Twisted Pulp Magazine Issue 012

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Historically, it's also one of the most terrifying and, while this book may not harken back to the times of Christmas ghost stories, it does do what Twisted Pulp Magazine does best. It brings a pulp edge to the holidays. This issue includes some great horror Christmas stories from Mark Slade and Chauncey Haworth, a Christmas Cartoon from Thomas Malafarina, questions for Jackie Ayers and Lisa Thomas, as well as an interview with Thor!.. the god of rock, not the norse god.


  1. Ten Questions for Lisa Thomas
  2. God of Metal and Thunder
  3. Merry Christmas, Joo-Joo By Mark Slade
  4. A Maladjusted Cartoon from Thomas M. Malafarina Issue 012
  5. Blacktop Magic by Lothar Tuppan Chapter 3
  6. Ten Questions For Jackie Ayers
  7. Happy Holidays Issue 012 Pt1
  8. Black Pete: A Christmas Tale by Chauncey Haworth
  9. Janitor Joe: Janitor Joe’s New Assistant
  10. Happy Holidays Issue 012 Pt2
  11. Befana
  12. Issue 012 Letters and more
Lisa Thomas

Ten Questions for Lisa Thomas

Proud mother of three, Lisa is a self-employed content writer. While she loves her day job, she always dreamt of writing a book she would be proud to put her name on. She had two childhood dreams, to become an author and to write a song that made people happy, but both felt like pipe-dreams. Life changed when her daughter decided she had some big dreams of her own.

This prompted Lisa to realize that the only way her kids would try to make their dreams come true is by Lisa trying to do the same.

What was the first thing you remember reading?

Roald Dahl! I remember reading under my covers with a torch after lights out.

When did you start making films and art?

I have been writing since I was a child and won my first poetry competition when I was approx. 11 years old. However, I have never particularly been confident so as I grew older, I wrote less and kept whatever I did write private. In 2012, while on maternity leave, I answered some adverts for content writers and quickly established a returning customer base. Rather than return to work, I decided to leave my full-time job.

I therefore become self-employed and established my own writing company providing content writing services. Nine years later and I still thoroughly enjoy my job, however, content writing isn’t the same as creative writing, it doesn’t give me the freedom to express myself and it can’t provide me with the same level of satisfaction. So, in 2020 I decided to “pull up my big girl pants,” be brave and finally pursue my dream of writing a story I was proud enough to put my name on.

I have always enjoyed writing and had always wanted to write a story people from around the world could enjoy. As I mentioned, I have always lacked confidence so I never tried to make this goal a reality. Alongside this, I am quite musical, my secondary goal as a child was to write a song that made people happy. My daughter also enjoys music and told me she wanted to become a singer. She asked me if this was something I would do as she believes I have a beautiful singing voice, I said I wasn’t brave enough. She decided she wasn’t brave enough to pursue her dreams either. That’s when I realised my lack of confidence was rubbing off on my children, preventing them from attempting to achieve their dreams. So, I decided to lead by example and this was what prompted me to actually publish my story, rather than keep it too myself like every other piece of writing.

Is it hard to get noticed these days?

It is as there is so much competition, there are a lot of great authors with amazing story ideas. Therefore, I have tried to make myself and my book stand out from the crowd.

As I mentioned I am musically inclined. I had years of piano, drums and singing lessons, I have since brought myself a guitar and am now teaching myself to play.

My ‘music videos’ can be seen on my YouTube channel (link above). I intend to write a song. I will never be a great musician, but I am getting back to something I love and that in itself is amazing.

What artist/writer/filmmaker inspires you the most?

There are lots of authors that I love to read, although I can’t say I have one favourite, it really depends on my mood (I am terrible as the desert island game). I tend to have favourite books, rather than favourite authors. For example, I love Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and I really enjoy reading Dan Brown, his novels fascinate and educate me. The authors I enjoy reading are the ones who can create a story and/or a new world that I can completely get lost in. Stories that are interesting, have depth and have characters that I can relate to, or despise.

JK Rowling’s personal story motivates me greatly, she’s faced hardships in which she could have given up, but didn’t. I hope to have this level of resilience.

What piece of art are you proudest of?

My debut novel Unprecedented Times. It is the first of a trilogy (I am currently writing book two). I have self- published Unprecedented Times on my website and on Amazon, available in both eBook and paperback formats. This is a COVID-fiction story and through book sales I am raising money for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

In this sci-fi, dystopian story we follow my version of the COVID pandemic, across two different timelines and through the eyes of four very different characters. Clara, a wannabe scientist working as a secretary at the WHO. Rosa, Clara’s twin sister, NHS nurse and new mother. Dr Vicente, the kind-hearted director-general at the WHO. And Ben, Rosa’s fiancé and a fun-loving police officer. As the virus takes a very different turn to reality, threatening humanity itself, we find out how far we are willing to go in Unprecedented Times.

This is a fact-meets-fiction novel that includes real statistics and data from the virus, which are all referenced. The idea for this book came to me in January, just after the virus had been discovered in China, but before it had hit most other areas of the world, months before it became a pandemic. I began researching it almost immediately and started writing in March 2020. The book was later released in October, the same year.

Do you think your environment, where you live, has an effect on type of art you cre- ate?

I think where I live and my own personal background has had a massive impact on the things I write. As I’ve mentioned I see the world as a beautiful place, but there’s so much heartache. I’ve grown up in a poor background, I’ve watched my parents struggle to find the money to buy bread and milk from the shop, meanwhile I’ve seen other people around me able to go on two holidays per day and always have the latest cars and tech. Because of this I appreciate the things that are important, family and friends, love and the memories we make, rather than materialistic possessions. I have also seen a lot of discrimination because of the environment I have grown up in, I’ve witnessed racism and I personally have been told I can’t do things because I am a girl, in fact I was told I couldn’t play drums because it was a boys instrument. This has given me a sense of equality, it has made me want to see and treat people equally, because I hated not being treated equally. My background has given me love and acceptance, it has made me want to help others who find themselves in desperate situations and all of this is reflected in my writing.

Is it easier for you to create if given an assignment or does it get in the way of your creativity?

I am a content writer by day, so the majority of what I write is for a purpose, it is essentially an assignment. Sometimes I find this easier, I research the subject, find information and facts and use that to compile the assignment. Whereas with my creative writing,

I don’t have this sense of direction, that comes from me and sometimes it can be harder to start a creative writing task. However, I have to be in the mood to write assignments and if I am not, I find it difficult to concentrate, the words don’t flow as easy. Creative writing is the opposite, I’m almost always happy to disappear into a world of my own creation.

Where do you think the world of litera- ture/popular culture will be like in ten years?

I don’t think the world of literature will be all that unchanged. Even with the technological advances, reading books is something people still consider to be a hobby, even if they read from their Kindle instead of the actual book. However, I do think the industry will continue to become harder to get recognized within as more people seem to be trying their hand at becoming a writer. My hope is that even in 100 years’ time, everyone (especially children) will still love to get lost in a good story.

What was the oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to do in your writing career? a specific assignment/books for a publisher?

I was once asked to write a screenplay for a porn movie, that was quite… interesting. I was given some freedom in the narrative and plot, I was simply given a start point and an end point and told to “fill in the blanks.” This was a massive job which took weeks to complete, and a job I have never (and will never) share with anyone other than the client who ordered the work. It was not my finest moment, but it was different, it was fun to do and it was great to have that creative freedom in my content writing role.

What projects are you working on now?

At the moment my focus is three-fold. Firstly, I am continuing to try to market my first book and increase books sales so that I am able to reach my fundraising target. Secondly, I am working on the second book in this trilogy, the painstaking research is all complete so I am finally at the stage of starting to write it up.

Thirdly, I want to enjoy my music again, cover a couple of songs but mainly write my own song, to achieve my secondary childhood dream. This is the hardest goal for me to achieve as I know nothing about songwriting, so I will need to learn as I go and I am sure I will make plenty of mistakes along the way. But the dream is one day I will write a song that is unique, original, and that people can relate too on an emotional level.


Lisa Thomas Unprecedented Times
God of Metal and Thunder Interview with Jon Mikl Thor 2

God of Metal and Thunder

An Interview with Jon Mikl Thor

By Lucy Hall

The hammer and microphone-wielding God of metal and thunder, Thor, is celebrating an amazing fifty-year career. Along with his ability to make great music, having a larger-than-life persona has been the key components in Thor’s popularity and longevity. It was in the early 70s’ when he decided to develop his band concept of combining muscle, myth, and music. Thor has released the long-awaited 39th studio album. Fans can only expect the very best from the Metal Avenger and that is exactly what we get with the album “Alliance.” The album features that same signature sound of powerful anthem rock, cheeky catchy muscle rock, and epic power metal that is always delivered by Thor. The impressive group of guest performers is Raven’s John Gallagher, Soilwork’s Björn Strid, Danko Jones, Anthrax’s Neil Turbin, A Sound of Thunder’s Nina Osegueda, Lords of the Trident’s Fang Von Wrathenstein, Prism’s Al Harlow, Joecephus & The George Jonestown Massacre’s Joey Killingsworth, Thundermaker’s Martin Gummesson, Roadrash’s Joey Roads and Sheldon Byer, W.A.S.P’s Chris Holmes, Manowar’s Ross “The Boss” Friedman, Death Dealer’s Sean Peck, Striker’s Dan Cleary, Haunt’s Trevor William Church, Warrior Soul’s Dennis Post, The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs’ Frank Meyer and The imps and former Thor guitarist Frank Soda. The band Thor is Jon-Mikl Thor on vocals, John Leibel lead guitar, Matt Hamilton rhythm guitar, Ted Jedlicki bass, and Tom Croxton drums. This massive album features seventeen tracks.

Twisted Pulp: What did you want to accomplish going into this record? How did you approach it? Did you initially intend on making an album of collaborations? When did the idea for a collaborative album first arise?

Jon Mikl Thor: I wanted an album that could be part of a bookend to a career, which has spanned fifty years.

