Christmas was over, and the lights in the streets now hung ready in waiting for the New Year. The garlands of holly and mistletoe in shop doorways and windows were beginning to look decidedly ragged, as though the festive spirit had departed with the last holiday, and the decorations themselves would now much rather fall into decay. The icy cold of the earlier weeks had faded, and the much lauded White Christmas had never materialised. There was an air of disappointment, as though the citizens of London had somehow been cheated out of a Great Event. They thought little of the misery the snow and ice could bring to their fellow city dwellers; the ones who were less well off, or the ones who didn't so much as have a roof over their heads. All that they cared about was their holiday, and the age-old romance and magic of the legendary White Christmas. That was spoiled now, and everywhere felt miserable and tired. The holiday had lingered too long, and now everybody wanted the New Year to be done with, so that life could go back to normal. The city felt more dead than alive.

Simon Thacker, a factory owner with a large townhouse, a larger mortgage, and an even larger wife, returned home late one night after yet another in a string of work-related end of year parties. It had been a deeply embarrassing affair, as such events were destined always to be, and he had slipped out before the end. His secretary had been flirting shamelessly with one of the partners, batting over-painted eyelashes at him right in front of his wife, and Thacker had chosen that moment to make his way quietly to the door. By now, he had no doubt, it would have descended into the usual half-hearted arguments and drunken brawls. It was probably about time for the inter-department champagne drinking contest, and that Thacker could well do without. He had won several such contests in his time, but those had all taken place years ago when the idea had still been fun. He could drink until the small hours then, and wake up with a head still attached to his shoulders. Now he could barely drink three glasses without regretting it.

The gate outside his house needed oiling, and he made a mental note to fix it the next morning, preferably before his wife threatened to get the builders in for a proper inspection. There were rather a lot of jobs that needed doing, but he couldn't be bothered with most of them. So what if the floorboards in the attic were loose; he never went up there, so what did it matter? So what if one of the downstairs windows was in need of replacing, and wouldn't shut properly; it was far too small for anybody bigger than a Yorkshire Terrier to get through, so why worry? He smiled at the thought. His wife had worried about that one for weeks, but he had put her mind at rest with a little demonstration. Nothing could get through that window. Nothing.

He was whistling as he opened the front door, largely to let his wife know that it was him, and not a mass-murderer, who was entering. She always asked anyway. Her voice would come quavering down the stairs.

"Is that you, Simon?" to which he would always reply in some suitably sarcastic vein. Did she really expect a thief or a murderer to announce his presence? Especially to her less-than-threatening query. Tonight though, as he closed and locked the door behind him and pulled off his coat, there was no voice from upstairs. Good. With a bit of luck she was asleep, and he could read another chapter of his book before he went up to join her. He had just got to rather a good part, where the hero was about to come face to face with his nemesis for the first time. Real heart-in-the-mouth stuff, especially for a factory owner who didn't get much more excitement in his life than the annual tax inspection. He headed towards the lounge and pushed the door open.

Almost at once he knew that something was wrong. There was a strange feel to the room; an unnatural stillness. The desk lamp was off, which was unusual in itself. His wife always left it on, so that thieves would think that somebody was still up and about. He headed towards it, wondering if the bulb had run out. Halfway there he smelt something, and came to a halt.

It was an odd smell, slightly salty with a hint of metal. He stopped, puzzled. He knew the smell. He was sure that he knew it; that he should know what it was. He frowned, then realised in a sudden chill of unhappy recognition. It was blood. It was the smell he had grown up surrounded by in his father's butcher's shop. It was the smell he had become all too familiar with as a young man serving in the army in 1945. He took a step forward, reaching blindly out in the darkness, until his hands struck something soft. Whatever it was did not feel cold, but it did not have the warm feel to it of something that was alive, or even something that had only recently died. He fumbled for the desk lamp and his fingers brushed shards of broken glass, and pieces of the broken base. It was as though the lamp had been at the centre of some terrible struggle.

With fear spurring him onward he fumbled in his pockets for a match, striking it against the box with hands that did not want to do his bidding. A flame burst into life and he held it aloft, waiting for the images to fall into place in his dizzied brain. He knew what he would see before he saw it, and he moved forward slowly.

His wife lay across the desk at the side of the room, her body twisted and pulled out of shape. He knew at once that she was dead, but he checked nonetheless, feeling for the pulse that was long stilled, looking for some reassurance that he knew wouldn't be there. There was nothing. He reached out, touching her face, searching for some understanding. Heart attack? No, that couldn't be right. He had smelt blood.

He turned her face towards him, and stared into wide open, glassy grey eyes. She looked as though she were pleading with him; with him, or with somebody else. Somebody who must have been with her when she died. A shiver ran down Thacker's spine, and not understanding his motives, save for a desire to say goodbye to the woman he had lived with for some thirty years, he leaned forward. He stopped. There was something around his wife's mouth, something that filled it and dribbled out of its corners; or at least, something that had dribbled out before it had congealed. He reached out to touch it, and drew back at its sticky touch. Her mouth was full of blood, clotting, drying now, into a dark red mess that clung to his fingers. He shuddered, and his eyes travelled down her body. Sticking out of her chest, about where her heart lay, was a wooden stake. It looked as though it had been expertly carved out of wood, tapering to a point that must have been savage indeed to have pierced her body in that manner. He reached out to touch it, horrified, fascinated, and failed to hear the sounds of floorboards creaking behind him. He felt a shudder run through his frame, then realised that he was cold; suddenly, deeply cold. He wanted to run. He wanted to get far away, to where there was light and warmth, and where somebody could tell him that he was dreaming, and that his wife was okay. He turned. A shadow fell across his face, and for a moment he thought that it was somebody outside, passing by the windows, before he caught a glimpse of eyes that seemed almost to glow. A strangled cry tried to escape from his mouth, only to fail and die before it was born. He looked down. Something was emerging from his chest; something long and wooden. He frowned. It hurt. It hurt a lot. That was the last thing that he thought of before he fell to the ground; that and the distant realisation that he was never going to finish reading his book.


The doorbell rang persistently, followed by a heavy, thumping assault on the door itself. It went on, the frame shuddering in protest, and the glass set into the wood of the door vibrated in answer. Upstairs, alone in his library, Rupert Giles leaned out of the window and stared down at the visitor. He got a glimpse of a greying head topping a dark grey suit and what looked like a pair of cheap black shoes. He sighed.

"There you are." There was real anger in the visitor's voice as he tipped his head back to look up at the young man gazing down at him. "Turn that bloody racket down, can't you?"

"What bloody racket?" Giles glanced back into the room as though looking for something, then widened his eyes in sudden understanding. "Oh! You mean the music?"

"Of course I mean the music!" Rage flared in the eyes upturned to his. "I'm warning you, you little hooligan. One of these days you're going to push me too far, do you hear? I'm going to call the police, and then we'll see which side of your face you're laughing on. I've had enough!"

"Then move." Giles ducked back in through the window and cranked the volume of his record player up another few notches. The resulting wash of sound was nearly enough to hurt his head, but it was worth it to annoy Barry Sanders a little more. Sanders had moved in down the road a fortnight earlier, and had spent every waking moment since then complaining to his new neighbours. He didn't like their music, he didn't like the fact that none of them ever seemed to go to work, he didn't like their late night parties or their chosen friends and associates, he didn't like the way they dressed and the hours they kept, and he hated the fact that they were living in a beautiful old mansion he would very much have liked to own himself. In short he was a moaner, and Giles disliked him intensely. He wondered if there was something handy that he could drop on the older man's head, but the only things readily available were his books. He was not about to throw one of them out of the window.

"I'm warning you!" Sanders' voice came faintly over the sound of Roger Daltrey's raucous tones. Giles growled. The song was just getting to his favourite bit, too. He pulled the window shut with a bang, and turned the player up even louder. He could feel the floorboards beneath him begin to vibrate under the assault of pounding sound waves. He grinned. Now that was cool. He could imagine the look on Sanders face; could visualise the reddening of his neck and the way that his veins stood out. The song began to build to a crescendo, and he leaned back against the nearest bookcase and closed his eyes.

Downstairs, as he waited on the garden path, the sound of footsteps made Sanders turn. He was fully expecting to see some other member of the household, and it was in full readiness for battle that he whirled about, fists clenched in demonstration of his indignant fury. His eyes met with those of a man his own age, with greying hair and a flannel suit. He frowned, thrown by the unexpected presence of the man, his words of threat and bluster coming to a jolting halt in his mouth before they had even begun.

"Do you live here?" he asked, trying to keep up the threatening façade; or, at least, the façade that he believed to be threatening. The man laughed.

"Good God no." His eyes travelled up to the window above, which was almost bending and swaying in time to the rhythm of the music. "Let me guess; you're one of the neighbours?"

"For my sins, yes." Sanders put on an expression of utter exhaustion, as though it were all too much for him. "The estate agent never told me about this place. What is it? A remand home?"

"Not exactly." The new arrival felt in his pocket and pulled out a black wallet, which he flipped open to show to Sanders. "Wilkes, CID. Just let me deal with this."

"Really?" Sanders' eyes lit up. "Are you going to arrest the little creeps?"

"Not exactly." Wilkes walked up to the front door, twisting the knob with a look of clear confidence. As he had expected it turned easily. Giles and his friends never locked their front door these days; they didn't need to. There were few enough people who would walk willingly into that house unless invited.

"It's pretty dark and gloomy in there." Sounding unimpressed, Sanders pushed forward. Wilkes pushed him back again.

"Stay here." He saw the look of disappointment on the other man's face, but ignored it and pressed on inside.

Just as Sanders had observed, it was dark in the house. Wilkes had thought that he was used to it, but even so the hairs on the back of his neck tingled as he made his way to the stairs and began to climb. The steps did not creak, which made matters somehow worse. It would have been better if there had been some noise, no matter how creepy, just to dispel the unworldly feeling of the place.

He made a guess as to which door to open, based largely on his estimation of which window the noise had been coming from, and tried the handle. Unlocked, which again didn't surprise him. It looked as though the occupant of the room was alone in the house too, which was always good for morale. He pushed the door open, looking inside.

Rupert Giles lay on the floor, books spread around him like offerings to some recumbent god. His eyes were closed, his lips moving silently to the lyrics of the song currently playing. His head moved slowly, overcome by the beat and the music, and he did not seem to have noticed the approach of the policeman. Wilkes smirked, and with great relish he dragged the plug from the socket in the wall. There was a scratching sound as the record came to an abrupt halt, and with a yell of rage Giles leapt to his feet.

"What the hell-?!" He saw Wilkes, and his eyes blazed. "Are you nuts? That's my favourite record!" He went to the player to check for any visible scratches, then turned on his visitor again. "You have got some nerve, copper. No one interrupts Cream. That was Strange Brew, and it was just coming to the bit where--" He broke off, staring past Wilkes. "What are you looking at, jerk?"

Sanders, looking about him with interest, was standing in the doorway. Whatever he had been expecting to see in his favourite Den of Iniquity, clearly a well-stocked library was not at the top of the list. He stared about at the collection of leather-bound masterpieces with the gold print still shining on their spines; at the shelf of what appeared to be first edition encyclopaedias and at the tall shelves brimming with every imaginable size of book. He tore his eyes away with difficulty and glared at Giles.

"Don't you talk to me like that."

"I'll talk to you how I like, jerk. You're trespassing." Giles kicked the door, slamming it shut in his neighbour's face, then turned back to Wilkes. "You didn't tell me what you're doing here. You're supposed to have a warrant if you want to come in. Remember?"

"I remember. I just thought we'd got past the warrant stage by now. I wanted to talk to you." Glancing at the books on the surface of the table, Wilkes pushed them aside and sat down on the scarred wooden surface. There was a beer bottle, long empty, which rested on the floor by his foot, and he tried not to think about what the green concoction currently housed within it might be. He thought that he caught sight of bubbles rising up within it. "I could arrest you for disturbing the peace."

"Big deal. I'd be out before you'd finished crossing the T's in the arrest report, and you know it." Turning his back on the policeman, Giles headed towards the power point in the wall, reaching down to plug his record player back in. Wilkes hopped to his feet, crossing to the player before it could burst back into life, and snatched the disk from the turntable. He grinned at the angry face of the young man before him.

"Interesting. No label on this record. Is that legal?"

"It came off." Giles was glaring hard enough to turn back many a less determined foe, but Wilkes merely laughed.

"Sure it did. Maybe I should get in touch with the manufacturers and ask them if this collection was ever actually available for sale. What do you think they'd say?"

"Who gives a damn?" The younger man leaned against the nearest bookshelf, arms folded. "What do you want, huh? More trouble with things that go bump in the night? Weird things happening you think you can blame on us?"

