The Wasp Factory

by

Iain Banks

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Frank’s half-brother; the son of Angus and Mary. Once a sweet, bright, sensitive child, he suffered a mental breakdown in medical school that completely changed his personality. Eric has been incarcerated for “disturbing the peace,” specifically for setting dogs on fire and trying to feed worms and maggots to local children. He and Frank were, and remain, very close. Frank killed Blyth because Blyth had upset Eric, and Eric, after his breakdown, sets dogs on fire because a dog once mutilated Frank. Eric breaks out of his institution and travels home to meet Frank and Angus again. He evades capture and eventually makes it home. Although he first tries to set his house on fire, the next morning he is calmer, and happy to greet his family.

Eric Cauldhame Quotes in The Wasp Factory

The The Wasp Factory quotes below are all either spoken by Eric Cauldhame or refer to Eric Cauldhame. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of The Wasp Factory published in 1998.
Chapter 1 Quotes

‘I hope you weren’t out killing any of God’s creatures.’

I shrugged at him again. Of course I was out killing things. How the hell am I supposed to get heads and bodies for the Poles and the Bunker if I don’t kill things? There just aren’t enough natural deaths. You can’t explain that sort of thing to people, though.

‘Sometimes I think you’re the one who should be in the hospital, not Eric.’ He was looking at me from under his dark brows, his voice low. Once, that sort of talk would have scared me, but not now. I’m nearly seventeen, and not a child. Here in Scotland I’m old enough to get married without my parent’s permission, and have been for a year. There wouldn’t be much point to me getting married perhaps — I’ll admit that — but the principle is there.

Besides, I’m not Eric; I’m me and I’m here and that’s all there is to it. I don’t bother people and they had best not bother me if they know what’s good for them. I don’t go giving people presents of burning dogs, or frighten the local toddlers with handfuls of maggots and mouthfuls of worms. The people in the town may say ‘Oh, he’s not all there, you know,’ but that’s just their little joke (and sometimes, to rub it in, they don’t point to their heads as they say it); I don’t mind. I’ve learned to live with my disability, and learned to live without other people, so it’s no skin off my nose.

Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

Eric in particular was very upset. He cried like a girl. I wanted to kill Blyth there and then; the hiding he got from his father, my dad’s brother James, was not enough as far as I was concerned, not for what he’d done to Eric, my brother. Eric was inconsolable, desperate with grief because he had made the thing Blyth had used to destroy our beloved pets. He always was a bit sentimental, always the sensitive one, the bright one; until his nasty experience everybody was sure he would go far. Anyway, that was the start of the Skull Grounds, the area of the big, old, partially earthed-over dune behind the house where all our pets went when they died. The burned rabbits started that. Old Saul was before them, but that was just a one-off thing.

Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

The rocks of the Bomb Circle usually get me thinking and this time was no exception, especially considering the way I’d lain down inside them like some Christ or something, opened to the sky dreaming of death. Well, Paul went about as quickly as you can go; I was certainly humane that time. Blyth had lots of time to realise what was happening, jumping about the Snake Park screaming as the frantic and enraged snake bit his stump repeatedly, and little Esmerelda must have had some inkling what was going to happen to her as she was slowly blown away.

My brother Paul was five when I killed him. I was eight. It was over two years after I had subtracted Blyth with an adder that I found an opportunity to get rid of Paul. Not that I bore him any personal ill-will; it was simply that I knew he couldn’t stay. I knew I’d never be free of the dog until he was gone (Eric, poor well-meaning bright but ignorant Eric, thought I still wasn’t, and I just couldn’t tell him why I was).

Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

I had decided I would try to murder Esmerelda before she and her parents even arrived for their holiday. Eric was away on a school cruise, so there would only be me and her. It would be risky, so soon after Paul’s death, but I had to do something to even up the balance. I could feel it in my guts, in my bones; I had to. It was like an itch, something I had no way of resisting, like when I walk along a pavement in Porteneil and I accidentally scuff one heel on a paving stone. I have to scuff the other foot as well, with near as possible the same weight, to feel good again… In a whole range of ways like that I try to keep balanced, though I have no idea why. It is simply something that must be done; and, in the same way, I had to get rid of some woman, tip the scales back in the other direction.

Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

I lay in bed. Soon I would have to try some long-range fixing of this problem. It was the only way. I’d have to try to influence things through the root cause of it all: Old Saul himself. Some heavy medicine was required if Eric wasn’t to wreck single-handedly the entire Scottish telephone network and decimate the country’s canine population. First, though, I would have to consult the Factory again.

It wasn’t exactly my fault, but I was totally involved, and I might just be able to do something about it, with the skull of the ancient hound, the Factory’s help and a little luck. How susceptible my brother would be to whatever vibes I could send out was a question I didn’t like too much to think about, given the state of his head, but I had to do something.

I hoped the little puppy had got well away. Dammit, I didn’t hold all dogs to blame for what happened. Old Saul was the culprit, Old Saul had gone down in our history and my personal mythology as the Castraitor, but thanks to the little creatures who flew the creek I had him in my power now.

Eric was crazy all right, even if he was my brother. He was lucky to have somebody sane who still liked him.

Related Symbols: Old Saul’s Skull
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Before I realised the birds were my occasional allies, I used to do unkind things to them: fish for them, shoot them, tie them to stakes at low tide, put electrically detonated bombs under their nests, and so on.

My favourite game was capturing two using bait and a net, then tying them together. Usually they were gulls and I tied thick orange nylon fishing-line to a leg each, then sat on a dune and watched. Sometimes I would have a gull and a crow but, whether they were the same species or not, they quickly found out they couldn’t fly properly – though the twine was long enough in theory – and ended up (after a few hilariously clumsy aerobatics) fighting.

With one dead, though, the survivor – usually injured – wasn’t really any better off, attached to a heavy corpse instead of a live opponent. I have seen a couple of determined ones peck the leg off their defeated adversary, but most were unable, or didn’t think of it, and got caught by the rats during the night.

I had other games, but that one always struck me as one of my more mature inventions; symbolic somehow, and with a nice blend of callousness and irony.

Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

‘I’ve told you; he’s crazy but he’s very cunning. He’s not stupid. He was always very bright, right from the start. He was reading early and getting all his relations and uncles and aunts to say “Och, they’re old so young these days” and things like that before I was even born.’

‘But he is insane, all the same.’

‘That’s what they say, but I don’t know.’

‘What about the dogs? And the maggots?’

‘OK, that looks pretty crazy, I’ll admit, but sometimes I think maybe he’s up to something, maybe he’s not really crazy after all. Perhaps he just got fed up acting normal and decided to act crazy instead, and they locked him up because he went too far.’

‘And he’s mad at them,’ Jamie grinned, drinking his pint as I annihilated various dodging, mulit-coloured spacecraft on the screen. I laughed. ‘Yeah, if you like. Oh, I don’t know. Maybe he really is crazy. Maybe I am. Maybe everybody is. Or at least all of my family.’

Now you’re talking.’

I looked up at him for a second, then smiled. ‘It does occur to me sometimes. My dad’s an eccentric…I suppose I am, too.’ I shrugged, concentrated on the space battle again. ‘But it doesn’t bother me. There are a lot madder people about the place.’

Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

‘The madder people. A lot of them seem to be leaders of countries or religions or armies. The real loonies.’

‘Aye, I suppose.’ I said thoughtfully, watching the battle on the screen upside down. ‘Or maybe they’re the only sane ones. After all, they’re the ones with all the power and riches. They’re the ones who get everybody else to do what they want them to do... So, given things being the way they are, who’s to say they’re the loonies because they don’t do things the way Joe Punter thinks they ought to be done? If they thought the same way as Joe Punter, they’d be Joe Punter, and somebody else would be having all the fun.’

‘Survival of the fittest.’

Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

… I would try to contact Eric through the skull of Old Saul. We are brothers, after all, even if only half so, and we are both men, even if I am only half so. At some deep level we understand each other, even though he is mad and I am sane. We even had that link I had not thought of until recently, but which might come in useful now: we have both killed, and used our heads to do it.

It occurred to me then, as it has before, that that is what men are really for. Both sexes can do one thing specially well; women can give birth and men can kill. We – I consider myself an honorary man – are the harder sex. We strike out, push through, thrust and take. The fact that it is only an analogue of all this sexual terminology I am capable of does not discourage me. I can feel it in my bones, in my uncastrated genes. Eric must respond to that.

Related Symbols: Old Saul’s Skull
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

…[Eric] had been too much for me. The conflagration in his head was just too strong for anybody sane to cope with. It had a lunatic strength of total commitment about it which only the profoundly mad are continually capable of, and the most ferocious soldiers and most aggressive sportsmen able to emulate for a while. Every particle of Eric’s brain was concentrated on his mission of returning and setting fire, and no normal brain – not even mine, which was far from normal and more powerful than most – could match that marshaling of forces. Eric was committed to total War, a Jihad; he was riding the Divine Wind to at least his own destruction, and there was nothing I could do about it this way.

Related Symbols: Old Saul’s Skull
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

We played some stories out: brave soldiers in the dunes and fighting, winning and fighting and fighting and sometimes dying. Those were the only times he deliberately hurt me, when his stories required his own heroic death and I would take it all too seriously as he lay expiring on the grass or the sands, having just blown up the bridge or the dam or the enemy convoy and like as not saved me from death, too; I would choke back tears and punch him lightly as I tried to change the story myself and he refused, slipping away from me and dying; too often dying.

When he had his migraines – sometimes lasting days – I lived on the edge, taking cool drinks and some food up to the darkened room on the second floor, creeping in, standing and shaking sometimes if he moaned and shifted on the bed. I was wretched while he suffered, and nothing meant anything; the games and the stories seemed stupid and pointless, and only throwing stones at bottles or seagulls made much sense. I went out fishing for gulls, determined things other than Eric should suffer: when he recovered it was like him coming back for the summer all over again, and I was irrepressible.

Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

It always annoyed me that Eric went crazy. Although it wasn’t an on-off thing, sane one minute, mad the next, I don’t think there is much doubt that the incident with the smiling child triggered something in Eric that led, almost inevitably, to his fall. Something in him could not accept what had happened, could not fit in what he had seen with the way he thought things ought to be…

Whatever it was that disintegrated in Eric then, it was a weakness, a fundamental flaw that a real man should not have had. Women, I know from watching hundreds – maybe thousands – of films and television programmes, cannot withstand really major things happening to them; they get raped or their loved one dies, and they go to pieces, go crazy and commit suicide, or just pine away until they die. Of course, I realise that not all of them will react that way, but obviously it’s the rule, and the ones who don’t obey it are in the minority.

There must be a few strong women, women with more man in their character than most, and I suspect that Eric was the victim of a self with just a little too much of the woman in it. That sensitivity, that desire not to hurt people, that delicate, mindful brilliance – these things were his partly because he thought too much like a woman. Up until his nasty experience it never really bothered him, but just at that moment, in that extremity of circumstance, it was enough to break him.

Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
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Eric Cauldhame Character Timeline in The Wasp Factory

