Sally isn't afraid of the farmhouse down the road, and she's going to prove it.
Whenever she goes to visit her gran for Christmas, her stupid cousins Danny and Zach try to prove how much better they are than her because they're older and their father, Sally's uncle Ben, takes them traveling all over Europe. On Christmas Eve, they tell her they're going to the abandoned farmhouse down the road on Boxing Day, the one that looks haunted, and they bet she's too scared to go with them, because she's only eleven. Sally's mum can't afford to take her on trips to the Continent, but that doesn't mean she's afraid to go somewhere she's never been before, so she steals out on Christmas Eve before dinner, her camera swinging on its strap round her neck.
The sun is going down, and the farmhouse casts long crooked shadows across the half-melted snow. The rotting slats of wood look like broken teeth, and Sally feels as if she might fall into the dark gaps between them, even if that's not how falling works. She finds herself tiptoeing closer, though there shouldn't be any reason to be quiet.
She pokes her head through one of the holes in the decaying wall of the farmhouse. She shields the sides of her face with her hands to block what's left of the sun, so her eyes can adjust to the darkness inside.
On the ceiling, dimly, Sally sees hundreds of small dark shapes.
She squeaks in surprise and stumbles backward a step. Then she pokes her head back in, and yes, it's a colony of hibernating bats. Sally holds her camera and takes pictures until she finds an angle where the sun slants in, just a little, and she can see their sleeping forms.
Sally goes back to her gran's house. She doesn't show Danny and Zach the photographs, or even mention the farmhouse at all. It would only make them want to visit it more, and the bats deserve better than to have their home invaded by the likes of those two.
After the Angels, but before the Doctor, Larry and Sally watch every time travel movie they can find. Donnie Darko. Back to the Future. The Terminator. Most entertainingly, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, after which they wonder if George Carlin was really the Doctor all along.
They're watching Groundhog Day late at night when Sally realizes that Larry's fallen asleep, snuffling and drooling a little into the arm of the sofa. There are dark circles under his eyes. Sally knows why. She hasn't been sleeping well either.
Larry and Sally know that Kathy is alive and well, far away and a long time ago. Mrs. Nightingale doesn't. After the Angels were defeated and the TARDIS was safe, Larry had to call his mum to tell her that Kathy had gone missing. Mrs. Nightingale hasn't given up hope that the police will find her, and doesn't understand why Larry and Sally are so sure they won't.
Sally leaves Larry on the sofa, goes to her room, and opens up her desk drawer. There's a picture of Kathy trying on zebra print lingerie, posing like a go-go girl next to a dressing room mirror. She made Sally promise never to show it to anyone. It always makes Sally smile, and she revisits it so often that the edges are starting to wear.
Now, Sally studies the picture, and thinks of the woman Kathy might have become if she hadn't been stolen away.
It's only after she sees the Doctor face-to-face that Sally is able to visit old places again.
Before the Angels, Sally was never afraid of old mansions, no matter how eerie. Instead of imagining monsters in every shadow, she imagined the dreams of the people who lived there long ago, the nooks and crannies where their children would play. There was no reason to fear a place just because it had a history. All you had to do was try and understand it.
After the Angels, but before the Doctor, she had to put all the statues in her flat, no matter how small, into boxes, and give them to her mother to sell on Ebay. She had to give statements to the police on Katherine Nightingale and William Shipton, both of whom had been in her company on the day they disappeared. She went to the park and used her camera to capture the way the rain dripped off the bare branches, but she didn't take it to old places. Not anymore.
After the Doctor, Sally realizes that her savior from the Weeping Angels had, all along, been her. She can't be afraid anymore, knowing that.
She still has a list of old places to visit, sitting in the bottom of a desk drawer, untouched. She takes it out, smooths it. There's an abandoned chapel, crumbling at the edge of a wood, not far out of London. She'd written out the GPS coordinates and the nearest road. Sally takes the list and her camera and goes out to her car. She doesn't tell Larry where she's going; he'd only fret, and she wants to confront her fear alone, so she can be sure that it's gone.
It's raining now, and getting worse. The windshield wipers scrape away sheets of it, clearing out smudgy views of the countryside. Sally turns the heat on in the car, feels it like tiny puffs of dying breath against her fingers.
