Charlie and the Monster

By Michael Mayo

Charlie eyed the ornamental clock above the television set with secret - and intense - interest. It was ten o'clock, and Charlie's bedtime was a strictly enforced nine-thirty. In fact, tonight was the first time that Charlie could remember staying up this late without arousing his parent's annoyance.

Charlie sat on the familiar family sofa, his mother next to him. Charlie's dad sat on a comfy chair next to the couch. Both parents seemed absorbed by the programme currently blaring out of the television set. Charlie tried to watch the TV, but his expression became one of frustration when he realised that he was too tired to concentrate on the programme anyway. His eyes returned to the clock as the minutes ticked by.

Charlie was only five, but he prided himself with the fact that he could tell the time. He had literally taught himself from books that his parents had bought for him.

The hands on the clock's face met at ten o'clock, and Charlie wondered if his parents had forgotten totally about him. What if they did not send him to bed at all that night?

A few minutes later music began pouring from the television. Charlie's mother sighed. Charlie's father picked up a few pages of the evening's newspaper from the coffee table and began glancing over them.

‘Bedtime Charlie,’ said mother. Charlie moaned.

‘I'm not tired, mum. I just want to see what's on the telly next.’ He used that protest almost every night - and the result was always the same: he was never allowed to see what was on the telly next.

Charlie kissed his parents goodnight and went off to bed.

All of the house except for the lounge was bathed in the partial darkness of a night with only the meagre amount of light from a half-moon. Through the windows, Charlie saw the stars twinkling. The branches of the trees outside swayed gently in a mild breeze, playing shadowy animations on the wall and carpeted floor of the corridor that led to Charlie's bedroom.

Unlike other children, Charlie was totally unafraid of the dark. He knew that monsters: vampires, ghouls, boogymen, werewolves and all the rest were merely imaginary. They were created to scare. Charlie entered his bedroom confidently and flicked on the light.

His bedroom had been cleaned up earlier in the day by mother, who was constantly telling Charlie that he should keep his bedroom neat and tidy. The bedroom was like any five year old's room: a small desk in one corner, a closet open a fraction in another, a pile of toys in a cardboard box, crayons and colouring books on a shelf and a selection of soft animals lying on the bed.

Charlie paused. His window hung open, and he felt the cold night air circulating about in his room. Momentarily wondering who had opened the window and why, Charlie closed and latched it firmly and a few minutes later he had changed into his pajamas and leapt into his bed.

With a flick of the light switch Charlie's bedroom was swamped by blackness. Charlie was so tired that he forgot about the open window and fell asleep almost instantly.

Had he not been so weary, Charlie would probably have noticed one odd thing that may have changed his opinion on the supposedly unreal existence of monsters: there was a crude stripe of dark green slime on the windowsill. It was accompanied by muddy footprints and more splotches of green on the carpet.

The footprints led to the partially open closet.

From the closet came a faint, definitely inhuman, breathing sound.

The Doctor watched with almost mesmeric attention as the TARDIS console's central column rose and fell, rose and fell. He even failed to notice the arrival of Tegan through the interior doors.

‘Are we there yet?’ she asked hesitantly. The TARDIS was old and most of the time it was also unreliable. It paid not to be too confident about reaching a destination.

‘Slight detour,’ said the Doctor, still watching the motion of the column. ‘I've picked up odd signals coming from Earth of 1990. I think there may be an alien ship there. It may pay to investigate.’

Tegan's expression changed to one of disappointment. ‘Another slight detour,’ she muttered.


The monster came too four days after the explosion. The monster's period of unconsciousness had not been pleasant: he had been plagued with nightmares and the horrifying half-memories of infinite humiliation, of primitives leering at him with superiority, of flames exploding all around him.

The monster made a rapid damage check to its physical body. The check was instantaneous, for the monster's mind was like a computer connected to the mass of wires that were nerves throughout the monster's body. The result was not pleasing: the monster's body had been crushed and badly burnt in the explosion. Only one eye was functional - the other presumably had been burnt out. The monster also calculated that thirty percent of his bodyweight in protective tissue had been burnt away.

The monster briefly considered committing suicide - a ritual common amongst the monster's species in situations of hopelessness - but the thought was quickly terminated. The chance of surviving the explosion had been slim: the fact that the monster had survived meant that perhaps the monster's glorious destiny was yet to be fulfilled.

