Saturday, June 30, 2012

Jolly Part 3

Out Of The Woods

Zings must've been going too smoothly, the story must've needed zome zort of climax. Bah. All I knew vas zat it vas Christmas Eve and night vas falling.

Bartel and Krampus ver vatching zee factory. Everyone had been behaving zemselves nicely. Zee gangers ver assembling dolls and toy trucks. Zee machine men ver focusing on zee video games and remote controlled cars.

Zings ver on schedule.

I should've known better.

"Krampus, Bartel, do you hear zat?"

Zey looked at each other from across Zee Shop, scratching zere heads. Bartel had zee head of a disobedient ganger in his hand.

"Bartel! Vhat is zat?"

"He was naughty."

I closed my eyes, zee pain growing behind zem. Why vas it zo hard to find obedient help?

I drew in a ragged breath and spurred Brittany down zee line of vurkers. I loosed the sigh as Britanny clopped past zem.

"Darling thralls, Krampus and Bartel vill be vatching over you until I return. Should you finish before zen, zey vill release you. Ve are very near to our goal and to your penance... Do not screw it up for yourselves."

I motioned for Krampus to open one of the roll-up doors on the east walls. He lumbered over, a jingle-jangling monstrosity. Vis one hand, he lifted zee door and out I rode into zee snow. It vas getting deep now, even vis street cleaners and plows passing by regularly. A veek's vorth of snow vis no signs of stopping.

As zee doors closed behind me, zings became dark. Snow clouds blotted out zee moon and all vas dark.

But zomezing vas out here.

Zomezing vas hunting.

I vheeled Brittany around zee corner of zee building, Stimme unfurled but silent. Even my vip knew zere ver times to zing, and times to be quiet.

I zircled zee building three times and came up vis nothing. But zere vas still a voice whistling on zee vind as it brushed through my golden mane. Zee zound of cuckoo clocks and fat laughter. It vas a voice zat sounded like my Black Forest. But zee forest vas no more. Not for me.

A shadow, down zee street, dipping zee alleyvay. Vhisper vhisper.

I dug my heels into Brittany's sides and pursued it.

Foolishness. Chasing a shadow. But I vent anyvay.

Dodging trash barrels and a dying fire, ve charged down zee alley. But zere vas no great shadow. Just as an old man. A half-eaten old man. Torn. Chewed. The juicy bits swallowed whole. And zen tucked back into zee snow for later.

But zere ver no tracks. No trace. Not zo much as a scrape in zee side of zee building next to me.

Vhisper vhisper. Wrapped tight. Too close. Zese valls vere too close.

Brush of snow. Up above me. It vas on zee roofs.

Rush behind me. I turned atop Brittany but zere vas nothing but air and zee hollow flicker of zee dying fire.

I turned Brittany and spurred her back, back to Zee Shop.

Zee doors vere open, zee lights vithin flickering on and off and on again. Vithin, it vas not a toy shop, but a butcher's house. I egged Brittany further, stepping lightly through the light tide of blood coating the floor. Vhat was left of my vurkers vas caked into zee tables and zee valls. Gears and glasses, cogs and clothing.

But zere vere no toys.

And no Krampus. And no Bartel.

Up. On zee roof. I could hear zee thumping.

"Naughty! Naughty beastie! Toys for children!"

The screams started and I could hear the dripping, thumping, tearing on zee roof. I slipped off of Brittany, took her by zee halter, and gazed into zose soft eyes.

"Run. Run until you meet zee walls, and pass through zem. Our time is up tonight. Survive until midnight."

I patted her zoftly.

"I do not vant a new horse yet my Brittany. Go."

She ran and melted into zee snow as I turned to zee ladder up to zee roof.

Hand over hand, like climbing trees back home. I slipped, vunce, and caught myself. Hand over hand Rupert, too close to deadline to fail now.

Stimme vas singing a dirge again. Ours. I climbed faster.

Zere vas vun more howl as I pulled myself onto zee roof. It followed Krampus to zee ground in bloody streamers. Zee burly beast lay beside Bartel, dripping crimson, like bows to zere bells.

