But there was something wrong with number 17. Something that had become unexplainable. Something that had started up four years ago when Mrs Nancy Wallis and her husband had moved in. They were close to retirement. Nancy was in her early 60’s and had already left her job as a dinner lady, quite happy to potter around the house, doing the cleaning and the gardening.
Mr Norman Wallis was also in his last year. He worked in the council yard, directing operations for the town and he was looking forward to his retirement.
Four years ago they had purchased the house in High Peak Avenue intending to spend the last of their days there.
But now they wished they hadn’t.
It started only a few months after they moved in. Furniture being moved about, pictures falling off walls. Norman had put it down to the traffic on the nearby main road, but Nancy had her doubts about that.
Then their dog, Gypsy, had started to bark at nothing. Not unusual for their spaniel, but he had become aggressive as well. Now they weren’t even able to let him in the front room. He had to be confined to the kitchen or the dining room.
After a year the Wallis’s had become accustomed to the strange happenings, Nancy using the incidents as a quirky talking point when she met up with Jean and Margaret for their afternoon coffees.
Then, one morning, Nancy had woken up at the crack of dawn. It was 5am and just getting light. The curtains in the bedroom were quite transparent and let in most of the grey morning light.
And Nancy, for just a split second, thought she saw something. A dark, humanoid figure standing in the corner beside the wardrobe. She had panicked and turned to wake up Norman, but by the time she had looked back again, the figure had gone.
That wasn’t the last she saw of the figure. Every now and then, out of the corner of her eye, she would see it. It happened on and off over the next year. Again, the Wallis’s got used to the occurrences.
But that was just the start of the problems…
The Doctor stood at the console, his face blank and emotionless. He couldn’t show his true feelings. He couldn’t let Tylaya and Maxus know what he was really feeling: the complete sadness that he felt from losing Alice. And no matter how much he hoped for it not to be true, the evidence was sitting there on the sofa right in front of him. Tylaya had completed taken over Alice’s body and Alice had ceased to be. He had run the scans numerous times, but there was no trace of her. She had gone.
But he was still determined to fix this. He refused to believe it was all over. He couldn’t accept she was gone.
“So,” said Maxus, getting up from the sofa and crossing over to the Doctor, “where are we going first?”
The Doctor stared at him, his face cold.
“Come on, Doctor,” said Tylaya, crossing over to Maxus and touching him affectionately on the arm, “I’m sorry about Alice.”
“Don’t say her name,” said the Doctor. “Don’t ever utter her name ever again.”
Maxus and Tylaya stared at the Doctor. It was as if he had just struck the both of them in the face with a cricket bat.
“You don’t know how precious that young woman was. How special she was.”
“Don’t speak to me, Mr. Maxus,” said the Doctor, holding a finger up to his face. “You made your choice when you executed my friend.”
“Then if you feel like that, why are you keeping us here?”
“Because if there’s even a faint glimmer of hope that Alice is still alive in there, then I have to keep you with me at all times.”
“Well then, Doctor,” said Maxus, folding his arms and looking down at the Doctor, “you also have to understand that there’s no way on Earth that I’ll let you take Tylaya away from me.”
“We’ll see,” he said slowly.
Maxus was about to answer, but Tylaya squeezed his arm to stop.
There was a bleeping sound from the console and a green light blinked over and over again.
“Anything interesting?” said Tylaya, trying to defuse the tension.
“There’s a slight disturbance.”
“Like a fight?” said Maxus, trying to peer at the readings.
“Not that kind of disturbance,” said the Doctor, pushing in front of the couple. “Earth, 2007. A little town called Clayton.” Something flashed across the Doctor’s memory. He was sure he’d heard that name before. “Some kind of disturbance in a house down there.”
“What kind of disturbance?”
The Doctor looked at Tylaya. “Supernatural, would you believe.”
It was night when the TARDIS materialised on High Peak Avenue. The orange streetlights cast an eerie glow over the still street, but the silence was broken with the wheezing and groaning of the TARDIS materialising.
The box solidified on the edge of the curb and the door clicked open.
The Doctor emerged followed by Tylaya and Maxus. The pair gazed around in wonder.
“This is crazy,” said Tylaya.
