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The International Writers Magazine
: Warning: Adult Content - Long Read

Rag Castle - Part Two
Kevin Schofeild

Malone pondered for a moment before speaking. ‘Yeah, you’re quite right, Abigail, it would be stupid to hang around with a serial succubus on the prowl, and fatally stupid to fall asleep. But all this is speculation; we have no solid evidence that such a thing exists. And the thing that was seen in the bar could be a case of mass hallucination.

'The dead men may have been done to death by someone or something this side of the grave, not by a sex-mad ghost. The alleged poltergeist activity could be anything. No. We need to verify what Frank has told us for ourselves. We can’t commission a T.V. documentary on the basis of hearsay and hysteria. No offence, Frank.’

Frank appeared leaden and fatigued. ‘No offence taken, Mr. Malone, I’m a pragmatic man myself, or used to be. Well, I sincerely hope your scepticism is not myopic, and you find enough material to justify a documentary. This place has damned near finished me; it would be a small triumph if I could wring some recompense out of its miserable neck.’
‘We’ll do our best,’ said Malone.

At 6.10pm Malone and Abigail were alone in the castle. There was a hushed expectancy about the place. The halls and passages, noiseless and still, had a thick atmosphere of brooding coldness. The pair had retreated to their rooms as soon as Frank had taken his leave, feeling a need to establish their own private space. Their apartment was plush and spacious – one of fifty-three similar suites.
Abigail had just showered, and was drying herself in front of Malone as he lay with his feet up on the bed. ‘You like me naked, don’t you, Father?’
‘Yeah, Sister, I do.'’ She was right. Malone was captivated by her nakedness. He adored her black silky skin, and the beautiful thrust of her firm little breasts. And now she was responding to his gaze with teasing little gyrations of her hips and bottom. Her eyes met his and she danced, sinuous and flaunting; an erotic invitation that has enticed men into breathless captivity since time out of memory.
They made love. At first slowly and languorously, savouring and touching each other with quiet pleasure. Then with heightened passion, acutely alive to their excitement, building and intensifying their needs with each kiss and caress. Finally, intercourse became a compulsion; an urgent, sharp, surging drive to satiate their senses in a burst of warm, delicious pleasure. They came together, and laughed like children. The castle sensed their pleasure. It detected their bodies - their skin, sweat, organs, bones and sinews. It wanted their pleasure. It wanted them. In the castle floorboards creaked, walls shuddered, ceilings flexed and shivered. Elements warped and fused into strange contortions. Atoms and molecules spun into unnatural forms. The castle pulsed with malefic creation. Agonies caught in stone, blood, unbearable torture, all its deep resources of pain and malevolence bodied forth playmates for Malone and Abigail. Abigail felt the hate gathering around them and shook with a sudden surge of apprehension. Malone felt nothing – congenitally impervious to anything beyond his five senses. ‘Malone, I think we should leave, I’m really worried, I think this place is evil and dangerous.’ ‘We don’t know that, we have no evidence to…’
‘Dunderhead! Lack-brain! You know nothing, priest-man!’
Malone shivered at the force and strangeness of the utterance. The voice and words had come from Abigail, but they were not hers. ‘Abigail, what’s wrong?’
‘What? Oh, I don’t know. I remember speaking but not what I said. How odd. What did I say?’
‘Well, you said I was a dunderhead, a lack-brain and a priest-man who knows nothing. And your accent and intonation were different – very precise and Nigerian.’
‘I wouldn’t say such insulting things. And the words are old-fashioned; they’re like the words grandma used to use.’
‘What was your grandma like?’
‘I have very little memory of her – she died when I was four – but the family speak of her only in terms of extreme respect and deference. Apparently, she was a Juju priestess of awesome reputation. Men of power from every continent craved her blessings, and woe betide anyone who provoked her anger. It is said she could congeal the life-blood of her foes with a mere word or glance. As you can imagine, people generally took great pains to stay on her good side.’
Malone was about to adopt his usual sceptical attitude to such things, but thought better of it. ‘Perhaps you subconsciously remember her words and utter them when you feel stressed. Anyway, this place is getting you down, so let’s have a bite to eat, a quick look round to satisfy the company, and then we’ll put up at a pub somewhere.’

