Beth grunted, sat up groggily, and flailed her arm to try and shut the alarm clock up. She looked at the time: 7:30. Why couldn’t she have remembered to turn the stupid thing off? It was a weekend, she didn’t have plans. Oh well, she thought, I’m up now. Might as well make a day of it.
She shifted her feet off the edge of the bed and onto the carpet. Standing up, she shuffled over to the curtains, pulling them open. She immediately regretted this, as the sunlight blinded her. She took a few steps back, and yawned loudly. Grabbing her phone, Beth walked to the bedroom door and into the hallway. Still half asleep, she found it difficult to string words together as she texted Zoe.
To: Zoe Trip too Lodon today?
It was too early for spelling things correctly. She sent it anyway, knowing that pedantic Zoe would reply with all the mistakes she’d made. And probably a target for improvement. Beth winced as her bare feet touched the cold tiles of the kitchen floor. The air was chilly, and Beth wished she’d wrapped a jumper round her exposed shoulders. Pouring herself a bowl of Frosties, she felt her phone buzz.
From: Zoe *to *London But sure!
Beth sent Zoe a smiling emoji in return, to show that she’d received her message. Slowly chewing on her buttered crumpet (regardless of Zoe’s insistence that it just makes her look like a posh queen), she heard her sister Laurel walk in, with her fluffy slippers shuffling across the tiles.
“Morning, loser!” Laurel exclaimed cheerily, stuffing a bagel into the toaster. “So, what do you wanna do today?”
“Actually,” Beth started hesitantly, “I just texted Zoe. We’re going out to London.”
Laurel stared at her. “Wait a second...you suggested an activity? It’s normally me who has to coax you to come out! How come you’re suddenly out there, doing things?”
Beth shrugged nonchalantly. “Dunno,” she said, “I guess I’m just used to them, that’s all.”
Laurel tutted, and waved the situation away, grabbing her toasted bagel and a tub of butter from the fridge before sauntering out.
“Whatever, Beth,” she called, “have fun!”
Zoe and Beth stood impatiently on the doorstep of Dan’s house. Zoe had already rung the doorbell, and was thinking of doing it again, when Chris appeared at the door, wearing a white T-shirt and a pair of boxers. He yawned, and then looked at them with wide eyes.
“What are you girls doing here? It’s, like, so early!” he said irritably.
Zoe grimaced. “Hello to you too. Glad to see you dressed for the occasion.” She glanced down at his pale legs. “Is Dan around? He hasn’t responded to our texts.”
“Who, the freak? He’s upstairs. In the shower probably,” Chris responded. He waited for a few seconds, expecting the girls to leave. When they didn’t, he sighed loudly. “Would you like to come in and wait for him?” he asked through gritted teeth.
“Thanks!” Beth said gratefully. They both followed him in, and then walked to the stairs. Chris stopped them.
“You guys seem to spend an awful lot of time around each other,” he slowly said.
“Yes. That’s what friends do,” Zoe retorted mockingly. “You wouldn’t know. Cos you spend all day at home in your pants.”
Chris awkwardly tried to cover up his bare legs. “Shut up.” He tried to sound intimidating, but failed. “What do you know, anyway? Go on then, go hang out with your boyfriend.” He stormed off down the hallway, leaving Beth and Zoe to giggle as they trudged up the stairs and into Dan’s bedroom.
Sitting on the bed, Zoe turned to Beth. “Shall we invite Melody to come with us today?”
“That would be really nice! But...would Sarah Jane let her?”
Zoe frowned, “Good point. But I’m sure she’d let her come with us. She trusts us.”
“To help stop murdering potatoes. Not to look after little girls who are wanted by evil space women in the busiest city in England,” Beth countered.
At that point, the door opened, and in walked Dan, wearing nothing but a towel around his waist. He looked at the giggling girls in shock.
“For God’s sake!” he yelled. “What are you two doing here?”
“Your brother let us in,” replied Zoe. “Come on, get some clothes on! We’re going out to London. Coming?”
