Chrístõ looked at the navigational console and frowned. He didn’t know why they had arrived on Earth in the early twenty-first century and not Beta Delta IV in the twenty-fourth century. The difference was nearly three hundred years of time and several million light years distance. How could he possibly have miscalculated so very badly?

DID he miscalculate, or was the TARDIS faulty?

He sincerely hoped it was his own mistake. The thought that the TARDIS could go that far off course was worrying. Especially when he was on a routine trip from Gallifrey where he picked up Glenda from her winter holiday visit to see Cal back to Beta Delta so that she and Julia could return to their colleges on the first day of term.

“I don’t mind an unscheduled stop,” Julia remarked. “Just like old times when we travelled together.”

“I wouldn’t mind, either, if I knew I could get us back on course again,” he answered. He was running diagnostics to try to locate an error. As far as the TARDIS was concerned it had brought them exactly where they were supposed to be.

“You’re a sophisticated piece of semi-sentient Time Lord technology,” he said to the faintly glowing time rotor. “Not a Dutch satnav on the East Lancs Road.”

Julia and Glenda laughed at him. The sound cheered him, but he was still worried.

“Ohh!” he groaned as he saw the answer right in front of his eyes. “Oh, it is my fault. The co-ordinate should have been. pgi56omega67alpha. I typed PHI56OMEGA87ALPHA.”

The girls both gave him puzzled looks.

“The letters should have been lower case. I had the caps lock key on.”

Julia and Glenda both laughed loudly and called him several choice names, all of which he accepted.

“So we can get back to Beta Delta without any trouble?” Julia asked.

“Yes. It’ll take me two minutes to recalculate the destination from this departure point.”

“Ok, then. Let’s go and enjoy the mystery tour for a bit.” She headed towards the door. Glenda followed her. Chrístõ glanced at the environmental console and called out to them to stay put.

“It’s eighteen below freezing out there,” he told them. “If you’re going outside, do it in thermal coats.”

The two girls turned back and headed towards the inner door. Chrístõ took a closer look at the environmental console then headed that way himself. Humphrey caught up with him in the corridor and bowled along with him hopefully.

“Sorry, old friend,” he said. “It’s far too bright out there for you. And I don’t know how your species react to extreme cold, either. You stay here where you’re safe.”

Humphrey trilled and pin-wheeled away while Chrístõ headed to the Wardrobe. The girls had already changed into jumpers and leggings. Now they were putting on fur-lined boots and thick thermal coats with hoods. They had gloves, too. Chrístõ put on similar clothing. When all three of them went back to the console room Humphrey trilled mischievously at them.

“He thinks we all look like squishy balls like him,” Julia said. “I feel as wide as I’m tall in this get up.”

“You look warm,” Chrístõ assured her. “I really ought to make you stay inside. I’m not sure if everything is as it should be out there.”

The two girls ganged up on him and he relented. He reached into the cupboard under the console though, and filled a backpack with what he called ‘supplies’. Then the three of them said goodbye to Humphrey and stepped out of the TARDIS. They were surprised to see that it had disguised itself as a stone-built shed perched on a long narrow breakwater of rough stone that stretched out into the sea.

“Not the sea,” Chrístõ pointed out. “A large freshwater lake. Lake Erie in the North-American state of Ohio to be precise. It...”

He stopped talking. As the TARDIS door closed the disguise changed again. The stone rapidly covered over with a thick layer of ice making it look like a surreal sculpture that captured the general shape of a hut, but with the edges blurred and ragged fringes of icicles hanging off it.

“It’s just blending in with its surroundings,” Julia told him. “Look...”

Chrístõ looked. The first thing that struck him was that the water in the harbour that this breakwater protected was frozen solid. On the lake side there was free-flowing water, but ice floated on top of it.

He looked further and saw yachts in the marina and freight ships at the dock. All of them were coated in ice just like the TARDIS. Beyond the harbour the skyscrapers of the city of Cleveland rose up towards the sky. They looked from this distance as if they, too, were covered in layers of ice, though he was sure that must be an optical illusion in the cold light.

