It Came From the Vault: Traditions by Stephen Kozeniewski

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TRADITIONS

by Stephen Kozeniewski 

Granny clattered on the counter with a wooden spoon until the children stopped squabbling. When they finally turned to pay attention, she smiled, baring each and every bright white denture with joy.

“All right, little nuggets,” she said, “Now granny is going to show you what to do. Come up here.”

She lifted two-year-old Benji and planted him on the counter beside the sheer metal stockpot that was almost as tall as him.

“Now, Benji, this wax is very hot so don’t put your fingers in it and don’t splash.”

“Yes, grandma.”

“Now start to feed the coil in slowly and let me know when you run out of length.”

Giggling, Benji did as he was told.

“Granny, why do we wax the decorations?” little Suzie asked, her pinky hooked into the corner of her mouth.

“So that they last, my dear.”

“And why do we want them to last?”

Granny crouched down to Suzie’s level, even though it pained her ankles.

“Because it’s a tradition, my dear.”

Little Suzie’s eyes lit up with the wonder of excitement and recognition.

“A t’adition?”

Granny nodded.

“Like when we invite a homeless person in for Christmas?”

“That’s right.”

“All done!” Benji announced, clinging to the last link of this year’s holiday visitor’s small intestine.

Together, as they did every year, they draped the wax-dipped organ around their tree of horrors. The attic was starting to overflow with their collection of decorations.

“God bless us every one,” Benji said joyously.

******************

Kozeniewski Author PhotoStephen Kozeniewski (pronounced “causin’ ooze key”) lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German. Find out more at: www.amazon.com/author/kozeniewski
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Pat-a-pan, a Spooky Holiday Carol?

Pat-a-pan, a Spooky Holiday Carol?
by Emerian Rich

My favorite holiday song is a French Christmas Carol called “Pat-a-pan” written by Bernard de La Monnoye and first published in 1720. Written way before “The Little Drummer Boy” (circa 1941) it has the same sort of concept. A young boy playing a drum in celebration of the birth of Christ.

“Willie, bring your little drum, Robin bring your fife and come!
And be merry while you play, ture-lure-lu, pata-pata-pan,
Come be merry while you play for the joy of Christmas day.”

Often played as an instrumental due to the awesome drum and flute parts that can be highlighted without vocals, “Pat-a-pan” is most well known by the Mannheim Steamroller version here:

I fell in love with this song in high school choir where we learned the French lyrics which meant nothing to me. Its haunting melody and renaissancy sound always made me feel as if there were some underlying tale, like it spoke of a story without using words. Very few songs can evoke feelings in just the music – without lyrics.

You might be wondering what this has to do with horror. It’s hard to imagine such a benign song conjuring evil images, but one year when playing it around my husband I found out. The ultimate scrooge when it comes to Christmas music, my husband quirked a brow and said, “I kind of like this one. It’s spooky.”

I had to know more!

You see, his vision of “Pat-a-pan” plays out a bit differently than the “Willie, bring your drum” message that La Monnoye thought up. Instead of little Willie and Robin rallying the town into Christmas spirit by playing their drum and fife, his version features another little boy.spooky

Patapan is a little ghost or demon boy who runs around up in the attic. I’m not sure of the extent of evil he perpetrates, hubby wasn’t clear on the deeds, but he was sure nothing good could come from it. The thought of the evil minion “pat-a-panning” around up in the attic makes my husband happy (as it would any self-respecting horror addict).

So, I play this shared favorite faithfully every year and grin at my husband’s dark imaginings. I’ll never share the actual lyrics with him and burst his happy twisted bubble—ever.

Now, listen to the instrumental version again and conjure the image of a pasty-skinned, shadow-eyed boy in an old school uniform, haunting your attic.

For those of you curious about the English lyrics, my favorite vocal version is by Mindy Gledhill below.

Have a spooky connection to a holiday carol? Tell us! We can’t wait to share it.

