The year of 1943 was an exciting one for the Rivers children. In January, Jane, Andrew and Richard were moved to the country for fear of the Blitz in London. They were taken by train in a packed carriage full of children to a small village by the name of Longside.
Mr Wayne Lambert, an American, whose family had moved to England when he was just three years old, lived alone in his house. At the mature age of 53, he had lost all American bonds apart from the passport that he carried. He lost his American accent and he wore British clothes. He was no less British than his next door neighbours. He was not very sociable but he had a few close friends whom he could rely on. Although he did not have many friends he was respected throughout the village, as a decent and honest man.
The Rivers children were proving hard to home, Nobody wanted to take more than one child away, let alone three. They were the last people sitting down patiently waiting for their new parents. Andrew and Richard were twins, and at the age of seven, were not very sure about what was going on but were excited about having new parents for a year or two. Jane, who was twelve, was scared about the outcome of having to be housed. She was almost certain that she would have to be separated from the twins but she dreaded the time when somebody would suggest that the twins should be separated too. Slowly, people started filing out the room until only one man was left.
He was tall, with a thick bushy moustache; he wore a tweed jacket and wore spectacles. He looked at the name tags of all three children and stood back watching them. They stared back, and seemed to huddle together almost informing him that by taking one he would have to take all three of them.
He sighed and turned to the woman with the clipboard, “Alright Mrs Levengtone, I’ll take all three of them.”
She looked up at him quite surprised, “Are you sure you can manage all three of them, Mr Lambert? I mean, with no disrespect…” she continued in a barely audible whisper “I’ve heard bad things about these Londoners, naughty children, naughty children indeed.”
“Well these three look very well behaved to me. I shall take all of them…That is if you don’t have other people wanting to take them away.”
“On the contrary, Mr Lambert, not one person has enquired about them. It’s very hard for them take more than one away, considering that many have their own to bring up and feed.”
Now turning to the children, “Very well children, let’s get going, shall we?”
“All I need from you now Mr Lambert, is a signature and your address.” Mrs Levengtone continued. As Mr Lambert filled in the boxes, the children were excited at the prospect of seeing where their new home would be. Jane made sure all the children had their own cases at hand, and silently told the other two to behave.
Mr Lambert was an antique collector. When asked what that was, he replied, “Someone who buys old things, keeps them, studies what they have found and if they are worth it might even sell them again for a lot of money.” When Jane asked if that was a proper job, thinking of her father’s job as a teacher, before he joined the army, Mr Lambert chuckled and replied that it was a proper job and many other people did it as well.
When they got to the house, which was a 15 minute drive from the collection station, they found it was much bigger than their London flat. And what he called a garden was more of a small wood, covering 20 acres. They put their suitcases in the master bedroom, which Mr Lambert didn’t use for himself but left it free for any visitors. There was a double bed for the twins and a single, which was for Jane. However, when they had settled themselves and took in their surroundings, they realised that Mr Lambert kept some of his antiques in the bedroom. Some of them were on the shelves, in glass boxes and some were put on the tall dresser.
However, there was also one in between the two beds, on the small bedside table. It was carved out of stone and it was in the shape of a man’s head, however, it was an African styled sculpture and it was no more than five inches tall. Jane speculated that sculptures like that were often found on Totem Poles. She knew all this because she remembered the book that her father gave to her about different religions and customs of foreign places.
When she asked what the sculpture was over dinner, Mr Lambert looked at her intently and then stood up. He walked over to the large oak bookcase, which was on the other side of the room, looked at a few of the books and then pulled one out. It was very dusty and it looked as if the book had not been open for a very long period of time. He flicked through some of the pages and ran his finger over the words while muttering to himself.
He looked up at her and said, “Well, what you have in your bedroom is a sort of magical and mysterious object. It is a one of a kind. Nobody has discovered anything like this to my knowledge, and I doubt they ever will. However, I did buy it with a container, which I keep in my room; it’s a hollow piece but is designed to fit in.”
“But what magic does it do?” The twins chorused simultaneously.
Mr Lambert looked up at the twins and then looked back at the book again running his finger down the words. “Well, it is said here that the…”
“Yes!!” All three of them were encouraging him on.
“I…I’m sorry children” he said rather hesitantly, “If I told you what was written here, you would be up at all hours of the night, it’s rather scary.” He said a bit too convincingly for Jane’s liking.
“Oh please, Mr Lambert” they pleaded with him.
“No” he said much more firmly. He then walked back down to the table, sat himself down and started serving himself the last of the turnips, which he had grown in the garden himself.
Three weeks had passed and Jane had just started the high school at Longside, which was appropriately named Longside High School. It was a small and because of the current situation overcrowded school. The few teachers that they had were subdued but strict. They were the kind of people you did not want to get the wrong side of, but if you behaved well they could become almost friendly. Andrew and Richard were embarked at the preparatory school, which was close by. Over there it was much more relaxed and enjoyable but a certain standard was required from each child.
Every day when they came back from school, they would walk back together and arrive at the house half an hour later and have their tea. However, once they had reached home, they sat down to do their homework, which they were given on a regular basis. They then tidied up their room, which they did out of politeness, not because they were asked. Once they had finished that, Mr Lambert came in their room and took the stone sculpture and pocketed it.
“Why are you taking Grim away Mr Lambert?” Jane asked. Grim was the name given by the children. It was christened this because the expression on its face was rather grim.
“I have someone coming to examine it tonight, quite late so you might not be up to see him; I might just want to see how much it’s worth these days.” He said this, but the children thought it sounded rather rehearsed as if he were trying to remember the words and they were coming to him slowly. “Don’t worry children; you’ll be able to have him tomorrow night.” He carried on rather more fluently but still rather suspiciously.