The chapel comes into view between passes of the windshield wipers. It's hard to tell whether the stone is grey, or only looks that way in the rain-drenched light of afternoon. Sally already likes the way the steeple reaches into the sky like a claw. She parks just off the side of the road. She didn't bring an umbrella, but her camera case is waterproof, so she steps out and walks as if the rain weren't there, blinking to keep it out of her eyes.
The chapel is overgrown with creeping vines, winding in and out of cracks in the façade. Sally presses her hand to the wall along the threshold, the wet vines at once slick and rough against her palm. She passes through.
The chapel is filled with the sound of rain against stone, though the roof is intact enough to keep the damp out. The stern arches of the walls make the space seem smaller than it is. It's comforting, this feeling of the chapel closing in around her, embracing her. The stained glass windows to her left and right are cracked and streaked, and the pews are a ruin of rotting wood. Sally looks past them to the altar.
There's a statue of an angel there.
She can't breathe, can't move, can't blink: if she blinks, she will die. She mustn't forget. Mustn't let her eyes go dry, mustn't look away, not even for a moment. She backs away as quickly as she can, until she can feel rain against the nape of her neck. Her eyes are burning with the need to blink, but she can't, can't leave Larry alone with the shop, can't leave her mother to weep and pray for her return for months, years, until she finally loses hope.
Her body wins out over her determination, and she blinks.
The Weeping Angel hasn't moved toward her. It hasn't even turned its head.
In fact, upon second glance, she sees that this statue is chubby-cheeked with stubby little wings, more of a Cupid than a Gabriel. It doesn't look like a Weeping Angel at all.
"I'm an idiot," Sally breathes.
She forces herself to take a step toward the angel statue. Another. She takes a deep breath. Closes her eyes. Opens them.
It still hasn't moved.
She walks right up to the statue, holds up her camera, and takes a picture. When she goes back to Kathy's grave, which she hasn't visited in over a year for fear of the stone angels in the cemetery, she keeps it in her pocket.
Sally and Kathy sit on the roof of Wester Drumlins. Sally takes pictures of the view. Kathy watches Sally take pictures, and Sally pretends not to notice that she's watching. She knows that Kathy's always been a little jealous of her ability to see where light and image and lens come together; there was never any art in her, but that was never the reason they were friends anyway. Sally has ideas, and Kathy runs with them. She's lucky to have that, knows somehow that the world without her would be sunless and dim.
"You're not taking pictures of the skyline," says Kathy. "You're taking pictures of the sky."
Sally takes another photo before she answers the unspoken question. "The moon's beautiful tonight," she says, even though it's only a sliver. That's not the reason.
The next day, Sally breaks out paints from the closet she hasn't used in a year. She mixes them, white with a touch of yellow, dips the tip of her brush, and paints pinpricks of light across her photographs of the sky from Wester Drumlins.
She doesn't know why. The only light that ought to be in the sky is the moon; only nutters talk about stars. They just feel like they belong there, and Sally has always had an eye for where the light falls.
Agent Sparrow shouldn't be nervous about this mission. Her objective is the same as ever: to shoot the Silence and distribute the photographs as widely as possible, so people will remember.
The mission brings her to a little hilltop village, with an armed agent for backup. Granted, the village is full of Silurians and Ice Warriors, and her armed escort is Queen Elizabeth the Tenth. No, she reminds herself, Agent Windsor. However it was that a queen came to work for Area 52, she's Agent Windsor now.
They come at night, when the villagers, distrustful of humans, are asleep. Darkness is no advantage when vision is their best weapon against the Silence, but they both have headlamps and eye-drives, and Sparrow's camera has a magnesium flash. Windsor goes in first, and it doesn't look like she has a weapon drawn, but Sparrow knows she does, beneath her cloak. Sparrow has her weapon drawn, too, fingers poised for the shutter and the flash.
In the glare of her lamp, Agent Sparrow sees a villager awake, drawing from the communal well. The Silurian bares her teeth at the sight of them. "Humans!"
Sparrow glances sidelong at Windsor, but she hasn't revealed any of her weapons. Life is much easier for Sparrow when she works with professionals. "We're here by the sanction of Eldane," Sparrow says, unrolling the document from her pocket, "to investigate the murders in your village. We think the killers strike at night. It'd be best if you were to return home, ma'am."