Six miles away on a lonely forest road Frank James stopped his car, reversed into a sidetrack, and turned back. His mobile phone was still in his room at the castle. His stomach knotted at the thought, but he had to return, he needed the phone. What an unbelievably stupid thing to do, he thought. How could I be such a dummy! Such an absolute fucking dummy! Frank berated himself as he drove, trying to replace his sense of fear with self-anger. But it wasn’t working. He was scared. Nevertheless, it was still light, and if he hurried he could retrieve his phone and be on his way in no time. He accelerated. Soon be there and soon be out again, he told himself, again and again, like a mantra. But his fear grew, virtually to the point of panic, as he drove across the castle drawbridge in the gathering twilight.

Frank decided not to disturb Malone and Abigail, checking with them would take him in the opposite direction to his room, and he simply wanted to get his phone and go. Darkness was deepening in the passage as he quickly strode towards his room. The place seemed different, and he felt compelled to keep glancing over his shoulder. Behind, shadows appeared to be forming and moving, Don’t lose it, he told himself, night is closing in, what can you expect? But the shadows unmanned him; they seemed to hold darker shapes within them. Frank quickened his pace to a run. He reached his room, stepped inside and felt a soft squelch underfoot. He flicked on the light switch, and froze. The room was a turmoil of squirming worm-like creatures. Each was about a foot long with a bulbous head and a mouth set with small needle-like teeth. They covered the floor and wriggled up and down the walls, excreting long strings of viscous slime. Several had gained purchase on the ceiling and were dangling cords of this sticky ooze beneath them. Many of the loathsome things were writhing, convulsively flexing and licking their dirty sides. The stench was unbearable. Frank recoiled in disgust, his bowels desperate to evacuate. He lunged towards the door, but staggered and fell, his feet adhering to the carpet in a coagulated mess of the creatures’ excrement. His knee hit one of the things and it thrashed violently. Instinctively, he shot to his feet and leapt for the door again. Again he fell, his fingers scratching frantically at the doorjamb. Something was crawling up his leg inside his trousers. He screamed in abject terror. It was moving up the back of his calf. He kicked his leg to try and dislodge it. It stopped for a moment, and then, as if with stronger resolve, slithered round to his shin and touched his kneecap. Frank lashed at the thing with his fist, pounding, wild with hysteria. It was counterproductive. The thing squirmed up his thigh with a spasm of muscular energy, moving inexorably towards the warmth of his groin. Adrenalin propelled him to his feet, his hands ripping furiously to remove his trousers. Something plopped onto his head from above and promptly wriggled down the back of his shirt. Frank wailed and soiled himself, his mind and body dominated by stark terror. Intense pain in his groin caused him to vomit. More of the creatures dropped on him from above, clinging to his neck and ears. One bit into his lower lip. He grabbed at it and tore it from his face, taking his lip and a strip of flesh with it. Blood spurted from the wound. The creatures liked the blood and squirmed towards its source. Frank died in a demented frenzy, his screams turning to a gargling rattle, as his face was torn apart and devoured. The castle fed on his pain. It welcomed his death-screams like triumphant symphonies. His baneful shrieks were oratorios throbbing with pleasure and promise. The sounds cascaded underground to remote dungeons and forgotten chambers. Other screams were awakened. Earthbound souls, shades of the torturer’s gloating murder, howled in outrage at their unavenged deaths. Scream amplified scream, piercing and bombinating in a shockwave of unresolved hate and agony.

