Here in the U.S., we’re finally through the stuff-your-face holiday — and you know what that means. The dark gods of Capitalism get to haul out their blackjack and lay it across our collective faces a few dozen times. That’s right: it’s Christmas, friends. Time to start consuming.
You know who else wants to consume this holiday season?
Who is Nackles, you ask? As described by crime author Donald E. Westlake writing under his occasional pseudonym Curt Clark in his 1964 short story of the same name:
Nackles is to Santa Claus what Satan is to God, what Ahriman is to Ahura Mazda, what the North Wind is to the South Wind. Nackles is the new Evil.
…And what does Nackles do? Nackles lives on the flesh of little boys and girls…Nackles roams back and forth under the earth, in his dark tunnels darker than subway tunnels, pulled by the eight dead-white goats, and he searches for little boys and girls to stuff into his big black sack and carry away and eat. But Santa Claus won’t let him have good boys and girls. Santa Claus is stronger than Nackles, and keeps a protective shield around little children, so Nackles can’t get at them.
But when little children are bad, it hurts Santa Claus, and weakens the shield Santa Claus has placed around them, and if they keep on being bad pretty soon there’s no shield left at all, and on Christmas Eve instead of Santa Claus coming down out of the sky with his bag of presents Nackles comes up out of the ground with his bag of emptiness, and stuffs the bad children in, and whisks them away to his dark tunnels and the eight dead-white goats.
Nackles is so evil, in fact, that he got writer Harlan Ellison into one of his most famous Hollywood bar brawls. In the mid-1980s, Ellison adapted Westlake’s story into a spooky-as-hell racially-charged script for a Christmas Special of the Twilight Zone reboot, on which Ellison was to make his directorial debut. The network freaked: “Santa Claus can’t have an evil twin!” Ellison freaked: “I’m Ellison!” Merry Christmas.
But more importantly in these trying times of a brisk Black Friday and budget-crisis caterwauling — as Westlake put it:
“Did God create Men, or does Man create gods?…In the old days, Santa Claus would treat children a bit more scornfully, leaving a lump of coal in their stockings in lieu of presents, but I suppose the Depression helped to change that. There are times and situations when a lump of coal is nothing to sneer at.”
In such times, Westlake implies, far more brutal methods are required to keep the populace in line: methods involving dead-white goats and a big bag of Empty.
Is this one of those times?
You can read the whole text of Westlake’s classic Christmas story at Nackles.com, but before you click that link, you should know that I have no idea if that site is authorized by the Westlake estate. That text could be pirated.
And reading pirated texts is very, very naughty. Don’t be naughty.
You don’t want a visit from Nackles, do you?