To whoever may read this.
My name is Andrew Connolly and I’m a student in Art history at Dublin University. I met the Doctor on my way home after lecture. I was carrying around my books when I bumped into a blue police phone box. Being interested in history like I am, I decided to take a closer look. The thing looked English to me. Then what was it doing in Dublin? I was about to look up some information on my phone when the box opened from the inside. That was, indeed, rather odd. But even more odd was the man that came out. He was wearing a suit, combined with rather bright red shoes and a hairdo that I do not dare to describe. He smiled at me, as if he’d been expecting me. I don’t know why, but it almost was as if he already knew me in some way. He pulled me into that strange blue box, only to leave me in wonder. It’s interior was bigger than its exterior! And the architecture, or whatever it was, looked like nothing I’d ever seen before. The man, the Doctor as I’d later understand, gave me a smile. “so this is your first time, huh?” he was grinning for some reason. Wasn’t it obvious? I didn’t know this man and his box. Instead of answering I just shrugged, which made him frown as he walked off to fondle with things I suspect where controls. “Well, I promised you Florence, so off we go!” I just stood there, gaping at him. He promised me something, but I couldn’t remember it at all, I was about to talk as the box started moving. Instinctively I clung onto the central panel, trying to keep standing. My books got shattered over the floor but as suddenly as the box started moving, it stopped, producing an unpleasant scraping sound while doing so.
“Florence!” the man seemed overly happy, “there we are, middle of the renaissance, the bloom of Italy!” warily, I stepped out of the box and looked around. To my surprise, we were indeed in Florence, standing right in front of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the large “Duomo” that is so significant in this Italian city. I gasped when I realized it looked too…new? Yes, it definitely looked like a freshly build church. Curious citizens where flocking around the doors of gilded bronze, that shone in the light of the early evening of Italy. Somewhere around 1475, or maybe some years later, I realized. I looked around in awe while the doctor smiled at me. “come on, this way.” He encouraged me to follow him, and so I did blindly trusting him. Thinking of this later, this is weird. I didn’t know this man but I followed him blindly. Maybe it’s because I knew, unconsciously. I followed him through narrow streets, away from the Duomo, until we reached a tiny looking home. My eyes were drawn to the small stone plaquette by the door. “Buonarroti” it read. Now I told you, reader, that I am an art history student, which caused me to directly recognize the name: Michelangelo Buonarroti. The Doctor, though, led me past the home. With more trouble this time, because I could not keep my eyes of the door. That door handle was touched by one of the fathers of the renaissance! I wondered if I would get to meet him, little did I know that in not long from then, my life would depend on this same Michelangelo.
The man, which I remind you, I still did not know, pulled me away, putting me on the rim of a clear water fountain, where he stood in front of me. “before you storm off like usually, this time I do need to warn you not to go predicting the future like you seem to like. I know you know a lot of this stuff, but people here do not. Keep quiet and for once, please, behave like you belong here” he almost sounded like he had told this many times before. “alright” I said, taking absolutely no effort to hide my thick accent. “but before I.. run off? I want to ask you some stuff.” He rose one of his eyebrows. “who are you?” the answer came quickly, impatiently almost. “I’m the Doctor.” Okay, that didn’t make sense but I accepted it for now. “okay, and that box, what’s it?” apparently it was a time machine called a Tardis. I was not satisfied, but he left me no time to ask anything else. Already walking off to somewhere in the shadows. Apparently this doctor expected me to wander off, so why wouldn’t I?
