The CreaturesMature

It was several minutes before we reached the Great Stairway.

John, unlike Nathan, looked carefully at me and gripped me in his powerful hands as he hauled me up, up, up to the top.

We stood by the Great Cathedral looking down at the carnage below us. I felt somehow safe with John.

"Come," he said and beckoned me onwards. Past the Cathedral we went, past the deserted bakeries, past the empty clockmakers and the eerily-silent factory, and all the other places which usually hustled and bustled with life. There was a strangely unpleasant smell of toffee as we walked and it seemed to be getting stronger. I ignored the thought.

We arrived at the old toyshop.

"In here," said John.

I'd have done anything that boy said at that moment.

We went in to what I assumed would be an empty shop. It wasn't. There was a robotic clown which kept on creaking and leaning towards us. It had big red lips and I found it sort of creepy in a way. The smell of toffee was now almost sickening.

"Wait," said John.

I waited.

When John emerged he was accompanied by a man with a long white beard and wearing long flowing golden robes. Why would you wear fancy dress at a time like this, I wondered?

"You brought her, John? Good. Very good."

He rubbed his hands together and smiled at me.

"Toffee?" he asked.

I found myself accepting, despite feeling queasy just with the stench of it. It was sort of nice and not nice at the same time. There was a very slightly meaty tang to it.

"I always find, my dear, that nothing can't be put right if you just have a little faith and a little toffee..."

I found myself agreeing with whatever he said. The room started to spin backwards.

"Enjoying the toffee, my dear?" he asked. What could I say but "yes"?

"Now, my dear, to business. I understand from John that you know someone called Nathan?"

I confirmed the fact, wondering what was going on. He switched on a video screen which showed Nathan freeing himself from me and escaping. I couldn't see how he'd filmed it with such great close-ups when we hadn't even seen a camera... or why he would.

"Rather bad behaviour on his part, my dear, rather... unforgivable behaviour on his part. You must want to kill him."

I laughed but then realised his was no joke.

"We do," intoned John mechanically, "we do want to kill Nathan."

"What's going on?" I asked.

The screen showed Nathan's next movements. He'd scarpered over a roof top and made his way round to the Cathedral the other way.

"Oh, good," said the berobed man in his fruity voice, "he's coming this way. You shall have your chance to avenge yourself, my dear."

I protested that even though I might be annoyed with Nathan I didn't actually want to kill him.

"No, of course not, my child - such a delightful child; so well-mannered."

Normally I'd have resented the patronising words and tone. I'm no child. In this situation, though, I had rather more pressing concerns.

"Have another toffee," he said genially. I was beginning to wish I'd taken my chance with those creatures.

"No thanks if it's all the same to you."

"But I insist," he smiled and held them under my nose. I nearly threw up.

"Have a toffee."

I did as I was asked and I can only say, in my defence, that I then lost control of my actions. I could have sworn I heard that clown say, "Even terrible!" and emit a high-pitched laugh but, of course, that's impossible - it was just a machine. I got drunkenly to my feet, opened the door of the shop, saw Nathan, who asked, almost with irritation, how I'd survived, and then I filled his mouth with mouldy toffee. He struggled and struggled and then struggled no more. I must have been hallucinating. All I could hear was that damn clown screeching with laughter and calling out, "Even terrible! Even terrible!"

I staggered back from what I had just done. The shop filled instantly with the most unearthly howl. On the strange man's monitor I could see the dreadful flesh-eaters from down below howling and sobbing and walking in circles.

"Well done, my dear - down below they're now free of them. Our work here is done. Come along, John."

"Where are we going?" I managed to say through the shaking, having just killed a man.

"WE, my dear? WE are not going anywhere. John and I are going to depart now while THEY..." (he pointed at the screen where the flesh-eaters were on their way up the hill) "are coming up here to have a few words with you. If you find arbitration with them is breaking down, you may find these toffees help cool their ardour. A dieu."

So saying he tossed the bag of foul-smelling sweets towards me.

I watched John and the bizarre man sweep out of the room in one direction while, from the other, all I could hear was an ever-growing howl.

"The best to you - even terrible!" laughed the clown as I raced out of the shop and over Nathan's body.

"Yes, 'even terrible' to you and all, mate!" I shouted as I ran... well, I didn't know where to.

The End

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