The Toddle Room
After taking a spoonful of Superflu potion, they each carried a set of bedclothes from the airing cupboard and set up camp in the living room, as David’s room was freezing due to the broken window. David smiled thinking how happy Mum would be that he had finally tried her medicine. Snow had begun to drift on to the windowsill and inside the room on the carpet. Maisy borrowed a pair of David’s pyjamas and they got settled in to their makeshift beds downstairs. They both felt that they would never be able to sleep but the superflu potion made them drift off in the end. By the time they woke up next morning it seemed to have got rid of the worst of their colds. They got up and dressed and put some snacks together. The town hall doors opened at eleven in the morning over Christmas. Before they left David went upstairs to Mum and Dad and made sure they were comfortable. He kissed them both once again and hoped he would see them back to themselves soon.
* * *
Mr Lea, the security guard in the Town Hall had just opened up the front doors of the Museum at eleven’ o’clock when Grim took his soul. Luckily he had a soft fall on to a chair just inside the doors, which was used by the more elderly visitors. The keys still lay in his hand as Grim floated past him. These large double, wooden doors which were more Grim’s size than the people of the town as he didn’t even need to duck. It didn’t take him long to catch the three employees that were well enough to attend work and he had just captured the last soul when he heard voices downstairs in the lobby. Grim floated to the top of the stairs and what he saw made him smile.
* * *
“Looks like The Grim Reaper has been in here too.” said David. They entered the open doorway of the town hall leading into the large foyer. There were paintings of previous mayors and an especially large one of the Queen on the walls around the lobby. A set of stairs on the right led to an upstairs landing.
“Mr Lea, the security guard, he is warm too.” said Maisy.
“We need to go upstairs, according to the book. Let’s try and find that diary” said David.
They rushed up the stairs and moved along a corridor that led off to the left, searching for the right door.
“It’s called The Toddle Room. They named it after him.”
As they moved along the corridor a white figure appeared at the end. It was trying to talk to them but all that came out was a low moaning mumbling that sounded very far away.
“Who’s that?” asked David.
“Don’t know but I can see straight through him.” said Maisy.
“It’s a ghost. A real one.” said David. The white ghostly man turned his head towards the left sharply as if he had heard something. He was looking down another corridor that led to further rooms.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
“Me too.” said Maisy.
They stepped back slowly and for the second time that day heard footsteps coming along the other corridor in their direction. They turned to run but behind them were two extremely ugly dogs. Scythe bared his teeth. They were sharp and there were a lot of them. They looked back around as Grim stood at the other end of the corridor. The ghost had floated away but they could still hear it moaning. They were trapped. David looked to his left and saw a sign on the door that read ‘Costume Room’. David grabbed Maisy’s elbow and reached his hand out to the door handle. He turned it and dragged her in quickly, shutting the door behind them. They could hear Death cackling as he slowly came closer to the room.
* * *
“Fools, you are not going to escape in there. You may as well give it up and come quietly.”
There was no answer. Grim opened the door and was confronted by an army of dummies in period costumes standing close together around the room. There was no sign of David or Maisy.
“Come on out kiddies. Or I will send in the dogs to sniff you out.”
Grim called out for Sizzle and Scythe while he wandered through the dummies. He made the costumed wax figures wobble on their stands as he squeezed between them. Then he heard a noise behind him and turned around sharply. With a swoop of his scythe he lopped the head off a dummy and it went rolling across the floor.
“Hey” a deep voice said. Grim looked down to see Sizzle and Scythe had arrived and were sitting by his feet. Scythe looked fed up and he growled at Grim.
“Oh stop moaning and just get on with it, Mongrel!” he said.
“Oh, is that right?” said Scythe and he turned around and began to walk off.
Grim was getting exasperated.
“Alright, alright, I’m sorry. Now just sniff these kids out.”
“Say you are so, so sorry and it will never happen again.” said Scythe.
Grim stared at Scythe. Sizzle shook his head and prepared himself as Grim’s expression showed he wasn’t in the mood.
“Now you’re pushing your luck.” said Grim through gritted teeth. The hounds could hear the anger in his voice. Scythe glared back but he lost the staring contest. “Yeah, you’re right.” he admitted.
“Just get on with finding the two kids. I want their souls before midnight tonight.” As he stopped speaking Grim heard the ghost moaning loudly in the hallway. As he looked out of the costume room door he saw the ghost pointing down another corridor.
“Forget what I just said. I think I know where they are.”
* * *
The small falling out had done David and Maisy a great favour. Just inside the door they had been hiding under what seemed like a dress with the biggest skirt ever made. Both of them had been able to sit either side of the dummies one legged stand comfortably. When they heard the dogs coming in they thought they were done for. But that little argument had given them the chance to creep out of the door without being seen. They ran down the corridor and then into the next. The ghost was floating up and down the corridor still moaning away to itself. They dashed past it and found the Toddle room. The door was unlocked so they went in and pushed a chair up against the inside to keep Grim out. The ghost floated in through the door and through the chair. He looked around and then he turned and went back into the corridor.
