There is another world, but it is in this one.

Paul Eluard. Œuvres complètes, vol. 1, Gallimard, 1968.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Review: Black Helicopters by Caitlín R. Kiernan (Tor, 2018)

Declaring war on story, on plot and characterization, and relying on an  underpowered rhetorical voice to carry the day, does not work in fiction. It's all well and good in poetry if you are Wallace Stevens or John Ashberry, but wilfull obscurantism posed as esoterica palls quickly, especially at novella or novel length.

Caitlín R. Kiernan's novella Black Helicopters, about which I have heard good things, is a case in point. At the start I thought we were in for spy versus spy with operatives either investigating or covering up (not sure which) some big cataclysm on Deer Isle, Maine. Then I thought it was about two other women who were incestuous genetically modified twins somehow trapped in the Deer Isle event ramifications.

We are given lots of stream of consciousness impressions and reflections for each character. And, let me add, it's all written in present tense. (And yes, present tense is used by strong writers like Ramsey Campbell. But here the reader gets the feeling it is used to gin up a sluggish mechanism.) There are also a host of chess, paleontology, and Alice in Wonderland allusions to keep insights from sharpening and pace from achieving fourth gear.

Black Helicopters cleary prides itself on uniqueness. But it strikes me as a pale and gratuitously eccentric reminder of a much brighter and more compelling novella, Richard A Lupoff's 1977 tour de force Discovery of the Ghooric Zone. We have the same multiple point of view chapter alternations, shifts in time, and pseudo-Lovecraft subject matter. Lupoff just knows how to make contrary elements aesthetically reinforce and illuminate each other.

I have not had the pleasure of reading  Caitlín R. Kiernan before. I've recently been on a winning streak trying new writers: Mark Samuels, Joe R. Lansdale, Laird Barron. I guess I was due a Kiernan.

When you play the red, sometimes you still land on black.

22 May 2019

Monday, May 20, 2019

Some blood-streaked thing crawling into the light: The Visible Filth by Nathan Ballingrud (2015).

The Visible Filth is a beautifully constructed novella. It follows several tumultuous days in the life of Will, a New Orleans bartender who leaves a lot to be desired, as the current girlfriend eventually concludes:

"You don't have any idea what you want. You know what I think you want? Nothing. I think there's nothing there to satisfy. I think you're a mock person, you're some kind of walking shell."

Will knows it, but it's easier to bartend in a hole-in-the-wall joint among the lower depths than make a move that will translate his life into something else.

....Will had spent his life skimming over the surface of things, impatient with the requirements of engagement. He told himself that this was because he was open to experience in a way most people weren't, that you sapped the potential for spontaneity from life if you regimented your hours with obligation. This rationalization came upon him in college, shortly after he dropped out, converting all that money invested by his parents into so much tinder for the fire.

Most of the time he believed it....

But then one night at work mischance takes Will in hand. After a fight in the bar, he finds a cell phone. That night a couple of disturbing texts come through.  By morning there are images, too.

....He tapped his finger on the first one so it ballooned to fill the screen.

It looked like a close-up shot of a sleeping man's face. He was middle-aged, balding, with a large, flat nose; his face was soft and rounded, like the features of a stone carving which had been worn smooth by centuries of wind and rain. There was nothing sinister about this picture; it might be an intimate portrait taken by a lover, or a dear friend.

The second was the same man from the same angle, but taken from a few feet further away. In this picture the man was clearly dead, felled by a violent strike to the head. The rounded dome of the man's skull, cropped out of the first picture, was here depicted in its shattered complexity: bone and brain and blood extruding from the crown like a psychedelic volcano caught in mid-expulsion. The man was lying on the sidewalk. The blood around his head reflected a disc of overhead light, a streetlamp or a flashlight. The picture had been taken at night. He noticed what appeared to be a wedding band on the man's left hand, which lay palm up, white and plump.

The third picture revealed a new setting. This one had been taken indoors, under a harsh light, probably a fluorescent. Seventies-style wood paneling covered the wall in the background. A utilitarian white drafting table occupied the foreground, and resting atop it was the same man's head, severed from its body. It sat planted straight on the table; someone must have taken the time to balance it, to arrange it just so. The wound in his head was not visible from this angle. No blood marred the scene, save the inevitable blackened ring around the neck. It seemed that some care had been taken to clean the blood from his head, primping him like a schoolboy for his yearbook photo. A slender red book lay on the table behind it, partially obscured, its spine facing the camera.

