AND THE HORROR OF FANG ROCK.
By TERRANCE d.i.c.kS.
Prologue: The Legend of Fang Rock
Fang Rock lighthouse, centre of a series of mysterious and terrifying events at the turn of the century, is built on a rocky island a few miles off the Channel coast. So small is the island that wherever you stand its rocks are wet with sea-spray. Everywhere you hear the endless thundering of the waves, as they crash on the jagged coastline that has given Fang Rock its name.The lighthouse tower is in the centre of the island. A steep flight of steps leads up to the heavy door in its base. This gives entry to the lower floor where the big steam-driven generator throbs steadily away, providing power for the electric lantern. Coal bunkers occupy the rest of this lower area.Winding stairs lead up to the crew room, where the men eat, sleep and spend most of their leisure time. Next to the crew room is a tiny kitchen.Above, more store rooms and the head keeper's private cabin, and above them the service rooms, where tools and spare parts are kept, together with rockets, maroons, flares and a variety of other warning devices.Finally, a short steep iron stairway leads up into the lamp room, a gla.s.sed-in circular chamber at the very top of the tower, dominated by the giant carbon-arc lamp with its gleaming gla.s.s prisms.Fang Rock has had an evil reputation from its earliest days. Soon after it was built two men died in mysterious circ.u.mstances, and a third went mad with fear. There have been strange rumours, stories of a great glowing beast that comes out of the sea...But all is forgotten now. It is the early 1900s, and the age of science is in full swing. Newly converted from oil to electricity, Fang Rock lighthouse stands tall and strong, the great shining lantern warning ships away from the jagged reefs around the little island.As night falls one fine autumn evening the lamp is burning steadily. The three men who make up the crew go peacefully about their duties, unaware of the night of horror that lies before them, little knowing that they would soon be caught up in a strange and terrible conflict, with the fate of the Earth itself as the final stake.
1 The Terror Begins
It began with a light in the sky. It was dusk, and the lamp had just been lit. High up in the lamp room all was calm and peaceful, no sound except for the steady roar of the sea below. Young Vince saw it first. He was polishing the great telescope on the lamp-room gallery when he saw a fiery streak blazing across the darkness. Through the telescope, he tracked its progress as it curved down through the evening sky and into the sea. For a moment the sea glowed brightly at the point of impact. The glow faded, and everything was normal.Vince turned away from the telescope. 'Reuben! Come and look-quick now!'With his usual aggravating deliberation the old man finished filling an oil-lamp. 'What is it now, boy?''There was this light, shot across the sky. Went under the sea it did, and the sea was all glowing. Over there.'Old Reuben rose stiffly, hobbled across to the telescope and peered through the eyepiece. 'Nothing there now.''I told you, it went into the sea.'Reuben grunted. 'Could have been a what d'you call 'em... a meteor...'He left the telescope and Vince took his place, scanning the area of sea where the fireball had vanished. 'Whatever it was it come down pretty near us...''Sight-seeing are we?' asked a sarcastic voice. 'Hoping to spot some of them bathing belles on the beach?'Guiltily Vince jumped away from the telescope. Ben Travers, senior keeper and engineer of Fang Rock lighthouse, was regarding him sardonically from the doorway. He was a tough, weathered man in his fifties, stern-faced but not without his own dour humour.Reuben chuckled. 'Young Vince here's been seeing stars.'Vince reddened under Ben's sceptical stare. 'I saw a light, anyway. Clear across the sky it came, and down into into the sea.''Must have been a shooting star, eh?''Weren't no shooting star,' said Vince obstinately. 'Seen them before I have. This was-different.''Get on with you,' cackled Reuben. ' That were a shooting star, right enough. Bring you luck, boy, that will. Bit of luck coming to you.''What, on this old rock? Not till my three months is up!' Keepers worked three months at a stretch, followed by an off-duty month on sh.o.r.e.Ben went to the telescope. But there was nothing to be seen but the steady swell of the sea. 'Well, whatever it was it's gone now. As long as it's not a hazard to navigation, it's no business of ours.'That's Ben for you, thought Vince. Duty first, last and all the time. 'I saw it, though,' he persisted. 'It was all glowing...''I've heard enough about it, lad. Just you forget it and get on with your work. I'm going down to supper. Coming, Reuben?'Ben went down the steps, and Reuben followed. Vince returned to polishing the bra.s.s mounting of the telescope. He stared out at the dark, rolling sea. 'All the same,' he muttered, 'I know what I saw...'
It surfaced from the depths of the sea and scanned the surrounding area with many-faceted eyes. Just ahead was a small, jagged land ma.s.s. Crowning it was a tall slender tower with a light on top that flashed at regular intervals. Clearly there were intelligent life-forms on the island. They must be studied, and eventually disposed of, it thought weakly.It had been severely shaken by the crash, and its energy-levels were dangerously low. The bright flashing light meant power-and it desperately needed power to restore its failing strength. It had already taken precautionary measures to conceal its presence and isolate the island. Slowly it moved through the sea towards the lighthouse.
In the cosy, familiar warmth of the crew room Ben and Reuben were dealing with plates of stew, and continuing their never-ending argument.Reuben swallowed a mouthful of dumpling. 'Now in the old days it was all simple enough. You filled her up and trimmed the wick. That old lamp just went on burning away steady as you please.''Wasn't only the lamp burned sometimes. How many oil fires were there in those days, eh? Towers gutted, men killed...''Carelessness, that is. Carelessness, or drink. Oil's safe enough if you treat her right.''Listen, Reuben, I've been inside a few of those old lighthouses. Like the inside of a chimney. Grease and soot everywhere, floor covered with oil and bits of wick.''Never, mate, never!'Ben was well into his stride by now. 'And as for the light! You couldn't see it inside, let alone out. Clouds of black smoke as soon as the lamp was lit.'Reuben changed his ground. 'All right, then, if electricity's so good, why are they going back to oil then, tell me that?'Ben groaned. They'd been over this hundreds of times, but Reuben couldn't-or wouldn't-understand. 'That's an oil-vapour system, different thing altogether. They reckon it's cheaper.''Well of course it's cheaper,' grumbled Reuben. 'By the time you've ferried out all that coal for your generators ..There was a whistle from the speaking-tube on the wall. Reuben got up, unhooked the receiver and bellowed, 'Ahoy!'
Vince s.n.a.t.c.hed his ear from the receiver and winced. Reuben always bellowed so loud he hardly needed the tube. He put the tube to his lips and said, 'That you, Reuben?'He held the tube to his ear and grinned at the reply that sizzled from the tube. 'Oh, it's King Edward himself, is it? Well, your majesty, be kind enough to tell the princ.i.p.al keeper as there's a fog coming up like n.o.body's business.' His voice became more serious. 'Funny looking fog it is too. I never seen anything like it.'
Reuben replaced the speaking-tube. 'Vince says there's a fog coming up.''Fog? There was no sign earlier.''He reckons it's a thick un , Ben. Something funny about it.'Ben pushed his plate back. 'Best go and see for myself. Boy's only learning, after all.'He hurried out of the room. Reuben mopped up the last of his stew with a hunk of bread, stuffed it into his mouth and followed him.
