Enjoy a peek-a-boo at this preview to the sequel to Edward and the Christmas Grumps. Caution: It’s a bewitching, spooktacular, action-packed, Halloween and Christmas mash-up!
“It’s All Perfectly Terrible”
When children dream of Christmas, it’s usually about the wonderful things like Santa, his elves and Rudolph, but when children dream of Christmas at Halloween it’s not really a dream at all – it’s a NIGHTMARE!
This most monstrous of mash-ups happened to Edward and his big sister, Jill. When their Christmas dream at Halloween began they were lost and alone at night in a worryingly familiar, but far creepier, wood. The moon again lit their way as they took winding paths lined by tall, strangely-shaped, trees and bushes. Alarmingly, stumpy wooden signs of ‘Go Back Now’ and ‘Get Out Of Here While You Can,” warned them of dangers ahead, and bats darted about their heads.
Edward actually liked the bats because he was dressed as a vampire. He wore a sweeping dark cape, a crisp white shirt with a red bow tie and waistcoat, smart black trousers and white gloves. His hair was swept back with shiny sticky gel. He had blood-shot eyes with dark circles under them. Edward was desperately pale, wore fake fangs and had pretend blood dripping from a corner of his mouth. He didn’t have his Teddy, but his robin, Paul, hopped along behind him.
Jill was disguised as a zombie. It was probably just make-up but she had a scar on her cheek, ghastly bruises on her arms, flaking skin and missing teeth! She wore her favourite purple zipper top, but it was ripped and she had holey jeans and bashed-up boots. Her hair looked like a bird’s nest and her robin, Peter, was snuggled up in it with his head poking out.
“I know why we’re back,” boasted Edward, smugly.
“Oh really, why?” groaned Jill.
“It’s obvious! It must be Halloween and we’re Trick or Treating,” he claimed.
“Well if it’s obvious why do we have our robins, eh? Robins and Halloween don’t mix.”
Edward shrugged his shoulders and said, “Maybe they’re Trick or Treating too… It’s fangtastic! Look at me, I’m a vampire and there are bats.” He spread his arms to turn his cape into pretend wings, then flashed his pointy teeth at his sister and hissed.
“Shush Edward, you’ll frighten the robins… and you’re annoying,” she snapped.
“Oh no, I’m not!”
“Oh yes, you are!”
“Oh no, I’m not!”
“Oh stop it Edward. You don’t get pantomimes at Halloween, only Christmas, remember.”
The children kept bickering until they reached a sign that read, ‘No Camp Fires Allowed.’ Next to it was the smouldering embers of a fire. A bat swooped down and circled the remains, clicking furiously.
“Looks like someone lit a fire,” said Edward, shuddering, “And I still don’t like fire… and look… someone’s been chopping down trees. What’s been going on?”
“Trick or Treating Edward, obviously,” replied Jill, but she was actually getting worried. “I do hope we find the cottage soon. These are the Lost Woods, I’m sure of it, so the light of the Christmas Spirit should be here to guide us… so where is it?”
“But if it’s Halloween, not Christmas it wouldn’t be there… and I’m getting hungry, so can’t you walk a bit faster,” said Edward, looking up at the treetops for the light.
“No Edward, I can’t walk any faster in these ridiculous boots, they’re the worst thing ever… just listen to them,” replied Jill.
As she walked, her left boot went FLIPPY-FLOPPY and her right, TIPPY-TAPPY! She tried shushing them, but it didn’t work.
“Why isn’t Teddy with me?” asked Edward, glumly, as his robin flew up on his shoulder.
“Maybe he’ll be at the cottage,” replied Jill.
“I hope he isn’t lost.”
“Edward, didn’t Teddy once say, ‘when something is lost, it’s somewhere it shouldn’t be,” said Jill, busy looking over her shoulder. “And things have a habit of turning up when you least expect them to,” she added, stopping to take a better look behind them.
“Why are we stopping? What’s wrong?”
“Shush Edward. I think I heard something… footsteps.”
“Footsteps?” asked Edward.
Edward cupped a hand to his ear and heard a few steps in the darkness beyond.
