The Motherhood Masquerade Part One Written by Peter Darwin
The words slipped through the night. They weren’t scary words. It wasn’t a scary voice. But somehow the words slinked across the room and touched her, making her shiver, sending a rush of coldness through her. In a way, Melody had heard much worse. But there was something there that made her uneasy, more than anything she’d heard before. As if it were something that should be harmless, or perfectly innocent, or maybe just a bad dream – but at the same time, somebody who could hurt her, and bring pain and suffering and coldness and emptiness. Her eyes opened, and all she could see was the blackness of the night. She was already lying in the foetal position – the default.
Slowly, her eyes adjusted, like something new to the world, realising it in high definition for the first time. And there was somebody there. It was a woman, cloaked and robed, all in black, like a solitary figure, watching over a grave. She wore an eyepatch, similar to the other, but this one was different. The woman watched Melody sleep - or not sleep. Her eyes stood, set in the same position, frozen in a moment of time, unmoving. They did not blink, and Melody did not move. The fear engaged a state of paralysis. So they waited, each refusing to move.
Then, after realising all that she’d seen in the last few months, Melody decided she wouldn’t be scared by a bad dream. Because that’s all it was - a bad dream. In real life, nobody stood, unmoving, unblinking, constantly watching. So she sat up.
And with the blink of an eye, the solitary figure vanished into the night.
Sarah Jane Smith had seen her fair share of bad dreams as well. Real bad dreams - and just bad dreams. But bad dreams never shook anybody quite like they’d shaken Melody. So, Sarah Jane had gone into mother-mode. The cocoa had been made, and a fresh packet of bourbons opened, and together, the two of them sat opposite each other.
“She just stayed?” asked Sarah Jane. Anybody else would’ve asked that question, with a hint of ‘what on Earth is wrong with you’ about their voice, but Sarah Jane, after all these years of experience, had learned that never got anybody anywhere.
“She didn’t move,” Melody repeated herself.
“So - you must’ve got quite a good look at her?”
“I - I suppose I did. But I didn’t recognise her.”
“Describe her to me.”
“I - I can’t.”
“Yes you can. Her most significant feature?”
Eyes were powerful. Sarah Jane had seen eyes full of love, and eyes that desired nothing more to take love, to steal it in a single stroke.
“Her eye was just… empty. As if there were nothing left inside her. No. That sounds stupid.”
“Her eye? She only had one?” “She had an eyepatch.”
Sarah Jane’s first thought was Kovarian. It had to be. Firstly - the woman was terrifying, and this sounded like the sort of thing she’d do. Secondly - Sarah Jane didn’t know many other women who wore eyepatches and watched people sleep.
“If it were Kovarian, you’d recognise her,” Sarah Jane thought out loud.
“Yes. I would.”
“Melody. I’m going to tell you something important - very important, possibly the most important thing I’ve ever said - and will say, to you.”
“There are bad dreams in this world, and there are bad people too. And sometimes they come together, to create the most terrible things. Luke, he had a dream once, about somebody he was very scared of. Somebody who, I, deep down, was very scared of too. And that’s what made her real. But remember, there will always be people to protect you. I’ll look for her, I promise. That might make it better. Because as evil as whoever it was might be, when you think about it - she will only be a bad dream.”
She hugged Melody, and watched her as she trudged back upstairs, before sitting back and embracing the silence.
Then her phone rang.
Of course, phones don’t usually ring at twenty-past-two in the morning, unless it’s the service provider or some drunk heckler, except at Sarah Jane’s age there weren’t many of those. Having lived a life on a knife-edge, of danger and fear and never knowing whether she’d wake up the next morning, she watched as the phone rang, and rang, and rang, a tension slowly building inside of her.
She answered it.
“Sorry to phone so late, Sarah Jane, but we’ve got a problem, and could do with an extra hand.”
Sarah Jane breathed a long, heavy sigh of relief.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes. I’m absolutely fine - when do you need me for?”
“A few hours time?”
“I’ll be over later.”
Melody, who was feeling a little grim after her interrupted night of sleep, trudged down the stairs, and turned into the kitchen. The sight of Gita sat at the kitchen table took her aback slightly. It was like the beginning of a horror movie, waking up to find Gita Chandra in your kitchen.
“Ah, good morning my darling! I’m so sorry, it must be a shock. Sarah’s suddenly been called away on work - how does she do it? I’ll be delighted if I’m as active as her when I’m her age. Still, I doubt I will be, my mother aged early, and they say it comes down the maternal side - or is it from the father? I can never remember. Anyway, she said she’d be back in a few hours so I agreed to look after you for a -”
Then, the doorbell (which apparently had the courage to interrupt Gita Chandra) rang, and Gita walked out into the hall to see who it was, chattering as she went.