Press Release: Austin Crawley releases A Halloween Tale

A Halloween Tale by Austin Crawley

THUMBNAIL_IMAGEFew Christmas stories hold as much fascination as the story, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Inspired by the classic tale, three young women decide to hold a séance to raise the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future. They don’t expect a result, considering that the ghosts are fictional, but what they call out of the aethyr gives them a creepy holiday they will never forget, if they live to tell the tale!

Austin Crawley has always had an interest in the supernatural and macabre. He has a particular interest in real life ghost stories and spends his holidays visiting places that are reported to be haunted. When he isn’t dealing in spooks, he deals in the buying, selling and cutting of gemstones. On odd Tuesdays he convinces himself that it’s because he was reincarnated from a pirate. Twitter: https://twitter.com/austinocrawley

Free Fiction Tuesday?: A Christmassacre Carol by Alex S. Johnson

A Christmassacre Carol

by Alex S. Johnson

(inspired by the album Slashing Through the Snow by Venus de Vilo and with apologies to Dickens)

Morley was dead. He had been tending this way for a long time, but now that winter snows swirled around his tombstone, the general report was that if he weren’t dead, he would be, at best, some kind of slavering, rotting ghoul to frighten little children already terrified by the advent of Christmassacre. Excepting, naturally, those fiendish tykes for whom the slaughter of their parents was a consummation devoutly to be wished and, indeed, prayed for.

Meanwhile, Urbangeezer Screwed was counting his money. Thanks to his miserly character, or so he believed, the money was more plentiful than ever in the year ________ in which our tale occurs. He had just dismissed his churlish assistant, Fob Crutchhead, who no doubt would waste Christmassacre in the foolish expenditure of glad tidings to all, yadda yadda. As far as Screwed was concerned, Christmassacre was a crumbug phonier than the holiday it had replaced.

“Bah,” said Screwed to the empty office, which echoed the word in a manner foreshadowing the specters that would shortly enter his life and change him forever.

“Whoo!” came a shivery voice from behind the curtains.

“Stop trying to scare me, Crutchhead. I’m not buying it and it won’t work. Go sell crazy elsewhere. And for the record, you can keep Christmassacre in your way, and I will keep it in mine, by ignoring its baneful existence and counting paper.”

“It is I, Morley,” the voice continued.

“Like hell it is. Come out, come out, wherever you are, and I’ll bite your bloody face off! I have no time for your foolish shenanigans.”

Screwed pulled his cap down over his bristly eyebrows and sighed. Every year it was the same nonsense, and if Crutchhead thought his silly annual prank would soften Screwed’s blackened old heart to the plight of Little Tomby, he had another thing coming. Plus, he suspected that Tomby wasn’t even Crutchhead’s real child, but an orphan he had plucked from the streets to earn sympathy.

“Seriously, mate, wake up and smell the moldy Christmassacre pudding!”

“All right, that’s it.” Screwed threw down his ledger and headed towards the window, which was fake and opened on nothing more than the sub-office where he kept the jewels and important papers.

“That’s the last mess you’ve made that I have to clean up!” shouted Screwed at the window. “Disrespecting the employer that’s kept you in geese for the past decade, defying my desire not to celebrate the worst idea for a holiday since the Yanks foisted Thanksgoony upon us, and…you are so freaking fired.”

Screwed pursed his lips in a refinement upon the fowl’s sphincter Crutchhead would not be enjoying this Christmassacre, or any to come.

Suddenly the air grew cold, and Screwed shivered, wondering at the sheer gall of his soon-to-be-ex-employee. “That tears it,” he roared. “Do you know how much hot air costs? Do you have any idea how much I have scrimped and saved and sweated over a hot ledger simply to sustain your reeking carcass, long may it burn in Hell?”

“I’m afraid you are late for that particular pity party,” said Morley.

The excrement was about to manifest in a most tangible way.

Screwed rubbed his eyes at the apparition that suddenly appeared before him, all clanking chains and a white sheet that Screwed was fairly sure had been stolen from his bed a fortnight ago.

“Are you taking the piss?” Screwed ejaculated. The ghost smirked at the author’s deliberately ambiguous use of an antique synonym for “quick verbal utterance.” And even supposing another meaning was intended, the ghost had no physical form and thus would be spared any bothersome stains upon his person.