“Crumbs, I think you’re right,” agreed Edward, as another bat whooshed past, “And it doesn’t sound like Teddy, not one bit. Maybe it’s grumps?”
“Keep moving. It could be trouble,” urged Jill, struggling to walk faster in her noisy beaten-up old boots.
Thankfully, they soon found the ‘Cottage Ahead’ sign, but, to their surprise, it was on the ground, smashed in half with a broken stump. A creepy bug crawled across the sign, catching the eye of Edward’s robin. It flew from his shoulder and pecked at the bug, which scurried over to a Clementine shaped orange ball.
“How peculiar,” said Jill. She bent down, picked the ball up, threw it in the air and caught it again with two hands. “Finders keepers, losers weepers,” she mumbled, as her robin’s head bobbed about in her hair.
Edward was puzzled. “Maybe that sign should have read, ‘No Ball Games’? Hey, maybe whoever did it cut down the trees and maybe they’re following us?”
“Maybe? But I don’t think this ball broke the sign Edward,” she said squeezing it. “It’s much too squidgy. Anyway, look, do you see? It’s Conjuring Cottage and there’s a light on,” announced Jill, joyfully.
“Fangtastic!” replied Edward, hurrying, “Quickly now before the Christmas grumps grab us,” he joked, recalling Aphrodite’s words of warning.
“Christmas Grumps? But if there’s no Christmas spirit and we’re Trick or Treating then it must be Halloween Edward,” claimed Jill, “So they’ll be no grumps, not in this dream.”
“Humph, I already said that it’s not Christmas yet, didn’t I?” said Edward, catching a glimpse of a pair of glowing green eyes glaring back at them in the darkness.
When the children reached the cottage it was in dismay. They were greeted by a comical bat hanging upside down on the garden gate, spinning its head around and clicking furiously. The gate was dangling on its hinges, for the rest of the picket fence was in tatters. Dangerous bits of broken jagged wooden posts were scattered higgledy-piggledy about the lawn. Eerie rays of candlelight from inside the cottage pierced through broken windows covered in spider webs. Shards of glass sparkled on the lawn in the moonshine. Remarkably, golden marigold flowers had survived the attack, daring to display their colours through the jumbled mess of wood, glass and fallen chimney pots.
“Crikey!” gasped Edward, as the bat flew off. He opened the gate and marched up to the front door. It had been splattered.
“Eggs! They’ve definitely been tricked,” he said, “And the door’s all green now.”
Thankfully, the crooked number six still hung on the door, but it was more wonky than ever. There was a new sign too.
“Yell Here Loudly?” said Jill, reading the words.
“But we mustn’t. It’ll scare the fairies… and Swish might be inside and she doesn’t like loud noises, remember,” said Edward, anxiously as a bold bat swept into the cottage through a gap in one of the broken windows.
“Follow that bat,” urged Jill, wondering if they, too, were still being followed.
Worryingly, the front door was slightly open.
“Stand behind me,” ordered Jill, as they reached the door.
“Be careful,” urged Edward, before flashing his pointy teeth to try to scare off anything nasty that might be inside. Jill bravely looked through the gap in the door. Two slit golden eyes stared right back at her. The creature cried, “Matt-matt, mitt-mitt, matt-matt!”
“Kat, is that you?” whispered Jill, hopefully, but the troubled cat arched its back, then hissed and growled.
“Shush! You’re scaring her,” suggested Edward, peering around his sister’s back.
“I’ll do the shushing if you don’t mind Edward.”
“I’ll do the shushing!” mumbled her brother in jest, adding, “It’s because you look ghastly… you’re scaring her.”
“Kat… don’t be afraid. It’s only us… Jill and Edward,” said Jill in her gentlest ever voice.
“We’re only in fancy dress,” added Edward, as a frightened Kat made the strange ‘matt-matt’ sounds again, then scurried away.
Ignoring the ‘Yell Here Loudly’ sign, the children brushed aside a huge cobweb with a dangling black spider and stepped into the cottage. In the hall, beneath their feet, was an enormous pair of werewolf slippers with long droopy ears, wide eyes and fangs. On a hook above the slippers hung a red hooded jacket. They tried to tip-toe around the slippers, but Jill failed miserably because of her flip-floppy boots.
