The Doctor stood, submerged to mid-thigh in the River Wandle, in the shade of a leafy tree. He hitched in his line and with a flick of his pole, wet his lure. He snapped it back out and waved the rod forward and back, the fly describing lazy loops over the water’s rippled surface, then made his true cast. He let the fly sit on the water and let the slow current take it for several seconds before snapping the rod back, dragging in line and repeating the process.
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so relaxed. He had waders on over his customary cargo pants and over his graphic tee he wore a vest which was of course, covered in small pockets. He also wore a floppy hat pinned with a dozen or so hand-tied flies that were the work of last night. The lure he was using was an orange-tip. The one he was most proud of was his large red damsel, but one had to work up to one’s favorite. If one started with it, everything after is disappointment - especially if it works better.
He cast again, and hit the spot he’d more or less been aiming for, just off the bank and slightly upstream of a group of shade trees. Just the sort of spot a fat brown trout might enjoy on a late summer evening.
At that moment his phone rang, an echoing whoosh that had reminded him of an old friend. Very few people had his number, so either a package had been delivered, a telemarketer didn’t know what they were in for, or Pandora was looking for him. He wasn’t expecting any packages today, and as it turned out, it wasn’t a telemarketer.
He let go of the line momentarily to activate an earpiece in his left ear to answer the phone. “Caller number one, you’re on the line with the Doctor, what’s on your mind?” he said in his best impression of an American DJ.
“Funny, Doctor. What’cha doing tomorrow?” Pandora asked.
“Oh, I don’t know. I was thinking of maybe digging a traditional Hawaiian pit barbeque and slow-roasting a whole pig. Any idea where I can pick up a whole pig for the morning?” He drew in his line and let it snap back several times, watching the tiny dot of orange that was his fly circle an eddy near the west bank of the river.
“Wrong answer, actually!” Pandora said excitedly. “Though that sounds like a great idea for some other time. Tomorrow you are going with me to Upminster. There’s an old-style fun faire come to town and the Swede is working security. He says he can get us in.”
Just then the Doctor felt a tug on the line. “Hah! I’ve got you now,” he said. He tugged the pole hard to set the line.
“What do you mean, ‘got me’? It’s just an invite. You said you wanted a holiday, I thought it would be fun.”
“Sorry, not you,” the Doctor said, alternately reeling like crazy and slowly pulling his pole to vertical. “What about it makes it ‘old-style’.”
“The Swede says they’ve got performers like you don’t see anymore. Freaks and geeks and fire-eaters and stuff. And they’ve got one of those funhouse walk-throughs that’s more Brothers Grimm than Walt Disney.”
“Oh, you dirty old Trout!” the Doctor exclaimed. The fish had managed to get behind a tree root, tangling the Doctor’s line.
“You what?” Pandora asked, taking offense.
“Not you. You caught me trying to land a fish. Look, he’s fighting back, I’ve got to go.”
“So are you coming, or not?” she asked.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he said.
“Good. I’ll be at your place at dawn. The Swede’s got a pickup truck we can ride in. You two will finally get to meet.”
“Right where I want him...” the Doctor said menacingly.
“You’re talking about the fish again, right?” Pandora confirmed.
“Yep. See you tomorrow.” The Doctor let go of the rod with one hand and slapped at his ear. The fish took this opportunity to run the other direction and almost took the pole. “Come back here, you beauty!” he yelled.
Bright and early the next morning, Pandora was, as promised, in the Doctor’s alcove. “Do you mind if I leave this here?” she asked, setting her box down on his workbench. “They might not let me on the rides with it.”
The Doctor paused, looking at it a little too long, but finally tore his eyes away and said, “Yeah, sure. Of course. Only you, Obelix and I can see this alcove from outside, so it should be safer than houses here.”
“Let’s go then. The Swede will be parked on the street above.”