Will tried to slide on to the next one, but his fingers had gone numb and the phone clattered to the floor. He experienced a wild and irrational fear that someone had heard him and would see what he was looking at, and he felt an overwhelming shame – as though he'd been caught looking at the most outrageous pornography, or as though these ghastly photographs depicted his own work.

Putting the phone back on the table, he closed his eyes and forced himself to calm down. His breath was shaky, his nerves jumping. It occurred to him, abruptly, like some divine communication, that he did not have to look any further. He knew something awful had happened, that a murder of grotesque proportions had been committed and documented, and that any further examination was unnecessary. He should go to the police right now and wash his hands of it.

But stopping was unthinkable. He scrolled to the fourth photograph.

In this one, someone had gone to work on the head with an almost medical precision, and an artisan's hand. Using the killing wound as a starting point, the man's scalp had been sliced into a star pattern, and the skin pulled down from the head in bloody banana peels. The soft, generous features of his face, which had suggested to Will only moments ago the close proximity of someone beloved, which suggested both kindness and the passage of time, were obscured now by the bloody undersides of themselves. The skull had been scraped clean, or nearly so. The eye sockets had been scooped hollow. The table beneath the head was festooned with the gory splashes of the artisan's hard labor.

Only the video clip remained. Pressing the button was not like scrolling through the pictures; he could not pretend he was carried by momentum. This was a separate choice. It was his second chance to turn away.

He pressed play.

The video player took a moment to load, and then filled the screen with the shaky image of the head on the table. A blare of static shrieked from the phone as someone said something unintelligible. Will tapped the button to lower the volume, conscious of the sound intruding into the atmosphere of his apartment, like a species of ghost. He checked over his shoulder, the sense of proximity to another person prickling his nerves once more, and then held the phone close to his face to be sure he wouldn't miss anything. Shame, fear, and a weird thrill filled his body.

"Hold it steady. Jesus." A young man's voice.

The view stabilized, holding firm on the severed head, which was canting slightly to one side. The fourth picture had already been taken: careful ribbons of flesh suspended like wilted petals over the dead man's face. The top of the skull had been shaved down, leaving a red, raw hole just above the temple. A girl stepped into frame, her back to the camera. She had straight blond hair, an athletic body. She straightened the head again, held it a moment to make sure it stayed in place.

"Oh my god I can feel it," she said, and jerked her hands away.

"Get the fuck out of the picture!" Another girl's voice.

She retreated, and a calm settled over the image. A slight movement of the camera as a heart pounded hard in the chest. A stifled, nervous giggle. The head shifted slightly, as if it had heard something and had to turn a fraction to listen more closely. Then it moved again, and something seemed to shift in the darkness of its open skull.

"Oh shit." High pitched, genderless.

Four thick, pale fingers extended from inside the hole and hooked over the forehead. Someone screamed off camera and the image skewed wildly. The video ended.


"Fuck!" He flipped the phone over, turning to see Carrie standing beside him. He felt slow and disjointed, as though he'd dropped a tab of acid. "When did you get home?"

"Just now." She wasn't looking at him, though. "What are you looking at?"


The book with the red covers is called
The Second Translation of Wounds, and I hope we hear more about it, and Will, in future.

Ballingrud is a master of suggestion, confident the reader will do most of the work. He lets us process the accumulating clues until the puzzle is, suddenly and breathtakingly, complete.

20 May 2019

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Super-lice, cyclostomes, and obours: A Coven of Vampires by Brian Lumley (1998).

I've always enjoyed Lumley's novels and stories, provided they are not pastiches of Derleth pastiching Lovecraft.

The collection No Sharks in the Med and Other Stories was superb, in my judgment. The novel Demogorgon was a fast and rousing supernatural thriller; it brought to mind the Italian films that tried to cash-in on the popularity of The Exorcist and The Omen.

A Coven of Vampires is another entertaining book, filled with stories both weird and droll. (The superiority of the No Sharks in the Med collection resides solely in the fact that it is Cthulhu-free.)


[Quotations in italics.]

What Dark God? • (1975)
Like the vampires in "The Picnickers," the villains of this tale don't rely on the usual neck-biting.
     ....He had been a chalky-grey colour before; we all had, in the weak glow from the alternately brightening and dimming compartment ceiling light. Now he seemed to be flushed; pinkish waves of unnatural colour were suffusing his outré features and his red-slit mouth was fading into the deepening blush of his face. It almost looked as though…. My God! He did not have a mouth! With that unnatural reddening of his features the painted slit had vanished completely; his face was blank beneath the eyes and nose.