Sure enough the children were sent to bed, and the man still hadn’t arrived. Wondering if the man was going to turn up at all Jane stayed up in the dark waiting for a knock on the door. She heard nothing and she stopped trying to listen after Mr Lambert switched of the gas lamp in the hall way, which he just did before he went to sleep. After that there was no movement apart from the groans of Andrew and Richard tugging the sheets from each other.
The next day, Jane woke up, got dressed and went downstairs to prepare Mr Lambert’s breakfast. She had never done this before but she wanted to ask him about Grim, and if the man ever came. Three weeks being in the same house and she knew exactly what Mr Lambert liked for breakfast, this was only because he used to tell the children what he really misses when he has his breakfast. However, with rationing she was at a slight disadvantage. She used the last egg in the fridge, with no salt because they had run out a few days ago. The coffee, which was very weak, only had one half teaspoon of sugar because Mr Lambert had kindly donated half of his rationing to Mrs Simmons so she could bake a cake. There hadn’t been bread for five days now, so she didn’t fret over it. While she was making the scrambled eggs, Mr Lambert came down the stairs looking rather surprised when she saw Jane making his breakfast.
“Christmas already, Jane?” he laughed, “I mean, what’s all this for?”
Jane carried on scrambling, thinking of how to phrase it, “Well sir, I just wanted to ask you about last night and I don’t want to be rude but…” She trailed off but Mr Lambert was looking intently at her, so she carried on. “Did the man who was going to see Grim, come at all?”
Mr Lambert was still staring in to her, “Well, in truth he didn’t, he telephoned me last night after you had gone to bed and he told me that he couldn’t make it. But don’t worry, he said he’d come in about a month and look at it again, for the meantime you can keep it in your room.” She wasn’t quite sure but she had a feeling that Mr Lambert was acting a bit suspicious. She didn’t exactly know why but she knew it was about the Grim.
At that moment Andrew and Richard came down, so she didn’t tell him that she didn’t hear the telephone last night even though she was listening. She then served Mr Lambert his breakfast, which he said was lip-smacking, and went to school.
After another four weeks, Jane had made her friends and had settled herself in school, she started to become friendly with a girl called Liz; she lived in Longside and thought it was great that people were coming into the countryside to disrupt school. It was her lunch break and she was walking with Liz through the corridors and into the playground.
“Y’ see, its cause of all ’em Jerries.” She was telling Jane, “Their plan is so we get a bad education, and when we grows up all ’em Jerry kids will be clever and we’ll be stupid. And then they think they’ll be able to take over England. But y’ don’t need an education to press a button, innit. So that’s why I’m all in favour of this less intense school.”
Jane liked Liz because she was funny and she was popular, but Liz liked Jane because she was understanding and she would always listen to what she had to say. One day Liz asked Jane if she wanted to go berry picking then next day, Jane said she would ask Mr Lambert. The next day was a wet day and it was too damp to go berry picking, so they decided to go back to Mr Lambert’s house and play there the afternoon.
Liz was about the average height for a twelve year old, standing an inch under Jane, all other complexions were contrasting. Liz had bushy blond hair and pale blue eyes; she wore glasses and already was wearing a brace. Jane had black hair and brown eyes and didn’t wear glasses or a brace. While playing, Liz spotted Grim and asked what it was. She found it fascinating and started examining it. Once Jane had explained what it was Liz was even more fascinated.
“Did he actually say it was magical, I mean what kinda magic do y’ think it can do? I bet the face can turn into a real person and then curse everyone…Or even kill!” she exclaimed.
Jane felt like changing the subject. With the Grim in her own bedroom right next to her bed she didn’t like the idea of it killing everyone. Tonight, was when the man was coming to see the Grim, but Jane wasn’t sure if there really was a man. Suddenly, an idea came to her, “Liz, could you do me a favour? If asked, would you say that you kept the Grim for tonight?”
Luckily, Liz agreed, and that night she left the house, carrying a plastic bag with a rock found in the garden.
“What’s Liz taking in the bag?” Mr Lambert asked.
“Oh, I hope you don’t mind sir but I said I’d lend her the Grim for tonight, I completely forgot about the man coming tonight it was just that she was very interested by it, is that alright? I could always go to her house and ask for it back.”
“No. Don’t do that, I can always ring the man and postpone his visit. She’s an only child, isn’t she? Yes, it should be fine.” He replied with a smile a bit too happily.
That night when sent to bed, Jane took off the loose floorboard from the ground and took out Grim, put it on the bedside table, and went to sleep.
She woke up to a low wailing noise, and thought it was one of twins but it seemed too low for the twins. She turned her head and sprang up wide awake. The Grim was glowing bright green; she fled to the other side of the room and woke up the twins. They were too shocked to do anything but watch. The moaning got lower and lower and as this happened the expression in its face seemed to become happier and happier. When the moaning could not be heard the Grim started to vibrate and three ghost like figures rose majestically above them. Although they were pale they glowed red and started revolving over their heads getting closer and closer. The children started to scream. The ghosts had covered them completely. A voice that started off as a whisper, it screamed in a shrill voice.
“Three thousand years have passed,
Three children in my bedroom at last,
On a half moon, I’m free at last!
Away from my container, that is left to me
On no other day should I be.
Now that you have failed your task,
These words you hear shall be the last.”
David Rivers had just got off duty, from patrolling the city, he was about to write a letter to his three children, whom he missed dearly. He put on the radio and started to right, “Dear Jane, Andrew and Richard…” A special news bulletin was just about to be announced so he put down his pen and started to listen.
“Citizens of England” it read importantly, “This morning we hear a story of great cowardice and atrocities, I regret having to inform you.” He paused as if trying to build up tension. “I regret having to inform you” he repeated, “that a small village, by the name of Longside, in the country has been destroyed by German bombers. No one in the village survived.”