Aphelion Issue 222, Volume 21
October 2017
 
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The Karcist

by Jamie T. Murray



"The theology of the witch does not begin with In Nomine Padre so much as Quid Pro Quo. The gravest of my concerns is not that these Witches' Sabbaths should aspire to some great heinous offence but that they should become secret and unseen yet with far reaching influence. It is these Sabbaths In Camera that I feel are our true enemy."

—Edward Adams, Witchfinder Magistrate, 1646


Everything you've heard about Ruraidh Carifor is true; most of it, anyway. There are strange stories about where he ended up, but all I know is he was still alive the last time I saw him. You might not know that he'd never heard of a Sabbath Camera when I met him, much less convened one. Everyone else knew about them; if you wanted a girl to fuck you, fatten your pockets the smart way or make sure someone else's fingerprints turn up on a knife, it was the best way to find out what you needed to know. When I first met Ruraidh he practised a different art form based on lies and secrets: magic.

When we were in school all we were interested in, all anyone was interested in, was getting laid. There were some who also wanted to get money, or high or famous. The linking factor was adoration, in abundance rather than depth. Even the extraordinarily gifted at music or athletics were working for these wants.

Those who excelled at these activities franchised them; the swimming team or someone's band were like secret societies, accessible only to those invited by someone already on the inside. For those of us excluded from these groups we would be forced to seek shelter amongst other, more niche, cliques. My friends and I found ourselves in our school's Wittenburg society, a club for forgotten arts and sciences like philology, arianist divinity and phrenology. It was here that I first met Ruraidh.

I was there with my two friends, Nicholas and Matthew. We just sat through a reading of alliterative poetry by someone who stuttered terribly and Ruraidh was the next person to do a presentation. He was a talented, albeit unappreciated, magician and began his routine with a Thousand Year Old Card Trick followed by a Chinese Rings Routine. The final part of his routine was a restoration trick he called The Devil's Deception.

He placed our school rabbit in a large box and then divided the box, and allegedly the rabbit, into four and moved them around. Another boy at the society was sitting in a convenient location and maliciously slipped a spider into one of the smaller boxes whilst Ruraidh was orating and gesticulating to misdirect his audience. During the final act of the trick Ruraidh plunged his hand into the box, confident in his skill and ignorant of the prank being played on him.

He screamed in terror as the spider scurried up his sleeve. Despite the obvious potency of his fear, the other students in the society guffawed at his misfortune. The illusion he had been crafting collapsed in front of him.

Michael invited Ruraidh to sit with us. Nicholas and I agreed since it would show our magnanimity by accepting him. We also had to concede that even socially unfortunate underlings were better than none at all. Michael seemed to enjoy the illusions that Ruraidh crafted, despite knowing that they were fake. Nicholas and I were more pragmatic and tried to tell him that despite his obvious skill the sleevefuls of French drops, card pulls and prop tricks just didn't impress people the way he hoped. They were patently false to those who knew the method and falsely patent to those that didn't.

Other students at our school were too cynical, too afraid of being judged by others to confess their amazement. Ruraidh tried to explain the wonderful deceit and lies of magic, the subtle precision of manipulating someone's perception to achieve an illusion. I had to concede that it was impressive and his ambitions would gain wide admiration, it was the medium he used that was holding him back. Philistine attitudes couldn't appreciate the artistry of his lies.

Somewhere along this delta of conversation, Matthew mentioned Sabbaths Camera. He had no credible source for his knowledge; something he claimed was only ever disseminated through discourse, rumour and gossip. There were ancient texts of course but they were varied and subject to the vicissitudes of their authoring eras. We listened intently to Matthew's tall tale, sceptical about its designing principle but enthusiastic about its third act. The purpose of convening a Sabbath Camera was to summon the Devil or, more commonly, a lesser shedim or Devilkin.

"Why?" I asked "Do you make a deal with them or something?"

"Summoning them is the deal." Matthew explained. "You summon them and they ask you a question. If you answer it then you can ask them a question."

"The deal is you both have to tell the truth?" Nicholas asked.

"The deal is the questions. You can lie to them if you want but they're more likely to lie to you. They can lie to you as well, and they probably will but if they lie to you then you can guarantee that they'll tell you the truth at some point as well. Whatever lies they're hoping to disseminate will be more potent if there is some truth in them." Matthew explained.

"What use would that be though, if they're not actually going to do anything for you?" I asked.

"The Devil helps those who help themselves. The Devilkin cannot intervene in our world directly, they give you the knowledge you need to execute your own plots and schemes. The answers they give come from ones they acquired in the untold numbers of Sabbaths Camera throughout history. The Devil and his Devilkin couldn't be said to know everything but they do know a great deal." Said Matthew.

"If that was true then someone would have taken over all the banks or be able to blackmail all the politicians in the world." I countered.

"Not necessarily. You're not allowed to record or write anything down, the Devilkin won't appear if you do, and you only have sixty six minutes and six seconds to conclude the Sabbath Camera. " Matthew explained

"It ends after that?" Nicholas asked.

"I assume so, no one really knows. You're not supposed to convene a Sabbath Camera for anything near that length of time; the Devilkin won't appear if you have a watch with you, you just guess. They say that the Devilkin get their end of the deal if they can keep you talking past the sixty six minute and six second mark." Matthew explained hesitantly.

"What is their end of the deal?" Ruraidh asked.

"I don't know, the guy who told me never said." He answered as though slightly irritated by the question.

"But in return they'll tell you the right person to lie to or the right secrets to blackmail the right person, if you spend enough time talking to them." Matthew continued more enthusiastically.

This intrigued us enough to try it, Matthew wrote out a list of materials we would need and the proceedings of a Sabbath Camera. We would each convene a Sabbath and discuss it in school the next day.

We each snuck out after corroborating the excuses we fed to our parents. The Sabbath Camera had to be convened on sacred ground like a church or a mandir. I found a loose fence post and a tight squeeze through a window into St. Brigid's, dragging a caged chicken and other materials with me. I found a full length mirror in a small side room and stood it in the centre of the altar.

The ceremony was supposed to be conducted at midnight but this was difficult to achieve without a timepiece. I suspected that this was more of a superstition than a requirement but even so I checked the clocktower before I went in and estimated as best I could.

Matthew's instructions said that an unbroken line of salt was to be poured round the mirror. It would circumscribe the limits of the Sabbath and ensure no more than one Devilkin was summoned. When I was finished I sat in the circle of salt, reckoning the time to midnight. The church was silent save the gentle clucking of the chicken beside me. It was dark and gloomy except for the light reflecting off the knife and the mirror. The faces of dead saints stared at me from the stained glass windows, vacant as skulls but somehow judgingly as though they knew what I was about to do. I could feel my heart accelerating as I anticipated the time closer to midnight.

When my anxiety became unbearable and my heartbeat at a stampeding meter I decided it would be time to begin. The ritual would begin with an act of blasphemy on the sacred ground; it could be spilling swine's blood on the floor, desecrating a sacred symbol, drawing an impossible object to defy holy geometry or an animal sacrifice (a human sacrifice would also be acceptable but far too ostentatious for most Sabbaths). I opted for the penultimate and picked up the knife and the chicken.

The chicken squirmed and flapped in my arms as I tried to restrain it. I gripped my arm around its head to hold it steady and brought the knife to its neck.

Its bird eyes looked back at me with maddened desperation as it flapped and struggled against me.

I cut the knife across its neck, spilling a messy but non-fatal amount of blood on myself. I was inexperienced and clumsy and I felt nausea and contempt at the suffering animal. I gripped its head firmly as though to crush its skull, I cut its neck so fiercely that I nearly severed its head. Blood gushed over my hands and the altar. I dropped the chicken's lifeless body and picked up the candle, gagging on the thick coppery smell of the chicken's blood.

I reached for a match to complete the final act of the ritual. My hands shook in horror and my breath escaped in staggered gasps at the thought of what I was about to summon; some hideous Capricorn buer or maybe a ghostly wraith. I lit the match.

My shaking hand slowly pressed it to the wick.

A glow, like embers, illuminated my reflection in the mirror. Nothing seemed to happen, in a moment of desperate hope I thought that maybe nothing would. I could lie to everyone and tell some egregious rhodomontade about what happened instead, if someone claimed to have a different experience I would accuse them of lying.

My relief asphyxiated in an instant.

A grinning face rose behind my left shoulder. A hand gently lighted on my shoulder beside its face. The face was human, but somehow even more terrifying than the buer or wraith I had imagined. It grinned at me as though I was both a toy to be played with and a prize to be won in the game I had foolishly started.

I started to slowly turn my head to face the terrifyingly affable Devilkin.

"No. You won't be able to see me except in the mirror." Its voice was silky and accented in a manner I had never heard. An accent that hadn't been spoken since the antelapsarian era, foreign but eerily recognisable. A familiarity that made me feel uncomfortable, like someone else knowing that you've touched yourself. The Devilkin spoke with a seductive confidence, like an ambitious lawyer.

"By committing this act of blasphemy you intend to convene a Sabbath Camera and obey its terms." The Devilkin said, smiling at me encouragingly. I didn't know if I was supposed to answer so I held the Devilkin's menacingly friendly gaze.

"Then we shall begin. What is your name?" It asked.

The question's terrifying simplicity made it ominous, would giving my name imply agreement to some kind of pact or allow them to catalogue my name into their plans somewhere. I considered giving the Devilkin another name but I didn't feel confident enough to lie to it. The answers it gave in return would be envenomed with untruth or contaminated with honesty.

"Marcus Stuart Copeland." I said, insufflating myself with all the courage I could muster.

"Very good, now you may ask me a question." The Devilkin smiled at me encouragingly again, as though it could see me walking closer and closer to a trap it had laid. There was something satisfying about its antelapsarian accent, something that made me wait in masochistic anticipation to hear it again.

"The entrance examiner won't allow me to study law next year without an A in mathematics. What can I tell him that will get me into university?" I asked, feeling the short crest of confidence while I was the one asking the questions.

"He suffered a sexual intrusion by his uncle when he was thirteen. Raise your awareness sympathetically or threateningly and your application will be successful." The Devilkin said with its seductive confidence thrilling me like being caressed by soft flesh. My elation at this knowledge was alloyed with fear at what the Devilkin planned to ask me next, or what parts of his answer were true.

"Why don't you visit your grandfather anymore?" The Devilkin's question pierced me like sudden, crippling chest pain. Its glowing eyes looked at me in predatory enjoyment. I was used to lying to others about it but I knew that if the Devilkin realised I was lying it would devalue any answers I would get from it.

