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“We’ll be back at daybreak tomorrow morning at the very latest”, said Hillyard, who had ridden down to the galleon to inform the others what was going on “None of us has any intention of staying there any longer”.
Adam followed him to the foot of the quarterdeck steps.
“What is it about these people, Hilly?” he asked “I mean, they’re not vampires or ghouls or something utterly silly like that are they?”
“Nah, they’re just people”, said Hillyard “Bloody weird people, but just people all the same”.
“I believe this island is a living organism in its own right”, said Flavia, sitting at the head of the dusty dining-table up at the Citadel.
“As in the Gaia philosophy”, said Kieran, sounding extremely bored “The belief that the Earth is one huge living organism”.
His fellow Indigo-ites had never seen Kieran quite like this before. He was languid, barely able to rouse himself to speak. It was as if he had thrown a metaphorical blanket over himself. Then again, the meal they had just eaten would be enough to douse any likelihood of positive thought or high spirits. Smoked fish (tasting far more of smoke than of fish) and dried bread. To add insult to injury the only beverage on offer was cold tea, served from old wine-bottles. It was a revolting, soul-destroying dinner.
Seated around the table - apart from Kieran and his chums - were Flavia, Myron (he of the ubiquitous dressing-gown), and Mary. The old man was confined to bed, and of the unsightly thug who had had the showdown with Adam, there was no sign. Nor was he referred to at all.
The conversation was every bit as lacklustre as the food. Flavia did most of the talking, with just the occasional grunt from Myron. Mary didn’t say a word. She simply ate very slowly and methodically, daintily moving her food around her plate as though she was a bulldozer digging out foundations for a building.
Flavia told them that their parents had died in a cholera epidemic which had ravaged the island during their childhood 30 years before. The old man in the bed was in fact their old tutor.
“But how the hell do you support yourselves here?” asked Bardin, bluntly.
Ransey noticed that Flavia sat back in her chair and winced when Bardin spoke in his usual authoritative voice. It then occurred to him that he hadn’t heard Flavia or either of her siblings speaking above a soft murmur. Clearly noise was an unusual event round here.
“We still have some supplies”, said Flavia “And the occasional generosity of passing strangers”.
This was obviously their cue to offer her goodies from the galleon. The painful fact was though that they had just about enough to support themselves, particularly as they had no idea when they were going to reach civilisation.
“We can give you some eggs and cheese and that’s about it”, said Bardin, uneasily.
“That won’t be necessary”, said Flavia, giving them the full force of her pride.
With darkness descending quickly on the island, there seemed little chance of any dinner-party conviviality developing. Flavia told them a lot about their life there, and it seemed remarkably dull. The Citadel family just existed, going through the dreary day-to-day motions of living. To their visitors it was more of a mystery how they didn’t all perish of boredom. They showed no interest in the Indigo-ites whatsoever, not in who they were or where they came from, or even where they were going. They didn’t even show any interest in the blessing at Roddy’s cottage. It was as if, as far as they were concerned, the world began and ended at the four corners of the Citadel.
The poltergeist activity began almost immediately as the sun sank fully into the far horizon. Loud bangs and crashes, which sounded like somebody smashing a cannonball against the floor, came from the Tutor’s bedroom. Mary was suddenly galvanised into life, showing more vitality than the others would have hitherto believed possible in her. She bustled towards the stairs and impatiently indicated for the others to follow her.
Upstairs, the Tutor was still in his customary position of flat on his back with the bedcovers held in a claw-like grip. The noise all around him was deafening.
Mary’s behaviour became quite extraordinary. She went up to the old man’s bed and began to taunt him in a hectoring, bullying manner.
“Is the noise bothering you, eh eh?” she said, over and over again.
In reply the old man could only softly repeat “oh Mary Mary Mary”, as though wanting to humour her, but uncertain how.
“Alright, that’s enough”, said Kieran, firmly.
Mary assumed a disgruntled expression, but still meekly slunk back against the wall. Kieran got out his crucifix and held it aloft. Mary gave a childish snigger.
“Whatever you are”, Kieran shouted into the air “Begone from this place, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!”