In their rooms Malone and Abigail sensed that something unwelcome was about to enter their space. They paused in their preparations to explore the castle and listened apprehensively. Then it hit them. Supercharged with the pain of centuries the scream attacked their ears like a hand grenade. A self-protection reflex dropped them to the floor with hands clamped over their ears. Fear and shock paralysed their minds and froze their bodies into the foetal position. Then it stopped abruptly, as if someone had thrown a switch. Its cessation triggered them to action. Both flew to the door with the same impelling instinct – escape. Malone reached it first, and like a man possessed, wrenched it open and turned to the left. ‘Come on girl, move it,’ he bellowed, glancing quickly behind him at Abigail and charging full tilt down the passageway. Abigail followed for several paces and then stopped, realising that he was running in the wrong direction. ‘Malone! Stop! You’re going the wrong way!’ There was no response. Malone’s ears were still ringing from the scream, and Abigail’s cries failed to reach his brain. He continued to charge down the passage, convinced that she was right behind him. Abigail, realising that he was oblivious to her cries, started to run after him, but was immediately wrenched backwards.

Something had seized her collar and was dragging her back to the room. Her heart clenched with terror, and pounded like a pneumatic drill. She squirmed, mad with fear, arms flailing and lashing out in blind panic. But to no avail, she was hauled back into the room and flung against the far wall, the back of her head striking it with a sickening thump. For an instant, just before she lost consciousness, Abigail saw a monstrosity.

She came to with a start, and gazed with bewildered horror at the scene gradually resolving into focus. She was lying naked on an elaborate four-poster in a dank, stone chamber. Gloomy and vast, with archways opening onto chambers beyond, the place had an air of numbing oppression. Under the archways people suspended by chains and manacles were being subjected to hideous cruelties, their piteous screams and cries availing them nothing but scorn from their tormentors. The torturers, naked and sexually aroused, were laughing deliriously with sadistic excitement. And then suddenly the people became hazy and insubstantial, and faded into nothingness. Everything was silent, except for the spit and crackle of a fire and a deep guttural moan of pain. Twelve feet away to Abigail’s left was a large open fire. Above it, impaled on a spit, turned the body of a woman, her face contorted in agony. Occasionally, fat would flow from her body onto the coals beneath, causing the fire to flare up and illuminate the roasting flesh. Turning the spit was the monstrosity Abigail had glimpsed before she was knocked unconcious.

‘Oh isn’t she merciless! What a grand creation.’ The speaker emerged from an archway to the right of Abigail and sat on the edge of the bed. She was completely naked. Tall and beautiful with long jet-black hair, her movements were hypnotic and dance-like. She turned to Abigail and introduced herself. ‘I am Lilith, wife of Belial, queen of chaos and misrule. Yonder is my pet, a creation of dark rage, bones and flesh vomited up from the bowels of this place. She is man-hater and man-killer, a succubus of infinite delicacy.’ Lilith slid lazily alongside Abigail and entwined herself around her body. She placed her lips close to Abigail’s ear and began to whisper. She whispered soothing enchantments, words of honied dreaminess. And all the while she caressed and kissed Abigail’s naked body. ‘Open your legs my sweet, I wish to warm my hands.’ Abigail obeyed. Her will was dissolving, dying as the seductive whispers captured her mind. The whispers continued. ‘You are my dearest darling, my beautiful angel of pleasure. We will play together and bewitch the world. Your body is for me, you know it, and want it so. See there the body of Virginia Tate. Behold her undignified ending. What a miserable, frail being, unfit for nothing but ridicule and contempt. Would you like to join her over the fire? No, of course not, you are for me, you know it, and want it so.’ Abigail’s faculties were closing down, her sense of selfhood becoming dull and misty. She felt Lilith’s avid fingers violating her body, but was not outraged. Her body was for Lilith, she knew it, and wanted it so.

The whispers continued: Frank James enriched our power, unwittingly he fed our hunger and thirst for death. We treated his guests with indulgence, and gratified their appetites before bringing them to our spirit-throng. Now the place is empty. Only you and the priest-man remain to entertain us.’

