Alexis vs. the Merry Menace: An Action-Adventure Christmas Comedy with Magic and Swearing
Can a foul-mouthed metalhead save Santa from a rampaging demon? He doesn't stand a snowball's chance in Hell.
When Krampus threatens Santa's life, the jolly old elf needs a magical bodyguard with focus, integrity, and ruthless efficiency. What he gets is a slacker sorceress, her ghostly Chinese railroad-worker girlfriend, and a dead medieval prince.
In other words, Christmas is doomed.
Packed with magic gone awry, fast-paced antics, and occasional bouts of gratuitous violence, Alexis vs. the Merry Menace is an action-adventure Christmas comedy that remembers the true reason for the season.
Presents. The reason is presents.
Release date: December 2, 2020
Publisher: Canaby Press, LLC
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Alexis vs. the Merry Menace: An Action-Adventure Christmas Comedy with Magic and Swearing
Marcus Alexander Hart
“Rock and roll is the Devil’s music!” the woman seethes, flaring her nostrils. “That sinful racket you’re making attracts all the creatures of Hell!”
My last blistering glam-metal chord still echoes off the quaint storefronts, each one glittering with festive Christmas lights. I gasp and clutch the battered yellow Stratocaster at my hip.
“Oh my goodness! Really?” My surprise turns to a grin. “You really think I’m good enough to have demon groupies? Because that would be epically badass.”
The lady pulls off her Santa hat and wipes a sheen of sweat from her forehead with the edge of her blue Build-A-Bear Workshop apron. The sun went down an hour ago, but the charming cobblestone streets of this West Hollywood “retail destination experience” still shimmer with radiated heat.
Yin chuckles and shakes her head. “I don’t think she was speaking literally, hon. Or complimenting you, for that matter.”
I peek at the long, lean Chinese girl lounging on a bench at my side. She’s dressed like a cowgirl, with her snakeskin boots and tight, dusty jeans. She tips back her Stetson hat and gives me a playfully disapproving look that makes me all tingly inside.
Despite my gal-pal being a droolworthy hunk of hard ladycandy, the woman snarling in my face doesn’t even give her a sideways glance. Not that I expect her to. After all, Yin has been dead for a hundred and fifty years.
“You’re bothering my customers,” the lady snaps, pointing at the shop she just came storming out of. “You are not allowed to be here!” Her finger slashes toward a sign on an antique lamppost. No panhandling. Strictly enforced.
“Relax . . . ” I squint at the name tag pinned to her apron. “Sharon. I’m not panhandling. I’m just spreading a little holiday cheer.”
She looks to the ground at my feet. There’s a tattered Big Gulp cup with some coins in the bottom. A marker scrawl across its side reads, Don’t Scrooge me, bro. She crosses her arms.
“Holiday cheer my foot! You’re not even playing anything Christmasy!”
“What?” I say with mock surprise. “Sure I am! I played ‘Can’t Get Enough,’ then ‘Seventeen,’ then ‘Easy Come, Easy Go.’ Don’t you get it?”
She puts her hands on her hips. “No, I don’t get it.”
The corners of my lips tug upward. “I’m walkin’ in a Winger wonderland!”
My knuckles drum a rimshot on my pickguard. Sharon fumes and jabs a finger toward the parking lot.
“Get out. Before I call security and you spend Christmas morning behind bars.”
I laugh. “I spend a lot of mornings behind bars. Or pubs. Or saloons if I’m feeling frontiersy.”
Prince Wycock puts a hand on my arm and squeezes. “Alexis, please. For your own good, do not provoke this shopkeeper any further. This is not a battle worth fighting. Nor one you can win.”
I shake off the wiry little tween. In his red-and-gold tunic with his wooden practice sword stuck in his belt, Wycock looks like he should be at a medieval faire selling Ye Olde Corn Dogs. Sharon can’t see him either. He’s been underground since the Black Plague was all the rage.
“Pfft. Of course you’d take her side,” I grumble. I crank up the volume on the crappy mini-amp clipped to my belt. “Fine, you want Christmas songs? I’ll give you Christmas songs.”
I rake the strings, blasting out distorted notes.
I wish you a merry Christmas!
I wish you a merry Christmas!
