Authors: Georgia Byng
Molly’s next dream was set even earlier in her life. She was about six, and the dream was not as clear as the first one. It was more like a distant memory. She was sitting in the brambly garden at the orphanage. In her dream, Molly was suddenly really scared because, instead of her six-year-old friend Rocky emerging from the building with the Frisbee that he’d promised to fetch, a giant man, dressed like someone in a fairy tale, materialized. He appeared out of the air, as if by magic. Adderstone’s puppy, Petula, was under his arm. Molly screamed, until, again, the man glared at her and the dream faded into flashing colors.
The last parts of the dream were very faint and very distant. Molly was playing with a toy train. A big man picked her up and all the colors of the rainbow came flushing down over her.
As she writhed and turned in her uncomfortable sleep, Molly knew who the man in red was. He was the maharaja. In her dreams, he took her away from Hardwick House Orphanage, far away. They traveled in a very fast, flying-saucer-shaped machine. And an eleven-year-old Rocky was in the dream, as well as Forest the hippie. Both were hypnotized.
Molly opened her eyes and wondered how long she had been asleep. Petula lay snoring beside her. Molly
shook her head, hoping that
room and this reality were a dream as well. But they weren’t. She felt very muddled. And then she thought about her dreams. Peculiarly, they now felt like memories. Molly realized, with slow-growing horror, that the stories revealed in her head weren’t fantasies at all. They were
Memories just put there by the giant.
And, instead of fading, like dreams do, these memories were moving and
She could now remember coming to this very palace when she was ten. Molly put her hands to her head and shook it. Was she going mad? What was happening? Her mind was re-creating her past. New memories were growing in her head every second! It was as if parts of her life when she’d been ten, six, and even three were being
so that she was getting
She remembered a very distant memory, from when she was absolutely tiny, of arriving at a big red castle and having to walk up a long flight of stairs and of a kind big girl with scruffy hair helping her.
remembered arriving at a red fort when she was ten and helping a three-year-old upstairs.
She remembered wondering, as a ten-year-old, who this huge man was as he herded everyone along a passageway that was far too narrow for him. But Molly wasn’t just remembering this as a ten-year-old. Molly
was remembering coming down the passage as a six-year-old, and as a three-year-old, too. She remembered how she’d thought that the man looked like a big baboon stuffed down a tight rabbit hole, and she remembered feeling like a little rabbit being dragged along. A hypnotized rabbit.
“MOVE!” Molly looked up. She could hear the giant maharaja coming. He was coming back! What was more, she knew exactly whom he was coming back with.
Molly winced and screwed up her eyes. She breathed short, terrified gasps, and whimpered. She couldn’t bear this. This was real, but it was scarier than any nightmare.
Then there was a knock at the door.
“Good evening, Lommy,” came the maharaja’s cruel, twisted voice. “Do you mind if I come in? I have some visitors for you.”
olly buried her head in her arms so that she couldn’t see. She didn’t need to look up. Although she had no memories from when she was six or three of coming into this room, her ten-year-old memories were fresh as budding water lilies. The maharaja had opened the door. Molly on the bed
how, as a hypnotized ten-year-old, she’d wondered who the hypnotized hippie with the pug puppy under his arm was, and why Rocky was holding a baby. She remembered looking into the room and seeing a girl on a swinging bed with a dog just like Petula. The pug was even sucking a stone, just as Petula liked to.
“Ah, so you are still here!” The maharaja chuckled meanly. Petula sat up and whined. She cocked her head
and sniffed the air, extremely confused. Three walking Mollys had just entered the chamber, and Rocky and Forest, both usually so full of life, were standing there like zombies, one holding a baby and the other a puppy—a puppy that smelled oddly
On the bed, Molly locked her arms and peered through a crack at Rocky and Forest. Was it really them? They were in exactly the same clothes as they’d been wearing that cold morning in Briersville Park. Had the maharaja really managed to travel to the future, fetch them, and bring them to 1870s India? Why not? That toad Zackya brought
here. But why had the maharaja brought Rocky and Forest here? To show off, Molly supposed. She dreaded to think what horrid plans he had for them. She hated him for messing with her friends’ lives as well as her own.