"You come into my village and tell me where I should go?" The Silurian looks coiled to spring. "Eldane never said – "
Two Silence appear from behind the well. Sparrow captures them both in one shot. Windsor downs them with two. The Silurian, oblivious, leaps at Sparrow, knocking her to the ground and sending her camera flying from her grasp. It breaks against the paving stones. A sound of outrage tears from Sparrow's throat, and she angles her head so that the full glare of her lamp floods her attacker's eyes. The Silurian cries out, then goes silent when Windsor's tranquilizer dart finds her neck.
Windsor rolls the Silurian's limp form off of Sparrow, then helps her to her feet. Sparrow finds her balance, then nudges the remains of her camera with the tip of her boot. "I failed," she says.
"What gave you that idea, Agent Sparrow?" Windsor inclines her head toward the tranquilized Silence. "Pictures of them when they're unconscious work just as well for remembering. Though I'll admit we could have done better on diplomacy with the locals."
"You saved my life," says Sparrow. And that moment, as the eternal moment of 5:02 pm on 22 April often does, rewrites itself. Sparrow and Windsor have been partners for as long as either of them can remember, the pride of Area 52, owing each other their lives so many times over that neither of them keep count.
The house has a For Sale sign in front, but Sally can't miss the chance to photograph it. It's old but well-kept, with a beautiful garden in the back that's only a little overgrown. She won't put the photos on the Internet, so the estate agent will have no reason to complain.
Everything in the garden is native to Britain, Sally notices: yellow irises, foxgloves, primroses, Jacob's-ladder. It doesn't so much have the look of a garden as a piece of a meadow transplanted next to the house. It must have taken a lot of work to get it to look that way. It's a shame the house is on sale, Sally thinks; the next owner likely won't have the skill or the taste to maintain this garden as it is.
There are statues flanking the front porch, hand-carved by the look of them, mottled here and there with moss but serene sentries still. She realizes that the statues are angels, and then realizes that she's not afraid. In fact, she thinks they're beautiful.
She is so absorbed in her photography that she doesn't notice the car pulling into the driveway until it's too late to make a graceful escape. An elderly black woman with a head of iron grey curls emerges from the car, closes the door, and says, "Can I help you, young lady?"
After a moment of panic, Sally decides the truth will serve her best. "I like to photograph old places. This house is so beautiful I wanted a chance to really see it, and I always see things best through my camera."
"You're the first person to say anything so complimentary about this house in months," the lady says. "What's your name, young lady?"
"That's a lovely name. My name is Tabitha Wright. You've got one of those digital cameras, haven't you? May I see your photographs of the house?"
It's the least she can do, after invading the lady's property. Sally brings up the camera's memory and shows Tabitha the screen. The first picture is of the front of the house. "It's still so strange, seeing it like this," Tabitha says. "But you can see from this angle that there's a stump where the old tree used to be. My children would climb up there every day and give their poor mother a heart attack. The estate agent said the house would fetch a better price if I cut it down."
Sally doesn't know what to say to that, so she moves through the next set of pictures, all of the garden. "That was my husband's labor of love," says Tabitha. "His fingernails always had dirt under them. Why, you make it look just like it did when he was alive. There, I can see the path he cleared through the heather. That took him a week, even with our daughter's help."
"And there are the statues we made together when we first moved in. Andy was a stonemason, so he carved most of the shape, and I did the details on the faces and hands. It's been thirty years of wear and tear – they've earned it all," she says, tracing a contour of moss with her fingernail.
Tabitha clutches Sally's free hand in two of her own. "Sally Sparrow, this old house hasn't felt like the one I lived in for thirty years, ever since Andy died. You've helped remind me of the home it once was."
Sally doesn't know what to say. She hadn't realized there had been such a story to this house. But then again, every old place has a story – that's why she loves them so much. Normally she guesses at the stories with her camera, but this time, she gets to hear it too. "It's a shame you have to sell it," she says.
"No help for it," says Tabitha, "but I can take you on a tour of the inside if you'll take more of those pictures."
"I'd love to." And she knows she's getting an even greater gift than she's given.