Dan pondered for a second. His wet hair glistened.
“OK, fine. But give me some privacy to get dressed, eh?”
Beth nodded. “Of course. Come on Zoe.”
She stood up, pulling Zoe’s arm. Zoe, being mischievous, tried to pull the towel from Dan’s waist, but Dan managed to keep a hold of the towel - and his dignity - whilst Beth dragged the girl out of the bedroom.
Sarah Jane opened the front door to see her new teenage friends beaming up at her.
“Good morning! Do come in.” She gestured for the three of them to follow her into the front room, to which they obliged. They all perched on the sofa, whilst Sarah Jane instinctively began to pour some tea - she always seemed to have a pot ready.
“So, what can I do for you three?”
Dan started. “Well, we were wondering if Melody was around.”
Sarah Jane smiled. “Of course. Melody!” she called upstairs.
Zoe beamed. “Good. Because we were thinking about going up to London today, and we thought that maybe Melody would like to come with us?”
Sarah Jane’s face turned sour instantly, and Zoe instantly regretted what she’d said. But Sarah Jane didn’t have time to say anything, before Melody’s face popped round the door, wearing a pink fluffy dressing gown.
“Really? You’re inviting me out with you?” she smiled.
“No.” Sarah Jane was quick to interject. “Sorry, Melody. You can’t go out with them.”
Melody looked upset. “What? Why?”
“It’s too dangerous. You need to stay here with me.”
Dan tried to help Melody. “Aww, come on Sarah Jane! We’ll look after her!”
But Sarah Jane would not be moved. “Nope. I won’t risk it.”
Defiantly, Melody stood her ground, saying, “You know, you’re not my mum. I don’t need you to tell me what to do.”
Sarah Jane stopped. Melody was right, she wasn’t her mum. Sighing, she beckoned for Melody to come and sit next to her on the sofa. Melody gingerly sat beside her, her bare feet swinging in the air.
Sarah Jane put her arm around Melody, and spoke softly. “You came here for my protection, Melody. You’re right, I’m not your mother. But I am the one who is responsible for you. I just...I’ve looked after people like you before, you know. And it hasn’t always worked out so well. I’ve lost people like you. And...I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you too. I was going out of my mind when Kaagh kidnapped you-”
Melody looked up at Sarah Jane. “You won’t lose me, Sarah Jane. I can look after myself. And Beth, Dan and Zoe will be there too.”
Sarah Jane turned to see Beth, Dan, and Zoe smiling at her and nodding. She sighed, “I just… I have a duty to protect you.”
“I know,” Melody said. “And I’m very grateful for it. I really need someone like you in my life.”
Sarah Jane smiled. She wanted to let Melody go out and be free, just like she had with Luke and Sky, but that had led to some disastrous incidents. And what if Kovarian turned up? Would three teenagers be able to stop her from taking Melody away? This inner conflict was not going anywhere, so Sarah Jane made a decision.
“Fine. Fine. But I need you back by four this afternoon, got it?”
Zoe scowled. “Six.”
“Deal,” Beth interrupted, dragging Zoe and Dan away before Sarah Jane could change her mind. “We’ll see you in ten minutes, Melody?”
Melody nodded, beaming from ear to ear. She turned and hugged Sarah Jane tightly.
“Thank you, Sarah Jane. I’d be happy, you know that?”
Sarah Jane looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“If you were my mum. I’d be happy.”
A smile formed on Sarah Jane’s lips. “Oh, Melody. That’s so sweet. Now come along. Your friends are waiting for you.”
Big Ben chimed eleven times. Melody looked up at it in awe. She’d never seen a clock tower like it before. The loud chimes of the bell made her tingle. She tugged on Dan’s sleeve.
“What is it?” she asked. “That noise?”
Dan looked over. “Huh? Oh, Big Ben? It’s a bell, inside the tower. It rings every hour, so that people know the time.”
“The time?” Melody asked. “Do people not know the time?”