Back Row • (1988)
Police statement of a seasoned citizen about what happened at a matinee at the Odeon. A droll story about imagining what the teeenagers in the row behind you are getting up to in the dark, what with their fumblings, slurpings, and growlings.
     ....There was very little flesh on her face, just raw red. Breasts had gone, right down to steaming ribs. The belly was open, eviscerated, a laid back gash that opened right down to the spread thighs. There were no innards, no sexual parts left at all down there. If I hadn't seen her before, I couldn't even have said it was a girl at all.

The Strange Years • (1982)
....They appeared almost overnight, five times larger than their immediate progenitors and growing bigger with each successive hatching; and unlike the new octopus they didn't die; and their incubation period down to less than a week. The superlice. All Man's little body parasites, all of his tiny, personal vampires, growing in the space of a month to things as big as your fist. Leaping things, flying things, walking sideways things.

The Kiss of the Lamia • (1985)
This story is a complete fiasco: a sword-and-sandal potboiler shot-through with modern-day slang anachronism and pretentious back-projections of how people in the Near East talked to each other thousands of years ago.
    ....Bully boys out of Chlangi they were, desperadoes riding forth from that shunned city of yeggs and sharpers, on the lookout for quick profits in the narrow strip twixt Lohmi's peaks and the Desert of Sheb.

Recognition • (1981)
    ...."Prior to the fire which razed the main building to the ground in 1618, there had been a certain intercourse and intrigue of a similarly undiscovered nature between the nameless inhabitants, the de la Poers of Exham Priory near Anchester, and an obscure esoteric sect of monks dwelling in and around the semi-ruined Falstone Castle in Northumberland. Of the latter sect, they were wiped out utterly by Northern raiders—a clan believed to have been outraged by the 'heathen activities' of the monks—and the ruins of the castle were pulled to pieces, stone by stone. Indeed, it was so well destroyed that today only a handful of historians could even show you where it stood!...."

The Thief Immortal • (1990)
An interesting science fantasy about a German sign painter who robs individuals, then nations, then whole sentient species of their life-time, which he accumulates to prolong his own existence. Until the universe has a backfire.

Necros • (1986)
Another lounging sunny Mediterranean vacation ruined. Between Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, and Simon Raven alone there must be enough material for a monograph.

The Thing from the Blasted Heath (1971)
....Many and varied are the weird tales to come filtering out of that area, and fiction or superstition though they may or may not be the fact remains that men will not drink the water of that reservoir.

Uzzi • (1988)
Twice-told travellers tales about running into trouble in a foreign country have always been a thematic current within the genre. Lumley does a bloodily good job here with events in a small town in Germany once named Hexenstadt.

Haggopian (1973)
Romance a la cyclostome
    ...."You see, Mr Belton, I had developed—yes, an organ! An appendage, a snout-like thing had grown out of my stomach, with a tiny hole at its end like a second navel! Eventually, of course, I was obliged to see a doctor, and after he examined me and told me the worst I swore him—or rather, I paid him—to secrecy. The organ could not be removed, he said, it was part of me. It had its own blood vessels, a major artery and connections with my lungs and stomach. It was not malignant in the sense of a morbid tumour. Other than this he was unable to explain the snout-like thing away.

The Picnickers • (1991)
This is by Lumley's finest story. A masterpiece of folk-horror, it has been anthologized by canon-makers Charles L. Grant, Karl Edward Wagner, and Stephen Jones. Redolent of youth's lost time and place, it never ceases to excite me as reader, even after multiple re-readings.
    ....I turned the book over and looked at the pictures. They were woodcuts, going from top to bottom of the two pages in long, narrow panels two to a page. Four pictures in all, with accompanying legends printed underneath. The book was old, the ink faded and the pictures poorly impressed; the text, of course, was completely alien to me.
     The first picture showed a man, naked, with his arms raised to form a cross. He had what looked to be a thick rope coiled about his waist. His eyes were three-cornered, with radiating lines simulating a shining effect. The second picture showed the man with the rope uncoiled, dangling down loosely from his waist and looped around his feet. The end of the rope seemed frayed and there was some detail, but obscured by age and poor reproduction. I studied this picture carefully but was unable to understand it; the rope appeared to be fastened to the man's body just above his left hip. The third picture showed the man in an attitude of prayer, hands steepled before him, with the rope dangling as before, but crossing over at knee height into the fourth frame. There it coiled upward and was connected to the loosely clad body of a skeletally thin woman, whose flesh was mostly sloughed away to show the bones sticking through.
    Now, if I tell my reader that these pictures made little or no sense to me, I know that he will be at pains to understand my ignorance. Well, let me say that it was not ignorance but innocence. I was a boy. None of these things which I have described made any great impression on me at that time. They were all incidents—mainly unconnected in my mind, or only loosely connected—occurring during the days I spent at my uncle's house; and as such they were very small pieces in the much larger jigsaw of my world, which was far more occupied with beaches, rock pools, crabs and eels, bathing in the sea, the simple but satisfying meals my uncle prepared for us, etc. It is only in the years passed in between, and in certain dreams I have dreamed, that I have made the connections....