He turned slowly and looked out across the lake. Some distance away was another frozen building. This one looked even more surreal than the yachts or the skyscrapers. It was a lighthouse, but the ice that had frozen around it turned it into a fairy castle out of a children’s fantasy. The general shape of a squat, thickly built lighthouse with a small square building attached was still there, but icicles, some as thick as a man’s arm, some as little as five inch long, hung from it.

“The spray from the lake built up layer after layer,” Chrístõ explained. “That’s what caused the amazing textures.”

“There’s another one over there,” Julia pointed out. “It looks like a fairy tower.”

“That would be the Cleveland Harbour East Pierhead lighthouse,” Chrístõ said, recalling the details on the environmental console. “This more substantial building is the West Pierhead. They would ordinarily guide boats into the river mouth.”

There were no boats approaching the harbour today. The lake was still and quiet. There wasn’t even a bird in the sky.

Chrístõ felt a strange foreboding. This could just be how Cleveland looked in the dead of winter. But something didn’t quite seem right, somehow.

He looked back along the breakwater. It was at least three miles to the shore, a long walk in the cold and with the concrete path along the top of the breakwater treacherously covered over with frozen spray.

It was less than a mile to the lighthouse. Even though it was further out into the exposed lake it seemed a more reachable place where he might find out the answers to a few of the questions in his head.

He found his sonic screwdriver in his pocket and used the laser mode as a heat source. It melted the ice directly in front of him as he walked. The girls kept close to him. They looked around after they had gone twenty yards or more and noted that the path had frozen up again behind them and that the TARDIS looked very bleak standing there.

“What’s that?” Glenda asked, pointing to a very oddly shaped ice formation on the side of the path. Chrístõ looked at it for a few seconds then shook his head.

“It’s a bird, a seagull of some sort, frozen to a mooring post where it had perched.”

“You mean it froze to death?” Glenda and Julia both looked away from the sad shape in horror. “But...”

“Don’t cry,” Chrístõ told them. “If you do, your tears will freeze. It’s cold enough to do that.”

“Why didn’t it fly away?” Glenda asked. “How could it be caught like that?”

“I don’t know. But it IS extraordinarily cold here. The average winter temperature for this area is minus two. It’s minus eighteen now, and it isn’t even snowing. I think it has been colder than this very recently.”

“Is that natural?” Julia asked. “Or...”

“That I don’t know,” Chrístõ replied. “The building beside the lighthouse is a coastguard station according to the TARDIS databank. I’m going to ask some questions.”

“So you think it is unnatural?”

“I think I’ll find out,” Chrístõ insisted. “I’m nosy. I can’t leave anything alone. You know that about me.”

They walked on until the mooring post with the unfortunate bird on it was left behind. Even the TARDIS seemed small and distant and the lighthouse loomed large in front of them. When they weren’t much more than about fifty yards from it, the pearly grey clouds started to darken, and the girls both cried out as they felt spray blown up from the lake by a sudden wind. By the time it hit their faces, it wasn’t spray, it was ice, and it hurt.

“The temperature is dropping rapidly,” Chrístõ noted. His Gallifreyan blood automatically heated up to compensate for the external cold. It had done so by at least two full degrees. He looked back at the TARDIS. They had come nearly three quarters of a mile from it, and the way was iced over again.

The lighthouse was closer.

“Come on, quickly,” he said in a tone that he hoped sounded urgent without being panic-stricken. He adjusted the laser mode to full power and melted a much larger area in front of him as he urged the girls on.

“There’s a storm coming,” Glenda noted. “Look at the lake.”

Chrístõ looked. The water was iron grey and the wind was whipping it up into waves that were increasing in size as they rapidly approached the dual pierheads. They would be large enough when they broke to engulf the lighthouse itself. That must have been how the layers of ice formed, he guessed.

It was how the bird had frozen to death.

If they didn’t get inside, they would become enigmatic ice sculptures, too.

“But there’s no door,” Julia pointed out. “It’s all frozen over.”