“Right lets find this book quickly.” The room was not large but had lots of furniture. An oak writing desk sat in the centre with a wax dummy of Jacob sitting in the chair behind it.
“Now that looks creepier than the Grim Reaper.” said David.
They went into all the cabinets but couldn’t find the book anywhere.
“Where is it?” Maisy sounded as frustrated as David felt.
Then they heard Grim coming along the corridor. The ghost floated back in the room through the door moaning loudly and they knew any second they would be caught. Maisy looked up at the ghost and tried to shush it. Then she realized, looking through the ghost’s body, that she could see a glass frame on the wall, which had the diary inside it.
“There it is.” said Maisy and she pulled a chair over to stand on and reach it. She took it down and then went over to Jacob’s old desk and took it out of the frame. Then an extraordinary thing happened. David got that tingly feeling all over that he and Grace had both felt before with Jacob’s book. But then a dark shadow suddenly flew into the room and hovered above them.
“What is that?” they both said together. The Shadow of Death swooped and dived at them and they ran around the room trying to get away from him. Maisy threw a few of the books from the cabinets at the terrifying shadow but they just passed right through him. Then Maisy accidentally grabbed the diary out of David’s hand and threw it.
“Maisy no!” he cried. Maisy lifted her hands to her face realising that she had thrown the diary. It was like watching in slow motion but this time it did hit and it hit hard. It knocked the shadow clean out of the room through the wall and the book hit the wall and fell to the floor. For a moment there was silence. Then they heard the Grim Reaper shout and lots of barking and growling came from the corridor.
“No. Come back here you idiots.” shouted Grim. David and Maisy were bewildered. Whatever was happening outside the door?
* * *
Grim would have pulled his hair out if he had any. There was no loyalty from those dogs at all. They had caught a glimpse of Shay-D after he was catapulted out of the Toddle room and into the room next door. Shay-D was so shocked that he had been hit by a book that he sped straight out of the door of the room and down the corridor as fast as he could go to escape. Sizzle and Scythe had instantly given chase.
“Okay, looks like it’s just me then.” Muttered Grim and with one big heave he pushed the door open.
“Right you two,” he said to David and Maisy, “Now it’s your turn.”
He lifted his Scythe and they put their arms up in defence. Then the ghost began to moan even louder than before. Grim stopped for a moment.
“Shut up!” he said, “Can’t you see I’m working?”
But the unhappy ghost started flying around his head and was making him dizzy. Grim hated being dizzy and hated ghosts. For David and Maisy it was a chance to escape. Maisy grabbed the book and they ran. He roared as he managed to get the ghost away from his head. Grim floated down the corridor but it was too late, the kids were gone. As he floated down the stairs to go outside the two dogs came padding out of one of the downstairs rooms. They were out of breath, huffing and puffing.
“Where are those kids? And where’s Shay-D? I want to have a word with him.” he said.
The pair shrugged.
“We lost Shay-D. We didn’t see the kids either.”
“Just you two wait.” threatened Grim. Sizzle and Scythe looked at each other.
“I’m going to hand my notice in if he keeps on.” said Sizzle.
“I’m going to eat his bones.” said Scythe and they trotted after him growling a little in annoyance. Grim turned around sharply making them both jump with fright.
“Let’s get back to the castle. We have nearly all of them now. Just those kids and I will get them two very soon.”
They made their way to the cart that was waiting by the statue and the two dogs jumped on the front.
* * *
David and Maisy had run out of the town hall and were kneeling down on the other side of the statue. The snow had stopped now although the sky still looked like there was a lot more to come.
“We need to get that cane up there.” she said, looking up at the statue of Jacob.
“Let me try.” David looked around the corner of the marble plinth. Grim and the dogs were busy with their last lot of souls and getting ready to head off to wherever they had come from. David climbed up the left side of the statue and reached a hand out to the cane. His hand closed around it and he pulled but it wouldn’t budge.
“I can’t move it.” he whispered to Maisy below him. Maisy took the book about the town hall out of her bag. She found the page that told the history of the statue.
“It says here that there’s a switch that unlocks it from the statue’s hand.”
David looked around trying not to be noticed by the trio on the other side. He looked around the front of the body and the face. Then he stepped on Jacob’s left foot and there was a loud click. He quickly jumped off the statue as Grim and the two hounds looked round. Time seemed to stand still for a very long moment. After a few moments passed they looked back at the cart and carried on sorting out some tangled reins. Then, as if it had waited until the coast was clear, the cane slowly fell sideways down to the ground. Maisy caught it just before it hit the floor. She handed it to David who stuck it in his belt. They realised the cart was about to leave the square. David checked his mobile phone.
“It is quarter past one already. Wherever that cart is going is where our parents are. We need to get on it.”
As the cart rolled away with Sizzle, Scythe and Grim all sitting on the front, David and Maisy ran across the square and grabbed hold of the bars at the back. The souls inside all stared vacantly at them as if they were in shock, which they probably were. A swirling mist of white snow began to surround them until they couldn’t see each other. They didn’t know where the cart was going but they hoped they would be able to do something to save everyone.