Authors: Georgia Byng
Primo shook his head and picked up a china elephant from the mantel.
“I don’t like it,” he said, as if speaking to the small sculpture. “I don’t like it at all. Theoretically it shouldn’t happen. If one hypnotist hypnotizes the world to stand still, other hypnotists wearing their crystals feel it and should be able to resist the freeze. And what was the BOOM sound that Molly heard?”
“Maybe.” Forest sighed, lying on the floor and putting his ankles around his ears. “Maybe the gardener was standing on a lea line or something. I mean, you got those way-out druid stone circles in this country, and energy lines are awesome here… hmmm…” Forest drifted off into his thoughts.
Rocky ignored Forest and instead approached Molly to study her crystal.
“This is the original crystal, isn’t it?”
“Yes, look—it’s got that icy-looking bit. And I wear it all the time. Even if someone wanted to swap it while I was asleep, they couldn’t. I’d wake up. Especially recently. I haven’t been able to sleep very well.” Molly dropped her voice. “Rocky, it’s been like a tomb here, and Lucy’s been walking around like a… like a
Molly couldn’t help smiling. Rocky laughed. After all, Lucy was a mummy—Molly’s.
Primo wandered over to the window and looked out at a thin, fair-haired man who was kicking his legs up and running around the lawn leaping over croquet hoops.
“I’d better go out and rescue Lucy before Cornelius starts bleating at her. And in case you’re wondering, Lucy’s got nothing to do with Petula’s disappearance. I know it. I’ve talked to her. Lucy is only half here, it seems, but she’s not under anyone’s spell, or hypnotized. She’s just wretched and traumatized from what’s happened. Poor Lucy. I think I can help her climb out of her misery.” Primo watched Cornelius on his hands and knees nibbling the grass. “It’s amazing how that lamb man out there was once so powerful. I can still hardly believe that he once hypnotized me to want to be president of America for him. And I would have been, too, if you, Molly, hadn’t saved me.”
Primo smiled at his daughter.
Primo and Molly had decided to start by pretending that they weren’t father and daughter. After all, if you haven’t belonged to a father
and suddenly one turns up, you don’t really want to keep jumping up and hugging him, shouting, “Daddy.” You want to get to know him first. So Molly called him Primo. She liked him. He was positive.
“I’m going to go out and have a walk with Lucy,” he said, rubbing his hands together, trying to look as though everything was under control and he was looking forward to it. “See you later. We’ll sort out all these problems. It’ll be fine, don’t you worry.” He winked and, making the sort of giddyup, encouraging noise that people make to horses, left the room.
“Just zoning into the Here and Now,” said Forest, shutting his eyes and beginning to meditate.
Molly and Rocky walked along the upstairs passage to the stairwell of clocks. The domed ceiling echoed with their tickings.
“I don’t like the idea that there’s someone out there who can pull the wool over our eyes like this,” Molly said as they descended.
“You’d better watch out, Molly,” Rocky said, and pursed his lips. “Be on your guard.”
Rocky never exaggerated. He was also hard to panic.
So getting a warning like this from him made Molly shudder. She gripped his arm.
“Let’s stick together.”
“Well, you’re going to have to wait for me here; I’m going to the bathroom.”
“But how long are you going to be?”
“Oh, three hours?”
The cloakroom door creaked shut. A huge black spider scuttled across the floor.
Molly stood in the front hall picking the dried ketchup off her T-shirt. It was a strange place. The walls were covered with animal trophies. Their glassy eyes stared down at her. And mixed among the heads were antique garden shears—another collection of the mad Cornelius Logan’s. A man obsessed with control—controlling people through hypnotism—he’d also created the topiary animal bushes all over his estate.
As she waited for Rocky, Molly walked around the hall table some, inspecting iridescent peacock feathers that stood in a vase. At every corner of the table a different group of animals glared down at her as if she were responsible for their deaths. In a horrible skip, Molly’s mind suddenly imagined Petula’s head stuffed and staring down, stiff with rigor mortis. She felt faint.
Molly remembered some old wives’ tale that peacock feathers in a house brought bad luck. So, seizing the whole bunch, she pulled them out of their pot and marched for the front door and flung it open.
