Night Terrors Episode Five

Night Terrors

Episode Five

Jeri Massi

The Doctor came around almost immediately. He had not been wearing a seatbelt, and the tossing of the vehicle had thrown him onto the crumpled ceiling (which was now beneath him), across the area of the front and middle seats. The top of the front seats was not quite crushing him across his hips, but he could not move easily. He could not turn over.

"Lethbridge Stewart," he called. "Lethbridge Stewart!"

There was no answer from the Brigadier. The Doctor craned his head around as best as he could to get a look at his companion. Still belted in, the Brigadier was gently slumped on his shoulder blades against the ceiling, hung upside down, but not dangling. There was blood on the left side of his head, and he was unconscious.

The Doctor struggled again to pull himself through the closest window, but he heard a furious scratching and rustling from the back of the vehicle. Shattered glass rattled and scraped. Somebody was pushing through the rubble in back, as though looking for something.

"We're trapped in here!" he shouted. "Get help! One of us is injured!"

The only answer was a loud, sudden ripping of tough fabric, and a low, animal sound. He nearly thought it was a growl. Suddenly he saw motion through the narrow crevice between the top of the middle seat and the crumpled roof: Liz's overnight case was flung back and forth in the very back. There was another ripping sound: this time against the back of the seat that was blocking his view of whatever was back there.

The Doctor stopped shouting. There was a sudden furious and inhuman yelling from whatever was attacking the barricade between them, but it was cut short. A human voice, at some distance, interrupted it.

"Hallo the van! Hallo the van! We're coming!"

Whatever had pushed into the rear of the van suddenly made a scrabbling noise. In a moment, the Doctor heard the underbrush nearby snap and rustle as something rushed into it and got away.

Then there were men all around the overturned vehicle.

"Can you hear me?" a voice called. It was the young man, Parsons. He had two men with him to judge by the assortment of boots that suddenly appeared at the shattered windows.

"Yes!" the Doctor called back. "My friend is injured! He's on the passenger side, strapped in!"

* * * *

Once they'd gained the top of the ridge, moving away from the old lair, Liz was sick. For a moment, she was in absolute misery, but Johnny O'Haire held her head and let her be sick. He rocked her for a moment, and then her head cleared and the terrible cramping in her stomach eased.

"Johnny O'Haire will carry you," he said.

"No, I want to walk. I need to walk. I was so afraid," she gasped. "Can you get me on my feet?"

"Yes, Ciora. You can but try. But there is no great hurry, except to get away from sight of here so that your mind can rest. We cannot get to the cabin until morning."

He set her on her feet, and she clung to him, but she desperately wanted to walk. She felt restless, edgy, and the nervousness inside her was building up. His eyes were concerned.

"Gall Anail," she gasped. "Is this it? I can't seem to recover myself."

"Yes, but when we reach the cabin, its effects will go away. You will recover."

"Why?" she asked him.

He shrugged. "Gall has no power over Johnny O'Haire, and the home of Johnny O'Haire gives comfort from Gall."

"But can you help me now?"

"Only a measure. The fresh air should help."

She had to lean heavily on him, but she felt an insistence that she must walk. He assisted her, and he was so gentle with her that Liz realized she never needed to have feared him outright as she had done. It was true that he had taken her against her will, but he seemed to wish her no personal harm. And within the limits of what he insisted upon, he had been very patient with her. Again, she was reminded of a skilled veterinarian or a fine animal trainer.

She had to stop and be sick again, and they walked further, and then she was sick a final time. He wanted to carry her, but at last her head was clearing. She was weak and not very steady on her feet, but for a quarter of an hour, walking did revive her, and it spent up some of that nervous energy that was consuming her.

But by then her feet were giving out on her. He still wanted to travel further. He brought them to a halt and then she found him crouching down, his broad back towards her.

"As your father did when you were a wee caileag," he said over his shoulder.

She understood him. He meant to carry her on his back. In spite of her physical misery, she felt a sharp, unexpected pang of longing. Liz's father never had played piggy back with her. Their relationship had been much more calm and professional. For he had been brilliant, and she had been precocious, and neither of them had understood play as anything but a child's means to understand the rational world.

She hesitantly leaned down and put her arms around his thick neck. He scooped her up behind the knees, stood and gave her a slight toss to settle her on his back, and they set off. His broad back, padded by the coat, pressed against her stomach and made it calm down. And the smell of his coat steadied her. She could close her eyes and simply hang on. As soon as she did, half-formed images flitted across her closed eye lids: the cave, the score marks on the walls, the endless trees of this forest, her father's eyes behind his spectacles.