"Oh grow up, Giles. That tough talk doesn't work on me. Save it for the street gangs you rip up when you're bored." Wilkes sighed, handing back the record. "Look, I wouldn't come here asking for your help if I had any choice whatsoever. Something has come up, and the Met isn't exactly equipped to deal with it. Understand?"

"Meaning something creepy is going on, and you'd rather risk me and my friends than your fancy-boys in blue?" Giles shook his head. "I've told you before, man; if it's big and bad, I don't wanna stop it. Remember? We're the bad guys here."

"You're not the big league troublemaker you like to think you are. You're just a small time jerk with an attitude problem, Ripper." Wilkes managed to turn the well-earned nickname into an insult, and Giles' eyes burned with rage in response. That was the sort of jibe likely to get a man killed, at least if the Ripper had anything to say about it; which he usually did. Wilkes was already holding up his hands to forestall the flow of objections. "And don't go trying to impress me by boasting about all the big bad things you've been up to recently. I'd only have to arrest you." He sighed. "Look, I just thought you and your friends were the people to handle this, that's all. There's been trouble, and it looks like your kind of thing. Meet me…" He glanced at his watch. "Meet me in an hour at the café down the road. Witch's Brew? The one that your friend Carvey runs as a front for his pushing." He smirked. "See? I know more than you know."

"I'll be there if I feel like it." Giles headed back to his record player, the conversation over, and put the disk back on the turntable. The abandoned song started up almost immediately, beginning once more at the beginning. Wilkes listened for a moment before he pulled the door shut. It had a certain something, he had to admit. He headed down the stairs, looking out for Sanders on his way down, but of the other man there was no sign. He smiled at that; it was a definite relief. He couldn't help thinking that, for all his disapproval and dislike of Giles and his confederates, he would have been tempted to act in a similar way when faced with a neighbour like that one.

The street outside was bare and clear, and he headed off down the road with a spring in his step. He knew that Giles was watching him out of the window, and he knew that he had caught the younger man's interest. Giles would help; or, at the very least, would be sure to give him a few leads. The pair hated each other, but Wilkes knew by now how to handle the kid. He was a troublemaker, he was violent, and he was clearly a danger to the public; but he had a certain childishness about him; a petulance that could turn him in the blink of an eye from a dangerous and very real threat to a sulky and boastful yob. Wilkes was sure that he could keep him in line. The policeman's confused brain had begun to overload on the unexplained events of the last few months, and as time went by he became increasingly sure of himself, and increasingly determined. There had been a reason for his fear of Giles, he was sure of it; but he no longer believed in magic, despite all that he had seen. His mind had rejected the concept. Without magic, there was no reason to fear a loudmouthed kid with a violent streak. No; he could handle Rupert Giles, and he could handle all of the chaos that usually followed in his wake - he was certain of that. So certain that he was prepared to stake his life on it.


"I really don't see the point in us all being here." Randall James, the most accomplished troublemaker of all the people living in the old house, leaned back in his chair until it appeared to be in imminent danger of falling over. He rested his feet on the table, amidst a cluttering of coffee cups and week old crumbs. Witch's Brew would not have won any awards for hygiene, but fortunately for the proprietor nobody bothered to inspect it. "Wilkesy said he wanted to speak to you, man."

"He said he needed our help." Ethan Rayne, devoted student of the black arts and self-appointed leader of the group, knocked Randall's booted feet aside. His companion's chair rocked dangerously as a result, but he managed to stay upright. "If one of us is in this, so are we all."

"Randall's got a point though. I mean, the guy's a cop. He's been causing us trouble for months now, ever since he got mixed up in our little gang war." Thomas Sutcliff, former medical student and now well-practised loser, whose long hair was less the result of a desire to be fashionable than just sheer laziness on his part, puffed at the cigarette held loosely between his lips. A fluttering of ash tumbled from it as he spoke, showering down on the mug of half-cold coffee in his lap. He sighed. "We'd have got places if it wasn't for him hanging on us like a shadow."

"We'd get someplace if you'd do a little more all day than suck cigarettes and chase girls in the park." Deirdre Page, the sole female member of the gang, began to roll her own cigarette, one with something a little stronger than mere tobacco inside. "Giles and Ethan and I are working our butts off trying to find out everything we need to know, to learn everything that we need, and all you three do is sit about looking useless."

"We get the money." Philip Henry grinned at her, digging out a cigarette lighter as a peace offering. "If it wasn't for us, and our unsurpassable skills at breaking and entering, you wouldn't have the dough to buy your grass." She glared at him, and ignored his offered flame. Instead she clicked her fingers and lit the joint from the flame that burst momentarily from her fingertip. A cloud of smoke issued forth from her lips as she took her first drag.

"It's your fault that I can't give up then, isn't it," she shot back. He scowled, and stubbed his own cigarette out on the scarred Formica of the tabletop.

"Ladies and gentlemen? Please?" Ethan, sitting suddenly upright, gestured behind them. "Our guest has arrived." He dragged his chair aside to make room for Wilkes between himself and Giles. "Hello, Wilkesy."

"Cut the pleasantries, Rayne. I'm hardly here by choice." Wilkes lowered himself into the chair, trying to ignore the clouds of smoke rising from intermittent points about the table. He found himself sitting directly opposite Deirdre Page, and altered his position so as not to look into her deep eyes. They had a faintly hypnotic quality about them, as though something was going on in their darkest recesses that he absolutely did not want to know about. He thought that he remembered being scared of her once, but it felt like a long time ago now. Things had been quiet for so long… He smiled to himself. Had he really believed that these kids were mixed up in demons and black magic? What could he have been thinking?

"So why are you here?" Randall asked, earning a look of true distaste. Randall James was not Harold Wilkes' favourite person. He had a list of convictions a mile long, but had not served any time since a spell in a young offenders' institute as a child. Wilkes would have loved to have locked him up and thrown away the key. Somewhere in London there was a young policeman who would spend the rest of his life in special care thanks to Randall James. Nothing had ever been proved of course, but Wilkes knew that it was James who had hit him. Repeatedly. He forced a smile, thinking hard about how much he needed these people. They were the ones with all the contacts, after all. They were the ones with the knowledge. Just because he had abandoned his own tenuous beliefs in black magic didn't mean that he was above using people who still did believe.

"Four couples." He hefted a briefcase onto the table and clicked it open, extracting four files. "All killed by a wooden stake through the heart." He opened the top file and skimmed it along the table to Giles, then put the briefcase away. Giles, intrigued, swept a cascade of mugs and old plates onto the floor with one arm, clearing a space for the files.

"Stakes?" Ethan frowned, reaching for another of the files. "So you're thinking what? Vampires?"

"Don't be stupid. But this is a cult thing, right? It has to be. And you're the people who deal in this kind of stuff." Wilkes leaned back in his chair, the better to avoid Deirdre's marijuana smoke, and folded his arms. "What do you think?"

"Definitely not vampires." Giles tapped on the file with his fingers, pointing to a photograph of the first couple to be found. "If they were vampires there'd be no bodies. Vampires sort of… explode. You stake them, they vanish. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, that sort of thing. Only instant." Wilkes stared at him as though wondering whether or not to take him seriously, then shrugged.

"Whatever. So does this mean anything to you?"

"Sure." Giles sighed. "It could be that somebody genuinely thought they were vampires, but if that's the case then they don't know much about the subject, clearly." He frowned at something else in the file. "Were they all found with their mouths full of blood?"

"Every one of them." Wilkes winced. "This case is truly unpleasant. I have the Flying Squad breathing down my neck, and half a dozen MPs asking for regular updates. Speed is of the essence."

"Yeah, well tell that to the denizens of hell." Giles flipped through another of the files. "It could be vampires actually doing the killing. Maybe they're narked at what people keep doing to them. On the other hand, we could be talking ritual. This could be for a spell, or it could be for a demon summoning. It could be part of an offering to something." He frowned. "I dunno. Maybe it was us." He grinned at Ethan, who grinned back.

"Yeah," he said cheerfully. "We've got that cupboard full of wooden stakes back home. Seemed a shame to waste 'em."

"You're sick." Wilkes reached for his briefcase, but Giles caught his wrist, stilling his hand.

"Take it easy, Wilkesy. We're just having a little fun." He studied the file before him a little more closely. "Each house was sealed, right? Locked from the inside."

"That's right." Wilkes had narrowed his eyes. "Are you on to something?"

"Locked doors, locked windows. Usually means you're dealing with something not of this world. Something that comes under the claws and teeth category, 'cept that they don't usually go for stakes in a big way." He frowned. "We're probably talking demon. Did any of these people have any dealings with the black arts?"

"A politician and his wife, a leading businessman and his wife, a local factory owner and his wife and a pair of titled nobodies." Wilkes glared at him. "We're not exactly dealing with drunken layabouts like you lot. These were respectable people. People who got invited to parties. People who knew all the proper people. People who had standing, reputations, positions." He sighed. "Everything has to be about magic with you lot, doesn't it."

"After all that you've seen you're going to deny that it's a possibility?" Ethan frowned. Scratch that, his mind told him. He had seen plenty of evidence of the Selective Memory Phenomenon over the last few months, and if Wilkes wanted to believe that there was no such thing as magic, let him. They would probably be the better for it. He sighed. "You're going to have to give us some time to look into this. We'll need access to the scenes of the crimes, we'll need the murder weapons…" He glanced over at Giles. "We're also going to need to be kept informed. As soon as anything else comes in, we have to know about it. Maybe we can second guess them, try and work out who'll be next."

"Fine." Wilkes stood up, retrieving his briefcase. "In that case I'll leave the files with you. One of you should stay by the phone all the time, and I'll call as soon as I can. Agreed?"

"Sure, man." Ethan watched as the policeman departed, then stole a look over at Giles. "So what do you say, Ripper? Demons?"

"Nah. Demons don't need stakes. It ain't their scene." Giles shrugged. "More likely somebody is trying to summon one; a vampire maybe, or a blood demon. Something with a taste for the bizarre." He flipped through the final file and a slow smile spread across his face. "Or maybe it's something else altogether."


The house was empty, a simple piece of tape stretching across the doorway all that there was to show of the crime which had taken place within the walls. Ethan glanced about as they entered, looking in distaste at the furnishings. Whoever had lived at the house had clearly been into the Gothic style in a big way.

"So who belongs to this place?" he asked, stepping over a fallen chair in order to advance into the living room. Giles followed him.

"Oscar and Edna Forthright." He looked about at the shelves, impressed by the collection of potions and artefacts lying about the room. Clearly the police had not realised the significance of any of them. He picked up one bottle in particular and weighed it in his hand, then slipped it into his pocket. What couldn't Deirdre do with a little of that stuff. He grinned in anticipation.

"Oscar and Edna who? Oh." Ethan turned to face him, intrigued. "Aren't they the pair who run that weird little bookstall in Kensington Market? The place where you got those cool books?"

"Yep." Giles turned back to the shelves. "Look at this stuff, man. They were really into all of this. Heavy practitioners."

"And look at all the rest of this junk. Some of it must be worth a fortune." Ethan picked up a small knife from on top of a nearby bureau. "This looks antique."

"Yeah." Giles opened the nearest book and flicked through its pages. "Some of this equipment is for some pretty major spells. I'd say that they were artificially elongating their lives through incantation and ritual. They were probably a couple of hundred years old at least." He grinned. "Explains the décor. Only somebody from the 18th century would be seen living in a place like this."

"I don't know. I think it's kind of cool." Ethan ran his hands over the dark, carved wood of the table that was the centrepiece of the room. He could imagine it covered with candles for some spell or incantation. "So what's your theory Sherlock? You do have one?"

"Too right I do." The younger man paused, then shut the book with a snap and put it down. "Think about it. Four people dead, and what do the police assume? Remember what Wilkes told us. A politician and his wife, a factory owner and his wife - they're assuming that the husbands are the important ones in all this."

"And you think it was the wives?"

"Sure do." Giles reached up into the bookcase and took down another book, holding it up for Ethan to see. "This is Coven Of Grey, a book written… I think about at the turn of the century by a woman named Elizabeth White. She was a campaigner for the Suffragette movement. She was committed in the end I think. They said she was screwy." He shrugged. "She was just a frustrated woman who wanted something else and didn't know how else to get it."

"That sure rings true." Ethan sat down on the big table. "These guys who were murdered; what's the betting that their wives spent all day at home? They'd all be of a generation taught that their place was to do nothing." He whistled. "Maybe some of them were old enough to have been allowed to do things during the war, but then they'd have had to step down again when the men came home…" He grinned and raised his eyebrows. Giles nodded.

