15. Going Home.
The Watchers Council Headquarters, London, 1899.…It has been six months now since the last of the Martian invaders died and although the (as it were) War of the Worlds has ended; the war of the nations has yet to begin. But it will, as sure as night follows day and soon, very soon…
While Britain was under attack by the Martians and while the country was recovering from her privations, other less happy nations have taken advantage of Britannia’s plight…
Cape Colony and Natal were seized by Germany. Several of our more northerly possessions in Africa were taken over by the French. Each time a foreign soldier stepped foot onto British soil the refrain was always the same; they had only come to ‘restore order’ and ‘protect civilisation’. The Russians have moved into Afghanistan and are trying to invade India through the Khyber Pass. So far they have been unsuccessful, but without support from the mother-country how much longer can our forces hold out?
Even at sea, British power has been challenge! However, German attempts at taking control of the so-called, ‘German Ocean’ and the Channel were thwarted by British battleships mounting captured Martian heat guns.
Britain does not stand alone however, the young lion cubs stand with their mother as do Japan and faithful Portugal. The United States still stands aloof from world affairs, but seems more inclined to support Britain than the Continental powers…0=0=0=0Everyday Miss Summers stalks the corridors of our new home muttering darkly about how these events are ‘wrong’, that they should never have happened and how they must be put to rights. She worries constantly about her family and friends in that unimaginable future. I must confess that, however strange and terrible the world she comes from may seem to me, it cannot be worse than this one and in many ways it sounds better than the world we appear to be heading towards today.
As a result Miss Summers and I have come to a momentous decision; we must change the past to allow the future that she knows to come to pass. I only pray that we can achieve our aim without…
Looking up from the desk where he sat Herbert turned to see Dawn sweep into the room.
“Just finishing those diaries you suggested I write,” he smiled at the young woman and noted how stern and driven she had become over the last few months.
“Good,” Dawn crossed the room and sat down on a couch, “good, when you’ve got them finished put them in the box with the other things would you?”
“Are you sure we’re doing the right thing?” Herbert used some blotting paper on the last page he’d written before closing the cover of the book.
“As sure as I can be,” there was just a hint of doubt in her voice for a moment, then, “Yes, I’m sure, I was sure the moment I set eyes on that box. I knew it was the same one I tried to open in twenty-twelve.”
“And the spells?” after flicking through the book one last time Herbert got up and walked over to the black tin box that sat on a table in the middle of the room. “There,” he said dropping it in, “that’s the last of them…as I was saying, the spells?”
“One of the good things about living in this drafty old mausoleum,” Dawn smiled slightly, “is the council had a wonderful collection of spell books and what’s almost as important the ingredients to perform them.”
“So you’re confidant that…,” began Herbert only to be cut off by Dawn.
“YES!” she almost screamed, “How many times do I…,” Dawn stopped and took a deep breath, “I’m sorry, Herbert I shouldn’t shout at you…it’s the strain, you know?”
“I know,” nodded Herbert walking over to put a comforting hand on Dawn’s shoulder, “it’s hard for us all…especially Amy.”
“Yes,” admitted Dawn, “of course, Amy.”
Amy had taken the news that she was going to be sent on what was basically a suicide mission surprisingly well. She knew that the slayer could only expect a short but exciting life. She knew that the slayer was called at the point of most need and having been unable to affect the outcome of the Martian invasion she had been chosen to stop it before it had even started. It didn’t stop her from crying herself to sleep that first night, but…but now she’d accepted her duty and had trained for it with renewed energy.
“Does it have to be Amy?” Herbert asked the question he’d asked so many times over the last few weeks, “She’s only a child, surely it would be better if someone more experienced and better educated went,”
Herbert, of course, meant that he should go, he’d never suggest that maybe as it was Dawn’s future they were protecting that it was she who should go.
“It has to be Amy,” Dawn’s face took on its new harder set, “we’ve talked about this a dozen times or more. It has to be the slayer only she can…”
“BUT SHE’LL DIE!” Herbert stood as if shocked by the sound of his own voice.
