And you know the rest. The rest is history. The ending's an easy guess, because I'm not going to kill off the main character. The main character is me. The Doctor.
Predictably, we got out, somewhat in one piece, with an amazing story to tell our grandchildren's grandchildren of what we saw beyond the end of time itself. But, of course, it was all a cheat. Time wasn't over, because it was still very much alive inside this world of psychic glass.
Infinity compressed into seconds; a million pasts and futures compressed into the present.
It could almost make someone think they are immortal. It could almost make someone believe they are a god.
He had been its creator, the architect and source of all these memories and dreams, and every moment he had been keeping it intact had meant the death of time itself.
Cracks in the fabric of this world, shaped like forked lightning, burning through the skin of the glass ceiling, let the sands of time into the hourglass and every grain of sand represented a lost moment in time. A kiss or a walk at the beach, a still point or a fixed point, or both. All lost and forgotten. And he had let it all happen. But not anymore.
This man was gone now. The burden was on me now. My mind was the dam that kept the waves of time from crashing into us. I had lost Rory, I had lost Penny, but I refused to lose them too.
"Don't worry," I told you. "I'll save you."
I didn't know how. I was burning up time just to give myself time to think. Was it all in vain?
It couldn't have been. You were there. On the hill in Wales in 2020. That was still all supposed to happen for you. And my adventures with River. I looked into your eyes and could see all the things that were yet to come and all the things I could lose. All the things that I had risked just to save you.
The TARDIS was burning. Nemo covered his face from the sparks.
I wish I could've told you how sorry I was. I wish I could've told him.
Penny had brought me up those steps towards the Observatory and the creator's subconscious was staring us down. He feared me.
The glass people fed off the power of the universe burning through every atom left in existence. They surged with lightning, looming over us, to try and stop us getting to the end of the white gallery. They howled and the walls did not absorb the sound: they created it. Enhanced it like speakers or amplifiers of his mind. I sensed his mind like psychic noise and Penny was the ball of red fleece that was going to get me through his labyrinth of thought.
And underneath it soft waterfalls of sand pored through every crevace of the corridor. I was going to miss that sound.
Barefoot, she lead me through endless passages and infinite rooms. For every room there was a memory. In one there were scientists applauding each other in a white room and in another there was a mother tending to the wounds of her son near a comforting fireplace...
I wonder what Penny found inside that coffin. She had dug her hands into the white linen as if it were a warm bath and not a dead person's resting place, but instead of a body inside there were trinkets and objects: old toys, keys, notes, broken bracelets and fridge magnets and countless other worthless trivial stuff. Or in other words: invaluable memories.
Penny sometimes looked back at me, almost angrily, as if she had a reason to hate me, almost as if she knew I was going to kill her. And yet she helped me anyway. She knew she was walking to her own doom.
Something she had found in there had given her strength, had given her the courage to do what she had to do.
She walked right past the ancient sculpture guarding the entrance to the giant gates and at first I thought it was depicting Hercules taming Cerberus in bright white marble, but when I walked around it the image seemed to change. It was Paris, the hero of antiquity, not the city. Paris the coward, raised by wolves. Paris the prince and lover. The man who killed a god. The man whose love destroyed a civilization.
We were anomalies inside an anomaly. It was good of me not to bring you there. Three's a crowd. I had locked you inside that dungeon for your own good.
I sensed his mind upon arrival, like remembering a dream.
"Is this any way you treat your guests?" I yelled out, dancing to the black swirling patterns on the floor. I couldn't help myself. They were like overlapping ripples of silver moons and golden waves on marble tiles and it made me feel like I was walking across tombstones. Every step only made me angrier and at the same time it made me want to dance.
The Observatory was a giant domed chamber, like a giant attic with a hole in the roof. Reverbation continued throughout without end. The mahogany blood red floor creaked under the pressure of my black boots. I looked around, but there was no-one there, except this big white ball hovering in the middle of the dome.
I felt slight apprehension, being lead to him like a lamb being lead to a slaughter. Penny was leading me right where he wanted me, and we had played right to his tune right from the very start. But then again, I love being bold and curious and all kinds of clever and it's not really taking the bait if the bait takes you. Curiosity never killed any cat! The monsters did.
"Doctor..." Penny whispered behind me.
Two things appeared inside the chamber while the giant gate disappeared. A god has no need for doors. Suddenly I felt like a tramp begging for an audience with an emperor. I wondered how many more tricks he had up his sleeve.
