Happy November, e'erybody~
Sorry, I'm a tad later than I planned. However! I have this week off for Thanksgiving break, so I will be writing like crazy! Promise, alright?
It was too easy for her to get out of her room. The locks on the door were easy to pick, as they were old and not well armed. They never turned the alarm on, they only warned the girl that loud bells will ring if she tried to open the door. It took a lot of courage for her to do it the first time, because she was very scared of loud noises. The voices didn't like loud noises. They might get mad at her if she made a loud noise.
The screams of the other people in this eerie building echoed through the decrepit halls and chilled the little girl to the bone. Why would anyone expect her to sleep when all these horrible things were going on? The doctors shouting at the screaming patients to be quiet, the patients screaming to be let out and the other insane things they shouted at the doctors, while the little girl with the long, straight blonde hair and green-blue eyes padded down the dark hallways, guided only by the light of the moon outside the window.
Her name was Annabelle, and she wasn't supposed to be there. This place was for people who couldn't control their thoughts and actions. This was a place for scary people. A little girl, only nine years old and owning nothing but a white nightgown, a pink Sunday dress, and a stuffed rabbit, which was all she was allowed to bring with her, shouldn't be there. She wasn't scary, she was a friend. A friend to ghosts. But they weren't friends to her, they scared her. She prayed every night that they would leave her alone, or someone would come and save her.
No one else could see these ghosts. She could talk to them, but they couldn't talk to her. They could only scream and whisper things she couldn't understand. Until, one day, the ghost she saw the most—she named it Henry, although she was unsure of its gender— actually spoke to her. It whispered in her ear, "Come see the Stars, friend. Come see her." and it kept whispering "come see her, come see her, come see her" as she walked down the hallway.
She wasn't sure what Henry meant by 'come see her', but she knew that she would have to go outside to see the stars. She finished her walk down the hallway, then began to quickly and quietly descend the stairs. She had to sneak past the doctors' and nurses' lounges, but after that, she was in the clear to get out into the closest meditation garden. From there, she could stand out in the unrestrained moonlight, and the light of the stars above.
Suddenly, the whispers she barely heard grew louder. The shadows and silhouettes she barely saw gained more shape. They danced and spun around her, glowing in a bluish white light. One face she kept seeing on all of them, a face that flickered as the ghosts spun and hissed and danced.
"See her, see her, see her!" the ghosts chanted.
And Annabelle did see her. The face on the ghosts, a young woman, though the voices of the ghosts were all different and didn't sound like they belonged to the face. The face was pretty, smooth, with freckles across her nose, and bangs that were an unnatural blue. She was smiling at first, but then, her face twisted into one of evil and hatred, and Annabel jumped back, scared. The ghosts disappeared, their whispers echoing throughout the garden.
Just as the ghosts stopped their whispering, a new sound reached the girl's ears. It was a metallic whirring, and it started to fade as a big blue box materialized on the other side of the fence. Annabelle, still scared, shakily approached the fence. The sound of a door opening and closing reached her ears, and over the fence came a man in a blue suit with hair sticking up every which way. Annabelle didn't see the face of the woman behind him at first.
"Oh, hello," the man smiled at her, "What are you doing out here so late?"
Annabelle was about to answer when she saw the face of the young woman who came over the fence, the girl who was now standing just behind the man.
Disruptions: A Doctor Who Fanfic
Chapter 2: Calling the Doctor
Have you ever been to a mental hospital? There's a big difference between a normal hospital and a mental one. A lot of times, the normal ones are nice. They're clean, the doctors and nurses are nice, and the air always smells sharp, like rubbing alcohol.
In a mental hospital, you feel antsy. You feel uncomfortable. It doesn't matter who you are and whether or not you judge people, you can't help but feel like you're surrounded by possible psycho killers. The doctors and nurses seem nice, but you never know how corrupt these places might be. You never know if once you're done with whatever business you might have there, the doctors and nurses are evil. You don't know how trustworthy they might be. That uncertainty of what kind of people are around you can and will chill you to the bone and make you not want to go there. Ever.
Pepper's first ever trip to a mental hospital—this one was built when they were still called asylums—well... She got lucky. She didn't have to go alone. As I was getting old, I had to put my younger brother in a mental hospital for severe schizophrenia, and I had to go alone.
Pepper was lucky. She had the Doctor at her side.
"So! First trip on the TARDIS!" the Doctor grinned at Pepper, "Where do you want to go? Forwards, or back? Or, we could go to an alien planet."
Pepper thought for a second. She had no idea where she would want to go. There were so many places she wanted to visit: the Titanic, Ancient Greece, her future, alien planets, galaxies, suns, star clusters, everything! It was hard to pick.
"I-I don't know...!" She said, looking blown away. Then, something moving in the corner of her eye caught her attention. She picked up a little notebook with a little sheet of paper inside, which was folded open so she could see it. The sheet of paper was blank, or so she thought. As she watched, writing appeared, as if someone invisible was writing on the paper while she looked at it.
Help me, I'm scared, the ghosts are coming, it said.
"That's my Psychic Paper..." the Doctor said, walking to stand beside her, "What does it say?"
"Psychic Paper... That's not something you see every day..." Pepper said as the Doctor read the message.
"The paper makes you see what someone wants you to see... It can get a message from someone too... Well, sort of. Well, not really... It's very rare." After a pause he said, "We must be close!" He took the paper and ran to the TARDIS console, pressing buttons and flipping switches.
"What are you doing...?" Pepper asked, following him over.
The Doctor continued his work, speaking at ninety miles an hour, "We wouldn't be getting this message if someone weren't sending it. If someone is calling out that means there has to be a signal, and if there's a signal, then there has to be someone sending it—"
"You just love hearing yourself talk, don't you?" Pepper chuckled. The Doctor gave her a small pout.
"Wha's wrong with that?"
Pepper laughed, "Nothing. Allons-y!"
The Doctor grinned at her, "You're catching on! Brilliant!" with the throw of one last switch, they were off, the TARDIS making that same metallic sound, the one Pepper would never forget. The entire room shook, and they both had to hold on as they shot through the time vortex.
