Daylight, if such it could be called, brought no lifting of our spirits at the little inn.
The land had lost its colour overnight and instead had absorbed the matt hues of the air which writhed in turmoil above it. A dull grey seemed to have seeped into every twisted branch and blade of grass on that dank country as far as the eye could see. The low cloud, torn to shreds on the stunted peaks of the Moor, flew across the dismal sky in a hurry to be gone from the place. Each and every rag of vapour, urged on by the baying wind, appeared, by some trick of the light or our overwrought imaginings, to take on the fearful shape of childhood ghosts in their terrified flight.
Due to the urgency of our mission we had decided to forgo the ‘Full English‘, choosing instead the excellent kedgeree, some admirable devilled kidneys, the Finnan haddock, and thick cut Oxford marmalade on hot buttered toast.
Now we stood amid the clatter of the forecourt in preparation for departure, watching the strange weather develop, each gathering such fortitude as he could muster.
“Looks like a storm is near come upon us.” I ventured, above the growing moan of the squall. If nothing more then, simply to test my own voice.
“Hmm, feels like thunder too.” said Gorilla Bananas, his nostrils flaring into the wind. “Wouldn’t be surprised at a bit of lightning. Smells like it.”
“I doubt it, G.B.” said Ayres, “wrong time of year you see.”
Gorilla Bananas shot me a look.
“Thunderstorms are a summer phenomenon,“ Ayres resumed, continuing his impromptu meteorological dissertation, “caused by the building of massive cumulo-nimbus cloud structures which rise to many thousands of feet. I saw Lord Kelvin’s talk on the subject at the Royal Society. Electrical fluids build up inside them until they overflow, but these are the wrong type, these…”
he turned towards the menacing cloud layer, pointing,
“these grim scudding things, these lack the required grandeur, these mean-spirited, low down, base excuses for clou…”
At that, an arc of the brightest blue electrical discharge leapt from a standing stone on a nearby Tor, ripping the fabric of the atmosphere like the dusty shroud of a forgotten Pharaoh.
Ayres, his back to us, appeared transfixed in the act of pointing, his skeleton clearly visible in silhouette for a long flickering moment through his flesh and clothes.
As he turned to us, his finger still outstretched, his eyes wide in temporary dazzlement, a rumble of thunder like the Day of Judgement, rolled past on its way to Evermore, trapped between the cowering land and the roiling cloud.
Ayres, his mouth open to speak, hesitated and stood silent as if trying to remember the name of a famous cricketer he had seen as a boy.
The kindly Gorilla Bananas remarked;
“It felt like thunder.”
* * *
In Castle Alucard, Eater the butler was bearing up under the limpet tenacity of the inspector. They were having a frank exchange of views;
“Look son, I know what I’m talking about. These copper cables leading from the lightning conductors…” listed the inspector in evidence.
“Air-conditioning.” countered Eater
“…are not for any feasible domestic purpose…” continued the inspector.
“Auxiliary refrigeration.” maintained the butler.
“I put it to you, that they are in fact used to power the vile apparatus that re-animators employ to bring unsuspecting souls back from their rightful rest.”
“Alternative energy. The Master’s very green.” said Eater, quickly running out of ‘A’s.
“Un-licensed re-animation equipment!” said the inspector significantly, “you’re looking at a very hefty fine here Sunshine!”
“Perhaps we should discuss this with the Master.” suggested Eater reasonably. Yes, he’d know how to handle this popinjay. He’d never been called Sunshine before.
* * *
Not for the first time during that Hellish descent into abomination, did my mind return to the pleasant fireside comfort of my friends’ rooms in Baker Street and the ministrations of their housekeeper Mrs Hudson.
At that very moment, Mrs Hudson was dusting the mantle when a ring on the brass bell announced the arrival of another tickertape message.
“Holmes out for the day. Bring the liniment.”
“Coming, Doctor Watson!” she sighed.
The sound of a bottle smashing at my feet amid much jeering, brought me back from my thoughts. Looking up, I saw that a crowded wagon of red headed youths was passing at the canter.
“Quick men, to the coach!” Exclaimed Bananas. “The Gathering has begun!”