Doctor Who: Drown In Blood
The Punchinello stood at his window and surveyed the town far below. The dark clown, his face pale above the crimson ruffles of his flared collar, pulled lips from blackened gums and sharp, tiny teeth in a savage grin. Blood dried on his cheeks, blood traced from the empty sockets of his eyes.
The villagers thought he was a demon.
In a way, they were right.
There was no trace of any of them now. The sun hung low on the horizon, staining the wooden huts, the hard-packed clay that was the town's main road, and the stone fountain in the square, its water turned to blood in the orange light.
It was midnight on the planet of perpetual twilight.
The Punchinello was satisfied. He turned from the window and walked across his parlor, its dark marble cold under his bare feet. He lowered himself onto his throne and leaned forward, his chin in his gloved hands. He sat like this for a very long time. Waiting, and listening.
The Doctor was coming.
The thought made him shiver with sensual pleasure. His stomach muscles tightened, his heart began to beat wildly in his chest, his breathing quickened. Still, he waited.
At last the Doctor was close. He could feel it.
It was midnight on the planet of perpetual twilight, and Mister Punch began to laugh.
Romana had never been this deep inside the TARDIS.
She leaned for a moment against a wall, rubbing her temples. She could feel a headache coming on, and if she didn't stop and rest soon she imagined her legs would betray her and she would simply drop from exhaustion.
"How much further?" she called. "We've been walking for hours!"
Somewhere further in the maze of corridors she heard the Doctor respond with a grunt.
"What's that supposed to mean?" she muttered.
"I cannot say, mistress," said K9 from her feet. Romana followed him down another corridor and they found the Doctor holding his sonic screwdriver over a thick steel bolt set into an imposing metal door.
"Locked out of my own TARDIS," the Doctor murmured. "What could possibly be in there?"
"A chair, I hope. Doctor, we've been down here for hours. I'm tired and hungry and I need a bath."
"The first Romana didn't complain this much," said the Doctor. "Isn't that right, K9?"
Romana crossed her arms over her chest. "I don't compare you to your other incarnations."
"You didn't know my other incarnations," said the Doctor, mopping his brow with the end of his scarf. He continued his work with the sonic screwdriver. "They were a dreary lot."
"Is that so?"
"Nice enough chaps, just lacking a certain style, a certain flair." Thin wisps of smoke began to curl in the air above the bolt, and suddenly it snapped and fell to the floor with a clatter. "Aha!"
"Is this why we came down all this way?" Romana asked. "To poke around some dusty old closet?"
"I just felt like going for a walk," said the Doctor. "I thought you might like to keep me company." He pushed the door open and they stepped out into a large open field of tall grass that waved in a gentle breeze. Above them was a brilliant blue sky unmarred by any cloud. Romana and the Doctor walked to a large circular stone that jutted up from the grass.
"It's a console!" Romana said, noting the buttons and screens and levers set into the rock. The field appeared to continue for miles in every direction, and on the distant horizon she could see mountains stretching into the sky.
"Yes," said the Doctor. "I'd quite forgotten this was down here. A nice little feature of the outdated, as you call it, Type 40."
"It's a decent enough change." The Doctor turned and hollered through the doorway, which seemed to be built into a stone column. "Sorry, K9, you'll just have to wait for us outside!" To Romana he said, "He seems to have difficulty in tall grass."
"Yes, I meant to talk to you about that. He could very easily be outfitted with a hoverpack, you know."
"Don't be ridiculous," said the Doctor. "K9 is a dog, not a penguin."
Romana frowned. "Penguins don't fly."
"Neither do dogs. Excuse me." He reached past her and pulled a lever, the tapped a small screen framed by green moss. "Unfortunately, it appears the randomizer can still be accessed from this console. I've had about enough of that wretched thing."
"Doctor, the Black Guardian—"
"Yes, yes, yes," the Doctor said, dismissing her with a wave of his hand. "I know about all that." He pressed a final button and a time rotor, its glass covered with ivy and tiny pink flowers, rose from the center of the console and began to pump slowly up and down. Romana heard the familiar groaning, wheezing sound as the TARDIS materialized.
"Well?" She asked. "Where are we?"
The Doctor studied the screen. "A planet called Indara, in the Reuron System. Ah, yes. One of the Seven Sirens. I knew I'd heard that name before."
"The Seven Sirens?"