“I’ve never understood the genetics of parenting, it’s always confused me, some say it’s just random but to be honest, I think it’s just- oh!”
Melody listened to the conversation from the kitchen, trying to decipher just who it was from the muffled sounds of their voice. It didn’t sound familiar. It was a woman. An older woman. That was all she knew.
“Oh, Melody, not to worry my darling!” Gita appeared in the doorway. “Your… what relative would that be? I don’t know. Sarah’s cousin - she’s here to look after you. Is that alright? Strange, she looks kind of familiar.”
Melody nodded, slightly bemused at whatever was going on. Sarah Jane had never mentionedany family other than Luke and Sky.
“Right, well, goodbye!” Gita vanished.
Stood in the doorway was someone else.
She wore a long black dress, almost like a robe, and a simple, gold necklace. She was elegant and sophisticated, and when she spoke, the words were like honey, silky and smooth, but almost too rich.
Melody recognised her within an instant.
Melody’s day had gone from bad, to worse, to dire. She sat there on the sofa, paralysed with fear, as this woman towered over her.
“Who are you?” Melody said, forgetting everything Sarah Jane had taught her about normal human conversation.
“Nanny is a bit old fashioned isn’t it? But I’m not quite sure I’m liberal enough for first name basis yet.”
She stood there, thinking. “How about, you call me Wormwood. Mrs Wormwood.”
It was her. There was no doubting it – this was the woman Melody had seen last night. This was the bad dream.
“Now. Run along. I’m going to prepare for all the fun we’re going to have.” Melody stood up and slowly began to leave the room, lingering by the door briefly, before finally disappearing.
“What fun we will have…” Mrs Wormwood murmured to herself, smiling. She stood in the middle of Sarah Jane’s living room, and looked up to the ceiling, giggling. Then, her entire figure blurred, and stood in her place was somebody identical to Sarah Jane Smith. And within a split second, Mrs Wormwood reappeared.
Zoe could probably be done for assault of Mr Chandra’s doorbell. At first, she’d practically punched it, before ramming her finger into it over and over. Beth winced, thinking it looked rather painful. Dan sighed.
“We can’t just go to our headmaster’s house and do… this.”
“Yes, we can,” Zoe retorted. “That’s what we’re doing.”
“Yes, but, Sarah Jane has disappeared, and I want to know why, because Sarah Jane doesn’t just disappear. She must’ve been taken.”
“Technically, you don’t know that.”
“Technically, I don’t care, after all she’s done for us, we have to find her.”
“And what if she’s just decided to go on a mini break or something?”
“… what?” Zoe looked at him in bemusement.
“Well, I’ve got a valid –”
“Mr Chandra,” Zoe said.
“Good morning.” Mr Chandra, who had been enjoying the Andrew Marr show, wondered why there were three students stood outside his door.
“What’s happened to Sarah Jane?”
“Gita said she was doing some extra work with some people,” Haresh said. “UNIT, she said - one of those bizarre supernatural magazines, I don’t know.”
“Sarah Jane wouldn’t write for anything as stupid as that.” Zoe scoffed.
“Zoe, please just… stop talking,” Dan murmured.
Mr Chandra raised his hands.“I don’t know any more than that. Oh - well, I know Gita was going to look after Melody, but Sarah Jane’s cousin turned up.”
“She’s never mentioned any family other than Luke and Sky…” Zoe said.
“Sarah Jane’s got a lot of family nobody knows about. I suppose there was a slight facial resemblance. Anyway. Sorry I can’t help you more than that.”
Finally, Haresh thought, delighted he’d finally found a point at which to cut off the conversation and return to Andrew Marr.
Wherever Sarah Jane had woken up, it certainly wasn’t at home. When she looked up, the lights were bright - some kind of fluorescent bulb, stinging her eyes and making her head throb with a cold, blue glow. It was like waking up with a migraine, with her mouth drier than the Sahara and her head hammering as if some kind of internal parasite she’d met on her travels with the Doctor were trying to claw its way out from the inside. She was lying down in a bed of some kind on top of thin, polyester sheets, with metal bars running around the edge.
Then, when she glanced to her right, she saw that she was hooked up to some hospital apparatus. A slow, repeating beep filled the air, and she looked at her wrist to see a cannula poking out.
She was being monitored by someone.
She decided, in a typical journalistic fashion, to rewind all the events in her head to try and work out how she arrived at wherever this was.
