There’s something about the Georgia countryside during this era that makes my two hearts go pitter-pat. There are no skyscrapers or honking horns, just green countryside and if you’re particularly lucky and you land on that first real day of winter where the frost has caught the garden off guard you can feel the crunch of snow under your boots at the same time the smell of out-of-season roses tickles your nose. I suggest anytime before 1930 but well after 1865. Slavery is a buzz kill. Ideally you’d be around for Reconstruction, maybe 1870 or so, but I can never get the Tardis be that precise. I wish I could or I wouldn’t be standing in line with the other thirty or so serving staff, waiting for my customary tray of spiced Apple cider to give to the guests.
“You look too young to be serving,” Adelaide chides. She’s fun to take on trips, but she can get really skittish in the Nineteenth century. I thought she’d love to see American history up close.
“I’m nearly eight hundred years old.”
“True, but you look fifteen.”
“Even better. Fifteen is nearly a man in these times.”
She shushes me as a plump faced, but stern looking man hands me my tray. I dally a bit so that Adelaide can catch up. When the door swings open the full weight of the orchestra hits me and I let the music waft over me until she kicks me in the shins.
“Don’t dawdle. We have to serve the guests.”
“We don’t have to do anything. We’re visiting.”
“Then why are we here? I don’t particularly like playing the slave. It’s not my idea of fun.”
“We’re not playing anything. We’re experiencing, and we’re here because there was a distress call and it’s Christmas Eve.”
A man with the weakest chin I’ve seen on this species beckons me over and I lean down with a smile. Adelaide is called into another corner and it isn’t until we’ve been divested of all our drinks that we’re able to slip outside.
“Finally!” she yells.
“Quiet. Ah, can you not appreciate how beautiful the stars are here, no light pollution, no smog.”
I shrug. She’s not wrong.
“We can see the stars up close. We have.”
“Yes, but it isn’t often that we can save the world from a most detestable evil.”
“Somehow, I don’t like the sound of that.”
“Oh, where’s your sense of adventure?”
She shivered, and I knew the time was coming.
“Do you like horror movies?” I ask.
She blows hot air into her hands and bounces from foot to foot as she shakes her head. “My brother loved them. Night of the Living Dead, Candyman, but I couldn’t get into them. I don’t like monsters. I especially don’t like the stories behind the monsters. They were always so tragic.”
“But that’s the catalyst see. The tragedy is the real horror. We’re all afraid of what we could become given the wrong circumstances.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because we here to hunt a monster.”
One by one the stars wink out and the sounds of the drunken revelers gets louder. The gas lantern on the porch blazes brighter and brighter until it seems to shine a single spotlight.
“I’m s-s-s-so c-c-c-cold,” Adelaid sputters.
The temperature drops another ten degrees and my honey-colored fingers begin to turn blue.
Almost time. I hear the door swing open and I know Adelaide has gone inside.
I can barely move, my toes yet my heart is beating as if I’ve run six miles. The light on the porch gets brighter, the music gets louder and a gust of icy wind blows the lantern out and only the moon is there to witness and I see him.
He’s small, barely seven years old. He’s smartly dressed, white pants, a red jacket too light for the cold and a cap, but he’s barefoot. Barefoot in the snow and he’s carrying a small lantern burning something other than fire light. He doesn’t see me. His eyes are frozen over and the tears he’d cried when he was sent out to light the way so long ago have long since turned to ice on his blue-black cheeks. He’s too young to know he could have gone inside to get warm, so young he was forgotten. My two hearts begin to break and I’m almost too late to stop Adelaide, when she emerges from the house with a blanket.
I tackle her.
“What are you doing!”
“You can’t,” I hiss. “He’ll kill you if you touch him.”
“He’s just a boy.”
“He used to be a boy. Now, he’s a monster.”
The night covers us so completely the gentlemen with the pencil mustache and an equally thin wife stumble out of the house and walk right past us.
“You there, boy. Go and find my driver,” he slurs.
The boy doesn’t turn.
The man calls out again and again the boy doesn’t turn, but he makes the mistake of touching the boy’s shoulder and it is as if he’s been struck by lightning. The freeze is immediate and his once pink flesh mottles into the blue black decay of frostbite, peeling in the seconds it takes for his fingers to break off and the dead weight of his body to hit the ground. The woman screams and rushes over, pushing the boy out of the way. She’s dead before the snow she’s disturbed is able to fall back the ground.
“Now!” I yell and snatch the blanket from Adelaide and throw it over the boy’s head. He’s light, light as air and we run fast. I hid the Tardis behind a grove of trees and had to hand the boy off to Adelaide in order to open the door. She rocked him, like sister would, like a mother, willing the warmth back into his flesh, but when we finally made it inside to unravel the blanket, there was nothing left but snow.