Abigail felt uneasy. Deep within her vitiated senses she thought of Malone and of her love for him. There was something important that she must do. A thought, a resolution, an urgent vital word must be uttered. She strove to remember what it was. And then it came back to her: ‘No.’

Lilith sprang to her feet, hissing like a viper. ‘No? You impart this word to me? I, who have bathed your brain in sweet delirium, am assailed by defiance! Bitch! Insolent bitch! Now you will pay, now you will suffer tortures beyond imagination.’ She snapped her head round to the succubus and bellowed, ‘Come beast! Come and show this wretch how tender you can be!’ The succubus scuttled across the floor to Lilith’s side, dragging a heavy chain attached to a collar around its neck. Lilith grasped the chain and rounded on Abigail with a sneer. ‘This beauty will lie on Malone’s belly and tease him to distraction. He will not see her. He will see your body and smell your fragrance, until his climax breaks her spell, and she reveals herself in all her glory.
' Well, what do you think of her?’

Abigail trembled; she could make no answer. The being resembled a naked, misshapen hag. Lynx-eyed and grinning it crawled at the feet of its mistress. Thick brown claws, that may once have been fingernails, scrabbled at the floor. Abigail caught a whiff of its odour and her stomach churned with nausea. It stank of stale excrement. Lilith bent down and stroked its matted white hair. The thing chuckled in a low hoarse whisper, and then threw back its head in a scream of ear-splitting laughter. ‘I think she wants to play with you,’ simpered Lilith. ‘Would you like to dance with the nice lady, my pet?’The thing needed no second bidding; it lunged at Abigail, its arms flung wide in anticipation of an embrace. The chain pulled it up short, but it strained forward, ripping splinters from the floorboards, desperate to maul and mutilate the young flesh inches away from its grasp. Abigail flinched, eyes bulging, her insides whirling with sickness and palpitations. Her mouth was arid. She tried to swallow, but only succeeded in causing a sharp pain in her throat. The pain was a focus; it brought some clarity back to her mind. Escape or die? Escape!

Abigail jack-knifed off the bed and flew past the sizzling body of Virginia Tate. She ran in blind panic, the succubus screaming dementedly at her heels. A stone wall loomed ahead, archways to her right and left. Her senses detected a faint draught to the right and she instinctively veered in that direction. She saw a flight of steps, a door at the top, a way out. She reached the steps and flung herself up them, the monstrosity right behind her, its chain clanging discordantly on the stone. Her fingers closed around the door latch and pulled – nothing! The door remained shut. She pushed and it flew open. She leapt through and slammed it shut. Her hand shot the iron bolt a millisecond before the succubus impacted on the thick oak panels. The door was robust, and two further bolts at the top and bottom strengthened its security against the thing on the other side. Abigail slumped to the floor, her naked back against the door. For Christ’s sake, don’t sit, get up and move, she told herself. But her body was spent, and she remained sitting. Quaking with shock and fighting for breath, she tried to compose her mind. Start looking, find Malone and get out. Simple objectives, but how to achieve them? The place was a death trap: surreal, unpredictable and deadly. Her thoughts lost their focus and became cloudy. She felt a strange sense of apathy, a sense of surrender.

Before her stretched a long, wide gallery. To her right and left were passageways. Must start to look for Malone, she thought, languidly. But she continued to sit. Lilith’s murmuring whispers, soft and muted, were still in her head. She felt mellow and easy, reluctant to think or move. At the far end of the gallery she vaguely realised that something was moving. A form was shifting and shimmering in the distance. It was moving towards her. When the shape got to about twenty feet away, Abigail saw it clearly. It was an entangled mass of large squirming worms, about five feet high and seven feet wide. Thousands of them were oozing and churning in a giant loathsome knot. And it was coming closer. As it slid across the floor a human arm, white and bloodless, flailed through the air, before being sucked back into the noisome mess. Then a head appeared, its eye sockets and mouth obscenely alive with gluttonous, writhing worms. It followed the arm, back into the broiling mass. Abigail saw death approaching with dispassion, as Lilith continued to whisper inside her head: ‘Poor Mr James, he looks rather unwell. These are my spawn; they crawl from my belly. My babies will bite you and eat you alive.’