“Don’t you think I now that?” replied Dawn close to tears, “Don’t you think I’ve not lain awake at night trying to find another way?” Dawn took a deep shuddering breath, “The slayer dies! She always dies…in the end, there’s no escaping it, a new girl is chosen and the line goes on.”
“You’ve become a hard woman, Dawn Summers,” Herbert turned away from Dawn and looked out of the window at the gathering night.
“I expect I have,” she admitted quietly, “but what do you expect? I had to sit and watch my sister go out night after night to face god knows what; never knowing if she’d come home again. I had to lie in bed and listen to her sobbing as she dressed her own wounds,. How many slayers have died in your arms Herbert? So…so yes; I expect I have become hard, I do what I have to…”
“And Amy has to die,” Herbert’s chin fell onto his chest as he rubbed his forehead.
“Yes, Amy has to die,” Dawn admitted sadly, “tomorrow.”0=0=0=0
The room was buried nearly fifty feet under the Watchers Headquarters. It was a good thirty feet on a side, its walls were made of great blocks of dark granite and the only door was of a type that made the phrase ‘dread portal’ seem insignificant. This was the Council’s ‘Casting Room’, the place where the council’s magic users cast their most dangerous spells.
In the corner nearest the door stood a table covered with pots of herbs and minerals; a bowl with a sharp sacrificial dagger lay in pride of place at the front of the table. The walls had been covered in strange arcane symbols and a large pentagram had been drawn on the floor.
The door opened and in walked Dawn. Herbert and Amy. Dawn and Herbert were dressed in their everyday clothes, skirt and blouse for Dawn, Norfolk jacket and plus-fours for Herbert. Amy was dressed in a smart safari outfit from Harrods and carried a rucksack. She was festooned with weapons of all kinds; no one knew what she would have to face on Mars.
“Right,” began Dawn brittly after Herbert had bolted and barred the door, “I’ve designed this spell as a sort of cascade, the successful completion of one spell will automatically start the next one with a minimal need for direction from any of us. Should one spell fail the next one won’t start until the mistake in the previous one is fixed, okay?” Dawn looked from Amy to Herbert expecting one of them to say something, neither of them did.
“Come on guys,” Dawn tried to force a little levity into her voice, “this is my best work…ever!”
“Okay,” she became business like again when she saw no one else was joining in her banter, “this is how it goes. The first spell will seal the room and take it out of the reality we now occupy, we will effectively be between worlds in both space and time. I had to do that so no one would disappear half way through the spell because they’d never existed.”
Herbert nodded his understanding while Amy just stood there and looked worried; she didn’t like the idea of not having existed.
“Then,” Dawn spoke with renewed enthusiasm, “we send Amy off on her mission to Mars,” she looked into the young slayer’s eyes and felt like a murderer; the enormity of what she was planning to do hit her again and shook her to her very soul.
“Th-then,” Dawn stumbled over her words, “then if Amy is successful I get sent home and Herbert should wake up at home and nothing of the last seven months will have occurred. You may have some residual memories but they’ll just seem like odd thoughts or dreams you’ve come up with yourself.”
Again Dawn looked for a sign that Herbert and Amy understood what was about to happen.
“Alright then,” once again Dawn tried to sound cheerful, everything was going to be alright again, everybody should be happy; then why did she want to cry? “Let’s say our goodbyes and get on shall we?”0=0=0=0
“You be careful, my dear,” Herbert held one of Amy’s hands in his own, “and give those damn Martians what for, eh?”
Amy smiled as the tears ran down her face, she nodded her head not trusting her voice.
“Here,” Herbert wiped away her tears with his handkerchief, “no blubbing now…job to do, all those tears will spoil your aim.” Suddenly he took Amy in his arms and hugged her to his chest, “You’re the best slayer a watcher could ever hope to have, be brave dear girl,” he let her go and was, once again, the proper English gentleman.
“Good luck, old thing,” he shook her hand and turned away.0=0=0=0
“You’re not going to die,” Dawn stroked a strand of Amy’s hair away from the girl’s face. “As soon as you change the past none of this will have happened, it’ll all go back to how it was seven months ago.”