She could remember Melody’s nightmare, and the cup of cocoa she’d drank. Kate’s phone call came back to her as well - she agreed to go out on a job with them, some kind of business with the Nestene Consciousness impersonating One Direction. Sarah Jane hadn’t known who One Direction was until Zoe had ranted about how “plastic” they were on a quiet Sunday a few weeks ago. At about half seven she’d called around to ask Gita if she’d look after Melody for a couple of hours before leaving to drive to the address Kate gave her. It was a warehouse -
And that’s where it stopped.
There was a table attached to the side of the bed, and on it, a lone mobile phone. She grabbed it, desperate to find a way out, and then - there was a passcode. The only way she could use it was if someone rang her first.
She slumped back against her slightly wooden pillow and sighed.
Then, as if someone were privy to her individual thoughts, the phone rang.
Mrs Wormwood still stood in Sarah Jane’s living room. The photos - she was captivated by them. Time, captured at a single moment and embodied in ink. She ran her fingers over the faces of her son at different ages and smiled to herself. Luke was such a handsome young man.
There were lots of other children as well - she recognised them all, even those she hadn’t met yet. Her eyes drifted over to the young female with brown hair, the one who had been at the Bubbleshock factory, and smiled. Such innocent fragile children they had been. All grown up. It made her feel old, stale, bitter.
This was Sarah Jane’s family. The sentimentality was enough to make her gag.
Then, on cue, the doorbell rang. That would be them now.
As she walked, she swished her skirts and placed a hand on the door, getting into character as Sarah Jane’s cousin - trying to embody that arrogance and self-entitlement. Taking all these children in. How moral of her. She threw it open in one, confident motion.
“Who are you?” Zoella - no… she was one of those immature, egotistical ‘vloggers’ - Zoe just walked in and came straight out with it. Wormwood knew who she was straight away - she’d been revising for this.
“Not that we mean to offend you,” Beth said, clearly trying to make up for her friend’s insolence. “But seriously, who are you?”
There was a boy as well. Daniel. “Aren’t you… Sarah Jane’s cousin?”
“Zoe. Bethany. Daniel. Do come in.”
“How do you know our names?” Zoe asked.
I read up in advance.“Sarah Jane has told me all about you. Come in,” she said, a sharp, elegant twang to her voice.
Beth nodded, and Zoe and Dan looked at her as if to question whether after all this time she’d finally lost her mind, before realising.
“Okay,” Zoe said. As the three of them stepped inside, she tried to evaluate whoever Sarah Jane’s cousin was. She was tall, and elegant, and seemed to glide from room to room, taking sophistication wherever she went. Beth made her way into the living room and Sarah Jane’s cousin gracefully flew into the kitchen.
“How about something to eat?” she called through. “Then I can call Melody down.”
“Okay,” Dan agreed. Beth scanned all the photos she could see. Whoever this woman was, she was nowhere to be seen. There was something different about her. An air of glamour. She was almost too glamorous for somebody who had just turned up to look after a young girl. And there was something… unearthly to her. The way she’d looked at her made Beth shiver. It was her eyes - eyes always held the key. They seemed hollow and empty, but at the same time as if they’d seen the blood of thousands of galaxies and the lives of a million people - if Laurel was here, she’d have accused her of not taking her medication. Beth was thankful she wasn’t.
Mrs Wormwood swished around the kitchen, fiddling about with the counter. She opened some drawers, rattled some jars and tins, just to make it seem like she was doing something.
It was rather interesting, seeing what Sarah Jane ate and drank. Such refined, middle class tastes. Full fat milk. Heinz. Chocolate digestives. All those brands, the mark of wealth and snobbery. But then she opened the fridge, and found it stuffed with hams and bacon of all sorts. The proper stuff, from organic farmers and butchers, still bloodied and juicy and oh-so-sweet. Such a fat little world she lived in. No wonder they chose it for Bubbleshock. It would take off even more now. Obesity and stomachs and gastric bands. The obesity epidemic would lead to such fun.
She opened the digestives and poured them onto a plate, taking a nibble from the chocolate at the side and grimacing at its bitterness. All these tastes. How exciting.
“So. How do you know Sarah Jane?” Mrs Wormwood called through to the living room.
“We just sort of… fell into it,” Daniel replied.
“Yeah,” Zoe confirmed. “Something like that…”
The time was now. Mrs Wormwood held out an arm and watched it morph into a tentacle.
“I do love my new image translator,” Mrs Wormwood said quietly to herself.
“What was that?” Zoe asked.
“Modern technology nowadays. So false. It only shows what people want it to show.”
Such an image-based society, Mrs Wormwood thought. Everything driven by appearance. By the exterior. All those scantily-clad models on those magazines. It was vulgar. Image was what it was all about. Mrs Wormwood was determined to play along.
