Rosy fingered dawn was breaking over Stonehenge, the ancient rocks tinted red by the rising sun. One hundred metres down in the secret druidic tunnels that the tourists never saw, Gonzaroolio was in no position to appreciate this beauty. He had risen before dawn, as a good penitent clown should and was practising his catechism.
Although he was an international assassin and general ne'er-do-well, currently aligned to the side of good - he felt nonetheless obliged to keep in practise in his chosen profession. And this was why, when Annabel slid back the slab covering the door, she found him patiently arranging a banana skin on the floor of the cell.
It was an old, blackened piece of peel, which had obviously seen more action than was good for it.
Intrigued, Annabel hung back to watch. With the certain grace of the ballerina, Gonzaroolio lolloped across the floor in his big shoes, slipped on the skin, flailed about in the air for a brief second and then landed with a honk and a crack.
She applauded warmly.
"Wonderful" she purred, "Highly amusing."
The aged clown got up rubbing his back.
"Are you going to do the exposition bit properly now? I've read the Broccoli Convention, I know my rights as the prisoner of an evil megalomaniac."
"Certainly." she said leaning nonchalantly on the stone wall. "It all started six thousand years ago..."
"Is this going to take long? Or could you just give me the gist of it? I'm afraid I have a short attention span."
"OK, let's see. Have you heard of ley lines? Mystical lines of energy that run across the earth, like a supernatural latitude and longitude? Well, the Stonehenge complex is built on a massive convergence of these, what Malory called 'the navel of thy world'.
The Ancients used it to harness the power of the ley lines, but they were primitive and feckless and ended up destroying themselves. The upshot of it is that this is a very sensitive spot, like the Achilles' heel of the world or something. And it's quite unstable, like... aha! I just thought of the image I was looking for. It's like the San Andreas fault."
"I see." said Gonzaroolio, who didn't.
"And it wouldn't take much here to trigger off a devastating unravelling of the laws of physics; the stars would fall out of the sky, the continental plates would buckle and flip like mating crocodiles and everyone would be generally miserable. Of course, wielding this kind of power is a tempting prospect.
Which is where the Diabolical Engine of Alastair Crowley comes in... I'm sorry, am I boring you? Even the short version is quite long!", she finished apologetically.
"No, I'm not bored" muttered the clown behind a yawn, who was, "It's all very good. You were saying something about an
engine of some sort."
"Yes..." said Annabel, and her eyes flickered over to the right. Gonzaroolio followed her gaze to see the cast-iron
laundry wringer resting against the wall, suddenly looking more sinister and shadowy than a cast-iron laundry wringer has any
right to be...
Elsewhere - occult forces were abroad.
Little Reggie Brunswick (9) and his friends Tobey (101/2) and Bob - the eldest at 11 years old and actually a girl (AKA Wilma) - but more one for the 'carefully sawing and re-gluing bits of the Barbie' than questing for the 'Happy Barbie Ballerina Malibu Wedding Set with Tuxedo Ken' collectors clique.)
It was a Sunday afternoon and the group were excising their boredom by exorcising a Ken doll.
They had constructed a small sacrificial altar out of plasticine.
Bob had supplied the Ken Doll, muttering something to her confused mother as she'd left the house that morning clutching the doll, something about "smashing the dogma of perpetuated social gender roles!"
Tobey1 - had brought along some of his dad's metal chain-link from the garage to bind the doll to the alter.
Reggie, more in touch with the Dark Forces - had brought to the ritual his Mum's safety matches from the kitchen.
This was going to be fun.
Down in Hell a small crowd of minions and demons and unspoken things that jabbered at you, watched eagerly as little Reggie's soul edged step by step closer to damnation judging by the 'Damn-o-Tron sliding-scale of naughtiness' which served much the same function as those exploding red thermometers you sometimes see out side of churches2.
"Right - um o powerful forces of the Pit ...er...er"
Tobey consulted his meticulous notes...
"I think your supposed to say: we invoke thee o' minions of the deep!" he counselled, pushing his glasses up his nose.
"Thank you Tobey.", nodded Reggie and continued unabashed.
"We invoke thee o minions and dark things of the deep!!"
He'd added in that bit about 'dark things' himself, he was rather pleased about that.
The dark things in Hell murmured in appreciation, it was always nice to get a mention.
Reggie wetted his lips he was getting the hang of this now.
"We offer unto you this 'oo-man' sacrifice - bring forf' the flame!"
Bob struck a match enthusiastically and passed it triumphantly to Reggie.
