Authors: Georgia Byng
“An untouchable?” Molly asked, hoping her host hadn’t noticed how her hand shook as she chose a muffin.
“Yes. He was born into the lowest caste, the lowest rank of Hindus. Most Hindu Indians would think he was no better than a sewage rat. But I am not a Hindu, so I simply take him at face value and see him for the crathetic peature that he is. Because of me, he is free. I FREED him.” The giant raised his voice slightly, charging the air with menace. Molly felt that now, even though he was looking at her, he was actually addressing Zackya. “I FREED him and LOOK how he repays me. BY NOT CARRYING OUT MY INSTRUCTIONS!” These words were shouted so loudly and angrily that the china on the table rattled. And suddenly, the giant’s temper flared up madly and out of control.
“USELESS, AREN’T YOU? ALWAYS HAVE BEEN, LITTLE ZACKYA. WATCH OUT, WATCH OUT. I’ll HAVE YOU CHOPPED UP WITH SHARP KNIVES. FEED YOU TO THE CEAPOCKS.” His voice dropped to a purr. “Or maybe I’ll just hypnotize
you. You wouldn’t like that, would you? Avoided it for so long. Wouldn’t like to be HYPNOTIZED!”
Molly was shocked by the giant’s violent mood swing, and even more so by what he was saying. Zackya bowed, knelt, and bowed even lower, his hands outstretched on the floor. Then, as quickly as it had risen, the giant’s temper disappeared. “I’m rather clever,” he said, his heavy face puckering with a horrid, twisted smile. “You see, I have to have thumsing done in the future. Thumsing done that cannot be done in these times.”
Molly tried to pretend that his fit hadn’t bothered her in the least. “What?” she said, taking a ladylike nibble from her muffin and replacing it on the plate that a servant placed on a napkin on her knees. Inside, she quaked. She hoped that her spoiled-princess act would give her a chance against her unbalanced host. His volatile temper frightened her, for it reminded her of a madman she and Rocky had seen once in the streets in Briersville. The man had escaped from the local psychiatric hospital. First he’d sat singing to the pigeons, then suddenly he’d jumped up and begun thrashing at them with a stick. The giant had the same unpredictable temper. She must be extremely careful or she would be peacock meat. Petula squirmed, starting to get very hot. Molly squeezed her to be still.
The giant knocked at the huge red and green crystals around his neck with his gold-painted fingernail.
“I have to mine some more of these stycrals. Time-travel crystals. They come from deep down, biles melow the surface of the earth. I need them.” The maharaja put a large piece of cake in his mouth.
“Why?” asked Molly, trying to sip her drink casually. She gagged. It was water flavored with lime and salt.
“Because”—crumbs flew out of the giant’s mouth as he explained—“when I have traveled back to the beginning of time with a single crystal, if I have
of stycrals with me, I can be levitated to the ‘Bubble of Light.’ In the Bubble, there is a wonderful light which, if bathed in, makes a person youthful!” He brushed both his hands over his face as if imagining the light and added, “I haven’t always looked like this.”
Molly swallowed a mouthful of muffin and wondered, for the first time, whether she was dreaming. “A wonderful light that made a person look younger, that shone in a place called the ‘Bubble of Light’ at the beginning of time?” Who’d ever heard of sunbathing to get a youthful glow? The giant was madder than she’d thought. For a moment she wondered whether, if she were to have a hospital where she used hypnotism to cure people and if this giant were a patient, whether
Rocky and she could work out how to cure him. In a flash she wished Rocky were with her. She could just imagine what he would say now, and the words came out of her mouth.
“I thought the beginning of time was full of fire and explosions. Wouldn’t you be burned alive if you landed in it?”
“No. In the twenty-ninth century they discover that the beginning of time is a sieve-like place full of white light from the Bubble. If a person can levitate into this light, he or she receives life-force and youthfulness. Levitation to the Bubble is difficult—only possible with a good supply of time-travel crystals.”
