Sarah didn’t say anything in reply to that shocking claim. She simply pulled Maria gently over the threshold and shut the door.
“Upstairs. We’re in the attic. The kettle is just boiled. A nice cup of tea.” She guided Maria up the stairs. She was still crying when they reached the attic, which was an indication of how upset she was. Knowing that Luke was there, she would usually have pulled herself together and put a brave face on. Crying in front of an adult was all right, but according to the unwritten law of teenagers, crying in front of somebody her own age wasn’t done.
Sarah Jane made the tea and made Maria drink half a cup before she would say anything more. Then she listened to her story about Kaitlyn.
“Mr Smith….” she said. To her surprise, Mr Smith was already ahead of her.
“I am accessing the police records,” he said. “A hit and run accident occurred on Carlyle Avenue, Southall, approximately forty minutes ago. The casualty, Kaitlyn Turner, aged fifteen, was taken by ambulance to Ealing Hospital, where her condition is described as serious but stable. The driver of the car was stopped by police on the A4020 at Hillingden and was subsequently arrested for failing to stop at the scene of an accident and failing a roadside breathalyser test.”
“There you are,” Sarah Jane told Maria in a deliberately bright voice. “Nobody is dead. And it wasn’t your fault. It was a stupid, stupid person who had too much to drink and drove his car too fast. You couldn’t POSSIBLY have made that happen.”
“But I DID,” Maria insisted. “I know it sounds crazy, but I DID. I dreamt it, and when I woke up, it had happened.”
“You had a premonition of it happening. That happens…. Far more often than people think it does. U.N.I.T. have a whole department where they research that sort of thing, you know. I bet if you told them all about it, they would be able to tell you what parts of your brain were active, and how low level telepathic fields can sometimes act to produce random premonitions just like that.”
“I don’t want to talk to U.N.I.T. about it,” Maria said. “Or Torchwood, or any of those people. I don’t want anybody except you to know. And I want it to STOP. That’s three people in hospital because of me.”
“Is me being able to HURT people I hate more strange than me having premonitions?” Maria pointed out logically. “I DID it. I felt so much hate for mum and Lizzie last night. And I dreamt about how much I hated Kaitlyn. And… oh… Remember what I said about Ivan… what if…”
“Do you have a phone number for Ivan?” Sarah Jane asked her. Maria did. Sarah Jane dialled it on her mobile. Maria and Luke didn’t here Ivan’s side of the conversation.
“Hello, is that Ivan? You don’t know me. But I’m a friend of Maria’s… Maria…. Your… sort of… Chrissie’s daughter… Chrissie… the woman you live with…. Oh, I see. How unfortunate. Well…. Look, never mind. Goodbye…”
Sarah Jane put the phone back in her pocket and looked around at the two youngsters. Criticising an adult in front of children used to be considered bad form when she was a girl. And she tried to maintain the same standards. When it came to Chrissie and Ivan, it was difficult, since there was such a lot to be criticised.
“Well,” she managed. “HE is alive and well. He’s rather angry. The engine blew up in the courtesy car the garage gave him while his is in for repairs. Apparently he was in a traffic jam on Uxbridge Road and it just ‘went’. And then he got a ticking off from a policeman for obstructing an ambulance with its lights and siren on answering a 999 call. Though why he felt a stranger on the telephone needed to know that…”
“So he did have a SORT of accident,” Maria said, wondering if the ambulance was the one going to Kaitlyn.
“But YOU didn’t do it,” Sarah Jane insisted. “Now, come on. Let’s be practical. Did you lock the house when you came over?”
“I can’t remember,” Maria admitted. “I was so upset…”
“All right. I’ll pop across there and get you some clothes and lock up. I’ll leave a note for your dad to say that you’re here. And you can have a nice relaxing bath and get dressed to go and see your mum at visiting time.”
Those ordinary domestic ideas helped to push away the other ideas running through Maria’s head temporarily. Sarah Jane picked up her handbag and hurried downstairs and across the road. Maria HAD left the door unlocked, but Bannerman Road was a quiet place, apart from being a regular stop off for friendly and not so friendly aliens. There was no sign of burglars.
She went up to Maria’s room and found her a change of clothes. And while she was at it, she scanned the room for alien entities.
She was surprised to discover that it was clean, now. No entities.
“It can’t have just gone,” she told herself. Then a dreadful thought occurred to her.
The entity had attached itself to Maria. Like a familiar?
