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#9, 1991
A story which never happened
Now you are mine
The moon was new, and he was feeling tired. Bad combination.
He wore a sweatshirt and a jumper and a huge black overcoat. Never mind where the clothes had come from. They did not keep him warm, not against the dampness of the castle. Not against the bitter wet wind blowing in from the north, carrying the green chill of the Tees and the Esk and, just faintly, the salt of the Channel.
Nothing kept him warm. Nothing could keep him warm.
Sometimes he read books from the castle's huge collection; sometimes he wandered its corridors, lost in the world of shadowy walls and clinging air. He knew every stone and spider. But now, just walking made his limbs ache with tiredness.
The castle had once been a mighty fort, and after that, a tourist attraction; now it was a fort again, serving a different purpose. Sometimes, when the fog in his brain was thinner than usual, he remembered that the real purpose of the walls was not to keep something out, but to keep him in.
He was standing in the gallery above the great hall. It was a sort of corridor that ran around the perimeter of the hall's ceiling; leaning over the balcony, he could see the huge woollen flags that draped the wall below, their heraldic symbols blurred with moths and damp and decay.
The year was nineteen fifty-six. The moon was new, he was tired, and someone was coming.
He heard the creak of the great door in the hall below, and withdrew a little, where the shadows would hang down over him.
There were two girls. He could not see their faces from this far away; he recognised Maria, though, her thirty-year-old body gone to fat, her plump hands on their shoulders as she steered them towards the table. "Growing girls need plenty to eat," she was saying cheerily. "You just sit yourselves down and wait here while I fetch you some supper."
The girls watched Maria as she waddled from the hall. They probably hadn't seen anyone that overweight for years.
Thirteen years. Thirteen years is one hundred and sixty-nine new moons.
He could not hear what the girls were saying, only the low rustle of their voices. One sat down at the table as if exhausted. The other prowled around the room, checking the doors (locked), looking for other exits (none). At last, she joined her friend at the table.
He wondered where they had come from. Lost on the moors? Snatched from a caravan or a camp? It didn't really matter. Girls, boys, men, women, there was an inexhaustible supply.
Maria came back with a huge tureen of fish soup. Fish would also be a surprise. The Tees and the Esk burned with green poison, and the ocean washed basketloads of dead flesh onto the beach. Then there was bread, and cheese, and venison, and apples, and more and more until he felt grey and nauseous watching them wolf it down.
And at last, Maria lured one of the girls away. It took some doing; they didn't want to be parted. He took a closer look while they argued. One was in her late twenties, dark and muscly; the other was younger, blonder, healthy. It was the blonde girl who was left behind, waiting by herself in the big damp hall, hands clasped together in her lap.
It came to him after a while that he ought to do something. There was something, he knew, that he ought to be doing.
He leaned forward over the balcony. She had not seen him, a pale face high in the dark gallery. He could see every stone in the hall's floor, wisps of straw standing out like bright bright licks of yellow against the grey-blue of the cobblestones. A spider wandered across the corner of one of the stones, and he could count its legs. The floor was very distant, very beautiful, very inviting. And there was something he ought to be doing.
Something grabbed him around the shoulders and hips and held him there, gasping dizzily at the edge of the balcony.
"No," said a soft soft voice from somewhere in the darkness behind him.
The fierce force that had grabbed him relaxed, and he stumbled through the corridor to the twisty staircase, aware of the huge presence in the darkness behind him, following, watching, aware of his every breath, his every heartbeat.
He did not need to be pushed through the door at the bottom of the stairs. The angry shove nearly cost him his balance.
He stood at the unlit end of the hall. The girl was aware of him, standing up, peering into the shadows. "Maria?" she faltered.
There was no answer. "Maria said she was taking us to meet Jenny," said the girl. "Are you Jenny?"
"Yes," said the cat-soft voice behind him, "this is Jenny."
Jenny stepped into the light. Jenny was a short man with grey in his dark brown hair, and pale, pale skin that stood out sharply against the jet-black of the coat he was wrapped in. His eyes were as hollow as a strip-mine. They looked right through her.
Behind him something was standing that was so horrible that the girl's scream flatly refused to come out of her throat. Screaming would have meant acknowledging the thing existed, and it couldn't exist, it couldn't be there, and so she couldn't scream.