* * * *

Parsons and his friends were all avid climbers and spelunkers, and climbing through narrow crevices did not trouble them. They cleaned off the remaining fragments of glass from the side windows and slid the Doctor out with very little trouble.

"I'm all right," he said, though his own face and hands were bleeding. "We must see to the Brigadier!"

This was more difficult. One of the young men slithered inside through a crushed side window to get a better look at the Brigadier's orientation.

"He's breathing!" he shouted to them. "Get me out. We'll have to right it."

They slid him out. He stood up and nodded at the overturned wreck. "Looks like the man's shoulder might be injured, and he might have given his head an almighty wack on the roof. Righting it might cause him pain, but it's the only way to get him out in any decent time."

The Doctor nodded. There were likely no steel cutters within miles that could do a proper job of extricating the Brigadier. Two of the rescuers raced back to their house for ropes and grappling hooks, and the Doctor examined the overturned vehicle to determine how best to engineer the job.

Within a half hour, they had the ropes and hooks in place. Two ropes were hooked into the frame on one side, each of them passed around a sturdy tree, with a man on each to pull. The Doctor and the smallest of the three men were on the opposite side. They set up a rocking motion, and then they pushed, and the other two pulled. The ruined four wheel drive rolled back to its wheels with a bang and a bouncing of ruined suspension. Inside, the Brigadier's body was thrown back into place. He let out a groan and started to come around.

In the far distance, an ambulance siren, out of place in this rustic setting, set up a wail.

"At last," the Doctor said.

One of the men nodded. "Out here we usually have to do for ourselves. Let's see to him. We ought to be able to force that door open, now."

They had brought blankets and bandages with the ropes. After a struggle with the door that required all four of them to pull and push on it, they wrenched it open and unstrapped the seat belt harness. The Brigadier opened his eyes.

"Don't move, Brigadier," the Doctor said. "Let us get you out."

Blood streaming down his face, Lethbridge Stewart didn't answer. He was not oriented and was dazed. The Doctor did a quick cranial exam, but the skull was not fractured. Using a blanket as a sling, they carefully extricated him. By then, the ambulance was in sight: a rugged, four wheel-drive vehicle with an elongated chassis, designed for rescues in this remote region. It pulled up, and a squad of three men hurried out and immediately set to work.

The Doctor stepped out of their way as they set about transferring the Brigadier to a backboard. His gaze fell to the ruined rear of Cording's vehicle. Liz's suitcase had been torn apart: the lid ripped from the hinges, and then slashed through by powerful claws. The small stock of garments inside were wet in places, spattered with water. He examined the base of the suitcase more carefully. There were indications, not just of claws, but of jaws as well. The clothing had been torn by both teeth and talons. Something had attacked it, mouth first, and had then ripped it apart in fury.

The Doctor carefully rolled the mauled clothing up in an oblong bundle, as tightly as he could.

"What about you, Doctor?" Parsons asked. "You should get to hospital, too. You're bleeding."

"No," the Doctor said. "I have another friend who may be in great danger. I really must get to her. This changes everything."

"The friend with Johnny O'Haire? She's safe enough."

"I don't think so." The Doctor's voice was resolute. "Look, can you help me? I must get to her. And I must take some equipment with me."

Parsons asked no more questions. He replied directly. "We could get a couple of motor bikes, and I could take you in. Be faster than a big vehicle, and we could strap on some luggage to the seats. But it will cost more."

"Money is really no object at this point. I must leave the Brigadier in the care of these people. It's urgent that I find Johnny O'Haire."

* * * *

The half-formed images that Liz saw when her eyes were closed seemed to increase as the day wore on. There were moments when they subsided enough to let her doze, but then Johnny O'Haire's cadence would change, and she would awaken, and the images would come back.

They worsened sharply when he set her down at nightfall. He pounded up some of the hardtack for her and mixed it with water. It was their only food, but she could manage only a few mouthfuls. If she looked at it, it seemed to be swarming with ants and little black grubs.

"I'm seeing visions," she said, then corrected herself. "Hallucinations. Can you help me? Is this the illness?"

"Yes, poor lamb." He stripped off his coat. "The darkness will be too treacherous for us to go further. We must stop. Try this." He wrapped her in his coat. But though the fragrance could still comfort her, and though the softness made her long for sleep, the images would not stop. Dazzling patterns, bits of visual memories, and hallucinations danced across her vision.

* * * *

Getting the motor bikes took a couple of hours. Parsons was still willing to act as guide, and he proved a reliable source of help. He chauffeured the Doctor about on his own retrofitted motor cycle, at last connecting with a friend who would rent out a similar vehicle for the Doctor's use. These were two-wheeled machines customized for rough terrain: extensive shock absorbers mounted over the front and rear wheels, and the mufflers raised high on either side to protect them from rubble.