Abigail dimly noted that the purring whispers now seemed to be coming from outside her head. She felt a caress on her thigh, hot breath on her neck. She turned her head and was face to face with Lilith. Abigail recoiled, as though electrified; her mind instantly clear, the whispering spell shattered by Lilith’s malignant grin. She sprang to her feet, staggering like a drunkard, her head reeling at the bizarre insanity of her position. Lilith’s silvery tones rose to strident screams of fury:‘You will not defy me and live. I’ll make you suffer more pain than a slowly-burnt witch. I’ll twist and scorch every nerve till you beg to die, you worthless defiant bitch!’ Lilith’s screams pierced the air with the sonic force of a jet engine.

Abigail clamped her hands to her ears and lurched against the wall. The shock goaded her into action, adrenalin shot through her veins and she ran for life. She ran on blind impulse, her feet flying, energised with mad terror. She flew headlong down ancient passages, across lofty chambers, up time-worn stairways. She had no idea where she was running to, the object was simply to escape from Lilith’s hideous clutches. Eventually, her body succumbed to fatigue and she slowed down, cautiously glancing behind her to see if she was being pursued. There was no one there. She was alone. Exhausted, with her lungs on fire and her legs like lead, she limped through the castle’s labyrinthine corridors, desperate to find safety. Up ahead she noticed a door; it looked like the door to their suite of rooms. She approached stealthily, ready to flee at any hint of danger. Behind the door she heard a voice – it was Malone’s! Her first impulse was to dash through the door, but instinct paralysed her with a shudder of dread. She was attracted and repelled – was it a trap, was Malone safe? He had obviously found his way back to their rooms, but whom was he talking to? Her heart pounded violently. A million nerve endings tingled and prickled up and down her body. She took a deep gulp of air and edged forwards. Malone was strong. He nourished her soul. Whatever evil insanity lay before them, they would face it together.

She pushed the door open and stepped into the room. Inside the room another universe existed. The place stank like a hot sewer. The atmosphere was stultifying, deadening, emptied of life and hope. Yellow, gaseous curls of smoke rose from the carpet. Abigail retched painfully as the miasma polluted her nostrils and lungs. Noises – grunts and moans – were coming from the bedroom. She crept towards the bedroom door and opened it an inch. She feared to look, dreading the debasement she might witness – her fear was justified. Malone was naked on the bed with the succubus sat astride him. She watched in mute horror as the loathsome thing squirmed up and down, grinding its dirty buttocks and groin over Malone’s erect penis. Its wrinkled hide, festering with pustules and boils, splashed globules of pus and serous fluid in all directions. It was a scene of utter defilement. Abigail stepped back in a daze, she must act quickly otherwise Malone would die. But what could she do? Could she kill the thing without killing Malone? She was desperate to act, but dread and uncertainty retarded her mind and petrified her body. Think! Think! For fuck’s sake think, she inwardly screamed at herself. But thought eluded her. She was in a state of complete mental collapse. Then the whispers returned, insinuating, piercing deep into her mind. But it was not Lilith who was whispering, it was someone else! She dimly recognised the voice from her childhood. She fought to remember. And then it came to her with a flash of unmistakeable clarity – it was Grandma’s voice. It was the voice of ancient authority, mesmeric and commanding. Abigail could only listen and obey. ‘Hearken to my skull-whispers, child, and obey my bidding. Yonder monster is nothing but graveyard flesh and flim flam. You are a mighty lioness. You are a killer. Your teeth are steel daggers. Your claws are diamond scratchers. Breathe mighty cat, breathe with your furnace bellow-lungs. You are the death-dealer; you long to kill. The killing-lust is upon you. Go bite and rip and quench your lust! Kill…Kill…Kill…’