She kept herself calm. She wrote the note for Alan and locked up the house before crossing the road once again. She walked up the stairs to the attic and noticed the low beep her watch made as she entered the attic. She realised that it had done it when Maria arrived at the house, earlier. But she had been too concerned about a very upset and frightened girl wearing nothing but a nightie in the street to worry about it then.
“There you go, Maria,” she said, giving her the clothes. “You go and have a nice long soak. I’ve got about half a dozen different bath salts that are supposed to relax the body and calm the mind in there. Help yourself.”
Maria managed a smile as she went off to the bathroom. Sarah Jane watched her go and then looked at her watch.
“K9, Mr Smith, do you have the same reading?”
“Affirmative, mistress,” K9 replied.
“There is a Cavean Entity in this room,” Mr Smith added. “It came with Maria and is still here now.”
“Which means it is NOT attached to her personally,” Sarah Jane reasoned. “Unless it’s a shy entity that doesn’t want to follow her to the bath.”
That was meant as a joke to lighten the tense atmosphere in the attic, but nobody really got it. Mr Smith and K9 both had computer minds that didn’t appreciate humour and Luke’s mind was formed by computers and still had a long way to go to fully appreciate the subtleties of Human interaction.
But he DID have a very SHARP mind.
“Of COURSE!” Sarah Jane answered him. “WHY didn’t I think of that. This ALL began when she got the doll. Last night she had it in bed with her. And this afternoon when she had that dream. She was holding it when she was talking about Ivan. But she retracted what she said about him. She doesn’t really hate him. He’s an idiot, but he’s not REALLY the cause of her problem with her mum, just one of the symptoms. And she was grown up enough to realise that.”
“So Ivan just had a blown up engine, not anything really terrible.”
“Her mum just had a broken leg because she LOVES her mum even though she hates her as well.”
“But Lizzie and Kaitlyn…” Luke shuddered. “I’m glad I’m her friend.” He walked towards the sofa, where Maria had left the doll. He picked it up. Its eyes opened. But it was supposed to do that. It was a mechanism behind the face with a heavy weight that obeyed the laws of gravity and swung down when the doll was stood up, pulling the eyes open. Nothing sinister.
It was JUST a doll. A frilly, very girly kind of doll. Luke knew that if Clyde was there he would feel really hot and embarrassed holding it right now. But Clyde wasn’t there. Without any qualms, therefore, he turned the doll over and started to unfasten its dress to look at the doll properly.
“No, not yet,” Sarah Jane told him. “Her dad will be here soon and they’re going up to the hospital. We’ll deal with it then.”
It was Maria’s present from her grandmother. Sarah Jane didn’t want to upset her by finding out that it was responsible for these terrible things. She took the doll from Luke and sat it down again on the sofa. When Maria came back from her bath, Sarah Jane and Luke were both doing a good impression of people who weren’t worried about anything at all, and managed to keep it up until Alan arrived to take Maria to the hospital.
“Leave the doll behind,” Alan said as she went to pick it up. “It might get lost at the hospital. And you wouldn’t want that to happen.” Maria looked conflicted for a few moments before putting it down on the sofa again.
“That was lucky,” Luke commented when they were gone. “I thought she was going to take it.”
“So did I,” Sarah Jane said. “Now, let’s have a look.” She picked up the doll and began to do what Luke had intended to do before – undress it and see if there was anything unusual about it.
She didn’t notice the doll’s eyes open and shut, glowing blue momentarily.
“Oww!” she screamed as sparks flew from the plastic doll, against all laws of physics and she felt an electric shock run up her arm. She dropped the doll and jumped back from it, pushing Luke behind her protectively. Automatically, she reached for the sonic screwdriver in her pocket.
“Stay behind me,” she told Luke as she wielding the screwdriver like a weapon. It was in scanner mode at the moment and no threat to anyone or any thing, but she hoped the entity would recognise it’s power as something to be reckoned with.
She and Luke were both startled when the doll stood up on its own two feet and turned to look at them. The eyes were wide open and the glowing blue colour was identical to the sonic screwdriver’s glow.
“Keep back,” Sarah Jane called out. “Keep away from us.”
“Where is Maria?” it demanded. “What have you done to her? I will kill anyone who stands in my way. Maria is under my protection. I will kill anyone who harms her.”
“WE’RE Maria’s friends,” Luke answered. “We protect her. Who are you and why did you come here?”
“Where is Maria?” the creature in the doll demanded. “Why is she not here? What have you done with her?”
