Sei sulla pagina 1di 7

CHAPTER THREE

THE BEGINNING

Alton, Staffordshire, 1821

Imelda breathed a terrible sigh as she entered the darkened room. She looked in
horror at the body that lay across the small table, draped in a white sheet.
Doctor Webster had accompanied the body of the poor boy back to the house and
had the unpleasant duty of explaining to the lady of the manor hat nothing could be
done for him. Her ladyship was inconsolable. She had to be taken from her son’s side by
the Earl himself. His lordship had sent for the undertakers and they would be here
presently for the body.
The Earl wanted the body away from the Towers and in a Christian grave as soon
as possible, he said it would not be fitting to keep his form lying about the house for
longer than necessary. Imelda was thankful of that. She had never seen a dead body
before and she didn’t really wish to be around one.
Young Henry had been so young and so handsome; it was horribly unfair that a
tragedy like this should have occurred. Truly dreadful. Imelda gave a shiver at the
thought and quickly crossed herself as she went to change the candles that had burned
out some time ago, plunging the chamber into darkness.
She lit one and was about to light another when she saw that the white sheet that
covered the body was starting to turn red at one end. The patch was growing bigger and
bigger. There was no doubt about it, it was blood. The body was bleeding terribly. An
unholy amount. But the red was mixed with a horrendous black. There was something
not quite right about it, even blood from a dead body should not be that colour.
Imelda thought quickly and crossed the room to the door. She would call for
Mister Bradshaw, he would know what to do at a time like this. Imelda may have been a
servant but she was still a lady and dealing with dead bodies, blood and other such
matters were strictly jobs for men. It was unthinkable to ask a woman to tend to such
matters unless they were nurses. Imelda was not.
She walked around the table towards the door when she stopped in her tracks.
She could have sworn the body had made a sound. No, impossible! Doctor Webster had
told everybody that Henry was dead. Could he have been mistaken?
Imelda thought about fleeing, but the boy’s life may lie in her hands. Surely if that
were the case and she saved him, se would be justly rewarded. She might never have to
work another day in her life. The Earl would no doubt be eternally grateful. Just think of
it, Imelda May, lady of aristocracy.
It was this thought that spurred her into action. She grasped the sheet at the top
end and pulled it from Henry’s face.
She gasped in horror, for what she saw beneath the covers was the work of the
Devil himself. Henry’s nose was swollen to an enormous size; it was bright red, filled with
blood. All the blood from his face, it seemed. His eyes were black as night. Black tears
streamed down his pale, white face and down his cheeks that had been warped into a
ghastly grin, baring yellowed, pointed teeth. Henry looked at her, the grin seemed to
widen.
Imelda’s scream was barely more than a muffled whimper as the clammy white
hands reached up and throttled her.

***
Manchester, 2003

The noise was driving Jayne Watson insane. Tap-tap-tap! Tap-tap-ta-ta-tap-tap!


Whatever it was, it was coming from the floor above her. If it were a steady rhythm, she
may have been able to drown it out, ignore it if she tried hard enough. No such luck.
The tapping was random, without any kind of discernable rhythm and very, very
loud. Her MP3 player had run out of power earlier in the day and now she was stuck.
There was no way she was going to get on the bus, go home and then come back
to the campus library. Not only would it be a waste of bus fair, it would be a complete
waste of her time too. She needed to be in the library. She needed the campus internet
codes to get the scientific journal papers for free. Otherwise it was five pounds per-
article. That wasn’t an option.

