Famous Ashfordians No. 3 - The Marvellous Marjoram Mouse

Tom Davies

The only sin is the sin of being born -
Samuel Beckett

There had been rumours of unusual events occurring throughout the day. The gardeners at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford reported an atypical silence amongst the wildlife within the grounds. Birds gripped their branches, as still as twigs. A dray of squirrels scuttled up the drainpipes outside the maternity wing, hopping like puffs of smoke from one windowsill to the next, peering en masse through the panes of glass. The caretaker's old, half-lame Manx cat dragged himself from his basket and swayed mournfully into the middle of the main road. A passerby remarked that the feline didn't blink as the tyres on the bus went over his body.

When questioned later after his recovery, the orderly remembered that the screaming from the maternity ward had begun shortly after 3pm. He immediately recognized the screams as being qualitatively different from those emitted during a normal birth. They were screams of rage and disappointment and disgust, and they heralded the birth of the boy, Marjoram.

As the orderly reached the ward, the doors slowly and stutteringly pushed outwards, as if something short and powerful were leaning against them. A face appeared low in the crack of the opening doors: smooth, wet and stained red, with a viscous caul hanging off it. Tufted with down, with an elongated face, the figure cried and coughed and never took its eyes off the orderly, blinking as if it were underwater. It pushed the doors open and fell through onto its potbelly, naked and strong and a foot high. Behind the baby, a silhouette ran away down the corridor and a new mother dragged herself from a cubicle by her fingertips. The baby righted itself and then sat on its haunches. Outside the hospital, the howling of animals began. The orderly saw the concealed scalpel too late.

The police were called but the boy was last seen tottering down towards the cancer ward, sniffing the air hungrily. His mother disappeared screaming and bleeding into the crowds outside, never to be heard from again.

It was said he lived in the air ducts and in the grime and darkness and the dripping pipes of the basement, and in the spaces between the walls. Boys and girls in the children's wing would tell nursing staff that during the night a fat, pale, sweating child with a long face had crept out of the ceiling and dropped to the floor, entertaining them with a soft and skillful tap dance, his naked clubbed feet clopping quietly on the linoleum floor. He produced flowers and beetles and coins from up the sleeves of his ragged white laboratory coat. The new arrival would display tricks and sleight of hand magic, making signed business cards appear inside sick children's mouths so they gagged and giggled at the same time. The cards were small oblongs with roughly torn edges, fashioned from cladding or insulation. They bore the name 'Marvellous Marjoram' in thickly penciled italics. The nursing staff, remembering the occurrences some years earlier, called in the medical authorities, who temporarily re-housed the young patients and fumigated the entire structure. For good measure, they shut dogs in the basement overnight without any food. All was quiet for some months before children started to go missing.

He was last seen high on the hospital roof, a small shinbone held between his snarling teeth as he leapt from chimney to chimney, pistol shots tinking the brickwork around him. News cameras caught him atop the highest pot, his white coat flapping in the harsh winds. The camera zooms in as a constable loses his footing and slides slowly, inevitably down the roof. The child Marjoram throws a tiny skull that bounces off the constable's head as he slides to his death. The camera finds Marjoram's face once more; we see wiry whiskers starting to matt his cheeks. His teeth are protuberances, yellow and dank. His huge dark eyes never blink, and he bows, taking the shrieks and screams and hate-filled baying of the crowd below as applause of the rarest and most welcome kind. His smile reaches halfway around his head. Then another pistol shot cracks off the tiles and he is gone.

© Tom Davies 2013 All Rights Reserved

Date and time of last update 09:51 Thu 05 Sep 2013
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