MRS WIBBSEY'S FESTIVE DIARY
I’m sitting up in bed and at first it’s like the devil himself has come in my room. I let out a shriek before I realise it’s that blessed robot dog.
‘Forgive me, mistress,’ he says in that strange, polite voice, and then, all of a sudden it’s like he’s reading my mind.
No, more than that.
I can see my past floating out in front of me. Like ectoplasm.
Long time since I saw ectoplasm. All that floaty, nasty stuff, like candy floss but with a supernatural aspect.
Not since the days of Mr Wibbsey. Not since him. And his peripatetic spiritualist church.
And I can see him now. High up in the cab of that van, with me at his side, chugging through the winding roads of Norfolk, visiting each small village in turn. I was his unwilling helpmeet. I wanted nothing to do with all that dark stuff. Turning up in villages and calling up the dead. Scaring the locals out of their skins when all they wanted was a bit of peace and reassurance. He was a devil, Mr Wibbsey. I’ve tried for so long to forget him.
Why’s this robot dog reminding me?
He’s perching on the bedclothes. His little castors are resting on the candlewick bedspread. Somehow that impassive face of his looks regretful. He’s sorry for making me relive moments from my dreadful past.
I see the day I left Mr Wibbsey. That terrible day when the old man tried to stop me. When I smashed his crystal ball and he howled like all the demons in hell were after him. He went running into the sea and I never stopped him.
When they dragged him back up the shingle the next morning his eyes were gone. The Cromer police were horrified.
I knew already though, that Mr Wibbsey had never had no eyes.
Not in his head.
The robot dog shows me – pictures coming through that glimmering, pinkish cloud that hovers over my bed – how I found happiness of a sort. Living in that little town. Finding a job in that museum. How it became like a palace to me. I was so proud of being in charge of all the Curiosities.
This creature must be a spirit to know all of this. And to know about the eyes of Mr Wibbsey. Mechanical or not, he must be a hound from hell. Made of minerals and metals forged by the spirits down below.
‘Get out! Get out!’ I shriek at him and the dog stares at me sadly.
Then he turns and glides out of the attic room.
Dawn’s coming up. It’s Christmas morning out there but I find myself still stuck inside the faraway past.