrid personification here in the ugly stranger. The monster tells Mr. Breckell, “I am his nemesis, his companion and cohort. The folklore all across the world will tell you the same.”

The Krampus rants. “But I refuse to do his work. I won’t do it and I only want to pass away – and join our brothers. Somebody else can be remembered to be the Krampus. And he or she can be that until the end of time.”

“End of time, you say?” Mr. Breckell repeats. “That’s the part that includes living forever you were talking about?”

“If you do those things you must do.”

“And what does that mean? What do I got to do?”

The Krampus scowls when he says, “Make toys.”

Jokingly, Mr. Breckell answers, “Well, how do we get this operation done? I can live forever and do that.”

“Hell, what are all the toys for?”

The Krampus reveals in earnest, “They are the years of your life. Each toy is a day, you live one day for every toy you make. And you must keep them secret.”

Carried by high spirits, Mr. Breckell continues to play with the ugly man. “That can’t be bad. I suppose I can make seven toys in a day, or make fourteen or even seventy.”

“Saint Nicholas takes them away,” replies the Krampus. “And you will die if you do not have even one made and hidden away. Then, at least, you will live that single day. You can use that time and make a new toy that you can stash away.”

Having never truly stopped, Mr. Breckell laughs aloud once again. “Are you telling me Santa Claus steals your toys.”

The Krampus alludes, “A thief by any name… what would he do if he was ever successful and he murdered me?”

“You are telling me, you can die if Santa takes away all your toys.”

“You will die, Mr. Breckell,” declares the Krampus. “When you become me.”

“Hold on,” Mr. Breckell says and stunts the conversation. “You told me you wanted to retire. What did you say? Pass away. You can do that if you let Santa have all your toys.”

“There is something else you must do,” states the Krampus solemn and cold. “Someone must take your place. Someone else must always be the Krampus or we will never be at peace.”

Unswayed by any prospect this whole week has presented him, Mr. Breckell remains engaged in his lively discussion. “I don’t know about your offer, mister. I heard that Saint Nick character was one tough hombre. You know, burglary is his thing – creeping down chimneys and eating cookies and all.”

An idea occurs to Mr. Breckell. “Hey, I have never seen the jolly old man. I know for a fact my parents put all my presents under the tree. I never heard from you, either. Or were you part of all those pagan parties before the twentieth century? Before my time?”

“I was hidden,” answers the Krampus. “Me and my toys and my workshop have been hidden all your life and longer. Saint Nicholas had no toys to give to good girls and boys.”

Mr. Breckell rambles, “So Santa Claus canceled giving away presents because he couldn’t rip you off…”

“What about his little helpers? Where are his elves?”

The Krampus shakes his head, gasps then sighs. “I am so tired and I cannot bear the things I do. I can no longer bear my guilt.”

Mr. Breckell wonders aloud, “Why? What have you done? You make toys.”

“Listen,” musters the Krampus. He leers into Mr. Breckell’s face. “You can’t just take them – I never did. I gave them warnings. They get two?”

“What are they and who are them?” Mr. Breckell asks. He is not one bit interested in hearing any admonitions.

The Krampus tells him, “The first warning I give is a lump of coal. I put it in their stockings.”

“Are you talking about kids?” indicts Mr. Breckell. “I was just kidding when I mentioned earlier that I was hungry. Certainly no veal.”

The Krampus ignores the man’s comments and he continues speaking. “The second is a bundle of twigs bound together with reed. After that second year, I just come and take them.”

“Where – where to?”

“The North Pole. I hide my workshop there in a cave washed out by ocean waves.”

Certain who they are talking about, Mr. Breckell shouts, “Why?” Not one deaf head in the day-room turns.

The Krampus confesses, “Children can make your toys for you. That’s allowed if you keep them under your control.”

“Slaves?”

“I use a potion brewed from an extract of mistletoe. I mix it into their porridge of ice and snow.”

Mr. Breckell mumbles at a volume hardly overheard. “You brainwash children with poison.”

He then judges aloud the beast by his side. “Inhumane.”

“No, no, the potion makes them happy.”

The Krampus’ speech sounds scrambled.

“Don’t you see? Saint Nicholas has no workshop in the Arctic Circle. He doesn’t have any elves. All of that belongs to me. He takes away my toys and the children who are glad they help the Krampus stay alive.”

“What does Santa do with the kids?”

“I suppose he takes them home. I don’t know, I don’t know… I don’t care.”

Mr. Breckell says proud, “It’s good to know he is still a good man.”

“Is he?” cries the Krampus. “Is he, Mr. Breckell? The Sinter Klass hunts us, sir. He will not let our souls rest and he only wants to keep us desperate. We are forced to desperately make toys to stay alive.”

“Hold on,” Mr. Breckell states and mimes as if he physically pulls in an equine’s reins. “Who are you talking about when you mention ‘we’? Certainly not you and me.”

“There is only now you,” replies the Krampus.

“What do mean?”

The gnarled creature tells the man, “Mr. Breckell, you agreed to take my place.”

“No,” Mr. Breckell objects. He has stopped laughing. “How did that happen?”

“Because you spoke to me.”

****

The nursing home vanishes from all around Mr. Breckell. The Krampus goes, too. Rather, old Mr. Breckell has himself gone. The elderly man discovers he is alone atop snow and an iceberg larger than his poor eyesight might measure. He shivers only a little because the air and ground are both cold. Mr. Breckell does not already know it, him standing outside fully dressed overlain with his nursing home bathrobe, but for some inexplicable reason the man is lucky he is not shaking more. Foremost in his audible mind is, “I have been teleported to the North Pole.”

“The dirty scoundrel,” grumbles Mr. Breckell. “What am I going to do now?”

He recognizes a scraggy voice whispering from out of his own ears. The voice of the original Krampus tells him, “Watch out for Saint Nick. Your brothers are watching you.”

“Hey, get back here,” Mr. Breckell shouts. “Send me back! I didn’t agree to anything.”

As the voice falls further away, Mr. Breckell hears it say, “The souls of your brothers depend on you to keep our peace. Hide. Hide and make toys.”

“Wait a minute,” Mr. Breckell begs the voice before it is gone. After no answer except a frigid gust of wind, one that chills his limbs, he appeals to the overcast sky. “Where am I suppose to go?”

“He said he made a cave,” Mr. Breckell tells himself. As if he knows the direction, he marches toward the ocean side.

Along his solitary journey, he first asks himself, “Who are the brothers?” Further along, Mr. Breckell answers the question.

“I bet it’s you,” he says to himself, meaning the voice he recognized was the Krampus he met tonight in the day room at Nueva Buena Vista.

He chides the Krampus he knew while tramping downhill into deepening snow. “Some wretched fiend looked at you and found a fool to pass a curse onto.”

“That’s what this is, isn’t it?”

The question is rhetorical. The hypothetical answer is, too. “Some eternal life this is, I tell you.”

A gunshot makes his insane reality legitimate. A bullet immediately blows snow and steam from a hole made into a snow drift concealing most of his thin and aged body. Hidden so, he has avoided injury.

“I got you,” declares a hoarse old man with yet a jolly shout. “I found you. Where are your toys?”

Mr. Breckell says without hunting the horizon for the shooter, “Santa Claus, is that you?”

A skinny man wearing a long gray beard and longer, hairy, green coat shouts back. “I’m Ole Nick, to you. Ho.”

Ole Nick pauses and asks the rookie Krampus, “You’re a new Krampus aren’t you? ‘Course, I haven’t seen you for over a hundred years. And I’ve been looking. I promise you that. I guess I’m just lucky everybody hasn’t forgotten about me.”

The stretched elf laughs aloud. “Ho, ho, ho,” then he fires a shot into the air. An AK-47 then swings over his head once more and unleashes a burst that drowns speech.

Dropping the weapon, Ole Nick tells the new Krampus, “I said, Christmas is coming this year. Show me where you’ve hidden all your toys.”

“I don’t know,” pleads Mr. Breckell. Challenging the safety of his snowdrift, he raises his head and looks over his shoulder. Saint Nicholas comes up behind him, following his target’s fathom-deep foot prints.

“I am feeling charitable all of a sudden,” promises Santa Claus, “I’ll give your a break because you’re so brand new. Look at you – your wrinkles haven’t yet turned into bark. Give me all your toys and I’ll let you live this year – well, at least until Spring.”

“You’re going to kill me?” asks the unbelieving remnant of Mr. Breckell.

