Chapter Fourteen – Impressions

23 Jul

Trying to stop my fingers from shaking, I turned the handle and swung open the cathedral door. There was darkness there and nothing more. At least, this time, I had a torch.

Not that it really made much difference – all I could make out in the pale spot of white light in front of me were two stone walls. Obviously, I was in a corridor of some kind. So, I kept walking forwards. Corridors usually go forwards.

This one didn’t.

Despite the torchlight, I almost walked straight into a wall after less than a minute. I leapt back and almost screamed. But, once I’d picked my torch up and looked at it – it was just a wall. An ordinary, mundane, humdrum wall. Then I realised that this was just like something out of an old type of computer game – I think it was called a “dungeon crawler”. I’d heard it mentioned in a review on Youtube when I’d been looking for a walkthrough to that annoying part with the dog in “Dreamfall” a couple of years ago.

Anyway, it looked exactly like one of those – lots of dark corridors and not much light. Maybe I’d even get lucky and find a few gold coins too? Oh, who was I kidding? I’d be lucky to find Rosie, let alone any treasure. Still, I swept my torch around the corridor. There wasn’t a single door anywhere – the whole cathedral was just one long, featureless corridor and Rosie wasn’t in it.

‘Well, that was a waste of time.’ I muttered to myself as I turned around. I wished I hadn’t.

The beam from my torch caught the ink-spattered face of a wooden model in a tuxedo. I nearly dropped the torch again. It didn’t move. Slowly, I looked down at his hands – there wasn’t a knife in them. Stepping back a couple of paces, I practically shouted: ‘Where’s Rosie? What did you bastards do to her?’

The model was silent. I shouted the question again, before flipping my torch over and smacking him in across face with the butt of it. There was a loud hollow thunk, my torch dimmed for a couple of seconds and then I heard a low whirring noise. That was never a good sign.

He raised his rigid arms to waist level before spinning around and rhythmically hobbling away from me slowly. Since the exit was in that direction, I decided to follow him. It was as if he didn’t even notice that I was there, as if smacking him over the head had activated some kind of dormant programming within him. Maybe it was a homing system of some kind or another? Maybe he was programmed to return to the back room of The Demon and warn the other models if there was any trouble? Maybe it was a trap? A way of lulling me into a false sense of security.

I kept following him, holding my torch in the way that detectives in American cop shows always do. If he looked at me again, I could crack his head open in less than a second. Or at least that was what I liked to think. In reality, my torch was a cheap imitation of the metal torches which security guards use and the bulb probably wouldn’t survive another impact like that. Still, it was better than nothing.

After we’d walked for what seemed like ten minutes, he suddenly stopped. I crouched back, poised to strike. He turned ninety degrees until he was facing the wall. With the same movement he’d used to stab the coffin in The Demon, he started knocking on the wall at one-second intervals. Seven knocks later, the wall groaned and part of it swung inwards. I heard footsteps and someone stumbled out of the wall, toppling the dummy over. It was Rosie.

Her dress was crumpled and her hair was a mess. For a second, she squinted into the torchlight. I raised the torch below my face, like a kid around a campfire on Halloween, before pointing it at her again. She looked relieved.

‘Claura? Is that you?’ She muttered.

‘Yes, are you alright?’ I asked as she walked closer to me and put an arm around my shoulder. She smelled of sweat and dust and she was leaning on me pretty hard. Tensing my legs, I helped her to limp forwards towards the door. I just hoped that the other gargoyle hadn’t re-appeared yet. When the door was about twenty feet away, I felt something squelch under my feet and I turned the torch downwards. There was nothing but rippling darkness. Ink.

It didn’t take long before we heard the sounds of irregular splashing footsteps behind us. Cramming the torch into my jacket pocket, I practically picked Rosie up and ran for the door. The ink splashed everywhere, but I kept running. When it was within reaching distance. I turned backwards for a second and reached for my torch. Nine emotionless wooden faces stared back at me. I didn’t hang around to take a closer look.

We cleared the door in less than ten seconds and I slammed it closed. There was a low rumbling above us and Rosie let her head flop backwards. I kept staring at the door – hoping that the models didn’t know how to use a door handle. They didn’t. The handle rattled a couple of times before I heard a bolt clicking shut.

Rosie giggled deliriously and just said: ‘Would you look at that? Another gargoyle just appeared out of thin air.’

I nodded and looked at it for a second before glancing at the pavement. It was covered in a sticky mass of inky footprints. Like someone had emptied a shotgun into a bag of ink cartridges. Still, no – one noticed. So, I took my shoes off and helped Rosie with her shoes too.

And then, for reasons which somehow seemed obvious to both of us, we began to walk back towards The Caffe Noire.

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