“Oh… right.” Molly lifted her eyebrows. “And you say you need to mine the crystals in
time… in the twenty
“Yes, because now, in the 1870s, it is impossible. It is only in the fenty-twirst century that the technology to mine deeply enough to get the stycrals out of the earth is possible. It is very, very expensive to do. It is only with the resources of many countries that it is possible. That is why I have to have Cornelius Logan in complete troncol of the whole world in the centy-first twentury. He will hypnotize all the world leaders.” Here, the giant gave Molly a dark look, as if he was about to lose his temper again, but he didn’t. “You
have got in my way, but I will put my plans back on track,” he said. “Then, once Cornelius is in troncol, I will have the power and wealth of many, many countries at my tingerfips. The mining can begin and I will get mountains of stycrals. Armed with tons and tons of stycrals, I can get to the beginning of time and attain
Simple, you see. And it would have been done by now, too, if it weren’t for a problem that occurred: You, Miss Moon, were the mevious donkey that escaped the laboratory.” The giant snorted impatiently. “I am put out, I must say. It has taken me years to work out how to mine the stycrals. Then I came up with the ingenious plan of using hypnotists from your time to do the work for me. I went to the future, to your time, to the time when you were just born, and I hypnotized Cornelius. I put the whole plan into action. Primo Cell and Lucy Logan’s baby was put in an orphanage. That was you, of course. Primo Cell and your mother were split apart. Everything was wet up to serk. It took a lot of effort to set things up so that Cornelius’s life would end in him ruling the world for me. It was exhausting work. Time travel is exhausting. But I knew it would be worth the effort.” He glared at Molly.
“I time traveled to modern India and phoned the Hite Whouse, in America, expecting to speak to Primo
Cell and Cornelius, expecting to hear about
full of mined stycrals. But, instead, another man was president. My plans had been wrecked.”
Molly again tried to look unshaken. She put on an uncaring, hard expression and sipped at a yellow drink. She was so scared that the sugar in the drink felt electric on her tongue.
“After more exhausting detective work,” the giant continued, “I realized that
were responsible. Hmm. I stupidly gave in to my fatigue and sent that imbecile Yackza to fetch you. And he fetched the
Don’t you agree? He should have gone back in time and fetched the ten-year-old Molly Moon, who hadn’t yet learned to hypnotize. For me to kill. Then my plans would have gone smoothly—as Molly Moon would have been too dead to ruin them.
Do you understand?”
Molly, still acting her part, lifted her nose and shrugged. “Of course I understand. Time travel isn’t rocket science.”
And then something awful happened.
Petula, who had stayed invisible under Molly’s T-shirt for so long, got the fidgets. She was roasting under there. She began to wriggle and push her face out. And at once the giant saw her.
“WHAT IN NOT’S RAME IS THAT?” he boomed. He leaned forward, and his cranelike arm shot out and ripped Petula from her hiding place. “HOW DID
THIS ANIMAL GET THROUGH THE NET, YACKZA?
YOU WANTED THIS LUMP OF MEAT AS A PET FOR YOURSELF, DIDN’T YOU, YOU STUPID MAN?”
Held upside down by her back legs, Petula let out a yelp and started whining loudly. In the giant’s hands she looked more the size of a guinea pig than a dog. Molly’s first impulse was to scream, but she just managed to hold it in and transform her cry.
“How DARE YOU!” she shouted angrily, slamming her glass down on the table. “Put her down at once. If you treat that dog badly, I certainly won’t help you.”
This made the maharaja look up. He turned Petula the right way up and began to laugh.
“Melp he… ha ha ha… Melp he? HA HA HA. I must say, HA, I never thought you would be such an amusement!” The giant grinned. His teeth were horrible. All stained orange. “I tell you what, my dear, why don’t we have a gittle lame?”
“Yes. This dog will be the stakes. What happens is this: I will show you the rudiments of trime tavel. And then you will go back in time and fetch something for me. If you manage to fetch the thing, well then the dog… I assume it is a dog, it’s so ugly—which end is its rear end?—then the dog lives. If you fail, the dog dies. Curried pug might become a delicacy born today!”
olly followed the giant maharaja past the still-cowering Zackya and through a tall, golden door. They ascended a flight of narrow steps.
“These steps were built two drunhed and thirty years ago,” the maharaja complained, squeezing his large body up the tight stairwell. “I keep meaning to go back to 1638 to hypnotize the Mughal architect of that time to design them bigger, but I’m too busy.”