Ole Nick grows serious. “You, your kind and your undead hive mind are an abomination.” He spits. “Ptah, you all-in-one and everlasting…”

“The Krampus is a dreg of Creation, the root of jealous anxiety. You don’t feel it yet, but you will quick enough. I exist to clean you up.”

The human that yet survives claims, “This is crazy. Please, let me go. Take all my toys. Please, just allow me to make more.”

“Your type of immortality is a mad idea,” judges Santa Claus. “Well, I’m the balance. You must die – after Christmas this year is sorted out”

The Krampus stammers. “Just take my toys, leave me in peace.”

“I will rescue the kids, too,” Ole Saint Nick pledges.

“What kids?”

“The ones you hypnotize and they make all your toys.”

The Mr. Breckell inside the Krampus tells Santa, “Take them. I’ll make my own toys.”

Ole Nick chuckles. “And just like all your brothers, you will be disappointed to find you can’t keep up.”

Mr. Breckell asks even though he sort of knows, “Who are my brothers?”

He is ignored. Instead, Ole Nick waves a rifle into his face and commands him, “Show me your toys.”

“Yes, yes,” replies the Krampus. He then takes Saint Nicholas to his lair.

The entrance to the ice cave is near. Truly, the two eternal spirits have almost always shuffled through snow over the length of saltwater carved caverns. Having arrived at the cave mouth, the Krampus points toward the dark hole. Uncertain of the intention of the man with the gun, he invites Saint Nicholas inside using only a nod and an arm gesture.

“There is candlelight inside,” promises the Krampus and Mr. Breckell knew.

“You go first,” Santa responds. “I’m right behind you and I’ve got an automatic weapon pointed at the center of your back.”

Before either spirit steps further toward the underground, gaunt and pale children fizz out of the hole as if they were bubbles jumped from a boiling cauldron. All of them smile. They shout in song, “The Krampus!” Apparently impervious to the freezing cold, the skinny kids banter with each other in the snow wearing only pajamas and slippers.

“He doesn’t look like the Krampus,” one boy observes.

A smaller girl tells him, “He smells like the Krampus.”

And the boy replies, “He doesn’t look like him.”

“He will look like one in a hundred years,” another child answers.

Boggled, Saint Nick wonders rhetorically, “What poison?”

Ashamed because of this evidence left by a guilty brother who had come before him, the one who had been Mr. Breckell claims, “I’m sorry – it wasn’t me.”

“You will commit this same crime one day soon. You always do,” Santa retorts. “I’ll be back and shoot you. You can join your brothers… and there will always be another one like you. There has always been.”

Although the children are reluctant, Saint Nicholas gathers them together and puts all the boys and girls the Krampus has kidnapped behind him. He tells the Krampus, “You can make as many toys as you want until then… enough for next Christmas, I expect.”

“You want the toys for Christmas?” reiterates the desperate Krampus. “But they are the days of my life… I’m sure we can work something out.”

The inconceivable notion brings another, “Ho, ho, ho,” from Ole Nick.

“Give me your toys,” Santa Claus orders the Krampus with no condition or exception.

“Please,” the Krampus begs Ole Nick while the children go directed back into the cave to haul out all the unwrapped Christmas presents.

Santa salutes the Krampus, “I loathe your kind – that is just the nature of Creation. Because of you, it has been a hundred years since the world has truly seen what Christmas was meant to be.”

The Krampus presents a feeble defense before the dangerous elf goes away. He says, “Is Christmas all about gifts? Toys that are better made to save the life of a man?”

“You are not a man,” answers Ole Nick.

Near sundown, after a day that seemed to last months, Saint Nicholas tells the Krampus, “I’ll be back before sundown to clear out the rest of your lair. Merry Christmas – you better be gone by then.”

Confused and having nothing sensible to say, the Krampus who had once been Mr. Breckell watches Ole Nick go. The tall, green elf presses the rear of his caravan of gift-bearing slave children. Establishing distance between them and their slaver, Santa Claus calls back to the Krampus from across tundra. “You’re going to die… I’ll kill you myself.”

You can’t hide forever. – you will come out and find another…”

“Even before that, you’ll start collecting slaves…”

“Then I will find you again.”

“You better get those toys made!”

****

After the once been Mr. Breckell finds the recipe for mistletoe poison, and he’s discovered a new lair for his toy workshop, the following news is broadcasted on Christmas day. While half of the United States still awaits dawn, WSIN television newswoman Sue Niam reports in an urgent voice,

“How do I describe it? These worldwide incidents of the opposite of breaking-and-entering are simply pandemic. Homes all over the globe – the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and even Israel – everywhere – have seemingly been forcibly entered by persons who resemble the sixteenth century Father Christmas.”

“Father Christmas is the Jenny Craig Santa Claus who wears green instead of red. Viewers are probably most familiar with him as the Ghost of Christmas Present in the Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol.”

Ms. Niam pauses on-air live and she asks an off-camera someone, “Is this a hoax?”

The preened television personality then continues describing, “Images and videos captured all over the world portray a single identical intruder in all these incidents – intruder is not the word for him – because he leaves wrapped presents then disappears”

Her cameraman is told, “Charlie, this is one man. How can one man appear at once in millions of homes?”

The response from the cameraman is loud enough to register on the recording. “I hate wrapping presents.”

“Hold on,” Ms. Niam tells Charlie and her viewing audience. “Reports are coming in saying the intruder carries an automatic military firearm. Our Santa Claus is shooting pets.”

After a moment spent quietly listening to her earphone, Sue Niam tells her audience, “Gunfire has been exchanged… witnesses have reported skirmishes between the intruder and armed homeowners”

Interrupting herself, she states, “We have a caller from Arizona.”

“Hello, Mister Rood? You said you exchanged gunfire with the man dressed as Father Christmas.”

“I sure did.”

Eager to curb the mania in her caller’s voice, Ms. Niam says, “We’re just now learning about the hundreds of incidents. These armed encounters seem focused in the Western half of the world.”

“America!” rallies Mr. Rood. “Damn, yeah.”

Ms. Niam cautions the man from Arizona. “Please, language, Mr. Rood. And it is Christmas Day.”

Mr. Rood grumbles, “Libtards.”

Refocusing the report, Ms. Niam asks her caller, “Can you tell us what happened to you this morning?”

“Yeah, sure,” Mr. Rood grants with heavy breaths. “I heard that sucker rattling my front door at four AM. I don’t go work at Walmart until six fifteen so I heard what was going on.”

The caller raises his voice.

“He come in my house with the ‘Ho, ho, ho’ and touting his rifle. Well, I brought mine.”

Interested in summarizing the witness, the television reporter asks, “How was the gunfire initiated?”

Yelling because of adrenaline, “I shot first – the man was in my home. He shot at me but I think I got him. All the authorities got to do is follow the blood trail. That’s red enough for Christmas for you all.”

– End –

If you liked my story, the least you can do for me is send me a Christmas card. You can do that by buying this story on Smashwords. Merry Holidays (how does that sound?).

– Matthew Sawyer

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Hues of Who – Doctor Who fan fiction from Matthew Sawyer

February 14, 2015

(Obviously, a well-intentioned parody of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. – the author)

Hues of Who

Chapter One- Vague Consent

An evening in February, in an unidentified and yet modest suburb of Chicago, Illinois, the Doctor comes to the home a seamstress. Shielded against electric incandescence by a flopping brown hat, the tall man rapped on the front door once and now enters the house. Clumps of snow come inside with him.

Kicking a ridiculously banded and long scarf ahead of his booted toes until he eventually stands still, he asks the owner, “Does this business do custom work? It says something to that effect on the door.”

“It depends,” Tiffany answers him. Unfazed by the sudden entrance and direct question, the home business operator jumps from behind the industrial sewing machine she has mounted on a standing pedestal there in the front room of her house. Above all else, the English accent of a potential client distracted her a whole second.

“I was looking for something professional,” he tells her and his voice sounds like tea and cream. As soft and tasty as the sound could be and because of that, her heart beats twice. And when he removes his hat, his goggled and wonderful blue eyes feel as if they melt her bones. She floats in locks of his wild hair.

Humbled and made foolish by her own astonishment, Tiffany grumbles aloud, “Why here?”

“Why not here?” asks the Doctor. Already, the man acts hyper-attuned to everything she says. He reads her thoughts and tells her, “There’s nothing wrong with here. It’s safe.”

“Safe?” she wonders.

The Doctor dismisses her concern. “Regardless, here is where I’ve wound up, or rather unwound. You see?”

Loops of ridiculous scarf flies into Tiffany’s face. Unharmed, she bats them away and she spots gaps and tears in the knitwear. The costume piece had been ravaged.

