Authors: Georgia Byng
A turbaned footman dressed in white bowed, with his hands in a praying position. Then, silently, he opened the door.
Trembling, the mustached man led Molly in.
They were in a long, golden chamber with thousands of silver spikes set in the ceiling. The gilded walls were decorated with colored glass in the shape of elephants, and the floors were covered with thick, sumptuous rugs and huge velvet cushions. The air was musky with incense. Molly’s eyes skipped past low, mosaic tables to the room’s end. Here was a scarlet bed with a purple bolster behind it and, reclining on it, a man in a shiny red coat.
For a moment, Molly thought her hypnotized judgment was playing tricks on her, because the reclining man looked enormous. He seemed to have been magnified. His dark, turtlelike head and huge body seemed twice the size of the servant behind him, who stood fanning him with a wide, flat bunch of peacock feathers. Was the servant a midget?
The giant man clicked his long fingers, and the chamber echoed with the noise. Molly’s companion hurried forward, pulling her with him. The closer they got, the larger the man on the bed appeared. Molly had never seen a man so big, or someone so reptilian. The skin on his face was dry and scaly like a tortoise’s. His large, dry nose was as rough as a pumice stone. If Molly hadn’t been hypnotized, she would have been horrified by his monstrous looks. When they were ten paces away he lifted a round piece of glass to his right eye. And then he let out a deafening roar.
“YOU FOOL,” he thundered. “YOU IDIOT, ZACKYA! IT’S THE MONG WROLLY. YOU’VE FETCHED THE MONG WROLLY WROON!”
etula, terrified, tightened into a ball inside Molly’s T-shirt and tried to pretend she wasn’t there. Molly’s time-travel escort gave her a look of shock and then of complete repulsion.
“Oh, my peacock dropping! I’ve done it wrong… again,” he cursed. The whites of his eyes glistened with fear. He turned quaking to his master.
“The wrong Molly, sahib, but that cannot be. Maharaja, I went forward to precisely the right time and fetched her. She was at Briersville Park.”
“Briersville Park? BRIERSVILLE PARK? You FOOOOL,” boomed the giant man in a deep, curdling voice. He grabbed the peacock-feather fan from the punkah man beside him and hurled it toward them so that Molly’s escort had to dodge. “Zackya, do you
have been at Briersville Park
she found the hypnotism book? I wanted the Molly Moon from a time before that—
I wanted Molly Moon from the time when she lived at the orphanage,
you imbecile. Cornelius Logan kept his residence
He would never have let her come to Briersville Park
she found the hypnotism book.”
“Cornelius might have wanted to train her up before she found the book, Your High—”
“Don’t answer me back. So STUUUUUUPID!” The dreadful roar that came out of the man’s mouth as he stood up practically sent a breeze to ruffle Molly’s hair. Molly’s eyes were not deceiving her—the man
ginormous, but now she was finding that there was something wrong with her ears.
“Of course it’s the mong Wrolly Wroon. Are you blind? This one is wearing a stycral.” He jabbed a large finger in the direction of Molly’s neck. “She’s already a world stopper, you inconsequential piece of camel dung.
Only hypnotists are world stoppers.
Why else would she be wearing a STYCRAL?”
“Stycral?” Molly thought. “Oh, he means my time-stopping crystal.” The giant’s voice rumbled angrily, bouncing off the walls of the golden chamber.
“You have fetched me a Molly Moon from too far in the future, you useless cockroach. I told you. I explained
The giant took four huge steps toward them, getting bigger the closer he got. He leaned his tree-like form down and, as if his subordinate were just a schoolboy, clasped his ear and gave his head a good shake. “Or did it go in one ear and out the other?”
“I thoughtttt… I thought this was the riiiiiii…” The man could hardly get his words out for the jangling.
thought. What a joke,” said the giant, dropping him disgustedly. “As usual, I’ll have to soo it mydelf.” Then, with the sharpest of deliveries, he spat, “This is how it works, you idiot. I have to remove Molly Moon from the time
she found the hypnotism book. Before she found it. Stunderhand? Then, when I
her, she won’t be able to become a hypnotist and make the trouble that she did, will she? She won’t ever risdupt my plans and stop Primo Cell from becoming president of America, like she did… and Cornelius from ruling the whole world for me. And why? Because she will have died before she found out how to hypnotize anyone at all.” He cupped the escort’s head in his slab hands again and began to squeeze.