“You know,” Mrs Wormwood stepped out of the kitchen, stroking the tentacle, to see the younger girl, Bethany, looking at the photos. “When I said I’d make something to eat, I meant for myself.”
The tentacle lashed out, wrapping Beth around the neck and pulling her in. Beth managed a scream before the arm silenced her. Zoe ran back into the room to see that Sarah Jane’s cousin had grown a tentacle.
“Oh my god.”
“Don’t come any closer,” the woman said, in her cold, clipped, clinical tone.
“Who are you?” Zoe demanded.
“My name is Mrs Wormwood.”
“I don’t think she’s Sarah Jane’s cousin." Dan appeared in the doorway.
"Oh, thanks Sherlock," Zoe bit.
“No. But Miss Smith and I are old, old friends,” Mrs Wormwood grinned.
“She can’t do anything to us." Dan pointed at her tentacle. “She’s only got one of those things.”
“Oh, but I have so, much, more.”
Suddenly, the rest of her body blurred, and the glamorous, eerie woman had turned into a squid. A slimy cephalopod, with greasy, suckered tentacles. The other tentacles waved in the air, knocking the light in the ceiling and half the ornaments on the mantlepiece on the floor, as she growled to herself.
Zoe darted over to a framed photo of Sarah Jane and some Brigadier, and reached behind, pulling out a lipstick and pointing it at the creature.
“If you are an old friend of Sarah Jane, you’ll know what this is.”
“Oh! It appears I’ve lost practice over the years,” the squid hissed, still remaining a hint of that posh, British accent of her human predecessor. Then, within seconds, the woman, Mrs Wormwood, stood back in her place, one arm still as a tentacle wrapped around Beth’s neck. Her other, in human form, she held outright.
There was a ring; a bulbous, green gemstone, wrapped in an engraved metal band.
“This is my phonic disruptor. If I activate this, it will destroy that device within seconds. However, the same will happen vice versa, if you activate the lipstick first. So, Zoe Smith. Can you beat me to it?”
Zoe stood, unmoving, staring into Wormwood’s eyes.
“Oh, young people nowadays. So lazy. Miss Smith seems to pick up the determined ones. Sitting down all day, hiding in the darkness, with nothing but the company of a screen. The Bubbleshock scheme would be even more effective now - you all give in so easily, resign yourself to the quickest way out, you’re worse than the Tivoli. With everything handed to you on a plate, with your parents at your beck and call, you expect everything so quickly within an instant. That’s what you get with fibre-optic, I suppose.”
Melody had appeared in the doorway and stood behind Zoe with Dan. They were locked in a standoff - one against four.
“At least dear Melody doesn’t understand your modern technology. She hasn’t yet been corrupted by your god-awful society. Though, if anything positive has come out of this, your reaction times - oh, so quick. All those first person shooters, the ‘Calls of Duty’ that the young people play. So oblivious to the outside world, yet so able to kill a man on a screen within the blink of an eye, and that is simply enhanced by your training in the arts of self-defence, isn’t it, little Zoe?”
Zoe didn’t respond.
“But even with your arsenal, I can still see that you’re terrified of me. I can see it in your eyes. I can see it in little Bethany’s eyes as well. I smell fear, Zoe. My race are hunters by nature. That’s how we’re born - cast out into the wind and the wild as soon as the eggs have hatched, and forced to fend for ourselves, devouring anyone weak enough to be preyed upon. From the hatcheries, only one in twenty-five survive. Now. Put the lipstick down, because I don’t think she’s got very long to live.”
Zoe put the lipstick on the floor. Mrs Wormwood beckoned, and Zoe kicked it over to her. With a swift step of Wormwood’s heels, the lipstick was turned into a mass of metal and wires. And keeping to her word, as Mrs Wormwood liked to believe she did, threw Beth forwards, who landed at Zoe’s feet, gasping for air.
Mrs Wormwood wasted no time before getting to the heart of her plan. “Now. I’m going to need one of your mobile telephone devices.”
“Why should I give it to you?” Zoe asked.
“Because I’m still capable of killing each of you in a time quicker than your tiny child minds can compute. And besides, if you don’t, your fates will be much worse.”
Zoe handed over her phone. Mrs Wormwood took it and typed in the passcode.
“How did you know that?”
“I’ve been tracking your psychological tendencies. It’s a habit of mine.” Mrs Wormwood held up a finger for silence.
Sarah Jane’s voice came through the phone - Melody heard it, and suddenly she looked suitably reassured.
“Who is this?”
“Hello, Miss Smith.”
All of them in the room - Mrs Wormwood, Zoe, Beth, Dan and Melody, could somehow hear Sarah Jane’s fear, as if it had taken some kind of audible form beyond words.
