Doctor Who: The Bright Asylum

Fish and Chips

“Well, now!” cries Benjamin Pond, lifting the champagne flute full of sloshing violet water which he’d claimed earlier and quite violently from a passing tray, “Are there any eats to be had in this sizeable coppice of fancy fishbowls?”

A tan hand trims the fat from his excesses, smacking him lightly ‘cross the back of his vehement, nodding head of flopsy brown rabbit hair.

The hair bounces as her fingers leave him, and he can feel her touch escaping his senses. Before she leaves him, her fingertips scratch lightly in his scalp, and suddenly he imagines his head as a forest made from the backs of field mice as they run in twilight gardens.

Lights flicker from somewhere.

His wife’s laughter echoes across the room, filtering the scene that dances over the big hanging screen made of crystallized seaweed. The strands of sea-life move back and forth like a wind chime, tinkling as they hit each other.

All the fish in the fishbowls are turning to face them, because the nice seaweed view-screen is now showing pictures of giant trees growing from the backs of field mice.

“I take it you’re having a good time with the telepathy weed!” a blue-gilled, thin silver minnow says casually, the words bubbling up from her bowl’s translator cube with only a very slight lag.

“Look at that, River!” Benjamin nods his wife a yes as he calls out, shouting over his shoulder at her.

The white-toga’d woman in gold curls stares, meditating on his face as though the sun is shining at her.

She turns, as though the moon is winking at her.

She laughs, as though the…

“River are you going to get over here? I want to kiss you rather badly!”

A smile lights her face. He watches her lips curve, red as cherries, across a tanned mask of carefully mocked indignance as she angles her way toward him.

“And here!” he calls to the small ballroom-intended sea of fishbowls on custom hover-pillars, reaching out an arm in white to his wife as he matches her smile. “A morsel of food, nay, but she’s not angry anyway!”

“Shouldn’t you be calling me Emily? Benjamin darling?” she teases, reaching down to fit long hands nicely to his pregnant belly.

“Yes, dear. Hrm? Oh. Oh! Oops.” he flounders, grasping at verbal straws while the one in his mouth bumbles about across the wild terrain of his pouty red lips.

“Close your mouth, Benjamin,” her finger says as she clamps him shut with a trim nail, manicured and natural. “…you’ll catch flies when you ought to be attracting other kinds of prey.”

“Like you?” he gasps, turning into a ripe beet as she plays with the Easter egg swell of his small stomach where it bulges beautifully beneath a stretched length of creamy toga drape.

Her greyish greenish eyes turn blue with wonder and she glares at him, the happy laughter in her gaze deepening as she drinks him in. She takes him by the arm, digging her fingers light as a child’s into the tame olive-ochre folds of tunic cloth at his side and the rich milk bends of toga spilling down from his left shoulder, and guides his front in the direction of the food.

“I was thinking of you needing to eat. You’re looking pale, my love. Let’s go see if they’ve got anything more substantial than… ” she stares at him then, her almond-shaped eyes widening as she takes in the sudden chalky color of his face.

Benjamin’s lovely peridot eyes turn suddenly to the paler green blanch of prehnite. His arms and hands and searching fingers snake around his stomach like wax on a Catherine wheel; he sinks against her, his boyish delight reduced to a lurking mnemonic shadow drowning in the rainy grey tones now trumpeting victory over his normal, healthy flush.

Instantly, she begins to look around for someone taller than the other guests. “… nibbles. Chair! Someone get my husband a chair, now!”

“Emily… River?” he manages as he fixates on all the concerned fishbowls, closing in, “I’ll be back in a moment. I’ve… got to go somewhere.”

She’s holding him up now. His legs are like bricks of deuterium with sandals on.

“Where are you going at this late hour?” she says softly as she pets his hair and grasps his face to her body as he slides.


Then he covers his hand, pushes the rose on his golden ring. Nothing happens.

The floor, he thinks as gravity deposits him on the fashionable blue and off-white diamond-pattern marble tiles, is very cold and hard. But his eyes close long before his face plants itself in the marble and cracks the bridge of his nose, leaving a broken septum and a small smear of orange-red blood near River’s feet.

Her eyes are narrow on herself, accusing as she bends to wrap an arm around him, turning him over into a haze of folded cream and pale skin. His breaths come quick and shallow against her cheek, slight little puffs of air like whiffs of surf from any given sea set far beneath watchful cliffs.

She never sees the blue-eyed man in the long coat who’d been staring at her husband’s face from across the room retract himself from the shadow of the fishbowled crowd and down the marble stairs. Never sees his shoulders sink like millstones around his neck as he falls with each step backward into anger, then screams around on his heavy, sinking heel and runs.

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