Ta-ta-ta-tap! Tap! Tap-tap-ta-ta-tap-ta-tap! Jayne bit her lip and cursed angrily.
What the hell was that noise? The building wasn’t old enough for it to be dodgy Victorian
plumbing. The library was the newest building at the University. Throwing down her
pencil, she decided to see if she could get to the bottom of this.
She looked around to see if anybody else would rally with her and storm upstairs
with huffy indignation. But there was nobody else on the floor. She checked her watch. It
was gone nine. Later than she’d expected. The librarian had wandered off somewhere as
was her wont. Probably having a sneaky cigarette out of the office window that she
thought nobody knew about. Jayne was on her own.
She marched determinedly through the thick fire doors that led to the stairwell
and proceeded upwards. If it was workmen or some arsehole student messing around
then they were for it. Hell normally had no fury like a woman scorned, even that kind of
fury paled in comparison to an irate Jayne Watson. She was trying to work. She was
being interrupted. There would be trouble.
She did a double-take at the red post box that sat defiantly on the landing. There
was probably a good reason for it being there. None that Jayne could see right at this
point, but she would certainly come back and address this different annoyance once
she’d dealt with the mysterious tapping.
She pushed her way through the doors and stepped out onto a deserted floor. The
lights were out so the only source of illumination came from the two windows in the
doors that peeked out onto the stairwell. Builder’s tools, unfurnished bookshelves and
assorted piles of ventilation duct littered the uncarpeted ground before her. A large
portion of the floor was still missing; showing masses of wiring, vents and, through the
jumble, the tiles that made up the ceiling of the floor below could be seen. No wonder
she’d been able to hear the tapping so clearly.
Now she could see the source of the awful noise. Jayne cleared her throat loudly
and glared at the man who was kneeling over the hole in the floor, hitting the metal vent
shafts with some kind of torch.
‘Shhh!’ The man said without looking up.
‘Never mind, shhh!’ Jayne said angrily. ‘Do you know how loud that is?’
‘Yes,’ the man said simply, putting a finger to his lips and looking at her pointedly. ‘It’s
sort-of the point.’
He continued his random tapping, ignoring Jayne’s obvious annoyance. ‘I’m trying
to work downstairs,’ Jayne said stiffly.
‘That’s not the best idea right now,’ the man replied, straightening one of the lapels on
his blue suit. ‘I’ll be at this for a bit. Probably better if you packed up and went home.
Somewhere where there’s no distractions … somewhere that’s not here.’
There was a manner of impatience in the way he spoke. Whatever he was doing, it
was obviously not having the desired effect. That annoyed Jayne more. Not only was this
man causing a racket, but he was doing it without any kind of success. That meant, in a
roundabout way, that he was wasting his time and hers.
He looked up at her through his fringe of brown hair and made a strange
expression. His green eyes looked large and concerned. ‘Damn,’ he said in a voice that
was just louder than a whisper. His gaze sent a chill down Jayne’s spine. She really
didn’t want to be near this man. The temperature in the room had suddenly dropped and
she felt sick.
‘I’m gonna …’ She said, pointing to the door.
‘Don’t move,’ the man said, springing to his feet and pointing the small torch at her.
‘I’ll just leave,’ she said, moving to the door.
‘I said, stand still!’ He said quickly. ‘Seriously, stand still! Move and you’re dead!’ He
winced as he said it. ‘That’s not a threat!’ He said quickly as Jayne’s eyes widened in
terror. ‘I’m not threatening you!’ He said even louder. ‘Seriously though … you really,
really need to stand still. Don’t even blink! I’m serious!’ He licked his lips and edged
towards her.
Jayne eyed the door. She should run. She should shout for the authorities. She
should do anything to get away from this man who had just threatened her with violence,
despite what he said afterwards. He was getting closer, a bead of sweat ran down the side
of his face. He was advancing upon her. She balled her fists, remembering what she had
learned in Tai Kwon Do, preparing to deliver him a swift kick to the head if he came any
closer.
She looked into his eyes and suddenly noticed that he wasn’t looking at her. He
was looking above her. Just up and to the left. There was something else there.
She didn’t know how she knew it. She wasn’t sure whether it was a real feeling or
not. But there was something behind her and it was something that was not right.
Something that shouldn’t be there. Something wrong.
She made to turn her head and look.
‘Seriously,’ the man said through gritted teeth. ‘If you move, it’ll bite. Stay absolutely,
perfectly still ...’
‘…What is it?’ Jayne whispered back as the man thrust his torch forward and pressed a
small button on the hilt, filling the air with a deafening buzz. There was a piercing shriek
from the wall behind Jayne followed instantaneously by a colossal smash from one of the
floor-to-ceiling windows as whatever had been there crashed through to escape the
device that the man was wielding.
