22 Dec Every Year, My Family is Visited by Frau Perchta – CreepyPasta
I can still remember my mothers’ look when I told her I wanted to invite Lucy to spend the holidays with us.
She furrowed her brow in that way that she did when she thinks something is a bad idea.
“Are you sure you want to invite Lucy, dear?”
“Of course, I’m sure. She’s my best friend, mum.”
She let the water run over her hands for a few seconds, washing the potatoes she’d been making for dinner, “I know she’s your best friend, but Lucy can be a little,” she seemed to contemplate her words, “much sometimes. How long will she be staying?”
This was an odd question from my mother, usually charitable, but I knew that it was the time of year that had her nervous. It was the twenty-ninth of December, Christmas now in the rearview mirror and New Years’ looming on the horizon, and my family was four days into celebrating the Twelve Nights of Christmas. My family is Christian, but the sect we belonged to believes in the significance of the Twelfth Night. The Twelfth Night was marked by the Feast of Epiphany. We spend most of the day at service, singing songs and praising God, but that night we hold a large meal, and Mother always makes a Tortel to celebrate the occasion.
That’s also the night that Frau Perchta visits us, and that can be a tumultuous time all its own.
Not a lot of people celebrate the Twelfth Night. Christmas is usually the highlight of the season, but it’s a religious tradition my mothers and father brought from France when they moved here, and it’s been a part of my life for so long that it just seems normal to me.
To my knowledge, Lucy’s family was not religious at all, so Lucy was looking forward to seeing what our holidays were like.
“Her family will be back on the tenth, just in time for the end of Christmas break,” I said, almost pleading with her not to reconsider.
My mother looked at her potatoes as she worked, “She knows that it’s not all fun and games, right? We go to church a lot on those days, and the celebration is mostly religious.”
I nodded, “Yes,” I assured her, “she knows it’s not all fun and games.”
That wasn’t a complete lie. Lisa had been interested in my family’s “quaint” holiday customs, and I had tried to tell her how this time of year was important to my family. There had been a lot of questions in my class about the Twelve Nights of Christmas. I had told them how it had to do with the nativity play and less to do with the song, how we had the traditional Tortel, a pastry with a pea in it, and how if you found the pea, you got to be the Queen for the evening. I usually found it, and my parents made a game of me being Queen for the night and parading me around the house. Lastly, I told them about Frau Perchta, the old woman who would visit on the Twelfth night and give out presents to good children.
I believed this was the reason that Lucy wanted to stay with me instead of Chelsea or Maggy. Lucy saw an opportunity to get a kind of second Christmas and wanted to use my holiday to get more presents. I wasn’t too offended by this idea, I liked extra gifts too, but the idea of her using Frau Perchta to get them made me feel a little funny. Not guilty, but…not good either.
Lucy was used to dealing with a kind and generous gift-giver, but Frau Perchta was not a benevolent, jolly being.
The Frau was a little scary, and I had only just gotten comfortable around her myself. She was a gift-giving entity, which was nice, but she was also a stick that my parents would use to correct me when I was bad. Unlike Santa, the Frau was not just a Christmas entity either. The Frau was always watching, always judging, and they used her year around when I stepped out of line.
“Better behave, Frau Prechta will see.”
“Put that candy back; you wouldn’t want me to tell the Frau.”
“Better get to sleep before Frau Prechta knows you’re naughty.”
I had never incurred the wrath of the Frau, but mum had said she would switch me if I were naughty, and she told stories of a sister that had gone missing after being especially willful one year.
Frau Perchta was a coin with two faces, and one of those faces had teeth.
Mom nodded stiffly, “Far be it from me to turn away guests during the holidays. Just make sure she’s on her best behavior. You know how the Frau feels about willful children.
I shuddered as she said the word, remembering the sister she had never seen again.
Lucy arrived two days later, and her parents thanked mine for agreeing to let her stay. They were going to see friends out of town, places where Lucy would be relegated to a backroom of strange children while their parents gathered. They offered my parents money for her food and board, but they waved it away. Lucy was our guest, and they were glad to have her. Her parents smiled at that, kissed their daughter goodbye, and they were off to the airport to catch their flight.
