Doctor Who: The Bright Asylum

the Eye of Fatima


The Panopticon doors fling open; a woman in white bursts into the hall, her naked feet clapping against the stone in frantic rhythm, ringing in the back of everyone’s psyches like the hoofbeats of a night mare.

“Don’t get all impressed by the wings, sweetheart, for your blood pressure’s sake; it’s just a bit of tinkering with baby’s dna. Our girl’s a Pythia!”

River skids to a halt in front of the Doctor, a frown crawling over her bones. He imagines he’ll die, once it reaches her face.

But all she does is cock her head at him, spilling gold curls all over like yellow plump cherries from a bowl. With a toe, she rubs a smudge from his cheek, then gives him a nudge in the belly, rocking him slightly. “I didn’t stuff that plum.”

“Did too. ‘Cause I say so.” he snuffles. His nose is broken; a wing sticks out oddly from somewhere beneath him, a ruined scaffold of dirty white feathers. There’s some sinew poking out. “Oh River… I can’t remember how to fold these back up. My math is g-good but I’m rubbish with tents.” He stiffens, attempting to spread a limp, machine-grease stained mess of primary feathers in the blue-haired man’s direction. Do they come with a switch? Kenny here ‘s crisis of passion got m-my k-k-kidney kebab’d, and now I want a k-k-kip.”

The blue-haired Time Lord stroking the Doctor’s face looks up, his gold eyes veiled by a thin, dull, happy kind of shame that colors his whole demeanor. “He asked me not to hurt the child, so I stabbed him in the kidney. He’s got three more. I was having a mood swing because my… what’s the word… psychotic boyfriend left me.”

“Sounds like someone I know.” River says, letting her building glare surface from the depths again.

“You’re just jealous ‘cause I saw the Master first. Spiteful creature.” He gives a crooked wink at her, but, ineffectually, it misses her bum.

Turning back to the Doctor again, Kenny runs a hand through his sapphire locks, splashed violet from the Doctor’s blood, and sighs, resigned once more. “I am grateful to him, Madam. If he had not grabbed my hand, and then if I had not woken up and caught him when he blacked out, we both would have perished. He saved me in more ways than one. As it is, we hit several objects on the way down before I woke and slowed our decent. Again, I am grateful.” He gives a slight bow of the head, and his bloodied hair falls completely free of its last ditch twist, cascading past his shoulders.

“You know I’m sorry for the mess, don’t you, S-Sweetie?” moans the Doctor, a muscle in his chin twitching slightly as he shivers again.

“Oh just shut up, both of you. Especially you, Kenny.” adds River, planting both hands on her hips and widening her eyes- oh that classic Pond stare. “… and be glad he’s not dead, else I would have killed you already. Now hop. I’ll warm him while you set bones, and then we can wait for the proper medics.”

“That’s the sad thing, R-River- we haven’t any. I’m the only veterinarian in these here parts. The Infirmary is automated, which qualifies as stupid.” With teeth champing like horses on a hill, the Doctor turns to Kenny and adds, “Now see, Kenny?” Then he stops and rests for a moment, panting a little faster now that there are potentially vengeful feminine hands in the general vicinity of his many broken bones and bruises. “Use the right words, and women aren’t so scary! Oh ow, that’s… Ow. River! M’ cold.”

“Are you saying, Sweetie, that I’m a Chinese Finger Puzzle?” River breathes the words. Then, she backward-spoons her body into his, hoping that her slightly warmer temperature will stop the tremor she sees growing in his muscles. Her arms she wraps around him, like always, muffing his mouth.

“No, ‘m saying yor a shy-neez woom. An undisifurabuw widdwe, wwapped in a mythtewy inthide ananigma. Thank you for moving your hand. Ow, no, don’t pinch me there! Please, it hurts! River! Stop ittt! Wah-ahahhhhh! Ahah-ahhh…”

His pitiful, confused cry is enough to make her shiver, too. Has she touched something? Is there something Kenny missed?

She reaches over the arm he’s plastered to his side and palpates his right shoulder.

There is a lump there, close to the secondary bundle of nerves. A bruise ought to be forming… but she can’t see it without turning him.

Then, a wet, hog-slop gurgle draws River’s attention to the blue tinge around his lips. She sucks in a breath and smacks him hard on the cheek.

“My love, I need you to open your eyes for me. I want to see your pretty face. Been admiring your strong chin.”

No answer.

“Well I have to say I’m not surprised, you daft sod. You sleep too much. Wake up or I’m going to tell the first Time Lord I see about you and Elizabeth the First.”

“Mmm, no, I don’ wanna grow up. M’ a Toys’R’Us kid. And Bitey the Cybermat for President… nuffle, mminghatoddylala…”


River feels her cheeks flush with hot blood. Bastard. As she watches and feels, he falls asleep again.

“He might need the healing coma, but with the added stress of the child, only Providence can tell.” a new voice offers, so young, so… crisply female, yet old like new snow.

River feels a small hand on her head, the weight of fingers strong and delicate. They are stroking her hair.

“I am Borusa, Lady River; I was one of his Academy tutors.” the little girl adds, granting a short smile to the back of River’s head, “Although, that was some years back. And I was a man. Certain roles have since reversed, despite me.”

Footsteps quicken all around them.

Borusa stiffens and pats River’s head again, then steps back and to the side as a bedraggled rainbow of a processional makes its ambling way forward to them.

A man in red is there, in front, his black hair greying, his levelled gaze a frozen galaxy masquerading as two blue marbles, stone face fixed on the Doctor.

River’s back is to him when she speaks.

“Is this mess your fault?” she asks the man in red, posing the question by association to the figures behind him. She doesn’t have to look to know it is.

In his sleep, the Doctor shivers against her, snuggling in.

“Yes.” the man says quietly. Then he gets to one knee and waits. The air is still, and no one breathes.

Only then, when she slides her hand beneath the Doctor’s side does she notice the warm, sticky wet of new blood. She’d thought the wound would be closed, by now… had the blade gone that far in? If it had… in any case, the idiot’s lying on it. He must be cold, if he can’t feel that.

Rassilon says nothing. But all their noses find it. All their eyes can see. Their hindbrains know it by instinct.

In one swift spin, River Song turns and pivots, vaulting her agile body into a crouch as she presses the barrel of her fully primed pulse gun square to Rassilon’s forehead.

I’m sorry, my love.

With tear tracks reddening her cheeks, she fires, over and over, once for every horror story the Doctor ever told her.


Rassilon is still kneeling there, waiting with the rest of the Time Lords, his eyes on her like molten blue dwarfs.

She looks down at the gun as it slips from her hands, then she looks at her husband curled naked and unconscious on the floor. A Time Lady, dressed in 40’s grey silk and smelling of roses, hands her a black velvet robe lined with smooth, thick fur so fine that stars seem to glint from its folds; River takes it and drapes it over him, tucking it around the small mound of his stomach, his boy-neck. The hypothermic Gonzo mask between his legs, plus pom-poms. The frozen pink nipples like little mauve binkies.

“You clicked the safety on while I was checking that broken wing of yours, didn’t you, Benjamin?” River says, craning so their foreheads can touch.

Then she closes her eyes, and smiles.

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