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
By Kate Orman
First Appeared in Burnt Toast#12, 1992
"I am half sick of shadows," said
In the ocean was an island, on the island was a hill, on the hill was a house, in the house was a bedroom, in the bedroom was the Sixth Doctor and he was feeling very confused.
There was a mirror next to the window. The decor was spare, even Spartan, as though no-one had ever bothered to fill in the details of this little room with its sloping attic ceiling, its Victorian brass bed. There was no dust.
He looked at himself in the mirror. He looked out the window, where the ocean stretched away, bright tropical green-blue, the colour of some exotic cocktail. Someone ought to top that ocean off with an enormous paper umbrella, a colossal ring of pineapple the size of a small moon.
The sea was anonymous. He might be on any planet, at any time. He had no idea where he was, or how long he had been there, or how he had come to be there. His memory stretched back... how far? He couldn't remember anything except being in the room, watching the sparkles in the ocean.
His coat of many colours was thrown over the end of the bed. Perhaps he had been sleeping. The bedclothes -- crisp white sheets, cream bedspread -- didn't seem ruffled.
He left the coat behind. The air carried just a tinge of warmth, just a hint of salt from the tropical ocean. He went out of the room, through a wooden hallway, his footsteps echoing hollowly.
There was a balcony with the same view of the same perfect ocean. The beach below was immaculate, fine white sand.
He found the dining room after a brief exploration. The table was set for one. He waited, but no-one came -- no mysterious host, no silent servants. He ate vichysoisse and, after a moment's hesitation, steamed gumblejack.
He began to wonder if he should be looking for a rose to take home to his daughter.
"No reason for recourse to the surreal," he chided himself. "As always, there is a perfectly logical explanation."
He played chess with himself in the drawing room, read books from the library: L'Etranger, Little Dorritt, The Frogs. At length he had searched the entire house. He was alone, and as far as he could tell, no-one was watching.
The island was surprisingly small -- barely room for the hill, a few palm trees. The trees were silent except for whatever it was they whispered to the wind. No birds. No insects. Certainly no gumblejacks.
He circumnavigated the little hill in the centre of the island. His were the only footprints in the sand. There was no driftwood or kelp. Perfect. "I appear to be trapped in a cigarette commercial," said the Doctor aloud.
There was no-one there to hear him.
Upstairs, in the bedroom, something looked at itself in the mirror.
The sunset would have made a photographer's teeth ache. He watched it, sitting on the beach, tracing ideas in the sand with a bit of stick. The tide came neither in nor out.
He was most conspicuously a prisoner. A prisoner implied a jailor -- someone to steam the gumblejacks and make sure he didn't build a raft out of palm trees. He must not have looked hard enough.
At length he went back to the bedroom. The house's lights shone softly out over the dark beach. The wind hissed in the palm trees. Out of the window, the ocean was black glass.
He looked into the mirror. Something looked back out at him.
"That's a cheap trick," he said shortly. The thing in the mirror didn't respond.
"Well?" The Doctor reached out a finger to the mirror's surface.
Skin said the thing in the mirror. Flesh hate skin hate flesh you can't trust it it gets sick it develops diseases it gets old it dies when you least expect it
The Doctor found his hand was doing things he wasn't telling it to. His palm slid down the mirror. The glass was startlingly cold.
Abruptly, he was smashing the mirror. Nasty skin wicked skin hate skin hate flesh He smacked his hand against the glass until it splintered, slicing into the thick skin of the palm. He lost his balance, grabbing at the chest of drawers that held the mirror, but hitting it, hitting it. Hate skin hate you hate you. Hate you.
* * *
Dawn noticed that the beach was empty, as empty as the ocean. It peeked into the house, found a window, threw some early morning light about. Anyone home?
There was the Doctor, sitting with his back to the bed, improvising bandages from one of the sheets. The mirror was lying all over the floor, stained black.
He wondered if his jailor knew about the thing in the mirror. He wondered if his jailor was the thing in the mirror. But why hurt him? Why make him hurt himself?
The feeling was a bad one. Not being completely in control. There had been times in his life when he had not been in control. He remembered the sharp taste of horror when Sutekh had grabbed his mind, inside and out, as casually as he might have held a spoon. And the nightmare blur of post-regenerative trauma.
Not completely in control.
Let me out hate you said one of the pieces of mirror on the floor. He fled to breakfast.
Breakfast was continental: croissants and jam, coffee and very fresh milk. He ate one-handed, watching the sunlight move in the palm-trees in the courtyard.
