BY DAVID CARROLL
Imperfect Copy a novel
The Tiger who wanted to be Human a comic
Changeling, with Kate Orman
BY KATE ORMAN
Untitled, by Sarah J. Groenewegen
Forgotten Memories, by Evan Paliatseas
The Rushing of Blood, by Evan Paliatseas
Keeper's Demise, by David J Richardson
NON DOCTOR WHO
Alien To Her, by David Carroll
She Twitched, by David Carroll
The Inner Light, by Kate Orman
Waiting in the Light, by Jonathan Barons
Grandfather's Clock, by Steven Caldwell
Messages, by Steven Caldwell
Inge, by Simon Moore
First Appeared in Burnt Toast#5, 1990
Her spilt blood had turned brown-black by the second day of the ceremony. Even so, the angular form of the pentagram was still visible through the smoky haze in the cave. A strange, flickering light hesitantly danced around the corners of the shape, casting a vague luminescence into the air. The heady smell of incense and other odours clouded her mind such that she could see nothing clearly, but it didn't seem to matter. She tried to force herself onwards, remembering her purpose. But it was so hard to fight the peculiar sense of comfort and drowsiness.
Slowly, and ever so slightly, the sounds became more distinct. It was as though she had gradually awoken from a deep, deep sleep. A dry rustling periodically emanated from around her, combined with a lower, more rhythmic throbbing. Her breath. Her heart. The only sounds to break her loneliness, and the horrible, eternal silence.
And then that too failed.
She awoke as though drowning, explosively forcing herself to the surface. Convulsively her body jerked into unnatural positions, tightening and twisting, shaking all the while like a leaf crushed in a massive hand. The sounds of bones raking and straining against each other accompanied the abrupt popping of joints. Her mouth was opened, but only a vague gurgling issued forth.
There was a sudden, immense pressure that slammed her against the ground, and then nothing.
* * *
The man stood thoughtfully in front of the flickering console, deep in worlds of his own. A worried and yet sad feel seemed to surround him as he stood in silence, eyes gazing down at the screen, and yet past it. Physically he was not much to look at; short, with no striking features, but there was far, far more to him that was obvious. His real power you could only see by looking into his eyes, eyes that could smile like whimsical stars, or burn like intense novae.
For a few seconds he stood in silence. It was a strange, unearthly moment, almost timeless. And for that while it was not a man who stood in the brightly lit room, but more of a statue, an image, carved perfectly from hard stone older than Time itself. Then the moment abruptly ended.
"Have we stopped, Professor?" asked the young girl as she bounded into the room. Seeing that she was getting no reaction, she crossed to his side. "Professor!"
Knocked out of his reverie, the man looked up. "Eh? Yes, Ace, we've stopped."
"Good, I was getting tired of reading French history, anyway. Where are we?" Her hand strayed towards some obscure controls upon the console and a portion of the wall behind her slid open. It revealed a badly lit cavern, rocks protruding out into space at unusual angles. "Can't say I like it much. Why did we come here?"
"Don't fiddle with that, you don't know what it does." he said testily, removing her hand from the console. "This is Archea, a dead planet in the inner sphere of your galaxy. The civilization here collapsed a great deal of time ago."
Ace frowned. "Doesn't look very interesting. What did we come here for?"
"That's the problem," answered the man, that distant look creeping over him once more. His gaze fell upon the controls. "You see, I'm not sure."
The girl was suddenly silent and looked at her friend with concern. "You don't know?"
"No. It was something I discovered earlier. The TARDIS was programmed to come here in advance. That's the problem, you see," he added almost to himself as he turned back to the controls, "No one should be able to do that but me."
"Maybe you did, Professor. Maybe you just forgot about it." The man stood up abruptly and looked at his companion with surprise. She shrugged her shoulders. "It has happened before, hasn't it?"
"Yes, it has," he said after a moment, deep in thought, "but that was some time ago. It isn't supposed to happen any more."