“Oh, of course. It all makes sense,” Sarah Jane said. “You used Kate Stewart’s voice…”
"'I'm yo cuz now, Sissy J', as the youths of now would put it. I’m yet to fully grasp the lingo.”
“I - I’m sorry?”
“I’ve got a new image translator. It can do all sorts of fancy things now - including letting me break into a hospital, place a perception filter around one of the rooms and let me keep you there as prisoner. So, while you’re being treated, I’m going to be staying here for a while, to look after Melody.”
“Don’t you touch her! Don’t go anywhere near her!”
“Yes, it’s a little bit late for that, I’m afraid. Currently, your entire brood is with me in your living room.” “Leave them alone!”
“How bored you are, to take children and make them your playthings.”
“I have conditions.”
“What are they?”
“Firstly, the children do not interfere. Secondly, I want access to all of your computer systems. I presume you no longer have your hole-in-the-wall machine?”
“No. I have something else.”
“Good. I’ll use that. Go on. Tell the children to go away, and not to come back here again, nor to try and contact you. Because if I find that they’ve been in contact with you, I’m afraid Melody and I will be going out for dinner. And Melody will be dinner.”
There was a brief pause as Sarah Jane thought of what to say. “Zoe, Dan, Beth. All of you, stay away. Don’t go near Mrs Wormwood, she’s dangerous -”
Mrs Wormwood giggled. “Oh, so one dimensional.”
“And don’t contact me. I know Mrs Wormwood, and I know she won’t stop at anything to hurt me. Do you understand?”
“Sarah Jane,” Zoe asked, “Who is she?”
“She’s the woman who made Luke,” Sarah Jane thought to herself briefly. “She’s the woman who started it all. Stay safe.”
One by one, they all agreed, and then, one by one, they left.
“I would like to talk with Melody, please.”
“You can. Over speakerphone.”
“In private. That’s the least you can do.”
Mrs Wormwood conceded and passed the phone over to Melody.
“Melody,” Sarah Jane said. “You must be careful. Stay out of her way as much as you can. I don’t know what she wants, but I know she’s very, very dangerous. She’s the one you saw, isn’t she? In your dream?”
“Okay. Remember what I said. She’s only a bad dream, and as long as I’m here for you, and Zoe and Dan and Beth, she can’t hurt you. Do you understand?”
“Good. Can you pass me over to her?”
Melody gave the phone to Mrs Wormwood, clinging on to Sarah Jane’s words for as long as she could, and the sound of her voice, before it eventually faded.
“I’m rather enjoying myself,” Mrs Wormwood laughed. “The quickest way to Sarah Jane Smith is through her children.”
“If you harm any of them…”
“You’ll do what, Miss Smith?”
Sarah Jane didn’t say anything, because she had to admit that Mrs Wormwood had the upper hand.“As long as they stay out of my way, they should be fine. I’ve just been looking at the photos. Luke is such a handsome young man. So intelligent. He gets that from his mother.”
“Stop it,” Sarah Jane’s voice trembled.
“And his diminutive male friend has, how do they say it, bitten the dust? Good. He always was a bad influence on Luke.”
“Clyde helped Luke more than you ever have.”
“Shush now, Miss Smith. You forget that you’re the one locked away never to escape. And what about the wannabe journalist? Such a petulant child, thank goodness’ she’s gone. It’s a shame she didn’t take her godawful windbag of a mother with her.”
Sarah Jane wanted to scream at her, to make her realise how stupid she was being, but she didn’t want to risk it. She wouldn’t put anything past Mrs Wormwood, including murdering young children.
“And - what was her name? Maria. Do you know what she does now?”
“Mrs Wormwood, what do you want?”
“I want you, Miss Smith.”
“I - I’m sorry?”
“When I escaped Horath’s portal, I kept quiet. But the Bane Kindred are clever, and they realised I was still alive. Now, they’re hunting me down. They will stop at nothing to have me dead. I am currently Bane public enemy number 1. Though, the Bane are natural hunters, and they’ll be here within days. This is where my problem arises. But I’ve found my way out.”
“And this time, I don’t want power or to be an Empress - I’ve matured. What is it they call it now? Retirement. No, I just need to hide out for a while.”
“They’ll find you, how will you hide? Tell me.”
“It’s less complex than before. Let’s just say it’s a little bit more… how shall I put it? Domestic.”
The phone went dead.
“Open your mind, Melody.”
She ran. Again. This time, it wasn’t far - only to her bedroom, but it was as far as she could possibly get from Mrs Wormwood without leaving the house.
She had to escape her voice, and her eyes, and everything. But somehow, she could still hear her. She was talking to her. Melody covered her ears, desperate to shut out the voice. Before it had seemed posh, and professional, and eerie - but not like this. Now it was clawing at her, like nails on a chalkboard.