Zack Phalanx Is Vlad the Impaler • (1977)
Jokey and unhumorous tale about the pitfalls of location shooting on a Dracula movie in Eastern Europe. I suppose everyone in the field has to write one of these at some point.

The House of the Temple • (1980)
The aesthetic wash-outs of most of Lumley's short stories is displayed here perfectly. UK lore about worms (or wyrms?) and water creatures is used as another opportunity for sub-Derleth Lovecraft pastiche.
...."There have been a number down the centuries—the horror that dwelled in the mirror of Nitocris; the sucking, hunting thing that Count Magnus kept; the red, hairy slime used by Julian Scortz—familiars of the Great Old Ones, parasites that lived on Them as lice live on men. Or rather, on their life-force! This one has survived the ages, at least until now. It does not take the blood but the very essence of Its victim. It is a soul-eater...."

19 May 2019

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The devil's member: Warlock by Ray Garton (1989).

I recall Warlock fondly, having rented it on video in about 1995. The acting was confident and the effects were adequate for period and budget. And best of all, it was a genuinely arresting supernatural thriller.

Ray Garton's novelization is an outstanding example of the art, recalling skills shown back in the 1980s in tie-ins by Dennis Etchison and Alan Dean Foster.

This is not a bloodless book. Right away, in 1690s Puritan Massachusetts, we know our guide is Ray Garton and not Charles L. Grant:

....She'd set the table, but the plates and silverware were scattered on the floor where the warlock had thrown them. In their place lay Marian, sprawled face-down over the table, her clothing torn away, her smooth pale skin mottled with bruises. Her buttocks jutted upward, splashed with blood and . . . and something else . . . something milky . . .

The worst of it buckled Redferne's knees beneath him and pushed him to the very edge of unconsciousness. Marian's anus yawned open like a mouth, dribbling blood-streaked semen. She had been violated by something obscenely large, far too large to belong to an ordinary man.

The warlock has destroyed Puritan witch-smeller Giles Redferne's young wife. He is condemned to be burned alive on top of a crate filled with cats. But the devil sends a time-warping tornado to save the day, transporting warlock and Redferne three hundred years into the future.

In 1989 Los Angeles Redferne joins forces with Kassandra, a waitress/actress. Kassandra got in the warlock's way shortly after his arrival, and is now cursed to age about twenty years per day: a real motivation to unite with Redferne to stop their villain.

The warlock is not only equipped with Satan's member. He is also skilled in what used to be called The Black Arts. A boy tossing a football, a little girl at a petting zoo, and a woman pregnant with twins discover this the hard way.

The warlock, we discover, is working with a purpose: reassembling scattered and hidden pages of the ultimate evil book:

....Redferne stood, clearly shaken. "He's come for it. Blessings of heaven, 'tis the Grand Grimoire he's after."

"The Grand Grimwhat?"

"A spellbook. All witches keep grimoires. But one is indestructible. One is the Bible of black magic. The Grand Grimoire. Always, witches have lusted for it....

"Hidden within the Grand Grimoire is the name of God, Kassandra, the lost name of God."

"I don't wanna hear it, Redferne," she whispered as tears welled up in her eyes.

" 'Tis the name invoked during Creation. Witches charge that, should this name—this true name of God—be uttered back to front—"

"Please . . ."

"—should the name be uttered in reverse—"

"Please don't . . ."

"—then Creation will undo . . . 'twill reverse, Kassandra."

She faced him, crying. "It's gonna uncreate, huh? That what you're trying to tell me, here? The world's just gonna—"

"All worlds, Kassandra." He let that sink in. "All."

