There is no Rest for the Stupid
A Christmas horror tale

By Gary Morton, December 2013

 

I arrived at work fashionably late as usual. Snowflakes were in my eyes and as I walked up the hill, the Christmas lights of nearby houses melted to a colorful blur. A few steps more and I turned and looked up at my place of work. The castle looked grand with sudden gusts of snow blowing out of the sky and around high crenulated walls. The keep to the south faced the storm from the hilltop like a great battlement. Yet down below was desolation. The parking lot was empty except for one small car; there were no events at Casa Loma this Christmas Eve.

The only event would be me … a midnight security guard, sleeping on the job, raiding the pantry and having dreams of sugarplums, Santa and sexy ladies.

Many stories have been written about lonely people at Christmas, but it doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I walked up to the back entrance jingling my keys like it was jingle bells because it was an easy night ahead.

I found Ramone inside waiting by the back security desk. He’d already changed out of his cleaner outfit and was waiting to pass on command of the castle to me. I had a present under my arm that I passed to him and he pointed to a card and a bottle of wine he’d left by the coat rack.

“You can go,” I said. “You don’t have to wait for me to change.”

“The bottle will make you feel better, no,” he said. “You won’t have to worry when he comes out.”

“I quit drinking six months ago, Ramone. Perhaps the master of the house will want some wine. It’s almost midnight,” I said, pointing to the clock.

Sudden fright showed in Ramone’s narrow eyes. “I’m getting out of here, before he comes. Oh, I forgot to tell you. There’s another security guard at the front. Indian fellow named Harjit. He was here for the early evening carol thing. For some reason they told him to stay until his relief arrived. I told him go home. He says he’s booked to watch the door until you take over.”

“Okay. Go home. I’ll get rid of him now.”

“You better do that. You know what happened to last guard from India.”

I always take my time putting on the uniform. I like to look sharp, though no one sees me. Coming out of the change room, I thought about what Ramone had said about the last Indian security guard. A sad story really. You see, I’m not exactly alone here at night. There’s a ghost. Sir Henry by name. He’s the guy that built this castle all those decades ago. Built it and then later went bankrupt. I guess he never wanted to give the place up so he’s still around.

I remember my first shift here nearly a year ago. The previous long-term guard had passed away so I was on my own and taking a short nap in the library. I was rudely awakened by Sir Henry and he wasn’t a howling ghost but a rather aggressive fellow who shook me and asked why I wasn’t on door duty. I looked up at his large moustache and domed forehead, then I tried to push him away … only to find that my hand went right through him.

I got up realizing I was dealing with a ghost of some variety and being a practical person I dealt with it that way. I didn’t have much choice when he could shove me around and I couldn’t push him. I did need the job and running about in a fright wouldn’t do.

I did the door duty and found that Sir Henry went out every second night after midnight and returned an hour or so later. Night haunting of the neighbourhood I suppose. Though sometimes I saw him wandering about the grounds, on the hillside or up on a turret. Other than wanting a doorman to open and shut for his walk, he rarely bothered me. Sometimes he asked me to deliver new books for the library, other times he had messages for the cleaners. He was ruthless in regards to keeping the Queen’s Own Rifles display looking sharp. “The place is now a tourist haunt,” he said. “It has to be seen in proper perspective. Movie shoots are done here, too. I want the place to be tops.”

Most of the time Sir Henry left me sleeping, sometimes he intruded on my meal break for some conversation, but generally the situation worked out perfectly. I had suffered from insomnia and nerves for years but found that at the castle sleep came easy. My health returned, I felt fit in my daytime life. But no one is perfectly healthy and when I had the flu, the guard company sent an Indian fellow, fresh off the plane from Delhi. He said he was a doctor and doing security work until he got his papers updated.

People from over there are like me with a strange power to see ghosts, but unlike me some of them are deathly afraid of them. And that didn’t work out too well with Sir Henry.

This fellow promptly fell asleep and when Sir Henry showed to awaken him, he panicked. As Sir Henry tells it, he ran about the great hall screaming like a madman. At one point, he fell into the old empty swimming pool in the basement. He managed to get out of there and up to the back patio through a hidden wall-walk, and then he went crashing down the hill and tumbled over a steep portion. They found him in the morning. He never recovered as his spine was shattered. He’s in a wheelchair now and has spells where he gibbers about an evil spirit.

Usually I do a full patrol before being sharp at the door for Sir Henry’s return. That’s a walk up to the towers and all the way through the underground tunnel to the stables. The castle has three large floors and many rooms with displays. The solar is quite impressive. Everything is antique and valuable, but I have a memory for all of it. One time I found a sword missing. Turned out some people had walked out with it in broad daylight.

I started the patrol but got nowhere on it because an alarm rang then shut back off. I knew the area and went straight through the library and out to the back patio. I spent a long time searching the grounds but found nothing until I returned and noticed a security vehicle over in the lot entry. A moment later, I spotted a very large security guard walking over by the flowerbeds.

