3 Sleeps Til' Xmas

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“Scrooge!” a voice boomed and bounced around the walls of stone. One of the rusty candlestick holders fell off the wall.

“I hope that’s not the Devil.” whispered Maisy.

Everything went very quiet. Not a wail or a cough or a sneeze nor anything.

From somewhere in the castle heavy footsteps could be heard coming nearer and nearer to the main entrance of the great hall and they came to a halt in the doorway in front of them. There stood a figure that everyone recognized immediately.

“Santa?” said Scrooge, “What are you doing here?” He looked worried.

“Albert. It is Christmas Eve. I would like to know what you are doing with all these poor souls.”

Scrooge looked flustered as Santa walked into the hall. Shay-D followed behind him holding his mobile phone. He had called Santa and told him he had better hurry over sharpish as the situation was critical.

“Erm..Sending them all to hell?” said Albert.

David and Maisy were frantic after seeing their parents disappear into the ground but Santa smiled at them and winked. Scrooge stepped out of Santa’s way as he looked over the edge of the hole in the ground. David and Maisy looked at each other. Surely Santa couldn’t be in on this as well, could he? But Santa had sensed no one had been lost and he could see that Grim had grabbed hold of a piece of rock that was sticking out of the side of the pit. He was gripping on to it very tightly trying not to get dragged downwards. Four souls hung on to the end of Grim’s lovely new velvet cloak, much to his annoyance. Santa held out a hand and pulled them all back up.

“You shouldn’t be up here messing with the living Scrooge. You need to get back down there with the Devil where you belong.” said Santa.

“It was the Devil’s idea. It was his fault, he made me do it!” Scrooge pleaded.

“You were always a troubled child Albert and you have not improved one little bit. If only you didn’t keep getting in with the wrong crowd.” Santa shook his head sadly.

“I’m sorry Scrooge but you just can’t stay,” he said and reached out his hand to pat him on the shoulder. Suddenly Sizzle came running into the room after escaping his bonds and skidded across the floor. But he was too close to Scrooge and he pushed him backwards as he bashed into his legs. Scrooge tried to grab hold of something to get his balance but as he stepped back he also tripped over Scythe who had quietly trotted back into the room and was stood behind him. All three of them tumbled over the edge of the pit. Even as they all disappeared from view, Scrooge was still protesting his innocence.

There was a large sigh of relief in the great hall and there were no two happier people in the room than David and Maisy at the sight of their parent’s souls saved from eternal torture. They gave Grim back his scythe and in his excitement he gave the two children both a bony hug. His bony cheeks even went red as he blushed, which made the pair giggle. Then there was a loud sucking noise and the flames of hell died down and the hole closed up leaving only a burn mark on the floor where it had been. Grim tutted loudly.

“Typical.” he said. Suddenly a loud angry roar echoed around the chamber. It sounded very frightening.

“I don’t think the Devil is very happy with Scrooge.” said Grim, who was glad it was all over but felt a little sad at losing Sizzle and Scythe. Annoying as they could be he missed them already.

David looked at Grim.

“Grim. You said the souls couldn’t be saved after midnight tonight. Is there anything we can do?” Grim looked sadly at all of the souls in the room.

“I’m sorry.” he shrugged, “There is nothing I can do. I can’t get them all back to Stoney Tor on time.”

Maisy began to cry and David felt helpless. Then Santa came and stood between David and Maisy and he put his arms around their shoulders.

“Everyone hold hands and close your eyes.” he said, “Souls as well.” he added.

David looked up at Santa. It seemed hopeless to him.

“Trust me.” said Santa. So David and Maisy closed their eyes. Grim tried to but it wasn’t easy without any eyelids. There was a moment of dizziness and then a breeze brushed across their faces.

“Open your eyes.” said Santa.

* * *

They found themselves back in the town square of Stoney Tor surrounded by lots of worried looking souls and a large number of Santa’s elves. They looked just as David had expected them to. They were all short with pointy hats and jolly red faces. The town hall with its large clock showed it was five minutes to midnight and the second hand ticked loudly in the silence. Santa waved his hand in the clock’s direction and slowly the second hand came to a halt.

“I have held time for 5 minutes. We should have enough time to get these souls back to their bodies.” he said to the elves. They each took a bag from their pockets and gathered a group of souls together. It all sounded mad but after everything they had seen so far nothing seemed impossible. He gave David and Maisy a similar bag and they looked inside and saw a golden glow that made them feel warm and happy inside.

“The elves have very strong magic. They have given the town this special gift for Christmas, the gift of life. There are golden grains of life in the bag, which can put a soul and body back together as Grim won’t have time to do all of them. It is very rarely used as it can upset the balance of nature. But these souls were not meant to leave their bodies yet and I think we can save them.”

The elves around them nodded and in a flash they were gone. Their size was deceiving as they moved extremely faster than looked possible. The elves had left the town square in seconds.

“You two can help. If we work together we can get this done in plenty of time.” Santa gave a loud whistle and from the high street came nine reindeer.

“Rudolph.” said Santa affectionately, as Rudolph trotted up to him. He stroked the soft brown fur. “You know what to do.”

“David, Maisy, just sprinkle a few grains on each body and the soul will return.”