The man in the blue suit raced to the window, holding out the torch-thing
aggressively scanning the Manchester skyline for signs of whatever it was he was
chasing.
‘Ohmygod!’ Jayne said, holding her chest. ‘What the hell was that?’
‘A Sillaytbainge,’ the man said without looking at her.
‘A what?’
‘Sill-et-bay-en-g,’ he said testily, putting extra emphasis on the ‘g’. ‘Parasite. Almost blind.
Tracks with sound. Can’t see you unless you’re moving. Nasty thing with lots of teeth
that you really don’t want a bite from. Dead before you hit the floor.’
‘Never heard of them,’ Jayne said, raising an eyebrow. ‘Look, who are you anyway?’
‘Exterminator,’ he replied coyly, still scanning the skyline.
‘You’re lying,’ Jayne frowned.
‘No I’m not,’ he said pulling a wallet from his pocket and thrusting it towards her. Inside
was an official-looking badge. Dr. P. Holmes. Section 17. Access All Areas on Government
Authority. It would have been very impressive if it hadn’t clearly been drawn free-hand
with a pack of pencil crayons.
‘This doesn’t say anything about extermination,’ Jayne tisked.
‘Comes with the territory,’ Dr. Holmes said, stepping back from the window. ‘Anyway,’ he
said, snatching the wallet back and stowing it inside his jacket. ‘You’d better get to
getting while the getting’s good. Before it comes back. Run like the wind!’ He said,
bustling her towards the stairwell.
‘Wait a minute!’ Jayne said, digging her heels in. ‘What if it’s gone downstairs?’
‘It won’t,’ Dr. Holmes said certainly.
‘Yeah, but what-if-it-does?’ Jayne said evenly.
‘It won’t,’ Holmes replied testily. ‘Really … I’m one-hundred-per-cent certain of it. I’d
stake a life on it.’
‘That’s what you’d be doing,’ Jayne pointed out. ‘I’m not going back down there on my
own. Not if there’s giant … things lurking about.’
‘It won’t go downstairs,’ Holmes replied sternly. ‘They don’t like going close to the ground.
They like high places. You’re really in danger if you stay here. They’re vicious. You’re not
trained to deal with them …’ His eyes were suddenly very sad. ‘Go, before you get hurt.’
He opened the thick door for her. She defiantly stood her ground and folded her arms at
him. ‘If you’re not going leave, then at least get behind the door,’ he said, tapping the
thick fire door. ‘That should at least stop it from hearing yo-’ the last words of the
sentence were snatched away as he was sideswiped by a large, grey-pink blob that
knocked the tall, thin, lanky man into a pile of empty bookcases which promptly
collapsed over on themselves and him, trapping him under three of them.
Jayne looked up as the creature padded across the ceiling tiles. It was horrific. Its
head looked like a nozzle from a squirt bottle. Except the nozzle part was three-foot
across with rows upon rows of dangerous-looking fangs that were yellowed and off-
centre, growing randomly in clusters. Six black, beady eyes above the nozzle-mouth
blinked independently as it made a sucking noise into the air. Four leathery wings beat
on its back amidst a sea of black, bristly spines, while a series of suckers attached to at
least ten appendages glued it to the ceiling. A long, bulbous tail hung down into the
room, another nozzle mouth –this one with a dangerous looking scorpion-sting
protruding from the middle- was attached to the end, whirling violently around the room.
If Jayne had been anybody else, she would have screamed. But she wasn’t
somebody else, she was Jayne Watson, and Jayne Watson didn’t scream. Dr. Holmes had
dropped his torch-thing when he had been thrown across the room; it lay only a foot
from where Jayne was standing.
She looked up at the Sillaytbainge as it writhed on the ceiling tiles and growled at
the air around it. It hunted with sound and movement. The torch-thing hurt it, fended it
off. Jayne tried to decide the best course of action. Quickly grab it and hope for the best,
or spend many laborious minutes slowly edging towards it. The first option was the best,
but it was by no means the safest. She went for it.
The Sillaytbainge roared as she moved and sprayed spittle at the spot where she
had been. It hit the floor and started to melt it. Jayne raised the torch-thing at the beast
and looked for the button that would turn it on. There were hundreds. There were green
buttons, red buttons, teeny-tiny buttons, slides, switches, dials and one large grey
button on the hilt that stood out from the rest simply because of its unmistakable size.
She decided to try that one. It was the right button.
The torch-thing flared into life, emitting its high-pitched buzzing-wail. Jayne
pointed it at the Sillaytbainge’s head and grimaced as it gave one of its blood-curdling
shrieks and lost its grip on the ceiling, falling to the floor with a moist squish. Jayne kept
the torch trained on the Sillaytbainge as it roared and writhed on the floor. Hopefully it
would pass out or got to sleep or something. Jayne was dimly aware that Dr. Holmes had
been busy disentangling himself from the bookcases and was saying something to her.
She couldn’t hear him properly over the hum of the torch and the wailing of the
Sillaytbainge. The creature seemed to stop thrashing so much after a short while, raising
its head upwards with a sort-of silent scream.
Then it exploded.