“Huh, so much for doing the shushing,” said Edward, chuckling.
“Edward, it’s not me, it’s my boots!” snapped Jill, tightly squeezing her ball for courage.
They entered the lounge. It was lit by a pair of scented candles labelled, ‘Up To No Good’. They revealed a terrible tangled mess of cobwebs, beaten up furniture and bundles of stuffing pulled from Aphrodite’s treasured wing-back chair.
“Jumping Jack Flash?” cried Edward, “We’ve been burgled!”
“How ghastly!” said Jill, glumly, “Poor Kat, no wonder she’s so scared… the poor thing. And look, it’s even worse, the mirror’s cracked… so that’s seven years bad luck!”
On top of all this, the old out-of-time mantelpiece clock was lying in bits on the scrunched up patchwork rug. The framed photos of Aphrodite’s Robin and Kat had been knocked off the wall and the coffee table was upside down. There was absolutely no sign of any delicious hot chocolate or scrumptious shortbread! The robins had to do without too for there were none of Aphrodite’s wacky hair hooks for them to perch on. So, they settled on top of the mirror, chirping excitedly at the prospect of a spider for a meal.
“And what’s that?” blurted Jill, in surprise, as she pointed to Archie the Advent calendar’s spot. In its place was a chunky wooden barrel jam-packed with bobbing green apples. Stuck to the top of the barrel was a skull and crossbow pirate flag. The letters B, B, B were carved around the bottom of the barrel.
“That’s a pirate flag,” boasted Edward, thrusting a pretend sword at the barrel.
“But where’s Archie? It’s skulduggery!” replied Jill.
Suddenly, Edward cried, “Wait! Fire… I smell burning,” he claimed.
“Me too,” agreed Jill, squelching her squeeze ball.
It was coming from the kitchen. Bravely, Edward dashed there, stumbling over rubbish strewn over the kitchen floor. Smoke was beginning to fill the room. A saucepan had boiled dry and its bottom was burning. It had turned black and was sizzling with the scorched remains of Brussels sprouts. Edward grabbed the pan and stuck it under a dripping tap in the pokey sink, which wasn’t easy as it was crammed full with unwashed dishes. He turned on the tap. When the water hit the bottom of the pan it made a long shushing sound and sent steam everywhere.
“We don’t want a fire, especially not in this house,” claimed Edward, waving away the steam and smoke.
But the surprises kept coming.
“Peek-a-boo,” said a dainty little voice hidden somewhere beneath the kitchen table and chairs. Just who exactly said it was hard to tell because the table was piled high with more unwashed dishes and a hoard of other extremely yucky things.
“Who’s there?” quizzed Edward, alarmed.
“I am. I just love monsters,” was the reply.
“Monsters? Who said that?” asked Edward. He crouched down amongst all the rubbish and tried his best to look under the table.
“I did. Can you play with me? Mummy’s very afraid right now and she’s a terrible cook,” said the voice, hidden under the table.
Jill entered the kitchen, coughing and waving her arms about to clear the rest of the smoke and steam. Suddenly, Kat crept out from beneath the table, making the strange sounds again. She raised a paw and looked up at one of the chairs.
“Hey, what’s up Chatty Katty?” asked Jill, squatting next to her brother to take a better look. A chubby-cheeked toy doll’s face stared back at them. The doll had wispy blonde hair, a small turned-up nose, drawn on eyebrows and light blue eyes, one of which was wonky with no eyelashes. She wore a baby-blue woollen dress, little white socks and shiny black doll shoes.
The doll slowly waved at the children, revealing her wrinkly chewed up fingers. “How do you know my name? I didn’t tell you my name?” she asked.
“It was probably just a good guess,” replied Jill, puzzled.
“Can you play with me?”
“Play with you?” asked Jill, bemused.
The doll looked carefully at Jill, “Oh, you have one of those squidgy balls. You’re not going to break me too are you?” asked the doll, nervously screwing up her nose and rolling her wonky eye.
