3 Sleeps Til' Xmas

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The Soul Cells

Grim had enjoyed being in Stoney Tor. Going to Stoney Tor in the daytime had made the souls much more fun to collect. He had seen the Shadow of Death doing his rounds and even though he had e-mailed Grim with the update, he didn’t stop to speak to him now. Grim thought it was a bit rude but Shadow was a miserable being anyway and whenever you spoke to him he never had a nice word to say about anything or anyone. He had a little cottage in a nice quiet location by the sea, which was very nice by all standards, until you went inside that was. On the walls were doomy gloomy pictures of disasters and famine and the atmosphere felt much the same. Grim had gone for tea one day but it made him feel so more miserable than normal that he never went back. Grim wandered past Mr Donut’s house to the Dervish’s house. He passed a street sign that read All Souls Lane.

“Appropriate.” he thought grinning to himself.

The snow was falling gently from the darkening sky. The snowflakes spiralled down on the bones of his face and he wiped them off quick. He had always hated snow even back when he was a little reaper, as it was too nice and fluffy for his liking. He was also a bit annoyed that he had missed David and Maisy at the museum, part of his job being to know where most people were in case their time was up and it wasn’t like him. He would have to careful as he was letting all the excitement distract him.

He found the door to the Dervish house unlocked and was glad that he didn’t have to squeeze himself through that small lock in David’s bedroom window again. After not finding Jack and Flossie downstairs he made his way upstairs and felt repulsed at the magnolia and blue eggshell walls. He hated nice colours. Grim preferred black or grey any day. He heard snoring and knew he was heading in the right direction. As he passed a mirror on the wall he had to do a double take.

“Gosh, I am so handsome and dashing.” he said to his reflection.

He quietly entered the main bedroom. Grim started to do his wicked ‘Ha, I’ve come for your souls’ speech when he had to cover his ears. The snoring was so loud it was putting him off. Flossie and Jack had gone to bed for a nap when Jack’s flu got worse and Flossie suddenly came down with the nasty virus. Grim hadn’t known a lady to snore like that. There was only one thing for it. He propped his scythe against the side of the bed and turned Flossie on her side. She snuffled and snorted then her breathing settled.

“Phew.” Grim said to himself. Then Grim nearly dropped six foot down in fright when the Shadow of Death suddenly flew past him. He shot through one wall and out of the other. Grim looked at the spot where he had disappeared.

“Honestly, how rude.” he said. Shay-D poked his head back through the wall.

“Sorry.” he mumbled and then disappeared again. Grim shook his head and tutted to himself.

Now he turned his attention back to David’s sleeping parents. He floated over the top of the bed and looked down at them. He held the scythe high in the air and with one fell swoop the two souls floated up beside him in a daze. He got out a home made lasso, that had special magic in the weave to keep souls trapped in the loop and caught them.

“Hahahahahaha” he laughed wickedly as they screamed.

“No one can hear you.” he taunted and then floated back out of the house pulling them behind him.

He reached the street where his black horse Nightshade and the cart sat waiting. Grim pushed the two wriggling souls into the cage door, which he carefully locked behind them. He looked at the shocked pair who realised they were not alone.

“That’s another twenty souls for my dungeons. Another two trips and I’ll have captured the lot of you. There’ll be no one left to celebrate Christmas this year. Ha ha”

Grim pressed his face up against the cage and grinned. The souls shrunk back apart from Flossie and Jack.

“You can’t do this.” shouted Jack, but Grim ignored him.

“Let’s get this lot straight back to the dungeon.” Grim climbed on to the cart and took the reins. ” Come on Nightshade, let’s go.”

Back at the jail Sizzle and Scythe were waiting to herd the souls into their cells. Grim closed the doors to the dungeons behind him just as the sun went down.

At the castle Grim opened the door to the cage on the cart and spoke to the scared bunch of souls inside.

“Right, I want no trouble from you lot. Keep in a nice straight line and in the first dungeon to the left. There’s loads of room and you won’t need to go to the loo or eat anymore. If you do have any funny sensations ignore them, you’ll get used to being in limbo soon enough. Any trouble and Sizzle and Scythe here will eat your ectoplasm and that will be that.”

He smiled at the horror and despair on their faces. How he had missed a proper good soul collecting. He stood proud with his scythe in his hand and watched them file into the cell.