"When he became sick and incapable of caring for himself I became disgusted with him." I felt similar disgust at the sense of vulnerability that my honesty had inflicted on me. The Devilkin looked at me eagerly as though I was delicious. The hand it had placed on my shoulder moved to my neck, it felt warm against the erect hairs.

"What will happen after sixty six minutes and six seconds?"

"We have no form in The Abyss, yet it is a requirement in your world. That form exists in time as well as matter and is defined by the Number of The Beast. Our form will not exist outwith that time and the Sabbath Camera will be concluded." The Devilkin's confidence grew more seductive, as though it was not just elegant but bespoke. The Devilkin's smile and charm seemed to suggest that it had selected me, that I had some kind of prominence or distinction amongst the multitudes of other karcists it had seen.

My prefrontal mind was illuminated with desire to explore this new realm of possibility but some deeper, atavistic portion screamed in terror. It drove a splinter of doubt into my mind. The Devilkin's eyes, piercing like viper fangs but deep as a silent ocean, focused on me as it waited for me to ask a question. The power that could be mined from the Devilkin spun my head like drunken vertigo but raced my heart with terror.

Erring on the side of cowardice, I lifted the candle with my shivering, sweating hands and blew it out to end the Sabbath Camera. The room filled with darkness, comforting darkness after the terrifying illumination of the Devilkin. The terrible power of the Sabbath Camera was clear to me now, I could force the examiner to give me a place at university. Still that power was greater than I understood. I was like a child with a grenade, able to destroy indiscriminately but unable to completely comprehend the artifice or even the real purpose of that power. The Devilkin likely withheld all kinds of details that I would need, all kinds of consequences they hadn't told me about.

If I'd had the courage to spend longer questioning them or summoned more of them I could gain even more information or cross reference their answers for validity.

After convening a Sabbath Camera, sneaking back out of the church was less thrilling than sneaking in had been. I cleaned up the chicken blood as best as I could but the excitement had faded leaving a stark self awareness, like cleaning up an onanistic ceremony.

When Ruraidh, Nicholas, Matthew and myself met up something had changed. We felt sure that there were others convening Sabbaths Camera at our school and now we knew who they were. Those who seemed to achieve through serendipitous events, people who had mysteriously been absolved of crimes and shameful acts and those who seemed to grow only as rumours about their greatness proliferated. We couldn't discuss it around other students but something about Ruraidh had changed, not in him but in the way others reacted to him. It grew more pronounced as the day progressed, like a disseminated rumour. Whenever Ruraidh was present people seemed to defer to him, verbally or otherwise, for approval. His acknowledgement seemed to have a currency and his ire a debt.

We were all finally able to meet in the Wittenburg society, Matthew, Nicholas and I were furtive and excited to discuss our respective Sabbaths but a taciturn confidence seemed to have grown in Ruraidh. We compared methods, locations, memories and other observations. Throughout this Ruraidh had given monosyllabic answers, informing us but sharing little of his experiences. It wasn't until we discussed the questions that we realised that Ruraidh's experience was grossly divergent, and more bountiful, than ours.

"How many questions did you ask?" Matthew asked.

"Two." I said.

"Five." Said Nicholas.

When we turned to Ruraidh for his answer he looked at us quizzically and took a moment to answer.

"At least fifty." He said looking at us self consciously "I think."

"Those five terrified me. How did you manage to sit through so many?" Matthew asked.

"Amongst my magic books were a few by Aleister Crowley, Rudolph Von Sebbotendorf and Johannes Valentinus Andreae. I read about similar rituals to try to find methods to use." Ruraidh explained.

"Did you just keep the Devilkin talking until the Sabbath ended?" I asked, astounded that Ruraidh would have the gall to sit through the horrifying discourse.

"You mean the sixty six minutes and six seconds?" Ruraidh asked.

"Yeh." I nodded.

Ruraidh looked at me dubiously this time as he realised he was the informed party.

"I doubt I'd be speaking to you now if I did." He said, looking at everyone else's confusion.

His sense of peril seemed unfounded from what the Devilkin had told me and I told him as much.

"The Devilkin told you that the Sabbath Camera simply ends? And you believed it?" Ruraidh said, looking at me interrogatively. I could feel everyone's eyes on me now, realising my gullibility with hindsight.

"Aleister Crowley wrote about a séance in which he summons the spirit of thirteenth century Venetian alchemist. The alchemist set up a large mirror inside the Basilica of St. Mark and entombed a peasant underneath it to convene the Sabbath Camera. He hoped to gain membership of the College of Cardinals and so had many questions for the Devilkin. After what he took to be a little over an hour he blinked; when he opened his eyes the Devilkin was standing in his place, in his clothes, on his side of the mirror. Around him was an endless void. The Devilkin on the other side of the mirror blew out the candle and the mirror winked out of existence, leaving him alone in the void like a single star in an empty universe." Ruraidh explained. The thought chilled me. The Devilkin had slipped me such an enormous lie like a poisoned candy. My gut froze at the thought of convening another camera, I even hesitated at the thought of using the little dagger of knowledge about the entrance examiner knowing its edge cut in both directions.

Ruraidh slapped a hand on my dumbfounded shoulder.

"Stacy Cuthbertson invited us all to the party at her house this weekend. She said that other people are bringing the beer and the lucid nostalgia. We can take as much as we like."

"Did you find out something about her during the Sabbath Camera you held?" Nicholas asked enthusiastically.

Ruraidh looked at him curtly.

"Ask me that again and it'll be the last time we ever speak Nicholas." Ruraidh said. He had an emotionless honesty that suggested it would not be a difficult compromise for him.

We sat in silence for a moment.

"Do you like her or something?" I said, hoping to leaven the conversation.

"I like the admiration I get from knowing secrets about people. If I share those secrets they're worthless." Ruraidh said with dark sobriety.

We sat in silence. We had initially felt that Ruraidh, being more desperate than the rest of us, would serve as some kind of flunky but now realised that we wanted to be within his orbit. Overnight he had become the most popular and desirable person to be friends with.

"I can get us a car for the night." Nicholas offered by way of supplication.

Ruraidh looked at him and smiled in amusement.

"That's been taken care of already." Ruraidh said, appearing to accept the gesture all the same.

We sat through the remainder of the presentations in the Wittenburg society, a charge of excitement for the debauchery awaiting us the following night.

Ruraidh had organised a car and a driver for each of us. When we arrived we were greeted by keen molls and minions who sought to be part of our set. We indulged them of course although Nicholas seemed more interested in the minions than the molls and Matthew seemed more interested in the lucid nostalgia.

I'd never ticked lucid nostalgia before but I claimed that I had when they were offered. These chronotropes known as back skunk, twist rolexes and A were expensive. Economy meant that most teenagers would consume them in moderation, if at all. The high was lucid, no matter how many you took, but the greatest part was the photographic memory combined with the altered state. It gave the perception of being able to move to different times in the night, reliving them in vivid detail. Even after I sobered up, the memories were crystal clear and even included the drug induced confidence and shared friendship I felt.

I'm not sure which of us had lost our virginities before then. All of us had some variation of a girl we slept with who lived near our grandmother's house. The next morning we had no further need for politicised sexuality. I woke around midday surrounded by a knot of sexual partners. Ruraidh was already awake and sitting at the kitchen table, reading the property page of a newspaper. Stacey Cuthbertson's parents had made him breakfast and showed the same deference to him that Stacey Cuthbertson did.

"Stacey's mum made me kedgeree. I'm sure she'd be willing to make more if you want some." Ruraidh said, sipping his coffee and continuing to look at the newspaper.

I looked to Stacey's mum as she poured me a cup of coffee and nodded in confirmation. Ruraidh must have uncovered secrets about Stacey's parents as well, or maybe whatever gave him control over Stacey extended to her parents.

Ruraidh placed the newspaper in front of me and pointed at the house he'd been looking at. It was a large and elegant baronial mansion, styled with bartizans like peaks on a crown. It looked like the residence of an aristocrat or an albaphile millionaire. Ruraidh stirred a sickeningly plural number of sugars into his otherwise black coffee while I looked at the newspaper.

I moved the paper and looked up at Ruraidh as Stacey's mum put a plate of kedgeree and cutlery in front of me.

"Looks expensive." Was my only comment.

"Only to those who can't afford it." He said wryly.

"You're thinking of buying it?" I asked.

Ruraidh raised his eyebrows in confirmation over the rim of his coffee mug.

"I'm not asking for you to tell me or anything but no one at our school has parents with the kind of money to afford that place." I said hesitantly.

Ruraidh smiled and glanced at Stacey's mum as a discreet request for privacy. Despite the obvious resentment, she left quietly.

"I'm going to convene another Sabbath Camera." He said.

The forkful of deliciously brothy kedgeree hung in front of my agape mouth for a moment. A thrill of horror paralysed me as I remembered the Devilkin smiling at me from over my shoulder. As clear as a twist rolex memory but full of terror and confusion instead of joy.

"It's a nice house, an amazing house, but I wouldn't go through that again. Not for a moment, never mind trying to fill out as much time as possible like you did." I said.

"You won't have to. It seemed terrifying to me as well but it doesn't mean there aren't ways to convene a Sabbath Camera by the numbers. I can probably do this on my own but it'll take a long time and the house might have been purchased by someone by then, meaning I'll have to start over. If you can find out everything you can on the house and the owner then I'll be able to concentrate on doing more research into Sabbaths Camera themselves." Ruraidh said, fixing me with his gaze. He had an emphatic look that reminded me of an inexpert, protean version of the Devilkin. Made me feel that his request was unique to me even though he could probably just as easily use Stacey's parents again.

"Sure." I shrugged. I tried not to look grateful at the trust Ruraidh placed in me, especially since I knew that it was fraudulent. I put the forkful of salty kedgeree into my mouth. It's rich warmth melted the icy chill in my stomach that Ruraidh's suggestion had brought. I sipped my recently ground coffee.

"You fucked Stacey and her friend Jenna last night didn't you." I said, as teasingly as the subject matter would allow.

"I didn't take any rolexes last night, I was too drunk to remember." He said with a smirk that suggested he was lying.

Matthew and Nicholas joined us shortly after, being far more garrulous despite the more potent stupor they had sunk into the previous night. They agreed to help with the ecumenical investigations as well, just as greedy as I was to receive Ruraidh's favour.

Ruraidh delegated our school assignments through various deltas of flunkies and factotums. This freed up our time to dig up research on the home and its owner. He was indeed an aristocrat, tracing his heritage back to the Holy Roman Empire. The house had been in his family since it had been built but circumstances that were opaque to Matthew, Nicholas and myself meant that his house needed to be sold. Ruraidh spent this time immersing himself in books on the occult, theology, anthropology, eschatology, anything that would give him a greater understanding of the Sabbath Camera and the Devilkin. A combination of secrets he had learned about certain teachers and a network of indentured liars allowed Ruraidh to attend school as he pleased. We would see him at least once a week but generally he concentrated on his own studies.