“Break you, of course not. I found the ball in the woods, that’s all,” said Jill, squeezing it again.
“Oh,” replied the doll.
“She’s not lying… or even pretending. We promise we won’t hurt you,” said Edward, “We just want to help.”
“Look, I know we’re scary, but it’s only fancy dress. I’m not a real zombie and Edward… my brother… isn’t a real vampire, are you Edward?” said Jill.
“I might be!” claimed Edward, flashing his teeth again.
Kat flapped her ears at Edward, and made the strange sounds again.
“Don’t do that Edward, you’ll scare her,” said Jill.
“Don’t do that Edward, you’ll scare her,” mimicked the doll.
“Hey that’s not fair!” said Jill.
“Hey that’s not fair!” replied the doll.
“What’s going on here?” asked Jill, puzzled.
“What’s going on here?” mimicked the doll.
Jill shook her head furiously and wagged her finger at the doll.
“Now look here. You’re not a parrot.”
“Now look here. You’re… not… a,” said Cathy, oddly, running out of words.
Edward whispered into his sister’s ear, “I think Chatty-Katty’s sticky-stucky.”
Kat knew just what to do. She ambled over to the doll, stretched up, hooked her claws into a small plastic ring on the doll’s back and tugged. The ring was fixed to a cord. Kat pulled it all the way out then let it go again. It whirled its way back into the doll.
“I’m Chatty-Cathy, not Chatty-Katty!” said the doll, shaking her head. “But thank you. It’s my broken record. It slows down then gets sticky-stucky when I talk too much,” said Cathy.
“Sticky-stucky, there I told you, didn’t I?” said Edward, proudly.
“Like a broken record,” said Jill, curiously,
“I like it when we talk together!” replied the doll.
“That’s nice,” said Jill, wondering whether to help the doll down from the chair.
“I just love monsters,” said the doll, once again and at the very point when the front door went CREAK!
“Did you hear that?” asked Jill alarmed, “Someone’s at the door.”
“And we were being followed. Could it be grumps?” mumbled Edward.
“I just love monsters?” repeated the doll with a worried look, which confused the children.
Edward readied himself. He flashed his vampire teeth once more, then grabbed a wooden rolling pin from the table and practised swinging it. The children bravely headed for the front door with Kat wriggling about their feet. Jill aimed a silent shush at her noisy boots, fearful they would give the game away.
“It’s standing outside,” whispered Edward, peering through a gap in the door, “But it’s not a grump. I think it’s a witch!” He gripped the end of the rolling pin tightly.
Jill nodded and whispered back, “Aphrodite?” But Kat knew better. She nudged the door open wider, then looked up at a figure in green and meowed.
The ‘witch’ started to sing, “La, la, la, la, la,” she began. “A soul cake, a soul cake, please good missus for a soul cake. An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry. One good thing to make us all merry. A soul cake, a soul cake. One for Peter, two for Paul, three for Him who saved us all. O’ Tidings of Comfort and…. and… and…” Yet there she stopped, unable to complete the verse.
Edward recognised the voice, “Carol?” he asked, lowering the rolling pin.
“Edward, is that you?” replied the witch, pushing the door wide open and fluttering her luscious lashes. Carol looked most spectacular in a star-studded deep-purple cloak, dress and pointy hat. She wore long black boots and held a twisted twiggy broomstick with a robin perched on its tip. “I followed you. I had a feeling it was you… but was confused because of the flippy-flappy… tippy-tappy sound.”
“Oh, that’ll be my ridiculous boots,” admitted Jill. “The soles are falling off! Look,” she said, lifting a boot to show her.
Carol tried her hardest not to giggle.
“Come in, quickly now, before…” urged Edward joyfully.
“You don’t bite, do you?” joked Carol, ignoring the ‘Yell Here Loudly’ sign as she entered the cottage.
“No, I’m not a real vampire, but beware of the spiders.”
“Ah, I actually like spiders,” said Carol, confidently.
Jill was very envious of Carol’s costume. “I really must apologise for my appearance,” she said, “It’s the worst outfit ever. It’s not just the boots. I mean look at me. I’m a zombie!”
