3. On Horsell Common.
Sitting in the window seat Dawn watched as the train drew out of Waterloo station. It chuffed its way between rows of drab terraced houses as it picked up speed for its journey down to Woking. She shared the compartment with Amy, who sat in the seat opposite her and cast her the occasional hostile glance. Herbert sat in the corner by the door reading his copy of The Times. They had the compartment to themselves as there were few people travelling out of London so early in the morning.0=0=0=0
After a surprisingly good nights sleep Dawn had awoken to the sound of horses clip-clopping along the street outside her window. Peeping between the curtains she’d found herself looking out at the late Victorian world as it lay under a bright blue sky. Pigeons strutted along the pavement as early morning travellers and tradesmen made their way along the street.
Dressing herself in a smart outfit of a crisp white blouse and a long dark blue skirt, Dawn struggled to get her boots buttoned up. The previous night she’d had little difficulty getting them off but putting them on seemed more problematical. Eventually she found a long metal needle like tool with a hook on the end, after a little experimentation she worked out how to use it to button up her boots (she really couldn’t think of them as shoes) and she was ready to go.
By the time she got downstairs and went into the ‘Breakfast Room’ (the ‘locals’ seemed to have a room for everything) she found Herbert and Amy in a high state of excitement. Helping herself to toast, marmalade and tea, Dawn sat down and asked what everyone was so excited about. Herbert explained that the Council had sent a telegram that morning telling them to investigate a meteorite that’d crashed the previous night near Woking in Surrey.
“It must have come down not long after we got home last night,” explained Herbert between mouthfuls of bacon and egg. “This is most exciting,” he put down his knife and fork and gave Dawn his full attention, “Amy and myself don’t get to get out of town very much…not on a ‘job’,” he gave a little laugh, “it’ll all make a nice change.”
“Any idea what it is?” Dawn sipped her tea in as ladylike manner as she could manage, “Y’know, is it like, natural or otherworldly?”
“Otherworldly?” Herbert frowned for a moment before he puzzled out what Dawn meant, “Oh! Otherworldly! Yes I see what you mean,” Herbert glanced at Amy, “I was rather hoping that you’d be able to tell us.”
“Me?” Dawn looked from Herbert to Amy and back, it seemed obvious to her that the two Victorian’s had been talking and that she’d been the main topic of conversation.
“Yes,” Herbert picked up his tea cup and slowly took a sip. “if, as you say, you’re from the future then all this will have already happened and be history to you.”
“Oh, well I’m sorry to disappoint you,” Dawn spread marmalade as she spoke, “but none of this rings any bells with me…”
“There!” the word burst from Amy’s mouth like a gun shot, “I told you, she ain’t no more from the future than I am. Bet you she’s some evil witch or sumfing, come to kill the old queen an’ bring dahn the empire!”
“I’m sure,” Herbert tried to come to Dawn’s defence, “that Miss Summers has no intention of doing anything of the sort.”
“It’s alright Herbert,” Dawn smiled towards the man before turning her full attention on the young slayer. “First, I went to school in America so I didn’t learn much about the day to day history of Britain over, what to me was, a hundred years ago; and second, this might not be that important and it might have been forgotten about over the years.”
“ ‘Spose so,” sulked Amy with a look that said she didn’t trust Dawn one little bit.0=0=0=0Between London and Woking, 1898.
“Personally I hope its from Mars,” announced Herbert.
Having long ago finished reading and having grown bored of looking out the window Herbert had been pondering aloud on what he thought the meteorite was.
“Mars?” Dawn asked disbelievingly.
“Yes indeed,” Herbert settled back in his seat and smiled in that particularly smug way watchers had when they were going to tell you how clever they were. “As you may know, Mars revolves around the sun at a mean distance of one-hundred-and-forty-million miles. It barely receives half of the light and heat that Earth receives,” he looked at Dawn and Amy as if to check they were both paying attention, Dawn covered her mouth with a gloved hand to hide her smile for a moment.
“If the nebular hypothesis has any truth,” continued Herbert with growing enthusiasm, “Mars must be older than Earth and life may well have evolved there before the Earth had even stopped being molten. So life there would be far in advance of anything on Earth even more advanced than mankind! Who knows what wonders they may have discovered and built over the eons.”
“So you think this is some sort of message from Mars…” began Dawn but was waved into silence by Herbert as he warmed once more to his subject.
“Why not?” Herbert smiled, “At its nearest distance Mars is only thirty-five-million miles away! Back in ’94 a huge light or explosion was seen on the surface of Mars, might this not be the Martian inhabitants building some great artefact, a-a great gun, perhaps to hurl a message or perhaps even visitors across the void to contact there nearest neighbours!?”