“I can help you. I will help you. All you have to do is open your mind,” Mrs Wormwood said, her elegant, silky voice being cold and sharp at the same time.
No, Melody thought. She couldn’t let her.
“But you can, Melody. You’ve opened your mind - I can read you now. I can read you like a book, like those children’s stories you love to read.”
“Get out of my head.”
“No,” Mrs Wormwood said. “I’m here now, and together we’re going to fight this one out until the bitter end - you see, I didn’t quite tell Miss Smith everything.”
“The Silence,” Melody whispered. When Mrs Wormwood said she could read her mind, Melody suddenly realised it would work both ways.
“Oh, of course. Most beings are so mindless they can’t reciprocate, but you, Miss Williams, are so very, very powerful. With eyes of space and a mind of time, and the touch of the universe in your fingertips, you could do anything.”
And weirdly, Mrs Wormwood didn’t try to stop it.
“As I was saying, Melody - I didn’t tell Miss Smith the entire truth. When I ran from the Bane, I made a deal with an ancient cult, set to stop the first question.”
Melody tried to search Wormwood’s mind for the first question, but there was nothing.
“Oh, Melody, of course they didn’t trust me with everything. But I know enough to understand their motives, and I know enough to know what they’re going to do, and the part that you’re going to play. They held up the Bane for a while, and in return I promised to find you.”
“You could’ve just run from them.”
“I’m a woman of my word.”
Melody, terrified of the strange woman, gave in to her survival instincts and realised that she had the upperhand as well - it was just a mind trick. Hopefully.
“Mrs Wormwood…” Melody whispered, trying to find whatever voice she was using to communicate inside her own mind. “Your mind, it hurts. It really hurts.”
“Don’t think you’ll be able to look at it all. It’ll be too much for you to bear.”
“Guilt, constant and every day, for failing the Bane Mother. No. There’s something else, something so much bigger that you feel guilty for, something -”
“Stop it,” Mrs Wormwood spat.
“Luke,” Melody realised what it was. “You hate yourself…”
“You let him down once. Then you did it again. It hurts, Wormwood.”
“Oh, but Melody, you won’t be without guilt forever. We all feel guilt someday, and you will too, more so than anyone else in the universe. When we realise that the happy-ever-after ending doesn’t apply, we feel so much remorse for our mistakes. And it’s time for you to realise that there are no happy-ever-afters.”
“I have Sarah Jane, and Zoe, Dan and Beth.”
“And they’ll be gone as well. We all grow up someday, Melody. We all realise that this optimistic, dreamy life won’t go on forever, and we have to leave it behind for a much darker reality. And those that don’t realise? Then that life moves on from them.”
“Even if I have to face something bad, I can still remember that life. I can still remember the good.”
“There is no good, Melody. Oh, you’ll realise that, all in good time.”
“Wormwood, you’re so alone in the universe, you were once high up in the Bane Kindred but now you run from your family, and live entirely on the back of false promises.”
“Melody, a time is coming when the people you love most will be dead, and you’ll be the last one left. As I said - there is no good. In the end, we’re all the last ones left.”
Then Melody heard another voice. It was different, but it was so familiar.
“I wish I could tell you that you’ll be loved. That you’ll be safe and cared for and protected. But this isn’t the time for lies. What you are going to be, Melody, is very, very brave.”
The voice was just as alien as Mrs Wormwood, but at the same time, so friendly, and beautifully human and reassuring. It was comforting, in so many ways Melody couldn’t describe, because she’d never felt them before.
And for the briefest few seconds, Melody knew who it was, and all was well in the world.
“Do you think Mr Chandra will report us if we keep doing this?” Beth asked. “Nope.”
“Ah,” Mr Chandra’s wife stood in the doorway. “Hello my darlings. What can I do for you? Do you want to speak to Haresh? He’s just off at the shops at the mo, said he was going to buy some ingredients for chilli - he does make the most wonderful chilli. I know, it’s weird teachers having talents that aren’t just teaching, but there we go! I’ve always found it oddly intimidating being married to a teacher, but -”
“Actually, Gita, it was you we wanted to see. We need to ask you about something.”
“Melody. I suggest that if you wish to understand the full extent of my plan, you will come upstairs now.”
Mrs Wormwood’s voice crept back into her mind, and Melody, desperate to know what she was planning, decided to obey. She made her way up to the attic.
Sarah Jane stood there waiting for her. Well, sat there at the desk, a warming smile on her face, with her reading glasses perched on her nose, as she flicked through the pages of a dusty tome, the pages stained with age.