As the whirring stopped, a soft thud sounded, and the Doctor rushed to go out first, taking his coat off of where he'd thrown it before—over one of the branch-like supports—and slipping it on real quick. Pepper took longer, as she was pulling on her bow and quiver, but joined the Doctor as he was out the door.
They'd landed on the side of a fence opposite a small garden, with well-kept bushes and plants and flowers, which met both of their gazes as they climbed over the fence. There was a certain smell in the air, as if the air itself was gilded with the scent of the flowers to hide a certain evil underneath. The freshly cut grass sparkled with dew as the sky sparkled with stars, a little bit of blue on the horizon put the exact time somewhere between four or five in the morning.
There was a small girl standing in the garden, her blonde hair falling against her back and her turquoise eyes wide with fear. A white nightgown billowed about her ankles. As Pepper turned around to look at her full-on, the terror in the girl's eyes intensified as she saw Pepper full-on, and she screamed.
"Wot?" The Doctor said, very confused as the girl turned and ran. Lights came on in the building, and the Doctor repeated, "Wot?"
Pepper rolled her eyes and groaned, "Perfect." She tried to climb back over the fence, as the Doctor, once again, repeated, "Wot?!"
Before Pepper could make it over the fence, and before the Doctor could come to his senses and take off after her, someone came out into the garden. The little girl ran to the nurse, preferring the consequences of sneaking out of her room over having to face the people her ghosts warned her about.
"Annabelle! What's going on out here?!" The woman hissed, standing slightly in front of the little girl protectively.
"Just a routine check," The Doctor said quickly, holding up his Psychic Paper, "Inspector John Smith, known as 'The Doctor'."
The nurse's eyes narrowed skeptically, "And you came in through the garden gate?"
"No one was answering the door, I think your doorbell is broken," Pepper added, holding out her hand, "Pepper Houston; I'm his assistant."
The nurse didn't take her hand. Instead, she took a step backwards. "The nerve, frightening a little girl like that!"
"Terribly sorry, we didn't know anyone would be out here..." The Doctor looked questioningly at Annabelle, who seemed to be looking up at him. What he didn't know was that she was actually looking behind him, where one of the ghosts had reappeared, making the most demonic face it could. Annabelle screamed again, this time running into the building.
"Oh, what now?!" The nurse groaned, looking none too happy that she had so much to deal with at the wee hours of the morning, "Listen, come back when the waking world is out of bed, alright?" She shot this over her shoulder at the Doctor, then turned to run back inside, shouting, "Annabelle!"
"See?" The Doctor said to Pepper once they were alone and back over the fence, "There was no need for running!"
Pepper shook her head and rolled her eyes. "Whatever... Do you think the little girl is the one that sent us the message?"
"Absolutely. No child in their right mind would be up at three in the morning out in the garden; what was she, nine or ten? No, a child like that living in a place like this—"
"—she'd have had to be—"
The Doctor looked at her with the soon-to-be-familiar "you're-stealing-my-thunder" pout. Shaking her head, Pepper pointed to the sign that read, in big, bold letters:
BETHLAM ROYAL ASYLUM
The Doctor's face fell. "Oh..."
"That paper thing said 'Save me from the Ghosts', right?"
"Yeah, 'Help me, the Ghosts are coming', Ghosts with a capital 'G', which is strange..."
"It was probably just a girl scared of her own shadow who happens to be schizophrenic."
"Pepper, that was rude! What if she is actually haunted by ghosts, and the only person who could see them is her, so they assumed she was crazy and put her in the Loony Bin...?"
"If that's the case, then I'll buy you an ice cream cone once we find out, okay...?" Pepper rolled her eyes, shrugging her bow and quiver off of her shoulder and setting them just inside the doorway of the TARDIS. "Anyways, would you like to explain where we are?"
"Well, judging by the city skyline and the Union Flags everywhere, I would guess we're in London. I love London this time of year. Very cozy."
"So we're in London..." Pepper said to herself, amazed. She'd never been out of the country before, but she knew there was no way they could have made it to London in less than a minute. "That's weird, what up with all the vintage cars on the street...?"
A small grin inched its way onto the Doctor's face, "And in the nineteen-twenties, who knew."
"The twenties!" Pepper proclaimed, looking at him with a very astonished expression, "And here I am in jeans and a Beatles t-shirt!"
The grin only widened on the Doctor's face. "I think I can help with that."
"You have yet to cease to amaze me, Doctor." Pepper said as she stepped back into the main control room of the TARDIS. The Doctor, who was looking at something through his fake glasses on his computer monitor, turned to look at her.
He'd told her to go look through one of the TARDIS's multiple closets for something era-appropriate for the twenties. She'd chosen a pale pink dress that came down to her knees, which had a white bow just below the collar, and no waistline. She'd braided the longer parts of her hair and tucked them up into a white hat with an arrangement of white-and-peach fake roses on the side. A long string of fake pearls dangled around her neck.
"You seem to have a lot of women's clothes in those closets," Pepper continued, arching an eyebrow, "Something tells me I'm one of many..."
Pepper thought she saw a sad look cross the Doctor's face before he muttered, "Well..." and turned back to the screen. She knew it must have been a hard topic, so she decided to change the subject. She trotted down to the console, trying to look over his shoulder.
"Whatcha up to?" She asked.
"Trying to find the girl whom we accidentally scared off in the garden... AHA!"
Pepper jumped at the sudden exclamation. "What?! What happened?!"
"The only Annabelle they have in Bethlam Royal currently is nine-year old Annabelle Duncan, committed by her parents, Penelope and Theodore Duncan—her own parents, that's awful!—one of the doctors diagnosed her with... Schizophrenia? How did they figure that out in the nineteen-twenties?"
"Wait, they didn't know what schizophrenia was in the twenties?"
"No, they knew what it was, but they didn't have a name for it- well... They didn't have a way to diagnose it- well... Not like you have in your time..."
Pepper chuckled, "You talk as if you come from a different time than I do..."