Ruraidh gathered us after school one day to tell us that he planned to convene the Sabbath Camera this weekend. This time he wanted to ensure there was some way to record what he found out by setting up audio and visual surveillance. We helped to set it up and arranged a video feed to watch the Sabbath Camera, on camera. We were eager to set this up in case it shed light on how Ruraidh was able to time his Sabbaths Camera so close to the sixty-six minute and six second mark. To our disappointment nothing happened, Ruraidh slaughtered the chicken but nothing happened after he lit the candle. He made several more attempts using different acts of blasphemy, including several that we wished he had warned us before committing. He double checked the ring of salt to ensure it was unbroken, melted the sides of the candles to make doubly sure they weren't marked, but it failed every time.

We would later find out that the concept of a graven image extends to those images created by light as well as a stylus. This besmirched the holiness of the church , albeit temporarily. Ruraidh was petulant and furious when he found out, feeling cheated despite cheating being his own intention.

He decided to try again a few days later. This time we waited in the car with several notebooks and dictaphones for him to use afterwards. We chose the Spicemarket Kenessa and waited in the car while Ruraidh snuck in. We watched the gentle glow of the single candle through the window of the Kenessa. Subconsciously we started checking our watches, partly anxiety and partly some boyish sense of bravado that made us want to check how close to sixty six minutes Ruraidh would go.

My watch told me thirty minutes had passed, I looked up and realised that Matthew and Nicholas had just done the same. Our glances turned back to the Kenessa as one.

After another thirty minutes passed we started to grow anxious, we didn't know if this was how long he had taken before. I imagined sweat beading on Ruraidh's brow, his nerves taught as catgut.

As the last few minutes slipped away we alternated our gazes between our watches and the Kenessa as we waited for the dim glow of the candle to go out.

I could feel a sense of anxiety bristle in me at the thought of another Devilkin emerging in Ruraidh's skin. Even if it had Ruraidh's countenance I would recognise that horrifying predatory grin and the coiling, venomous confidence.

The candle glow winked out and we glanced at each other apprehensively. After a few minutes Ruraidh came running out of the Kenessa. Ruraidh had a manic focus that definitely wasn't anxiety. My own horrifying ordeal had left me terrified and rudderless after only a few minutes whilst Ruraidh was left purposed and impassioned.

"Get out of the car." He said curtly. "Don't get back in until I'm finished."

He got into the car and started speaking into a dictaphone and scribbling on the note pads maniacally. Between the car engine and the deluge of rain on our heads we couldn't hear anything Ruraidh was saying. The secrets he had learned from the Sabbath Camera would be kept uncontaminated and unblended by ensuring only Ruraidh knew them. We grew to realise that these kinds of indignities were the price we had to pay for being Ruraidh's clique. At least it put our minds at ease that Ruraidh hadn't been possessed by a Devilkin since there would be no reason for them to record everything.

After about half an hour Ruraidh opened the door and invited us back into our car. He was calm but avariciously guarded the recordings he had made.

Each of us felt like saying something but everything we wanted to say was a question about how Ruraidh was so calm or how he could time his Sabbaths Camera so effectively. We asked Ruraidh if he wanted to get some booze or find someone selling turtle tea or twist rolexes but he declined. He asked us to take him straight home where he disappeared into his bedroom to inebriate himself with his books and his arcanery.

Matthew still wanted to get some rolexes, even without Ruraidh to give us our centre of gravity. We put our money together and bought enough for ourselves and to get us into a party across town Nicholas had heard about. The place was too much of a brodeo for me and Matthew so we left. Without the carousing and decadence the rolexes weren't particularly interesting either, although Matthew was ticking them like they were going to rot. I left him and the rolexes in the back seat of the car in the empty garage and went home.

I didn't hear from Ruraidh for several days; Nicholas or Matthew either for that matter. When he did call, he asked me to get Nicholas and Matthew together and meet him at St. Brigid's church around midnight. Matthew had gotten more twist rolexes and Nicholas was still at that sex party. They willingly but unhappily abandoned their indulgences to meet me and Ruraidh.

When we arrived we could already see the glow of a candle through the windows of the churches. Nicholas and Matthew were both showing the nostalgic aloofness of the come down of twist rolexes albeit Matthew more than Nicholas.

"Aren't you guys worried about when you're older?" I asked.

Matthew and Nicholas looked at each other.

"What do you mean?" Nicholas asked.

"You both openly drink and tick and fuck all the time. When you're older there'll be other people that'll want a more respectable image if you're going to work for them." I explained.

"We have to live like monks so that we can work for someone else? Fuck that." Scoffed Matthew.

"You don't live like monks and working for someone else is just a means to an end. You do what you like but only within circles of other discreet people. You do it In Camera." I explained, remembering a decorous legal phrase from my preparatory work for university.

"Only fuck you two and Ruraidh for the rest of my life?" Nicholas snorted contemptuously.

"I don't mean that, I just mean that not everyone is a hardbody, a dealer or someone that can get you a foot in the door. Most of the people out there are nobodies with no money, no looks and no friends worth knowing. The only thing they can give you is admiration, which they won't if they think you're no better than them." I pontificated. Matthew and Nicholas pouted.

A smirk pranked across Nicholas's face.

"I doubt that guy and his wife will tell anyone though, see someone at the party found a pineapple and..." Nicholas severed his anecdote as the light went out in the church.

We stepped out of the car, some combination of alarm and confusion silenced us as Ruraidh led several people out of the church. My hands fidgeted with each other at the thought of seeing a Devilkin again, even if it was nominally human. I remembered Ruraidh's reaction to that spider and thought that I could equally consider my feelings of the Devilkin a phobia. Ruraidh was wiping blood off his hands with a towel, it looked like more blood than would be spilt by a chicken.

As Ruraidh's new entourage came closer I recognised one of them as the owner of the house Ruraidh had wanted, the other two had attaché cases and wore double breasted suits of bespoke tailoring. As they came closer I could see that they were visibly trembling and had little awareness of their environment as though shocked. Their belladonna eyes dilated as though screaming from within.

"Who are they?" I asked, looking at them hesitantly.

"Lord Pinely and his solicitors. They just signed his house over to me." Ruraidh said. He had a serial killer calm after this Sabbath Camera starkly contrasting with his anxiety before it.

"Did you bring them to a Sabbath Camera? I thought only the person conducting the Sabbath could be there?" Nicholas asked, with more scepticism than he had intended.

"The particulars of why Lord Pinely signed his house over to me have to be kept secret, neither of us even want his solicitors to know. The paperwork was kept vague and various legal contortions were made to prevent any further investigation by revenue and customs officials. This wasn't a Sabbath Camera but the ritual was similar. The Devilkin served as advocates on my behalf with the deeds being notarised and archived in The Abyss." Ruraidh explained casually.

Ruraidh reached into the breast pocket of one of Lord Pinely's solicitors and removed a business card.

"Would you take them to this clinic Nicholas." Ruraidh said, handing the business card over to him.

"At this time?" Nicholas asked, nervously glancing at the three men zombified by shock.

"You'll be expected." Ruraidh said reassuringly. A note of impatience suggested he expected the instructions to be carried out anyway.

"I need you two to remove the bag, a large bag you'll find inside, and clean up the blasphemy." Ruraidh said, switching between Matthew and myself.

Ruraidh reached into Lord Pinely's inner coat pocket and took out a set of car keys. Ruraidh crossed to a gorgeously anachronistic car with curves instead of corners and chestnut details instead of plastic panels. He let himself into the car with Lord Pinely's keys and called to us as he swung the door shut.

"Come over to my new place when you're finished." He called and drove off.

The ring of salt still circled the mirror, it was much larger than I was expecting. Large enough for Ruraidh, Lord Pinely and his solicitors as well as enough space for several Devilkin. Matthew and I gagged as we looked at what seemed like several litres of blood that had been spilled. By odour rather than evidence it seemed that at least one person in Lord Pinely's party had soiled themselves during the proceedings.

The bag was large, like a piece of luggage. It was heavy and its contents articulated horribly as we tried to lift it. Matthew and I exchanged glances as we realised what kind of sacrifice Ruraidh had used. Who the sacrifice had been probably wouldn't be important. The thought of seeing the bag's bloody contents or the police finding us concerned us more.

Matthew agreed to dump the bag and its contents while I agreed to clean up the blood, salt and whatever else from the altar. Matthew never spoke about where he dumped the bag and Nicholas never mentioned what, if any, treatment he saw administered to Lord Pinely and his solicitors. None of us ever asked. A secrecy of ignorance would allow us a measure of deniability if we were ever questioned.

Nicholas was already at Ruraidh's house when I got there and Matthew arrived about an hour later. Ruraidh had already moved his belongings in, we thought Ruraidh's parents would have helped him but he told us that they usually lived overseas and that he had been sent to live with a family friend while he was at school.

His house was even larger than we imagined, even containing a ballroom that Ruraidh planned to turn into a library. He had already amassed a huge collection of books by various Rosicrucians and Hermeticists, some dated to the reign of King Solomon. The small collection he kept for academic reference in his illusions had expanded greatly since he realised their practical value.

Ruraidh seemed less esteemed by the rest of the house, directing us to kitchens, spas, drawing rooms and bedrooms as points of reference rather than pride. One portion of his grand house even seemed to have been largely abandoned by Ruraidh's attentions and he just waved away our questions with something about "structural problems."

He told us that we were welcome to stay any time we liked as long as we didn't disturb him during his studies or enter the empty wing until repairs had been made.

Ruraidh seemed to have acquired several businesses and properties through his Sabbath in addition to the house. He didn't work or attend school a day in his life from then on, never wanting for anything. Whatever wealth he acquired was easily befitting his lodgings.

Ruraidh spent much of it on new books and antiques for his research but he would always use some for great bacchanalias at his house that eclipsed Stacey Cuthbertson's party. The immersive debauchery and fornication seemed to be like a garden. A garden in which the flowers and follies admired Ruraidh as he walked through it. He would watch the attending sybarites to see the progress of his deceits and his plots. He would have cornucopias of alcohol, lovers, narcotics, and aphrodisiacs offered at the parties for people to pluck like apples from the trees.

Outside of these parties Ruraidh would seclude himself to his studies for weeks at a time. I had used the meagre fare from my own Sabbath Camera to get a place at university, the entrance examiner appeared traumatised when I brought it up. His feelings were of little concern to me so I made no effort to spare them. Based on my school grades he had no intention of offering me a place anyway so my conscience remained entirely apeptic about it.

