The Storyteller

Time And Space

The present is the most elusive concept in existence. Just look at that clock. You see it?

Where?

The Doctor shoved aside the curtains for a bit and pointed at a grandfather clock across the hall of the hospital.

There was that mysterious smile on his face he always used to get when he showed her something. It was like he was testing her or reading her reaction.

She remembered what he once told her: that through her eyes he sees everything anew again. Teaching others gave his life meaning. He found a way to let his memories have a new purpose instead of slowly letting them fade away.

Amy glanced at the wooden object with the white, round clockface. It was twenty minutes past nine in the evening.

"Look at the second hand," the Doctor said, buzzing with the excitement of exploration and discovery. "Look at it tick. The present is always one second apart from the past and future. It's a fleeting moment in time. Blink and you'll miss it and it will never come again. Even I, a humble time traveller, can never experience the same moment the same way ever again. It's lost in time."

The second hand ticked away, every flick of the hand a breath away from eternity and oblivion, and the way it never stopped started to get on her nerves. Amy had to look away.

"The present is always travelling and we're travelling with it," the Doctor said. His voice soothed her and made the darkness go away.

The guns of the battlefield in the distance dulled as the night grew darker. The soldiers prepared for the night as well as their shifts were relieved and manned by fresh recruits, but they always kept a cautious eye at the night sky. You never knew when the enemy would try to strike

The Doctor pulled a hankerchief from the inside pocket of his tweed jacket and held it in front of her.

"You're crying," he said and there was something in his eyes that seemed to read her face again but she wondered whether she was just being paranoid.

"It's my leg," she said. "It hurts. Really hurts."

"Good!" the Doctor spoke glad and he tapped her leg. Amy flinched. "That means it's working."

Seeing the hankerchief unused in Amy's hand, the Doctor slipped it past her grip and put it back in his pocket.

"So the Earth wasn't destroyed then," she said.

"What?" the Doctor's mind had wandered for a moment. Past the curtains bloodied soldiers were being wheeled into the corridors. Most of them would never truly recover and would never truly be compensated for their losses.

Would they have been better off believing their friends, lost in combat, never existed?

No, that was silly. In wars there would always be someone to take their place.

"Yes. Right..." the Doctor said, shaking his head and remembering where he'd left off with the story.

Amy clutched her leg and wished for the recovery process to complete soon. She wanted her leg back.

"From a non-linear, non-subjective view point time makes a lot less sense come to think of it but it's much more fun that way, don't you think?" he said and his smile reappeared within an instant.

Non-what?

Remember that second hand, Amy. Remember it well.

We're all travelling. The Earth is spinning on its axis, spinning in orbit around the sun, spinning through time and space, so when we talk about time and space never forget that time always has a different place.

Past and future are always in motion, travelling much quicker than you could possibly imagine, so there's no such thing as time AND space.

There's just time.

And space. And there's a space for every time. As in real estate, it's location, location, location.

Yet everything seemed to converge around the same time and the same space...on Earth. Why?

Maybe it was psychic energy binding the events together like ghosts are linked to old houses, memories, old and current, linking back to their origin, as if they wanted to return home, or as if they wanted to be buried there.

The dead joined the living, while the generations that were yet to come seemed intent, like all new generations do, on conquering the ones that came before them. Only retroactively.

As the cracks widened the links grew stronger. With every passing moment the apparitions grew stronger, more physical, until finally...

Finally, what?

That's what they asked me. The People wanted transparancy.

For hours I was trying to get their attention, and now I had it, I wanted them off my back.

They had me in cuffs again and put me under constant surveillance with a guard on each side, like a double shadow. In the gritty courtyard of their headquarters they dangled my sonic screwdriver in front of my face like a dog's biscuit.

I nearly did bite.

"What happens when the seven hours are up, Doctor?" they asked me.

They weren't ready. Then again, who's ever ready to hear the details of your homeworld's future destruction? I know I wasn't.

"I don't know," I lied. "Could be anything."

"Take a guess." the woman said.