"Idle hands, and all that. There's always something waiting to occupy a bored mind. It's only a theory for now, but I'm pretty sure of it. All those wives, sitting at home all day, and along comes the answer. Edna and Oscar Forthright's coven. The pair of them seem to have had their fingers in everything from mystical books to real black magic."

"Then the murderer is probably a member of the coven?"

"I'd reckon so. Somebody who uncovered a spell and decided to act on it. A chance for some real power, and all it required was the ritual death of the other coven members." Giles shrugged. "It could be anybody though. It could be any woman in London."

"Not quite. We're looking for a married woman, we must be. Somebody middle-aged probably, who's been kept at home by their husband all of their life." Ethan began to drum out a rhythm on the table. "We'd better look around. Maybe there's a list of the coven members."

"If there was then the police would have found it; although I don't think these people are going to have kept a register." Giles pulled some of the books out of the bookcase. "More likely there'd be something cryptic. A clue somewhere. They'd have taken part in some kind of basic ritual to bind themselves to the coven and to each other."

"Such as?"

"Hell, I don't know. Shared blood? The drinking of something?" Giles wandered over to sit beside him. "Edna and Oscar have to have been the heads of the coven. I guess they were the first to die."

"Does that mean anything to you?"

"Not without more research no. Unless it was to get them out of the way. As the heads, they'd have been the ones most able to stop this, the ones who were best placed to work out what was going on."

"Then whatever ritual all this is a part of might be mentioned in some of their books." Ethan sighed. "Okay… who was the last to die?"

"Fellow called Thacker. They reckon he got back from some office party and found his wife already dead. The whole house was locked up, except for a tiny window that wouldn't shut. That suggests that whoever is doing this already has some quite considerable powers at her disposal. To be able to get in and out of all these sealed places…"

"Maybe it isn't a she." Ethan swung his legs, kicking at the carpet. "Oscar was a member, and Wilkesy mentioned a pair of titles. It's possible both halves of that marriage were bored. Maybe they were both members of the coven; in which case we could be looking for a guy."

"Thanks. Double the suspect range why don't you." Giles rose to his feet. "Why don't you go back to the house and look through the library? I'll start in here. Between the two of us we might come up with something."

"Right. I'll send the others out to ask questions. There's sure to be somebody somewhere who knows something, and whoever it is they'll speak to us." Ethan grinned, his eyes sparkling dangerously. "They'd better."

"Cool. Later." Already turning to the books, Giles seemed lost in the task. Ethan took a final look about the room and then left. Suddenly he didn't like the place anymore. It felt way too dead.


Giles leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes. He missed the meticulous filing system of the library back at the house, designed by himself and Ethan during a particularly long and wet weekend. He missed his music, pounding beautifully courtesy of the room's unmatchable acoustics. He missed the faint aroma of marijuana smoke, the bottle of vodka on the top shelf of the Unexplained Phenomena section. He missed Deirdre sitting in the corner, practising new spells. He yawned.

"Are you a friend of the family?" The voice startled him so much that he nearly fell off his chair, recovering himself just in time. He glanced up, seeing a middle-aged, dark-haired woman standing in the doorway. He had not heard her enter, but since Ethan had not closed the front door on the way out that was hardly surprising. He frowned at her, wondering who she was.

"Yes, that's right. I'm here to go through all their things, sort everything out." He smiled, trying to look as though he were recently bereaved. "My name is Rupert Giles, I'm Edna's… godson." He winced at that. The idea of the old hag being a godmother to anyone was a joke, but it sounded good. It sounded… respectable.

"Ah." She didn't look convinced. "My name is Rachel Estelle. I live just down the road. Edna and I were very good friends." She smiled sadly. "I was just wondering… when I saw the lights on, well…"

"It's okay." He stood. "May I offer you some tea?"

"No thanks, I was just leaving." There was a hint in her voice that suggested he should leave too, and he wondered at her motives; until he looked out of the window and saw a patrol car draw up outside. He flinched. How had she seen that from where she was standing? He turned to her, but she had vanished.

"Damn." He grabbed an armful of the more interesting looking books and stuffed them into his rucksack, glad that he had seen fit to bring it along. One never knew when it would come in handy after all. He threw in some other assorted bits and pieces too; some herbs, some pieces of wood, a dish of something that looked like sawdust. Finally he headed for the back room and levered open the window. It gave in easily.

"Better check the whole house." The muffled voice of an approaching policeman floated to him through the air, and he scrambled onto the windowsill. He was about to jump out when he saw something on the floor. It looked like a pile of wood shavings. He made a wild grab for a handful, then leapt out of the house. The ground met him hard, but he shook his head to clear it, already scrambling to his feet and beginning to run. Behind him he thought that he heard a shout, but he did not slow down. He didn't stop running until he was home, and the door was shut behind him.


"So what's the score, Ripper?" Philip leaned back in his chair, watching Giles as he unpacked his rucksack. Giles shrugged.

"I got some stuff. Maybe something useful." He lined up the array of potions and other bits and pieces on the table, seeing the enthralled look on the face of Deirdre. She was already straining at the leash. "When the cops came I had to light out, but I don't think they saw who I was." He slumped into a chair, holding the rucksack full of books against his chest. "There was some woman there; forty-odd, I'd say. She seemed to know what I was up to."

"Our killer?" Randall smirked. "She knows you now, man. It'll be a fight to the death - Ripper .v. The Witch. I'll take any odds."

"Shut up, Randall." Deirdre leaned forward, searching though the items on the table. "I can't see anything here that might hint at what we're up against. This is all pretty outlandish stuff, but it's nothing that a professional spell-caster is going to want to be without. You couldn't summon a demon with any of it."

"No, exactly." Emptying out the books on to the chair beside him, Giles scuffled through the pile. "We've got Demon Worship, by Claude Monterrey. Weird guy. And we've got Infestation Of Night And Shadow, by the Reverend Thomas Walcott. He was some priest who went over to the dark side in about 1799. Either of these can tell you how to raise something pretty toothy, but as I recall there's nothing special in either. If there were I would have tried a little harder to get hold of copies for us." He shrugged rather vaguely. "The manner of the killing bothers me. You have to be pretty strong to drive a wooden stake into somebody's heart. This guy Thacker was a big bloke, and you should see the size of his wife. The second guy to be killed wasn't exactly a fairy either. Whoever the killer is, they already have impressive powers, which kinda suggests they're after something big with this one."

"Probably want to open up the gates of hell and destroy the world. Seems to be what everybody else we run into is after." Thomas leaned forward and picked up one item in particular; a bottle filled with a red liquid. It bubbled ominously as he lifted it, but he ignored its protestations and gave it an experimental shake. "What this? Genie in a bottle?"

"Blood." Giles took the bottle back, tipping it up and over to make the liquid move about. "It's stayed as a fluid, although I have no idea how. I'm assuming that it's an amalgamation of blood samples of all the members of the coven."

"Weird." Ethan took the bottle. "Maybe we should try out some little binding ritual of our own. Hey Ripper?"

"Let one of you lot near me with a knife? You've got to be joking." They shared a smile.

"This is useless. We're no nearer finding out who's behind this than we were before. Except that Ripper might have run into the killer earlier on, in which case she's gonna be after us." Philip lifted a small jar containing a selection of crushed herbs and tree bark. "Should we go to Wilkes with it? Give him a description of the woman at the house?"

"Are you kidding?" Giles shook his head hard. "No way, man. Wilkes has gone loco on us. He thinks that everything we say we are is a joke, and there's no way he'd be able to handle a woman like this. He's got the SMPs. We have to handle this ourselves. That way, we might be able to strike a deal with this woman. If we can find out who she is, what it is she's up to, then maybe we can find a way to stop her - to kill her even. That gives us leverage."

"Yeah, and then maybe we can get something out of this ourselves. A super-witch all of our own." Ethan grinned. "We could send Wilkes off on a wild goose chase. Maybe deliver him a false killer to satisfy the top brass. I'll bet we can find some poor sap to take the rap. Right? Then we go deal with the witch. Wilkes can go fester in his SMP blues, along with the rest of the city."

"Sometimes this Selective Memory Phenomenon is a real jive." Randall grinned, leaning back in his chair to light a cigarette. "Okay, you've got me convinced. Where do we start?"

"Bugger knows." Deirdre toyed with the dish of sawdust-like powder. "But I think we can rule out the woman Ripper ran into. She wouldn't have had any reason to warn him of the police turning up if she was the bad guy. She must have been another member of the coven."

"Good point." Ethan raised his eyebrows. "Okay, I think it's safe to say that I'm floundering in deep water here. Where does that leave us?"

"We could try and contact her again. If she's appeared once, she might come back." Deirdre opened the dish and sniffed at the contents. "Ugh. Man, that smells like… like…" She shrugged. "It smells. What the hell is it?"

"Crushed beetle root I think." Giles took the dish and stirred the contents about with his fingertip. "I don't know what the proper botanical name for it is. My knowledge is in magic, not flora." He frowned. "It's used in spells of birth and creation. At one time it was thought to be good to eat if you wanted to start a family."

"I wouldn't eat that for a million quid." Her expression of distaste as good as a hundred words of great description, Deirdre moved out of range of the smell emanating from the dish. "Maybe I can cook up something with all this stuff. Something to help us find what we're looking for."

"The only thing that's going to help us is forty-eight hours of patient research." Ethan grinned, and pointed at Giles with a dramatic flourish. "Which is where our resident one man crime wave comes into play. Face it Ripper. You may be the psycho with a gun in your sock drawer, but you're also our one and only book worm." He smirked at the glower he received in answer. "What about you others. Did anybody get any joy on walkabout?"

"Sam Fiddler said that he's been getting some weird answers from his Tarot cards all weekend." Deirdre shrugged. "Nobody else I spoke to had heard anything."

"I didn't get any joy from anybody." Philip looked angry. "I couldn't even find anybody. Lucy Whitcombe is out of town for the next month and a half. Apparently she's going to Japan to welcome in 1977. It's a special year for her power lines, or something."

"Joy Lewis said that something was brewing." Thomas put his feet up on the table, folding his hands behind his head. "She wouldn't go near Randall." He grinned. "Said he had the - the… heebie-jeebies or something. She went on about powers being released, and destinies beginning in the next few days. Something about screaming nightmares." He shrugged, dismissing the words without a care. "She's nutty as Squirrel Nutkin though, everybody knows that. Ever since she summoned some demon that dragged her husband off into hell she's been losing a few more marbles every day."

"She did say something though. About shadows." Randall tipped his head back, obviously trying to remember. "Hang on, I want to get this right. She sounded pretty focussed about it. Beware the shadows… Er… Beware the shadows that come from the grey, that's it. She was adamant about it. There's a shadow, or shadows, that was born of blood. It's after something, but she went all weird at that point. Started on about some little American girl that isn't born yet, but is going to do something big. Crossed wires on the Psychic Underground I guess." He kicked Thomas' feet off the table so that he could rest his own there instead. "I dunno. I hate going to talk to that woman, she really freaks me out. Oh, there was one other thing. Something about the trees that guard us all. The trees that…" He shook his head. "No, it's gone. I swear, you can hardly see her for all the incense smoke in that room. It's a wonder anyone can get any sense out of her."

"Trees that guard?" Giles frowned, his voice suddenly very soft. They could hardly hear him as he rose to his feet and began to think aloud. "Trees that… Trees… I know that one. It's a tale, part of a sequence of old folk verse from way, way back. Where the witches fail to walk, is where the trees can hear them talk. For there is one among the trees, who guards against the spells they weave." He grinned. "My father's idea of nursery rhymes is a little different to most."

"So what is this tree, and how exactly does it help us?" Philip sounded interested, although not entirely convinced of any great significance. Like many, he could little that was of use in old rhymes.

"Rowan." Deirdre spoke the word with a sudden surprise. "Rowan trees are the trees that guard. There was one in the garden when we first moved in here, and it ate all my spells. Well; absorbed them, anyway. You know what I mean. It's been used for centuries to guard against witches."

"Rowan?" Giles frowned. "Rowan. That's it!" He scrabbled about in his pocket and withdrew a fistful of something that looked like dust and shavings. "I picked these up at Oscar's place. They're rowan wood, I'm sure of it."

"Shavings?" Ethan frowned. "Ripper, my man, you wanna start taking it easy pal. You're going as nuts as old Wilkesy."

"Shut up, Ethan." Giles spread the shavings out on the table. "Look at these. Some of them are long, like they were scraped from a bigger piece of wood. Like somebody was carving something." He paused for effect. "Something like a stake, maybe?"