“I’ll still be the slayer?” Amy glanced around at Herbert.
“Yes,” Dawn said gently, “you’ll still be the slayer, Herbert will still be your watcher and you’ll still be hopelessly in love with him.”
“Miss!” Amy giggled through her tears, scandalised, “you do say some stuff…” after a moment Amy grew sober again, “So, all this,” she gestured at the room with her hand, “it’ll be like a bad dream?”
“Not even that,” Dawn started to guide Amy over to the centre of the pentagram, “it’ll be like it never was…no Martians, no heat guns, no beastly Germans and most importantly, no me.”
They stopped in the centre of the pentagram.
“Time to go now,” Dawn stepped back leaving Amy standing by herself, a little forlorn figure loaded down with camping equipment and weapons.
Chanting under her breath Dawn walked over to the table and picked up the sacrificial knife. As she came to the last line of the spell she felt the room lurch and start to drift. It was very similar to the sensation of floating on your back in the sea almost like weightlessness.
“The rooms sealed now,” called Dawn as she walked over to stand next to Herbert, “we’re effectively in ‘nowhere’ and ‘no-when’.” She tested the edge of the knife with her thumb, “At any moment now, the spell to send Amy back will kick in…”
“How far back are you sending her?” Herbert looked around fascinated as strange swirling lights started to fill the room.
“About three years,” Dawn pulled Herbert over to a symbol drawn on the floor, “that’ll give her plenty of time to destroy whatever preparations the Martians are making.”
A wind started to howl from out of nowhere.
“Amy, sweet heart!” Dawn called over the sound of the rising wind, “It’s important that you keep perfectly still for the next bit, don’t even look ‘round.”
Amy nodded her head.
“Alright, Herbert,” Dawn looked behind her at Amy; the girl was standing perfectly still watching the far wall, “stand here,” once again Dawn checked their position.
They were standing directly behind Amy, with all the noise in the room Amy would never hear what was going to happen next, she’d never turn around and see. Dawn took a deep breath and resisted the urge to give Herbert the ‘traitor’s kiss’. Instead she pushed the hair back from her eyes.
“I’m sorry it had to be this way, Herbert,” she sobbed before slashing him across the throat with the knife.
Stepping to one side Dawn watched as Herbert fell slowly to his knees and clutched at his throat he turned horrified eyes towards her. Blood squirted from between his fingers, ‘why?’ his eyes seemed to say.
“I’m good,” Dawn replied sadly, “but I’m not that good. A spell this powerful needs more than a few drops of my blood.”
With a thump Herbert fell forward to lie sprawled on the floor in a pool of his own blood. Dawn looked up to see Amy flicker in and out of existence for a second or two before finally vanishing with a soft ‘pop!’ For a moment there was silence in the room, Dawn stepped over Herbert’s still form and walked over to the table. She picked up a cloth and wiped the blade of the knife clean and looked around the room, everything was still and quiet now.
She nodded to herself as she walked back to the pentagram, everything was ready. The box had been hidden with its diaries, a piece of Martian and most importantly the letter for Giles. Taking one last look Dawn stood in the centre of the pentagram, she put the tip of her knife to her thumb and made a small incision. A drop of blood landed on the floor and Dawn vanished.0=0=0=0Crankie Manor, 2012.
Walking through the manor’s corridors Dawn ignored the looks she was being given by the trainee slayers as they passed her by. She smiled to herself, maybe they thought she was a ghost or something, whatever, that wasn’t important right now.0=0=0=0
Playing with his favourite building bricks William Summers sat on the floor of the playroom. He looked up at the sound of the door opening and frowned at the strange lady in funny clothes. It took a moment for recognition to strike home.
“MOMMY!” he jumped to his feet and ran across the room, his mommy had come home to him.0=0=0=0
Sitting by herself in the refectory, Buffy pushed the food around her plate; she had little appetite these days. Her sister was still missing and all her friends had betrayed her. She sensed someone come and stand in front of her table; she looked up.
