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By Sarah Hapgood

“Are you a Gorgon?” asked Kieran, standing to the fore and staring intently at the huge, shapeless mass, which seemed to be little more than a cackling bundle of garments.

“Wouldn’t that be telling”, the creature cackled. Kieran turned to address Bardin.

“I think it’s probably for the best if you all left the room”, he said.

“Like hell”, said Bardin “The others can. I’ll take the risk”.

“You damn well won’t!” said Bengo.

The shapeless lump cackled again, sounding even more asthmatic this time. Bardin suddenly had the realisation that this scene could get very boring if it was allowed to continue much longer. The shapeless lump would taunt and banter with them interminably, and they would get nowhere. Meanwhile, God-knows-what would going on in the rest of the castle.

So he pulled his gun out of his holster and fired it in the direction of the veiled head. The creature stopped in mid-cackle, and slumped further down into the mound of cushions on which it had been nesting.

“Heh”, it muttered with its dying breath “Sleet Cold. You won’t defeat her”.

“OK, everybody else leave the room for a moment now”, said Kieran.

“Why?” said Joby “What are you gonna do?”

“I’m going to take a peek under the veil”, said Kieran “Probably best if you lot don’t hang around, just in case”.

Everyone sighed, but stepped outside the door. Kieran went over to the shapeless corpse, and gingerly lifted the veil.

“Jaysus Christ”, he muttered, and let it drop back into place again.

He walked over to the door and opened it.

“You can come back in”, he said “But don’t look at that creature”.

“What was it?” said Bengo.

“There’ll be time enough for that later”, said Kieran “Let’s sound out the rest of the place, and Be Alert at all times. It’s awash with demons. I suspect minor ones, like the one that tried to kill Matthew, but demons nonetheless”.

They prowled the gloomy house, seeking out signs of life. At one point Bengo pulled back the curtain covering a wall-niche, which disclosed a frighteningly realistic statue of a woman in anguish.

“Is that …. Was that one of her victims?” he asked.

“Quite possibly”, said Kieran.

“I can hear something in the distance”, said Bardin.

They followed the noise round a maze of dark, narrow corridors, until they came to a flight of metal steps leading downwards.

“OK, cautious does it”, said Kieran.

They filed down the steps, the unholy racket getting closer all the while. At the bottom was a large pen, crammed with a writhing mass of living beings. With no room to spare the bodies were crammed in next to each other, like a human batter farm. Rats crawled over them. Many were trying to reach up to the iron bars that ran overhead. Some just lay motionless and passive, as if all the urge to live had been drained out of them.

“What the hell do we do?” said Bardin, staring down at them, boggle-eyed “We can’t let them out, they’ve gone insane”.

“They’d tear us to pieces”, said Bengo.

The shrieking was unbearable.

“It’s a human abattoir”, said Kieran “Humans kept here until they were ready for consuming. We can’t help the. It’s too late. We have to put them out of their misery”.

“How?” Joby asked “If you think I’m gonna stand here and gun this lot down you can think again”.

“We haven’t got enough ammo with us for that anyway”, said Ransey.

“My God!” said Bengo, covering his face with his hands.

“If there was some way of drugging them …” said Bardin.

“Is there anyone here who can understand what I’m saying?” Kieran shouted down at the captives.

The din became even more deafening. The people, desperate for sustenance, clawed at the walls and the bars.

“They want to eat us”, said Bengo, in disbelief “They’re like zombies”.

“They are zombies, effectively”, said Kieran “They’ve been here for so long this is all they know”.

“I think we might have to do Old Faithful”, said Bardin “And torch the place. Don’t look at me like that, Bengo. What choice do we have? We can’t let them out”.

“I know”, said Bengo, quietly.

“Let’s go and find some materials”, said Ransey “There’s no point in prolonging this”.

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