My parents and I helped Lucy up to my room, Lucy having brought enough luggage for a month, and I showed her the cot we had set up for her and the spot in my closet I had emptied for her. She made appreciative noises, right up until my parents left, and then scoffed at the idea of sleeping on a saggy old cot. I saw her eyeballing my canopy bed before she made her intentions known.
“As a guest, it would only be generous for you to let me use your bed.”
“But then where would I sleep?” I asked, not quite understanding the trade-off. There was no way we could share the bed. The mattress felt too small for me sometimes. I looked at the floor but wrinkled my nose at the idea of sleeping there. I wasn’t a messy child, but sleeping on the floor still seemed like a great way to roll over on a lego or a Barbie shoe.
“Well, why don’t you sleep on the cot? It’ll be like being on holiday,” she said, sitting her bag on the foot of the bed and telling me about the barbies she’d brought to play with and DVD’s she had to for us to watch as I took my princess blanket and pillow and set it on the cot.
This was going to be a long few weeks.
My mother thought it was very sweet of me to let Lucy use the bed. I smiled and told her it was the right thing to do for a guest, but the cot was lumpy, and I slept poorly. I thought mean things at Lucy every time I saw her snug in my bed, but I was careful to cut those kinds of thoughts off pretty quick. Such things might be willful, and I wasn’t sure if Frau Perchta could read minds. I wasn’t in a big hurry to find out either.
The first week went by pretty quickly. Lucy and I played with dolls, watched cartoons in our PJ’s, helped mom around the house, and spent our nights giggling or telling secrets. Lucy was always polite and well behaved around my parents, but she was a bit of a brat in private. Lucy complained that our food was too bland, our house too cold, and that the services we dragged her to every night were too dull. I had seen my father shoot her some dark looks as she sat in the pew beside me and sighed or fidgeted, but he was too kind to ever say much. She seemed to find our services quaint but boring and was always ready to go when it was time to leave.
On New Years’, Mum and Dad let us stay up with them till midnight and toast the New Year with sparkling cider. We sat in front of the TV, watching the New Years’ special and waiting for the ball to drop. Lucy told me about how, last year, she and her parents had been in Paris for the New Year, and her mother had let her drink some of her champagne when the clock struck midnight. I asked her what it tasted like, and she said, low, so my parents didn’t hear her, “It tasted better than this gross juice.” and stuck her tongue out as she laughed. She went to set her glass down, and I saw it tip over and spill onto the carpet. She picked it up quickly, and my mother saw the stain before she saw the glass.
“Oh no, whose spilled grape juice on my carpet?”
Lucy pointed the finger at me, “It was an accident, ma’am. She didn’t mean to.”
I started to become indignant, but Lucy gave me a pitiful look that communicated clearly that she didn’t want to get in trouble.
I didn’t say anything, and mum made me get a towel to help clean it up.
When they yelled, “Happy New Year,” I looked up quickly, having missed the ball drop as I dabbed at the spot.
I didn’t whisper to her that night, and I think she knew I wasn’t happy with her.
The second week was the worst. Lucy began to complain about the daily trips to church, and even my father’s good mood was starting to stretch thin. We had a neighbor who agreed to watch her while we went to church. I was honestly a little glad for the time away from Lucy. Her outbursts and snarky attitude were funny at school, usually making teachers grind their teeth and other students laugh. At home, she just came off as a brat and kind of mean to boot. After that, she mostly laid around and in her pajamas and did what she wanted. Her complaints about our food, it being too bland or being the same thing every day, were starting to wear on my mother as well, and I could see her counting the days until Lucy’s parents came to get her.
Mum became a little weird where Lucy was concerned. I heard her calling her parents a few times, telling them how Lucy missed them and had asked when they were coming back. Lucy had made no such claims. She was clearly enjoying being our guest, and her parents coming back was the farthest thing from her mind. Despite Mum’s best efforts, it appeared that Lucy would be with us through the weekend. Mum didn’t seem happy about this, and I wondered if she was worried about what the Frau would make of Lucy.