Ben stared out of the gallery, shaking his head. 'Never seen a fog come up so fast-and so thick!'The fog seemed to be rising straight from the surface of the sea like steam. It surged and billowed round the lighthouse, isolating it in a belt of swirling grey cloud.Reuben looked out into the grey nothingness. 'Terrible thing, fog,' he said with gloomy relish. 'Worst thing for sailors there ever was.'Ben shivered. 'And feel that cold. Corning right across from Iceland that, I reckon.''It's coming from where I saw that thing go into the sea,' said Vince.Ben rounded on him irritably. 'Give over, boy. Go and start the siren going.'Unexpectedly, Reuben came to Vince's support. 'He might be right though, Ben. It do seem unnatural, this fog, coming up so sudden like. I never seen anything like it.''Not you too,' said Ben wearily. He nodded to Vince. 'Well, get on with it, boy. Frequent blasts on the foghorn-and I do do mean frequent.' mean frequent.'Reuben couldn't resist trying to score a point. 'Pity we're not still using oil. Everyone knows an oil-lamp gives better light in fog.'As always Ben rose to the bait. 'Rubbish, that's just an old wives' tale. Electricity's just as good in fog, and a sight more reliable.'The lamp went out.Reuben gave a satisfied cackle. The timing was perfect. 'You was saying something about reliability, Ben,' he said with heavy irony.Ben grabbed an oil-lamp, lit it and ran from the lamp room.
On the other side of the tiny island there was a wheezing groaning sound and a square blue shape materialised out of the fog. It was a blue London Police Box. Out of it stepped a tall man with wide inquisitive eyes and a tangle of curly hair. He wore loose comfortable clothes, a battered soft hat and a long trailing scarf. He was followed by a dark-eyed, brown-haired girl in Victorian clothes. The man was that mysterious traveller in s.p.a.ce and Time known as the Doctor, and his companion was a girl called Leela.Leela looked round at the wet rocks and swirling fog. She shivered. 'You said I'd like Brighton . Well, I don't.''Does this look like Brighton ?' asked the Doctor exasperatedly.'How do I know? I don't know what Brighton 's supposed to look like.''It isn't even Hove,' mused the Doctor. 'Could be Worthing , I suppose...'Leela looked at the Police Box-in reality a s.p.a.ce/ Time craft called the TARDIS. 'The machine has failed again?''No, not really,' said the Doctor defensively. 'Not failed failed , exactly. It's still the right planet, and I'm pretty sure we're still in the same time-zone-though we may have jumped forward a year or two. We're even in the right general area-a.s.suming this is Worthing , of course.' , exactly. It's still the right planet, and I'm pretty sure we're still in the same time-zone-though we may have jumped forward a year or two. We're even in the right general area-a.s.suming this is Worthing , of course.''You can't tell!' accused Leela. 'What's gone wrong?'The Doctor cleared his throat. 'Well, you see, a localised condition of planetary atmospheric condensation caused a malfunction in the visual orientation circuits, or to put it another way, we got lost in the fog!'He took a few paces around the rocks and paused in surprise. The sea winds had cleared the fog for a second or two, and he caught a glimpse of a tall thin shape towering above them. 'How very strange!''What is?''A lighthouse-without a light!'
Holding his oil-lamp high above his head, Ben hurried into the big generator room that occupied the whole of the base of the tower. The generator was still chugging busily away. It should have been producing power-but it wasn't. Puzzled, he went to examine the power feed lines. Perhaps a faulty connection... The electric lights came on again.Ben looked at the throbbing generator. Although he'd never admit it to Reuben, electrical science was still in its infancy, and puzzling things like this still cropped up occasionally. Something in the atmosphere perhaps. Something to do with this strange fog.With a last puzzled look at the generator, Ben turned and began to climb the stairs. As he left the room, the door to the coal storage bunker opened a fraction. There was a glow, and a faint crackling sound...
As the light came on again, Vince turned triumphantly to Reuben. 'There, that didn't take long, did it?'Reuben scowled. A major power failure would have been a big point on his side. 'Working, not working, working again! Never know where you are with it, do you?'Vince shivered and slapped his arms across his chest. 'Perishing up here. I'll just go down and get my sweater.''You do that, boy, and bring mine up as well.'Vince ran down the stairs, b.u.mping into Ben on the landing. 'Come down for my sweater,' he explained: 'Freezing up there it is.'Ben followed him into the crew room. 'Same in the generator room, even with the boilers.'Vince went to his sea-chest, pulled out a heavy fisherman's jersey, and began pulling it over his head. 'Didn't take you long to repair her, though.'Ben went over to his desk and took the log book from its drawer. 'I did nothing. Came on by herself .' He took pen and ink out of the drawer and opened the log book.Vince stared at him. 'Came on by herself ? What, for no reason?''It's got me fair flummoxed, Vince. There's something going on here tonight. Something I don't understand.'He started writing in the log in his laborious copperplate, then paused and looked up. 'You and Reuben find all the oil-lamps you can get hold of and fill 'em up. I want several in every room-and one left burning. If the power goes again we won't be in the dark.'
The Doctor and Leela were working their way over slippery wet rocks towards the lighthouse. They were very near the coastline and Leela shook herself like a cat as a particularly violent shower of spray drenched her to the skin. She saw a light shining high above them. 'Look, Doctor!''Good. We'll just knock on the door and get directions and a date and be on our way. Once I know our exact Time-s.p.a.ce Co-ordinates ..Leela jumped again, as a low booming note came through the fog. 'What was that? A sea beast?' She felt for her knife, then remembered, the Doctor wouldn't let her wear it with these clothes.'It's only a foghorn,' said the Doctor rea.s.suringly. 'It's to warn ships to stay away from these rocks. They might not spot the light in this fog.'Leela stood still, poised, staring intently into the fog.The Doctor said impatiently, 'Come on, Leela, you know what ships are? You saw some on the Thames , remember?'The Doctor had first met Leela in the future on a faraway planet. She was a descendant of a planetary survey team that had become marooned. Over the years they had degenerated into the Sevateem, a tribe of extremely warlike savages, and Leela had been one of their fiercest warriors. Her travels with the Doctor had civilised her a little-but she reverted to the primitive immediately when there was any hint of trouble.Part of Leela's savage inheritance was a kind of sixth sense that alerted her to the presence of danger. It was clear from the expression on her face that this instinct was in operation now. 'There is something wrong here, Doctor. Something dangerous and evil. I can feel it...'
Vince filled another oil-lamp, lit it and set it to one side. 'Old Ben's really worried!'Reuben's head emerged tortoise-like from the neck of his sweater. 'So he should be, boy. Him and his precious electricity. I told him often enough...''Writing it all down in the log he is. Says he can't understand it.'The electric lights went out again. The two men looked at each other.Reuben was triumphant. 'Done it again, see?' Vince shook his head. 'Poor old Ben. He'll be spitting blood, won't he?'
Lantern in hand, Ben hurtled down the stairs at a dangerous speed, and arrived panting in the generator room. Once again the generator was chugging merrily away, with nothing to explain the total loss of power. 'Not again,' he muttered. 'I don't believe it! Makes no flaming sense...' He began checking over the generator.There was a shattering crash behind him as the door to the coal bunker was flung open with tremendous force. Ben spun round, and his face twisted with horror at the hideous sight before him.In his terror he dropped his lantern. The generator room was plunged into darkness, illuminated only by the glow of the thing in the doorway.There was a faint crackling sound as it flowed towards him. Ben screamed with terror...