“Well, probably, but…” Dan trailed off. Why did they need a tower to tell them the time? Everyone has phones or watches. This existential crisis left him speechless. “Good point,” he managed.
Zoe laughed at Dan’s speechlessness, but Beth was taking no notice. She loved London. All the sights, the iconic skyline. Big Ben, Canary Wharf, the Globe. And it wasn’t just the landmarks. It was the people. Everyone was always rushing about everywhere. Somewhere to go, someone to see. It made Beth feel small. Like she wasn’t just an individual, rather one cog in a grand machine of lives. It made her feel important; if just one cog were to move out of place, then the whole mechanism would cease to function. She was needed in the grand scheme of life.
And all of these people had their own individual lives, their own feelings, thoughts, stories. Beth sometimes forgot that the world didn’t revolve around her. That everyone else in the world had lives just as complex and intricate as her own. But being in London, surrounded by the masses of people, young, old, fat, thin, black, white...it made her remember her place in the Universe.
Suddenly, Beth was pulled out of her thoughts by Zoe, who was tugging at her shoulder.
“Beth, Beth! Are you even listening?”
“Huh?” Beth asked. “Sorry, I was just thinking-”
“Look!” Zoe cried urgently. “In the sky!”
Beth looked up, and couldn’t believe her eyes. In the sky, a large circular gap between the clouds had been created, through which the blue could be seen, clear as day. And suddenly, small clouds, perfectly spherical, started to appear and disappear, cascading through the gap in the clouds like magical raindrops.
“What the hell is that?” Beth asked incredulously.
“I don’t know!” Zoe replied. “How do you get perfect sphere clouds?!”
Beth and Zoe looked at Dan, who responded only with a look of shock.
“Wha- how am I supposed to know?” he spluttered.
“Because you got a B in the Geography exam last week,” Zoe replied matter-of-factly, as if it should be clear to him.
“The Geography exam didn’t cover weird circle clouds!” Dan shouted back.
They looked up again at the clouds, which were continuing to form as they dropped slowly like feathers towards the ground, but dissipating before they reached the surface.
Melody looked up worriedly, “Is this...aliens again?”
Zoe looked down at her. She promised Sarah Jane she’d be responsible for her, but right now she didn’t have a clue what was going on. She patted Melody on the back in an attempt to seem like she was in control.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be alright,” she said soothingly. “Maybe we should check it out.”
“Is that wise?” Dan asked. “We said we’d look after Melody, make sure she wouldn’t get into trouble-”
Zoe interrupted. “But we have to find out what’s going on! We might have to stop some aliens again-”
“Zoe, stop. We’re not alien fighters. We’re schoolkids.” Dan looked at her with a serious expression on his face. “We stopped Kaagh, I know. But we have to do as we’re told, and we’ve been told to look after Melody.”
“To hell with what we’ve been told!” Zoe snapped. “What if it’s dangerous? There are hundreds - thousands - of people here right now. Look at them, children, babies...mothers. I’m not just going to stand around if their lives could be at risk!”
And with that, she took off towards the still-falling clouds.
Beth sighed. Dan looked at her for suggestions, “What do we do?”
Beth toyed with the idea of leaving her. Dan was right, their first priority was to take care of Melody. Then again, if Zoe found something dangerous and alien, she’d need help. And they were the only people who’d be able to support her. After all, who else had had encounters with aliens from another galaxy? They’d stopped Kaagh together. If Zoe was going to do anything, she’d need their backup.
She turned to Dan, “Zoe needs us.”
Dan was surprised by Beth’s suggestion, “You actually think we should follow her into the possibly-alien, probably-dangerous, most-likely-scary situation?”
Beth looked down at Melody, who was staring at the clouds nervously. Then she looked Dan in the eye, and repeated, “Zoe needs us.”