“Damn,” I cursed. “It’s Arnold B. Smithers, the mobile patrol man.”

The security company had recently cursed me with surprise mobile visits, sending in a 300-pound snoop to check up on me. Arnold B. Smithers’ job was to make sure guards were in uniform, not asleep, and doing their patrols. No doubt, he’d been sneaking about checking patrol points to see if they were checked off recently. Being a huge boob, he set off an alarm.

I felt anger rise as I walked across the snowy lot to him. “I will not swear at him. I will be polite,” I said to myself. But in spite of that, I was pissed. My dream job was going sour … my beautiful sleep and health being taken away by a baton-wielding thug who took the job far too seriously. Being Christmas Eve, I decided I would buy him off by re-gifting my bottle of wine. That would do for tonight but unless I could get him driving drunk another long-term solution would be needed.

Arnold reminded me of Sir Henry in a way; a big bullying white guy. His uniform was always perfect. He wore a big oak baton and always had a bottle of compressed pepper spray on his belt. He had a high domed forehead like Sir Henry as well, though his speech was not as sophisticated.

“Well, well. I see we’re awake tonight,” Arnold said.

Before I got a chance to answer, we heard a scream. And not any ordinary scream, but the sound someone being murdered would make.

From our position, there were two key entrances. “Arnold pointed to the entrance to the kitchen and guard station. “I’ll cover that. You go in the main entrance and check it.”

“Will do,” I said dutifully, running straight for the arched entrance, being about halfway there before realizing that Arnold had sent me running right to the scream while he was actually running away from it. I didn’t stop but kept on and reached the doors. They were secure so I opened up with keys and entered the vestibule cautiously.

A long search of the castle followed. I kept hearing banging and scraping here and there but I did not encounter Arnold or anyone else. About halfway through the search I remembered the other guard Ramone said was on site. The Indian guy, but I didn’t spot him either.

I ended up back at the front doors, scratching my head and wondering where Arnold and Harjit could possibly be hiding. While I thought about that, a familiar fellow came up the walk. It was Sir Henry returning from his night out. I got the door and nodded.

“Looks like I gave that other fellow quite the scare,” he said. “Some of those foreign fellows just don’t have the Christmas spirit. By the way, a few guests will be arriving later so don’t go to sleep tonight. Have some wine with us. I’ve opened the cellar.”

Sir Henry walked away to the library. And as he did, I heard another bloodcurdling scream. This was definitely from upstairs, probably the third floor. Running up, I turned, and then slowed as I saw someone standing near the stair entrance that ran up to the keep. He was wearing a security guard uniform and didn’t weigh 300 pounds so he had to be Harjit. He was looking down at something.

With my confidence partially returned, I walked up. When I saw what he was looking down at I almost screamed myself.

Gasping, I staggered back … Arnold B. Smithers was at the foot of the stairs, on his back, a ghastly expression on his face, his mouth open with a spill of thick blood like a tongue. A spike had been driven right into his forehead.

Harjit was gibbering like an idiot child. I looked him in the eye. He was out of his mind with fright. I could see that.

“Jeez,” I said. “You just killed our mobile supervisor, and on Christmas Eve. You’re finished pal. That’s cold-blooded murder.”

Only it didn’t turn out quite that way. I finally calmed Harjit by taking him to the bathroom and splashing water on his face. He explained things and it turned out it was death by misadventure. One hysterical guard fleeing a ghost grabbed a spike in the gardener’s storage and killed another security guard he thought was the ghost.

We decided to cover it up and clean it up. We dragged Arnold back to his vehicle and left him on the ground outside the driver’s side. Needless to say, he didn’t look his finest with a spike through his head and staring dead eyes. Didn’t smell very Christmassy either.

You know the old saying about there being no rest for the wicked. And now I’m paying dearly for the cover-up. The police never figured it out. We told them we heard a scream and found him there. Persons unknown are the main suspects. The core problem here is though I got rid of the body, I didn’t get rid of the man.

Christmas has passed and Sir Henry goes in and out as usual. I raid the kitchen to pilfer my lunch as usual. But the problem is that I can’t get any sleep because now there are two ghosts in this place.

It was okay for New Years Eve because many ghosts showed, but now that has passed and I can’t catch a wink of sleep. Every time I start napping boot steps come up the hall. It’s Arnold B. Smithers and he’s still doing his job, making sure I stay awake, keep my uniform sharp, and do my patrols.

I have a gun that I’ve always kept hidden on site. I tried shooting Arnold already but that didn’t work. So I’m looking at the Glock pistol now. It would certainly end things quickly and my new idea is to sleep peacefully in the grave.

I’ve tried to pull the trigger but I can’t, because the thought keeps hitting me that I might come back as the third ghost here. And then I wouldn’t get any sleep for all of eternity. There is no rest for the stupid.

The End

. . . . . . . . . . .