I wish you a merry Christmas!
And a pissed-off cashier.
Angry Sharon throws up her hands and huffs. I ignore her and raise my voice toward the street of Christmas Eve shoppers, bustling from store to store in a last-minute buying frenzy.
You’re dying to bring,
some crap to your kids.
Good luck with that gift list,
this will all end in tears.
I wish you a merry—
My guitar squeals to silence as Sharon grabs my cup of change and shoves it into my hands. “Leave! Now! This is your last warning!”
Her pudgy fingers ball into fists as she turns and storms off. I jingle the cup and pocket the sixty-three cents inside.
“Now that’s just sad. People around here do not have the Christmas spirit.”
“I’m sorry, but your financial woes are your own doing,” Wycock says. “This is the most joyous of holiday seasons. Charity and goodwill are in the air! With your considerable musical skill, I’m sure you’d do quite well for yourself if you just gave the people what they want.”
I grimace. “Ugh. What, the same six lame-ass Christmas songs that have been rammed down their throats and up their butts since Halloween? No way. I’m not going to sell out to a holiday that’s literally about selling out.”
Yin snorts. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You know. The crass commercialism of it. Christmas is all about guilting you into buying shit. People feel like they have to give you a gift, so they frantically search for something ‘nice’ to get you that you don’t actually want, then you feel like an asshole, so you get them something ‘nice’ that they don’t actually want. The entire thing is just a ploy to keep the lotion-and-candle gift basket industry afloat.” I pick at my guitar’s strings. “I’m glad I don’t have to go through the whole pageant with you two.”
Yin shakes her head. “Well, I’m sorry you feel that way. I got you a gift.”
A sour note squawks from my amp. “What? Are you kidding me? How is that even possible? You’re a ghost! You can’t shop!”
“The best gifts don’t come from a store,” Yin says, patting her chest. “They come from the heart.” She smiles and a light blush creeps over her cheeks. “It’s nothing big. Just a little present to show how much I care.”
I roll my eyes and groan. “Great. Now I have to get you a gift and it has to mean something. No pressure. Ugh. You see? This is why I hate Christmas.”
Yin sighs. “And romance, apparently.”
“Uh oh,” Wycock says. “Trouble is afoot.”
“Yeah, I’m getting that vibe,” I mumble.
The prince shakes his head and points across the bustling street. “No. Over there.”
Angry Sharon is chasing after a security guard on a Segway, trying to flag him down.
Yin stands up and brushes off her baroque frock coat. “Whelp, it looks like it’s time to move this concert to a new venue right quick.”
I nod my agreement. “I’m ready to hit that bar I’m gonna wake up behind. But first I gotta hide the evidence.”
With a subtle glance to make sure I’m not being watched, I turn away and unstrap my guitar. I put an index finger on each end, whisper, “Clevisto,” and quickly bring my hands together. My axe sparkles and shrinks between them like I’m scaling a picture on a smartphone screen.
I got that charm from the episode of That’s My Boo where Sierra Specter had to build a shoebox diorama for school, but instead of doing the assignment she just used her magic to shrink her neighbor’s house. With her neighbors still inside. And hilarity ensued.
My guitar is the size of a pair of barber shears as I whirl it around my finger by its tiny strap.
“All right, let’s get the hell out of—”
I turn and nearly walk straight into someone standing behind me. She’s frozen in shock, mouth open, eyes wide, staring at the miniature guitar in my hand.
“Ah crap,” I mumble.
I’d guess the girl is a little older than me. College age. Her bright, amber eyes stare out from behind large, perfectly round wire spectacles perched on a cute button nose. Her brunette bob haircut is pulled back on one side with a holly-leaf clip, framing her freckled cheeks. My gaze trails down her long neck to a green sweater under a pair of oversized, ’90s-style bib overalls. Red with white fur trim. The whole package is adorable in a whole-milk, white-bread, girl-next-door kind of way.
If you’re into that shit.
I guiltily stuff my guitar in my back pocket, breaking the girl’s trance. She blinks and refocuses on my face, then sucks a surprised breath.
“Oh my goodness. You’re Alexis McRiott! From That’s My Boo! I loved that show so much!”
