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By Sarah Hapgood

Kieran slammed into a remote corner of the kitchen, dislodging a shelf of saucepans and bashing his arm as he did so.

“Jayz, Joby!” he yelled “What are you doing?”

“I saw you out there”, Joby shouted, standing like an animal in pain “You were gonna open the door and face that creature. It would’ve probably torn you to bits, and then God know show we’d have put you together again!”

“That’s no reason to throw me around the room!” said Kieran.

“I can’t think of a better one!” said Joby.

But his rage was slowly leaving him. He turned and raked through the ashes in the stove instead.

“Somebody should have kept this going”, he said.

It all sounded crazy, but Kieran knew Joby was trying to impose order on total chaos.

“All I wanted to do was to destroy that Thing”, said Kieran.

“And yourself as well”, said Joby “It’s what you’ve wanted all along, to destroy yourself whilst saving others. It’s all part of that monstrous ego of yours”.

“No!” said Kieran “Complete sublimation of the ego is one of the things I’m trying to achieve. To bury my self”.

“Oh give it up, Kieran”, said Joby “It ent gonna work. Nobody with your special gifts is ever gonna manage that”.

“What’s going on in here?” Ransey appeared in the doorway, closely followed by Hillyard “Kieran, what’s the matter?”

“I pushed him”, said Joby.

“You brainless little thug, Joby”, said Hillyard “Sometimes I think you need a damn good hiding!”

“I know”, said Joby, miserably.

He looked so wretched that Hillyard, who never could stay out of sorts with Joby for long, felt quite protective.

“There’s no need to take things out on Kieran though”, he said, trying to stay stern.

“He was gonna face that Thing out there!” Joby protested “What am I spose to do, just stand by and let him?”

“What I was going to say”, said Kieran, pulling himself away from the wall “Is that no I don’t want to destroy myself saving people. What I want most of all is to live quietly with you. But in the meantime we’ve got that Creature out there determined to destroy everyone!”

“It won’t”, said Ransey “The important thing is to not let it destroy anyone PSCYHOLOGICALLY. Once it gets into people’s minds, it can wreck all sorts of havoc. It seems to be doing it already!”

“Let’s get some coffee sorted out”, said Hillyard, looking around him for the requisite items “Adam’d appreciate that. He’s got Bardin on his hands, beating himself up for letting the rope-bridge be destroyed”.

“That needs to be nipped in the bud”, said Ransey “He should be showing strength at this time, not anxiety”.

“Adam’ll sort him out”, said Hillyard “Hey, when all this is over, us 4 should have sex”.

“Well that’ll be novelty won’t it!” said Joby.

“The thought of it’s keeping me going I can tell you that!” said Hillyard.

Adam broke off from nursing Tamaz at the back of the chapel, to steer Bardin into the hallway for a talking-to. Bengo followed gravely behind, with a blanket to put around Bardin’s shoulders.

“I will not, I will NOT, watch you giving yourself a hard time!” said Adam “We get quite enough of that from Patsy!”

The harsh winds were whistling through the jagged gaps in the main doors, and causing the night-lights in their wall holders to flicker. Bardin suddenly felt very tired, and with an overwhelming desire for it all to be over.

“There’s no need to tell me off”, he said, sulkily.

“Well it seems like there’s every need”, said Adam, and he gave Bardin a couple of loud smacks on his rear “And when all this is over, I shall take your trousers down and do it properly!”

He turned and went smartly back into the chapel. Bardin was left feeling like a reprimanded little boy, and he wanted to cry.

“Damnit!” he said, as Bengo tenderly wrapped the blanket around him “S’not fair!”

Ransey and the other 3 came out of the kitchen, bearing trays of hot coffee. Bardin was annoyed that he had been caught in this emotional state.

“We need to get someone to put some wood over the door”, he said, squaring his shoulders.

“That should have been done by now”, said Ransey, reprovingly.

“Well how come you didn’t mention it before then!” Bardin snapped back.

Whilst the door was being reinforced with wooden shelves from the Arch-Pater’s study, Bengo went into the kitchen and opened some tins of cold meat to make into rolls for everyone. “What’s the boot face for?” said Ransey, when Bengo slammed a plate down next to him.

“Stop giving Bardy a hard time”, said Bengo.

“I happen to think he’s doing a fine job”, said Ransey.

“It might be nice if you told him that”, said Bengo.

“I shall”, said Ransey “When all this is over”.

“It seems to me that a helluva lot’s gonna happen when all this is over!” Bengo retorted.

The sound of hammering from the hallway disturbed Lady Pegotty, who had been dozing on a pew nearby. She woke up with a start. Adam apologised.

