By: Stephen Kozeniewski
Clyderium was shivering again, deep in their nest of panda pelts. Troos-Troos clutched his friend's naked body until he stilled.
"Thanks, T," Clyde whispered, "I don't think I'm going to make it to tomorrow."
T nodded. His traveling companion said the same thing every day. Usually it was a drawn out battle of wills to get him to crawl out of the mound of fur, get dressed, and try to scrounge enough food to survive until the next day. Today, though, was special. Today was the one day of the year when he would not have to bluff and beg to get Clyde out of bed.
"Have you forgotten the date?"
That was enough. Clyde draped himself in his favorite pelt and limped to the entrance of the cave. T followed and, unbidden, handed Clyde the binocs. Clyde scanned the sky from horizon to horizon.
"Do you think it'll happen once this year?" Clyde whispered through his cracked blue lips.
"It happens every year," T replied, "Like clockwork."
Clyde nodded and continued to scan the sky. Hours passed, and T's frostbite-blackened toes had frozen together before Clyde finally gasped and pointed.
A tiny hole, no more than a pinprick really, appeared in the cloud of nuclear dust enveloping the earth. Through it, Troos-Troos could just barely see the Star of Bethlehem.
T wrapped his arm around his friend's waist, sharing animal warmth and seasonal cheer in equal measure.
"Merry Christmas, T," Clyde said.
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 and don't splash."
"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.
"Like when we invite a homeless person in for Christmas?"
"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.
A Visit From...
A thump at the boarded-up window startled Dad into dropping the handful of shotgun shells. He whirled around, leveling the unloaded weapon at the creaking boards. The monster outside had long since shattered the glass, and now was pressing in the wood, testing its strength.
For an endless moment, we all watched as the board bent without breaking, while the nails holding it up squeaked in agony.
"Dad," I whispered, handling him one of the red shells.
Without a word of thanks, he took the proffered ammunition and loaded it. He quivered violently as he raised the granite to his eye, attempting to follow the path the creature was taking around our home based on guesswork alone. He nearly blew Mom's head off when the next thump came from the back porch, instead of the front door as he had been expecting. Luckily, he only managed to "kill" the peephole and litter the reinforcing boards with pellets.
"What's that scratching?" Mom whispered.
It was climbing the walls. Two loud thumps.
"It's on the roof," Mom mouthed, her tongue too dry to form actual words.
All eyes suddenly turned to the fireplace, ironically, the only entrance we hadn't sealed up. The monster dropped down through layers of soot and ash and approached us, whip and sack in hand, stopping only to leer at the Christmas tree.
"Why couldn't you just have been gone this year?" Dad said, "Fine, take her."
With that, he shoved me towards the grinning, hairy Krampus.
Stephen Kozeniewski lives 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 is in German.