The Fiery Pit
David had no choice and he hoped it was the right one as he held the cane with both hands in front of him, just as Jacob had held it over the message many decades before.
“Open the dungeon.” he repeated over and over. Then the cane began to glow red and suddenly a streak of red lightning hit the cell door. Grim and Shay-D stepped back as the bars glowed red hot. They buckled and broke and the door opened as Scrooge’s spell was broken.
As the dust cleared they realised that Grim and Shay-D had disappeared and David thought sadly that he had been tricked. All they could do was stand and stare at the empty cell.
“What are you two looking at?” came a booming voice from behind that made them jump out of their skins. They turned fast and there was Grim grinning at them, although he did look like he was grinning a lot of the time as he was a skeleton. The Shadow of Death stood by his side and his shoulders were shaking in laughter.
“Where did you come from? You frightened us then.”
“Well that is part of my job you know.” said Grim indignantly, “And it was funny. You should have seen the look on your faces.”
But they didn’t have time to be annoyed with Grim. Now that their ears had stopped ringing they noticed that all was quiet inside the castle.
They all went into the castle to find out what was going on. They turned a number of corners as they ran down various corridors of grey stone. Eventually they came to a large square room, which Grim told them was the great hall of the castle. There was a large fireplace and rusty candlestick holders on the walls, one of them upside down. There they could see Scrooge sitting with his arms folded in Grim’s gold and black throne smiling at the chaos he had caused. Grim was not at all happy that Scrooge was sat in his favourite chair. The room was full of souls who were being patrolled by Sizzle and Scythe to make sure none of them escaped. The souls were each wearing a set of chains, which they were rattling noisily and Sizzle and Scythe did not look at all happy that they had to still work at what should have been bedtime.
“See they don’t like doing any hard work do they?” said Grim to Shay-D and then he added. “Oh look he’s got those fancy soul chains that I was going to get. They are really good and those spooks can’t get out of them at all.” David gave them both a hard look.
“What?” said Grim trying to look innocent.
“You two are going to rescue those so called spooks. Our parents are somewhere in that lot.”
“Alright, alright keep your hair on!” said Grim.
“Look, we rescued you two because you said you could sort it out. There’s not much time left. We are going to have to get those souls back to their bodies by midnight.”
“But those things are brand new on the black market. I don’t know how to open those chains.”
“I am sure you’ll think of something. Stop making excuses.” said Maisy.
They pushed Grim in through the door that was at the back of the crowd. He could just see across the sea of souls to where Albert Scrooge was now stood up at the front. He was busy drawing something in chalk on the floor in front of him and muttering to himself. Then Albert stood back and watched bright red flames that could be seen flickering upwards from a large hole that had just opened up in the ground.
“Oh no.” said Grim. “That’s not good. My lovely floor has an entrance to hell in it. Great!”
The poor souls were wailing and crying and holding each other tightly. It looked as though Albert had been telling the truth. He had been sent by the Devil and was going to take them all back down to hell with him. Grim floated over to the edge of the crowd. They were so terrified that they didn’t notice him. But someone did. Grim heard a loud growl behind him. He spun round and there was Scythe. His hackles were up and his snout was wrinkled where he was baring his very sharp teeth.
“Oh, hello.” said Grim nervously. As Scythe stepped closer to Grim, the reaper moved back and bumped into something soft behind him.
* * *
“Nice of you to join us.” said Albert.
Grim lifted his scythe to defend himself, but as he raised it up and behind his head it snagged on something, Scythe’s teeth. He tried to pull it back and Scythe held on. Albert was extremely amused and laughed loudly at the struggling pair. But then one of Scythes front teeth gave way and snapped. He let go as quick as a flash and howled in pain. Grim had not been ready for the sudden lightness of the scythe and let go. It went flying over the heads of the ghostly crowd and they all turned to watch it as it went past. Grim’s scythe disappeared out of another door at the other end of the room. Grim felt a wrench in his being as if he had lost an arm. Sizzle and Scythe were like dogs chasing a stick as instinct kicked in and they ran after it as fast as they could go. Unfortunately, they had gone through the door at the end of the great hall and straight through a window, which led to only one place, outside the castle. Grim and Albert watched as they couldn’t slow down and they both disappeared into the night with one long, loud howl. Albert grabbed Grim’s cloak and dragged him over to the fiery hole in the ground.
