Black Cathedral - By L. H. Maynard & M. P. N. Sims Page 0,1

been decorated some time in the 1970s, but the browns, yellows and pinks had faded with age and looked more muted now than when they were first applied. The Flemings, the owners of the house, were a couple in their seventies, both retired. It was Mrs. Fleming who had taken the steps to bring in the Department. Her younger brother was high up in the Whitehall pecking order, and a frantic phone call to him had set the wheels in motion. Another phone call was made to Department 18’s head, Simon Crozier, with the request that the Department investigate the house. In deference to the request, Carter— the Department’s top field man—had been sent, even if Crozier did hate his guts.

Carter reviewed the file in his mind. Six months ago the couple started hearing things that disturbed their prosaic little life. At first it was nothing more than a few scratches on the ceiling, the odd footfall on the bedroom floor when they were both downstairs, but nothing that couldn’t be explained away rationally; a loose board settling into place, birds or mice setting up home in the eaves of the house, nothing to be alarmed about. They were both getting old and the mind could play tricks.

The smells were more alarming. According to the Flemings, the kitchen was often filled with the reek of ozone that smelled something like an electrical short circuit. In the lounge it was the odor of sour cream, and in the bedrooms the musty mud and straw smell of an animal pen. But it was the entrance hall that had the most distinctive and most repellent aroma. Mrs. Fleming described it as ‘the smell of something washed up on a beach; dead and rotten’ and, standing there in the hall, Carter had to agree. ‘God, it stinks in here,’ he said. Sian made a note in her pad.

The needle on the meter twitched significantly, leaping a quarter of the way around the dial. He frowned. ‘There’s a huge amount of electromagnetic energy coming from the kitchen. Let’s go take a look.’

Sian felt the hairs on the back of her neck start to prickle. No matter how many of these investigations she attended, she never got over that first thrill of fear and dread. Experience had shown her that there was never anything much to fear—in fact she had only ever witnessed one manifestation, and that was of someone’s dead pet Labrador. Not a very frightening image at all. But a feeling buried deep within her, and one she could not rationalize, told her that this house was very different from anything she had experienced before.

She knew from her reading of the file on the house that there had been a number of physical manifestations, and an alarming amount of damage to both the property and the residents, culminating with old Mr. Fleming being pushed down the stairs. The fall had broken his hip, and a prolonged stay in hospital had precipitated their moving out. He flatly refused to set foot in the house again until it was ‘sorted out!’

Carter reached the doorway and glanced round. Sian was shifting from foot to foot, pretending to read from her notebook. ‘Coming?’ he said. He knew she was frightened, and probably with good reason. This house was different, he was sure of that.

The tone of his voice jerked her out of her inertia, and she followed him reluctantly. By the time she entered the kitchen Carter was standing in the center of the split and cracked vinyl floor, turning slowly in a circle, the meter extended at arm’s length.

‘There,’ he said as the needle on the dial twitched again.

He was pointing at a door. Sian stared at it. It was probably nothing more than a broom cupboard and she knew Carter was expecting her to open it, but she really didn’t want to. Crazy and macabre images were flashing through her mind; all sorts of gruesome tableaux were waiting for her behind that rather bland, cream-colored door. She started to back away.

Sensing her fear Carter laid the meter down on the kitchen table and stepped forward, grabbing the handle of the door and twisting it sharply. He yanked the door open and a nightmare of teeth, claws and fur flew out at him. He yelled a warning to Sian, turned, and tripped on a torn piece of vinyl, tumbling to the floor, landing sharply on his knee. He hissed with pain and shock, glancing round as the