Rollo’s left arm was over my shoulder and wrapped across my heart, and I could feel his calm steady breathing against my back. Absurdly, my body felt as if it was being protected rather than threatened. I had looked into Rollo’s eyes and, trusting myself to know what I saw, I had trusted him absolutely. But his knife was at my throat! How could I still feel this trust? And then, in a flash of realisation, I understood. I trusted Rollo more than I trusted myself, because I knew he would do the right thing, whatever the cost, whatever he himself wanted, because it was right, and sometimes that would mean he could be strong when other people were weak.
I am writing this, of course, but how do you know when? Or what I am now? Or who?
‘Thank God you’re there, whoever you really are,’ said the red-haired angel, her palms white against the transparent wall of her cage. ‘I’m sorry, Mary Sue, but we’ve lost. It’s all we can do.’
‘There’s always hope,’ said Rollo.
‘YOU are the hope,’ said the angel. ‘You’re the insurance policy. Don’t worry about us, just kill her and run.’
‘No!’ shouted Johnny Depp. ‘Don’t kill her! The Teacher never told me to kill her, that was one of Beckham’s lies. Mary Sue hasn’t agreed to join them!’
‘That’s true,’ said Billie Piper, growing paler with every passing moment, as if all the blood was being drained out of her, ragged in my father’s arms. ‘She hasn’t joined them. Don’t kill her. I… All I want is you not to kill my little girl. But I am lost and gone, and was a long time ago. I…’ and her head drooped, too heavy for her neck.
‘Do you want me to deal with him?’ said Victoria Beckham.
‘Don’t be a moron,’ said David Beckham.
‘You can be so hurtful sometimes, even though I know you don’t mean it.’
‘Shut up, Victoria. You couldn’t touch him without killing her. We couldn’t even tranquillise him fast enough.’ He looked at Rollo, hands on hips. ‘It seems we are at an impasse, whoever you are, Rollo is it?, unless you really do want to murder the Chosen One. But I don’t think that’s it. If you did, she’d be dead by now. You gain nothing by playing for time. Surely you realise that you’re never getting out of here alive?’
‘I don’t know. I’m pretty good.’
‘Big words, Rollo, but what is it that you want?’
‘There’s more to life than staying alive,’ said Rollo past my ear as he started to move forward, pushing me in front of him like a shield. ‘Don’t do anything stupid. And I want you to shackle Tennant and Piper.’
‘This isn’t a negotiation. The Teacher was the Teacher because she didn’t take risks, but she grew tired, and the mantle passed to me.’ The two grey-jacketed goons tied up David and Billie, and the Rollo said, ‘I presume you have a tranquilliser gun yourself?’ David Beckham nodded. ‘Shoot both the henchmen.’ He did. ‘Now your wife.’ Victoria crumpled with a dart in her chest. All the time, we were slowly edging towards them.
‘Stop it!’ cried the red-haired angel. ‘What are you trying to do? Kill her! It’s all there is!’
‘No, Red,’ said Johnny Depp. ‘The Teacher didn’t want her dead. The Teacher wanted her to kill the Master, because this was our chance. With no Master, the Gates to Hell will NEVER be opened. It’s a prize worth winning.’
‘You’re a lunatic!’ spat the red-haired angel. ‘You’ve all gone mad! This is a war! We don’t even know who the Master is. We do know the Teacher was deceived. We know that Mary Sue can’t kill the Master anyway unless her parents sacrifice themselves, which they haven’t done. I don’t like it any more than you do, but we’ve lost this one. All we can hope is that tomorrow will not be worse than today, and you can make that happen. The world is fine, and you can keep it fine. Or you can make a mistake, and everything is destroyed. That’s all the options you have, so what are you doing, who are you?’ She was no longer looking at Rollo, she was looking at me. ‘Think about what I’m saying, Mary Sue. Think about it! The only sane thing he can do is kill you, but if he doesn’t kill you, he is either insane, or he isn’t who he said he is. Don’t join them, whatever they say. I’m begging you this: keep tomorrow the same as today!’
‘Tomorrow will not be the same as today,’ said Rollo softly. ‘That’s already gone. The world knows who we are. And the Teacher is gone.’
David Beckham said, ‘Yes! That’s the hard truth, Mary Sue. The world knows us and we are different. They will envy and fear us, you must be able to see that? We will be hunted. We will not be suffered to live. We will be thrown, one by one, into this machine. It will be a genocide.’
‘And nothing so ghastly will happen to humanity if she falls for your lies, and we regain the powers we never had the strength of will to control?’ said Rollo.
‘Of course not,’ said David Beckham. ‘I’ve already made that clear. Once we are returned to our power, what incentive will there be? It would be like mankind conducting a genocide against cattle.’
‘There it is, exactly,’ said Rollo, shaking his head. ‘You will think of them as cattle. You do not seek a relationship of equals, or of mutual progress, or compassion. Those are the things we desire, that we owe this world which has become our home.’
‘This world is not our “home” and we owe it nothing, but I assure you that we will not be tyrannical overlords. We will simply be beyond this petty debate, and deep down you know it, Rollo, and so do you, Mary Sue. Your parents have already accepted the inevitable. And the prophecy is very clear. You join the Master, and the Gates of Hell open.’
‘Unless…’ began Rollo, and we were now ten feet from David Beckham.
‘No,’ said David Beckham. ‘There is no “unless”. There has been no parental sacrifice. Your Teacher was wrong, and the Master was right.’
‘The Teacher was right about one thing,’ said Rollo, gripping more tightly. ‘We must always be ready to move on, to leave things behind us. Slumber not in the tents of your fathers, Mary Sue, for the world is advancing.’ And he looked at me again, said that he loved me, and smiled as if he expected me to understand, and I did at last, and I knew why he needed to do what he was going to do. I nodded to him.
‘Where is the Master?’ I said to David Beckham. ‘If I have to join the Master, then surely I have to know who…’ Rollo swung me behind him and rolled across the floor past the comatose demon guards, sweeping his knife across their throats as he did so. He had almost reached a stunned and scrambling David Beckham when his legs were swept from under him by a bony foot in strappy heels.
‘Ha!’ said Victoria Beckham. ‘Because my David loves me, he shot me in the breast he knows is fake, so I have been pretending to be asleep. We planned this in advance because we are INTIMATE. And now, you will die.’ Rollo fought well, but everywhere he moved, Victoria was faster and more brutal. ‘The Chosen One has to join us, and she will. It’s been explained that it must be voluntary, but I can show her things that will help make her volunteer. You should have killed her when you had the chance. You are weak, like all the angels.’ Rollo stumbled sideways and her next kick landed him on the floor next to David Tennant and Billie Piper. Rollo struggled to his feet, gripping onto David Tennant’s shackled body. Rollo knew he had lost his fight, and he stared at David Tennant, who smiled back, raised his eyebrow and shrugged. In a pathetic gesture, Victoria standing behind him and smirking, Rollo pummelled the helpless David Tennant, landing five thudding blows with his raw right fist. Then he swung himself hopelessly back to face Victoria Beckham, and in the act of swinging, stumbled towards the door through which the Teacher had recently be sent to her awful final death. Victoria kicked out, but for once he was too fast for her, Instead of avoiding her foot, he clung to it as it crashed into his side, and as she strove to free herself, he fumbled at the door’s catch, looked at me once more, and wrenched himself backwards towards the void, Victoria with him. But at the very final moment, David Beckham kicked Rollo’s hands and he let go of Victoria. Rollo teetered one final time, looked at me, and toppled backwards, the echo of his agony as his self was stripped apart joining Miss Smallbone’s in the giant room’s eerie silence.