Thoughts flashed across Dan’s mind. He understood exactly what Beth was saying. She did need them. He hesitantly nodded at Beth, grabbed Melody’s hand, and ran off in pursuit of Zoe, followed swiftly by Beth. He still had a whole load of emotions swimming in his mind, telling him to run away, to protect Beth, to stop. But overriding them were the three words that kept ringing in his ears. The words that showed him that, above all else, their friendship came first.
Zoe needs us.
Sarah Jane paced up and down. She didn’t know what to do with herself in the absence of all of her friends. There was Gita, but, to be honest, she wasn’t really in the mood for that kind of soliloquy this early in the morning. She sat down, and pondered to herself. Are the kids alright? Is anything happening? Am I wrong for letting Melody out? Should I have gone with them?
She thought to herself. She knew what she could do to give the kids that extra bit of protection. She shouted aloud into the empty room: “13-B-R!”
The TV screen lit up and filled with colourful kaleidoscopic patterns. Sentinel spoke with a tired voice. “Yes, Sarah Jane?”
“Sentinel, can you keep an eye on the kids for me please? They’re in London at the moment, but I’m worried that something might happen.”
“Worrying as always, Sarah Jane?” Sentinel asked.
“Listen, if I wanted to have my life choices questioned by a machine, I’d have kept the tin dog,” Sarah Jane snapped. Then she regained her composure. “Can you just...transfer your consciousness over there? Onto one of their phones?”
“I will try and locate them, and split my consciousness between you and them,” Sentinel duly agreed. And with that, the screen shut down back to black.
Sarah Jane sighed. What did she used to do? Before Beth, Dan and Zoe? Before Rani and Clyde? Before Luke and Maria? What did she do before she started getting all these kids in danger?
She probably drank a lot of tea. She went to switch the kettle on.
Zoe arrived at Trafalgar Square. Above them, the spherical clouds were still fading in and out as they fell to the ground slowly, like they were weightless. Zoe couldn’t understand what was going on. Her mind raced as she tried to make sense of what was happening. She was a writer. She knew about motives, reasons, backstories. Why would aliens create weird meteorological phenomena? Because they want to invade? No, no one advertises an invasion. Because they want us to notice then? Because they want to strike fear into us. To let us know that they’re coming. But if they were coming, why would they let us know they’re here? Does that mean they’ve already arrived? Thoughts whizzed through her head.
Beth, Dan and Melody caught up to her, panting.
“Oh, so you finally decided to come with?” she asked dryly.
“Well, if you’re gonna be rude, we’ll just leave you to it,” Dan responded sarcastically.
Zoe turned to them, “I was just thinking. This must be aliens, right?”
Beth looked at Melody uneasily, not wanting to frighten her. But she looked back up at Zoe, and gingerly nodded.
“So,” Zoe continued, “if they’re aliens, it means they want one of two things. One: they want to invade. Two: they want our attention.”
“Three: they want our help?” Beth added. Bless Beth, Zoe thought. Sarah Jane was growing on her.
“Nice thought, Beth, but I don’t think this is how people ask for help. An invasion then? But if you were trying to invade, why would you advertise? So that rules out an invasion. Which means they want our attention. They’re already here, and they’re showing us what they can do.”
Dan looked up. “Well, they can’t do very much.”
The girls turned to him. “What?”
“Well, look,” he replied. “All they’re doing is making some fancy clouds in the sky. Not particularly dangerous, is it?”
Zoe went to argue (it was practically a reflex), but stopped herself. “Good point, actually. Why show us that all you can do is make a pretty pattern in the sky?”
“Unless...” Melody spoke quietly, almost whispering. “Maybe it’s not an advertisement. Maybe...it’s landing lights.”
Almost as soon as she had said this, the clouds suddenly disappeared, leaving only a gap in the sky. Lord Nelson suddenly began to glow golden, as if it were being flooded with electricity. The light seemed to travel through the bronze figure, and then disappeared. Then, the lions at the base of the Column began to glow, before they faded too. The clouds then dissipated, leaving no sign that there was ever anything wrong. Zoe looked around. Everyone was walking on like nothing had happened. They must have thought it was some freak weather thing, she thought to herself.
