AT THE MOUNTAINS OF x-MAS
By Liam Schroeder
Illustrated by Nico Cathcart
As an explorer, I have traveled far and wide,
But the wildest truths I was compelled to hide,
Dear reader, it’s time to settle this haunting affair,
And the full events of that X-mas I will finally share.
This terrible tale of caution begins innocently, however,
During a university-funded archaeological endeavor,
We traveled by sea to the frozen Antarctic coast,
And there we assembled our scientific outpost.
We constructed our aeroplanes and flew farther inland,
Hoping for discoveries thus far unknown to man,
What we found was a mountain range, impossibly tall,
And so we landed at the base of this primordial wall.
Amazed by the geography, we searched all around,
Observing strange tracks that littered the ground,
They led to a dark cave that was approached by a ramp,
But night was setting in and we were forced to make camp.
A terrible storm picked up and a cold wind howled,
Although out in the snow, something sinistered prowled,
I was too focused on journaling by my lantern’s dim beams,
To notice the slaughter or my companions’ weak screams.
In the morning I rose to a scene of wanton bloodshed,
Finding only one living team mate to help keep my head,
The others were roughly “disassembled” in haste,
Leaving behind only smears of charnel paste.
The tracks from earlier now appeared everywhere,
Their makers having found us to be delectable fare,
The tents had been pierced by unknown, jagged forces,
With their “feet” possessing hooves more numerous than horses.
The attack had been strangely calculated and precise,
Their steps were coordinated through the snow and ice,
The many-hooved creatures had gathered into a group,
And proceeded into the cave as some monstrous troupe.
Our resolve to explore the depths held fast and firm,
Even if the grisly surroundings made our guts squirm,
Walking up the ramp, we plunged into the depths,
Bringing flares and tape to mark our careful steps.
The two of us probed deep into that gaping maw,
But could hardly believe the bizarre sights we saw,
Below our path, where the snow did not sprinkle,
Lay a perverse village, bathed with an ethereal twinkle.
We marched further on, through cottages and clutterings,
Demarking the steps with flares, sparking and sputtering,
Hieroglyphics adorned walls, exalting a creature in red,
Consuming many small creatures he was regularly fed.
Deeper we plunged into the forgotten dark Earth,
Eventually happening on a tunnel that gave wide berth,
A wide pit held cloudy-eyed tiny beings with pointed ears,
Which only palpitated our hearts and stoked our fears.
Knowing that we had discovered some alien cattle,
Our stately constitutions had begun to severely rattle,
The beings bumped together and mumbled and squawked,
While my partner and I, through gritted teeth, talked.
“This is clearly some ancient feeding ground!”
“Yes, and the apex predator is close around.”
At that moment a deep groan resounded,
We slowly turned, our worst fears founded.
To our right we saw a blobular crimson amorphous shape,
The more we stared, our mouths dropped agape,
The undulating mass continually twitched and rippled,
Forming numerous eyes and jaws, while we stood crippled.
With slimey smacking, a giant mouth took form,
And belowed “HO HO HO!” with the force of a storm,
Eight many-hooved, tentacled creatures emerged nearby,
They grew closer, but we only wanted to run and to fly.
The red mass heaved itself nearer towards us,
Rumbling grotesquely, oozing like slime and pus,
The antlered, tentacled octuplets formed a line,
Then advanced orderly in the unearthly mine.
The realization set in as our complexions were drained,
And my colleague spun ‘round to hurriedly exclaim,
“Santa Claus doesn’t live at the North Pole, but the South!”
But just then he was devoured by a gelatinous mouth.
I made a mad dash back through the gaping hollow,
Not even turning to see how closely I was followed,
I stumbled and scrambled while the halls echoed with roars,
I careened around turns and charged through the doors.
My boots stamped past the final wet, dying flare,
Sunlight washed my face as I burst into the open air,
I aimed straight for where the aeroplane was parked,
And prayed the propeller’s engine would still spark.
As I sped along the ground and took to the sky,
The putrescent scarlet blob gurgled one final cry,
The sound of its voice felt like a bullet had shot me,
Over the engine’s whine, I heard it howl “NAUGHTY!”
I made it back to the ship and we fled out to sea,
But I dared not speak of what caused me to flee,
We’d left with nothing, abandoning our research,
The horror of the encounter causing my stomach to lurch.
Santa really is flanked by eight magic beasts,
Only they catch prey for his unending feasts,
It’s true that Santa jiggles like a bowl full of jelly,
Except that he appears to be almost 100% belly.
When you make a wish on a twinkle at night,
Hope and pray that the stars are not right,
For if they are and Santa comes for you,
We’ll all be consumed, suspended in goo.
You may think I’m insane and not take my word,
But what I tell you is true, even if it’s absurd,
One of these nights he’ll come for us at last,
Until then, I wish for you a very happy X-mas.