Julia shivered. Not because she was cold. At not quite ten o’clock in the morning it was already warm enough for her to be wearing a leotard top and a small skirt and sandals on bare feet. Chrístõ had the coat she had discarded over his arm along with his leather jacket which didn’t seem quite as practical today as it usually did.

What made her shiver was the laughter emanating from a glass display case near where they stood in the queue waiting to be admitted to Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Chrístõ had brought her there in the summer of 2003 for her half term holiday treat, assuring her that it was just about the best fun to be had in the galaxy.

She was quite prepared to believe him. The various rides she could see inside looked exciting, even to somebody who had ridden plasma storms in a TARDIS. But what was spoiling it right now was having to stand next to that horrible thing with the laughter that chilled her to the bone.

She looked at the figure inside the glass case and it did nothing to reassure her. It was a mechanical clown about the size of a thin and not very tall Human male, with a doll sized duplicate of itself sitting on its knee. The clown was sat on a sort of throne and it span around and laughed continuously.

And it was the most creepy thing she had seen since…

No, she told herself. She wasn’t going to think of the vampires on a sunny day when she was meant to be happy. That was a nightmare long forgotten. She was happy now. She loved her aunt and uncle, and her cousins. She loved her school, and the gym club and ballet. She loved going to the bowling alley in town on a Saturday afternoon with her friends and eating food that her aunt frowned upon.

She loved Chrístõ, her boyfriend who was a Time Lord and the most exciting person she had ever met in her life.

She had every reason to be happy. She had every reason not to be haunted by memories of the terrifying past Chrístõ had rescued her from.

But right now, this garishly coloured mechanical clown was actually beginning to make her feel the same creeping horror she had known on that dead spaceship where she had hid from the vampires and dreaded the day her luck would run out.

She tried to listen to what other people were saying around her and block out the sound of the laughter.

It didn’t help much. Most of the people in the queue were talking about how much THEY hated the clown too.

“Bloody thing,” said a man whose wife was comforting their small child who insisted it was ‘too scary’. “You know, a few years back they had a fire here. Burnt down the building this used to stand outside. And would you believe the bloody clown was away being cleaned?” He laughed. “I’d have thrown it on the fire.”

“I’m going to SET it on fire in a minute,” the mother of the crying child said. “Does it have to do that ALL the time?”

“It’s so creepy,” somebody else remarked. “The size of it, it’s so lifelike.”

“I heard about one in California,” said a woman with an American accent. “And they x-rayed it and found there was a real Human skeleton inside. Somebody had done a murder, years back, in the 1930s, and hid the body inside the dummy.”

“Ugghhh!” Julia squealed and stepped away from the display case.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Camilla said, stepping closer and looking at the dummy. “For one thing, WHY would anyone x-ray a thing like that? And how would the body, when it was fresh, have been hidden inside? It would be too big.”

“Besides,” Kohb added. “Dead bodies don’t just evaporate off the skeleton. There would have been ‘seepage’.”

He didn’t need to elaborate about what “seepage” was. Everyone had a graphic image in their heads of what a decaying corpse in a clown costume would look like.

Unfortunately it didn’t allay the feelings about the clown. Rather it seemed to increase them. As one the queue for tickets seemed to back away from the creepy laughing clown.

Chrístõ sighed and extracted his sonic screwdriver from his jacket pocket. He passed the coats to Kohb and stepped towards the case. He set it to short range scanning mode and examined for any trace of calcification or Human remains of any kind. There was nothing. The clown was just clockwork or hydraulics of some kind, covered in a costume.

The laughter was certainly annoying, though. He looked around. Most of the people in the crowd were watching him curiously. It definitely fell into the category of silly showing off that would lose him some marks at the Academy. But even so…

He pressed the sonic screwdriver up against the glass case and pressed the button. The laughter stopped, mid-guffaw. So did the rotating chair and the mechanical movements of the clown itself.