Going back to the early years, the album, was more of a milestone record so many albums, and years later this album was my idea of a sort of final record or bookend record. I do not know where we are going from here and if we are going to keep on or not. I do still have a lot of plans and ideas but I wanted to go out in a blaze of glory. This album came about because when I was on tour to promote my album, Rising in early 2020 we were in the United States and we hit Los Angles then all of a sudden this word pandemic around March 12th came about. While in L.A. we played The Whiskey and then we hit Las Vegas on March 14th by that time it was time to send the band home from the tour so, due to the pandemic the remaining tour was canceled. We were unable to go to Arizona as we had planned.

I came back to Canada and so at that point, I was thinking what do I do next and that is the moment it occurred to me that since I was unable to promote

Rising we need to come up with a new album. I did not know what would be happening with the pandemic or what would occur in the future but I planned to reach out to all my great musician friends and see if they would assist me in making this album. I wanted to make a top-notch, cream of the crop so to speak album to top off my career.

Twisted Pulp: How was the songwriting handled?

Jon Mikl Thor: I did most of the songwriting but everyone came to the table in our core band, Kevin Stuart, John Leibel together to write songs. The idea was for a concept album and I like concept albums. I have done them many times in the past. To be able to put together an alliance or Justice League of metal that would unite to say some things that mean a lot.

Twisted Pulp: The title, Alliance appears to reference or hint at a collaborative project is that deliberate?

Alternatively, did you have that title in mind beforehand? You are Thor the Ultimate Avenger, you are a comic book fan and you came up with the Alliance is that kind of like Marvel’s individual superheroes coming together to assemble The

Avengers? Did you assemble this Alliance in the same manner?

Jon Mikl Thor: Actually, you could say it is very similar to Superman or Batman assembling the Justice League. It is definitely a legion of superheroes. I am really into comics. As a kid, I watched George Reeves as Superman on television and I remember purchasing the very first Justice League of America comic. I remember the feeling I had at that time and it made me think that during this challenging time with the pandemic that the world needs to come together. I know I am being grandiose but those were my thoughts that people really needed to come together for one common cause and move forward in life. Not like War of the Worlds you know, when nobody knew what was going to happen and things were getting crazy. So, I wanted to ease my mind and the way I was feeling at the time by putting together an alliance of musicians who I thought were the best in the world that would join my quest. I reached out to them; they took my call and came forth. The reality is that the timing was appropriate for this type of album because had it been another time, for example, Ross the Boss, Chris Holmes, or John Gallagher may have been unavailable due to touring and not have had the time to participate in the album. Because we were all on lockdown and everyone was at home they wanted to do a project. I was fortunate that they came forth and did it with me so maybe at another time, it would not happen like this.

Twisted Pulp: How did you think longtime fans would react to the album? Has the reaction been what you thought it would be?

Jon Mikl Thor: The reaction has been astounding! We put out three videos; the first two videos featured Ross the Boss and Chris Holmes. The second video featured Lou Ferrigno who is an old friend of mine. We competed against each other as teens in Mr. America and Mr. Universe. To have him in the video was amazing. Our next video will feature former Anthrax singer, Neil Tubin who is a tremendous talent that has so much to give. He has a big future ahead of him.

The videos have been well received and we have had great reviews from Belgium, Germany, and Britain. A recent review out of Greece gave it a nine out of ten ratings. One journalist said, “What can you say about titanium.” So, I would say our fans are just loving the record.

Twisted Pulp: What of the new material has gone over the best, and has gotten the biggest reaction?

Jon Mikl Thor: As far as songs go, it is interesting because there is such a various catalog. I mean obviously, various artists influenced me all through my life such as The Doors, Bowie, and Led Zeppelin so there is a lot of heavy riffs. But also, the album is very melodic and everyone says concerning the choruses that they are very melodic. Songs such as “Ultimate Alliance” and “We Need Musclerock” are going over very well. Spotify is getting a ton of streams on “We Need Musclerock.” Also, “Because We’re Strong” is really hitting the mark. We are selling a lot of records right now. It has been our best ever for Cleopatra Records and I think it is one of the best records I have done in my career and that is a lot of records, thirty- nine albums.


Twisted Pulp: How did it feel being back together again with Frank Soda?

Jon Mikl Thor: I think Frank Soda is one of the greatest guitarists in the world and definitely the best from Canada. He just has so much to give and he played very well on the album. He is just very tasteful and he reminds me of Mick Ronson from Bowie’s Spiders from Mars. We did a surprise concert recently and I said Frank let’s go into Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song”. When he played the guitar, he played just like Jimmy Page. I mean this guy is amazing.

Twisted Pulp: On this album, you covered every decade of hard rock with guest performers ranging from classic groups Raven, Anthrax, W.A.S.P., ‘90s groups and brought us into the 2000s with modern bands such as Death Dealer and Haunt. Such an impressive guest list but why so many diverse talents, who span so many decades? Did you have a wish list and go down checking them off. Do you feel that the diversity of hard rock musicians gave the album a unique sound?

Jon Mikl Thor: Absolutely, when we did the album Metal Avenger back in 2015 I really felt that we had quite a diverse group of people on that album. A lot of punk artists, as well as metal artists, were featured on this one. As well as some of my very favorite artists in the world. I was so fortunate when I reached out to them that they said yes and that it was the right time and right place for it to occur. I’ll call it a dropbox type of album because you know we are here in Canada and can’t cross the border or anything. Yet we were able to lay down the tracks here. While other artists such as John Gallagher were able to sing over in England and Chris Holmes was able to play his parts in France and Ross the Boss in New York recorded. Modern technology really helped out on this album.

Twisted Pulp: It is always exciting when musicians get together but Alliance is different because it has a cast of rock heroes led by the Metal God himself. Makes you feel like you are sitting right there with you all. It is definitely an album that you do not get sick of listening to. Like you are listening to great music again and there just is not a lot of that today. Are we witnessing a change in the making?

Jon Mikl Thor: I want to say that I think that metal never dies. Mainstream music consists of popular rap and pop but metal continues to live on regardless and I think it’s just getting stronger. There are quite a few young fans out there who are just really getting into metal but we also have the older generation that obviously will always love metal. We are getting a positive response from both the young generation and the long-time metal fans.

Twisted Pulp: What can you tell us about the making of the epic new video for the single, “The Ultimate Alliance”?

Jon Mikl Thor: That’s a great tune and it’s one I wrote with John Leibel. He came up with a concept of the ultimate alliance coming together and then I put my ideas on that as well. Since it is an alliance we were talking about I thought it was perfect to have a member of W.A.S.P., and Manowar with all that theatrical stuff we were into back in the 80s’. We have some great artists on it and I think it is very epic. I do feel very strongly about each and every video for the album but I think there is something special on “The Ultimate Alliance”. But then again, we have the very melodic anthem “Because We’re Strong” featuring Lou Ferrigno, although he does not sing on the album he is a visual icon and it also featured Ed Asner who recently passed away. I think it is really kicking some ass too. We are getting a lot of kudos for the recent video, which features pieces of Pact of Vengeance. We are currently working on an elaborate animation rock video, which should be ready soon. Since we are unable to tour then we are trying to do more videos.

Twisted Pulp: Can we talk about any of the individual songs as far as any inspiration or interesting stories about recording them? “We Need Muscle rock” comes to mind, was that a nod to your beginnings as the creator of Muscle Rock?

Jon Mikl Thor: Yeah, well I have albums that go back to that theme of muscle rock dating back to Thor and the Imps. I have muscle rock-themed various albums I did back in the early 70s’. At that time, I was involved with Peter Jacob over in Sweden. We put together the first Muscle Rock Festival that was back in 2009 and it became a huge success. Raven also played with us at the 2015 festival in Sweden. I really liked Raven and thought it would be really cool to have John Gallagher sing on the album. Of course, he is very athletic. We also played with Raven back in 1985 in L.A. It was the Raven and Thor concert at a place in L.A. I always thought they were fantastic, so it was an honor for me to have them in the song.

Twisted Pulp: You are the Godfather of Power Metal and clearly an influence on many bands in that subgenre of metal including Manowar. How did Ross “The Boss” Friedman become involved with the album? Does he admit to being a fan or was there mutual admiration for each other’s work?

Jon Mikl Thor: I think there is mutual admiration for each other’s work. I reached out to him and he is also a good friend of John Leibel, so we talked to him about doing this and he thought it was a great idea.

I also played with Ross the Boss in 2001 at CBGBs. John Holmstrom from PUNK Magazine was having a special event for all the bands he helped break. He had helped Thor break and he put us performing with numerous bands including The Dictators. We played at CBGBs before it closed and Ross the Boss was there and we talked.

Twisted Pulp: Did you personally choose Raven’s John Gallagher for the opening track “We Need Muscle rock” because he was known for “athletic rock” and his ability like your own to create great anthems? Did you handpick any of your guest performers?

Jon Mikl Thor: Yeah, we handpicked them and still had to ask if they wanted to do it. Of course, they each had to hear the demo and tracks. We would ask, for example, Ross the Boss or Chris would you like to be on the album and they would say let’s hear the song, what are we playing? Then we would have to send demos out. We did that with all the artists so we had particular songs I wanted them to play on but then I had to still set up the demos. That is where Ted from our band helped out a lot. He got the demos sent to the artist along with Kevin Stewart.

Twisted Pulp: Did you pick John Gallagher because he created Athletic Rock and you both write anthems?

Jon Mikl Thor: Yeah, I think it comes back to when we played together at the Muscle Rock Festival. We played right where we had lived I think in 2001 or 2019. I played a lot in Sweden and Finland. I was very impressed with Raven and their anthems. Also, I thought it was a good combo of his voice and mine and I thought it worked well together.

Twisted Pulp: This latest release marks Thor’s 39th studio album. Your later musical endeavors grew to be much heavier than your early work. What do you credit to that evolution of sound?

