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why do I hate Paisley





Glasshouse II


Untitled, by Sarah J. Groenewegen

Forgotten Memories, by Evan Paliatseas

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Doctor Who Non-fiction

Tabula Rasa

why do i hate Paisley

By Kate Orman

First appeared in Fractal Paisley

why do i hate Paisley. if you picked up all those shawls put them in a pile put tar on them & burnt them i would come & hate the ashes.

you can go & see the shawls in the museum. what are those things on them. leaves or commas or whales. what are they. i work in a pub in Paisley. ive always worked here except for a bad bit when the Temperance movement. Paisley is smoggy & foggy & full of horrid houses all clumped together like old milk cartons. they look as though they have formed out of the muck in the air. thank you Glasgow.

He was wearing leaves or commas or whales when He came into the bar. tourist i thought tourist tourist tourist but then i looked at the way He was walking & i went back to wiping up the stuff on the bar with a sponge.

there arent any earthquakes in Scotland but in a pub you get to know the earthquake look. this is when they come in staring into nothing & walking a bit unsteadily as though they expect the Earth to move (again). & badly in need of a drink.

i fetched Him His brandy Alexander & He sat in a booth not drinking it for an hour. He told me He was waiting for someone.

now i am not superstitious which may strike you as odd but what was strange was this. when Old Nick comes limping into the bar at about 10 oclock only i recognised him. & a dog outside who started barking & an old drunk who took one look & started crying. actually in his beer. & the man with the brandy Alexander.

to everybody else Nick was just another American businessman whose (blonde) hair was just a bit too neat & whose (blue) suit was just a bit too perfectly cut. & with a gold-tipped walking stick.

brandy Alexander comments that Nick looks like hes had a nasty Fall. i dont think this is funny but Nick shows his pearly whites. (any American businessman worth his salt would sell his wife for those teeth.) Nick sits down & orders a Virgin Mary (also not funny) & they get down to brass tacks.

i already know the details. ive seen the the contract signed before. an old woman whose husband has terminal cancer. a father whose youngest son is in a coma after a riding accident. its double or nothing, both souls or nothing.

- Well, Ahasuerus, long time no see.

- No games.

- To business, then. The young lady in question is already my property, by divine rite.

ha ha.

- What will you take in exchange for her?

- I could accept recompense in kind.

- If that's what's required.

Nick shows his teeth again (& MacHeath has got a knife but not in such an obvious place).

- Oh, Ahasuerus. What good is a soul given freely, as an act of martyrdom? What good is that to me?

- Stop calling me that! I'm no more the Wandering Jew than you're the Devil.

- If I'm not the Devil, why are you negotiating with me?

- Because your followers. Did something. To my companion.

- Yes; they made her mine.

- They said the only way to get her back was to come here and talk to you.

this is the bit where Nick gets out his contract.

Nick gets out his contract. The mark starts reading, peering at the small print through a pair of bifocals.

this is the bit where He asks about the tithe.

- I don't understand this part -- about the tithe.

- 10% down. It's returned if the contract is concluded in your favour.

hesitation. but what choice has He got.

- Alright.

He signs (ballpoint).

so Nick raises a hand like a snake & i see the mark sit very still, like a mouse when a cats shadow falls across it. He cant move, he cant draw the next breath. Nick makes a fist & yanks.

cream & brandy & broken glass go everywhere. im ready with my sponge (ive been waiting for this bit). Nicks busy folding away his tithe while i mop up the spilt glass. then i pick up the mark, who has fallen halfway out of His seat.

- Do you want a glass of water.

- No.

- Why, Ahasuerus, you look as though you've seen a ghost.

- I think I have.

* * *

- Are you really Ahasuerus, then?

He has been sitting there for half an hour, looking nine-tenths the man He used to be. i sit down opposite Him. maybe He shivers.

- No, I'm not.

Then, when Jesus, bearing the Cross, was led by, he rested for a moment, leaning against the Jew's house. The Jew's anger rose up, and he cursed Jesus and ordered him to be off to wherever it was fitting for him to go.

Then the Lord Christ looked at him sternly, and said: "I WILL STAND HERE AND REST, BUT YOU MUST WALK!"

- He has no home and never stays long in the one place.


- They also say that when he reaches a certain age, he falls into a coma. When he wakes up, he's young again.


- I know where we can get some horses.

(nothing. then:)

- Can ghosts ride horses?

