The Culgorney Devil And Its Pursuer
by Joshua Blanc
forum: The Culgorney Devil And Its Pursuer
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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The Culgorney Devil And Its Pursuer


      Harry Delfont stood in the doorway of his establishment: The Smoke Room. It was a new concept; a seething melange of soft lighting and art-deco furnishings where one could sit, drink, listen to lounge music, and smoke cigarettes. Or cigars, if one was nobby enough to afford them. It was the perfect escape from the clamour of city life. Not from the smoke,
of course -- but changing one smoke for another was, as the saying went, as good as a rest.

      The Smoke Room was down in the business district, a few doors along from one of the richest banks in the East End. It always puzzled Harry how a bank could be `rich' when it was supposed to be filled with other people's money. Nevertheless, it always boasted huge profits in the local rag come Christmas-time. The employees would come and spend a little here,
and that suited him just fine.

      It was going to be a foggy night. Already there were haloes 'round the street lamps, and a chill was in the air. Harry slapped his sides. He could easily fetch his coat and cap from inside, but he refrained. It was part of his nightly ritual to wait at the door for his first customer. He liked to make a warm, chummy impression; which was ironic, considering he was freezing in his rolled up shirt-sleeves and vest; his head bare to the elements but for a wisp of grey fluff. He also liked to warn people about the step. Two inches down from the pavement, and not quite six inches from the door, it was a major flaw in council planning which was apt to
trip his customers on their way out. Especially if they'd had a few too many cocktails, or sat too close to the speakers for any length of time.

      Light sax and electric pianos tended to do that to people.

      The odd passerby, dressed sensibly in heavy coat and hat, passed by. But it was the cometostays he was watching for. As he was just ready to give up, he saw something vague from the corner of his eye. Now a customer, as a rule, is never vague. To be fair, plenty are vague in manner, and even personality, but never vague in body. They're a proud lot in the business sector, finely clothed, well-kept, and, above all, visible. What he saw swirling at him through the gathering mist was, well, vague, in every sense of the word. Just when he thought he saw a man, it wasn't; just when he thought he saw a woman, it wasn't that either. Was it
leaves blown by the wind? Too vague to tell. It was a jumble of intangible something -- or nothing -- passing through the fog straight towards him.

      Harry's left arm began to quiver, and not from the cold. Retreating to the warm, currently smoke-free, interior of The Smoke Room became first in his mind. More so, now that the approaching absence of shape commenced shrieking like high-velocity wind. At least he assumed it was shrieking, for the sound swirled, and he couldn't be certain of its origin. Nor could he see anything capable of making such a sound.

      Despite his terror, the cold, and the natural survival instinct he'd developed as a bartender, he couldn't move. So, like any stout Englishman facing such terrible unknowns on an empty wallet, he fainted; slumping face-down on the pavement like so many of his lounge-addled patrons before him.


      Harry awoke to the sound of soft music, and some tone-deaf git playing a clarinet like his lungs were about to shoot out the end of it. Having a splitting headache didn't help matters, but he knew instantly where he was: in The Smoke Room. On the floor, to be precise.

      "Ah, Molotov," said a strange voice in an even stranger accent. "What a player."

      He opened his eyes and saw, sitting on the edge of a table, a tall, gaunt man in leathers; wearing a tattered black wide-brimmed hat, knee-length boots, and a tartan waistcoat. He had a snow-white goatee, and an eye-patch into the bargain. Hardly the sort of person he'd expected to see, this far from Soho at any rate.

      "'Ere, what's going on?" he asked, sitting up.

      "Ach, you've recovered! Good. I wasn't too late after all."

      The stranger sounded like a Scot who'd spent many years in deepest Yorkshire; or a Yorkshire-man who'd spent years with the Scots. Either way, he wasn't the easiest person to understand. He offered Harry a many-ringed hand and helped him to his feet. Harry dusted himself off, adjusted his shirt-sleeves -- one had unrolled itself -- and remembered what he'd seen, or hadn't quite seen, before his ungraceful tumble.

      "Not too late for what?" he asked. "Was that you out there in the fog?"

      The stranger's lips creased into a smile and he laughed loudly; leaving Harry befuddled.

      "Forgive me... no, it wasn't me you saw. Allow me to introduce myself, my good host -- I am Northumberland, also known as The Seeker."

      "Northumberland? 'S a place in Dorset isn't it?"

      The stranger laughed again and wiped a tear from his good eye.

      "Excuse me once again. I've travelled far, and from such humble, obscure parts that the quaintness of the world never ceases to amaze me."

      "Well, Mr. Seeker, I'm much obliged to you for scraping old Harry up off the pavement. I was waiting for my first customer, you see." Harry looked about, and found The Smoke Room still empty but for his eccentric guest. "And, by Jove, here you are -- first customer of the evening. Take a seat; let me get you a drink and something to smoke the place up with."