"Seven planets that orbit Reuron's biggest star. They exist in a state of permanent twilight." The Doctor wound his scarf around his arm and marched toward another stone column a few hundred yards away, where another door was set. "Coming, Romana?"
She hurried to catch up. "Why are they called the Seven Sirens?"
"Each planet was said to posses an incredible treasure, a relic from before time. Complete nonsense, of course, but the stories lured adventurers from across the cosmos." He stopped just short of the door and grinned. "No one has ever returned from one of the Sirens."
And with that, he opened the doors and stepped out into the twilight.
"I once met a woman from a planet that had two suns," the Doctor said. "One would rise and as the other set, and so of course it was always daylight. I took her to Earth and the darkness terrified her."
"Naturally," said Romana, kicking up sand with her boots. The TARDIS had landed on a dune in the middle of a vast expanse of desert, a few miles from a collection of small huts, too few to properly be called a town. The ground was hard-packed, baked in the orange glow of the sun, and dusted with gritty sand.
"She was quite traumatized after that," said the Doctor. "I had to erase her memory. I rather liked her."
"What about these treasures?" Romana asked. "What were they supposed to be?"
"Oh, this and that. They varied according to local flavor. On Buldon the Seven Sirens were said to house the spirits of the seven True Gods, the creators of the universe who vanished at the dawn of time. On Alluerel they believed the treasures represented the seven aspects of man. Mostly, though, they were said to be more tangible: giant rubies, diamonds the size of a mountain, oceans of gold coins."
They walked in silence for a few moments. Finally Romana said, "And you don't suppose there is any truth to those legends?"
"I'm more interested in why there are no first-hand accounts of any expeditions to the Sirens. The Reuron System is generally a bit of a bore: plant life, some with rudimentary sentience, small mammals, plankton and other ocean-dwellers similar to Earth's."
Romana stopped. "What about that?" She pointed ahead, to the town.
"An excellent question. By all accounts that town shouldn't be here."
The first of the small buildings was now only a few hundred yards away. They were made of rough, knotted wood, their roofs covered in thin clay tiles the same color of the sand.
"Where do you suppose the wood came from?" Romana asked.
"From a tree, most likely."
She rolled her eyes.
A few moments later they had reached the hut. Two small windows were set on either side of a narrow wooden door. The glass was soaped over and Romana could see nothing inside. The Doctor rapped sharply on the door and they stood back, waiting.
The Doctor knocked again.
"Let's try another," Romana said. They walked to the next hut and knocked on the door. Still no response.
"Perhaps it's a ghost town," said the Doctor.
"No, I don't think so."
He raised an eyebrow. "And why is that?"
"Because someone is watching us. I caught them out of the corner of my eye. The one with the green door, just behind you. They were in the window." She kept her voice low, her tone even, but she was visibly nervous.
"Shall we introduce ourselves?" The Doctor asked. He didn't wait for a response. He bounded across a small road and toward the hut. He grinned and waved into one of the windows before pounding on the door.
"Doctor, let's get out of here. I'm tired of this dismal planet."
"Dismal?" The Doctor asked. He turned to face her, and the door sprang open.
"Doctor, look out!"
The Doctor was pulled into the building. The door slammed shut, and Romana kicked at it, screaming the Doctor's name. The ground beneath her began to tremble, and she stepped back as the hut sank slowly into the earth. In a manner of seconds, it was gone.
Romana was alone.
Sarah Jane Smith slumped over the table, the back of her head a bloody crater. Exposed brain tissue, embedded with shards of her skull, glistened in the candlelight. Across from her, Susan Foreman was propped up in her chair, her eyes gouged out, her lips sewn shut with thick black thread. Next to her sat the charred corpse of Jo Grant.
"Have a seat next to Sarah," the Punchinello said to the Brigadier.
Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart dragged himself across the dining room, his legs trailing uselessly behind him. The flesh had been stripped away, the muscle and bone beneath leaving a shadow of dark blood. He pulled himself into his chair and stared into space, his face expressionless.
"That's a good lad. Now, I think, we're ready for our guest of honor."
He stepped into the Brigadier's blood and then danced around the room, leaving red footprints in a maddening circle. He tore off his mask and the face beneath exploded, gory chunks of skin and bone splashing the floor and the walls. At the table, the corpses began to scream.
"I dance alone," said the clown , "but not for much longer. Tonight, the Doctor dances with me."
And he vanished.
"Doctor," moaned Jo Grant. She clawed at her face, tearing the black flesh with her fingernails. "Doctor!" The other guests joined her lament, and somewhere far away, the Doctor opened his eyes.