“Seriously, though, it’s you, Crutchhead, innit.”

Morley removed his jaw and placed it on Screwed’s desk.

“Okay then, maybe you are a haunt come to address my so-called wrongdoings,” Screwed sputtered. “Well, get on with it. I don’t have all night.”

“I am the ghost of Christmassacre past, passing and to come,” said Morley.

“What, all three?”

“I thought you would appreciate the economy of it.”

“So…you’ve finally taken a cue from the old man. Ha ha, I get it. Very amusing. Well, do you have any other tricks up your sleeve?”

“I’m so glad you asked,” said Morley. “Fortunately for you, my sleeves are empty.” To demonstrate, Morley rolled the sheet past his skeletal forearms.

“And now to the meat of the thing. So to speak. First, I must warn you that anything you say in your own defense will be turned against you on the final Day of Reckoning.

“Second, you don’t want to traipse down the primrose path that led me to these”–Morley shook his chains–“and these”–he rattled his skull-faced manacles–and this“–but decorum forbids more explicit description of the latter horror lodged in Morley’s rear; or what might have been his posterior had he flesh.

Which he didn’t, being a ghost.

You get the idea.

“I’ll shorthand this. Change your wicked ways and stop being such an infernal ass hat, or you will suffer the same fate as me, only worse, because compared to you I’m a bloody angel. Excuse me.” Morley shrugged off the bedsheet; in its place was a pair of fiery wings.”

“Now that’s impressive. Not. Can you tell I’m being sarcastic?”

“Fine. Now hear this: if you maintain your attitude toward Christmassacre and all the joys it represents, you will spend eternity in Hades. Some blokes like to dub it Hell; I much prefer…”

Pommes du terre frites?”

“Mmm-hmmm.” The ghost shook himself and pounded his skeletal hand against the wall in frustration. In life, he had enjoyed more than anything else this French delicacy. Now, he didn’t have the literal stomach for it.

“In conclusion, I present to you the most dreadful sight imaginable. Hold on.” Morley’s wings vanished. Suddenly he stood encased in a cube of gelatin.

“You’re a self-righteous, money-grubbing slimebag of the first water, and for your crimes you will be held prisoner in the jellied hooves of those nags you rode to death in life. And I am so out of here.”

With those words, the ghost disappeared.

“That’s it?” said Screwed. But even as he uttered these syllables, he felt the moist grip of death upon him.

“Wait…wait. Hold on a second.”

“You are Screwed, old man,” came Morley’s voice from the ceiling.

“Don’t I get another chance at redemption? I can change my ways any time. ‘Satan bless Christmassacre and Little Tomby, every one.'”

Morley sighed. He was duty bound to reward sincere contrition with a stern rap on the knuckles and a Get out of Hades Free card.

“Your repentance isn’t credible, but what do I know? I’m just a book-keeper.”

“Crutchhead?”

“Before I came into your employ, I spent some time as a magician’s assistant.” Crutchhead emerged from the closet, his hand extended. “No hard feelings?”

“Yeah, well, you had me going there,” said Screwed feebly. “I give up. Maybe Christmassacre is a good thing. I don’t know. You wouldn’t happen to have some gin on you, by any chance?”

“Would laudanum serve?” Crutchhead produced a test tube full of a brownish liquid.

“Oh Hades yeah. Let’s get polluted and view Stereopticon pictures of unclad damsels.”

 

Music Review: Slashing Through the Snow by Venus De Vilo

Music Review:  Slashing Through the Snow by Venus De Vilo

by Alex S. Johnson

"SLASHING THROUGH THE SNOW" ALBUM, COMIC BOOK AND "KILLENDAR 2016" cover artartwork copyright (c) Venus De Vilo 2015. All rights reserved.

Venus de Vilo’s Slashing Through the Snow is a three-song monsterpiece that should appeal to fans of Gothic singer/songwriter/cartoonist Voltaire, whose sinister snark makes him De Vilo’s twin when it comes to tuneage. The Dublin native plays her own instruments accompanying a voice that’s a bit like Lydia Lunch meets Jello Biafra with Nick Cave lurking somewhere in the shadows.