"Well, since we're here we might as well go out and have a look." She marched off towards the door, but noticing her friend wasn't moving, she stopped. For a few seconds more there was silence, and upon Ace's features a marked anxiety could be seen. It was almost as though she didn't exist to him. Shaking off the sudden chill, she tried to change his mood. "It is safe out there, isn't it?"
"What? Oh, yes, it's safe. All the life here was eradicated when the most advanced race at the time discovered a destructive use for nuclear energy. Reminds me of somewhere else, actually." He too seemed to forcibly dismiss his feeling of foreboding. "Anyway, what ever has happened, the only way to find out for certain is jump in at the deep end. Yes, let's go have a look."
* * *
Another sound began to rise from around the shape. What had started as a low chanting increased in crescendo to a wailing, piercing scream. A sudden wind tore the smoky haze and blew the candles out in an instant. Yet the unearthly luminescence continued, showing the whirls and milky anticircles of the increasing tempest. The lone, crushed form lay in the centre of it all, within the confines of the shape, somehow unaffected. Around the form the storm grew greater and more concentrated, moving and coalescing into a raging whirlwind. A thousand shapes and designs formed in the glowing air and faded. Slowly, straining, the broken form began to move, to rise.
It had no face.
* * *
They exited the small, antiquated police box, the man holding a torch in one hand and an umbrella in the other, and the girl carrying a weather beaten backpack. The darkness of the cavern seemed to swallow them for a second, but as their eyes became accustomed, more and more features of the caves became apparent. Broken and twisted rocks covered the once smooth ground, shaken free from their eternal moorings by some great force in aeons past. The entire chamber was covered in cracks and pits telling tales of the time that had gone.
"Looks pretty morbid, Professor. Are you sure people used to live here?" asked Ace as she scrambled her way over the rocks.
"Yes. I can't say I like it much either. These caves were once natural wonders, before the idiots who inhabited them decided to blow themselves up. Such a waste." He too made his way towards the egress of the cavern.
"So they were cave dwellers. What did they look like?"
"Oh, not too much unlike humans. They lived underground largely because of the proximity of their sun. Far too hot upstairs, you see. I visited this world once, out of curiosity..." He stopped for a moment, gazing out into space, then seemed to shake himself once more and continue. "Yes, well, there was a cult of mystics amongst these people who claimed they could speak with spirits. Naturally enough most of them were charlatans, but some... well, suffice to say that the number of psychically active individuals was rather extraordinary. It is quite possible that some actually made contact with the other psionic races that exist." With difficulty the man attempted to scale a sharp incline while holding both his umbrella and torch. Ace easily made it to the top, and turned to aid him. When they were both upon the ledge, the man sat down for a few moments.
"But why did they blow themselves up? That's what I don't understand." Ace said after a second, staring into the dark.
"Who knows? Who can tell what possessed a race of mostly reasonable beings to commit suicidal genocide? The demons of ignorance and stupidity are the most frightening and dangerous of the tools of evil. They can perform their work through the best of people, with the best of intentions."
"Well, I'll tell you this, Professor. I don't like it here at all. It has a bad feeling to it. It's like... well, like Gabriel Chase, only older." Ace shivered, and looked away, deep in memory. "Do we have to stay here, Doctor?"
He looked at her with concern. Of course he shouldn't expose her to whatever lay in these caverns. He placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. Abruptly his grip tightened.
"Oh, but we must stay, Ace my dear, we must!" said a voice that wasn't his.
* * *
The rising form hung in the centre of the summoning apparatus like a puppet dangling in a dust cloud. Its head hung loose, rolling from side to side like a broken toy. The face was blank, featureless, the ultimate tabula rasa. There was no remnant of the original soul, of the original burning hope. All there was was emptiness, a deep, thirsting emptiness, straining desperately to be filled. There were more minds, more feelings to take. Though the Hungerer had consumed, and was free, it was not in the least sated.
* * *
"What's the matter, Doctor?" cried Ace, spinning around abruptly into a cat-like stance. And there she remained, mouth agape with shock as she looked at the man before her.