“Buffy Anne Summers,” said the stern faced woman in Victorian clothing; was the manor haunted? “What the hell do you think you’ve been doing?”
There was something about the woman’s voice that rang bells in Buffy’s mind.
“I go away,” continued the woman, “for a few months to thwart a Martian invasion, and what do I find when I get home? You’ve pissed off all your friends because they did what I told them to do.”
Buffy sprang to her feet and with a flick of her hand she knocked away the table, “DAWN!” she cried as she enfolded her sister in a slayer strength hug.
“I really can’t leave you alone for a minute, can I?” Dawn returned her sister’s embrace, “Do you think I could breathe again now?”0=0=0=0
“So,” Giles placed the cup and saucer on Dawn’s desk, “you really had no recollection of H G Wells or any of his works?”
“None,” Dawn picked up her tea cup and sipped, it was good to be home, “but now I have the memory of them existing and not existing all at the same time. It’s weird.”
“Indeed,” Giles carried his own cup and saucer over to his desk and sat down, “and you say you can remember seeing the film, War of the Worlds?”
“And the Time Machine,” grinned Dawn, “seems old Herbert must have remembered something,” for an instant Dawn lost the grin from her face; she’d not murdered Herbert, not really, he’d lived out his life and died a famous old man.
“The youth of today,” muttered Giles waking Dawn from her dark thoughts, “you should really read the originals.”
“Maybe I will now,” Dawn finished her tea, “did you find any record of a slayer called Amy?”
“Nothing I’m afraid,” Giles shook his head, “and there’s no indication that H G Wells was ever a watcher either.”
“I wonder what happened to her?”
“Well,” sighed Giles, “there’s no mention of an English girl like you describe being the slayer at that time and with no surname or home address there’s little point of looking through the parish records. We’ll keep an eye out in case her name pops up anywhere, but…”
Giles left the rest of his sentence unsaid.
“But her name still goes up on the roll of honour,” insisted Dawn.
“Of course,” agreed Giles quietly, “now explain to me again how you got back. I’m not sure I understand where you got all the power from to cast that spell…”0=0=0=0Mars, 1900?
Amy squatted down by the water hole and filled her tin cup, she drank the cool, clear water before sitting back on her heels and looking around, she was starting to feel hungry, she’d need to find something for dinner soon. She felt like she’d been on Mars for forever, but it couldn’t be more than a year, maybe a little more.
All her expensive gear had either been lost or broken, her clothes were in rags, but as there was no one here to see her that didn’t bother her. The ammunition for the revolver Mr ‘erbert had given her was long gone. She still carried the hunting knife he’d given her, but her main weapons now were the bow and spear that she’d made for herself.
After about a month or so of being on Mars the dynamite in her rucksack had started to sweat so she’d buried it and left it behind. If she ever found the Martians she’d have to think of some other way of stopping them without it. Now there was a thing, the Martians; she’d walked and walked, sometimes she thought that she must have walked all around this world. But, wherever she looked she couldn’t find any sign of the Martians.
No great cities, no massive gun being built to fling the cylinders into space, nothing. If it wasn’t for all the red weed she’d think that Miss Dawn had got her spell wrong and sent her somewhere else. Absently she reached out and broke off a weed stem, she chewed on it letting the sugary syrup slip down her throat and give her a burst of energy. She wondered what Mr ‘erbert and Miss Dawn where doing now, maybe they’d got married. It seemed to Amy that she’d failed in her task of wiping out the Martians before they attacked Earth, she’d keep looking, just in case, it wasn’t as if she had anything better to do.
Standing up she stumbled, putting her foot back to steady herself she felt something soft and squishy under her foot.
“Damn!” she cursed and looked down.
She’d stepped on one of the weird little land octopuses that she sometimes found around the waterholes in this area. They were nasty little creatures who drank blood from the weed eating animals that roamed the planet. However, they made good eating after being roasted over a fire. Smiling Amy put the octopus in her knapsack, now she needn’t go hunting.