Jon Mikl Thor: I would say that over the years because I am a musician and creative person that I have tried different genres of music. Like, “Keep the Dogs Away” for example I think was more power-pop and was not a metal album. It has like a punk power-pop sound to it. “Only the Strong” is definitely an all-out metal album and strong power metal album. “Unchained” is a strong EP then you got Recruits Wild in the Streets, which was a very mainstream metal album in a similar style as Poison and other bands at that time. Following that album, our music started changing again. In 2000 or 2001, we came out with Dogs 2 and many people compared it to Nine Inch Nails meets Thor, it was more Nu-metal. I have tried all types of music. I have done psychedelic metal and psychedelic rock, pop- metal, and power metal throughout all the albums. I tried different sounds throughout my career and some were well received and some hated by the critics. I could do a song like “Mushroom World” which was on Beastwomen from the Center of the Earth, which is very psychedelic, or there is a “Strange Lantern” which is a heavy type song, which is from Tales from the Equinox. So, there are a lot of albums and a lot of different music but I do think we have gotten a lot heavier over the years. Especially with Beyond the Pain Barrier and some of the other albums like Hammer of Justice. However, I always keep that anthem course so people can sing along at stadiums, clubs, and arenas.

We can sing along together like Vikings unite!

Twisted Pulp: Why do you think you have been so fascinated by fantasy-based subject matter over the years and written so many songs about it?

Jon Mikl Thor: It goes back to that young guy in the 50s’ who wore the Superman costume under his regular clothes and the kid who went to school and changed into superman at recess. You know that is as fantasy as it gets! The young kid who watched Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, and Steve Reeves as Hercules. Fantasy has been all throughout my life. I have always kind of led in this heroic aspect or concept. I think that drove me in my regular life as well as my professional life. It is not like I would go to the bank and take my hammer in there and say, where is my money today? You cannot play the Thor concept all the time. You cannot be Thor all the time just as Jim Morrison should not have been Jim Morrison all the time. You have to understand that you have a private life and your professional life. What I am saying is to be positive in your life, feel strong and try to do great things. You need to say what you do and do what you say.

Twisted Pulp: Because you focus on fantasy, comics, and mythology, when you are writing does the music or words come first? Does it begin with an image or theme in mind?

Jon Mikl Thor: You just never know. I could be driving down the road and suddenly I will see a sign or start seeing something like cut the grass or corn for sale or whatever and that is all I need for a song to start out. But of course, with the lyrics, you will get the melody going and the other lyrics will come in and then the song starts forming. Or, one of the musicians like Kevin Stuart starts playing a riff or some chord structures and I will put my melody over it and you never know where it comes from. It can come at any time. Sometimes I have to shut it off actually. I will have a melody start coming in my head and I have to say look, I do not want to keep hearing it right now. I just shut it off!

Twisted Pulp: Along with the new record, you also have a new film, Pact of Vengeance. What can you tell us about that project?

Jon Mikl Thor: I have shot all my scenes in Vancouver. The filming is on location in Vancouver, Los Angles, and Pennsylvania. The film has a lot of hot cars, shooter-up scenes, and martial arts along the lines of Bruce Lee. In fact, Leo Fong who used to be in Bruce Lee movies is actually in this movie. It is a really exciting movie, it has tremendous metal music, and it’s going to be a very exciting movie for anyone who wants to get some thrills.

Twisted Pulp: Thor is prevalent in today’s media with the Marvel movies interpretation of Thor but there are other variations of the character such as American Gods and other outlets but how do you think your version of Thor stands the test of time compared to the others?

Jon Mikl Thor: The thing is we co-exist. You cannot really trademark or copyright something that is mythology. There are many Hercules movies, animations, and references to the character. It is a similar type of thing with Thor. That is unless you put a tag on there and trademark it as Marvel has done with The Mighty Thor. I have the trademark Thor the Metal Avenger or Thor the Rock Warrior both are trademarked. Concerning acting, I am a trademark personality known as Jon Mikl Thor. So, my Thor is geared toward a musical entity so to speak. I put out some comics also but that is a different story about the character Thor and a different costume whereas Marvel is more of a superhero and expands on Asgard and all that stuff. Whereas my Thor character, I can go anywhere. I have had stories where Thor is an Atlantean king and all this kind of stuff. I have fit that into albums. All kinds of different stories like in the album Triumph there is a whole concept there. So, a long story short is we coexist with each other. At one time Stan Lee even asked me to be in a Thor movie that he did. We were always friendly and this goes back to 1978 when Stan asked me to be in his movie. However, it never came to fruition because of Technology at that time could not withstand his ideas that he planned for it. Later on, they were able to create that vision in a film.

Twisted Pulp: What is next for you? What plans does Thor have to play live?

Jon Mikl Thor: As soon as the border opens. We just did a new contract with Atomic Music Group for touring. We were trying to get the restrictions for next year however, the borders are still closed to the United States and we cannot get in. There was a Canadian band that tried to come in recently for a tour called Unleash the Archers and they got stopped at the borders. So at this time, they are not allowing bands to come into the United States. So we are talking about next year 2022. If I am still not allowed to come in to cross the border then we will just keep making videos. It is quite possible that Neil Turbin ex Anthrax singer will be the lead singer of Thor for a certain number of shows. I think he is a great talent who has an incredible voice and great stage presence. He is willing to make his hair blonde and wield the hammer. I think he is a humble guy and we will see what happens that is of course if we can cross the border and if we are still having pandemic issues concerning travel restrictions.

Catch Jon Mikl Thor in the feature-length action movie “Pact Of Vengeance,” which will feature music from the new album. You can purchase the album from Cleopatra Records or Thor official sites.

Thor official site: records official site:

God of Metal and Thunder Interview with Jon Mikl Thor 3
Merry Christmas, Joo-Joo By Mark Slade

Merry Christmas, Joo-Joo

By Mark Slade

“I need presents,” Vance said through dried, chapped lips.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Brian shivered, clutched the flannel blanket close to his neck.

The apartment was cold, at least ten degrees, Vance was sure of it. He and Brian hadn’t the money to pay the electric bill, with Brian being the only one to hold down a crappy job at Burger Hut. The apartment

was a simple one bedroom, the bedroom belonging to Brian, because he found the apartment and his Father had paid the deposit. Vance sat on his bed, a green sofa with springs coming through, often poking him in his ice-cold ass. He had three shirts on, two pairs of dungarees, and his True Blue Mountain climbing coat with fur inside the lining. The Oakland Raiders toboggan on his head still didn’t keep his ears warm, which irritated Vance to no end. It wasn’t like Vance

didn’t want to get a job. He just hadn’t found anything he liked yet. His parents were tired of floating him money and friends had dwindled to just one, Brian, who was always broke.

“We can’t keep breaking into people’s houses and stealing their stuff. Anyway,” Brian sighed. “We never get very much money at Ted’s Pawn shop when we sell things to him. Cheap crook.”

“No, man,” Vance fumbled in his coat pocket for cigarettes, only to find his lighter. “It’s Christmas, right?”

“Yeah. So what?”

“We wait for the mailman, or UPS or Fed ex, or whoever and watch to see if no one gets the package.” Vance smiled and nodded like he’d just laid out the plans to Fort Knox and steal gold.

“That’s just… low, dude. I mean, steal Christmas packages from people. You are a sick man.” Brian rose from the dirtiest, dingiest Ez chair this side of the Milky Way. So many stains on a cream colored

furniture and cigarette burns, the cream color was now a rust brown. ” I’m making some coffee.”

“I’m a desperate man. I need presents for mom, Janice, and Helen.”

Brian looked at Vance. He blinked twice. “Helen Spotter doesn’t even know you exist.”

“She will after the cool present I give her.” Vance rose from the couch, danced in a crouching position,

and then sat down again. That was something he did when he was excited, which was often. Vance’s mom admitted to Brian that a quack doctor convinced her that Vance needed Ritalin to calm down her six-year-old son. After six more years of this medicine, that her child did not actually need, she noticed a breakdown of a mental attention span, sporadic illusions, and an inability to stay focused on one subject after more than ten minutes of conversation. She said she had never told a soul, but felt she had to confide in Brian.

“Sit down, you fool! We are not stealing from the neighbors, okay? It’s wrong, especially at Christmas. Only jerks do that crap.” Brian went into the kitchen, turned on Luke-warm water from the faucet and dropped four spoonfuls of instant coffee in a cup. “Furthermore,”

He reentered the living room and sat in his EZ chair, sipping the coffee. “Helen Spotter will never know who you are, because you are not friends with anyone she knows.”

“Oh… my friend,” Vance said. “You are wrong. Tommy Longdale has a girlfriend who is friends with Helen.”

“I’m trying to dissuade you as gently, carefully as possible, Vance,” Brian told him. “They go to Sparrow University. You are an unemployed loser. What makes you think Tommy Longdale will set you up with his girlfriend’s friend?”

“I once gave him some E at a party,” Vance responded after a long pause.

“Oh yeah. Now that is the kind of logic that could fix this country’s problems.” Brian said.

“I think so, too, man.”

“You don’t even have any money to take her out,” Brian slurped his barely warm coffee and made a face.

“No! No, I don’t. But you do.” Vance raised an eyebrow. Brian snarled at him. He hated it when Vance did his

Jack Nicholson impersonation.

“That’s a lame Jack impersonation, butthole.”

“You know it’s not…” He continued, now going back and forth between early Nicholson and later Nicholson. “I want you to hold it between your knees. What are you, on your period?”

“He didn’t say that in THE DEPARTED. Ray Winston said it.”

“No, Jack said it.” Vance insisted.

“You are a twerp. Half the time you don’t remember what you were talking about ten minutes before.”

“I do too! God, you can be so… so… whatever!”

“Okay, what were we talking about?” Brian prodded Vance. He knew the answer, he just wanted to have some fun with him. He liked making him feel small.

“We were talking about Jack Nicholson. There! Whoosh!” Vance threw an imaginary basketball through a goal, net and all.

“No.” Brian laughed. “I thought we were talking about stealing from the neighbors again.”

Vance looked lost for a few seconds. Then he remembered. He smiled as it came to him. “Yeah, man. We could wait for the mailman, or… or Fed Ex…”

“I’m not doing that.” Brian said.

“You have to. In three days, it will be Christmas. And you get paid next Wednesday. Your mom will be disappointed.”

Brian made a face again. “You are a turd.” He said. “You use my mom all the time.”

“It’s because you know I’m right. She thinks you are the sweetest boy she ever knew. She says it all the time.”

“Shut up.” Brian was stewing, getting angrier at Vance just looking at him.

“Hey,” Vance rose from his couch and looked out of the window, keeping the curtain partly open. “There’s Fed Ex delivering to Mrs. Hoppa.”

