Chapter 15.1

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It was a circular room, filled with hulking shapes. In its centre a six-sided column connected the floor to the ceiling. The air was warm and dry – just breathing it made Ward thirsty. They had only the lights in the banks of machinery by which to see; some blinked slowly and purposefully, others stared with a kind of wan patience. Ward wondered if they had always been lit, or had just recently woken. As he watched, one of them popped and fizzled and went out.

He ran a finger along a bench top. It was oddly free of dust. He looked up at a faintly illuminated tank, inside which floated, like a jellyfish, a human brain. There was a strange word printed on the shelf below the jar:


ELVIS


The smashed remains of several other tanks lay nearby. The thought of other brains lolling about on the floor made his stomach turn.

Further along the bench stood a set of glass vials, and a metal thing with a black convex window set in its face, various switches and dials arrayed around the window. A faded sign in the Old Language was stuck to the wall behind it:


PROTECTIVE CLOTHING MUST BE WORN AT ALL TIMES


The Sign of the Beast was printed below this. It seemed to be everywhere in this room: on each of the glass vials, on the cupboard doors, and on the side of the brain-tank.

His eyes were drawn to a long, curved window that stretched one third of the room's circumference. Another room lay beyond the window. A spider-like edifice crouched inside, its six legs arching up to a single point near the ceiling. Something the height of a man stood in the space between the legs, but it was too dark to make out. A passage connected the two rooms, with a closed door at each end. The nearest door was covered with red and yellow signs. Ward didn't need to be told that they were warnings.

He took a step forward and something clattered in the darkness at his feet. A human skull rolled over into the light.

"Nick -" he said, but another voice drowned him out.


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