Old Habits Die Hard - A Christmas Story, Chapter 9

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
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Chapter Nine - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Justine turned around quickly, trying to keep an eye on the other occupants of the room, as two of them had already switched her, and one had kidnaped her. Now that she was even smaller, it would make it all the more convenient for them to snatch her up and, as Ded Moroz had suggested, to what they wanted with her. Also, being smaller, she could only barely see over the table, so she backed up slowly, trying to see just what she was up against. Her waddle was more pronounced now, taking a little more getting used to, as the diaper, while technically staying the same size, seemed thicker now that she was smaller. She wasn’t sure how many other people would be there - she’d heard some unfamiliar voices while she’d been making her escape from the basket, though hadn’t been paying enough attention to them to remember what they’d said, and was rather shocked at just how full the table was.

There were all manner of people there, all watching her. The one her eyes went to first looked nearly as frightening as Krampus, his face stiff and unmoving, tongue long, extended as if, like a snake, he was using it to try to find her. It took her a few moments to realize it was, in fact, a mask, but that didn’t make it any less creepy. Beside him sat a dark skinned man, brightly dressed, a feathered cap on his head. His clothes made him seem harmless enough, but there was something in his eyes that made her nervous, as if the company he kept wasn’t enough to do that. And then there was a man with a beard wearing the bear skin, a large rod propped on the table next to him, with a knife sitting next to it that seemed to belong to the woman at his side. One instant, she was beautiful, white-robed, almost angelic-looking, the next she was even more terrifying than Krampus, face distorted, skin covered in matted fur that had once been white, but was now stained gray and crimson, six horns sprouting from her head, growing off in every direction, like a lenticular image, viewed at just the right angle to make it go haywire. And there were more, so many more, all staring at her, all judging just how naughty she had been that year.

Justine had forgotten about the Yule Lads until they started to come out from under the table, and she felt a small surge of relief wash over her. They might be small, but at least she had some allies. She turned to Ketkrokur, who had his hook leaned against one shoulder, considering kneeling so she would be about the same size as him, rather than towering over, though she decided it would be best not to lose sight of everyone else, and said, “Please, Yule Lads, I need you to help me one more time!”

Ketkrokur smiled, tapping the hook against his collarbone. “Help you? But if we do that, we won’t get you when they’re finished. And we’re all still awfully hungry.”

“Wh-What?” Justine’s mouth started to twitch into a grin, sure they were joking, but the way the other Lads were fanning around her reminded her more of a pack of wolves than the jolly, mischievous little people she’d thought they were. She saw a large cat jump onto the table, with what she assumed was the leader of the group riding on top.

“You’ve done your part well, Justine,” Krampus told her, standing. “You have no idea how hard it was to convince him to break us out of our prison, to get him to agree to letting us all run free again. We told him it would be like the old days, with him in charge of rewarding all the good little boys and girls. That senile old fool believed you really were his dear granddaughter’s newest form, all grown up, and you let him down, reminded him what those old times were really about, before he went soft. Now he’s out there, creating a new world for us… But your work is done now, child.”

“D-Does that mean I can go home?” she asked, shaking a little. Was this just one final scare for her, to try to keep her from telling Ded Moroz what was going on?

“You wouldn’t want to go back there now,” Krampus told her. “Do you really want to grow up again, in the world as it is now? You’re naughty to your core. You’d spend every day in fear, wondering which of us would visit you next. We’re doing you a favor.” The woman/monster got up, picking up her knife with a sadistic grin. The Yule Lads licked their lips as the cat prowled across the table.

“But I can change!” she wailed, praying this was like A Christmas Carol, that declaring that would wake her up on Christmas morning with a new appreciation of the spirit of the season, that she would go out and buy a goose to give to a poor family, and give out cheese to mice - she had seen the Muppet version of that story more than any other, and was what immediately came to mind when she thought of it. “I can change!” The repetition didn’t do the trick, either. She didn’t wake up from where she’d fallen asleep on the sofa. The stone table didn’t melt into the coffee table in her living room. The people and things around her didn’t dissolve, vanish in a rainbow of glitter.

“Children never change,” Pere Fouettard said. “They will always be horrible, selfish things. And that is why we will always be needed. And now, we can always be there.”

“I-I can do it…” she replied weakly, jaw quivering, letting her gaze fall as she fought back tears. She doubted crying would have any effect on these monsters, ones who had been punishing children for eons, and they wouldn’t make her feel any better, but they were all she could do now.

