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You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Haven Gillespie, 1933
I’m the other side of that coin, the boogieman parents use to frighten their children, the Krampus from old pagan legends stolen by Christianity. It’s all nonsense of course. I have principles, like I’d never eat a child no matter how naughty they were. Well, maybe if they were really really naughty, like if they hurt little animals, kicked puppies or set fire to kittens, or were bullies and burgeoning psychopaths. I might eat one then.
My kind have been around long before they crucified Christ. We were around when Christmas was the Winter Solstice, Easter was the Spring Equinox, Halloween was Samhain and they celebrated May Day with Beltane. We were around before the Christians stole our holidays and made them boring.
I had to research this stuff, part of a self-discovery project. I didn’t know my father and my mother never got around to explaining how I came to be. She always said she loved my dad but he was impossible to live with. Knowing what I know now, I believe it. Still, I wish he’d hung around long enough to give me some pointers on how to deal with what I am.
There is a movie from eighties, An American Werewolf in London. It is ground breaking for its special effects when the guy morphs into a werewolf. Credence Clearwater’s Bad Moon Rising plays in the background, a full moon rises outside the window. He groans on the floor, his arms pop out into claws, and his face stretches in painful grimace. Technicolor wide-screen agony. Pretty powerful stuff. He becomes a raw roaring appetite for violence, roams the streets of London, kills people in the Tube while they wait for the train. When he wakes the following morning he can’t remember what he’s done.
It’s not like that for me. I’m not a wolf man and I’m not a slave to the moon. It’s just something I have to do now and again. I don’t groan with the agony of morphing. There’s no pain. My bones melt, become mushy and gelatinous. It’s pleasant and sensual like a two-hour massage or an hour in a steaming hot mineral bath and it happens in seconds. It takes all the pain and tightness from my limbs, leaves me loose and light like a double hit of single malt whisky and a toke of herb, then my body stretches, muscle and bone harden, my feet extend over the end of the bed, knuckles dangle to the floor. I hear a mouse scampering through the leaves outside our window, footsteps on the street, a heartbeat, smell blood, sweat, and nervous fear. My senses become sharp, focused, electric. It’s overwhelming. Erotic.
Marta sleeps next to me. I love her to pieces. She’s safe but I’m ravenous. I could eat a horse. Truth is, I’ve eaten a horse. They’re disappointing. Sure, a horse panics, gets scared and makes me feel powerful and there’s a lot of it but nothing fuels that power like people. It’s just so rich and full-some. Human fear is layered. Has depth. Horses are puddles. Humans are oceans. Some turn to mush, whimper and cry. Other’s fight like hell, claw, punch, kick, scream. Exciting stuff.
I follow the girl. I laugh to myself and think maybe she’s on the way to grandma’s house. Maybe she has a basket of goodies and treats, not that I’d eat any of that shit all frosted up and poisoned with sugar. She’s dressed like that DC Comic character Harley Quinn. Maybe she’s been to a costume party. I’m not a DC fan and I’m beginning to wean myself off the Marvel Universe. I find the unmitigated bare bones of reality cynicism like The Boys far more appealing. I think about that, its unerring statement on our consumer society, the mind control and bullshit spewed out by marketing people to make us buy shit we don’t need and can’t afford. Maybe, I should write a review.
But I’m off track. My concentration slips and runs off. I astral travel to other places when I need to concentrate on the issue at hand which is being a predator and feeding myself. My concentration’s shot. It’s happening more and more of late. I return my thoughts back to the hunt. The girl is further away now. I see her swing her hips and sashay down the street. She’s dancing and skipping. Dressed in white she stands out against the darkness like a marshmallow floating in a cup of dark chocolate.
She’s all made up, painted white clown face with big rosy rounds on her cheeks like some sort of doll. She’s pounding out the rhythm plugged into ears, pirouetting and dancing along the walk path. I hope it’s not Hip Hop. I hate that shit. When I’m all morphed and monstered like now I hate it even more. She has those buds in her ears. And I can just hear the back beat streaming out from her earholes. I’m ready to rid the planet of her silly arse and gobble her up. I pick up speed run past her then leap in front of her path. Stand tall, tower over her, bare my teeth. Green viscous drool drips from my chin. I growl and snarl.
Well that’s that then, she says. Have at it monster guy.
