3 Sleeps Til' Xmas

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Following The Book

David did manage to drop off in the end and woke up later than expected. It was nine in the morning on the family day of the Three Sleeps. The sound of voices drifted upstairs. David got dressed and went down to investigate. Mum was at the front door talking to the neighbours. There was Pamela from next door who always shouted at him when his ball went over the fence. One time she even kept it and never gave it back. He had heard a whoosh of air as she deflated it within earshot ‘to teach him a lesson’. The lesson David learned was that she was cruel to footballs and to keep her well away from them. Then there was old Mrs Garretty from across the road. She always wore a large pink knitted scarf and a little beige hat with pink flowers on the side. She was much nicer than Pamela and offered him a biscuit if she saw him playing at the front of the house. She had those nice milky ones with pictures of cows on. Mum only got him the sports ones with pictures of football on them. He did like football but wondered if his parents had a weird obsession with it that they were keeping secret. At the back of the trio was Mrs Periwinkle. She was a large lady who was known as the local gossip. She always knew what was going on in town and if she didn’t it wasn’t worth knowing. David had even seen her listening through someone’s letterbox once and when she looked round and saw him watching she gave him the most awful look, that it had given him the willies and he’d run off quick. He tried to avoid her as best he could.

Dad was in the kitchen, with another fresh hanky, trying to keep out of the way.

“How are you feeling today?” asked David, as he took a box of cereal from the cupboard. Chocolate nuggets were his favourite.

“Not much better. I was woken up about 2 o clock. It felt like someone had left all the windows and doors open. It was freezing.”

David remembered he had felt that very same cold while the Grim Reaper was in his room.

“I feel a lot better today but I had a nightmare and didn’t sleep much. What are they all gossiping about outside then?” asked David.

“Oh, something about Mr Donut down the road not being well. Colds don’t stop them lot nattering.” He smiled. “Oh and there were a lot of strange noises last night. Apparently a few people thought they saw a ghost wandering about in the neighbourhood. Dad tried to pull a scary face but it made him sneeze.

David knew what the neighbours were like but he had hoped the Grim Reaper’s visit had been an extremely bad dream induced by his nasty cold like Maisy had said. He heard a bell ringing in the distance and looked out of the kitchen window to see the paperboy riding down the street. There was bound to be something about it in the Stoney Tor Tattler. He ran out of the kitchen and through the four gossiping women on the doorstep. As the paperboy went past coughing loudly he threw a copy towards the house, but it seemed that David wasn’t the only one that wanted it.

“That’s mine.” shouted Pamela. David knew it wasn’t.

“Get out the way boy, I want it!” shouted Mrs Periwinkle and she pushed him hard in the back. As he fell to the ground he saw the paper coming his way and reached out to grab it. It hit the end of his fingers and flew up into the air. He landed with a thud on the perfectly trimmed lawn and then immediately turned over to see the paper coming straight back down towards his face. Worse, he also saw one mean looking skinny woman and one angry large woman diving towards him through the air. He rolled over on his left side, just in time. The two women landed on the grass and lay there panting. David couldn’t help laughing as he stood up. He looked around for the newspaper and saw Maisy standing on the other side of the two ladies that were huffing and puffing in a heap on the floor. She had the paper in her hand and was waving it in the air with a smile. David breathed a sigh of relief. Until Mum came across and snatched it out of Maisy’s hand.

“I do believe that’s mine, actually.” Flossie said and went back into the house with Mrs Garretty.

“Oh great.” said David.

Then the pair realised they were out in the front garden with two very angry looking women who were starting to complain as they struggled to their feet.

“Quick, lets get out of here.” he grabbed Maisy’s arm and they ran in through the open front door. With a last look he quickly shut the door behind them. It was like watching two velociraptors getting ready to attack. They quickly made their way upstairs.

“Typical.” he said still a little out of breath.

“Never mind,” Maisy reached into her bag. “I’ve brought our one from home.” And she produced a copy of the day’s news.

You could have text me to let me know you were on your way.” said David.

“I did.” said Maisy.

David looked at his phone. “Oh yeah.”

The newspaper’s front page had a picture of Mr Donut eating a Doughnut and sitting in his favourite chair. He was also smiling but the headline confirmed he would not be smiling any more. He had been found in his chair with a very shocked look on his face but seemed to be in a coma and he wasn’t the only one, there were six more. It was the first day of the three sleeps and it was all going horribly wrong.

“Mum only gave him some medicine yesterday.” said David.

Maisy looked up at him. “You don’t think?”