“It wasn’t an advertisement for us,” she slowly realised, “it was an advertisement for them. They needed to pinpoint where they were going to arrive. They’re here now.”
“They’re here?” Dan asked.
“Think about it.” Zoe looked at her friends. “Nelson’s Column? It glowed! That’s not normal. That was some sort of alien consciousness travelling down to Earth. They needed something tall enough for them to bridge a gap between space and the Earth. Like a transmitter.”
Beth understood. “And they needed clear entry to it. That’s why they cleared a space through the clouds.”
Zoe nodded. “Exactly. The aliens are here, and it’s up to us to stop them.”
“It’s really not.”
The voice in Zoe’s pocket made them all jump. Slowly, Zoe reached for her phone, and when she took it out, she recognised the familiar swirling pattern. She sighed.
“Sentinel. What are you doing here? How long have you been listening?”
“Long enough,” Sentinel replied matter-of-factly. “Sarah Jane told me to keep an eye on you four. And I’m glad I did. It’s not up to you to save the world. Even I don’t recognise those energy readings, and that means not-good news. It's beyond my extensive knowledge, which means you kids are out of your depth.”
Zoe scowled. “Don’t treat us like children.”
“You are children!” Sentinel snapped. “Don’t get me wrong, you’re very capable children. But if you’re going to have any chance of stopping this threat, then you’re going to need Sarah Jane.”
Zoe was about to respond (and it wasn’t going to be a very eloquent point), but Beth put her hand on her shoulder.
“Zoe. Sentinel’s got a point. We are just kids,” she said softly.
“We’re not just kids. Think about the things we’ve seen, the things we’ve done.”
Dan cut in now. “I know. You’re right. But how did we do those things? With Sarah Jane’s help, that’s how. Sentinel’s right, if we want to help out and save the world, we’re going to need Sarah Jane by our side.”
Zoe glanced at Melody. She was trying to hide it, but Zoe could see the fear in Melody’s face. It was a different kind of fear to her own, though. It wasn’t like she was afraid of the unknown. It was like she was used to alien encounters, and that was what filled her with dread. Zoe couldn’t work out what it was about Melody, but she was ever so slightly different to them. The way she spoke, the way she handled herself, the way she looked at aliens from another planet. Almost as if she wasn’t...human.
Zoe decided she wouldn’t let Melody get into any unnecessary harm. She’d already run away from her responsibilities once. She wouldn’t do it a second time. She turned to the others.
“Fine.” She nodded. “Let’s go back.”
“Finally,” said Sentinel, “you’re all being sensible for once.”
The team followed Dan to Victoria Station, but when Zoe saw the sign outside, she pulled Dan back.
“Dan! Why have you taken us to Victoria? It’s closed, remember? We have to go to Sloane Square!”
Dan remembered. “Oh yeah…how did I forget that?”
Beth tugged at Zoe’s sleeve. “No, but look! It’s open now!”
She pointed at the doorway, which was wide open; all the lights were on, and there was no sign that there was any building work going on, as they had been told by the tannoy voice on their way up. A man was standing by the arch, wearing an attendant’s uniform.
Zoe looked confused. “Sentinel?” she asked her phone. “Has it reopened?”
“I regret, I have no information about the status of Victoria station,” he replied.
Zoe scoffed incredulously. “Fat lot of good you are.”
“Watch your tone, young lady,” Sentinel warned. “I’m old enough to be your great-great-great-great-great-”
“Yes, we get it, thank you,” Zoe interrupted. “Let’s just go ask that guy.”
They sped over to the archway, as Zoe stuffed a protesting Sentinel into her pocket. Zoe cleared her throat, and the attendant turned. His face was kind of artificial, she noticed. Like he was smiling, but it was a fake smile that hid other emotions underneath. Been there, she thought to herself.