“There’s a door,” Chrístõ assured her. He looked carefully for a few seconds, then aimed the sonic laser at a patch of thick ice. It melted slowly, too slowly, with the ice storm coming closer. The girls clung to each other fearfully as he worked to uncover the door. At last he made a big enough gap. He changed the setting on the sonic to lock busting mode and pushed the door inwards. He grabbed Julia and Glenda together and thrust them forward into the dark room within. He turned to slam the door shut again just as the icy waves crashed against the pierhead and water that turned to ice in mid air smashed against the lighthouse walls. He still had his hand on the door when ice crystals spread rapidly across the wood. He barely pulled it away in time to avoid being frostbitten.

He turned and looked around. They were in the bottom room of the lighthouse. There was an inner door with a lightning symbol and ‘generator room’ written next to it, and a winding stair that went up towards a source of light. There were voices coming from above, too. Chrístõ went first, cautiously, the girls following.

They emerged into a room lit by electric light and heated by radiators around the circular walls. Within it was a large sofa and two squashy armchairs in which an assortment of people sat huddled under layers of blankets and coats. There was a young woman with a baby on one of the armchairs. The other held a man who was swaddled in blankets. There was a man in a coastguard uniform and two more women in civilian clothes. The first they knew of the new arrivals was when Chrístõ stepped towards the man wrapped up in the blankets. Even at a glance he looked ill.

“Who are you?” demanded the coastguard. “How did you get in?”

“Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow,” he answered. “I melted the ice around the door. It has probably sealed up again by now. There was one hell of a storm heading towards us. I’m a doctor, by the way. This man... what happened to him?”

He gently unfolded the blanket from around the stricken man’s arms and saw that his left hand was severely frostbitten. It was so red and inflamed that it hardly looked Human any more, and there were the tell tale signs of gangrene and necrosis. He hardly needed the medical analysis mode of the sonic screwdriver to know that almost all of the skin, muscle and bone tissue in the hand was dead.

“Mal was up in the light room when a storm hit, three days ago,” said one of the women in reply to his question. “He put his hand on the glass... and it froze to it. Carl got him free, but only by leaving a layer of skin behind. We’ve tried to keep him warm, but it’s getting worse.”

“Yes, it is,” Chrístõ acknowledged. “That hand needs to be amputated, and soon, before it kills him.”

Mal whimpered helplessly. Carl, the coastguard, stepped closer and watched what Chrístõ was doing suspiciously.

“Can you help him?” the woman asked. “If you’re a doctor...”

“Lynnette,” Carl snapped quickly. “We don’t know who or what he and his friends are apart from more mouths to feed.”

“We’re not here to be a burden on you,” Chrístõ replied. “We’ll be gone as soon as the storm passes. But meantime, let my friends sit and rest and keep warm and let me help this man.”

Space was made for Julia and Glenda to sit. They pulled off their coats and gloves and made themselves comfortable. Chrístõ, meanwhile, laid Mal on the floor with a cushion under his head. He asked for any medical supplies they had. It didn’t amount to much. There were bandages and a surgical sling, antiseptic and a box of generic analgesics.

“Lynnette,” he said. “Come and hold his head. Carl, you hold his legs to stop him struggling.”

“You’re going to do it right here?” Lynnette asked.

“I don’t want to risk moving him. Besides, I assume the reason you’re all in this one room is because you’ve only got heat in here. He doesn’t need to be chilled again. Anyone who doesn’t want to see, turn away, now.”

Nobody wanted to see, but neither did they turn away. The woman with the baby hugged the child closer and closed her eyes. Everyone else watched despite themselves as Chrístõ put a wooden splint into Mal’s mouth to hold down his tongue and stop him biting it when the moment came. Lynnette held his head gently and kindly. Carl held his legs down. Mal looked up at Chrístõ with fearful eyes. He put his hand on his forehead and radiated calming thoughts. Nothing was going to take away the pain, though. Chrístõ re-adjusted the sonic screwdriver to laser mode and used it to make one very swift cut through the wrist while cauterising the wound at the same time. Mal let out a scream of agony through teeth clamped down on the splint, but it was over very quickly. Chrístõ put the dead, amputated hand into a bowl and covered it with a cloth before turning his attention to the patient. He bandaged the stump and fixed the arm into a sling, then gave him two of the analgesics. He gently lifted him back onto the chair. He still looked ill, but he would recover now. A hand was a terrible thing to lose, but losing his life would have been even more terrible.