I smirk. Ugh. I’m a rocker now. I rock out. Why are my only fans from my sitcom days?
“Yeah, well, that was a long time ago,” I grumble. “I don’t do that ‘kid wizard’ shtick anymore.”
“Like fun you don’t! I just saw you do the charm from ‘Diorama Drama.’ And it worked! Why did a magic spell from your old show actually work?”
I pull a hand through my knotty hair and sigh. "It's a long story."
The girl clutches her hands at her chest and practically swoons. “You’re a real occult warrior! Thank heavens I found you! I need your help!”
“Oh. Really? I’m so surprised. Look how surprised I am.” I circle two fingers around my deadpan expression. “Ugh. This is exactly why I keep my powers hidden. People get so needy when they find out you have magic.”
Yin crosses her arms. “It must be such a terrible burden, having to help others when you could be getting blackout drunk.”
I point at her. “Right? You so get me, babe.”
The stranger looks where I’m looking, seeing only empty air.
She squints at me, oblivious to Wycock walking around her, sizing her up. “She said she requires the aid of an occult warrior. Why?” He gives me an anxious look. “She could be in danger. Ask what troubles her.”
I turn to the girl and sigh. “All right, Christmas Carol. What’s got you jonesing for a teen sorceress? You got a supernatural stalker or something?”
“Not me. Santa. He needs your help.”
I blink. “Santa? As in ‘jolly fat guy used as a threat to keep kids from being pricks at Christmastime’ Santa? Hate to break it to you, but he’s not real.”
The girl laughs a melodic little ho ho ho. “Oh, I assure you, Santa is just as real as you and me. And so are his workshop, elves, and magic sleigh. Believe me, I should know.” She smiles. When I don’t smile back, she scrunches her nose and shakes her head. “Oh, I’m sorry. I never introduced myself.” She extends a palm. “I’m Mandy Claus.”
I give her hand a hesitant shake. Wycock’s eyes go wide.
“Egad! She must be Santa’s daughter.” His face pulls tight in a manic grin. “Santa Claus is real!”
Yin pats his head. “Bless your naive heart. You don’t actually believe this little pixie, do you?”
“Why shouldn’t I?” Wycock asks. “With all the supernatural and magical beings we’ve encountered, why is a genuine Santa Claus so difficult to fathom?”
“Fair point.” I turn to Mandy. “So, uh, what can I do for jolly old Saint Nick?”
“It’s probably better if he explains himself. I’ll introduce you.”
She smiles and beckons me to follow her.
“Wait, Santa is real and he’s here? At an upscale shopping center in West Hollywood? On Christmas Eve?”
“Of course!” Mandy says. “He tours the world every winter to speak with all the good little boys and girls. He’s just getting in a few more last-minute visits before his big gift delivery tonight. Come on.”
She prances away toward the center of the complex.
Wycock bounces up and down on his toes. “We’re going to meet Santa! The real Santa! This is so exciting!”
He rushes off after Mandy. Yin and I follow like his two mommies.
“Isn’t he a little old to be this excited about meeting Santa Claus?”
Yin shrugs. “Cut him some slack. He’s only thirteen.”
“But he’s been thirteen for almost seven hundred years.” I tap a finger on my lips. “And considering the life expectancy in his day, being thirteen was like being forty.”
Yin scratches the back of her head. “Yeah, okay. It’s a little odd.”
We round the corner of a Cheesecake Factory to find a whole Christmas village set up in the middle of the shopping center. The windows of a few garden-shed-sized gingerbread houses glow with festive yellow light. Parked between them is an oversized red sleigh with gleaming golden scrollwork and runners, complete with a team of eight actual, impeccably groomed reindeer.
A dozen extravagantly decorated Christmas trees sprout from a sea of cotton-flocking snow. Among them, a bunch of elves in what appear to be high-collared green marching-band uniforms scamper around, distributing candy and collecting Christmas lists from kids. They almost look like kids themselves, but their eyes have an eerie, empty quality. Or maybe they just seem creepy because of their constant, manic giggling.
Right in the center of the whole production is a huge golden throne under the jolly round rump of the big man himself. He bellows a joyful ho ho ho as some elves escort a child to his lap.
