Sarah Jane pushed sticks into apples and slid them across to Maria and Clyde who were in control of melted chocolate in one pan and toffee in the other. They coated them and passed them to Luke who dipped the end of the toffee or chocolate apple in hundreds and thousands and then stood them on trays lined with greaseproof paper. It looked like the sort of domestic scene anywhere in Britain early in the evening of October 31st – Halloween. The only difference was that a robot dog hunkered by Sarah Jane’s feet and she and her young friends knew that there were stranger things than little children trick-or-treating in the universe.
“We could always send K9 to the door when they knock,” Maria suggested with a laugh. “That would trick them ok.”
“K9 can’t reach the door handle,” Sarah Jane pointed out. “Besides, I don’t want word getting out about him. He’s secret.”
“Poor old K9,” Clyde said. “Never gets to go for walkies.”
“I do not require walkies,” K9 intoned. “I am perfectly satisfied to take care of Mistress Sarah within this house.”
“Doesn’t seem fair, still,” Maria agreed. “Why can’t he go out late at night when nobody will see him?”
“We could take him out tonight,” Clyde pointed out. “Halloween. Everyone would think he was a joke robot.”
“I don’t like the idea of people thinking K9 is a joke,” Sarah Jane said. “Besides, we’re doing this stuff for the trick or treaters coming round.”
“We could all go out a bit later when all the little kids we’re doing the toffee apples for are gone,” Maria said. “It would be fun.”
Sarah thought about it and agreed. Yes, it would be fun. And lets face it, she didn’t often get to do FUN things. Meanwhile she went to the cupboard and took out two very large pumpkins. She put them on the floor. K9 aimed carefully and sliced the tops of them. Then she turned them on their sides and he scored around the inside so that she could scrape out the flesh. While she was cooking the pumpkin with some sugar and raisons and putting it into a pie crust for supper K9 put the finishing touches to the lanterns by burning sinister looking faces into the sides.
“I think that’s cheating,” Maria said. “It should take ages to make a pumpkin lantern.”
“I have better things to do with my life,” Sarah Jane commented.
“I still do not understand why frightening things are ‘fun’ on this night,” Luke remarked.
“Neither do I,” Sarah Jane replied. “It’s just something children do. It really is all nonsense really. All the stuff about witchcraft and ghosts and vampires and all of that. really Halloween just comes from the old Celtic harvest festival. The whole thing is just blown out of proportion by the people who make funny masks and plastic trinkets.”
“Didn’t the celts do sacrifices and things though?” Clyde said. “Blood-letting and rituals and you know what.”
“It wasn’t a good day to be a chicken, I expect,” Sarah Jane answered. The three youngsters looked disappointed. “Sorry, but really there is nothing to it. Halloween is a commercial venture and that’s all. It’s only popular because people are going off bonfire night.”
“Yeah, but,” Maria prompted her. “I mean we’ve seen aliens and stuff. Surely witches and ghosts and zombies and stuff are just as likely?”
“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Sarah Jane admitted. “But what I don’t believe is that there is anything about this date, Halloween, the witching time, any of that. It’s just another night. Apart from the kids knocking on the door for treats it’s the quietest night of the year, usually.”
“Maybe the aliens take the night off because Earth is too weird for them at Halloween,” Clyde remarked.
“Maybe they do,” Sarah Jane agreed with a laugh. “Oh, well, did I ever tell you about the time me and The Doctor fought robot mummies in an Edwardian house?”
She hadn’t. Maria made a pot of tea while Luke and Clyde cut sandwiches and Sarah Jane put the pumpkin pie on the oven timer and they retreated to the living room while she told that story. By the time she was finished it was dark enough to put out the pumpkin lanterns and await the first trick-or-treaters. Inbetween their calls Sarah Jane told her friends about the Sisterhood of Karn, the nearest she had ever come to meeting real witches.
It was a long evening. She got through several other stories of her adventures with The Doctor before the callers started to dwindle off. It was about nine o’clock by then and they figured it was safe to go out. They wrapped up warm. It was a cold, sharp night. No wind, and a clear, starry, moonlit sky, but VERY cold. It was quiet now. The sounds of children laughing. chanting Halloween songs and shouting to each other had died away. There was a siren in the distance, though. Two sirens, in fact. Police, ambulance? Fire maybe, Sarah Jane thought. The Halloween bonfire idea was catching on and accidents were inevitable.
K9 moved along beside them, trying to be inconspicuous. They got away with it along Bannerman Road by keeping close to the shadows of the box hedges and then they slipped down a couple of unlit alleyways. There wasn’t much they could do when they reached the dual carriageway with its big overhead lights. There wasn’t much traffic, though, apart from two police cars that went by with their lights and sirens, and they didn’t seem to worry about four people and a robot dog caught out on the traffic island in the middle.
At last they reached the other side and went through the gate and down to the riverside walk. There were no lights at all down there except from the houses on the other side. Sarah Jane used the light on her sonic lipstick to watch for potholes in the rough path.
It was not as quiet as they might have liked. They kept meeting other dog walkers. Sarah Jane was amazed how many people walked their dogs by the river after dark. It was quite unnerving, and yet funny, too, as K9 dashed into bushes to avoid being noticed too clearly. The other dogs came to him and wagged their tails and sniffed. And a small wire hair terrier actually chased him while Sarah Jane talked to its owner as nonchalantly as she could. She had to admit she didn’t know what breed K9 was, but that he was very good at fetching.
“And making pumpkin lanterns,” Maria giggled when they were out of earshot and K9 joined them on the path again.
“And maths homework,” Clyde added.
“That’s definitely cheating,” Luke admonished him.
“We’re not all brain boxes like you,” Clyde replied and the two boys bickered lightly as boys do. Sarah Jane and Maria formed a feminine conspiracy against them as they walked on ahead, noticing yet another distant siren wail. K9 stuck with them. Although technically he was male, or so Sarah Jane always assumed, he was far less of a nuisance than Human males, even artificially created ones like Luke.
Sarah Jane looked up at the sky. She often did on clear nights like this. She had once travelled among those stars that now were just lights in the sky. She wasn’t sorry not to be up there still. After all, there had been many times when she had longed to put her feet down on Earth, in her own time. And finally she had. But she still looked with a tinge of nostalgia. She turned her face to the southern view along the river. There was a bit too much light pollution but even so she knew where to look and could just make out the constellation she sought. Sagittarius, very low in the sky. Only a handful of people on Earth knew that beyond their solar system the six stars of the bow of Sagittarius were known by another name. Kasterborus. And the star that was on the middle of the bowstring had a planet orbiting it called Gallifrey. She was one of the privileged few to know one of its sons. She thought fondly of him for a long moment, as she always did on such nights.
Maria gave a sharp gasp and nudged her. Sarah Jane turned and looked where she was pointing and she gasped, too. The boys shouted and ran towards them.
“You saw it too?” Clyde asked.
“Yes,” Maria answered. “At least I think so. What did YOU see?”
“I saw…” Clyde paused. He felt silly somehow. “I saw…”
“A witch,” Luke finished for him.
“Yes,” Sarah Jane gasped. “Yes, it was a witch. An actual real, witch on a broomstick, flying in the sky.”
To Be Continued...