Press "Enter" to skip to content

A Place to Sleep

Joseph stared over the side rail as the cart in which he and Nefertiti huddled passed an assortment of old wooden buildings, faded to a dull grey by the bleaching effects of the northern sun. It had been almost two hours since he and Nefertiti had accepted the offer of a ride in the back of a passing milk wagon. The old Dairy dairy farmer, having resumed his delivery route after doing what he could to help at the scene of the train derailment, encountered the odd couple attempting to complete their journey to Falun by foot. 

“Ye know what I think it were?” the farmer called over his shoulder as the cart bumped over the ruts and holes that scarred Falun’s main road. “One of them meteorites that’s what.” The man had been nattering on incessantly since the moment Joseph accepted his offer of assistance. “One fell outta the sky all flamin’ last fall ‘n killed me cousin Larna Babbitt’s boy, Bobby, down in the South Fells a few hours north of Babbage town.”

“It was not a meteorite that derailed that train,” replied Nefertiti when Joseph remained silent. “It was a giant black worm.”

“Now that’s the thing that troubles me. I heard people sayin’ giant worm this and giant worm that, but it don’t make no sense to me.  I ain’t never in all me days heard of no magnus sapidum pedicabor attackin’ no train.” The farmer spoke slowly and deliberately as he gently reined up his mule Bessy. “It just don’t happen like that, see. Them worms be right vicious buggers when ye happens upon ’em by accident, but they ain’t no hunters.” The farmer shrugged. He then hopped off the cart and engaged the breaking lever to prevent the carriage from rolling back. “Guess it’s possible,” he continued to mutter. “I just I never seen or even heard of it before is all.”

“What’s going on?” Joseph spoke up once he’d realized the milk cart had come to a stop.

“We be here, b’y, the hotel jest like ye asked, right?” The farmer smiled reaching up a hand to offer assistance. “Only be two hotels in all of town, at least the upper town, and I don’t reckon ya wants ta be sleepin’ at the Silverfish. That’s why I brung ye here, to Rugbottom’s. It be a bit on the expensive side but that other place, the Silverfish, ain’t really a hotel meant for sleepin’ – they rents the rooms over there by the hour, if ya know what I mean.”


The hardwood floors in the reception lobby of The Rugbottom Hotel creaked with each echoing footfall. Joseph didn’t imagine carpet would last long in Falun with all the miners tramping through wearing their hard-soled work boots. As they approached the front desk one couldn’t help but notice the imposing presence of a short but corpulent man wearing a strikingly tall stovepipe hat. The gentleman was speaking with a confused looking youth of about fourteen. The man’s’ great girth, combined with the tall stovepipe hat, put one in mind of an apothecary’s bulb-bottom flask.

“Pardon the interruption, but would you happen to be Albert Rugbottom?” Joseph asked. “Proprietor of this hotel?”

“The answer is yes to both parts of your question.” replied the man identifying himself as Rugbottom. “If you could give me a half a second,” he said, holding up his hand. Rugbottom then turned back to the gangly teen-aged boy who stood beside three crates precariously balanced on a rusted dolly. 

“Father Vorpal may have no sense when it comes to hotels but fortunately he has finer tastes when it comes to whisky and cigars,” said Rugbottom. “Don’t forget to tell him I have a new batch of hookah leaf from that farmer in the Fells – but if he wants any he is going to have to come for it in person.” The man glanced back towards Joseph and Nefertiti with a nod before saying to the boy, “Be off with you now.”

“So, what might I do for you?” Rugbottom said after the teen had awkwardly maneuvered the dolly through the front doors.

“Actually, I have something for you.” said Joseph holding up a package. “A box of special tea sent to you by a gracious lady by the name of Miss Psaltery of New Babbage.

“Ah yes,” replied Rugbottom. “I have been expecting that, thank you. Just set it down over there on the counter.”

Joseph glanced at the cluttered desk. Unable to find a cleared space he laid the box atop a pile of papers. He then returned his focus to Mr. Rugbottom.

“Was there something else?” Rugbottom seemed surprised to see Joseph and Nefertiti still standing in the lobby.

“We are also in need of some lodging,” said Joesph. “I would like one of your finer rooms.”

“I’m sorry,” Rugbottom replied, “but we have no vacancies. A gentleman from New Babbage has just rented out every room in the hotel.”

“Every room?” Joseph was shocked. “There must be a dozen rooms in this building.”

“Eighteen actually,” replied Rugbottom. “And it is not my place to question a paying customer. The man said he needed three rooms for each member of his party and three spare rooms for merchandise he plans to purchase while in town. He is paying double the going rate – his idea not mine. Who am I to turn down such an offer.”

“Where are we to go?” asked Joseph.

“You might try the Silverfish,” replied Rugbottom, sounding as though he were quickly losing interest. “Though Father Vorpal is running a, er… special all-night service to the Builder. His services tend to bring in quite a crowd so best hurry off to see if you might secure something. ”

“And if that should prove to be full too?” asked Joseph.

“Not really my concern,” replied Rugbottom dismissively. “Good day to you both.”