The Doctor looked at her, "I do..."
Pepper blinked, confused. Then, she seemed to understand, "Ah, I get it, time machine."
As the Doctor was about to explain that what she thought was his story wasn't the entire thing, but he decided to save that story for a rainy day. "...Yes, time machine... Speaking of which, why don't I show you the rest of the TARDIS?"
"You mean there are even more rooms than the ones I saw?" Her big blue eyes got even bigger as the thought reached her mind. The Doctor grinned.
"Oh, dozens. Have you seen the swimming pool?"
"Dear God, you have a swimming pool." The Doctor chuckled and lead her up towards the other rooms and hallways and corridors of the Impossible Blue Box that Shouldn't Have Fit Inside Itself.
After a few hours of exploring the TARDIS—well… Pepper was exploring, the Doctor was more of an escort—they judged it was probably time to go and investigate the asylum.
When they stepped out of the box, it was nine-thirty in the morning. This time, instead of sneaking in through the garden, they went to the front door and rang the bell. Thankfully, a man answered the door, and not the fussy nurse from the night before.
He wore an ill-fitting white lab coat that had really short sleeves, revealing his cruel-looking pale hands. It was unbuttoned over a brown waistcoat and a white button-up shirt, as well as a pair of dirty black slacks.
"Can I help the two of you? Visiting hours haven't started yet." He said.
"Ah, we're not visiting anyone," The Doctor said, holding up the psychic paper, "Inspector John Smith, Scotland Yard, I've come to do a routine inspection."
"We haven't been informed of any inspection..." The man frowned, "We aren't prepared..."
"Surprise Inspection, boss's new idea." Pepper said, smiling at the man. He gave her a look.
"And who is this?" He asked, looking very annoyed at the girl.
"I'm his assistant," Pepper responded, "Pepper Houston."
The man at the door looked at the Doctor, "I apologize, Inspector Smith, come on in."
The man introduced himself as Arnold Clarke, the groundskeeper at Bethlam. He took them around to each of the different wards and the Doctor asked questions, some questions Pepper would never have thought of. Some of the hallways were lined with white rooms and looked quite clean. These were the rooms of the amnesiacs and insomniacs, mutes, narcoleptics, and anorexic and bulimic patients.
There were less well-kept rooms as well, but the groundskeeper wasn't as thorough about the treatments issued in that part of the asylum. These were mainly the obsessive-compulsive patients, the recovering drug addicts, the pyromaniacs and the kleptomaniacs.
Then, Mr. Clarke lead them through intensive care.
The walls were stone, almost making it look like a dungeon, which it probably was at one point in the hospital's history. The tunnel-like hallway was lit only by oil lamps, as if someone didn't bother putting electric lighting because no one went down there more than twice a day. Each "room" was a cell, with floor-to-ceiling iron bars that were the only things that looked new, as if they'd been recently replaced. Down in the depths of the intensive care ward lurked the true asylum-worthy patients. They were the schizophrenics, the severely anxious and the truly insane, with no names to their disease.
Pepper found herself walking closer to the Doctor on this part of the "tour". Something about the dungeon-like ward freaked her out. It might have just been the creepy lighting, cobwebs, and worn, dirty stone. Or was it that she was surrounded by people who had all lost their minds? It really wasn't like her to judge, but she was allowed to be scared, when they were the ones who were screaming to be let out, foaming at the mouth, or snarling like animals and leaping at the cells they were kept in. Somehow, the bars looked much more flimsy when they were being clawed at and shook.
"Are you sure those bars are strong enough?" Pepper asked, trying to keep a quiver out of her voice. The Doctor gave her a look to warn her to watch what she says, but in seeing how scared she was, he kept quiet.
"Not to worry, Miss Houston," Mr. Clarke said, emanating an air of ill-hidden annoyance, which seemed to be becoming a norm for him, "The bars were recently replaced. Just a year ago."
"They look flimsy is all I'm saying..." She said quietly.
"In my opinion, you shouldn't be saying anything at all!" Clarke snorted, "If women were meant to speak their minds, they would have jobs like men do!"
Pepper was silent, but the fear in her eyes had melted into a fire of lost respect for the groundskeeper. The Doctor merely shook his head, knowing it was the time period speaking, and not the man. Well, maybe. Well... Maybe not.
"That ends our tour." Clarke concluded with a rushed tone, as if this was cutting into precious time. "What do you think, Inspector Smith?"
"Ah, just call me the Doctor."
"You are a medical practitioner as well?" Clarke said, arching one of his bushy eyebrows.
"That's just my nickname; the Doctor. Tell me now, Mr. Clarke, Does this hospital have a special ward for children?"
"Children?! What kind of place do you think this is?" Clarke snorted. "There are no children here. Children cannot be diagnosed; they're far too young to have developed any mental illnesses."
Pepper knew that wasn't true, but certainly there had to be children; Annabelle wouldn't have snuck into the garden. Besides, the nurse that came to her knew her. There were children here, Pepper knew it. But why would the groundskeeper either not know or lie about it?
"That's interesting. Very interesting. Tell me, then, Mr. Clarke, what of the gardens?" The Doctor asked, as if it were relevant to the situation.
"They are therapeutic for some of our—"
"No, I know that, fresh air does everyone good," the Doctor said, crossing his arms, "But what about the tricycle?"
Clarke's expression fell. Something flashed across his face that Pepper couldn't place. Whatever it was, she didn't get a good vibe from it.
"What tricycle?" He asked, his voice deadly calm.
"Last night, I passed by the garden—which is beautiful, whomever takes care of it is brilliant—but there was a tricycle sitting over by the back fence. It was old and rusted, and there was grass growing all around it, and it looked like it had been the for a while. Now, tell me, groundskeeper, why would there be a tricycle in a mental hospital that has no children?"
Clarke was silent. His eyes flashed not with confusion, as Pepper (and probably the Doctor too) expected, but with anger, like the subject of the 'children' rubbed him the wrong way.