She saw the man forced forward by something invisible, as though wires were attached to his arms and legs and something was pulling him towards her. A sudden light came into his eyes, and she knew that he saw her, for the first time, as if she had never existed before.
He made a wordless sound of denial, but the wires tugged at his limbs, and his jerky movement towards her continued. And she never once screamed.
* * *
Afterwards he watched a spider wrapping up a fly in its web. In the morning, the web would shine with droplets of dew, like some tiny ferris-wheel spun out of promises and smoke. But now, it was dry and sharp and lethal, and the fly's struggles were weakening as the spider wrapped it in a mummy's shroud.
No-one came to the hall to see what he was doing. Maria would long since have gone to bed. The other girl would be lodged somewhere in the larder, a series of rooms in the lower part of the castle. She would have no idea what had happened to her friend. No idea of what he had done.
It did not matter what he had done. He was off the board, out of the game. His part in the play had finished, and he was lingering in the wings, waiting for the final curtain.
The metaphors made him dizzy, and he stood up, wanting nothing more than to find his bed and stay in it for a very long time.
The door creaked, and the monster came into the hall behind him.
He kept watching the web, in the vague hope that if he ignored the monster, it would go away. But it didn't.
So after a while he stood up, and turned to face the thing. It was so big, so much taller and bulkier than he was. Its shadow fell across him, flickering fitfully in time with a fluorescent light hanging loosely from the wall above the door. The shadow caught his nerves and pulled them tighter than a marionette's wires.
He took off his coat. He took off his sweatshirt. His wrists felt as thought they would crack. He could not breath properly. He raised his hands to his collar, and undid the top button of his shirt. Then the next.
His throat was marked with four brilliant purple scars, naked now in the sharp white light. In a single, surprisingly dextrous move, the monster reached down and grabbed him and lifted him up and put its barnacle lips to the gashes on his throat.
He did not struggle. He did not cry out. But a single tear ran down his upturned face.
And through the blur of salt water, he saw someone watching them from the gallery above.
* * *
The monster dropped him on the floor when it was finished. He lay in a daze for hours before dragging himself back to his bedroom.
There was a polished mirror over the bed. He saw himself for an instant before falling across the rough pile of sheets and furs. His face had a distinct blue tinge to it.
His breathing was too fast, his mouth was burning with thirst, and every heartbeat seemed to come too quickly on the heels of the last, too powerful, too shallow. He knew his blood pressure was way down. It wasn't enough. The girl hadn't been enough.
That was why there were two.
He slept for a while. When he woke up, he felt ill and disoriented.
There was someone in his room.
He sat up and nearly fell off the bed. Gently, gently, you're still in shock, said one part of his mind, while another grappled desperately with the face that had appeared before him.
The face was accompanied by an oil lamp; her features seemed to float above the smoky flame, awash with red and yellow. "Doctor," she said.
"You're supposed to be dead," he said hoarsely. It was the first sentence he had said in years, and his voice was tinny and strange. "You can't be here because you're dead."
"Well, I'm not," she said, in a matter-of-fact voice. "No thanks to you."
He closed his eyes, wishing he could just drift away, wishing the fog would come back and soften the thumping in his brain. But her lamp had burned away the fog.
"I don't understand," she said. "That woman -- Maria -- she picked us up out of the marsh, brought us here. I thought it must be one of the safe places. There are a few around. But then I couldn't find Lynne, and then I saw-"
* * *
"What did you see?"
"It was just like the last time. The last time I saw you, I mean. In that filthy little shack at Whitby."
Thirteen years and one hundred and sixty-nine full moons fell away. He remembered -
Well into the end game, he had confronted the Ancient Haemovore, breath-ing its aura of salt and decay as he explained what Fenric was planning to do. He'd thought it understood. If it helped Fenric, it would be destroying itself, its children, its world.
When it came for the final exchange, more than one piece had made its own moves.
He had not been expecting Ace's sudden burst of faith. He was relying on the Ancient One to deal with Fenric -- kill him, restrain him, it didn't matter. That particular pawn would be promoted, and it would win the game for him.
But Ace's faith had bored into the Haemovore like worms, and the Ancient One's blue body had bent with pain, unable to see or think or act.
So he'd done the only thing he could.
He'd smashed her faith.
And the Haemovore had killed him.
