'And then I realised the monster was going after you next. I could feel it. It looked at you, so I looked at you... and suddenly I wasn't angry anymore. Everything you'd done to help me and everybody else just filled me with gratitude! And the monster choked on it. Then I knew what we had to do. Me and that girl...'
'Her name was Peace.'
'Yeah, me and Peace, we nailed the monster with the spirit of Thanksgiving!'
That's it, really. Not much more to say. Time marches on and we're the parade ground. You can still buy happiness at the Brotherhood Temple, but it costs ten dollars and tastes like a hamburger and chips. Gladys, Jack and Sally, their murders unsolved, are pop symbols, famous dead frauds whose legacy is in public domain (I still own a "Luuna luuves U" hoody).
Peace is still listed as a missing person and possible suspect. The residents of planet Sto of the Casivanian Belt still contrive to visit Earth. That was them, poor doomed sods, on the flying Titanic a few Christmases back, despite what the TV told you. I've got my sources. Charity opens doors, you know.
There's just one more thing. I've been putting it off, because looking back it's probably not my finest Sherlock Holmes moment. Makes me look thick, in fact.
I never told you how I got the saucer, did I? First part of the story, really.
I'd been to visit Mum, put some flowers down. This was a week before Shasta. I'm in my quiet place, thinking bitter-sweet thoughts that are none of your business, okay? Then a shadow falls across the stone. I look, and there's this lanky, big-faced kid in a cowboy hat and coat standing behind me. Intruding.
'Shove off,' I tell him. 'Give a woman some privacy.' I'm being polite, you see.
'It's me,' he says, 'I'm the doctor.'
'Listen, you,' I say, 'You're going to need a bloody surgeon in about ten seconds if you don't get a move on.'
Then Robert, driver of the day, hustles up to rescue me. I tell him to hold back; I don't need rescuing. The kid mutters something I don't catch, looks around the cemetery, and a shadow falls across his face.
'Fine,' he says, 'This is me going. Never here, that's me.'
He stops and studies Mum's grave for a moment, sees my name and birth date already etched on the double stone. Frowns, then remembers something. He pulls a small paper sack from a pocket and sets it on the ground.
'Here,' he says, 'from an old friend. You'll know what to do.' Then he walks off into the forest. Robert and I exchange 'loony' faces and chuckle.
'Takes all kinds,' I say, 'wonder what's in the sack?'
I peek inside and I'm sixteen again.
'Robert! That kid, what did he say after you came up?'
'Hmmm? Oh! He said, "Same old Ace". Does that mean something to you, Miss McShane?'
I'm looking in the bag, at the two objects inside, and my heart is sinking. Breaking, really. Because it means everything in the world to Ace. It's Ace that curses herself for hearing 'doctor' instead of 'Doctor'.
As she turns to race into the forest, just to talk to him, just to tell him how much she loves him, it's Ace that hears distant lonely engines grind, warble, fade and leave her behind. And it's Ace who has to be helped to the car and crumples in the back, weeping, wrapped in an unfathomable feeling of loss.
But sod that. Really!
One minute later it's Dorothy who places calls, cancels meetings, changes itineraries, makes arrangements. It's Dorothy who takes the little saucer to Shasta and climbs the mountain.
And it's Dorothy who sits here, now, writing at her desk, almost done, wondering how it will end.
But who paused, now and then, to look up at the other object from the bag?
That little model police box that fills her with such anticipation?
Was it Dorothy? Was it Ace? Or, after all this time, can it just be me?
< PAGE 18
Being a manuscript of the final transmission to the Zygon refugee fleet from the survivors of the exploration vessel Hiskarasa; the final testament of Grotton, bound squire to Commander Broton. Found on Earth in 2357 and verified authentic by the cultural council of New Zygor, 51 Pegasi.
Now on line at Inferno Fiction
with artwork by Colin John