“No, we can’t take from an old woman. She bakes cookies for us and brings us her leftovers, Vance.”

“Yeah,” Vance put a hand on his stomach. “That island food gave me the screamers. It’s too freakin’ spicy.”

“What do you expect, dummy. She is from Haiti.” Brian snorted.

“I’m going to snag that box before her daughter brings her back.” Vance headed to the front door.

“You jerk. You’ve been scoping her all morning.” “Be back. Wish me luck.”

“I hope she catches you!” Brian yelled to him as Vance slammed the front door.

Brian jumped up from his Ez chair and ran to the window. He pulled the curtain a bit to the left to view Vance’s theft.

Vance crept up Mrs. Hoppa’s slither of a driveway to her apartment door, past a small bush that was turning a sick yellow. He looked around, smiling like an imbecile.

He bent down, looked at the small box. There was writing on a tag that even if Vance could read past third grade level, he wouldn’t be able to understand it. He just shrugged, then snatched the box and jogged as fast as he could back to the front door of their, quickly opened the door. He took one step and his left foot clipped the molding in front of the door. Giggling,

Vance fell hard on his face. The box slipped out of his hands and slid across the living room floor like a hockey puck.

Vance laughed hard, rolled over on his back. He kicked the front door shut with both of his feet. “That was too freakin’ funny!” Vance yelled.

Brian stood over Vance, his hands on his hips. He was giving Vance that “wife” look, his head tilted to the left, a disappointed expression his face.

“What?” Vance was confused.

“Don’t ‘what’ me.” Brian spat at Vance. “I told you not to steal from that poor woman.”

“So,” Vance’s bottom lip drooped, hurt he was being told off. “I’m a free man. I can do whatever I want!”

“One day,” Brian wagged a finger at him. “You’ll get caught and I will not be there to bail you out!”

“Don’t… You… hey! You know, you helped last two times. All that weed you stole from Mr. Dillinger. That was a poor old man who has cancer, douche bag!”

Nothing more was said for about fifteen minutes. Both were at their own places, sulking, sitting on the sofa and the Ez chair.

Finally, in a spur of the moment, Vance hopped from the sofa and retrieved the box. He sat back on the sofa, began opening the thin layer of tape on the box. He placed a hand inside the box. When he pulled his hand out of the box, a yellow beaded necklace was caught in his grimy fingernails.

“Yeah!” Vance said, excitedly. He squatted and did his little dance. “That’s what I’m talking about! Look at this, Bri.”

Brian laughed. He shook his head. “Yeah, man, that’s nice.”

“You know what it is?”

“No,” Brian scrunched up his nose. “A necklace?”

“Not just a necklace,” Vance whispered like it was secret. “A Joo-Joo necklace.”

“I don’t know… what a Joo-Joo is, Vance.” Brian was tired mentally. Vance always did that to him.

“Man, it means good luck! And I heard on the History channel you can use it to make people do what you want. You’re own slave, dude.”

“You really believe that?” Of course, he does, why even ask, Brian thought. “So… you want Helen Spotter to be your own personal slave?”

“Damn right.” Vance said. “I might even get laid.” “Go for it, dude,” Brian said, smiling.

Vance felt his coat pocket vibrating. He took out his phone, looked at a text message. “Hey… things going

right for me finally. That was Tommy Longdale. I got a date with Helen Spotter. Of course, Tommy and his girl will be there. So, what, huh?”

“Way to go, Vance. I’m happy for you.” Brian rose from the Ez chair and patted Vance on the shoulder.

“I’m gonna get some and have a slave. Merry, Christmas, Joo-Joo!”

There was a loud rapping at the front door. Night had fallen and it was even colder inside the apartment.

Brian was groggy. He turned in his chair, yawned. He didn’t want to get up.

But somebody was relentless with their knocking and the noise was hurting his head. Brian clumsily got to his feet. He slowly ambled to the door. He bet it was Vance. He probably forgot his key.

Brian opened the door and saw a short old, black woman in a handmade dress and a multicolored scarf on her head. It was Mrs. Hoppa.

“Where is it?” She spoke in harsh island dialect. “Where’s what?” Brian said, trying to wake up.

“My package!” Mrs. Hoppa lowered her eyebrows. Her nostrils were flaring, cold air snorted through them. “You are a thief. The pair of you. I treat you like my own sons. That package was from my own son, still in Port-au-Prince. I may never see him.” She fought back tears, held a handkerchief to her nose, and looked away from Brian.

Brian cleared his voice. “We didn’t take that package.” He said.

“You didn’t?” Mrs. Hoppa looked at Brian suspiciously.

“No. We saw Mr. Dillinger around your door. He was even talking to the Fed-Ex guy. I’m not sure, he… might have took it.”

“Pity be him,” Mrs. Hoppa said. “That necklace… bad… if worn, you become the slave of whoever give you that necklace.”

“Oh… yeah?” Brian was nervous. He began tapping his foot without knowing it.

“Oh yes. To pay for the deeds you master, or mistress wishes you to do, you have to make a human sacrifice. Eat the flesh of the innocent.” With those words, Mrs. Hoppa lunged at Brian.

Brian jumped back. “We don’t have it!” He screamed, slammed the door in Mrs. Hoppa’s face.

Brian paced the living room. No, he told himself. That crap is not. It can’t be. There was another round of knocking at the front door.

Brian hesitated. He touched the doorknob, then withdrew. “We don’t have your package.” He yelled at the door.

“Brian,” A muffled voice could be heard. “It’s me. I forgot my key. Open the door, will you?”

It was Vance.

Brian was so happy to hear that it was Vance at the door, he swung the door open violently.

Vance was standing there, smiling like an imbecile. He was covered in blood; his clothes were torn. Still, Vance was on top of the world.

“Dude,” he said. “What an evening!”

“What the hell happened to you?” Brian threw his arms up in the air, shocked.

“Nothing, really. Just wild time. You gonna let me in?” Vance tried go through the threshold, Brian blocked him with an arm.

“You kill somebody?”

Vance shook his head. “No. God. Things got a little weird. I gave Helen that necklace. I told her I wanted to make out. We did, she went nuts and ate Tommy Longdale and his girlfriend… about ten more people in the restaurant.” Vance said non-nonchalantly.

It was too much to take in. Brian leaned against the door. He rubbed his face a few times with his hand. “Vance?”

“Yeah, Bri?”

“Where is Helen Spotter?” “Right here, buddy!”

Helen appeared from behind Vance, her dress ripped in many places, her olive skin drenched in blood. She had deep dark circles under her eyes, and pieces of flesh at the corner of her mouth. She was looking straight at Brian, looking very ravenous.

Blacktop Magic

Chapter 3: A Bit Earlier

by Lothar Tuppan

Cafe Saguaro was the second-best truck stop diner in Arizona, right behind the Hi-Way Chef restaurant in the Triple-T. Families on road trips especially liked it for the stuffed saguaro cacti cartoon characters and kids loved coming back to try and get the whole set. They weren’t as nationally famous as Bob’s Big Boy, or Hardee’s Gilbert Giddyup, or that tiger from Sambo’s, but Sally and Sammy Saguaro (and their collection of friends: Jaime Javelina, Corky Cottontail, and Harry Gila Monster) were beloved by Arizona natives.

A waitress walked towards a booth near the front windows carrying a stuffed javelina. As she neared the booth, a white-haired woman who looked to be in her mid-twenties started bouncing in her seat while her two male companions looked embarrassed.

“Here you go hon. It’s our last Jaime from the new run.”

“Yay!” said the white-haired woman.

“Now,” said the waitress. “What can I get for all y’all?”

The young man to the left of the woman, who gently tucked the stuffed javelina next to her on the booth, motioned with his menu to her and asked, “Babs?”

Babs pet the head of the stuffed toy, picked up her menu again and said, “I just don’t… know. You go first Dustin.”

Dustin pulled at the too-tight collar of his white t-shirt and said, “I’ll have…”

“Oooh!” Babs interrupted. “Eggs Benedict. I’ll have Eggs Benedict, please.”

“I’m sorry hon. We stop serving breakfast at noon.”

“Darn it.” Babs continued to study her menu.

Dustin said calmly, “I’ll have a club sandwich with fries and some more coffee.”

“You got it,” the waitress said before motioning to the other man at the table. “What about you hon?”

“I’ll have a bowl of the chicken soup, a double-cheeseburger with fries, a chocolate shake, and could I get a side of coleslaw?”

Dustin stared incredulously and said, “What the hell Mickey?”

“I’m hungry!”

“We have malts too,” said the waitress with a laugh. “You want a shake or a malt?”

Mickey smiled widely, “I’ll have a malt, thanks.”

“Could I have a patty melt please?” Babs said softly.

“Sure hon. You want fries, coleslaw, or potato salad?”

Babs looked pointedly at the ketchup bottle on the table for a few seconds before replying, “I’ll have fries please. And more water. And more coffee.”

“Allright. Thanks. Be back in a ‘jiff.”

As she walked away to put their order into the kitchen Dustin said, “You pig out when you’re upset. What’s the story?”

Mickey shrugged, “I’m just hungry.”

“You had pancakes this morning Mickey,” Babs whispered conspiratorially. “And bacon.”

“That’s not a lot of…”

“And two eggs over easy.”

Mickey sighed and sat back, defeated.

“Come on Mick,” said Dustin leaning forward, “talk to me. It’s cool.”

Mickey looked pained, “You always do this to me. Why do you do this to me? I swear Dustin… I miss Wanda alright? I can’t let it go.”

Dustin shook his head pityingly and considered just dropping it but couldn’t. “We’ve been over this. That stripper was no good for you Mickey.”

Mickey tried to look indignant but he just ended up looking a bit gassy. “Just because you say that doesn’t make it—”

Dustin held up his hand to stop his friend’s defense, “How many other guys was she seeing?”

Mickey paused and held his breath before exhaling loudly, “Five. She was cheating on me with five guys.”

Dustin pointed at Mickey, “That you know of.”

“Yeah. That I know of.”

Dustin rapped his fingertips on the table and continued, “She didn’t ‘cheat’ on you either. You told me that she’d never told you she stopped seeing other guys. In fact, she told you that she wasn’t interested in going steady with any one guy and she couldn’t help it if you couldn’t get that through your thick skull.”

