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:
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.'
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.'
'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.
'Will you buy me a drink?'
'I might do if you're a good girl.'