The War On Earth (2/8)

Title: The War On Earth
Author: sarah531
Rating: PG13, possibly bordering on R
A Sequel To: Turn of the Earth and all related ficlets (but it just about makes sense without it)
Characters: Trisha Delaney, Shareen Costello, Maggie and Thomas Finch (Clive’s wife and son), Elton Pope, many OCs
Summary: Bad Wolf went everywhere, including people’s heads. That in itself would be troublesome enough without half a million Daleks destroying your planet. Or having the man who changed your life leave to defend an alternate universe. Or knowing that the person who saved Rose Tyler is not coming to save you.

Part one

Jackie phoned Trisha back that night. “How is he?” she asked, and sounded more concerned than perhaps she was trying to be. “Did he talk to you?”

“Yeah. Um. His girlfriend, Ursula, she was killed, the Doctor sort of saved her, and then she died…you see?” That was an extremely condensed version of the story, but Trisha didn’t want to go into too much detail. “He was a bit…distant, maybe? But he seemed alright.” She didn’t mention the discussion about whether he was a murderer or not.

“His girlfriend was killed? How?” Jackie said. And she added, “And if he had a girlfriend, what the hell was he doing trying to get off with me?”

“I don’t think she was his girlfriend then, but…a whole bunch of people got killed, and she got killed too. And the Doctor managed to bring her back to life. And then she died again, for real this time.” She shifted uncomfortably. “He didn’t come back and save her again.”

Silence.

“Thanks, lovie,” Jackie said finally, in a faintly resigned tone. “So he’s mostly alright. That’s a load off my mind.” It wasn’t, Trisha knew; there was a permanent weight on Jackie’s mind. “I’ll see you around.”

“Bye, then. Bye.”

Trisha put the phone down. She leaned against the wall, and then she went to the window and glanced out.

And scowled.

She went straightaway to find her mother. She found her doing the washing up, and staring out of the window. Like mother, like daughter.

Trisha’s mother was called Karen. She had married too young. At least, that was what the neighbours said, and Trisha had heard it all as a kid.

“Mum,” Trisha asked, “why is Dad’s car outside?”

Her mother almost blushed. “Well…he likes to be around here, doesn’t he? And I can’t really say no, not to him.”

“He hates it here!” Trisha said. “And he was here at Christmas-” she paused for thought then, but carried on regardless. “And Rob’s birthday, and your birthday, and the start of Easter. Why doesn’t he just stay?”

“Well,” Karen said, scraping at a saucepan, “you know he likes to travel-”

“He can’t do both! He’s got to stay or got to go! You split up years ago! Why don’t you ever tell him that?”

Karen put the saucepan back in the sink and looked at her daughter. “You sound like a child,” she said, sounding rather weary. “Don’t.”

Trisha closed her mouth and turned away and then turned back again. “Um,” she said. “Um. Alright. So where is he?”

“Went to the shops. Maybe he’ll buy something for you.”

Trisha doubted it, but she could say nothing.

*****

For three days they were all together: Trisha and her brothers and her mother and father. Her father spoke politely to her, made no comments about her weight, and she tried her hardest to avoid him- it seemed the sensible thing to do. No shouting, no arguements, no bursting into tears- just avoiding all issues. The way she liked it. Or possibly the way she used to like it: it seemed she no longer enjoyed staying silent.

One night when she and Sam were staying up to watch TV, a horrible thought slammed into her brain for no reason whatsoever.

“Oh my god!” she whispered. “They’re gonna get back together!”

Sam stared at her and gestured at the TV. “Wot, the ginger bloke and the girl with the big-”

No! Mum and Dad! He’s here all the time now, and she likes him being here! Christ.”

Sam shrugged. “So?” he said, and went back to the TV. Trisha’s mind raced. God, if only she could like her father! But she didn’t, and secretly she had never wanted anyone to like him- not Sam, not Rob and not her mother.

How could anybody love someone who ran away?

*****

The next day Trisha was distracted from her family worries by a worldwide invasion of ghosts.

