BY DAVID CARROLL
Imperfect Copy a novel
The Tiger who wanted to be Human a comic
Changeling, with Kate Orman
BY KATE ORMAN
Untitled, by Sarah J. Groenewegen
Forgotten Memories, by Evan Paliatseas
The Rushing of Blood, by Evan Paliatseas
Keeper's Demise, by David J Richardson
NON DOCTOR WHO
Alien To Her, by David Carroll
She Twitched, by David Carroll
The Inner Light, by Kate Orman
Waiting in the Light, by Jonathan Barons
Grandfather's Clock, by Steven Caldwell
Messages, by Steven Caldwell
Inge, by Simon Moore
By Kate Orman
First Appeared in Burnt Toast#6, 1990
I am a patient goddess.
I watch the slow wind nudging the sand into new shapes. A desert, lifeless, an ocean of desolate white.
Here, even the wind moves slowly. I watch as it nudges the sand into new shapes. A desert, lifeless, an ocean of desolate white.
There, in the distance. The shape is a small one, moving slowly. As it comes towards me, I make out the details: a young girl, human in appearance. Her pale face is framed in blonde hair, and that in a white cloth.
One of my own.
She moves ever closer to me, unaware of my presence, her course meandering as she strains her senses to their limits.
Her head lifts. She has detected a tiny flicker of life, somewhere nearby.
I follow as she closes in on what she has sensed. What will it be? A lizard? A little snake? A flowering cactus?
He lies on his back, arms spread out, as though to embrace the burning blue sky. The girl makes her way carefully down the sand-dune. She hesitates for a moment, then presses a delicate ear to his chest.
One heartbeat ... and another. The Doctor is alive.
The girl tries to cut the wires around his wrists, but her knife blunts on the metal. She pauses, and then starts to dig out the pegs buried in the sand.
He awakens in the tent that evening. The girl is busy at a kettle, doing her best to make soup from next to nothing.
She hears him trying to speak. "Don't try to move." she says gently. "You're not better yet." She pulls her water-bag from the main pole of the tent, and helps him to sit up. He gulps weakly from the canteen.
Then he sees me.
"What is it?" says the girl, as he gags, spluttering precious liquid. She looks over her shoulder, to where I am sitting. But only the Doctor sees me, suspended between life and death.
He sleeps for days at a time. Whenever he wakes, the girl forces water or soup down his throat. She anoints his burnt face and hands with herbal solutions.
At last he is recovered enough to speak. "I'm very grateful." he tells her.
She shrugs shyly. "I couldn't leave you for the vultures."
The Doctor is still aware of me, a shadow in the shadows. "What's your name?" he asks the girl.
"Vivien." she says. "Why were you left in the sand?"
"I offended someone. In the city."
"It happens sometimes."
"I have a friend who's still there. She may still be alive. You didn't, you didn't see anyone else-"
Vivien shakes her head. "Only you."
"I must go back to the city." he says. He tries to get up. It's a mistake.
Vivien helps him back into his improvised bed. "Lie still, lie still." she coos. "You're not as well as you think you are."
"I have to go back!"
"You may yet die!" Vivien pushes her hair out of her eyes, frustrated. "You might die. But you will die if you don't rest."
He looks at me, and, despairing, goes to sleep.
A storm is coming. Vivien has gone hunting, scrabbling through the barren soil for roots and leaves, tracing tiny foot-prints across the dunes.
The Doctor can move a little now, and busies himself cleaning the tent, scrubbing pots and folding blankets. It is all he can think of to do to repay Vivien's kindness. It also keeps his mind off me.
But not for long.
"You've got me right where you want me." he says.
Our eyes meet across the tent. To different people, I am different things; skeleton and scythe, angel and sword, Pestilence or War or Famine. But to the people of Gallifrey I am Ce Kol Rana, the Oblivion Rose, the flower that grows out of corruption. I am a dark silhouette to him, hidden in a black robe, pale eyes burning above the scarlet splash on my shoulder.
"I had nothing to do with it." I answer. "Your enemies staked you out, not me. And you yourself made those enemies."
"Then why are you here?"
"And why would I need help? I have so many helpers." I pull out a cigarette and light it. Pale smoke drifts across the tent. "Tobacco." I say. "Coffee, alcohol, hashish, prussic acid, strychnine..."
"Weak dilutions." He knows the quote. "The surest is time. It opens the senses, adds power, fills us with exalted dreams ... especially it creates a craving for larger draughts of itself."
"You get more then your fair share of time. The Time Lords cheat -- you should've been dead six times over."
"Or more. Not only do I have thirteen lives, I've got the luck of a cat." He sits down, exhausted by his small efforts at domesticity. "I suppose it was unreasonable of me not to expect you sooner or later."
I smile. Perhaps he over-estimates his importance.
The storm hits with the ferocity of a baited bear. Sand whips across the desert like waves across a seething ocean.
Vivien sits at the entrance of the tent. She can see nothing in the greyness outside. But somewhere life pulses. "We must be ready for a fight." she tells the Doctor. "There are men coming."
From under a pile of supplies she pulls a rifle, and another. She throws him one. He almost drops it. "I don't know that I could use this." he says.
"Not even to save your life?"
He looks at me.
"Not even to save mine?" quavers Vivien.
* * *
The storm has quietened a little, though the wind still bites at their hair and clothes as they wait outside the tent.
When the battle comes, it comes quickly. Mercifully, there are no men or women to be torn apart by the concussion shells. As the first robot mounts the rise, Vivien blows it into shrapnel.
The fight is short and fierce. The robots come from all sides, lean-hipped grey things with smooth faces. The Doctor's shoulder is bruised black from the rifle's recoil, but still he keeps firing, swinging the ungainly weapon from side to side. His aim is good.
And, at last, there is a silence. The wind has gone, the sandstorm subsided. It reveals a pile of shattered android bodies.
Vivien leaps from one to another, teeth bared, her rifle dropped and forgotten. "What are these?" she hisses angrily. "They are not life, they are not flesh."
"They're machines." explains the Doctor. "safer to send a robot into the desert -- it doesn't thirst, doesn't blister. And it doesn't die when you shoot it. It simply stops functioning."
Vivien turns his eyes on him. Very suddenly, he is aware of his danger.
He turns to run, but he's too weak, too slow, feet slipping in the viscous sand. Something hits his back, and he's down-
-squirming as the poison from Vivien's claws bites into his skin. "What are you?" he gasps, trying to struggle away.
"I'm ghùl." she stands over him, a dark shape, no longer human. "We eat whatever we can find."
"Is that why you saved my life?" The fire in his back is growing cooler as numbness spreads through him. "So you could kill me?"
"Life remakes itself." she answers, reaching for his throat. "If I saved you, fattened you, there'd be more to consu-"
His ears ring, and he wonders why she falls across him, pinning him to the sand. A moment later his brain registers the sound of the shot.
The desert warriors approach cautiously, keep-ing there guns at the ready. But I happen to know that the ghùl is dead.
They drag her off him and throw her into the tent. A flame-thrower sets it alight.
"Your young friend showed us the error of our ways." says the leader of the warriors. "The war is finished. You would be welcome to return with us to our capitol."
"Thank you." says the Doctor faintly.
The ghùl's poison will soon wear off. And so too will the Doctor's vanity; he will know that Death comes to other creatures than Time Lords. I am especially careful to take care of my own.
But I'll be back for him, sooner or later, later or sooner.
I am a patient goddess.
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