Gnossienne No. 1
“I am uncertain what you mean, Doctor. But I understand. Will you take dinner with me after The Testimony? There are things about Pasmodius I wish to discuss.” Borusa adds, her plump child-cheeks rushing with blood again as she struggles to keep pace with her former charge.
The Doctor stops in the middle of the hall, waiting, his longer legs crouching on the floor so he can be at equal height with his old teacher.
"Whyever did you choose that body, Borusa? It’s not very tall.”
The old little girl casts sudden molten sapphires up at the Doctor; her merest glance is enough to set his bowtie on fire. He reaches up to loosen his collar, flexing his fingers. A good thing, he reasons with the inevitable penache of someone saved from the gallows or a gaol or a wedding or something, that he isn’t wearing his bowtie at the moment.
“Blimey, Borusa! What was that look for? And such a quotable, by gum! ‘My brother is coming, with many Fremen warriors…!’” the Doctor smirks, in her voice. “That little girl was adorable. Until she got the jump on the blind seer.”
He grins that grin and bends down more and sticks a hand to her hair, ruffling it. Then his red-robed arms encircle her like a ring of rose petals and raise her to his bony shoulder.
There is, strangely, none of the expected bouncing from the Doctor’s younger days; instead, the ride is rather soft and smooth.
Borusa, drifting now with the sway of the hypnotist’s limbs and the height of her perch, remembers long unbroken days spent a boy, wrapt in wonder before a white tree in the northern forest. He had always known it had been a TARDIS. No-one had believed him.
Funny, how she always seems to dream when the Doctor is around.
As he walks, the Doctor considers the Time Lord in his arms.
Her hair is so light; he wants to pet it again, but Jenny was never as young as this. Borusa is not Jenny. Still, his hand hovers over her little pudgy face. There is a mole on her cheek, a birthmark, they’d have called it on Earth. It looks like a little rosebud, just popping up from the paint, nice and flat, not too conspicuous.
“Hallo, the castle! The lady’s a watercolor.” he murmurs, giving in and brushing a hair from her face as he passes the entry guard into the Panopticon.
The dark-skinned guard’s confused chocolate rabbit of a face makes him cross, and he says something.
“Well, you’d be knackered too if you were two metres tall and you had to walk a distance the Great Wall of China because someone screwed with the temporal stabilisers! You listen to me! I know a thing or three about reticular problems! And by the way, what’s your name, soldier?”
The seal-haired guard’s pinching face crunches like a crisp for a half-second before he straightens.
“Silanderedloomiscariotiquilylon, former Lord General Lungbarrow sir. Of House Redloom.”
The Doctor, for a moment, wants to hit something. For a very small, very thick moment, he imagines himself frozen in a block of fish custard… with a stick sticking out for the convenience of hands. Not the time to lash out now, it’s not the time, it’s not. It’s not! The fingers of one hand are curling in his robes. With Borusa dangling from his right fist by a sandalled foot, still asleep, he shoves the magma down, imagining water trickling between the slats of a washboard.
Squeezing himself through the minutes, he says to the guard, “Well, just between you and me, I’m not really a Lungbarrow, Cousin. Shush now! And keep a medic handy… the place between my shoulder-blades is itching. Someone’s going to poke the bear to-day.” He grins, curving his lips in his usual Cheshire fashion, despite his apprehension. Then he leans in close to Silander again, saying, “The question is, which bear? And will it be the Chinese finger puzzle or the Whitechapel autopsy?”
Silander stares, unable to make sense of much after ‘…not really a Lungbarrow, Cousin’, his purple eyes pitching behind closed thoughts as though he’s been dealt a blow. It is a happy wound, he decides, as he nods to the man before him. It is a trouble, to be sure, to sufficiently contain his reverence. But no one must see. No one must hear. That much is plain on the Doctor’s face. And yet, why speak it at all?
“Sir. I don’t know what you mean, Lord Doctor sir. And may I say, I rather despise your neckwear, sir.”
