all day, overwhelming in her neediness. Eventually, furiously, Isis had shoved at her, surprising them both when her hands connected with Angel’s nothing-body. How had she done it? She couldn’t explain, not even to a ghost.
“I just… focus,” she said.
Mandeville was silent for a moment. Then he said quietly, “You could save us.”
Angel squeaked again, and pressed close to Isis, sending a chill into her back. Isis didn’t speak. She didn’t want him to go on, she didn’t want to get drawn in. He’d just admitted it himself: ghosts always wanted something.
Mandeville couldn’t match her silence.
“Do you want to know what you can save us
” She still didn’t answer, so he carried on. “It has no name for itself, so I call it a Devourer because that is what it does.”
He paused, obviously waiting for a question she had no intention of asking. After a moment he continued. “I only heard rumours of it, at first. Ghosts are always telling tales of things they’ve seen in the dark. Ghouls, demons and suchlike. Most of the time I ignore them, but there was one… she was little more than a wraith, barely a memory of herself, and so ancient she didn’t even understand what a wheel was for. She haunted the long forgotten graves of prehistoric peoples, their remains mere shadows in the soil. And she told me of something in one of those graves, caught in the dusty circle of a primeval skull. It had attacked her, but she’d escaped. An eater of ghosts, she said, whichintrigued me. It’s hard to explain to the living, but to ghosts such ancient graves are like… a deep abyss in the ocean. And in the abyss was something wild, something left from a time before humans had language. I made the trek. From a safe distance, I spoke to it in simple words, as one might to a baby, and it learned them with a speed that amazed me. It has a natural cunning, where its own interests are concerned.”
Angel was clinging to Isis, both of them caught in his story. Isis shivered, and not just from cold. When Mandeville had first mentioned the Devourer, he’d implied it had appeared on its own. Now it sounded like…
“You brought it out, didn’t you?” asked Isis.
The ghost clasped his fingers into a bony basket. “The wraith who told me about it had managed to fend it off, and she was little more than a whisper. So I concluded it must be feeble, able to frighten but not to harm. I only wanted to help, my dear. I was going to protect the next psychic I found by giving them this creature. I thought it would huddle unnoticed in their head, as it had huddled in the ancient skull, and scare away the worst excesses of the ghost world. I imagined it behaving like the faithful dog that protects its owner,” he sighed, a mouldy plume.“My imaginings were nothing like the reality. It never occurred to me the Devourer would grow so quickly, or that it was small only because it had little to eat. I never realised it would be so… ambulatory.”
Mandeville leaned his head against the wall, sinking in a little. “I should have left it down in the dark. It’s too bright here, too close to the living. With every ghost it devours it gets stronger, only wanting more. I’m frightened of what will happen, to all of us.”
Isis stared at him, horrified. And she knew exactly where this was heading; Mandeville was a ghost, after all.
“You want me to sort it out for you,” she said, anger clipping her voice.
“No!” snapped Isis. “Why should I? Why can’t you ghosts sort out your own problems?”
He waved his bony hand, passing it into the wall. “Because we are incorporeal,” he said. “Lacking in substance.”
“Well you didn’t need substance to make this problem,” said Isis, “so fix it yourself! I don’t care about this Devourer thing.”
Mandeville looked at her. “And yet your own sister is a phantom.”
“Shut up! You’re scaring her!”
The old ghost