"I'll borrow out some back packs for us while you get your gear together," he told the Doctor. "Meet you at the old pub in an hour?"

The Doctor nodded and swung a leg over the seat of his rented machine. "Come as quickly as you can," he said. "The day is getting far on."

"Right, Doctor."

He sped away. The Doctor kick started his machine and rode off in the opposite direction, the bundle of Liz's clothing tucked into his jacket and waistband.

There was time to visit the village's tiny infirmary: a three-bed arrangement in the back of the physician's office, which was also his house. The Brigadier was the only occupant. His face was bandaged, and a sling on his left shoulder had been put in place to prevent him from moving the arm and causing himself pain.

"He's had a nasty knock on the head, and his collarbone is broken," the village's sole medical practitioner told the Doctor. "The blood you saw was just from flying glass. What about you? Looks like you could do with a bit of attention."

The Doctor had made do with washing his face and hands and picking out the bits of glass as well as he could. "There's no time for that," he snapped. "Has David Cording been notified? It was his van."

"I don't know, sir. I would reckon so. Such news travels fast. He'll probably come looking for you."

"All right. I'm off to the pub to get some things. If you see Cording, tell him I've gone to find Johnny O'Haire."

He strode out, found the motor bike, and sped off again.

But another surprise awaited him at the old pub. He drove right up to the door and skidded to a stop. The ancient front door had been burst apart, as though something inside the building had burst outside. One panel still clung to the hinges, but the rest was in flinders, scattered about the dooryard.

Mystified, the Doctor waited for a moment, listening, but he heard nothing. He cautiously and silently entered. The crates in the front room had been smashed open. He followed the trail of debris. Similarly, in the kitchen, the crockery had been flung about, and an entire cabinet had been torn off of one wall. The back door had been burst open inward, evidence that whatever had entered the house had entered there. The Doctor picked his way over the rubble and made his way up the narrow steps.

In the room he had taken, his things were untouched. But in Liz's room, the bed was torn apart, the walls raked over with what looked like metal hooks, or huge claws. He bent over the ruined bed and examined it. Something had attacked it with jaws, biting deep into the center of the mattress, and flinging out the wadding inside. It had torn at the hole, seeking something. He looked around the room one more time, then hurried out.

Parsons would be arriving soon, and so the Doctor hurriedly checked the equipment downstairs. It was mostly the packaging that had been damaged. This had not been a direct attack as had been done on the bed. It looked more like the evidence of a quick and frustrated search---after the attack on the bed upstairs. And then the intruder had burst through the front door to get outside.

Time was passing, and he needed every moment. Without further analysis of the scene, the Doctor quickly pulled out different pieces of equipment, wrapped them in padding from the destroyed crates, and tried to make portable bundles out of them. He was just finishing up when Parsons' motorbike whined out front.

He went out to meet the young guide. Parsons switched off the ignition of his motor bike, dismounted, and swept off his helmet. "What happened to your door?"

"A visitor came while I was out," the Doctor said. The younger man hurried inside and gazed around.

"This was Gall," he whispered.

"Have you ever seen anything like this before?"

He looked up at the Doctor. "No. I've heard stories, of course. But he's stayed down beneath for ages. But this ruin had to come from him. Look at those claw marks!" He saw the bundles on the floor and quickly scooped one up. "We must find Johnny O'Haire. You were right. That creature is walking about openly. Such a thing hasn't happened in hundreds of years!"

"It's nearly dark, now," the Doctor said. "What are our chances of locating his cabin in the night?"

"None at all unless we try. But we ought to try. This news can't wait. I'll let Mr. Cording know."

"And perhaps I can contact UNIT," the Doctor said.

The young man was puzzled. "Who?"

"A military outfit. They might offer some protection against a hostile creature."

Parsons nodded. "Let's hurry, then. We'll get to the factory. You can make your calls there, and then we can find Johnny O'Haire."

* * * *

"Drink this. It may help you to sleep." Johnny O'Haire gave Liz another, longer drink of the elixir. But now it merely numbed her limbs. Her mind would not stop manufacturing images and small jolts to her system. She tossed her head back and forth and rocked on her heels and shoulder blades, agitated. And then in the darkness, she saw black worms and beetles crawling over her.

"Johnny O'Haire, take them off! Get them off!" she screamed.

He seized her in his arms, and as he did, visual reality returned briefly, and she realized that there was nothing crawling on her. But then the images returned. She pushed her heels into the earth, rocking furiously in agitation.