He was physically the same, but his face had somehow changed. He seemed younger, more overpowering, more brash. There was something vaguely unstable about him, but there was also that same, pleading, yet powerful look in his eyes.
"...we must stay, Mel! How else are we to find out what's going on? Come on, let's get going." And he strode past the stunned Ace and off down the passage. "Don't dawdle, girl."
Ace had known the Doctor a long time, and had seen some of the strangest things in the universe at his side. But through them all there had been one thing she had come to depend on: the Doctor himself. He was somehow above everything else that had happened, somehow apart from any harm. He was the one rock that her hopes had anchored to when all else had failed. And now here he was, twisted and yet the same, wrong and yet right. The rock had shifted, and Ace was in shock.
"Well? Come along then Peri! This is hardly the time to stand around gawking like a schoolgirl!" He tapped his foot impatiently and stood, hands on hips at the base of the rise.
Ace stood where she was, uncertain. "Doctor? This is me, Ace! Don't you remember me?"
"Well, if you are that worried, stay here next to the exit. I won't be gone long. Just remember, don't stray from the outer doorway," the Doctor replied, spinning about. He abruptly started off into the darkness, leaving Ace behind.
She stood shock still for a moment, trying to take it all in. But the puzzle was too much for the bewildered girl. All she did know was that whatever had happened to the Doctor, he wasn't in control of himself, and for the Doctor that meant trouble. "Wait, Professor, wait for me!" she called after him, and raced down the rugged slope.
* * *
There was one coming towards it now, one and many. And so strong! Never had it tasted so many feelings, so many memories. It had so full a mind, so deep in feeling, yet so restricted, so ordered. Closer he must come, closer still, to the restraining marks. With this one there would be strength to get fully free. And there would be others. Many, many others.
Closer, he must come. Closer!
* * *
"How can he move so fast?" thought Ace in her confusion. She ran as quickly as she could, but he still managed to outdistance her. The only way she was able to follow him was by the low conversation he seemed to be having with himself. Occasionally references floated back to her, but they made no sense. He seemed to be speaking to someone, or maybe even groups of people sometimes. And, perhaps most frightening of all, every few moments his entire voice changed. It was almost as if there were more then one of him, and each in turn wanted to say his piece.
Abruptly her foot caught against something in the dark, and she fell hard against the cold stone. She half rose to continue after him when the hopelessness of her situation caught up with her. She slouched to the ground in an instant, weeping. "Too fast... Shouldn't have let him come out here... Should have warned him... Doctor! What's wrong, Doctor! What do I do?"
Damn him, and his eternal self-assurance. He always knew what to do, always had a card up his sleeve. Now what was she supposed to do? She turned upon the wall and smashed her fist against it. It hurt, but the pain cleared her mind. Coldly she remembered, one other time she had known the deepest bite of betrayal. To save her from Fenric's curse, the Doctor had said things, hurtful, hateful things, things that had almost torn her apart from within.
She felt torn apart now.
"Where are you, Sara Jane? I can't find you!" came the voice back, his voice and yet not. He was calling for help, perhaps not from her, or perhaps not from anyone alive, but he was calling for help. All else apart, he was still the Doctor, he was still her friend, and now he needed her more than ever. Ace looked up from the ground, and saw his light further ahead. Slowly she picked herself up, and stood in the darkness. Taking a deep breath, she started after him.
* * *
Easy, so easy. His teaching against psi was like a doorway to his mind! The harder he resisted, the deeper his thought, and the more there was to devour. The feast drew all of its attention, as it felt more and more real by the second. The being was in its grasp, and soon all would be complete.
* * *
Ace sprang over the uneven ground towards the light ahead. Without pause her hand delved into her backpack and withdrew two metallic cylinders. She knew that the Doctor had stopped moving ahead, and that meant whatever was causing this trouble was there with him, and was going to pay.