She told me her name was Marie. It was a very short introduction but I understood she was the kind of huntress that liked to play with her food. I couldn't help but notice a motif of flowers in the way she dressed, from the flowers on her hat to the pattern woven into her army green dress.

But the black buttons, they didn't fit. They had been polished to the point of obsession, which told me a lot about her.

"We, the People, reward loyalty and punish disobedience, Doctor," she said.

"Loyalty?" I said and I rattled the metal that chained my hands to my feet. "Is that what you call this?"

"Those are precautions, Doctor. We can't have you run off. You are the organization's most prized possession."

"Yeah, yeah, I get that. Last of the Time Lords and everything. I'm flattered, honestly. Now...what's that?"

I nodded towards a plume of smoke that rose up from within the city in the distance.

Marie waited to make sure I saw her handing my sonic screwdriver over to one of her underlings before turning around to look at the black smoke.

I read her lips as she beckoned the same underling again.

"Where is that?" she asked. I didn't think she could grow paler than she already was, especially in this sunlight.

I realized there was chaos. Primitive humans are frightened by what they don't understand and the past is on the top of that list. But this wasn't just an ordinary fire.

I remembered the model city in the data room, the flashing lights, the pins and flags stuck into various locations on the map. Time and space.

I had a time but not a space. And this could be it.

"Seven hours," I said. "Until the end of the world."

There was much they weren't telling me. There was so much distrust within this organization.

It would be their downfall and we were inching toward it one clue at a time.

I'd deduced the location of their headquarters by examining my surroundings out the window. The model city had a tiny red flag stuck just on top of our position and there were three other flags.

I recognised a factory, a warehouse and the building where we'd been imprisoned and where they'd taken my blood samples.

The fire couldn't have been far from where the warehouse was located, judging the distance and density of the smoke.

"Something's causing all this," I told Marie and everyone who would listen. "Now. I've got a word, a victim, a fugitive and a crack in time and that fire over there which are all parts of the same sum, like pieces of the same puzzle. Now I don't work well in teams. So just tell me. What happened to squad six and seven?"

"What?"

"In the dataroom I heard it said that squad six and seven had been lost. What happened to them?"

Sometimes a look is all I need but you know what's better? Actual words.

"Tell me!" I yelled. Seven hours. At this rate I can't even cook a decent pastry let alone save the world. "I need...information! Input output! Data, I need data or the world as you know it will cease to exist!"

"Bold words..."

"But true!" I bellowed. "Look around you, Marie. This isn't a drill."

The only way you can learn is to open up and let yourself be taught.

"Squad six and seven were assigned to follow the time traveller's signal," Marie said.

"And?"

The air was growing cold. What time was it? What time would the world end?

"They failed to report back in."

The message was sound but the data spoke for itself. They had been killed.

There was more at play there than met the eye, I finally realized.

"Two brains are better than one, Doctor. Now you tell me. What will happen after those seven hours are up?"

"You don't want to know."

Should I have told her? Should I have told her about the Nazi invasion, the economic crisis, the sinking of the Titanic, the war of the trenches...

Sometimes they're better off not knowing the future...

Doctor, tell me.

When every moment in the history of planet Earth, every flick of the second hand, every single one of them, happen at the same time, at the same place, in the same breath...

Time and space would literally clog, reality would atrophy and freeze, knot and clump into one massive ball of... stuff.

The Earth, its billions of years of past, present and future, would become a cancer of reality and it would spread to infect everything in existence before finally everything would desintegrate.

No two objects can occupy the same space at the same time. Not like this. Now imagine that as billions upon billions of objects in space/time cluttered together.

Maybe that's how it all started. The universe started compressed together in a single point. Maybe the end is only the beginning and out of all this a new universe would emerge, brand new, and time would start again.

Maybe somewhere, somewhen, the universe has already ended before and we just didn't know it. And maybe we were doomed to repeat it.

But that didn't really happen, Doctor, did it? I mean, we're here, in the future. The universe didn't end, Doctor. Did it?

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