He tried dangling it next to Ken's plastic shoes but these failed to ignite...the hell spawn began chanting "crotch!!"
"crotch!!" "crotch!!" "crotch!!"... slowly the thought dawned in little Reggie's mind and he carefully moved the match up.
Tobey caught Reggie by the wrist mid way up past Ken's left shin.
"Nah, jab it in his eye!" he said wickedly.
"Cool!" exclaimed Reggie and did so - the match melting through the thin plastic facade of the Ken doll.
The Demonic Horde was loving this - the barrier between the world was etched a little bit thinner that morning paving the way for Armageddon. Meanwhile The Devil found it hard to suppress a grin... another soul slipped further into his grasp and in so doing brought his plan further to fruition... he signalled to the others to prepare for launch.
And though they did not realise it - Reggie Tobey and Bob were about to summon a most terrifying and deadly adversary from Below.
She was bent over the sink carefully washing the dishes when she heard the ear-shredding clatter of the smoke alarm upstairs going off. She raced upstairs and saw the children hastily (and unsuccessfully) attempt to hide the charred remains of one of that
ginger-haired, freak-of-a-girl, Wilma's dolls. She exploded and sent them all home with the promise to call their mothers and then severely scolded Reggie and escorted him by the scruff of his shirt collar to his room.
" Un ve hafe leeft off!" exclaimed the Red Baron from the cockpit of his two-seat bi-plane as He and the Red Leicester plummeted off of the highest cliff in Hell attempting to achieve some sort of lift.
The engines whirred into life and Leistersniicth-Titanya-Irrania-Tatonya-Karenska-Alisov ( on temporary reprieve ) and The Red Baron ( flying Ace )flew like a bat out of Hell, through the gates of the Inferno and on into the real world.
Owing to the relative weakness of the fault created by the ritual sacrifice of the Ken doll moments earlier - they materialised just above the waterbut in the Brunswick's loft.
Stuck with nowhere to go: they did what comes naturally to all bodies suspended in mid-air like that; where bodies, let's face facts - don't really belong: They fell.
The scarlet bi-plane came crashing through the ceiling, removing both wings; taking out the spare room and demolishing the bathroom where Reggie and his pals had communed with the forces of evil, and fell in a cacophony of bricks, plaster board, dust and noise. Finally landing with an almighty thump in the middle of Mrs Brunswick's kitchen.
The door to Reggie's room was gingerly opened, the frame toppled forward with a pathetic clatter and Mrs Brunswick surveyed with a disbelieving eye, the destruction that had been wrought about her house. As she stepped cautiously out across to the large hole in the, appropriately named landing, she could hear voices coming from downstairs.
She couldn't believe what she was seeing when she saw the antique plane perched awkwardly across her smashed dining table and sink. The pilot in some state of agitation was desperately trying to clear his flying goggles of dust and unsuccessfully brushing yet more dust out of the fleece of flying jacket.
The other figure in the back-seat of the aircraft ("darkish, wore an overcoat" as she would later describe him to police.) eased himself out of the seat and casual as you like plopped down onto the floor and started raiding her fridge.
Recovering at this Mrs Brunswick shouted "Oi!" "hey, you - stop that!"
The Red Leicester looked up from the pleasant coolness of the fridge that was bliss after the eternity of Hell's furnaces and carefully took another bite out of the cheese.
"Here, look what's the meaning of all this" - she struggled for a suitably admonishable crime of which to accuse them - "dropping in unannounced and creatin' all this mess?"
The Thing that looked like Leicester glanced carefully at the wreckage of the Brunswick family home then looked up at Mrs Brunswick for the very first time. ("The eyes, the eyes, there was something terrible about his eyes." -as she would later tell three doctors, 2 psychiatrists and the County Board of Parole for the Mentally Unsprung.)
He spoke breathlessly as if there were many voices all scrabbling for supremacy...the voice wheedled and pleaded and rasped and commanded:
"My DeaR lAdY...wE apOLoGiSE..fOR The..messss. CAn yoU PleAssSsee DiRect ME to StoNE heNGe?"
Meanwhile far away underneath London. Richter and Robin had barely registered the needle on the evil-o-matic-sensotron 'tick' a small
blip on the never ending graph that charted the ebb and flow of Good and Evil in the world. The timing about corresponded with the lighting of the match in the ceremony recently conducted.
They could hardly fail to have noticed when, not more than 10 minutes later the frantic swinging of the needle arm had shredded the graph detaching the needle and gantry from their housing and burying them in the cave wall 2 inches above Richter's head.