"Ooohh, son of a bitch," she groaned, scrubbing her face with her hands, "I especially didn't want to hear that last part. Do . . . do you believe that, Redferne?"

"I believe the book holds the name. And witches believe the name, spoken in reverse, will unravel life itself."

Warlock is a novel worth reading. I'm not a fan of Garton, but he gives us an outstanding supernatural chase thriller. The Mennonite scenes, my favorite from the film, are deftly and powerfully handled here.

16 May 2019

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

They couldn't be hoof marks: Doctor Who and the Daemons by Barry Letts (1975).

....'You beg so prettily, my dear. But you see, I am so near to attaining one of my greatest ambitions: power to control, to rule, an entire planet—this planet, Earth. Nothing and nobody can be allowed to stand in my way.'

'You're mad.. ' she breathed....

A barrow called the Devil's Hump  is being excavated in the picturesque village of Devil's End (which has a local pub called The Cloven Hoof.) The excavation will climax on live TV on May 1, as village Morris dancers and all the trimmings are rolled out for the holiday.

The local vicar, Mr. Magister, thinks concerns about supernatural and malevolent forces are absurd. Miss Hawthorne, local wise woman, suspects differently.

The Doctor Who TV episode "The Demons" was first aired in 1971. Co-scripter Barry Letts' novelization appeared in 1975.

To viewers and readers of my generation, this was the golden age of Doctor Who.  (No Moffat-Gatiss mind-screws back then.)

"The Demons," like the Fang Rock, Weng-Chiang, and Martian pyramid episodes,  checks many boxes in the weird "matter of Britain." "The Demons" includes: ancient barrows, 'white' witches, altered or unusual maypole traditions, Beltane, Quatermassian boffins, and archeological digs that reveal "we are all Martians." Well, not Martians per se, but the product of fiddling by alien Prometheans.

Notes of Nigel Kneale, Grant Allen, and Eleanor Scott are struck, as well as Dennis Wheatley.

The Doctor lays it all out here:

…..Sitting round the rickety old oak table in the little back room of 'The Cloven Hoof' Jo, Mike and Sergeant Benton were tucking into a traditional 'Ploughman's Lunch'—
large slabs of cheese, crusty new bread with farm butter and crunchy pickled onions; all washed down with pints of draught cider or strong ale. Miss Hawthorne had graciously accepted one small apple, stating it as her considered opinion that too much eating in the middle of the day led to sluggish vibrations in the afternoon.

'Do come and eat something, Doctor,' called Jo.

But the Doctor was too far away to think of food.

Surrounded by piles of books of every shape, size and age, he was hunting here and there through them, making notes and leaving slips of paper as book marks.

'Well, well, well! The Grimoire of Pope Honorius!' The Doctor had seized an ancient leatherbound volume with great excitement. 'A copy I never knew existed...'

'You have the pick of the finest collection of occult material in the country there, Doctor,' said Miss Hawthorne proudly, 'though why you wanted me to bring it, I can't think.'

'I hope that will become clear. Apart from anything else, I'm being pestered for an explanation. These books will help me to provide it.'

Miss Hawthorne looked puzzled. 'But Doctor, there is only one possible explanation: this is the supernatural at work.'

The Doctor looked up from his notes. 'Nonsense!' he said.

Benton thoughtfully chomped on a pickled onion.

'What about that thing that got me? That was real enough.'

The Doctor had returned to his books. 'There's nothing more real than a force-field, Sergeant,' he said, marking a large coloured picture of a goat, 'even a psionic force-field.'

Miss Hawthorne bristled. To have her cherished beliefs challenged! It was unthinkable. 'You're being deliberately obtuse, Doctor. We are dealing with the supernatural, I tell you. The Occult! Magic!'

The Doctor shook his head. 'Science,' he said.


' Science, Miss Hawthorne.'

Mike Yates finished off his beer. 'Really,' he said, 'what does it matter? There's no point in getting all hot under the collar about words. The important thing is to find a way to stop it, whatever it is.'

'How can you stop it without knowing what it is?' said Jo indignantly, leaping to the Doctor's defence as usual.

'Well done, Jo,' said the Doctor, getting up, 'you're being logical at last.'

'Oh, am I? Thanks,' said Jo, doubtfully.

'We'll turn you into a scientist yet. Now then. If you've all finished perhaps we could clear a space.'

One end of the table was quickly cleared of the remains of the meal and the Doctor was able to spread out a number of books. 'Right,' he said, 'here we go,' and he opened the first book. 'Who's that?'