"So whoever killed those people was waiting for them; or at the very least was confident enough of not being seen to sit around carving the murder weapons." Deirdre frowned. "But what witch would use rowan wood? Most of them won't go anywhere near the stuff. Little bits can't hurt, but I'd keep well away from any bigger bits. You never know how they're going to affect you."

"Precisely. What witch would use it." Giles smirked, clearly pleased with himself. "We're not dealing with a witch at all. We're dealing with something else." He picked up the dish of crushed beetle root again. "We've got this, right. It's used in spells of birth and creation. We've got a bottle of blood that clearly has something akin to a life of its own." He picked up the item in question, and it hissed and fizzed at him as though trying to prove his point. "We've also got a warning from one of our oldest connections in the business about shadows that are born of blood." He gave the bottle a shake. "I'd say our little coven was trying something rather ambitious."

"The creation of new life from their own blood?" Ethan shook his head. "You're kidding, man. They'd have to be nuts to try something like that. It would have the combined power and strength of all of them. The risks would be enormous."

"True. But Oscar and Edna were nuts. Through and through. They've been involved in some of the darkest events to hit London in the past couple of centuries, and the rest of their coven was probably unaware of what they were letting themselves in for. Oscar and Edna probably figured they could control it."

"But they couldn't. It was too strong for them, and now it's loose out there." Ethan whistled. "A creature likely to have been created by evil, stronger than any single creature sent to stop it. The possibilities are endless." He shook his head wistfully. "Man! Think what we couldn't do if we could get it on our side!"

"Something tells me that isn't very likely." Philip reached out for the bottle of blood. "So what do we do? Destroy this?"

"No. That wouldn't have any effect." Giles shook his head, clearly angry with himself. "I should have guessed earlier. There's no way that it could be a real member of the coven. A binding ritual like the one that bottle of blood came from would make it impossible for any member to harm another." He toyed with the cross around his neck. "What do you want to do Ethan?"

"I don't know." The older man sounded quiet at first, unsure of himself; then he smiled and sat upright. "Yes I do. We're going to roll with Plan A, at least at first. Find somebody that we can blame for these killings. Some nut will do fine. We'll hand him in to Wilkes and get the Met looking the other way, and then go after this thing. Ripper, you and me are going back to that house. If the woman from the coven showed up there once, she might come back, and with a bit of luck she can tell us something that we can use. Deirdre, you and the others go and find our sap. Do what you need to do to get him to confess to the killings. A little hypnosis, a little… persuasion. Whatever. We'll meet back here at midnight and go hunting."

"Right." Randall was rubbing his hands together, looking forward to the sport. "This is gonna be so hot, man."

"Don't get carried away. This creature, whatever it is, isn't a creature of the flesh." Giles picked up one of the books piled up nearby and flicked through its old and musty pages. He eventually found what he was looking for and turned it about. "See? This is a creature created by the same sort of process in… about 1400. It's only an artist's impression, but it gives you a fair idea of what we're up against." The creature, a tall, scaled monstrosity with long claws and a grotesquely deformed humanoid appearance, was gawping out of the picture as though preparing to leap from the page. A long tongue hung out of its mouth, and the creature itself hovered some distance above the ground. "This thing could kill us without breaking a sweat."

"Cool." Thomas grinned, his eyes shining with an almost unnatural brightness. "Just think what we can do, when we get it working for us." He giggled softly, and Randall joined in. Deirdre too was unable to keep a smile from her face, and their gentle excitement made Philip begin to laugh out loud. Seconds later they were all laughing, their merriment filled with a hint of something very like malice. None of them noticed the face watching them through the window, the eyes burning red against the shadows that surrounded it. It was the face of a hideous scaled creature with a long, snakelike tongue; and as it watched them, its lipless mouth curled into a mocking image of its own, sinister smile.


Randall led the way through the streets, ignoring the noise that followed them. They had left it until dusk to make the trip, certain that those members of the population less likely to be missed would be those most likely to be out at night. Drunken shouts followed them, the belligerent yells of half-paralytic youths who would not have dared to confront them sober. The gang had a reputation that marked them out as targets for those looking to make reputations of their own; but most of their would-be foes had learnt the hard way not to challenge any member. Sometimes they tried to get tough when they found one alone, but few of those who tried once managed to try a second time. After the last such encounter, when a gang of young men high on one hallucinogen or another had jumped the Ripper in an alleyway after dark, nobody had really tried to make any trouble. It was doubtful whether anyone would again. All the same, Randall heard Deirdre whispering spells under her breath. He grinned, wondering what she was wishing on the rowdy mob. Plagues of boils with a bit of luck, or maybe the kind of impotence that had nothing to do with the level of their alcohol intake.

"We heading somewhere special?" Thomas asked, as they left the mob behind and turned into the more deserted back streets. "You got someone in mind?"

"Not exactly. But I've seen a lot of jerks hanging out back here. Addicts living on the street, that sort of thing. The cops'll believe anything of an addict, and nobody'll miss one if we borrow him." Randall grinned. "We'll tell him we've got a big stash going cheap and the poor sap will follow us to the ends of the Earth."

"I'll settle for him following us to the nearest police station." Philip kicked a rubbish bag out of his way, and was not surprised to hear a moan coming from beneath it. The alleyways contained quite a community of the homeless and the loveless. Countless people that everybody from the government to the rest of the population seemed determined to pretend they couldn't see. They were invisible, forgotten, nameless. They had ceased to count; all of which was fine to the gang now prowling amongst them.

"We'd better look a little further afield. They'll be close-knit around here." Deirdre took the lead now, moving ahead as though she somehow knew her way about. Maybe she did; all of them had spent time living rough before they had fallen into their current situation. They had gravitated towards Ethan Rayne like moths around a light source, and had left these seedy surroundings behind them. Some of it was horribly familiar to Deirdre, and she quickened her step. She wanted this over with, so that she no longer had to breathe in this cold, damp air, with its ever-present smell of death and decay. She knew the sensation of hopelessness, the feeling of emptiness; she knew what it was like to be forgotten by the rest of the world. Somehow it felt that, if she stayed for long enough, she would get drawn back into it all, and would never be able to break out.

"What's down here?" Philip, peeling away from the main group, pointed down a long, dark alley. A cold wind blew along it, forced down by the close nature of the buildings on either side. It was like a wind tunnel, the occasional sheet of newspaper or other pieces of litter fluttering inanely about in the currents of the breeze, unable to escape from the cold and draughty hands that held them. From far down the alley they could hear the sounds of muttering; distant, mournful sounds mingled with occasional sobs.

"You're kidding? You don't know?" Thomas walked up to the mouth of the alley, staring down it. He seemed to know the exact place to stand to avoid the worst of the wind, as though he had been there before. "This is where Joy Lewis lives. She's the one Randall and I spoke to earlier." He shivered. "She used to be a professor you know. That's how I met her. She lectured at the University College Hospital on advanced surgical techniques. They reckon she was working on some new process for regenerating damaged nerves. One clever lady."

"And she lives down here now?" Philip whistled. "But I met her once - more than once - she had a pad down at the waterfront, where the property prices are rocketing right now. Flash clothes, one majorly cool car. What the hell happened?"

"I told you, she's been losing it ever since she lost her husband." Thomas shrugged as though it were no big deal. "She made all these deals with the dark side; got herself in way too deep. She summoned demons that were too strong for her, and they tore her life apart. Now she lives down here, and every friend she ever had has deserted her." He grinned. "Except me. I still visit, when I think she can do something for me. Even Ethan and Ripper don't know where she hangs out these days. I only found out by accident."

"Sounds like she fits the bill." Deirdre peered down the alleyway, trying to see if the woman was in view. "All alone in the world, and nutty as a fruit cake. What could be better?"

"Joy?" Thomas sounded surprised, as though he had not considered the possibility. "Yeah, I guess so. She's getting so she's too crazy to be any use to us anymore." He frowned. "Be a shame to lose her though. She's been pretty useful in the past. It was her who got me onto this kick in the first place, and it was her who got us some of our first potions and herbs and junk."

"Yeah, but that was months ago. You saw how she was earlier; mad as a hatter and daft to boot." Randall shrugged. "So long as you reckon Wilkes will buy it that a woman could have done those killings, I say we go with it. It can't hurt."

"Fine." Apparently unconcerned by this act of treachery, Thomas led them down the passageway. In the gloom up ahead they could all see a large, grey door, its paint cracked and peeling. Thomas reached it first, and pushed it open with one, powerful hand. It crashed back against the wall behind, knocking another few square inches of paint from its surface. A long tendril of thick, foul-smelling incense smoke escaped through the doorway, rising up into the air to search out the open night sky. Deirdre coughed.

"Bloody hell. You weren't kidding about the smoke in here." She waved her hands about in a futile attempt to clear a path, then stepped over the threshold. It took her several moments to realise that the building beyond consisted of merely one room, and several more moments to discern the image of a woman, sitting in the dead centre of the large, open space. Her legs were crossed, her arms folded, and her mouth moved in silent whispering. She opened her eyes as the group approached, and seemed to be smiling at them.

"So. You came." She rose to her feet. "I knew that you would. Saw it even before you visited me earlier." She frowned. "Tell me; what was it that I did to you?"

"Shut up, Joy." Randall walked quickly towards her, grabbing at her arm, but she pulled back and shrank into the coils of incense smoke that enwrapped her.

"Keep away. Keep him away." Her voice was pathetic. "Keep him away from me."

"It doesn't matter which of us it is, Joy. You're coming with us all the same." Thomas' voice showed deepest exasperation, as though he had taken all that he was prepared to take from her, in her condition of fast failing sanity. Joy glared at him.

"It's not the same. I told you. I won't have him touching me." She shivered noticeably, despite the choking heat in the room. "He has the feel of darkness."

"And you're telling me we don't?" Philip sounded flippant, clearly amused by her. She fixed him with her stare, and her dark eyes glittered with a gleam of light that seemed to come from somewhere within her, rather than from some more usual, outer source.

"You're all in the shadows," she told him, her voice now filled with the mystic tones of one who was beginning to see things. "You're all in darkness. But him," she pointed at Randall. "He is with the dark. He in amongst the dark. He's already gone."

"Gone where?" Vaguely interested, Deirdre cast an amused glance in Randall's direction. He glared at her.

"You know where." Joy stared back at the young woman, and frowned. "I see it, you know. I see it for all of you. Something is coming. Something is about to be released. It will take you all, and only one of you will ever be free of it. Only two of you will escape." Her head rocked from side to side. "One watches. The other waits. He watches the watcher." She giggled. "It'll all come."

"What will?" Baffled, Philip exchanged a look with the other members of the gang. Thomas spun his finger in an orbit at the side of his head, and Philip stifled a giggle. Randall gave an exaggerated sigh.

"Bugger knows. Look, the woman's screwy. Ignore her." He made a grab for her, this time catching her by the elbow. He pinned her arms to her sides and dragged her towards the door. She gave a long, shrill scream.

"It's dark out! Don't take me outside where it's dark. There are vampires out there!"

"Vampires?" Thomas laughed. "I'd like to see the vampire that can bite me."

"They wouldn't dare come close." Philip, taking up the other side of Joy, dodged as she aimed a sudden kick at his shins. He frowned. "More to her than there looks, isn't there."

"Sure is." Randall increased their speed, hurrying the woman towards the door and out into the street. Once out there the resistance ebbed from her body and she sank back into Philip's arms. Only the occasional moan or gentle sob moved her body at all.

"Boy, she really doesn't like you, Randall." Thomas moved in to lend a hand, and between the three of them they were able to take her, by means of more deserted streets, to where the lights were brighter and the air more breathable. They threw her onto a bench in an old, empty park that was locked and abandoned for the night, and she stared up at them with eyes that meant no good.

"Why are we here?" she asked. Deirdre sat down beside her. She had met Joy several times in the early months of her association with the world of magic. The older woman had been an attractive, youngish type with a graceful tumble of red hair. Now she looked bent and prematurely aged, her red locks matted and mostly grey. Her beady dark eyes glimmered malevolently up at the young woman beside her, and her mouth hooked itself into a unpleasant smile.

"It is coming," she said, with complete conviction. "You'll want it to come, but once it's here you'll wish it would go away again. He'll be the first to go with it." She nodded at Randall. "I can't see his soul anymore. It's already almost gone, and it doesn't even know it yet. That's the power of destiny." She giggled.

"Shut up." Shivering slightly, Deirdre pulled her coat closer around her. "Let's just get started, okay? We've got to get this handled and done with by midnight, or Ethan and Ripper will be waiting for us."

"Yeah, sure." Randall stepped forward. This woman, with her sightings and her grating lack of sanity, had been getting to him all day. He was going to enjoy this.


