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Doctor Who Non-fiction

Tabula Rasa

Home Coming

by David Carroll

First Appeared in Burnt Toast#6, 1990

"Found rock in pool today, long streaken. Pool near empty" said OutOfOrder brightly. Caretaker number 732 stroke 07 subsection 3 grunted non-committally.

Silence fell.

This reproduction thing was sterner than it looked, thought the Blue Kang. And a lot less 'citing. Any initial streak of girlish enthusiasm for this new sport had long since faded and she simply wished she was back with the pack, hunting the streets of their world. A hunt without prey, but worthy none-the-less.

The old ones might think this ragen, the continuation as someone had named it, but they didn't have to go it. Unnatural it was. And she felt sick. Was confined in this room with this Caretaker sickening?

A dull nausea had started to seep through her, radiating from her chest. As she rolled away from the Caretaker the nausea heightened, making her dizzy. She fell back onto the bed, a groan escaping her. The old sheets, initially so soft and comfortable, now felt like wood; hard and splintered against her back and legs. The single light to her side had started pulsing, but shutting her eyes against the glare only worsened the sensation, for now there were thousands of lights, tiny, pulsing. Without moving they gave the impression of hurtling speed and vast, painful emptiness. She tried to escape, to run away from this room, to hide from this man. She could not move.

Beside her, Caretaker number 732 stroke 07 subsection 3 was having his own troubles. Not the least of which was sheer embarrassment over his non-uniformed body. But embarrassed or not, he was rather proud that he had mastered the art of seduction to the point he could quote it verbatim. He did have to admit, however, that nothing was actually happening. He decided to go over the procedure one more time, seeing if he had forgotten something. He vaguely remembered someone, a Rezzie, saying to simply let go and let his hormones do the rest, but that seemed rather superfluous after the extensive write-up in the in recently appended rule-book.

OutOfOrder (he remembered her name, one of the earlier rules) lay beside him and groaned, her body starting to convulse. That was right, wasn't it? He turned to her and she grabbed him, forcing him down. Her body had broken out into fine beads of sweat and she was quivering violently, eyes rolling, the cries she was emitting like those of pain.

This, thought Caretaker number 732 stroke 07 subsection 3, was more like it.

His satisfaction lasted precisely until the body over him started to swell. From her face to her breasts OutOfOrder's flesh bloated, stretched taut, burst. The rib-cage shattered with a sharp cracking, the heart and lungs broke free, and the girl landed on Caretaker number 732 stroke 07 subsection 3 with a wet squelch. And in the midst of the gore something moved. Something black and fibrous, gleaming with ichor. Almost instantaneously it seemed to find some sense of direction, gathered its filaments about it, shot upwards towards the male human's face. The brief, high-pitched screams choked off, and soon there was only a few stray strands that had caught on shards of bone, disappearing into the mouth, cutting through the lips in their anticipation of warmth. And then it was gone.

From sight at least.

The Caretaker sat up, pushing the Kang, now Red, away from him.

The creature that had been in OutOfOrder had found a new home.

And so it started.

* * *

She ran and ran, not knowing or caring where. Up recently cleaned stairs, along corridors once haunted by robots and the memory of an architect best forgotten. There was a rumbling from above, the whole building seemed to shake momentarily. Perhaps once she would have welcomed that sound, recognising it without quite knowing why, but now she ignored it. She was running to die.

As she ran, Emergency 'Phone felt the creature moving sluggishly inside her, growing. It had become incautious in its gluttony, had revealed itself even as it had taken its last victim.

And, indeed, she was the last. The corridors she ran through were empty.

But, like her, it was dying. It had over indulged itself, languishing in the warmth and darkness it had moved from body to body on whim, taking hours instead of days to lust after a new reservoir.

Such wastage was not to go unpunished, and as it struggled to split, to divide itself, to reproduce, it finally had realised that it perhaps did not even have enough energy to keep itself alive.

Emergency 'Phone knew this, it had left itself unguarded. She glimpsed snatches of its memory, of the emptiness between worlds, the burning of its approach, and the coolness of what she somehow knew was the swimming pool in the sky. She felt alien sensations, the coursing of her own blood, not within her but around her, drowning, smothering, feeding her. And while her mind revolted at what was inside her, her body ran. Exhaustion and pain took her, and she ran, she was all but blinded, but she ran, feeling her way, knowing she wasn't going anywhere. Using up energy, wasting energy, energy needed by the creature to survive.

And she was winning. It was dying.

Upwards, ever upwards.

Until the filaments inside her reached her legs, tightened themselves around muscle and bone, and sent her crashing to the stairs. Landing hard on the angled stone she tried to crawl, made it as far as a wall and leant against it.

The stone behind her felt so soft, soft enough to sink slowly into, eyes open only to the rock. So she rested, because it was too late for the creature. Much too late. As the darkness crept over her she mocked it, knowing it could read her mind, as she was forced to read his. She had been brave and bold as a Kang should be, and she had won.

The darkness thickened, became a haze of blood. And then she knew she must be dreaming, must be slipping away. For out of the haze a figure seemed to appear, down the stairway.

The figure was dressed in a uniform, and carried a weapon at his hip with an easy grace.

"The war's over. We won!" it shouted, gleefully.

The filaments under Emergency 'Phone's face drew back her lips, in what the creature inside her hoped was a smile.


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