Nicholas also gained a place but on a different course. Matthew seemed to have found a nirvana of turpitude in which he would find work where he could and spend the rest of his time and wages ticking rolexes. When we spoke to him he would often be reliving that first party at Stacey Cuthbertson's house, even reminiscing about the kedgeree and coffee we had the next morning. Nicholas, Ruraidh and I still had the same crisp memories but Matthew's tightening dependence seemed to give them more prominence in his mind.

Ruraidh remained embraced in his studies and his machinations for more than a month before we heard from him again. He asked us to be present for another Sabbath Camera he had planned. We were to meet him outside a recently built church called the Gospel of Acts Assembly. He seemed unusually excited to have us there, as though it was some kind of occasion.

Ruraidh was waiting for us when we arrived, upon seeing us Ruraidh sent his driver back to the great house. He had a valise in his hand to hold the materials for the Sabbath Camera, we assumed. He had the same anxiety that prickled him before a Sabbath Camera but also an enthusiasm now that we were here.

"What do you think?" Ruraidh asked.

"The church?" Matthew asked.

"My church. I built it and own it anyway. There's a priest who manages the church's affairs. I won't have to sneak into other churches and temples anymore to convene a Sabbath." Ruraidh explained. The irony that the world's greatest karcist was building churches wasn't lost on anyone but it wasn't mentioned either.

"Come inside, it's a church but it's actually bespoke for my purposes.

As Ruraidh led us inside he ignored the two deacons who looked at him conflicted by the reproach required by their faith and the obsequiousness required by their appointment. Their eyes followed him as he continued talking, oblivious to their stares.

Our eyes widened in amazement as we entered the atrium.

The altar was stepped and cut from black volcanic stone, long since cooled and enamelled. The steps of the altar were so high I fancied that someone standing at its summit would be able to touch the ceiling of the church. The altar had a large mirror, belying its true purpose.

Ruraidh led us up the steps of his abominable altar. When we reached the mirror we realised that it was much larger up close, large enough to fit a shop window. Ruraidh was enthusiastic but the possibilities of the altar terrified me, Nicholas and Matthew also seemed apprehensive but said nothing.

"I seem to require more and more Devilkin at every Sabbath Camera. It's surprising how many answers a single question can have." Ruraidh explained. "That's not even the main function though."

Ruraidh directed our attention to the side of the mirror. We could see that it wasn't just a mirrored panel but a mirrored box. The side of the giant box had slight distortions in the reflections where there was some kind of hatch.

"Is this an escape route or something." I asked

Ruraidh shook his head enthusiastically.

"You remember that we weren't able to record the Sabbath Camera with video?" Ruraidh asked.

We all nodded.

"Look inside." He instructed, beaming.

We opened the door and could see that there was a small room behind the mirror. From inside we could see that it was a one way mirror on the altar. A shudder went through me as I realised what Ruraidh intended to do.

"We build a camera to observe the camera." Ruraidh confirmed. "We know that only one person can be present during a Sabbath Camera otherwise the Devilkin simply won't appear. Having you wait outside wouldn't achieve anything and as we found out video cameras won't work. Obviously it's only conjecture at this point but I feel confident about it this time. I had it built by an engigneur I used to develop magic tricks with."

Nicholas, Matthew and myself exchanged anxious glances. Hoping that it would be one of the others asked to go in the box.

"Marcus." My gut froze and my heart spasmed as Ruraidh said my name. "You go in there and write down everything I say."

"You two wait in the car, Marcus might not be able to drive afterwards anyway." At Ruraidh's instruction, Nicholas and Matthew left, hurrying the deacons out as they went.

"Do you want me to set anything up?" I offered hesitantly.

"No thanks, I'd prefer to do it myself. I hope that this will be obvious Marcus but you will find out the answers to the questions that the Devilkin ask me as well." Ruraidh said, fixing his eyes with mine.

I nodded as I realised the enormity of what he was entrusting me with.

"I consider you, Nicholas and Matthew to be my friends which is why I haven't made you agree to keep everything you hear confidential. You have already seen what I can do Marcus, I would hope that you can see the value of maintaining my favour." Ruraidh said.

I knew he wasn't trying to threaten me. He didn't have to, I realised that betraying him would be an inherent detriment. He would likely have secrets about Nicholas, Matthew and myself that could bend us to his will. He would know which lies to tell and to whom to make us turn on each other. Even if I could find out details on him, or convene another Sabbath Camera I would be losing the wealth and prestige that being Ruraidh's friend brought. I couldn't hope to betray Ruraidh any more than a food taster could be a poisoner, I would be plunging a knife through Ruraidh's back into my own breast in one action.

I nodded my assent, placing my hand on Ruraidh's shoulder.

Ruraidh started taking candles and containers of salt from his bag. Last among the items were a nail and a sacramental host. Ruraidh assiduously set up the Sabbath Camera, making me feel conspicuously redundant.

I looked into the dark grotto built behind the mirror. The only light came from the other side of the glass and I couldn't even see the corners to check them for rats or spiders. I had to concede it was preferable to being on the other side of the mirror during the Sabbath Camera but preferable still would be in the car. I trusted Ruraidh's hypothesis but somehow it looked like a cage that I would be locked in with the Devilkin.

I stepped in and closed the door behind me. The locking mechanism clanged and echoed inside the small chamber. Ruraidh had finished pouring the ring of salt. It was much wider than I would have dared, encircling the altar and parts of the transepts. Ruraidh ascended the steps to the altar one at a time, a certain distance seemed to suggest he was suppressing some kind of anxiety.

There were many things I had wondered about how Ruraidh convened a Sabbath Camera. If there were formal modes of address that he had learned, if he would be confident and dominating around them. The biggest wonder remained how he was able to time his Sabbaths Camera so precisely without a watch. Nicholas suspected that he probably sneaked a watch in somehow, although I thought the idea of being able to cheat The Devil and his Devilkin so easily was absurd. My own guess was that he would check the position of the moon through a window to get an approximation.

Ruraidh put all the lights out and stood directly in front of me on the other side of the mirror. The anxiety he was suppressing seemed to have blossomed into abject terror. Ruraidh took several deep breaths to steady his nerves. He seemed like an anxious orator, nervous about the prospect but understanding the necessity.

Ruraidh took the sacramental host and pierced it with the nail. He placed it on the altar and took up the candle and a match. Inhaling deeply, he put the match to the candle. Ruraidh then put the fingertips of his left hand to his right wrist in a gesture I didn't understand.

Inches from my face Ruraidh's eyes widened in terror and his breath caught in his frightened lungs.

I shivered as I realised the Devilkin must have appeared.

Ruraidh's eyes scanned the mirror suggesting that several were present. I took a pen and the notepad and prepared to transcribe the Sabbath Camera.

Ruraidh's eyes, dilated to black pits like reflections of the abyss he faced, fixed on one spot on the mirror. I took this to be one of the Devilkin speaking.

Ruraidh paused for a moment as he considered his answer, a furtive glance suggested he was self conscious about me hearing his answer. He took a deep breath and answered.

It wasn't what I expected. I didn't realise terror could reach so deep.

Ruraidh's answer wasn't recognisable, It was a strangled shrieking in tongues. It sounded like suffering, like hooks and ropes. It must have been some pre-babel glossolalia that was only sensible to those convening the Sabbath. I had assumed the Devilkin were able to speak all earthly languages but they didn't need to. They spoke the ancient language of Nimrod's kingdom, a common tongue understood in the darkest reaches of our souls. Our diverse languages are merely an expression of our madness, we all remember when we choose to.

I failed to make sense of the horrifying shrieks coming from Ruraidh. I tried to think back to my own Sabbath Camera but I had spoken it so naturally that I wasn't even aware I wasn't speaking English.

Having to watch Ruraidh nauseated me. The glossolalia was aggressive and terrifying. It was the wails of animals penned in abattoirs. It was the bloodthirsty relish of murder and pogrom with the cornered terror of its victims. It was cannibals' captives tied to spits and witches burned at the stake. It was the language of confessions extracted like fingernails with stretch hooks and bone torques. My watch suggested that we were about half way through.

I watched as hot wax from the candle spilled over Ruraidh's fingers without snaring his attention. His terrified eyes remained on the mirror. Flicking occasionally to different Devilkin but blinking rarely. I felt fortunate that I could only hear Ruraidh's voice speaking the Devilkin tongue. I suspected that Ruraidh's accent imbibed it with revulsion like someone else's sexual proclivities. I remembered the confident antelapsarian accent of the Devilkin I had summoned, its delightful playfulness and powerful confidence touching the pre-genital part of my mind with its adult conceptions. It had sounded so different when it spoke to me and yet it would surely have been speaking that same horrifying glossolalia.

I looked at my watch again and realised there was only a few minutes left. I considered tapping the mirror but very quickly decided against it. Ruraidh seemed to be concentrating and would not be pleased if I broke it. The thought of occupying the same space as the Devilkin shanked ice through me with terror, the thought of them knowing more so. I had no more compulsion to try and leave the box either, despite the impenetrable darkness I was sitting in.

There was less than a minute left of the Sabbath Camera. I started to gnaw on my knuckles as I looked at Ruraidh babbling that terrifying Helltongue. He didn't seem aware of the time, just his terror and some distraction that he was concentrating on. I wondered if he would change physically, if horns would split through his skull and hooves tear through the flesh of his feet. If his muscles would burst and be replaced with furred beastskin, if he would sublimate into some ghostly phantom of smoke and malevolence, or his skin dessicate into a lich. Maybe he would become some non-euclidean analogue of a man, projecting into a fourth dimension like a horrifyingly tesseracted vitruvian man.

Ruraidh blew the candle out.

Darkness filled the box like a coffin. His shadows allowed me to pick out Ruraidh's movements. He seemed to be trying to slow his breathing and steady his nerves.

The lights went up inside the church. I climbed out through the small hatch, still holding the blank notebook in my hands in a subconsciously obsequious gesture.

"I'm sorry." I said. "I couldn't get anything."

Ruraidh looked at me, more puzzled than angry. As though he assumed a more satisfying answer was awaiting him.

"Why?" He said tersely.

"You weren't speaking English. I don't know what language it was. It must have been the Devilkin language, it just sounded like babbling to me." I said apologetically.

I could see Ruraidh's cheeks flush sanguinously with rage.

"FUCK!!" Yelled Ruraidh, smashing an icon that sat atop the altar.

He held his eyes in his palms as though trying not to look at something and let his rage wear itself out.

He ran his fingers through his hair in exasperation and sniffed.

"Doesn't matter." He lied. "I can probably remember enough of it."