They came while she was having breakfast- one minute she had a spoonful of cornflakes in her hand, and the next minute there was screaming. Frenzied, frantic screaming. She dropped the spoon and ran.

“What in the world is-”

She stopped dead. A ghost was in the room. Her mother was backing away from it, screaming.

Trisha screamed too, because almost anybody would have. In fact- almost everyone screamed. Everyone in Trisha’s house, in the Powell Estate, in England – all over the world.

*****

The entire family backed away into a corner. Sam was still screaming. The ghost advanced. It had no face, but it seemed to be looking at them.

Trisha decided to give it a try. “Go away,” she moaned. “Get out of our house!”

It didn’t. It came closer and closer and closer-

“GET OUT!” Trisha’s mother shouted. “GET AWAY FROM US!”

It came closer, close enough to touch-

“GET AWAY!”

-and it faded and vanished.

It was several seconds before anybody moved. Rob moved first, standing up shakily.

“What was that?” he asked. “What the hell was that?”

“I don’t know,” Trisha whispered shakily, also getting to her feet. It was a ghost. Oh god, what if it was a ghost of Mickey? After all, you know now that anything could happen. What if it’s him, coming through from the parallel earth, coming to get you?

She helped her mother to her feet.

“It’s gone now,” she said. “Whatever it is.”

*****

The world went swiftly into overdrive. Panicked people filled the TV screens, panicked world leaders addressed nations. Panicked people told others not to panic.

Trisha waited in the flat. And then the phone started ringing.

*****

Trisha had spoken to Shareen mere minutes after the first ghost invasion, and what she’d heard had scared her: Shareen had been convinced that the two ghosts who had appeared in her house were in fact her dead grandparents. She was trying to reassure her family, and Trisha knew she probably wouldn’t call back so soon.

She picked up the phone.

“Hello,” she said.

“Is that Trisha?” came a male voice.

“Yes.”

“I…you…I saw Ursula. Back again. Right there in my house,” said Elton.

*****

The ghosts were back the next day. Trisha and Shareen drove once more to Elton’s house. They all sat in the living room and watched things walk through walls.

“That’s Ursula,” Elton whispered, pointing to one of them. “I can tell…it’s the way she walked. Walks.”

“And the other one?” Shareen asked, because there were two ghosts in the house.

Elton swallowed. “My mother.”

“Oh.”

Trisha watched them carefully.

“Why don’t they have faces?” she said.

“And where’d they come from?” Shareen asked.

Elton shrugged, although the questions were rhetorical. “I don’t know. But you think it’s them, right? My mother and Ursula?”

“Yeah,” Trisha said, helplessly. She wondered once again if her ghost had been Mickey. But surely that meant he was dead?

*****

She and Shareen sat in the car. Again.

“Mickey went to a parallel world…” Trisha said, speaking slowly as the thoughts went round her mind.

“Yeah. I know,” Shareen said, and there was a little sigh in her voice, as well. “What, d’ya think-”

“They don’t look like ghosts, not normal ghosts- they look like they’re coming from somewhere-”

“Well, where do ghosts come from?”

Both of them fell silent.

“I’m probably wrong,” Trisha said glumly. “S’probably nothing to do with Mickey- if it was, he’d have come back for Jackie.”

“And for you!”

“Nah. He said goodbye, remember? Said goodbye and gave me a rock.”

Shareen stared out at Elton’s house. “It’s so unfair,” she murmured. “The world’s changed so much. We’re almost getting used to this stuff.”

*****

The world got used to the ghosts surprisingly quick: there was much discussion about it on the television. Were they really ghosts of people</I<? Were they anything to do with the Christmas Invasion? Were they going to go away as quickly as they’d come? What were they?

And so on.

Trisha sat with her mother on the sofa and watched the television. They had it almost permanently on News 24 these days; nothing fictional could compare to what was actually going on.

“Trisha,” her mother said, “I want to ask you something.”

“Yeah?” Trisha answered warily.

