The Cockle Shell Brigade
Soft bird’s claws lift him up; somewhere high above, the call for his attendants resounds again.
“…collapsed just as we…”
The claws are gentle, gray blobs dressed in monk’s hoods. They swerve around him, curling on his folds, addressing themselves to the needs of his body. Fitting themselves to him.
Are they wrapping him in colored ribbons? It feels like a shroud. Is it meant to keep the birds away? No, no, the birds are here, taking care of him. What is it meant to keep away then? Oh wait, he can almost…
Himself. That’s always the answer. So simple! A tear leaks from his eye. Why is it cold, when the rest of him is so very very warm and uncomfortable? He manages a sigh, from far away. Those simple sutras binding his arms and legs to his abdomen won’t hold the elephant in anymore…
Once, that would have felt distasteful. Now, the shreds of fabric they join around him in their bird-y claws feel like a welcome blanket of sleep. He knows this is wrong, but… that part of him that cares is far away, trapped in a box. With another box. Inside another box.
Still… his sense squirms just out of reach, growing along his lines, thickening his reactions like a broth of stewed donkey meat, 15 years gone and still brewing. He is being wrapped for a roasting. Must be; he feels rather hot.
He imagines he’s now got a winged toaster for a head, with the words, ‘Curly F. Brace’ scrawled on the side in bloodlike, rusty rents. He should stop playing so many flash games.
Yeah, a toaster. His temperature is sky high. His brain, afire. Of course, that flame inside him isn’t from real heat, only what could be represented by that burning coal nestled in his thoughts.
And his pregnant body is ready to pop up some cinnamon toast any day now.
But the monks are here; they’ll take care of it.
They are taking care of everything, now. And they are still filing in from the monastery on Ansypporus, via the Seven Doors of the White Pyramid. Good that it became active again, since that little blip that made him so dizzy a few moments ago, despite his being in the litter and the Flesh being the one standing in the museum hall. With regard to the Flesh, he just hasn’t been quite the same since they separated that day he touched the Flesh in its vat in that secret facility; himself, himself, himself, himself, himself, himself, himself, himself, himself, himself, and I. And I again.
And then there are the Three of him.
Yet, at least now, even the baby is sleeping finally, inside him. Safe. Warm. Free of conflict, gift boxed like a Christmas puppy in an edible, break-away, biodegradable packaging. But soon, even that blessed dreaming will be disrupted, too.
It is the way of things. And very Green.
Let the others deal with it; he’s waited long enough for a little sleep.
He’s apt to get a bit of that rest the baby’s getting, he realises, as Roda’s voice, far above him, breathes raspily, “His waters have ruptured; it will not be long; when he gives birth, his entire reality will crash on top of him, if this continues and the objects are not returned. We must attend his needs.” The bird monk waves a claw over the Doctor’s face, brushing a burning cheek as his long bird face aims itself direct at Jack, “Also, where is the Pyramid? The Seven Doors were unavailable to us for a short while; I suspect tampering, or subterfuge. It must have been what caused the Doctor’s present consciousness to fracture, to… diminish, if you will. We will do what we can. But as I told him before, he should have come to us in the Flesh.”
Roda gently taps his claw on the Doctor’s forehead four times, pauses, and then a fifth. Then a sixth, and a seventh.
Then, at Roda’s direction, the litter moves backward into the green doored room, accompanied by three anxious faces, the swish of two distinct Chinese robes, and a procession of bird-men.