I wasn’t happy with Lucy, but I didn’t want her to disappear.
The day of the Twelfth Night arrived, and the house was filled with low excitement. Mom and Dad were cleaning wildly, Mom taking breaks to cook the meal for tonight, and Lucy and I were relegated to my bedroom so the house would stay clean. Lucy complained about this, of course, and kept asking me questions about the Feast. What kind of food would we have? When would the princess cake be served; which is what she had started calling the Tortel. Would the Frau be here to give presents before or after the meal? Would we have to go to church to get the gifts? She went on and on until I finally told her I didn’t know, or it would depend. I was tired of her being here, and I kind of wanted her to leave.
Before service that night, Mom had the food ready for our return and laid the Tortel out under a bowl to cool. The sitter made her way over, giving Lucy a look like she regretted promising to watch her, and we left for church. The Christmas service was always beautiful. The choir sang hymns, and mum had made me a beautiful white dress for the service. The Pastor read a beautiful sermon about the birth of Christ and his presentation to the temple. He talked about how on the day of Epiphany, the twelfth day, it was revealed that Jesus was the incarnation of God the Father and how this was a momentous occasion for the people so they could have a personal relationship and not one dependent on the Temple or the Priests. I listened intently, having heard the story before, but always enjoying the Pastors stories about the life of Christ. I was a little sad when it ended, knowing that I would have to go back to Lucy and her meanness. I closed my eyes before leaving and asked Jesus to help me. I asked him to take this burden away from me, which was something I had heard people ask for before.
Maybe I should have been more careful with that prayer.
Lucy was dressed in a similar white dress when we got home, a gift from my family to her for the Feast. The sitter left, waving and thanking my mother for the ten dollars she handed her but going in a hurry without a backward glance. Lucy complained about the dress almost at once, saying it didn’t fit right, and it was too baggy for her. She said the hem was too long and that she kept tripping over it, but my mother mostly ignored her as I helped her get the food on the table.
Then we prayed over the meal and sat down to enjoy our feast. Mum had made a red wassail for the occasion, and the warm apple cider tasted great after being out in the cold. There were mashed potatoes, ham, fruits and vegetables, both stewed and raw, pies, roast, and, of course, the Tortel, which sat as the centerpiece. We all dug in, and it was the first time I had heard Lucy stop talking in days. She ate a little of everything, her eyes sliding again and again to the Tortel, and who could blame her. The pastry glistened with sugar and looked delicious.
When we had all eaten as much as we could, Mum cut the Tortel and served us all a piece.
“Now remember, if you find the pea, you get to be Royalty for the evening.” she reminded us.
We all dug in, savoring the tasty tart, and I expected to find the pea with every bite. I think, even then, I believed that my parents let me have the pea every year so I could be the Princess of the Feast, and as I saw my tart become smaller and smaller, I began to wonder if they had moved it this year. Lucy was eating as well, but I saw her hand slip into her pocket as she ate, clenching something. Suddenly, she sat up, bringing her hand out of her pocket and proclaiming how she had found the pea.
I could only gape as my parents congratulated her.
Had she just cheated to get to be Princess of the Feast?
I didn’t have long to gape, however, since as she turned to me, grinning, there was a light tap at our door.
Mum stiffened, looking at Lucy and me, saying, “Frau Perchta has arrived.”
She and dad left the table, heading for the door, but I stopped Lucy as she started to get up.
“You cheated. Why would you do that?”
I was less mad than hurt, honestly. Lucy was our guest, we had treated her far better than she had treated us, and this was just…needless. I would have let her share the title with me if I had won, but for her to cheat to win was just…my young mind didn’t have words to describe it then. I simply couldn’t make sense of why she would do it.