For a moment Abigail savoured the purring, latent violence in her body. Uncertainty banished; fear gone; she felt only power and purpose. Just for a moment she anticipated the pure joy of killing the thing on Malone’s belly, and then she sprang. She smote the malignancy like a raging tornado. Boiling with fury and hate, her limbs and teeth ripped and tore at the succubus until it disintegrated. Blood and intestines, arms and legs, lumps of flesh and gore littered the bed and carpet. And still she attacked, flailing madly at the mutilated corpse with one of its dismembered legs. Gradually, the ferocity subsided as Abigail lost her supernatural lion strength. Dazed and bewildered, she looked around the room at the carnage, and vomited. Malone, freed from the succubus’ mind control, helped her into the bathroom, his body shaking uncontrollably, unable to comprehend what had happened. He managed to get most of the mess off their bodies and grab some clothes, urgently striving to get them both dressed and away from danger. ‘Come on, Abigail, for Christ’s sake let’s go!’

‘Wait, Wait, my head’s pounding, Grandma’s still talking.’ ‘What?’ Grandma’s doing something in my mind, I think she’s reading my thoughts.’

Malone gently slipped his arm around her waist and began to walk her to the door. ‘Okay, yes, let’s get out first and then we can talk to Grandma later. We’ll soon get you safe and… What the!’

Malone’s patronising attempt to soothe Abigail out of the castle was abruptly ended by a brilliant flash of phosphorescence. The flash left a sizzling ball of intense electric blue light in the centre of the room. Abigail clutched Malone’s arm and laughed nervously. ‘Malone, this is Grandma!’ The light began to pulsate and spark. Malone kept a close grip on Abigail’s waist and tried to skirt round it to the door. The response from the light was dramatic – it spoke: ‘Keep still, Neanderthal.’ Abigail giggled at Malone’s astonished face, and clapped a hand over his mouth. ‘Don’t answer back, I don’t think she’d like it.’ ‘Grandma, really! Malone is not a Neanderthal.’
‘Humph! His appearance contradicts you, but if you say he isn’t, I’ll take your word for it.’
‘Thanks, Grandma.’
‘Now, by the Great Yemoja! I must deal with this Lillith and her theatre of sick amusements.’
‘What will you do, Grandma?’
‘What will I do!” The blue orb crackled ominously and emitted a bolt of lightening which narrowly missed Malone’s left ear. “Why, I’ll grind her skull between two stones; I’ll draw her teeth with red hot pincers; I’ll drown her in boiling oil; I’ll drill her…’
‘But Grandma, I think she’s already dead.’
‘Silence, child! Lilith was never alive. She’s an elemental, a devil’s plaything. She exists only where ley lines cross. This is such a place. Here she is flesh and blood. In this place she can know both pleasure and pain. The castle is an abyss of pure wickedness. Those who die here are bound to the earth. Their spirits are held captive by Diabolic Forces and made to assume flesh and bone so that tortures may be put to them. That is Lilith’s pleasure, but not for much longer. There are souls here screaming for release and vengeance. I’ll end their suffering and free them. Some will want retribution and I’ll see that they get it.’
‘It sounds like hell,’ observed Malone. The blue light buzzed angrily and moved to within an inch of Malone’s nose. ‘No, priest-man, hell doesn’t exist. But I’ll invent one especially for you if you don’t take my granddaughter out of this place. Now go!’

Malone and Abigail went. They drove to the summit of a high moor some five miles from the castle and looked back. The castle no longer existed. Where it once stood fire and titanic detonations cleansed the earth. Abigail leant across and kissed Malone on the cheek. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and she snuggled into his chest. ‘I think a volcanic eruption will satisfy the authorities as to the cause of Virginia and Frank’s deaths,’ he said. ‘Telling the truth would probably get us certified.’ She nodded her agreement. ‘Neanderthal?’
‘Will you buy me a drink?’
‘I might do if you’re a good girl.’

© Kevin Schofield - March 2005

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