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By Sarah Hapgood

Angel came into the house in the middle of the night. When Kieran woke up suddenly at around 4 a.m he knew instinctively that Angel had succeeded in getting into the building.

Kieran slipped out of bed, leaving Joby and Tamaz sleeping there. He was wearing only a long t-shirt so he pulled on his trousers and a pair of thick socks. He collected a torch on his way out of the bedroom, and then slipped down through the main body of the house like a ghost. He knew he had to get to Angel before Angel got to any of the sleeping inhabitants.

Not being able to cross water easily, Angel must have come up through the underground tunnels of Tartarus. Kieran went down into the cellar, where the trap-door was kept bolted to the shaft that ran up through the rocky outcrop on which they all sat.

Only now it was open. Kieran could see that in the dim light afforded to him by his torch, and the small high window that let in a slither of moon. Angel had smashed his way up through the wood.

“Where are you?” Kieran whispered.

Suddenly Angel lunged at him out of the gloom, knocking him backwards off his feet. Angel flung himself on him and put his hands round Kieran’s throat, squeezing Kieran’s windpipe with all his might. Angel had tried to do this once before, many many years ago, just before they had reached the Freak Colony. The difference was that then he had only meant to scare Kieran, this time he was doing it for real.

Kieran flayed around, but quickly marshalled his thought and his co-ordination. He reached up and grabbed handfuls of Angel’s hair, yanking his head down towards him. To an outsider it would have looked as though he was trying to kiss him. Instead though Kieran latched onto Angel’s left ear, and with a mighty effort tore the whole thing off with his teeth.

Angel screamed and half-crawled half-rolled across the damp floor. Kieran tried to spit out the salty, metallic thick mess of Angel’s flesh and blood and then skimmed across the floor on his stomach. He pulled down the hatch but then found, to his dismay, that of course Angel had broken the bolt. Kieran felt very weak but he pulled a heavy sack over onto it.

He then lay weak and shocked on the floor. Angel was nearby, making inhuman cries of acute pain and holding onto his head as though he feared that the whole thing would come off. Angel had come close to succeeding in strangling him. His throat was sore, and when he tried to speak he found he could only croak, as though his vocal-chords had been severed.

He wanted to cry out for help, but couldn’t. It reminded him of an old film he had seen once (probably with Joby), based on an Edgar Allen Poe story, in which a young woman was accidentally incarcerated for all eternity in a cellar, because she could make no one hear her cries.

But then he heard the dogs barking in the distance. The household had been roused. It was Lonts who came first into the cellar, almost tugged along by the gigantic hounds.

“Kieran!” he yelled, ignoring Angel entirely.

He ran across to try and help Kieran up, but Kieran couldn’t speak to tell him anything. The dogs had noticed Angel though, and had slunk back whimpering to the stone steps which led down from the kitchen.

“Just what the hell have you been doing down here?” said Bardin, looking around him in horror.

“Kieran can’t speak, Bardin”, said Lonts “We must get him upstairs, now!”

Kieran passed out for a short while, and when he came to he found himself wrapped in a blanket on the sofa in front of the fire in the library. He instinctively knew this was Joby’s doing. He tried to sit up and speak, but he croaked instead.

Bardin had been talking to Joby on the far side of the room. They both came over when they heard Kieran move.

“W-where’s Angel?” said Kieran, with a great deal of effort.

“He’s on the table in the dining-room”, said Bardin “We’ve bound him up with some iron chains Hillyard found in one of the outhouses”.

“I must speak to him”, said Kieran.

“You don’t sound like you should be speaking to anybody!” said Joby.

“I must!” said Kieran “If I don’t everything we’ve achieved so far will come to nothing!”

A few flakes of plaster came off the ceiling.

“Things like that keep happening”, said Bardin “It’s as if the house is starting to crumble around us”.

“It’s Angel trying to exert some negative energy I expect”, said Kieran “A mild version of what he did at Starhanger. Be grateful that he’s weak at the moment!”

“Are you alone?” said Angel, now trussed up on the dining-room table.

Kieran nodded. He had kept the blanket round his shoulders and was glad he had, because the room was icy. He put this down to Angel’s presence as well.

“Why don’t you just destroy me now?” said Angel “You could easily”.

“Because I know that’s what you want me to do!” Kieran croaked “I destroy you, and bring the whole Universe crashing down on us! The end of everything. I won’t do that. I would rather have a thoroughly imperfect world, even one with demons in it, then no world at all”.

“Cruel, callous bastard”, said Angel “I’m worn out, I want oblivion”.

“I’m not surprised you’re exhausted”, said Kieran “You’ve been very busy these last few years. Why have you gone to all this trouble, bringing Sade and Aleister into this time for instance, just to get at me?”

“Because if I could make you feel even an ounce of the pain I feel all the time it’d be worth it!” said Angel.

“I’ve told you time and time again that there is no need for you to feel that pain”, said Kieran “What happened with Tomce was a long time ago. You destroyed him and got your revenge. You’re not the only one who’s ever been violated”.

“I’m a fucking vampire!” Angel exclaimed “Do you seriously think you can reform me, like you did the Gorgon’s spawn?! I’m a vampire, I destroy people, that’s how I exist, and even you can’t change that!”

“And you’ve always wanted to punish me for that”, said Kieran “That’s something I’ve only just realised. Because I can’t change you. Tamaz can exist without gorgonising people, but you can’t exist without killing them. I tried to help you with the castle in the rainforest, but it was a brave experiment which has failed”.

“Then destroy me!” Angel roared “Once and for all, just do it, now!”