“You know things I don’t,” Karen Delaney played nervously with her hair. “Because of that Smith boy…he got you into all this, didn’t he?…and you’re going around with Shareen shouting from rooftops and goin’ on about this Bad Wolf thing. Sam tried to explain that to me, but he didn’t do that good a job, and honestly I’m not sure I want to know.” Trisha was suddenly aware of how old her mother looked. She’d never seemed that way before.

“Alright, now listen, Trisha,” Karen said. “I’m not gonna tell you to, y’know, never see Mickey Smith again or anything like that…” Trisha felt another little pang of loss, and quickly tried to forget it. “I know you can look after yourself and that. I just want…”

“What, Mum?”

“I want you to be careful. I just…I don’t want to lose you, yeah?”

Something occured to her then. Something about a woman she knew, who had surely said those words to her own daughter. “Mum…have you been talking to Jackie Tyler?”

“Met her down the shops,” Karen said. She turned the volume on the TV down. “She’s a great lady, is Jackie.” She trailed off. “Trisha,” she said after a pause.

“Yeah?”

“Rose Tyler isn’t travelling, is she? She’s mixed up in all this, the aliens and the ghosts and what happened in 2005 and all of that stuff. Her and someone called the Doctor.”

Trisha nodded. “Yeah.” And then she hurried on, “You’ve met him, Mum. Bloke who came to the door, told Sam to clean up the graffiti he’d done.”

Karen paused in thought. She stared at the telly. “Oh,” she said softly. “Nice bloke.”

“Yeah,” Trisha said.

*****

That night she had a bad dream. Mickey was in it- he was a ghost, the only one with a face.

“All the men in your life are ghosts!” he said. “Your dad. Your brothers. Elton Pope. And me…and, of course, the biggest ghost of them all. You don’t even know that one, and he doesn’t know you. Don’t you wish you’d never met me? Because then you wouldn’t know anything. It’s horrible, bein’ one of the only ones that know.”

“Know what?” Trisha whispered.

“Know how much danger your world is always in. Know the pain of loss- of knowing someone chose to be without you. Of knowing so many people choose to be without other people.”

Things slowed down. Trisha’s father wandered past, except he wasn’t quite her father really. He didn’t look any different, but she knew he was, and she backed away. She, in her dreamland still, considered the word parallel.

There was a flicker of fire somewhere in the distance- London burning. Trisha wished she could wake up. She stood on a dark road in her nightdress, and monsters and people moved like shadows in the night.

Mickey wandered towards her. There was something different about him too. Something a bit scary. She felt someone grab her hand, and breathed a sigh of relief- she thought it was her mother and she was alright- but it was nothing, and she was still alone.

The road was replaced, temporarily, by a big white wall. Mickey came through it and faced her.

“Are you dead?” Trisha asked him flatly.

“Only to you,” Mickey said. “I’m sorry. S’just everything has it’s time…and everything ends.”

“Why do I have dreams about you? Why? It’s always dreams- am I being used? Is this a leftover from Bad Wolf? Those words went everywhere, and they probably were in my head, too. Right, Mickey?”

“I don’t know,” Mickey said, and he was holding the purple rock all of a sudden. Trisha wondered how he had taken it from her.

“But you were there,” he went on. “You got yourself involved. And you’re one of so very few to know- to know about the Doctor. Because to know about the Doctor is to hang about with death. That’s how come Maggie’s a widow, and how come Elton lost his girlfriend, and you know that! It’s to see death and destruction and lose people! And you’re only on the outside, and you’ve lost me already! Almost.”

He dropped the rock. It fell on the floor and broke in two- that was a pretty final message: This Non-Relationship Is Over.

Trisha opened her eyes. She didn’t sit up and didn’t scream. She lay there in the darkness, and it felt like there was a ghost in her room- a different kind of ghost, a more terrifying one. And then she made herself go back to sleep.

The purple rock, perched on top of her bedside table, gleamed in the darkness.

And- because so much in life gets forgotten, particularly dreams- she almost forgot all about it.

*****

In the morning she recieved another phone call, and it was Shareen.

“Guess what,” she said.

“What?”

“Maggie phoned me today, regarding The Elton Situation. She found out about it from Jackie. She suggested she talk to him.”