“Carry on then, Silander! I’ll just pop old Borusa to his seat and then…” but the Doctor abruptly feels a pulling, a snare, thin wires of potential space-time closing around them all in a…
Blinking, he shakes his head. His new Cousin Silander’s hand is on his shoulder and Borusa is standing beside him, looking up. Watching him, and waiting. She takes his hand, grasps it firmly with far more than a seven year old’s strength.
“Call a medic like he said, but have them wait outside. This is, after all, the Doctor we are speaking of. Someone is bound to be injured with him around, well-meaning menace that he is.”
Silander nods, ushering them both into the Panopticon Hall. His stiff blue uniform with its silver lines down the arms and legs reminds the Doctor of Bruce Lee’s famous yellow track suit. Or maybe TRON.
“Thank you, sir.” says the Doctor as Borusa and himself enter the hall, teacher and student side by side. Well, side by calf muscle.
The Doctor’s hearts are the sounds of a train, rushing in his ears. He looks around as though his gaze is a paper mask gone soggy from sitting in water, his eyes flailing in slow motion from one face to the next. He remembers that train, sitting there by the window seat, clutching his chest, his one heart thumping sadly somewhere to the left of him. He had lost the right one, lost its purpose. Just a black lump in a jar somewhere, now- still perfectly functional, but that he himself in particular didn’t need it any longer. He remembers the mirror machine. Sometimes he wonders if he broke it into enough pieces. There had been good reasons among the rotten, for the Time Lords to stifle everyone else’s children. There really had been. When had it gone wrong? What had that moment been like? And could he let it happen again? Could he…
Absently, as someone (he thinks it’s Gutarriezknindracastorblyledgespillioth) takes his fingers and peels them from his chair then guides him out to the damned pulpit like some bloody seeing eye dog, he begins to sense Flamina’s molecules mingling inside him, merging with his fluids, his pieces. Now she is flowing through his veins, through his arteries. Through his blood. He steps across the seam in the landing, crossing to the puplit itself, finally. It is a giant sharpened phallus, gleaming turquoise just like the walls. That effect has to do with the light of Gallifrey’s two suns as it hits the inside of the Panopticon. There is a shadow, of course, from the Pod in the ceiling; it casts over everything, like the Roc’s egg in Arabian Nights.
Someone’s hand is on his robe, tugging, desperate. A woman’s hand. Or woman-ly, at least. The shades cast on the floor in unsteady patterns of palm fronds remind him unsettlingly of something. He looks around, trying and failing to yank himself backward and out of the strange sensation of floating through time-space. He remembers when he held Amy’s hand as she floated outside the TARDIS doors, safe within the field.
Though he feels like a stone, he makes his numb lips move in tandem with the words of his speech.
“… So, you all know me, right? And you know what I generally tend to do in these… these situations. Run away. That’s right. I’m a runner. But today I’m here to answer your questions. Who wants… who wants to go first?”
Murmurs like tidal pool ripples wash through the gathered.
“Is he all right?”
“I think he’s gone senile.”
“Just wait; he usually provides a show. He’s probably faking... whatever it is.”
“Maybe he’s contracted an alien disease!”
“I wouldn’t be surprised. They say he sleeps with humans.”
“I wouldn’t let anyone of House Redloom hear you say that, Polluxina.”
“Chen 7! Oh god we’re all going to die!” The owner of this comment grabs up someone else’s robe to cover her mouth.
“I’m not amused.” the Doctor says suddenly, lowering the cadence of his voice until it is soft. His face is calm. His eyes drink the world and glisten like a new and mewling fawn. Then he opens his mouth again, and shatters it. “Does anyone care that we are in the middle of a crisis? I won’t have it. I will leave and let you rot if this continues. And then you’ll never know.” He dusts off his chest area and cups his fingers at Borusa’s ear, “I think it’s time for me to go. I was a fool to stay here, hoping. You and any others you trust are free to come with. I don’t care any-”
A gleam in the light, amongst all the other gleams. But this one is different.
Long, thin bones and long thin fingers itch for the touch of silver kept in the hair. A black comb falls from ocean strands and clicks on the floor. High above, the suns of Gallifrey cower behind the Pod in the ceiling, afraid.
Shade strikes across the metal, stones and crystal of the Panopticon, the ticking finger of a sundial.
