Doctor Who: The Bright Asylum

An Acre of Land

His hands press against the wall.

The stone feels cold, like the eyes of a woman who doesn’t know him. It’s his own fault, too. Or is it? Isn’t it? One could go in circles.

As he forces himself up the ancient spiral stair, he traces his fingers randomly along the stone blocks and their grooves, feeling the bump as his skin touches stone, then air, then valley, then air, then stone again. It’s like reading Braille. It is a kind of Braille, really, he thinks as he attempts the next set of steps. Three more windows, and then the circular ruins. What a shame no-one knows how to read it anymore…

With one hand he follows the line of the long corkscrew up, plodding a bit; the other hand he keeps to the low of his stomach. Three flights to go and he still can’t believe what he’s done. What he was able to do. And all that he wasn’t. And, he questions to the air, do I even have a mistress at all?

Another smile touches his lips as breath suddenly comes short to his lungs, but it’s just another chocolate in a box of a thousand. In any case, he’s walked all the way here, the one thousand, one hundred and eleven steps are almost ascended; he ought to finish the job. He really ought, before he sleeps. It’s only the One thousandth, one hundredth and second step, after all. Only nine more to go.

“We ought to finish the job, oughtn’t we, precious girl?” he pants, the hand on his stomach curling into a claw. “I’m not exactly the Madonna on the Rocks, now am I? And neither are you, not anymore. But we’ll get there soon. What’s life if not for the delusion of duality, anyhow?” A twist of pain conspires in his gut, as though someone’s shoved an entire bronze caduceus up his…

“Yes, miss!” he says, laughing and patting himself as he groans beneath the weight of a blastocyte’s displeasure. Even his outie is sore.

Then he draws in a deep breath, raises his head up high, and makes another promise to take his vitamins as he ascends to the last dais before the tower room.

The windows ring like a circle of jeweled trees; all is the women. The Women, their Wings. They gaze outward from the arched walls enclosing the dais. But some of the windows are broken. He goes to one, the woman in the middle, a single headless shard of breasts and torso, her white legs standing in red grass. He remembers when her wings were broken off, revealing the night sky beyond.

The windows are grimy, faded now with age and disuse. But they yield a spectacular view. To the glass queen’s right and left, where once were wings, he can see Gallifrey in jagged gaps of ruby grassland and silver mountain range, painted on an amber skyline, a shining city of nature and man to the eyes of any diminutive tourist. It’s been a long time since he’s been here.

Too long, he thinks, as he reaches down to brush at an old stone bench, freeing it of a tailor’s worth of cobwebs, and several thousand lifetimes’ worth of bluish leaves and little greenish pellets of tafelshrew dung.

Spring cleaning never hurt anyone, much. It’s what he keeps telling himself.

A few minutes later, he’s finally recovered the utility of the seating arrangement, so he sits and he leans, venerating his body’s superior self-sanitizing properties, as every good obsessive-compulsive would. He feels like God. After all, the fluted strut holding up the arch of his lady’s window is as welcome a place as any to take a nap.

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