There was a round of applause from the crowd as Chrístõ returned to the queue for a peaceful ten minutes before the ticket office opened and they all shuffled forward to get their plastic unlimited ride wristbands.

“That man shone a light at the clown and it stopped,” said the small child to the Pleasure Beach attendant who was fastening on his wristband. Chrístõ practiced an inscrutably innocent look as several of the staff looked at him and then each other, and then realised that they hadn’t been hearing the laughter for at least ten minutes.

“If I thought he really had, I’d give him a year’s free entry pass,” the attendant whispered to her colleague as the child and his parents moved along and she took the American woman’s credit card in payment for her wristband. “I expect the bloody thing just broke down.”

But she smiled especially warmly at Chrístõ when it was his turn, and he was sure her ‘enjoy your day at the Pleasure Beach’ was more sincerely meant than it was for any other guest.

“Don’t look so smug,” Camilla told him as they emerged into the Pleasure Beach. “You committed an act of vandalism in front of about fifty people.”

“It was a service to the community,” he said. “Come on, I want to take Julia on the log flume before the queues get too long.”


They had a very exciting, very fun day. They rode all the rides and ate a lot of sticky and unhealthy foods that Julia’s aunt would never approve of. Later, they went to the ice show that was one of the evening attractions of the Pleasure Beach. Julia was entranced. Chrístõ wondered if he ought to buy her a pair of ice skates and let her learn to skate in addition to the gymnastics and ballet that she loved. Then he wondered what she would do when they were married and living on Gallifrey. They had ballet and opera, of a rather grandiose kind. But ice skating and gymnastics were unheard of there.

Of course, he could always bring her home to Earth on visits. And to see her family on Beta Delta IV. She could see those things there. He hoped that would be enough. He knew his father had brought his mother from Earth to live on Gallifrey but he had never asked if she was completely happy there. He always assumed she was. But perhaps he should ask his father some advice about that.

“Oh,” Camilla said as they neared the exit of the park at the end of the show. “I’ve lost my shawl. I had it over my shoulder bag because it’s so warm still, I didn’t need it. But it must have fallen.”

“I’ll go back and look,” Kohb offered and turned back. The others waited outside the gate, hoping that he wouldn’t get locked in. The security guard promised to let their friend out before they unleashed the guard dogs, but Julia looked so alarmed by that he smiled reassuringly and admitted he was kidding.

Kohb wasn’t locked in, but they WERE among the last to leave the park as the bright neon signs and strings of coloured lights were all turned off and all that remained was some security lights. It was an eerie contrast as they made their way around to the car park and the hire car Chrístõ had taken for the duration of their holiday. It was only a mere ten or fifteen minutes ago that there was music and the noise of the rides operating and people laughing and talking. And now it was all still and quiet.

“I would hate to walk through there at night,” Camilla said as she looked up at the framework of one of the coasters, white against the dark sky. “It’s as if the souls of all the people who have been there in the daytime leave an echo in the air afterwards.”

“That’s entirely possible,” Chrístõ said. “People when all is said and done are walking, talking energy producing, energy using machines. All that life, all that energy expelled in a place like this, it is easy to imagine a trace of it still hanging around. It’s the same with railway stations. The London underground system is notorious for it. The night staff are always reporting seeing ‘ghosts’.”

“This is not a good time to tell ghost stories,” Kohb told him. “In the dark.”

“I should have thought it was a perfect time to tell ghost stories,” Camilla answered him. “When it’s dark and creepy and atmospheric.”

“NOT when you know the sort of stories we tell on Gallifrey,” Kohb told her. “The Fendahl… The…”

“Yes,” Chrístõ agreed. The other thing Kohb was about to mention was the Great Vampires. Two horrors of legend that their people reputedly vanquished millennia ago. But vanquished or not, Julia didn’t need to know that there were other creatures than the ones she had encountered that were capable of sucking the life from people.