“Yeah! Yeah, alright. How come she wants to, though?”

“She saw her husband,” Shareen said delicately. “He was a ghost in her room.”

“Oh. Oh.” She sighed and sank to the floor. “Shall we go with her?”

“Yeah. Might as well. And she’ll probably bring Thomas- she’s kinda protective of him these days. We can all have a proper, long, enlightening conversation.”

“Really?”

“Probably not.”

*****

The next day they sat in Elton’s living room once more, but they didn’t get ginger biscuits this time. Maggie sat next to Elton, and Thomas sat next to Trisha on the other sofa, and asked her questions.

“Why’d Mickey go?” was the first thing he asked, and it made her squirm.

“‘Cos…he had to,” she said helplessly.

“No he didn’t. No-one has to do anything.”

“He wanted to stay with his grandma,” Trisha said, not looking at him. She had vague recollections of an unpleasant dream.

…someone chose to be without you…

“She died, you see,” she said.

Thomas was silent and sulky. “He should have stayed with us.”

Trisha nodded. A small nod. She then turned her attention to Maggie and Elton, on the other side of the room.

“Tell me,” Maggie was saying. That was all she was saying- tell me. Elton was looking at her in a funny way.

“No,” he said.

Trisha went through to the kitchen, where Shareen was making herself a cup of coffee. She was a firm believer in helping herself to other people’s things. “Having fun?” she said.

“Nah, not really,” she answered. “…and I had this weird dream last night.”

“Ooh. Let’s hear it.”

“That’s the problem. Can’t remember much of it. But Mickey was in it.”

Shareen raised her eyebrows. “And you can’t remember?”

In answer, Trisha took her purple rock out of her pocket and turned it over in her hands. “No,” she said. “But it was creepy. Like I was being told stuff. Warned.”

“I know what you mean,” Shareen said, and poured herself out some coffee. “You know, people are supposed to actually be able to predict the future in dreams? Scientists did some research. Half the major disasters of the world, people saw them coming the night before. Earthquakes and stuff. Probably even wars.”

“Wow, really?”

“Yep. Learned that in a science lesson years ago. One of the few times I was paying attention. D’ya want some coffee?”

“No thanks.”

Shareen took a sip of hers. “So. Yeah. Probably nothing, let’s face it.”

“What’d you dream about, then?” Trisha asked.

“Shagging Johnny Depp, possibly? Something like that.”

Trisha snorted, despite herself. The conversation in the next room continued, and Elton’s voice got quieter.

*****

Trisha and Shareen stood in the doorway and watched, as unobtrusively as possible.

“I can leave,” Maggie said, “but I want to help you. I seriously do. ‘Cos after my husband died, someone who could help me just walked in through the door, and it did me the world of good.”

“Who?” Elton asked in surprise.

“Someone called Mickey Smith,” Maggie said, and Trisha’s throat tightened. “I thought I should return the favour, you see. So I came to you.”

Elton nodded, and a second later, what had gradually become known as the Ghost Shift started. A transparent creature stepped through the wall, and stood unmoving by the sofa. Maggie had been just about to speak, but she went quiet again. There was an uncomfortable second of silence, and then Elton said, “Um…Maggie, this is Ursula,” and pointed to the ghost.

Maggie just nodded, and looked sad.

“Hello, Ursula,” she said.

The ghost didn’t look at her- of course, it had no eyes- and it walked through to the kitchen instead. Elton sighed.

“I…don’t want to tell you what happened. Alright? Not now. Maybe some other time.”

“Yeah,” said Maggie.

The two of them looked at each other. It was strange. Thomas shifted about on the sofa.

“Can we go home?” he asked.

“In a minute,” Maggie answered. She put her hand on Elton’s shoulders. “Elton? Things are gonna be alright. I know. This happened to me and it was awful, but I was alright, in the end.”

Trisha smiled. And then she felt thirsty, and she went through to the kitchen to get some of the coffee. She stepped through the door, picked up a coffee cup, glanced to the right-

…there was a robot in the room. A robot in place of a ghost, looking at her.

A monster with a face.