Rudolph turned and Santa lifted David on to his back. The moment he was on, the reindeer galloped away through the town. First stop was David’s house. It took a few moments to sprinkle the gold dust and Flossie and Jack were awake. Maisy had ridden on Prancer and done the same for her Mum and Dad. Grim floated around and put back as many as he could. It seemed that no time had passed before everyone was back in the town square hugging their loved ones and thanking Santa for saving them all. Santa stood by Jacob’s statue and looked up to the sky. He held his arms up and snow gently began to fall. David and Maisy held their parents tightly as if they would never let go. Nothing mattered more at that moment and all being overlooked by Jacob Toddle himself made it extra special. They all cried a little with happiness.

“Jacob would have been very proud of you.” Jack said to David. “And Maisy you were amazing. We would have been stuck in those dungeons forever if it weren’t for you two. You never gave up, just like him.” David looked at the statue of his ancestor and he smiled. He did feel proud and relieved all at the same time.

Then Santa did one more amazing thing. The town was lit up with lights that appeared from inside each and every house in town and through each window could be seen a Christmas tree with gold, green and red decorations and lights. Under each tree there were Christmas presents, something for everyone. They were special gifts from Santa, as they had not been able to buy any presents for each other this year. Then he turned once again to the clock and the second hand began to count the time once again. There was one minute left.

“Before I go on my way I would like to say that I hope you will continue to have your wonderful Christmas times. Just remember that Christmas is something that comes from the heart and is about love and happiness. I will look forward to visiting again next year. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone.”

* * *

Everyone cheered and danced in the street. Then through the crowd the reindeer came once more and they were pulling a huge sled full of presents behind them. As Santa was about to step on to the sleigh he turned to Grim and the Shadow of Death who stood behind him. Grim and Shay-D did not know how to celebrate Christmas as they had never seen the point of it and they weren’t supposed to be happy beings, given their job and all.

“Grim, Shay-D.” he said. Shay-d was really excited that Santa knew his new nickname.

“In the end you both did the right thing and I want to leave you with a special gift. Enjoy it while it lasts. You shall enjoy Christmas Day and Boxing Day as mortals and maybe then you will understand what Christmas is all about.”

Santa climbed the sleigh. The reindeer alighted from the ground in one jump and they disappeared into the night. The townsfolk began to make their way up the high street back to their homes singing carols and laughing. David and Maisy’s parents started home but David and Maisy held back.

“Well be there in a minute.” they said.

They walked back to the statue of Jacob Toddle where two figures looked extremely bewildered. There was now one short man with light hair and a round jolly face holding a mobile phone and another tall thin figure in a dark velvet robe that had dark hair, a pointy face and was holding a scythe. They each took a hand of one of the confused pair. They were staring up at the statue of Jacob Toddle, which now had a thin layer of snow settling on its face.

“He looks like he is smiling again, doesn’t he.” said a voice behind them. It was Grace Peverell, the receptionist from the museum. Grim and Shay-D nodded.

“It’s wonderful.” said Grim with a sigh.

“Cool.” said Shay-D.

David and Maisy could not help but smile.

“I have a present for you.” Grace turned to Maisy, “I want you to have this. I know that you will appreciate it. Jacob gave you a little help through the book, didn’t he?”

“Yes I think he did. Thank you.” said Maisy and she gave Grace a big hug. Grace looked up at the falling snow and then towards the high street. She pulled her cardigan tighter around her chest.

“I think someone is waiting for you both.” she said and she waved goodbye as she started off for home. The pair turned to see their parents had waited for them. They started off towards the high street but Grim and Shay-D didn’t move.

“Hey!” shouted David. Shay-D and Grim were still standing by the statue wondering what they were meant to do next.

“Come on, time to go home. It’s Christmas Day!” he said.

Grim and Shay-D left the square and followed the two families up the high street with their arms around each other’s shoulders. They felt like the best of friends. Half way up the High street David’s father Jack stopped. They were outside Feltham’s Publishers & Press Offices. Jack rubbed Jacob’s plaque clean of snow.

“Merry Christmas, Jacob.” he said. Then they heard a growling noise and they all turned to look.

“Sizzle. Scythe!” shouted Grim and he ran towards them. Shay-D tutted affectionately and then rolled his eyes but you couldn’t mistake the love between Grim and the two dogs.

“I thought you were gone forever.” he said.

“Nah! We sneaked off while the Devil was busy telling Scrooge off.” said Scythe, “He was throwing a tantrum about not getting his Christmas pressie.”

The two families decided to share Christmas Day. Maisy and her parents Tom and Mary all went round to the Dervish house to celebrate. Sizzle and Scythe enjoyed munching on the turkey bones and Shay-D and Grim had great fun. They had to be shown how to use a knife and fork and Flossie ended up giving them a plastic beaker to drink out of as they missed their mouths on many occasions, not being used to having a body. The main thing they learnt was what it felt like to be part of a loving family and they found out the meaning of Christmas. It was especially clear in the faces of David and Maisy who also learned just how important their parents were to them and were thankful for every moment of the day, especially the hugs of which there were plenty. In the evening they all sat around the fire and watched some wonderful Christmas films which made Grim and Shay-D come over all fuzzy and warm until for the first time ever they dropped off to sleep and had some nice fluffy dreams. David and Maisy knew they would be back to their old ways after Christmas but for now the house was a happy, loving cosy one and they knew that every new Christmas was going to be even more special than usual from now on.

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