“What is?” said Maxus.
“That we can just move through space and time like that.”
“Get used to it,” snapped the Doctor. “And enjoy it while you can.” He shot Maxus a glance.
“So, do you recognise this place?” said Maxus, gazing up at the streetlight above their heads.
“No,” said the Doctor. He frowned and turned on the spot, looking for some kind of familiar sign. “Something about it is familiar though.”
“Looks just like all those old, boring towns that were dotted about in the olden days.”
“Sometimes I like old, boring towns rather than flashy, modern super cities.”
“Each to their own, I guess,” said Maxus.
“Yes,” said the Doctor, tilting his head and narrowing his eyes as the former Eyeglass operative. “You should have stuck to that belief before you invaded Alice.”
“Oh for goodness sake,” said Tylaya, “can we just leave this for now?”
The Doctor remained transfixed on Maxus until Maxus broke his own look at the Doctor and returned to Tylaya’s side.
The door to number 17 opened and Nancy Wallis stepped out holding a black bin bag. She glanced up at the three strangers, frowned, and then dropped the bin bag into the green wheelie bin.
“Hello,” said the Doctor, giving a little wave.
Nancy frowned at them and then went back inside.
“Friendly,” said Maxus.
The Doctor’s eyes were drawn to the curtains in the front room that had begun twitching. He could just make out the old women’s face peering through a gap in the curtains.
Tylaya’s eyes, meanwhile, were looking the house up and down. And then she jumped suddenly, her hand to her mouth when she noticed the figure of another woman at the first floor window. She was silhouetted against the light streaming from hallway outside the front bedroom and looked like she was holding a stick.
“You alright?” said Maxus.
Tylaya pointed up, but the figure was gone.
“What was it?” said the Doctor, reluctant to indulge his unwanted companions.
“It was a woman. She was holding some kind of walking stick.” Tylaya frowned. “And then she just disappeared.”
“Hmmm,” said the Doctor, holding his sonic screwdriver up. “This thing’s giving off some very strange readings as well.”
“Well let’s get back in your box and go,” said Maxus, taking Tylaya’s hand and guiding her back to the TARDIS.
“No,” said the Doctor slowly. “Let’s go and take a look at number 17, shall we?”
Inside Norman was sat in the armchair. The TV was on showing a local news channel. His fish and chips were set on a side table, but Norman was gripping the arms of the chair tightly.
“For goodness sake, woman,” said Norman. “Get away from the window!”
“They look strange,” said Nancy nervously.
“Don’t attract their attention,” said Norman.
A pile of books that had been sat on the coffee table quite safely, suddenly fell from their position making Nancy jump and Norman break out in a sweat.
“Oh god,” said Nancy, her hand to her mouth.
“Keep calm,” he said, his voice almost a whisper. “The estate agent will be here tomorrow.”
“We need to go now.”
“We can’t just leave. We’ve got nowhere to go.”
“I’d rather stay in a hotel.”
“Not again. We can’t keep shelling out for hotels,” said Norman, closing his eyes and trying to regain his composure.
“They’re coming up the garden path!” said Nancy, her voice almost a squeak. “Perhaps they’re going to buy the place.”
“Don’t be daft, the place isn’t even up in the window yet.”
“What do we do?”
There came a knock on the front door.
“Well?” said Nancy, staring at her husband, her eyes white with fear.
“Open the bloody door,” said Norman.
The Doctor, Tylaya and Maxus stood, waiting patiently as the hallway light flicked on and a small, thin woman opened the door.
She smiled nervously at them. “Good evening. How may I help you people?”
“Well,” said the Doctor, “my friends and I were passing when we noticed your for sale sign up in the garden,” he said, indicating the sign standing next to the conifer tree. “We wondered if we could take a look around.”
The women looked from the Doctor, to Maxus and then to Tylaya. “Are you a family?”
“No, no,” said the Doctor. “I’m a Doctor of science and these are my assistants.”
Maxus shook his head, trying to hold back a sarcastic chuckle.
“And you’d be buying the house for…?”
“Oh, for goodness sake, Nancy,” said a man, standing in the hallway, “If they’re interested in buying the place then let them in.”
“Of course,” said Nancy nervously, stepping aside and letting them in.