“Pardon me,” the Doctor begs her. “My scarf has been torn to pieces. I can’t control it anymore.”

“Control?”

“It’s nothing,” he promises. “I would just like it whole again. I would appreciate you very much if you could do that for me.”

“I can knit,” Tiffany mumbles after she stopped wondering aloud. Salvaging any poor impression the handsome English man may have gained of her, she adds with determined confidence, “It will take some work, but I can do this.”

Recovered and more focused on her business, she tells him, “The cost isn’t too bad but I will charge for each segment.”

“We can discuss compensation,” the Doctor tells her.

“Money would be nice,” she says and did not mean to sound sarcastic. Yet reminded about the deadbeats in this town, customers who never settled their bills nor collected their articles of clothing, Tiffany says seriously, “I like cash.”

Handsome as he is, and as comical as his scarf was, she had no place for his unconventional garment. She, herself, had no desire to mend something she would never use. However, she did not want to act cold. There was enough frigid air outside.

“My name is Tiffany. Mister?”

“No, no,” he interrupts her in urgency. “Doctor.”

“Doctor?” she ponders and feels infused with hope. Her heart skips twice in a row.

“Thank you,” he finishes telling her.

“So, how are you here?” she thinks again. Tiffany has no idea how her thoughts are confused by the time they come out of her mouth, but the woman is certain ‘how’ is what she meant to say.

“A blue box,” he spoke capaciously. Tiffany thinks she deserves sarcasm from the cute stranger.

While she can’t help but try imaginng what his playful insult might mean, the Doctor mumbles with curious uncertainty.

“I’m currently traveling alone,” Tiffany understands she heard him say.

“Single,” she swears he said.

“Seating available.”

“I’m an older woman,” she responds to his flirts.

“Nonsense,” he says. “You’re not as old as me.”

They appeared about the same age. Tiffany spent half her life worried passing years made girls look older than they actually were, but she did look her natural age and remarkably preserved. Tiffany was a pretty woman. She has been and always will be and she will never admit the truth. And if she knew in secret, the woman would never be arrogant and say.

“There’s nothing wrong with being old,” the Doctor says when he begins a beguiling rant. “I’m seven hundred and thirty three. Not quite over the hill yet.”

“Seven hundred and thirty three?”

“Yes, that’s how you people tell time, isn’t it?”

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about?” Tiffany admits forthright.

“Oh, you will. You will,” he says. “That’s a problem with the human brain. It’s like an analog computer and you have to wait until that one neuron lights up the place.”

“Are you like a neurosurgeon?” Tiffany asks as if she touches upon a prize she knew she recognized hidden in hat.

“I don’t practice,” he answers. “But how hard can it be?”

“Heh,” Tiffany responds to his toothy grin. She is not one tenth enthusiastic about his reply as the man still acts.

“You’re a character,” she flirts back at him and winks.

“You think?” the Doctor asks her and smiles widemouthed.

Shaking away her thrall of the man, Tiffany insists they address their business, “I charge by the hour… and each section will take one or more…”

“Time is the issue?” the Doctor asks the woman.

She stumbles with her answer. “Huh? Well, yes.”

“What if the job took no time at all?”

The woman giggles. “I didn’t quote you a base charge for labor, so I guess nothing at all. But I don’t think that’s fair or even possible.”

“You don’t think so? What is fair?”

“A thank you and a dinner would be nice… if anything is possible.”

Tiffany suddenly feels brave to specify, “Somewhere nice would be nicer.”

The man blusters with more courage than the older seamstress could ever muster. “Somewhere nice?” he shouts.

“Yes,” Tiffany replies meek again. She nods her head so her preference is made clear.

“I’ve got something to show you,” the Doctor says then opens the front door. Near the exit, a cold wind nearly solidifies his next words. “Come with me.” And he steps outside.

Leery and simultaneously curious, the seamstress takes a pale overcoat from a stand next the open doorway. “I’m not going far,” she warns him. “Not unless I know where we’re going and something about you.”

The seamstress is about to say more then pauses when she spots a blue shed in her front yard. Light shines from behind the frosted windows on the two sides of the structure there at her angle of vision. More illumination dimly glows from a cooling bulb on top.

“What is that?” Tiffany asks alarmed the object trespasses between shoveled mounds of snow on her property.

The Doctor coaxes her toward the wooden box. “Come here.”

She goes automatically and walks on her toes speared through the frozen precipitation upon the cold ground.

“Come inside,” he says.

“In there?” scoffs the woman. She almost says ‘no’ but once the box is opened, her birdsong sounds like, “Nah-ooo-ahhh.”

“I’ve been told that,” the Doctor says. “Just never so beautifully.”

“It’s bigger on the inside,” Tiffany stutters when she joins her client inside the marvelous contraption and surrounded by translucent roundels.

“They always say that.”

Tiffany is suddenly awake and concerned. “Who, other girls?”

“There have been a few,” he admits. The same time, he offers the seamstress a confectionery. “Have a Jelly Baby. They are quite sweet, like you, Tiffany. Thank you for repairing my scarf.”

The seamstress objects. “Hold on…”

“Oh, we can go anywhere,” the Doctor promises her. “Any time. Tell me where you want to go. All things are possible.”

“I didn’t say I would do it yet,” she finally replies. Latched upon the Doctor’s explanation, she stops and asks him, “Hold on, does this thing fly? Is it real?”

“It also travels through time.”

And the comment, ‘it travels through time,’ is all Tiffany first remembers when she wakes in her bed in her house the following morning. Something doesn’t feel right. Everything below her waist does not like yesterday. She visually verifies she is all right and she isn’t in pain, but her skin does tingle and she feels overly warm. Then she sprouts goosebumps when she thinks about the man who visited her last evening.

The woman panics and call the police while she still sits on her bed. “I think I’ve been raped,” she reports summarily to the authorities.

A female receptionist asks her, “Ma’am, can you come to the station and speak to a detective?”

“Can I talk to a detective now? I don’t know,” Tiffany admits confused. Tiny fractions of last night begin crystallizing in her brain.

“One moment,” the receptionist tells Tiffany after first soliciting the woman one more time to come downtown on her own volition.

A male detective then answers the waiting call. “Hello, Officer Panchecker. How can I help you?”

“I think I remember he tied me up,” Tiffany stammers as she works her mind hard to recall of what she has the impression was sheer chaos.

“Immobilized,” she clearly remembers she heard him say. She mentions that to Officer Panchecker, but Tiffany neglects to share she now recalls the Doctor told her, “It will be more enjoyable if you don’t move, but it is difficult for a beginner.”

“Do you know who this guy was?” the detective asks Tiffany.

“He said he was the Doctor,” she answers.

“Did he give his a last name?”

“No.”

Then she remembers the Doctor said, “I’ll give you a little help.” Memory of the statement excites her; it makes her feel a little randy.

She begins wondering too late if whatever she did with the odd stranger last night was consensual. After saying, “He said he was going to use his scarf but he didn’t.”

Tiffany remembers he said, “The whole concept is overused, besides, it’s torn.” Her memory is just like the man was standing next to her and now said the same.

“Janis thorn,” she unconsciously utters. She does her best to imitate the Doctor’s voice.

The detective wonders, “What?”

“Nothing,” she tells the police. “I’ve made a mistake. I think it’s something I did.”

“Ma’am, were drugs involved,” the officer asks. “Are you now under the influence?”

“Sorry,” she begs Panchecker. “I’m remembering… no, no drugs. I’m sorry for wasting your time.”

Ending the call, Tiffany allows recent events to clarify themselves in her mind. Last night becomes vivid. The seamstress asked the Doctor, “What on Earth is a Janis thorn?”

“Not on Earth, Tiffany,” he replied elusively.

Revery then seemed to capture his attention. “They were left here, left behind by someone I knew.”

“What happened to her?” Tiffany knows she asked. And she is still jealous.

“Oh Leela, we recently traveled together for awhile” confesses the Doctor. “She became stationary. Stuck to some poor, static bloke on Gallifrey.”

“Gallifrey?”

“My home planet.”

“You’re not from Earth,” Tiffany stated.

The Doctor told her, “I think that should be obvious.”

She objected. “But we look alike.”

“Let me tell you something about the facts concerning panspermia. It’s all very exciting.”

Then is when those two began undressing themselves. The Doctor told his robotic dog, “K-9, record this.”

“Is he going to watch?” Tiffany asked about the talking machine.

“Why not?” The Doctor suggested without wearing his coat. A swath of his swollen bare chest plainly shows from beneath the wide collar of his loose frill shirt. The ragged scarf remained draped around him.