2 Strange Visitors
The melancholy boom of the siren drowned the sound of Ben's dying scream.Vince released the handle and took out his watch. 'She's been off over two minutes this time.'Reuben nodded gloomily. 'She'll not come back on again so quick this time.'Vince shrugged. 'Don't make a lot of difference, do it, not in this fog. A ship'd have her bows right on Fang Rock before they'd see our old lamp in this.'Reuben stared out into the night. There was nothing to be seen but grey swirling fog. 'It's a queer do, this fog. No cause for it.'Vince tried to remember the scientific principles Ben had taught him. 'Cold air and warm air mixing. That's what causes fog.'Reuben snorted. 'I've been thirty year in the service, Vince. One look at the sky and I know when fog's coming. And today was clear as clear. It isn't natural...'Uneasily Vince said, 'Maybe I'd best go down, see if Ben needs a hand.''Aye, you do that, lad.' As Vince moved away the old man repeated softly, 'It isn't natural...'
The Doctor and Leela reached the lighthouse at last and climbed the steps. The Doctor pounded on the heavy wooden door. 'Keeper! Keeper!' There was no reply. He shoved at the door and it creaked slowly open.They stood on the threshold of the generator room, peering into semi-darkness. The room was lit only by the faint glow from the boiler fire. The Doc-tor listened to the steady throbbing of the machinery. 'The generator seems to be working-so why isn't there any power?''I'm not a Tesh' Leela paused, correcting herself. 'I mean a-Teshnician! 'The Doctor peered at the generator. 'Could be shorting out somewhere I suppose...'Leela could see him mentally rolling up his sleeves. 'And I suppose you're going to mend it?'A little guiltily, the Doctor stepped back. 'What, without permission? Wouldn't dream of it! We'd better find the crew-this way, I think.'They crossed the room and began climbing the stairs. 'Teshnician, where are you?' called the Doctor. 'Hullo, anybody there?'A light bobbed down towards them and a scared voice called, 'That you, Ben?''No, it isn't.'They rounded the curve of stairs on to the landing and saw a thin young man in a fisherman's sweater. He was clutching an oil-lamp and was obviously very frightened. He stared at the Doctor and Leela in sheer disbelief. 'Here... who are you then?''I'm the Doctor, and this is Leela. You seem to be having some trouble.''How'd you get here?''We came in the TARDIS,' explained Leela helpfully.Before she could go into more detail the Doctor said hurriedly, 'We're mislaid mariners. Our... craft is moored on the other side of the island.'Vince nodded, rea.s.sured. Funny name, TARDIS, but then, lots of people gave their boats fancy foreign names. 'Got lost in the fog, did you? You'd best come into the crewroom.'As he led them inside he asked, 'Where are you making for?'Leela gave the Doctor a look and said, ' Brighton !'Vince laughed. 'Well, well, you did get lost then, didn't you?'He began lighting oil-lamps, filling the room with their warm yellow glow.The Doctor looked round. Except for its semi-circular shape the room was much like the main cabin of a ship. Bunks lined the walls, there were chests and lockers, and a litter of personal possessions. There was a table in the centre of the room. Against the wall stood an old wooden desk, and a smaller table with a wireless telegraph apparatus.Vince bustled about, offering them chairs. He was nervous and chatty, obviously glad of company. 'I'll get you some hot food, soon as we're sorted out. You'll not want to put to sea again in this. This TARDIS of yours, small craft is she?''Yes,' said the Doctor.'No,' said Lecla.Vince stared at them.'Big in some ways, small in others,' the Doctor explained hastily. 'Now then, what's the trouble here?''Generator keeps playing up, sir. Lights go off then come on again, for no reason.'The Doctor nodded thoughtfully. 'Tricky things, some of these early generators.''Ours isn't an early one, sir. It's the latest modern design. Driving Ben wild though, all the same.' 'Ben?''He's the engineer, sir.''Are there just the two of you?''Three, sir. Old Reuben's still up in the lamp room. Fit to bust, he is. Fair killing himself.'Leela was puzzled. 'He is under a spell?'Vince gave her a look. 'What I mean is, he's one of the old-fashioned sort, see? Hates electricity. Never been happy since they took out the oil.'The Doctor smiled. 'I know the type. In the early days of oil he'd have been saying there was nothing like a really large candle!''That's old Reuben right enough!''Where's your engineer now? I should have thought he would have been working on the generator.''But he is, sir. You must have seen him when you came in.''No, I didn't.''He'll have stepped out for a moment then. You missed him in the fog.''No,' said Lcela definitely. 'If anyone had been near I would have heard them.'Vince looked utterly baffled. 'Suppose I'd better go and look for him then.' It was clear he didn't have much enthusiasm for the task.'That's all right,' said the Doctor. 'Tell you what ' he paused. 'What's your name?''Vince, sir. Vince Hawkins.''I'll go and look for your engineer, Mr Hawkins. As a matter of fact I'm something of an engineer myself. Perhaps I can give him a hand. You look after the young lady.'There was a note of authority in the Doctor's voice and Vince said meekly, 'Right you are, sir.'The Doctor went down the stairs and Vince smiled shyly at Leela. 'This is quite a treat for me, miss.''Is it?' Leela gave him a puzzled look and wandered over to the telegraph, idly lifting the bra.s.s key and letting it fall.'Don't touch that please, miss,' said Vince apologetically. 'Ben's pride and joy, that is. No one else is allowed to handle it.' Leela moved away from the telegraph and Vince went on. 'It's a lonely life on the lighthouse you see. Sometimes I go out and talk to the seals, just for a change from Reuben and Ben.''Seals are animals. Sea creatures?''That's right, miss.''Then it is stupid to talk to them. You should listen to the old ones of your tribe, it is the only way to learn.'Vince sighed. 'I'll get you some food and a hot drink, miss.'Leela tugged ruefully at her wet dress. 'I need some dry clothes more than anything else.''I'm afraid we don't have anything suitable for a lady,' began Vince.'I'm not a lady, Vince,' said Lecla calmly. She eyed him thoughtfully. 'We are much of a size. Clothes such as you wear will be quite suitable for me.'Vince looked down at his fisherman's trousers and sweater. 'But these are men's things, miss, working clothes...'He broke off, gasping. Leela had unb.u.t.toned her wet dress and was calmly stepping out of it. 'That's my clothes-chest over there, miss, just you help yourself. I'll get you that hot food.' He turned and almost ran into the kitchen.As she struggled out of the wet skirt, Leela stared after him in puzzlement. There was no doubt about it, these Earth people were very strange...