It was a mirror and a bed, standing at opposite sides of the room. The room was giant, with several adjacent little private areas obscured by white blinds. I loved the ascetic aesthetic and it almost would've been a white void room if it wasn't for the red floor and the incessant doodling scratched into every surface. I didn't mind though. In fact, I was inclined to add a drawing of my own now.
"What do you want from me?" I puzzled cautiously, speaking my mind. "D'you want me to check this out? Do I have any other choice but to play along with your games?"
Oh, but this wasn't a game. And if it were a game, I would've lost by default.
I approached the mirror first and I saw a man reflected within it mimicking my movements as I got closer. One step at a time and the man would do the same. I waved my hand through the air and he did likewise. But he wasn't me. From where I was standing he was barely a silhouette, but something already told me I was not going to like what I would find.
"Stay there, Penny," I told her while the big white ball loomed over us, spinning slowly on command. Sometimes clockwise, but I noticed how it would often stop its spin to turn into the opposite direction. It seemed to be made out of expensive white and stainless chrome possibly the size of a small truck. Something was controlling it. Something was controlling everything. And I hated it.
The voice came from the mirror this time, except it couldn't have.
"Doctor, where am I?"
"No..." I said. "No...NO! Rory...NO!"
He was trapped on the other side of the mirror. This good, good man. This dead man. This impossible man! He was pounding desperately on the edge of the glass as if he somehow knew he belonged on the other side. I tried helping him with all my might but again it wasn't enough.
He was my friend and he died. This couldn't be him. This couldn't physically be him.
"Doctor, how do I get out? Tell me!"
"I...I don't know," I said, folding back my hair and shaking and stammering and sonicking and slapping myself to confirm that I was really awake and this was real. Except it wasn't. This was all him and I knew it.
There was only one way he could've brought Rory back. I was the only one to remember him. My memories. He's been inside my mind.
"Where's Amy?" Rory asked. "Is she all right? Is she hurt?"
"She can't...SHE CAN'T. Could she?"
I could bring him back. I could bring them all back. A half life's better than no life, is it? An incomplete life, half remembered, half forgotten. It's no different from your parents, Amy. It could happen. Could it? Should it?
Words didn't mean what they used to anymore. Every time I think I've got the universe worked out there is always something that flips everything on its head again. So maybe I could save him. Maybe this could happen. And I wondered whether this had been a gift.
Then something hurt Rory. On the other side of the mirror something cut his skin and electrocuted him at the same time. I shot towards the mirror as something shot him over and over again without killing him. He wouldn't stop shouting your name.
He would never stop fighting for you. Never ever. Because he loves you. And he'll never stop loving you. Not even in death.
"Do you see what I can do to you now?" a voice bellowed from nowhere. And everywhere.
It bellowed bitterly and weary. How long has he waited for me? Really?
"Do you see what will happen if you cross me?"
It was a warning.
My hands left sweaty imprints upon the mirror's glass as I watched Rory fall to his knees in pain and there was nothing I could do. He wasn't even real. He was just a memory. But I still couldn't stop myself from crying.
"Why are you doing this, Doctor?" Rory asked.
"It's not me...it's...it's..." I tried to say, but I had nothing. When I turned around Penny was gone.
I had no other choice but to turn to the white metal ball at the centre of the room. There was no other place where he could be hiding.
"Is this it? Is this the best you can do?" I called for him.
I recognised it to be a telescope. The air beneath it almost seemed thickened because of its constant heavy buzz, radiating heat down below. Slowly the ball sank and Rory pressed his face against the glass to peer at it.
I felt his eyes watching me as it came down. Then hydraulics hissed and a door opened in the side of the chrome globe telescope. Inside there was a man sitting on his throne and I wondered whether he'd gone mad before or after he was swallowed up by this place.
But what did she mean when she said 'birthright'? Why remember this place and keep it alive?
The door descended to form a stairs and I leaped upon it to watch my foe in the eyes. To try and catch him off-guard. He can't control me if I'm unpredictable, but he knew all my threats were empty. If he'd seen into my eyes he would've predicted I would act unpredictably.
He'd know that I'd know that he'd know that I knew that there was nothing I could do.
The man inside the machine was a thin man with curly brown hair. Small lips. Handsome cheekbones and grey peas for eyes. I was struggling for a proper hello, considering he'd just hurt one of my friends.
"Come on then," he dared me, while I breathed upon him. "I trust you to have figured it out by now."
"Who are you?" I asked.
"Don't mock me."
He pushed me aside and casually walked out of his machine while he knew I was watching.