We started packing the candles and other materials away. Fortunately there was little mess to clean up this time. Ruraidh seemed calmer. His terror during the Sabbath Camera seemed to subside quickly, he still seemed angry that it wasn't possible to record everything he learned but his mind seemed to have moved on to new possibilities. I felt my own heartbeat start to slow from the terrifying proceedings I had just sat through.

Over the next few years time seemed to pass quickly for Nicholas and I as we tried to find time to study between indulging ourselves to the pleasures afforded as close friends of Ruraidh's. Similar, albeit less influential, entourages coalesced around Nicholas, Matthew and myself as Ruraidh's reputation became more pervasive. None of them were as impressive as the people who would plot for Ruraidh's attentions but it gave us a tangible privilege that we came to expect. For Matthew time was only linear when he was unticked and was more akin to a photo album that he could reminisce over as he pleased.

As for Ruraidh, time seemed to move as it did before. He would spend weeks at a time in his ever expanding library and organise his festivals of carousing for us to enjoy and for him to survey his handiwork. From time to time he would ask us to assist him in another Sabbath Camera, serving as his valets since his plan to record them had failed. He would convene them whenever he felt the limits of his wealth and his influence. And yet; other than his lavish house and the decadent parties he would host, he seemed to spend all of his money on acquiring new books. Originals in particular as copies and précis were insufficient for his work. Filling his library in the process with tablets, scrolls, pottery and tapestries in addition to the ancient grimoires.

I eventually finished university with a sufficient measure of success, although finding a position afterwards was more difficult than I had anticipated. In part this was because I had no interest in completing an internship as these are for procuring connections and reputation, things I already had in abundance. The other problem was the entrance examiner I had convinced to allow me on the course had been discouraging as many firms as he could from employing me. Fortunately Ruraidh's influence allowed me to obtain a position.

It was a few days after I qualified as a barrister that Ruraidh hosted one of his most lavish parties in my honour. These parties had burgeoned an international reputation, few people from school or university were even invited anymore and instead heiresses, celebrities, socialites and their entire entourages served as fuel for these bacchanalias.

A night became several days of carousing, imbibing and fornicating. We had champaign, turtle tea, cocaine, lucid nostalgia and a surplus of comely companions to enjoy it with. Ruraidh's staff had been instructed to continue observing meal times and great feasts were laid out, served on the undressed forms of guests and servants like salvers.

After a few days the energy of the party started to suffer its own decay. The numbers dwindled, Matthew ticked his rolexes, Nicholas slept quietly with two on leave soldiers who remained immaculately groomed despite their activities. Ruraidh and I were still awake albeit coming down from the rolexes we had been ticking, several of the girls we had been with were sleeping around us on the floor or draped over chairs like discarded clothing. Ruraidh reclined with a cigarette in a pair of designer boxer shorts worth more than the suit I was due to wear in chambers.

I was muttering to Ruraidh about how anxious I was about starting work as a barrister. Ruraidh just stared at me as though he was contemplating what I had said. I assumed he was just irritated by my mumbling and wanted to enjoy his own melancholia in peace.

"It's not about ignoring your fear, or pushing beyond it." He said eventually.

"What?" I asked, surprised that he actually answered me.

"You just need to learn the parameters of your fear. How far it extends and how far you can travel." He explained. "That's how I do it."

"Do what?" I asked.

"Spend so much time in the Sabbath Camera without being trapped in The Abyss." Ruraidh said, his eyes unflinching.

I sat bolt upright, almost immediately sober.

"By counting my heartbeats." He explained. "I have eight thousand five hundred and ninety three of them before I am lost to The Abyss and the Devil walks the Earth in my skin."

"You were checking your pulse!" I ejaculated. "When I was waiting behind the mirror you put your hand to your wrist."

Ruraidh nodded.

"Come with me, I'll show you something." He said, sliding a robe off the back of a sleeping brass who now had more barrettes, pomades and pins in her hair than she had threads on her body. He swathed the robe about his detumescing form, apparently more for warmth than for dignity.

He led me through his great house. We walked past rooms still filled with the debris of the party, some of it sleeping drunkards and shaggers. We started to make our way to the empty and unused part of his house with its "structural problems."

Ruraidh stopped at a room with a locked door and a ring of keys hanging beside it. The door was dingy and dishevelled as though it wasn't meant to be seen by the public. The door lacked any panelling, styling or any kind of handle. Paint peeled off it in patches like diseased flesh. I could faintly hear sounds on the other side but no voices as though there were rats in wall.

Ruraidh's shaking hand took the keys from the wall. He cycled through them with a dreaded despondency. He slid the key into the lock with closed eyes. I had seen Ruraidh scared during the Sabbath Camera but the Stygian horrors he was exposed to were elementals of fear itself. They were the unit of account that all other fear was valued against.

Normally Ruraidh swaggered around with secrets like shells in a six gun. Politicians and businessmen would plot for his ear and his time. For Ruraidh women, money and esteem were no more of an expense than the air in his chest or the earth below his feet. Ruraidh had even been able to cheat the Devil at his own game and yet he stood in front of me, unable to even stifle the terror he was feeling as he had done in the Sabbath Camera.

I could feel my own anxiety rise in my chest at the thought of what lay on the other side of the door if it held such terror for Ruraidh. I regretted not taking a robe of my own as my skin puckered into terrified gooseflesh at the prospect. I tried to meet Ruraidh's eye for his reassurance but he was focused on overcoming his own fear.

He took several shuddering, staccato breaths before he unlocked the door and pushed it open in a single movement. A prick of horror pierced me as I saw inside the room. The same stab of horror I felt as the Devilkin's eyes rose behind my shoulder. I stepped into the room behind Ruraidh and surveyed the horrifying contents.

The room was gloomy and mostly lit by the ultraviolet lights in the glass tanks. Ruraidh's suppressed anxiety once again blossomed into abject terror. The things Ruraidh kept in here that crawled and sneaked seemed to prefer shadows and the deeper bands of light. Things that plotted and waited for their prey with spindly legs like bodkins and ugly bulbous abdomens. They appraised us with their twitching, slimy mandibles.

I hadn't even considered that he was still scared of spiders. My friend who had found life's cheat codes and charged through it with all weapons and infinite ammo remained terrified of them.

Ruraidh crossed to the room where a chair was attached to a medical heart monitor and a sphygmomanometer. He sat in the chair and furtively looked around at the glass cases of huntsmans, weavers, tarantulas, and various other hideous iterations like sun spiders and scorpions. He surveyed the tortured menagerie like it was an eldritch obverse of the parties he would host, gratification replaced with fear, elegance with ugliness and deceit replaced with predatory hunger.

"This is how I did it." Ruraidh said from his chair. "When I had learned to measure my fear I used it as a terrible notation to speculate the secrets of The Abyss. I had to ensure my heartbeat was accurate for the circumstances. Checking my pulse wouldn't be enough and going running or swimming would change my heartbeat with the same action. I needed real fear like an anatomist needs a real cadaver."

We both flinched as a wolf spider scurried to the other side of its tank like an assassin taking to cover.

"This place holds the worst fear for me still. Very few things seem to thrill me anymore. The curve of a girl's back, a psycho with a blade, even business rivals who think they've found a way to buy me out don't really concern me. This fills me with the same fear I felt the first time I convened a Sabbath Camera." Ruraidh said, looking around the room anxiously with his eyes still bleary and red from the many days he had been ticking rolexes. This young man had been dominating sluts and bullies into sycophants and still perfumed in the exotic toyo scent of ring girls and hussies, now sat completely flaccid in his designer boxer shorts and floral silk shortie.

Many people seemed to think that Ruraidh could have whatever he wanted for free, as though providence itself was his patron. I now realised that there was a terrible price to be paid, even by Ruraidh. His fear was like a vintage wine, hidden away but never forgotten or ignored and regularly checked for contamination. Regularly checked to ensure that no infirmity or mood had changed it, that its trojan weight of eight thousand thousand five hundred and ninety three heartbeats remained unchanged.

Ruraidh and I backed out of the room as though there was an uncaged lion in the middle of it. Ruraidh shuddered as he closed and locked the door. He obsessively checked around to see if there were any spiders that escaped. He breathed several times to settle his nerves. When his eyes lifted to meet mine the fear had been purged, Ruraidh placed a jolly hand on my shoulder.

"See if any of my cooks are sober enough to make us breakfast. I'll wake Ophelia and Rachel, they can be the plates for our body waffles and fresh fruit." Ruraidh said.

Many years passed after that morning. During that time I decided to dress my reputation and success by starting a family. Nicholas had also married and had two children despite having little attraction towards women and even less towards marriage. It framed his glamour of orthodoxy to further his political career and provide sinew to various stances he took. He would engage in affairs regularly to satisfy his preferences but he was surprisingly connected with his family. He seemed to treat them as a kind of hobby that he would cultivate and explore.

Eventually we realised, to our chagrin, that our children were closer to our age when we engaged in Ruraidh's great festivals of debauchery than we now were ourselves. We watched them grow with pride but started to nervously ponder how many of them had already attempted to convene a Sabbath Camera. We would confiscate athames and candles we found under their beds, dismiss their questions about ancient books with scorn, dogmatism or scepticism. We would often catch them gathered in churchyards after sneaking out at night. Nicholas's daughter became captain of the gymnastics team after the previous captain was found hanging from a bridge with a suicide note in her pocket. I tried to reassure him that it was coincidence only and that his daughter was the natural and most deserving successor. He said nothing but placed a hand on my shoulder to show that he appreciated the comfort and the lie.

Matthew never had children, he seldom even worked any more. Ruraidh kept him around his house like an old gun dog, providing him a per diem to meet his needs and feed his vices. Despite this Matthew's appetites for twist rolexes could scarce be satisfied by it. He often had to rely on cheaper twist rolexes that had been cut with vim or tar. They would give him headaches and cause the memories he relived to be tainted with feelings of anger or shame.

Ruraidh had briefly been engaged to a young parvineau called Natasha. She had become independently wealthy after conspiring and manipulating her way to a partnership in my legal firm. Her looks and wit were unrivalled and she inspired lust and admiration in equal measure. She was one of the lucky individuals who could use her looks and ambition to create networks of scheming flunkies and use them to draft all manner of plots to overcome her enemies. Though she was far from naïve she had never convened, or even heard of, a Sabbath Camera. When Ruraidh finally told her where his wealth and influence came from she implored him to stop, to use the wealth and influence he had to live the rest of his life in luxury or use it to plot within their means using only Earthly measures. Ruraidh tried to explain to her that his wealth and influence could not have such a simple ecumenical source, only the depths of The Abyss could offer the power he needed. Every pawn on his chessboard was simultaneously a sycophant and usurper, each one wanting his power as much as his approval. Short of owning the very money in their pockets, nothing else would suffice to control them. They ended their engagement shortly after, each disappointed in the other.