Molly refused to look up. She knew that if she did, everything would get much more complicated as everyone recognized her and she would have the shock of seeing the younger versions of herselves at the same time as she got their memories. And Molly felt that this would be so frightening, she might scream or faint.
And she mustn’t react. That was exactly what the giant wanted. If she screamed, he would feel that he’d won—he’d know that he’d impressed her. She didn’t want him to see her weak. She must pretend to be as
tough as a hardened warrior. If she could con him into thinking that she were steelier than anyone he’d ever met, then she might buy herself more time—more time to think of how to overcome him, to destroy him, even.
As Molly stared into the V of light between her clenched arms, she knew that she had never felt so violent toward someone. And then the maharaja did something that made the situation worse. He clapped his hands.
At once, fierce, scared feelings rose up through Molly, columns of tenseness, as fear broke out among the younger Mollys in the room. As the giant snapped them out of their trances the reality of their situation hit them. Molly’s mind was full of horrible memories.
The ten-year-old Molly looked about herself in alarm and she dropped the hairbrush that she’d been clutching. She wondered whether she was dreaming, but only for a split second. Her fear was wide-awake fear. She understood that for the past few hours she had been hypnotized and now she’d been released. She also knew that she’d traveled back in time. But how or why all this was happening was a complete mystery. She glanced toward Rocky, shocked to see that he looked older.
“Is that you?” she whispered.
Rocky’s brow was furrowed with intense thought as
he stared at the baby in his arms. “Yes,” he said slowly.
The ten-year-old Molly looked down at the six-year-old crying beside her and at the three-year-old holding her hand. “And these children… They look like me—are they
The ten-year-old went cold. “Why? And
“I don’t really know. This is Forest, and that girl on the bed is an older version of you. She’s an eleven-year-old Molly.”
For Molly on the bed, these memories were so vivid and so deeply disturbing that she found her stomach cramping convulsively.
The giant maharaja surveyed the scene cruelly.
“Ha. Amazing, Molly, isn’t it?” he commented drily, preening himself. “Do you stunderhand how I’ve done this?”
Molly shut her eyes. She knew she must calm her emotions and ignore these newly built memories and feelings that were flooding into her mind and her muscles. She lifted her thoughts to concentrate on her breath. She breathed in and very slowly out. “I am me, now,” she thought. “
am me, and they are my past. They are here, but I am me now. I am the latest Molly, the fullest Molly. I am me. They are me, but
am in control. I have lived the longest. I am the oldest.
control. Their minds, that are making my memories, are full of fear, but I will not freak out, I do not need to be afraid, because I
what is happening, so I am in control. They don’t understand, but I do.
am in control.” Molly breathed deeply, breathing out slowly and deliberately, and she focused her mind. Then she looked up.
Her ten-year-old self recognized the Molly on the bed and cried out. But Molly blocked out the thoughts that were coming from herself as a ten-year-old. She refused to let the memories affect her.
“Of course I understand how you’ve done this,” she said, drawing herself upright, seeming as unruffled as the sea on a windless day. “The moment your servant escorted me here, on that little time-travel trip, I was already aware that this sort of trick could be played. What do you take me for? Brainless? I suppose you’ve never met someone with your abilities before. You seem to be unaware that I am just as cunning as you, Mr.—? Ah, it strikes me that we were never formally introduced. How rude of you.” Molly pulled an iron curtain down on her memories. They were squealing to be heard, but she shut the memories of her earlier selves out of her mind.
The maharaja was shocked, and he showed it. His competitive spirit was bruised.
judged the mind-warping
feat that he had just performed to be brilliant, unsurpassable. The same trick made sniveling wrecks of the greatest, most powerful maharajas and their princesses. Some went quite mad from the experience. All were reduced to shadows of their former selves. And here was this child of eleven, utterly unimpressed, saying that she could do it, too, unaffected by the experience of seeing herself in various younger forms. He could hardly believe it. He searched Molly’s face. Was she lying? Pretending?