They reached the car. Chrístõ got into the driver’s seat. He was the only one of them who actually knew how to drive Earth cars of the early 21st century. Julia fastened her seatbelt in the passenger seat. Kohb and Camilla sat next to each other in the back. Julia looked behind and smiled. They were holding hands. She was SURE they had done so several times on the scarier white knuckle rides, AND in the not at all scary River Caves and Alice in Wonderland ride. And he had been very attentive towards her. It was HE who went back to look for her shawl.

She turned forward again as she wondered if it was possible for a Time Lord and a Gendermorph to be an item. Was it any more difficult, she supposed, than a Time Lord and a Human? She looked at Chrístõ as he half turned in his seat to double check that the darkened car park WAS clear for him to reverse out of the parking space. He did so smoothly, turning the car neatly. He told her once that he enjoyed driving Earth cars because he liked the feeling of being in control of a machine that did exactly what he wanted it to do when he turned the wheel or put his foot on the pedals. Julia teased him by saying that was just because his TARDIS didn’t always do what he wanted.

“WHAT the &*%$£@#!” As he turned around and changed gear to go forward something loomed in front of the car. He yelled and jammed his foot back down on the brake. Julia yelped as the seatbelt pulled tight against her, then let out a shriek that matched Camilla’s in pitch and intensity as she saw the reason why Chrístõ had made that emergency stop.

The figure turned and stared at them through the windscreen, briefly, but not so briefly that they could mistake it for a trick of the light or a figment of an overtired imagination. Then it turned and ran.

Chrístõ reached for his seatbelt release, but this WAS a hire car, and he was not as instinctively familiar with it as he was with his TARDIS. He fumbled for several wasted seconds trying to get out of the restraint. By the time he got out of the car the figure was gone. He ran in the direction it had gone, but that led to a dead end at the back of the toilet blocks. He looked around and could see nothing. Then his eye caught something part way up the high wall. He reached and found a scrap of cloth caught on a nail.

He decided against climbing the wall himself. It was sheer and had no handholds, and besides, that actually did constitute breaking and entering.

He walked slowly back, hugging the shadows of the buildings as he made his way towards the main entrance where they had stood in the sunlight twelve hours ago, waiting to be let in.

He tripped over something in the narrow pathway between the end of the toilet block and the back of the art deco style round tower that stood at the north corner of the park. He raised himself up and looked into the dead eyes of a man in the uniform of the Pleasure Beach security staff. It might have been the one who let them out of the park not fifteen minutes ago. He wasn’t sure.

What he was sure of, was that the man had died only a few minutes ago. And he had been strangled. By the penlight mode of his sonic screwdriver he could see the bruising where fingers had pressed hard.

He got up and continued running. Although the park was closed, there was still maybe half an hour until the stage show in the theatre next to the north entrance finished and the outer gates were still open. He was able to get as far as the plaza where the annoying clown’s display case stood.

The clown? Although the dead man was still in the forefront of his mind, the clown was a part of this, too. A big part. He bent down and picked up an object that caught his eye. It was the miniature version of the clown that should have been sitting on its knee. He compared the scrap of cloth he had found. It was the same pattern.

He looked back at the empty throne and the open panel of the glass case.

Then he turned and ran to the security gate that now closed off the main part of the pleasure beach. He rattled it and yelled until a security guard came running.

“You’ve got a dead man out here,” Chrístõ told him. “And a missing clown.”


“The CLOWN walked out in front of our CAR,” Julia insisted as a police officer tried to take statements from all four of them in the interview room in the Pleasure Beach security office. “Chrístõ just about managed to stop before he ran it over.”

“I was in no danger of running it over,” Chrístõ corrected her. “I was doing about two miles per hour. And no, NONE of us have been drinking. Julia was in danger of od’ing on candy floss earlier in the day, but we had a good non-alcoholic meal before the ice show. We were ALL stone cold sober and in control of our wits, and all four of us saw the clown standing there, in front of us. IT saw us.”