"I don't understand you. What was wrong with them?" The young man, lost in shadows that allowed nothing beyond his spiky, bleached blond hair to show, looked askance at the woman beside him. "You have to eat something."

"Not them." The young woman shivered slightly, in a manner that showed it had nothing to do with the cold. He hugged her to him regardless. "Didn't like them."

"Did they scare you, Princess?" His voice sounded somewhat distracted, but the concern was real. She settled into his embrace.

"I'll eat later. Really I will. I promise."

"See that you do." He smiled at her, although he could see little bar the top of her head given her current position. "You've got to stop being so picky."

"I'm not." She shivered again, and he held her tighter still. "I just… They scared me. That's all."

"It's okay. They're not going to hurt you." He stared over the top of her head, looking in the direction taken by the four young people and their unwilling companion. He had felt nothing; but then he couldn't see things the way that his companion could. He wondered who they were, and what there could possibly be about them that could frighten his girlfriend so much. She didn't scare easily. "Come on. Let's get you somewhere warm."

"Okay." She wandered happily along beside him, kicking childishly at the puddles they occasionally passed along the road. Their surfaces broke and resettled, reflecting the lights of the streetlamps and the distant stars; but they did not reflect the young couple walking together in the moonlight. So far as the mirrored world in the water was concerned, the pair did not exist.


"She's not going to show." Rubbing his hands together, for it was getting colder by the minute now that darkness was truly beginning to fall, Giles hunched his shoulders and kicked at a stone in the gutter. It bounced and leaped its way out of reach, skittering about in the middle of the road. "Why should she come?"

"I don't know. Maybe she's dead already." Ethan sighed. "Stand still, man. You're driving me nuts hopping about like that."

"I'm cold." Giles considered lighting a cigarette to chase the worst of the chill away, but decided against it. "How much longer are we going to stand here like stuffed ducks anyway?"

"Not much longer." Ethan stared up at the sky, clear with the promise of a frost, and swore under his breath. "Dammit it's cold. It's always bloody cold. Even in the middle of summer it was sodding cold. It's like living in Antarctica."

"You're telling me." Giles sighed. "I'll buy you a drink if you'll come on out of here."

"The pubs are still full of airheads this time of night." Ethan sighed, and sunk his hands deep into his pockets. "Okay, we'll give it up. Let's just go home."

"Now you're talking my language." Giles took the lead, walking with a spring in his step, and was still some way ahead of his companion as they reached the old, shabby-looking mansion that they had made their home. He pushed the door open. Inside was as dark and gloomy as ever, and he lit a candle to put in the holder beside the door. The flame blew out almost instantly.

"Damn." He fumbled for another match, but this time it went out before he even reached the candlewick. Ethan laughed.

"It's alive."

"Wouldn't surprise me." Throwing the candle aside, Giles stalked ahead towards the living room, reaching for the light switch. Philip had hooked them up to Barry Sander's electricity supply since their new neighbour had moved in, and they now enjoyed an almost modern lighting and heating system courtesy of an unsuspecting benefactor. It beat conjuring up their own unreliable, magical illumination; and once they got the whole house wired up it was sure to be very homely. Reaching out into the darkness, Giles' hand brushed the light switch, his fingers just beginning to bend around the button that would light up the whole room.

"Don't touch it." The voice was soft, barely more than a whisper, but it made him jump violently nonetheless. His hand went instinctively to the gun in his belt, and he pointed the weapon towards the source of the noise.

"Who's there?"

"Ripper? You talking to yourself?" Ethan's voice, faintly irritated, came from the doorway. "Turn on the lights. I'd rather use Sander's money than drain my powers making my own light."

"Sure." Giles reached again for the light switch; and this time fingers grabbed his hand in the darkness. He let out an involuntary yell, and lashed out with his gun-hand. The cold metal struck nothing but the wall. "Who's there? I know you're out there dammit." He pressed the light switch, but nothing happened. "Damn. Bulb's gone."

"Bulb's there. Maybe you've gone." The voice was that of a woman, and it came from nearby. He pointed the gun towards it again, but a light laugh was all that answered. "Gun's no good. Far too late to do anything. Somebody else beat you to it." He frowned into the darkness and took a step forward, feeling a sudden, intensely cold wind about his face. It felt almost like breath.

"Hold on, Ripper." He heard Ethan's footsteps, and heard the sound of his companion clicking his fingers. A bright light issued forth from the palm of his hand; a ball of pure green light that rose into the air and shimmered above both young men. They stared about. The room was empty.

"Naughty naughty. I don't want the lights on. Remember?" There was a flash, and the ball of light vanished. Without it the room seemed even darker than ever, and the sensation of cold increased. Giles felt a hand run up his arm, and the gun fell from his hand.

"I'll get you for that." In a flash his flick-knife was in his hand, and he lashed out with it in the space immediately before him. He thought that his fingers touched something, but a low laugh told him that he was mistaken.

"You're impatient. Good." Before him, amidst the thickest of the blackness, a light began to glow. Around it was shadow, and an even more intense sense of darkness. Gradually the light took shape, and soon a human form was visible. It did not surprise Giles to recognise the woman he had met at Oscar and Edna's house.

"You!" He stepped towards her, but she backed off.

"Keep back, Giles. It's best not to get too close. She sees me, and she might see you."

"Who sees you?" Ethan moved closer, standing shoulder to shoulder with Giles. "The thing you conjured up? The creature you made out of your combined blood?"

"Yes." The woman bowed her head. "She's after something… Power… Getting stronger all the time." Her voice was deeply sad. "I only wanted a little excitement, you know. I never even believed in magic… until it was too late. I thought… well I didn't think it was anything bad. She was stronger than we thought though, and she killed the others. Then she came after me."

"You're… dead?" Ethan knew that the question sounded horribly obtuse, but he was confused. The woman gave him a smile that spoke of infinite woe, and turned to face him.

"You'll know, if you go upstairs."

"Upstairs?" It was Giles' turn to sound obtuse, but he was too dumbfounded to care. The woman shrugged.

"I came here to speak to you, but the house was empty. She was here. She came after me, and there was nowhere left to run to." Her voice turned accusing. "Where were you? Why were you so long coming back?"

"You'd have liked us to have been here to get staked too?" Ethan sighed, lowering himself into a nearby chair. "This is just great. Our one lead, and she turns out to be dead in our own house. This is going to take some explaining to Wilkes."

"Wilkes'll believe anything we tell him. You know that." Giles fixed the ghost with his most piercing stare. "This creature. Where is it now? Where will it have gone?"

"After the last member of the coven. She's still alive, I can feel her." The woman stared into space. "I don't know where she is, but I know she isn't dead yet."

"Who is she?" Ethan jumped back to his feet. "We have to be there if we're going to make contact with it."

"You can't make deals with it. It'll kill you." The ghost tipped her head on one side to stare at him. "This isn't some demon that is indebted to you for its release. This is a creature of no humanity. It came from our darkest inner thoughts. It came from the shadows we kept inside us. It is nothing but evil."

"We should get along just fine." Ethan glanced towards Giles. "You ready to roll, Ripper?"

"We'll only get one shot at this, but yeah, I'm ready. I think we can talk to it." He frowned. "If it decides not to talk to us, we're sunk, brother. I can't for the life of me think how to kill it."

"You can't kill it. You have to--" The woman's voice broke off and her image began to twist and break up. "No. No not yet!"

"What is it?" Giles stepped towards her, but a cold wind was blowing around her form, and suddenly he found it impossible to move any closer. The wind tore at his clothes and his hair, circling in mad arcs and yet leaving the rest of the room unaffected. Even Ethan, standing a mere stone's throw away, did not seem to feel its touch.

"She sees me! She's angry with me!" A shrill scream broke the air. "Run! Run or she'll kill you!" Her scream grew louder and louder, and the floorboards around her feet began to crack.

"What do you say, Ripper?" For the first time in a long time, Ethan sounded nervous. Giles threw him a worried look.

"I don't think she's joking, man. This thing is seriously narked."

"I'm not going to argue." They shared a look, then as one they ran. The front door slammed behind them as they made a break for the open road, dodging the sporadic traffic and heading off towards the brighter side of town. Behind them they thought that they heard the sound of distant screaming, but it could just as easily have been the wind.


"Do I have to kill you twice?" The tall, bent creature with the long talons and the darting, snake-like tongue, loomed over the flickering presence of the ghost. "Why did you tell them those things?"

"I wanted to help them. I thought they might know how to stop you." Shivering the ghost faded, then clicked back into focus. "But they don't."

"Of course they don't. Nobody does." The apparition laughed a ghastly laugh, and reached out with one, long claw. "Time for you to go back where you belong."

"I'll go." The ghost lowered her eyes. "But I'll see you there soon enough."

"I don't think so." The creature moved even closer, its eyes burning with a hot, intense red. Had the ghost been alive, she would have been able to feel the heat of those eyes on her skin; as she had when she was flesh and blood and the creature had come after her. "There's only one of you left, and I've found her. I'm on my way to take her now." It laughed silently, which was infinitely preferable to its previous, throaty cackle. "Goodbye, creator." It stabbed with its upraised claw, and the image of the ghost burst like a balloon. A single, high-pitched scream echoed about the room, and then faded away. The creature smiled its mocking, twisted smile.

In the hallway, a lone figure observed all this with a sense of mounting horror. Barry Sanders, having seen the gang depart and having remembered Wilkes' comment that the door was always unlocked, had taken it upon himself to have a look around. He was sure that there was something somewhere on the premises that could get the unsavoury bunch arrested; but as he stood alone in the cold, dark hall, he knew that he was dangerously out of his depth. This wasn't, he now realised, about a bunch of fun-loving young people who liked to play their music too loud. He shuddered, and felt a sudden desire to get far away; out of London, maybe out of Britain; and to go somewhere where the lights were bright and the presence of people was strong. He turned about to return to the door, and didn't notice as his pathway through the darkness carried him straight towards the hall-stand. His foot struck it, and the wooden construction rocked violently, crashing back against the wall with a sound loud enough to make him jump violently. His heart began to race.

In the living room, the creature heard the crash and turned towards it. Its head moved about on its neck, and its sharp eyes saw Sanders in the gloom. It smiled, but at first it did not move. It let the man run; it let him reach the front door and throw it open; but as soon as he had run out into the cold dark air, the creature was there waiting for him. It stared down at him, its mouth curling and uncurling into a hesitant smile. He felt the warmth of its red eyes, and he felt the coldness of its breath on his face. It reached towards him.

"Leave me alone. I--" He got not further before the claws had reached him, and he watched with a curious sense of detachment as it seized him, and the claws sank into his flesh. He felt them tear his chest open, and caught himself wondering if he would get the chance to see his own heart beating. Redness filled his vision, and his legs gave way. Soon the only thing still moving was the creature, as it bent down to lick the blood from its claws.


Detective Chief Inspector Harold Wilkes leaned back in his chair and stared at the woman seated before him. He thought vaguely that he recognised her, and her name had confirmed that he did. She had been a well-known doctor a year ago, with a husband looking for glory in the Houses of Parliament and a futures filled with roses. Randall James and the others had explained that she had become involved with drugs; something to do with the still unsolved mystery of her husband's disappearance. Now she looked like a wreck. He wondered at the black eye, and considered asking her what other injuries she had, but she looked as though she was not going to talk to anyone. He sighed.

"Why did you kill those people?"

"Didn't Thomas and the others tell you?" She was frowning at him, her eyes vaguely glassy. He wondered if she needed a fix. If she did, now was clearly the time to conduct the interview. She would be unfocussed and easy to trap.

"Didn't they tell me what?"

"Everything." She sounded surprised. "It was me, you know. I summoned Attenchor."

"Atten what?" He was beginning to think she was nuts as well as weird, but her expression was clear and confident as she leaned closer to him across the table.

"Attenchor. He was the one… the one who took my husband."

"You know what happened to Ronald Lewis?" Wilkes was excited. Maybe he could kill two birds with one stone here; and solving a mystery concerning an MP certainly couldn't do his career any harm.

"Attenchor took him. Took him into hell." A shudder ran through her frame. "I've been trying to get him back, but I lost control. They came for me, and everything fell apart. Now they wait for me in every shadow." She looked bright. "I think the Slayer killed Attenchor. I heard that she had… I'd ask Giles, but he has no contacts in his old world anymore. He doesn't want to know."

Wilkes sighed. This was going to take a long, long time. He decided to try and steer the conversation back onto more familiar ground, but the look of utter confusion in the woman's eyes was enough to make him consider sectioning her instead, and making her into somebody else's problem. He settled himself more comfortably in his chair.

"Mrs Lewis."