Jayne staggered backwards as a wave of grey goo cascaded out of the creature in
all directions, spraying the floor, the walls and her. It smelt like rotten cheese.
‘I said to take cover,’ Dr. Holmes said, dropping the large section of book case he’d
grabbed to shield himself. ‘Come on, quick before it begins to burn.’ He took Jayne by the
hand and led her out into the stairwell to where the red post box sat.
Jayne wiped the goo from her face as best she could with the sleeves of her denim
jacket, but it was so thick and so runny at the same time that she only managed to
spread it all over her.
‘I here,’ the man said, opening the door to the post box and stepping inside. ‘And before
you say anything …’ Holmes continued as he pulled Jayne into a room the size of the
average amphitheatre. ‘I know it’s bigger on the inside.’
***

Alton, Staffordshire, 1821

‘Covered in Sillaytbainge goo,’ Manhunter smiled as they stepped out of the RETARDIS
into a dark forest. ‘That must have been …’
‘Horrible,’ Jayne said with a shudder as she remembered the events that brought The Dr.
into her life. ‘I got it off before it burned me. I wouldn’t have noticed though to tell you
the truth. Not with him walking me down massive corridors and through giant rooms
that’s all supposed to fit inside a post-box like it’s the most natural thing in the world.’
‘It is for him,’ Manhunter said with a shrug. ‘I suppose he was rather agitated when you
finally pointed out to him how much larger it was on the inside.’
‘Well, you’ve got to mention it!’ Jayne exclaimed.
‘What are we talking about?’ The Dr. asked, sticking his head between the pair.
‘The RETARDIS is bigger on the inside,’ Manhunter said simply.
‘It is?’ The Dr. sang sarcastically. ‘Good lord, I knew there was something not quite right
about it …’
‘I was telling Chris about how we met,’ Jayne cut across him. With the Sillaytbainge in
the library.’
‘Ah yes,’ The Dr. said, nodding. ‘Good times, good times.’
‘So,’ Jayne said, peering at the scanner that The Dr. was waving about in a seemingly
random manner. ‘Have you found the trail yet?’
‘It’s not that easy,’ The Dr. replied, biting his bottom lip. ‘This whole area is saturated.
There’s something around here spewing temporal energy like nobody’s business. Pretty
soon, things around here are going to start getting a bit weird.’
‘Define “a bit weird”,’ Dan said testily.
‘Uhm,’ The Dr. puffed. ‘Y’know … … … weird.’
‘You don’t know, do you?’ Jayne said accusingly.
‘Not as such,’ The Dr. frowned. ‘But trust me, a vast overflow of temporal energy in a
confined space can’t lead to anything good. We could be talking distortions of matter,
random time shifts, destabilisation of the ecosystem, and people around here are going to
have some spectacular headaches before long.’
‘No way,’ Dan said suddenly as he stopped next to a signpost in the road. ‘There’s no
way, this is bollocks!’
‘Well, Daniel,’ The Dr. said rather irritably without turning around. ‘How’s about you
point out exactly which part you’re having trouble with and I’ll try to go through it with
such simplicity that even you will be able to grasp the concept.’
The Dr. had limitless patience but his time for Dan was wearing thin. He was used
to negativity and disbelief. He was accustom to being met with hostility from his enemies.
But before now, he had never been in a position where he had to get along with the
people that were constantly insulting him. He had never before had to put up with those
who looked at him like he was something unpleasant on the bottom of their shoe for very
long.
Normally, when it came to such people, The Dr. was in, putting an end to their
tyrannous ways, foiling their evil schemes or simply getting one over on them with such
quickness it would make a Cheetah nod in an impressed fashion.
The fact that he wasn’t able to turn on his heels, look this Cornish bumpkin in the
eyes and tell him where to stick his contempt was really beginning to grate.
‘I’ll smack you again in a minute,’ Dan grunted.
‘Oh, yes, that’ll solve everything,’ The Dr. humphed. ‘Yes, let us not attempt to resolve
