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Carol 9

by  Richard Brown

Posted: Friday, December 10, 2004
Word Count: 1463
Summary: Belatedly - the continuation of Carol's story...
Related Works: Carol • Carol 10 • Carol 2 • Carol 4 • Carol 5 • Carol 6 • Carol 7 • Carol 8 • Carol3 • 

Chapter Five

The heavy red curtains were drawn as normal to protect the bright red chair upholstery from colour-eating sunrays. A less familiar feature was the flickering light. Carol whimpered when she noticed that all the candles in the silver sticks were black.

The feeble flames highlighted segments of the elaborate chandelier, making it seem as though glass shards were floating in the centre of the room waiting to rain down on the unrighteous. The heavy gilt framework of the furniture glinted confusingly whilst choking incense fumes emanated from a dark corner. Mrs. Campbell, dressed in a glossy black robe embroidered with red and gold, was leaning aggressively over the polished table, her face akin to a hideous gargoyle which Carol had seen in one of her father’s books about York Minster.

‘Come girls! Sit!’ hissed the witch.

In the semi-darkness, Carol perched on the seat edge. She was vibrating so uncontrollably that when she gripped the table in search of stability it shook, causing the candlelight to flicker even more across her wide-stare, gemstone eyes. She was convinced that every secret formerly locked within her quaking soul was immediately available to Mrs. Campbell.

As far as possible, the penitent sinner looked downwards but she could not resist the occasional glance towards the distorted, sneering features of the sorceress. In a deep, other-worldly voice, the woman uttered words which were meaningless to Carol. The monologue started softly and, apparently of its own volition, wound towards a crescendo. The mouth from which this terrible sound was emanating distorted itself, flexing inventively like a ruby red smoke ring in a strong draught. Disgusting foam flecked the curling lips. Carol crossed her legs and jigged violently but still she could not hold the little seeps of urine. At the height of the oration the language became terrifyingly clear. Spitting disgustingly, Satan’s agent declared at maximum decibels; ‘There’s a thief!’

Carol felt as though a rocket had been fired from between her buttocks. She had no control over the forces which shot her upwards and propelled her chair backwards. Emitting a tiny scream of terror she tumbled chaotically to the floor where, still fizzing like a fallen firecracker, she rolled under the table. The gloom there was almost absolute. A flailing hand brushed against the witch's ankle. Carol’s first inspiration was sink sharp, white teeth into the bone as a diversionary tactic but fear of demons predominated.

‘Come out! Get up you stupid child!’ came the shrill order. Carol reluctantly resumed her seat and the relentless witch repeated her accusation, the coal-dark eyes emitting night rays which tried to counter the yellow ones coming from the candles.

‘Er, a thief?’ Carol said in an unusually high pitched voice which, she trusted, conveyed innocence.

‘Some money is missing,’ hissed the occultist, ‘a very large quantity of money.’ Mrs. Campbell’s head lolled; a bent forefinger waved hypnotically until it fixed on Carol and straightened like a released bow string.

‘Oh, that's terrible!’ empathised Carol.

The accuser then intoned; ‘Come, demons, come!’ her lips barely moving. Her outspread, weirdly waving hands summoned the monsters. Carol glanced at Edith, hoping to see a cynical smile or a gesture of support but her companion’s head was bowed and her fists defensively clenched.

Fighting an urge to vomit, feeling more alone than she had ever done in all her days of abandonment, Carol emitted a long, low moan. She was intensely impressionable. When Anne had told her that a moth, which seemed to live in a wardrobe, was the soul of her grandmother she had totally believed it. The demons, too, were real. They would wrest the stolen money and they would take her down to Hades’ fires.

‘Hold hands!’ cried Mrs. Campbell, reaching out.

With revulsion but driven by terror, Carol slowly took the proffered body part which felt to her like a chicken’s claw. Tears began to blur her vision but she could see that Edith was paralysed. ‘Child!’ yelled Mrs. Campbell which instantly cured the ailment. One of the tightly bunched fists uncurled. Hoping for warmth, even companionable wetness, Carol clutched, only to discover that she was handling ice.