"Joy." She frowned at him. "Nobody calls me Mrs Lewis."

"Fine. Joy then. Joy… some people have been murdered recently. Stabbed through the heart with wooden stakes. Do you know anything about that?"

"Staked?" She looked interested. "Were they vampires? There are a lot of them about these days. Their numbers are increasing. I don't know why."

"No, they weren't vampires. They were real people, and they were murdered."

"Oh. You mean Oscar and Edna. Oscar and Edna and Mabel and Eva and poor little Lilly O'Keefe." She smiled, revealing smudges of lipstick that had slipped about on her face. "I remember. I knew them."

"You did?" He was delighted. This was more than he had been beginning to hope for. "Then why did you kill them?"

"Because Randall said I did." She smiled beautifically. "They all said that I did, so I suppose they must be right." She leaned towards him. "Just between you and me though, I don't think I did it. There was the vow, you see. The ritual. It was her."

"Her?" He was sinking rapidly again, and he knew it. Floundering in a mess of confusion. He heaved a very heavy sigh and rubbed his eyes. "Who's she?"

"I tried to warn them. I told Thomas and Randall, but they didn't care. I told them." She shook her head. "But they're not interested. They just care about their own magic, and about using it for their own gains. They want to do terrible things, but it won't do them any good. Something's coming, you know." She was nodding hard. "Something's coming and they're going to bring it. It won't do them any good." She leered at him. "I know what it'll be like, because I saw it all with Attenchor. He rose from the depths of the wine cellar, and went back beneath the earth with my husband in his jaws." She shivered. "Any chance of a cup of coffee?" Wilkes groaned.

"Now listen, Joy. I'm going to run through this once more. It's really not difficult. There were some murders."

"Stakes." Joy was nodding. "Rowan wood stakes, Thomas said. Deirdre said so too. She's a nice girl that one. Her father was a policeman, you know. A proper one mind you, with a uniform, not like your lot." She began to toy with her hair. "Philip too. He's a nice boy. Did you know he was a child prodigy? Played the piano." She shook her head. "But we all change. I was going to save lives, but I ended up taking them. I didn't know, you see. I thought…" She stared off into the shadows. "And now it's too late."

"What's too late?" He sat up straight in his chair, aware that a change had come over her. She was close to revealing something. He had seen it in the eyes of a thousand suspects in the past, and he could see it in her now. She knew something, and she was about to pass it on to him. She frowned.

"Everything's too late. There's only me left." Her eyes travelled back to his, then moved away again, past him, to the one corner of the interrogation room that was out of his line of sight. It was filled with shadows, for the room's single, caged light bulb did not quite reach it. Led by his instinct he turned to face the corner, and rose half to his feet. He could see something there; something grey and shrouded in darkness. Something vague and indistinct.

"Hello?" He took a step towards the corner, and felt a hand touch him on his arm. It was Joy, standing beside him.

"Keep it away." She was trying to get closer to him, as though somehow he could protect her from something; something that presumably she alone could see. "Keep it away from me!"

"Sit down." Impatient he pushed her away, then took another step towards the shadows. He could see the shape more clearly now, and it began to move towards him. A woman, tall and willowy, with a graceful shape and gentle features, beckoning to him curiously from the darkest of the shadows. He moved closer to her. She was beautiful. Her hair was… he thought that it looked green, but his mind ruled that out. It must be a trick of the light; the same trick that made her skin appear to be coloured the same shade. It even made her eyes look faintly red, and he smiled at the illusion.

"Hello? Who are you?" His footsteps carried him closer to her, until her fingers found his brow. They felt cold and soothing, and they stole away his fatigue and confusion. They filled him with something new. He felt his eyes beginning to close.

"No…" Joy's voice was nothing more than a pitiful whimper, and he did not bother opening his eyes to see what was wrong. He heard a thud, heard a choked off cry; thought that he heard a low growl coming from somewhere before him. He didn't care.

"What's happening?" he asked the darkness, and the voice of the green-skinned woman answered him.

"The beginning." She laughed then, and he wondered at the beauty of it. He could not remember one single sound in all the world that had ever enthralled him as much as that simple moment of her pleasure. It was the last thought that passed though his mind before the ground erupted beneath his feet and the world exploded into flame.


Giles and Ethan had been running for what seemed half the night. They knew that there was nothing following them, and that it seemed there was no reason to run anymore; but still they ran on. They went on without conferring; without stopping to discuss their direction or their plans. They merely ran, by unspoken agreement, heading they knew not where. It was only when they began to recognise their surroundings that they slowed to a halt.

"What the hell are we doing here?" Ethan, suddenly realising how exhausted he was after the long period of exertion, collapsed onto the grass verge behind the kerb and stared up at the sky. "This is a sodding police station."

"Maybe the others are still here." Giles sat down beside him. "Damn. I think I'm going to have to give up smoking."

"Maybe I should too. It's affecting my brain too much." Finally catching his breath, Ethan sat up. "I could have sworn we just ran to a police station. Do I look okay to you?"

"Yeah man. You look fine." Giles stood, going to the nearest window to peer inside. "The whole place looks empty. Weird."

"No night guard?" Ethan immediately perked up. "In that case… You wanna take a look around? Maybe see what we can find in the evidence cupboard?"

"Or who we can find in the cells." Giles grinned and hopped to his feet, leading the way to the back door. He checked the wall for any signs of a noticeable alarm, then bent to the lock. "This thing's so old I'm surprised it keeps the door shut." There was a loud click and the door swung open, unbidden. "After you."

"Cheers." Ethan led the way inside, peering about at the darkened doors, and the windows with their blinds covering all views. There was a strange sensation of emptiness, of a building abandoned when it should have been buzzing with life and activity. There should have been someone present, even if it was just a few probationers and a pensionable sergeant. "Where do you suppose everybody is?"

"Search me." The building was bigger than they had thought, and corridors stretched out in all directions from the point at which they stood. "Should we try upstairs?"

"No. Let's check out down here first, make sure there's no one about." They were rapidly reaching the conclusion that there was no one; that something was very wrong; but they walked on regardless, trying door handles and peering through chinks in the window blinds. A cool wind was blowing from somewhere, and they headed for its source like animals drawn to water.

"Journey's end," Ethan pronounced at last, as they came to a door at the end of the corridor. He tried it, but it failed to yield to his touch. Frustrated he gave the wood a heavy kick. As though finally bending to his will, the door swung slowly open and the pair peered into the room beyond. It was dark inside, but there was a sound coming from within the darkness; a sound that neither man could identify. Ethan frowned.

"Hello?" His voice echoed strangely, coming back to him in waves. He reached for a light switch, but where there should have been a wall, his fingers merely groped at empty space. "Hello?"

"Ethan!" It was a familiar voice, and at its sound the lights came on. The corridors were flooded with a vile, pulsating orange glow that seemed to flash in time to the heartbeat of some psychedelic creature. Giles threw a hand up to protect his eyes. The light made him feel nauseous, like being stuck in a night club at its worst. All that was missing was the pounding disco music and the close packed people dancing in moronic circles.

"Wilkes? Is that you?" Worried he took a step forward, although his instincts bade him walk the other way. It was hard to see whilst trying to cover his eyes, but he strained to look into the source of the flashing light. "What's going on, man? Where is everybody?"

"Dead of course." The policeman's voice sounded as though Giles were stupid not to have realised the truth himself. "Look!" As if in answer to his words the flashing light ceased, and a steady light took its place. It was the light of something unseen, and it appeared a pale grey in colour, marred by the clouds of smoke that twisted about. Giles and Ethan looked around.

They should have been standing in a small room, but even though it had been a room when they had entered it, the place they now found themselves in was something different altogether. There were no walls, there was neither floor nor ceiling. There was merely a hole; a great, gaping chasm in the ground at their feet, the edges sloped and rocky. The slopes were strewn with bodies, mostly uniformed. They both recognised Joy Lewis, a wooden stake sticking out of her chest. Flames flickered out of the hole, snatching at the bodies, dragging some down into the earth and leaving others smouldering gently in the intermittent heat. Screams echoed from the bottom of the hole; a great black emptiness that stretched away into nothingness. Something was down there in the depths; clearly something in great pain or torment. The cries went on, wretched and hopeless, gut-wrenching and desperate in their futility.

"Wilkes…" Ethan, barely able to keep the quaver from his voice or the shudder from his shoulders, stepped forward and reached out his hand. "Come on, man. Come over here."

"Why?" The policeman looked confused. "I like it here. It's pretty, don't you think? All the trees and the little flowers? All the birds singing." He sighed in deepest contentment. "I think I might stay."

"There are no flowers, Wilkes. There aren't any trees." Giles took a step forward to bring himself level with Ethan. "I don't know what kind of an illusion you're seeing, but this is not pretty. You've got to come with us, there might be something we can do. I can search my books. There might be some spells, or a ritual."

"No." Wilkes shook his head, showing no inclination to join them. "See, you always say things like that. You always talk about magic and spells, and we all know there's no such thing. I don't want to go with you." He smiled a childish smile. "There's no magic here. We're all safe."

"No magic? What the bloody hell do you call this lot? Creative architecture?" Ethan waved his arms around in demonstration. If they looked back they could see the doorway to the corridor, leading to the rest of the police station, but there was nothing around the doorway; no walls, no doorframe. Everything had a sense of detachment, and it was deeply disorientating. Ethan felt well and truly out of his depth.

"What's going on, Ripper?" He could not tear his eyes away from the insanity before him, but his words were directed at the man beside him. Giles did not answer, and merely felt for his gun. He did not remember picking it up before he left the house, but its familiar, comforting weight was in his hand and that was all that mattered. He wondered what he should point it at. Everything was mad; perhaps he should join with the general madness and just shoot everything at random? He felt his hands tremble slightly, and hoped that nobody else had noticed.

"Why have you come here?" The voice came from before them and above them. It was all about and behind, and it came from somewhere inside the deep, fire-flecked hole. "You came to destroy me."

"Who are you?" Deciding that he already knew the answer to that question, Ethan looked about for the speaker anyway. He found it on the other side of the hole, staring at him with eyes that burned bright red. It was the creature Giles had shown him in the book, and yet it was different. This creature stood at least twenty feet tall. Its massive legs and arms had a strange, almost beautiful quality to them, but its icy breath and fierce stare stole what poetry there was to its motion. Great teeth overhung its mouth, dripping blood onto the ground and along its chest. Its tongue reached almost to its waist, hanging out of its permanently open mouth, flickering much as a snake's might save that it had no fork. Its tip, a lurid purple colour, scratched at the skin of its chest as it moved, sending sparks flying about. A cloud of smoke came from its mouth as it bent closer to the two new arrivals; and as they tried to back away neither man was surprised to find their doorway gone. They were trapped.

"We didn't come to destroy you. We came to offer you a deal." Tipping his head back to look up at its flaming red eyes, Ethan tried to sound as though he was not afraid. "We want to help you to do - to do whatever it is that you want to do."

"I don't need your help." It cocked its head on one side. "I have completed the ritual. I have destroyed the last of my creators. I am all-powerful."

"Not all-powerful. Not quite." Giles stepped forward, going past Ethan and on into the middle of the confusion. He felt the ground at the edge of the chasm give way a little beneath his feet, but forced himself to ignore his rising panic. "There are still people who could stop you. There is still someone who could kill you."

"You mean the Slayer?" The creature laughed. "I'm not afraid of some mortal woman. I am born of shadow. I am as indestructible as shadow. There can be no end of me." It moved closer, its tongue flickering about in the air mere inches from Giles' face. "I can't say the same of you, Ripper."

"We don't mean you any harm. I swear it." Feeling a strange urge to run, even if it meant leaving Giles behind to face the creature alone, Ethan clenched his fists into balls, the pain of his fingernails cutting into his palms helping him to stay focussed. "We want to help you. We have achieved great things, but we want more. You must know that, if you know who we are."

"Of course I know who you are. I know all that my creators knew. I know of you and about you." With a leap that was almost graceful it cleared the blood-soaked chasm and landed between the two men, catching hold of one with each of its mighty fists. Its claws caressed them; almost gentle in their movements; almost questing. One claw stroked Giles' cheek. "I could crush you. Who would know? Who would miss you? You are nothing. I have no need of you."

"Then you're on your own." Giles threw himself aside with a strength that surprised him, bringing his gun up to point at the creature. It moved as he fired, and the bullet that should have struck it between the eyes caught it instead in the shoulder. It screamed, more through rage than through pain, and hurled Ethan from its grip. The young magician, flailing and floundering on the lip of the chasm, gave a yell of anguish and fell back. In a tumble of arms and legs he was gone, falling downwards through the endless nothingness that lined the gaping hole. Giles stared after him, eyes wild.