With intense willpower, the monster lifted its head. Instantly pain wracked the monster's body and he convulsed in agony. Although the pain was almost unbearable, the monster had the inner strength to resist it.

It opened its only functional eye. At first the monster saw swirling white brightness that stung like acid, but it soon subsided into colours and shapes.

The monster calculated himself as having been blown two hundred feet from the site of the explosion. His twisted body was crumpled beneath a green bush, and nearby were several chunks of burnt metal that had been twisted into irregular shapes by searing heat. The monster surmised that the chunks of metal had shielded him from the main force of the explosion, protected him from the heat that had turned them white hot, saved his life.

The monster began crawling on his belly through that dirt which was scattered with the stony remains of the explosion. The monster found ignoring the pain to be an easy task. He focused his mind solely on what he had to do.

The remains of the monsters protective armour fell off as the monster pulled himself inch by inch closer toward the site of the explosion. The monster's burnt fingers oozed green slime and dug into the dirt.

Soon the monster was dragging himself over large pieces of rock and bricks. They were charred black, but the heat that had burnt them had long since drained away. There was no life other than the monster amongst the rubble.

When the monster reached a certain location, he began searching as furiously as he could amongst the fallen bricks and pillars. The time passed quickly, for the monster ignored time as he ignored the pain.

Finally the monster's slimy hand closed around the object of his desire: a small black box which resembled a walkie-talkie. The box was a communicator, and with it, the monster summoned immediately a rescue space ship from his home world.

Satisfied, the monster was about to crawl away from the rubble with the box and find a place of safety to rest and recuperate - but his luck had run out.

The monster heard a shriek of horror from one of the planet's primitives, and suddenly a spear was plunged through the monster's back. This time, the monster screamed in searing agony.


The monster remembered little of what happened next, although images did haunt him.

He saw ugly primitive faces staring down at him in horror and disgust. He heard voices. He remembered being dragged. Dumped. Dragged again. The monster remembered feeling a gentle rocking. He remembered being lifted and then suddenly - water. The primitives had dumped the monster into the sea, and here lay the weakness of the primitives: ignorance. The monster did not breathe so he could survive almost as well in water as in air.

Once again, the monster had cheated death.


The monster pulled himself out of the sea and lay on a beach of gritty sand. The monster felt his exposed and badly burnt skin stinging and shrivelling in the rays of the overhead sun.

Pulling himself over the sand, the monster realised that the sun would kill him if he did not find shelter. Already the monster's last minute reserves of energy were almost gone.

As he crawled, the monster felt the sand beneath him turn to rocks and sharp sea shells. The monster raised its pitiful head and saw to its great pleasure a dark cave, crudely dug by nature into a cliff that towered high above.

The monster dragged himself closer and closer toward the cave. When he was only inches from the line of shade, the monster thought that he could go no further - but an inner obligation to obey orders drove the monster onward, through the pain, and into the cave.

Out of the sunlight, the monster gasped in heaving, guttural breaths of relief. The monster dragged himself to the back of the cave and curled up.

The monster estimated that it would take the remote controlled rescue ship five days to arrive from the closest outpost: until then, the monster had no choice but to sleep.

Concealing the communicator in his belt, the monster adjusted his mental bioclock to awake him in five days, unaware that it too had been damaged. Thus, the monster was still in a deep sleep when the fifth day came.

It was five hundred years later when the monster finally awoke.


When the monster did wake from his long sleep, he had no inkling of how much time had passed.

As far as he knew, it had been five days.

But the monster's first suspicions that he had slept much longer came when he found that he was covered in a thick coating of salty rock dust and a network of cobwebs. The cave had changed as well: it had become larger, the walls having been eaten away with time and decay.

The monster pulled himself effortlessly to his feet, wiping the dust and webs off. The pain was greatly reduced, but had become sharp and constant, as if the monster's body was being pierced by needles. The monster soon realised that his skin had became hard and dry as he had slept - now the movement was causing it to crack and ooze green blood.

He pulled the communicator from his belt and activated it. Although ancient, the device still functioned. The monster was greatly relieved to hear the familiar beeping sound it made -that meant that the rescue ship had arrived. The monster immediately determined the location of the rescue ship from the device and memorised it. The rescue ship was apparently underground - and this momentarily puzzled the monster, making him wonder again how long he, and the rescue ship, had presumably been here. According to the communicator, there were structures built on top of the rescue ship; primitives' dwellings.