“HAVE YOU THOT GAT?” he shouted.
Molly found quite a few thoughts jostling for attention in her head, even though all were very hazy since she was still hypnotized. The first was that it seemed this colossus of a man from the past had once controlled
Cornelius Logan. This time-traveling giant had evidently traveled forward in time, from
time, and hypnotized Cornelius to carry out his master plan. Cornelius, whom Molly had hypnotized to be a bleating lamb! It was almost unbelievable. This giant man clearly wanted to be powerful in Molly’s time. Molly wondered why.
Her mind sipped at this thought as if it were a nice cup of brain-wave tea. Molly realized that she had unwittingly upset his plans. She had taken Cornelius off course. So this giant, quite logically, Molly thought, wanted to catch Molly at the time
she’d found the hypnotism book, so he could
before she could make trouble.
This made complete sense. Molly swished this thought about in her head and blinked as she digested the situation. And finally, she observed, there was nothing wrong with her ears. The leathery-skinned giant (who seemed to have the same skin disorder as the shaking turbaned escort) had something wrong with the way he talked. He got his words back to front—frack to bunt. He spoke in “spoonerisms.”
The giant dropped the escort, who now stood beside Molly adjusting his neck where it had cricked slightly. The red juice from the paan he had been chewing dribbled down his chin. He wiped it with a handkerchief.
took far too long,” the huge man complained. “Too nervous of fenty-twifth-century travel, I suppose, you wimp.”
“Your Highness… Maharaja. I thought it was better to guarantee her arrival. I am not confidant riding those superfast-beam jets of the twenty-fifth century. I will practice on my own, and improve my skills, I assure you, but I didn’t want to lose Miss Moon at a jet-beam port.” The man exposed his red-stained teeth in an ingratiating smile.
The maharaja wasn’t listening. He was now studying Molly. His huge, bloodshot eyes darted about as he registered her scruffy looks, her size, and her closely set eyes.
“Who would have thought that someone smo sall… look! The time winds are affecting her already. Zackya, release her from her trance.”
“Are you… sure, Your Highness?”
“Do as I say, you fool.”
Zackya, Molly’s captor, obediently stepped in front of her. He brought his dry, knobbly fingers to her forehead and snapped them together.
“You are released.” The hypnotism was broken. The veil of mist covering Molly’s feelings lifted and she felt utterly present. She now knew how Petula felt, buried under her T-shirt; Molly’s immediate burning
wish was that she could disappear, too.
Now the full weight of her situation tumbled down on her. She was caught in a terrible trap. Stuck in another country and another time. Even if she managed to escape the giant maharaja and his assistant, she would still be imprisoned in a time that wasn’t her own, because Molly had absolutely no idea how to time travel. She felt as vulnerable as a worm in the beak of a peacock, as hopeless as a prisoner facing execution. The palm of her hand grew clammy as fear overwhelmed her. Molly had never, ever felt this helpless before, and it took immense self-control not to break down in tears.
But Molly was experienced with unkind, heartless people, and she knew from the giant’s cold, immobile face that no amount of pleading would help her. She possessed enough knowledge of sadism to know that if she cried now, he would enjoy the spectacle for a while and then he’d lose interest in her. From the way he was leaning down, looking fascinated into the sides of her eyes, she was certain that her best chance of survival was to be as cool and mysterious as possible. She ignored his damp, garlic breath and his rhinoceros skin. She ignored her own fear. She crossed her arms over Petula, badly hidden beneath her baggy top, and she managed to calm her mind and make some calculations.
The first was that this man and his assistant were obviously both very fine hypnotists, as was Molly.
The second was that they were both also world stoppers. They could both stop time, just as she could.
Molly suspected that they might be better hypnotists than she was (after all, they were both time travelers) and, for this reason, she decided not to use her crystal to stop time. However, she was sure that, as far as time traveling went, one of them wasn’t very good at it. It struck Molly that if the best assistant that this rich and powerful giant could find was this man Zackya, who was crouching in the corner, then good time travelers were rare.