“THE clown from the display case?” the officer said.

“I know how that sounds,” Camilla told him. “And I know you’re going to say next that it was a man dressed in the same costume. And that would be the logical answer, of course. But…”

“Where’s the REAL clown?” Kohb finished the question for her.

“Somebody stole it, obviously,” the police officer said. “Probably the same person who killed the security guard. He must have disturbed them in the act.”

The police officer picked up the clown doll that lay in the middle of the table between them. He examined it carefully. They could all see it was mostly a sawdust filled dummy with some wires that would have animated it. The wires were ripped loose as if with some force.

“If somebody had stolen the clown, then it would be stupid to rip the small one off it,” Chrístõ said. “It surely would devalue it.”

“How much is a creepy mechanical clown worth?” Camilla asked.

“Millions,” said the Pleasure Beach security man who had brought them coffee as they sat making their witness statements. “It’s an irreplaceable antique. A one off. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world. It’s insured for millions. But when Mr Thompson finds out he won’t care about the money. It’s sentimental value. It’s been here since 1935, when his grandfather first took over the management of the park.”

“Could it be for ransom?” the police officer speculated. “If the Clown is so valuable. Somebody could be thinking of holding it for ransom until the management pay up.”

“It’s none of those things,” Julia insisted. “The CLOWN must have killed the man. The CLOWN did it.”

“That’s ridiculous,” the police officer said. But Julia spoke for all four of them. They ALL knew what they had seen. And Chrístõ looked at the security guard and couldn’t help thinking that he was less disbelieving than the policeman.

The radio crackled and the police officer looked around at them all. They were not suspects as such. They were witnesses. And they could, in theory, decide to leave any time.

“Please wait here,” he said to them before leaving the room to respond to the radio call.

“You know something, don’t you?” Chrístõ said to the guard. “Sit down. Talk to me.”

The guard looked at him for a moment and wondered why a young man who looked no older than twenty and wore a leather jacket looked like somebody who he should take orders from. Then he sat and identified himself as Dennis Lawlor, security manager.

“There are stories about that clown. I’ve had perfectly sober men who’ve worked the night security for years who SWEAR it moves on its own when it’s switched off at night. One time we nearly went into a major lockdown because one of my men reported that it was missing, like tonight. But when I looked it was sitting there looking as creepy as ever.”

“But nobody has ever DIED before,” Chrístõ said.

“If there were murders in the night, at a place as famous as this…” The security guard didn’t need to go on. His point was made. “It’s going to look bad when it makes the papers as it is. A man dead and a priceless antique missing.”

“Yes.” Chrístõ gave an ironic half smile. “I wonder which the papers will think the biggest headline is?”

“I don’t suppose any of them will say that the clown killed the man,” Julia said.

“I wouldn’t be too sure,” Chrístõ answered her. “The tabloids of this era have some very funny ideas about what constitutes a headline story. But getting back to the point. Your security staff, who are all, so far as you know, sober, intelligent men, not given to hallucinations, have on more than one occasion in the past, felt there was something a little STRANGE about the clown.”

“That about sums it up, sir,” the guard answered. “But…”

Chrístõ nodded and sat back in his seat thoughtfully. He knew the universe was far more complicated than anyone on Earth in the first decade of the twenty-first century could begin to guess. He knew there was such thing as artificial intelligence. And he knew that most of it had never actually heard of Azimov’s Laws of Robotics. He could easily believe that a robotic life form had killed the guard.

But if it was an artificial intelligence, why did it spend the majority of its time pretending to be a mechanical toy in a display case?

His train of thought was halted by the return of the police officer, followed by another of the Pleasure Beach Staff who brought a laptop computer with him. He set it on the table and loaded what was clearly footage from the security cameras.

“I really don’t know what to say about this,” the officer said. Then he said nothing at all for a long while. Nobody did. They just watched in astonishment.

