Part Twenty-Eight: A Dread Crack of Doom!

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Part Twenty-Eight: A Dread Crack of Doom!

I do enjoy it when cliché breaks loose and generally sums up situations rather well. In this instance, for example, all hell broke loose.

Possibly literally, I suppose, although this wasn’t the time to arrive at metaphysical crossroads like that without map, chart or sextant.

All hell, as I said, broke loose. Tavis Knoyle, the hollowed-out Highland volcanic plug in which I and my foes stood, imploded. Essentially.

After the first doom-laden crack from the ceiling above, Judgement Day, prompted by the Archbishop’s use of the Taxus Brevifola, arrived.

And it arrived in pretty short order. After the crack, a slab of roof dislodged like a chunk of stale cake and fell lethally to the floor!

It fell on Holman-Hunt. If that was his name. Which it hadn’t been, and wouldn’t be, now. Not be a very long and rather squashed shot.

The rest of us – me, the Archbishop, Galanthus and Moon – gaped. I think I heard the roar of static as Holman-Hunt dissolved to nothing.

You know, like old Homicidal Cardinal Wolsey did, back in Lambeth Palace what seemed like so long ago. A creation uncreated, if you like.

The thought, opportunately, allowed me to recover from the shock of seeing Jesus squished by a chunk of basalt rather faster than the rest.

Naturally, the Archbishop of Canterbury was rather stunned by the sight. With that and the bullet wound in his breast, he seemed all in. 

Scooping the Taxus Brevifola in my arms, I bent down to where he sat, slumped, against the stone altar in the middle of the shaking chamber.

The old chap looked at me with fading eyes. ‘My dear fellow…’ he said. ‘My dear fellow…’ Even in my shaking hellhole, a tear came to my eye.

A manly one, obviously. ‘Natch’, as the saying goes. But still, a tear. I’m not a particularly godly fellow, but the Bish had been a brick.

‘My dear fellow,’ he said, coughing a gout of scarlet blood on to his rich purple cassock. ‘My dear fellow… I… rather think… I’m done for.’

Not cheering words, but I had to allow they were true. The Archbishop coughed, and fell a deathlier pale. I put a hand on his shoulder.

‘Glad I could help,’ he said, wits restored in the last moments of his earthly. ‘Thought I’d teach that blighter Moon. Dreadful little man.’

He coughed. Chunks of rock skittered from ceiling and wall. I knew I should be getting on. Fortunately, the Archbishop seemed to sense this.

To put it rather baldly, which often helps, the Archbishop snuffed it there and then, on the disintegrating stone floor. I laid him down.

And looked round. The chamber in the depths of Tavis Knoyle shook and groaned; thousands of terrible screams sounded from the main cavern!

Tavis Knoyle was collapsing. It being a volcanic plug, and the word ‘volcanic’ implying the proximity of lava, I wasn’t keen to hang about.

Nor, evidently, was the Reverend Francis Gibbous Moon. He had disappeared. Galanthus still stood, however, shaking and staring wildly.

Moon, the blackguard, had left a woman in such deadly peril – never mind me too. I swore, under my breath, that I would have his lousy hide!

That, however, would mean finding him, and finding him would mean escaping from Tavis Knoyle before I was entombed in its death throes!

I tucked the Taxus Brevifola under one arm and grabbed Galanthus with the other. She seemed to start from a trance. ‘Leinigen!’ she cried.

‘No time for protesting!’ I roared. ‘My girl, you’re coming with me!’ At that, I sprang for the door, lifting Galanthus in a desperate dive!

Around us, as if the apocalyptic storm brought forth by Project John Martin had regathered its fury, the chamber simply disintegrated.

Showers of rock crashed down, pumice dust mushrooming on impact into miniature atomic clouds. The Archbishop’s body disappeared from view.

Simon the YMCE kapo, or what was left of him after the Sten gun’s dirty work, disappeared. The rock under which lay Holman-Hunt disappeared.

Galanthus and I tumbled into the rock-corridor as the ceiling hammered down. The chamber with the altar existed no more. It was entombed.

There was, of course, no time for further reflection. Tightening my grip on Galanthus, from whom the fight seemed completely gone, I ran.

As I did so the tunnel floor seemed, disconcertingly, to peel upwards, slabs and shards of stone flicking up as if impelled by a giant hand!

Tiny explosions like bullet strikes pinged and paffed from the walls, sending nasty shards of granite whizzing about our retreating forms!

The mountain was dying, loudly, and we had not one second to spare! I knew if I ran, I could make it. Galanthus and the Book could be saved.

Saved for prompt arrest, incarceration and, in terms of the Taxus Brevifola at least, incineration. Moon too, if I could find the bounder.

But escape was all that mattered now, as I hurtled towards light, air and safety. I hoped Tavis Knoyle would contain this lethal force...

Presumably, Judgement Day had only been released upon and within this accursed boil, this seething anthill of diabolical, insectoid evil!

The allusion was apt. As I skidded to the edge of a precipitous staircase down to the volcano floor, an astonishing sight presented itself.

On the floor of Tavis Knoyle, the YMCE army – men, women, even the children too – was dying. It explained the screams I’d heard earlier.

As when malevolent little boys boil a kettle and pour its scalding contents on blameless ants or termites, so the YMCE perished. Hideously.

The floor of the crater had cracked. The walls had cracked. And, for some good geographical reason, falling rock was not the only hazard.

Lava bubbled and poured through the cavern! Hot lava! Hotter than the fires of hell! And it was rising! And the YMCE army could not escape!

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