At first, he could see nothing. The darkness was absolute. He was on his stomach, his hands tied together behind his back, the floor rough and cold against his cheek. Stone perhaps, or brick. He felt no pain save for a dull throbbing from his arms and shoulders. He struggled against his bonds, bringing his knees up to his chin and pulling his hands under his feet until his arms were in front once again. They were tied together with a length of his own scarf.
The Doctor was horrified. He hoped the scarf wasn't too badly damaged as he gnawed at the wool. It took him several moments, but at last he pulled his hands apart. He sat up, flexing his fingers. His legs had fallen asleep, and he applied gentle pressure until the prickling sensation lessened enough for him to stand. By then his eyes had adjusted to the light, and he could make out faint shapes in the darkness. He appeared to be in a small cell. One narrow door was set into the far wall, and a barred window let in only the faintest trace of light.
The Doctor fished through his pockets as he made his way to the door. He found his packet of Jelly Babies, and popped one into his mouth. He found what he was looking for: his sonic screwdriver. A moment later the door opened with a soft click.
A shadow in the shape of a man stood in the darkness of the corridor beyond the cell. The Doctor could not make out his features, but the voice was oddly familiar.
"Hello!" The Doctor said. "Would you like a Jelly Baby?"
"Come with me." The shape turned and shuffled away from the Doctor. Shrugging, the Doctor tucked his packet of sweets into his coat and followed.
They walked in darkness for several moments before the Doctor found something else in his pocket: a small torch in the shape of Donald Duck. The Doctor squeezed the plastic beak and a thin beam of light cut through the darkness. His guide spun around, and the Doctor found himself staring into his own face.
That was, one of his faces.
The Second Doctor, dark shadows under his eyes, smiled a bloodless smile.
The Doctor followed his second incarnation through long and lightless corridors, gradually ascending from the depths of the dungeons. As they walked, he pondered his situation. Obviously, this was not the Second Doctor. This man was dead, that was clear, and he couldn't recall ever being dead during that particular period of his life. An android, perhaps, or a clone?
They emerged into a vast hall, where the Second Doctor led the way past tall suits of armor and large, heavy wooden furniture toward a large door.
"Through there," he said. "You are expected."
"Thank you," said the Doctor, offering a toothy grin. "You've been very helpful. What did you say your name was?"
But his guide merely sat upon a leather footstool, took out his recorder, and began to play. The slow, somber notes filled the hall as the Doctor pushed open the door and marched into the room beyond.
He stopped, his eyes widening.
"Sarah!" he said.
The door slammed shut behind him, and the Doctor turned slowly.
The man in the clown's mask bowed. "Welcome, Doctor."
"I'm afraid we haven't been introduced," said the Doctor, extending his little bag of sweets. "Jelly Baby?"
The bag burst into flames. The Doctor held a handful of ashes.
"Just as well," he said, brushing his hands together. "I have a terrible sweet tooth. Romana says I must have more cavities than teeth."
The mask began to melt, and the face beneath was revealed. The Doctor stared at the Third Doctor, his face black and swollen, covered in slashes and bruises. His lips were purple and puffy and covered in sores that leaked pus onto his chin.
"Who are you?" the Doctor whispered.
The apparition peeled off its clown costume and stood naked in the flickering light of the hundreds of candles that lit the huge chamber.
"Doctor, help us!" Sarah cried.
"We are damned!" said the Brigadier.
"You are false!" the Doctor roared, not looking at them. He continued to stare at the cruel caricature of his former self. "Who are you?"
"I am what you fear, Doctor. Isn't that obvious?"
"Yes," the Doctor murmured. "A physical manifestation of phobia. What a perfect evolutionary concept. The ultimate defense mechanism. What are you called?"
"Satan. The Beast."
"I see," said the Doctor. "Why did you come to this place? To Indara?"
"I will answer no further questions," said the apparition. "Lack of knowledge is another fear of yours."
"Yes, I imagine it must be. I suppose you brought me here for some nefarious reason?"
It shot up into the air, its flesh rippling and changing once again.
"I will show you your future, Doctor."
The Doctor regarded the fair-haired young man in the cricketer's uniform.
"The Lamb, poisoned in the field."
Blood began to bloom on the uniform, blood and great splotches of green and blue toxins, until his coat was a horrible clash of colors. His hair curled and grew from his scab-covered scalp, and beneath his skin his bones shifted and cracked as he changed his appearance.