First they watched the security camera that overlooked the plaza by the north entrance. And there was no mistake. The glass door to the display case opened and the clown stepped out. The saw it bend and wrench the small dummy from its knee, tearing the fabric where it was sewn in place. It threw down the dummy and started to move off across the plaza. They saw the security guard run towards it as it reached the path between the two buildings, where it was cut off from view. Then the camera view switched to the car park. They saw the hire car reverse out of the parking space. Then the clown running across the car park, Chrístõ jamming on the brake, and the clown glaring at the occupants of the car before turning and running back towards the park with Chrístõ in pursuit.

The camera picked up what Chrístõ didn’t see because he was still untangling himself from the seatbelt. The clown leapt over the fifteen foot perimeter fence as if it had spring-loaded feet, catching its torn knee on a nail before it disappeared over the wall.

“You’ll all be pleased to know,” the police officer said, finally. “The one thing that video does is rule out any of you four as the killer. But before I take this back to my DCI and tell him an antique clown is strangling people I’d like to investigate all other possibilities. COULD it have been somebody dressed up in a clown costume? Could somebody have dressed as the clown earlier in the day, for a prank, and sat there…”

“In the hot sunshine we’ve had today?” Kohb pointed out. “In an enclosed glass case? No Human would survive that. And then WHY the murder?”

“It wasn’t a man dressed up,” Julia insisted. “It WAS the clown. Really it was.”

“Then… this is…”

“Something way beyond your scope,” Chrístõ said to the police officer. “But it’s within mine. I can help.”

“Sir… I don’t think…” The officer again wondered why this young man seemed to carry so much authority in his bearing. But there was absolutely no doubt that he did. “What is your scope?”

“I’m an expert on extra-terrestrial lifeforms,” he answered.

“I thought you said you were Chrístõ De Lo…” The officer looked down at his notebook and made a thorough hash of pronouncing his name. “And that you are a…” The police officer frowned. He was sure that he had written ‘law student’ when the four witnesses had all identified themselves before. And his eyes, he was sure, STILL saw the word Law Student. But his brain was telling him that the young man in the leather jacket was a post graduate of the Prydonian Academy, Gallifrey, specialising in the study of extra terrestrial and artificial lifeforms.

It was true, Chrístõ thought. Only the extra-terrestrials he had specialised in were the Humans of planet Earth.

“Well… er… Professor… Doctor… um…”

“Chrístõ,” he said helpfully. There were times to pull rank, but this wasn’t one of them.

“We’re searching the park now. The feeling is that the clown or… whatever… might be in the area still. By all means come along… And the other gentleman… but the little girl…”

“I’m thirteen,” Julia protested. “And I’m not afraid of the dark.”

“Even so,” the police officer said. “This… whatever it is, has KILLED a man. I think it best… we can arrange a driver to take these ladies back to your hotel.”

“No,” Julia insisted. “I’m staying here until Chrístõ is ready to drive us.”

“And I’m certainly not leaving Julia alone,” Camilla added. “We are BOTH staying put.”

“We’re wasting time,” Chrístõ said, deciding the matter. This is a security centre. The girls will be safe here. Come on…” He stood up. Kohb did too, touching Camilla’s hand gently as he did so. The gesture was not lost on any of them.


Even with security lights, the Pleasure Beach was a dark, shadowy place after it closed. There were many hiding places for a fugitive clown. And ordinary methods of searching like heat seeking or sniffer dogs were not going to be any use. It depended on men with good night sight looking for what was out of the ordinary.

As it happened, that was exactly what they had. The Pleasure Beach security guards were all used to walking the paths between the rides at night, and they knew what was supposed to be there and what wasn’t. The police officers in pursuit of the killer were experienced at pursuit. And Chrístõ and Kohb, though trained as neither policemen nor security guards had extremely superior nightsight due to the extra components in their Gallifreyan eyes. They could see perfectly well as long as there was even the smallest amount of light to process.

