April 2017

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A small figure huddled in the dark, wet alley, trying to make himself as invisible as possible. Mickey Smith was ten years old. His mother had sent him to the shop for a pint of milk, but he'd spent quite a bit of time mucking about on the way home, and now it was late. Far too late. December was a terrible month in the Powell Estate. The early darkness meant you couldn't hide from them. They could see perfectly well in the dark, and they could move almost silently when they wanted to. Anyone caught out after curfew was fair game, and Mickey knew all too well what that meant. Plenty of kids his age had lost parents, and older brothers and sisters, who thought they wouldn't get caught, who thought they were smart enough to stay hidden, but the Daleks saw everything, and they were merciless.

Since they arrived, long before Mickey was born, they had been searching, endlessly, for something. There had been brief flurries of Dalek activity, particularly recently, but they apparently hadn't found what they were looking for. They settled for subjugating the human race quietly. Making their prescense known only from time to time, they ate away at the edges of human consciousness. All the more terrifying because you couldn't tell when they would suddenly glide out of the shadows to give a grisly demonstration of their power. The curfew was a recent innovation by the Daleks. They seemed to believe they were close. They restricted human movement carefully, and treated anyone who disobeyed with ruthless suspicion.

Mickey was less than half a mile from home. He jammed the pint bottle of milk in a pocket in his anorak, and made a run for it. He cut across the playground, eerily silent and still, and ran for safety as fast as his little legs would go. It wasn't fast enough.

The Dalek caught him in the middle of the playground. One Dalek, sliding out of the darkness like a wraith, but not nearly so insubstantial.

“Halt!” it said, “Who goes there?”

“M-Mickey Smith, sir.” said Mickey, trembling.

“Mickey Smith. Cross-referencing.” Said the Dalek. “You are ten years old. You are a person of interest to the Daleks. You are Mickey the idiot!” Mickey was too stunned to feel insulted.

“I'm just Mickey Smith. I live over there.” He pointed vaguely behind the Daleks. “I've got a bottle of milk for my mum.”

“You will come with me. You will do as I say or you will be exterminated!”

Mickey went with the Dalek. The web of time groaned and creaked, but held, for now.

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