Maybe she’s on something. Maybe she thinks she’s hallucinating. Maybe she’s one of those que sera sera fatalists who roll over and accept their fate. Makes sense. I am a monster for fuck sakes. There’s not a lot she can do. She’s short work for a guy like me. I’m faster and stronger and she doesn’t have to have Phd in science to know it.
Maybe, her boyfriend’s dumped her or something, maybe she’s mental. It could be anything but whatever it is, she ain’t scared. It makes me feel bad. It’s like being a pimply teenager who’s been turned down for his first date. There’s no fun in it.
My monster face must look all sad. She looks at me and her eyes get soft and tender like I’m a puppy with a thorn in its paw. She pulls the ear buds from her smart phone turns up the volume, takes my taloned hand and we dance down the street to the corner. The whole thing is ridiculous but kind of nice and to be honest, it makes me feel better. I couldn’t eat her even if I were starving and I am starving but I still can’t eat her. She’s just too fucking cool. She’s too nice and weird and we could use more of her kind in this crazy arsed world of ours. We skip down the road like Dorothy and her goofy neurotic trio of misfits tripping down the Yellow Brick Road in Oz. I expect some sort of deep night rainbow to suddenly paint itself across the sky and a bunch of psychedelic bats to swoop the street lights. In spite of myself I’m having fun.
This is me, she says, pointing to a little ramshackle house with broken down fence and collapsing porch. Mum and Dad will worry if they see me hanging out with the likes of you. She shakes my clawed paw, turns, skips away to a music of her own making, sings out into the night, a voice in tremolo, high and sweet on the night air. Moths flitter and dance beneath the streetlights. She turns as she enters her front door and blows me a kiss. I’m touched.
Cold. Now that she’s left I’m shattered, suffer monster depression. I walk along the street looking for a can to kick but there are none. Where’s a fucking litterbug when you need one?
Fear and adrenaline are on the wind. I love it. It’s like my other self passing a bakery in early morning and smelling the aroma of fresh brewed coffee and cinnamon rolls. I pick up a whisper of muffled machine gun fire, hushed moans and groans and background music. I leap over rooftops, take a short cut, follow my nose and my ears, look through a space of separated window drape. See the kid in front of his video screen, leaning forward, intense, headset muffling the gun fire from his controls. He’s totally focused, wired to high voltage and tighter than a ballet dancer’s leotard. He’s hanging to get to the next level before being overcome by the screentoon zombies. I can’t help but think if they ever start making zombies with brains, guys like him will be in deep shit. But I’ve had enough of this wanton slaughter of the virtual resurrected. I crash through the window. He looks up. His eyes are dinner plates. He glances back at the screen, too late, the single shooter is ratshit covered in drooling zombies, blood splatters on the screen. Game over. He looks back to me and for the first time has a real look. He pisses himself and if that weren’t bad enough he follows through with a number two. I don’t know what kind of diet the kid is on but the stench is awful. Monsters are used to that kind of stuff. Eating live food isn’t without its drawbacks but you just suck it up and take the good with the bad. His room is a mess, homework on a desk in the corner, books closed, he hasn’t started it yet. It’s obvious that his second favorite pastime to playing computer games and shooting zombies is watching porn and wanking himself. I step on things lying on the carpet, socks that are stuck together and sodden tissues. I can smell the spent sex on them. Erk. Even a monster has his limits and can feel repulsion but hell, he’s only a kid. I can’t eat him. I growl and drip green ghoulish drool from my fangs, rip the blankets from his bed and shred them, kick over a chair and smash his Spiderman action figure into smithereens. I slap his game controller out of his hands, punch out his video screen, roar and show him teeth. He cowers in the corner.
For fucksakes, I say, take a shower and clean yourself up, you’re covered in piss and shit. And pick up your goddamned cum stained socks and tissues. It’s not right to leave that kind of garbage around for your mother to deal with. Show some fucking respect. When you’re done with that come back and finish your homework or I’ll return and pull you apart limb by limb and eat your pimply ass.
The kid’s in the corner slobbering and crying, snot pours out of his nose like an avalanche of custard. He’s a mess. The door swings open and there’s his mother, dressed in her flannel nightie like a cliché. She looks to her son. And races towards me, beating me with her fist. I’m impressed. My mother used to tell me there was no love like a mother’s love. I guess there’s some truth in it. The old lady is fearless. It’s all about protecting her son even if he does masturbate too much and waste too much time on play station instead of doing his homework. I kick a hole in the wall and escape. I ain’t dealing with angry mums and I’m not about to dine on one. If it were a father, he’d be history and a snack.