A little doubtingly I walked off, forcing myself to not walk directly back to the home, but wander back to the duomo. I could as well take a look at the doors while the gilding was still on there. It was not hard to find the church at all, since I could simply walk to that big shiny dome. It was harder to keep focused on that though. Everywhere around me where things I thought to be interesting. People talking at the market, other people discussing in what I recognized as Italian, but could still understand. In my education I had picked up a little Italian, so I thought it was just because of that. Quickly, I found myself looking at the little stalls, drooling over the pastries they sold there. Sadly, I did not have any money to buy one of them. I felt in my pockets for something I could trade, finding nothing but an old piece of gum. In thought I stood there, when I realized I was wearing that tube shaped helix earring I got for my birthday a few years ago. It was silver, so maybe it would sell. While I was taking it off, the marketer on the other end of the stall seemed to have already guessed my intention and offered me a pastry and a few florin as change. I smiled, handed him the earing and walked off again, munching down the delicious pastry. It was crunchy, yet creamy and tasted like vanilla, with a hint of cinnamon. Being completely in love with the pastry, I was not watching where I was going and however cliché this may sound: I bumped into a man. Little pots of paint shattered around the floor and I was already crouching to pick them up when I realized who it was. Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. My jaw dropped as I was both stunned and dumbfounded by his appearance. He was young, about my age, but already had the air of a high classed artist, even though that didn’t make him look unfriendly. What surprised me even more was the look of interest I spotted in his eyes. Interest in me, apparently. I got myself to stand up and gave him his paint, but our eyes seemed locked together. Then he smiled, took my hand together with the paintpots and forced me to shake it. I was shaking hands with Michelangelo! He told me his name and explained me what he was, which caused me to roll my eyes. Luckily he didn’t notice it. Then a very special question came, one I wasn’t prepared for at all. “are you interested in a modelling job?”
I didn’t know what to say, I wanted to scream, to shout, to hug him, but I did just nod. He didn’t even ask my name as he pulled me along to his workplace which, I realized, was in a street behind his house. He then pushed me onto a sort of small podium. “stand there and try to keep standing still” I was ordered. Nodding again, I tried not to beam a smile as I looked at the artist. Michelangelo got a piece of wood and a piece of chalk, sketching already. I was surprised to find he liked to talk while sketching, complementing my pale skin, cursing my strawberry blonde curls which were too hard to draw, even though this was the feature he had selected me on. I told him my name and my nationality. The latter made him furrow his brow, but he shrugged it off as he told me to turn my face a little. I did, but was corrected as soon as I moved. Turning my face to the other side and tried my best to keep the rest of my body as still as possible. Still not satisfied with the result he got up and roughly corrected my stance. It hurt, but I laughed it off, trying to stand the way he wanted me to. He muttered some insults (of which I was not sure if they were aimed at me or not) and continues sketching. It took what felt like an hour before he was ready, coming to take me of the podium and offered me some water, which I gladly took. By now I had gathered enough courage to ask this one question that had been playing around in my mind pretty long now. “Can I see your work?” A proud smile appeared on his face. “Sure” he walked off, to what looked like a gallery full of statues. My heart skipped a beat as I recognized some works from my books. Others I did not recognize, like this statue of an angel. When I got closer I realized it was not made of marble, or any other stone that I’d recognize. “Michel?” I asked, unsure if I could call him that but he didn’t seem to mid and came over, so I continued. “What material is this statue made off?” I got worried when he didn’t answer right away, instead he just stared at the sculpture. Then, after a minute or so, came an answer. “I didn’t make that statue.” Well, that’s weird but we made a great mistake when we looked at each other and then back at the statue. To my surprise and horror, the statue had changes position, to now look at us. Instinctively I backed away, pulling the artist along. “Let’s get out of here” I hissed, still walking backwards to the door. Luckily, Michelangelo listened to me and followed. We closed the door and I insisted that we left the house too. Stumbling outside with looks of horror on our faces, we ran into the Doctor. He rose one of his eyebrows and I started to explain. During my story his face went first blank and then got a hint of worry. “ you were lucky” he told us, “you encountered a weeping angel. A race of malicious aliens that can move only when nothing is looking at them. They’re very dangerous, and you are very lucky to have survived the encounter”
I looked at The Doctor, frowning. “but we left…so that would mean it’s now free to move around whatever it likes.” Michelangelo, by my side, nodded. Seemingly he had understood that even before I did. “But what is it doing in my gallery?” he asked concerned, making the doctor frown.