"Have you finished with your inspection, Doctor?" His name sounded sour on Clarke's tongue. "Because if you have, I will be going back to my work now."
The Doctor smiled, a glint of knowing in his eyes, and said, "You can go back to work, if you don't mind me looking around a bit."
Clarke grit his teeth, "Just see that you do not go poking your nose around where it shouldn't be, Inspector Smith." With that, the grumpy groundskeeper left.
"Why's he hiding that girl?" Pepper asked, following the Doctor as he set off down the hall. "He looked really angry when you asked about her..."
The Doctor mumbled, taking a better look around, "I don't know..."
"Bethlam was notorious for the torture that went on here..."
The Doctor looked back at her, and he knew that they were thinking the same thing. If this little girl, Annabelle, was being hidden, something awful might be happening to her. Something that might end up in an unnecessary death.
"Wait, DOCTOR, FREEZE!"
"Wot?!" He stopped and looked back at her, surprised at the sudden shout.
"You almost stepped in that!" Pepper pointed to the filthy floor, where a puddle of pitch black, lumpy sludge lay, right where the Doctor had been about to step. "Whatever it is, it can't be good!"
Eyebrows furrowing, the Doctor squatted next to the puddle, "What is /that/? Good eye, Pepper... but I have no idea what it might be- Well..." He cut himself off, like he always did, "I might have seen it before... I can't remember the name..." He reached forward with a stretched out finger, as if he was going to poke it.
"What are you doing?! That could be dangerous!"
Before the Doctor could answer her, there was a mad giggle from the cell they were standing next to. The sound of chains clinking reached Pepper's ears, and she stood back to see a scrawny little man with wild brown hair, a scraggly beard, and wide, chilling amber eyes. His skin was clammy and an almost gray shade of beige, and his mouth was turned up in an insane grin.
"Lonely Man! Surrounded by friends! Lonely, lonely traveler!"
The Doctor's head snapped up, looking with wide eyes at the man. "Wot."
The patient giggled, "Pretty girl~ pretty, pretty star-shine girl!"
"Ignore him, Doctor, he's just mad—"
"Mad!" The man screeched, "Noooooo, I see! I'm here because I seeeee...!"
"See what?! What do you see?" The Doctor demanded, gripping the bars of the cell and giving the man a hard look.
"Everythinnnnngggggg... Everything and more! More! More!"
"Doctor, he's not—"
"Drip, drip! Drip! Dripping off the butler-man! Slop, slop! Slopping on the floor! Lonely, lonely! Loooonely Man!" The man twitted, grinning and turning his head to the side, looking at the Doctor.
Pepper's eyebrows furrowed. "Butler? What butler?"
"Looks are deceiving, dearie!" He cackled, straining against the chains that kept him tethered to the dingy wall, "Not a butler... But he acts like one! Ooooohhhh! Watch out for looks!"
"Looks, why do you keep going on about looks...?" The Doctor muttered.
"...Butler..." Pepper whispered, thinking. Why would there be a butler in a mental hospital? Unless...
"Like the groundskeeper?" Pepper looked at the mental patient. "Do you mean Mr. Clarke?"
"Ooohhhhhh looks are deceiving!"
"Whose looks?!" Pepper repeated.
"DECEPTION!" The man screeched, "DECEPTION AND EVIL! The poor child!" He wailed over and over, "Poor child!"
"Pepper, leave him alone...! He could just be having an episode..." The Doctor kept his eyes on the man, pulling Pepper away protectively.
"But Doctor, he—"
"Pepper, he's a patient in an asylum, he's just saying things." His eyes, however, gave him away. Pepper knew a lie when she saw one, and that was the first one she saw from the Doctor's eyes.
"Why don't I believe you...?" He didn't answer her. Instead, he knelt and scooped up some of the sludge in a small vial. He pulled out a pair of plastic black glasses and quickly threw them on, looking at the substance through the glass of the vial.
"We should get back to the TARDIS..." The Doctor muttered, "I need to get this analyzed. Allons-y!" He took off, Pepper right behind him.
Back in the TARDIS, Pepper sat on one of the two chairs near the console, her legs curled under her, and watching the Doctor work. He reminded her of our Mama while she was making things in the kitchen: mumbling to himself as he darted back and forth along the console, and sometimes shouting things that made no sense and had no relation to the things he had shouted out before. He had those glasses on again, though Pepper knew he didn't need them.
"What about that patient that was screaming at us?" Pepper said finally, cursing herself for sounding so weak.
"Pepper, I told you not to worry about that..." The Doctor answered, distracted by whatever he was doing.
"Too late, Time Boy." Pepper replied as she got back up, stretching her legs for the first time in an hour. "Because not only did he call you Lonely Traveler, he also called me 'Pretty Star-shine Girl'. And while I do appreciate the compliment, there was something about the way he said it that made me wonder..." Her eyebrows furrowed as the gears started turning in her head.
The sudden silence made the Doctor look at her, his attention finally off the console. "Made you wonder what...?"
"Well... What you said to me yesterday... About the Cybermen not being able to make me one of them? You said they couldn't 'upgrade' you because you're not human. What if... W-what if that means—"
"You're not human..." The Doctor mumbled, looking at her with a furrowed brow. "I don't know... You look pretty human to me..."
"So do you, Doctor..."
"Well..." Suddenly, his look changed from questioningly calculating to incredibly horrified and confused. "No..." He muttered. Then he whipped back around to face the console, searching for something. He turned back with a stethoscope and put the little plugs in his ears.
Pepper gave him a look, "You have to be kidding me."
"Not kidding," He said, "Don't mind me, just breathe normally."
"No wonder they call you the Doctor..." Pepper chuckled to herself, standing still and breathing normally. The Doctor placed the metal disk over the spot on her chest where every normal human's heart would be. He nodded, moving the disk over to the other side, then he made a slightly disappointed face.
"Well, you don't have a binary cardiovascular system, so you're not a Time Lord like me..."
"Bi what now?"
"Binary cardiovascular system," he repeated, "Time Lords have two hearts."
