Being hunted for the first time in his pitiful unexciting life meant little to Quebus Monkin at this precise moment. With heart threatening to ‘thud’ its way out of his chest, all Quebus realised was that he was being hunted. His life was in danger and in such situations his main intention was to save his neck.
Quebus surged onwards, crashing through tearing brambles which desperately tried to restrain this intruder upon hits territory. His flimsy clothes were scant protection against the hungry undergrowth which seemed, with each thorn, thistle or needle, to be wanting to carry as much flesh with it as possible.
His mind strayed back to a few hours earlier when he and his companion had set out on their journey with the intention of finding civilisation, after they had found themselves stranded upon the chill, desolation of the moors, when suddenly a huge, black shape launched itself at his friend, snarling and tearing at him as he stood in abject terror unable to do anything to help but watch the brutal killing...Quebus tried to block the image from his terror-stricken mind.
A snarl, deep and throaty rattled its warning of death from the bushes at his flank. He moaned like a naughty child and began to continue his run; legs pumping, heart thumping, lungs heaving, his stomach about to reveal its contents to the enfolding night.
Then he saw it...salvation!
A light burned with a fiery aura through the intertwining bushes that sought to block it out.
The light came from a tiny cottage of hornstone, covered with creeping ivy clambering its green fingers in a protective hug around the cottage.
Reaching out pleading hands, attempting to grasp the building that was yards away from him, Quebus exerted himself until the last. It was a wasted effort.
Salivating jaws suddenly snapped towards his view. He saw the black shape again as he had done earlier rise from the hunched position and leap with the agility of a hurdler for his jugular. As the hairy beast began to tear at its prey into his malleable flesh, he could hear voices calling…
‘They must be from heaven,’ he tried to gurgle the question. He failed.
As the voices grew in number, joined by other harsh, guttural voices, the animal which had attached itself with such furious attraction to Quebus’ throat, tensed and looked around itself. The hackles upon its matted, black hairy hide rose. They never let him devour his prey, but now it knew it was about to become the hunted unless it fled.
‘There’s the bloody fiend! Spread out, get it!’
A bulky figure broke into the small clearing to gaze with reverence and disgust, upon the twitching body at his feet. He was dressed in the typical attire of an early nineteenth century labourer.
Another swarthy bearded man joined him at his shoulder. ‘A fiend is it now, Marlok?’ The scorn was noticeable in his voice.
‘Aye, a fiend. It’s killed one of our own...poor Quebus.’ Solemnly, Marlok shook his head and hung it in shame. ‘It’s time it was finished,’ Removing the bulky pistol from his belt, Marlok plunged into the all engulfing forest as a whining howl shook the unearthly silence left in his wake…
Peri stumbled drunkenly into the main console room and stared at the oscillating central column atop the gleaming main console. The vertical motion of the column did little to help her heaving stomach:
‘What a night!’ she murmured, clutching the door frame for support. Suddenly she felt a heavy hand slap onto her back.
‘Good morning, Peri. I trust you slept well?’ said the Doctor, like a beaming early morning sun, with a freshness of vitality that defied Peri’s imagination this early, bounced across to the console
Peri would have been violently sick on his back if she had not restrained herself. ‘Slept well? This machine of yours was bucking about like a bronco! A storm at sea would’ve been calmer.’
Lovingly, the Doctor console the console, stroking its sleek lines gently. ‘Don’t listen to her old girl. I still think you’re wonderful.’
‘That’s rich, you care more for that damn instrument panel than you do for me.’ screeched Peri, trying to remain calm but failing miserably.
‘Rubbish,’ intoned the Doctor, ‘it’s just that the TARDIS is a very sensitive machine. It needs a bit of love and affection. I can’t help what it does, after all, it’s about as predictable as English weather.’ Just to make sure the TARDIS wasn’t offended, the Time Lord gave the console another pat.
Deciding she had lost this one to the Doctor’s calm and charm, she sidled her way to his side and gazed nonchalantly at one of the flashing indicator screens. ‘Where are we going?’
‘Who knows?’ replied the Doctor, cheerfully.
Peri doubted if he did. ‘Look, can’t you control this contraption of yours?’
Rather indignantly, the Time Lord replied, ‘Who wants to control it? That’s the whole point of travelling in the TARDIS, the thrill of the unexpected’ His words were about to ring disastrously true.
The entire room lurched threatening to vomit its occupants out through the main doors. The Doctor was flung in a flurry of arms and legs straight onto his back. Slightly bewildered, he shook his head. ’Not that thrilling!’ he chided angrily.
Groaning its protests like some raging behemoth with a thorn in its foot, the main column began to vibrate and wisps of smoke began curling, rolling fingers upwards.
Peri, clutching the edge of the console for dear life, tried not to state the obvious. ’Doctor, I get...the impression something’s wrong.’ He had failed again.
