Old Habits Die Hard - A Christmas Story, Chapter 8

The First Noel
Joy to the World
Do You Hear What I Hear?
I Saw Three Ships
It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
Away In A Manger
Silent Night

Chapter Eight - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Justine squirmed in the basket, trying to rearrange herself into a position where she could be, if not comfortable, then at least not quite as scrunched up. It wasn’t easy, as most any movement she made sent fresh pain shooting through her body from where she’d been switched, bits of the basket poking inward, scraping at her, almost as if it were alive, just another part of the monster that had captured her, and just as intent on making her suffer. That the thing was walking around, his every movement sending her jostling back and forth, didn’t help, either. She had no desire to find out where he wanted to take her, but it looked like she had no choice in the matter - no matter how hard she banged her little fists against the wicker, all she succeeded at doing was scraping her hands. If she made any sort of dent in the basket, it wasn’t one she could feel, and in the darkness, she could never be entirely sure she was sitting the same spot more than once, to try to weaken it over time.

There was no climbing out, either. The lid hadn’t looked so terribly far above her when she was first deposited into the basket, yet even when she stood and stretched up as far as she could, she couldn’t feel it above her. And while sitting wasn’t comfortable, standing was even worse, leaving more of her legs open and exposed. She was glad, for once, she wasn’t any bigger than she was at the moment, or else that would likely have been her only option.

How long the monster wandered, Justine had no idea. She could hear muffled sounds from outside the basket, shrieks and yelps, the monster’s voice, though she didn’t try to make out the words, not particularly wanting to know what he was saying to his other victims, but since he never lifted the lid to check on her, to make sure her punishment was as terrible as it should be, it all blended together into a long haze. And then, at last, there was a thud, and the movement stopped.

She held her breath for as long as she could, squinting in preparation for the light that she was sure was about to come flooding in from above her, mentally preparing herself for what she was going to see. Was she was back in the real world yet - it didn’t seem possible that the thing could exist in reality, but, then again, she’d seen a lot of things that couldn’t exist that day. If she was in her own world, she wouldn’t get any younger while she went through whatever was going to happen to her next. Of course, if she wasn’t, then maybe she would eventually de-age back into nothingness… At least that would be a way out. She wondered if she’d gotten any younger there, in the basket, if while she’d been struggling in vain to escape, the hands she’d used to try to break free had been growing ever more small and useless.

“You are late, Krampus,” came a voice, one that took Justine several moments to realize sounded familiar because it was Ded Moroz - he sounded different somehow, but that could have just been because of where she was hearing him from.

“Ded Moroz!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. “I’m in here! Get me out!”

The basket shook sharply, jolting her back into the far side. “I was having a busy night,” the monster, Krampus apparently, said with a dry laugh. “I’m sure we all were. It’s been too long since we were free. The children have grown… complacent.”

“I fear, perhaps, you are right,” Ded Moroz replied, sounding a little sad.

“That old fool coddled them for too long,” said someone else - Pere Fouettard, she thought, though she hadn’t heard him speak enough to know for certain. “He used to know better, but he went soft. You did not do the same, did you, Ded Moroz?”

Justine jumped as she heard a loud bang, freezing, as if whatever had made the noise could have seen her anyway. “Get out of here,” Krampus hissed. “Little pests… Why did we let them out again?!”

“They do the same job as you,” Ded Moroz said. “As all of us. Although it would be nice if they would sit and pay attention.”

“I am!” This voice was new, high-pitched and squeaky, hardly the kind of a voice Justine would have found menacing, but if it belonged to someone who hung out with Krampus and Pere Fouettard, she couldn’t help but fear the person, or thing, attached. “You can’t expect all of us to listen to this!”

“Fine,” Krampus smoldered. “But the next one of you who comes near my glass is going straight into my basket… And if you’re lucky, it will be in one piece.”

Justine whimpered. There was hardly room in here for her… She hardly welcomed the thought of sharing the space with something else, especially something she had never seen. “Ded Moroz, please!” she tried again, shaking. She felt the basket get kicked another time, shutting up. No use risking getting a hoof to her head when Ded Moroz had yet to show any sign that he had heard her.

Instead, he started to say, “Indeed, when I set out tonight, I was perhaps too happy to be free, thinking the little sins were no problem. But that is how it starts, is it not? We let the small things go, and they grow into something worse, and then we have not done our job.”

“Exactly what I have always thought,” Pere Fouettard agreed. “We cannot let…”

Justine stopped listening to that, hearing something far more worrying, closer. She heard a skittering noise, something climbing, clawing its way towards her. She gasped, trying to shrink down as small as she could go. What was in here with her, she wondered, and how long had she been trapped in here with it? Her skin crawled at the thought. It could just be some helpless creature, something sharing the same fate as her, just as scared of her as she was of it… But she wasn’t going to bet on it, and wouldn’t risk revealing her location by asking its intentions.

She didn’t have much to defend herself with. At first, she thought she had nothing, but, to make sure, she ran her hands down her body, feeling at the nightgown, the diaper, trying to think of how she could use any of that for a weapon. She was sure she had come up empty until one of her fingers happened upon a diaper pin. It wasn’t much, no, but it was sharp. If the thing had eyes, and she happened to find them, she could poke them out. Then again, if it was here in this darkness, it might not need eyes to find her….