The Doctor gazed into the darkness of the generator room. 'Anyone here?' he called. 'Ben? Ben?'No answer. The Doctor crossed the room, pa.s.sing the still-throbbing generator, and opened the outside door. A blast of icy air, mixed with fog, swirled into the room. The Doctor called out into the night. 'Ben? Ben, are you there?' Still no answer. Only the thunder of the waves on the nearby rocks. Puzzled, the Doctor closed the door-and the lights came on.The Doctor rubbed his chin. 'Curiouser and curiouser!' He began walking round the generator, examining it more closely. The brightness of the electric lamps had dispelled the shadows behind it, and now the Doctor saw a huddled shape lying against the wall. He knelt to examine it, just as Vince came in, and looked round the brightly-lit room in astonishment. 'Well done, sir. You are an engineer and no mistake.' Suddenly Vince realised that the Doctor was nowhere in sight. 'Doctor, where are you?'The Doctor appeared from behind the generator. 'Over here.''You managed to find the trouble, then?''I always find trouble,' said the Doctor sombrely. Vince looked uneasily at him, sensing the strangeness of his manner. 'Ben'll be pleased.''I doubt it.'Leela came into the room. She was wearing Vince's best pair of boots and one of his spare jerseys, and buckling the belt on his best sh.o.r.e-going trousers.'Oh Ben'll be pleased right enough, sir,' said Vince. 'He couldn't make head nor tail of what was wrong. I wonder where he's got to? 'The Doctor pointed to the shape behind the generator. 'Ben's down here. He's been dead for some time.'Vince rushed over to the body. 'Ben!' he gasped. 'Oh Ben, no... no ...' His voice trailed away.'What killed him, Doctor?' asked Leela practically.'As far as I can tell, a ma.s.sive electric shock. He must have died instantly.'Vince looked up. 'The generator, you mean? But he was always so careful.'Leela looked at the throbbing machine. 'It was dark...''He had a lantern, though.' Vince rubbed a hand over his eyes. 'I just can't believe this has happened.'Gently the Doctor helped him to his feet. 'Vince, hadn't you better go and tell Reuben?'Vince nodded wearily. 'Yes sir.' He stumbled away.The Doctor looked at the body, and Leela looked at the Doctor. 'You do not believe he was killed by the machine?''No.''Then what-'The Doctor put a finger to his lips and crept silently over to the coal store. He picked up a heavy shovel and nodded to Leela. She flung open the door... but there was nothing there except coal.The Doctor threw down the shovel. 'I thought perhaps there was something nasty in the coal shed, but apparently not.' He shut the door. 'But there's something very nasty somewhere on this island.''A sea creature?'The Doctor was prowling restlessly about. 'If it is, it's a most unusual one. It opens and shuts doors, comes and goes without so much as a wet footprint, and has a mysterious ability to interfere with electrical power.' He kneeled by Ben's body and examined it once more. He saw that there was something caught beneath it, and dragged it free.'What have you found, Doctor?''Ben's lantern,' said the Doctor slowly. He held it up. The heavy metal frame was melted, warped, twisted, like candle wax in the heat of a furnace. The Doctor handed it to Leela. 'What kind of sea creature could do a thing like that?'
Reuben listened to the news of Ben's death in stunned silence. When Vince had finished, the old man said slowly, 'Ben knew every inch of that machine. Don't make sense, boy, him dying like that.''That's what happened, according to the Doctor. Ma.s.sive electric shock, he said.''This Doctor-foreigner is he?''Don't think so. Young lady speaks a bit strange like, though. Why?''Spies!' said Reuben dramatically.Vince smiled, despite his grief. 'Spies? What'd spies be doing on Fang Rock?''There's Frogs,' said Reuben. 'And Ruskies. Germans too. Can't trust none of 'ern.''These two ain't spies, Reuben.''Well, all this trouble started just about the time they got here. Don't forget that!''You ain't saying they they might have done for Ben?' might have done for Ben?'Pleased with the effect of his words Reuben said solemnly, 'I'm saying there's strange doings here tonight, and for all we know them two strangers are at the bottom of it. Reckon I best go down and keep an eye on 'em.'Vince didn't know what to think. His instinct was to trust the Doctor, but what Reuben had said was true enough. Another thought struck him. 'Here, Reuben, you'll have to send a message to the sh.o.r.e station. We need a relief engineer-and the boat can take Ben away...''I'll see to it soon as it's light. Where is he?''Generator room. I know it don't seem respectful. But it's only till the boat comes...'Reuben lowered his voice. 'He won't rest easy, you know, lad!''What do you mean?' stammered Vince.'If he was killed by that machine there'll be anger in his soul. Men who die like that don't never rest easy!'Reuben stumped off. Vince stood alone in the lamp room. The events of the last few hours suddenly closed in on him and he began shaking with fear.
The Doctor was examining the telegraph apparatus when Reuben came into the crew room.'Very interesting this, Leela-a fine example of an early Marconi wireless telegraph.''Leave that be, sir, if you don't mind,' said Reuben sharply.The Doctor turned. 'You'll be Reuben I take it. Shouldn't you be using this telegraph to report your engineer's death?''Wireless won't bring Ben back. I'll semaph.o.r.e in the morning, when the fog clears.''You do know how to use the telegraph?'''Course I do, we all does. But Ben was the expert. I'll use the semaph.o.r.e tomorrow.'The Doctor nodded understandingly, guessing that the old man had only the vaguest idea how to work the device, but was too obstinate to admit it.Reuben stripped a blanket from a bunk and folded it over his arm. Leela touched it curiously, but he s.n.a.t.c.hed it away.'You leave that alone, miss.''What is it for?''I'm going to make Ben a shroud. We have proper customs here in England . It ain't fitting for a body just to be left.'Suddenly the Doctor realised the reason for Reuben's hostility. 'You think we we had something to do with Ben's death?' had something to do with Ben's death?''I know what I know. And what I think.' 'Incontrovertible,' said the Doctor politely.Reuben glowered at him. 'Don't start talking in your own lingo neither, I won't have that.''What are you going to do? Clap us in irons?''I'm senior on this lighthouse now, and-''See here, I'm only trying to help you,' snapped the Doctor.Reuben backed away. 'Vince and me'll manage. Now I'll just go and tend to poor Ben.''Stubborn old mule...' muttered the Doctor irritably.Leela was still carrying the twisted remains of the lamp. 'You think the creature that did this will come back?''I just don't know.'As always, Leela was in favour of direct action. 'If it is here on the rock we should take weapons and hunt it! 'The Doctor tapped the lamp with a long finger. 'I don't fancy playing tag in the darkness with something that can do this.' He paused for a moment. 'Young Vince is still pretty shaken. I think I'll go up and have a word with him. You stay here.'The Doctor went out. As soon as he was gone, Leela slipped a heavy sailor's knife from her boot. She'd found it at the bottom of Vince's chest and appropriated it immediately. Despite the Doctor's prohibitions, Leela never felt properly dressed without a weapon. She hefted the knife thoughtfully, tested point and edge with her thumb, then set off down the stairs.
In the lamp room Reuben sat cross-legged by Ben's body, sewing the corpse into its shroud. Like all old sailors he was handy with needle and thread. He didn't hear Leela as she slipped silently past him and out into the fog.
The Doctor leaned against the lamp-room wall. Vince tended the steadily flashing light and gave regular blasts on the foghorn, while he told the Doctor about the light in the sky. The Doctor listened keenly. 'And what time was all this?''Couple of, hours ago, just getting dark. It went down into the sea, over there.''How far away?''About a mile or two, near as I could tell. Dunno how big it was, you see. Soon after that the fog started to come down, and it got cold, all of a sudden like.''Yes,' said the Doctor thoughtfully. 'I noticed the cold. Good lad, Vince, you've been very observant.''Thank you, sir.' Vince was both flattered and puzzled by the Doctor's interest in his story.The Doctor stared out at the fog that surrounded the tower. 'A fireball, eh? That might explain a great deal...'
Knife in hand, body poised for instant attack, Leela crept silently through the darkness. She had already covered most of the tiny island, and so far she had found nothing. She had hoped for some kind of tracks, but nothing showed on the bare rocky surface.Her foot slipped and she almost tumbled into a shallow rock pool. She drew back, then paused, looking harder at the water. Something was floating on the surface of the pool. Several somethings, in fact. Leela knelt down. Fish! Tiny, dead fish.There was a faint crackling behind her and she whirled round. She crouched motionless, listening, peering into the fog. But she saw nothing. Just the swirling fog. Stealthily she crept on, moving in the direction of the sound...
