Strangely, he’d always been terrified of ghost stories and holo-films back on Earth. He could watch psychological thrillers, blood and guts horror movies, but when he came to ghosts…he just couldn’t handle it. It reminded him too much of his own mortality.
It’d taken Tylaya, the Doctor and the Wallis’s a good ten minutes to calm him down, but now he was sat back on the sofa, a cup of tea in his hands and he’d finally stopped shaking.
The Doctor was crouched opposite him, his fingers formed into a steeple as he contemplated what Maxus had said.
He’d encountered variations of ghosts before, of course. There had been those psychic ghosts back when he used to travel with Danny and Caroline. The ones at Sherman prison caused by Vrezan. Then of course there were the Apparites, who weren’t really ghosts. And he’d seen bodies brought to life by the Gelth and echoes of the future. But he’d never really encountered a real supernatural, after-life ghost. At least he didn’t think he had.
“Do you think it’s possible?” said Tylaya.
“Hmmm,” said the Doctor thoughtfully.
“Of course it’s possible,” said Maxus. “I know what I saw.”
“I didn’t mean that, sweetheart,” said Tylaya, sitting beside him and putting a comforting arm around him. “But are you sure it wasn’t just a shadow?”
“A shadow that runs at you screaming ‘Get out! Get out!’.” He chuckled to himself in disbelief.
“Okay,” said the Doctor. “So maybe it was a ghost, but if that’s the case, where did it come from?”
“I’ll be damned if I know,” said Maxus, draining the last of his tea.
“Not only that,” said Tylaya, “but they obviously registered on your machines radar. That’s why we were brought here.”
“Yes,” said the Doctor, musing over the strange readings. “And there’s even something stranger.”
“What’s that?” said Tylaya.
The Doctor got up and faced the Wallis’s. “Why Mr and Mrs Wallis don’t seemed fazed by all this talk of ghosts.”
Norman swallowed and Nancy’s face dropped. It looked like she had finally let go of her falseness.
“Well?” said the Doctor.
“The house is haunted,” said Nancy. “It has been since we moved in here.”
“No,” said Nancy, her eyes flicking back to her husband, “we don’t have to be alone in this anymore.”
“But you remember what happened when Father Harper came-”
“What happened when Father Harper came?” said the Doctor, his curiosity piqued.
“He went mad. He was stood right where you are right now, Doctor, and slowly turned into a gibbering mess,” said Norman.
The Doctor quickly moved from where he was and whipped out his sonic screwdriver. He waved it around and it emitted a high-pitched buzzing sound.
“Found something?” said Maxus, regaining some of his tough exterior.
“Possibly,” said the Doctor. He put the device back into his pocket and turned back to the Wallis’s. “You say this started when you moved in? How long ago was that?”
“About four years ago,” said Nancy. “It was quiet to begin with. A few bumps and shakes. You know the kind of stuff?”
The Doctor nodded.
“And then it got worse. Our Gypsy became aggressive. I saw a shadow in the bedroom. Sometimes we’re scared to go to bed at night.”
“And so you’re selling the house?”
“We need to get out of here,” said Nancy. “This place is unnatural. It’s evil.”
The Doctor had given Nancy and Norman a chance to talk through their experiences and then had walked out into the back garden. He patted Gypsy on his head as he walked past and Gypsy had reciprocated by licking his fingers.
He stood beside an old oak tree in the long garden, glowing lanterns hanging from nails on the high fences and the right hand side of the garden dotted with garden gnomes. He gazed up at the branches of the oak tree. They looked scary silhouetted against the moonlit night sky.
And then he noticed something, carved into the tree. He peered a little closer. From about two-feet up there were little carved lines into the bark. Every now and again they’d get higher and higher until they where at his shoulder height. At each carving there was a number counting up from 3 all the way to 14 and above, about level with his head, was the carved name “Liam.”
He smiled and touched the name. Whoever this Liam was had been measuring his height against the tree.
And suddenly he felt a sharp pain between his hearts. He reached for his cane that he had balanced against the tree, but it fell to the floor and the Doctor felt himself keel over.
He could see something standing beside the tree. It was about the height of the final mark of the tree. The 14 mark.