It was looking there, under the table, that let her see it. All the way on the other side of the table, over by Pere Fouettard’s seat, there was something moving in the ground. At first, it looked like it could be some strange, small snake, raising its head to listen, likely just some other spirit of Christmas. But as she watched, another one popped up, right by it, and then another two, and she realized it was a hand. It felt the ground around it for a moment, then laid itself flat against it before starting to push. As the boy attached to the hand began to rise, she noticed another two doing the same nearby. She saw black stitches criss-crossing their flesh, which was steaming, and they had no hair, no fingernails.

“If you want to punish somebody for their misdeeds,” a woman said from above Justine, “start with yourself.”

The three boys lunged at Pere Fouettard, grabbing at his dark robes before he could react, though his eyes went wide as he saw them. Justine looked up to see where the voice had come from, but as she did, an old woman with a long nose, wearing a black shawl, landed beside her, holding a broomstick, which she quickly swung in front of them, sending the Yule Lads tumbling beneath the table like bowling pins.

“You have no business here, wanderer!” Krampus shouted, leaping onto the table, hooves clacking against the stone. “You won’t find what you’re looking for here!” The woman swept the head of her broom across the tabletop, and the entire thing burst into flames. The cat yowled, leaping off, the Yule Lad on top of it falling into the flames before scrambling after it. “You think fire scares me, Befana?” Krampus asked, walking through it casually. “I dance in the flames of hell, atop the souls of children! This can’t hurt me!”

As Krampus paused in the middle of one of the flames for a moment, as if to prove his point, they slowed their flickering, growing dimmer, thicker, and then froze solid. “I don’t need to hurt you,” Befana told him. “Just stop you. Come, child, we’d better get you out of here.” The woman grabbed her, then quickly ducked, shoving Justine down, as the man in the bear skin swung his rod at them. He swung again, enraged at missing, and Befana blocked it with her broomstick. The rod froze solid on contact, and then shattered into a million pieces, sending the man reeling backwards.

Quickly, Befana grabbed Justine, setting her on the broomstick before straddling it herself, wrapping an arm around Justine as they rose into the air. Justine’s stomach seemed to have been left on the ground, and she had to clamp her eyes closed tightly so as not to throw up at the rapid ascent. After a few seconds, she felt them change directions, going forward instead of up, and, gradually, she convinced herself to open her eyes again.

As she did so, they lurched sideways, though by then it was too late, and she was already looking out, seeing the large swan they’d just swerved to avoid. It was beautiful, but she could tell it was also the monster from the table, as its image swam before her, changing into the six horned beast, its knife clasped in its hand, swinging out at her. She screamed, right as Befana’s broom lurched higher, out of the knife’s reach. “Get out of here!” Justine wailed. The swan rose to meet them, then went higher before diving down at them. Justine’s eyes went wide as she watched the tip of the broomstick get severed, falling down to the cold ground, far, far below. “Use your magic on it!” she begged.

“I have no magic,” Befana told her, shouting over the wind rushing past their ears. “Only my broom does!”

“Then use it!”

“You’d better hold on!” Befana instructed her. Justine grasped the broomstick tighter, knuckles turning white. “No! To me!” Justine tried to look up at Befana, to decipher what she was thinking, but they kept picking up speed, making it harder and harder for her to keep her eyes open. As quick as she could, she moved her hands from the broom to the arm Befana had wrapped around her. What was this woman planning on doing? She saw the swan again, saw the knife glistening in the moonlight as it prepared to attack again. Befana’s arm tightened around Justine. There was a long moment of nothing, of waiting to see what the swan would do, what Befana was going to do for her response.

The monster dove at them, flying downwards at a frightening speed. And, just as quickly, Justine saw the broomstick swinging out from beneath them. An involuntary scream escaped her throat, and she felt her bladder give way at the sight of absolutely nothing between her and a long fall, followed by death. She wasn’t really afraid of heights, normally, but this was far from normal. It was all happening too fast for her to process, to try to block it out. She saw the broom rising, arcing upwards towards the swan, and she saw the two meet. She somewhat expected the broom to be cut in half - for a terrible moment, it seemed as if nothing had happened - and then the swan burst into flames, shrieking as it spiralled downwards.

