Whispers echoed all around her. Fragments of memories swirling around her like an uncontrollable tornado. She gingerly reached to touch one, to unlock a memory, but retracted her hand at the last minute.
Maria, Luke Clyde, Rani, Mr Smith… Sky… all of them were gone now. Sarah Jane couldn’t remember a time where she had felt more alone than she did now.
Laughter: dark, boisterous, reverberating all around her. It was a one of a kind type of laughter, one that could only belong to a specific...thing. There was simply no way to describe something as vulgar as the Trickster using words from anywhere in the galaxy.
Sarah Jane could suddenly hear knocking. Was it normal to hear knocking in dreams? She wasn’t quite sure. She looked around the dark, blank expanse, like a canvas waiting to be painted on, trying to identify some sort of escape when...
It happened. She woke up and completely forgot what she was dreaming about. Scratching her head for a second, she remembered the insistent knock and clambered out of bed, grabbing the sonic lipstick off the bedside table and pulling on her night gown. Suppressing a gregarious yawn, she straightened her posture and tiptoed down the stairs.
This house was different than her Bannerman Road one. It wasn’t quite as big and it didn’t feel like home. If anything, it felt like she was on an alien planet. She never realised she would miss that house as much as she did. Foxgrove was a nice enough village. Sleepy, quiet, but there was always something happening in the shadows.
Keeping her sonic lipstick close at hand, Sarah Jane quietly moved towards the door. She put her hand on the door knob, wielding her lipstick in front of her, lid still on the tip. Opening the door gingerly, she moved her thumb over the lid to pop it off as quickly as possible. She was ready for combat, if anybody asked for it, ready to unleash a high pitched squeal that would likely deafen them if they got close-
Sarah Jane stopped her rambling and squinted in the dark haze of night. There was nobody nearby. The fence door wasn’t open, and Sentinel hadn’t alerted her of anything.
“Hello,” a tiny voice whispered, startling Sarah Jane. She looked down to see a little girl looking up at her, curiosity capturing her expression instead of fear or confusion. Kids these days. The girl looked around for a second before turning back to her. “Help me.”
Sarah Jane didn’t much any time to react as the girl collapsed into her arms. She took in her dishevelled appearance. Her blonde hair was ratty and messy. Her clothes were torn and dirty, and the poor girl looked starved to death. Surveying her surroundings briefly, she gently moved the girl into the house.
Beth sipped her Coke, annoyed it wasn’t Fanta and trying to mentally hide herself so as to not get dragged into Zoe and Dan’s latest squabble so early in the morning. She wasn’t quite sure how they had reached this point, it had been a normal walk to school from Zoe’s road- which they had dubbed “Smith Street” - when suddenly everything erupted into teasing, bickering and arguments.
“Admit that you’re wrong, and we can let this go.” Zoe hissed as they trudged up the stairs to the form room, which wasn’t as sexy and edgy as that Coal Hill lot kept claiming it was.
“I can’t admit anything if I’m not wrong,” Dan, the ever arrogant boy that he was, waggled his finger in the air to further his point. Beth remembered when she wasn’t fond of Dan at the beginning when she moved to Foxgrove from Manchester, but, after meddling from the temptress of destruction, they learned to become best friends. “You should know, Smithy.”
Zoe looked like she was about to explode, which wasn’t often a good thing. It often meant she would use her friends as punching bags. Beth just chalked it up to all those years of self-defence classes she took with her cousins. Fortunately, somebody came like a saving grace to end Zoe’s temper from going catastrophically nuclear.
Unfortunately, it was lady queen bee herself, Diana Jones. Zoe and Dan were too embroiled in their argument to notice her sudden halt and Beth could only wince as Diana’s loyal minion tripped Zoe over.
“Who left this antique carpet here?” Diana asked with a crinkle of her nose. Dan groaned, moving backwards slightly to avoid the inevitable outcome. “It could have fleas.”
Zoe lay motionless on the ground for several seconds, before using the palms of her hands to launch herself off the ground. She used the momentum to spin around and shove Diana onto the already abused ground, absolutely fuming.
Dan watched the fallout in amusement, wishing he had popcorn with him while Beth sighed, eyeing one of Diana’s minions as she tried to approach Zoe. The tension in the room was palpable, and they were starting to draw a crowd who were insistently crying out “beef!” and “fight!” as if they wanted the teacher’s attention.
“Break it up!” a voice suddenly boomed, causing everyone to practically jump up to the school ceiling. Everybody turned to see Chris glaring daggers at all of them. The crowd quickly dispersed, leaving the group to their own devices. The minions dragged a cursing Diana to her feet and shuffled away to whatever place it was they pampered themselves before form.