The Doctor was entertaining Vince with accounts of famous lighthouses he had visited during his travels. 'Of course, on Pharos they had terrible trouble keeping the bonfire alight. Mind you, they had plenty of slaves to carry wood...'Vince nodded vaguely. 'I suppose it's all done different abroad. Didn't know they still had slaves though.'(Vince didn't realise that the Doctor's visit to the famous Alexandrian lighthouse had taken place in the third century BC.)Reuben entered and gave the Doctor a suspicious stare. He nodded to Vince. 'I'll take over here, lad. Time you got some supper.''I'm all right,' protested Vince. Somehow he found the Doctor's company rea.s.suring.'I'll take over,' insisted Reuben. long night ahead of us.' He glared meaningfully at the Doctor. 'I expect you'll be tired, mister? There's bunks in the crew room.''Tired?' said the Doctor in surprise. 'No, no, not a bit of it. You carry on, don't mind me.'Reuben grunted. 'I've stoked the boiler, Vince, and made poor Ben decent.'Vince nodded silently. He didn't like to think about the corpse down in the generator room.Reuben glared at the Doctor, who gave him a cheerful smile. He turned back to Vince. 'Well, off you go, lad!'Vince went.Reuben gave the Doctor another dirty look, and this time the Doctor replied with a friendly wink.Reuben turned away in disgust, reaching for his oil-can. Some people just didn't know when they weren't wanted.
Vince was on the landing by the crew room when he heard a dragging sound from down below. He paused, listening. The sound came again, like someone dragging a heavy sack. 'Is someone down there?' he called. There was no answer. Vince bit his lip. 'Ben?' he called fearfully. Still no answer. Just the dragging sound, moving away. Fearfully Vince began to descend the gloomy stairs. The light of his lantern cast wavering shadows on the walls.
Leela stood tensely in the darkness, feeling both frustrated and angry. She'd been close on the track of the crackling sound, then suddenly she had lost it, somewhere near the lighthouse. Now she was waiting, alert for the faintest sound.Suddenly the crackling began again. It came nearer, nearer-and now it was mixed with a dragging sound...Leela peered into the darkness. Was there a faint glow there beyond the densely swirling fog?The crackling moved away. It became fainter, and then suddenly stopped. The creature had gone back into the sea, Leela decided. She headed back towards the lighthouse.
Fearfully, Vince crept into the generator room. It was brightly lit-and empty. The generator was throbbing steadily. Reluctantly he looked at the dark shape by the wall. With sudden horror he realised that the shape wasn't Ben's body after all. It was the ripped-open empty shroud. He ran to the speaking-tube and blew frantically. 'Reuben!' he screamed. 'Reuben, are you there? It's Ben! He's walking...'
In the lamp room Reuben took the speaker away from his car and stared at it unbelievingly. 'What's that?' he bellowed. 'Talk sense, boy! Pull yourself together.'
Clutching the speaking-tube Vince babbled, 'It's true I tell you. He's not down here now. He's gone! You said he'd walk. You said-' The outer door burst open with a crash. Vince gave a yell of fear and dropped the speaking-tube.Leela stood in the doorway. 'Did you see it?' she demanded. 'Did it come here?'Vince was too terrified to speak.
Reuben blew into the speaking-tube and yelled. 'Vince! What's going on down there?'The Doctor had been on the outer gallery, staring out into the fog. Now he reappeared, tapping Reuben on the shoulder. 'There's a light out there!'Confused and angry, the old man whirled round. 'What? What's that?''There's a light. Out there at sea. I think it's a ship.'
Leela had managed to shake his story out of Vince. She looked at him disbelievingly. 'The dead do not walk. It is impossible.''I heard this dragging noise, I tell you-and when I got down here he'd gone.''There was something out there on the rocks just now,' said Leela slowly. 'And I too heard a dragging sound...'The speaking-tube gave a shrill blast. Automatically Vince picked it up and listened. 'It's Reuben. He says there's a ship just off the rocks. He says she's going to strike!'The call to duty overcame Vince's fears and he began dashing up the stairs. With a baffled glance at the empty shroud Leela followed.
In the lamp room, everyone was round the great telescope. Reuben was at the eyepiece. 'It's a ship right enough. Steam yacht by the look of her.'The Doctor took his place. Through the powerful telescope he could see the fog-shrouded shape of the ship, lights blazing as it ploughed recklessly through the waves, heading straight towards them. 'She's going too fast!''Fool to be going at all on a night like this,' said Reuben. 'Any skipper worth his ticket-'The lamp went out.Luckily the oil lamps were still burning. Reuben was taking no more chances with electricity. He ran to the siren and began sounding it frantically, sending bellow after bellow through the fog. 'Warning devices, Vince,' he shouted.'I'll get 'em, Reuben.' Vince had already run down the steps to the service room. A moment later he reappeared, his arms full of rockets and maroons.'Miss, you take over the siren,' shouted Reuben. He grabbed a Verey pistol and loaded it. The Doctor was already mounting a signal rocket on its firing stand.'They'll strike any minute now,' shouted Reuben. He fired the Verey pistol and a red flare went sizzling out into the fog.The ship was very close now and they could see frantic figures scurrying about on deck. Reuben was watching in fascinated horror. The Doctor lugged the signal rocket to the gallery rail, but Reuben waved him aside. 'It's no use, they're too late to alter course. She's going to strike!'With a grinding crash the yacht smashed on to the jagged rocks.
4 The Survivors
'Too late, she's struck!' shouted Reuben. They caught a brief glimpse of the yacht through a break in the fog. She was well aground on the rocks, her bows thrust unnaturally high into the air. Then the fog closed in, hiding the wreck.'What will happen now?' asked Leela.'Sea'll pound her on those rocks till she breaks up, Miss.''Then they will all die.'Leela's prosaic words reminded Reuben of his duty. 'If there are survivors we'll find 'em by East Crag. Tide'll bring 'em in. Mister, you keep that siren going. Vince, bring the rocket-line.'The Doctor had no intention of missing all the excitement. 'Keep that siren going, Leela,' he ordered and rushed out after Reuben and Vince.Leela went to the siren and pulled the lever. The deep booming note rang out, like the cry of a love-sick sea monster. Pleased with the effect, Leela pulled the lever again.
Reuben, Vince and the Doctor gathered rescue equipment from the service room, then hurried down the stairs. As they ran through the generator room, Reuben pointed to a coil of rope in the corner. 'Bring that rope, mister,' he ordered.The Doctor went to obey, amused at the way in which the crisis had restored the old man's confidence. As he bent to pick up the rope, his hand brushed the metal guard-rail around the generator. There was a crackling sound and a flash of blue sparks. The Doctor s.n.a.t.c.hed his hand away. The rail had given him a distinct electric shock.Puzzled, the Doctor peered at the rail. It was quite separate from the generator. There was no reason for it to be live...'You coming with that rope, mister?' shouted Reuben.The Doctor threw the coil of rope over his shoulder and hurried off after the others.Reuben led them through the foggy darkness at a run, to a point where a narrow cove cut into the coastline. They clambered down a rocky path on to a little shingle beach, and stared out to sea. 'Tide'll bring 'em here, if they got any boats away,' said Reuben confidently. He re-loaded the Verey pistol and fired, sending a red flare out into the fog. 'Ahoy there,' he called. 'Ahoy!'
Leela gave another blast on the foghorn, then wandered on to the outer gallery, feeling rather indignant the Doctor had managed to trick her into staying out of danger. She leaned over the rail, hoping to be able to see the rescue party. The fog cleared for a few moments and she suddenly caught a brief glimpse of a shapeless glowing ma.s.s, moving towards the sea. It slithered across an edge of rock and disappeared.Leela stared in astonishment-and the lighthouse lamp came on.