“We share everything, don’t we, K-9?” the Doctor teased his electric dog.

“Yes, master,” replied the novel, self-propelled computer.

“Good, boy,” the Doctor smooched

“Yes, master.”

“Say that to me,” the Doctor impulsively instructed Tiffany.

She tried saying so aloud. “Master?”

“No, don’t,” he directly countermands. “That doesn’t sound right. Try the other one.”

“Doctor?” she asked him before he seizes her in bandy, swashbuckler arms.

“Oh, thank you, Tiffany.”

They dropped themselves into a four poster bed the pair found in another impossible room. The dog had come along then Tiffany and the Doctor made love. He brought out toys and he suggested adventures. The seamstress consented to every one.

Then came the Janis thorn. “Deadly poison,” the Doctor explained. “But if one knows how to use it right, to introduce a miniscule, non-lethal dose in order to produce partial paralysis… well, ecstasy.”

Tiffany temporarily lost sensation in her legs, but then she and her incomprehensible lover copulated like humans in their most primitive state. She thought about television then and what her experience resembled. The seamstress could only imagine the alien Spock from Star Trek, suffering Pon farr. She felt like him, that character from the sex-deprived planet Vulcan. Passion drove her mad.

The two spent an inestimable time away from civilization – in which they slept, had sex and Tiffany knitted. She stitched his long scarf together. And, oh, the places the Doctor described and all he had shown her, but Tiffany never got dinner and that was okay. The Doctor, said to her when they were finished and happy, “Next Wednesday then? Let’s say we do this every week or so, if you knew me, but you will.”

Tiffany agreed. Afterward and back at home again, she had not lost a moment in time. Maybe a minute had passed on the clocks in her house last evening before the Doctor flew away. This morning and after recovering her memories, she thinks about life in one place. She contemplates ending the long separation from her dull and unchanging husband and finishing their divorce.

– Matthew Sawyer

(Available soon from Smashwords)

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About R’lyeh: Those Things I Will Tell Your Child

December 31, 2014

about cove-smlr

About R’lyeh: Those Things I Will Tell Your Child

Matthew Sawyer

I was telling my second-generation niece, Rilynn there in pink pajamas, that her name sounds like R’lyeh. She is only five. “No,” she tells me back. The child lives with her parents in the country not very far from where I was born.

Rilynn explains to me, “They don’t rhyme.”

I tell her something incomprehensible; something even a smart little girl her age would not yet understand. I say, “The consonants don’t have to rhyme. The words just have to sound the same.”

“Nuh-ahh,” she replies and in that moment, I conclude she must know what I am talking about, or she has a solid idea.

“I’ll tell you a rhyme about the sunken city of R’lyeh.”

“What?” Rilynn peeps and jumps up from the Living Room floor. The little blond thing pops onto her bare feet like she does forty times forty times a day, She joins me opposite a laminated coffee table small enough that the girl might rest her elbows on stacked magazines atop the surface. She does not relax and instead regularly shifts her inconsequential weight between her feet.

Late on my cue, I recite, “That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.”

Rilynn’s mother yells at me. “Matt!”

And Rilynn admits, “That rhymes.”

“It’s a poem,” I beg the mother. The woman’s name is Brenda – for the purpose of my narrative. I admit I have de-purposed the names of other relatives for the sake of that same said narrative. So, there is my first confession.

I cite for Brenda, “HP Lovecraft wrote that in his short story Call of Cthulhu.”

“One of those old stories?” she wonders knowingly.

“A great old one,” I say. “It’s like a hundred years old.”

Rilynn interrupts us when she demands from both the only adults in the room, “I want to hear the story.”

Her father is at work, delivering packages, and the girl is an Only-child. Her mother, Brenda again, hovers on the threshold between this room and another. The grown woman frowns at me. She issues a warning. “I have heard about you.”

“Probably from my sister-in-law,” is my answer. “She is a religious nut.”

Brenda admits, “Holly does now wear the Shield of David and a Cross around her neck.”

While I nod she explains, “But she lives there in Wister Town with your brothers and sisters… and your mother… and you can go back to your home in California. Don’t cause trouble.”

“I am an old man.”

Brenda denies my factual report.  “You look twenty-five.”

My automatic response lists, “Exercise, eat right…”

“You look younger than me.”

“It’s what you read,” I then support.

Rilynn stomps her naked soles and whines. “I want to hear a story!”

“Okay,” her mother condones. “Your Uncle Matt can tell you one.”

“About R’lyeh?” I inquire from Brenda while simultaneously her daughter claps.

Brenda states, “Nothing about death or monsters or anything gross.”

I stammer, “Well…”

The woman stops me. “There was an earthquake the last time you were there in Wister Town – an earthquake in south-central Wisconsin. And you said a house walked away – monsters came out of the hole it made.”

“It was a story…”

“It makes no difference, bad things happen when you tell bad stories.”

“Bad?” I do wonder aloud. Despite what critics will say, I withhold judgment on myself for that judgment would end me and my very life. And hypocritical with my skepticism, I tell Brenda, “There is no difference between religion and being superstitious.”

“The earthquake started fires that burned down half of Wister Town!”

“I never talked about that,” I counter.

“Small blessing,” Brenda supposes above her breath.

“I’ll tell you what,” I proposition, “I’ll clean it up. And I’ll try not to be creepy or scary.”

“All right.”

Grinning at Rilynn I paraphrase, “Sunk somewhere in the South Pacific ocean, a corpse-city called R’lyeh…”

“Matt,” screeches her mother.

“It’s in the story, I didn’t write it,” I present for my defense.

“It’s the same difference.” Brenda states once more, “No dead things or death.”

“Okay, that was only an adjective. It was about a city but no more. That’s the last one and I can tell Rilynn about R’lyeh.”

“Yes,” the small girl screams and she claps her hands together again and harder.

I grumble loud enough for Brenda to overhear. “It won’t be exciting.”

“Just make it fun,” she answers me. “Keep her attention for an hour or so.”

Observing Rilynn squirm while she stands on her feet, I tell the girl’s mother, “I’ll last for a couple minutes.”

Brenda nods and vanishes beyond the doorway. Rilynn leans completely over the table, lifting her legs off the floor, and she whispers nearer my ear. “Are you gonna talk about dead things?”

“No,” I chuckle. “I’m going to tell you who lives in R’lyeh – the city beneath the ocean. Cthulhu cannot die.”

“Catsup!” Rilynn announces and leaves me disorientated. I swim with my thoughts atop the ruins of an undersea R’lyeh. Yet the city itself is not ruined and appears as it had newly built eons ago. Erected in my imagination, the immense construction merely threatens to topple.

Finally able to comprehend my niece, I try correcting the young child. “Cthulhu. Ka-thoo-loo.”

“Ka-choo,” answers Rilynn. “Ka-choo-choo.”

“Ka,” I started to say again then decided my effort was futile. I play with the girl. “Ka-choo,” I repeat with an exaggerated exhalation. I wipe an imaginary expulsion from beneath my nose.

Rilynn laughs and she repeats the word until I believe she makes herself truly sneeze. She refuses to acknowledge the genuine rivulet that has run down and clung on her upper lip. “Does he come out?” my niece asks me. “Is R’lyeh like his house?”

The strange question makes me wonder if the girls has already heard the story. “Is R’lyeh like his house? As a matter of fact, it is. Ka-choo-choo is big, he’s huge.”

“Say it right,” Rilynn requests. “I can’t say it, but you can say his name right.”

“Cthulhu.”

“Yeah!”

“He can only come out when the stars are right,” I educate the impressionable mind. “The thing is, the stars will never be right.”

“Why,” Rilynn pouts. She looks sad for real.

“Well,” I say making preparations, “There is a difference between where the stars were when he came to our planet and where they are now.”

“Why?”

“Because space is expanding.”

“Why?”

The distress on Rilynn’s face reflects the frustration I experience as I try to explain impossible concepts to a five-year old brain. “Cthulhu was originally an extra-dimensional being. He was an Outer God until he was trapped on Earth and he became a Great Old One. They don’t really understand how our three dimensions work.”

“Why?”

“Because, where they come from, they can be anywhere at once, be everywhere. Their space doesn’t move.”

“Matt,” Brenda declares. “You’re confusing her. I’m confused.”

“I’m confused trying to explain it.”

“Make it simple,” the mother begs me. “Or else I will get questions I can’t answer.”

“Okay,” I consent. “Cthulhu can’t come out. Besides there are Elder signs everywhere.”

“Older signs?” Rilynn questions.

