Doctor Who: The Bright Asylum

Blue Shift

“Doctor this is very far from Wonderland!” Clara calls, as the fall steals her breath and the walls of the SHARDIS’s gullet make for interesting dinner theatre, surrounding her on all sides with paintings of a running woman in blue whose dark eyes seem to follow her descent in a spiral of nauseous unprivacy.

Her skin feels hot as she plummets; her hands grapple with the heat of being swallowed by a giant woman-shaped ship with abandonment issues and stalkerish tendencies.

She contemplates the bottom, imagining it to be a lively affair of grating and acid and crunching and placid deniability coated in white goo.

Gravity, however... well it has other ideas.

Clara’s bum strikes heavy on a pile of books, slightly singed and recently; she can tell from the smell of charcoal rising from them. Not to mention the sordid affair of their crispy black pages. The covers are blank, giving no more of their names when she picks them up then a pile of ashes would of its former shape. Her fingers rub her backend, patting away as she scrambles up and onto her stockinged feet again. Black stockings, red dress.

She sighs.

“At least it isn’t Trenzalore!”

A buzzing sound ingratiates itself, building and building until she can hear it in her ears instead of merely close by.

Her dark eyes flip back and forth, trailing imaginary shadows in the candlelight splaying on the walls like the consulting posters of some forgotten medical experiment.

“Is anyone there?” she calls, careful to be exactly loud enough to catch the attention of every would-be accosting presence in the place.

Thick sweat suddenly collects at her hairline, and as she reaches up to touch herself like a good little narcissist, she follows her shoeless feet into a winding hall, dotted with more candles.

Books squeeze from alcoves here and there, but the center of the room is the vibrant concern.

It is round, a circular atrium, for its walls are high and its ceiling is endless, painted with black marks and remains of painted birds. And in the center of the center, in a slight indentation, there sits a gilded cage, highboy and perched on a barley curled rod-stand. The rod sticks from the floor below, and there is a body-wide hole around the cage into which anybody might fall, given enough incentive.

What is down there is dark, and that is all she can see.

But inside the cage, oh!

There is a blue bird, full of feathers and fire. There are ashes in the cage, beneath its long cherry red feet. Long feathers, blue fire, gray eyes slid shut against everything. The bird is sleeping.

“You’re...” Clara begins, reaching out with a half-closed hand toward the cage.

Then her foot brushes something hard and cold. She looks down, reading quickly as the old plaque tumbles into the darkness of the cage’s pit.

“...rare blue phoenix- caution, do not approach!” Clara reads from memory, cringing mid breath as the sign clangs somewhere down below, eliciting a thick shuffle from the cage.

Clara turns up her face to the slight breeze drowning out the candlelight behind her, the wax maidens blinking out in their coves, squelching their autumnal fires one by flickering one.

Slowly, considerate of the need to keep her face intact against all odds, Clara looks then up to the bird in the cage, the blue lady, the feathered festive feral fenix, the patchwork peacock dressed in bright water, and cranes her neck to gloat.

“Is that you in there? Well, it’s been a long time comin’, this! Don’t think I’m gonna let you off easy once you’re out of there! But first, I need to find a...”

Clara’s eyes scrunch. Her mouth makes a dainty ‘o’. She withdraws her pen again, picking apart the pieces, ink holder, tip, little pointy thing that grabs onto your shirt. She holds them out for a bit of flame, timing it so the sleeping blue majestic bird obliges unwittingly, transforming the unhinged pen into a dripping piedy poker.

Clara nods her head, moves to stand at the edge of the hole, and sticks her hand out with the poker in, hoping to catch the latch on the blue bird’s cage.

She reaches, careful now, one foot levered on a pile of books long stuck to the floor with dust and wax, the other balancing on the edge. Her fingers stretch out, the pen-poker poised between her pale knuckles, peeking from her fingertips out toward the languishing latch.

A key in her pocket wiggles free and flies downward into darkness, the silence shocking her ears as she flirts wide-eyed with the bottomless reservoir of black beneath her stretched out shape. Just a little more, she reasons, listening for the telltale click of the latch with half-shucked coconut eyes.

Then her shoe slithers off her foot, and goes to join the key. The pitch jolts her forward, shoving the piedy pen-poker into the catch on the latch on the golden cage.

She twists, her eyes scrabbling wildly for the gilt bars of the cage, spinning round, frantically memorizing every little piece of the scenery, the candles in their alcoves, the sloping green wonders of the pillowed dome above her head, the charred and wax-covered volumes padding the walkway in like layers of stomach lining.

A flash of blue fire engulfs the space above her paling cheeks and knocks her off her balance. As she falls she notes, with some detachment, the clanging of the open cage door against the bars- and not a brown hair singed. Pretty good for a school teacher.


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