"The universe is dying," I bellowed but he dismissed it.
"Tell me something I don't know."
He pretended to be busy. Our voices resounded like they would in a church.
"You'll be upset in thirty seconds," he told me. "Angry in sixty."
"Is that a threat?" I asked.
He was pretending to polish the gold buttons on his ancient uniform, almost Hessian in appearance, like an old naval officer who'd lost his flair, and he wore it with disdain. Like a child playing dress-up. He tore off the high collar whenever it didn't suit him.
His calculated calm was terrifying. He sat crouched at the centre of the universe like a coiled spring, his gaze set and unwavering, as if he was measuring (or counting) and I wondered if he knew. I wondered if he could feel it, because I did. The universe was pounding at the outsides of this reality, begging to be let in. And he just waited. Waited for me.
In my mind I compiled everything I knew about this man, everything I had deduced from roaming his inner thoughts and subconscious: his memories. What did it tell me?
"The universe is always ending and always has," he said. "You really have no idea what's going on, do you?"
He smiled. He brushed his long hair back over his large skull, but it was too wild to be tamed.
"I admit this has been a weird sort of day," I said, briefly skimming the contents of his telescope. It was fake, just like everything else. Except for one thing.
"One of the good days, I'm sure," the man replied with his back turned towards me. "It's been amusing to watch."
I caught the importance of that sentence. He had been watching, for far longer than I could have imagined. The telescope above his head was pointed at the eternal night sky. Here in this dimension beyond time and space, the universe had been unending for centuries, with everything happening at the same time. A tempered schism through the looking glass.
"I have felt the universe," he spoke almost proud and I knew what it meant. Through the gaps in the fabric of time and space he had peered and it changed him. As it had changed me.
"I felt your pain, Doctor, as I have felt everyone's pain. People are suffering in every second of existence and what do you do? You do nothing."
"No..." I whispered. I was...affected...by it. By all of it. By myself and by the schism. First Validium and now this. It was almost as if the old days had returned, as if the Time Lords themselves had come back from the dead, bit by bit, and then it hit me.
"No...You said you knew me. You said you felt the universe...You can't have."
He wrapped a leather strap around his wrist, a time vortex manipulator I had seen before.
"None of this would've happened if it weren't have been for you, Doctor," he said calm while he checked the settings of the device. "If it wasn't for the good Doctor burning a hole in the universe. But that wasn't even the best part. The best part was when you burned Gallifrey. That was a doozey."
His anger radiated across the chamber. I sat down inside the telescope because there was nothing else I could do. Worst of all, he thanked me for all of it.
"Tell me, Doctor, how does it feel to be responsible for the deaths of so many mighty civilizations? Are you proud?"
"Where's Penny?" I asked.
I watched Rory return my gaze from within his glass trappings, but there was nothing I could do about him as well. He pleaded with me and watched me face this nameless god, but he wasn't going to be a god for much longer...
Following the man's surreptitious glance towards the bed on the other side of the room, I immediately jumped out of the telescope and marched towards it, not caring what I would find. Not caring that I already knew.
It was one of those old beds, fit for a princess. A bed you'd find in a castle with four headstrong bedposts and a glass canopy and dreamy transparant green curtains that danced in the breeze.
The wind grew stronger. It howled with bursts of flame, darkening the sky, burning the stone ceiling, until it was gone completely.
The ceiling and walls were melting all around us, burning like the edges of red, hot glass, and even the floor would desintegrate to form small islands of wood where we alone stood. The mirror cracked and Rory was gone, and in the bed I had found another dreamer. It was Penny.
The void would soon come for her beauty as it would for everything else. And the man laughed.
"You really don't know who I am, do you?" he said. "Funny, seeing you put me here! Now this'll be your prison, not mine. Your very own little dollhouse where you can play for the rest of time. If there's any left."
"YOU LOOKED INTO THE SCHISM!" I bellowed, because apparantly I was the only one who knew what that meant. He peered into that telescope and felt the universe.
I thought I was going insane. My past was being dug up, reflected in the walls of this very world and for a second there I almost thought he was part of me. My responsibility. I calmed myself down.
"You looked into the raw power of the universe and you saw suffering. And that is amazing, that is genuinely beautiful. Where some see power, others see danger, or beauty...but you saw pain. But is that all you saw? You cared...and that is wonderful. That should've been me. That should've been all of us."
"Yes, that should've been you! That should've been you! So why me? Am I the only one that sees this? Am I the only one that feels this? Am I?"