Standing above zem. Vhite as zee snow drifting down from zee sky, teeth of moon glow, and night owl eyes. Its fur slid over its vulfen frame as it stood on two wound legs. Claws sprouted from its fingers and toes, just long enough to rend flesh vithout getting in its vay.

"Far from home aren't you?" It vas a voice you vould chisel from a block of rotted vood. It vould never be the shape it belonged because it vas too long corrupted, vasted, left to fester.

"You should know, I am vherever snow falls on human heads. Zee Black Forest is just vhere I prefer. What about you? Zee Northern tribes, ice-covered voods, you must be pining for home yourself Mr. Fiddler."

"Not any more. This place is savage enough. Enough prey to hunt. I think... I think I will stay. Let them hope for toys and despair. It will make them easier to hunt. Go away good servant, you are no longer needed."

"I cannot let you go vis those toys. Zey do not belong to you. Or to me."

Zee Vendigo didn't speak. It came for me and Stimme vas ready. Ve cut to zee side, Stimme lashing out for a wrist.

It vas gone already. Less zen a blur. Less zen a shadow. Behind me, peeling open my armor vis its claws, slicing me open. Stimme shot out around its ankle and bit in deeply.

Zee Vendigo laughed like a tree falling.

"I am Winter you fool. Bring the ice. Bring the cold. It will help keep my heart from thawing."

Zee Vendigo jerked its foot and brought me down, face first on zee roof.

"They ate each other you know. Everyone down there. That's why I came to this city. Savages. Cannibals. Every last one. Good hunting here."

Stimme uncurled from his leg.

"That's it. Let go Rupert. Just let go. Feel it trickling up your spine yet? The fear. The tightening in your belly. The sharpening of your teeth."

I flicked my wrist and Stimme leapt up to wrap around zee Vendigo's neck.

"Why do you bother? I told you, I relish the cold!"

"I know, but you fear silver, just like your kin in zee Black Forest."

As Zee Vendigo jerked avay from me at zee mention of silver, Stimme grew taught. I released zee handle, zee silver handle, and Stimme recoiled. Zee handle plunged into zee Vendigo's eye and it dropped dead vithout a vord. Good riddance. Moron.

I flopped on zee roof, armor peeled open, four jagged lines running up my back and down my chest, down to my ribs.

I blinked and she vas in front of me.

"I can make it go away." A snowflake landing on a pillow. Just vun.

"No. I have to meet my deadline. Zee toys must be ready."

"Let them wait. Rest Rupert, rest with Krampus and Bartel. I will watch over you."

She vas in blue and vhite. A silken kimono from zee East.

"No. I must meet my schedule."

Her skin vas made from snowflakes and as zey melted, she had tears, soft blue rivers on vhite skin, framed by eon strands of hair.

"Let it go Rupert. They aren't worth it. Just rest."

I pushed myself up and fell back into zee snow. I dug my fingers into the roof and pulled myzelf to zee sacks of toys zee Vendigo had been carrying off. She followed me, a frown creasing that perfect skin.

"Why? Why? Please just rest. I can make the hurting stop."

I looked up, to red lips blooming and a gentle pout.

"Vhy should I stop? I've come zis far. I found Krampus and Bartel, I found vurkers, I beat Jack Fiddler. Vhy should I stop now? It is nearly midnight and I vill disappear again."

I pulled myself up and looked into zee fifteen enormous sacks. Rifling through each vun, I took count of zee toys.

Just enough.

I slid back down to zee rooftop and looked up at her.

"End me now if you vant. My job is done. Enough toys for each child."

She shook her head like zee breath of vind zat vhispers vhen snow falls.

"Zen vhat? Vhat happens now? Ve sit here and vait until midnight and I go avay again?"

White breath past rosebud lips.

"I was hoping you'd come with me. It's been lonely and cold."

"Can ve all come?"

She nodded a yes and dropped something into zee snow.

"Vhat vas zat?"

"Nothing important. Let's go Rupert."


White gloves found the toys at 12:01 Christmas Day.

A message was written in the snow.

"Here are the items you requested. They are all of top quality and should serve you vell. My warmest wishes to you this Christ Mass. Until next year.

Forever the Good Servant,

Rupert Rupert."

A Council of Kismet medallion lay in the snow next to the message, shattered.

A Happy Christmas indeed.

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