“Falling!” screams the Doctor, pushing aside Borusa’s questioning hand and knocking her to the ground. He spins, his dancing hands outflung and wild, his body the twirling figure of a dervish swathed in red and twisting like a whore at the cups around the narrow pulpit platform, as thousands of eyes focus on the places below. “Do you not see? He is dead! Dead!” His green eyes like arrows fly to the only other movement in the great room. He looks up, searching without having to search, playing cat- until high on the other side of the great six-sided hall, Pasmodius flares up from his seat, a swirl of purple and glare.
A sound comes over the comm. The Cardinal’s voice, deep and distant, raging beneath like the flute of Hamelin.
“May Qqaba’s unhappy spirit consume you all! I am leaving this rotting hell, and you can all die!”
A figure rises from his place and flows across the dais. Two feet carry their owner toward the circle set into the edge leading out to the pulpit. But because the suns are eclipsed by the Pod, no-one among them can see.
The crowds ripple with gasps, an inland sea lapping at the feet of Providence’ corpse.
Borusa reaches again for the Doctor, as a wind climbs upward. Faces lean over and look, hoping to pierce the dark.
Kenny, in his veil of fishnet, reaches out for the little blonde’s throat with his silver dagger, seeking an ineffectual life for an ineffectual life.
But the Doctor is staring at him. Those eyes- they change one moment to the next. In thespace of a second, they go from drilling an endless beryl bore to carving out a boundless void of spring, to thegleam of a chalice running over with vitality.
“I’m going to kill you twice for him, Thete,” Kenny moans softly, wilting down. He hardens his grip on the knife, taking a step, his flapper shoulders framing the blank face of a doll. Mascara is running down his cheeks in black lines, like failure. “…first Borusa, your confidant. Then you.”
The Doctor pulls him close, taking him by the arm with the knife, fingers digging into thin wrist.
“He never loved you, Kenny. Why do this to yourself?”
Kenny throws his face to the droplets falling down now from the clouds near the ceiling. His blue hair begins to puddle over his head, plastering him over.
“Okay,” the Doctor says, one eye reflecting back to him from the blade in Kenny’s hand. He steps in front of Borusa, whose head is bleeding from her fall. His hands splay wide away from him, inviting. Then he holds his stomach, cupping the hard bump there, removes his hand again, and smiles with such warmth, like a kind of mother. “Just one thing though- do try to miss Flamina. She’s only a baby.”
For a moment, Kenny can almost feel the gentle heat of sunlight, so much sunlight, in that smile. Like the embrace –he- never gave him. How like Theta to do something like that for an enemy.
Kenny ascends the pulpit with a mirror of the Doctor’s smile on his face. At least someone will be happy to-day. God knows it won’t be him. He will miss their conversations.
“Of course.” he breathes, bowing his head to Borusa before taking that final step.
Above as below, bodies like cattle in jewel-tone silk flood the exits, jamming up in piles when they get there, for they have discovered the exits are barred. And there is nothing Silander can do as he watches from his post, the door to the Disrobing Room, but cling as men and women start to lean toward the Eye of Harmony’s gravity well.
As for the Doctor, the knife punches swiftly through the front of his robe, piercing a kidney. He stumbles into Kenny, clutching his side as they both duck beneath the flight of a doomed chair.
A roaring commences in the deep; sunlight runs into the pit, bleeding rivers of paint. Kenny tries to slip the heavy robe from the Doctor’s body; he can see his friend is labouring under its weight. The breaths come faster.
Borusa helps him lay the Doctor on the floor of the pulpit. The robe slides away, a red dragon swilling into the void.
Kenny moves to stand between the two huddled figures and the wakened Eye of Harmony, his long, delicate hands outstretched against dead Qqaba’s writhing, swirling appetite.
But he cannot maintain it. He falls.
The Doctor screams and, scrubbing tears from his face so hard he bleeds, tries to get up, shoving Borusa to the ground again, behind one of the fluted emerald pillars.
His tired eyes are a haze of vaseline as he stumbles to the edge of the pulpit-precipice. Flamina’s dna inside him… can he use it? Can he? Does he dare?
Before he plunges himself over the side, he screams one word, just one.