"Ciridh, ciridh," he said gently. "Close your eyes."

"My head hurts when I close my eyes."

"I will help you move. Move and keep your eyes closed, if you can."

He found the rhythm of her desire to dig her heels in and push against her shoulder blades, and he helped her move in time to it, rocking her even when her muscles flagged. The motion did spend up some of that furious agitation, and after a few moments she could close her eyes against the worst of the visions. She heard herself sobbing: dry tearless sobbing. She wanted to sleep and could not, not properly.

"It's a disruption of sleep," she gasped. "It's been working on me since I came. Do you understand me?"

"Say it again, ciora."

"Disruption of sleep. There is a Gall Farraneagh, but this illness is not from him."

"Repeat it," he said again. "Johnny O'Haire shall learn it."

Even this became a rhythm, a hypnotic chanting between them as she gasped out the words, and he repeated them. It did not allow her to sleep, but---like the rocking that allowed her to push with her legs---it eased some of that incredible agitation.

* * * *

At the village infirmary, the Brigadier grimaced and then grunted in pain as he made himself get up on his good arm.

He looked around. The village physician hurried in. "You're in the village infirmary, my good man. You were in an accident."

"Yes, I know I was in an accident," the Brigadier said. "Something got hold of us. Something threw the car over. I need a telephone."

"I really don't think---"

"Get me a telephone, man, or I'll get up and find one!" he roared. He had no idea if he had the strength to carry out his threat, but it was a worrisome enough idea that his host hurried to the next bed over, retrieved a telephone, and brought it to him. The flex was just barely long enough for it to reach him. He nodded grim thanks, carefully sat up, and set it on his lap. He swiftly dialed.

"What time is it?" he asked.

The medical doctor glanced at the window. "Just twilight."

"What about the other man with me?"

"He's gone to find Johnny O'Haire. Says it's urgent."

"It is urgent. Hello? I want UNIT Headquarters in London. It's a special number," he said into the receiver. "Here it is."

* * * *

"Awakened Gall Farraneagh? Are you mad?" David Cording asked. He came out from behind his desk. "Johnny O'Haire will kill you for this, Stranger. He warned me that you would awaken him."

"Mr. Cording, I did not awaken him," the Doctor said. "Not on purpose and not accidentally."

Parsons, slightly nervous in the presence of the village's source of employment, spoke up in the Doctor's defense: "Really, Mr. Cording. They were just driving up to meet me. I can't see that it was his fault."

"Did you see anything?" Cording asked him. "Any sign of it?"

"No sir. And I'm that thankful. But something stopped that van right enough. Caught hold of it from behind when he slowed down, and then threw it over."

The Doctor started to outline his plan. "I can summon UNIT troops here to protect the inhabitants, perhaps neutralize this thing---"

"No women!" Cording shouted at him. "It will hunt them."

"It seems to be hunting my companion. I think that's why it attacked us," the Doctor said. "We had her things in the back of the four wheel drive."

Parsons asked a question. "Has it got a good sense of smell, then?"

Cording shook his head. "Johnny O'Haire will know. You must find him."

"Listen," the Doctor said. "If you know anything about those men in the silver helmets, you must tell them to stop whatever it is they are doing."

Cording straightened, and his eyes hardened. "I told you: I don't know who you mean."

The Doctor nearly snapped something in reply, but he caught himself. "In that case, Mr. Cording, you must find those men in the silver helmets, and you must tell them to stop whatever it is they are doing."

* * * *

When Liz came to herself much later, after only a brief interlude of true sleep, she had rolled onto her side, and Johnny O'Haire, seated on the ground, was holding her in his arms, swaying in the rhythm of her rocking and repeating the words she had said, chanting to her softly. For the moment, the worst was over, though she had no strength.

At long last, when the deep blackness of the forest night turned gray, he stood up and then stooped and lifted her. He carried her up the next ridge, towards his home.

The visions and disruptions in her sight became much less, but the pain in her head worsened, and the nervousness turned to nausea. She tried not to complain, for he was doing his best to help her. She dug her fists into his coat and hung on against the agitation and discomfort.

* * * *

A convoy of four UNIT trucks, each filled with a dozen men, drove into the valley in the pre-dawn hours. They rolled into the village and dispersed several platoons of men, then after a moment, two of the trucks continued up the north road towards the factory and the outlying homes.

At the infirmary, the Brigadier was awake. He had tried to stand, but the effects of the concussion had prompted a bout of vomiting, and he had very nearly fainted.

At the noise, the village physician rushed in, clad in robe and slippers. "Here now, are you insane?" he asked. "What are you trying to do?"