"Ethan…" For a second he could not grasp the reality of it; could not understand that his comrade and partner was gone; then he brought his gun back up to point at the creature.

"Bring him back!" He heard his voice crack, but ignored it. "Bring him back damn you!"

"He's gone." The creature moved closer, its icy breath making the sweat on his face freeze. He felt his skin stretching against the crystals of ice on his neck, his eyelids, his cheeks. "Hell is the place for him, and for you." He felt its tongue touch him, and felt a burning pain run through him, as though all the electricity in London flowed though its flickering length.

"I won't let you kill me." With a sudden burst of rage and a bright, intense anger, he pushed past it, running for all he was worth. For what seemed endless seconds the chasm moved away from him, getting further away the closer to it he became; then the earth was crumbling at his feet and he stood on the brink of forever. He felt himself beginning to fall, and he let himself go. From somewhere up above him he heard the creature howl, although whether it was through pain or through pleasure he could not tell. He thought that he heard Wilkes' voice too; and then he heard nothing at all.


The darkness stretched on for an eternity, fathomless, unyielding. Giles heard his voice calling Ethan's name as he fell, but he was not aware of having shouted. In truth he was aware of very little, not even the usual sensations of falling. There was no wind rushing past, no sense of acceleration. He hardly even noticed when he ceased to fall, when he finally reached the bottom. Or had he? As realisation sank in that he was moving no longer, he looked about. He could feel nothing beneath his feet, and yet he appeared to be standing. At least he thought he was. He was no longer sure which way was up, and the darkness was too complete to see any sign of the top of the hole. It might as well have ceased to exist; which he could not help thinking likely. He might be trapped forever in this… this whatever it was.

"Ethan?" His voice sounded quivery, uncertain, and he tried again. This time he shouted loudly, and his voice echoed the word about, hurling it back at him and sending it leaping and bouncing in all directions. The volume of it hurt, and he covered his ears. There was no answer.

"Where am I?" He shouted a little less loudly now, but still the sentence came back, resounding about until he thought that his head would explode. Finally the words died away, rumbling into the distance like cars fading away into the night. There was silence again.

"Who are you?" He thought at first that the voice was his own, until he began to realise that it came from somewhere else. He turned to face it, but immediately it came from another direction. "Who are you?" It was insistent, a deep throated hissing sound that he felt rather than heard. Something very like the patter of giant spiders' feet ran up his arms and back, and for a second he flailed his arms about, trying to shake off whatever was there. The hissing voice laughed.

"We've been waiting for you." It was a different voice this time, although it was so similar to the last that he was surprised he noticed the change. "We knew you'd come."

"Who are you?" He peered into the thick blackness. "Where are you?"

"Here." They appeared then, walking towards him; three pillars of flame that seemed to have the forms of human beings. There was something in their shape that mocked what might once have been three people much like himself. They came closer and closer, and he tried to back away. He could not move.

"There's no point trying to run," the lead figure told him. "There's nowhere to go. No way to get there." He laughed. "Are you enjoying yourself yet?"

"Keep away from me." He could see faces forming in the midst of the flames now, taking their shapes from the twists and turns of the fire. They looked familiar.

"You can't tell us what to do." In the blink of an eye they were upon him, the leader reaching out with his fingers of fiery light. Despite the flames that made him, his touch was as cold as ice; all of him was cold. Giles felt the flames licking about at his skin, but felt no pain save that from the sudden chill. He wanted to shiver, but did not want these creatures to think him afraid.

"Let me go." He tried to make it sound like a threat but did not even begin to convince himself, let alone the three creatures. They backed away from him, mocking him with their pretend fears. All at once they were around him again, their hands seizing his wrists, pulling him down. He had thought that there was no more down to go to, but clearly he was wrong. He felt himself sinking, felt hands emerging from within the ground, grasping at his ankles and his torso to pull him down all the faster. He struggled, but the hands were around his neck, about his head, pulling and forcing him down. He could no longer breathe.

With a suddenness that made him panic, the pulling stopped, and he was alone. The darkness was no longer so complete, and he could see other things now. He was in a cave, the walls formed from of the frozen figures of people. Some of them were the policemen from the station he had run to; the men and women that the creature had killed after murdering the last of its creators. They were fossilised now, a part of the rock, their faces gaping at him in silent horror. He tried not to see them, but everywhere he turned they were before him, and they were behind him. He could almost feel their hands reaching out for him. He didn't want to see them, but he didn't want to close his eyes.

"Do you know where you are yet?" It was almost a relief to see the three figures of flame walking towards him again. He stared at them, eyes wild. He knew them now. It had come to him slowly, from the first realisation that he recognised their faces. He had names for them, dragged out of some darkened corner of his mind. Harris, June, Michael. They had been members of Ethan's gang of would-be ne'er-do-wells, back in the early days when he had come to London after abandoning his stifling existence at Oxford. They had all died.

"June?" He had always liked her, had got on well with her despite her inherent weirdness. Like all the members of the gang back then she had been a loser, at war with society and with herself. She had been looking for kicks and searching for a way to get back at a world that she felt no affinity for. Even so, he had got along with her. She had welcomed him as a newcomer to the underground culture. He could see now, though, that the old loyalties were gone. She stared at him as he spoke to her, and the flames that were her eyes sparked and danced.

"We're not here to help you, Rupert." She moved closer, and he felt the fires lap at his arms. It was strange for the sensation to be so very cold, but he ignored it.

"You have to help me. Listen, Ethan is here somewhere. And there's this creature, up--" He had been going to indicate, but he had no idea where the real world was. "It's up there somewhere, back on the Earth. It's going to destroy everything."

"Good." One of the others, he thought it probably to be Michael, laughed at him. "That's what we wanted. What we all wanted. Down here we have strengths we could never imagine. Down here we're a part of something stronger, more intense. We'll shed no tears for the end of the world. If you want to save it, you're not the man you claimed to be."

"I never claimed to be anything." He rounded on the figure of flames, remembering the man it had once been. He had never known Michael very well, but he had known him enough to hate him. "I want power, and I can't get that if somebody else's creation destroys everything before I get the chance to make my mark." He pushed Michael hard, sending him stumbling away amongst the rocks. "You're not going to stop me."

"We don't have to." Harris clapped his hands together, and the flames leapt from within him, growing in a leaping, bounding circle around Giles. He felt them now, hot as never before, coming closer and closer to him until he felt them burning into his mind. He flung up his arms to protect his face, desperate to resist the urge to scream. Closer and closer came the fires; until suddenly they were gone, and he was gone, and there was nothing but blackness.


"It's dark here." The young woman, still accompanied by her bleached blond boyfriend, walked ahead to the police station, staring in through the windows. "There's power here."

"I know. I can feel it too, this time." He went to the door, swinging open in the breeze. "You want to take a look?"

"I want to see the blood." She giggled at him, and he smiled broadly, throwing an arm around her shoulders.

"Sure, Princess." Together they began to walk down the corridor.


He had no idea where he was now. There was no longer any sign of the other three; there was just him. He could not move, although he did not think that he was walled in. He could see nothing. The all-encompassing darkness had returned, and he was no longer even sure if his eyes were still open. He was no longer sure if they even worked. He had no idea what length of time he had been there for; how long he had hung there, unmoving, barely breathing, in utter silence and confusion. He tried to speak, but no sound came. He felt his lips and tongue moving, he felt the muscles in his throat strain to produce coherent words. Nothing happened. There was only silence.

It began as a distant noise; a far away pounding that at first he was sure he was imagining. The silence had become so complete that his mind was unsure what do with the noise when it came again. He could not process the sounds at first. Gradually they came nearer, and he knew them now. He could hear the steady thump-thump of a heartbeat; a mighty rhythm that resounded all about him. He felt himself vibrate with the power of the noise.

With the noise came light. It began as a flicker, until it grew in strength, pounding about him with all the force of the sound, a flashing, blasting, hideous orange light. It hurt his eyes. It burned at ever fibre of his being, strangling him with its intensity. There were voices within it; accusing, hurtful voices that echoed in his brain and hammered away at his consciousness. They accosted him with his failures, barraged him with evidence of his defeat. He saw the faces of friends; of Philip, Randall, Thomas and Deirdre. He had no idea where they were, he realised. They might be down here somewhere. They might be dead like Joy Lewis, or taken over like Harold Wilkes. They might be his unseen accusers now. The thought that Deirdre might hate him with the sort of intensity that he could detect in those voices stung him more than he had thought possible. He wanted to be with her, but not like this. He wanted to be back at the house, in the large front room with its stolen electricity supply and its fraying curtains drawn about the windows. He wanted to hear her chanting her spells, and watch the candle flames flickering with each and every syllable of her casting. He wanted to hear her gentle voice reading to him in the evenings, when everything was quiet. Remorse filled him, and he knew that the feeling of desolation was only going to grow. He could almost feel his mind beginning to break.


"What's wrong?" He had walked on ahead of her now and glanced back in surprise when he realised that she was no longer with him. She frowned.

"Something's not right here."

"Of course it's not. This is a police station, and all the coppers have gone." He grinned at her. "Maybe somebody told them we were coming."

"Don't joke." She came towards him, sliding into his embrace. "There's something waiting for us."

"We'll deal with it." He gave her an encouraging squeeze. "I can smell blood. Fresh blood."

"Me too." She sniffed the air, licking her lips. "I can smell something else too."

"Don't worry about it, babe." He made the collar of his leather jacket stand up, and ran a hand through his hair. "I'll handle it." She grinned at him.

"You're my hero."

"Don't I know it." They laughed, and headed down the corridor that led to the lair of the creature. It was almost as if they knew what was waiting for them, and revelled in the certain evil.


He was sinking into darkness; a darkness of the mind as well as of the body. It oozed into his very being, and suffocated his soul. He could no longer remember what the world above looked like. He could no longer remember the feel of the wind on his face, or the grass underfoot. He could not remember how it felt to be alive. He thought at first that he remembered tastes and smells, maybe the touch of certain materials, certain sensations; but then he knew that they had gone too. He could not remember food, or the way that it felt to eat it and to swallow it. He could no longer remember the sensation of drinking his home-brewed vodka, or of smoking a cigarette. He could not even remember the distant feeling of a night spent in a cloud of marijuana smoke, with his records playing from some distant point beyond the cloud, and the chatter of semiconscious friends. He wondered if he was dying, or if he was already dead. It didn't really matter, since he couldn't seem to remember what either meant. The voices had stopped, and with them all memory of the faces behind them. There was a distant echo of words in his brain; words like 'Ethan' and 'Deirdre'. He had no idea what they meant, or even why he thought that they mattered to him.

It was in the middle of the emptiness that he felt the stirring; the beginnings of a whirlpool in the maelstrom of nothingness. Could there be a whirlpool in emptiness? The thought was the beginnings of a confusion, and the confusion was the beginnings of a sudden sense of re-awareness. He didn't have a name yet, and he didn't have a purpose, but he knew that he was something, that he was somewhere. He thought that he could feel something else too; a renewing of memory; a rebirth of thought.

"Hello?" With the thoughts came the words, and with the words came movement and consciousness. His eyes were open. He could remember sight, although he couldn't experience it yet. Not yet. There was some other barrier that he had to cross first. Some… boundary. Something that stood between where he was now, and where he had been before.

"Ethan? Are you there?" He thought that he heard an answer, although he wasn't aware yet that he could hear again. He thought that he saw the face of his friend. "Ethan?"

"I'm here." This time he was certain; he had heard Ethan's voice, and he had seen his face. He was still clinging to that anchor when everything blew apart.


"Who are you?" The creature stared down at the couple before him, seeing their human faces and their clear, bright eyes. It hated them. It had a hatred of all that was mortal and alive. "Why are you here?"

"Hi chum." The man, with his bleached hair and his insulting smile, jumped forward, standing on the edge of the abyss. "Nice décor. I always did like entrail of half-eaten policeman. It goes with everything."

"Who are you?" The creature moved closer, glaring down at him with its malevolent, heated stare. The man grinned up at him.

"My friends always used to call me Bill. It's not a great name though. Lacks style. I prefer… Johnny. Or maybe Dan." He glanced over at his companion. "What do you think, Princess?"

"I like Johnny." She came towards him, hanging on his arm again, fluttering her eyelashes up at the huge creature. Wisps of smoke hung about its body now, wisps that had eyes and mouths, and faces that were filled with pain. Bodiless spirits that had risen from the chasm, and which now lurched and lunged at the two intruders.

"I will destroy you." The creature, rising higher and higher into the sky, lashed out with its fists and with its tongue. They struck at the pair standing so close, but neither moved. Neither flinched. The girl laughed.