“There!” Dennis shouted as he spotted a movement by the entrance to the ghost train. The guards, police and Gallifreyans raced towards it. But as they closed in the clown jumped up from inside one of the silent cars on the track and laughed its mechanical laugh before leaping onto the upper track then onto the sloping roof of the ticket kiosk. It slid down to the path where it landed nimbly and ran again.

“Next time,” Chrístõ suggested. “Point, don’t shout. It disturbs the maniacal killer clown.”

“I will remember that, next time,” Dennis answered him. “It went towards the Magnolia Café.”

A sound of breaking glass confirmed that assessment. Chrístõ and Kohb were the fastest runners and reached the café first. Broken glass crunched under their feet as they crossed the threshold and paused to get their bearings.

Chrístõ remembered what the café looked like in the daytime when they had eaten ice cream sundaes there. It actually incorporated two of the rides. The river from the ‘River Caves’ flowed past the table where they had sat while the rails for the ‘Gold Mine’ ride ran overhead.

He looked up and spotted their quarry hanging from one of the rails. It laughed again and swung itself up and began running along the rails.

“Ok,” Chrístõ murmured. “Two can play at THAT game.” He jumped on one of the tables and then light-footed he used the railing that separated the café from the river to launch himself up. He grasped the rails with both hands and swung himself up with only a little less agility than the clown. He only wished Julia was watching to see how much he had learnt from watching her gymnastic routines.

He felt the rail wobble as Kohb followed his lead. The two of them followed the clown up the slight incline that brought them from the café into the ‘Gold Mine’.

It was difficult going. They had to place their feet carefully to avoid tripping and falling off the raised rail. And once they entered the ‘caves’ proper there was no light at all. Chrístõ turned the sonic screwdriver to penlight mode that mainly served to eerily light up the fibre glass models of gold mine workers and give them far too many false alarms.

“They didn’t look THAT lifelike when we went around this ride earlier,” Chrístõ told Kohb telepathically as he steadied his hearts after coming face to face with what he had thought, for a scary moment was another of the Clown’s victims.

“I didn’t pay them that much attention,” Kohb answered him.

“Yes, I noticed that,” Chrístõ answered him. “You and Camilla were rather interested in each other.”

“Yes.” The telepathic equivalent of a blush clouded Kohb’s response. “Madame Camilla is a very special woman,” he managed to reply.

“That she is. When she IS a woman, that is.”

“Cam is a fascinating man, too. I think we can find a way to make it work… If…”

“We’ll talk about it later,” Chrístõ suggested. “Let’s catch up with laughing boy, first.”

They caught flashes of white ahead from time to time, but the Clown had several advantages over them. The primary one seemed to be that it DIDN’T have a life to lose and so had no fear of death or injury as it ran.

Chrístõ wondered what they would do WHEN they caught it. And he had to admit he wasn’t sure. Given that it had already killed one man, he wasn’t even sure if they were going to catch it or it catch them.

“There!” Kohb called out telepathically. But Chrístõ had already seen it. The Clown had reached the end of the line. A pair of double swing doors led out to the ride finish. But they were locked and bolted for the night.

Or at least they were. Chrístõ wondered where something that was made of quite a lot of sawdust got its strength from as it battered against the door and burst it open.

But that was a dead end. Four policemen and two Pleasure Beach security guards were right outside. The policemen had their nightsticks raised, ready to defend themselves from strangling fingers. The Clown turned around and saw only two people behind it and made an obvious judgement. It pushed them aside and began to run back the other way.

“Come on,” Chrístõ told Kohb. “Nobody else try to follow,” he added. “It’s way too risky in the dark.”

Then the lights all came on. He wondered briefly who had thought of that and why they hadn’t done it sooner. Possibly because nobody wanted to die at the hands of a homicidal mechanical clown with the tune “Oh, My Darling Clementine” as the last sound they would hear.