"Get my men organized!" the Brigadier snapped. But his face was ashen.

"Tell them to bring you a radio set. You can't get up yet. You won't be able to stay on your feet."

"You don't understand---"

"I do understand! It's this way or you'll collapse within twenty paces, and then you'll be no good to anybody."

The Brigadier hesitated. It would be the work of a moment to ring into HQ and tell them to have one of the pickets carry a radio set to him. "All right," he said. "Maybe a few more hours to get on my feet."

* * * *

The day brightened, and the light hurt Liz's eyes. Johnny O'Haire descended another of the endless ridges, and now the terrain was steep, though he negotiated it well with her in his arms. But they were dropping to very low ground, into a ravine. Her heightened, agitated senses reacted as strongly as though she were in a car speeding down a deep drop. Her nausea worsened. She thought she might have to stop him again, and then, suddenly, the pain was gone. The stress on her vision was gone. Her senses were normal. Her spine relaxed; her stomach at last relaxed. She could uncurl her fists. She opened her eyes. He was smiling down at her. Experimentally, she took a deep breath. She wanted to stretch.

"Better, little ciora?" he asked.

"What happened?" she whispered.

"You are at the cabin of Johnny O'Haire."

He stepped up a short path, pulled on a short leather strap, and opened a thick, heavy door. He carried her into a dim cabin. Liz did the most appropriate thing, given the circumstances: she tucked her hands together under her chin and fell instantly asleep.

He carried her through a front room where cured hams and rectangles of bacon dangled from the rafters, and a wood burning stove kept company with a narrow and heavy wooden table. In the back room, which was his bedroom, he set her down on the bed. With the same care he had shown previously, he made her comfortable and put her to bed. She neither stirred nor moved, firmly gripped in the clasp of deep and dreamless sleep.

She woke up briefly when he entered the back room with a tray of food for her. She was alert enough to know that he had given her his bed, which was actually an interlaced framework of green boughs, over which a thick pad of muslin had been stretched. She was covered in a thin muslin wrap that smelled like his coat: rich with the scent of green leaves and fir trees, a scent of protection, safety, and wild serenity. Over the muslin sheet, he had draped a blanket.

She stayed awake just long enough to realize that the room was dotted with an odd assortment of the very old and the very modern. The bed had been made by hand, and yet the night stand was undoubtedly the work of a Woolworth's or similar merchant. A lighted candle sat atop it, shedding its glow in the dimness, and yet across the room, an electric torch hung from the rafters among a small array of outdoor tools.

She looked up at him as he set the tray down on the nightstand.

"You haven't anything in your stomach," he said to her. "Now that you are feeling better, would you not like some food?"

"Oh yes, thank you," she said, and then she instantly fell asleep again, the same deep sleep that had been denied to her for two days and two nights. He waited, but as she showed no sign of waking up, he took a small bowl from the tray, dipped his fingers into it, and gently spread a clear liquid across her forehead, down the sides of her face to her ears, and into her hair. And as he did, he sang softly,

Heaven keep thee near my side
The shepherd with his sheep abide;
Guard thy life; preserve they breath
From harm, from pain, from violent death.

May God upon His Mercy Throne
Claim this child as His own.
And to His shepherd here below
Strength and courage both bestow.

This brief ritual did not awaken Liz. When he finished, he took away the bowl and left the food for her.

* * * *

Sgt. Benton and one of the UNIT corporals carefully picked their way through the underbrush.

"That house is supposed to be right here," Benton said. "Are you sure you read that map right?"

"No, I'm not sure," his companion said.

"Well we're not getting out of these woods until we've checked every house on the list," Benton snapped. "Whatever that thing is that attacked the Doctor and the Brigadier, it's out here somewhere."

"Well I can't make out how we're anywhere near where you say we are!" the other man said. He turned the square of paper sideways and peered at it. "Seems to me we should have crossed that bit of road the other way to follow this out."

Benton did not answer. The soldier looked at him. "What's wrong?" But Benton's eyes, first shocked and then grim, were fixed on something in the trees. The soldier followed the line of his gaze.

In a grove of low branches, a man's body hung from a noose, its feet touching the ground flatfooted as the branch sagged under the weight. But the body was limp.

"Quick! Let's cut him down!" Benton exclaimed. He drew his knife and rushed to cut the rope.

"Who is it? Fellow in a suit and tie," the soldier observed. They eased the body of the young man to the ground.

"Get on your radio. Call for help," Benton said. He reached into the man's jacket and extracted a wallet. He opened it and scanned the cards inside.

"David Cording," he said. "Bloke that owns the factory up here."

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