The timeline below shows where the character Eric Cauldhame appears in The Wasp Factory. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Sacrifice Poles
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The book opens on the day that Frank and his father, Angus, are informed that Eric, Frank’s brother, has escaped from the mental hospital. Frank has spent the day surveying and... (full context)
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...he might be trying to manipulate him. Angus tells Frank that something has happened with Eric, and Frank immediately understands that his brother has escaped from the mental institution where he... (full context)
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Angus remarks that sometimes he thinks Frank, not Eric, should be in the hospital. Frank thinks that this once would have scared him, but... (full context)
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Frank knows Angus is also nervous about Eric coming home, because any police investigations into the family might lead to “The Truth About... (full context)
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Frank hears the phone ring, and answers it. It’s Eric. At first, Eric repeats everything Frank says, but eventually the two begin to have a... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Snake Park
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Frank provides a history of Mary Cauldhame, Eric’s mother. She died in childbirth, because Eric’s head was too big. Eric had migraines the... (full context)
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...remembers “the Factory said something about fire.” Although the obvious answer seems to be that Eric will set some dogs on fire, Frank believes the message is more complex. (full context)
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Frank is partially upset that Eric is coming back. Frank had wanted to have a make-believe war — a game he plays with... (full context)
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...was also related to rabbits—one summer his cousin, Blyth, was visiting and murdered Frank and Eric’s pet rabbits with a flamethrower that Eric had invented. Eric, a sensitive child, was inconsolably... (full context)
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...knee (replaced with a prosthetic), having lost it in a road accident. One day Blyth, Eric, and Paul, Frank’s little brother, were relaxing in a meadow. Blyth had taken off his... (full context)
Chapter 3: In the Bunker
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Frank continues, explaining that after “Eric went crazy” it was harder to socialize in town. He became associated with his brother,... (full context)
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Over dinner, Angus tells Frank that the police are searching for Eric on the moors. Angus asks Frank if he has any requests for food to order... (full context)
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Frank stays up until almost eleven, and is surprised to hear the phone ring. It’s Eric. Angus comes out of his room and watches Frank take the phone call. Frank pretends... (full context)
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Frank checks in on Eric—is he eating right, how is he getting around? Eric insists he no longer has to... (full context)
Chapter 4: The Bomb Circle
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...many dead pets are all the fault of Agnes, his mother, who disliked children, sent Eric away to Belfast when he was a toddler, and only came to the island twice,... (full context)
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...“never be free of the dog [Old Saul] until” Paul was gone. Frank notes that Eric, who doesn’t know Frank killed Paul, believes that Frank is still not free of Old... (full context)
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...be distraught over Paul’s death. He didn’t mind play-acting, but did feel guilty about deceiving Eric, who he is sure wouldn’t have understood. Frank thinks Diggs suspected him, but was unable... (full context)
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Frank tells Jamie about Eric’s escape. Jamie is surprised that Frank isn’t more panicked. Frank explains that he hopes Eric... (full context)
Chapter 5: A Bunch of Flowers
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...Angus criticizes him for drinking. That night the phone rings, and Frank eagerly answers. It’s Eric. Dissatisfied with how Frank answered the phone, Eric hangs up. Then he calls back, forcing... (full context)
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Eric pretends to be Frank, frustrating his brother. In turn, Eric is frustrated that Frank isn’t... (full context)
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Frank thinks he can hear a dog in the phone booth from which Eric is calling. Alarmed by this, Frank yells at Eric, who accidentally lets the dog escape.... (full context)
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Frank believes Eric to be crazy, but still cares for him, and remarks Eric is “lucky to have... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Skull Grounds
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...is twice dead,” and yet he remains less than “a full man.” However, he considers Eric’s dog burning to be “just nonsense.” (full context)
Chapter 7: Space Invaders
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Tuesday morning Frank bikes into town to meet with Jamie. Jamie doesn’t understand, if Eric is so crazy, why no one has caught him yet. Frank hypothesizes that, although his... (full context)
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...Wasp Factory. He decides to consult it tomorrow, making sure to get more information before Eric arrives. (full context)
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...the Wasp Factory will give him a sense of the future. Then he will contact Eric using Old Saul’s skull. Frank believes that “at some deep level” he and Eric “understand... (full context)