* * *

the publican is a horse fancier. we unhitch two of his best & lead them out of the straw & dung into the fresh air. if (Ahasuerus?) has objections to stealing horses they are not as great as His objections to having His friends soul consecrated to Satan.

they all take the bargain in their own way. sometimes they cry & most back out.

- If that's what's required.

He said. & He is very quiet & very grim & thinks nothing of being helped by a ghost. & i think He would do it. whatever is required. i tell him:

- I don't believe in Christ anyway.

- Oh.

- Anyway, he doesn't believe in me. That's why I'm stuck here in Paisley.

- Ah.

it takes Him a while to notice He can only hear one set of hoofbeats. He is suitably impressed.

- How long have you been here?

- Since sixteen ninety-seven.

- The Witch Trials?

- Yes.

- Ah.

silence for a bit. its a new moon. i can see perfectly well & i think He can too. its not long before were out of Paisley, out of the smog & orange light & into the real blackness. whats left of the countryside.

- We have to go north, to a church just outside-

- Yes. I know the way there.

silence for a bit.

- You've done this before.

- I've seen this before.

- But you weren't a part of it?

- No.

silence for a bit.

- Why did you decide to help me?

- Because I thought you might be able to help me.

- If I can. But please understand, I'm not Ahasuerus or Cartaphilus or Votadeo. I'm just the Doctor.

- My name is Campbell.

- Katherine Campbell? The maid of Christian Shaw?

- Yes.

- Burned in sixteen ninety-seven.

- Hanged first.

Oh sirs, would you stand by and see a young lass hanged? What have you taken from the old women who went before me but a year or two of pain and misery? Their lives were a burden to them and nearly over. But you'll take from me my youth and strength, the husband and children I'll never have. Now I maun sing my ain coronach, alane among strangers. Woe on the day I left my home and my kin and sought the cruel Lowlands, where a chance word in anger to a lady's child can bring trouble and death to the poor and friendless. Keep your tears. They'll do no good for you nor me.

- That little bitch Christian Shaw. Half a dozen men and women died because of her hysteria. And then she went on to found Paisley's weaving industry. She made those stupid squiggles famous! They wanted me to confess to God, but God has abandoned me. I did nae tumble into Hell, I did nae fly away to Heaven. I'll get no help from God. But I thought perhaps two such exiles...

- I'm not sure if I can help you. Ghosts are not my speciality. I'm a scientist, not a priest.

- And yet you signed your soul away to the Devil.

He glances at the sky & i see the glint of fear in His eyes. i put my hand on His arm.

- You're waiting for something to happen, aren't you?

- One doesn't bargain with the Devil and expect to come away lightly.

- Don't be scared. you're not supposed to be able to die.

* * *

the marks always turn up the next day dead. i cant turn up dead. i dont think the Doctor can either.

He tells me Hes come within a cats whisker of death dozens, maybe hundreds of times. it just never seems to catch up with him. he can get out of anything. he does a trick or gets rescued. or just luck. He always wonders if this is the real one, the death he won't get out of. it never is.

- Sometimes I wonder when I'm supposed to die.

- It makes me wonder if you're supposed to die.

On one occasion he was seized by the authorities at Vicenza and sentenced to hang. Try as they would, however, they could find no rope to carry out the execution; as soon as Giovanni was launched into eternity, the rope would break, until the authorities gave up in disgust and superstitious fear. we both look round at the noise.

it sounds like a trumpet, but a trumpet recorded on a tape player & then sped up & slowed down & stretched... it is horrid. horrid. it is a call to everything slimy in the darkness.

there is not much further to go to the church. but the trumpet is coming closer, sounding louder. & we can hear hoofbeats & other sounds. following us.

we kick the horses into a gallop. the Doctors horse thunders on the irregular ground. we go faster.

a flash of lightning rips across the sky. for a moment i see what is following us.

i havent screamed since they put the rope around my neck. i scream.

Old Nick is riding a cat twice as large as our horses. His hounds are bats & beetles as large as cars, bears, ravens like kites, hellhounds with fire pouring out of their faces, three-legged horses & zebras & cows, horses without heads & dogs with wings. they are shrieking & gibbering in the night.