"Sure, why not?" The real question, however, was much more baffling than the one Pepper asked. If she wasn't a Time Lord, and she wasn't human, then what was she?
"I don't know of a species that looks and functions the very same as a human's... But isn't..." the Doctor gave Pepper a weird look, "You're strange, Pepper Houston..."
Pepper snorted at him, "Look who's talking!"
There was a moment of silence between the two of them, then they both burst out laughing. It would have been a nice occurrence if they hadn't been interrupted by an urgent beeping coming from the console.
"Aha!" The Doctor ran over to the monitor, squinting at it through his glasses.
"Does it know what that black goo was?" Pepper asked, trying to read over his shoulder.
"It should... But... That's..." He slipped the glasses off his nose and got close to the screen, his mouth slightly open, "It's just sludge, there's no name for it- well... Not really. It's just called 'sludge'. It's waste. But it's completely made of calcium and carbon." He looked at her like she was supposed to know what that meant.
"And...?" Pepper drawled, her southern accent poking through.
"And what are human beings mostly made of?"
"...calcium and carbon?" Pepper shrugged, "I was really bad in biology..."
"But if the substance is combined calcium and carbon, that would mean it is..." He drew out the 'is', expecting her to answer.
Pepper's eyes widened, "A decomposing human body?!" She cried in disgust, "That means whomever the 'butler-man' is—"
"—Which I'm assuming is our friend Mr. Clarke—"
"Is a real motherfucking zombie!"
"Hey! No cursing!"
Pepper rolled her eyes, "Yes, mother."
"Plus," The Doctor continued, ignoring the crack, "I'm not sure 'zombie' is how you'd describe it... More like something is occupying Mr. Clarke's body. His body somehow can't sustain whatever is possessing him, and is decomposing at a rapid rate..."
"And leaving behind that sludge..." Pepper muttered.
"I think I want to have a conversation with Mr. Clarke..." He stood back from the console, adjusting his suit jacket. "Why don't you try and find Annabelle?"
"How's that supposed to work?" Pepper asked as the Doctor threw his coat back on and made his way to the door, "Last time she saw me, she screamed! Doctor!" But he was gone. Pepper groaned and stamped her foot in frustration. "Ugh!"
Pepper found her way back to the garden they'd been in the night before. She hopped the fence with less ease this time, as she was a little more self-conscious in this dress (a dress that wasn't even hers) than her comfy jeans and t-shirt.
When she finally got over the fence, she brushed the dust off her hands and looked around the yard. There, over in the corner, was the rusty old tricycle that the Doctor had been talking about. Pepper's eyebrows furrowed. The little tricycle didn't look like it had been parked where it was. Who would park it out in the open, away from the wall, where someone could trip over it? Then she looked at the ground around it. The grass was overgrown and all dead, which was a huge contradiction to the well-kept grass in the rest of the garden.
"That's Jimmy's bike." Pepper jumped, then she whirled around, a hand over her heart.
"Goodness gracious, child you scared me—!"
It wasn't a child that had gotten her attention. It was a young man, maybe a couple years younger than her. He had short, choppy black hair that was gelled back against his head. His eyes were a stormy gray, and if Pepper looked long enough, they seemed tinted blue. He wore brown slacks with suspenders, and a white button-up shirt with little turquoise pinstripes. The one thing that struck Pepper was his face. He was very pale, with high cheekbones and dark circles under his eyes.
The first thing that came to Pepper's mind when she saw the pale skin and dark circles: Twilight Vampire. She kept her mouth shut, since she knew the guy wasn't going to get it; it was way before the times.
"I'm sorry." The guy smiled sheepishly, "I didn't mean to startle you."
Pepper waved her hand passively, barely able to look away from his eyes. "It's alright... What were you saying, something about a kid named Jimmy?"
The guy nodded, "Yes... But I'm being rude; My name's Geoffrey Bates. But you can call me Geoff." He held out his hand with a very charismatic smile.
"Pepper Houston," Pepper said, grinning softly, "Nice to meet you, Geoff."
"Right, Jimmy... What happened? Why hasn't this thing been touched?"
His face became slightly darker as he stepped to stand next to her. "He died on that bike."
Geoff smiled sadly, "His story is a tragic one. His parents didn't want him, so they declared the poor boy as crazy and dumped him off here. The doctors were horrible to him."
Pepper snorted, "No surprise there."
"Yeah. The poor kid was driven insane just from being here. One day, he was out here without a nurse, and just as he was rounding the corner—"
"He keeled over? From wha—" Pepper cut herself off as she saw Geoff shaking his head.
"He didn't just up and die."
Geoff smiled, "You won't believe me if I tell you."
"He melted like ice cream under the sun of Africa. Saw it myself." Pepper raised her eyebrows in surprise. Geoff chuckled, "I told you you wouldn't believe—"
Pepper cut him off, "Was it black and lumpy?"
"...How did you—"
Pepper shook her head, "Long story... That poor man...!" She turned heel and hurried into the building, Geoff right behind her.
"Whoa, whoa! Where're you going?" He asked as he tried to catch up with her.
"To find the groundskeeper!" Pepper called back.
"His office is over here!" Geoff grabbed her hand and led her down the hall. Pepper stumbled, but didn't fall as she followed him down the hall towards the office. Suddenly, Geoff stopped. Pepper nearly ran into him, and was about to reprimand him for stopping so suddenly, but he held up a finger to his lips.
Pepper listened closely to the empty hallway. She thought she couldn't hear anything, but just as she was about to voice her thoughts, a faint scream reached her ears.
"So someone's screaming. It's an—"
"Hush and listen."
The more Pepper listened, the more the screams formed words.
"—don't let them take me! Don't let the ghosts take me!"
"Ghosts—?" Geoff didn't get to finish, as Pepper shot off towards the voice. "Pepper!" He ran after her as she bolted up the nearest staircase, following the noise. That was strange (read: not strange or unexpected at all.), they did not go through this place on the little "tour" Clarke gave them.