The Doctor reached up just as a light flashed on in the upstairs back bedroom window. There was the outline of a woman. He heard a cry. “LIAM! NOT MY LIAM!”
Tylaya and Maxus raced outside followed by the Wallis’s where they found the Doctor face down on the wet grass.
They helped him to his feet and sat him on the bench against the outer wall.
“Is he okay?” said Nancy.
“I’ll get him a drop of brandy,” said Norman, racing back inside.
“It looks like he’s had some sort of seizure,” said Tylaya, checking the Doctor’s eyes.
“What did he see?” said Maxus, still looking for explanations on what he had seen upstairs.
Norman came back outside, Gypsy in tow and helped the Doctor to sip a little of the brandy.
The Doctor coughed it back up and frowned at the tubby man. “Brandy?!”
“It’ll help,” he said.
“Maybe to a Human,” said the Doctor.
“What happened?” said Tylaya.
“Don’t crowd me,” snapped the Doctor, causing them all to step back a few paces. The Doctor stayed there, breathing heavily until his hearts finally stopped racing. “Who lived in this house before you?”
“I don’t know…” said Nancy, fumbling over her words a little bit. “I can’t remember.”
“Think,” said the Doctor.
“A family called the Sleights,” said Norman. “I remember because their car was still outside for weeks and I had to find out who it belonged to.”
“Why? What do you mean?” said the Doctor.
“Looks like they left in a bit of a hurry. One day they were here, and then they were gone. They moved away - Australia I think. The house was put up for sale and we bought it.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
The Doctor shook his head. “It doesn’t all add up. Why would they move away so suddenly?”
“Because the house was haunted?” suggested Nancy.
“No,” said the Doctor. “It must be something more. Do we have a contact address?”
“No,” said Norman. “We were just left instructions by the estate agent to bin any mail for them.”
“Any other family?”
“None that we know of,” said Nancy.
The Doctor shook his head and unsteadily got to his feet. “I need to see the estate agents right away.”
“Doctor, it’s gone eight at night,” said Tylaya. “They’re not going to be open.”
“Not being open never stopped me,” said the Doctor. “I need to get to the bottom of this. Something isn’t right, and I have a nagging feeling I’ve been here before.”
It was almost 9pm when the Doctor and Maxus arrived and Fleetwood Homes estate agents in the centre of the town.
The Doctor had opted not to take the TARDIS in case the old girl had decided to not get them back to High Peak Avenue. He had also decided to take Maxus with him rather than Tylaya, owing to the fact that if any ghostly goings on happened whilst they were gone, Maxus would be best off out of the situation.
“Thanks for bringing me along,” said Maxus as they reached the shutters over the front of the estate agents. “I hope we can maybe start to become friends.”
“We’re not friends, Maxus,” said the Doctor, pulling out his screwdriver and aiming it at the shutters.
“No,” said Maxus, deciding not to bother again.
The shutters suddenly clanked and slowly but surely they grated upwards, revealing the dark insides of the estate agents.
Maxus looked around himself anxiously. It was quiet around this area of the town, but he knew they couldn’t afford to be caught by any authorities.
When the shutter was finally up, the Doctor pointed the sonic screwdriver at the door and it unlocked. He grasped the door handle, turned, and they went inside.
Once inside the Doctor aimed the screwdriver back at the shutters and they grated back down.
“It doesn’t pay to be caught red handed,” said the Doctor.
They rummaged around a few filing cabinets in the back room where the Doctor located files dating back four years and in the High Peak Avenue area.
Eventually he found the file on No. 17 High Peak Avenue. He opened the thin brown folder and inside were documents and photographs of the house. It looked a lot different. Gone were the flowery walls and doily’s the Wallis’s had put since they had moved in. Here the house looked more modern, with stylish leather sofas and modern TVs.
The Doctor continued to sift through the small collection of papers.
“Found anything?” said Maxus.
“Wait,” said the Doctor.
“Look,” said Maxus, “there’s no need for you to take this attitude with me. I’m sorry, okay? But I needed to save Tylaya.”
The Doctor looked up from the papers and frowned. “You killed an innocent woman. My friend. As far as I’m concerned you’re both murders.”