“Excuse me,” she asked politely, “is this station open now? Only, it wasn’t a couple of hours ago-”
“The station is now open,” the man said with a tinny, slightly robotic voice. He grinned, baring his teeth, tipped his smart hat, and gestured for them to walk through. “Please enjoy your ride.”
Zoe looked puzzled. This man was odd. Nevertheless, she gratefully thanked him, and beckoned her friends to follow her into the station. They rushed in, eagerly wanting to get away from the weird attendant.
As the foursome disappeared into the station, the attendant turned. Moving swiftly, he brought down the metal barrier that blocked the archway and locked it. Throwing the key into a nearby drain, the attendant then proceeded to lift his hat off his head. And with that, the man vanished into thin air, leaving only a pile of attendant’s clothes and a dusty hat, lying on the ground.
The gang walked into the open space, expecting it to be full of people, rushing around and catching trains.
It was completely empty.
“What’s going on…” Beth trailed off. The lights were flickering on and off; the air was frosty, in complete contrast to the warm summer weather outside. This was not what they had seen through the archway. The whole station was derelict and dark. Dan looked around. He had never seen Victoria station like this, and he came here a lot. It was chilling, seeing it completely empty. He stared up at the metal struts above them. He didn’t really get time to appreciate the architecture when it was full of people, but now, it made the building feel dark and gothic.
“It’s empty,” Dan thought out loud.
Zoe looked at him. “Thanks, Mr Obvious. That man clearly lied to us. But why?”
“We should go talk to him,” Beth suggested. “I knew there was something slightly odd about him.”
Nodding, Zoe walked off to the archway. “Come on.”
They marched behind Zoe to the archway...which was now blocked off. The metal barrier stood between them and the rest of the world. Zoe cursed, a little too loud. She rattled against the barrier, trying to get it open. Pulling against it, she realised it was locked from the outside. She cursed again.
“It’s a trap,” she informed the others. “That attendant…”
“So what do we do?” Melody asked nervously.
Zoe pondered, “We look for another way out. This way.”
She grabbed Melody’s hand, and the four of them walked through the eerily silent station, their footsteps echoing loudly in their ears. Dan hated this. The silence. Silence, he always thought, could be deafening.
They had nearly reached the other exit, when they realised that it too was locked. They started to run towards it, hoping that they might be able to break open the barrier, but they were stopped dead in their tracks.
In front of them, three ghostly figures appeared, almost as if on a gust of wind. The foursome looked in terror at the three tall figures. They wore long blood-red robes, and had their hands - they assumed they had hands underneath the robes - pressed together in front of them, like they were praying. They had hoods up around their heads, and on their faces lay ceramic masks, with black-and-white smiling faces on them. They reminded Beth of geishas, except geishas weren’t nearly this terrifying. They had red lips painted over the cracked ceramic, and smudged mascara painted around the eyes, but only blackness could be seen through the eye holes. The smiles were malicious. It was like they were mocking them, Zoe thought to herself.
The three figures tilted their head in synchrony. Melody hid behind Zoe, who gulped and took a step forward, trying to assume an air of confidence.
“Who are you?” she asked them, trying not to show the fear in her voice.
The heads tilted back slowly, and they all spoke in unison - was it three voices or one? Zoe couldn’t tell. It was like the voice was being transmitted right into her head.
“We are the Choosers. You have been chosen.”
Zoe gulped. “Chosen how? For what?”
Zoe tried to seem confident. She stood up straight and clenched her fists. “No I’m not. I’m not afraid. I’m not scared of you.”
“You are afraid.”
“I’m not scared!”
“Your fear. It tastes...good.”
This sent a chill through Beth’s spine. They could taste fear?
“You are afraid. It tastes good. You have been chosen. You will lose your fear.”
Zoe began to take a step back. As much as she didn’t like to admit it, she was scared. Really scared. She rejoined Beth, Dan, and Melody.
“You… taste fear?” she asked.