But as she was thinking that, all of a sudden she was in darkness no more. She closed her eyes quickly against the invading light, then slowly opened them again, staring up in disbelief. But sure enough, the basket was open, if only just. Then the light was obscured slightly as a tiny head popped over the edge to stare down at her. “He did catch one, then,” it said quietly. “Well, up you go.” Nimbly, it lowered something down towards her. She wasn’t sure she could trust this… whatever it was, although it appeared she didn’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter. She reached up, felt some kind of metal, followed it around and realized it was a hook. It was also quite small.

“I don’t think it’s going to hold me,” she said.

“Nonsense! It’s snared bigger meals than you, trust me.” While the phrasing made her a bit nervous, she figured she might as well give it a shot, and wrapped her hand around the thing, surprised to feel herself being lifted up steadily. When she got near the top, the basket tumbled over, and she quickly scrambled away from it, crawling on her hands and knees beneath what appeared to be a large stone table. She glanced behind herself, and saw a trio of tiny men, dressed in strange, somewhat ratty looking clothes, working together to put the lid back on the basket and stand it back up.

“Get away from there!” she heard Krampus demand, then saw his hand sweep at the little men, sending them jumping off the basket, joining her under the table. To be safe, she crawled a little further away from Krampus before saying, “Thank you,” to them, nearly crying from gratitude. “Thank you so much!” She spotted the first one, the one holding a large hook, far taller than he was. “Why did you help me?” she asked, a little surprised that someone that kept this company would be interested in saving her from whatever Krampus had planned for her.

“Ah, it was nothing,” he said bashfully. “That Krampus, he deserved it, you know.”

“Can’t argue with that,” Justine nodded, letting herself stretch out, only then remembering the diaper pin she was clutching, her memory jogged as she realized it had been jabbing into her hand the whole time. “Ouch!” She dropped it, sucking on the wound, hardly noticing one of the little men licking their lips as he stared down at the pin, and her blood on it.

“Those look like some nasty marks,” another of them said, walking around from behind her. “He got you good, eh?”

She nodded miserably. “Umm… Hey, Ded Moroz and Kolyada, they had some kind of water… It made me feel a lot better after… Well, after the first time…” She blushed.

“Oh, sure, sure.” The man with the hook handed her a canteen - it was smaller than the others she’d seen, of course, but the water tasted just as good, and dulled the pain just as well. Of course, having been switched twice in one night, she was still very uncomfortable, not to mention humiliating. She could also see how it might seem funny, to somebody not her, so she tried not to be too offended when she saw the little men laughing at her.

“Thank you so much,” she told them, handing the canteen back over. “I didn’t think I’d ever meet somebody nice again. If you don’t mind me, asking, though, what are you? I mean, are you elves or something?”

“Elves?” The man with the hook looked slightly offended. “I should say not! I’m Ketkrokur! That,” he pointed over to the one who had noticed her welts, “is Gluggagaegir. And that one is Stufur,” that one was even shorter than the rest, “and… You know what, you can just call us the Yule Lads.”

“All right,” she nodded thankfully, pretty sure she couldn’t have said any of those names anyway. “I’m Justine.” Now that she was feeling better, and somewhat safe, she decided she had better fasten her diaper back up. She picked up the pin, and reached in for the diaper, but hit her nightgown first, and had to reach down surprisingly far to find the hem of it. She tried to tell herself it was just because she was sitting, yet the sides of the diaper overlapped much more when she tugged the thing tight around herself, enough so that she had to re-position the other pin as well. “L-Listen,” she told the Lads, “I need to get back home, and fast. Do you guys know how to get back to the real world?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that too much if I were you,” Ketkrokur said, starting to walk in closer to her.

All of the sudden, she heard a bang on the table above them. “None of them!” Ded Moroz was shouting, his voice far angrier than Justine had heard it before, than she had ever imagined it could be. “The whole world is undeserving! If I were to give you the names of those naughty, it would be everyone! And I am sure you have no names for me. You are all right, Saint Nicholas has ruined this world! One season is not enough to teach them to be good again, if they can even learn. Do you not understand? We are too late!”

“No, you’re not!” Justine declared, scrambling out from under the table. “Ded Moroz, you aren’t! I know you’re discouraged, but there are still good people in the world! You just have to bel…”

“There!” Pere Fouettard exclaimed, pointing at her. “There is a perfect example of how right you are! Even your beloved granddaughter, grown up without our guidance, has turned naughty!”

Ded Moroz turned to her, eyes flaring. “I have no vnuchka,” he said, standing. As he stood, she saw the red drain from his robes, watched them turn a pure white. His walking stick floated from its spot on the table to his hand. “Do with her as you will,” he told the others. “I have much work to do.” And then, with a flash of light, he was gone.

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Re: Old Habits Die Hard - A Christmas Story, Chapter 8

Nice it very interesting how this story and little confusing with the charater some time becuase never heared of them before but love readying it still and good job.