Lynnette took the bowl away. Carl drew back, his expression less hostile now he knew that their visitor was here to help. Chrístõ turned his attention to the woman with the baby.

“Let me look at him,” he said calmly. The mother reluctantly handed the child to him. He guessed that the little boy was no more than eight weeks old. He was a little under-nourished, but not dangerously so. The same was true of the mother. He looked around the room. Lynnette was obviously Mal’s partner. The other woman had reached out to hold Carl’s hand and was speaking to him quietly. Two couples. The mother was the odd one out. “What brought you out here to the lighthouse in the snow with this little one?” he asked casually.

“I didn’t have anywhere else to go,” she answered. “My landlord said I couldn’t come back to the apartment with a baby. Fiona said I could stay here. But that was before the ice storms began... before everything went wrong. Now... I wish I’d just jumped into the lake with him. It would have been quicker than starving to death or freezing.”

“We’ll try to make sure neither of those things happen,” Chrístõ told her. “Gina, you just sit tight there and hold onto your baby. I promise you’ll both be fine.”

Nobody asked how he knew the young mother’s name. They forgot all else when he opened his backpack and pulled out a handful of chewable energy bars. He handed them around then produced a packet of flat silver discs. He gave one each to Julia and Glenda who both knew how to push them up into foil cups full of steaming, re-hydrated cocoa. Fiona and Lynnette accepted a disc each. Chrístõ opened one up for Gina and helped Mal sit up and hold the cup in his good hand. Carl copied the women but looked suspiciously at the liquid.

“It works by kinetic energy,” Chrístõ said to him. “It’s a new kind of survival rations.”

New in the twenty-fourth century, anyway.

“It tastes good,” Fiona said. “Like fresh cream and chocolate. We haven’t had either for three weeks. We had to use up all the fresh food in the first few days. We’ve had nothing but tins since. And we had to ration that.”

“You’ve been here for three weeks?” Julia asked. “Why?”

“There’s nowhere else to go,” Carl answered. “We were trapped when the storms began. The boat overturned in the storm, and the breakwater is impassable. We couldn’t get to the mainland.”

“Don’t you have a radio?” Glenda asked. “You could have called for help.”

“There’s nobody there,” Fiona said. “We’ve been trying. There’s nobody.”

“How can there be nobody?” Chrístõ questioned. “You’re only four miles away from a city of half a million people. There must be a helicopter rescue service there, somewhere.”

“They’re all dead,” Carl replied. “The city is dead. The ice storms caught them unawares. They’re dead. Those that aren’t were evacuated by the National Guard. There’s nobody left. Nobody but us.”

“We don’t even know how widespread the disaster is,” Lynnette added. “For all we know, the whole of the USA is frozen to death. Maybe the world.”

“That couldn’t happen,” Julia told her. “At the very worst, it could affect the northern hemisphere. But it’s summer in Australia. They must be all right, there.”

“Maybe,” Lynnette conceded. But Carl frowned and shook his head.

“You’re just giving them false hope. At best there are small pockets of survivors like ourselves and...”

“How did you get here?” Gina asked. “And why don’t you know what’s happened? How could you not know?”

That was a very good question. Chrístõ had no answer to it unless he told them he came in a time and space ship from the future. He didn’t think that answer would go down well in this place and time. But he was very puzzled. This WAS only the early twenty-first century. The sort of return to ice age conditions they were talking about wouldn’t happen for millennia, and even then it would be gradual.

Then the lights went out and the question was forgotten in the panic.

“Calm down, everyone,” Carl ordered. He switched on a flashlight that illuminated the frightened faces. “We knew this would happen sooner or later.”

“Your generator has packed in?” Chrístõ asked. “You don’t have fuel?”

“The oil must have frozen in the pipes,” Carl explained. “Mal’s job was maintenance. But he hasn’t been able...”

“This is it!” Gina sobbed, clinging to her baby desperately. “We’ll freeze.”

“No you won’t,” Chrístõ told her. He adjusted a setting on his sonic screwdriver and reached up to the light bulb in the ceiling above. It was an energy saving halogen bulb. He pressed the sonic screwdriver against it and it lit up brightly.