Gazing round the little beach, Vince turned and saw the light. 'Reuben, the light is on again,' he called.Reuben glanced briefly over his shoulder. 'Danged electricity, wouldn't happen with oil.''No, I don't think it would,' said the Doctor, almost to himself. 'It seems to need electricity.''Listen,' said Reuben, 'I think I heard something.' He fired off another Verey light and shouted again. 'Ahoy, there!''Ahoy...' A faint answering hail came drifting through the fog.'This way,' bellowed Reuben, in a voice as loud as the foghorn itself. He fired off another Verey light. 'Vince, and you, mister, stand by with those lines.'They waited tensely, staring out into the fog, while waves crashed on to the tiny beach. Then a shape loomed out of the darkness. It was a ship's lifeboat.Reuben took the line from the Doctor, uncoiled it and threw with surprising force. The line snaked out and a burly figure in the bows of the lifeboat caught it and made it fast. 'Come on now, haul,' ordered Reuben, and all three men began heaving on the line.As soon as the lifeboat grated on the shingle, the seaman in the bows jumped out and helped them to haul it in. But before they could bring it much closer to land a second, smaller man took a flying leap from the boat, landing face down in the water.The Doctor helped the spluttering figure to his feet, pa.s.sed him along to Vince and turned to the other survivors. There were only two more of them, a tall military-looking man, and a shivering fair-haired girl. He helped them out of the boat and up on to the beach.
Not without difficulty Vince helped the soaking, bedraggled figure of the man who'd jumped, into the crew room. Reuben followed with the tall soldierly-looking man and the girl.Vince's survivor collapsed gasping on a chair.He was a stoutly-built man with a spoiled, self-indulgent look about him. Diamonds glinted from his cuff-links and tie-pin, and the rings on his plump fingers. His expensive-looking clothes were drenched with sea-water. Vince couldn't help feeling sorry for him.He did his best to cheer the man up. 'You'll be all right, sir. Come over by the stove and dry yourself.''Needn't have got so wet in the first place,' grumbled Reuben. 'No call to go jumping out like that.'The soldierly man chuckled. 'His lordship was anxious to get ash.o.r.e!''Brandy!' croaked the stout man faintly. 'Give me brandy.''Never you mind him and his brandy,' ordered Reuben. 'See to the young lady first.'Obediently, Vince transferred his attentions to the shivering girl. 'Here ma'am, let me help you.' He lowered her into a chair and wrapped a blanket round her shoulders.'I'm all right,' she whispered faintly.'Well, I ain't,' said the stout man. 'I'm soaked to the skin.''Sea water's healthy, Henry,' mocked the tall man.The other gave him a filthy look. 'I need a drink, I tell you. I'll catch my death like this.' He caught Vince by the sleeve. 'Get me a brandy, young fellow.'Vince pulled away and began tipping coal on the iron stove. 'You don't need no brandy, sir,' he said cheerily. 'Hot soup's the ticket for you. I'll get you all some in a minute.''Don't tell me what I need,' said the other peevishly. 'Dammit, hasn't anybody got a flask?'Reuben looked disgustedly at him. 'You see to 'em as best you can, Vince. I'd better go up and check on the lamp.'Vince poked the coals into a blaze and then turned to the girl. 'Come over to the stove and get yourself warm, miss.'He moved her chair closer to the stove and she hunched over it, warming her hands. 'Thank you, that's very kind of you. What's your name?''Vince, miss. Vince Hawkins.''Thank you, Hawkins,' said the young lady graciously.Vince stammered, 'I'd best get on with that soup...' He hurried off to the kitchen. The stout man glared indignantly after him, and the tall man smiled in sardonic amus.e.m.e.nt, enjoying the other's discomfiture.
On the lamp-room gallery, the Doctor and Leela were talking in low voices. Leela told the Doctor about the glowing shape she had seen on the rocks.'What was it like?' asked the Doctor.'I couldn't see it clearly. But it shone, like a rotten fungus in the forest.''Luminous... Do you think you could take me to the place where you saw it?''Yes, I think so.''Good. Don't tell the others. We don't want a panic.''What do you think be going on here, mister?' asked a voice behind them. Reuben was standing by the door.'I don't know,' said the Doctor frankly. 'When I find out, I'll tell you.''Wouldn't try to find out too much. Some things it ain't wise to meddle with...''What do you mean, old one?' asked Leela.'I reckon I know what you saw. They always said the Beast of Fang Rock would come back.''The Beast of Fang Rock?''Aye,' said Reuben. And with gloomy relish, he launched into a long rambling tale of tragedy in the early days of the lighthouse. A three-man crew had been overtaken by some mysterious and tragic fate. 'When the relief boat come, there was only one left alive, and he was stark staring mad. They found the body of the second cold and dead in the lamp room -and the third was found floating in the sea. Two dead, one mad-that was the work of the Beast! And now it's back.'
In the crew room Vince was still fussing round the blonde young lady. The tall man looked on with quiet amus.e.m.e.nt, the stout one kept up a constant stream of protest. 'I need some dry clothes, and I need them now,' he said petulantly.'All in good time, sir! I'll just give the young lady her soup, and then I'll get round to you.''But I'll catch my death of cold standing about like this!''Shouldn't be so impulsive, Henry,' said the tall man with mock concern. 'Jumping right out of the boat like that! ''When I want your opinion, I'll ask for it. Now, what about this brandy, young fellow? Surely you keep some in the medical supplies?'Vince shook his head. 'No liquor allowed on this lighthouse, sir. Against regulations.'The stout man said angrily, 'To h.e.l.l with your regulations-' He broke off as the Doctor and Leela came into the room.The Doctor looked round. 'Where's the other man, your c.o.x'n?''Oh, Harker, he stayed to secure the boat, I believe. No doubt he'll be up directly.''Good. I'll wait.' The Doctor sat down, and there was a moment of uneasy silence. Leela stood in the doorway, looking round the little group. She could feel the tension in the air.'Excellent fellow, Harker,' drawled th , tall man. 'It was his seamanship got us ash.o.r.e.''Whose seamanship was it that got you on the rocks in the first place?' asked the Doctor blandly.The tall man looked sharply at him. 'I don't believe we've met, sir. Are you in charge here?''No-but I'm full of ideas.'Vince brought bowls of soup for the two men and said, 'Beg pardon, Doctor, but I think it's time I stoked the boilers.' He looked appealingly at the Doctor, making no attempt to move.'Off you go then, Vince. Leela, you go with him.'Vince and Leela left, and the girl looked reprovingly at the Doctor. 'You're a Doctor then?''That's right.''And you send a woman to stoke boilers?' The young lady was obviously shocked.'Leela's a rather unusual young lady. Besides, one of the keepers was electrocuted this evening. Since then young Vince doesn't like to go to the generator room alone.'The soldierly man nodded understandingly. 'Disturbing thing for a young fellow, the first sight of death. Remember when I was in India ...'The other man groaned. 'Oh not one of your army stories, Jimmy. They're even more boring than your House of Commons anecdotes.'The Doctor looked curiously at the two men. They were travelling companions, and presumably friends, yet they were completely different types, one laconic and soldierly, the other like a spoiled, greedy child. Moreover, they spoke to each other as if they were bitter enemies. He decided that it would help if he had names to attach to all these new faces. He addressed the tall man. 'Shouldn't we introduce ourselves?''Yes, of course. The young lady is Miss Adelaide Lesage, Lord Palmerdale's confidential secretary. The wet gentleman is Lord Henry Palmerdale, the well-known financier. And I'm Colonel James Skinsale, Member of Parliament for Thurley. And you are...?''I'm the Doctor-my companion's name is Leela. Where were you heading for, when your yacht struck?'It was Lord Palmerdale who answered. ' Southampton . I've a special train waiting to take me to London . I must be there before the Stock Exchange opens.'Adelaide sighed theatrically. 'The pressures of business, you know. If we'd been able to stay on in Deauville none of this would have happened.''We'd popped across the Channel in the yacht,' explained Palmerdale airily. 'We all had a little flutter in the Casino. Though in Jimmy's case it was more of a plunger-eh Jimmy?''You're very cheerful for a man whose yacht has been wrecked,' Skinsale said sourly.Palmerdale waved a disparaging hand. 'Insured.''What about the crew?' asked the Doctor. 'Were any other boats launched?'Skinsale shrugged. 'I'm afraid we didn't wait to see, Doctor. His Lordship was in rather a hurry to leave the sinking ship!'Palmerdale shot him a venomous look. 'I've already told you, it's imperative that I reach London before the stock market opens.''Oh, was that the reason?' drawled Skinsale.'I'm afraid you've no chance of getting to London tonight,' said the Doctor firmly. 'Not in this fog.'Skinsale gave a sudden bark of laughter. 'The wheel of fortune, eh, Henry? Perhaps you didn't win all you thought at the Casino.'Leela kept watch while Vince shovelled coal into the boiler. As he flung on the last shovel of coal she said, 'Listen! ''What? I can't hear nothing ..'Something is dragging dragging over the rocks towards us!' over the rocks towards us!''Ben?' whispered Vince fearfully. 'He be coming back. Corning back for me!'Leela grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him. 'Go and tell the Doctor. Call him from the room before you tell him, and don't let the others hear. Give me that!'Leela took the shovel from Vince's hands and gave him a push. As he fled, she took up her position behind the outer door, shovel raised like an axe.The dragging sound was very near now. Slowly the door started to open...