“One moment,” the Doctor responded. He removed his hoodie from the coat rack and threw it on, then took his sonic out of its charging cradle and put it in his inside pocket. “Okay, ready.”
“I don’t remember you having to charge your old sonic,” Pandora noted.
“We make choices we are most comfortable with, then we pay whatever price is required. My price is dealing with technology available in this time and place, or re-invent what I need. My choice is to weave the least dangerous path that gets the job done.”
Pandora shrugged and nodded her understanding, and the two took the lift up to street level.
The Swede, as it turns out, had parked on the A5 and walked the rest of the way. When the lift got to street level, he was standing there with a broad smile beneath his proud moustache. He came in immediately and gave the Doctor a big, uncomfortable hug. When he let go, he said, “You take care of my Pandora. You are my friend.”
The Doctor smiled as well and patted the Swede’s large bicep. “Tell me, why do you go by ‘the Swede’? Surely there are other Swedes about?”
“Ja, but they all have names like Anders and Sven and Torsten. English can pronounce them. No one can pronounce my name here, and I’ve gotten used to being just the Swede.”
“How do you pronounce your name?” the Doctor asked, up for the challenge.
“Tryggve,” the Swede said.
“The Swede it is, then,” said the Doctor. “Which way to your truck?”
They walked out of the alley and down a couple streets until they came upon his battered pickup parked near a row of scooters. There was a young man in the back of the pickup already, sitting uncomfortably with Obelix who began whining and wagging his tail when he saw Pandora. The boy had dark hair cut short, but still stylish. He had brown eyes with flecks of green and lashes that were so dark it appeared he wore eyeliner, but probably didn’t. He wore a leather jacket that looked a size too big over a plain white t-shirt and black jeans with the knees shredded. He had a wallet shoved in his back pocket hanging from a chain connected to his belt and he wore Doc Martens with the name of a local band written on the side in whiteout.
Pandora first greeted the dog warmly, then hitched her bag up higher on her shoulder and said, “Hey,” to the boy.
“Hey,” he said back and got up on his knees and put out a hand. “Blaise,” he said.
Pandora took his hand and shook it, one light pump. “Pandora.”
“Doctor, Blaise. Blaise, Doctor,” said the Swede. “Climb in. We should be going.”
Blaise put his hand out to the Doctor too. “Blaise,” he said.
“Like Pascal, right?” the Doctor asked, taking his hand and pulling himself up into the bed of the truck.
“Yeah, exactly,” said Blaise. “My dad taught maths.”
They all sat, Obelix laying down with his head in Pandora’s lap, and the Swede made a U-turn. Traffic was light this early in the day, and they made good time, but the wind stole away their words, so they had no opportunity to get to know Blaise any further on their way East. Obelix stood at some point to walk to the front of the bed and stick his face out into the wind. Blaise squeezed into the left front corner to avoid being stood upon by the massive dog.
The Swede turned off the main road at Upminster, then took side streets through neighborhoods, and finally a dirt road into farmland. The fun faire stood in a farmer’s fallow field where the driving became slow, and the ride became uncomfortably bumpy. Obelix returned to lie in Pandora’s lap.
The Swede held up a card as they approached the parking attendant and he waved them on through. He parked just outside the faire proper, near a collection of pickups and caravans, then came around and lowered the t-gate.
Steam rose from the damp ground giving the faire an eerie quality that went along with the muted calliope music and the painted faces. A chill went through Pandora on this already warm Summer morning. She smiled and held out a hand for the Doctor.
Blaise stepped in. “Hey, would you like me to show you around a bit? You know, show you what’s what?”
“Blaise,” the Swede said sternly, hands on hips. “The pretty girl is here to see the carnival, but you and I are here to work. Remember I vouched for you.” He shook a finger at Blaise. “Don’t make me look bad.”
“Yeah, alright. Sorry,” he said with some shame, then more hopefully, “But I get a lunch break. The funnel cakes are great! I can meet you up then.” He looked up at the Swede nervously.