“How...” somebody asked. But he didn’t answer. He didn’t feel like explaining how he had used sonic technology to excite the halogen. He went to the radiator and simply used the sonic screwdriver to heat up the metal. It would continue to radiate warmth for another hour before he had to boost it again. That ought to be long enough for him to do something about the generator.

“I’ll help,” Lynnette said to him when he told them what he was going to do. “Mal’s sleeping now. He’ll be all right without me.” She pulled on a thick coat and gloves and scarf. Chrístõ put his thermal coat back on and followed her down to the ground floor. It was bitterly cold. If the lighthouse had been buried in a snowdrift it would have been better. The air trapped in snow had an insulating effect, but ice was simply cold.

And that was why the generator was struggling. The fuel oil that it needed hadn’t actually frozen in the supply pipes. Oil didn’t freeze, at least not until it reached the sort of temperatures found on the outer planets of solar systems. Rather, it became waxy and sluggish and in extreme cases crystals formed. It was that which clogged the pipes and prevented it from flowing. He used the sonic to gently heat the pipes without risking either bursting them or igniting the oil. Even with the sonic it was a desperate measure that he wouldn’t want anyone else to try.

Lynnette watched him at work inbetween keeping her eye on the gauge that would tell them when the oil was starting to flow.

“I don’t know how to thank you for what you’ve done for us,” she said. “I thought Mal was going to die. None of us knew what to do for him.”

“He’s got a lot to contend with,” Chrístõ answerved. “I doubt he’ll be able to carry on with his job even when he’s recovered. I don’t know what he’ll do about that. But it was too late to save his hand. You do understand that?”

“I understand that,” Lynnette told him. “But his job... what job? It’s the end of the world. There is no job. I don’t know what’s going to come of any of us.”

“It’s not the end of the world,” Chrístõ assured her. “It’s just a very cold winter with some freak storms causing some unusual weather phenomena around the Lakes. In another couple of months it will be spring and this will all seem like a dream.”

“That’s what we said at the beginning of January. But when the radio stopped... that’s when we knew. It started before Christmas... on the Solstice. The first ice storm hit us, then. It was just as the Mayans predicted, you know.”

“Mayans?” Chrístõ was puzzled for a moment, then he began to understand. This was January 2013. In the first part of this century, there had been a growing obsession with an ancient Mayan calendar that was alleged to countdown to the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere in the year 2012. The countdown was calculated to mark the start of a catastrophic change in the magnetic poles of the Earth, causing changes in weather patterns, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and the deaths of billions unable to escape one or other of those natural disasters.

It was mostly mass hysteria. Yes, fluctuations in the magnetic poles of any planet happened. But they didn’t just happen on a given date. It took millennia for the shifts to complete and they weren’t related to any of the disasters predicted. As for the Mayans, they were very intelligent people who understood much about their natural environment that people in these supposedly enlightened times didn’t. It was unlikely, though, that they knew anything about magnetic fluctuations that took longer to manifest than their civilisation existed on Earth.

“Carl believed in the Mayan thing?” he asked.

“He explained it to all of us. I didn’t really believe. Neither did Mal. I don’t think Fiona did, either. But look at us. Look at the world. He was right. I just wish... I wish I could have spoken to my mother before... She must be dead. And I couldn’t even talk to her...”

Chrístõ pulled the switch that engaged the generator. It spluttered once then fired up satisfactorily. The oil was flowing through. At least it was for now. If the storm outside was set in for a while, then he might end up repeating this exercise.

Of course, as soon as the storm cleared he could take Julia and Glenda back to the TARDIS and get away from here. It wasn’t his job to keep this generator going. These people were not his problem.

So he told himself. But he knew he wasn’t going to do any such thing. He couldn’t abandon this troubled huddle of humanity. Without him, he doubted if they would survive more that a few days.

Besides, there was no leaving, yet. He stepped close to the door they had come in through. It was white with frost that had formed inside. He didn’t even attempt to touch it. Even Time Lords could get frostbite from something as cold as that. He could sense through the thickness of the wood to the layer of ice that had reformed. Beyond that, he could feel the storm still raging. The TARDIS was only a mile away, but he couldn’t reach it. Even if he could stand upright on the frozen breakwater he would be blown into the sub-zero lake.