5 Return of the Dead
The door creaked slowly open and a ma.s.sive shape appeared in the doorway. It backed into the room, dragging a heavy burden, wrapped up in an old tarpaulin.Leela put the cold metal of the shovel against its neck. 'Don't move!'The figure swung round, revealing itself to be a ma.s.sive barrel-chested man in a blue seaman's jersey. Leela backed away, shovel raised to strike. 'I said don't move! ''It's all right, Leela,' said the Doctor's voice behind her. 'This one's a friend-aren't you Harker?'The big seaman gave a puzzled nod. 'That's right, sir. I was delayed, d'ye see . I found this.' He pulled back the tarpaulin.The Doctor looked at the mangled shape at Harker's feet. 'Poor wretch.'Leela came forward. 'What is it, Doctor?''All that's left of poor Ben, I'm afraid. Where did you find him, Harker?''In the sea, sir. Came drifting in when I moored the boat.' He looked down at the body, then looked hurriedly away. 'Terrible what the sea can do to a man...''It wasn't the sea that did that.' The Doctor paused. 'Harker, there's hot soup waiting in the crew room. It's just up those stairs. The others are already there.''Aye, aye, sir,' said Harker obediently, and went off.The Doctor pulled the body away from the door and closed it. He covered it over again with the tarpaulin.Leela was no stranger to violent death, but even she was glad to see the body covered up. 'Do you think the Beast attacked him, Doctor?''What Beast?''The Beast of Fang Rock.''No such animal-not in the way Reuben means.' 'Reuben said there was.''Leela, the people who live in these parts have been fisher folk for generations. They're almost as primitive and superst.i.tion-riddled as your lot!'Leela wasn't convinced. 'Reuben's story about those men... Two dead, one mad.''One man kills the other in a brawl, jumps in the sea in a fit of remorse. Third man spends weeks with a corpse for company and goes out of his mind.''All right, then, what about this body? What about those-marks?''Post mortem,' said the Doctor briefly. 'Something wanted to make a detailed study of human anatomy. That's why it took Ben's body.'Vince's voice came down the stairs. 'Doctor? Are you there?''Quick,' said the Doctor. They wrapped the body securely in its tarpaulin and thrust it into a corner. Vince came in and looked apprehensively at Leela. 'That noise... Did you find out what it was?''It was only the seaman, returning from the boat,' said the Doctor.'But the dragging sound?'Before the Doctor could stop her Leela said, 'He was bringing back Ben's body. He found it floating in the sea.'Vince gasped. 'So he did walk! It's true what Reuben said ..'Stop that, Vince,' said Leela sharply. 'I have told you, the dead don't walk.'Vince gave the Doctor an agonised look. 'But you said he was dead. How did he get in the sea?'The Doctor made his voice calm and rea.s.suring. 'Obviously I was too hasty, Vince. Ma.s.sive electric shock can produce a death-like coma. Poor Ben recovered consciousness, staggered out on to the rocks, fell into the sea and was finally drowned.' Vince stared at him unbelievingly. 'Time you got on with your work,' said the Doctor briskly. 'There's nothing supernatural happening-just a tragic accident.''He wasn't breathing when I I saw him, that I'll swear.' saw him, that I'll swear.''I told you, he was in a coma. Electricity has strange effects, you know.'Vince nodded slowly. 'Yes, I suppose it must have been the electricity. Sorry, Doctor, I reckon I made a bit of a fool of myself.'He turned and went slowly away.When he was out of earshot, Leela whispered, 'Why didn't you tell him the truth?'The Doctor stared broodingly at the tarpaulin-covered body. 'Because I don't know what the truth is-yet! '
Harker sat silently by the stove, his big hands clasped round a steaming mug of soup. 'You moored the boat securely?' demanded Palmerdale.Harker looked up at him and nodded, but didn't speak.'Good. When you're rested we'll make for the mainland.'Skinsale said, 'Are you mad, Henry?''I've made up my mind. It's the only way.''But it's out of the question. Good Lord, in a fog like this ..'It can't he more than five or six miles,' said Palmerdale impatiently. 'No trouble at all to a seaman like Harker here.'Skinsale threw up his hands in despair and turned to the girl. 'Reason with him, Adelaide . Perhaps you can make him see sense.'Before Adelaide could speak Palmerdale shouted, 'You two can come with me, or you can stay here, just as you wish. My mind is made up.'Harker slammed his mug down on the table. 'And so's mine. I'm not taking a boat out in this.'Palmerdale stared at him as though a chair or a table had suddenly found a voice. He took it for granted that the lower orders did as they were told. 'What did you say, Harker?''I'll take no boat out, not after what I've seen tonight. And that's flat.''d.a.m.n your insolence,' spluttered Palmerdale. 'You're my employee, and you'll obey my order.''Will I?' Harker turned away and spat into the stove.Skinsale chuckled. 'Hang him from the yard arm, Henry. This is mutiny!'Abandoning Harker for the moment, Palmerdale turned to a different grievance. 'As I see it, the accident was entirely due to inefficiency on the part of the lighthouse service. So they have the responsibility of seeing I reach the mainland.''That won't wash, old chap,' said Skinsale scornfully. 'You can't possibly expect the lighthouse people-'Adelaide joined in to support her employer. 'His lordship is quite right,' she said primly. 'If the light had been working...''We'd still have struck the rocks, at the speed we were going,' said Skinsale.Harker looked up from the fire. 'You're right there, sir. We should have been going dead slow in them conditions. And it weren't the Captain's fault, neither.'Palmerdale went red with anger. 'That's quite enough, Harker. The fact remains that the light wasn't working. There'll be an inquiry, I a.s.sure you.''The inquiry has already begun,' said another voice. The Doctor was in the doorway, Leela beside him.Skinsale gaped at him. 'What inquiry? What are you talking about?''I just thought I ought to come up and warn you. Keep together, and stay here, in this room. Harker, you ought to get some rest.'Harker rose obediently, went over to a bunk and stretched out, pulling a blanket over him. The Doctor and Leela went back downstairs, leaving the rest of the castaways gaping after them.'Amazing air of authority, that chap ,' said Skinsale thoughtfully. 'I wonder who he really is? 'Palmerdale slumped into a chair. 'If you ask me, the fellow's not quite all there.' He tapped his forehead meaningfully. 'Those staring eyes... always a bad sign, that! Girl's probably his nurse.'Adelaide pursed her lips. 'There's certainly something very strange about her.'Skinsale grinned. 'Dunno about strange... but she ain't a bad looker.''Positively uncivilised in my view. Perhaps you spent too long in India , Colonel Skinsale!''Long enough to learn to appreciate the beauties of nature, my dear.'Adelaide sniffed disdainfully. 'Since we seem compelled to spend the night in this frightful place, do you think there is a private bedroom where I might get some sleep?'Skinsale nodded towards the speaking-tube on the wall. 'Well, if this contraption works, I'll see what the proprietors of the establishment have to say.' He picked up the speaking-tube and blew.
