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The impostors, 5. 12. 2005.

Like every other country in the world, mine has urban legends, myths and scary stories designed to keep kids from doing dumb and/or dangerous stuff they aren't supposed to.

One of these is the legend of the Krampus, you've all probably heard of him - St. Nicholas' deformed evil helper who would punish the kids he deemed 'naughty'. All the young kids in the neighbourhood were scared half to death by the mere mention of his name, which of course meant our parents would often use him as a weapon against us, their misbehaving kids.

So every year, it was tradition that the day before St. Nicholas day, or more accurately the 5th of December, my dad and one of his friends (often my uncle) would dress up as St. Nick and Krampus respectively, and go around the neighbourhood to all the unsuspecting kids' houses to scare them a little (with the childrens' parents' permission, of course). One of our parents would be filming the events so "we would have something to laugh about when we were older". They had a number of running gags: from the "Krampus" having a large bell he would use to notify us of their arrival and flipping my mom off to "St. Nick" giving us candy after we said our prayers and sang some songs we learned in school or kindergarten. But one of their most popular gags was where during the end of the visit, the "Krampus" would pick one kid he deemed as 'the naughtiest' (usually my cousin who was 4 years older than me, since he always knew it was all show) and take him to his evil lair, but in the end at the pleas of us kids and "St. Nicholas", he would let him go or my cousin would simply run away and everything would be sunshine and rainbows again.

And 2005. was no exception. It's the 5th of December, my family and their friends are sitting at our table, us kids hiding behind them, waiting for the moment we would hear that damned bell ring at the foot our stairs. And then we heard it, and like every year, chaos soon ensued: crying, whimpering, hiding, covering our eyes etc. But when "St. Nicholas" and "Krampus" climbed up the stairs, we immediately noticed something different; "St. Nick" aka my dad wasn't nearly as cheerful as usually was, and the "Krampus" wasn't as eccentric as my dad's friend made him out to be through his acting in previous years. They seemed to be rushing things, making us pray as soon as we stopped wailing and gave us candy right off the bat, not even asking us to sing our songs. After they gave us candy, they pulled their ol' reliable gag, the "kidnapping", and, as is tradition, they took my cousin with them. This time, despite our pleas and cries for my cousin they didn't let him go, instead taking him with them out of the house, slamming the front door as they did.

Half an hour passed and us kids finally calmed down, with my mom, aunt and the others wondering where my dad, uncle and cousin went. Suddenly, we heard the front door open, and there it was again, that bell. And again, chaos. My dad and uncle climbed up the stairs, as St. Nick and Krampus again, dressed in different outfits than the ones they were wearing before. My mom stood up and said to my dad:

"Darren, are you two really so juvenile that you have to traumatize these kids twice in one night?" My dad replied:

"Good job, Gina, now you broke the illusion. And what do you mean by twice in one night? We were late because Andy couldn't find his mask anywhere so we had to go and get a new one."

Suddenly, the room became silent, so silent actually that we could hear our own heartbeats. I can remember my aunt's face going from its normal tan color to the brightest shade of white you could imagine, with the realization that her son, my cousin, had been taken by two strangers. My mom then explained to my dad and uncle, now out of their costumes, what had happened. Panicked, the two of them, along with my other uncle went through the neighbourhood, asking people whether someone had already come to their house posing as St. Nicholas and the Krampus or if they had seen my cousin anywhere. Nobody knew anything nor they had seen him, so my dad notified the police about the kidnapping and a neighbourhood-wide search began. The only lead the police had was a photo my mom took of the two impostors, after they climbed up our stairway. My cousin was never found but my aunt and uncle never gave up hope to this day.

That day, we learned that Krampus didn't exist, but monsters did, and they still do, they just don't look like one.

Written by Digitama
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