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Author Topic: Bonus Christmas Flash 2013 – Helpers  (Read 5816 times)

Bdoomed

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on: December 26, 2013, 05:44:28 AM
Bonus Christmas Flash 2013 – Helpers

by David Steffen

“Helpers” was first published in One Buck Horror Volume 3 – you can order it here.

DAVID STEFFEN lives in Minnesota with his wife, kid, and dogs, where he writes computer vision software. Dozens of his stories have been published at venues like Escape Pod, Drabblecast, and Daily Science Fiction. He is the founder of Diabolical Plots, and he is the co-founder of the Submissions Grinder an always-free fiction market listing site.

Your reader this week – Rikki LaCoste – is a musician, magician, and Hermetic physician. He has been involved in such musickal projects as his very own Panthea, Wychwood Children, the medieval and renaissance ensemble called Moresca, and currently, a hand-drum based four-part harmony quartet called IO. Samples of most of these projects can be heard here. He is a musician, an artist, a regular narrator for Pseudopod (“Responsible Parties”, “The Suicide Witch”), a voice actor, a writer on occult subjects, a summoner of daemons, and teaches piano to sweet little children. But he is mostly known in this neck of the woods as the creator and co-host of Kakophonos Internet Radio: an esoteric and metaphysically flavoured podcast, with stuff – which is currently on hiatus while Rikki goes back to school for audio engineering. There is, however, an episode from the Kak archives, ported to YouTube for your audio – and visual – pleasure, here.



“The boy crept out of the front door, distant streetlamps bouncing dim reflections off his smooth cheeks, breath misting in the chill air. Pete couldn’t help but smile. The boy was just the right size, old enough to have grown some real muscle but still well short of being a man. He was downright plump compared to the half-starved urchins Pete was used to. Strange for a boy with a family to be out at this time. Hadn’t his parents told him the night was populated by thieves and killers? Their loss.

“Ripe for the plucking, yes,” Pete whispered. “How tough, strong, how healthy.”"



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Varda

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Reply #1 on: December 27, 2013, 03:46:23 PM
Great little Christmas flash piece! Glad to finally discover after all this time where Santa's been getting the help. I do like a good tale of holiday equilibrium, where the jolly's balanced out by an equally dark system powering the whole thing. And correct me if I'm wrong, but was the "Pete" in the story actually Svarte Piet?

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Fenrix

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Reply #2 on: December 28, 2013, 04:17:58 PM
Good stuff. Without the threat of the switch or coal, there is no penalty for bad behavior.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


Scattercat

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Reply #3 on: December 30, 2013, 09:33:28 AM
I liked the story a lot.  Krampus/Svarte Piotr and so on are entertaining concepts.  Though I wasn't a big fan of the extended explanation of the function of the porridge; the connection of kidnapped children to Santa's elves seems pretty straightforward, and you can always handwave it by saying "magic" if someone asks why they don't age.  Santa has always had an element of warping spacetime to him, after all.  :-)



fractaloon

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Reply #4 on: December 31, 2013, 02:22:43 PM
This story creeped me out like no other story. I got a chill from it after it ended. Fantastic!



Unblinking

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Reply #5 on: December 31, 2013, 04:36:02 PM
Thanks for listening, guys!  (And to future listeners as well)

And correct me if I'm wrong, but was the "Pete" in the story actually Svarte Piet?

Definitely meant to be Zwarte Piet/Black Pete. 

I wrote this story shortly after hearing about Santa's darker helpers Pete and Krampus a few years ago, I think about the same time as the podcasts I listen to had a string of Krampus stories.  I dug around for stories about Pete to find out more about him, and at least some of them suggested that when Santa came with his giant sack full of toys, once the sack was emptied of toys, it would be filled with naughty boys and girls.  Presumably the real reason the story was made this way was to scare kids into behaving, i.e. "You'd better not leave the house without me or Pete will snatch you up and carry you away."  But to me it raised the question "What do they DO with the kids once they've been carried away?"  One answer would be that they kill them as punishment, but then why not just kill them at home?  Another answer would be that they eat them, but that seemed too obvious.  So I kept thinking until I came up with a reason that seemed both internally consistent and not obvious.

I liked the story a lot.  Krampus/Svarte Piotr and so on are entertaining concepts.  Though I wasn't a big fan of the extended explanation of the function of the porridge; the connection of kidnapped children to Santa's elves seems pretty straightforward, and you can always handwave it by saying "magic" if someone asks why they don't age.  Santa has always had an element of warping spacetime to him, after all.  :-)

When I decided to write this story I decided that it would be fun to write a story which is strictly speaking not speculative, but which gives a (relatively) realistic grounding to the Santa Claus myths.  So, to me at least, there is no magic here.  Pete is big because of genetics.  Pete is strong because of genetics and hard work.  Pete has uncanny night vision that adjusts very quickly because... well I'll call it genetics, though that might be the area where it stretches the closest to speculative.  The children/elves stay smaller because of the porridge.  In my imagination (though never discussed in the story), Pete is just one of a network of Nick's helpers who produce toys for distribution.  Nick probably also has a network of givers who pretend to be Nick to give the toys to children he considers deserving, the precursor of the hordes of shopping mall Santa Clauses.  To me this explains how old Nick can manage to be so many places and giving so many presents to so many kids, but with relatively realistic grounding.  Of course, since Nick was a mortal, at some point he must have died and then this whole network fell apart due to the lack of a nucleus.  But by that time the Santa Claus myth was so prevalent that it lived on indepedently of its source.