“I think I’ll have a little rest now.” he said. Sizzle and Scythe joined him in the great hall. Grim started reading a book entitled ‘The Soul Collector’ in which his favourite hero Belvedere Bonecrusher always gets his soul. Sizzle and Scythe curled around each other and enjoyed the warm fire. They dropped off to sleep and dreamed of chasing skeleton rabbits.

* * *

The dungeons were dark and grey. Grim didn’t feel they needed much light and there were just a couple of torches on the wall opposite the cells. Jack and Flossie found themselves trapped in the jail with a lot of souls they recognized from around town.

“Hi, we’re Maisy’s Mum and Dad.”

Jack and Flossie turned.

“Of course. Mary, Tom, how are you doing?” asked Flossie as they all hugged tightly. Maisy’s parents looked down at themselves and then back up at Flossie.

“Oh dear, I didn’t mean. Oh..I don’t know what to say anymore.” Flossie cried. Mary gave her a tight hug.

“What are we going to do?” said Tom.

“I don’t know yet but I will think of something. There has got to be a way out of this dungeon.” said Jack. He tried to grab the bars but an invisible force pushed his hands away.

“He’s done something to the bars to stop us getting out. Just like the cage on the cart.”

“Will we ever get out of here?” asked Tom.

“I need to think about it.” said Jack. “He tried to sound confident but he wasn’t sure. This had to be something to do with his ancestor Jacob Toddle and the Three Sleeps. He just felt it. He tried to think of something he had heard or read.

“Do you think the kids are okay?” said Flossie. She put her hand on his shoulder. Jack looked at Flossie. She gave a sad smile.

“I hope so.” said Jack.

* * *

Back at David’s house there was a large stack of books on the desk in the study and around the floor. They hadn’t had any luck in finding the book yet. A note had been left on the kitchen table from David’s parents telling him to get some tea and they would see him either later or in the morning.

“They must have come down quite bad with this flu.” He said. He had found some ready meals at the back of the freezer and cooked them in the microwave. All this running around had left them very hungry.

“I just hope it’s here somewhere or I haven’t got a clue where else to look.” said David.

Maisy found one book that told the story of the town hall. It had a picture on the front with the bronze statue of Jacob Toddle in the foreground of the building. She flicked through it thinking it would be something she wouldn’t mind reading, as she was very much into the subject of history. There was a picture of the great hall where the councillors and the mayor held their meetings. There were other interesting rooms in the building.

“Look at this.” said Maisy, “They have a whispering room where people are only allowed to whisper and a flower room where everything in the room has flowers on it. It’s on the wallpaper, the chairs and everything.”

“Yuk.” said David, “That’s disgusting.” Maisy carried on looking.

“There is a library there too. Oh and look there’s a room dedicated to Jacob Toddle!”

“Let me see.” said David. He took the book and looked at the picture. There were lots of posters and pictures on the walls as well as furniture and clothes that used to belong to him.

“Wait a minute. It says ‘There is a small collection of his books, including a diary, which were found in the attic of Jacob’s home and had not seen daylight for many years. We were lucky to acquire them before the property was sold’.”

“So that may be the diary we are looking for.”

“I think we had better get over there.” Said David, “Look, time’s getting on. I’ll just go upstairs and tell Mum and Dad.” But when David went upstairs it was obvious that Mum and Dad were not going to wake up, but they were also very warm just like Mrs Peverell at the Museum. Maisy came upstairs and into the room. She could see instantly that David’s parents had suffered the same fate as her own and he was trying not to get upset in front of her.

“Do you know what I think? No one can die properly unless it’s actually his or her time to go. I think they stay asleep until then, like they are in limbo or something. It reminds me of Sleeping Beauty or Snow White” Said Maisy.

“Well they woke up eventually so there may just be a chance of saving the town, but we only have until midnight tomorrow.” said David. He took the phone out of his trouser pocket and looked at the time. “It’s too late now anyway, the town halls shut.”

David wiped a few tears from his face. He understood how Maisy must have felt. He also felt very angry and wanted to stop the Grim Reaper. He kissed Mum and Dad each on the cheek and took a deep breath.

“I feel tired.” said Maisy.

“Me too,” said David, “We’ll get to the Town Hall first thing and then will work out how to get everyone back to normal.”

“I hope so.” said Maisy.

“There is one more thing I think we should do though.” said David.

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