Pandora smiled. “Yeah alright, sounds good. Doctor?”
“Funnel cakes sound just the thing,” the Doctor said.
“Brilliant!” Blaise said, raising a hand in parting, then ran off toward the far end of the faire.
“You want me to take Obelix?” Pandora asked the Swede.
“No, I’m afraid Obelix is working today too,” the Swede replied. “You know, he was a police dog in Norrköping before we come here.” He tapped the side of his nose. “Good nose. No one gets past him. No drugs, booze or um, how do you say, sprängämnen?”
“Explosives,” the Doctor interjected.
“Ja!” the Swede said, pointing at the Doctor and smiling. “Och guns too.”
“Well, shall we then?” the Doctor said, clapping.
Pandora held her hand out again and the Doctor took it this time. The two of them turned and walked toward the faire. Pandora turned one last time and waved. “Thanks!” she called.
The Swede waved back, then turned to Obelix. “Kom,” he said, switching to Swedish. “Låt oss gå till arbetet.” The dog heard one of his keywords and suddenly became attentive and businesslike.
Despite the early hour, the crowds started arriving just as the faire opened. Pandora noted her surprise at how early it filled up, and the Doctor suggested that it was because of the heat. “It’ll get up to forty-three degrees today. People want to get back home before that.”
“Forty-three? No way,” Pandora said, pulling her tablet out of her bag. “I mean, it’s been hot, but not that hot.” She fiddled with the tablet for a bit before putting it away disappointed. “Naturally there’s no Wi-Fi around here.”
They stopped at one of the games along the way, where the Doctor won for Pandora a small stuffed leprechaun. It turned out he was an ace with throwing rings over milk bottles.
They grabbed some doner kebab from one of the booths because, as the Doctor said, “It just doesn’t feel like a faire unless you’ve got food in your hand.”
They walked along for a bit. “You want to go on an orbiter? Tagada?” the Doctor asked.
“Nah, I get queazy,” Pandora responded.
“Sure, but after we’re done eating.”
“There’s Punch and Judy! Oh, I love a Punch and Judy!” he said, then knitted his eyebrows. “Unless the puppets come to life and start attacking. That happens sometimes. Oh, I know! The Ferris wheel! You can see the whole faire from up there and decide what’s next. And it’s a nice sit while you eat. What do you say?”
“Sure, let’s go,” Pandora agreed.
The queue for the wheel wasn’t long and five minutes later, they we’re seated and climbing high over the faire ground.
“You know, the first wheel was put up in Chicago during the World’s Fair of 1893,” the Doctor said while Pandora ate. “Built by a railroad engineer - not like the guy who drives the train, like an architect. He built bridges and the like - he went by the name of George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. Imagine that. There was a bloke with the name ‘George Washington Gale Ferris’ and he thought, my son should have that name too. Anyway, he barely got to build it. The people funding the fair didn’t believe it could be done safely, so he brought in a team of engineers to testify to his design. In the end, it was the biggest draw to the fair. It took twenty minutes to go around twice, and cost you fifty cents. The way I hear it, the fair runners never paid Ferris his-”
Suddenly, the Doctor dropped his kebab on the seat and stood up, looking around intently. Whatever got his attention, Pandora didn’t notice. She took a last bite and set her kebab down to listen. She heard it then, above the sound of screams coming from people enjoying the rides, there was one, panicked, terrified.
As they passed the platform, the operator yelled for the Doctor to sit down, but he ignored him. As they began to climb again, the Doctor stepped up onto the seat and gripped the support structure. He leaned out and surveyed the grounds. He located the source of the screaming when he saw people running away from the funhouse.
There were now three carnival workers standing on the platform yelling up at the Doctor. Pandora tried to get the Doctor to sit down, but the Doctor ignored her as well. As the wheel brought them down to ground level, the Doctor deftly stepped off the car and onto the platform. “Excuse me,” he said to no one in particular, and the line parted for him to hurry through.