His backpack had energy bars and hot drinks to sustain everyone as the late afternoon turned to evening. The bars each had five hundred calories packed into them in the form of nut and wheat proteins. They didn’t feel like a proper meal, but they were enough for people who were moving as little as they could and trying to keep under their blankets as much as possible. He changed the dressings on Mal’s wound and was satisfied that he would recover, even if he was maimed for life. For his part, Mal was grateful to him for relieving him of a harsher suffering.

“You don’t have to thank me,” Chrístõ told him. “I only did what had to be done.”

There was no way to tell day from night inside the ice-covered lighthouse. They knew it was time to sleep by their watches and their internal body clocks. Chrístõ made a bed from blankets and coats for himself and the girls. He held them both in his arms and let his own blood temperature rise so that he could transfer body heat to them.

“If Cal was here, he’d do this for you,” he told Glenda. “But since he isn’t, you’ll have to make do with me.”

“As long as Julia doesn’t mind sharing you,” she answered.

“I don’t mind when it’s like this,” Julia replied. “Any other time, he’s all mine.”

He kissed his fiancée on the lips, and gently kissed his friend’s fiancée on the cheek. They settled to sleep in the makeshift bed. Around them everyone else did the same. Gina snuggled the baby next to her. Carl and Fiona slept together. Lynnette held Mal close. They were all safe.

“It’s not true, is it?” Julia whispered in the quiet. “They’ve got it wrong somehow. About the end of the world. They must have. Because this is Earth and I come from here in the future.”

“They’ve got it wrong,” Chrístõ answered. “Though they ARE in desperate trouble, all the same. Tomorrow, I’ll try to help them.”

He didn’t have a peaceful night. Twice the generator stopped and he shivered in the cold as he worked on the fuel pipes again.

The third time, it was nearly six o’clock in the morning. It would be dawn outside in a little short of two hours, and he could sense that the storm had ended. But there was another problem.

He was able to unclog the pipes one more time. But it would be the last time. The huge storage tank at the back of the generator room was nearly empty. He guessed they had enough left for a day’s heat and light.

He went back to the room and told Carl the news.

“It’s not all bad,” he assured him. “This trick I have with my gismo can be repeated indefinitely if necessary. There’s heat and light for as long as it takes.”

“That may be so,” Carl answered. “But we have no food. Unless you have any more of your magic discs, there is nothing.”

“I’ve got enough for breakfast,” he answered. “You didn’t say that your food supplies were THAT low.”

“I didn’t want to worry the others. But this is it. Today is the day we all die. Perhaps it’s for the best. There is no sense in prolonging the agony. There’s no world left out there. Everything is gone.”

“No,” Chrístõ told him. “No, you can’t give up hope.”

“There was never hope,” Carl answered. “Don’t you understand? This is it. The end of the Human race. The few pockets of survivors like us... we might as well just die and let it be done with.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Chrístõ replied. “The world doesn’t end in January 2013. I’ve got tickets for the World Cup finals in Russia in five years time.”

His answer wasn’t as flippant as it might have sounded to Carl. He DID have tickets, bought when they went on sale in 2017, using his universal credit card and his membership number from the England Supporters Club. That was proof enough for him that the Human race was still standing by then.

He knew there had to be a less anachronistic way of proving his point, but even he wasn’t rash enough to try in the dark. He slid back into the makeshift bed and held the two girls close to him. Julia stirred and put her arms around his neck. Her head was resting on his shoulder, and he kissed her forehead tenderly. He would have happily stayed in such a position for hours. But as dawn approached he woke Julia and Glenda and told them he was going out.

“I need to get back to the TARDIS. I don’t like the idea of leaving you both here, but it would be even riskier to take you with me. It’s still cold out. The breakwater is frozen and a storm might strike before we reach the TARDIS. I have a better chance of surviving than you do.”

“Why is it risky for us to stay here?” Glenda asked. “They’re nice people. They won’t hurt us.”