Molly stared straight ahead and ignored the maharaja as his sticklike, heavy finger poked at her forehead. She felt very alone and really scared, but she knew she mustn’t look it. To protect herself, she feigned a look of haughty pride, as if she was deeply insulted to have been so rudely dragged back in time.
Molly remembered a pompous character in an old film she’d watched on video over and over again at the orphanage. The general in it had been captured by the opposite side and, instead of being wide-eyed and subservient, he was loudly objecting. Molly knew she should try to be like him, which meant putting on a huge act. She wasn’t too confident of her acting, but
she could remember the general’s lines since she and Rocky had so often said them to each other. The adrenaline pumping through her gave her courage, and Molly surprised herself as some of the general’s pompous words suddenly flew from her mouth.
“I find this imposition most inconvenient and degrading. In fact, it is downright impertinent!” she blustered.
She shivered as the final “impertinent” left her mouth, because she knew that behaving like this was a complete gamble.
Her tall captor narrowed his eyes and glared at her. Molly gritted her teeth.
“Do you?” he said slowly.
She pushed her mind to remember and imagine the general in the film, and she continued. “Yes. To be sneaked up on in such an underhanded way by your subordinate.” Molly wasn’t sure whether she knew what “subordinate” meant, but she carried on, anyway. “I should have been challenged properly in a
It’s downright rude.
to be escorted through time by someone so… so unexperienced and uncapable.” As she heard her own words Molly remembered that she should have said “inexperienced and incapable.” She steamed on. “It is not the sort of treatment that
a world-class hypnotist,
from you, another world-class
were in your position,
would have found a much worthier escort. I would have shown more respect.”
Molly could hardly believe that these sentences were tumbling out of her mouth. She was either digging herself a grave with them, or airlifting herself out of trouble—she had no idea which. But knowing she must act the part entirely, she now summoned up some very precise hypnotic energy and turned her eyes to the giant’s. He already had his eyes glaring hypnotically. His large, bulbous eyes, set in their dark sockets, were horrible. Around the tannin-brown pupils, the whites were veined and bloodshot. Molly had never faced such huge or such repulsive eyes, yet her green eyes dealt with them. She leveled her gaze at his and felt his power. Steadily she looked straight into the eyes of the withered, walrus-skinned, tortoise-faced man.
Fascinated to be up against eyes the caliber of Molly’s, the giant enjoyed the unusual sensation of the challenge. Now he could see how this scrawny, potato-nosed girl had tipped over his neatly organized plans. Her power was like that of no other hypnotist he’d come across. She was experienced, too, he could sense. For every time he refocused, to catch her out and knock her hypnotically, she predicted his move and rebuffed his look. She was good, very good, especially
for her age. But she knew nothing of the rules of time travel, so that put him leagues ahead of her. He admired her talent and her boldness, too. It was almost a pleasure to meet her. Although she was a little too big for her boots, he thought. Perhaps she would be some sport. Perhaps he ought to knock her down to size. Maybe he would. He dropped his gaze.
“Hmmm,” he mused. “So you see yourself as a flutterby princess.” He clapped his huge hands. “Perhaps the princess would tike some lea.”
t once the far doors swung open and eight turbaned servants came scurrying in with trays. These bore silver teapots, jugs, porcelain plates, cups, and glasses and, in the time that it took Molly and the giant to walk down the chamber, a low walnut table was laid. Molly’s chair faced a painted wall, where a mural of a hunting scene depicted in very fine detail the giant maharaja on an elephant, a rifle in his hand, shooting a tiger dead. It was a beautiful painting, though Molly didn’t like the subject matter. The green woodland showed Molly something of the country that surrounded the fort.
“It’s a refreshing change,” the giant admitted, reaching for an oversized muffin that a half-starved servant offered him, “to meet someone who doesn’t
cower in front of me like a beaten dog.” He gave a cursory glance in Zackya’s direction. “I apologize for the walf-hit who brought you here. He is actually an ‘Untouchable.’”