“But,” Mickey said pathetically. “I love her.”

“She doesn’t care about that.” Dustin said firmly, but not unkindly. “I’m sorry Mickey but she doesn’t.”

The table was silent for a few moments, except for Babs whispering to Jaime the javelina, before reaching for the salt shaker. The waitress returned with more coffee and the chocolate malt saying, “Food will be up shortly.”

“Or maybe she did care,” Dustin said watching the waitress walk away. “Maybe she broke it off because you were in love with her. Maybe that was more than she wanted.”

Babs opened up the salt shaker and poured some salt into a tiny mound before replacing the lid. “Or maybe she just didn’t want to hurt you.”

Babs attempted to balance the salt shaker by its corner on the salt. “Maybe she did care about your love and just couldn’t return it. Maybe she loved the fact that you loved her and knew that she could never love you the way that you loved her so she let you go so that you could find the true love who would love you the way you loved the stripper who would never love you the way that you love Love.” Babs sighed romantically as she succeeded in balancing the shaker.

Dustin looked at Babs, then looked at Mickey and just chuckled under his breath.

“Shit,” Mickey said rubbing his face. “I’m not even fucked up enough to believe that. But I am fucked up. Aren’t I Dustin? I’m pretty fucked up?”

Dustin smiled at his friend, “You’ve just never had real good taste in girls is all. But this is the perfect time for that to change.”

“What do you mean?”

Dustin said, with more than a bit of pride, “Now that we’ve completed our training with Reverend Armitage’s World Salvation Ministries—”

“Lord bless Reverend Armitage for his good works” exclaimed Babs as she focused now on balancing a spoon so it would stand straight up in her coffee mug.

“Yeah,” said Dustin. “We’re going to be meeting a higher class of people from now on and that includes a higher class of women. You won’t be only seeing low-life floozies anymore.”

Mickey looked at Babs who was still intent on balancing her spoon, thumbed his thumb in her direction and silently mouthed to Dustin, Like her! Babs’ mouth quirked a bit but if she noticed Mickey’s crassness she didn’t let on.

Dustin reached over the table and smacked Mickey on the head, almost knocking his baseball cap off his head. “You know what I mean! Take this opportunity to try something new in your life.”

Babs looked neutrally at both of her colleagues for a few moments before saying, “I’ve got to go to the little girls’ room.”

Mickey slid out of the booth to let her out, the look on his face was almost one of regret. “We’ll be here Babs.”

As she walked away Dustin looked coldly at Mickey.

“You can be a real jerk man.”

“I know,” Mickey said. “I didn’t mean to be a dick. And you’re right about everything. Just like usual.”

“Give me a break Mick. We’re a couple of gangbangers in a weird-ass situation here—”

“Really shitty gangbangers.” Quipped Mickey.

“Yeah,” said Dustin, feeling the old fear come back. “We were living on borrowed time in that life. We were lucky to get out when we could.”

He took a breath and regained his calm before continuing. “Anyway, Now it’s you and me against a world of weird-ass shit. Don’t freak on me man, this is probably our only way out. And don’t be a dick to Babs, something tells me Armitage let her down a number of times for her to be as shell-shocked as she is.”

“She’s a ‘canary’, they’re supposed to be a bit off.”

Dustin looked down with a tight grimace. “But not like that. She’d walk into traffic if someone wasn’t around to watch her. I know we were told that the psychics who would detect all that weird cult shit were ‘sensitive’ and ‘touched’ but I’ve met a few and none were as damaged as Babs.”

“Ok Dustin, Point taken.”

Mickey took a long sip of his malt, then belched. “How long do you think we’re going to have to be assigned to Arizona? And what the hell are we looking for anyway?” He took another long sip of his drink. “I hate these fucking ‘zonies. I just wanna get back to LA.”

“I don’t know man.” Dustin sighed. “I was hoping we’d be trusted now that we’ve been ‘baptized’ in the Ministries. When I checked in this morning I asked, again, what our mission was and Chapman got pissed. He said that it was still need to know and we wouldn’t have a need to know until Bab’s sensed something.”

“So we keep driving across the state, in weird fucking patterns, looking for something we don’t have any idea of?”

“Or someone. Yeah. Chapman said that the Reverend knows that there is major cult activity going on here but can’t pinpoint it so we’re one of a number of teams doing patterned recon sweeps.”

Mickey looked over as he saw the waitress coming with their food. “Yeah, I think we still got the shit job. It’s like they’re just giving us busy work.” Mickey signaled for them to shut up about their mission. “Here comes the food.”

Dustin sat back as the waitress said, “Here you go. Patty Melt for the lady, Club Sandwich for you, and everything from the rest of our menu for you hon.”

Dustin laughed at that and Mickey looked a bit sheepish.

“I’m just joshin’ ya hon.”

“It’s cool. Thanks.”

“Can I get all y’all anything else?”

Mickey looked at Bab’s cups. “Could you get our friend some more coffee?”

“Sure thing.”

As she walked away Dustin said, “Don’t start eating until Babs comes back. She probably thinks we hate her.”

Babs stared at her reflection in the mirror, trying to keep the tsunami within her mind from overwhelming her.

“Fuckers… fuckers… everyone are fuckers!” She whispered to herself. Her eyes, normally a dark shade of blue, like the pacific on a calm winter’s day, were now flecked with red. Babs closed her eyes, took a deep breath, “Dustin’s a fucker waiting to happen, Mickey’s a loser-fucker, Chapman is a fucker in a cheap suit, Armitage is the fuckiest fucker that ever fuc—”

Pain shot through her head as something woke up in it, something responding to Armitage’s name. She couldn’t think her thoughts any more, could barely stand up even. She steadied herself with her left hand on the sink counter and turned on the water with her right. After breathing deeply to calm herself and regain her equilibrium, Babs put her hands under the cold water to let the water becalm her and her mind went back.

She remembered being on a sail boat of some type. She remembered a man she loved hurting her and then she was in the water. She remembered sinking to the bottom of the sea, and feeling that it was soft, so soft, almost like a comfy bed.

“I drowned.” She whispered.

In her mind, things swam around her and Babs remembered she was surprised that she could still dream while she was dead. She had known it was a dream, but a real one, not like those stupid ones where you can’t ever make sense of things like who is who and what time it is and where your keys are and who has the patty melt and who has the club sandwich and she dreamt of beautiful fish people taking her somewhere where she would be able to sing her laments and plague all the fuckers with the sweetest pain and retribution.

Babs remembered going through a gate of sorts, made of seaweed and shells and coral, and becoming something beautiful, singing beautiful, sad songs. The cold water on her hands slowed her trembling but the memories shattered as she next remembered being in a church with Reverend Jason Armitage giving the sermon. Suddenly, she wasn’t sure what was the dream and what were the true memories.

She turned off the water, feeling sad and lost, until she realized there was something in the palm of her left hand—a white pearl (and her mind felt the shadow of another dream, one that walked like a mountain). She looked at it with wonder on her face and quickly swallowed it.

Babs then peed, just for good measure, washed her hands again, and went back to join her teammates. Under her breath, while she felt the pearl being digested, she said, “I understand… I understand… I understand. And so do I.”

“Oh, goody!” Babs said returning to the booth. “The food’s here!”

“Yeah,” said Mickey still looking a bit sheepish as he slid out of the booth to let her in. “We waited for you. Didn’t want to be rude.”

Babs slid in and picked up the stuffed Jaime the Javelina, “What was that Jaime?”

Mickey looked a bit weirded out as he sat down again.

“Really?” Babs looked happy and pet the toy’s head again as she tucked it back next to her. “Jaime says you two aren’t really the fuckers I thought you were.”

Mickey almost choked on his malt while Dustin just tried to, calmly, smile at Babs.

“I’m glad Jaime likes us,” he said, trying to be upbeat. “He’s a pretty cool Javelina.”

“I know.” Babs said happily.

“Why don’t we just eat our lunch now?” Dustin said, as he and Mickey exchanged a look of “what the fuck have we gotten ourselves into?”

Babs poured a good helping of ketchup on her plate and just said, “Ok!”

Dustin watched his teammates as he ate his club sandwich. Mickey was obviously still stressed—whether due to his angst over Wanda or due to Babs he wasn’t sure—as he was eating his food at a rate that kept pace with Dustin and Babs. Babs kept dipping her patty melt in her mound of ketchup, would eat a bite, then she would grab three fries (not two, and not four, but exactly three) dip them in the ketchup and eat them while humming softly.

Why do I suddenly feel that all of this is going to end in a whole lot of pain? Dustin thought as he swallowed the last bite of his food.

Maybe Dustin’s right, Mickey thought as he picked up the small bowl of coleslaw and began to eat it. Maybe everything is going to be better now and I just need to lean in to it.

Babs, who was almost finished with her meal, turned around in the booth and looked out the window of the restaurant and saw a tall, gorgeous, black man get out of an equally gorgeous Lincoln Town Car before popping his hood and checking something. Oh my god! That is a real man, she thought. Babs turned around again, looked at her teammates, and sighed before turning around again and watching this dreamboat. After a few minutes her view was blocked by a red Mach 1 that pulled into a parking space right outside the window. She turned back around, and ate her last two fries (she was disappointed that they hadn’t come in complete multiples of three). She watched as the two people from the red Ford walked into the restaurant. The older, dumpy, man walked toward the bathrooms while the younger blond man went to the register at the front counter. Something about them made Babs’ hair start to itch.

Mickey put his empty bowl of coleslaw on his main plate, pushed it back from him a bit and belched loudly, prompting a disapproving look from Dustin.

“Excuse me,” Mickey added. “You two ready to blow this pop stand?”

“Yeah, let’s pay and get out of here.” Dustin said, wiping his mouth one last time with his napkin. “Bab’s you ready to g—“

Babs was shaking quietly but uncontrollably while she looked toward the register.

“Shit Dustin,” Mickey whispered loudly. “She’s got a hit on something.”

“Quick Mickey,” Dustin gently took one of Babs’ hands while Mickey did the same. “Let’s keep her anchored.”

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his might and power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Recited Dustin from memory.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Mickey added.