“Merry Christmas!” Santa booms. “Have you been a good little girl this year?”
The kid grins through a chocolate-smeared mouth. “I have! I’ve been so good, and I want an iPad, and a turtle, and a Batman cape, and a pair of high heels.”
Santa’s belly bounces as he laughs. “That’s a pretty tall order. Where would you like all that delivered?”
“To my house, silly! You can come down my chimney and put the presents under my tree.”
“Well thank you for that lovely invitation. I will do just that.” Santa nods to an elf at his side. “Mr. Jingles, please add her name to the Nice List.”
The elf does as he’s told, scratching with a feather quill onto a long roll of parchment. With a joyful squeal, girl hops off Santa’s lap and scampers away as Mandy leads us up to the throne. The old man’s ruddy face brightens as he sees her.
“Ah, Mandy! I see you’ve made some new friends.”
Mandy looks at me, then back at him. “Uh, friend. Singular.”
Santa laughs. “Now don’t be rude, everyone is a friend of Santa Claus, even the dead.”
Bewilderment clouds Mandy’s bright eyes. “I . . . I’m sorry?”
Santa turns to Wycock. “What’s your name, little boy?”
The prince gasps. “You can see us!”
Yin raises an eyebrow. “Well. That’s unexpected.”
Mandy follows Santa’s gaze, her confusion turning to concern. “Are you all right, Santa? You’ve been working so hard. I think maybe you should take a break.”
Santa looks at Yin and Wycock, then at the line of eager kids waiting their turn on his lap. He nods. “Perhaps this is a conversation better held in private.” He stands and waves at the queue. “Get your Christmas lists ready, children! Santa will be right back! Ho ho ho!”
A moan of disappointment rises from the crowd as he ushers us into an oversized gingerbread house behind his throne. The sweet, spicy smell of it is almost suffocating as we step inside.
“Whoa. No way.” I scratch at the wall, dropping crumbs. “This thing is actual gingerbread?” I snap off a piece and shove it in my mouth, then moan at its deliciousness. “Dang, this mall really is upscale.”
Mandy escorts Santa into a plush wingback chair and rests a palm on his forehead.
“Oh, you poor thing. You’re exhausted and we haven’t even started delivering toys yet. Here, I’ll get you some milk and cookies. You just relax and collect your wits.”
She grabs a plate of chocolate chip cookies off a small table and a pitcher of milk out of a roundy, old-fashioned fridge. She pours a goblet and hands it to Santa, who accepts it with a warm smile.
“There’s no need to worry, my dear. I’m not hallucinating. We’re simply being visited by two ghosts of Christmas past.”
He gestures toward me and my friends. Mandy looks at me with desperation in her eyes. I nod. “The old man is right. Kind of. I mean, they’re ghosts, but they’re not here to teach you a heartwarming lesson about unfair wealth distribution.”
Mandy frowns. “I still don’t understand.”
“Neither do I,” Wycock remarks. “Santa, how can you see us? Generally people with necrosensory perception have been tainted by supernatural evil and suffered some form of moral corruption.”
“Is that so?” Santa nods at me. “What about your friend here?”
Yin snorts. “She’s the poster child for moral corruption.”
I stuff a cookie in my mouth. “She wasn’t complaining last night.”
Yin’s cheeks burn red and Santa laughs uneasily. “Well I promise you have nothing to fear from me. I just have senses more attuned to the supernatural world than mere mortals do. It’s all part of the Santa Claus magic.”
“Too bad that magic’s not hereditary,” I say, grabbing a glass of milk.
“What do you mean?” Santa asks.
“I mean it’s weird that you can see ghosts and your daughter here can’t.”
Mandy laughs. “Daughter? Don’t be silly. I’m his wife.”
I spit-take a cloud of milk through the side of Wycock’s head.
“Wife? But this guy is like, a hundred!”
“Just over two hundred, actually,” Santa says, eyes twinkling. “But you’re only as old as you feel.”
Mandy smiles and squeezes Santa’s shoulder. “I admit, it was kind of a whirlwind courtship. We only just met at Thanksgiving, at the children’s hospital where I volunteer. But when he asked me to be his wife, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him at the North Pole.” Mandy shows off a ring with a diamond cut like a snowflake. “I’ve always kept the Christmas spirit in my heart all year round. Getting to be a part of Santa’s holiday magic is a dream come true.”