With recuperated strength and energy, the monster stumbled out of the cave. Instantly he was hit by bright, warm rays of sunlight. This time, the sun was only a minor irritation. The monster began creeping cautiously along the beach which had changed drastically in shape.

The monster's body had lost a lot of its flesh, and now the hard black skin was plated over brittle bones. In the places where the skin had cracked, the bones were visible beneath and were an unhealthy brown colour.

The monster realised that although he could not fully recover without the assistance of the recharging unit aboard the rescue ship, he could gain sufficient energy to get to the rescue ship in the form of biological stored energy. Although inefficient, it was the only method open to the monster.

The monster stumbled on. Ahead, he heard voices; primitives' voices. The monster collapsed into the sand behind a boulder and looked out.

There were two primitives, one was a male of the species and one a female. They were lying on the sand, doing nothing. Next to the male, a small box blared sounds that irritated the monster.

The monster picked up a rock from the ground. Grinning evilly, he licked his slimy lips and advanced quietly and quickly toward the primitives.

Charlie lay asleep in his bed, his eyes lightly shut, his mind swooning between dreams.

Outside his bedroom door, familiar footsteps passed by. ‘G'night Charlie,’ called mother. Charlie replied with a half-conscious groan. The footsteps faded.

The only sounds in the darkness was the slight swishing of outside branches and the occasional humming of distant cars and then there was a new sound - a creak as the wardrobe door swung gently open. A hoarse, guttural breathing edged toward Charlie. Footsteps - ever so light on the carpet.

Charlie muttered to himself as he slept. The monster leaned over Charlie, its watery, stale breath bathing Charlie's face.

The monster was wearing a thick black cloak which blended into the darkness of the room. Its head was concealed by a hood, but the monster's face was hideous to behold. It was thin and narrow, without a neck or nose. A green substance slowly oozed down the monster's face from various cracks in the black, pock-marked skin. One side of the monster's face had fallen away, leaving half an empty eye socket.

The monster grinned, revealing crumbling brown teeth, when it saw Charlie's sleeping body. The monster reached out its hand toward Charlie's neck and ran a grimy black finger from Charlie's neck to his cheek. Charlie's eyes opened, slowly at first - but the child was jolted instantly awake when he registered the reality of the grinning monster looming over him. Horror filled Charlie's eyes and he opened his mouth to scream - but the monster cupped its hand over Charlie's lips.

The monsters skin was cold and clammy, and Charlie was shaking in mortal terror. The monster spoke. Its voice was rasping, mechanical, totally inhuman. Yet, there must have been some sort of soothing factor there, for Charlie was instantly calmed.

‘Dooooo not beeee afraid, Chaaaaaarlie!’ the monster slurred erratically, ‘I am yooooooour friend!’ The monster removed his hand, letting Charlie breath again. The child stared silently up at the monster. Somehow, Charlie felt that the words of the monster were true. The monster was Charlie's friend.

‘Chaaaaarlie... I need your help, Chaaaaarlie...’ the monster drawled. Slime dribbled down its chin. ‘I will reeeturn tomorrow night, Chaaaaarlie... and remember... do not be afraid!’

The monster retracted into the shadows. Charlie heard the window open and close, and suddenly he was alone again. Yes, thought Charlie in the darkness. The monster was his friend. And friends help one another.

This hypnotically instilled thought ran over and over again in Charlie' s mind until the child returned to the realms of sleep.

The monster kept his word and returned the next night as soon as the house had fallen quiet: Charlie was long since in bed, and his two parents were dozing in a nearby room.

The monster wakened Charlie, who was not at all surprised or horrified the way he had been the previous night. ‘Chaaaarlie... come with meee...’ wheezed the monster. Charlie obeyed: he got out of bed and pulled on a blue dressing gown.

The monster moved to the window and urged Charlie through. Charlie scrambled through the open window, his bare feet touching the wet, cold grass of the house's front lawn outside. Charlie glanced around at the street full of houses that surrounded him. They were familiar to him by daylight. In the darkness, they were great black boxes. Empty cars were parked in front of some of the houses. A few of the houses had windows that were still lit.