“It’s got nothing to do with Mum’s medicine, thanks.”

“I hope for your Mum’s sake those two gossips don’t start spreading any nasty rumours.” she said.

“Well it’s not Mum’s medicines because she told me she just gives him juice. It’s not real.” said David. He knew he had to tell Maisy everything that happened the night before and she was the only who wouldn’t think he was a complete nutcase. She sat and listened to David, nodding now and then or shaking her head.

“It felt like the book was trying to tell me something.” he said.

“Do you think The Grim Reaper visited Mr Donut after he left you?”

“I think that’s very likely.” said David.

Maisy leaned down to pick up the book she had left the day before, but as she did so it flew out of her hand and then out of David’s window. Problem was that the window wasn’t open and the crash was tremendous. Screams rang up from the doorstep as the glass hit the front path. They both looked out and saw the book on the ground.

“We need that book.” said Maisy.

* * *

They left the house in a hurry. Maisy grabbed her bag from the bed and David grabbed his coat as they dashed out of the front door. As David bent down to pick up the book it shot off down the street by its own volition.

“That boy needs some discipline.” shouted Pamela who was still very angry. But it fell on deaf ears as the pair had already gone off down the street. After about ten minutes of chasing the book the pair were almost out of breath. Maisy stopped and held her side. “I’ve got a stitch, hang on.” she said.

The book stopped too but just a tiny bit out of reach. They were at the beginning of the High Street that led to the town hall with the statue of Jacob in the centre. He couldn’t believe he was running after a runaway book. Then Maisy grabbed his arm and they were chasing after the book once again. She finally caught up with it and picked it up. It opened on the page that showed the original message of the Three Sleeps that was housed in Stoney Tor Museum, the building that the book had stopped right in front of.

“David. I think the book has brought us here for a reason, as mad as it sounds. We need to go in.” Maisy climbed up the stairs and in through the door. David took a quick look at the statue, wondering what the magic was that Jacob must have used in the message and then followed her. There were six or seven other families that had forced the whole household to go out and have their family day but they did not look as if they were enjoying themselves and they were all full of cold. David tried to avoid them, as he didn’t want his to get any worse. The fresh air had helped but he was still feeling blocked up.

They were in a round oak panelled room with a reception desk in the middle where an old lady sat reading. A large clock above the desk told them it was already midday. There were six doors that led through to different parts of the museum or certain exhibits. At this time of year there was always a Christmas Exhibition devoted to the Three Sleeps ’Til Christmas. They made their way through the archway to the display. There were no windows in the corridor but just inside the entrance spotlights shone inside cabinets on either side giving a dim light. They passed by the glass cabinets with old postcards and letters written by well known people in the town, including some that Jacob had sent to other people on that first year in eighteen ninety-three. There was a display of old photographs taken before the Three Sleeps and what it was like. There were pictures of children and adults taken on Christmas days past looking extremely miserable or pulling each other’s hair and arguing. They couldn’t help but smile at those. There was even a postcard showing what the High Street was like and it was chaos. There was even a person hanging from one of the lampposts by his trousers. A sign on the wall with an arrow pointing to the end of the corridor read ‘The Message – this way’. The other end of the corridor was very dark but David and Maisy started to make their way quickly in that direction.

“What are you two doing down there.” a voice shouted from the other end of the corridor making them both jump.

“We came to see the message.” said David.

“Well you will have to leave as we are closing early today.” It was the receptionist from the front desk. She had a tissue in her hand and was dabbing at her nose.

“It’s very important.” said Maisy.

“I’m sorry, young lady but you will have to look at it another day. Everyone is feeling too ill and have all decided to go home. The exhibition is here until New Years Eve”

David sighed.

“Looks like we’ll have to find another way to see the message.” he said.

But as they began to walk back down the corridor the book once again took on a life of its own and flew out of Maisy’s hand. It slid down the floor of the corridor and landed at the receptionist’s feet.

David and Maisy looked at each other and knew they were in trouble. They waited to get told off but instead the old lady picked up the book and opened it. She ran her fingers over it and turned to the back cover. Then she held it tight to her chest with her eyes closed and sighed.

“Where did you get this book?” she asked.

“My Mum got it in a jumble sale.” said Maisy.

The old lady smiled and laughed a little.

“Isn’t it funny how lost things tend to find their way back home again. This was my book when I was a child. I lent it to a friend just after I left school and I always regretted it as I never saw it again.” she walked over to them.

“Look at the back page. It has that little mark on it. You can’t see it unless you know its there.” David and Maisy looked and saw an indentation in the hard cover that read JT.

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