At the top of the stairs, there was a hallway branching off to the left and right. More, smaller hallways stemmed off of it, but this one looked like a main hallway. The screaming was coming from a little girl being dragged down the hall by her hair. After a second, Pepper recognized her as the girl from the garden the night before: Annabelle. The man dragging her was a "doctor", or looked like one, at least.
"Shut up, you stupid girl!" The man snarled, "You'll stay in solitary confinement until you stop screaming about ghosts! There's no such thing as ghosts!"
"But I know a demon when I see one!" Pepper shouted. "Let the poor girl go."
The guy looked startled. "Wha—?!Visitors are not allowed up here!"
Pepper narrowed her eyes. "Why wouldn't visitors be allowed to see the children's ward?! You treat them as equally awful as you'd treat the intensive care patients!"
The guy's ears turned pink. He said nothing, but he shoved Annabelle back down the hall. "Go back to your room," He growled "I'll finish with you later."
"No, you won't." Pepper snapped back, "You can't treat her like that—!"
"And who are you to tell me what I can and can't do, woman?!" The doctor snarled, "You do not work here, and you do not—"
"And who are you to tell her what to do?!" Geoff said, finally stepping forward and making himself known. The guy's eyes widened, and he took a step back, swallowing nervously.
"M-Mr. Bates, sir—!"
"You leave this woman alone, or I'll just have a little talk with my mother." This made the guy freak out even more, then he stuttered an apology to Pepper and took off down the stairs.
" 'Leave her alone or I'll tell my mom'?" Pepper laughed, "Really? That's the best you can do?"
Geoff chuckled, "Well, when your mother is the Headmistress, you kind of get a little pull when it comes to her employees." He started off down the hall, to where Annabelle had been heading.
Pepper let that sink in a bit. "...wait, your mom's the headmistress?!" She cried out, then started follow him, "That changes things!"
Geoff didn't reply. He was at the door at the end of the hall, knocking. "Annabelle...? It's Geoff; don't worry, the man is gone now..."
The door flew open immediately after he said that, and the little girl leaped into his arms. Geoff smiled, and Pepper had to bite her lip to keep from cooing. If she knew anything, she knew puppy love when she saw it. She'd seen her little brothers and sisters (even the ones older than her sometimes) and the other kids they'd fancied over the years. She'd experienced it herself.
"Are you gonna tell your mum on him, Geoff?" Annabelle asked, her little voice as musical as wind chimes.
"Of course, love." Geoff said, a soft smile on his face. Pepper, smiling, pondered the two of them. In her time, nine-year-old girls don't date fifteen-year-old boys; there were even some laws against it. However, when considered, they were only six years apart. They might make a great couple when they were a bit older. It was sweet.
"Who's—" Annabelle cut herself off with a gasp, "Y-you! You're from last night!"
As a look of alarm crossed the child's face, Pepper held up her hands to show that she had nothing to hurt the girl with. "Hey, hey, kid, just listen to me, okay...? I'm not going to—"
Annabelle covered her ears, "S-stop! Get away from me! The ghosts say you're evil!"
"Annabelle!" Geoff said in surprise.
Pepper's eyebrows knit in confusion, "I-I'm not, honey! I'm here to help you!"
Annabelle peeked out from behind Geoff's shoulder, her eyes still scared, but now they were analytical as well, as if trying to tell if Pepper was telling the truth or not. Pepper didn't know why the "ghosts" would tell the traumatized child that she was evil; she didn't happen to know any ghosts. The only person she knew that would have 'friends on the other side', was her friend Shaniah, whose mama owned a voodoo place on Bourbon Street.
"Listen to me, okay, sweetheart?" Pepper said, "Whatever these ghosts told you about me, I'm not a bad person. I just started at this whole... Traveling-and-helping-people thing." Pepper had been about to say something about time travel, when it occurred to her that these two knew nothing about time travel and the Doctor. So she just left it out.
Annabelle looked at Pepper for a long time, then she whispered something to Geoff, who, in turn, nodded at Pepper. She took that as an okay to enter the room as they did.
Annabelle sat on the bed, Geoff keeping protectively close. Pepper sat in a chair across the tiny room from them, and Annabelle told Pepper her story. She told her about how her parents and all the people around her thought she was crazy, and how her parents dumped her off here as soon as the family doctor told her she had—
"Schizophrenia." Pepper nodded, "Tell me, is that what the doctor called it?"
Annabelle nodded, "No one knew what the doctor meant when he said that. He didn't explain it very well."
"Schizophrenia is not supposed to exist yet," Pepper muttered, then she shook her head and made herself more easily heard, "Schizophrenia means that you have delusions and you hear voices in your head."
"I hear voices, but I'm not crazy!" Annabelle said defensively. "The Ghosts are real!"
"I know; and I believe you, honey." Pepper nodded, "You didn't even know me, and you were suddenly scared of me. You said the ghosts told you that I'm-"
Suddenly, the air in the room dropped below zero. Pepper's breath hung around her chin like fog. Geoff held Annabelle close, but it did nothing to help Annabelle feel more safe. Pepper felt for her. She could hear the ghosts inside her head; there was no escaping them.
Then, as suddenly as it had come, the cold was gone. However, it had left behind a screaming Annabelle.
She had fallen to the floor, her body convulsing, and her hands pressed to the sides of her head. "GET OUT! T-TOO MANY!"
"They must be inside her head!" Pepper said, kneeling quickly and putting her hands on the girl.
As soon her hands touched her, a light flashed before Pepper's eyes. Suddenly, she was in darkness. But wait... It wasn't quite dark. She could still see her hands. And, in the distance, she could see small points of light in the distance. Were those stars? They were small, and closer than she thought they were. There was one small ball of light she felt she was close enough to grab, but it was just out of her reach. The more she tried to reach for it, the further away it floated.
This was a dream she had often. She had talked to our Mama about this dream, and Mama always told her that little star was her future. Now, Pepper wasn't so sure. She wasn't too sure if she even wanted to think about her future, much less try to change it. Now that the Doctor said she might not be human, maybe that little star was who she really was. It was right in front of her, but she just couldn't reach it.