      Harry took his place behind the bar and reached for glass and decanter. When he looked again The Seeker was still standing, preoccupied with a crystal dangling on the end of a string.

      Definitely a cigar man, thought Harry.

      "What'll it be, whisky and a panatela?"

      "Och, nothing, thank you. I have to be on my way before the trail grows cold."

      "On a night like this? Er, what trail?"

      The Seeker pocketed his pendulum and looked gravely at Harry with that one icy eye of his.

      "The trail of the Culgorney Devil."

      "The Devil, you say?" Harry took a swig of whisky himself, and gazed out at the dark, foggy street.

      "It's just a name, mind you. The Culgorney Devil is no more an actual devil than the Devonshire Devil before it."

      "The what?"

      "Devonshire, eighteen fifty-five. After a heavy snowfall, people awoke to find hoof-prints scattered about the countryside for a hundred miles around. The prints trampled through haystacks, across rooftops, over walls, they even crossed a river and continued on the other side. It was said the Devil was roaming that night, seeking out sinners."

      "But it wasn't?"

      "O'course not. It was a Scatherbott, same as what you saw."

      Harry sat down heavily on an upholstered bar stool, and reached for the decanter to refill his glass. The Seeker now busied himself uncoiling what Harry had mistaken for a scarf. It was a length of black-pudding, and it looked a little worse for wear.

      "I've pursued it all the way from the Hebrides, ever since I detected it there."

      "Good gracious!" said Harry. "That's on the edge of nowhere!"

      "Aye, I know what you mean. It's also why it's here. It's drawn to densely populated areas. It body-hopped it's way through Scotland, through the Yorkshire dales, headed southwest, hopped across to the Isle of Man, then landed in Wales. I lost it for a time in Wiltshire... lots of mystical forces at work there. And now it's here in London, and my worst fears are realised."

      "What the bleedin' 'eck's it want, this Scatherbott?"

      "Mischief, power, a good time; for which it needs a suitable host body. It would've taken yours if you hadn't fainted."

      Harry found himself shaking again, and took another swig of whisky.

      "Heavens above," he said, distantly.

      The Seeker crossed to the window and strung the black pudding like tinsel across the blinds. Then he took out his pendulum again, steadied it, and watched intensely as it did nothing at all.

      "If it's not a rude question," said Harry. "Why have you strung black pudding across my window?"

      Without looking up, The Seeker replied: "It acts as a ward, and a decoy."

      "A bit like vampires and garlic?"

      "A little, except it has the opposite effect. Instead of keeping Scatherbotts away, it attracts them. The blood content, y'see. The Scatherbott, invisible, intangible, feeling its way blindly through the world, homes in on anything flesh and blood and attempts to animate it. So, by hanging black pudding in your window, or around your neck for instance, you have a better chance of staying free of its grasp."

      "What are you going to do when you find the critter?"

      "Send it back to the hellish dimension it came from," said The Seeker.

      "Oh yes? I suppose you do that by dowsing it with clotted cream?" said Harry, gesturing with his arms.

      The Seeker's eye became a mere slit.

      "You saw yourself how powerful this creature is."

      "Sorry. I meant no disrespect."

      The Seeker laughed it off. "To dispense with the Scatherbott, it must first be rendered unconscious. As it has no form or structure, this has to be done while it inhabits a host."

      "You mean, you'd've coshed me over the head if it'd taken my body?"

      "Yes, but thanks to your weak constitution I never got the chance."

      "Thank goodness... and that's it, you just wallop it?"

      "While it's unconscious, the ancient words of dispelling must be spoken," he patted his waistcoat pocket, where he carried a little book.

      "And these Scatherbotts... they can go through walls?"

      "Oh yes. Walls, concrete, art-deco furniture..."

      "Then how are we to know it's not in here with us, just waiting for a chance to slip into our bodies?"

      "Well, the pendulum would start swinging figure-eights for a start. The black pudding exploding would be another sign."

      The Seeker looked up from his motionless pendulum. "D'you have any pork-scratchings?"

      Harry got up and searched about. "What do you want them for?"

      "To eat! All this talk of black-puddings has made me hungry."

      "Here we are--" said Harry, popping up from behind the counter with a bag.

      Harry stared, awe-struck. The pendulum was swinging madly.

      "What?" said The Seeker.

      At that moment, black pudding exploded across the room. The two men dived for cover as bits of bloody sausage rained down. Howling, like the wind through a chasm, filled The Smoke Room.

      When it had subsided, and all was still, Harry eased himself up off the floor. The mess was considerable. It looked like someone had been horribly murdered. The Seeker lay face-down beneath a table. Harry moved towards him, and trod on something. He lifted his foot, and saw The Seeker's little book; splattered with blood and bits of gristle. He picked it up, and heard a low groan.

      "Are you all right?" he asked.

      The Seeker got to his feet, wobbled a bit, and opened his eye. For a moment the iris flashed a fiery red, before becoming blue again.