“We will take your fear. We will take your souls. We choose you.” The Choosers began to take a slow step forward. Dan immediately pulled Beth and Zoe back. They began to run, with Melody still grabbing Zoe’s arm. The Choosers stretched out their arms menacingly, but the foursome turned and ran in the opposite direction. Their loud footsteps were ringing in their ears now. They realised they had nowhere to go. In the vast empty space, they had nowhere to hide.
Thinking on her feet, Zoe quickly turned and jumped over a turnstile onto the platform. Beth, Dan, and Melody followed suit, and they turned, looking at the Choosers, who had already changed their course and were heading in their direction. They stopped at the turnstiles. They pushed against it, but it wouldn’t budge. Zoe felt a glimmer of hope, but it was soon squashed when the figure in front raised a ghostly glove, with pointed talons sprouting from the fingertips, and waved it over the turnstile. It instantly unlocked, and the Choosers sauntered through.
Dan gulped and tried to make a joke of it. “That’s clever. How are you doing that, is it the glove? Y’know, I could do with that when I’ve forgotten my Oyster card. Does it work on buses too?”
Beth rolled her eyes, and pulled Dan away. They ran down the platform, and realised suddenly that there was nowhere to go. They had reached a dead end: the platform sank into the ground ahead of them. They turned around, and saw that the Choosers were advancing on them slowly. Quickly, Zoe ran to the empty train that was next to the platform, and pressed the button to open the doors. To her delight, the doors gradually opened, letting Zoe jump onto the train. Beth, Dan and Melody quickly followed, stepping onboard. Once they were all on, Dan slammed the button, and the doors closed.
“Those doors won’t stop them,” Melody cried.
Zoe looked around. There must be somewhere they could go. Through the window on the other side of the train, she could see another train next to it. She ran over and opened the doors, so she was face-to-face with the other train.
“Hold on to me, Beth!” she called. Beth looked at her in shock.
“You- you can’t be serious!”
Zoe looked at Beth. Behind them, the Choosers had already reached the doors.
“Listen, if I can reach the doors on that other train, then we can jump into that one and onto the platform on the other side. Trust me, this will work!”
Dan tried to stop her. “Zoe, you’re crazy!”
“Yep,” Zoe agreed, tying her hair back so it wouldn’t get in her face. “Now, Beth. Hold on to me.”
Beth weighed up the possible outcomes of this exercise. One: she holds on to Beth, Zoe leans out, presses the button, they all jump into the other train. Two: she accidentally lets go of Zoe, dropping her onto the tracks below. Three: Zoe does press the button, but one of them doesn’t make the jump and falls onto the tracks below. Four: they do nothing, and the Choosers attack them and eat their souls.
Weighing up the pros and cons had got her nowhere, but the rush of adrenaline pushed Beth over to Zoe, and she gripped her arm tightly. Zoe slowly leant out of the train, trying to reach the side of the other train. Her hand scraped the button. She reached out her arm until she felt like it would burst out from her socket. Finally, she managed to push the button, and the doors slid open. Zoe delighted in her achievement - but the smile was quickly wiped off her face when she heard the doors behind her opening.
The Choosers were on board.
Zoe made a quick leap over the gap, and onto the second train. She beckoned for Beth to follow her, which she did.
“Dan! Melody! Come on!” Beth yelled. Dan pushed Melody to the edge, but Melody immediately stiffened up. She couldn’t make that gap, it was far too big.
“Melody! Jump, quickly!” Dan shouted desperately.
Melody protested. “I- I can’t!”
Dan was running out of time. The Choosers were right in front of him, and he had nowhere to run. In a desperate attempt, he picked up Melody and passed her over to Zoe, who managed to catch her. Then they all moved out of the way, as Dan leapt over, rolling onto the floor of the train. Beth quickly pressed the button to close the doors, and Dan stood up, dusting himself off. Zoe had already hopped off the train and onto the platform, and was helping Melody off.
“Quickly,” she said, with urgency in her voice. “We have to keep moving.”