“I sometimes think WE’RE causing more havoc than the demon!” he said.

“But I doubt it will keep the creature out”, said Pegotty.

“Maybe not”, Adam sighed.

He felt a bit impatient with her. As far as he was concerned, the Arch-Pater was in charge of the monks, it was his (Adam’s) job to keep the Indigo-ites in order, and Lady Pegotty’s to control the Islanders with her usual impeccable strictness. It would be no good if she suddenly started getting despondent on him.

“I think we’d better keep the coffee coming”, said Adam.

He went out into the foyer, where Lonts was helping Rumble and Hal to fix the planks over the door, watched by Bardin.

“There’s blood on the doorknobs”, Lonts exclaimed “It’s suddenly appeared there”.

“Oh don’t worry about that”, Kieran called out “That’s an old trick. They might appear on the statues in the chapel next”.

“I think you should go and warn the Arch-Pater of that, Patsy”, said Adam.

Kieran did so, but virtually in passing, as he had noticed the flame of the wall-lamp at the library end of the foyer, ha turned blue. That could only mean one thing. He went into the library, which was bitterly cold, with the winds whistling through the badly-fitted windows. He stalked the stacks until the located Angel at the far end of the room.

Angel was sitting so far back in the corner that he was almost completely in shadow. The brief glimpses Kieran got of him in the moonlight were shocking. He looked like a skeleton, and a skeleton festooned with some strange black, cobwebby material. Kieran had seen him look rough before, but never as ghoulish as this.

“Where do you hang out these days?” asked Kieran, thinking of graveyards.

“The Cursed Isle”, said Angel.

“What in blue blazes do you want to live in that hell-hole for?” said Kieran.

“I feel I belong there”, said Angel.

“You’re not helping them to get out are you?” said Kieran.

“Do you want me to rid you of that Thing out there?” said Angel, abruptly.

“Yes”, said Kieran, even more abruptly.

He sat down opposite him, but Angel shrank back from too much scrutiny.

“I take it YOU didn’t send it to us?” said Kieran.

“No”, said Angel “And it wasn’t the Lebiccan government either. They don’t believe in ANYTHING, good or evil. There are a cult of devil-worshippers in The Village of Stairs, set up to rival the cult around you. They’ve been polluting the countryside around here. They think they’re appeasing me, but I couldn’t give a shit. I’m in retirement, just like you want to be. An eternal life of destruction wears you down in the end”.

“You’ve not been feeding much?” said Kieran, looking at Angel’s emaciated form.

“I don’t have much appetite these days”, said Angel “I’ve told you, I’m in retirement. I don’t see the point anymore of just endlessly feeding, of only existing - for all eternity - just to feed. Perhaps that’s partly why I’ve retreated to The Cursed Isle, there’s nothing there to tempt me!”

Kieran sensed the short conversation was at an end. He didn’t want to risk alienating Angel at this crucial moment, so he got up to leave. Before he turned to leave though he paused and asked:

“Why are you helping me?”

“Perhaps”, said Angel “Because you’re the only being in the Universe I can have a proper conversation with”.

Kieran had barely got back to the chapel doorway, when the whole building began to shake violently. It was as if a bad-tempered adult had picked up a child’s dolls house and rattled it about. For one appalling moment Kieran thought Angel had tricked him, the most diabolical trick he had ever played, and Kieran slumped against the doorpost in despair.

The moment was mercifully only fleeting though. The shaking subsided and was followed by a noise like the loudest thunderclap imaginable. Somebody screamed in terror, but afterwards there was a perfect stillness.

“It’s gone”, said Lady Pegotty at last “Can’t you tell? That terrible smell is going”.

“I don’t know how you did it, Kieran”, said the Arch-Pater, at daybreak.

“Well it wasn’t strictly my doing”, said Kieran.

“No of course, of course”, said the Arch-Pater, getting the wrong end of the stick entirely “We will hold a service later and give thanks to the Almighty for His care”.

Kieran didn’t have the energy to argue with this, and anyway he knew that the Arch-Pater would never get his head round the idea that the Devil had been at large in his monastery, let alone the fact that Kieran had worked with him to destroy the demon.

“Do you have to go back to the galleon NOW?” Mabel-Ann asked Joby.

“Yeah”, said Joby “We all need a wash and a brush-up for one thing, and a shave. Hoowie looks even more like a werewolf than ever!”

“Let alone some sleep, Joby “, Lonts put in.

“That more ’en anything!” said Joby.

“Will you come back up here today?” said Mabel-Ann.

“I’m not promising anything”, said Joby “Everyone needs a rest now”.

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