“You just can’t stay out of trouble, can you?” Finn - who magically appeared out of nowhere - asked as he approached Zoe, who was already starting to calm down. “You’re lucky we were around to stop the fight before it ever started, otherwise you could’ve been in detention tonight.”
“Yeah, and it should be a man’s job to help the lady.” Chris smirked over at a scowling Dan. Finn rolled his eyes, Beth crushed her empty can in her hand and Zoe looked for the nearest projectile to hit him with. “Of course, my brother isn’t that much of a man.”
“I doubt you would know, seeing as you’re still living in the Stone Age.” Zoe growled from behind the older boy. Dan’s eyes widened and Chris whirled around to face the offending girl.
“Mind your business, Smith.” He growled lowly. “You look a right fool.”
“Takes one to know one.” Zoe growled back, looking ready to pounce. Silence washed over the group as they waited to see who would strike first. How was it they were dragged into two fights in less than ten minutes?
“Aw, there’s so much bad karma in this area, man.”
That very sentence surprised everybody so much they forgot the fight entirely and turned to see Laurel with a cage in her hand. Beth pushed past everybody as gaped at her twin sister.
“What the hell are you doing? Why are you suddenly a hippie?!” She exclaimed before gesturing towards the makeshift cage in her hand. “And why are you carrying Mr Nibble’s cage?”
“Haven’t you heard?” Laurel asked rhetorically, completely ignoring the rest of the group and smirked. “Hippie’s the in-thing. Rumour has it that it’ll be the in-thing ‘til 2016 at least!”
“This is why I don’t believe in those rubbish horoscope magazines.” Beth rolled her eyes. Laurel scowled and waved her hand in dismissal.
“Well, you wouldn’t know, would you?” She shoved the surprisingly full cage in the unsuspecting Beth’s hands. “Mum said that you have to take care of the rodent while she’s at work today cause I’m going shopping.”
“Okay, fine, dudette.” Laurel compromised. Beth simply shook her head, earning a scowl from the twin sibling. “Listen, the point is that I’m going shopping today. End of story.”
“Fine.” Beth growled, a frown marring her face. She moved away from her sister and joined Zoe and Dan’s side as the bell started ringing, signalling they needed to hurry to the form room.
“Look, to be fair, it’s not like you guys do much,” Laurel shrugged helplessly. “I mean, all you three ever do is hang out with each other. Not really productive, is it?”
All three of their respective siblings walked away on that sour note, not wanting to be late to form. The three shared a perfunctory, indignant jut of their chins before simultaneously making their way to form.
Sarah Jane sat in her favourite armchair, tapping her fingers absentmindedly, waiting for the little girl to wake up. Logic had urged her to contact the police, but her heart had led her to the conclusion that may not be the best idea. Not until she had heard the girl’s story.
“Gonna sit there all day?”
The voice was that of a human male, with robotic undertones. Sarah Jane fished her phone out of her pocket. A kaleidoscope of colours swirled across her screen. Sentinel.
“If I have to,” Sarah Jane confirmed. “what can you tell me about her?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean nothing. She doesn’t exist. There’s no indication of birth records,” Sentinel explained. Sarah Jane straightened in her seat. That was interesting.
“Keep searching,” Sarah Jane commanded, looking at the little girl. Her chest rose and fell in her slumber. Sarah Jane leaned back in the chair, contemplative.
Dan scuffed the ground with his shoe.
“You’re being irrational,” Zoe pointed out as they walked towards second period, English. For a girl who wanted to be an author or journalist - or maybe both - one day, Zoe really hated her English classes.
“Says you.” Dan grumbled, avoiding her gaze.
“Yeah, says me,” Zoe scowled, crossing her arms. “Are you seriously taking what Laurel said to heart?”
“Well, she’s right, isn’t she?” Dan stopped and turned to face her, his eyes wild with agitation. “I mean, all I ever seem to do is play games, fail at school and get bullied by my brother, repeatedly,”
Zoe stared at him for a few seconds. Dan would often do this, carry out the self-blame game after he dropped the teasing facade and happy-go-lucky personality, usually when he was exposed to Chris.
Luckily, she had enough experience to pull him out of his momentary solitude of isolation.
“Well, I know you never really talked to her, but come on! You’re taking the words of a girl dressed as an aussie-hippie to heart.” Zoe threw her hands dramatically in the air for emphasis. Dan smiled slightly at her melodrama.
His smile quickly evaporated, however, when he noticed something behind Zoe. He quickly gripped her arm tightly and pointed at it in fear.
“Do you see that?” He asked fearfully. He wasn’t quite sure how to describe it. It had a bulbous head with a smart black suit, its eye sockets practically empty barring two small irises staring right at him. Dan had never felt so afraid.
And, just like that, he forgot his fear when someone blocked his path of the mysterious creature.