The only problem with this release is that it’s three songs. One of the many upsides is that the songs–“Santa’s Slay,” “Mistletoetag” and “The Night Before Christmassacre”–are such deliriously wrong and madly delicious ear candy they will burrow into your brain folds faster than a maggot on the Swedish biker crank.

De Vilo has been described as “the love child of Marilyn Manson and Amanda Palmer,” and the blurb is dead on, if the greying matter on display here is any bloody indication. I would add Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, among other artists who combine dark wit with horrific themes; one is reminded that H.P. Lovecraft’s first published story, “Herbert West, Reanimator,” was intended to be funny and appeared in a humor magazine (Little Known Fact Department).

If you ever wondered about the predatory character of Santa Claus, “Santa’s Slay” will set the record straight. Anybody who spends Christmas night breaking and entering into the homes of complete strangers with a “naughty and nice children” list pasted against his jelly belly should by all rights be listed on some kind of international Most Wanted list. Not to mention that Claus had done this once(?) a year for centuries before he began to sport the Coca-Cola corporate colors, and we have a big, bad, red and white problem on our hands.

De Vilo’s version strikes me as the more accurate–in her take on the legend, Santa takes a sharp weapon along with his gifts. And why not? Why stop at home invasion and stalking kids when you can add serial killer to your credits?

Preparatory to “The Night Before Christmassacre,” “Mistletoetag” tells the grisly yet hauntingly beautiful story of a bad romance. And then we have the sizzling giblets of the thing…

Santa’s slayride sets the stage for the unholy blessings of “Christmassacre,” where everything dreadful lurking beneath this beloved holiday worms to the surface and takes heads. Eerie keyboards echoing Keith Emerson’s score for Dario Argento’s film Inferno lead into the secret history of Yuletide. Yup, folks, “fresh from his spree,” it’s “f**king Saint Nick!” His hair soaked in gore, looking like Leatherface merrily dolled up in seasonal department store drag, the better to sit you on his lap and ask what you really want for Xmas…

De Vilo spares no institution, person, place or thing with her caustic, hilarious songs. If you’re easily offended, this download is probably not for you. But if you like brilliantly funny, razor sharp songwriting, Slashing Through the Snow is well worth the Euro.

Just a taste of De Vilo’s lyrical gifts, from “Mistletoetag”:

A mince pie for one and a bottle of wine,
This time last year, he was all mine,
under mistletoe, in our paper hats,
Now all that he wears,
A MISTLETOETAG…

On Bludgeon, On Shitsen…

For more information, go to: https://venusdevilo.bandcamp.com/album/slashing-through-the-snow-album-comic-book-and-killendar-2016

 

Free Fiction Friday: A Very Special Christmas Eve by A.D. Vick

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Johnny and his little sister Stacy went to bed earlier than usual that night, but they didn’t mind. It was Christmas Eve after all, and what child isn’t willing to sacrifice a bit of play time when he or she knows that turning in early might just hasten the arrival of Saint Nick? The last thing they did before retiring to their rooms was to watch their mom place a cup of hot tea and a small plate of chocolate cookies on the counter for Santa. “The jolly old elf travels all over the world through the cold and snow every Christmas Eve to deliver toys to good little girls and boys,” she would often tell them. Both children took her at her word because…well, didn’t they receive the toys they asked for the last couple of years?

During the year Mom would often warn her children that Santa only brought presents to youngsters who behaved. Stacy generally tried her best to do what was right, never forgetting her mother’s warning. She felt confidant that, after having asked Santa for some new dolls, that he would deliver the goods as he always had. The one thing she couldn’t understand though, is why her marionettes would disappear during the weeks and months that followed Christmas. She knew that she loved them and took good care of them; yet, they would sometimes simply vanish from her room. Whenever she complained about these events to her parents, they generally brushed off her concerns dismissively, telling her that she simply needed to stop leaving her things outside where other kids or the neighborhood dogs could run off with them.