Ruraidh seemed to mature from a sybarite into a dilettante. It had begun with his research into the occult; by necessity he had learned ancient Hebrew, Babylonian, Middle-Asanti and a variety of other languages. Antiquarianism had also become a necessity as he gathered even more archaeological sources for his research that would predate the books he pored over. Initially this had occupied a single room of Ruraidh's house, then an entire wing and ultimately several museums were filled and maintained like an adulterer's families from Ruraidh's purse and collections.

During this time he seemed to take the adoration of the hoi poloi as a given and started to seek the admiration those he considered intellectual equals, or at least adjacents. He had authored many papers of his own and used his wealth to fund archaeological digs in Kodiak Island, Amhara, Liaoning, Al-Muthanna among others. When we asked him why he chose these places he would start pontificating in kant and lyrical tones about subjects we didn't understand. We could never tell if he was being deliberately obfuscatory or if he had simply become so immersed in his work that he couldn't tell.

Cues to further his research became the principle reason for convening Sabbaths Camera as he got older. While the gold nuggets and blue chips he sought before became tedious chores; coins to be collected and put into a video game so that he could keep playing.

One particular Sabbath Camera was convened for the specific purpose of ensuring his wealth was too abundant to be threatened by notions of scarcity. It would prove successful, albeit by a more pyrrhic definition. Most importantly, it would prove ... definitive.

Ruraidh finished coiling a tie about his neck. I aligned the knot with his tie pin and straightened it out. Looking at Ruraidh's face I reflected that we had lost the countenance of our youth as well as the appetites.

I was going to accompany him as he met with Sir James Redfield and his legal team to sign his estate over to Ruraidh. I had warned Ruraidh against it, especially without at least a perfunctory payment for tax and propriety purposes. Ruraidh wouldn't hear of it, he insisted that presidents and generals had signed their estates over to him before and he had little to fear from Sir Redfield. As the incumbent patriarch of the Redfield Banking Trust, his estate would give Ruraidh control over most of the banks and venture capital in the world. Ruraidh had grown accustomed to wealth but even he would have trouble imagining such a vast amount at his disposal.

As Sir Redfield signed over the conveyancing documents he looked forlornly at the fountain pen in his hand that was now worth more than he was. One of his ancestors had received it from the Archduke of Hesse more than a century past.

After the documents had been signed Ruraidh shook Sir Redfield's hand with as much earnestness as he dared.

"I plan to hold one of my parties again Sir Redfield. I haven't hosted one in many years but I hoped that you would be my guest tonight." Ruraidh offered. He had little interest in the parties themselves any more, even for the purpose of surveying his admirers, but he would occasionally host them to placate his scorned rivals.

"Thank you." Sir Redfield accepted. "I expect I won't have much time for parties. Now that you own my family office and my other assets I'll have to take up a post in the Redfield Banking Trust."

"I'll be happy to offer you a position." Ruraidh said magnanimously.

"I'm afraid only the executive of the Trust can do that." Sir Redfield explained, a vindictive smugness seemed to blossom in him.

Ruraidh looked at him quizzically, trying to hide his annoyance.

"What do you mean, you signed your personal assets and those of the Redfield Banking Trust over to me?"

"Parking spaces, company bathrooms and gym membership. I don't even own the office space I use. Those are the assets I own within the Trust. It's existed for centuries dear boy. It's continued to exist despite ambitious issues with inheritance powders and upstart thieves like you. The constitution of the Redfield Banking Trust states that it can only be sold or liquidated with the agreement of all extant signatories of the Redfield family. Several hundred of them at my last reckoning. I'm sure a man of your drive and ambition will be up to the challenge." Sir Redfield said, a grin creeping into his face. Despite losing his personal fortune he enjoyed the spiteful victory.

Ruraidh breathed through his nose as though he was trying to divert his anger through it. He cursed inwardly, I assume at the Devilkin who short changed him on the information he wanted.

"Tonight at seven then?" Sir Redfield said, leaving the room.

Ruraidh took little interest in his orgies, even less when they penetrated and smothered him with resentment. Ruraidh, Nicholas, Matthew and I annexed ourselves from the debauchery, fornication and other revelry in one of his reception rooms. It was less a private party and more a quieter part of one we did not wish to attend. We enjoyed Ruraidh's private reserve of brandy whilst we discussed our careers, families and vested interests. It was during a discussion between Nicholas and myself about the Berlin property market that the door of the reception room flung open.

Sir Redfield swayed into the room. The glass of whiskey in his hand confirmed the accusation of drunkenness made by his rosy cheeks and staggering gait. His belt was unbuckled and his shirt hastily tucked in as though his trousers had recently been around his ankles.

He pointed at Ruraidh with the same hand that held his lowball glass of whiskey, squinting as though taking aim. Sir Redfield nodded in approval.

"I used to ..." He interrupted himself with the unpleasant hybrid of belching and nauseous gagging that seem to follow that later stages of drunkenness "... think I was you. The power that your money, your name and your connections bring you. I thought I had that. Men like you and I know we're not like those other people, those minions and consumers out there." He sneered the last sentence with resentment.

He slumped into a chair between me and Ruraidh and continued his drunken soliloquy.

"We're supposed to be the ones managing those statistics and automatons out there aren't we?" Sir Redfield said resignedly.

Ruraidh nodded when Sir Redfield looked at him.

"Now I'm going to be one of them. I'll be able to start over with my salary and my expense account from the Trust but my family office was my life's work. I took the inheritance I received from my father and grew it into a great fortune in its own right. I was going to hand it over to my grandchildren after my death." He said bitterly.

Ruraidh and I exchanged supercilious looks. I placed a hand on Sir Redfield's shoulder. He appeared genuinely comforted by it.

Sir Redfield looked straight at Ruraidh, his eyes seemed to focus as though overriding his drunkenness.

"You host Sabbaths Camera don't you?" He asked. "That's how you acquired your fortune ... and mine."

Ruraidh breathed before he answered.

"Yes." He said.

"I tried that when I was a boy. I knew the dangers because several boys at my school disappeared after convening them. One boy in particular didn't disappear but returned to our dorms with a bottomless darkness behind his eyes." Sir Redfield stared into the distance at the memory.

"He actually finished school and graduated. You'll never believe where he ended up."

"I know where he ended up." Ruraidh said gently reminding him.

"Of course." Sir Redfield cleared his throat impatiently and continued.

Neither of them chose to elaborate further on this and none of us thought it prudent to ask.

"As I was saying the dangers were real to me so you might wonder what the scion of one of the world's great banking clans would want with a Sabbath Camera. Anything I desired would be easily available. The only thing I couldn't have was the one thing that my family had desired for well over a century." Sir Redfield explained.

Sir Redfield took a substantial sip, more akin to a swig, of his whiskey. He licked his lips in obvious satisfaction.

"Two of my great-great-great uncles, Frederick Redfield and William Redfield II had been sent to Ruanda-Urundi. They had been despatched by our family's original patriarch, William Redfield I. Between them they set up the Red River Mining Company and successfully brought a steady flow of platinum into the European markets. It would be twenty years before the country was formally colonised by Germany and Frederick had noticed a lack of common capital there. He felt that Ruanda-Urundi could be a successful entrepot between the Belgian Congo, Uganda and the port cities in the North-East. Frederick skimmed and sequestered small amounts from their platinum shipments with such frequency that he quickly had an abundant stockpile to serve as seed capital for his venture." Sir Redfield said.

At this point Nicholas and Matthew were listening intently as well even though they had done their best to appear oblivious initially.

"Frederick and William only had about thirty men between them which wouldn't be enough to subjugate the country. Similarly they didn't have enough guns to be able to sell them, far less demand the currency in which it was paid. Frederick hit upon a novel reversal of capitalism to gain the economic power he desired over Ruanda-Urundi. He purchased all the sorghum, bullocks, sweet potato, corn, swine, beer and peapods that he could and would pay the locals in measures of platinum. The price he paid could be ten to a hundred times their value at market. Scarcity and inflation followed shortly after, driving up the price of those staple commodities to unaffordable levels. Only Frederick could meet the demand of the local Hutus, selling their own food back to them, and at a price they could afford. A price that Frederick demanded in a single currency."

"Platinum." I offered in obvious conclusion.

Sir Redfield nodded.

"Or a denominational certificate of ownership that he would issue to anyone who stored their platinum in his bonded warehouse. A bonded warehouse that later became The Bank of Ruanda-Urundi. This made it much easier and safer for the Hutus so naturally they would be eager to store their platinum with him. It took less than a year for all the platinum in circulation to be back in his hands and all the money in Ruanda-Urundi to be under his direct control." Sir Redfield explained. A boyish excitement seemed to combust behind his eyes at the thought, as though he had been reading some implausible boys adventure story.

"That's impressive." Ruraidh said earnestly, apparently having never heard this story before.

"William, the other brother, was furious when he found out. He informed his father of Frederick's betrayal and embezzlement but his father wouldn't hear of it. Their father was overjoyed at Frederick's success and initiative and asked that Frederick report to him directly about the affairs and accounts of the bank. William was given sole control over the mines but their father had shown little enthusiasm for their static, albeit regular, output." Sir Redfield finished his glass of whiskey, the ice clinked against the base of his glass. He appraised the empty glass with a drunken stare. "Must have put too much ice in it."

"Michael would you get Sir Redfield another glass of ... Glendronach?" Ruraidh said looking to Sir Redfield for confirmation.

Sir Redfield nodded.

"Over time The Ruanda-Urundi Bank overshadowed the original platinum interests that were William's purview. The bank's assets had grown far beyond the initial cache of platinum and now composed diamonds, wine, gold, property deeds, silver and consols as well as its own railway and shipping companies. William expanded the mining interests as much as he could, maximising the efficiency of the mines and successfully externalised a war between King Yuhi and the Abatwa in order to free up more land for his mining operations. Despite William's competence, it always paled in comparison to Frederick's profitability." Sir Redfield explained.

Matthew handed him another glass of whiskey, a freshly chipped block of ice gently clinking against the glass.

"Thank you." He said sipping it.

"Unfortunately it wasn't to last, for either of them. Frederick had petitioned King Leopold II for aid in putting down a rebellion by the Tutsis, one that King Yuhi had been unable to quash. Both brothers initially welcomed the prospect of the Belgian garrison. It brought the potential for peace and the profiting as sutlers. So eager were they that Frederick offered them the use of his ships and trains to move their garrison from Guatemala to Ruanda-Urundi. Unfortunately these soldiers dragged their colonial curse back with them from the New World in the form of rats, black rats. When they arrived in Usumbura the rats abandoned the stale tack and salted meat that they had endured in the crossing and gorged themselves on the corn and beans that the locals were growing. Spreading their accursed, stowaway fleas as they did so." Sir Redfield sipped his whiskey again.