"Because it's just you and me now, Doctor. And I've seen the life you lead. Don't you ever stop and look back to the mess you've made of the universe, Doctor? And you lead your life to try and make a difference. To try and keep it all from falling apart. You always act like such a radical, while all you aim to achieve is the preserval of the status quo of suffering, but you know what? The universe isn't fair. It should be. IT SHOULD BE.
"You could end it all. You could save them! EVERYONE! You could go back and change it but you never do. You run away. But we could change it. Together. Reboot the universe. Start from scratch. Take down the system and make it better. Make the universe fair.
"But I know I won't convince you. In the future you are still as stubborn..."
"In a few moments there'll be no future," he told me. "Tomorrow is yesterday. From the remains of the day I will build a universe without suffering. Because for some there is no passing shadow. The shadow is permanent. For those who are dying in the trenches everyday and for those who have to live beyond it with the scars.
The shadow is only a passing thing if you are born in daylight. Everyone else is doomed to endure the dark."
"Think of what you are sacrificing!" I yelled, because I couldn't hear any more. The universe isn't all suffering! Look at what you are doing!"
"I have done nothing," he told me when he came down his platform. "This was all you. All of it."
He walked up to me and I saw his eyes were filled with tears.
"This is your gift to me and this is me seizing the opportunity. This is me seizing the day. And I haven't had one for a million years. You've practically wrapped it in a bow tie."
He grabbed my bow tie and ripped it off my neck.
"And there's nothing you can do to stop me."
He was right. I had no choice. If I stopped him leaving this world time would surely desintegrate and the universe would be lost. I had to make him leave. As quickly as possible.
"Pity I can't take her with me," the man lamented, looking back at Penny in the bed. Her human mind could not bear infinity. The coma proved to be her salvation and if she would ever wake up she would die instantly.
But he beared it. He beared it like no other, which had to mean the impossible. Yet I sensed his mind from the beginning and he couldn't have been. I would've known that straight away. But there was something about him. Something in his blood. Could it be?
"Who are you?" I asked again, determined to get an answer.
"WHO AM I?" he yelled back. "Should I spoil this one for you, Doctor? Should I tell you this story? Should I tell you how this one ends?
"I had the whole fabric of existence poured into my skull and I remember every second of it. All beginnings. All endings. I've read the universe back to cover, always looking in on the story and never part of it. And I've read yours, Doctor. I could tell you all the people you have forgotten, all those you have abandoned. All the people you couldn't save. Stories that ended before they ever got started. Stories that were erased. Is that it, Doctor? Are we all just stories? Is that it?"
Were you expecting more?
"...and I, its humble narrator? The student? The master? The storyteller? Who am I? I guess we will find out. I am going to rewrite history. Starting now."
Before he would activate his vortex manipulator he looked at me one last time.
"I never had a name. You had the privilege of choosing your name. Your were born in brightest sunlight and you fell so hard. I was born in desolate darkness and yet I shall rise so high. That is my destiny."
How many galaxies perished in these moments that we talked? Perhaps too many. With a final flash and a final gloat he left me in a desert of death singing a lullaby to the final dreamer, content in her mortality, finally.
I felt the weight of the universe shift to me. And the walls of reality turned transparant. Penny's bed slowly disappeared.
The Nameless didn't wait till the very end or there wouldn't have been a universe to go back to.
Now it was my memories and mind that started to fill this place. The last dam to break before time would recommence. I was keeping it on pause to save me and my friends.
As I looked into your eyes I literally flashed back into the desert. Time and space were meaningless here. I came to say goodbye to Penny and whoever she used to be.
"He never loved me," Penny told me. Her thoughts were still alive inside the glass. Her mind was faint but strong enough for a goodbye. "He thought he did. But wanting something and having something are two completely different things. And he had me for eternity. It was hell, to say the least."
"If I leave you, you'll die," I told her. She smiled as she sank deeper into the cushions.
"Don't worry, Doctor..." a voice behind me then said. His memory was still very much alive.
"I'll help her," Rory said. "I'll be here for her final moments. She won't be alone."
Good for you, Rory Williams.
Some things we forget because we must, but then you remember the good times. The good people. And those are the things that keep you fighting.
"I'm a nurse. It's okay, Doctor. Really."
"You should go. Find Amy. Keep her safe."
Before I left, I had to tell him the truth.
"Rory, (hate to break it to you) but you're not real."
He just looked at me odd.
"Then why are you still talking to me?"
Ha. When I closed my eyes I could still see him smiling at me. Goodbye, old friend.