Twas the night before Christmas and all through the madhouse, the creatures were stirring. Outside, in the cold darkness, the full moon was peeking through the trees, bloated and glowing brightly.
Midnight was fast approaching as I hurried down the corridors, candlestick in hand, checking each door was firmly bolted in place as I did my rounds.
The patients were growing restless. The Wolfman began to howl, feeling the moon madness boiling up in his blood, setting his brain alight. I heard him snarling as I tiptoed passed his cell, hoping not to set him off.
His howling always upset the more placid patients; got them going, and it was the quiet ones that you had to watch out for…
Like the Darkness.
He was a shifty character if ever there was one, but for most of the time he sat there, almost catatonic, and did nothing, said nothing, didn’t respond in any way to the other inmates. Every so often, though, the Darkness would stir, and trouble would not be far behind.
Reaching his door, I twisted the knob.
To my surprise, the door swung open. Inside, the room was as dark as the inside of a nun’s habit. He detested the daylight, and always had the blinds firmly shut.
“Mr Fenwyche…?” I whispered, peering into the depths. I never referred to the inmates by their pseudonyms. That was against hospital protocol. “Are you in here, Jack?”
There was no response, so switched on the light.
The room was empty.
The Darkness had escaped.
This wasn’t good.
There was always difficult questions to be asked when the dead bodies were eventually found, and a lot of paperwork to be completed.
I considered hitting the panic button and waking the daytime staff, but most of them were probably still down at the local pub and wouldn’t be home for hours.
That only left the caretaker, and it was never a wise move to disturb him. Rumour had it that he had once been a resident, but he’d been here so long, no one was really sure anymore.
No, I would have to handle the situation myself, and hope for the best. With any luck, the Darkness had just popped down to the kitchen for a midnight snack, and I could lead him back to his room before anything nasty occurred, or at least, clean up the mess and bury the bodies before the day shift recovered from their hangovers.
I headed down to the day room on slippered feet, trying not jump at every shadow. Mr Fenwyche wouldn’t kill me, I kept mumbling to myself. I was his friend.
I could only hope that I was right about that.
The day room was dark, with only the sparse Christmas decorations twinkling on the big tree to light up the gloom. I was about to continue my search elsewhere, when I noticed a twinkle of candlelit reflecting off something silver in the shadows beside the ancient fireplace.
“Jack?” I asked, approaching tentatively. “Is that you?”
As I drew nearer, I could make out a darker shadow lurking in the darkness. I’d found Mr Fenwyche. It was then that I spotted the carving knife in his hand, the shiny blade reflecting off my candle.
“What are you doing?” I hissed.
“Waiting,” he replied eventually.
“It’s the middle of the night, Jack. You know the rules. You can’t open your presents until after breakfast. We do it together.”
He remained silent.
“Let’s nip down to the kitchen, and I can rustle us up some mince pies. I think there are some left from the staff party.”
He didn’t budge, which was a testament of his single-minded willpower. Something was clearly bothering him if he wasn’t tempted by the Cook’s treats. She had a magical touch. She could even make Brussel sprouts seem palatable.
With a sigh, I asked, “What’re you waiting for, Jack?”
“Why? What’s going to happen then?” I asked.
“I’m going to kill Santa!”
“I-I don’t think that’s a good idea, Jack. People tend to get upset when you do that sort of thing. Remember the flack we got when you killed the Tooth Fairy. It took forever to find a replacement, and we were nearly shut down. I really think you’d be better off nipping down to the kitchen for a mince pie instead. How’s about I make us both a cup of cocoa to go with it?”
He remained where he was, but I could sense him wavering, so I added, “We might even find where Cook has hidden the marshmallows’…”
He sighed. “Okay then!”
Carefully, I took the razor sharp blade from Mr Fenwyche’s hands, “I’d better put this back where it belongs or there’ll be all hell to pay tomorrow. You know how Cook gets about her cutlery.”
Together, we headed off to the kitchen in search of a midnight treat.
Another disaster averted. It was always a challenge working the night shift in an author’s head.
Moments later, soot sprinkled down the chimney …