Unable to control herself any longer in the face of Herbert’s enthusiasm Dawn burst out laughing, Herbert gave her a hurt look.
“Maybe Miss Summers ‘as got a dif-rent idea,” Amy spoke protectively, “go on then wot d’you fink’s goin’ on?”
“I’m sorry Herbert,” Dawn smiled, “I’m not laughing at you, you’re just working with the wrong information…”
“You have some different knowledge on the subject?” he sniffed, hurt at having his pet theory shot down in flames.
“You see,” Dawn spoke as kindly as she could, “I’ve seen photographs of the surface of Mars, it all very deserty like and probes that’ve landed there don’t report any sign of life like you’re suggesting, as far as we know Mars is a lifeless ball of sand and rock with a very thin atmosphere…sorry.
“Photographs?” Herbert said slowly, “Probes?”
“I’ve probably said too much,” Dawn glanced out of the window feeling guilty for bursting Herbert’s bubble. “Anyway its much more likely to be a Queller Demon if it isn’t just an ordinary meteorite.”
“A Queller Demon, you say?” Herbert nodded his head slowly, “It’s certainly a possibility.”
“You know something?” Dawn looked back at Herbert and Amy, “I almost wish it was Martians, they’d be way more interesting than Queller Demons.”
“You know,” Herbert said slowly, “starting about a week or ten days ago there’s been some sort of eruptions on Mars. Quite regular in their appearance about once every twelve hours or so…maybe we’ll both get our wish after all.”
“Maybe,” agreed Dawn with no great confidence.0=0=0=0Woking, 1898.
They arrived at Woking station around midmorning, it not being too far from London. They hired a local with a pony and trap to take them out to Horsell Common. Here they could see a thin cloud of smoke drifting slowly up into the sky. The trap’s driver told them that the heather on the common had caught fire just east of where the meteorite had fallen.
The driver dropped them on the edge of the common and pointed to a group of people that had gathered around what looked like piles of earth thrown up in a rough wall by the meteor. This, he said, was where everybody was going this morning, after promising to come back at six o’clock that evening to collect them the driver and his trap turned about and headed back to the station. No doubt he’d be picking up more sightseers as the morning progressed.
Making their way across the common the little party saw a group of about a hundred people standing around a great hole in the ground. Great banks of sandy soil had been thrown up by the force of the meteor’s impact and over to the east the common was indeed burning fitfully in the hot summer sunshine. Dawn noticed that some enterprising local traders had sent boys with barrows to sell fruit and sodas to the crowd.
The party pushed themselves to the edge of the pit; looking down they saw that the meteor itself was almost completely buried in the sand. The exposed portion looked uncomfortably like a large cylinder about thirty yards across encrusted in a thick, scaly, dun-coloured mixture of ash and burnt sand. A smartly dressed older man stood in the pit seemingly mesmerised by the object.
“I say,” whispered Herbert, “that’s Ogilvy, the Astronomer Royal!”
Dawn stood between Herbert and Amy silently studying the, for want of a better word, cylinder. Something was bothering her, something didn’t seem quite right; it was several minutes before the answer came to her.
“There’s something been bugging me,” she spoke quietly so only Herbert and Amy could hear.
“Bugging?” frowned Herbert.
“Don’t y’mean buggering you?” added Amy quietly so Herbert couldn’t hear.
“Look,” Dawn gestured at the cylinder and ignored Amy’s comment “I’m the first to admit I don’t know a lot about meteors and stuff, but…”
“But?” prompted Herbert.
“Well,” Dawn started to unbutton the light grey jacket she’d put on over her blouse, “that thing’s big; I mean, like, if we can see this much of it above ground then there must be quite a bit still buried.”
“That seems a logical conclusion,” agreed Herbert.
“Look, something that big hitting the ground at the speed meteors go at,” Dawn paused for dramatic effect, “lets put it this way, we wouldn’t be standing here looking into this hole.”
“You think it’d be bigger?” Herbert took his eyes off the cylinder and looked at Dawn, “How big?”
“I’d be surprised if that little town by the station was still standing.”
“Woking you mean?”
“Yep,” Dawn nodded her head slowly, “we’d have at least felt the impact in London, maybe something worse, as I say I’m no expert.”
“So the fact that it didn’t make a bigger hole,” queried Herbert, “would be down to it being…what, lighter? Arriving more slowly in some way?”
“Yeah, maybe hollow even,” Dawn turned to Herbert and raised an eyebrow, “whatever the reason, I’d say that thing isn’t natural.”
