ONE

"When the student is ready… The Teacher will appear"

-Ancient Axiom

"Beautiful, isn't it?"

Martin Briggs hadn't seen the man come up to stand beside him. He was too much into his own thoughts, his own world. The stranger's voice had startled him slightly but, as Martin looked round at the newcomer, he felt himself relax again.

"Yes… yes, it is… beautiful" The words left his throat as he turned back to the view. He realised that he hadn't really been taking in the scene at all. It was all just something to stare at. His eyes took in his surroundings once more, the vast, majestic landscape of the valley, the lush green of the fields and hills, the deep blue of the sky, the kaleidoscope of colour and texture that made staring at it such a joy… usually.

Except for today.

"Are you here for Nan's funeral?" Martin asked. Maybe the man was one of Nan's acquaintances from the church prayer group. Although, looking at him in more detail, probably not. He looked more like a Jarvis Cocker fan than an avid Christian. The stranger looked in his mid-thirties with short but scruffy brown hair. He was slight in frame and pale in complexion and wore a long, brown coat with a blue, collared shirt underneath. His brown, stripped trousers were finished off with a pair of white, battered plimsolls.

"Nah, I'm just here for the view", the man said as he stuffed his hands deeper into the pockets of his coat. He swung his head round sharply and looked at Martin for the first time, "But sorry for your loss and all that". His head returned to take in the view, "I come here every time I'm in the area. I love this churchyard. What a view… Nature in all its beauty… You don't get this where I come from, I can tell you that".

"And where is that?" Martin asked as he watched a swallow dive down into the valley, its wings vibrating against the strong, cool wind.

"Oh, here and there" The man moved towards the bench where Martin was sitting. "I'm The Doctor by the way," he said extending his hand.

Martin took it, it was warm from being in those deep pockets. "Martin…. Martin Briggs" he said nodding.

Martin was a sombre looking man in his early forties. He wore a grey suede coat that was tucked up high just touching the bottom of his short, dark hair. He was unshaven and his face was pale and a lighter shade of grey.

"Budge up then, Marty" The Doctor said, "There's room on there for a small one". He lifted his coat tails up and sat down beside Martin who had moved further along to the left hand side of the bench.

The Doctor took in a deep lungful of the fresh, cutting air, held it for about two seconds and then let it out in a long, appreciative breath. "Aaahhhhhh….. I love it…. Puts hairs on your chest this does". He lifted the top of his shirt lapel open and peered inside. "At least, I'm hoping it does. This body's not been blessed with two many macho elements". He broke off as in deep in thought. "You know", he said, his voice almost a whisper, "I don't think I've ever used the word 'macho' before…" He frowned intently almost like he was disappointed in himself, "Or been worried about having hairs on my chest". He pushed himself back sharply and spread himself leisurely on the bench. "Ah well…", he said his voice back to it's usual pitch, "At least the view's good".

Martin laughed at The Doctor's relaxed air. He realised it was the first time he had even smiled for over a week.

"So what are you a doctor of exactly?" he asked. The stranger had intrigued him even though he should really be a little annoyed at him for his flippant attitude. After all, Martin had just buried his Nan.

"Oh, this and that" The Doctor said in a disregarding manner, "Mainly 'that' to be honest… Although I do do a fair amount of 'this' as well". He turned to look Martin directly in the eyes, "So then… your Nan…. What was her story?"

Martin should have been shocked by The Doctor's abruptness but, strangely, he wasn't. He breathed out slowly.

"Cancer…" Martin said flatly, "It was cancer. She was diagnosed just over six months ago. She died last week. She was a beautiful woman… Always had a smile for everyone. She never had anything bad to say about anyone or anything. She was a God-fearing woman and had been all her life." Martin turned his face back to the valley, "And God certainly let her down at the end," he said quietly. His eyes began to sting again.

"So that's why you're out here?" The Doctor asked gently, although it was more like a statement, "You're looking for answers in the wind".

"Oh, I'm not looking for answers" Martin said harshly, "Because I know there's no one to give me answers. Life is cruel…. God is a lie… a fictitious story made up by men who wanted to rule with control through fear and order, a fairy tale told to kids to stop them going mad at the thought of death, an ultimate authority figure that you're never allowed to question and you must obey even if none of it makes any sense." He realised his voice was raised but he didn't really care, "Well, I've had enough of 'God'. He never helped my Nan even though I begged Him to. He wasn't there when I needed Him, so I don't intend on being there for him". He stood up sharply and walked forwards, his hands clasped at the top of his head.

The Doctor remained seated but leaned forward with his elbows resting on his knees, his hands interlocked.

The two men remained silent for over a minute both watching the shadows created by the big, fluffy clouds moving slowly along the valley floor below.

"So what's your take then, Doctor?" Martin said eventually without looking round. His voice was calm again and his hands were clutching at a folded hymn sheet. "Where do you stand on the whole 'God' question?"

The Doctor sucked in deeply between clenched teeth. "Oh, you don't want to be asking me that", he said, rising to his feet, "You really don't want to know what I think".

Martin turned quickly his eyes moist and his voice ragged, "Oh, I do" he said simply.

The Doctor looked away and scratched his head as if irritated by something growing deep within his brain. Again he took in air between his teeth and then bit the bottom of his lip as if trying to stop himself from speaking. He finally looked back into Martin's eyes and stared at him for a couple of lengthy seconds. When he spoke his voice was just above a whisper.

"How long have you got?"

Both men smiled at each other and returned to sit down on the wooden bench.

"Realise that you cannot help a soul unless that soul really wants help and is ready to be helped" – Eileen Caddy, 'God Spoke To Me'