Carol did so, “You look very… convincing!”
Jill frowned and shook her head. It wasn’t what she wanted to hear.
“We’re probably Trick or Treating,” suggested Edward, daring to give Carol a hug. When he did so, he was tempted to pretend to bite her neck, but didn’t.
“Well, it’s very spooky out there… bats, chopped down trees and smashed up signs,” said Carol, entering the lounge, “And just look at it in here too… gosh… it’s worse than I feared. Who could have done such a thing?”
“Chatty Cathy might know,” suggested Jill, swiping a dangling spider away.
“Cathy?” asked Carol, following the others into the kitchen, “Who’s she?”
“Peek-a-boo!” said the doll, from the chair.
“Peek-a-boo?” replied Carol, “Oh, is this a game?”
“Yes,” Cathy replied. She leapt down from the chair and toddled out into the open, “I was hiding, but I’m not now.”
“You’re a walkie-talkie doll. How cute,” said Carol.
“Let’s talk and talk and talk,” said Cathy, holding up her dress to keep it from snagging on the rubbish. “Oh, you’re another witch, but Aphrodite will be pleased because you sang the Soul Cake song.”
“I don’t know why I sang it. I just did. It’s stuck in my head,” replied Carol.
“It’s sticky-stuck! We all are. I love you Mummy,” announced the doll.
Carol laughed, “I’m sorry, but I’m not your mummy.”
“Of course not, Mummy’s upstairs hiding from the monsters,” said Cathy, holding her arms out, as though she wanted to be picked up.
“Monsters?” replied the three children, together.
The doll waddled over to the stairs.
“Where are you going?” asked Jill, passing the ball between her hands.
“We’re playing hide and seek. Mummy’s in the wardrobe in Aphrodite’s room. Grumps shouldn’t go in there because of the sign on the door,” claimed Cathy.
“Grumps? I knew it,” blurted Edward, as they followed the doll to the bottom of the stairs. “You said grumps!”
“You said grumps,” replied the doll.
“Yes, but you said grumps first,” said Edward.
“Yes, but you said… grumps… first,” repeated the doll. She was sticky-stuck again, so Jill picked Cathy up and pulled her voice-box cord. It whirled as it wound back inside. “Pip-pa-dee-do-dah,” said the doll, as Jill carried her upstairs, flip-flopping her way to the top.
The door to Aphrodite’s room now had a ‘No Creepy Things Allowed’ sign. Chatty Cathy tapped on the door. “I love you Mummy,” she called, but there was no reply. Kat wriggled her way to the door and raised a paw at the sign. Jill took no notice of it and the cat. She opened the door and went inside, ignoring Edward. He complained, “But you’re a zombie, which means you’re a creepy thing, which means… urgh… yuk bad Kat!” he said because Kat had lifted her tail and did a naughty little wee against the door frame, before repeating the strange ‘Matt-matt’ sounds.
They gawped at the smelly yellow wee as it trickled down the door. “Double yuk, Aphrodite will know we’ve been in here for sure now,” said Edward.
“Shush Edward, this is an emergency,” snapped Jill, as she put Cathy down.
The doll waddled over to the wardrobe. “Peek-A-Boo, I’ve found you,” she called.
“No you haven’t!” cried a voice inside the cupboard, “I’m not ready yet. You didn’t count to ten.”
“I’m good at counting,” said Edward, boldly stepping into the room, and looking around.
The colours of Christmas in Aphrodite’s room had been replaced with shades of black, purple and orange. Her bookshelves now held titles like, ‘One Bad Apple’, ‘Good Witch or Bad’ and ‘Monstrous Munchies,’ whilst the old dangling instant camera had vanished! There were candles labelled, ‘Mouldy Cheese’, ‘Cat Wee,’ and ‘Up To No Good’. There was a list on the wall headed, ‘Monstrous Mayhem’ with bizarre tasks scrawled under it, like, ‘Run about like a headless chicken’, ‘Eyes in the back of my head’ and ‘Scream until I’m sick’. Edward did not like the look of that list, not one bit.