Nicholas gesticulated with his eyes at Sir Redfield's whisky glass and raised an eyebrow. I nodded back at him. We both looked at Ruraidh for confirmation but he seemed intent on hearing the rest of Sir Redfield's story.

"The miners were the poorest and lived in the least sanitary conditions so they showed signs of the plague first. William knew that allowing this wound to fester was a costly mistake so he ordered his personal physician, at gunpoint, to treat the miners. It was to little avail. The plague spread; first through the miners, then other workers, then the Belgian garrison and eventually to the pigs, cows and chickens. Frederick, realising that now was the time to cut his losses, loaded his abundant wealth on to his trains and then his ships. He sent them north to Somaliland, one by one to reduce any losses through piracy or storms. While Frederick was provisioning his last ship, with the intention of including himself amongst the cargo, William confronted him."

Sir Redfield sipped his whiskey again.

"William was furious that Frederick would abandon him and their family's interests in their hour of direst need. The arguments became incrementally more heated, each one piling insult upon insult, until William drew his pistol and shot Frederick. William was dispatched a moment later by Frederick's retainers."

We sat in silence at the end of Sir Redfield's story.

"According to a diary kept by Frederick's chamberlain, the ship's cargo was unstowed in Somaliland and collected along with the rest of Frederick's wealth by a halawa broker. He in turn sent it to another broker, then he to another, and so on an unknown number of times." Sir Redfield mused.

"The chamberlain didn't try to collect it himself?" Nicholas asked, an edge of dubiousness in his voice.

"He couldn't. Frederick didn't give the broker's name to anyone except the captains of his ships and their contracts allowed them to keep the ships as soon as they disembarked their cargo." He explained.

"And no one in your family was able to find any of the captains of the Halawa brokers?" I asked. I could understand Nicholas's scepticism but I felt excited by Ruraidh's enthusiasm as though we were children and he was our ringleader.

Sir Redfield sipped his whiskey again before he continued.

"According to the chamberlain's diary it would have made little difference even if they had. The halawa brokers would all require a phrase or codeword. Even if they gave the right one, the halawa broker would only release the name of the next halawa broker Frederick's estate was transferred to." He said.

"So you were convening a Sabbath Camera to find out where Frederick's treasure was hidden?" Nicholas asked.

"I imagine it'll be hidden beneath three feet of titanium in a bank vault somewhere. The charge will have been handed down through generations of halawa brokers. It wasn't the location I needed, my boy, but the names of the halawa brokers and the passwords needed to unlock them." He said, reflectively swirling the ice around his glass.

"The final halawa broker will only release the 'treasure' after receiving confirmation from the previous halawa broker that he has been contacted and the correct password received, the prior broker will do the same and so on. There's no shortcut to unlocking it unfortunately. This is why I never had the nerve to convene a Sabbath Camera for long enough to learn them, neither has anyone in my family." Sir Redfield lamented.

"So do you expect me to find it and hand it over to repay the sleight I made against you?" Ruraidh said, finally breaking his silence.

"Of course not. A man of such ambition and industry I expect you to find it for yourself. However I would also like to think that such a man would also be a man of clemency and offer finders lays to a defeated rival." Sir Redfield offered collusively. "It will make my family's bank seem like meagre pickings by comparison."

A girl of painful comeliness strutted past the doorway, a mien of seductive coyness about her. She lifted her eyes in our direction to alert us to her show of disinterest. Sir Redfield cleared his throat.

"Gentlemen I can never bear to keep a lady waiting." He said, rising from his chair and lecherously following his erection out of the room.

Ruraidh, Nicholas, Michael and I silently contemplated the story through an exchange of looks.

"The story could be bollocks. All manner of stories abound about the Redfield dynasty, how many of them actually turned out to be true." Michael asked rhetorically.

"He'll have been drunk! And feeling his oats after a bit of the other. Hoping to relive his family's ancient glories while anyone still entertains the idea! Else ways he'll have made you sign a contract to agree terms of payment and so on. Ask him when he's sober and he'll tell you it's utter rubbish." Nicholas asserted.

"He was drunk." Ruraidh conceded.

"I think he did come here with the intention of telling me, sober or otherwise. He knows that I will have to convene a Sabbath Camera for a long time to get all the names and code words for the halawa brokers. He's assuming that I won't have the stomach for it. If I don't then he'll have found some weakness in me that he can snigger about. If I find Frederick's treasure then either I will honour our gentlemen's agreement, providing him his dividend, or I keep it and he entirely besmirches my reputation. This will play out marvellously well for him either way." Ruraidh mused.

Ruraidh sighed. He shook his arm to drop his watch around his wrist and checked the time.

He crossed to a small safe on the other side of the room and opened it. He took out several bundles of cash and added a fistful more from his wallet. He divided the cash into two handfuls and gave one to Nicholas and one to myself.

"I want each of you to go out and buy as many twist rolexes as you can afford. Good quality, pure twist rolex. I don't want anything that's been cut." Ruraidh instructed.

"Michael, I want you to get some sleep; my two best masseuses will visit you tonight and tomorrow to embrocate nootropic oils into your skin and administer acupressure treatments. You will be given ginkgo biloba tea and regular piracetam." Ruraidh said, his mind racing ahead of us with his plan. He started scribbling notes and left the room without looking back at us.

Nicholas, Michael and myself looked bemusedly at each other. Matthew seemed satisfied with the duties Ruraidh had assigned to him. Nicholas and I wearily agreed and made our way to our cars.

We spent the night going through Michael's contacts, trying to ensure the product we were buying was indeed pure. We told them that Ruraidh wanted only pure twist rolexes, it seemed to be enough to instil honesty in them.

It was around six in the morning when Nicholas and I finally returned to Ruraidh's house. The rooms and hallways were littered with comatose revellers like refuse. I even stepped on one of them and he didn't appear to notice.

We found Ruraidh, still awake and a great grimoire open in front of him. The open book was as wide as Ruraidh was tall but contained script so small Ruraidh was using a printer's loupe to read it. He scribbled even more notes into a pad beside him.

"We've got all the twist rolexes you asked for." I told him, laying bags of them on a table.

"Thank you." Ruraidh said distractedly without looking up from the enormous grimoire he was reading.

Nicholas and I exchanged a glance.

"Can we ask what you plan to do with this?" Nicholas said, he only hesitated slightly but it was enough to show that his outward confidence was woodwormed with doubt below the surface.

Ruraidh looked up excitedly, leaving the loupe on the grimoire.

"Do you remember the problems we had trying to transcribe the Sabbath Camera all those years ago?" Ruraidh asked, his eyes manic with excitement.

"The Devilkin spoke some kind of glossolalia. It was nonsensical." I said.

"Not nonsense Marcus. Our language is nonsense, they all are since the Tower of Babel. The Devilkin speak the true language, a language we all understand on some limbic level." Ruraidh said, animated by his enthusiasm.

"It's what the majority of my research has been working towards, my archaeological teams I despatched to Liaoning and Mesopotamia were looking for the first settlements and evidence of their languages. I have been able to catalogue an alphabet and syntax from my findings. After I had established that it was a simple matter of establishing a phonology from recordings of demonic possessions and feral children." He explained.

Nicholas and I exchanged accusatory glances with each other as we realised what Ruraidh intended.

"You want one of us to convene the Sabbath Camera in your place?" I asked.

"Don't be absurd." Ruraidh scoffed. "With respect I wouldn't entrust something this important to either of you."

Nicholas and I looked down at our feet somewhat shamefacedly.

"Michael is going to be the key to this plan. I will convene the Sabbath Camera as normal and he will transcribe it." Ruraidh announced.

Nicholas and I looked at him quizzically.

"He's been birching his brain on twist rolexes since he was seventeen. Is he even capable of learning that language?" Nicholas said, almost appearing offended that it was Michael rather than him who was asked.

"That is precisely why he was chosen. Over the next few days I will give him copious amounts of this." Ruraidh said, lifting a bag of twist rolex in gesticulation.

"I will instruct him in all aspects of the Devilkin language and then three nights hence I will convene a Sabbath Camera. As long as he remains ticked he will have perfect recall and will be able to alternate his awareness between my lessons and the Sabbath Camera. Marcus you will accompany Michael to the Gospel of Acts Assembly and ensure that he remains ticked during the Sabbath. Nicholas you will remain in the car."

I squirmed at the thought of being present during another Sabbath Camera.

"Why not just put a dictaphone behind the mirror instead." I asked.

Ruraidh looked at me with irritation.

"The contents of that dictaphone would become the single most valuable item in the world. If someone else acquired it they could learn the key to its encryption with a single question in a Sabbath Camera. The alphabet I have catalogued required decades of research and was learned from hundreds of sources. The native alphabet of the Devilkin language is the best encryption available to me." Ruraidh said.

Ruraidh looked at us sympathetically.

"I have grown weary of the Sabbaths Camera over the years. I used to feel terrified of them, then I was thrilled by them but now they have become a tedious chore. If I can find the Redfield family fortune then I won't need to convene them anymore. I'll be one of the wealthiest men in history and I won't need any eldritch sources for my success." He said.

We nodded our assent. I felt relief from the thought of never attending another Sabbath Camera again. I suspected that Nicholas had similar feelings, preferring his political influence to come from more reputable sources like money and commonalities of self interest.

"Now there is work to be done. Nicholas would you wake Michael and ask him to come here. Marcus, I need you to go out and buy more lucid nostalgia to ensure you have an adequate supply on the night." Ruraidh said, turning back to his enormous grimoire and his loupe.

We did as we were bid. Nicholas cancelled several treasury meetings and I delegated several cases to my clerk. We both felt the disaffection of our underlings but we knew that it would be worth it.

The night Ruraidh was to convene the Sabbath Camera arrived quickly. We all met at Ruraidh's house and drove out to his church.

Ruraidh was confident and enthusiastic. It wasn't a feeling we could share. We knew that this Sabbath Camera would take a long time, it might even be necessary to convene several Sabbaths to learn all the details. Ruraidh wasn't dissuaded though.

The church had been refurbished several times since the last time I had been inside it. The great stepped altar of black granite and the huge mirror on top of it remained though.

Michael and I climbed behind the mirror in the choking darkness while Ruraidh began the preparations for his Sabbath Camera.

The ring of salt he poured was enormous, reaching as far as the vestibule of the church. His Sabbath Camera would be filled like a parliament with Devilkin.