Sarah Jane’s voice was an instant relief.
“Sarah Jane! How did you…”
“Don’t worry, Melody. Everything is going to be fine, I promise. I escaped Mrs Wormwood and I’ve put a stop to her plan.”
“So… she won’t be coming back?”
“No, Melody. She won’t. What did she say to you?”
“She said - she told me, I mean, she mentioned things about the future.”
“What sort of things?” Sarah Jane stood up and walked over to her.
“That I’d lose everyone, and I’d feel so guilty for something.”
“Oh, Melody. Don’t worry about what she says. She doesn’t understand at all. We’ll always be here for you, myself, Zoe, Dan and Beth. Come here.”
Melody, thankful that the ordeal was over, hugged Sarah Jane. She enjoyed the moment, of being safe in someone’s arms, and protected, as if nothing would ever hurt her again.
Then, she realised she was hugging Mrs Wormwood.
She lurched back and fell back onto the floor.
Mrs Wormwood stood over her, holding out a hand to help her up. It was almost just as unnerving being offered help by her as it was being inside each other’s heads. When Melody tentatively took her hand, she noticed the ring sitting below her perfectly manicured nails. It was the ring from earlier.
Mrs Wormwood sat at the desk and smiled. “I believe you are entitled to know what’s going to happen, Melody. Because - well, if you try to tell anyone about it, they’ll laugh at you. They’ll say you’re mad.”
Melody watched her silently.
“You’ve just seen how my image translator works. And I need to hide for a while. Lay low, as they say.”
Mrs Wormwood touched the ring again, and within seconds, Sarah Jane sat in her place.
“And with Miss Smith locked away, I can stay here, until the Bane pass us by, and I can leave a free woman.”
Melody looked into the eyes of the Wormwood-Sarah Jane, and noticed that although she’d changed her appearance, she’d kept Mrs Wormwood’s eyes.
Eyes were impossible to change.
“You’re going to… become Sarah Jane?” Melody eventually realised.
“People always wonder how it feels to step into the shoes of someone else. Sentinel!”
“It won’t work,” Melody said, without thinking, and instantly wishing she could go back and change her last sentence.
“What?” Wormwood-Sarah Jane’s voice changed in an instant, from Sarah Jane’s warm, embracing tone to Wormwood’s cold, soulless elocution.
“I - I -”
“Oh… that woman. Tell me.”
“No, I - I can’t.”
“Well then. Come on. What sort of crude transport device does Miss Smith drive now? Hopefully not a bus…”
After a little bit of convincing that Sarah Jane had been kidnapped, the three of them (and Gita, with a “hello, my lovelies!”) had piled into her van - Zoe sat in the passenger seat, with Sentinel on her phone (who had sassed Gita several times already), and Dan and Beth in the back, being shaken from side to side as they gained some sort of gravity-defying air-time from bouncing over London’s speedbumps. Gita, at the request of the three, was driving rather erratically, in the way that one would imagine Gita Chandra driving, and Dan and Beth were now beginning to regret their decision.
“Where are we going, my darling?” Gita shouted, over the sound of the teenagers’ screams as they skidded around a corner. Zoe glanced at her phone, where Sentinel had produced a rather detailed map with an icon to show Sarah Jane’s location.
“The Royal Hope Hospital, apparently.”
“Right you are!” Gita squealed. “Hold on tight!”
She beeped the horn, and they were off.
“This is like a really bad version of GTA…,” Dan muttered, as he tried to accept the fact that he would forevermore suffer from travel sickness.
“What’s that on your phone, my darling? Rather high tech,” Gita asked as she drove.
“Oh. It’s, er -”
“Honestly, technology these days. It does all sorts of clever things! We saw this oven the other day with six different settings on for cooking! Six! I said that Haresh should get one for his cooking, but he said no. He said there’s only one setting for cooking, and that’s the normal one, and that because he wouldn’t understand it, it wouldn’t make his cooking any better! I said ‘Haresh! It’s got twice as much power! This one has got an extra knob on it!’ but he wasn’t having any of it.”
The van suddenly stopped, throwing the teenagers forward and causing Zoe to worry that they’d burned out half of the tarmac.
“Sorry!” Gita smiled. “Red light.”
“Gita, I, er, don’t want to encourage you to do anything stupid,” Zoe tried to restrain herself from being too blunt. “But if we keep stopping at red lights, we’re not going to make it.”
“Oops! Okay, my darlings!”
She smashed her foot on the accelerator again, and after a brief pause that left Zoe, Dan, and Beth worrying about the sturdiness of their stomachs, they sped over the red light.
“Goodness! I feel slightly illegal!”
When at last they arrived, they recognised Sarah Jane’s blue Mini instantly.