“Just be very careful,” he told them. “I’m not sure who can be trusted. Come here and hug me, both of you, before I go.”

They were both happy to do that. He was less happy about leaving them, especially knowing what he did. But it was the only way. He turned quickly from their embraces and headed downstairs. The door below was still covered in a thick rime of frost but he wrenched it open to be confronted with a wall of ice. The sonic screwdriver cut through it easily. He noted that it was a good six inches thick. Outside dawn was still a half hour away, and it was cloudy overhead, so there would be no welcoming rays of sunshine anyway, just a gloomy suffused daybreak.

There was a biting wind that he felt even through the thermal jacket. He pushed his blood temperature up to compensate and pressed on as fast as he dared, melting the ice in front of him so that he wouldn’t slip. He was ever mindful of the icy water below. If he made a mistake even he would be in trouble.

And it would be a long time before anyone came to look for his body.

The gloomy dawn came as he struggled on. The grey light brought the cheerful sight of his TARDIS a mere fifty yards ahead. But it also brought a stronger wind and the unmistakeable signs of an ice storm approaching. He moved faster, stepping on still frozen concrete because he knew he couldn’t wait for it to melt. The TARDIS was closer, but so was the storm.

The waves broke against the breakwater and drenched him. The water froze on the outside of his coat, on his hood, on his shoes. It froze on his face. He couldn’t breathe. Ice had formed a film over his mouth and nose. He recycled his breathing and pressed on towards his TARDIS.

“No!” he groaned as he realised that the TARDIS was no longer pretending to have a thick coat of ice on it. It actually had acquired one overnight. He wasn’t even sure where the door was, and he was rapidly reaching the point where he couldn’t heat his blood fast enough to compensate for the cold.

He turned the laser up to its highest and widest setting and aimed it at the TARDIS. The beam enveloped the whole structure and he saw the ice melt away. Inside the TARDIS had defaulted to a grey cabinet. He pulled off one of his gloves and pressed his hand against the on the door. He felt his hand freeze, but the door opened inwards. He stumbled inside and had enough strength left to close the door behind him before he collapsed.

The console room was warm, but he couldn’t feel the warmth. His left hand was frostbitten and insensible. With his right he pulled at the iced up zip of the coat. He pulled off all of the frozen clothes that were stopping the warmth getting to him. In his underwear he lay shivering on the floor, trying to stay awake because he knew letting himself slide into unconsciousness would be bad.

Then he felt a warming presence around him. He heard Humphrey’s comforting trill. The darkness creature whose hugs could be so warming to the soul was actually warming his body. The scientist in him argued that a creature made of darkness had no power to produce heat. But he told the scientist in him to shut up and stop bothering him. He stifled a scream as the nerves in his frostbitten hand began to work again – registering excruciating pain. But when the worst of it was over, his hand looked normal. He scrambled to his feet and went to the communications console first of all. He checked to see if his theory was right and made some arrangements, then programmed a short mile long journey to the lighthouse.

He materialised the TARDIS inside the ground floor room. He noted that the generator was still running. There would be enough heat and light for one more day. That was more than enough now he knew the truth.

He was surprised that the girls didn’t come running at the sound of the TARDIS. It meant he had to carry the box of supplies up the steps on his own. When he stepped through the door into the room with warmth and light he saw Julia and Glenda, with Gina and her baby and Lynnette, crouched in front of the chair where Mal was resting. Lynnette had a weapon in her hand. Chrístõ noted that it was a flare gun, but in a room this size even that could be a lethal weapon in desperation. Julia and Glenda both held knives – ordinary table knives, but again lethal enough if they had to use them.

On the other side of the room, Carl was standing, gripping Fiona by the hair as she struggled to get away from him.

“Here’s food for you,” Chrístõ said, dropping the box with a heavy thump that proved there was a good supply of foil packed rehydrating food inside. “Does anyone want to tell me what’s going on?”

Julia pointed to the first aid kit. It was spilled out on the floor. The box of analgesics was missing.

“He put them in that....” She pointed to a broken jug with liquid pooling on the flagstones. It looked like cloudy orange squash. “He wanted us all to drink it. He was going to put it in a bottle for the baby, too.”