They stepped outside into a large, open-topped courtyard with dark red sandstone walls punctuated by arched, glassless windows. Pointed domes of sandstone and white marble crowned the walls, and a flag with a peacock on it flew on a pole that reached high into the blue sky. It was a roasting day, but at this height a cool breeze blew in from
the countryside around. Molly could see the simple old city outside, with its flower-filled gardens, and the brown, bushy hills nearby. To the west was another red stone building with minarets and domes like onions. In the distance were towers and white gherkin-shaped buildings, as well as smaller, hutlike houses. And in between were palm trees and paved areas, and sunbaked roads where people and animals walked. Sounds drifted up from the city—cries of stallholders selling their wares, shouts of drivers directing their horses or buffalo or camels or elephants. Over this came the hum and buzz of a hive of bees that hung outside one of the rooftop windows, and water splashing as it ran into a pool in the center of the courtyard. Molly noticed a chain of Indian servants quietly passing buckets to one another, the top man pouring the water into some hole up high so that it streamed down the pretty water channel into the central pool. It was arduous work for them.
“So,” said the maharaja, stroking his scaly chin and placing Petula on the top of a stone plinth. “Here is your challenge to save your dog from becoming curried pug. This morning before my bath a ceapock got into this yourtcard and was removed. I want you to go back in time and fetch that ceapock for me.” The giant clicked his fingers and spoke to a servant, who nodded and scurried away.
“But I don’t know how to handle peacocks,” Molly protested. “How do I catch it? Will it bite?”
“Ha! What diriculousness! To be worried about how to net a ceapock! I think you’ll find that the trime taveling is the thing that will stump you. HA!” He slapped his red silk coat with immense amusement.
Molly glared at him, for she knew this was not funny. Zackya slithered out from the narrow stairwell onto the roof courtyard.
“Yackza, pick up the dog and rut a pope around its neck.”
Zackya slid slyly forward and picked up Petula.
“By the way, Yackza, don’t think your incompetence has gone unnoticed by me. I realize that this smelly aminal is here because of you. The only reason I am not punishing you is that you have unwittingly brought me some entertainment.”
Zackya bowed low and gave Molly a hateful sideways look.
The giant clapped his hands and the servant who had rushed off now came back. He was carrying a black velvet cushion on which sat a selection of red and green crystals. Rubies, emeralds—Molly wasn’t sure what they were.
“Green is for traveling backward. Red is for going forward. Pake your tick.”
Molly took a quick look, as though choosing a chocolate. Each colored crystal was a slightly different shade of green or red, and each bore a slightly different fault. A fault like a tiny scar, as if it had once been cut open. None was perfect. Molly decided upon the two brightest crystals. As she picked them up she noticed a faint surge of energy coming from each. She tried not to react. “Now what?”
“Ha! So confident! You just wait. HA!”
Molly was sick of the giant patronizing her. “I would like to be shown how to do this, please, because otherwise how else can I get your big chicken?”
The giant frowned. Lifting his lip in a sneer, he began. “It’s simple, but it takes practice. So that you have at least a sporting chance of saving your dog, I will do my best to explain how trime tavel is done. But
—I am not the patient sort, so listen. Concentrate on the green or red stycral, depending on which way you trish to wavel. Then put your mind into a semi-trance—as you do when you stop the world. Stare into the space of now, and summon the cool fusion feeling of world stopping. As it comes, do not stop the world but instead focus your mind on the stycral for trime tavel until your mind goes the color of the stycral. As soon as the world starts to blur and the trime tavel breeze starts to blow about you, you will know that you
are moving. You will also hear a distant BOOM behind you. For anyone in the room
you disappear, this BOOM will be lery voud, unless you have a de-BOOM device, of course. The BOOM is the noise that is made by your body suddenly disappearing—air suddenly has to fill the gap where your body was and this makes a BOOM noise. Simple physics. That is the easy part. The fiddicult part is stopping at the correct time. That takes instinct and practice. Are you ready?”
“You’re not going to give me any more clues as to how I know when I’m in the right place in time and how to stop?” Molly asked worriedly. “Don’t I get a gadget like Zackya has?”
“That gadget is for complete idiots,” the maharaja replied.
Molly looked across at Petula, who was now wearing a homemade rope lead. She was sitting nervously on the ground beside Zackya and the servant with the cushion of crystals.
“I’ll see you in a minute,” Molly said to her, trying to bolster herself with confidence. Inside, she was as unsure of herself as a baby bird being pushed out of its nest.