Doctor Who: The Bright Asylum

La Dame à la licorne, À mon seul désir

Flashback to Flamina’s dream, part two.

The Doctor watches as the wooden bird curls burled talons around a sea-polished stone.

The bird then grows, its body, perhaps cherry? scaling outward until it casts a shadow quite a bit larger than the cave behind it.

He can just see the outline of his fire’s light across the carved and feathery rump, the flames flickering with hungry bloom as though they desperately want to roast something.

Unfortunately, the stone has grown as well… it too is bigger than the cave, and unlike the cave, it is not hollow. Nice and round and flattish at three stone and eight, it would be a decent skipper if the ocean wasn’t so choppy. And he wasn’t so small.

So he thinks for a moment, ignoring the bird’s deafening shrieks… good thing his eardrums and everything else are constructs in this place of dreams. He turns to look at the bird, then sticks a hand in his pocket, pulling out the sponge. The bird crushes with its giant claw; fissures appear in the dappled grey surface. A trickle of water drips. Soon, a puff of fine rock dust spurts, and the bird delivers the blow that kills the poor rock dead. The Doctor claps, holding his hands so the bird’s beady eyes cannot see the hand with the sponge. He squeezes the dead sea creature, and water is soon spurting over his fingers.

The bird shrinks to normal, frozen with fury as the Doctor takes up a stick and settles it on the fire. The light, however, is soon done for, for the bird flies up above the flames, beating his wings and screaming triumph. The wind blows across the burning driftwood, extinguishing the heat and light into tiny chunks, fragrant embers melting into pools of ash more grey than orange.

Sudden as a gnat on a horse, the bird flies at the Doctor, then veers at the last moment, an errant boomerang.

He is baffled. Why has this happened? Was he turning a certain way? Absent hearing brings a soft tinkling noise to mind, and he lifts his pocket watch to his face. Surely this was the reason? The gull-bird is above instead of below, and he sees an opening. He runs at the bird, throwing pebbles and sand he scoops up as he hops from rock to rock. Spying a large crag near the cave entrance, he runs for that when the bird begins to follow. He can hear the beating of its wooden wings- an oboe with the flu.

And once the gull is gaining, it’s as he wanted. Soon, bird, soon, he thinks, when I reach the cliff I’ll do for you.

He is atop the cave now; the gull is flying for his face, his neck perhaps. It means to eject him. But he keeps his fingers on his pocket watch, concealed under his coat.

Now he can see the wooden feathers, so lifelike they spread with the creak of old oaks as the bird draws nearer.

The eyes shine like polished wooden shooters as he steps aside just in time, revealing the glint of his pocket watch to the sun overhead.

The gull-bird passes by him, shrieking like a child, but its body coasts a straight line into the waves crashing against the back of the cave.

He jumps down just as the pitter of bare feet erupt from the cave entrance and cross the dead fire.

It is there that he lands, before the ash, in the mouth of the cave. The child cannot return to her sanctuary, so she sits herself down beside the fire and it grows light again. The Doctor joins her on the opposite side, a question on his lips, to which she brings a length of string from the ether and weaves it along her fingers in a cat’s cradle.

The string in her hands becomes a box as she loops her fingers.

She holds it up for him to see, then loops again. This time, a crude bird, triangles for head and beak, and triangle wings.

She loops again, this time making triangles near her face, with her teeth on the string. The bird is flying.

She takes his fingers now and places them on some of the string, then loops again, using her thumbs this time. A circle between her hands, inside a box. It must be the Eye.

She weaves and loops again. The bird is broken, with one triangle wing held down. Had the box fallen on the bird? Must have been the crumbling wall he’d seen earlier.

She takes his finger again, places it on the bird, makes a loop. The bird becomes a triangle and two lines. A person perhaps? Yes- there are two loose loops for hair. Is she trying for curls?

She loops again. This time, another person, smaller, with only a couple of straight lines for hair. He guesses that it’s her.

The scene changes again. She loops, and this time it’s the box again, the hexagon in the middle. Then a third person, with a dagger, judging by the sharp isosceles at the right of his little square hand.

She pulls his hand to her again and places his fingers. She loops, and this time the dagger is bigger, and inside a box.

The Doctor takes her hands in his, patting them as he once had done for Susan.

Her arms tremble a little less, but still she tears the string from her fingers, ripping skin in little pink strips.

He looks away, but she rises with the string dangling bits of her still in her hands. She comes behind him, taps his shoulder. The string is wound around his eyes, over and over, until he cannot see.

Then he feels her smaller hand in his larger, guiding him into the cave’s innards, and together they go into the darkness unlit by the light of the second fire.

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