"The Condemned Man," he said. The colors bled from his coat, swirling around him and obscuring his face. When the Doctor could see him once again, he was a dark-haired man in a bowler hat. He clutched an umbrella in his hands.
"The Wanderer, exiled to the stars."
"How long is this going to go on?" The Doctor demanded.
Shots rang out in the hall, causing the corpses at the table to shriek. Bullet holes appeared in the apparition's chest. They spread, wider and wider, consuming him. A younger figure was born, growing up out of the hole. He was taller, younger, with longer hair. He wore a green Victorian frock coat.
"The Forgotten, lost in time. His death is a mystery."
His hair fell from his scalp. His coast burst into flames, and its ashen remnants shifted to form a black leather jacket.
"The Lone Survivor, consumed by guilt. Devoured in the vortex."
He exploded in a brilliant burst of white light. The Doctor blinked and saw a thin young man in a long, flowing trench coat. His tall hair stood on end, as if he had been electrocuted.
"The Twin, torn in two and separated by the universes."
His hair darkened, his coat fell off and his face drained of color. A pale, impossibly young man in dark clothes hovered over the Doctor.
"The Stranger, betrayed by a trusted friend."
The Doctor rolled his eyes and checked an imaginary watch.
The young man's face grew lined, his hair crept back into his scalp, his black clothes were streaked with color.
"The Thief, plucking the stars from the sky."
He faded to grey, and then blew away like sand in the wind. He reappeared in his clown mask.
"You need to brush up on Gallifreyan history," the Doctor said. "Time Lords have thirteen incarnations."
"Your final form is hidden, even from me. He is the Liar, hiding his name in the spaces between worlds."
"He sounds like an interesting fellow. I suppose it will be cathartic to indulge my dark side."
The clown threw back its head and laughed, a horrible scream that resounded through the dark castle and down into the village below. Romana paused, clutching the TARDIS key, her hand hovering over its blue door. She cocked her head and listened, but heard nothing. She entered the TARDIS and closed the door behind her.
"I have shown you your future as it might have been," said the clown. "But you are not a fixed point upon this universe, Doctor. You can be rewritten. You can be undone." He lunged at the Doctor, grabbing his arm and twisting it. The Doctor cried out and sank to his knees. The apparition laughed again. His mask, his costume was gone. He towered over the Doctor in his true form, his face white, his eyes twin pools of black fury.
"You can be destroyed."
The Doctor had never experienced such pain. His mind was invaded, hate and rage flooded him. It felt like he was being pushed out of his own body as it forced its way in.
He felt himself sinking into the rancid darkness that spread through him, and he knew if he succumbed he would never reemerge. And so he abandoned his body, tearing himself—his consciousness—from his physical form. He fell to the floor and stared up at his former body.
"How clever," said the apparition in the Doctor's voice. "Another Time Lord trick for cheating death. Goodbye, Doctor."
The Doctor stood. When he spoke his voice was a ghostly whisper that slipped through the air like silk.
"Go, then. But know that I will find you, some where and when. And until then, I will be watching, always watching, until we meet again."
The faintest glint of fear appeared in the apparition's eyes. Then he vanished.
"Gone forever," hissed the corpses at the table.
The Doctor walked across the dining room floor in his new half-body. He stood before a floor-length mirror, studying himself. Stark white, featureless, partially formed.
He was not the Doctor. Not any more. Not yet.
The Watcher turned from the mirror and left the room.
Romana ran from the TARDIS, K9 at her heels, and met the Doctor on the sand. "Doctor, where did you go? What happened?"
The Doctor grinned. "A bit of a rough spot. Come on, let's get out of here."
She followed him back into the new console room.
"This won't do," he said. "Not at all."
"What happened?" she asked, following him out into the corridor and into one of the wardrobes. "I waited hours for you. I feared you were dead. Did you find any sign of the villagers?"
"Oh, never mind about all that. What do you think?" He held up a long crimson coat. "I've got a scarf to match. I figure its time for a bit of a change."
"It's the color of blood," she said.
"Is it? I hadn't noticed."
"I'm getting us off this horrible planet."
"An excellent idea. We'll head to Brighton. I think we could do with a bit of a holiday."
Romana paused on her way out of the room. She frowned, then shook her head.
The Doctor watched her go, then clutched the coat to his chest and bared his teeth. He would bide his time. He would wait, would enjoy himself for awhile before revealing his hand.
It was time to play Doctor.