The cavern opened up abruptly to a scene of chaos that froze Ace in her tracks. There was the Doctor, standing listlessly before a rising whirlwind of dust and smoke. Clouds of particles swirled around the tiny man, obscuring vision, yet somehow they glowed from within like muted lanterns. A cyclone wind tore through the cave, whipping at clothing and tearing at exposed skin, all the while screaming like a woeful banshee. In the heart of the Dustdevil hung the broken form of what once might have been human, but was now horribly warped and twisted out of shape. The body dangled in the eye of the storm like a broken doll, robes flapping vaguely in the roaring tempest. And there, at the body's feet, was a curved pentagram, lines carved into the stony ground and filled with blackened blood.
Ace stood alone, numb with the shock of too much too fast. She tried to cry out to him, but the only thing she could say was an almost whispered "Doctor!"
"Susan?" asked the Doctor, bewildered.
"Yet Another!" cried a voice beyond the grave, and the faceless corpse turned towards the young girl.
* * *
Down, deeper and deeper down in the depths of Gabriel Chase the elevator dived. Ace watched as the light rapidly dimmed to a faint, ethereal glow. Abruptly, the motion stopped. She pulled open the sliding doors and rushed out into the shadows. She had to know, she had to find out if what she remembered and feared above all else was true. She had to know that when she came over the walls of this house as a child...
Ace felt empty inside, uncaring and unknowing of all around her. She didn't notice the cold chill in the air or the black cloak of night that surrounded her, she saw only the fires that had raged in her friend's house and the ashes they left. She climbed over the wall to the old house and the ashes they left. She climbed over the wall to the old building mechanically. Blindly she threw open the rotting planks and entered the decrepit place. And suddenly she found a fear to match her own, and a hatred far, far greater.
There was no reason at all, only hate. She couldn't stand it, she tried to flee, but somehow she couldn't. The presence was incredibly powerful, so much so, that Ace didn't know what to do.
So she did what she always had done.
She burned the house down.
* * *
So she did what she always had done.
She blew the cavern up.
"Get down!" yelled Ace in desperation, as she flung the cans of Nitro-9 at the centre of the storm, and dived for the Doctor's legs.
Unnoticed and unknown to Ace, one of the straps of her backpack fell over the edge of the pentagram and cut the line of power, just before a massive explosion rocked the caverns and covered everything with debris. And in that split second, the sound of two ethereal voices cried out and were abruptly silenced.
* * *
Some time later, back in the TARDIS, Ace was busy bandaging the Doctor's bruised head, and simultaneously attempting to extract information from him.
"Ouch! Watch what you do with that bandage! You are supposed to be curing me, not killing me!"
"Don't be such a big baby. Now sit still and explain why the demon was there in the first place."
"If you promise to leave my head alone. Alright, as near as I can tell, one of the Archean mystics survived the holocaust, and lived abandoned here for quite some time. The poor thing must have been very lonely. Anyway, it must have tried to contact some powerful creature in order to change the way events occurred. This alerted the Time Lords, myself included, and so I programmed the TARDIS to bring us here. Unfortunately for everyone the creature that arrived was not in the least reasonable. In fact it was a member of the Psevthe race, a group of beings that feed on memories. Psychically aware individuals are the most susceptible. So, as we came closer to arriving here, I began to forget things."
"But, wait a bit, if these things eat memories, then how can you remember now? I mean wouldn't those memories be totally gone?"
"Yes, that's what has me curious also. It fails to make any sense. Are you absolutely sure that you didn't touch anything prior to blowing the cavern up? Covering the pentagram entirely like your explosion did would have had the opposite effect to that desired." said the Doctor seriously.
Ace tried to hold back a smile. "I touched nothing. Except you, that is."
"Yes, and I have the scars to prove it. Well, I guess we were just lucky that your destructive tendencies didn't bring the roof down on us too heavily."
"You know something, Professor?" said Ace, whimsically. "I think that's the closest you have ever come to condoning Nitro-9."
"I am definitely going to have a talk with you about that some time. But not right now."
©2011 Go to top