      "At last," said The Seeker, his voice jagged and deep, "a body that suits my needs."

      Harry backed towards the bar, slipping the book into his belt.

      "Er... er... how about a drink?" he said.

      The Seeker flashed a terrifying look at him, then smiled a grim smile.

      "Yes! Drink, and food! I have tasted neither for many moons."

      Harry scanned the shelf behind the bar for something heavy, other than the liquor. The Seeker's shadow fell across the bottles. Harry reached a shaking hand toward the largest decanter he had. It weighed at least three pounds, and was made of imitation crystal.

      "Here you are, Sir," he said, pouring brandy into a glass, and spilling as much again onto the counter and floor.

      He slid the glass forward, still holding onto the decanter, and The Seeker downed the drink as if it were water.

      "Ahh... good! More!"

      "Yes, Sir..." said Harry. "Good Lord, what's that over there?"

      The Seeker's head jerked around, and Harry raised the decanter. Before he could bring it down, The Seeker leapt up with the speed of a whirlwind and sent it smashing to the floor.

      "So! You thought to trick the Culgorney Devil?"

      The Seeker laughed, but not the jovial laugh of before; this one was forged in the deepest, foulest caverns of the earth, and rattled the speakers off the walls. The hi-fi system turned its tail and strangled a jazz quartet in the middle of an extended jam.

      The Seeker, glaring, felt his pockets.

      "Where's the book?"

      "Book? Er, gosh, must be on the floor somewhere..."

      "Hand it over, if you wish to live!"

      "How can I hand it over if I don't know where it--"

      The Seeker reached over the bar and lifted Harry off his feet. It spun him around, retrieved the book from his belt, and let him drop.

      "Foolish creature!"

      The Seeker ran for the door with a hunted look. It attempted to pass through it a couple of times, before it remembered the solid nature of its host, and opened it.

      "Oh, watch out for the--" said Harry automatically.


      With its head half-turned towards Harry, The Culgorney Devil failed to see the step, tripped, and fell head-first onto the concrete. After he'd finished wincing, Harry ventured out from behind the bar. The Seeker's body wasn't moving; he was out, stone-cold, lying just beyond the doorway.

      Harry approached. The fog wisped about, crawling in through the open door. The street looked deserted; if anyone was hanging about they were obscured by fog denser than any Harry had seen. He prodded the body with the toe of his shoe. There was no reaction, but The Seeker was still breathing.

      The book! He dropped to his knees and searched The Seeker's pockets, to no avail. The left hand was empty. The other was stretched out into the fog. Carefully, he leaned over the body and felt around. He feared that the Culgorney Devil would wake at any moment and send his soul packing. It was with utmost relief that his hand found purchase on the book, still clutched in The Seeker's right hand. He tugged it free, then retreated a safe distance.

      "Must hurry," he muttered. He flipped through the book in the subdued light. It was full of scratchy hand-written text. There were recipes for cooking the various small, wild furry creatures that called Britain home; and the rest appeared to be a condensed journal of The Seeker's travels. He heard The Seeker gurgle, and flipped through the pages with renewed

      The final page was filled with five words written in large, elaborate script. They looked as if they'd been re-traced many times so as never to fade. Steeling himself, he spoke the first word.


      The Seeker's body twitched. The fog swirled angrily.

      "Amnon," said Harry, louder this time, more forceful.

      A wind came out of nowhere, shrieking dismally.


      The shrieking grew furious, and The Seeker's body convulsed.

      "Zomnar!" cried Harry, competing with the noise.

      He reached the fifth word, but all he said was: "Uh..."

      "Hakoon," said a weak voice, The Seeker's.

      "Oh yes, that's an `h.' Hakoon!"

      The deafening roar and buffeting wind stopped short, as if turned off by a switch. The fog retreated at an alarming rate, and The Seeker stirred.

      "Here let me give you a hand," said Harry. "Are you okay?"

      The Seeker nursed a bleeding nose, but patted himself and smiled, a little painfully.

      "I'm alive, and I'm me, thanks to you."

      Harry puffed out his chest. "It was nothing. What about our friend the Scatherbott?"

      "It's gone, back to its own dimension never to bother ours again."

      "And taking the fog with it, I see. Perhaps now my customers will start showing up."

      "Sorry about the mess."

      Harry glanced at the black pudding strewn floor, listened to the crackle of the dying stereo.

      "Never mind. A little smoke and no-one will notice."


The End.




copyright 2006 Joshua Blanc.

Joshua Blanc, 26, has been writing earnestly since his teens. His work has been called `eccentric,' which may have everything to do with his Australian upbringing, his currently residing in Canada, and his love for British humour. He's also an avid photographer and synthesizer player (not at the same time, you understand).

His work can be seen on Alarmingly Strange,,, and his web-site: "The Manitou's Lair" (