“She’s gone to see her mum in hospital,” Sarah Jane replied. “She is IN hospital because of YOU. You hurt her mum and those two girls. You have to stop doing that. You can’t be allowed to hurt people. Maria is upset because of what you did.”
“No, I am Maria’s friend. She is upset because of them. I will punish those who make Maria unhappy. I will punish YOU.”
“Sarah Jane!” Mr Smith called out. “I am detecting a large build up of psychic energy from the doll. Protect yourself.”
“Protect myself from what?” she demanded. "WITH what?"
“I will protect you, mistress,” said K9, whirring into position between her and the doll. But Sarah Jane still found herself being lifted bodily from the floor and whirled around like a rag doll. K9 shot a laser beam at the doll, but it lifted a plastic hand and deflected it, burning a hole in the back of the sofa. The doll’s other hand raised and K9 gave an electronic yelp and retreated. But trying to hit both targets at once had been too much. Sarah Jane fell with an ungainly bump onto the same sofa. She was winded and dizzy, and she lost her sonic screwdriver as she fell. Luke ran to grab it.
“Setting 5643#7,” Mr Smith said. “Stasis beam.”
“Is it?” Sarah Jane asked. “I’m glad you scanned the manual, Mr Smith.”
Luke set the sonic screwdriver and pointed it at the doll. A blue, sparkling beam shot out of it and surrounded the doll, immobilising it. The creature within screamed in rage at them. Sarah Jane stood, rubbing sore parts of herself. She took the sonic screwdriver from Luke and adjusted it to another setting. Luke wasn’t sure what it was.
“Sonic disrupter,” she said. “It’s the fifth setting in the manual. It dissipates energy. This creature is made of energy.”
She pointed the sonic screwdriver again. The creature screamed, agonisingly. It didn’t say in the manual that it took so long and made something that WAS a lifeform of a kind scream in pain.
“Mum!” Luke yelled. “Stop. It’s HORRIBLE. Stop.”
Sarah Jane stopped.
“Thank… you…” the creature said. “Thank you for your kindness.”
“Just keep still,” Sarah Jane told it.
“I am unable to move,” it pointed out. “I am at your mercy.”
“Ye you are. So now, let’s get to the bottom of this. I know what you are. I know all about Cavean Entities. But I want to know how you got into that doll. And why you think you have to hurt people that Maria knows.”
“I am her friend. That is my purpose. To be the friend of the child who owns the doll. I was born in the doll factory. It is my purpose. When Maria was given the doll, I became her friend.”
“Are there other dolls with Cavean Entities in them, then?” Luke asked. “Does that happen EVERY time a child gets a doll?” The idea horrified him. Little children all over the country could end up killing their parents if they didn’t give them sweets or they didn’t want to eat sprouts.
“I am the only one. I was born alone.”
“How can you be born alone?” Luke replied. “Everyone is born from a parent. Except me. I was made. But everyone else…”
“I was born alone,” the entity told them, and it seemed as if there was no way it could explain in terms they, as humans understood, how he was ‘born’ alone, apparently out of nothing and from nowhere. “I was born, and I knew my purpose. To love and protect Maria. To make her happy.”
“But you HAVEN’T made her happy,” Sarah Jane told the creature. “You have made her miserable. You have made her think she is responsible for three horrible accidents, one of them to her MUM. You can’t DO that. You have to come out of that doll and leave Maria alone. Do it now, or I will continue dissipating your energy until there is nothing left of you.”
“I cannot leave,” the entity said. “I will die if I leave this shape now. You already took so much of my energy. I am weak. Cannot leave. Powerless.”
“I don’t believe you,” Sarah Jane said. “You’re lying. Stalling for time. Get out of that doll NOW.”
“I CANNOT!” the creature wailed. And Sarah Jane and Luke both watched in astonishment as the dolls eyes seemed to fill with tears. “If I die, who will look after Maria?”
“WE look after Maria,” Luke said. “And her dad, and her mum, sort of. And she looks after herself. She DOESN’T need you.”
“Maybe she DOES,” Sarah Jane conceded. “Everyone needs somebody. If we let you stay, no more hurting people. Humans sometimes get angry. Sometimes they SAY things they don’t mean. I guess nobody explained THAT to you. When a Human says they HATE another Human, when they’re hurt and feeling sad, it DOESN’T make them better by hurting that other person. At least, not unless they are very twisted humans. But Maria ISN’T one of those. She is a nice girl. If she says she hates somebody then it’s just a thing she has said. She doesn’t mean it. If you don’t understand that, then you CAN’T be near her.”