“See what?” Zoe asked, turning to where he was looking. Dan wondered why he was looking in that specific direction. He wasn’t a second ago...was he?
“Dunno,” He shrugged. “Anyway, what were you saying?”
Zoe scowled at him, incredulous that even Dan had the mental capacity to listen to her rambling before promptly forgetting. He usually did that when she opened her mouth to speak. Deciding to get him back the way she enjoyed the most, Zoe shoved him roughly, but not enough that he fell on the ground.
“Oi, what was that for?” He whined, rubbing his shoulder. Zoe rolled her eyes.
“And you have cooties,” He stuck his tongue out and, for the briefest of a second, he looked like a petulant child. Zoe smiled fondly, messing up his hair before running off, laughing as he spluttered and tried to fix his hair.
It was lunch time when it happened.
Beth and Dan were waiting for Zoe to trudge out of English class following the ridiculous, but sadly foreseen, event where she punched Lee Michaels in the face for his weird role playing tendencies that always included her. Miss Janine had been anything but amused. Beth never really met Lee, but Dan was familiar with him and his weird tendencies. Finally, Zoe appeared, with a metaphorical storm cloud over her head. Beth crossed her arms and said nothing, not wanting to be punched as well. Dan, however, wasn’t as considerate and took to firing off a streams of questions that did get him a punch in the shoulder in the end.
“Brat.” Zoe mumbled as Dan rubbed his shoulder for the second time that day. Beth winced as they walked to their favourite eating spot: the patch under the big oak tree just beyond the school perimeter. They always ate lunch together there, so Beth was thoroughly surprised to see it cordoned off to the general public. “Oh, that’s new.”
“What was that? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of my destroyed shoulder.” Dan grumbled. Zoe rolled her eyes and walked closer. Dan noticed this and grabbed her arm. “Woah, what are you doing?”
“I just want to see what’s up.” Zoe replied, shaking out of his grasp and moving towards the orange tape.
“Is this a good idea?” Beth asked, moving to join Zoe as she clambered under the tape. She stood up from the other side and splayed her hands with flourish.
“I don’t see why not. I’m not breaking and entering.”
“Er, it’s sealed off?” Dan pointed out as he joined her over the barrier.
“Yeah, and?” Zoe asked incredulously. Beth sighed and joined them behind the barrier.
“Okay, look, we’ll have a quick look around and then eat lunch, cos I’m hungry and I want to eat.” Beth raised her hands to placate the two.
“Sounds good to me.” Zoe shrugged before spinning on her heels and walking away. Beth and Dan shared an exasperated sigh before they moved to join her. They walked for a while. Zoe was inspecting the grass as if she would find something interesting or out of the blue while the other two trudged behind her, bored out of their minds.
“Zoe, there’s nothing here, let’s- oof!” the words escaped Dan’s lungs when he, along with Zoe and Beth, crashed into an invisible wall. The three recoiled in shock, rubbing their heads in bemusement.
“What just happened?” Beth inquired, her Manchester accent thickening in annoyance as she rubbed her head. “Feel like I just walked into a brick wall, and it bloody hurts!”
“I dunno,” Zoe admitted. She hated not knowing something, it made her feel inadequate at times. Once the pain in her forehead subsided, she raised the palm of her hand and ran it across the strange wall. “But it’s real.” “I could have told you that!” Dan whined. Beth reached over and slapped his arm to silence him, fixing him with a withering stare. She could be just as scary as Zoe if she wanted to be.
“It’s got a shape.” Zoe noted as she ran her hand along the invisible wall. Her trailing hand eventually touched something, and what appeared to be a door slid open. The trio of teenagers shared a cautious look before Zoe stepped inside.
“Zoe, what are you doing?” Beth hissed. Zoe dismissed her, examining her new surroundings. It was a hallway. A long, hollow hallway made of smooth grey metal that was cool to the touch. The corridor was dim and deathly quiet.
“Into the looking glass,” Zoe whispered, turning to her two friends. “Come on!”
“Are you mad?”
“Oh, hurry up!” Zoe growled, delving deeper in the dark ship. Dan and Beth shared a nervous glance, weighing out the pros and cons. Eventually, the excitement of exploring a new environment won and the pair quickly stepped into the ship.
“No way,” Dan breathed, eyeing his surroundings as he joined Zoe. Beth lagged behind, nervously watching as the door slid shut. She quickly turned around and hurriedly joined her friends.
Sarah Jane had exited the living room to rummage the kitchen for snacks. Her cupboards were almost empty. She didn’t need to buy as much food as she had to when she lived on Bannerman Road now that-
“Oh no you don’t,” Sarah Jane chided herself. Quickly grabbing a packet of biscuits, she navigated herself back to the living room. The first thing she noticed was that the girl was awake. The second thing she noticed was that the girl was looking at her plate of biscuits with a curious expression.