“Sir!” Kohb called out as they heard a clunking sound behind them. Chrístõ turned and saw one of the mining car rides rattling along the rails. THAT he was sure hadn’t been intentional. The cars, the lights and annoying tune must have been on the same circuit.

“Jump onto it!” he called out. They didn’t have a lot of choice really. It was jump or be run down by it. Kohb landed in the car itself, but Chrístõ perched himself on the front of it, ready to jump off again once they caught up with the Clown.

And they WOULD catch up with it now. This was far from a white knuckle ride, but even so the car moved at a fair speed on the rails, and there were several points where the rail dipped and rose which it did smoothly and without loss of speed, while before they had been forced to negotiate those parts cautiously.

Excited shouts told them they were approaching the Magnolia café again, where the other pursuers were closing in. Chrístõ saw the clown ahead, standing on the rail and growling at the men who gathered below.

“Get out of the car,” he warned Kohb. He scrambled over the back to stand safely on the rail a moment before the car collided with the Clown and derailed, crashing to the ground, below. Chrístõ jumped off a fraction of a moment before, grabbing the rail as he fell. There were cries of alarm as he dangled by one hand and the Clown fell past him, plunging into the murky River Caves water beneath. Chrístõ looked down and judged his distance and let himself drop down into the water. It was only about three feet deep but it broke his fall still. He stood up, only slightly shaken and waded towards the Clown.

“No!” It hissed. “I want to live. I won’t let you…” It raised its hands as if to strangle him, but there was no strength in it. The water had damaged its mechanical parts. The hands froze harmlessly around his neck.

But the intelligence that drove it was still alive - if alive was the word for it. He hauled the Clown out of the water and warned everyone to stand back.

“Who are you?” he asked, pointing his sonic screwdriver at the head. “WHAT are you?”

“I am a Tok Entity,” a voice rasped. A voice which all of the Human witnesses recognised as something alien. Although it spoke English there was an alien cadence to it as if the language was something it had learnt only slowly.

“Tok?” Chrístõ queried. “From the Arcamalian system? How did you get here? That system was destroyed a hundred years ago. You annihilated each other.”

“Some of us escaped. Not in corporeal form, but as sentient energy. We sought places where we could thrive. I found this planet in what the creatures who live here would have called the year 1935. I found this mechanical body and inhabited it. I thought it was an example of the dominant species. I made a mistake. It was nothing but a model. But I was weak by then. I couldn’t escape it. But… But I found there was something here that I could use, that gave me strength to continue living, life of a kind.”

“What?” Chrístõ asked. But he had a feeling he knew.

“Bio-energy. The thousands of people who come to this place, they leave their energy behind. It remains in the air around. And I can feed off it. Sometimes at night, I am able to leave my cage and walk around, feeding on the energy.”

“Ok,” Chrístõ said. “Creepy, but ok. But what was different tonight? You killed a man, and ran amok.”

“I was desperate. Something disrupted the flow of energy. I needed… needed to feed. The Human creature tried to stop me. I could not let…”

“You KILLED him,” Chrístõ insisted. “You destroyed his life, his energy.”

“He would have stopped me. He had to die.”

“Damn!” Chrístõ swore. “I was really hoping you were going to tell me you didn’t understand about life and death in Humans, that you didn’t know they were so fragile and you didn’t MEAN to hurt him. But you DID kill him in cold blood. You meant to do it. I can’t let you…”

He adjusted his grip on the sonic screwdriver and pressed the button. He could FEEL the energy being drawn from the Tok Entity. It screamed a low, insistent scream. He didn’t think he was causing it pain. Pain required a physical nervous system which the Entity didn’t have. But he WAS causing it mental distress. And that distressed him, because he was its executioner and the method of execution WAS so long and drawn out.

He looked at the Clown face. It was a trick of the light, he was sure, water residue from the river. But it almost looked as if the face, frozen in a maniacal laugh, was CRYING.

“No!” It begged him. “Don’t kill me. I am the last of my kind. I cannot die.”