Walking off towards the next waterhole Amy kept her eyes open for the Martians and their cities. Maybe she hadn’t seen them because they lived underground, perhaps she should look into caves and things like that. With thoughts of roast octopus for dinner Amy trudged off into the distance.0=0=0=0Lord Hasseldorf’s Domain.
The demon lord felt a strange sensation in his chest as he watched the young woman play with her children; she was joined by her husband who sat down on the rug under the tree in the sunshine. A puzzled frown crossed the demon’s face, he’d never felt anything like this before, it wasn’t rage or anger. It wasn’t the feeling you get when your diabolical plans come together and your enemies were squirming in agony, impaled on the red hot penises of your demon guards.
No, this was what ‘happiness’ at doing a ‘good’ thing must feel like. Hasseldorf’s great shoulders shuddered for a moment and he felt slightly ill. He almost raised his great taloned hand to reverse the spell he had cast, but no, he let his hand drop. He had a reputation to uphold.
He always told the truth, the truth was so much more hurtful than lies. He always kept his word; he always stuck to the letter of any deal he made and he always rewarded those who served him well. Even, as in this case, if they didn’t realise they were serving his plans as this girl had.
The witch had made just one tiny mistake in her spell, nothing much in the great scheme of things; just the little matter of arriving at you destination over three million years early.
Amy the Vampire Slayer had wondered the surface of Mars looking for the Martians not realising that she’d found them and had been eating them for some years until she’d single-handedly wiped them out. They only lived in a few places on Mars and slayers have such big appetites.
Smiling Hasseldorf sat back on his throne his hands behind his head. He’d watched the girl grow into a woman. He’d watched as she’d slowly gone insane from loneliness and the thought had struck him that he really ought to do something. After all she’d saved him a great deal of trouble, he’d not had to expend any effort to defeat the Martians who had so recklessly invaded his planet; the world that he was destined to rule.
It had been the work of a minute to construct a pocket universe where Amy could live out her life; married to the man she’d loved and do everything she’d ever dreamed of doing. She had died with a smile on her face and the last thing she’d seen were the faces of her children and grandchildren.
Hasseldorf wiped away a tear and checked that no one was in the throne chamber to see. He coughed to cover his embarrassment.
“Something must have got in my eye,” he told himself.
Standing up he decided he needed to get rid of these ‘good’ feelings. He laughed as he strode from the chamber, a sound terrible to hear, he’d soon think of something really vile to do and make himself feel better again.The End.
Okay this is what I think happened!
Dawn came from a reality where there had been no Martian invasion and H G Wells had never been a famous novelist. Whether he’d been a Watcher or if Amy had been a Slayer is more open to debate. Giles is forever complaining that the Bringers destroyed so many of the old Councils records we can never be sure. What we do know is that HG did marry someone called Amy (a cousin I think).
So far so good; then Dawn went into an AU where HG was a Watcher, Amy was the Slayer and a Martian invasion did happen. At the end Dawn’s spell worked and she altered the timeline of her original reality (or one very like it) so that the Martian invasion was just a story in a book. However, because of the screw up getting the amount of time right to send Amy back; three million years of history had to be replayed. From Dawn’s perspective this happened in the blink of an eye and she and the people around her never noticed the difference.
Of course in three million years enough alternate choices would have been made to alter the timeline. So, in Dawn’s final ‘here and now’(which might not be the one she started from) there was no Martian invasion, HG was a famous author and Amy was probably just a factory girl.
Probably the only entity that knows what really happened is Lord Hasseldorf (his domain being outside of space and time) and he’s not talking…hey, look, you can ask him if you want; but remember his Demon Guard really do have red hot penises!0=0=0=0
This whole story came about because I found a photograph on the web of what appeared to be a human skull (or possibly a Star Wars Stormtrooper helmet) lying on the surface of Mars. I sat and looked at it and thought, how would a human skull get to Mars? This is my explanation.
Of course there was no skull, not really, it was just an oddly shaped stone; the human eye and brain just fills in the details…or maybe not.