There was a deafening cacophony, like a giant stamping his feet in a tantrum, but then the noise stopped, as suddenly as it had started.
“Has it gone?” said Flavia, anxiously.
“Sadly I don’t think it’s going to be as easy as that”, said Kieran “I think it’s more sort of temporarily retreated to reassess the situation. Flavia, could I speak to you alone for a moment?”
The two of them went out onto the balcony with the broken railing (much against Joby’s wishes, who didn’t trust any one of the Citadel’s inhabitants not to be a raving psychopath, capable of hurling somebody off it).
“Your sister is a very unusual woman”, said Kieran, tactfully.
“Mary could not possibly cause all this disturbance”, said Flavia, pre-empting him “She is very inoffensive”.
“I wouldn’t describe her as that!” said Kieran.
“She is very timid”, said Flavia, insistently “She runs away from confrontation, she always has. She is intensely shy. I just cannot believe she could cause anything on this level of violence”.
“Maybe not”, said Kieran, thinking that Mary could epitomise the word ’repression’.
“But I do believe”, he added “That she is drawing strength from it. Mary may not cause violence directly herself, but she could still get a kick out of it, particularly by causing it in others. She’s a lady of misrule”.
“No, no, you couldn’t be more wrong”, said Flavia, now visibly distressed “She is so demure”.
“Does she have a grievance against your old tutor?” said Kieran.
“I suspect she resents him”, said Flavia “She was always his favourite when we were children. He was very proud of her, but he was also perhaps too protective, particularly after our parents died. She wasn’t allowed to roam the island on her own, go sailing, any of the things Myron and I could do. I think she is bitter about that. But Mary was so dainty you see, so fragile”.
Kieran privately thought that it was Flavia who was physically the fragile one, but he had already seen Flavia’s pride in action, and didn’t want to ignite it again.
“If she resents anyone, then it’s all of us”, said Flavia “Because we never took our opportunities to leave the island when they arose. Whenever visitors came and offered us passage years ago, she urged us to consider it, but we wanted to stay here. She is very bitter about that too”.
“She could have left herself”, said Kieran “You don’t exactly seem to keep her manacled up in a dungeon”.
“She could indeed have done so”, said Flavia “At any time, but I guess she didn’t have the courage to do it all by herself. It takes a lot of nerve to go and face the outside world, leave behind everything you’ve ever known, all on your own … she feels we let her down, and I suppose we have. So it is our duty to make it up to her”.
Kieran couldn’t have disagreed with this diagnosis more. The spoilt monster that Mary had become was what was holding the Citadel in its zombie-like state. He concluded that they had agreed there must be no excitement, in case it got Mary worked up. That there must be no talk of anything outside the Citadel, in case it reminded Mary of what she was missing. The result? A violent poltergeist outbreak. Not deliberately controlled by Mary, but somehow some bad, negative spirit, possibly a demon, had got in and was working with her repressed energy to create chaos.
“I have to ask you a very painful question, Flavia. Was Mary abused as a child, sexually I mean?”
“Not in the way you mean”, said Flavia “She was just adored and protected too much that’s all. I guess she was never given the space to grow and forge her own identity”.
“We’re going down into the other room”, said Joby, appearing on the balcony. His nerves couldn’t take anymore of Kieran engaged in conversation in such a perilous place.
“That’s a good idea”, said Kieran, who was relieved to see him. The whole situation at the Citadel was seriously beginning to depress him.
Everyone moved into the peach-coloured room on the other side of the balcony. It looked just as enchanting by candlelight as it had by sunlight, a peaceful (in the spiritual sense) oasis in that gloomy place. They all milled around aimlessly, seemingly at a loss as to what to do next. Joby drew Kieran aside.
“What is the matter with you?” Joby whispered “You’ve been an odd bugger ever since we got to this Godforsaken place”.
“I’ll explain when we’re away from here”, said Kieran “I promise”.
He glanced at Mary, who was sitting at one end of the sofa, chewing pensively on the sleeve of her cardigan.
“She gives me the creeps, that one does”, said Joby “I keep thinking she’s gonna whip out a knife and attack us all!”
“Don’t worry”, said Kieran “That would involve her taking too much initiative!”
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