“Close: Elder signs, like the elderly. They grow in nature, you can see them in the tree branches, the veins in leaves and even the veins under your skin. HP Lovecraft drew a picture of it.”

“Can I see it?”

I hesitate. “It might be hard to find. Let me draw a picture for you. Do you have paper and something to draw with?”

Rilynn runs away laughing. The girl returns in an instance with a single clean sheet of typing paper and a handful of red and blue crayons. A green wax stick had fallen from her grasp whilst she had come but Rilynn never paused and retrieve it. She presents to me my requested tools.

“Draw Ka-too-loo,” she insists.

“Cthulhu?”

“Yeah.”

The request frightens me without explanation, so I stall. “I thought you wanted to see the Elder Sign.”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

“Yeah, but draw Him first.”

“Oh,” I stutter. “You should never summon Cthulhu without an Elder Sign. What happens if he demands a sacrifice?”

“Matt?” Brenda inquires of me.

The woman startles me as if I have been caught speaking the unspeakable. I scuttle my argument against a juvenile and I decide what comes next. “Let me show you the Elder Sign. Then I will draw Cthulhu.”

Before Rilynn objects, I sketch together six broad hashes, making the red image of a branch. Three twigs project from its top, two from below. Rightward on the picture, two opposite twigs reflect each other as would a mirror. The second bottom twig appears sprout from the branch in the space between the two remaining leftward twigs on top.

“Humph,”Brenda says looking over my stooped and sketching upper half. She tells me, “It looks like something you would find in nature.”

“Who put it there?” Rilynn asks.

Dissuaded against trying to explain the Outer Gods again, I reply to the girl and her mother, “We’ll make your one aunt happy and say God put it there. And he looks just like Santa Claus.”

Unafraid now that I have constructed a ward for my protection, I intercept any awkward confusion and I say, “Here is what Cthulhu looks like.”

I have been to Art School and I have always been naturally drawn to doodling, so much I am more talented with a blunt pencil than any other drawing implement. Knowing so, my sketch immediately takes form. The representation of Cthulhu is a simple image of an octopus – one octopus with eight radial tentacles in place of the head of a primate. Although I do not provide any scale, this abomination is larger than King Kong.

I say primate because I have often seen paintings of the Great Old One in which He has a spine and four limbs besides a pair of colossal membranous wings. Those four jointed appendages always terminate with five clawed digits, these usually webbed. Rilynn reacts to my visual interpretation.

“Icky.”

“Matt?” Brenda cautions me. “I don’t want her awake tonight.”

“It’s okay, the Elder sign…”

“Stupid,” Rilynn states in verdict. Her mother shakes her head.

“It’s okay,” I presage again. “There is another Elder Sign. August Derleth made it – he was a cheese-eater, just like us. He was from Wisconsin – Sauk City.” Having revealed an alternative, I start drawing a second archaic symbol on the same one sheet of typing paper.

“You know,  August Derleth was the first guy who published HP Lovecraft. He wrote stories, too. He also wrote about a lot more than horror.”

“There,” I tell Rilynn and her mother. The second Elder Sign comes presented to them as a blue, five-pointed star. A red eye engulfed in red flames flickers at its center. “The star is actually supposed to be green, but Rilynn dropped that color on the floor.”

“Get it later, sweetie,” Brenda absently tells the girl.

I boast in tangent. “Now that would scare Klingons.”

“What are Klingings?” Rilynn asks me.

My outrage is a showy mockery. “Brenda, your daughter is eight years old and still no Star Trek?”

“She’s five.”

“But still…”

The mother ends the silence that follows my lacking an excuse. Brenda asks me a serious question. “How did you learn about this?”

“I don’t know,” I answer honestly at first. “Read?”

“You should write about it when you go home. Did you and why not?”

“It wasn’t in my stars,” I tell her in accordance to the mythos we discuss. Brenda does not understand. She probably won’t until I do write down something. I let the woman know, “There are tons of other authors who could tell you the stories. I’ve got something parallel, but it’s about what happens in Wister Town.”

“I know,” Brenda moans. Before the woman runs out of that same breath, she tells her daughter, “Put on warm clothes, we’re going to that toenail of a town… like Uncle Matt calls it. Let’s visit your great grandma.”

Once Rilynn is busy upstairs getting dressed, and Brenda and I are alone, I make a cordial appeal to the woman. “Brenda, my nephew would never allow it, your husband would forbid that you ever speak to me…”

The woman steps back from me but she does not flee. Snared by curiosity strengthened by her agnosticism – her disbelief in a Creator that she confessed against long before – Brenda listens to my corrupt words.

“You are right, I will be young until I die. I will die young at the age of one hundred and twenty-five. Rilynn can remain young, too, but she must know. The earlier, the better.”

“My daughter is not going to visit you in California,” she tells me. Knowing who I am and being closer to my family than I physically am or ever was, my in-law, Brenda, has heard all my other relatives have rejected my similar notions.

“What is in California?” she nibbles still. I expected she would ask before I had come two thousand miles to visit her family.

“The sun,” I say generically. “That’s where it stays, and its home was made for the Divine.  There is power in California – power for those who know how to tap it. There is more power there than in that hole in Wister Town.”

“The Jews sense it, and the Mormons. That’s why they are there. There are big cults and Moonies and Scientologists and Jehovah Witnesses – you name it. They crawl down from the palm trees. They all feel the secret power so few people can actually ever know.”

The woman I speak with gnaws her bottom lip. When she soon starts shaking her head, I promise, “Rilynn will know more than me. She will see the future. Maybe she will see R’lyeh.”

When my words cease to make impact, I escalate the strength available to the female child. “She will foresee every consequence of every action she takes. And she will know there is only one course through life. The sun is the root of all religion. Praise Hastur.”

Once I am shut out of the house, I warn Brenda, “Hastur has corrupted in the American Midwest – the power of the sun does not manifest in cows. All of that is Egyptian perversion. The providence here is made base and unhealthy! Defiled and there is no protection. There is no God. We still live blind in the Age of Babylon.”

– END –

Impressed by my writing? I hope so. Read more from me, as Matthew Sawyer or Mr. Binger, at Smashwords.

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Once Gramps Had Come – A Christmas Story

November 25, 2014

An essential piece of Christmas has been missing forever, almost as if it has hidden itself. In the story Once Gramps Had Come by Matthew Sawyer, that hidden piece comes out to perhaps breathe clean air, eat or maybe stretch its legs. Whatever is done, this short tale starts in a Nursing Home. A homely man who calls himself “Gramps” offers immortality and the holidays are coming up.

Once Gramps Had Come by Matthew Sawyer

Once Gramps Had Come
Matthew Sawyer

Thursday, November 21, an ugly, old man comes to the Nursing Home. He is not the slightest seemly; not handsome like the weathering of a familiar leather jacket, nor noble like the bark of a gnarled oak. The man is ugly. Frightening, yet he looks a lot like that knotted tree and ragged hide coat. Presumably present for the terminal long-duration care and rehabilitation available here at Nueva Buena Vista, the terrible creature introduces himself to other residents. He calls himself, “Gramps.”

Mr. Breckell, who regularly assesses his own hearing, believes he has misheard the name. He shouts from his seat of padded linoleum. “What did you call yourself? Cramps?”

Mr. Breckell assumes and also asks, “Is that what’s wrong with you?”

The ugly old man lumbers near the only fellow whose spoken to him. This Gramps or cramps sits down on the stiff, yellow cushion next to Mr. Breckell. The new old man creaks and his joints crack when he bends his legs then he adjusts his seat. The racket is disquieting to everyone in the day-room. Mr. Breckell tells the creepy, wooden man next to him, “You sound like you’re going to break.”

“I do fear it,” Gramps answers.

Before he forgets, Mr. Breckell asks him again, “What did you call yourself?”

“Cramps,” Mr. Breckell swears he’s heard again.

He suggests to the badly weatherworn stranger, “Cramps, I would change that nickname. You could then go talk to someone else.”

“I think you are mispronouncing it,” Gramps tells him.

“Me? How about you?”

Gramps, or still possibly cramps, immediately interrupts the fresh argument. “Are you afraid of dying, Mister…”

“Breckell,” Mr. Breckell automatically replies.

“Sure,” he then insists. “Yeah-”

“I can help you live forever.”

Mr. Breckell finishes his thought. “But I get less fidgety the older I get.”

He then pauses, gazes into impossibly seeing and dense cataracts then tells cramps, “I don’t think you can help yourself. By the look of you…”

Mr. Breckell shakes his balding head.