Thanks again for listening!  This was my last story awaiting publication in the Escape Artists queue, now I need something new to look forward to.



evrgrn_monster

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Reply #6 on: January 03, 2014, 02:09:14 AM
My only beef with this story is that the Krampus was going after poor, unfortunate waifs (with the exception of the last one), and not necessarily naughty children.

Otherwise, I thought this was tight and nicely written. Had a ton of fun!


Fenrix

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Reply #7 on: January 03, 2014, 12:59:29 PM
My only beef with this story is that the Krampus was going after poor, unfortunate waifs (with the exception of the last one), and not necessarily naughty children.

Otherwise, I thought this was tight and nicely written. Had a ton of fun!

Wasn't the kid sneaking out at night?

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


evrgrn_monster

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Reply #8 on: January 05, 2014, 06:37:37 PM
My only beef with this story is that the Krampus was going after poor, unfortunate waifs (with the exception of the last one), and not necessarily naughty children.

Otherwise, I thought this was tight and nicely written. Had a ton of fun!

Wasn't the kid sneaking out at night?

He was, but what about the other homeless kids? Were they naughty just because they didn't have anyone to care for them?


Unblinking

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Reply #9 on: January 06, 2014, 03:23:21 PM
My only beef with this story is that the Krampus was going after poor, unfortunate waifs (with the exception of the last one), and not necessarily naughty children.

Otherwise, I thought this was tight and nicely written. Had a ton of fun!

Wasn't the kid sneaking out at night?

He was, but what about the other homeless kids? Were they naughty just because they didn't have anyone to care for them?

Yes, you're right, the homeless kids hadn't done anything wrong to deserve the lump of coal that they got.  My thoughts on the matter:

1.  Krampus is distinct from Black Pete.  Krampus is straight up demonic, while Pete is human.

2.  Although the Pete in this story is working to support the myth later known as Santa Claus, he does not necessarily feel bound by the morality of the myth.  He is working hard to fulfill his role--to provide the toys for Nick to give away in charity--but Pete's role is the non-public side of the organization.  Nick wouldn't let himself be caught doing such terrible things, but that's why he has his helpers.

3.  Even in our day and age, Santa Claus doesn't exactly treat rich kids by the same standard that he treats the poverty-stricken.

4.  For what it's worth, the homeless kids didn't get such a bad deal as the one sneaking out of the house.  That last one lost a family, a home, and a future that at least is potentially wide open and traded it for labor in captivity.  The homeless kids traded possible starvation and possible freezing sleeping in a dank alley, for sleeping in a bed having a fire to warm at and getting regular meals.  I'm not going to claim that he has done right by them, but at least in the short term while they're filling their stomachs for the first time in recent memory, I think they're grateful for the heat and food and bed.  At least in my mind, I don't think that Pete inflicts any cruelty that he feels is unnecessary, just that which keeps them producing the toys.

« Last Edit: January 07, 2014, 09:07:11 PM by Unblinking »



davidthygod

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Reply #10 on: January 10, 2014, 06:58:15 PM
Awesome story, I can't say enough positive things.  I feel dumb for not realizing where he was going sooner, but the "kidnapping to staff the elf desk"-twist took me completely by surprise.  Well written, well acted and positively entertaining.

The man is clear in his mind, but his soul is mad.


doctornemo

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Reply #11 on: April 22, 2014, 02:01:46 AM
A very nice flash fiction with a sting at the end.
The next elf I see will remind me of this.



Rikki LaCoste

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Reply #12 on: February 28, 2015, 08:29:46 PM
Hey everyone.  Rikki the narrator of this story here.  In a previous incarnation, I was the host of Kakophonos Internet Radio (podcast).  One Christmas, I covered the topic of Santa's goons, and other stuff.  In case you're interested in a little extracurricular activity to this tale, I have a link to the archived clip from Kak:

Christmas 2010 clip:
https://dl-web.dropbox.com/get/Kakophonos%20Clips/Kakophonos%20Yule/2010%20Kakophonos%20-%20Yule%20Excerpt.mp3?_subject_uid=177640900&w=AABg5L33XzoxaE56xvx4qXBxzFkok7KaoYwJJJhID4AZPA

Funny Audio Drama featuring Sinterklaas and Krampus:
https://dl-web.dropbox.com/get/Kakophonos%20Clips/Kakophonos%20Yule/2011%20Kakophonos%20-%20Vril%20Stein%203%20Sinterklaas%20und%20Krampus.mp3?_subject_uid=177640900&w=AADabiOCa1WFOe6U63vYALOxrHQodun0cDH5u-XnemuIPQ