“NO!” said Kieran, his voice cracking under the strain “No, that I won’t do!”

“Why?” shouted Angel “And don’t give me that crap about the Universe, there’s other reasons isn’t there?”

“Because I love you”, said Kieran “Whether you like it or not, I do”.

“You’re crazy, shitface, crazy!” said Angel “I could destroy all of them out there, all the ones you slobber over all the time”.

“And that’s the other reason why I won’t destroy you”, said Kieran “Because by doing so you would destroy all them too. If you go down, everyone could go down”.

Kieran went over to the window, where the first glimmers of daylight were beginning to show. He held out his hands which were shaking. In spite of his youthful appearance he felt very old.

“You were violated as a child”, he said, without turning to face his arm-tormentor “I was rejected. They are both terrible things to happen”.

To be so utterly neglected by a parent. To know that parent would never even acknowledge you, accept that you existed, let alone have any kind of contact with you. He understood pain only too well. The difference between them was that Angel had channelled all his feelings into hate and destruction, trying to tear apart the world he despised, and Kieran had tried to blot out the pain with love, by making love the focal-point of his entire existence.

“I will help you leave”, said Kieran.

He came over and began to loosen the iron chains. A rag had been hastily stuffed under Angel’s head, and blood was congealing everywhere.

“What happened in Magnolia Cove?” Kieran asked.

“Partly destroyed”, said Angel “I lost interest in the destruction when I realised you had left the church”.

“And those demons there?” said Kieran.

“Gone underground”, said Angel “Just destroy them when you can. At least even you realise it’s no good trying to direct love at them! A word of warning though. I think they’ve been messing around, trying to breed a new race, sort of half-human half-demonic. It’s a bloody mess, they haven’t got a fucking clue!”

“Where are these creatures?” said Kieran.

“Some way below here”, said Angel “They’re kept locked up all the time. Dangerous freaks. The demons have left ‘em there to rot. They don’t want to acknowledge their mistakes”.

“How have they survived then?” said Kieran.

“By eating anything they can”, said Angel “Bits of themselves. Each other. You need to wipe them out before they breed a new generation”.

Kieran suddenly thought of the people they had seen on the shore, the ones they had thought were Sawney Beane’s ragged children.

“Have any got out?” he asked.

“I don’t know”, said Angel.

“If they have”, said Kieran “Then they’re responsible for the human remains found washed up in Zilligot Bay”.

“I hope you get out of here”, said Angel.

It was the first moderately human thing he had said since their conversation all those years ago at the Loud House. Angel had been tired and weary of it all then as well.

“I suspect we shall meet again sometime”, said Kieran, bending low to kiss his forehead “You’re free now. Go”.

“Has he gone?” said Kieran, back on the library sofa once more.

Joby nodded, and placed a pot of tea on a nearby side table.

“We heard the chains fall to the floor”, he said “We knew he’d gone then. How’s your throat?”

“Sore as hell”, said Kieran.

“It will be for a while”, said Joby “You should try not to speak too much”.

“Hah! Everyone’d like that wouldn’t they!” said Kieran.

A few hours rest was in order before the next stage was to be enacted. Just about everybody it seemed wanted to crowd into Kieran’s room to talk to him, so Joby went into the nearest empty one, which was Julian, Hillyard and Mieps’s chamber.

Joby undressed down to his underwear, and then climbed wearily into bed. Then Julian appeared.

“Can’t you sleep in the other bed?” said Joby, pointing at a narrow truckle bed on the other side of the room.

“That?” Julian exclaimed “I’m not a bloody midget you know!”

He sat down on the bed and pulled back the covers. Joby watched him warily.

“Your underwear gets even more deplorable”, said Julian.

“Sorry”, said Joby “I haven’t been able to get to the shops lately!”

Julian pulled off Joby’s rather grim-looking vest, and tossed it contemptuously aside.

“You really wouldn’t be a bad-looking fellow if you’d only take a bit of care”, said Julian.

“I work all day”, said Joby “I don’t have time to ponce myself up! Where’s Hillyard and Mieps got to?”

“Showing every sign of staying with Tinkerbell”, said Julian “I didn’t think you would want to be alone, so I came in here to take care of you”.

“Thanks!” Joby snapped.

“You have almost no seduction skills at all”, said Julian.

“You’ve got the seduction skills of a vampire!” said Joby.

Julian pulled him into a sitting position and they kissed with a kind of urgency, as though they were illicit lovers afraid of being interrupted at any moment.

About three hours later Kieran gently pulled back the covers. Joby gave a moan in his sleep.

“Been having a gay old time have you?” said Kieran, patting Joby’s bottom.

“Kiel!” Joby exclaimed “Thank God it’s you, I thought you was Julian again!”

“He’s in the bath”, said Kieran “Has he been that exhausting?”

“I feel like I’ve got a lead pipe rammed up me bum!” said Joby.

“That’s good”, said Kieran, climbing in next to him “It’ll help distract you”.

“From what?” said Joby “What are you upt o now?”

“We’re leaving here”, said Kieran “But before we go completely we have to blow up this entire rock. Incinerate it like we did Starhanger”.

“Thetis should enjoy that!” saidi Joby.

“And then”, said Kieran “Not to mince words too finely, we’ve perhaps got the hardest part of the whole journey”.

“Through the caves?” said Joby.

“Into the land of ghouls effectively”, said Kieran “And even when we get beyond that we’ve got the Horn to face again”.

“Terrific”, Joby grunted.

“It’s the only way home”, said Kieran.

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