Pandora raised her hands in exasperation, then leaned over the side. “Could you stop the ride, mate?” The movement of the ride took her out of earshot and she had to wait until she came around again. She stood up and tried to pick the Doctor out of the crowd. It turned out to be easy, because he was the only one heading toward the funhouse. Everyone else was either milling about or leaving the funhouse area. When the wheel brought Pandora close to the ground again, she started calling for the attendants’ attention. “Oy! Stop the ride! My friend got off! Let me out.”
They stared at her, almost slack-jawed as she passed the platform and headed up again, but as she reached the top, the ride began to slow, and they let her off when she got to the platform again.
“What your friend did is dangerous,” one of them said as she passed.
Pandora only just realized that the noise of the faire, the music of the wheel, and the conversations of the crowd meant that no one at ground level had heard the screaming or noticed the disturbance. “Yeah, he can be a right nutter sometimes,” Pandora responded and headed quickly toward the funhouse.
The funhouse was called the ‘House of Horrors’ and bore a sign saying, “Not for the young or faint of heart. No pregnant women, please.” She found the Doctor and Blaise talking to a young couple. The woman had mascara running down her face and was talking and pointing back into the funhouse. Pandora caught the words, “Those were no masks, those things were real!”
The Doctor caught Pandora’s eye and inclined his head toward the exit of the funhouse. He thanked the couple and promised to investigate. Pandora joined him and the two headed in. “What happened Doctor, what did they see?”
“They weren’t very reliable witnesses, but whatever it was scared them. Let’s head into this with open eyes and minds. Remember just because something is odd doesn’t mean it’s dangerous. We’ve seen things they haven’t.”
“Yeah, but those things were scary,” Pandora pointed out.
“Not all of them. If Jervaix suddenly appeared to these people they’d have freaked out. Hopefully your mind is a little broader by now.”
Pandora thought back to the four-armed creature with the silvery tattoos that they had met on the planet Dor. “Sure, Doctor, I won’t be scared.”
Just then she stepped on a pressure plate and a ghoul on a pneumatic cylinder lunged at her, causing her to scream.
The Doctor closed his eyes for a moment and shook his head slightly. He opened them back up and with a wry smile he said, “Watch your step.”
The two continued on, passing by a jiggling hanged corpse and a baby with glowing eyes whose head spun around. They came around a corner to see two figures huddled together in a corner nearby, and weren’t quickly able to tell whether they were part of the House of Horrors or whether these were the things that had scared everyone. To the Doctor and his companion, they looked rather more pathetic than frightening.
The Doctor approached and knelt down to their level. “Hello,” he said gently. “I’m the Doctor. Do you two need any assistance?”
The two figures separated, and the male turned toward the Doctor. His face was hideous. His forehead bulged to twice normal size, and his eyebrows swept outward and upward from a pair of pinprick eyes at the very center of his face. At the point where his tiny ears appeared, his face was thin enough to fit through a wedding band. Below that, great triangular nostrils flared outward and downward to meet a thin-lipped and very wide mouth. He had barely any neck, but broad shoulders and chest, below which his slim abdomen stretched grotesquely. His upper arms were very short, but the lower parts were elongated and ended in thin hands with long fingers. His legs were short and wide, and the shoes he wore were clown-like in length. “Wwwwwww,” he said, reaching out an enormous arm toward the Doctor.
Pandora took an instinctive step back, but the Doctor held his ground.
“Wwwwwhhh,” the male figure repeated. “Wwwwwhhhat haaaaaapennnnnnnd toooooooo uuuuuuuth?”