Chatty Cathy covered her eyes and counted, “One, two,” all the way to ten. “Ready or not, here I come,” she said, pretending to search the rest of the room. Jill joined in and took a sneaky-peek under the bed, but found NO photo albums whatsoever. She gulped and shook her head at Carol to alert her that all the albums had gone.
Cathy soon toddled back over to the wardrobe. She tugged at the bottom of the door. It sprang open and a bat flew out, making everyone jump except Cathy. Calmly, she said, “That’s not Mummy, that’s Mummy.” She pointed at a lean girl squatting in a corner trying to look as small as possible. She wore a long apple-green dress decorated with little orange flowers and long white cotton socks. She had bright ginger hair in bunches tied with white ribbons. “Peek-a-boo! I found you!” said the doll, gleefully.
The girl didn’t reply. Instead she just looked at the creepily dressed children staring at her.
“Is it my turn to hide now Mummy?” asked the doll.
“No Cathy. Play time is over,” replied the girl, before asking the ogling children, “Is it safe to come out?”
“I guess so, so long as you’re not scared of spiders,” said Jill, “Which I very much doubt as you had a bat in there with you. Oh, and don’t worry, we’re not really a zombie, a vampire or a witch. It’s just fancy dress.”
“Oh, that’ll be because of Bob,” said the girl, casually.
“Whose Bob?” asked Jill, as the girl climbed out of the wardrobe, straightened her dress and pulled her socks right up over her knees, as far as they would go.
“It’s easier if I show you… we were in a dream… but now it’s a nightmare and I don’t like Halloween.”
“Oh, but Halloween’s awesome, you know… creepy costumes,” said Edward.
“And Trick or Treating,” added Jill.
“And spells, ghosts, and pumpkins,” said Carol.
“And curses!” replied the girl, “It’s much too scary.”
“But it’s not real. We’re not real. We’re just pretending,” said Edward.
The girl just shook her head, “You’re wrong… all of you. Monsters are real… very real!”
Kat flapped her ears and followed the children out of Aphrodite’s room.
“I just love monsters!” said the doll.
“She doesn’t really. It’s only one of her sayings… inside her,” said the girl.
“I love you Mummy!” replied the doll.
“Ah, ‘I love you Mummy’. How cute,” said Carol, joyfully.
“Hmm, but that’s another one,” said the girl, picking her doll up and kissing her on the cheek. She waited at the top of the stairs. “Is it safe? You’re sure they’ve gone?” she asked.
“I’ll go first,” said Edward, flashing his teeth again.
As they went down the stairs, Carol asked, “You didn’t tell us your name.”
“Neither did you,” replied the girl.
“Oh! I’m Carol and I’m the eldest by one day,” she boasted. Jill rolled her eyes and quickly added, “Well, I’m Jill and that’s my little brother, Edward.”
“Hey… I’m not little, not anymore,” insisted Edward, “I’ve grown at least an inch since our last dream here.”
“Anyway, he’s still little,” said Jill, “He’s lost his teddy. Have you seen it? Is he here?” asked Jill. The girl shook her head rapidly and Chatty Cathy snapped, “Teddy bad, bad Teddy.”
Edward frowned, “Not my Teddy. He’s good and the toughest teddy there is. He’s not scared of anything,” said Edward firmly.
Kat flapped her ears as they reached the bottom step.
Suddenly, there was a thud on the front door. It flew open with a CRASH! “HERE LOUDLY,” yelled a croaky voice, causing fresh cracks in the windows, and startling the robins and bats. In stomped an extremely tall witch with a tall pointy hat that scraped the ceiling – SCREECH! She pulled the rim of the hat down over her ears and crunched up the top. “That’s better,” she mumbled, ogling the children and the doll. The witch’s face was wrinkly and seaweed green. She had a crooked nose with a bulbous spot on the end and wore a hefty shaggy green coat and cumbersome clumpy boots. The woman scrunched her face and pointed at each of the new children with a long bony finger decorated with purple nail polish.
“Ah, there you are Edward, Jill and Carol. How perfectly terrible to see you all again! I must say you creepers look gruesome! I too must apologise for my appearance, but you’re already extremely late and we’re experiencing Monstrous Mayhem. Everything has turned topsy-turvy. It’s a Kat-astrophic Kat-astrophe!”