‘What makes you think that?’ retorted the Doctor as he crawled his way towards her, grabbed the console and began stabbing frantically at a myriad array of buttons. ’Some kind of extra special interference. That’s what’s been attacking the TARDIS’ drive units.’
Jagged forks of electricity began crackling across the surface of the console forcing the Doctor to beat a hasty retreat, the whole room began to distort and stretch, like a reflection in a fairground ’Hall of Mirrors’, before snapping back into normality, ending with an eruption of flames and chocking black smoke as the central column snarled, moaned and juddered to a grinding halt.
‘By Rassilon, Peri, we were nearly a few seconds away from break up. Luckily for us she’s got sense enough to land us somewhere.’
Tears streaking her face and coughing gasps coming from her throat, the young American chided angrily. ‘Why...why don’t you hang a medal around her…’ she corrected herself, the TARDIS did not have a neck.
‘Are you alright?’ sounding really concerned, the Doctor helped Peri to her feet and dusted her off with his polka dotted handkerchief. ‘Now, that’s better. Let’s see where we are shall we?’ He activated the scanner controls and watched expectantly as the scanner flaps opened. Peri screamed.
Gnashing jaws were thumping against the scanner surface, wrinkled fur covered shin pulled back from blood smeared, gleaming white, razor-sharp teeth. Saliva, mucus and scarlet flowing liquid mixed in an unholy trinity leaving their trail upon the outside of the TARDIS. Then the horrific creature vanished from view. The scanner followed it as it bolted off across the windswept, bleak mist shrouded moors.
Eyes widened, the Doctor was mesmerised by the spectacle. He gasped, ‘A carnivorous quadruped!’
‘A...a what?’ stuttered Peri, heart bouncing against her chest and body quivering.
‘A wolf, Peri. A wolf. Such savagery, such cunning…’ Suddenly another figure appeared on the screen, racing after the fleeing wolf, gun in hand, jacket billowing behind him. He turned and stared towards the screen, shock an angry fist and continued the pursuit.
‘Come on, Peri. We’ve got to stop him!’ The Doctor flicked up the main door lever. ‘Animals of that grace and beauty shouldn’t be hunted like that...it’s inhuman.’ He strode determinately out of the TARDIS.
The estranged Peri could do little but follow her guardian out of the TARDIS and try to stop him before he got them into more trouble. He was bounds ahead of her and fast catching up, and halting the prey he was pursuing.
Marlok roughly shoved the Doctor aside. ‘Leave me be! It’s because o’ you I’ve lost him!’
‘You don’t care do you? You don’t care about the poor animal do you?’ Taking the man by the lapels, the Doctor began to shake him violently.
‘That poor animal’s killed one of my mates, it’s about time…’ Marlok looked around himself, dawn was about to break and the sun spread its light across the land. ‘Damn, it’s too late. I must get back to the village, if you’ll let me go.’ He felt the stranger’s hands leave his shoulders.
Standing with his hands up apologetically, his face a mask of innocence, the Doctor said, ‘I’m sorry about that, I didn’t realise what you were doing. I’m sorry about your friend also.’
Seething with restrained anger, Marlok retorted, ‘Aye, that’s as maybe, but if you hadn’t stopped me I wouldn’t have felt so sorry anymore, neither would you. Fare tee well stranger.’ He broke free of the Time Lord and strode away straight past a startled Peri, who had eventually caught up with the Doctor.
‘Charmed, I’m sure,’ she scowled as Marlok swept past her without any indication of her presence.
Sighing as if the troubles of the world were upon his shoulders, the Doctor gazed with relief at his companion. ‘Not a man I would dare cross.’ He looked around himself with the air of a country gentleman. ‘Well then, Peri, a brisk stroll across the moors and then a hearty breakfast, I think.’
‘Why on Earth do you want to stroll across the moors for?’ she asked pulling her coat ( which she had hastily slung around her shoulders on leaving the TARDIS ), more tightly around her, to offer some resistance against the chill breeze that was swaying the long grass so that it rippled like a shallow sea.
‘For one thing, Peri, I’m more observant than our friend there…’ He noted her puzzled expression. ‘He was so intent on going back to the village, he failed to notice that’s he’d done his job. The wolf collapsed a little over that way,’ the Doctor indicated and they both set off, Peri grumbling to herself but just making sure that the Doctor could hear her.
Whether he did or not, he was not about to reveal. Already he was ascending a steep rise and just over the crest he would find what he had been seeking. ‘Seek and ye shall find!’ Like some ancient prophet he stood poised there jubilant until he looked down over the other side of the escapement into the gully below.
Peri watched his expression change and she rushed towards him gazing where he gazed awestruck. She recovered, strangely, more quickly than the Doctor and began hopping towards the body she had seen from the top of the bank.
‘Come on, Doc...hurry it up!’