“I know the worst of it,” Gramps promises his indignant comrade. “You can help me.”

The idea makes Mr. Breckell chuckle. “I will see what I can do.”

With yet no response, he asks the ugly stranger directly, “Who are you?”

“Everyone has forgotten me.”

Mr. Breckell tells him, “Welcome to Anonymous-Anonymous. The ladies across the room cry about the fact at weekly meetings.”

Gramps adds, “And any who do remember me, and if they still believe, they think I have gotten lazy over centuries.”

Mr. Breckell assures him. “That’s just how it feels.”

Pink light glows behind the opaque eyes of the stranger. “I’m telling you, Mr. Breckell, there is another way. You can live forever.”

Mr. Breckell laughs and the sound grows. He stops his guffaw when Gramps admits, “But there is a horrible exaction. There are crimes you must commit.”

“Go figure,” Mr. Breckell says entertained and newly curious. A meager rush of adrenaline reminds him of the shadow of being a young man and alive. Enthused that little bit, he grins and banters. “What evil things must I do. How many children do I need to eat?”

“The children are never eaten,” Gramps declares.

Mr. Breckell tells him, “Then that explains why you’re so scrawny. Tell me, mister, who are you?”

“I told you.”

“Oh, no you don’t. I am not about to wake up tomorrow and remember my name is Al Z’heimers. Who are you?”

The ugly stranger next to Mr. Breckell tells him, “The Krampus. The, the Krampus.”

“Huh?” Mr. Breckell grunts without purpose. His recollection is vague. He goes on and says, “Remind me who that is. Are we talking about Christmas? The elves and the magical Saint Nick, right? Not the Jesus and Christian Santa Claus, correct?”

“And not the American who drinks Coca Cola,” specifies the Krampus.

The name, or its shaded memory, fits the horrid personification here in the ugly stranger. The monster tells Mr. Breckell, “I am his nemesis, his companion and cohort. The folklore all across the world will tell you the same.”

The Krampus rants. “But I refuse to do his work. I won’t do it and I only want to pass away – and join our brothers. Somebody else can be remembered to be the Krampus. And he or she can be that until the end of time.”

“End of time, you say?” Mr. Breckell repeats. “That’s the part that includes living forever you were talking about?”

“If you do those things you must do.”

“And what does that mean? What do I got to do?”

The Krampus scowls when he says, “Make toys.”

Jokingly, Mr. Breckell answers, “Well, how do we get this operation done? I can live forever and do that.”

“Hell, what are all the toys for?”

The Krampus reveals in earnest, “They are the years of your life. Each toy is a day, you live one day for every toy you make. And you must keep them secret.”

Carried by high spirits, Mr. Breckell continues to play with the ugly man. “That can’t be bad. I suppose I can make seven toys in a day, or make fourteen or even seventy.”

“Saint Nicholas takes them away,” replies the Krampus. “And you will die if you do not have even one made and hidden away. Then, at least, you will live that single day. You can use that time and make a new toy that you can stash away.”

Having never truly stopped, Mr. Breckell laughs aloud once again. “Are you telling me Santa Claus steals your toys.”

The Krampus alludes, “A thief by any name… what would he do if he was ever successful and he murdered me?”

“You are telling me, you can die if Santa takes away all your toys.”

“You will die, Mr. Breckell,” declares the Krampus. “When you become me.”

“Hold on,” Mr. Breckell says and stunts the conversation. “You told me you wanted to retire. What did you say? Pass away. You can do that if you let Santa have all your toys.”

“There is something else you must do,” states the Krampus solemn and cold. “Someone must take your place. Someone else must always be the Krampus or we will never be at peace.”

Unswayed by any prospect this whole week has presented him, Mr. Breckell remains engaged in his lively discussion. “I don’t know about your offer, mister. I heard that Saint Nick character was one tough hombre. You know, burglary is his thing – creeping down chimneys and eating cookies and all.”

An idea occurs to Mr. Breckell. “Hey, I have never seen the jolly old man. I know for a fact my parents put all my presents under the tree. I never heard from you, either. Or were you part of all those pagan parties before the twentieth century? Before my time?”

“I was hidden,” answers the Krampus. “Me and my toys and my workshop have been hidden all your life and longer. Saint Nicholas had no toys to give to good girls and boys.”

Mr. Breckell rambles, “So Santa Claus canceled giving away presents because he couldn’t rip you off…”

“What about his little helpers? Where are his elves?”

The Krampus shakes his head, gasps then sighs. “I am so tired and I cannot bear the things I do. I can no longer bear my guilt.”

Mr. Breckell wonders aloud, “Why? What have you done? You make toys.”

“Listen,” musters the Krampus. He leers into Mr. Breckell’s face. “You can’t just take them – I never did. I gave them warnings. They get two?”

“What are they and who are them?” Mr. Breckell asks. He is not one bit interested in hearing any admonitions.

The Krampus tells him, “The first warning I give is a lump of coal. I put it in their stockings.”

“Are you talking about kids?” indicts Mr. Breckell. “I was just kidding when I mentioned earlier that I was hungry. Certainly no veal.”

The Krampus ignores the man’s comments and he continues speaking. “The second is a bundle of twigs bound together with reed. After that second year, I just come and take them.”

“Where – where to?”

“The North Pole. I hide my workshop there in a cave washed out by ocean waves.”

Certain who they are talking about, Mr. Breckell shouts, “Why?” Not one deaf head in the day-room turns.

The Krampus confesses, “Children can make your toys for you. That’s allowed if you keep them under your control.”

“Slaves?”

“I use a potion brewed from an extract of mistletoe. I mix it into their porridge of ice and snow.”

Mr. Breckell mumbles at a volume hardly overheard. “You brainwash children with poison.”

He then judges aloud the beast by his side. “Inhumane.”

“No, no, the potion makes them happy.”

The Krampus’ speech sounds scrambled.

“Don’t you see? Saint Nicholas has no workshop in the Arctic Circle. He doesn’t have any elves. All of that belongs to me. He takes away my toys and the children who are glad they help the Krampus stay alive.”

“What does Santa do with the kids?”

“I suppose he takes them home. I don’t know, I don’t know… I don’t care.”

Mr. Breckell says proud, “It’s good to know he is still a good man.”

“Is he?” cries the Krampus. “Is he, Mr. Breckell? The Sinter Klass hunts us, sir. He will not let our souls rest and he only wants to keep us desperate. We are forced to desperately make toys to stay alive.”

“Hold on,” Mr. Breckell states and mimes as if he physically pulls in an equine’s reins. “Who are you talking about when you mention ‘we’? Certainly not you and me.”

“There is only now you,” replies the Krampus.

“What do mean?”

The gnarled creature tells the man, “Mr. Breckell, you agreed to take my place.”

“No,” Mr. Breckell objects. He has stopped laughing. “How did that happen?”

“Because you spoke to me.”

****

The nursing home vanishes from all around Mr. Breckell. The Krampus goes, too. Rather, old Mr. Breckell has himself gone. The elderly man discovers he is alone atop snow and an iceberg larger than his poor eyesight might measure. He shivers only a little because the air and ground are both cold. Mr. Breckell does not already know it, him standing outside fully dressed overlain with his nursing home bathrobe, but for some inexplicable reason the man is lucky he is not shaking more. Foremost in his audible mind is, “I have been teleported to the North Pole.”

“The dirty scoundrel,” grumbles Mr. Breckell. “What am I going to do now?”

He recognizes a scraggy voice whispering from out of his own ears. The voice of the original Krampus tells him, “Watch out for Saint Nick. Your brothers are watching you.”

“Hey, get back here,” Mr. Breckell shouts. “Send me back! I didn’t agree to anything.”

As the voice falls further away, Mr. Breckell hears it say, “The souls of your brothers depend on you to keep our peace. Hide. Hide and make toys.”

“Wait a minute,” Mr. Breckell begs the voice before it is gone. After no answer except a frigid gust of wind, one that chills his limbs, he appeals to the overcast sky. “Where am I suppose to go?”

“He said he made a cave,” Mr. Breckell tells himself. As if he knows the direction, he marches toward the ocean side.

Along his solitary journey, he first asks himself, “Who are the brothers?” Further along, Mr. Breckell answers the question.

“I bet it’s you,” he says to himself, meaning the voice he recognized was the Krampus he met tonight in the day room at Nueva Buena Vista.

He chides the Krampus he knew while tramping downhill into deepening snow. “Some wretched fiend looked at you and found a fool to pass a curse onto.”

“That’s what this is, isn’t it?”