He could not remember the moment when it happened. He remembered the powerful arms that grabbed him, as though some fleshy, inexorable machine was coming for him. He remembered shouting something to Ace before the claws -
- the claws got into his throat -
- he couldn't remember the exact moment he had died -
"You told me to run," Ace was saying, her face hard with thirteen years of surviving a Haemovore-infested world. "You told me to run, and then I saw the Ancient One sucking the life out of you. You weren't fighting. You were letting it do it. I stood there. I just stood there. And I saw."
"What did you see?"
"You were trying to give me time to get away."
He was shaking and shaking, trying to grab one of the furs and hide behind it or wrap it around himself, he didn't care. Was it shock, was it the memory? The memory made black pain burrow into his arms, a awful kick in the stomach. But he couldn't remember the exact moment at which he'd died. It had been a smooth transition. Ripped from the board. The final move. White resigns.
"I don't understand," Ace was saying. "I've never understood. You betrayed me. You did more damage to me in thirty seconds than had been done in my entire life. And then you give me that parting gift. Your life. To save me. Why?"
The question hung in the air between them.
"And where's Lynne?"
The question hung in the air between them.
"And why aren't you dead?"
But he didn't answer, because she already knew the answer. And because he was setting up the pieces for one last game.
"Let me show you," he said.
* * *
It was twelve hours before Ingiger came looking for his lunch. His hunger boomed out in front of him, very audible to the Doctor. The Time Lord sat up in his bed, looking grey and sickly, and waited for the Ancient One to open the door of his room.
Ingiger did not even bother to tell him to get out of the bed. He simply reached out with his mind, forced himself through the link between them, and grabbed. The Doctor stumbled from the bed, spilling furs onto the floor, and stood there in his shirt-sleeves. The dawn cold bit into his arms and chest.
"You are unwell," said Ingiger. There was no sympathy or interest in his voice, nothing human at all; only the fact. "You must eat again."
"No," said the Doctor, but his body was shaking in the Haemovore's grasp.
"You have not spoken to me for six years," said Ingiger.
"What's there to say?" he cried. "Please stop drinking my blood? Please stop making me drink theirs? What do you want me to offer you? How would you like me to beg?"
Ingiger's great eyes blinked. He had infinite patience. "This is the way of the world," he said, beginning the lesson again. "The humans are ours to eat. We have eaten millions of them. Some of them escape us. They make safe places, they live in caravans and camps, they learn to tell the sweet water from the bitter poison. But they are only a larder that moves, a harvest not yet collected."
"And I'm in between."
"You are neither human nor a Haemovore. You are Jenny."
"The eternal victim," said the Time Lord. All the fight had gone out of him. "The old riddle.
* * *
While walking over London Bridge I met my sister Jenny.
I broke her neck and drank her blood and left her standing empty.
* * *
But the bottle of gin can be filled again. Filled and emptied, filled and emptied, one hundred and sixty-nine times."
"Fenric's instruction was to kill you slowly."
"But you had a better idea."
"I will keep killing you. Over and over."
"There is no until. It never stops."
Ace stepped from behind the cupboard.
"I thought I smelt human," said the Haemovore.
"Smell this, you bastard," said Ace.
She was holding a loaded shotgun. It must have come from the armoury, deep in the dungeon under the castle.
Ingiger did not think before he acted.
Ace raised the gun and fired. The Ancient One lashed out with his mind and grabbed his puppet and threw him into the air.
The Doctor caught both barrels in the chest. Through their link, Ingiger felt the blossoming of hot lead pellets in his lungs, and screamed. Blind with alien agony, he bent double, forcing his hands into fists to stop his razor-nails clawing at his chest.
Ace pumped the shotgun and shot the Haemovore and pumped the shotgun and shot the Haemovore and pumped the shotgun and shot the Haemovore. It was a long time before he stopped moving.
Ace knelt down beside the man she'd killed. To her astonishment, he was still breathing. His eyes were open, very wide. "I knew you weren't dead," he said. "I knew you'd come to the rescue."
Blood was pouring out of his mouth like champagne, fizzing with tiny bubbles. "You planned that one, didn't you?" she said.
"Worked this time. Not like last time," he said, and the fizzing stopped.
And at last, after thirteen years, she understood.
She hefted the shotgun. With the Ancient One dead, the brain-knot of the Haemovores was splintered. They'd be cannon-fodder. The humans would reclaim their world.
It was his parting gift.
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