“She’s here,” Zoe said. “Mrs Wormwood is here.”
Zoe climbed out of the van, and Dan and Beth joined her. Gita looked as if she were about to follow, but Zoe stopped her.
“Gita, we’ll be five minutes, don’t go anywhere.”
“Are you sure, my darlings? I can come and help! Haresh says I’m naturally heroic-”
“Nope,” Dan said. “We’ll be fine…”
The three of them ran across the car park, leaving Gita slightly speechless.
“Goodness gracious me. To be young again.”
When the three of them reached the hospital doors, they tried to pull them, but they wouldn’t open.
Zoe thumped them, very, very hard.
“Why’s it not opening?” Zoe kicked it.
“They don’t want to let the patients escape? I don’t know, do I…”
“Honestly, they expect us to save the world but they lock the doors!” she shouted, as if she were hoping some strange force would hear her.
“There must be another way in,” Dan thought aloud.
“Well, I’d like to know if there is one, because, Daniel, I can’t see –”
It was then that the two of them turned around, to realise Beth had disappeared, and that there was a bus, driving at quite a speed, from the end of the car park, towards them.
“Is that…,” Dan tried to focus on whoever the driver was.
“I think it is,” Zoe knew what he was thinking.
The two of them dived out of the way of the doors, as the bus that Beth had somehow commandeered roared down the carpark, and tore its way through the locked doors, sending shards of glass and metal and brickwork everywhere, as half of the wall collapsed in on itself.
As Mrs Wormwood looked out of the window, she watched the bus, as it destroyed the front of the hospital.
“What is it with Miss Smith and buses?” Wormwood turned to Melody, who stood beside her. They looked almost like mother and daughter, watching from the window.
“They’re going to come for you, Wormwood,” Melody spoke up. “You won’t win. Sarah Jane has taught me that people like you never do.”
Melody thought of the voice earlier, of whoever it was who said that, and she grew stronger. She became powerful.
“You might try and look like Sarah Jane, but you’ll never be anything like her. Ever.”
Wormwood giggled. “How very brave of you to say such a thing.”
Wormwood had taken Melody into the ward, where Sarah Jane was rigged up to the equipment. The girl dashed over to her, and Sarah Jane turned and hugged her, forgetting all the wires and tubing holding her down to the bed.
“Oh, Melody, thank goodness you’re okay!”
“I’m glad you’re okay, Sarah Jane.”
“Oh, this is very sweet,” Wormwood laughed. “But I’m afraid it isn’t to last. You see, Melody, I didn’t quite tell you my whole plan. By taking control of your rather talkative little device – Sentinel – I’ve got seven nuclear warheads pointing at this city.”
Sarah Jane shuddered – she didn’t even want to think about what Wormwood would do with nuclear weapons.
“Because – although I’m going to become you, Sarah Jane – I wouldn’t be you unless I looked like I’d made a valiant effort to save the world! So, in approximately ten minutes, I’m going to launch them, and carry out my final revenge on the Bane. As they fly above, their ship will be destroyed – but the impact will also destroy the city. So, I will save Melody, and your other children, and escape. And, of course, be heralded as you.”
Then, there came a rather surprising sound.
The three of them turned, to see Zoe, Beth, and Dan, holding a sonic lipstick, and a phone.
“Ah! Children! Good timing, we’re just going to –”
“No, Mrs Wormwood,” Zoe began. “Sentinel was never in your control. We just asked him to deactivate the missiles –”
“Wasn’t a particularly long-lived plan…” Beth murmured.
“Melody, Sarah Jane,” Zoe said. “Come on. We’re leaving.”
It was rather hilarious, that they were just going to walk away from the villain of the piece. It was also funny, that the villain could not do anything to stop them, because she was rather powerless.
Everything she had done, and said, revolved around the fact she was pretending to be someone else.
But when it came to pass that the someone else was more powerful than she could ever comprehend, Mrs Wormwood was finished.
Melody helped up Sarah Jane, and they walked out of the room.
But just before Sarah Jane left, she turned around.
“Mrs Wormwood. Usually you’re not this easy to defeat, but-”
The door behind them shut.
“Sorry, that was me!” Dan shouted.
Sarah Jane tried the handle, but it wouldn’t work.
“Dan? What’s happened?” she called.
“Oh, give it here,” Sarah Jane heard Zoe push Dan out the way, and then heard Dan’s cries of protest. Then she heard some kicking, and the door clatter, and then silence.
“It won’t open,” Zoe said. “I think – I think the lock’s stuck.”
Sarah Jane turned around, to see Wormwood, watching her. It was just the two of them, stuck in the same room. All because of a broken lock.