Maxus was about to reply, when suddenly the Doctor’s eyes lit up.
“It says here that the family moved away to Australia and asked family friend Ethan…” he trailed off.
“What is it?” said Maxus, trying to get a look at the details.
“They asked family friend Ethan Galloway to sell the house for them.”
“So we find this Galloway then? Maybe he can help us.”
The Doctor closed the file with a snap, put it back in the filing cabinet and then made his way back towards the front of the shop.
“What is it?” said Maxus again, his arms outstretched in bemusement.
“Things are slowly starting to fall into place,” said the Doctor. “We need to get back to High Peak Avenue. Now!”
Back at the house Tylaya had tried to cheer up the Wallis’s with tales of her adventures with the Eyeglass.
Norman had continually frowned at the girl, not sure if she was mad or really believed what she was saying, whereas Nancy was happy to listen, distracted from the ghostly goings on.
“So where is it you come from, dear?” said Nancy.
“South Africa originally,” said Tylaya.
“Oh,” said Nancy. “You don’t have an accent.”
“No,” said Tylaya, feeling a little uncomfortable. “I…lost it.” She shifted nervously on the sofa. “Do you mind if I go and get myself a glass of water.”
“No, no,” said Nancy. “Help yourself.”
“Thanks,” she said, smiling and getting up.
She made her way out the room, down the hallway and to the kitchen at the back where Gypsy was lying in her bed.
She rinsed her glass out and filled it with tap water, taking a sip and then blowing air out of her cheeks. She felt odd. She felt as though she wasn’t really there. She turned to look at her reflection in the dark window that looked out over the garden. It still didn’t seem quite right. This wasn’t her. She wasn’t a big headed person, but she had always felt proud of her blonde-haired, blue-eyed self. Her old self. But now she looked…odd. She looked a little uncomfortable. A little awkward. Cute, but awkward.
And then her thoughts turned to Alice. The girl she had possessed and then replaced. Where had all of her memories gone? Had they really just burned up, never to be seen again. She certainly didn’t feel her anywhere inside. She was most definitely gone.
Suddenly her own reflection was replaced with that of a young, pale boy. She jumped and dropped her glass as the boy stared through the window at her.
She turned to run back to the front room and standing there in front of her was a shadow of a woman.
She closed her eyes and ran through the shadow, crashing into a hat stand that stood in the hallway.
“What is it?” said Norman as she came running in.
But something in the living room was different. Hovering in the middle of the room, about two foot off the carpet was a shimmering shape. It was how the air above the road looked on a hot summers day.
“What is it?” said Norman, reaching out his hand.
The front door burst open and the Doctor and Maxus ran into the living. “Don’t touch it!”
“What is it, Doctor?” said Nancy.
The Doctor took out his sonic screwdriver and aimed it on the device. It shimmered some more, making a fizzing sound. “The object of our problems.”
A tendril of lightning shot out from the shimmering shape, striking the Doctor on his hand. He winced in pain and another tendril shot out, this time sending him flying back onto the sofa.
Something in the Doctor’s head clicked and he felt a rush of memories coming back.
“Jesus!” said Maxus. “Are you alright?”
“Ethan Galloway,” said the Doctor, slowly, a pained look on his face.
“What about him?” said Maxus.
“Who is Ethan Galloway?” said Tylaya, confused.
The Doctor looked at his two companions and then back to the shimmering space.
“Well?” said Norman and Nancy together, both of them ready to bolt out of the house if the Doctor didn’t tell them what was going on soon.
“Ethan Galloway was a name I took, back when I had a different face.”
“I’m a Time Lord. I used to have the ability to regenerate-”
“We know about regeneration. The General, remember?” said Tylaya.
“Yes, yes,” said the Doctor.
Nancy and Norman were even more bemused.
“Back before I changed, I took the name Ethan Galloway. It was after Ivy had left me. I felt alone. I needed to get away from being the Doctor for a while.”
“And?” said Maxus. More and more impatient now.
“The ghosts in this house…I was the one that caused them.”
Next time: We revisit the previous Doctor as he makes his original trip to Number 17. Coming Saturday June 21st 2014.