The fire crackled cheerfully and the flickering light played over the soldiers of Gamma Platoon. They had been pulled back from the front for some rare rest and were gathered around a fire made from the scraps of some old ammo boxes. Gamma Platoon was comprised thirty soldiers who could barely call themselves men. They were young, far too young to be fighting for their lives and their health from the clutches of disease and decay, but such were these times. Their company was the remnants of the loyal planetary defense forces here on Constantin’s Reach, those feeble few who stayed faithful on a world turned to madmen and corpse worship. Their weary eyes were fixed now on their wizened Platoon Sergeant. The man was old, so old that, when out of earshot, the soldiers joked he was older than most of the throne-be-damned tombstones that littered the landscape like trees on this dead world. He was the only man among them that had actually served in the Guard, and the only one to have actually left the world of their birth. He had seen things that the others could only dream of, but would never wish to. Yet despite his infirmities, scars and the horrors he had seen, the light of youth had never left his eyes. For Gamma, he was comrade, leader, and mentor to each and every soul.
“I heard a story once,” the veteran began with a hushed tone. He paused. The fire popped and the men drew a little closer, both from the cold and to hear the impending yarn. “A story about the world of New Murica. It’s a world much like ours, in a system just like this one. The stars you see in its skies are these stars. I’ve heard it said that a monster prowls that world, the ENTIRE world, for one night each year….”
On this night… this… Murdermas Eve, worried parents tuck their children into bed nice and tight. They shut tight the windows, bar the doors, and light fires in the hearths to ward away the coming darkness. They do this because a terrible evil stalks their world.
Legends say that the daemon takes the form of a jolly old man. The twinkling eyes and curly mustache are just a cheerful façade to hide his insidious intent from too-eager eyes. He comes clad in a suit woven from a crimson fabric of dried blood and collared with fur the color of the fresh, undisturbed snow that falls on a lonely grave. And they call this monster… Santa Claus.
His airship is covered in bells that tickle with the sound of lost souls and crew by hideous, four-legged, antlered beasts. These monstrosities call themselves ‘reindeer’ and each of the nine has a name that is as renowned and as fearsome as that of Claus. They are called Dagger and Cancer. Pouncer and Victim. Also Vomit and Putrid, Robber and Blitzin’. And do not forget the most infamous of reindeer of all, Rudolph the Red. The poor citizens say you can sense them coming in the dead of night by the deep belly laugh echoing through the streets and the putrid red glow of Rudolph’s namesake nose .
When the daemon arrivers, not a creature is stirs. Each fearful soul knows that they cannot keep the monster out of their house. They peak from windows and shutters hoping beyond hope that he will pass them by. He will invade each house in time. Humble air recyclers, dusty ventilation ducts, and smoke-filled chimneys become sources of great fear on this one night each year. They leave offerings of sugar plums, cookies and synth-milk for…
The old man pauses his story, for one of the soldiers has raised his hand. “Yes Clake?”
The young man looks at his hand as though he is unsure how it got in the air. He quickly puts it down. “Sir…” he begins hesitantly. He clears his throat. “What’s a cookie?” The group laughs.
The old man chuckles to himself. “An archaic tradition. Said to have been brought from Terra itself. A ‘baker,’ as they are called, combines ingredients, like flour, water, and sugar, and put them in a box hotter than a chimera’s engine. The result is a small, round bread that is quite sweet. Nutritionally inferior to our diets today, but these men and women would take a certain pride and pleasure in producing an edible treat. But that is not important. Let us continue…”
Milk and cookies are left as wards, with origins from a bygone age, to slack the foul creatures thirst for his favorite delicacy, human children. But not for their flesh and blood. No. He hungers for their souls. He craves them. He comes to them as the trickster… the deceiver… promising gifts and toys… everything their young hearts wish for. In return, all they must do is believe in him. Such a simple thing, but thus is the path to damnation.
He wanders through the streets of New Murica searching for those children too weak willed to resist him. In the dark of this unholy night when even the most vigilant protector has fallen to the weakness of sleep, he makes his promises. Ponies, toy soldiers, and sweet treats dance through dreams and pollute these poor children’s minds. If the child wakes, it is then that he works his magic. He fulfills his promises, produces their deepest desires, their hopes and dreams, all wrapped in a box topped with a bow. Preying on that youthful excitement, he asks these children to pledge their undying faith in him, that he is real and generous. How can they refuse? Brightly colored and wrapped with ribbon, the package is the most beautiful sight in their young lives.
With their promise made and fate sealed, he allows them to open it. To tear into the wrappings with youth-fuelled abandon and lift the lid on what is promised to be their most prized possession. And in that moment, as they hold their deepest desire in their hand, in the midst of that peak of joy, he takes them. He pulls their rapturous souls from their bodies, leaving naught but an empty husk in its place. He stuffs the souls into his sack to be carried up to the northernmost part of the planet. Deep in his lair, covered in thick, adamantium-strong ice, he slowly devours these souls over the coming year whilst they scheme and plot to take yet more children.
Parents awaken with the start the next morning to find the bodies of their children where they lay… still warm… still breathing… And as the sun rises to end that terrible night and the monster flies out of sight, his echoing laugh and deep voice can be heard one last time over the bells of his sled and the wailing of grieving parents…
“Merry Murdermas to all… and to all… a good night.”
Edited by Castellan Cato, 11 December 2014 - 04:16 PM.