Luke played happily with the snowglobe all afternoon as the adults talked among themselves. He finally put it down in order to come to the dining room and enjoy the huge high tea that Doris put on for them. He talked a little, when The Brigadier or Doris or Sarah Jane spoke directly to him, but mostly he just kept looking at the window, noting that it wasn’t snowing now.
After tea, with it getting dark, Doris closed the curtains and put on the lights in the drawing room. The Brigadier took out his big old photo album with pictures of everyone who had worked in U.N.I.T in the old days. Luke looked at some of the photographs, the ones with his mum as a much younger woman in them. He liked to see anything that was about her life, her history. Maybe because he had no history of his own, he found her past interesting.
“That’s you again,” he said as the Brigadier turned the page to an enlarged group photograph. There was The Brigadier himself, as a younger man, with his neatly trimmed moustache, in full dress uniform for a Regimental dinner - in his case that meant a kilt in the plaid of Royal Stewart and a red jacket. Doris, a younger woman with a pretty evening dress made of the same plaid, held his arm proudly. Beside them was Sarah Jane in an evening dress that seemed all frills and billowy bits and her dark hair done up formally. She was accompanied by Harry Sullivan in his naval surgeon’s dress uniform, looking every inch a dashing young officer. Beside them was a man who wasn’t accompanied by a lady, but who looked as if women might have been involved in smartening him up for the occasion, making him wear a tie with his shirt and a formal jacket for once, although nothing would tidy up the mop of curly hair, it seemed. He was smiling for the photograph but Luke had the feeling he wasn’t really all that happy to be there.
“That’s me,” Sarah Jane answered with a smile. “And Harry. Bless him. And of course….”
There was no need to mention who the odd man out was. Even though this was the third version of him in The Brigadier’s photo album.
“The Doctor never really entered into the spirit of these things,” The Brigadier noted. “I asked him once if they had formal dinners on his planet, and he said something like ‘yes, and they’re even more boring than yours, Brigadier. Why do you think I left?’”
“He’s such a fibber,” Sarah Jane laughed. “That had NOTHING to do with it.”
“I never really BELIEVED he came from another planet,” Doris said. “I always thought he was a bit ODD, but perfectly Human.”
“You never saw him regenerate,” The Brigadier said. “Nothing Human about that.” And he and Sarah Jane were soon talking about not just one Doctor but five different ones that The Brigadier had known and the three that had come into Sarah Jane’s life. Doris smiled happily because The Brigadier was happy, and that was good enough for her. Luke stopped listening. He knew what it was like when his mum was with anyone who had ever met The Doctor. They would talk about him non-stop. It was the same with Martha, swapping stories about the ‘old’ Doctor and the ‘new’ Doctor. And Luke, having met him at Christmas, perfectly well agreed that he WAS fantastic. But he thought there ought to be a strict time limit on how long people were allowed to talk about him.
He went back to the window and pulled the curtain back to look out. The sky was very dark and there was a feeling, even though he couldn’t see, that the clouds were very low in the sky. The garden, all the way down to the river and the mill house, was covered in pristine snow. Enough had fallen already to cover up where The Brigadier and Sarah Jane had walked earlier. It looked beautiful.
He picked up the snowglobe and shook it gently. Outside, it began to snow again - only a gentle fall of individual flakes that stuck to the outside of the double glazed window briefly before melting away.
Doris brought him a cup of tea and some biscuits.
“Do you know,” she told him. “Every snowflake is a different shape. If you could look at them through a magnifying glass or a microscope you’d see hundreds, thousands of different shapes, all perfectly symmetrical, but no two alike.”
“That’s incredible,” Luke said as he looked at the flakes that stuck. “None alike? But surely there must be some repetition. There are finite limits to geometric variation…”
He stopped. Doris was looking at him oddly. Luke remembered that boys of his age didn’t usually talk that way. Besides, he really didn’t WANT to think of snow as something scientific or mathematical. It was far too beautiful for that.