“Duh, your parents would have probably just given you the piece with the pea in it. While you were at church, I lifted the corner and saw it in the corner of the piece she gave you. So I took it and put it in my pocket for later. It wasn’t fair that you just got to win. So I cheated, just like your parents were going to. Now step aside, peasant. Your Princess is off to get her presents.”
And with that, she skipped off towards the living room.
I had little choice but to follow after her.
The Frau was seated in the living room when I arrived. Frau Perchta, as I’ve said, had always scared me a little. She was dressed in a habit, a long white shawl covering her face and framing the ghastly looking mask that she wore. The mask was made of dark wood, looking ancient, and resembling a smiling ogre. She was hunched, using a cane to get around, and she leaned forward in the chair as she beckoned me forward with a gnarled hand.
“Come forward, child.”
I took a step, her voice sounding like dry leaves in a hollow log.
Lucy stepped forward instead, standing before the Frau and jutting her chin out.
“Hey, I was here first. I should get my gifts before her.”
My mother sucked in a breath, and my father’s eyes got very wide as his skin seemed to pale.
The mask bent to look at Lucy, and the wooden thing did not like what it saw.
“Run along, child. You are not of my ilk, and I would not judge you by my rules.”
Lucy huffed out an angry breath, “Hey, I was promised presents from you. What, I don’t get presents just because I’m not a part of this place?”
The wearer of that mask sucked in a long-suffering breath and looked at Lucy icily.
“Clearly, you are not of this place, child. If you were, you would know that it is wise to treat me with respect when I honor a household with my presence.”
“Oh, so I’m just supposed to accept that you didn’t bring me anything?” she brought the pea out of her pocket and waved it in front of the masked face, “I’m the Princess of the Feast, and I want my gifts. I’m royalty today, and you can’t tell a Princess no,” she said haughtily.
Her bluster melted away when the old woman’s hand wrapped around her slender neck.
“Even if you were the grandest princess in all the land, I answer to a higher power and will not be spoken to in such a way by you. You wish to have my gifts? Prepare to receive them.”
She stood, stooped no longer, and carried Lucy’s struggling body over to the coffee table. She shoved the magazines and nick-nacks off the table and slammed the struggling girl onto the surface. I looked at my parents but frozen in horror and surprise, before screaming for them to do something. My father looked at Mum, nudging her and whispering something to her that brought her out of her trance. She moved in front of me, blocking the scene from view, and whispering soothing words to me as my friend gagged and screamed.
Through the crook of my mother’s arm, I could see the old woman take a knife from beneath her robe and lift it over the struggling girl. Her reddening face was terrified, seeing the knife preparing to gut her, and she struggled all the harder. The old woman’s grip was like iron, though, and as she tried to line up her blade, she seemed to be having trouble seeing through her mask. The tip hooked beneath the lip of her mask and swung it up to sit on her head, and it was then that she seemed to notice me. She looked at my mother, and her dry voice cracked out, bringing her back around to face her.
“Do not shelter that girl. Let her see what befalls those who cross the White.”
Mum looked down at me, clearly not wanting me to see what was about to happen, but moved aside obediently.
When I caught sight of the Frau’s face, I put my hands to my mouth to stifle a scream.
The ogre mask was an improvement compared to what lay beneath. Her gaunt face was skeletal, the nose little more than a flap of skin, and that skin was ice blue and stretched over her skull like a piece of wax paper. Her teeth were sharp, like little stones in her mouth, and she held my eyes with a pair of crystalline blues that nearly gave me frostbite. She released me a moment later, bending to the struggling girl she had pinned against my mum’s coffee table, and lifted the knife to get to her work.
Lucy struggled frantically. She was aware, it seemed, that this was no joke and that neither her parents nor my parents were going to swoop in and save her. Lucy had found someone who would not give her a pass because she was young and pretty. She had found a creature to which things did not matter. Lucy had learned too late that sometimes it’s best not to keep poking a bear when it’s given you a chance to run.
When the knife came down, it seemed to surprise her all over again.