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...“an honorary man,” and feels death in his “uncastrated genes.” He believes this connection with Eric will be enough to telepathically reach out to him.  (full context)
Chapter 8: The Wasp Factory
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...forehead before his alter — before he allows himself to leave. He takes a photo of Eric formerly situated on the altar with him as he goes. Frank walks to the Bunker.... (full context)
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In the Bunker, Frank thinks of Eric. He remembers who he was as a child — once “clever” and “kind,” now he is... (full context)
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Frank places one hand on Old Saul’s skull, closes his eyes, and pictures Eric’s face. He feels himself transported into Eric’s mind and body. He feels Eric’s tired feet,... (full context)
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...The phone wakes him some time later. He’s disappointed to find it’s Jamie calling, not Eric. Jamie has hurt his foot and is off work for the week. Frank says he’ll... (full context)
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...it rings again. He picks it up, assuming it’s Jamie, but this time it is Eric. Eric is immediately angry that Frank mistook him for someone else. Eric is especially angry... (full context)
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Eric argues back for a minute shouting into the phone, and then switches into a calmer... (full context)
Chapter 9: What Happened to Eric
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...at an age before I had any real chance of affecting it.” Additionally, Frank saw Eric leave the island and lose his mind, and treats this as a cautionary tale. (full context)
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Although Eric has undergone an “alternation” Frank still loves him. He compares this to how Eric loves... (full context)
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Eric primarily lived on the mainland until Frank was three, at which point he returned full... (full context)
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When Eric left the island to train to become a doctor Frank was upset, but couldn’t blame... (full context)
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When Eric returned after his first year away at school Frank could feel he had changed. He... (full context)
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During Eric’s second year he had his “unfortunate experience.” Frank describes this as a complete reinvention of... (full context)
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Eric was already struggling at school romantically and academically. However, the incident occurred at a local... (full context)
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Seeing this, Eric was immediately devastated. Already unstable, he was discovered in a corner screaming, the child laying... (full context)
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Soon after that Diggs came to arrest Eric, but Eric hid out, first for three days, and then, when he returned, for another... (full context)
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From his perch on the mainland Frank looks out with his binoculars. He feels that Eric is nearby, but does not spot him. Frank begins to walk across the hills. (full context)
Chapter 10: Running Dog
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Frank is annoyed that Eric lost his mind. He sees it as a “weakness, a fundamental flaw that a real... (full context)
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Frank resents Agnes for having Eric sent away during his early years. He also blames his father for dressing Eric in... (full context)
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That night the phone rings. It’s Eric, acting manic, joking and playing word games. Frank isn’t interested in playing along. He tells... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Prodigal
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...for lunch. She reports that a dog is missing in town. Frank jokes it’s lucky Eric isn’t around to take the blame. (full context)
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...to patrol the island, looking out with his binoculars. He sees some smoke, but doubts Eric has generated it. He watches Angus leave home and walk to town unsteadily. Frank suspects... (full context)
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...Angus got a phone call, was surprised by it, and got drunk. Frank debates what Eric’s next move will be. He decides that Eric will definitely get in touch. In that... (full context)
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...in his kitchen, waiting. In the early evening Angus calls incredibly drunk. He tells Frank Eric has been caught, and asks Frank to come into town. Frank agrees to join him,... (full context)
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Frank has fallen asleep waiting for Eric. He wakes up to the sound of someone moving around downstairs. He hopes its Eric,... (full context)
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...a herd of sheep, all set on fire, charging over the hill. Behind them comes Eric, holding a torch and dancing. Frank runs out to greet him.    (full context)
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Frank arrives outside to find Eric hacking at the cellar door with an axe. Frank yells to Angus to get out... (full context)
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Frank goes back inside. The sheep have all died or burned out. Eric has disappeared. Angus is at the sink with a bucket of water and a carving... (full context)
Chapter 12: What Happened to Me
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...night Angus told Frank the truth. Then the pair barricaded the cellar, looked around for Eric, and went to bed. Now, Frank can see Diggs coming to talk to Angus. Frank... (full context)
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Frances looks down at Eric, and thinks how funny that Eric has come home to see his brother, but will... (full context)