The Krampus stood, snarling, in the center of the hotel lobby, clawed hands out, one foot on the Pagan Celebration Tree. The beast was surrounded by broken furniture, jagged shards of ornaments and lights, lukewarm puddles of former snowmen, and an ever-growing pile of dismembered gremlins. The lights flickered like a haunted house. The reindeer-monster snorted, then howled, shaking the handful of shattered frames still hanging from the walls.
“We gonna do this or what?” asked Queen Victoria XXX, standing opposite the creature, fists raised.
Dropping to all-fours, the Krampus charged at Queen Victoria XXX.
Boudica IX threw a gremlin into the anti-Santa’s evil, furry face.
The Krampus skidded to a stop and looked around.
“Where did –”
A gremlin skull collided with the back of its head. The beast spun around.
“How is she –”
The creature was clocked by a severed arm from the right, an armless torso from the left. Legs started to rain down on the beast from all sides. The Krampus turned around again, found Queen Victoria XXX unmoved.
She kicked him in the face.
“I can’t be stopped by violence,” it roared, reeling backward and wiping blood from its snout. “I AM VIOLENCE!”
“You sure? You’re pretty bad at it.”
The beast charged again. It got kicked in the face again. Then Boudica IX dropped from the suspended ceiling onto the Krampus’s back, looping Holiday Day Week lights around its neck.
“Hey, since you mentioned it,” she asked, choking the reindeer-monster Princess Leia-style, “how can you be stopped?”
“Like I … would … tell … you!” The Krampus heaved forward, throwing the queen from its back. “Prepare to … to …”
A sickening look crossed the beast’s face. Suddenly, its fur-covered leather skin twisted inward, then bulged, a fat, saggy arm shooting out from within. More twisting, more bulging, another arm, and then Santa Claus emerged – well, most of him anyway. The morbidly obese man in the tattered red coat drooped, deformed and listing, from the waist of the Krampus, the reindeer-monster’s reindeer legs wobbling this way and that.
“The Krampus,” shouted Santa, “can only be defeated by the true power of Christmas!”
“But, uh, Christmas doesn’t exist anymore, Santa Walrus,” said Boudica IX, pulling herself back to her feet from the watery pile of gremlin she’d landed in.
“Like fun it doesn’t!” he spat. “You can call the holiday whatever nonsense you want, but the spirit of Christmas … the spirit … Oh, balls.”
Through another series of twisting grotesqueries, the Krampus reasserted dominance over its shared body.
“I hate it when he does that,” grumbled the monster.
“Yeah?” asked the red-haired queen, covered in gremlin puree. “And how much do you hate it when we do … this!”
Boudica IX hugged Queen Victoria XXX hard, harder than she’d ever hugged another person before, pressing her cheek against hers, gripping her own wrists behind the dark-haired woman’s back and pulling the other queen so tight that Vicky’s bones started to bend a little.
“What is this?” asked the Krampus, tilting its head and arching a massive and wild eyebrow. “What am I looking at?”
“That’s an excellent question,” said Queen Victoria XXX.
“Love!” squealed the Britannic warrior queen, closing her eyes and scrunching up her face to achieve Ultimate Affection.
“You, uh, you think ‘love’ is the true meaning of Christmas?” asked the beast, scratching its cheek with a claw.
The queen opened an eye. “It’s not?”
“Not even platonic girl love?”
“What does that have to do with Christmas?”
“Well, poop,” said the queen, releasing her friend.
“OK, what about …” Queen Victoria XXX pulled her phone from her pocket. “Shit,” she said, scrolling feverishly. She turned to Boudica IX. “Do you have Jesus’s number?”
“Fools! Again!” bellowed the Krampus, laughing, its taut belly not jiggling at all. “Jesus is not the true meaning of Christmas!”
“Oh, right,” said Boudica IX, “because Christmas, as it was celebrated, was largely based on stolen pagan rituals, right?”
“Well, yes, but no, not –”
“Because Jesus’s birthday was probably actually in the spring?” asked the other queen. “I mean, dude wouldn’t have survived a winter in an unheated barn.”
“No, that’s –”
“Is it because Jesus was Jewish and never actually celebrated Christmas?”
“All excellent points, but you’re not closer to –”
Santa Claus’s face exploded out of the beast’s chest, their skins merged and stretching. It looked more than a little like a cow halfway through being born.
“Search your feelings, queens!” shouted the jolly fat man. “The true meaning of Christmas is obviously –”
The Krampus punched itself in the chest.
“And stay in there!” it rumbled.
“Good cheer?” asked one of the replicated royals.
“Christmas carols as sung by Darlene Love?” asked the other.
“Nope, nope, nope, nope, and nope,” said the Krampus.
“Is it Starbuck gift cards?” asked Boudica IX.
“What? Who – How – Uh, no, I mean,” said the Christmas monster, suddenly looking shifty. “Definitely not that last one.”
“Oh,” she replied, slumping dejectedly.
“He’s, uh, he’s obviously lying, Bo,” said Queen Victoria XXX.
The dark-haired queen patted her hands along her jeans. “Do you have a Starbucks gift card?” she asked, leaning in conspiratorially.
“Upstairs,” replied Boudica IX, “I didn’t think I’d need my wallet while we were oooh no he’s charging again.”
The queens dove to the side as the gargantuan reindeer-beast charged between them, antlers first.
Timmy the Super Squirrel turned fitfully in his, quite frankly, unnecessarily enormous king-size bed, trying to enjoy a long winter’s hibernation with his family.