Cold air flooded inside. Molly stepped out into the morning sunshine and down the front steps of the house.
A distant lawn mower droned as it dealt with the winter grass. Light bounced off the place where Molly had last seen Petula, and then, as she walked across the circle of gravel, past the bush sculpture of a flying magpie, a cloud cast a giant shadow over the grounds of Briersville Park.
Something blue flickered in the periphery of Molly’s vision. She turned quickly, but there was nothing there. It must have been a bird, or the shadow of a bird. Or maybe it was that turbaned dognaper. Molly quickly twisted around. If he was loitering nearby, she’d catch him creeping up on her. The white columns on the front portico of the house stood like guards and the windows were like watchmen, but Molly knew that out here she was as vulnerable as Petula had been.
Again a blue shadow flickered to her left. Molly didn’t turn this time. She tried to see what it was without moving. It hovered, then disappeared. Thirty seconds later it appeared to her right. Was it a ghost? A
poltergeist was a ghost that was able to move things. Had a poltergeist moved Petula? Molly was determined to find out. Although she was filthy scared, she let the shadow flicker to the left, then again to the right. She stood stock-still. Once more it was there—closer, and then again on the right of her, closer still. Nearer and nearer it got.
Right… left… right…
There it was to the left… the right… the left.
Left, right, left.
Her eyes swung from side to side. Molly was so intent upon winkling out the truth that she didn’t feel herself falling. Falling into a hypnotic trap.
When the purple-turbaned man was finally standing in front of her, she just gazed straight into his dark eyes. She didn’t question his attire: The indigo outfit he had on, tied at the waist with a silken cummerbund and flaring down dresslike to below his knees, the tight white leggings that he wore underneath or the scooped and pointed red moccasins on his feet. She simply drank in his appearance, as calmly as if looking at a picture in a book. She registered the handlebar mustache that swooped up on either side of his dry, wrinkled face, all whiskery below his ears. She noted his crooked orange teeth, and that he was chewing something. She observed the golden chain that hung around his neck with three crystals hanging there: a clear, a green, and a red crystal.
Then she heard his rusty voice. “You, Miss Moon,
are now in a light trance. You will do as I say and come with me. Molly relaxed completely, dropped her peacock feathers, and stood still and silent in a hypnotic daze.
The next thing she knew, the elderly man took her by the arm, there was a distant BOOM and the world around her became a complete blur. Colors rushed past her, then all around her. Even the colors under her feet changed from ochers to browns to yellows to greens to sparkling blues. It was like traveling through a kaleidoscope of color and, as they moved through it, a cool wind brushed Molly’s skin and the noise of the lawn mower was replaced by a different sort of humming, a constant noise but of varying volumes and qualities. One moment it sounded like a thunderstorm, the next second like pattering rain and bird-song. And then, all of a sudden, the blurred world became solid again. The ground beneath Molly’s feet was a firm green and the sky above, hyacinth blue. The world stopped spinning.
Molly’s mind took a few moments to settle. Although she was still in a hypnotic daze, she could understand that the world about her had changed. They weren’t in new surroundings; Briersville Park was still there, in all its majesty. But the season was different. Instead of winter, as it had been moments before, it was
There were huge flower beds to
the left and right of her, blooming with roses. There were no topiary bush animals to be seen. What was more, instead of a car parked in the driveway, there was a carriage, with a dappled horse harnessed to it and an old-fashioned groom standing beside the horse. A gardener in woolen shirt and trousers and a brown leather apron was on his hands and knees with a trowel in his hand. A large pile of weeds lay on the ground beside him and the remains of a half-eaten pork pie.
“Damn, wrong time again,” muttered Molly’s stony-faced escort, looking at a slim silver gadget in his hand. In her hypnotized state, Molly supposed that this device was designed to help him time travel, for time travel, she saw, was exactly what they had just done.
“Excuse me, can I help you?” said the gardener. He frowned and lurched to his feet, straightening his cap.
The turbaned man took Molly by the arm and began striding toward a small arbor of trees, where a burst of laughter rang out.
“Oi!” shouted the gardener, but the mustached man ignored him. “You can’t just walk in ’ere. This is private property.”
Molly’s companion’s pace quickened and he pulled her along. The gardener threw down his hoe and began to run after them.