My watch told me that it was nearly midnight.

Michael looked on with interest, a great pile of notebooks beside him. I gave him another lucid nostalgia that he ticked happily.

Ruraidh took a chicken from a cage. A choked squawk slit the silence as Ruraidh dextrously drew a knife across its throat. Chicken blood spilled over the altar and crucifix. Ruraidh dropped the lifeless chicken carcass at his feet.

Ruraidh took the candle and struck a match. The second touched the first, symbolically and pragmatically beginning Ruraidh's final Sabbath Camera.

Ruraidh's eyes surveyed the reflection of the whole church. A tiny spark at the back of his eyes reflected the glow of the candle.

His mouth moved and that hideous glossolalia came to life again. I shuddered at the shrieking of agonised fervour.

I looked at my watch and started counting down the minutes.

Michael was diligently scribbling transcripts of the conversation. His eyes alternating between complete vacancy and eager alertness as he cycled through his experiences and then returned to the present.

Ruraidh didn't have the look of horror that he had before, his stern face suggested determination, even arrogance. It suggested that he could convene a Sabbath Camera dispassionately and by the numbers. He had convened so many and so expertly that I couldn't imagine he would find them very troubling any more.

Michael didn't show any signs that he was sobering up. He filled several books with the heathen hieroglyphics. Looking at them made me feel uncomfortable. Their simple form was deeply disturbing like violently graphic children's drawings. Somehow it seemed worse knowing that they weren't just simple characters but that collectively they had real meaning and told all manner of malevolent secrets about Ruraidh.

My watch told me that thirty minutes had passed. I assumed it would take longer than this but I still felt concern.

I looked to Michael but he was enthralled in his diabolical stenography.

Ruraidh continued to speak in the swinish Devilkin tongue, angry and screeching, the thin mirrored tent separating me from the cur shrieks and feral wails on the other side.

Ruraidh remained calm and commanding. There was something ominous about it. Even for Ruraidh it didn't seem right that he wasn't frightened by a Sabbath Camera.

My watch told me that sixty minutes had passed.

Ruraidh showed no inclination to conclude the Sabbath Camera. His fingertips remained at his wrist. His gaze remained in the mirror and his mouth continued to spout the horrid Devilkin tongue.

I looked again to Michael to try to confirm my panic but he remained fixed on his scribbling.

There were only a few minutes remaining before Ruraidh would have to end the Sabbath Camera. I knew that if I knocked on the glass or interrupted the Sabbath Camera he would go into a demented fury. It would be the end of our friendship, maybe even the beginning of an enmity.

Ruraidh still appeared to have little concern about how much time he had left despite how scarce it was.

I tried to tell myself that Ruraidh must know what he was doing, maybe my watch was faulty or I miscalculated.

Fear trembled down my spine and my gut froze in anxiety as the last few seconds ticked away. My heart raced as Ruraidh's last second disappeared.

Nothing happened immediately.

I had always assumed there would be some terrible transformation. Instead Ruraidh simply closed his eyes. It was an alarmingly peaceful and meditative gesture.

It was the appreciation of silence from one who had spent millennia in a turgid cacophony of screams and wails.

Ruraidh breathed in deeply through his nose. Relishing the air that wasn't thick with the odours of eschar and sulphur.

His lowered his face as though somehow able to look at us through his closed eyelids and the mirror between us.

His eyes shot open.

Those same empty eyes Sir Redfield had described.

My hands balled into fists and I scurried into the furthest corner of our tiny box.

Those bottomless eyes in Ruraidh's head, reflecting only the limitless emptiness of the Abyss. A grin stretched over Ruraidh's face as though it was pulled by hooks. That grin. THAT FUCKING GRIN!! Looking at me enthusiastically like I was a toy.

Ruraidh punched through the glass heedless of the fractures and shards of glass in his fingers.

His fingers reached for Michael's neck like slithering vipers.

Ruraidh licked his lips in predatory anticipation and grasped Michael about the neck.

He lifted him bodily into the air. Ruraidh looked down at me with a histrionically false pout. Ruraidh pinched his thumb around Michael's windpipe and squeezed. From Michael's eyes he had already ticked his way back to his happier time. Without Michael's resistance it only took Ruraidh a minute or so to finish strangling him.

I scampered out of the box while Ruraidh was distracted with Michael. I stumbled on the dead chicken and tumbled down the great stone staircase. Something in my wrist cracked as I landed. It swelled with fiery pain.

Michael's lifeless body landed beside me with a thump, his tongue lolling out moronically.

The Devilkin that used to be my friend pouted at me in irritation but didn't seem to consider me as much of a priority as Michael.

He picked up the stack of notebooks Michael had been writing and looked through them. He turned to the candle and started burning fistfuls of paper.

Cradling my injured arm I sped out of the church and into the car.

Nicholas looked at me, concerned. The sixty six minutes and six seconds had passed and I had returned without Ruraidh or Michael. Nicholas's eyes widened with terror, he glanced back at the church as flames started to glow in the windows.

Nicholas fumbled with the car keys in panic. He started the car and drove us away. The clutch protesting as he forced the car out.

Nicholas took me to the hospital but we didn't speak about what had happened. When we stopped I realised I had lost my wallet. I assumed it must be sitting amongst the cinders of the Gospel of Acts Assembly so Nicholas agreed to pay my hospital bills. Little was said between us, I don't remember if I thanked him. He didn't seem scorned by it if I didn't.

We agreed on a story between us that we would give to the police in a few days. We had been out drinking and I fell, fracturing my arm. Nicholas took me to the hospital while Ruraidh and Michael stayed out. We hadn't seen them since, we hoped they were ok since they hadn't called or left messages with either of us. The police seemed to accept the story, or at least acquiesce to it.

Nicholas and I rarely spoke after that. The rare occasions that we did meet at some event or another our conversations were banal and impersonal. Speaking about Ruraidh or Michael or even our younger years of glory was like a shibboleth between us. Occasionally outsiders might mention it and we would lament Ruraidh and Michael's absence with well rehearsed platitudes and decline to recount our boyish anecdotes with mature modesty.

We never knew for sure what happened to Ruraidh, or the Devilkin who wore his skin. Sometimes I felt certain that I saw him on television, standing beside some great dictator making an announcement to his people. Other times I might see him begging in a doorway, only for him to disappear on my second glance. Other times I would feel certain that he had died in the fire and his face was just manifestations of some latent grief.

My career failed to thrive without Ruraidh. The enemies I had made in creating it remained present and they multiplied without Ruraidh's benefaction. I use blackmail and legal acumen to fend off various debts and arrears but they follow me like wolves, waiting for my resolve or my concentration to falter so they can pounce. Nicholas's wife grew weary of his indiscretions and tore his credibility away from him along with the divorce settlement.

Ruraidh's great khanate of businesses and properties started to entropically fracture into various hordes as directors, chairs and CEOs of his companies greedily staked their claims. Huge megacorporations emerged as his holdings devoured one another. None of them came close to the wealth and influence that Ruraidh had but they were open and blatant about it. Ruraidh had always kept his control over them an open secret. The new CEOs would rule their new fiefdoms with the utmost deference to Ruraidh. Like tin-pot dictators using the proxy benevolence, cruelty or charisma of their predecessor to bring credit to their authority.

Only Ruraidh's grand house remained insulated from these usurpations. The ambiguous terms of the conveyancing with the notarisation and archiving with the Devilkin meant that any purchase attempt would always fail. Documents and funds would go missing. One party would withdraw before finalising the sale. One piece of legislation or another would tie buyers up in Gordian tangles of unprofitable red tape.

A great silo of annuities and trusts kept the staff of Ruraidh's house in salaries and pensions, its fixtures and fittings updated, and its pantries always stocked. Had Nicholas or myself been so inclined we could have enjoyed dinner at his house or held great parties in his halls.

The grim events of Ruraidh's disappearance made both of us far too squeamish. As though taking a single biscuit from his kitchen would be like a purloined pomegranate seed from a feast. I never saw Nicholas at Ruraidh's house again although I would still go there on occasions, for a far less lucid nostalgia than I had enjoyed in my youth. A nostalgia in which I would always remember Ruraidh fondly. On rarer occasions still, I would try to return the benevolence Ruraidh had extended me during his life by bringing him the small comfort of companionship.

I would walk through the great corridors of his house to the place where servants grew fewer and fewer, to the wing of his home that was ghostly and deserted. My heartbeat would quicken and my steps falter as I got closer to that room. That room with the locked door and the paint peeling from it like diseased flesh.

I would reach for the key despondently and put it in the lock with closed eyes. I would shudder and take several staccato breaths before unlocking and opening the door in a single movement. Those dark things that crawled and sneaked were still there. Over the years many of the spiders had died and been replaced with different spindly horrors. Some were nightmarishly black and others in garish polychromes like warnings on barrels of toxic waste. They watched me and flexed their mandibles as though salivating. Their pedipalps, chelicerae and beady eyes plotting against their newest victim in little parliaments. They scuttled in their cages as their primal instincts made them try to sneak around behind me like predatory murderers and dacoits. Many simply sat in a lifeless tableau, legs spread out like fingers on a severed hand; awaiting foolhardy prey to land in their great webs as wide as guillotine blades.

The chair with the heart monitor and the sphygmomanometer was still there. I expect it would be gathering dust like a torture device in a museum were it not for the diligence and naivete of Ruraidh's staff. They seemed to treat the room like some peccadillo of their erstwhile employer.

I would sit in Ruraidh's horrible chair, in his horrible room and take several breaths to steady my nerves. I knew that the spiders and their ghostly cobwebs with flies being dispassionately dissected, mummified and eaten alive in front of me were not the real horrors of this room.

The room's horrible purpose, that Ruraidh would sit in here and subject himself to these horrors to sate his great ambitions, was not the real horror of this room.

It was not even the thought of who or what put the cracked and broken mirror in this room after Ruraidh disappeared.

I tried to talk myself through it step by step as though I was giving myself instructions.

I close my eyes.

I turn my head to face the mirror, I force myself not to look away.

I take a deep breath in.

I breathe out and open my eyes.

I look at the tiny cracked and broken mirror glazed into the wall with a tiny light glinting from it. Very distantly, like someone is watching TV in another room, from some far off Abyss I hear Ruraidh screaming.

THE END


Copyright 2017, Jamie T. Murray

Jamie T. Murray is in fact an alias used by insurance investigators when booking hotel rooms. Though believed to be a real individual for many years, it has subsequently been determined that the strange, often disturbing, writing was penned by multiple authors who had been driven to madness by bureaucracy. His short fiction has previously appeared in Steampunk and Lovecraftiana.

E-mail: Jamie T. Murray

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