The Storyteller

Bitter Trials

A new batch of recruits arrived in the hospital in a mess of blood, toil, tears and guts. Some were carried in, falling apart in the hands of the nurses and doctors who carried them, because there weren't enough gurneys. Others were aided in their constant stumble before they were guided to rest upon a white bed among a hundred other wounded in the hospital's main hall.

These were boys born in the dark. Some would never see the light of day again, if not most.

Some of them would die this day; buried without a name into the earth's soil.

"Even though I had never met him before and I hadn't a clue who he was or what his beef was with me..." the Doctor said and breath escaped him. "He was right. I could change all of this. With a whiff of powder I could save one. With a time-machine I could save them all. And I did try once..."

The Doctor fidgeted with a loose piece of string poking out of the fabric of the white cloth of the bed and he neurotically tried to pry it loose, until it got longer and longer. He wrapped it around his finger until he tugged and it snapped. Then it was just a piece of string and he let it fall from his hands to the ground.

Then he looked up again and sighed relieved. They were gone, but they would be well cared for. He was fine until he remembered Spanish flu, typhus, dysentery and malaria...

"Could I have saved them all? Am I that naive? A child would think it was that easy and some days I wish I was a child. Some times I wish it were that simple again."

He wiped his nose, cleared his throat and was about to start another thought out loud...

"I'm a Time Lord..."

Then Amy's head fell against his shoulder. Her eyes shut in beautiful sleep. She snapped him out of it. She was practically glowing. In her dreams she smiled as if there wasn't a war out there brewing in the dark.

He thought of all the good things that had come out of it in the end. Alliances and conventions, laws and regulations, trade embargoes and technology!

These were dark times, but one day this would lead to global co-operation. Global awareness. Self-realization. Unification through shared suffering and common enemies. It almost made all of it sound worthwhile.

As much as anyone in this building wanted to forget all this suffering, this is the one time no-one ever should or doom history into repeating itself.

Mankind learns from its mistakes. Mankind grows. Evolves. Mankind is brilliant as much as it is foul.

These were the times that made people realize they could be better and that they should be better. Pain and loss: they define us as much as happiness or love.

And some battles weren't his to fight. They were mankind's to overcome. There are some lessons that have to be experienced, not taught. That was even true of the Doctor.

Because if we don't learn, then mankind is doomed already.

"Magnificent Amy Pond," he whispered proudly and he gently moved the weight of her head back upon the pillow.

He just smiled as he watched her and checked up on her leg. He pricked it and she twitched and frowned in her sleep. All was well.

The Doctor quietly got off the bed, tucked her in and kissed her forehead. She probably hadn't heard a word he'd said for quite some time now. It was probably for the best.

When he reached underneath the bed the walls around him suddenly came crashing down. Someone was tearing at the curtains. It was a nurse.

Two blue eyes twinkled when the Doctor turned around.

"You're leaving?" she asked and the Doctor saw right through the lie.

"You were eavesdropping?" he replied smiling and the nurse pretended otherwise as she folded up the curtains, not caring for the dried bloodstains. It appeared they were running out of supplies desperately.

"It's not often we hear such stories around here," she said.

She looked more tired than any weary soldier present for miles. Her hair had lost its frizzled shine and had just become frizzled. She hadn't blinked in ages.

"It's a shame you stopped. Was your story over? You were really entertaining the men here. Or at least the ones that stayed awake during the night. They haven't ever been this quiet."

The Doctor looked around uplifted realizing he wasn't alone. The soldiers reflected as much awe and amusement as he was showering upon them. They wanted to know how the story ended and if anything, they just didn't want the Doctor to stop talking.

"What about you?" the Doctor asked.

"What?"

"Did you like it?"

"Sort of. But who was that man in the mirror castle? Did you know him?"

"It's just a story," the Doctor smiled.

"It doesn't sound like just a story."

"What's your name?"

"Denise."

"The story still lacks an ending, doesn't it? D'you want to write it with me? It won't take long."

They sat down together on the side of Amy's bed and Denise listened. The Doctor gathered his thoughts and savoured the silence for now before a twinkle of excitement returned to his eye.

"Now, to tell the story of how we got out."

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