“Dangerous. You wouldn’t like, kill us all or nothing, would yer?”

“No miss?”

“Course not. Of course yer wouldn’t.”

"She starts blubbing at the sight of the carving-knife for god’s sake."

The two of them carried on up through the crooked orphanage. In the gloom of the second floor corridor, one of the panelled bedroom doors swung open, and out came Zipper, a boy younger than Lily, coming down the corridor in the opposite direction, yawning deeply.

He was about to pass on by, when Thricetin grabbed the boy's arm, and pulled him back.

“What time do you call this, Zipper?” she said.

"Err," said Zipper.

He was shorter than Lily, and dirtier, his clothes scruffier and his brown hair sprouting out from under the metal saucepan he had taken to wearing on his head.

"What time do you call this? Getting up at god-knows how late?! Stuff's to be done, Zipp, stuff's to be done, like packing the bullets for the barkers and readying the rockets and…and dusting and, and stuff. I'll have you cleaning the whole weapons room for this you idle devil-"

"But miss," he said, pushing up the brim of the saucepan, "no-one else is awake."

"You what?!" 

"No one else is awake. The clock's broke. It didn't ring. Saw it last night I did, big crack down the glass. And we're all tired miss, because someone woke us up."

He gave Lily an accusing look from behind his dirt-clogged goggles.

"Give me that," said Thricetin, pulling the saucepan off Zipper's head and booting open the bedroom door and bashing the saucepan against the doorframe. 

"Come on, come on, you miserable lot!" she shouted as she bashed away, "Wakey wakey rise and shine, that's it, that's it, come on now, one of you miserable devils overwound the bloody clock and went and broke it, so I am not best pleased…!"

Standing out in the hallway, Lily covered her ears against the bashing, and looked into the bedroom where all the orphans slept, a single room filled with bunkbeds, each bunk holding a sleeping orphan who was refusing to get up. 

"Lord almighty, the things I do for you ungrateful brats!"  said Thricetin, striding over to the moth-eaten velvet curtains and throwing them open, letting the blinding light of the morning skies flood in.

"Aw miss, give over…" said Skittles, one of the older orphans who turned over in his bed and pulled the woollen sheets over his head. Lady Thricetin chucked the saucepan at him, but it missed and clanged against the wall. 

"Up!" she shouted, her rotten teeth glinting, "Get Up! Come on, gawd knows how much time you've wasted! Skittles, you go fire up the engines, Willow, you see to it them exhaust chimneys are clear, Zipper…"

"Yes miss?"

"Kindly stop wearing me kitchin' utensils."


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