anything calmly, rationally, peacefully, let’s just throw punches until one of us falls
down.’
‘It’d make me feel better,’ Dan retorted.
‘Strangely,’ Manhunter said with a smirk. ‘I think it would make me feel better too.’
‘You’re not helping!’ Jayne said, narrowing her eyes at the alien.
‘I know,’ Manhunter smiled. ‘I’m practicing being an annoyance. It’s a human quality
afterall. The Dr. is always telling me that I’ll appreciate humanity the more I mimic it.’
‘And is it working?’ The Dr. asked hopefully.
‘Not at all,’ Manhunter said with a grin. ‘But it’s nice to see that I’m having the desired
effect.’
‘What’s the matter then, Dan?’ Jayne asked the sulky fourth member of the party who
was staring around the dark forest with disdain.
‘Okay,’ Dan huffed. ‘I can get my head around time travel. Dodge already got me to
believe that it’s possible,’ Dan smiled at the mention of his partner’s name. ‘When I first
met him and he had no identification or anything, and he needed help to get birth
certificates and passports and junk, I thought he was some kind of immigrant trying to
fool me. He was cute so I didn’t argue.’
‘Passports,’ The Dr. said scratching his chin. ‘Huh, never thought of that.’
‘You left somebody from the forty-third century in two-thousand-nine,’ Dan said
pointedly. ‘How could you not think about paperwork?’
Manhunter raised an eyebrow. ‘I thought leaving people out of time would cause a
paradox.’
‘Normally yes,’ The Dr. replied quietly. ‘But if that person has no bearing on the place
they left and such little information on the future that they can have no impact
whatsoever then the chances of anything catastrophic occurring as so slim that they’re
utterly incalculable. Even for me.’
‘Back to my point, if we could,’ Dan said in an annoyed manner. ‘Is he always like this?’
He huffed at Jayne. ‘Do you ever actually get to the end of a conversation?’
‘You loose track eventually,’ Jayne shrugged.
‘I am interested to hear you point Dan,’ Manhunter prompted. ‘Really, fascinate me.’
‘Well,’ Dan said, folding his arms and pointing to the road sign. ‘Look at where we are!’
‘Alton village,’ The Dr. nodded. ‘On our way to Alton Towers. What’s wrong with that?’
‘It’s a theme park,’ Dan huffed.
‘Ah, it will be a theme park, one day,’ The Dr. said, poking the air with his finger. ‘Right
now, it’s a stately manor.’
‘A haunted stately manor,’ Dan retorted. He looked around the group expectantly. ‘Isn’t
anybody going to say there’s no such things as ghosts?’
‘Oh, there’s no such things as ghosts, not in the sense you mean, anyhow,’ The Dr. said
as they pressed deeper into the woods. ‘But there’s plenty of life forms that bear a canny
resemblance. There’s whole communities of them living on this planet without you lot
even knowing about it. Spare for the odd few sightings … and that Acorah fellow … but
he’s mental so there’s no harm there.’
‘Well, what about the curse then?’ Dan interrupted.
‘Curse?’ Manhunter lifted an eyebrow.
‘Yeah!’ Dan said indignantly. ‘They made an attraction out of it and everything. About
how some old beggar cursed the … the Baron or the Earl or whatever, and whenever a
branch fell off a tree, somebody in his family would die.’
‘Superstitious nonsense,’ Jayne said, waving a hand.
‘What sort of tree was it?’ The Dr. said, stopping in his tracks.
‘Y’what?’ Dan frowned.
‘What-kind-of-tree?’
‘I dunno,’ Dan shrugged.
‘Think,’ The Dr.’s brow knitted.
‘I-don’t-remember!’ Dan said, gritting his teeth. ‘As if the type of tree matters!’
‘What are you thinking Dr.?’ Jayne asked worriedly. She had seen this kind of
behaviours in the other Dr.’s that she had travelled with. It meant there was a problem.
Something that The Dr. knew of or had dealt with before. Some sort of evil from his past.
His fear that he would have to face it again was evident in his dark eyes.
‘Nothing,’ The Dr. shrugged airily with a casual wave of his hand. ‘Probably nothing at
all,’ he shrugged again and proceeded off in the direction of the Towers. ‘Let’s get a move
on!’ He shouted back at them. ‘The big scary mansion is normally where all the fun’s
happening.’