Johnny, being a couple of years older than his sister, really didn’t buy into his mother’s warnings that Santa only brought toys to children who behaved. Johnny had a secret. He knew what was happening to Stacy’s dolls because he would sometimes sneak into her room while she was out in the yard playing with her girlfriends. He would then take them out to the nearby creek; and after pretending to drown them, would gouge their eyes out with his pocket knife before cutting off their heads and tossing them into a nearby trash can. Upon his return home from these occasional escapades, he delighted in hearing his parents chastise his teary-eyed sister for once again neglecting to take care of her things.

The boy had a mean streak when it came to girls and his sweet sister Stacy was not exempt from his hurtful machinations. Still, he felt confidant that Santa would once again bring him toys this Christmas Eve.

Stacy climbed under the covers of her comfortable bed; and with visions of sugar plums and new dollies dancing in her head, she fell into a peaceful slumber. Johnny on the other hand, decided to remain awake. He would listen until he could be sure that his parents had gone to bed. Then, he’d lie in wait for Santa, determined to catch a glimpse of him.

Within an hour the sounds from the TV ceased and Johnny heard, amid his parent’s playful banter, the door to their bedroom close shut. He quietly climbed out of bed and gazed out the window, searching for any signs of Santa’s sleigh or his reindeer. The snow, still falling on a gentle breeze, made the neighbor’s colorful light display across the street seem all the more authentic. It’s really Christmas, he thought to himself. Santa should be here with my presents any time now! 

His thoughts were distracted by a sudden pitter patter on the roof followed by the sound of footsteps. Johnny could barely contain his excitement as he stole quietly toward the living room, which contained both the family tree and the fireplace. That’s where he knew he would find Santa. Reaching the end of the hallway, he poked his head around the corner for a first peak.

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Without warning, a dark, hairy, claw-like hand  grabbed him by the shoulders, pulling him around the corner in one fluid motion. The boy gasped, but before he could even utter a sound one of the hands covered his mouth, making any cries for help impossible. Johnny struggled, but it was to no avail. Still, he couldn’t see just who or what was holding him fast.

He heard a hissing sound just before his captor spun him around without removing the hand from his mouth. His blood ran cold as he gazed at the creature holding him in place. No, this wasn’t Santa Claus, whom he’d been hoping to spy upon just moments before. Instead, he found himself staring into the face of a most hideous thing. The creature before him was tall and furry with a long snake-like tongue dangling from its mouth. Its ears were large and pointed; two curved horns grew out of its head. Attached to the body’s backside was a long, pointed tail. Overall, the monster’s body appeared somewhat man-like, but Johnny knew this was no man. The creature holding him seemed more like the Devil than any man he’d ever seen.

Pure terror gripped at him as the creature opened the top of a large wooden basket before placing Johnny inside and once again closing the lid. The boy screamed at the top of his lungs, calling to his parents for help– calling to Santa, but it seemed that no one could hear his anguished cries.

His abductor strapped the basket to his shoulders before ascending the chimney to the roof where a sled awaited him. He gave a push with his left foot and the sled lifted off on the snow-laden breeze toward a destination only known to him.

Some hours later, the mysterious being approached a shadowy, misty castle that stood upon a mountain top populated by twisted, deformed trees. The large door at its entrance creaked open at his approach and closed shut again once he was safely inside. After disembarking from the sled, the creature removed the basket from his shoulders and opened the lid, allowing Johnny to climb out.

The boy’s eyes opened wide in disbelief as he looked around the large, gloomy, torch-lit hall. He could hear the cries of other children, both male and female. Their moans seemed pained and anguished.

“Where have you taken me?” Johnny asked, crying. “I want to go home.”

“Home, so you can steal your sister’s dolls?” The creature asked. “Home, where you delight in her pain and her tears? I think not. This is your home now, and as you can hear, there are lots of other children here to play with. We’re going to have lots of fun watching you learn what meanness really is.”

The frightening being’s tongue dripped saliva as he hissed once again while continuing to look down at the terrified boy.

“Merry Christmas, Johnny! Welcome to your new home: The Castle of Gruss Vom Krampus!”