His wife stirred beside him, chittering the squirrel equivalent of: “Can you tell your friends to keep it down? I’m trying to sleep.”
“Mrh,” he replied, rolling over and pulling his blanket tighter.
Queen Victoria XXX and Boudica IX were standing behind the Krampus, arms crossed and brows furrowed. The massive reindeer-monster, having charged full speed and missed, appeared to be stuck in the wall – and not just a little. The beast was twisting and pulling and pushing with its sinewy arms and getting nowhere.
“So do we just let him starve to death in there, or …?”
“What the hell,” asked another voice, “happened in here?”
The women turned to discover that Thor Odinson and Chester A. Arthur XVII had arrived back at the hotel, dozens of shopping bags in their hands, like they were auditioning for a Sex in the City reboot.
“Oh, are we doing presents?” asked Boudica IX.
“I, uh, I thought so,” said Thor, suddenly unsure of a lot of things.
With a sound like a landslide, the Krampus wrenched its head free of the wall and spun around, pointing a clawed finger at the queens. Dust billowed around it as drywall continued to slide to the floor.
“Over here, buddy,” said Queen Victoria XXX.
The Krampus knocked some sheetrock from its face, turned slightly and pointed again. “You two –” Out of the side of its eye, it caught sight of the god and the president. “No!” the monster roared, backing up into the same wall it had just escaped. “The true meaning of Christmas!”
“Boy parts?” asked Boudica IX.
“No!” shouted Queen Victoria XXX, a light bulb going off both metaphorically and literally, the hotel’s electrical system finally getting its shit together. “The shopping bags! Charlie! Thor! Throw them at this thing!”
“But I got stuff for me in here, too,” whined the thunder god, lifting the bags to his chest forlornly.
The Krampus roared in agony, clutching at its own chest. “The sheer selfishness! The refusal to part with material goods even in a time of crisis!”
Queen Victoria XXX started looking around. “Bo!” she ordered. “That box, with the candy cane wrapping paper, underneath the gremlin spine and the … lung? That’s for you! Open it!”
Boudica IX did as instructed, rushing over and tearing at the paper and cardboard. In a matter of seconds, she was holding an ornately detailed snow globe paperweight.
The Christmas beast doubled over. “Such a completely unnecessary bauble! She … doesn’t even … have any papers that would need … weighting!”
“Here!” shouted the red-haired queen, throwing a present toward the dark-haired royal. “It’s a CD of the same Holiday Day Week music that’s always on the radio and all the streaming stations that we get for free!”
“So … pointless …” The Krampus fell to the ground, frothing at the mouth.
“You got Vicky something?” asked Thor, his blood rising.
“Oh, for …” growled the reindeer-monster, pulling its knees tight. “He’s … He’s genuinely upset about … the thing, not the thought!”
“You can’t play with thoughts, man.”
“Charlie,” shouted Queen Victoria XXX, “pull out your receipts!”
Pulling his wallet from his back pocket, and a dozen receipts from his wallet, the cloned president began reading off an itemized list of everything he’d purchased over the past eight hours.
“A dress that I’m less and less sure will fit correctly!” he yelled. “Sixty-nine ninety-nine!”
“Socks with a Holiday Day Week wreath on them! Twelve even!”
“A diamond necklace!” he continued. “Way more than it should have been!”
“You got me jewelry?” asked the queen quietly, a whole mess of emotions sneaking out from inside her.
“Jewelry … is the worst …” grimaced the creature.
“I got Catrina the same pair of sandals she already owns!” shouted Thor, pulling a shoebox from one of his bags. “And hers are still in great condition, and we’re in the middle of a nuclear winter! Plus –” He rifled through another bag. “– I got Bo sexy underwear that, let’s face it, is really a gift for me!”
“Whyyy?” murmured the monster, convulsing slightly. “Sexy underwear … takes … forever to put on … and no time … at all … to take off … and the whole point is to take it off anyway … and it’s so expensive! And how … how often do you … do you even really wear it …” The beast began gibbering incoherently.
“I got Charlie,” Queen Victoria XXX thundered, holding up a terrifically thin, wrapped box, “a gift card to Starbucks!”
“Noooooo!” screamed the Krampus.
With another disgusting series of plops and gurgles and contortions –
“What, uh, what’re we looking at here?” asked Thor.
– the murderous reindeer-beast changed back into Santa Claus.
“Whew,” said the fat man, pulling himself to his feet and wiping prodigious sweat from his prodigious brow with his prodigious hand. “Thank you, ladies. Gentlemen. I am ever so … ever so …” Father Christmas looked around at the destroyed hotel, at the Holiday Day Week decorations in tatters, at the gremlin guts dripping from the ceiling tiles. He raised an eyebrow.
“I’m, uh, I’m going to go,” he said, pointing a thumb toward the door.
“For real, man?” asked Queen Victoria XXX.
“You’re not going to help clean this up?” asked Chester A. Arthur XVII.
“Is that what you really want for Christmas?” chuckled the fat man in the sullied red outerwear. “I’d go bigger if I were you. I do owe you, after all.”
“I don’t know, we’re pretty lazy,” said Thor.
“What I want,” said Chester A. Arthur XVII, “is an explanation.”
“For real, Charlie? That’s what you’re wasting your wish on?”
“I suppose you deserve that much,” said Santa Claus, dragging a coffee table through the gremlin sludge and resting his behemoth buttocks on top of it. “I take it you all know Dasher and Dancer and –”
“The reindeer, yeah,” said Queen Victoria XXX. “What about ‘em?”