The Winter Feast of the Children

christmas prompt

© Sammi Cox

Christmas was the perfect time of year, especially in such high latitudes. There were less than four hours of daylight in Nome which meant Tarkik could move around with almost perfect impunity. To the sick inuit children, he came as a Shaman bringing the blessings of Quviasukvik, and to the white boys and girls in town, he appeared as Santa Claus. The doctors thought they merely suffered from tonsilitis but his keen senses told him it was worse. If any of them died by his ministrations, a growing epidemic would be the perfect cover.

Tapeesa and Amaruq trusted the Shaman to be alone with their little girl Yuka. Tarkik took only a little of her blood, she’d never remember it. He had been feeding well this winter and the blood of children was warm and invigorating. He slowly, lovingly licked the last crimson drops from her soft, supple neck before pulling her nightgown and blankets back up. He could afford to be a gracious hunter after all.

Rachel Van Helsing was never kind or forgiving but it would be over another month before she could arrive in Nome, and only then with the first dog sled teams bringing vital serum to stem the diphtheria outbreak. The vampire Bartholomew Crowe confessed his last victim’s name and location under torture when she captured him in Anchorage. Once the daughter of Abraham Van Helsing located the latest threat, Tarkik would come under the tender mercies of her blade and stake.

I wrote this for the Weekend Writing Prompt #34 – Christmas challenge hosted by Sammi Cox. There are separate rules for the prose vs. poetry challenge, but in my case, I could use the image, the word “Christmas,” or both as the inspiration for crafting a Happy Christmas or Horror Christmas flash fiction tale of no more than 250 words. My word count is 249.

Since I’ve been writing a lot of vampire-based fiction lately, I settled on that theme, but needed some sort of Christmas hook. At first I thought of a vampire disguising himself as Santa Claus and visiting sick children in hospitals, but he’d never be alone with the kids in order to “put the bite” on them.

I did a bit of Googling and the idea of making the setting in “Nome, Alaska” popped into my head. I looked up Nome and discovered the 1924-25 diphtheria epidemic among the inuit children and the famous 1925 serum dog sled run which was the only way to transport diphtheria antitoxin to that remote area.

In December 1924, diphtheria had not yet been diagnosed and local doctors thought the first several children were suffering from tonsilitis. I made my vampire an inuit so he could pass casually among the population and found that among the inuits, there is a winter feast called Quviasukvik that incorporates a number of Christmas-like elements. So my vampire could pass among the inuit families as a Shaman and the white Christian families as Santa Claus visiting the sick kids and, once alone with them, feeding on their blood.

I looked up sunrise and sunset times in Nome for December 23rd. The sun comes up at 12:03 p.m. and sets at 3:59 p.m. Tarkik can be active for about twenty full hours in complete darkness, maximizing his ability to feed on many children (and probably a few adults) so he doesn’t have to take too much from any one of them.

Oh, I looked up Inuit names for my several indigenous story characters.

Vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing first appeared in Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic horror novel “Dracula.” I figured the elder Van Helsing was a little too old to keep on pursuing vampires and the original canon did say he had a daughter (although her first name changes depending on which source you consult).

Of course, after torturing a confession out of another vampire to discover who and where the next undead predator could be found, Rachel would still have to brave a lengthy and dangerous journey by dog sled on the mission to get the antitoxin to Nome (in real life I seriously doubt she would have been allowed to make the trip), only arriving by early February. That would give my vampire over a month to continue enjoying the winter feast of the children.

To find out more about the challenge and read other stories and poems based on the prompt, click this link.