A NEW CAPTAIN SCARLET STORY FOR HALLOWEEN
BY LYDIA SHERIDAN
Wake up, Bethany. Rise and shine.
‘It’s the middle of the night…’
Exactly. Get up. Now.
I rise, slowly, forcing myself to clamber out of bed. Once upright, I run my hands through my hair, trying to comb it into submission. It’s surprising how untidy it can get, even though it’s short. The style is boring, but it’s very practical for my job, Lieutenant Silver, of Spectrum.
Some people seem to think it funny that I take my job so seriously, because, when off-duty, I’m light-hearted, even ditzy. I’ve even been accused of being naive, in an adolescent sort of way, something which I objected against strongly.
Glancing in the mirror, I see that my eyes look black, my skin almost ghostly white. I wrap my arms around myself, feeling goose bumps erupt all over my body. It’s so cold.
I hear her voice. It sounds so close I can almost sense her standing behind me, whispering in my ear. I know she’s not there really. I know I’m by myself.
‘Not tonight. Please. I’m so tired. I had a long shift because Serena’s in the Med Campus.’
Good. You know why, right?
‘Yes, okay, stop bragging. I didn’t want her to get injured.’
She laughed at you. When you fell down the escalator from Central Control.
‘She didn’t mean it. Everyone laughed and I wasn’t that hurt. I’ve got used to it. You know I can be really clumsy.’
She disregarded your feelings. She deserved everything she got.
‘She didn’t. I wish there was something I could do to make her better.’
Why do you want her to get better? I hope she gets worse. I hope she dies. That’ll teach her.
‘That’s so horrible!’
I know. But she deserved it, she really did. And we taught her a lesson, together.
‘I didn’t want to, you made me! Why do you always tell me what to do?’
Because I’m your friend.
‘Serena’s my friend too!’
I shout it, loudly, then clap my hands over my mouth. What if someone has heard? Pausing, I listen for movement in the rooms either side of mine. Nothing. My voice still reverberates around the room, as if there are twenty Bethany Craig’s yelling back at me. I can’t believe I’m attempting to argue with her.
I have to apologise.
It’s okay, I guess. Just don’t argue with me, all right? I know what’s best for you. Eliminate the enemy.
‘I still don’t understand why.’
If some people have a problem with you, we’ll deal with it. Together.
‘But Serena is my friend. She’s not an enemy.’
She is. Think about it. All the times when you’ve tripped up, dropped something, even just when you’ve pronounced something wrongly. All accidents. All mistakes. But she laughed.
‘It’s minor, it doesn’t matter!’
I’ve lived with this…condition for a long time, since I was a small child.
She started out as just an imaginary friend, a little girl who was my companion, and I grew up with her. But she took over. I didn’t know at first how powerful she was. But she showed me.
When I tried to shake her off, tell myself that she wasn’t real and that I was too old for this game, she’d punish me. Hurt me until I did her bidding just to get the pain to stop. I hate it. I am a criminal.
Serena isn’t the first one to get hurt.
I can’t believe I did it. I may have done it before, but not to someone I respect as much as Serena.
She’d been talking to some Engineer guy who liked her, teasing him, flirting with him. By rights, she shouldn’t really have been near Engineering, but that’s never stopped her before.
When he left, she’d stayed there, leaning on the metal railings that are supposed to prevent you falling over the sides of the platforms. I walked up behind her, and pushed her. Hard.
She fell from quite a height, screaming. I’d moved back, closed my eyes, but I still heard the thud as she hit the ground, and the snap, as her forearms broke. She’d put them out to try and break her fall. It didn’t make any difference.
The Engineer came back, having heard the noises, and starting shouting at me in a panic, asking if I’d seen what happened. I was confused as to why he didn’t automatically suspect me.
I couldn’t look as the assorted nurses took her past me on a stretcher. Instead, I studied the Engineer. His face was drained of all colour, his eyes wide open in shock. He hadn’t seen it happen, yet it had still affected him so badly.
We were both questioned afterwards. In his state, the Engineer forgot all about me. He didn’t mention that I had been alone with Serena. He made it sound as though I’d been there all the time they were talking.
No one blamed me. I wish I could have told them that I did it.
I want to stop all this, I really do, but I can’t bear the pain when she punishes me. I know that if I attempt to turn myself in, she’ll kill me. Besides, she’s, sort of…my friend. I was so lonely before I started to talk to her. When no one else was willing to listen, she would. She’d comfort me, and we’d concoct ways of getting back at the people who’d insulted me. It was fun at first, but it all got a little too real. She actually forced me to do all the things that were just supposed to be strange, over-the -top inventions of my imagination.