“Mistress,” K9 said in a small voice.
“Yes, K9, what is it?”
“I am programmed with understanding of Human emotions.”
“Let me teach the Cavean Entity. It is a telepathic being. I can sent it a microburst of information that it can process. It will understand, then.”
“We should let him try, mum,” Luke suggested. “Because otherwise… I think we have to kill it. And… I don’t think we should do that.”
“I don’t think I want to,” Sarah Jane said. “Not unless I really have to. K9… you’d better try it. But… I’m watching that doll. If it does ANYTHING I don’t like…”
K9 moved closer to the doll. It remained standing as Sarah Jane turned the sonic screwdriver to another setting and dissipated the stasis field. K9 hummed slightly, like a computer with its drives all going at once. Other than that, there was no sign that anything was happening.
Until the doll began to cry again.
This time, huge tears fell down the plastic cheeks and a pitiful wailing accompanied them.
“It’s upset,” Luke said. “It knows what it did wrong, and its upset. It’s… got a conscience now. It knows right from wrong properly. And it knows it did wrong.”
Sarah Jane had only become a parent a year ago. She had never done the soothing crying toddlers routine. She was not naturally maternal, if truth be told, despite managing to be the best parent she could be to Luke.
But she reached and picked up the doll. She hugged it.
“It’s all right,” she whispered kindly. “It’s all right. You understand now. You know how much it hurts. That’s how Maria felt when she thought it was all her fault. So… so now you know you can’t DO those things.”
As she hugged the doll, the crying noise gradually stopped. She looked at it and wiped the wet face with a tissue. Then she put it back down on the sofa, sitting down, its plastic legs slightly splayed under the dress.
“Maria isn’t to know any of this,” she said to Luke, K9, Mr Smith, even to the doll. “She will still feel it’s her fault because the entity did what it thought she wanted. This remains our secret. When no more accidents happen, she’ll get over it. She’ll think she was just over-reacting and put it behind her. And she will NEVER know about this. You….” She looked directly at the doll. It blinked its eyes, but there was no glow. It could easily have been a slight vibration as K9 bumped the corner of the sofa. “You can stay with her. You’re her friend. You can… I don’t know… be a friendly, warm aura in her bedroom, so that when she does feel sad or troubled she will feel better about it. You NEVER reveal yourself to her. Do you understand?”
There was no answer except another blink of the eyes.
“Ok,” Sarah Jane said, pocketing her sonic screwdriver. “I’ll put the kettle on. When Maria and Alan get back they’ll probably enjoy a nice cup of tea.”
“Will they come back here?” Luke asked.
“Yes,” Sarah Jane answered. “Maria has to pick up her doll.”
She was right, of course. Maria and Alan stopped off at her house before they went home. Maria looked a lot happier. Alan looked irritated. Sarah Jane knew them both well enough to know that contact with Chrissie Jackson made Maria happy and Alan irritated. Maria picked up her doll and held it while she had her tea. She told Sarah Jane that she had gone to see Lizzie while they were in the hospital. They let her visit for just ten minutes. Lizzie couldn’t talk, but she was able to write. She thanked them for looking after her mum.
“She hasn’t had ANY cards or anything from any of her ‘friends’,” Maria said. “I always thought she was popular at school. But it seems like nobody REALLY cares about her. That’s really sad. I think… I think I’m going to go and see her again when she’s able to have visitors for longer. Dad asked about Kaitlyn, too. She’s going to be all right. I DON’T want to visit her. I’m glad she’s not dead, but I don’t really have anything to say to her. But I think Lizzie… I think she needs a friend right now.” She paused and had some more tea and laid the doll down on her knee so that its eyes closed and it looked like a sleeping child. “I am sorry I was so silly earlier,” she added. “All that fuss I made. I think I was just tired and worried about mum,” she said. “I over-reacted. I’m sure it was all just a huge coincidence, that’s all.”
“I’m sure that was all,” Sarah Jane agreed. She looked at the doll. Its eyes blinked open and shut again, with just a VERY faint blue glow. Be a friendly, warm aura, she had said. Was it doing it already? Helping Maria to feel better about the things that had worried her?
Or was it just a vibration as K9 bumped into the sofa again.
Sarah Jane made a note to have her friend Mr Lumsden look at his gyroscope to see if it was a bit scrambled by his fight with the entity and asked if anyone would like more tea