The monster joined Charlie and took his hand. Charlie felt no form of horror at the touch of the cold, grotesque three fingered hand. ‘Who are you?’ asked Charlie. ‘Are you a vampire? A ghoul?’

‘You will know who I am in due course,’ hissed the monster in reply. Charlie shuddered, his hypnotic maxim wearing off for a moment, giving way to a tinge of fear as he interpreted the answer.

They hurried down the street. From a distance, Charlie was a moving blue blob in the darkness. The monster was almost invisible: a mere shadow on a shadow. The stars twinkled above, the moon was bright but lightless, a gentle breeze blew.

As Charlie and the monster became indiscernible in the night, the Doctor and Tegan appeared out of the shadows, hurrying after the two. Tegan had a long overcoat pulled around her and was shivering in the cold. She lagged behind the Doctor.

‘Keep up, Tegan,‘ hissed the Doctor urgently, ‘We mustn't loose the alien.‘

Charlie and the monster turned a corner and ran further. Charlie was panting but the monster remained untired. They stopped in front of a circular manhole that was located at the side of the road. The monster fell to his knees and lifted the manhole open. The circular metal plate clattered loudly on the tar road, but no one was roused from their sleep in their safe, compact homes. A foul stench rose from the manhole.

A rusted, narrow ladder led down from the manhole into blackness even blacker than the night itself. ‘Climb doooooown...’ whispered the monster. Charlie remained unmoving.

‘I'm afraid.’ said Charlie in explanation. The monster produced a pen sized torch unlike anything Charlie had seen before. At a touch, the torch illuminated the crudely built brick sewer tunnel beneath. To one side of the tunnel a black stream flowed; to the other, the ladder joined a narrow pathway. The squeaking of distant rats echoed down the tunnel.

‘Do not be afraid... I will protect you...’ Charlie climbed down the ladder. The rungs were wet and icy cold to the touch of Charlie's bare feet and hands, and the concrete pathway was even colder. The monster illuminated the tunnel for Charlie, then followed the child down the ladder.

A cold breeze whispered down the sewer tunnel. Charlie successfully ignored the bad stench; the monster was oblivious to it. The monster led Charlie down the tunnel, only halting when they reached a hole in the brick wall. The hole was very small -only big enough for a child to fit through - and four or so crumbling bricks were piled on the floor beneath the hole.

The monster and Charlie peered through the hole and into the chamber beyond. Stale, musty air wafted out. With the illumination of the torch, they both saw the outline of a door in a far wall.

The monster pressed a piece of metal into Charlie's hand. ‘What is it?’ Charlie asked, curious.

‘A key...’ the monster replied. The monster handed Charlie the pen-torch as well. ‘This is what yoooooou must dooooo...’

Charlie climbed through the hole and into the dark chamber beyond, intent on obeying his instructions. The floor of the chamber was stony and dry, and as he drew closer, pushing through thick cobwebs and wiping away black spiders, Charlie saw that the wall with the door in it curved outwards.

Charlie searched the door with shaking fingers until he found a narrow slot. He dropped the sliver of metal into it and waited. Charlie showed no signs of surprise when the door slid silently open and clean, machine-freshened air flowed out.

The Doctor's expression changed as he smelt the foul stench that rose up from the sewer through the manhole.

Tegan went white. ‘I think I'm going to puke...’ she muttered.

‘Stay here if you like, but I'm going down,’ said the Doctor, producing a torch from one of his pockets.

‘You're mad,’ said Tegan. ‘Anything could be down there.’ The Doctor climbed onto the ladder and began descending into the darkness. Tegan glanced around, firstly at the drops of green slime on the pavement, then the shadowy spaces between the houses and amongst the lightly rustling trees. The shadows gave the illusion - Tegan knew it was an illusion - that something was moving there.

Tegan gulped and resolved that she would stay with the Doctor, and she followed the Time Lord down the metal ladder.

The monster peered through the small hole. Charlie had entered the rescue ship and was now hopefully completing the monster's commands.

There was only one worry in the monster's mind: that Charlie's hypnotic maxim would wear off. Already Charlie had showed signs of fear - fear that Charlie should be ignoring with calm logic. The child was surprisingly strong-willed, thought the monster, for a primitive.

Suddenly the monster heard sounds of movement and footsteps from down the corridor. Taking into account the fact that he was weaponless and in a very weakened state, the monster fled into the shadows.