"That tickles. I like it. Do it again."

"It's trying to kill us." Her boyfriend filled his voice with mock outrage. "He thinks we're alive to kill."

"Yeah." She giggled, and moved away, seemingly bored with the proceedings. "Maybe he's no fun after all."

"And all the people here are dead. Dead blood doesn't taste as sweet as live blood." He scowled, staring back at the creature, then wagged his finger at it, admonishing, sulky. "I don't like you anymore. You're no fun. I don't like it when people are no fun."

"Leave here. Leave or be destroyed." The creature leant forward, its long claws moving about mere inches from the faces of the intruding pair. "I will destroy all, and you will not stop me."

"Oh well. If you're going to destroy all, there's not much point in us going anywhere, is there. We'll end up being salami anyway." The man grinned. "Unless we can stop you of course."

"No one can stop her. I really wouldn't get in her way if I were you." Harold Wilkes, lurking in the shadows at the side of the room, came forward unbidden and looked the pair up and down. He didn't much like the look of either of them. The girl looked as though she were high on some illegal substance, and the man had the distinct look of a troublemaker; as though he were just waiting for the chance to pull out a flick-knife or a bicycle chain. With all his years on the Force, Wilkes knew trouble when he saw it. He held himself up to his full height and glared at the pair.

"This is official property you know. You're trespassing. You should leave before I have you arrested."

"Huh?" Blinking, the young couple exchanged a glance that spoke of amused bewilderment. The girl giggled.

"A pet policeman." She waved her finger admonishingly at the huge creature. "You've been holding out on us, you big tease. You have a human here."

"Leave here." The creature's voice echoed violently, the sound of it alone enough to make the ground shake. Wilkes stared up at it, his face speaking of love and utter devotion.

"Don't worry my dear. I'll take care of these two." He stepped froward, lowering his voice to speak confidentially. "Listen, she's feeling a bit rough. I think she's got a headache. Just leave and I won't arrest you."

"Boy, she's got you on a brain chain, hasn't she chum." The young man grinned. "Tell you what." He leaned closer. "As a little favour, one guy to another…" A low growl escaped from his throat. "I'll kill you quick."

"I beg your pardon?" The fullness of the threat did not quite sink through into Wilkes' confused mind. He thought, distantly, that he saw the pair change; that something had happened to their faces, and that their teeth had grown. He dismissed it before he was even able to register the image. A word drifted into his subconscious - vampire - but he threw it aside. He laughed at the young couple, shaking his head.

"There's no such thing as vampires." He could see them, and he could hear them, and he could feel their hands at his neck; but still he could not accept that they existed. He was still refusing to believe in them as their teeth tore into his throat. He felt himself becoming very weak.

"No!" With an almighty scream, the creature launched itself at the intruders, hurling them aside with its mighty, clawed fists. They flew through the air, landing heavily, staring up at their attacker with inhuman, feral eyes that screamed of anger and vengeance. The man stood up first, wiping the blood from his chin and licking its drops from his sharp canines.

"Now that was just damned unfriendly." He stepped forward, an almost ridiculous figure standing up to a creature so many times bigger than himself; and yet, somehow, there was very little about him that was ridiculous. "I have been on this earth for two hundred years. Two hundred years. What the hell gives you the right to come here now and think you can take it away from the rest of us? Huh?" He stared at Wilkes, moving weakly on the ground nearby, his hands moving vaguely as though trying to stem a flow of blood that he couldn't quite bring himself to believe in. The poor sap was quite out of his mind, from what his attacker could see. It seemed a shame to make him go on living, especially with all that tasty blood to be had. The creature seemed to guess his thoughts and moved toward them both, its tongue flickering and sending sparks flying in all directions. The girl climbed to her feet, staring at the stand-off, a lascivious grin sprawled across her face.

"Hey Spike." She turned her eyes to look at Wilkes, showing recognition and certainty on her features. "It needs him. He's the focus." She giggled. "It was created by humans, and it needs one to be with it, or it'll die. How sweet."

"You reckon, Princess?" He did not turn to look at her, but instead bent to Wilkes. The policeman stared up at him, seeing a creature that he did not believe in, unable to defend himself against something that he could not comprehend as any kind of a threat.

"Leave him alone." The creature spoke in a voice that was almost a plea. "Leave him."

"Forget it, you great ugly mug." The young man stared back up at it, his eyes gleaming with a look that was somewhere between contempt and just sheer ice. "The last thing I want is some pet monster. If I wanna summon Doomsday, I'll do it myself." His hands moved with the skill of long practice, snapping Wilkes' neck as though it were nothing but lifeless dry bone.


In the confused, empty spaces of inside, where Giles and Ethan had finally found each other, all was beginning to end. The walls that surrounded them broke apart, sending chunks of burning rock raining down on the pair, turning to lava at their feet. They scrambled up, battling to climb up the collapsing rock face, struggling to make their way up pathways that did not exist. Smoke and fire burned everywhere, and the screams of souls that had once been human; that had once been demons and monsters and everything that was inhuman; echoed everywhere, the sheer sound alone like a wave of unbearable pain that rained down on the two men. They tried to shut it out. They tried to ignore the shaking of the ground, and the wraith-like shapes that swarmed about them, trying to drag them back down into the pit. They ignored the voices of their lost friends, of Harris and Michael and June, all screaming, all begging for help to return to the world of the living. They shut their ears and their eyes and they climbed. The climbed until their fingers bled, and until the sharp, tooth-like rocks had torn their clothes to shreds. They climbed until their arms and legs had no strength left inside them; and still they climbed. They climbed until, with every ounce of stamina gone, with the last of the clinging wraiths still holding grimly on with their evil, pointed little teeth, they reached the top of the chasm and fell over the edge. The wraiths dropped away, the last of the burning rocks collapsed, and the piles of dead policemen fell down into the pit. Its rocky, toothed mouth closed up, and with a last, wild, echoing scream, its spirits and nightmares were sealed back within. There was silence.

"Where's that bloody creature gone?" Unable to summon the strength necessary to go and look for it, Ethan lay on his back, gazing up at the ceiling. It seemed strangely close, its flickering strip lights casting shadows on his face.

"I couldn't give a damn. So long as it's not here." Opening his eyes cautiously, unsure if they had escaped from the jaws of hell only to be torn limb from limb by the avenging creature of doom, Giles frowned. "The room's come back."

"Yeah. I noticed that." Ethan sat up. "I can't see the creature."

"Does that mean it's gone?" With a superhuman effort, Giles made it to his feet. He was standing in a small room, the walls lined with filing cabinets and a single desk in one corner strewn with paperwork. Windows covered with blinds hid the outside world, and the floor, a short stretch of faded linoleum, bore the scuff marks of many shoes. It was all disappointingly normal. Save for one thing. The body of Harold Wilkes, neck twisted at an unusual angle, lay beneath the desk. His eyes, staring and wide, bore the look of utter disbelief.

"Damn." Giles knelt beside him and closed his eyes, then glanced back at Ethan. "He's dead."

"Well with a bit of luck so's that creature. Small price to pay to lose one lousy copper." Ethan headed for the door. "Come on man. Before somebody turns up and finds out everybody vanished. I don't fancy explaining to the rest of the Force how a whole station load of bluebottles got dragged into hell by a twenty foot monster."

"I guess not." Giles followed him to the door, grabbing his gun as he did so. He vaguely remembered firing it, but he couldn't remember dropping it. It was just as well that he had seen it before somebody else did. He tucked it away under his jacket and raced after Ethan. Tired he might have been, but not tired enough to be unable to run. If nothing else, self-preservation leant him strength. It was getting to be the guiding force in his life.


"Now he's strong." The girl, still leaning against her boyfriend, stared after the two young men hurrying along the road. They both looked bedraggled and bloodied, and her far-reaching, active mind could tell why. She could see the images of all that they had gone through; could read the thoughts and the fears that still clung to the corners of their minds. She smiled.

"Which one?" Her boyfriend, peering at the departing pair through the light of a street lamp, frowned. "They all look alike to me."

"The one with the earring." She grinned again, that same lascivious grin as before. "There's something special about him."

"Then let's eat him. I only got a few mouthfuls from that creature's pet back there." He wiped a drying drop of blood from his lips and smiled. "I could do with another bite or two."

"Not that one." She pushed him away, her smile telling him to leave well alone. "There's destiny there. Fun. Really Spike, I promise. You'll see."

"I will, huh?" He shook his head. "You're crazy, Dru. Every time you see something tasty you wanna leave it. Well I'm hungry. I'm gonna go get me something with a little more body to it than your destinies. You coming?"

"Not yet. I'll see you later." She was still staring after the two human men, and Spike growled, disapproving. Still, she usually knew what she was talking about. He trusted her judgement; and if she said that there was fun still to be had from that man with the gold earring, he was ready to believe her.

"Okay." He gave her a parting kiss. "I'll see you back at base. Keep an eye on the horizon."

"Sure." She returned the kiss, then broke away and walked slowly down the road. She was keeping to the shadows, but even so she was as plain as day as she followed the two humans. Spike smiled. Sometimes she really could be the strangest girl…


She could see confusion, pain, exhaustion. They were all feelings that she was familiar with. She moved closer to him. She could see the destiny written in his blood; could see so much else besides. She could see the things that had moved her to go to the police station; the attraction that she had felt to the trail of chaos this man left in his wake. She was glad that she had been able to help defeat that creature. It had played no part in the destiny that she had seen. There was a plan here; a Great Plan that had to be followed. It was something that featured her and Spike and she thought - she hoped - something that featured Angelus too. His name brought a quiver to her spine, and she giggled. Real destines. Real powers. Real chaos. And something else.

"I can feel it." She moved closer, probing deeper into the unguarded mind. In its current state of exhaustion it was easier to see into, and she could see so very much. She could see… a book. A big book. Called… Majick And Mysterye. Well that was easy. If that was what the young human wanted, then that was what the young human would have. She could see it all, as part of the great destiny; as part of the wonderful Plan. It was something that would bring chaos, and destruction, and so much madness and fury. She would enjoy that. She would enjoy that a lot.


"You hear the bell ring this morning?" Staring down at the doormat, Ethan bent to pick up the package that lay there. It was addressed to Rupert Giles, in a spidery handwriting that he did not recognise. There were a few drops of something; smudges of a red-brown colour that could almost have been blood, which marked the address label. It was almost as if the postman had cut himself whilst delivering the package.

"Nope. Why, did the postman bring something? He comes so early these days; even before sunrise." Deirdre glanced at the package. "Hey Ripper. Love letters?"

"Get knotted." He took the package and opened it without hesitation, using his flick-knife to cut through the string. The brown paper fell away onto the floor and he was left holding a book; an old book, with gold writing on a leather cover. Majick And Mysterye by AE Cummings.

"That's the book. The book we found before, with all those cool spells and--" Ethan took it, frowning. "How the hell did it get here? Who would have sent us this?"

"Does it matter?" Giles took the book back and began to click through the pages. The faces of demons, drawn in fine ink, attracted his eyes, and he felt the elation flow through him. Which one could they summon first? Which new form of chaos would be the first to be reawakened upon the Earth? He wanted to laugh out loud. He had seen such things beneath the ground; such nightmares, such horrors. He wanted to hold those terrors in his hands, and to control them. He wanted to be a part of all that darkness. Maybe now he could be.

"I think I'm going to enjoy this." Ethan laughed, throwing an arm around Giles' shoulders. "This is the start of something great, man."

"Yeah." Giles was staring into the distance, seeing blood and fire and hearing the screams of the damned. He felt that he was standing at the very threshold of hell; and he was ready to take that final step forward.


"What have you been up to?" Spike, waking at the sound of footsteps, looked up into the eyes of his girlfriend. Dru grinned at him.

"I had a quick bite of postman," she told him, snuggling into his embrace. "He wasn't bad. Young."

"Good for you." He yawned, resting his head on her shoulder. "Did you do what you wanted to do?"

"Oh yeah." He felt her quiver with a small laugh. "I like shaping destines Spike. It's fun."

"And fun is all we care about, hey babe." He ran a hand gently through her hair. "Are you going to tell me about it?"

"Not yet." She closed her eyes. "Some other time. You'll see soon enough." And as she let her body relax into the delicate hold of sleep, her mind drifted off on its own paths. She could see Rupert Giles and his friends, talking about the book; she could hear the voices of demons, clamouring to be the first for release. And she could see a great darkness; a suffocating, terrible sense of blackness and chaos which was building up above all. She smiled to herself in her sleep. Something told her that this could be the start of a beautiful nightmare; and in the dark and fiery mists of hell, something agreed.