The female tried to stand. She had short legs like the male, but a very round body with short thin arms that just rested on the sides of her round body. Her neck was very short and she seemed to be having trouble holding her long thin head up. Masses of blonde hair erupted from the top of her head, reaching a height nearly half again the length of her face and cascading down close to her head and over her shoulders. Her eyes were long and thin with elliptical blue irises and her mouth was parted to display enormous horse-like teeth. Tears welled in her oversized eyes and makeup ran down her face. In all, she looked highly improbable. Her short arms could never reach up to scratch her ears and her tiny lips could never close over that long mouth.
“What kind of aliens are these?” Pandora asked curiously.
The Doctor held out a hand to the female, offering to help her balance on those tiny legs. “Look at their clothes.”
Pandora hadn’t noticed at first because the clothes were perfectly normal. The man was wearing Dockers and a salmon-coloured Lacoste shirt, though they must have been tailored to fit his odd body shape. The woman wore yoga pants of no discernable brand, but once you accounted for how stretched out it was, you could make out the words ‘Juicy Couture’ across her shirt.
“Oh my god, these are people!” Pandora said in horror.
“Or, a bit more compassionately, these people are victims,” the Doctor said, nothing but kindness in his eyes and voice. He took off his hoodie and tried to drape it over the woman’s shoulders, though it only really covered one side well. “Come on, let’s get you out of here,” he said.
The two victims hobbled slowly toward the exit, the Doctor carefully guiding them around the pressure plates that activated the horrors of the ride. When they got off, Blaise was waiting at the stairs and he helped them down.
“What the hell happened to them?” he asked, too shocked by their appearance to be polite.
“We don’t know yet,” the Doctor answered tersely. “Could you get an ambulance?”
“Yeah, sorry. Danny’s got a radio.” Blaise ran off in search of Danny.
“Here, take a seat by this tree,” the Doctor said. A crowd was starting to gather round. The Doctor took his hoodie back and removed his sonic and his psychic paper. He handed the psychic paper to Pandora and indicated the crowd with a tilt of his head. “You know what to do?”
“Yeah, I’ve gotcha,” Pandora said and, thinking of a clever lie, stood and faced the crowd confidently. “Alright, everybody back,” she said, holding the psychic paper up like a badge. Go about your day and give them room to breath. They just stumbled on a hornet’s nest and both of them allergic. Ambulance is on its way, so back off.”
The Doctor smiled proudly, listening to her speech while he examined the victims with his sonic screwdriver. Blaise ran back over. “Ambulance is on its way. What’s that you’re doing?”
The Doctor flashed his eyes at Blaise, a bit annoyed. “It’s a sonic... probe. I’m checking to see if the change is superficial or if it goes deeper.”
“And?” Blaise asked.
“And, their internal organs are stretched and squashed to match,” he said, shutting off the sonic. “Your heart and lungs are three times normal width,” he said to the woman, “but that’s probably a good thing, supporting your larger frame. Bones are the same. Ribs as thin as normal, but the full width of you. That’s not extra fat.” He put the sonic to his lips, thinking.
The woman sobbed silently, resting her elongated head against the tree. The man kept trying to talk, but his tongue was too tall in back and too wide up front and he had difficulty getting anything out.
The Swede and two other faire workers they hadn’t met were clearing a path for an ambulance. A crowd started to form around again, but this time there were performers to draw attention away. Several were making balloon animals and telling jokes, while a fire-breather put on an impressive act. Meanwhile the paramedics loaded the two victims onto stretchers and into the back of the ambulance.
The Doctor ran alongside the stretcher carrying the woman, holding her hand. “I’m going to go with you two, make sure you’re okay.”
Pandora appeared at his side holding the psychic paper. “Me too,” she said.
The paramedics closed up the ambulance doors and climbed in the front. Blaise stood back, watching the ambulance go. He wanted to go with them, to involve himself, but couldn’t come up with a good reason.
There was a tapping on his shoulder. “Hey, is the ride open or what?”
He turned around, not really hearing the question.
There was a woman standing there holding a stuffed bear, a pair of Mylar balloons and a tray of sodas. “Only, there’s no one to take tickets,” she said pointing to the line for the funhouse. There was a man standing there with two children, looking at them, and a queue forming behind them.