“Why are your younger selves crying so pathetically? Your hardness is an act,” he concluded.
“Mr. Maharaja, if you don’t even have the decency to introduce yourself properly, I shall be forced to call you Mr. M. In answer to your question, they are upset, of course, because they don’t understand what is happening to them. I am an accomplished hypnotist. They know nothing of hypnotism, world stopping, time traveling. What do you expect? I am a different person to these Mollys. They are me before I learned hypnotism—before I hardened. You forget that I have been through a lot in New York and Los Angeles. You have no idea. I am fearless because I understand. They are afraid because they don’t. What is more, I think it is somewhat over-egging the pudding to have snatched Petula as a puppy.”
Molly gulped. Her hands were getting sweaty, which was always a bad sign. She had never spoken like this before and she thought she sounded like a character from a space-station soap opera addressing an alien. The ten-year-old Molly looked at her eleven-year-old self in awe. The girl seemed so strong and confident. She couldn’t imagine that she would ever talk in such a pompous way—the manner reminded her of the way a captured general talked in a film she’d often watched with Rocky.
The maharaja, meanwhile, was amazed. And a new thought that had born its seed in his head was growing and winding its way into his plans. He glanced at the baby that the black boy was holding. Until now, he’d never entertained the desire to have an heir. This was partly because he didn’t think he needed one. His aim was to travel to the Bubble of Light at the beginning of time and rejuvenate himself repeatedly. He might live for thousands of years. He also had never wanted a child because he hated the idea of having a child that wasn’t as brilliant as he was. But here was a baby who was obviously going to grow into a child prodigy, a genius hypnotist, with a hardened, sophisticated character. He didn’t need an heir, but it might be good to have a companion.
So far, Zackya was all he had. As a child, the maharaja
had had problems. He had a chemical imbalance in his brain that meant he often flew off the handle. He was too bad-tempered, overgrown, and dangerous to be the sort of a son his parents wanted to show off. In fact, they’d found him an embarrassment, and so, cruelly, inhumanely, had locked him up. He’d lived out of the sight of people except for the servants who brought him food, a trail of different nannies and tutors, and Zackya.
His mother and father had shunned him as though he were diseased. People avoided him, and so he learned to despise all people. But this baby was different. She had huge potential. He could model her on himself and, when she grew up, she would understand and love him. For the first time in a long time, the giant felt warmth toward another human being. And at once he knew exactly what he was going to do next.
“My name,” he said politely, “is the Waharaja of Maqt… the Maharaja of Waqt.” At this point, the three-year-old Molly began to wail uncontrollably. “Shut up. I’m spying to treak,” he blustered. And he pushed the small girl toward the Molly on the bed. Molly found herself in the strangest position she had ever been in. She had to pick herself up.
She was holding herself, and the small girl stopped crying. And as if some warmth replaced the fear, Molly felt a memory of a feeling, ever so faint, in herself, of
being young and being cuddled. It was lovely. Her cuddle was very faintly making herself feel better. Molly could hardly believe it. She hugged the little Molly.
“Don’t worry,” she whispered. “Don’t worry anymore.”
Rocky watched in disbelief. He didn’t notice Waqt’s great hands coming toward him. In a flash, the maharaja seized the baby Molly and moved away to the other side of the room.
“Give her back,” Rocky cried, rushing toward him.
“I wouldn’t attempt to get her off me,” Waqt spat, the words machine-gunning out of his mouth. He put his foot up to prevent Rocky from coming closer. “If you do, I’ll be forced to drop her in a different time zone where you won’t be able to see her
again.” Rocky stopped dead in his tracks, and the six-year-old Molly ran to Molly. She didn’t understand how she’d been transported here, but she did know that the best place in the room was away from the giant and beside the big girl on the bed. More waves of warmth and security flooded through the oldest Molly as she held her younger selves.