Her white dress began to soak with blood, the blade cutting through her abdomen and slitting her belly open. The old woman cut into her guts, sticking the knife blade first into the table, and dragging out handfuls of ropey entrails. She threw them on the ground, Lucy twitching and convulsing as her life bled away. Her face had gone from red to purple, and her eyes bugged out as the lack of air caught up with her. It seemed the bloodloss won out, though, because I saw her bulging eyes roll up to the whites as her purple face slackened in a death mask. She went limp, head lolling to the side, and the Frau reached behind her to grab a scratchy sack I hadn’t noticed before. She upended the sack, spilling sticks and pinecones, old wrappers, and vegetable peels, into the opening before taking out a long bone needle and stitching Lucy closed. She did this amazing speed, years of practice I supposed, sewing up Lucy as her dead eyes stared at the Frau’s habit, which was unstained by blood or gore.
When she finished, Frau Perchta sat in her chair once more and motioned me over.
I didn’t want to go, I had just seen this woman kill one of my best friends, but my mother pushed me towards her and gave me a nervous look that said all it needed to.
I approached her chair on rubbery legs, trying not to look at Lucy’s bloated form as I passed her. The Frau held out her hand, the blue fingers streaked with gore, and I heard the clink of coins. I held out my hand, not wanting her to touch me, and she let four large gold coins fall into my hand. They, too, were bloodied, my gift holding its own little warning as she offered it to me.
“You are a good child. Know that I am pleased by your charity and your pure heart. Fear not, I will take care of that one,” she said, indicating Lucy, “but you will need to make the proper excuses.” she said to my mother and father.
They both nodded and shunted me up to my bed, my numb fingers still gripping the coins.
I didn’t know how I would sleep after all that, but as the adrenaline wore off, I found my eyes growing heavy, and it was morning before I knew it.
I expected to find Lucy in my room, asleep under her blankets, but she and her things were all gone. Her bags had been taken away, her bedding and her clothes missing, and when I went downstairs, the living room was spotless. My parents were in the kitchen, their garb from the night before nowhere to be seen, and my mother was on the phone with the police filing a missing person report. Her voice held nothing but honest emotion, and that’s likely why nothing was ever said about the incident other than regret.
“She left in the night, officer. We woke up to find her things gone, and the front door open. Well, she had been feeling homesick, but we didn’t think she would just up and disappear. We’ve searched for her since dawn when my husband noticed she was missing. No, not a sign of her. Yes, I called her mother and let her know, and they are on their way back now. Yes, yes, please, officer. If you find anything, let us know. Thank you.”
She hung up the phone and sat with my father at the table, both of them looking at me.
“Sweety, we need to talk about what happened last night.”
They told me everything. She told me the old stories about how Frau Perchta would reward good children and punish those who were willful. Mum told me that she had seen her sister punished in just such a way as Lucy, the body and the mess gone by morning but not forgotten, and certainly not gone forever.
“They found her body a few months later, buried in a snowdrift. It was one of the reasons that I left the community when I was old enough. The police might not know what had happened to her, but I did, and the community certainly did. When the coroner found sticks and rocks sewn inside her, the community knew that my mother had raised one of the willful ones. I had hoped that by leaving, I would be able to flee the traditions of my people, but when the Frau arrived at my door on my first Feast away from home, I knew there would be no escaping her.”
She looked at me, her eyes full of pity and resolve.
“You will have to do the same. This is your life now, and it won’t end just because you leave it. The Frau is our burden, the gift given by my family generations ago, and she cannot be escaped. When you have children of your own, you must remember this night and raise them to respect The White. You know the consequences of failure now. If the police ask you what happened to Lucy, just tell them the truth. Tell them you haven’t seen her since last night and leave it at that.”
And so I did, so I have been doing for years now.
I’m a married woman now, I have children of my own, and I have raised them to both revere and fear the yearly visits of Frau Perchta.
My children are good kids, but I will never make the same mistake my mother made on that day when I was young.
I will never allow outsiders to stay at my house for the holidays.
I will never let my children know the dark secrets I keep inside.