She giggles as she runs her slender fingers down her husband’s cheek and through his snowy beard. Santa lets out a ho ho ho and shakes like a bowl full of jelly. Yin mutters out of the side of her mouth.
“Am I wrong, or is that disturbing?” Her nose wrinkles. “Like, unspeakably disturbing.”
I give my head a slow shake. “You are not wrong.”
Mandy looks where I’m looking, adjusts her glasses, and clears her throat. “Well, gosh. This is awkward. Sorry if I’ve been rude to you, ghosts. I didn’t know. But I’m so happy to have found all of you.” She puts a hand on Santa’s arm and gestures to me. “Santa, this is Alexis McRiott. She used to play an occult warrior on TV, but she’s actually one in real life, too!”
Santa eyes me skeptically. My bony frame is wrapped in black pleather pants and a Queensrÿche T-shirt in an advanced state of decay. My hair falls from my head in matted blonde clumps, sticking to the sweat on my acne-riddled cheeks.
“Is she really?” Santa asks.
“She is,” Mandy says. “And she’s going to protect you!”
I raise a hand. “Uh, protect him from what, exactly?”
Santa goes pale and Mandy squeezes his shoulder. “Tell them.”
He anxiously fidgets with the hem of his coat. “Are you familiar with Krampus?”
I nod. “Yeah, Krampus visits me every month. It’s like putting my guts through a garbage disposal for three days.”
The color flushes from Wycock’s face. “Oh no. You do not want to be near her when she is visited by the Krampus.”
“Oh for crying out . . . Krampus, not cramps,” Yin says impatiently. “It’s a legend from Alpine folklore.”
Santa shakes his head. “It’s not a legend. Krampus is real.”
“I’ve seen it with my own eyes.” Mandy shudders. “Seven feet tall, covered head to toe in black fur. Twisted goat horns as long as my arm. It carries a basket on its back that it uses to kidnap children, then it . . . ” She goes pale. “It eats them alive.”
“Dang,” I mutter. “Brutal.”
Santa shifts nervously in his chair. “For generations Krampus has been my evil counterpart. Whereas I reward the good children of the world every Christmas, Krampus tortures the naughty. My light has always eclipsed the demon’s darkness, but it’s getting more powerful. It is no longer content to lurk in the shadows. Krampus wants to kill me and destroy the magic of the holiday season forever!”
Wycock gasps. “We cannot let that happen! We must save Christmas!”
I lean against the wall and my shoulder sinks into the soft gingerbread. I pick off another hunk. “Yeah, no. I’m not into it.”
“But Alexis! You must use your powers!” Wycock pleads.
“Please Alexis! You’re our only hope!” Mandy says simultaneously.
I raise a hand to them. “All right, stop. Seriously. We’ve established Santa has magic.” I turn to him. “Why don’t you just fight your own demons? That’s what my court-ordered psychologist always told me to do.”
Santa frowns. “The power of my Christmas magic comes from the spirit of giving. I can’t use it for my own benefit, even if that benefit is protecting my own life. If I’m going to make tonight’s Christmas Eve deliveries safely, I’ll need a magical bodyguard with true powers. I’ll need an occult warrior. Like you.”
“So, to be clear, you need someone to throw down with a bloodthirsty, flesh-eating demon while you prance around and fill stockings with candy?” I munch my gingerbread. “No thanks. I’m good.”
“Alexis, you must,” Wycock says. “Christmas is a time to put our own desires aside and think of the needs of others. Santa brings happiness to millions of children every year. If something were to happen to him, despair would cover the globe like a tide of the blackest pitch, drowning the holiday spirit and relegating us all to a bleak winter bereft of joy. It is your duty to make sure the festive season endures. The world is counting on you to step up and accept this responsibility.”
I groan and glance to Yin for support. She arches an eyebrow. “Really? If you need me to be your moral compass on this one I’m breaking up with you.”
I draw in a long breath of sugary air.
“Ugh. Fine. I’ll keep Santa Claus from getting murdered.” I thrust a finger at Wycock. “But this counts as your gift!”
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