“well there is this a theory among timelord scientists, it was never tested because we can’t see angels move, but they believe the weeping angels are able to reproduce by possessing lifeless statues.” All three of us remained silent in thoughts. It wasn’t too hard to guess what each of us was thinking about: The Doctor was probably trying to think of a way to stop it, Michelangelo might have been very concerned about his work and I, I was wondering how this all was possible and how it affected history. Surprisingly, I was the first to snap out of it. “Doctor, we need to do something” I stated and the old, old eyes looking at me showed a hint of approval. He nodded and looked at the artist by my side, suddenly shining with what seemed to be an idea. “Alright! Mike, I can call you mike, can’t I?, we’re going to lure it outside. We make a statue so pretty the angel won’t be able to resist. And with we, I mend you. You’re the only one of us that can actually sculpt. listen. You must make a statue that is pretty, but make it immobile, so it won’t be dangerous even if this plan fails. You can do that, can’t you?”
I could see a hint of worry on the Italians face, but he was too proud to admit it to be a very hard, almost impossible job. He nodded and even forced a smile as he reached for his chisel. “ then you better get me some marble.”
I was surprised to find Michelangelo work as quickly as he does. In basically no time he had a rough model half imbedded in rock. The artist smiled at me and gave me a hand full off fine sand, asking me to polish the legs as he worked on the face. I agreed and eventually a true masterpiece occurred…only it was still part of a marble block. It seemed that the doctor was contented by the result and I even saw him run his hand over the smooth marble for a moment. I understood this motion; if I hadn’t just ragged open my hands by polishing it, I would too he happily stroking the surface. “good!” he suddenly spoke. “now we need to place this in the sight of the angel.” We nodded and struggled to pick up the massive piece of rock. I can assure you it was heavy, even with the three of us trying to lift it. “isn’t there an easier way to move these things?” I asked Michelangelo, realizing this was something I never had to learn. Seemingly, this question left him to wonder, and I understood this wasn’t something he usually worried about. The doctor shook his head. “it’s not far, we’ll just carry it”
I suppose the doctor had a good reason to carry the 80 kilos of marble all the way to the back yard. It was very heavy to carry with only three people but we managed and as it stood where we wanted it to be, we noticed the angel statue had already turned to the window. As if it had been looking at us. If I did not know better I’d think I saw greet on its face and that really freaked me out. The Doctor smiled and, while he kept looking at the angel without single blink, he nudged us back. “you two, hide.” He hissed at us and he didn’t need to repeat that advice. Michelangelo and I crab walked out of the porch and soon hid under a parked market-trolley. My view was little less than Michelangelo’s butt. Not like I disliked that view, Michelangelo had a very fine butt, but I also wanted to see if the Doctor was safe. My questions were answered quickly as the skinny man soon joined us under the trolley with a big grin on his face. “it worked!” he did absolutely no effort to talk softly. “the angel is working on the bait, now we need some Mirrors and it’ll all be good!” he sure sounded like a child playing his favourite game. “Quick! What are you still doing under here!? Grab all mirror’s you can find, Allons-y!”
Without thinking twice, all three of us crawled back to the street and started to run around gathering any mirror we could find. Stealing them of carriages, borrowing them from ladies…anything. Until I ran into the marked I was earlier and found a marketer loading a full body-size mirror. I took the coins from my pocket and hurried to the man. “Sir!” I shouted. “I really want that mirror! Any price!” and I tossed him the coins. The florins I had got earlier, but also a few euro’s. I hoped the last would trick him into thinking I offered him a lot of money and, to my surprise, it worked. I didn’t wait and just lifted the mirror with the strength of panic and hurried to the trolley we hid on earlier.
“DOCTOR!” I shouted and the doctor turned around quickly and helped me carry the mirror to the Angel. Seeing the creature made shivers go down my spine. It was strangely maneuvered around the unfinished statue Michelangelo had made for us and seemed very preoccupied with what it was doing. Even though, now, it obviously couldn’t do anything. I saw the Doctor and Michelangelo had already made a circle of mirrors and mine filled the gap that was left. “Andrew, close your eyes” the doctor said, and even though I was scared I listened, closing my eyes.
