Don’t Let Him Catch You Awake – A Badtime Christmas Special!
A Badtime Story
’Twas Greedmas Eve and outside the snow fell gently upon the bodies of the visitors. In their bedroom, Jacob and Jacob lay hand in hand, fingernails digging into each other’s soft flesh.
‘You must go straight to sleep tonight, my darlings,’ Nurse Mariam told the twins as she drew the top sheet across their throats. ‘And he might leave something for you.’
The children’s fear of bedtime raised like goosebumps on their skin. Jacob screwed his neck widdershins to glance over the edge of the bed. ‘Spiders?’ he said.
His brother, also called Jacob, looked towards the wardrobe. ‘Clowns?’ he said.
‘Now, now,’ cooed their elderly nurse through the walnut skin of her mouth as she sensed their concern. ‘There’s no need to be afraid. Not tonight of all nights. It is Greedmas Eve and if you are good little boys then you shall have…’ She scratched through her memory for a suitably comforting way of putting her good news. ‘…a sickening of presents,’ she said.
‘Only,’ Nurse Mariam added before nailing the bedroom door shut. ‘Don’t let him catch you awake.’
‘Why not?’ called out Jacob.
‘How will we know he’s coming?’ asked Jacob.
The nurse called back through the door but her voice was muffled by the thickness of the door, or perhaps a hand covering her mouth.
‘Did she say “slay”,’ Jacob asked his brother.
‘I think so,’ replied Jacob.
‘Oh dear,’ said Jacob.
The boys looked around their room as the flame struggled in their bedside lantern. Shadows kept at bay the worst of what the night might offer, throttling the house creaks and muffling the scratching sounds which emanated from the third attic. But that night even the shadows avoided the path between the bed and the fireplace.
‘Should we leave food for him?’ Jacob asked his supine brother.
‘I have no food,’ replied the child, his black eyes widening like sores. ‘I have had no food for days.’
‘Should we leave drink for him?’ Jacob asked his abject brother.
‘I have no drink,’ replied the child, his tongue scraping the ravines in his lips. ‘I have had nothing but dust for days.’
‘I feel that way too, brother,’ said Jacob. ‘But we must leave some token as a sacrifice or else…’ Neither child felt it necessary to repeat the word they had heard Nurse Mariam utter through their door.
‘What about the baby?’ Jacob said, jerking upright despite the tightness of the sheet.
‘Yes,’ Jacob said, slowly rising to join the other. ‘Yes, that could work… only… didn’t…’
But Jacob did not get to finish the story of what had happened to the baby for at that moment the boys heard the sound of bells coming from high in the chimney stack. This was followed by footsteps, each as heavy as a dragged sack.
‘It’s too late!’ wailed Jacob, forcing a twisted knot of bedsheets into his mouth.
‘Do not lose heart,’ said his brother. ‘Think, Jacob. Think.’
But all his brother could do was gather more and more of the sheet into his mouth. All the while, the footsteps grew louder and ash began to fall down the chimney.
Jacob leapt off the bed. ‘The sheet,’ he said. ‘Quickly.’
The other Jacob followed his lead and between them the boys dragged the sheet over to the fireplace. ‘Hold it like this,’ said Jacob, showing how the ends of the sheet were to be held. His twin became his mirror and did exactly as he was told.
In shifts and gasps the figure heaved itself down the chimney until two feet emerged followed, in a sudden evacuation, by the rest of the body.
Jacob and Jacob sprang into action and wrapped the figure in their sheet, winding it around and around until it resembled the special goodnight bed Cloister had helped them make for their pets. The figure inside kicked and writhed but the children, fuelled by the terrible house they lived in, kept hold and slowly dragged their prisoner towards the wardrobe.
‘Quick,’ said Jacob. ‘You open and I’ll shove. We can’t let the clowns escape.’
The clowns. Oh the clowns.
Jacob did as he was told. Guffaws erupted from the open doorway and then became silent once the bundled figure had been forced inside and the door closed. Then they erupted again with even more gusto.
Jacob and Jacob ran to their bed, lay down and closed their eyes. It took hours before they fell asleep to the muffled sounds of struggle from the wardrobe. But that too had ceased before they awoke.
And they never received a single Greedmas present again.
And nor did anyone else.
—If you enjoyed this and you are thinking 'how on EARTH can I support this young man' then why not...