“I like snow,” he said and smiled at Doris.
“Of course you do, dear,” she said to him. “You’re a boy. Perhaps tomorrow you could play out in it. Make a snowman.”
“A snowman?” Luke looked at her quizzically.
“Perhaps you’re too old for that,” she conceded. “Or maybe not. I remember making snowmen when I was a young woman. And having a young man make one for me.”
“Is this a ritual of mating?” Luke asked.
Doris looked at him oddly again. He did say very strange things sometimes, and yet he was a very nice boy. Not like some of the rough lads these days. The sort of boy she would have liked as a son if she and The Brigadier had got married a little earlier, perhaps.
She sighed and pushed the ‘might have beens’ of her life to the back of her mind.
“Maybe Alistair will make one with you,” she suggested. “He’s still a young man at heart.”
“Maybe the snow will be gone by morning,” Luke said. “It keeps stopping all the time.”
“Well, you never know.” She smiled brightly and patted him on the shoulder before returning to where her husband and Sarah Jane were still talking about something that had happened years ago. She had never really known what Alistair’s work really involved, of course. U.N.I.T was involved in top secret missions. She had thought it was about the movement of nuclear missiles. She had a big falling out with him in the days of the Grenham Common protests when she had sympathised with the anti-missile women and Alistair had been so very MILITARY about it all.
Since she had found out the truth about what U.N.I.T did she had often wondered if nuclear missiles weren’t preferable.
She watched Luke playing with the snow globe and watching the snow falling again outside. Sarah Jane watched him, too. She seemed a little worried about him. She bit her lip nervously and then tried not to look as if she hadn’t been watching him at all.
“He’s quite all right, dear,” Doris told her. “Although… he does seem a little… strange… as if he’s never seen snow before.”
Come to think of it, Sarah Jane thought. He probably hasn’t. Not proper, deep snow lying on the ground like this. LAST winter they had a bit of a flurry one or two days in January, enough to coat the ground and make it slippy. But nothing like this. He’d seen snow on TV and pictures, of course. And it was probably ‘programmed’ into him by the aliens who created him. But this really WAS his first REAL experience of REAL snow.
There were so many things that were new to him. It was frightening, and at the same time exciting. She got to experience the world as new through his eyes. And yet it made him so vulnerable. Even Doris had noticed there was something unusual about him. Everyone did after a little while. And she hated the idea of him being ‘different’ and ‘a freak’. She felt that way herself often enough. She had the opposite problem. She had MORE experiences of life than anyone else. She had seen it all from such a different perspective. A terrible perspective, and a beautiful one. But she WAS marked out from everyone else. And sometimes it showed, and people gave HER that look that Doris had given Luke. And even when it was kindly meant it was hard to bear, sometimes.
He was fascinated by the snowglobe. He seemed to enjoy shaking it and watching the snow fall inside the globe and outside, too. He kept looking from one to the other as if he was comparing them. And the weather outside certainly LOOKED as if somebody was stirring it deliberately. One minute there would be light falls, then flurries, then it would be blizzard again, before settling down to light falls again.
It was about eleven o’clock when The Brigadier finally put all his memorabilia away and Doris went to make cocoa. The Brigadier turned on the radio to get the local news and weather, as he always did before bedtime. They were all rather surprised to find that the weather WAS the local news. They listened to the reports of several traffic accidents caused by the erratic snowfalls that had been going on most of the afternoon and evening. In the most serious, four cars had crashed into each other when a freak blizzard hit the A38 for several minutes. By the time the police and paramedics got there, the snow had stopped, but the drivers involved in the collision all claimed that they had been enveloped in snow and had zero visibility.
The report concluded by saying that one woman was still in hospital with a broken leg, but the other casualties had been sent home after treatment for minor injuries.
“Lucky it wasn’t worse,” The Brigadier said. “Modern cars with their airbags and all of that, much safer than they used to be.”