“Right, sorry. Yeah, I’ll take your tickets,” Blaise said and ran back to the gate.
“Don’t try to say anything,” the Doctor said, “just squeeze my hand. Once for yes, twice for no. Now, did the change occur slowly, over a period of time?”
“Okay, so it happened quickly. Did you feel it happen to you?”
“Now this is important. Do you remember what you were doing when it happened?”
The Doctor looked up at Pandora. “I think we’ve gotten about as far as yes and no questions as we can, unless you have some ideas?”
Pandora thought for a while. “Mostly I just wanted to be sure they know we’ve fixed things like this before. That we can turn them back, like we did with those kids before. Oh, I know! Was there anyone, or anything in there with you when this happened.”
“Good one,” the Doctor said and turned to the victims. “Was there?”
“Well, it was a good try.” The Doctor let go of their hands and leaned forward to talk to the driver. “Are we nearly there?”
“Just about. But we’ve got to go back as soon as we get there,” the driver said.
“There are another five victims, and we’ve only got three ambulances.”
“What?” the Doctor yelled, standing up quickly and bashing his head on the low ceiling. “Shut down that funhouse! Give me the radio!”
“They already have done.”
“Humans!” the Doctor ranted. “Oh, something unexplainable is happening in the funhouse, let’s send in more people! Well at least someone finally used their brain and shut it down. Only took seven victims.”
He visibly calmed himself down. “Sorry. Since you’re heading that way, mind giving us a lift?”
When the Doctor and Pandora returned to the faire ground, the funhouse has a sign across the entrance reading, “Closed for repairs,” but the crowds had died down in the heat of the day. There were still a fair amount of people milling about, but it was nothing compared to earlier.
They found Blaise changing out the liner on a rubbish bin nearby the funhouse. The Doctor marched up to Blaise and demanded, “How dare you keep letting people in when you saw what happened to the first two?”
Blaise looked as if he were afraid of being hit. He took a few steps back and said defensively, “Look, I’m really sorry, but it’s not like you told me what happened, or what to do. I heard Pandora saying that it was a bee allergy thing, so I didn’t see why we should keep people out. We shut it down as soon as we saw there were more victims, but they kept coming out.”
The Doctor opened his mouth to yell more, but Blaise was right. In the end he said, “That was meant to fool the crowd, not you.” He looked over at Pandora, but she wasn’t about to help him out, so he changed the subject. “What’s done is done. We need to get in there. I want to take some scans and find out what’s causing this.”
“Sure, I’ll take you in there,” Blaise said.
The three walked to the funhouse, and Blaise unlocked the chain and moved the sign, then they climbed the stairs to the entrance. A motion sensor triggered a soundtrack of maniacal laughter. “How about I shut down the effects first?” Blaise offered.
“No,” the Doctor said, “It might affect the readings. Whatever caused this probably requires a power source.”
They stepped inside, and immediately triggered a pressure plate that loudly blasted a jet of cold air up from the floor, causing Pandora to jump.
“You can, however, warn us when something like that is coming up, hmm?” the Doctor said.
“Yeah. Sorry,” Blaine said.
They passed strobing lights and felt web-like strands brush against their face. Blaine warned them about each of the ghouls that would pop out. The Doctor examined each with his sonic screwdriver, never appearing interested in any of it. Despite being told about it in advance, Pandora still shied away from a ventriloquist’s dummy that made several appearances, creeping her out.
Toward the end, they had to cross a bridge over a room that spun around them, made to appear endless by mirrors on each side and causing a severe state of vertigo. Past that were a pair of sinister looking clowns in dayglow paint in a room lit by ultraviolet lights. In between them were a pair of warped mirrors. Pandora was about to walk past when the Doctor put out a hand and stopped Pandora stepping in front of them.
Pandora stopped and turned, a questioning look on her face.