'It's an Egyptian god, isn't it?' said Jo.

'Top of the class. The God Khnum—one of their gods with horns.' He opened the next book. 'A Hindu Demon—with horns.' Another. And another. 'The Ancient Greek god Pan—with horns. A bust of Jupiter—with horns. A statue of Moses—yes, even he's got horns. The Minotaur—the bull-headed monster of Crete. Our old friend the Horned Beast—the Devil with the head of a goat...'

The Doctor went on opening book after book, until the table was filled with pictures of horned beings.

Miss Hawthorne was not impressed. 'You could go on all day and all night showing us pretty pictures,' she said tartly. 'It proves nothing. Horns have been a symbol of power ever since... Oh, ever since...'

'Even since man began,' agreed the Doctor. 'Look.' He showed them yet another picture—a photograph of a prehistoric cave-painting which seemed to show a group of witch doctors dancing, all with horns upon their brows.

'But has it ever struck you to ask yourself why?' the Doctor continued. 'Creatures like that have been seen over and again throughout the history of man, and man has over turned them into myths—into gods or devils.' He gestured towards the pictures. 'But they're neither. They are creatures from another world...'

Even Miss Hawthorne was silenced.

'You mean,' said Benton slowly, 'like the Axons, and the Nestenes—and the Cybermen?'

'Precisely,' said the Doctor, 'but far, far older and immeasurably more dangerous.'

'Charming,' murmured Mike Yates.

'Are you suggesting that these creatures came to Earth in spaceships?' said Miss Hawthorne, regaining her composure.

'I am,' he replied. 'They're Dæmons* from the planet Damos; and that's a long long way from Earth.'

'Sixty thousand light years,' put in Jo, wisely.

'That's right. The other side of the Milky Way; and they first came to Earth nearly one hundred thousand years ago...'

'But why? I mean, why should they want to?' asked Benton.

So the Doctor went on to tell them something of the history of these alien beings, the Dæmons, or Demons. He told of their evolution and the development of their culture over long aeons even before life began on Earth. When the first land creatures were crawling out of our oceans, the Dæmons already had a fully developed civilisation with a sophisticated science and technology. By the time man

* pronounced deemons.

appeared, the Dæmons had been space travellers for many centuries and had established a tradition of scientific exploration and experiment through-out the Galaxy. They arrived on Earth just in time to help homo sapiens kick out Neanderthal Man and they have been appearing on and off over since, merely observing most of the time but occasionally giving history a push in the right direction...

'There you are,' said Miss Hawthorne, triumphantly,

'that proves you're talking nonsense. This.. thing that Professor Horner loosed on the world is evil. You said so yourself. And now you tell us that they have been helping mankind for a thousand centuries!'

'Yes,' said Jo, 'and you say they're from another planet.

Then what's all this jazz about witchcraft and covens and all?'

'A very good point, Miss Grant,' put in Miss Hawthorne.

'But don't you see,' explained the Doctor, 'all the magical traditions are just the remnants of the Dæmons'

advanced science. And that's what the Master is using!'

'Mm...' Miss Hawthorne was unconvinced. 'And how do you know all this anyway?'

'Yes, Doctor,' said Mike, 'you didn't seem to know what was going on at first.'

'I learned it at school,' said the Doctor grumpily,

'chapter thirteen of the Galactic History. Unfortunately, I forgot it all.' He stood up and started to clear away the books.

'You must have gone to a very odd school—and you must have very peculiar memory,' said Miss Hawthorne.

'That, madam, is my misfortune; said the Doctor acidly, for she had touched on a sore point. 'In any case, it's all in these books of yours, if you know how to read them properly.'

'Then these creatures are linked with the Black Arts,'

she said. 'They are evil.'

'Amoral would be a better word, perhaps,' the Doctor replied 'They help Earth, but on their own terms. It's a scientific experiment to them. We're just a cageful of laboratory rats.'

'Then what's the Master up to?' asked Mike.

'He's established a link with the Dæmon from the barrow. What frightens me is the choice—domination by the Master or total destruction.'

Jo, who had been stacking the books in a neat pile, looked up aghast. 'You mean this Dæmon could destroy the Earth?'

'What does any scientist do with an experiment that fails? He throws it in the rubbish bin. And you must admit that mankind doesn't look a very successful species at the moment.'

'But Doctor... you're talking about the end of the world!'

The Doctor looked at her very seriously. 'Yes, Jo,' he said, 'I am.'

14 May 2019