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have the divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Dustin spoke closely to Babs’ ear.

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” Mickey finished, as Babs’ shaking started to slow down.

“The men at the register,” Babs whispered and Dustin and Mickey turned to look at the two men (the younger one just handed a small white paper bag to the older one as they walked toward the exit). “They’re touched by the Evil that Reverend Armitage is looking for. They’re who we’ve been looking for.”

Mickey and Dustin looked at each other with wide eyes for a minute, neither actually thought they would find anything with all the pointless searching they’ve been doing. “Shit!” Mickey said.

Dustin saw the two men sitting in the red Mach 1, the driver blowing on his coffee to cool it enough to drink, and then quickly slid out of the booth. “Come on!”

As Mickey and Babs exited the booth (Babs making sure that Jaime was securely tucked under her arm, Dustin walked to their waitress and said, “Sorry, but we really have to go. Here’s a fifty, keep the change!”

As three of the weirdest people she had ever waited on almost ran out of the restaurant, she thought to herself, I never would have guessed that they were good tippers.

“Mickey,” Dustin said. “stay here and watch where they go while Babs and I get the car. And be cool about it!”

“Sure thing Dustin.”

Mickey pretended to be looking at a line of ants crawling on the sidewalk as the Mach 1 started up and pulled out of the parking space. He watched it and memorized its license plate as it turned right toward the highway.

No more than twenty seconds later, a brown Dodge Dart pulled up—Dustin driving with Babs in the backseat. Mickey quickly got into the passenger side and Dustin accelerated toward the exit of the parking lot.

“They turned right,” Mickey said.

“Cool.” Dustin pointed to the glove box. “Pull out our pistols.”

“They’re going west… into the shadow of California.” Said Babs.

“Alright.” Dustin took a few deep breaths. “I’m gonna hold back for a bit, let’s figure out what our plan is and then lets get these cultist motherfuckers!”

Jackie Ayers Interview

Ten Questions For Jackie Ayers

Jackie is a mom, actress, singer, dancer, and voice actress for NaRaDa Radio Company.

What inspired you to be an actress and singer?

My inspiration came from my grandma, who had a love for music and film. Our favorites to watch were all the Julie Andrews movies as well as anything with John Wayne. Over the years I grew to love acting more through school productions and reading classes where they suggested we read with character voices.

Were you always a fan of audio dramas, old time radio plays?

Growing up I liked them since we listened to a few when we would visit my grandparents house, but it wasn’t until Junior High when we read a script from one about a lighthouse keeper. From that moment on I was hooked.

Would you move to those creative avenues? direct stage shows? create plays/audio?

Back in 2016 I actually directed my first stage show, Treasure Island!! I was supposed to only be the AD, but the original Director backed out due to scheduling conflicts. I was bumped up a mere 3 hours before final auditions. Thankfully my best friend was my stage manager, so that day went by smoothly. The show was wonderful and we have a perfect cast!! We have an awards night for our shows and I won best Director that year!!! 10/10 would direct again.

Do you think your environment, where you live, has an effect on type of art you pro- duce?

Honestly, I live in an environment where I can basically do whatever art I want to. You could say I have a free soul.

Which category of your art comes natural?

Voices and singing comes naturally. I sing daily and randomly too. You can say a phrase and it will remind me of a song… then I will HAVE to at least sing that phrase. Voices are fun especially when my daughter and I use different accents and voices daily.

Is it easier for you to create if given an assignment or does it get in the way of your creativity?

If I am given an assignment, then I know the intended outcome. It is easier for me stress wise to have a goal. For example, I was part of a short film a few years ago that did NOT have a script. I got to the location and the guy was like, “ok this is the scenario.” I was stressed for a few minutes since I had never met this guy before and didn’t know his style. I was quickly able to pull out my ad-libbing and get the shots we needed.

What long term goals do you have?

I have always wanted to be a voice actress… singer would be a plus, but being a character is my all-time favorite thing. I definitely want to voice act more.

What is piece of art are you most proud of?

Being Frenchy in Grease!! I had so many complements during that run on my voice and how I sounded JUST like her.

What was the oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to create? (voiceover, costume, or writing).

I honestly have not made anything odd yet… everything is great in my mind.

What projects are working on now?

I have several projects in the works… reading short stories and being a hostess for a series. As well as a regular in my local radio company.

Black Pete A Christmas Tale by Chauncey Haworth

Black Pete: A Christmas Tale

By Chauncey Haworth

Have you ever heard of a Christmas Town? You know, those towns that always look like they are a wreath or two away from being fully Christmas decorated? Towns where, even in summer, a cloud and cool breeze are enough to bring to mind a Rockwell Christmas card? In some of those towns Christmas is real. Sometimes a feeling can become its own life, a nexus to all that believe and Christmas towns are the gateways to Christmas. Now, not all of them, mind you. Not the tourist traps and pop-up crap, but the real ones, nestled in the woods, or down a prairie lane, towns at the far turn of a mountain road, in some of those towns, Christmas is real.

I grew up in a Christmas town. It’s hard to remember it sometimes, like it was a dream, but I know I came from one, a town called Winterthistle. Winterthistle was located up Highway 21 past Bolton. Deep in the middle of the mountains, nestled in an evergreen forest, our homey little town thrived with happiness and tradition. And, as I said, in that little town, Christmas was real, and to us, Christmas was important.

The entire town had that Swiss chalet style design with gabled roofs, wide eaves and brightly colored weatherboarding. Aside from the level of enjoyment that the town took in Christmas, Winterthistle was much like any other small off the beaten path town. Everyone knew everyone else’s business and, for the most part, everyone was pretty nice about it. Sure, there were the town busybodies, I mean, every town has to have at least one, right? But just like the mechanics, the clerks, the teachers and the pastor, even the busybody was welcome as a necessary gear in the tiny machine that was Winterthistle.

My family, the Hamlett’s, were known in town to be as good as any. My mother, Bertie Hamlett, was a school teacher, my father, Jimmy Hamlett Sr., was the town’s real estate agent, not that anybody ever moved to or from Winterthistle. My name is Weston Hamlett, but at the time I was known to all as “Little Westy Hamlett,” one of the town’s 2nd graders, seven-year-olds and young for my grade on account of having little interest in getting in trouble, and a whole lot of pride in my A+ report cards. My brother however, was known to be as much of a hellion as a town like Winterthistle could produce, which really wasn’t that bad. He was a few years older than me, ten or eleven at the time. Don’t misunderstand, he wasn’t a terrible kid, just had a lot of energy and wasn’t really one for listening and parents back then didn’t really know what to do with a kid like that..

Every year Christmas was important, but I remember one year especially. As I said, I was seven and it was Halloween night. Nowadays I hear lots of people complain that Christmas starts too soon, that we need to leave space for Thanksgiving. Something about the consumerism or the speed that the modern world travels, but in Winterthistle, Christmastime would start the day after Halloween and nobody in town complained about it.

That Halloween I had made a good haul. Like most Halloweens, we had gone a few towns over to Selwyn’s Hollow for the town’s famous All Hallow’s Eve Festival and Trick or Treating. I’m not sure if it was my perfect costume of Space Ranger Rocket or my brother’s trick or treating map that had taken him a month to plot out, but when we got home and I counted my candy, I counted a whopping one hundred and ten pieces. Other than being an impressive pile of candy, that number may not matter to many, but in a town where Christmas dreams start the day after Halloween, we know that there are exactly fifty-five days between Halloween and Christmas, and being the good student I was, I quickly deduced that it meant I had two pieces of candy a day until Christmas. One hundred and ten, the perfect amount to sneak two pieces under my pillow every night.

 I was amazed, as I counted and kept reaching in the old grayed pillowcase, it just kept coming until my one-hundredth-and-tenth piece, a gooey, nugety, chochlety Radu bar, the crown jewel of Halloween. There was a hierarchy to these things. At the bottom was Miss Betty’s homemade candy corn. Miss Betty was my teacher and new to the area and had no grasp on what the kids were eating at the time. Ranking at number two was any solid chocolate candy, which of course we found hilariously funny at the time. Three and four were gummy bears and worms, and five was a Rockefeller Candy Button. There was some debate at the time on candies five and six. Most kids agreed that is was Miss Grady’s cotton candy balls at five and leading that at six was Dellon Brand cotton candy balls, but stupid Geoff Trumbleson insisted that Miss Grady’s were better. But we all suspected that he had a crush on her, which was weird as Geoff Trumbleson was eight and Mrs. Grady was well into her seventies, but it made sense at the time for some reason. There was a larger debate to be had at the eighth and ninth places. The jury seemed to be permanently hung and it was decided that a Wanda Bar and a bag of Jet Jellies would collectively hold the eighth and ninth positions. At the top of the list, everyone who was anyone at Winterthistle Elementary agreed the best was the Radu Bar. There was just something about it, a core of nougat, covered in caramel, dipped in chocolate… my mouth waters even today just talking about that bar. That night I got one, my brother did not.

So the bidding war started. He offered me everything, every combo I had been talking about all month, but I wouldn’t budge. I had a great haul and I had the Radu Bar to boot.

This did not go over well with my brother, Jimmy, and he went into one of his maniacal tyrades that consisted of calling me names and went so far as threatening to poison Bruiser, the dog.

As I said earlier, Jimmy wasn’t that bad of a kid… normally, but threatening to poison Bruiser apparently didn’t sit well with my mother. She calmly sent us to brush our teeth and go to bed.

Jimmy and I brushed our teeth, the whole time he didn’t say anything. Jimmy always knew when he went too far, at least he always knew it in hindsight. We tried to be as quiet as possible. We tiptoed to our room and slipped into our bunk beds, Jimmy on the bottom and me on the top, but it wasn’t over.

That night, after hearing a long muffled yet obviously heated conversation between our parents downstairs, the door to our room opened and there, in the beam of hall light stood our mother. She came into the room and closed the door behind her. There we were, Jimmy and I tucked in bed as my mother took a seat at the other side of the room, the light of the moon beaming through the window creating a lake of moonlight between her in the chair and us in our beds. It seemed like an ocean away, but still not far enough. I could see the seering moonlit look of disappointment in her face.