“We’ll never get away from that long-legged gardener,” Molly found herself calmly thinking. And
then, just as they passed the first tree, the turbaned man consulted his silver device. He turned a dial and flicked a switch. Then he pressed his foot on Molly’s and clasped the green crystal around his neck.
In a moment the world transformed into a blur of color. When the world became solid again, Molly could see beyond the tree that the gardener was no longer chasing them. He was once more on his knees hoeing his weeds. But only a few weeds lay beside him. What was more, the pork pie sat untouched, wrapped in a piece of yellow waxed paper. Molly’s escort had taken them
back in time.
“Wha—ar—wa—haaa?” Molly tried with all her will to ask why the man had taken her. But her tongue refused to work properly. The man ignored her.
Behind the trees was a grass clearing, and there, on a rug, was a very strange sight. Children dressed in Victorian clothes were playing and laughing. Two girls in pink petticoated dresses sat beside a porcelain tea set, and two boys in tweed breeches and waistcoats were hitting a hoop backward and forward to each other with sticks. In the girls’ baby carriage sat a doll in a frilly bonnet. And then Molly noticed that it wasn’t a doll at all. As if in some ridiculous dream, Petula, dressed in a frock and with a silly hat on her head, sat panting under the canopy of the carriage.
s soon as Petula smelled Molly she tried to jump out of the carriage and, irritated by whoever the new, distracting arrival was, the young girls turned around. One of them appeared horrified by the apparition of Molly and the turbaned man. The other looked delighted.
“What funny clothes you have on! Have you come from a fancy-dress party?”
The two boys were now staring, too.
Molly knew that it was her jeans and T-shirt with a silhouette of a dancing mouse on it that must look odd to them. In the way that a person completely accepts strange things that happen in dreams, she had already unflinchingly accepted that she was standing in a time different from her own. She was breathing
in nineteenth-century air.
The part of her that normally would have run forward and rescued Petula was rigid and hypnotized. Molly instead found herself musing, “Petula is trying to jump out of that carriage, oh, and the old man is walking toward her. He’s picked up a purple capsule from the ground and has slipped it into his pocket. That purple thing has led us here. It must send signals to his silver machine.” Then she thought, “Those girls are small but their screams are very loud. The man doesn’t seem to mind being hit by that boy’s stick. Or maybe he does—he’s pushed the boy over and winded him. And now the man is bringing Petula over here, and he’s taking that dress and bonnet off of her.”
At this point the children were making so much noise that they attracted the attention of the gardener. As he rushed into the arbor the turbaned man gave him an angry stare and, with the aid of the clear crystal hanging around his neck, he did something Molly was very familiar with: He froze the world.
Immediately the world was set completely still. It wasn’t icy, but it was cool and Molly felt the familiar cold fusion feeling that went with time stopping pulsing through her veins. With Petula under one arm and holding Molly’s shoulder, the man sent warmth into Molly to ensure that she was still able to move. He kept
Petula frozen as she was easier to handle this way. Then he led Molly away from the chaotic scene, leaving the shouting people behind them, now silent, stuck in their positions like giant human Popsicles—the boys with raised sticks, the girls with open, wailing mouths, their faces wet with tears and the gardener on one leg as he sped into the clearing.
They walked toward the cabriolet with its motionless horse and groom. Once there, the man gestured to Molly to climb up into the driving seat and he passed her the still Petula. In her trance Molly calmly calculated that when he let go of her arm she must focus upon her own time-stop crystal and resist the frozen world so that her body didn’t stiffen and become still like everybody else’s. This she did. She noticed that her kidnaper looked impressed.
Once he was up with her he took the whip in his hand and unfroze the world. With a crack, he brought the horse to its senses and they were off. Petula barked. The cabriolet’s wheels lurched on the gravel and the knickerbockered groom looked up in surprise. Before he could prevent it, his carriage was away.
The horse cantered whinnying up the drive, leaving another bellowing man behind.
Molly’s captor didn’t look back. Breathing heavily, he wiped sweat from his wrinkly forehead and began
muttering loudly. “Yes, he’ll be impressed by the dog.… It’s one of those strange Chinese dogs. I’ve done it all right, for once.”