Gina hugged her baby and whimpered softly. Infanticide followed by her own suicide wasn’t on her agenda even though she had talked about jumping into the lake with her child yesterday afternoon.

“Because he thinks it’s the end of the world and we’re the only ones left and there’s no point in living,” Chrístõ summarised.

“Yes!” Carl answered him. “Why not? The food you’ve brought just prolongs the agony. This way would be quicker.”

“I’ll TELL you why not,” Chrístõ answered. “Because you’re WRONG. There’s nothing wrong with the world out there. Cleveland is going through the coldest, roughest winter since the legendary big snow of 1881, hitting all the records for lowest temperature, longest ice storm, and sadly, the largest number of deaths from exposure or hypothermia for decades. But that figure is only forty-seven out of a population of half a million. Everyone else is alive out there. They’ve suspended ferry services and nobody’s daft enough to take a yacht out on the lake when an ice storm could come down. That’s why it looks quiet on the shore. Nobody is out. People are hunkered down in their apartments watching the weather reports on the TV news. The Cleveland coastguard authority thought you lot had evacuated the lighthouse three weeks ago. They were stunned when I told them you were here.”

“What!” Lynnette stood up slowly. Mal pulled himself upright on the chair and stared at his friend and colleague who changed his grip on his wife, now holding her around the neck.

“But what about the radio?” Gina asked timidly. “He said it was dead.”

“It was. Your aerial came down in the first ice storm. That’s why you got nothing but static. Try it now. I’ve boosted it. I think you’ll find it works.”

Lynnette started towards the door to the radio control room, but Carl, dragging Fiona with him, blocked it.

“No!” he said. “It’s the end. He’s lying. He’s...”

“Sweet Mother of Chaos!” Chrístõ swore. Then he moved across the room in an eyeblink and punched Carl square in the face. He didn’t bother with any of the martial arts forms he knew. He just hit hard with his fist. Carl fell back, out cold. Chrístõ was kind enough to catch him before he hit the ground.

By the time Carl came around from the knock out blow he was bound hand and foot and lying on the sofa. Fiona propped him with cushions and held a cup of steaming hot chocolate to his lips before giving him a piece of energy bar to chew.

“The radio works,” Lynnette told him. “We’ve had a message. They’re sending a helicopter in a few hours, as soon as the ice storm ends. They’ll take us all to hospital for a check up. We haven’t told them what went on here. Fiona says you’ll go to see a councillor voluntarily.”

Carl looked at her. He looked at his wife, who was obviously prepared to care for him in every way except loosening the ropes that bound him any time before the rescue helicopter arrived. Gina was feeding her baby. Mal was drinking a cup of cocoa with his good hand. His wounded arm was freshly bandaged and in a clean sling.

“Where did those people go?” he asked.

“We don’t know,” Lynnette answered. “They just went. I don’t know how. They didn’t go out of the door. It’s still frozen up. There was a weird noise downstairs. I don’t know what it was, and there’s no sign of them anywhere. It’s like they disappeared... or they were never here. Or they were ghosts... or angels or...”

“Ghosts didn’t bring the food,” Fiona pointed out.

“My hand wasn’t amputated by an angel,” Mal added. “We’ll have to say something when the authorities arrive. But I’m damned if I know what.”

“They WILL be okay, won’t they?” Julia asked as Chrístõ put the TARDIS into synchronised orbit over Lake Erie and looked at the weather patterns, assuring himself that everything was within normal parameters for planet Earth in that climactic epoch. “Carl had totally lost it...”

“That’s scary,” Glenda said. “He was a coastguard, a man trained to deal with critical situations. And he went to pieces.”

“He let that Mayan thing scare him,” Julia said.

“One of these days, I’m going to visit the Mayans and have a few words with them about their calendar,” Chrístõ noted. “I’d like to know what they REALLY thought they were counting down to. As for Carl and his friends, I think they’ll be all right. They’ve got some major trust issues to resolve. But that’s up to them. As for us... it’s winter on Beta Delta, too. How about we have a day or two on the tropical planet of Lyria before we head home? The only ice there is crushed into long fruity drinks with umbrellas on them.”