“Aphrodite, is it you?” asked the children.
“Conjuring curses, I’ve been hoodwinked! There’s no fooling you!” she replied.
“You’re very… green!” said Edward, boldly.
“Absolutely, it’s my favourite colour,” declared the witch.
“Oh,” replied Edward, surprised.
“Now stand aside,” she warned before kicking off her boots. One hit the lounge mirror and gave it a nasty new crack. The thud terrified the robins and bats. They flew rapidly about the room, tweeting and clicking.
“Cattywampuss! More bad luck,” she groaned, before removing then chucking her coat. It barely missed a robin and landed by the bobbing apples barrel right on top of some old apple cores lying close to it. “Curses!” she cried, then scratched the spot on the end of her nose. It popped and gloopy green gunk spurted out and landed on Kat. She protested with a hiss then shook her body like a dog, spraying the gunky goo everywhere.
“Gross!” said Edward, as a blob landed on his crisp clean shirt.
Aphrodite chuckled, checked little B, B, B pockets on her green dress, then stomped over to the apple bobbing barrel. “Okay my little creepers, enough niceties. Did Pippa introduce you to Bob yet, isn’t he spook-tacular?” she announced, as more gunk dripped from her nose onto her coat.
“So that’s your name!” said Carol, looking at the pony-tailed girl, “I had a strange feeling about that.”
“Err, Aphrodite I was just about to show them,” said Pippa, double-checking her socks were still pulled up, whispering, “I mustn’t let them down.”
“Pip-pip-purr-ay!” replied Aphrodite, doffing her witch’s hat. “There’s no time for wasting. These lost creepers need to learn all about Bob’s Bobbing Bonanza.”
“But Aphrodite,” said Jill, “We’ve barely said ‘hello’… not even a ‘how are you?’ and it’s so…” she added, tossing her ball in the air and catching it, before being rudely interrupted, because Pippa shuddered at the sight of the little orange ball.
Aphrodite noticed and blurted out, “Absolutely no ball games Jill, they’ve caused enough trouble already, and as for the pleasantries, we don’t know which witch is which.”
“Which witch is which?” asked Carol, bemused.
“Quite! Good witch or bad, you never can tell… and if we dilly-dally that nasty wound on Jill’s cheek will get worse. She’ll be sticky-stuck good ‘n proper.”
“But it’s only make-up,” she replied, touching it with her finger-tips.
Aphrodite took a deep breath then said, “Is it? Creepers… look at the clock. It’s in pieces. Do you hear any pip-popping, tick-tocking or ding-donging? Time’s befuddled and we’re all muddled. If we’re not careful we won’t know if you’re coming or you’re going and we don’t want that.”
Kat swiped at a spider that dared to cross her path.
“We don’t want that,” agreed the doll, toddling over to the bobbing apple barrel. “But Aphrodite maybe there won’t be any coming or going at all because I heard this witch sing the Soul Cake song,” she said, pointing at Carol with her chewed up fingers.
“An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry?” asked Aphrodite hopefully, “sing it again?” she urged.
Carol did so and this time the robins, Peter and Paul, tweeted along to the tune, “A soul cake, a soul cake, please good missus for a soul cake. An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry. One good thing to make us all merry. A soul cake, a soul cake. One for Peter, two for Paul, three for Him who saved us all.”
Aphrodite clapped her hands, joyfully, “Oh my, do you know anymore verses?” she asked.
Carol continued, “A soul cake, a soul cake, please good missus for a soul cake. Go down to the cellar and see what you will find. If the barrels are not empty I hope you will be kind. A soul cake, a soul cake, please good missus for a soul cake… with love and brotherhood each other now embrace. This holy tide of Christmas of beauty and of grace, Oh tidings of comfort and…. and… and…” There she stopped, again unable to complete the verse.
“Ah, the cellar,” chirped Aphrodite, “And let’s be clear… it’s ‘with love and sisterhood’, not ‘brotherhood’.”
“Love and sisterhood?” replied Carol, nodding.