His fingers dig into my shoulder & i force my head around. my wispy excuse for a body has turned to cold jelly & i fear i may melt through my horse.

this is what they have seen. all of them. this is what they have faced when they have signed his contract. it says the Devil only has to touch the contractee to win. but he will not touch us. his hounds will tear us apart. even a ghost.

i can see Nicks pearly whites turned to fangs like the teeth in an ivory comb & two great antlers sprouting from his pale hair. & i am afraid for the first time in three hundred years. i can feel it. afraid. the river White Cart. our horses rear up at the flooded river. they cannot cross. the Wild Hunt is nearly upon us. i remember when the soldiers came to take me back to Paisley. i had no shoes & i can remember the exact shade of blue my feet went in the snow. i am not on my horse any more. the Doctor has grabbed my hand & He is dragging me along. his fingers push into the ecotplasm but he doesn't notice. the hounds bay & things scream & screech. i can run faster than Him because my feet dont touch the ground but where are we going. then i see the bridge.

- The Devil can't cross running water.

suddenly i am hip-deep in freezing cold water. mud & leeches squelch between my toes. i can feel it! it is bitter stinging cold! i nearly cry out but i need all my breath to keep up with Him.

we get into the darkness under the bridge & listen to the horses being killed. but the (hounds) cannot find our scent. i find i have got my arms around the Doctor as though He is a life preserver. He has a gentle hand on my shoulders. i am crying with cold & fear, trying to not gasp or make any sound.

three hundred years was nothing to the time we spent under that bridge in the darkness, with the White Cart washing up & around us. i cannot freeze but by the time we emerge i dont understand how the Doctor is able to stand up.

there is no sign of the Wild Hunt. we stumble across the bridge, holding one another up. our knees dont work properly.

it takes a lot of walking to get the heat back into us. being cold is a natural state for a ghost. you dont notice it. but now i notice it. we are still damp & shivering, clinging together.

- Do you believe he really is the Devil?

- I've met dozens of Devils. He could be anything -- a psychic, an alien...

- But the contract, and the running water-

- He might just be playing by the rules.

- He took away part of your soul.

- Yes.

we are almost to the churchyard. i can see the steeple in the darkness; the church is long since ruined. a fitting place to mark the end of a race with the Devil.

we stand side by side, on a hill. looking down at the shattered building. the roof has fallen in. the graveyard is all tumbling down & full of weeds. but we are here.

- We made it.

- Yes, we did. I couldn't have done it without your help, Katherine.

- I didn't do very much.

- Has anyone ever won this race before?

- No.

- Then perhaps no-one else had you to help them.

He doesnt say anything when i sheathe my knife in His side. He just makes a little noise as though He is surprised, which He ought to be. (& MacHeath has got a knife but not in such an obvious place)

i take the knife away & He cannot stand up. He rolls down the little hill. i hear the breath being knocked out of Him as He tumbles & finally a snap as His head hits something in the darkness.

holding the knife i go down the slope, following the skid marks left by His body. He has cracked His head on an old headstone. it leans to one side, mossy & decaying.

i am surprised to see He is still alive. He is even trying to get away. i grab His hair & try to put the knife against His throat, but His hands dig into my arm, pushing with lifes ferocity. i want to tell Him not to be scared, its not so bad once the pain stops.

- Katherine.

Nick is standing at the gate of the graveyard, leaning on his gold- tipped walking stick

- I have him. I got him for you.

- You're so ungrateful, Ahasuerus. That's a terminal chest wound. She's trying to administer euthanasia.

- Come and take him, Lord, he's all yours.

- Katherine. I have to touch him.

& he cannot come into the graveyard. it is hallowed ground.

- Don't try and move him, girl, he'd be dead before you got him here. Congratulations, Doctor. You're the first one ever to win the race.

- Will you keep your side of the bargain?

- I'm a man of my word.

- Will you keep it?

- As of this moment, your companion's soul is restored to her.

i am crying. i drop the Doctor on the grave where He belongs. i can see from His face (there is blood coming out of His mouth) He is wondering if this is it. He has a lung filling with blood & there is no-one to help Him, no tricks to be played, no rescue, no hope.

this is no immortal. just another speck of flesh and blood in a graveyard. where it belongs. & i realise: he knew this would happen. even before i did.

- My Lord?

- No, Katherine. You haven't served me at all -- you've cost me two souls.

- Take me with you!

- To Hell?

- Anywhere but here! Anywhere!

he turns to go. at the last minute he remembers something & takes an envelope from his pocket. it opens. there is something inside it. The 10%.

i see the bleeding stop & i know. the tithe has been enough to heal the wound, to restore the Doctor's life. it was just one of His many deaths.

He could not help me. God would not have me. Now the Devil will not have me either.

if you go halfway between Heaven & Hell you will be in Paisley.


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