Escape was going to be tricky. He hadn't found a telescope lying about anywhere, but he didn't need one to tell him that there was a lot of ocean between him and the next place. If there was a next place. For all he knew, the whole planet could be ocean, with only this one little island sticking up out of it.
Which brought him back to the ridiculousness of an island put aside especially for him, with spotless sand and croissants laid on. And the frightening gap in his memory. Not so much a gap as a tailing off, a sentence that broke down into an ellipsis... As though he'd always been here. As though everything else he'd ever done had just been the night-before-last's dream.
Perhaps there was nothing to escape to. Perhaps this was reality: a single man, a single island, breakfasts that spontaneously appeared due an arcane law of physics.
He snorted. Keep up this sort of thinking, and he'd be trying to swim the ocean to get away from himself.
He found gardening gloves in the little tin shed next to the vegetable garden. He picked up a chunk of the mirror, washed it in the crystal blue surf, laid it on the warm white sand.
"Why do you hate flesh?" he asked it.
Betrayed me said the thing in the piece of mirror. It was like a hologram; any piece contained all the malice of the original. Betrayed me falling to bits disease and age ugly traitor
"And are you better off now?" asked the Doctor. "As some sort of non-corporeal entity, trapped in a mirror?"
The thing just laughed. Miniature cracks burst across the surface of the glass.
"The curse is come upon me," said the Doctor sarcastically. "You're just as much a prisoner as I am."
The laughter stopped.
"We're trapped here together, aren't we?"
The Doctor peered at the horizon. Today it seemed less distinct, as though there was a haze on the water. The sound of wind in the palm trees was muted.
Lunch tasted like cardboard.
It was ostensibly a Swiss cheese omelette. The chardonnay had a distant echo of grape juice, but nothing more. He put down the glass hard, and it tumbled off the table and shattered on the terra cotta tiles. The explosion was tinny, muffled.
The Doctor lay down on the floor next to the broken glass, his nose an inch away from one of the fragments. Coming apart at the seams laughed the thing in the glass who'll be trapped and who'll be free
"Do you know a way out?"
When everything comes apart at the seams
"How was it you made me -- made me hurt my hand?"
There was no answer, only the silicon tinkle of laughter.
"Perhaps I'm coming apart at the seams too," said the Doctor. At least he wasn't alone.
Later, on the beach:
The colours seemed too bright, as though he was seeing them on a defective television set. The ocean was an impossible blue, but it had no edges, no border, only a haze.
He sat down on the sand. It was no longer warm, but soft and vague as an eiderdown. He wondered if there was something wrong with his nervous system. He was cultivating a sense of unreality. How long had he really been here? Long enough to go mad?
The grip started with his ankles. Of course he tried to get up and run, but something had his toes, and shortly it had his feet as well.
"No," he said, but the grip ran up his body, clutching muscles and skin. He felt it in his elbows and running across his scalp.
They went down to the surf together, the thing in the glass and the Time Lord. There were no stars, no horizon. The water was invisible, a dark white-noise licking at the beach. The sand was cold.
"You were right," said the Doctor. "It is coming apart at the seams." He hovered at the edge of the surf with fizzing salt water lapping at his heels. "You're unravelling it all. Aren't you?"
There was no answer from his unwelcome passenger. He felt it eroding him from the inside out.
He lunged for the ocean.
He felt the angry grip inside him, making him thrash in the hungry surf as it dragged him under.
"Welcome back," said Mel, around a pencil stub clutched in her teeth. "we thought we'd lost you for a moment there."
The water sizzled.
"Cut that connection!" shrilled Mel.
He felt the grip inside him, making him thrash in the hungry surf as it dragged him under. His hands snatched at the beach,
"Welcome back," said Mel, "we thought we'd lost you for a moment there."
There was no beach. The ocean rolled on and on.
"Cut that connection!"
His hands snatched at the beach. The thing in the glass howled in rage.
"Welcome back," said Mel, "we thought we'd lost you for a moment there."
He was gripping her arms above the elbows, his back arched. Sweat had washed the conductive fluid down the sides of his face where she'd pulled the electrodes away.
"Did I bring it with me?" he hissed.
Mel extracted herself gently from his hands, and flicked practised eyes over the computer's readouts. "No," she said firmly. "It's out of you now. You've left it trapped in the mainframe. All we have to do now is cold start, and it will be gone forever."
He fell back on the couch. The technicians blurred around him, doing technician things. Dismantling the cybernetic prison he'd built for himself. He could still feel the coldness of the ocean, the white warmth of the sand.
On the screen of Mel's monitor, something reared and roared. The glass shattered in a dozen rippling cracks.
"Cut that connection!" she snapped.
©2011 Go to top