The Doctor and Tegan edged along the pathway. Tegan was revolted at the though of what might be in the black stream next to them, but she fought off the urge to vomit in disgust and concentrated on following the Doctor.

The hole that Charlie had climbed through moments before became visible ahead with the Doctor's torch. As the Time Lord and Tegan walked towards it, it suddenly exploded outwards.

The Doctor and Tegan threw themselves onto the ground and were pelted by pieces of brick. They heard great splashes as parts of the wall were blown into the stream. There was a brilliant flare of red light and then darkness again.

The Doctor lay for a few moments, regaining his breath after the shock. ‘Tegan - are you alright?’ he asked eventually.

Tegan was massaging her neck where a piece of brick had hit her. ‘I think so,’ she replied. The Doctor helped her to her feet.

The two edged forward to the part of the tunnel where the wall had been blown open. What they saw was a white faced child, trembling in surprise and terror, clad in pajamas and a blue dressing gown, holding a bulky alien blaster that was smoking. The child had obviously not expected the blaster to have such a devastating effect. Behind the child were an open door and a lit interior.

‘Hello?’ said the Doctor. The child stood and stared, his eyes bulging, his mouth hanging open. The child's fingers were clenched over the blaster's handle and trigger, his knuckles white with pressure.

The Doctor edged over to the child, moving through the smoking hole caused by the blaster, avoiding being in the direct line of fire of the blaster should the child accidentally pull the trigger again. When he reached the child, he prized the weapon out of the small hands.

The Doctor snapped his fingers in front of the child's eyes and Charlie was instantly brought out of his trance. Charlie burst into tears and collapsed into the Doctor's arms. ‘Someone's hypnotised him, but he's free of the influence now.’ said the Doctor, passing Charlie to Tegan. ‘Follow me, whoever was with him is probably nearby.’

The Doctor led Tegan and Charlie through the open door and into a brightly lit white room. Tegan gasped at the sight of futuristic computers and machines that lined the walls of the alien room. Although she saw many such wonders on her journeys with the Doctor, she was always amazed by them.

A large silver cabinet was in one corner of the room. There were two doors in the opposite wall. The Doctor edged towards one and touched a panel. The door slid open revealing another, similar room.

‘I recognise the technology,’ said the Doctor.

Charlie wiped the tears from his eyes, feeling safe in Tegan's motherly arms. ‘Whose spaceship is it?’ she asked.

Before the Doctor could reply, the monster had slipped into the room behind them. In the light of the room, the Doctor, Tegan and Charlie saw the creature's grotesque, twisted features in full horrifying view.

Tegan screamed. The Doctor darted forward, but the monster was quicker. The monster pulled open the silver cabinet and slipped inside, shutting the door firmly behind him. The Doctor followed and tried to pull the cabinet open, but it refused to budge. Suddenly the cabinet began throbbing with vibration.

‘What's it doing?’ cried Tegan.

‘I'm not entirely sure, but I'm going to stop it.’ said the Doctor. He picked up the blaster and aimed at the cabinet. ‘Tegan, get yourself and the child out of here! Back to the street.’

‘Doctor what -’

‘Go!’ cried the Doctor angrily. Overcome by the Doctor's urgency, Tegan turned and fled with Charlie.

As soon as his companions were gone, the Doctor opened fire on the cabinet. A stream of fire was spat from the blaster at the cabinet door. The Doctor felt waves of heat reflecting back at him from the door, but suddenly he saw with disappointment that the flames were having no effect on the cabinet door. The cabinet - and no doubt the whole ship - was made of energy absorbent materials! The Doctor cursed, shut the blaster off, and began thinking of a new way to force the monster out.

Energy. Intense, vibrant energy.

It surged through the monster's body, wave after wave. Restoring, healing, rebuilding. The monster forgot about the primitives in his ship - the thought was irrelevant. They would be killed as soon as the recharging was complete.

All that mattered now was the ecstasy of restorative energy that pulsed through the monster's body...again, again, and again...

The Doctor located the ship's arsenal. It contained five blasters that were identical to the one Charlie had had - the socket for a sixth blaster was empty.

The Doctor paused to reconsider his plan. Doubt lingered in his mind - it always did when serious action was called for. A moment later he forced himself to push all hesitation aside and scooped the blasters up in his arms.