In the dark she spoke. “I have had enough of your attitude Jimmy and both of you always fighting.” It was about to come, the worst punishment ever, and this time, not just for Jimmy, but for me too. But, it didn’t come. “You two are not in trouble. You have created your own trouble. Christmas is fifty-five days away. You have fifty-five days exactly to sharpen up and prove that you are going to be good little boys or else.”

She was calm, too calm. I was terrified. Everyone in Winterthistle knew of Father Christmas and we also knew of his servants, the creatures and characters that traveled with him at Christmastime. I wasn’t sure what she meant by “or else” but I knew it was scary, too scary to even want to know about, at least too scary for me to want to know, but not for Jimmy.

“Why,” Jimmy’s voice trembled, “What will happen?”

“Old Man Whipper will come for you,” she said.

At the mention of Old Man Whipper, every kid in Winterthistle would get the chill. We all knew the legend of Old Man Whipper and how when Father Christmas delivered toys to the good kids, Old Man Whipper would take care of the bad kids. The kids who were just a little bad would get coal and no toys or sweets. The worse kids would get hit with a switch, and the really bad kids? The really bad kids, I mean the really-really bad ones, well, Old Man Whipper would wrap them up in his bag and take them home to make stew. At that moment, both Jimmy and I felt like we had done really-really bad.

We both pledged to her that we would be good. We promised, told here even when no one was looking we would be the best kids in Winterthistle.

“You better be,” she said, leaning into the moonlit lake, “because  if you aren’t, Black Pete will see and Black Pete will tell Belsnickel and you will be marked… and there will be nothing that you can do.”

She didn’t need to explain. We knew the legend. Black Pete lived in the crawl spaces, attics and chimneys of our homes, watching us and making sure that we were good. On December 10th, fifteen days before Christmas, Belsnickel would walk from home to home and mark the kids that Black Pete said were bad. Belsnickel would mark you naughty on the list and that was it, your goose was cooked. On Chrtistmas eve Father Christmas would come to deliver toys and Old Man Whipper would deliver punishment or worse.

That night we both laid there in the darkness, afraid, but by morning, Jimmy seemed to have forgotten the gravity of the threat. That day at school recess he was spouting off some of the stuff the older kids were saying, that Father Christmas wasn’t real and that Black Pete, Belsnickel and The Whipper were just stupid stories that our parents had come up with to scare us into being good.

I didn’t believe him. Afterall, Jimmy was always in trouble and breaking the rules and where did that get him? Grounded mostly, but this year I feared it was going to get him beaten with a switch or worse, taken by Old Man Whipper to be used in his stew.

That night our mother complimented us on being well behaved.

As Jimmy and I laid in bed I asked him about the things he was saying with the older kids. “So, that stuff at school?” I asked. “You didn’t really mean what you said about not believing?”

“I meant it,” he answered.

The moment he said it I heard the clicking and creaking of the radiator come on, blowing warm air from the living room into our room via the duct. The warm air was calming.

“How could any of it be real? And, the older boys all say it’s made up. I mean, If it was real wouldn’t they have stories to tell. Like Jacob Conners, he sure isn’t a good kid. I saw him smoking behind the Lewis’s grain silo.”

“But, mom says it’s real?” I argued.

“And she’s a liar too, just like all the other parents.”

The clacking grew louder from the vent at the floor in the far wall.

Jimmy talked on as his voice grew more defiant, “Plus, how could a person keep an eye on us all the time? It’s stupid.”

“Magic?” I suggested.

He answered, “Magic isn’t real and Black Pete isn’t real. Watch, I’ll prove it. Fuck shit fuck fuck crap”.

I was stunned by his language.

I heard a hard knock from the far wall. I looked at the vent. Inside it was dark except for two round reflections.

“Black Pete is here,” I whispered.

Jimmy ordered me to shut up.

“There. There is the vent,” I continued.

There was a pause and then Jimmy said, “I don’t see anything.”

But I did. They had vanished, but I was sure that those two round reflections were there.

Jimmy told me to quit being a baby and to go to bed, but I couldn’t. I just stayed quiet in the dark, looking at the now solid black vent until I heard the calm heavy breathing of Jimmy asleep. Then, I got up and from under my pillow, where I kept my daily two pieces of candy, I took one and quietly climbed down and placed the candy right in front of the vent. I snuck back up into my bed and watched the candy until I fell asleep.

The next morning the candy was gone. I tried to explain it to Jimmy, but he just told me I was dreaming.

All of November went on the same, me trying to convince Jimmy that Black Pete was watching us from the air vent, Jimmy telling me that I was a cry baby and needed to grow up, and me placing a piece of candy by the vent every night. Every morning the candy was gone.

There were several nights that I put the candy there with Jimmy watching, trying to prove to him that the candy would be gone. Everytime he just accused me of taking it. He would call me a square and accuse me of trying to make him a square too.

By the time December hit, Christmas was all any of us could talk about and the conversations seemed to be evenly split between what each of us wanted for Christmas and if we were being good and if Black Pete was watching. My brother held fast with his belief that it was all just a ruse to put us in line, but I had seen proof that Black Pete was watching.

The first part of December was the same with me putting out candy as Black Pete took it. It got to the point where I would lay in bed at night watching the vent and once my brother started the smooth heavy breathing of his sleep, I would see the two reflective eyes approach through the grating. They would pause there and look at Jimmy. Once realizing he was asleep, they would look at me and if eyes could smile, I would swear that Black Pete’s eyes looked at me with a smile on his face. Then the grating would move aside and Black Pete’s hand would come out. It had awful, long claws at the end of boney jet black hands. His equally black arm would sleek along the floor, the taloned hand would slowly curl around the candy, and the arm would return to the vent.

There were a couple of times that Jimmy caught me talking into the vent. Black Pete never talked back, I wasn’t even sure that he could hear me in the day, but I was young at the time and figured Pete must have been lonely, hiding all the time and living in crawl spaces and between boards and rocks. When Jimmy would catch me he’d just tell me to knock it off cuz I was gonna get made fun of if any of the kids found out, but I didn’t care.

The whole situation turned into a benign entertainment of my evening, picking out which piece of candy I would give to Black Pete, waiting for Jimmy to fall asleep, watching the eyes approach and the arm take the candy. That is, until December 18th.

December 18th was Belsnickle’s Eventide, a day of fun and celebration in Winterthisle. Each year there was a parade of the older town boys dressed in all black with their skin painted coat black to represent the Schabmänner, or the scribblers, tamed demons that Father Christmas used in his shops. The parade of boys would dance through the town handing out candies to all of us younger kids.

Belsnickle’s Eventide was something that we looked forward to every year. It was a day that every child in Winterthisle looked forward to, and while it seemed like it was maybe a little scary, being demons and all, it was never a day that had brought me any concern before, but it did that year. Years prior I had never really had any reason to be concerned, but this year I was concerned. I was concerned for Jimmy.

All through the morning and well into the celebration Jimmy was still holding fast that he was not worried about Black Pete, he didn’t believe in Belsnickle and he certainly didn’t believe in Old Man Whipper.

Halfway through the parade Jimmy seemed to change his mind. From out of the blue Jimmy just started screaming and saying that he wanted to go home. Our parents tried to pay no mind, but Jimmy wasn’t having it. He cried and begged until they finally gave in and we went home early. I remember being somewhat disappointed, but still pleased because I had acquired quite a candy haul to add to my dwindling stash that I had been sharing with Pete.

We didn’t know at the time, but Jimmy’s reaction to the scribblers ended up sparking a bit of an outcry trying to ban some of the more “demonic” winter celebrations. Some towns kept the old ways, some changed them, and some got rid of them entirely. Those that got rid of too many of the old ways seemed to no longer really be Christmas towns anymore.

I was sent upstairs to my room in the nicest way possible as my parents sat Jimmy down and tried to calm him. Being the nosy little brother that I was, I laid down at the top of the stairs to listen to what I at first thought was my brother getting in trouble. It took a while, but eventually they got him to tell them what had scared him so much.

He told them that the two of us were struggling to get closer to the scribblers, trying to get more candy when he felt a tug at his leg and he fell down. He was talking through snot and some crying as he continued saying that he was struggling to get up and he couldn’t. Each time he tried to get up there would be another bump of a kid, a slip on the wet grass or a pulling at his legs. He had called out for our parents and they didn’t come. He was looking for them and crying when, through the clamoring children and black legs of the scribblers he saw a face looking at him. He said it was pitch black, just eyes and sharp teeth, but it was wearing a bright yellow dress and the yellow was flashing in and out of the darkness of the scribblers as the face just looked at him and smiled. It was about this time that he broke back down into unintelligible tears. I ran to our room and hopped into bed before they brought Jimmy up. It took Jimmy longer than usual to fall asleep that night as he whimpered in the dark.

That night I had selected a Wanda Bar for myself and a bag of Jet Jellies for Pete. I liked to keep it fair using the Halloween rating system. I did my usual routine and waited for Jimmy to sleep and snuck down to the vent to place Pete’s candy. It had become so common a practice now that I sat with him as we ate, my back to the wall chewing away as Pete took his piece. I would hear him take the candy and would even hear him sit there with me and enjoy it. A weird friend for a child to have but a friend nonetheless.

That night however, something new did happen. Outside the window, down from the knoll side of the house I heard faint whistling. It was a pleasant tune cutting through the night wind and the branches. I got up to look out the window. I could hear Pete making some kind of noise. Looking back, I believe he was trying to get me not to look, but I didn’t understand that at the time.

I crept up to the window and looked out. There, down in the yard, was a man. Not really a man, but a thing. His skin was coat black, just like Pete’s. He had an angular face and it was hard to see anything but his white hot eyes and smiling razor teeth. The idea of it would have terrified anyone, but I knew he wasn’t there for me, it was there for Jimmy. He wore a yellow dress, like a fancy woman would wear and nothing else. He carried a long thin switch that he pulled up to his curled thin black lips and puffed on as the other end lit up like the end of one of our father’s cigars. He then let out a big puff of smoke and disappeared into the woods.

I went back to the vent, but Pete was gone.

That night it wasn’t easy to get to sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about Belsnickle and his switch he puffed on like a cigarette, the burning end of that whip of wood and the pain that hot ember would add to the switch’s crack.