Finally, right when she thought she had it, the dream faded.
"—ight? Can you hear me, Pepper?"
Pepper's eyes lazily blinked open, and the fuzziness of her vision slowly cleared and focused on the Doctor's face.
She meant to ask what happened and when he got there, but it came out like: "Wubummrgh...? Wennegegah...?"
The Doctor smiled, "Good, you're alright. How do you feel?"
Pepper looked up at him. Her tongue was swollen, and her throat was dry. She managed to mumble, "Dru...nk..."
The Doctor chuckled and helped her sit up, "Lightheaded? Sick to your stomach? Anything else?"
"Do you need a ginger ale...?"
"No... M'good... Wha'appened?" Pepper rubbed her eyes.
"Well, according to your friend Geoff, you just collapsed." The Doctor stepped back, and Pepper took in the rest of her surroundings. She was still in Annabelle's room, and Annabelle and Geoff were standing on the opposite side of the bed from the Doctor. Annabelle seemed fine now, but Pepper could see different emotions twitching on her face, as if there was still conflict going on in her head.
Pepper sat up, looking at Annabelle. "You okay now, hon?"
Annabelle shrugged, "I guess..." She was lying, Pepper could tell.
"You look like you've been under anesthesia," The Doctor said.
Pepper shrugged, "I just touched her and blacked out."
"Annabelle was having a seizure," Geoff explained, "She's done that before, multiple times."
"Huh." The Doctor crossed his arms, looking at Annabelle, "Did these 'seizures' happen before those 'Ghosts' appeared?"
"No," Annabelle shook her head, "It started happening when the Ghosts would get in my head..."
"What do these Ghosts say, Annabelle, do they threaten you...?" Annabelle shook her head.
"They warn me about stuff... They told me Pepper was evil... Now I'm not so sure if what they is right..."
The Doctor smiled at Pepper, a silent congratulations for getting Annabelle to believe her. "Why's that, then?"
"I 'unno." The girl shrugged, "She's just... I trust her..."
Before the Doctor could ask any more questions, Annabelle's eyes rolled back into her head and she crumpled to the floor. Pepper and Geoff both tried to leap to her aid, but they were stopped as the Doctor stepped in front and held them back.
"Don't! If you touch her, you'll black out! She's a walking anesthetic!"
Annabelle rose again, except she wasn't alright anymore. Her eyes remained rolled back—or maybe they didn't. Maybe her retinas and her pupils had just turned to white. Her face had lost the childlike rosy hue it had possessed before, as well as the happy look any child should contain. She looked very possessed, and the twitches of emotion had ceased. Instead of flickering between emotions, her face was completely blank.
The Doctor looked at the possessed girl, as if he'd seen something like this before. "Am I speaking to the Ghosts?" He asked cautiously.
When she opened her mouth, it wasn't Annabelle's musical voice that sprung forth. It sounded more like a bunch of voices whispering all at once, "We are not ghosts. We are not of this world."
"Which world are you from, then? What are you?" He asked, Pepper and Geoff remaining quiet.
"We are of Planet Saanthum."
"Saanthum!" The Doctor cried in astonishment, "That's all the way on the far side of the Sygnus Galaxy! What could you possibly want with this little Earth girl? Even better, how did you get here?! You'd have to burn up a red giant to get all the way here!"
"Our planet was long ago destroyed by the first battles of what would become the Time War. We fled. We are the last remaining Saanthumites in existence."
The Doctor sighed and scratched the back of his head. "That seems to happen a lot more than you'd think..."
"We must feed." The Saanthumites said.
"Yeah, and you've been feeding on a lot more than the fear of a scared little girl." The Doctor said gravely.
"Those ghosts are feeding off of Annabelle?!" Geoff shouted, "How do we stop it?!"
"You cannot stop us," The Saanthumites said, "Once she is fully developed, we will devour the rest of her."
"Like hell you will!" Geoff was probably about to make a threat, but the Doctor stopped him.
"Geoff, calm down; don't do something you won't regret." He said.
"Do not think you can overpower us," The Saanthumites said, "We are invincible in this body, for none of you will hit a child."
"Which is the best thing about you all," The Doctor said, "You're cowards; insane with self-preservation—which is very appropriate that you picked an asylum as your setting—so insane that you hide behind a human shield when anyone tries to attack you, which is mainly why you go for children. You wait until they've gone just as insane as you, then you devour them!"
"You know nothing, Doctor."
"Ah, I wouldn't say that," Pepper put in, "He knows a lot more than me..."
Instead of answering, "Annabelle" screeched at them, making Pepper jump back in surprise. The girl's body floated as if someone had picked it up on wires, and flew past them, out the door and down the hall.
"Follow her!" The Doctor shouted. The three of them ran after her, dodging surprised nurses, doctors, and patients. Every time the possessed girl passed by a patient, they collapsed, screaming. It didn't matter what they had, something about the floating body spooked them and sent them into episodes. It was all the Ghosts doing, trying to clutter the trail to slow the followers down.
Right as Pepper thought she was going to catch up, the ghosts sent a big mirror crashing to the floor. The Doctor pulled her back before she could get cut by the glass or hit by the frame. By the time they had all made it over the clutter, Annabelle was gone.
"We lost her," Geoff interjected before the Doctor could chide Pepper for cursing, "We have to find her before those things eat her!"
"Before she ends up like Jimmy." Both guys looked at Pepper, one questioning and one horrified.
"I won't let that happen!"
"Wait, wait, wait," The Doctor said, "Who's Jimmy?"
"Doctor, you 'member that tricycle from the yard?"
Pepper nodded, "That used to be his. He died suddenly by bursting into that black sludge we found in the dungeon. I don't think Annabelle is the first person these ghosts have gone after."
"Poor lad... Let's think now..." The Doctor looked at Geoff, "What would Jimmy and Annabelle have in common?"
"Well... Jimmy's parents dropped him off here because they couldn't take care of him... Poor kid was so lonely..."
Pepper's eyes widened, and her eyebrows knit. She pointed at Geoff, "Say that again...?"