Chrístõ paused. If that was true, then this was more than just execution. It was genocide.

Genocide was not something his people shied away from. If legends were true, then they had committed it, for the good of the universe, at least twice. The Fendahl, the Great Vampires. But that was because those races had themselves committed genocide and worse upon other races. This creature had killed one man. Cold-bloodedly, yes. But out of the need to survive that drives every creature in the universe.

He looked at the laughing mask with its river water tears. He heard the weak, pleading voice of the entity.

He made a decision.


“So, you didn’t kill it?” Julia asked as Chrístõ stood on the promenade looking out over the sea. The sun was starting to come up and it promised to be another hot day, another fun-filled day in Blackpool. But it had lost some of its shine for him.

“No,” he answered. “I didn’t kill it. I weakened it, a lot. It lives within the Clown. When it has been repaired and put back in the case, the Tok Entity will be able to continue drawing that left over energy from the Humans who come to the Pleasure Beach. But it will only be able to draw enough to keep itself alive at that level. It won’t be able to gain enough energy to walk out of its case again. It has life. But it also has a restraint, a limit, on that life.”

“It seems cruel,” she said. “But I suppose it must be done.”

“I can’t let it kill people,” he said. “And if it is allowed to roam, that’s what it will do.”

“Most of the energy it feeds on is from happy people, having fun,” Julia said. “I hope it will feel the happiness.”

“So do I,” Chrístõ agreed.

“What are the police going to say?” Camilla asked. “Even with the video evidence and our statements, they’re surely not going to tell the man’s family that a mechanical clown possessed by an alien entity killed him?”

“He died foiling an attempted robbery of a valuable antique that was damaged when the unknown assailants dropped it and made their escape,” Kohb said. “They’ll investigate, of course. But we know they won’t find the killer.”

“That will be rough on the family,” Chrístõ said. “Humans set a lot of store by ‘justice’ being done. A trial and punishment for a killer is considered ‘closure’ for the victims.”

He sighed deeply and looked out at the still dark horizon then back at the silent Pleasure Beach waiting to open on another busy day. The visiting public would see nothing except that the clown wasn’t on its eerie throne and the Gold Mine ride was closed for repairs on its entrance doors.

“There’s something else,” he said. “Something the Entity said. About how its energy was interrupted yesterday. That was me, when I shut off the machine. I must have affected the Entity, too. That’s why it was so desperate to get out and feed after the park was closed.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Kohb admitted.

“I did. It was MY fault that the man died.”

“Well, hardly,” Camilla told him, “I mean, indirectly, possibly. I doubt that a court in this galaxy would hold you responsible.”

“But I DO. I DID it. And it wasn’t even for some noble reason. It was because of a silly prank, because I was showing off to Julia and to the other people in the crowd who wanted the annoying noise stopped.”

“Chrístõ,” Kohb put his hand on his shoulder in a friendly gesture. “Don’t let such things prey on your mind. The Entity was fully sentient. It KNEW what it was doing. It chose to kill rather than simply immobilising the man. It was NOT your fault.”

“It feels as if it is,” he answered.

“You made a mistake. And it had terrible consequences. I, too, made such a mistake, an error of judgement. When I chose to carry out the wicked instructions of an evil man. That time your father and stepmother paid the price. And they forgave me. Allow yourself the same forgiveness.”

“Chrístõ,” Julia said, holding his hand in hers. “Don’t be sad. It’s going to be a beautiful day. A new day. Let’s forget the horrible things that happened and have a nice holiday.”

“You’re not disappointed in me?” he asked. “Knowing that I can be stupid sometimes?”

“I love you, even when you ARE stupid,” she answered, reaching to hug him. Her love for him did what the collected energy of thousands of holidaymakers did for the Tok Entity. It revived his soul. He still felt a little sick and ashamed of himself, and he vowed not to do anything so stupid again. But he was forgiven by the sweetest soul he knew. He knew he had to forgive himself.