Then her eyes finally closed to block it all out, long after it was over, just before she felt her and Befana’s fall stop, feeling, just barely, through her thick diaper, the broomstick below her again. They slowed down, and she felt a gentle hand stroking her hair. “It’s all right, dear,” Befana told her. “It’s over now.”

“No, it’s not,” Justine shook her head. “It’s never going to be over! I just want to go home, and be my old self again!”

Befana was quiet for a little too long before she told her, “We have something we need to do first. Then we’ll see about all that.”

Justine sniffled softly, resting her head on Befana’s arm. She could tell from that pause that the woman didn’t think all that was going to be possible, that one, or both, of those wishes couldn’t come true, not even on Christmas Eve. Was she really going to be stuck growing up all over again? How would she explain that to her parents, her friends, the world? She cried for what felt like a long time, lamenting that night, and her uncertain future, only feeling a tiny bit better when she felt something enter her mouth automatically, which began to instinctively suck on it.

She opened her eyes again above a city. She could see Christmas lights twinkling, but other than that, there was no movement. Everything had an odd look to it, so smooth, like it was all fake, just model buildings created by someone very skilled. When she looked closer, though she saw that everything was covered in ice, frozen solid. They flew over it in silence, no sound coming from them, or from it.

Eventually, the buildings grew farther apart, and smaller, though no less still, giving way for more trees, until she found herself above a full blown forest, also frozen. Befana took them down lower, slowing down, although Justine could see no reason why. Finally, as they reached the edge of the forest, they landed. “What are we doing here?” Justine asked, prying her fingers away from Befana, though once she was done talking, her thumb went right back to her mouth.

“Just wait a minute, dear,” Befana told her gently. After a couple seconds, sure enough, she could tell something was happening, as there was a sound other than their breathing. A few seconds later, she saw something coming towards them, snapping frozen tree limbs off as it moved, crunching them beneath its feet. It was a small log cabin - or, rather, a box, seeing as it had no windows or doors, and, sure enough, even when she looked a second time, it did have feet. Even stranger, they were chicken feet. She began to idly consider the fact that her mind had simply snapped, that all of this had been too much for her.

“All right, dear, I need you to do something for me, okay?” Justine stared at the woman, still sucking her thumb. “Dear, please… Can you understand me?” After a blank moment or two, Justine nodded. “I need you to say something for me. I need you to say, ‘Hut, oh hut, turn your back to the woods, your front to me.’ Okay? Can you do that for me?”

Reluctantly, Justine took her thumb from her mouth and said. “H-Hut, oh hut… Umm…” She blushed, embarrassed that she had forgotten already.

“It’s all right!” Befana reassured her quickly. “Hut, oh hut, turn your back to the woods, your front to me.”

Justine started again, but could manage to get no further, the words slipping from her mind despite her best effort. “I can’t!” she pouted, starting to raise her hand back to her lips. “You do it!”

“I can’t,” Befana said. “It has to be a human, dear. I was a human once, a long time ago, but then I got cursed, and now I’m a creature of magic, of legend. But you’re just a human still. You have to do it.”

Justine nodded slowly, and re-started the phrase. Before she could get frustrated when she ran out of words, Befana jumped in, repeating the next few, coaching her through it, until, at last, the whole thing was out. For a tense moment, Justine was afraid she’d fail, that she was going to have to do it again, and again, but slowly, the cabin started to turn around, revealing a small door.

“Good job, dear,” Befana told her, taking her hand. Even though she knew she was a grown-up, that she had out-grown it long ago, that she shouldn’t, Justine couldn’t help but put the thumb of the other hand back in her mouth as she walked beside the old woman up to the cabin. Befana knocked three times at the door, and then pushed it open. Inside, by a fireplace lit with a fire that had blue flames, and gave off no smoke, sat another old woman. “I’m sorry to bother you,” Befana said, “but I’m afraid we need your help, Baba Yaga.”

All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth

Re: Old Habits Die Hard - A Christmas Story, Chapter 9

I had a feeling she would appear.

Re: Old Habits Die Hard - A Christmas Story, Chapter 9

Originally, she wasn’t going to, because I couldn’t quite work out the logic for it to make sense, but I finally got it. And I’m glad, because it really did need to be her here.

Re: Old Habits Die Hard - A Christmas Story, Chapter 9

Another excellent chapter to a interesting story, keep on the the good writing.

Re: Old Habits Die Hard - A Christmas Story, Chapter 9

Wow this is very good and please more I really never heard of some of this thing before .