“Looks nice and warm down there doesn’t it. Much better than the cold weather up here. I think our new souls will love it.”
“I’ve told you Albert, you can’t send them down there. Even if they are supposed to go down there eventually they’re not ready yet.”
“So what.” shrugged Albert, “The Devil doesn’t care for rules. He loves chaos and he’s entitled to a Christmas present the same as anyone. Do you know he always gets left out at Christmas and he’s fed up with it? I came up with this little plan to cheer him up. Oh and he also said he would let me leave hell if it worked.”
“Why would the Devil be interested in Christmas? He hates it.” said Grim.
“Well actually it was down to you Grim.”
“What?” Grim shouted.
Then Albert turned to the ghostly audience in front of him.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please let me introduce you to the Grim Reaper. You may remember him as he visited each one of you over the last two days and turned you all into ghosts.”
The ghosts started to look angry. Grim looked around for David or Maisy but they were nowhere to be seen, even Shay-D had disappeared. This was so unfair.
“Well you can blame him for all this mess. He decided to collect your souls early and now the Devil is going to steal your souls for himself. You’ll love your new accommodation and the entertainment is great, although the eternal torture can be a little bit grating. So let’s get you off to your destination. Grim can go first and show you the way.” Grim looked at Albert and then down to the pit. He shook his head vigorously.
“I’m not going down there.” he said indignantly.
“Oh I think you might be Grim. The Devil wants to speak to you in particular. People are being too good nowadays. He wants to offer you a new job, you know, collecting souls for him.”
* * *
David and Maisy had secretly been watching Albert and Grim from the corridor at the back of the room.
“We have to help him.” said Maisy.
“Don’t forget he took our Mum and Dad’s souls. I am sure he can handle himself.”
“Come on. We won’t be able to help our parents without him. We’ll stand no chance against Scrooge.” she said.
“The only thing we can do is rush Scrooge and hope for the best.”
Just then Sizzle came padding past and he was holding Grim’s scythe in his mouth. He saw David and Maisy and stopped. Sizzle knew they had seen him and wondered whether he could make a run for it. The hellhounds had grabbed the scythe after it floated out of the window but like a boomerang it had twisted in the air and gone straight into another window on the floor below bringing the dogs with it, as they were attached to it by their teeth, David and Maisy looked at each other.
“We need that scythe.”
“Yep. Lets get him.”
They jumped on Sizzle. Maisy used the belt on her coat to tie up his legs and picked up the scythe. No one could hear the scuffle over the noise the souls were making.
“Quick.” shouted David. They ran to the front of the crowd just dodging the flames that Sizzle breathed towards them. The smell of burning was also strong in the Great Hall and they saw properly for the first time the pit in the ground with the red flames flying up out of it. Scrooge had a hold of Grim’s arm. He was struggling like mad and his bones were rattling. He turned his head as David and Maisy ran over shouting. He reached out towards them as Albert pushed him over the edge of the hole and he was sucked into it.
“No.” shouted David.
“He was our only hope.” cried Maisy. The crowd of ghosts were now in complete terror as Scrooge came over to them and said “Let’s get you lot down to meet the devil then.”
Albert ushered the first souls towards the hole. They were the four souls of David and Maisy’s parents. Flossie and Jack looked at David.
“Don’t feel bad. It’s not your fault son.” said Jack.
“We love you lots and lots David and we always will.” said Flossie. Tom and Mary looked at Maisy.
“We love you very much.” said Mary.
Tom leaned forward and whispered. “Get out of here quick. Don’t worry about us.”
Then Scrooge ushered them all over the fiery hole in the ground and they were quickly pulled down into it too. There was nothing that David or Maisy could do to help them.