“We’ve certainly had some funny weather today,” Doris commented. “Remember it earlier when you two were caught out in the garden.”
Sarah Jane didn’t comment. She was looking at Luke.
He was crying.
“What’s the matter?” she asked him. “It wasn’t a VERY bad accident. A broken leg is not VERY terrible. Nobody was killed.”
“No,” he sobbed. “But… but it was my fault.”
“What?” Sarah Jane was puzzled. She put her arm around him and tried to comfort him. “Oh, Luke, no it wasn’t your fault. HOW could it be?”
“I made it snow, with the snowglobe,” he answered with a hiccup and a fresh round of sobs. “When I shook the globe, it snowed outside. And I kept on doing it all the time. And I didn’t know it was doing it outside the garden, too.”
“What? Oh, no, sweetheart, really that’s not how it works. The snowglobe doesn’t MAKE weather. It’s just a toy. It’s been snowing on and off all day. The sky is full of it. It’s just… I don’t know, just freak weather. Don’t you worry.”
“Are you sure?” he asked. “Only…”
“I’m sure.” He stopped crying and wiped his eyes. He managed a watery smile. “That’s better. Now, you go and get ready for bed. Doris has a big mug of cocoa made for you, with marshmallows. And you’ve got a nice comfy sofa bed to sleep on here.” She sent him to the downstairs bathroom to put on his pyjamas and she and Doris pulled out the bed and arranged the pillows and duvet for him. As he returned to the drawing room, now converted into his overnight bedroom, The Brigadier went to close the curtains.
“Can you leave them open, please?” he asked. “I want to watch the snow before I go to sleep.”
“If that’s what you want,” The Brigadier answered. “Goodnight, laddie.”
“Goodnight,” Luke said. “Thank you for a nice day.”
He got into the bed and sat up, drinking his cocoa and watching the snow falling outside. Sarah Jane kissed him goodnight. She always did that. There might come a time when he didn’t want her to, but that time wasn’t yet.
She put out the light and he continued to sit up on the sofa bed, watching the snow. It was still coming down, very hard. And this time he KNEW it wasn’t him doing it. Because there was the snowglobe on the windowsill, and he was here in bed.
He got up out of the bed and went to the window. He stared at the snowglobe.
He wasn’t imagining things. The snow in the globe WAS swirling and falling around the model of the mill house. And outside it was snowing harder and harder.
He looked at the snowglobe again. And saw something in it that he hadn’t seen before.
Because he was sure it WASN’T there before.
There were footprints in the snow. Very tiny footprints, leading from the building with the windows to the river.
He looked outside. There were footprints in the snow, leading from near the drawing room window to the river.
Exactly where they were in the snowglobe.
He stared at the globe. There was something else, too.
And this time he knew there was something creepy going on, because they definitely weren’t there before.
He looked out of the window, expecting to see them there, too. But the garden was empty.
He lifted the snowglobe and looked at it closely, then looked at the garden again.
“Yes,” he said out loud. “I know what to do. I’ll do it for you.”
He put the globe back down again and went to put his shoes on. He found his coat and buttoned it up tight. He had a scarf and gloves, too, because they expected to go walking in the winter weather. He put them on, then he crept out of the house and into the garden.
If Sarah Jane had seen him, or the Brigadier or Doris, they would have been horrified. But they were already warm in their beds, and thought that, he, too, was tucked up comfortably and sleeping soundly. They never expected him to be in the garden, rolling huge snowballs and pushing them into position to make the bodies of snowmen, six of them, along a rough line from the house to the mill house. Then smaller balls for the heads. He was freezing cold, and terribly tired, but he knew he had to do this. He had to make it just like the snowglobe.
He wasn’t sure WHY he had to do it. He just knew he had to.
Even if he froze to death in the attempt.
On the windowsill, it continued to snow inside the snowglobe, the flecks of white settling on a scene of a water wheel and a steam-driven factory and a garden between the two with footprints leading to the river and a row of six snowmen.
To Be Continued...