It was as if ages passed before the Doctor told me to open them again. What I saw was possibly even scarier as what I had seen before. The angel had caught a view of the mirror and with that it was now looking at itself, unable to move. But the look of pure panic that was on its face. Sharp teeth visible in a soundless scream as it seemed to almost lovingly hold the statue it had been working on. I hadn’t seen Michelangelo come to us, but he suddenly placed his worn hand on my shoulder and smiled. “Well then, Doctor, Andrew. From Ireland.” He winked and my heart skipped a beat. “the thing is frozen in place, you can now return to your monasteries.” And then it clicked, I understood why Michelangelo had been so surprised. Being from Ireland, in this time, meant you was most likely a monk. I decided not to argue his assumptions. The Doctor shook his head. “there is one more thing we need to do” he spoke as he walked towards the angel. “we can’t kill it, but we can weaken it. Mike, come here” the man was grinning like an idiot, but probably for whole other reason than I was. “take this scalp and take away from this angel what you think it’s needing the most. One thing. Don’t stand between the angel and the mirror.”
Quick at work, the sculptor knowingly hit off the wings, feet and arms. What was left was a pathetic excuse for a weeping angel and the doctor nodded. “a bucket of acid over that and then, Mike, I need you to leave the city for a while.” I shook my head. “but the pope will come for the Sixtine Chappelle!” I hissed to the doctor hoping Michelangelo would not hear me, and the doctor nodded. “and what did Michelangelo do when the pope came?” my eyes went wide as realization came. “he fled to the mountain groves.” I spoke out loud. “we make him flee to the mountain groves.”
If Michelangelo had even heard us he didn’t show, already squeezing lemons to acquire the acid we needed. I decided to help him while the Doctor did who knows what. Lemon juice bit into my hands that were still rough from policing marble but I didn’t comment, it was important we did this. Luckily lemons were growing around a lot in the warm climate of Italy but we made sure not to pick the very ripe ones so our juice would be even more acidy. We didn’t talk at all as we worked for hours but I found myself whistling tunes that I remembered from my childhood. Whiskey in the Jar, The Wild Rover, The Ferryman, The Spanish Lady, these were all songs my grandfather used to sing for me as we sat by the fire. He would sip his tea, or whiskey if it was after 6, and tell me stories of brave Irishmen fighting the Norsemen, each other or the English. Endless fights for freedom and survival, they made me feel proud and triggered my interest in history. It was almost absurd to think that right now, Ireland barely existed. I was squeezing lemons with Michelangelo, for heaven’s sake! The bucket was now quite full and I looked up to search for the doctor, who was doing something to the angel with a strangely whirring device. “Doctor?” he turned around. “will this be enough?” he didn’t even look as he cheerfully declared it was fantastic. We carried the bucket to the angel and quickly poured it all over. “this Acid will bite into the stone” the doctor finally explained. “the day the mirror is gone, or the angel is no longer looking at is, the acid will eat it’s bones.” Now, that sounded nasty, but we nodded. “we leave now, all of us. Goodbye Mike it was an honour, come Andrew.” He gestured me to follow him. I sighed and offered Michelangelo a hand that he took to pull me in and give me a one armed hug. “keep working” I muttered into his chest, “You’re very good” and he laughed. “So was you, Andrew the Irishman” and with that, he let me go. I wondered if that would be forever my last name in his mind but didn’t take the time to think about it as I ran after the Doctor, back into that weird phone booth. I knew for sure Michelangelo would take the advice and flee into the mountains, because that is what history tells us.
And now I’m home, Writing about what happened to me. A story I hope will be taken into the future not by me but by time itself. And may people read it, like you just did, and whether they believe me or not, think of the past with a smile. The Doctor promised to visit me again, so maybe we will meet one day.
Andrew Collony, Dublin University Department of History, 2021.
PS. If any books or other sources speak of
Andrew the Irishman, a portrait by Michelangelo, that is me. But to this day it
is nowhere to be found.