“NOT REALLY YOUR CONCERN?” Joseph’s sudden shout surprised not just Rugbottom, but Nefertiti as well. Joseph strode with deliberate intent toward Rugbottom and backhanded the stovepipe hat sending it across the room. Rugbottom’s eyes widened in stunned silence.

“The time is fast approaching when you will rue those very words.” Joseph’s eyes were wildly manic as spittle sprayed over the now very attentive Albert Rugbottom. “Hear me, little man for I tell you of what is to come. You are looking upon the father of the NEW WORLD ORDER!”

“Hallelujah!” Nefertiti shouted out throwing back her hood. 

Rugbottom couldn’t stifle the scream at her horrid appearance. As he started to back away he lost his footing and fell on his backside. Joseph strode forward until he was standing right above the terrified hotel owner.

“There will come a day when you look upon me and weep and on that day I shall show no mercy!” Joseph glared down, his green eyes flashing with a pathological anger. “I will turn you over to my children who will take great delight in sucking that pompous fat from your bones!”

“I could make that day happen now,” said Nefertiti licking her lips as she sized up Rugbottom. 

“So we will be gone, Mr. Rugbottom! But be warned, you have not seen nor heard the last of Joseph Foehammer! The salvation of society demands vengeance and vengeance there shall be!”


Joseph staggered as he stepped from the lobby of the hotel into the sunshine. He reached into his vest and took the small glass vial. He shook it examining the contents. Just a swallow left. He returned the vial to his pocket and swayed unsteadily.

“Father,” Nefertiti leaned down and threw an arm of support around Joseph, preventing him from falling to the street. She held him tight until he regained his sense of balance. “Your disease has progressed. I smell it. It consumes you and there is little time.”

“Don’t concern yourself,” said Joseph. “We still have time.” He paused, as if the act of speaking required too much energy. “But now I need a place to sit.

Nefertiti looked around, her eyes finally setting on a small shop with the words Snicker Snack Shack painted over the door.

“Father come.” said Nefertiti, leading him towards the small diner. “You may sit and rest while I eat.”


“Yer lucky,” said Mrs. Vorpal. “Had a group up from New Babbage earlier today and they near cleaned me right outta the bandersnatch. Bought it right up. But I should have enough scrapin’s to fix ye up dear.”

Joseph was seated at a table as Nefertiti stood silently by the counter watching the old donair lady practice her craft.

“More money than sense like most of ‘em down there.” Mrs. Vorpal having given up on expecting any response from the taciturn pair, continued as if speaking to herself. “One of them, the skinny boy with the pretty hair, I could swear I recognized him from when I went down to New Babbage to see my son, Vernal, ordained in the church. Of course he were much younger at the time, but I remembers him ‘cause he sang a solo that went straight to me old heart. But I didn’t make the connection at the time. I wish I could remember his name. Of course, he was much younger then, such a sweet soprano he was.”

Joseph looked up suddenly, his eyes alert as he processed the lady’s words. Her words reminded him of a detail that seemed at first to be only a trifling curiosity. The vial Nefertiti had stolen from the boy’s room above the Gangplank had been wrapped in church vestments. Suddenly it all made sense. Joseph spoke just loud enough to be heard, “His name is Martin Malus.”

“Eh? Could be.” Old lady Vorpal shrugged. “Here, try this.” she said as she finished rolling the spiced bandersnatch into a freshly oiled flatbread. “See if that be to your likin.’”

Nefertiti reached out and took it.  She examined the donair with an objective eye, conveying the impression of one well versed in the study of dubious meat. She gave it a sniff and cocked her head to the side with narrowed eyes. She licked her lips in a decidedly serpentine fashion before taking it for the final test. With eyes now shut she bit off just enough and started to chew.

“BAH!” she turned her head and spat the bolus on the floor. “Are you trying to poison me?” 

Nefertiti lowered her hood and glared with the purest malevolence. Mrs. Vorpal’s eyes widened as she took a step back from the counter.

Perhaps she now recognizes the true nature of the danger before her, thought Joseph as he watched Nefertiti round the end of the counter and approach old Mrs. Vorpal.

“You wouldn’t hurt me,” Mrs. Vorpal’s voice held a tone of pleading. “In the name of the Builder, you wouldn’t. My son’s a father of the church.”

“Then your son is a slave to a house of lies.” Nefertiti hissed.

“Nefertiti!” Joseph saw Nefertiti smile in response to him calling her name. “No!”
Whether it was already too late, or she chose not to obey was unclear. Nefertiti, placing a hand firmly on either side of the widow’s head twisted Mrs. Vorpal’s neck in a violent torque, ending the donair lady’s long life in an instant. She then peeked over at Joseph with such a sinister sweetness, a wicked grin spreading upon her cruel grey lips. “Now we have a place to sleep.”


Spread the love


  1. Jedburgh30 Dagger Jedburgh30 Dagger April 30, 2013

    …and as a side note, I wouldn’t order a donair now.

  2. Garnet Psaltery Garnet Psaltery April 30, 2013

    At least the tea reached its destination.

Leave a Reply