The tube whistled shrilly in the lamp room, and Reuben picked it up. 'Ahoy there, what is it?' He listened then said impatiently, 'There's Ben's room, she be welcome to that. He won't be needing it no more.' He hung up the tube. 'Trouble with the gentry, they always wants running after.'Vince had gone out on to the gallery, and was looking down. 'Reuben, there's someone out there. See them lights?'Reuben came out on to the gallery. He could just make out the glow of a lantern bobbing about on the rocks. 'It's the Doctor and that girl.''They've no cause to be out there,' said Vince uneasily.Reuben grunted. 'Well, they can't say I didn't warn them. I warned 'em both, right here on this very spot.''Warned 'em? What about?''The Beast of Fang Rock,' said Reuben solemnly.Vince gave an uneasy laugh. 'You still on about that old tale?''More than a tale, lad. The girl saw it tonight. All glowing, like they said...''She couldn't have seen it...'Reuben lowered his voice. 'Last time the Beast was seen on Fang Rock was eighty year ago. Two men died that night...'
Fog swirled dankly round the sea-wet rocks, and the lantern cast only a tiny circle of yellow light.Leela took a bearing on the nearby lighthouse. 'I'm sure it was somewhere near here I saw it. Close to that flat-topped rock.'The Doctor fished a compa.s.s from his pocket and set it on the rock. The needle spun crazily. 'Aha!' said the Doctor in satisfaction.Leela looked at the spinning compa.s.s needle. 'And what does that tell you?''It has a very strong electrical field, strong enough to kill a man on contact...' The Doctor picked up the compa.s.s and moved on. He seemed to be following some kind of trail. It led him to the pool where Leela had found the dead fish. They were still there, floating on the surface of the pool. 'Or kill fish at a distance of several yards,' concluded the Doctor.'And what do you think it is?'The Doctor looked round. The fog was closing in and the lighthouse suddenly seemed very far away. 'I don't know what it is-but I think it's desperate, and I think it's cunning and I think we'd better be getting back! 'As they headed back towards the lighthouse, the faintest of crackling sounds came from behind a nearby rock. A glowing shape slid out from its hiding place and flowed across the rocks.
6 Attack from the Unknown
When Skinsale came back into the crew room, Harker was sleeping soundly, Palmerdale slumped disconsolately in his chair.'I think Adelaide will sleep now,' said SkinsaIe cheerfully.Palmerdale looked up sardonically. 'Oh, splendid. That's the main thing, isn't it-that my secretary gets a good night's sleep .''You'd do well to get some yourself,' said Skinsale amiably. He stretched out on a bunk.'Sleep? Here, in this hovel?'Skinsale looked round the crew room. 'Quite a snug little bivouac, this. I've slept in worst places when I was in the Army.''Ah, but that was before you retired and went into politics,' sneered Palmerdale. 'Got a taste for good living then, didn't you?'Palmerdale's rudeness only seemed to increase the other man's good humour. 'Feeling a little frustrated, old chap?''Why the h.e.l.l shouldn't I, when I've been cheated like this?' exploded Palmerdale.Skinsale's voice hardened. 'I think you'd better watch your tongue. I kept my part of the bargain. I gave you secret advance information about the Government's financial plans. I was a fool and a knave, but I did it. You tore up my gambling IOUs-now we're even!''What use use is your blasted information if I can do nothing with it?' is your blasted information if I can do nothing with it?''Quite. Amusing, isn't it?' Skinsale yawned luxuriously.'I could still expose you,' threatened Palmerdale.'Do be reasonable, old chap. If the information is never used, where's the proof I ever gave it? And you're forgetting something else.''Am I? What, pray?''I'm an officer and a gentleman, Henry. You're a n.o.body , a jumped-up little moneygrubber for all your bought t.i.tle. Besmirch my good name and I'll sue you for every penny you've got! So, good night to you.'Colonel Skinsale closed his eyes and went peacefully to sleep.The Doctor and Leela came into the generator room. Nothing had changed. The tarpaulin-wrapped body still lay in its corner, the generator was still throbbing away.Leela looked out into the foggy darkness behind them, and then closed the door. 'You think this creature will return?'The Doctor nodded. 'I think it was taking Ben's body away for examination when you saw it from the gallery.''Into the sea?'' Under Under the sea... Earlier tonight Vince saw something he called a fireball. It fell into the sea not far away.' the sea... Earlier tonight Vince saw something he called a fireball. It fell into the sea not far away.''Another TARDIS?''Not a TARDIS-but very possibly some kind of s.p.a.ce-craft. An alien, a creature who had never encountered human beings before, might well behave in just this way.''Why would it come here? There is nothing on this foggy rock.'The Doctor pointed to the generator. 'There's power-electricity. Perhaps that attracted it.''An alien creature travelling through s.p.a.ce-and you said it was desperate, Doctor?''Its behaviour pattern is-furtive. It keeps out of sight, spies out the land, weighs up its chances of a successful attack.''Then we are not facing a bold enemy?''Not bold but cunning, Leela. This fog is no freak of the weather. It was deliberately contrived to isolate us. Now the creature is growing more confident. It's seen this primitive technology, studied the physical limitations of its enemies.' The Doctor sighed, and said gloomily, 'All in all, I've a feeling we're in a lot of trouble!''Do not be afraid, Doctor. We shall arm ourselves and post guards. The others will help.''We'll have to convince them of the danger first. If we start talking about creatures from s.p.a.ce, they'll just think we're mad.''We shall explain that we come from s.p.a.ce ourselves,' said Leela triumphantly. 'We are not of this Earth, or of this time.'The Doctor shuddered. 'Don't tell them that, whatever you do.' He remembered something Leela had said a few moments earlier. 'What do you mean, afraid?'
Lord Palmerdale stood looking thoughtfully down at the telegraph. By now Skinsale was fast asleep. Palmerdale crept over to Harker and shook him roughly by the shoulder. 'Wake up, man,' he whispered. 'Wake up!'Harker awoke in sudden panic, like a man in the middle of a nightmare. 'Look out, look out,' he muttered. 'She's going to strike.'Palmerdale shook him again. 'That's all over and done with. Wake up, will
« Previous My Bookmarks Chapters Next»