The Doctor's plan was simple: the ship was built in energy absorbent materials. But the absorbance capacity was limited -which meant that if enough destructive energy was pumped into the ship, it would eventually overload and disintegrate. If that wouldn't drive the monster out of his cabinet, the Doctor thought grimly, then nothing would.

The Doctor positioned the blasters at various points around the three-roomed ship. All of them were aimed at the walls, and the Doctor placed the weapons on the ‘continuous fire’ setting. A steady stream of fire blasted from the weapons and into the walls where the energy was absorbed and absorbed. As the Doctor set the last gun in position and activated it, he felt the ship rapidly swelling with heat. The blasters had a near infinite energy supply, and they would easily supply the energy absorbent materials of the ship with enough joules of energy to push it to the point of no more absorbance - disintegration.

‘Your time's running out!’ cried the Doctor, hoping that the monster was aware of what was happening outside his cabinet. The walls of the ship were rapidly heating up and the Doctor saw fine cracks beginning to form. The computers and machines began to smoke and emergency warnings beeped from them.

Waves of heat from the walls began pummeling the Time Lord, driving him towards the ship's exit and the coolness outside. The Doctor rapped on the cabinet door, hoping to alert the monster of the danger. He winced when he found that his hand had been burnt.

Parts of the walls were now beginning to glow red. The Doctor realised in horror that his clothes were starting to give off light wisps of curling smoke, and he was ran out of the space ship and into the hot sewer tunnel outside.

The restoration was complete.

The monster felt no more pain, but was bursting with energy that he had not felt in five hundred years. The monster's body had been completely rebuilt: he now weighed almost twice as much as before - his muscles and protective tissue had been completely restored. Likewise, a new suit of space armour had been weaved around the monster's body. The monster opened the cabinet door and stepped out, eager to kill the primitives in his ship.

He was not expecting the heat inside the ship. The monster staggered backwards, his flesh baking. With a great effort only possible because of the monster's recent re-energisation, the monster stumbled toward the exit of his ship.

The Doctor heard movement in front of him and swung round to see the monster standing in the doorway. The Doctor recognised the alien immediately.

Space Commander Linx of the fourth Sontaran army glared at the Doctor with hate. He had recognised the Time Lord by his brain wave pattern. ‘Linx, you're alive...’ The Doctor was visibly shaken.

‘Thanks to the child, I am also well,’ snarled Linx. ‘I will enjoy killing you, Dok-tor. . .repayment for the disgrace you have caused me. And then I will destroy this miserable planet of primitives before returning to the greater glory of my command position!’

Suddenly the ship's walls began to crumble around Linx. Linx glanced around, momentarily worried.

A ball of searing, red hot heat burst out of the ship. It reduced the Sontaran to ash, and turned the surrounding bricks to red dust. The Doctor dived to his right, flying onto the ground, and narrowly missing the lethal explosion of fiery heat as it swept by. It was followed by an enormous rumbling sound - and then silence. Choking black smoke billowed through the shattered wall and filled the sewer tunnel.

Although the tunnel was still filled with hot air, and the stream was still sizzling, the Doctor pulled himself to his feet. Covering his mouth, he stumbled to the opening in the wall and peered through.

The smoke stung his eyes, but the Doctor gave a nod of satisfaction: where the Sontaran space ship had been, there an empty dirt chamber filled with smoking ash.

The Doctor stumbled back down the sewer tunnel and reached the ladder with relief. He was helped through the manhole by Tegan, who coughed in the toxic smoke that mushroomed up.

‘I destroyed the Sontaran and his ship,’ the Doctor recounted, sitting on the footpath and breathing deeply the clean night air. He realised that he was covered from head to foot in black soot. ‘I think I need a bath!’ he said cheerfully.

Tegan agreed. ‘As soon as we take Charlie back home,’ she said, nodding at the bare footed child who stood watching them from a few feet away. Tegan turned back to the Doctor and the two discussed what had happened.

Unnoticed, Charlie pulled the Sontaran's pen-torch from his pocket and looked at it sadly. The hypnotic maxim inside Charlie's mind had not been completely eliminated - and never would be. A tear rolled down Charlie's cheek as he deduced that his friend had been killed.

This item appeared in Timestreams 2 (April 1991).

Index nodes: Fiction