"He... He was lonely...? He didn't have many friends..."
The Doctor raised his eyebrows, "What about loneliness...?"
"Remember that guy?!" Pepper said to him, snapping her fingers, "The guy that we thought was calling you the 'Lonely One'? Maybe that wasn't meant for you!"
The Doctor started to pick up on what she was getting at, "Yes... Maybe it was meant for Annabelle! Oohhh, Pepper, you are brilliant—!"
"Doctor, he also said 'Lonely Man' when he was talking about the 'butler'."
"Butler? You mean Mr. Clarke?" Geoff looked slightly confused. When Pepper and the Doctor looked at him, both pairs of eyes wide, he continued, "Some of the patients and I call him the butler because my mother treats him like one..."
"He's in danger. ALLONS-Y!" He took off again, towards Mr. Clarke's office, Pepper and Geoff close behind.
"MR. CLARKE!" The Doctor shouted as he skidded to a stop in front of the open door of the office. There was a nurse inside, whom turned, eyes wide, scared, and filled with horrified tears. She stepped aside, revealing a set of bones covered in black sludge.
"H-he just... H-he—"
The Doctor went to inspect it, while Pepper tried to calm the nurse down. Geoff stood in the doorway.
"Lonely... He was lonely..." He muttered, looking confused and rather flabbergasted, "I knew he had no family, but I... I never knew—"
"Geoff, it's alright... It wasn't your fault..." Pepper said, patting the nurse's back.
"I-I know it's not my fault, but... If I'd known he was that lonely, I would've been nicer to him..."
"There's nothing we can do about it now. We need to focus on finding Annabelle."
"I think I know where she might be."
Pepper had never seen an exorcism anywhere but on TV. She hoped to never see another one again.
Annabelle was right where Geoff thought she would be: the garden where Jimmy died. The Doctor commented on how the Ghost had a sick sense of keeping their 'messes' contained. Pepper had made a face and told him to keep comments like that in his head.
When they found Annabelle, she was worse than she had been before. She looked like she was having a seizure on the ground, her body shaking and convulsing and making horrifying noise. Blackness was creeping onto her skin, preparing to make her melt as the Ghosts ate her up from the inside.
Once again, Pepper vowed never to watch The Exorcist again.
"Give up now, Saanthumites!" The Doctor called. Annabelle stopped convulsing, and a wisp of smoke drifted from her open mouth, which formed a ghostly bust, that looked almost human.
If humans had three heads, with three slitted eyes and four mouths each.
"We shall never cease!" The figure hissed, its faces shifting so Pepper could never tell what they actually looked like, besides the extra facial features.
"I'm offering you a chance to surrender," The Doctor repeated, "I can't let you disrupt the patients here! Some of them are already crazy enough without your help!" Then he leaned over to Geoff and muttered, "No offense."
Geoff shrugged, "None taken."
"Saanthumites," The Doctor corrected.
"Listen, Ghost guys," Pepper shot a glare at the Doctor, stepping forward to address the figure, "You're lonely. I get it, I've been there. You feel like no one gets you, that you have no friends, and you fear no one will because you're the last of your kind."
The Saanthumites were silent.
"Look... I know why you go after lonely people. Especially here, where no one helps the patients as much as they should. You think that someone like Jimmy, who feels he has no one else in the world, has no one to trust and no one to love or be loved by... You know they'll be quick to trust you... So you go after them, drive them insane, and then eat them. But that's not okay by me."
Pepper really wished she had her bow and arrows. She hated speaking in front of people (or, in this case, aliens) she didn't know. Her bow, even if it couldn't hurt these ghosts, would make her feel more confident. Because the looks she was getting from those nine eyes were nothing less than unnerving.
"Plus, you've got the wrong girl!" She said. "Annabelle isn't lonely! She has Geoff, who loves her more than her own parents, and now she has friends in me and the Doctor!"
The Saanthumites screeched and flew up as if they were expelled from Annabelle's body. She gasped and sat up, shaking, the black spots on her skin gone completely now. Geoff rushed to her, pulling her into his arms. She clung to him, bursting into tears.
The Ghosts dissipated with a dying screech, and Pepper looked at the Doctor, "Are they gone, then?"
The Doctor grinned at her, "Yes. And you were brilliant."
Geoff and Annabelle had thanked them and said their goodbyes, and the Doctor and Pepper hopped the fence again, heading back for the TARDIS. The Doctor pulled the levers and pushed the same buttons as before; pulling the TARDIS out into space, he said.
"So, how was your first trip?" The Doctor grinned at her.
Pepper grinned back at him. "Brilliant. And freaky." She made a face at the last adjective, then went on to say, "Definitely not watching The Exorcist again. Ever."
The Doctor chuckled and leaned on the TARDIS console. "Where to now?"
Pepper was about to give the 'I don't know' excuse, when the TARDIS lurched, sending both of them tumbling to the floor.
"What happened?!" Pepper shouted from her spot on the floor.
The Doctor scrambled to get up-without answering-and ran out the doors of the TARDIS with Pepper close behind him. As soon as his feet hit grass, he found himself looking down the shaft of an arrow.
"Who are you?!" The woman holding the bow asked. Her face was half-covered by a golden helmet, and her auburn hair was curled and brushed over her shoulder. She wore a tunic, covered by heavy armor and a sword strapped at her waist.
"Wot?!" The Doctor squeaked.
"How did you get here?!" The woman asked.
"What?!" Pepper joined in.
"Take them to the Queen!"
"What?!" They both chorused.
Chapter 3 Preview:
"How did we end up in Anchient Greece?"
"Better yet, how did we end up prisoners of the most dangerous women in History?!"
"Wait, your majesty, let me introduce myself."
"She's a woman who can fight, we need her in our warriors."
"It's Archemedia! She's been attacked by the Medusa!"
"Doctor, what is she?!"
"A Weeping Angel."
"Pepper, whatever you do, don't look at her. Don't open your eyes, no matter what happens."
What do you think? Itching for the next chapter? I can't wait either! ewe review please~