Aphrodite celebrated by slumping into her wing-backed chair, sending more stuffing into the air. She clapped excitedly, removed her squashed pointy hat and threw it. It landed right on Kat. She crept playfully about the room with her tail, sticking out a swiping paw for fun. The children whispered to each other and giggled, as Aphrodite chased Kat about the room, rescued her and tucked the hat back on her head.
“Whispering sneaky, giggling cheeky,” said Aphrodite. She was much more like her old self again. “Which reminds me, how are my sprouts doing? They ought to be good and ready by now.”
“Ah, Aphrodite, I’m sorry but they burnt,” replied Edward.
“To a cinders,” added Jill.
“How perfectly terrible. Just the way I like them,” she replied, rubbing her hands together in anticipation.
“But I had to pour water on them to put the fire out. It’s in the sink.”
“Stew -pendous,” she replied.
“Aphrodite, that sounds revolting. We can’t eat soggy, cold, burnt sprouts. Can’t Conjuring Cottage make us something delicious for tea?” asked Jill, hopefully.
“Ah, I’m afraid not. Your game’s under a catastrophic curse. This is no longer a Conjuring Cottage but a Covenly Cottage. It won’t clean, cook, scrub, mend or make the beds,” she said, scratching the end of her nose again, causing it to bleed green goo afresh.
“Covenly Cottage? Isn’t that something to do with witches?” asked Carol.
“Yes, but as I said, which witch is which?” replied Aphrodite, mysteriously.
“I wish Jack was here, he’d know for sure,” said Jill sadly.
“Jack who? Not Jumping Jack Flash,” said Cathy, “He’s mean.”
“No, that’s not my Jack,” insisted Jill, “He doesn’t jump and he’s most definitely not flash!”
“Well Jack likes juggling his balls… just like you,” said Pippa, “And that looks like one of his balls.”
“I told you, I found it in the woods…. oh and my Jack can’t juggle. He lives in a box,” said Jill, sternly.
“Enough ball games. Now where are my sprouts? I’m ravenous,” said Aphrodite.
“Yuk. And what about us?” asked Edward, puzzled, “There’s no shortbread. What shall we eat?”
“Oh, you’ll have to make do with whatever it is that vampires and zombies eat, but whatever you do, don’t eat the spiders.”
“Brains and blood… spiders!” shrieked Jill, “Besides we’re not really creepers. This is just fancy dress!” she said, trying, but failing to remove her disguise.
“Sorry child, I warned you. You’re sticky-stuck and things will only get worse the longer this game goes on,” confirmed Aphrodite, grabbing her werewolf slippers and heading into the kitchen for the burnt sprouts.
“I don’t want to be sticky-stuck. There must be something we can do,” urged Jill, following her with Kat again weaving in and out under her feet, which were flip-flopping and tip-tapping away, much to Aphrodite’s annoyance.
“Well those boots will need shushing for starters. Once that’s done you may be able to figure it out, but that’s for another day. Chatty Cathy will explain it all to you in the morning. That’s her job,” said Aphrodite, busily tipping the revolting sprout concoction into a grubby mug with orange letters B.B.B upon it.
She gulped it down with one almighty swallow then burped, extremely loudly. “Ah, that’s better,” she claimed, smiling widely as a vile smell circled the room, “There’s nothing like a good gulp of Cinders-YELLA and a following wind to blow the cobwebs away!” She yelled the YELLA so loud that the children had to cover their ears, the robins and bats went crazy and the cottage shook a little more.
“Cinders who…do the what?” asked Jill, bemused.
“Goodness, didn’t you hear me the first time? I said Cinders-YELLA! That’s what. It’s a bitter taste of things to come and best endured before midnight, trust me,” pleaded Aphrodite as the children and creatures recovered from another bellow then watched her prance about the cottage, twirling and pirouetting like a princess. As she went she cried, “I shall go to the ball, I shall,” but burping loudly now and then to spoil the illusion of grace.
The children sniggered and giggled, but they soon stopped laughing when they realised that mouldy stinky cheese and some stale crumbly crackers were the only food on offer for their dinner!
END of Preview