I give up early, morph back to myself and wander home for breakfast. This is becoming more common now. I come home un-satiated and depressed. Marta shakes her head, smiles and kisses me on the cheek.
Bad night, sweetheart? I’ll fix your breakfast, she says. She serves out a dozen lightly beaten scrambled eggs, a kilo of bacon with the left over dripping on toast. It’s a heart attack on a platter but my metabolism can handle it.
Marta understands. She talks me out of my depression. It’s not like I’m a merchant banker. I’m not a CEO for an Armament Firm or Fossil Fuel Company, she says. I don’t send kids off to war or lobby politicians. I’m not a full time monster like those guys, just part time. I lead two lives. It’s like being an undercover cop or a secret agent. I just have to compartmentalize the process.
Sure I eat people, create havoc, breakdown doors, wipe out neighborhood bars when I’ve a mind, but I’ve learned to control myself. I wiped out a bikers’ bar one night. Now that was rewarding. They were swinging chains, pulling out guns, razors and flick knives, noisy as all hell. My super hearing and senses went into overdrive with all the gun fire and cordite in the air. I shut down all the lights and ate the bartender. I swear they were in such a panic that at least half of them shot each other. I managed a few scrapes, but virtually wiped them out and was the last man standing or the last monster standing. I felt pretty good about that one and didn’t harbor any guilt. The barmaid was in a state but that couldn’t be helped. I felt for her though. I knew her from my other self. Single mum doing it tough. While she huddled in the corner rolled up into a shivering ball of terror, I emptied out biker’s pockets and put the cash in her tip jar before I left.
It’s not easy juggling two lives like that. So, yeah there are problems but it’s not like I can go to a group therapy session.
Hello. My name’s Arnold. I’m a monster. I eat people.
Thank goodness for Marta. She knows what I am. She helps me. Like all good marriages we share our problems and work things out. There’s nothing more supportive than a loving relationship and I’m fortunate that she has a Medical Degree and a Doctorate in Behavioral Sciences.
She smiles. I know she loves me but it must be hard on her. I heard the sirens just before you arrived home, she says. The town is too small to keep you hidden for much longer. It’s too dangerous. We have to leave here sooner rather than later.
It’s not fair on you Marta, I say. You have a career here. I’ll leave. You’re better off without me.
Nonsense Arnold. We’re a partnership. We’re together in this, she says. You’re a good man. I know it’s difficult for you, knowing that you’ve eaten some good people and I’ve been thinking. What if you only ate bad people? Say we moved to a place where you could be more selective with your menu. You wouldn’t be some mindless monster appeasing his appetite. You could be a Monster Avenger. A Monster Vigilante.
That would be very cool, I say, but how do we manage it?
She smiles, messes up my hair and kisses me on the cheek again. You know I’ve been applying for a position as Professor for Behavioural Sciences. I received a phone call this morning and I managed to land a position at a University in Manhattan, not all that far from Wall Street and the Financial District. It has enormous benefits. I won’t have to work the long hours anymore and maybe we could start a family.
I never thought I’d like city living. I love it. Central Park is a hoot, running along the paths at night, scaring the shit out of joggers. And the Financial District is a wonderful menu of multinational villainy and debauchery. It’s an endless smorgasbord for an epicure of evil like myself. It’s paradise unlimited. I gate crashed one of those ritzy parties where all the übber wealthy hob nob with each other. It was an orgy for me, a banquet of unmitigated bastardy. Holy shit it was fun. I even ate the celebrity page photographer for the Times. I had to lay low for a while. Even in the big city where people shoot each other for parking in the wrong spot or talking in the cinema you have to be careful not to draw too much attention to yourself but it’s all chill now.
Marta’s having a baby in spring and I’m going to be a stay at home dad. I think it might be a little girl. I don’t’ know. I’m planning an Instagram and blog on being a stay at home father with parenting tips.
Life is good.
This story previously appeared in Cirque #22.
Edited by Marie Ginga
Alpheus Williams, curmudgeon, pagan, pantheist, loves wife, nature, good whisky and dogs. Published in The Molotov Cocktail, Barren Magazine, Storgy, The Write Launch, Fabulist Magazine, Shotgun Honey, Bristol Noir, Bath Flash Fiction, Ellipses Zine, et al. Two stories nominated Push Cart Prize 2021. Links to published works seasongchronicle.