“Or Martians,” agreed Dawn.
“’Ere,” Amy had been staring at the cylinder intently, her head tilted to one side, “should it be doin’ that?”
“What?” chorused Dawn and Herbert.
“There,” Amy pointed, “it’s unscrewin’ like a jam jar or sumfing.”
“No,” Herbert watched the cylinder for a moment, “it can’t be, it must be a trick of the light caused by the heat still coming off the cylinder from its journey through the atmosphere.”
“I don’t know nuffin’ abaht that,” Amy put her hands on her hips and turned to face Dawn and Herbert, “but I’m the slayer an’ I know what I’m a’ seein’ of, that fing is unscrewin’. Look, see that funny shaped bit o’ mud?” Amy pointed, “Well that was near the top a minute ago an’ now its dahn by the ground!”
“No that can’t be right,” Herbert studied the cylinder closely for a minute or two, “how could it?”
“She’s right y’know,” Dawn murmured.
“See!” Amy nodded her head emphatically at Dawn’s vindication of her theory, “Even Witch Lady ‘ere agrees with me, put that in ya pipe an’ smoke it.”
“Good God, you’re right!” gasped Herbert, “Both of you.”
“Good heavens!” cried the man in the pit, he’d been joined by half a dozen other important looking men, “There’s a man in it-men in it! Half roasted half to death! Trying to escape!”
The man, Ogilvy as it turned out, was only prevented from dashing towards the cylinder by his companions grabbing hold of him and preventing him from burning himself on the cylinder. It was about at this time that things started to happen. Up until this point Dawn had been puzzled by the reaction of people, it was almost as if meteors fell to earth everyday. She imagined what would have happened if this had landed near Washington, or even near Woking in her own time. One thing was for sure people wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the thing.
The men in the pit scrambled out at the far end where the bank wasn’t too steep. One man went off and started to remonstrate with a constable who’d turned up half an hour previously. Between them they started trying to keep the crowd back from the edge of the crater. The other well dressed men started to head towards the station where Dawn had noticed a telegraph office. She hoped they were going to send for help.0=0=0=0
“Well this is a rum do,” breathed Herbert as they retreated from the pit’s edge, “I think we better stay and keep an eye on this. You’d better go home Miss Summers.”
“Go home!?” Dawn rounded on Herbert her eyes flashing as he took a step away from her, “Who the hell do you think you are? My sister!?”
“I-I just meant,” stammered Herbert as Amy moved protectively to his side.”
“No...no…I’m sorry,” Dawn calmed down, the guy was only doing what he thought best by the standards of the day. “Look, I’m sorry but I’m staying here, I might be able to help, you know? I’m a witch and if there’s something evil in there…well a slayer and a witch should be able to stop it.”
“Fine then,” Herbert pulled his Norfolk jacket straight, “if you’re sure?”
“I’m sure,” Dawn smiled then slowly became more serious, “You know what’s worrying me?”
“Can’t say I do, Miss Summers,” Herbert stood facing the pit hands behind his back.
“It’s that I don’t remember anything like this happening,” Dawn glanced at Amy and smiled weakly, “I mean a meteorite landing, yeah, I could see that being forgotten about…but a meteorite landing and unscrewing well that’s something else.”0=0=0=0Crankie Manor, 2012.
The box stood on Dawn’s desk in the library, Giles had just managed to shoo Buffy out of the room so he could take a closer look at the box’s contents without an agitated slayer looking over his shoulder. He’d persuaded her to go and call Willow and get her to help in the search for Dawn. Personally he was sure that his young assistant was fine, lost for sure, but fine.
Opening the box’s lid he took out the jar; it was a large specimen jar of the type he remembered from school. It was full of a clear liquid, formaldehyde most likely. A thing like part of a tentacle floated suspended in the liquid. The tentacle didn’t look like it came from any creature he knew of. Under the jar there were three notebooks, flipping through them quickly he saw they where full of hand written notes. A close study of these may well lead to finding out what had happened to Dawn. Lastly there was an envelope, measuring about four inches by ten, he could feel by the weight of it that it held several pieces of paper. Putting on his glasses Giles turned the envelope over and read the address.
“Oh!” he gasped quietly, “Good grief!”
There written on the envelope in Dawn’s clear round hand were the words; ‘Please deliver to Mr Rupert Giles, c/o Crankie Manor, Cornwall, England, no earlier than the 23rd July 2012’.
Giles glanced around to make sure no one was watching before he slipped the envelope into the inside pocket of his jacket.