Edith’s mouth was open, her eyes also, but vacant. The reflexes which governed body cover and clenching resumed. Edith’s arm shot chestwards and had Mrs. Campbell not being pulling violently in the opposite direction, Carol would have lurched violently across the table towards her friend. As it was, held by hook and vice, she was certain that she would be torn in two. She tried to say’ No’ but could not stop the ‘o’ sound which formed a discordant ground for the resumed gibberish which flooded from the medium. The impromptu chorus was neatly terminated by Mrs. Campbell’s high pitched yell of, ‘Beelzebub!’ Hands, automatically it seemed, freed themselves

Carol screamed once more but this time with a deep and anguished sound. She knew the name. It was certain that the chief of devils was in the room. Mrs. Campbell was moaning and curling, waving her arms in satanic semaphore. Edith hugged herself ever tighter and rocked. Out of her gaping mouth came a staccato sound, an ‘eh, eh, eh’ of metaphysical anguish. The gloomy room fizzed with wicked energy. ‘Thank you, master, thank you.’ Mrs. Campbell cried and clapped her hands, making a sharp noise which hurt Carol’s ears.

There was a long pause. The composite of stress cries fell away. Carol was aware of a Nile-like river of sweat, fed by hundreds of head and shoulder streams, rushing down her spine. The pores in her armpits opened to release yet more unwanted moisture which disgustingly wetted her T-shirt. Oblivious to this, it seemed, Mrs. Campbell rearranged herself, evidently coming back from Hell to Earth. Quite calmly, then, she announced that the Prince of Darkness had graciously given the thief or thieves a chance.

‘Thank you, Beelzebub,’ Carol murmured politely, unwittingly incriminating herself.

‘The money,’ Mrs. Campbell continued, ‘must be returned by six o'clock. Should it not be..’ The pause and the glare reignited the furnace of fear, ‘…then, under Beelzebub’s direction, I will open a certain book and look at a certain page.’

She paused again, staring at Carol who, wrongly as it turned out, assumed that the devil-summonser had finished talking.

‘Can we go now?’ she asked, daring to smile and full of hope.

‘And there,’ yelled the witch, completely ignoring the question, ‘written in blood, yes, blood, will be the name of the wicked, wicked, wicked thief.’

A blessedly logical part of Carol’s mind cheerfully suggested that this was highly improbable but a furtive glance towards Edith was sufficient to eliminate any tiny springs of agnosticism. ‘Let’s hope that the money comes back,’ was all that the chief suspect could think to say. Mrs. Campbell snorted loudly ‘Hope? Hope?’ she cried, ‘there’s no hope about it child. It’s justice or death, justice or death.’

Miraculously, whilst Mrs. Campbell was out visiting a neighbour, the money was restored and there were no bloody pages. Whether or not Edith’s mother knew of her daughter’s leading role in villainy it was Carol who bore the brunt of the campaign of revenge. Further humiliations, some subtle, some blatant, came in a flood.

The episode seemed to diminish Edith’s taste for criminal adventure. Her preoccupation with Wellington strengthened and she simply took it for granted that Carol’s interest was also changing. The fact that the younger girl interpreted the crucial ‘going all the way’ question as a geographical one seemed not to register with the leader. As Carol increasingly spent time with the African violets, which, worryingly, were not doing too well, Edith hovered, delivering her thoughts. So and so had gone all the way, as had so and so and so. Perpetually Edith wanted to know if boys lust for sluts but marry virgins? Carol didn’t care.

There was a Sunday which, according to Edith, had been appointed by the mighty Wellington for a visit. Her excitement was constant. Seeing her daughter so bright, Mrs. Campbell lavished praise and contrasted the shininess of Edith’s eyes with the dullness of Carol’s. ‘There is something wrong with you, I know it,’ she said all too often, shaking her head in puzzlement. ‘One day we find out’.

Edith demanded rehearsals; she in the shed, Carol keeping watch, then reversing roles. ‘But I don’t even like Wellington,’ Carol pleaded. Edith gestured impatiently. ‘Neither do I, much, but he’s what we’ve got.’ Thinking that she spotted an opportunity, the pressed child suggested that they might wait until someone more intrinsically desirable came along. Edith shook her head. ‘It’s now or never,’ she declared. Seeing Carol’s continuing reluctance she bared the wrist that had been scarred in their blood-bonding ritual. ‘Don’t let me down, sister,’ she warned.