The next morning Jimmy was still a little rattled. He seemed to shake it off by the time he ran into some of the town boys and had to explain why he ran off like a cry baby. Jimmy’s excuse was that someone had taken his candy. By dinnertime Jimmy seemed to be back to his usual self, other than he had stopped making fun of me and my concerns. He would just tell me to stop talking about it. I pushed a little, until our parents said that if either of us brought up anything about Belsnickle again we would be grounded. The next few days pretty much went the same, me keeping my mouth shut to keep out of trouble and Jimmy avoiding the topic all together in an attempt to get back in with the older boys.

On Christmas eve Jimmy was scared, but he didn’t want to admit it. After all of our festivities and dinner, our parents sent us to bed with a glass of warm milk, a concoction that always put us out quickly, but not me. Not that night.

After hearing Jimmy’s heavy breathing of sleep and my parents going to bed, I snuck down to take Pete his nightly confection. That night being the final night before Christmas, I split up the candy I had from both Halloween and Belsnickle’s Eventide right down to the Radu Bar, which I’d halved right down the middle. I placed Pete’s candy right in front of the vent and took up my usual position, back against the wall, so that we could eat together. But that night Black Pete didn’t come for his treats.

I sat there in the darkness waiting for him. Eventually I fell asleep but was startled awake by sounds from downstairs. I went to Jimmy to wake him. At first Jimmy pushed me away and told me to go back to bed. Then, he too heard the sounds. He got out of bed crouching to the ground, pushing me down to the ground too. Jimmy grabbed his shoes from under the bed and put them on, instructing me to do the same. He was always smart like that.

We snuck into our parents room. With me on my mother’s side and Jimmy by our father, we tried to wake them. It didn’t work. They didn’t move. In fact, they were barely breathing. They looked like dolls, frozen in the moment, not alive and not dead.

Another sound startled us from our astonishment. Jimmy gave me a signal to stay as he went out the door and toward the stairs. I didn’t stay. I quickly moved out of the room and down the stairs stopping right behind jimmy. He had a look on his face that both conveyed anger at me for following and fear of whatever I had followed him into. We both stood quietly in the dark, cold, wood floored halfway, peering into the living room.

There in the living room were two men, faintly lit by the warm light of the fireplace. The first was tall and shrouded in a black cloak, just his whit beard protruding from the deep cowl. The other man was Father Christmas. He was not like I imagined him. Had he been like the pictures or carols I might have called him Santa Claus, but this venerable, stocky man in leathers and furs conjured more thoughts of wisdom and sagedom than sugar plums and jollyness. His wiry hair receding from his forehead, as much steel gray as it was white and it was messy and unkempt. He was messy and unkempt, but not like a vagrant, more like an arctic witch doctor or scientist on the verge of a discovery.

Jimmy gasped at the sight of them to which Father Christmas said one word, the servant’s name, “Ruprecht.”

The name was half out of his mouth and the oldman in the black cloak swept toward us, Jimmy pushing me back, protecting me. As Ruprecht swiftly flew towards us his cowl blew back, exposing his solid black bony demonic face. The sharp nose creesed and yellow eyes squinted in rage. Jimmy and I both closed our eyes, expecting to be torn apart, but when we opened our eyes both the men were gone and the room was pitch black. The fireplace was extinguished and the cold night was quickly piercing the room. The cold was unnatural and bitter and chilled us both to our bones.

Jimmy turned to me and grabbed my shoulders making direct eye contact as if to ask if I was okay. I assume my returned look conveyed that I was physically okay but terrified. We started to move when we heard what sounded like boots on the front doorstep. From the hall to the door we could see the figure, black against the glass.

Jimmy pulled me down the hall and into the living room where Father Christmas and Ruprecht had been. We hid behind the couch. We heard the front door slam open and again the boot sound started down the hall. I could see him through a crack, not clearly, but clearly enough to tell that he was large, dressed in black with animal fur trim, with black scraggly hair. His face was black and white and there was something wrong with it. I couldn’t tell what it was, but in the dark hallway I could see that there was definitely something wrong with his face.

He went upstairs first and I was relieved until I thought of my parents, bewitched, laying in their beds, exposed to whatever horrific intentions this creature of Christmas Eve had.

We sat there in the dark holding each other as we trembled. I startled as I felt something on my leg. I looked down and saw a black clawed hand patting me, Black Pete’s clawed hand. I looked further back and saw the arm and followed it to the vent where I saw one of Pete’s yellow eyes look up at me with concern. He brought his hand up between our eyes and pointed at me. He then wagged his finger indicating no. Then he pointed at Jimmy. I shook my head and started to tear up. Even through the small vent in the floor I could tell that Pete was shaking his head yes.

I blurted out, “I don’t want them to take him, please!”

Pete’s hand quickly slipped back into the vent replacing the grating in one fluid motion.

Jimmy looked at me, he grabbed me by the shoulders again, lifting me up as we started to move toward the hallway to escape, but the monstrous man must have heard as well. We heard a clamoring from upstairs and right as we got to the stairwell we heard a smashing and banging between walls of the monstrous man as he started to make his way down the stairs. The fear overtook us and all we could do was take several steps back into the side room as we saw the massive black boots start to come down the stairs.

We were both pulled back and fell to our butts in the blackness. I went to scream, but I couldn’t. Around my mouth was a jet black clawed hand. I looked over to jimmy. Around his mouth was another clawed hand. Between us, in the blackness, an even more black face slowly crept forward, looking back and forth between us. Pete’s face. All he did was mouth, “Shhhh”.

As we were held quiet in the dark by Black Pete, the man came to the side room doorway, lit by the starlight that barely came through the window above us. It was Old Man Whipper. He was a massive man in black robes holding a large dirty piece of fabric. His face was haphazardly split between solid black and colorless white, his hair was a shock of black wires, his eyes were deep and black, his tongue moved around his mouth and face like a snake. He eye’s looked wildly about the hallway, looking for the perpetrator of the sound.

He started to walk down the hallway toward the living room as Pete slowly released our mouths from his muffeling grip. Looking back I am constantly reminded of that moment. It must have been fear, or panic, the primordial fight or flight response. I look back and I know that they were protecting me, both Jimmy and Pete. Jimmy pushed me out of the way of the monstrous man and Pete shielded me from the sounds of my own fear, but for some reason I ran. As soon as I was free of Pete’s claw I ran.

I leapt up and darted toward the door of the side room, running to the hallway to turn the opposite way from the monstrous man and dart out the door into freedom.

But that’s not what happened.

I made it to the end of the side room and as I passed through the doorway but I was hit with an arm, an arm and hit so large it sent me sliding on my butt back into the dark room from which I was trying to escape.

I could hear Jimmy yell my name in the darkness as the man charged into the room passing me and going right for Jimmy, his huge taloned hands revealing that his tattered cloth was actually a dirty bag. He grabbed in the darkness for Jimmy.

It must have been shame from my previous cowardice when I lept on the back of the man. He was greasy and smelled of must. I bit and hit him as he tried to get me off. Black Pete leapt into the fray, scratching and clawing at the monstrosity.

Black Pete looked at me with a strange look that my young mind couldn’t grasp at the time, but looking back I know it to be appreciation and thanks. He then pushed me hard, so hard I went flying from the back of the creature, landing against the wall. In front of me, I squinted through the starlit darkness at the mass that was Jimmy, Old Man Whipper, and Black Pete.

Eventually the center of the black mass flexed sending the two smaller bodies across the room. One of Jimmy’s shoes came off and landed right in my lap. A tattered old athletic shoe. He was hoping to get a new pair for christmas.

Through the dark I saw the shoe’s other half laying on the ground. The only response I got when I yelled his name was a groan and a twitch of the shoe.

At the sound of my voice, Old Man Whipper turned and looked at me. He smiled, his snake of a tongue curling out and then back in, licking the tips of his teeth. He charged toward Jimmy’s body. In the darkness I could see that Jimmy struggled, but it was of no use. The creature swept Jimmy up and stuffed him in the rotting old sack in one violent movement. He pulled the draw cord on the sack and threw it over his shoulder.

He walked right past me, paying me no mind at all as he exited the room. He stomped down the hall and left the house completely. As he left, I heard a massive whoosh of wind as a light began to glow in the hall. It was the light from the fireplace in the living room reignited. I looked at my hands, dirty with soot and mold as they trembled in the amber glow that flickered around the corners of the house.

I heard a whimpering. I got up to find Jimmy hiding in the corner of the room, his eyes full of tears. For some reason, I handed him his shoe, even though I knew what happened to the other one. Black Pete had put it on his foot to trick Old Man Whipper.

From that day on, both Jimmy and I took our families Christmas traditions seriously, even though neither of us ever got a present again placed under the tree from Father Christmas. There was one change to our family traditions though. We taught our kids to be nice to Black Pete, the demon enslaved by Father Christmas to watch you. Not only is he there to watch your bad deeds, he watches your good deeds too.

Black Pete A Christmas Tale by Chauncey Haworth


Befana is a traditional character in Italian folklore associated with the celebration of Epiphany, which takes place on January 6th. The name “Befana” is believed to be derived from the Italian word “epifania.” The character is often depicted as an old woman, sometimes portrayed as a witch, who visits children on the night of January 5th, leaving small gifts and sweets for the good children and coal or dark candy for the naughty ones.

According to the legend, Befana was an old woman who, while sweeping her house, was visited by the three Wise Men (Magi) on their way to find the baby Jesus. They asked her for directions, and she declined their invitation to join them. Later, she had a change of heart and set out to find the baby, but she was unable to locate him. As a result, every year on the night of Epiphany, she travels on her broomstick, leaving gifts for children in the hope that one of them might be the baby Jesus.

Befana is a beloved figure in Italian culture, and the Epiphany is celebrated with various customs and traditions across the country. In some regions, there are parades, festivals, and special events to mark the occasion. Children often hang stockings or put out shoes for Befana to fill with treats, and families come together to share in the festivities.

The Befana comes by night

With her shoes all tattered and torn

She comes dressed in the Roman way

Long live the Befana!

Here comes, here comes the Befana

She comes from the mountains in the deep of the night

Look how tired she is! All wrapped up In snow and frost and the north wind!

Here comes, here comes the Befana!