I can’t do this any more. I can’t take it. I just have to stop her.
Bethany, listen. I know you don’t want to do this, but it’s for the greater good. You’ll thank me in the end. And aren’t I your best friend?
‘I don’t know.’
‘I am, Bethany. I am.’
‘Okay, you are. But…please…if we’re friends, don’t make me hurt them.’
‘Anyone on this base! Please, please don’t make me hurt them! If you truly are my friend, you won’t make me do things I don’t want to do!’
She’s not in the mood to listen. Things have changed since I was small. I can hear her humming, a gentle, but somehow sinister tune, inside my head.
‘Are you there?’
Oh, I’m always here. You know that. And you will do what I say. Now.
Her voice sounds almost bored. She doesn’t care.
I know what’s coming next. I try to brace myself, but it’s no good.
I fall to my knees, almost hitting my head on the bedside cabinet. I can hear her screaming inside my head, my ears are ringing; my eyes are tight shut as she starts to punish me.
My head hurts so much. I clutch it, trying to stop myself from yelling out in pain.
I can’t give in. I can’t give her what she wants.
I can hear her panting. I struggle to get up, then fall against the mirror. I can see now that I’m covered in sweat, hardly able to breathe. I strain to hear her.
Her quiet, lisping voice starts singing. She sounds so much like a child.
Best friends, we’re friends forever-
I cut her off. Suddenly, I hear someone pressing my door bell frantically. I don’t mean to answer, but, almost on autopilot, I walk over.
It’s Elaine; she has the room across the corridor. She looks perplexed, studying me as if checking for some sort of injury.
‘Are you okay? I don’t want to sound too concerned or anything, but I heard shouting and a sort of bang, and just wondered…is someone else in there? I thought I heard talking as well.’
I can tell from the tone of her voice that she’s quite worried, even though she’s trying to pretend she’s not.
I take a deep breath.
‘I’m okay. Don’t worry.’
‘I wasn’t. I just…never mind. You absolutely sure you’re all right?’
I could tell her. I could try and end this. I could try…
A painful twinge in my head makes me grit my teeth.
Elaine looks at me, her eyebrows raised. ‘What is it?’
I close my eyes, and fall against the doorframe. Elaine grabs my upper arms, trying to support me.
‘What’s wrong? Are you hurt?‘
I look at her, and she averts her gaze. She swallows, then says, ‘I’m not going to lie to you. You have been acting…strangely, since what happened with Serena. You’ve been all quiet, and…withdrawn. It’s not like you, and I’m not the only one to have noticed. These sort of things can affect you, believe me, I know, but…’
I start to panic. Does she suspect something? Does she know?
Yes, she does! It’s obvious! Can’t you see, can’t you understand? She’s not your friend, she’s Captain Ochre of Spectrum! The enemy! Get rid of her!
I open my eyes slowly. Elaine’s own eyes are wide and fearful, and the grip on my arms is tightening. I bet she thinks I’m a freak though.
‘Elaine, I’m sorry. I am so, so sorry.’
I force her off, and she staggers, still looking puzzled. I don’t think she understands the danger she’s going to be in.
The voice in my head is laughing as I withdraw the penknife from the drawer in the bedside table, and try to attack her.
She raises her arms to block me, but cries out as I cut them. They’re only defensive wounds, she can be hurt so much more. She starts shouting, calling for help.
I take a quick, desperate slash at her face, but it only gives her a gash, as she moves back just in time.
She tries to hit me. I move but her fist still connects with my shoulder. I almost drop the knife, just managing to hold onto it. Quickly, before she can protect herself, I curl my fingers around the handle and jab it upwards, under her arms, into her stomach. Once, twice.
Her mouth opens. It’s as if she’s screaming, but nothing is coming out. She drops to her knees, her hands over her stomach. I can see the blood.
Elaine’s weak cries faded after a while. She’s alive, just. She could have protected herself better, but she wasn’t expecting anything like that.
I’m covered in her blood, but I don’t wash it off. It’s evidence. I can’t give myself in, but I can help Security to catch me.
I can hear the footfalls now, as I curl up, holding the knife.
Her voice sounds sad, but I haven’t turned myself in. She won’t hurt me.
You’ve done so well. We’ll still be friends, whatever happens, Bethany.
As two security men pull me to my feet, I hear her again. Something I don’t want to hear, but I knew she’d say it.
We’ll always be together, Beth. Best friends forever.