The question is rhetorical. The hypothetical answer is, too. “Some eternal life this is, I tell you.”

A gunshot makes his insane reality legitimate. A bullet immediately blows snow and steam from a hole made into a snow drift concealing most of his thin and aged body. Hidden so, he has avoided injury.

“I got you,” declares a hoarse old man with yet a jolly shout. “I found you. Where are your toys?”

Mr. Breckell says without hunting the horizon for the shooter, “Santa Claus, is that you?”

A skinny man wearing a long gray beard and longer, hairy, green coat shouts back. “I’m Ole Nick, to you. Ho.”

Ole Nick pauses and asks the rookie Krampus, “You’re a new Krampus aren’t you? ‘Course, I haven’t seen you for over a hundred years. And I’ve been looking. I promise you that. I guess I’m just lucky everybody hasn’t forgotten about me.”

The stretched elf laughs aloud. “Ho, ho, ho,” then he fires a shot into the air. An AK-47 then swings over his head once more and unleashes a burst that drowns speech.

Dropping the weapon, Ole Nick tells the new Krampus, “I said, Christmas is coming this year. Show me where you’ve hidden all your toys.”

“I don’t know,” pleads Mr. Breckell. Challenging the safety of his snowdrift, he raises his head and looks over his shoulder. Saint Nicholas comes up behind him, following his target’s fathom-deep foot prints.

“I am feeling charitable all of a sudden,” promises Santa Claus, “I’ll give your a break because you’re so brand new. Look at you – your wrinkles haven’t yet turned into bark. Give me all your toys and I’ll let you live this year – well, at least until Spring.”

“You’re going to kill me?” asks the unbelieving remnant of Mr. Breckell.

Ole Nick grows serious. “You, your kind and your undead hive mind are an abomination.” He spits. “Ptah, you all-in-one and everlasting…”

“The Krampus is a dreg of Creation, the root of jealous anxiety. You don’t feel it yet, but you will quick enough. I exist to clean you up.”

The human that yet survives claims, “This is crazy. Please, let me go. Take all my toys. Please, just allow me to make more.”

“Your type of immortality is a mad idea,” judges Santa Claus. “Well, I’m the balance. You must die – after Christmas this year is sorted out”

The Krampus stammers. “Just take my toys, leave me in peace.”

“I will rescue the kids, too,” Ole Saint Nick pledges.

“What kids?”

“The ones you hypnotize and they make all your toys.”

The Mr. Breckell inside the Krampus tells Santa, “Take them. I’ll make my own toys.”

Ole Nick chuckles. “And just like all your brothers, you will be disappointed to find you can’t keep up.”

Mr. Breckell asks even though he sort of knows, “Who are my brothers?”

He is ignored. Instead, Ole Nick waves a rifle into his face and commands him, “Show me your toys.”

“Yes, yes,” replies the Krampus. He then takes Saint Nicholas to his lair.

The entrance to the ice cave is near. Truly, the two eternal spirits have almost always shuffled through snow over the length of saltwater carved caverns. Having arrived at the cave mouth, the Krampus points toward the dark hole. Uncertain of the intention of the man with the gun, he invites Saint Nicholas inside using only a nod and an arm gesture.

“There is candlelight inside,” promises the Krampus and Mr. Breckell knew.

“You go first,” Santa responds. “I’m right behind you and I’ve got an automatic weapon pointed at the center of your back.”

Before either spirit steps further toward the underground, gaunt and pale children fizz out of the hole as if they were bubbles jumped from a boiling cauldron. All of them smile. They shout in song, “The Krampus!” Apparently impervious to the freezing cold, the skinny kids banter with each other in the snow wearing only pajamas and slippers.

“He doesn’t look like the Krampus,” one boy observes.

A smaller girl tells him, “He smells like the Krampus.”

And the boy replies, “He doesn’t look like him.”

“He will look like one in a hundred years,” another child answers.

Boggled, Saint Nick wonders rhetorically, “What poison?”

Ashamed because of this evidence left by a guilty brother who had come before him, the one who had been Mr. Breckell claims, “I’m sorry – it wasn’t me.”

“You will commit this same crime one day soon. You always do,” Santa retorts. “I’ll be back and shoot you. You can join your brothers… and there will always be another one like you. There has always been.”

Although the children are reluctant, Saint Nicholas gathers them together and puts all the boys and girls the Krampus has kidnapped behind him. He tells the Krampus, “You can make as many toys as you want until then… enough for next Christmas, I expect.”

“You want the toys for Christmas?” reiterates the desperate Krampus. “But they are the days of my life… I’m sure we can work something out.”

The inconceivable notion brings another, “Ho, ho, ho,” from Ole Nick.

“Give me your toys,” Santa Claus orders the Krampus with no condition or exception.

“Please,” the Krampus begs Ole Nick while the children go directed back into the cave to haul out all the unwrapped Christmas presents.

Santa salutes the Krampus, “I loathe your kind – that is just the nature of Creation. Because of you, it has been a hundred years since the world has truly seen what Christmas was meant to be.”

The Krampus presents a feeble defense before the dangerous elf goes away. He says, “Is Christmas all about gifts? Toys that are better made to save the life of a man?”

“You are not a man,” answers Ole Nick.

Near sundown, after a day that seemed to last months, Saint Nicholas tells the Krampus, “I’ll be back before sundown to clear out the rest of your lair. Merry Christmas – you better be gone by then.”

Confused and having nothing sensible to say, the Krampus who had once been Mr. Breckell watches Ole Nick go. The tall, green elf presses the rear of his caravan of gift-bearing slave children. Establishing distance between them and their slaver, Santa Claus calls back to the Krampus from across tundra. “You’re going to die… I’ll kill you myself.”

You can’t hide forever. – you will come out and find another…”

“Even before that, you’ll start collecting slaves…”

“Then I will find you again.”

“You better get those toys made!”

****

After the once been Mr. Breckell finds the recipe for mistletoe poison, and he’s discovered a new lair for his toy workshop, the following news is broadcasted on Christmas day. While half of the United States still awaits dawn, WSIN television newswoman Sue Niam reports in an urgent voice,

“How do I describe it? These worldwide incidents of the opposite of breaking-and-entering are simply pandemic. Homes all over the globe – the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and even Israel – everywhere – have seemingly been forcibly entered by persons who resemble the sixteenth century Father Christmas.”

“Father Christmas is the Jenny Craig Santa Claus who wears green instead of red. Viewers are probably most familiar with him as the Ghost of Christmas Present in the Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol.”

Ms. Niam pauses on-air live and she asks an off-camera someone, “Is this a hoax?”

The preened television personality then continues describing, “Images and videos captured all over the world portray a single identical intruder in all these incidents – intruder is not the word for him – because he leaves wrapped presents then disappears”

Her cameraman is told, “Charlie, this is one man. How can one man appear at once in millions of homes?”

The response from the cameraman is loud enough to register on the recording. “I hate wrapping presents.”

“Hold on,” Ms. Niam tells Charlie and her viewing audience. “Reports are coming in saying the intruder carries an automatic military firearm. Our Santa Claus is shooting pets.”

After a moment spent quietly listening to her earphone, Sue Niam tells her audience, “Gunfire has been exchanged… witnesses have reported skirmishes between the intruder and armed homeowners”

Interrupting herself, she states, “We have a caller from Arizona.”

“Hello, Mister Rood? You said you exchanged gunfire with the man dressed as Father Christmas.”

“I sure did.”

Eager to curb the mania in her caller’s voice, Ms. Niam says, “We’re just now learning about the hundreds of incidents. These armed encounters seem focused in the Western half of the world.”

“America!” rallies Mr. Rood. “Damn, yeah.”

Ms. Niam cautions the man from Arizona. “Please, language, Mr. Rood. And it is Christmas Day.”

Mr. Rood grumbles, “Libtards.”

Refocusing the report, Ms. Niam asks her caller, “Can you tell us what happened to you this morning?”

“Yeah, sure,” Mr. Rood grants with heavy breaths. “I heard that sucker rattling my front door at four AM. I don’t go work at Walmart until six fifteen so I heard what was going on.”

The caller raises his voice.

“He come in my house with the ‘Ho, ho, ho’ and touting his rifle. Well, I brought mine.”

Interested in summarizing the witness, the television reporter asks, “How was the gunfire initiated?”

Yelling because of adrenaline, “I shot first – the man was in my home. He shot at me but I think I got him. All the authorities got to do is follow the blood trail. That’s red enough for Christmas for you all.”

– End –

If you liked my story, the least you can do for me is send me a Christmas card. You can do that by buying this story on Smashwords. Merry Holidays (how does that sound?).