“I assume you know what these are?” Sarah Jane asked curiously, deciding to throw caution into the wind. The girl looked at her in confusion before she nodded slowly. “How did you find me?”
“I ran.” The girl replied simply, helping herself to a biscuit. Sarah Jane sat in her favourite armchair again, letting her nibble on a biscuit before pushing through with her tirade of questions.
“What do you mean?” She asked. “Why would you run, and who from?” The girl simply shrugged, so Sarah Jane decided to go with a different approach. “What’s your name?”
“Melody.” The girl replied, perking up slightly.
“And why did you run, Melody?”
“I don’t know. People were always killing them,” Melody explained, swinging her legs back and forth. “I’m not sure why, I just know that they do. I used the chance to escape and found myself here.”
“Yes, but who are ‘they’?” Sarah Jane implored, leaning in slightly, her journalistic instincts kicking in. A stagnant pause filled the air as Melody swung her legs back and forth, her eyebrows knitted together as if she was in deep thought.
“I don’t remember.” Melody shrugged, as if it were perfectly natural to forget your assailants.
“How can you not remember?” Sarah Jane asked incredulously.
“It’s hard,” Melody sighed. “I remember that they’re with me but I never remember what they look like. My head goes all fuzzy.”
Sarah Jane frowned, her mind already racing as she tried to identify aliens that used mind control and manipulation to control people from memory, but came up empty.
“You know there’s a reason you have me, don’t you?” Sentinel’s semi-robotic voice punctured the air. “For when you can’t remember or haven’t encountered creatures beyond your reckoning.”
Sarah Jane pulled her phone out of her pocket, ignoring Melody’s curious looks, opting to glare at the phone screen which was glowing a multitude of colours.
“Now is not the best time.” She growled, considering switching her phone off, but knowing he would just transfer to the television screen.
“What’s that?” Melody asked curiously, cocking her head to the side. Sarah Jane looked up at her, unable to think of the best solution to explain to the girl without giving away what Sentinel really was.
“Siri.” She finally answered after a moment of grappling for the perfect excuse. Melody stared at her, her brows crinkling in confusion. Sarah Jane observed the girl. There was something...different about her.
“Can you help me?” Melody suddenly asked, snapping Sarah Jane out of her thoughts.. “I don't want to go back.”
Sarah Jane looked at the girl in confusion. She had gotten arrested for child abduction before, granted, that was a planned operation, this was a child willingly asking to be hidden.
“Well, Melody, you have to understand,” Sarah Jane stuttered. “I can’t just hide you,” She eyed the girl’s dangerously thin stature, "But if they’re keeping you in this condition...”
“Oh, I don’t think that’s any of your concern.” A female voice groused. Sarah Jane jumped at the random voice. Her eyes were drawn to the TV where an uptight looking woman was staring at her. From what she could tell, the stranger was wearing a black suit and was sporting an eye patch. Her brown hair was wrapped in a tight bun and her eyes were steely. “Hello Miss Smith.” The woman spoke in cool, clipped tones, an air of professionalism about her. “I believe you have something that belongs to me.”
“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” Zoe whispered as the trio turned a corner in the expansive corridor. The further they travelled into their strange new environment, the colder they felt. Beth wrapped her blazer tightly around herself, her breath visible in front of her face.
“Look, Zoe, should we even be here? It’s freezing and there’s literally nothing to see!” Dan complained. Zoe pursed her lips, unwilling to admit that she agreed with him. She wanted to sigh, to say he was right and leave the place to finally have lunch, but she didn’t.
“Do you hear that?” Zoe whispered. Her mind was filled by a familiar soothing lullaby. A smooth, hypnotic rhythm that made her shoulders sag and her eyes droop. Beth listened, and immediately fell under the spell.
Dan strained his ears. “Hear what? Zoe? Beth?”
Zoe wasn’t listening. Her feet started moving, she couldn’t tell if it was willing or not, she didn’t care. Beth mimicked her, lured by the soft dulcet tones of a familiar voice. Their movements were sluggish, uncoordinated, almost purposeless.
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” Dan muttered nervously, walking by their side. He waved a hand in front of Beth’s face. “Are you guys even listening to me?”
The trio turned the corner and a metal door slid open. The contents of the room was obscured by an authoritative figure. It was dressed in a sharp black suit, but its head was bulbous, its sockets gouged deep into its eyelids. Whatever it was, it was effective in snapping Zoe and Beth out of their stupor. They recoiled in horror, moving to flee, to escape, but another creature blocked them.
The creature advanced, pushing the three intrepid teenagers further into the room, away from the sanctuary of safety.