“Look familiar? People all stretched out and malformed? Picture yourself in front of one.”
“Oh my God, did the mirror do this to them?”
“Perhaps,” the Doctor said distantly, “but more likely, something on the other side. The question is, to what end?” He stood aside one mirror and ran his sonic around the edge. He carefully avoided touching it as he examined it. “Curious. These mirrors haven’t got one blemish on them. No fingerprints, no scratches. I’ve never seen one so pristine, except the one next to it.”
“Well, they are brand new,” Blaise said.
The Doctor stopped his scanning and looked to Blaise encouragingly. “Go on,” he said.
“Yeah, some of the guys were discussing it, Danny and what’s his name - Marcus. The last place the faire stopped was Manchester and some vandals broke both the mirrors. They weren’t even going to set up the funhouse without them, but then these came from a anonymous donor. They said these were unbreakable.”
“Anonymous donor, eh?” the Doctor considered. “Interesting. Well, let’s just see how unbreakable these are.” He twisted the top of his sonic several clicks and stepped back. He pointed the sonic at one of the mirrors and activated it. The tip glowed bright white and it buzzed loudly. “Cover your ears,” the Doctor said loudly to be heard over the noise of the sonic.
Blaise and Pandora covered their ears and the Doctor wrapped his free arm around the top of his head to plug his ears as best he could. He pulled back on the finger-ring underneath the sonic and the noise increased in pitch until it became painful to hear. The glass of the mirror vibrated fiercely, but remained intact. The Doctor pulled back even further on the ring and the pitch increased slowly into the inaudible range. The ultraviolet bulbs on both sides of the room shattered, but the mirrors merely vibrated along with the rest of the room. It got to the point where it felt as if the ceiling was going to shake apart, and the floor might crack, when the Doctor finally backed off and deactivated the sonic.
“That’s pretty unbreakable,” he said, stashing his sonic in his hoodie inside pocket. “Okay. Let’s at least cover them with a cloth. I don’t want whatever’s on the other side seeing anybody else.”
As they walked toward the exit, Blaise asked, “Hey, what do you mean, ‘the other side’? Are you talking about other dimensions or something?”
“Very good,” the Doctor replied. “That’s exactly right. There are infinite parallel dimensions out there, many are very much like ours, some of them unbelievably different. There are places where the space between them gets thin enough to cross. I believe that your anonymous donor created these mirrors to be one such place, but what I still don’t know is, why?”
They made their way past the final ghoul, out of the funhouse and down the stairs into the blinding mid-day sun and the scattered groups of dedicated faire-goers.
“What could an extra-dimensional species have to gain by deforming people like this?” the Doctor continued, mostly to himself.
As Pandora’s eyes adjusted to the bright light of day, she saw a couple holding hands, and there was something about them that kept her attention. She broke off from the others and slowly followed the couple, her curiosity peaked. Then she realized what it was. The man was wearing a salmon-coloured shirt and Dockers. The woman was wearing yoga pants and though she saw it from behind, Pandora felt certain she was wearing a Juicy Couture top. The clincher though was the big blonde hair. “Hey, Doctor...” she called over her shoulder, fearing to look away from the couple in case they might disappear. They just couldn’t be the couple from before.
She reached out and put a hand on the man’s shoulder.
The couple stopped, and the man turned to face her.
The man had no face. It was just skin, stretched tightly from one edge of his hairline to the others. There were no divots for eyes, no bump for a nose, no slit for a mouth. There wasn’t even really a chin. It was as if someone had stretched skin over an enormous egg and set a wig on top. Pandora was too stunned by what she saw to even move. The man moved quickly to grab her arm, then with his other hand he caught first her shoulder, then her face. Pandora stepped back, trying to get away, but he held tight, grabbing a handful of her hair. The woman, faceless as well, turned, arms extended toward Pandora, hands grasping.
Pandora screamed for her life.