– Matthew Sawyer

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Listen Up – Doctor Who Fan Fiction

November 13, 2014

The scene that might make the whole problem with the Doctor Who Episode ‘Listen’ go away…

Listen Up

Listen Up

SCENE: The tar caverns of the planet Mywurt Five. The DOCTOR lies on a tarry rock floor of a pit DOWNSTAGE CENTER. The DOCTOR is also bound hand-and-foot and his arms are behind his back.

MISTRESS enters UPSTAGE CENTER

MISTRESS (descending tractor beam into pit): There is nothing to be afraid of, Doctor – nothing and no one except me, of course.

DOCTOR (angry and exhausted): What are you twaddling about, today? Every day you have held me for ransom, I have suffered your pretentious staggering.

MISTRESS: Doctor… Be quiet.

MISTRESS stands CENTER STAGE over DOCTOR

MISTRESS (sing-song voice): Shut up, shut up, shut up.

DOCTOR sits upright.

DOCTOR (sarcastic): All right, tell me what you have to say about fear. Let’s get your speech done already.

MISTRESS: I don’t write them down, Doctor.

DOCTOR: Yes, yes… impromptu… a regular Philo, you are.

MISTRESS: Me? A great orator? A master, perhaps?

DOCTOR: It’s getting old. Come on, exercise your lungs. My ears are your treadmill.

MISTRESS: Humph.

DOCTOR: Well, you sound like a comic book character – one of the baddies.

MISTRESS (angry): Your brave speech…

MISTRESS walks a circle around DOCTOR

MISTRESS: About fear making us stronger…

MISTRESS: About making us better people.

MISTRESS: Fear can be a superpower

MISTRESS halts STAGE RIGHT

MISTRESS: Did you lift that little speech? I swear I’ve heard one of your human pets say it before I heard the same irritating pathos from you.

DOCTOR: Oh, who are you talking about?

MISTRESS: Your quaking companion, Doctor. Clara.

DOCTOR: What does she have to do with you?

MISTRESS: Clara visited me, now you know, when I was a little boy. Oh, I do miss my old pantaloons.

DOCTOR: What are you saying?

MISTRESS: I used to be afraid, Doctor. I was afraid of the dark. I was afraid of monsters under my bed.

DOCTOR (urgent): Have you done anything to Clara? I’m warning you…

MISTRESS: Relax, this was long ago.

DOCTOR: We both know what that means to people like us.

MISTRESS: I’ll tell you what happened.

MISTRESS sits down STAGE RIGHT next to DOCTOR

MISTRESS: Do you remember the Magellan columns when we were toddlers? Those storms were nothing but pure electricity, but the sound was terrifying. It scared me. I slept in my family’s barn where I knew I was protected by its static haze insulation.

DOCTOR (sarcastic): Some boys cuddle teddy bears.

MISTRESS: Clara cuddled me.

DOCTOR (dismissive): You say.

MISTRESS: Really. She visited me during a storm– that must have been the summer when my first application to the academy was rejected. Their doctors were concerned with my mental stability. Imagine that, way back then.

MISTRESS stands

MISTRESS: Clara was hiding under my bed.

DOCTOR: That is convenient.

MISTRESS: I’m telling the truth. She grabbed my ankle.

DOCTOR rolls his eyes.

MISTRESS: Then she whispered softly into my ear, “It’s all a dream.”

DOCTOR: I expect.

MISTRESS: Tsk, I can prove it. Do you still have that plastic army man, the one you took from me?”

DOCTOR: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

MISTRESS: You, Doctor, are a kleptomaniac. Some worlds believe your neurosis is worst than murder.

DOCTOR: I expect I’m probably wanted on all of them.

MISTRESS: Probably.

DOCTOR: You would do them a favor by killing me now.

MISTRESS: Doctor, that isn’t what this is about. Besides, the bounty on your head is pathetic. I think Earth will give me all its weapon-grade uranium for your safe return.

DOCTOR: Why, what do you need it for? You could make a big batch for yourself.

MISTRESS: It’s a game. You know us.

DOCTOR: All too casually.

MISTRESS guffaws

MISTRESS: I guess I should go back and act more professionally.

MISTRESS walks backwards toward UPSTAGE CENTER

MISTRESS: There is something I wanted to say before I bring back the burning cockroaches.

DOCTOR (shouts over his own shoulder): Good, they’ll give me something to do. Maybe I can use their teeth and cut the bands on my Immobilizer Cuffs.

MISTRESS (riding tractor beam from pit): If you must try… what I wanted to tell you – my answer to you that you refuse to hear… about that night long ago Clara came and visited me. I listened to your TARDIS fly away.

MISTRESS exits UPSTAGE CENTER

MISTRESS (from OFF STAGE): Fear will destroy you those times you are all alone. One must Master fear.

[CUTSCENE]


Listen Up is a fictional story. Doctor Who and the characters in this story are properties of Doctor Who. I submit this tale as a fan for fans of the BBC Doctor Who television series.

Listen Up by Matthew Sawyer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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Sour Grapes And A Fox

October 27, 2014

“Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: “I am sure they are sour…”

– Aesop’s Fables

Somewhere the Sixth century B.C., Aesop said… “A fox strolling, through an orchard, spotted a bunch of ripe grapes hanging from a vine grown up a tree. That fox was hungry, so hungry that he talked to himself. He said, ‘I’m so hungry, I’ll even eat grapes.’

“When he jumped up to snatch a bunch off the vine, he missed. He took a running jump and he still could not reach the grapes. A crow told him – and the fox was so hungry that other animals spoke to him, too – that fat black bird said from high up in boughs, ‘You will starve.’

“’You, fox, you will die because you lack ambition.” The bird squawks, “Take what is available to you. Eat the grapes there in the dirt. Take what has fallen off the vine and rotted.’

“The bird cackles.

“’The ripe grapes are all mine.’

“The fox complains. ‘The grapes in the dirt are covered with biting ants. And the fruit is fermented, all the same.’

“’Eat them,’ screeches the bird. ‘The ants are extra protein in a diet such as yours. And the spoiled grapes will make you drunk. Foxes like you like to get intoxicated. Eat so many grapes that you no longer care you are hungry.’

“And the fox is famished, so he eats grapes that have fallen off the vine. He takes ants into his mouth and they bite his tongue and his throat when he swallows them down. The fox feels the insects’ poison or the fermented fruit spin his mind. All the while, the elevated crow devours ripe grapes. The bird isn’t even hungry.

“The crow eats the good grapes and teases the fox. ‘Jump, jump and get the ripe grapes. They are so sweet. They are so full of fresh vitamins.’

“The fox gets an idea. He tells the bird, ‘Don’t eat all the grapes. I will reach the vine, I can do it.’

“His tongue lolls from his mouth and the fox slurs his words when he speaks. ‘Let’s play a game, fat bird. We can play a game you will like.’

“’My grapes are not your prize,’ stakes the crow.

“’No,’ the fox promises. ‘I will get the grapes. And you can laugh at me when I try.’

“’Try,’ the bird says. He eats the good grapes all around him and he asks the fox, ‘What is your game?’

“The fox says, ‘You will eat one of your good grapes every time I fail to grab any grape.’

“’I will eat one of my grapes every time you jump and fail?’

“’Yes.’

“’I already do,’ chuckles the crow. ‘That’s why I don’t fly away and I wait.’

“The fox says, ‘Then that is what we will do.’

“He staggers beneath a bunch of grapes he can never, ever reach. When the fox jumps up, his angle is awkward and uncoordinated. His leap is weak and already he is tired. The fox acts inebriated, that is what the crow sees.

“The fox failed his attempt, so the bird caws aloud and swallows a fruit whole. The crow would do the same even if it did not play a game. He was overstuffed and he could never quit.

“All day long, the crow eats a grape each time the feeble fox jumps into the air and fails. He eats two when the fox falls to the ground painfully onto its back. Even while the intoxicated animal rests, the bird consumes fruit there appears no room for beneath its round shawl of feathers.

“Near sunset, after the fox has spent the day never claiming a prize other than sour ants and alcohol, the overfed crow wobbles on the branch on which it is perched. He is drowsy then falls off.

“The bird topples to the earth and lands knocked senseless near the panting fox. That fox tells the stuffed crow, ‘I do this all day. I jump all day and I seldom ever eat. It’s all I do. Now, tonight, I find a foolish bird and I dine on fat and wine.’

And the morale is…

“EAT WHAT YOU DESPISE.”

– Matthew Sawyer

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