Just a few feet further and Flowers would have it.
He had taken a rope from the room belonging to the caretaker and was now using it to lower himself into the darkness.
The Piper had come to him in his dreams and had shown him something that would make the job easier. He had taken him along dark tunnels and down into the pit of the earth. Everywhere, water stood. It was black and unliving yet still there was something in there that moved. He knew it to be the souls of children.
They are trapped. They are the innocents who were the payment I never received and they have spent their time fermenting their anger for the ones who betrayed them. If they were to be released, then the world would feel their anger and would struggle to fend off their revenge.
Liam listened as the Piper explained about the plague of rats and remembered a story he had been told in school, long, long before he had come to this. The story was of a town in Germany that had suffered from an invasion of the vermin that ate everything in sight. The townspeople were on the edge of starvation as a result of this curse and they sent out messengers to all the regions around them calling for help. Some of their pleas fell upon deaf ears whilst others were answered. The problem was that, those who had answered them turned out to be fake or merely ineffective.
The rats not only stayed, but they multiplied.
And then came the brightly dressed solution: a rat-catcher who carried a flute.
It amused Flowers to think that he was involved in a real life fairy tale.
He had been given the power to play the pipe and now many were dancing to his tune. The Piper was, at best, a vague essence that only he and a select few could see. He knew that Podrall could not see him yet. He also knew that some of his enemies could see him. Residing in the depths of his conscience was a grain of awareness. This tiny particle of reason grated like a stone in a shoe. No matter how he tried to shake it off, it remained.
He needed an act of absolute evil to rid himself of it once and for all.
Flowers lowered himself into the black pit and landed on firm ground. He pulled the torch he had been carrying from his pocket and switched on the light. He was beneath the basement of the school and was amongst a confusion of cables and pipes. The Piper had led him to this and he knew what he must do.
He moved towards a knot of pipes that were rusted with time. One of these pipes would provide the answer. In his pocket, he had a vial that had been delivered to his door one night. The Piper had explained that if he used it correctly, the match would be lit for his return.
“It is fear that gives one control. If the masses fear you, they will follow. For mankind, fear was the main reason for its rapid development,” the Piper had said. “You do as I say and they will abandon their illusions of security. We will have dominion over all. On this night we will ring the changes and rid ourselves of our enemies.”
Liam knew that all the world was his enemy. He had known that from the start and nothing had convinced him otherwise. He pulled back the insignificant covering protecting the pipe and opened the vial. As the liquid ran out onto the metal, it raised a whisper of smoke. It was as he had thought, a type of acid and it was strong enough to burn through metal.
In the corner, something stirred. He welcomed its approach as it was a harbinger of the things to come. As it shook itself from its restless sleep it made a slow progression towards where something that smelt vaguely human stood. Then it smelt soemthing else. It was the scent of the dark thing that had conjured it.
It was the scent of the Piper.
Above him, in a forgotten stockroom, lay Chris.
He was waking from a rocky sleep and roused to find himself on a cold concrete floor. His muscles ached with the strain and the cold of the night. The darkness was almost absolute as he struggled to his feet. Again, his muscles pained him deeply. The sensations they were giving off were ones connected with an exersion he could not remember. He recalled events.
The previous day had been a bad one. He could remember his mother waking up and showing the signs that they had dreaded for so long. She had the symptoms of the depression that had shown themselves so frequently in the months after their father’s death. He thought about his father and an image sprang into his mind of him standing on a rock in the face of an angry sea. Thinking with a clarity that could have been cinematic, Chris saw himself next to his father. He was holding him as wave upon black wave crashed against their disappearing sanctuary.
“You must not lose faith again Christopher. Your family needs you. The world needs you. You have fallen yet not so far that I could not catch you. That was your chance. You have used it up. Now do not let me down. When you wake, you will have to find a way out and get to your mother and Michael. Peter is someplace else, but he is also working his way back.”
Chris was looking into the face of his father and seeing him for the first time as a person. There was fear in his eyes that was not only for his son’s predicament. Nevertheless, there was resolution that he would not give in to that which would defeat them.
“The Piper lies. He wants you all dead. When he told you that you could have one more day with me, he lied. Those that you thought were your parents were only shadows. Now make it better or it will all end here.”
“But, Dad,” Chris said through tears. “Dad, I love you. I never got to say that before you went. I love you Dad. We need you.”
His father’s hand was running through his hair to soothe him.
“You must go now Chris. They are getting closer.”
And when Chris looked around, the sea was battering against their rock and the black tide held out claw-like hands that would pull them from their safety.
“What about you, Dad? What about you?”
“I am some place they cannot reach for the time being. Now take this and give it to your mother. Tell her that I never did stop loving her and that I could not help the harm that I have caused her.”
With that, Chris felt something metallic placed in his palm.
“This is my love to you all.”
And that was when the lights came on.
“It’s Christopher isn’t it?”
Chris recognised the voice but could not see its owner. The lights had temporarily blinded him.
“What on earth are you doing down here?”
“I don’t know,” Chris replied in all honesty.
It took a few seconds for his eyes to accustom themselves to the sharp glare of the artificial light. When they had recovered, Chris saw the somewhat dishevelled figure of Mr Hunter standing in the door.
“What’s happening, Mr Hunter?”
“I don’t know, son. I really don’t know. Let’s get out of here before they come back. There is something in this school that should not be here and I believe it means us all no good.”
“I think I know what it is,” muttered Chris half ashamed. “I think I may have met it.”
“I think that we may all have met it at some stage. For now, we’ll make sure you get home safely.”
The teacher had keys to corridors Chris could not remember and soon they were out into the car park where his old Volkswagen camper van waited. The night sky was alive with muffled explosions, sirens and distant screams. As Mr Hunter started the ignition, he turned to Chris.
“I saw you in my dreams. You were on a rock in the middle of a black and angry sea. There was a man with you. Was that your father?”
“Then there is something that I cannot explain. You see, your father has been in my dreams for many years now. He has been telling me about this night and he has shown me the place where I would find you.”
The two looked at each other aware that they were now, and always had been, part of something that was beginning its final act.