The entrance hall was spacious. The main hallway went straight through to a kitchen at the back. On the right side of the hallway was a flight of stairs leading to the first floor and bedrooms. To the left was a door and further down the corridor another door which presumably led to a dining room.
The man, who introduced himself as Norman Wallis, greeted them warmly. A little too warmly actually, and Nancy went to the kitchen to make them a drink.
They sat down in the cosy looking living room that overlooked the front garden and waited.
“So, you’re a Doctor, eh?” said Norman.
“Yes,” said the Doctor, feeling uncomfortable sat between Tylaya and Maxus.
“What do you specialise in?”
“Oh, this and that,” said the Doctor. “Mainly time travel.”
“Time travel?” said Nancy as she bustled in with five glasses of cloudy lemonade, the glasses clinking against each other.
“Yes, it’s close to becoming a reality, you know?” said the Doctor with a smile.
“Load of old rubbish to me,” said Norman. He suddenly looked apologetic. “No offence, Doctor, but you have to live in the here and now. No use looking to the past, eh?”
“Exactly,” said Tylaya.
The Doctor glared at her. “Some pasts are worth fighting to get back.”
Nancy handed them all a glass each and they sat in silence for a good thirty seconds.
“Well,” said Nancy, “I suppose you’ll be wanting to take a look around the house.”
“Yes,” said the Doctor.
“Do you mind if I use your bathroom?” sad Maxus, getting up off the sofa.
“Of course,” said Nancy. “It’s up the hall and then right at the top of the stairs.”
“Great,” he said, smiling.
“So,” said the Doctor, leaning forward, “how long have you lived in this house?”
Maxus made his way up the ever-so-slightly creaking staircase until he reached the top. He cursed himself for not switching on the light. Back in Central City the lights came on automatically when you walked into a room.
He walked into the bathroom and unzipped his trousers. He stood there for a moment and then he heard a noise from somewhere behind him.
He frowned, zipped himself up, washed his hands and opened the door.
Along the landing and at the front of the house was the master bedroom. The door was ajar, but it was dark inside.
There it was again. A few thumps on the floorboards. They were footsteps.
He considered shouting down for the Doctor, but then decided not to. He didn’t need that bald idiots help.
He cautiously made his way along the landing, passing the door to the back bedroom, middle bedroom before finally arriving at the master bedroom.
The footsteps came again. They were running footsteps and he jumped back a little, feeling ever so slightly scared.
Then there came another sound. A sound that on a normal day wouldn’t have scared him, but this time it chilled him to the bones. It was the sound of two children playing.
Then the running footsteps came again.
There were children in there, playing.
He went for his blaster that was usually strapped to his utility belt and cursed when he realised it wasn’t there. Before he had boarded the TARDIS, the Doctor had made him discard of it. One of the conditions of staying with Tylaya, unfortunately.
He swallowed, placed his hand on the door and pushed it open.
The footsteps stopped. The room was in darkness, just the orange streetlight outside casting a glow through the open curtains in the bedroom.
And then he noticed something. Something in the corner of his eye standing next to the bed.
He turned his head slowly to look.
It was a shadow. A human shaped shadow. A woman in a long dress, her hair tied up into a bun. She was shuffling on the spot with her back to him.
Maxus slowly turned the rest of his body until he was facing her. “Hello?” he said, his voice almost a whisper.
The woman stopped shuffling, but she still didn’t turn around.
“Hello?” said Maxus again, a little louder this time.
“Look, who the bloody hell are you?” he said.
The woman span around, her face old and white, her glasses barely staying on the end of her nose. There was a glow about her as she grimaced into a look of fury, raising her walking stick up in a sign of defence.
Maxus stumbled back and fell over as the woman ran around the bed, screaming at him.
“GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!”
Maxus turned, got to his feet and ran down the stairs, almost falling down the last few steps.
He burst into the living room and the Doctor leapt to his feet. “What is it?”
Maxus was panting, trying to catch his breath. “It was…it was…”
“What?” said Tylaya, at her fiancé’s side and trying to calm him.
“It was a ghost!”
Next time: The Doctor delves into the recent past of number 17. Coming Saturday June 14th 2014.