Beth and Dan followed them, racing down the platform. They joined Zoe, who already had one leg over the turnstile. She hopped back over, and the others did the same. They sprinted back to the barrier at the entrance, and Zoe got out her phone.
“Sentinel, can you unlock the gate?”
The phone remained stuck on the photo of the three of them that Zoe had chosen as her lock screen.
“Oh, wait,” she remembered, “there’s a code. Melody, what’s the code?”
Melody wracked her brain, trying desperately to remember the code that Sarah Jane had used so frequently to summon her faithful electronic friend.
Finally, she thought of the code. “13-B-R!”
Zoe repeated it into her phone microphone. Still, nothing happened.
“Why is it not working?” she yelled in exasperation. “Sentinel!”
The photo on her screen slowly faded to black. Zoe screamed in frustration.
“Maybe they’re blocking the signal?” Beth thought. “Sentinel said that they were bad news.”
Zoe nodded. “Okay,” she started, “we’ll need to find another way out.”
“But where can we go?” Dan exclaimed, “they’ve locked all the exits!”
The four of them all thought. Then, almost exactly at the same time, they all realised where their one form of escape lay.
“The Tube station!” they all cried simultaneously. Then they started to dash towards the entrance to the Tube platforms. Melody dared not look behind her. She didn’t want to see the creepy masked faces again, or think about how close they were to her. And yet, it was like she could feel them right behind her. Their hands hovering by her shoulder,their breath making the hairs on her neck stand on end. She could feel them next to her...they were closer than ever.
“Melody! This way!” Beth’s voice snapped her out of it. She quickly ran down the steps, making sure not to trip over. Zoe, on the other hand, completely bypassed this carefulness, and slid down the railing of the currently broken escalator. As she slid down, she was suddenly plunged into near darkness, as she reached the lower level. Very few lights were on, and Dan stumbled as he reached the last step.
“Which way?” he whispered. Zoe tilted her head, gesturing for them to move towards the platform for the District line. After all, she thought, that’s what they needed to get on. With any luck, the Tubes might still be running to this station. They all sprang over the turnstiles again (this really was a workout, Dan thought to himself - he was going to get toned!), and Zoe glanced back, seeing the three Choosers gliding down the stairs. Now they were in darkness, they were even more terrifying. The deep red of their painted smile was just visible through the blinking lights in the ceiling. That smile...it shook Zoe to the core. It was like they were laughing at her. Smiling...because they knew they had won.
The team darted through the seemingly endless labyrinth of corridors, past shadowy advertisements for soft drinks and novels. Any other day, Zoe would be intrigued as to the plots of these books, but for now, she just had to keep running.
Don’t stop, she told herself over and over, don’t stop or the monsters will get you.
Dan turned left onto the platform that would lead them to Ealing Broadway, the others quickly following behind him. The platform itself was even darker than the corridors, illuminated only by a single flickering light hanging from the ceiling. Apart from the low humming of the electrified tracks and their echoing footsteps, there was not a sound to be heard. They all stopped, trying to catch their breath. Zoe looked up at the sign hanging from the ceiling, to see if there were any Tubes due. But as she looked up, a wave of despair fell across her face.
The screen was black.
“No!” she shouted. “There’s nothing coming!”
Thinking about it, Dan sighed. “The station’s not really open, is it? It’s just what the man told us, and he was clearly just a pawn of the Choosers or whatever their name is.”
“There’s got to be a way out!” Melody cried desperately.
Zoe looked around in distress. They couldn’t die here. She had told Sarah Jane she’d look after Melody. And her friends were here too. They’d followed her into danger. She should’ve turned away when she saw the clouds. She shouldn’t have burst into things. Shouldn’t have let her recklessness get in the away of her responsibilities. And now she was going to pay the price. She hadn’t just killed herself, she’d killed her three best friends too.
Behind her, she heard the soft sound of the Choosers’ robes swishing against the cold tiled floor. She turned, and saw the three figures, their glowing black eyes, staring into her soul.
The three figures advanced on the helpless children, with low whispering voices filling their heads.