Seattle. Maggie could hardly believe her eyes. It was breathtaking, utterly breathtaking. "What's that?" she asked, pointing to an enormous protuberance thrusting almost rebelliously into the sky.
The Doctor squinted at it. "They call it a Space Needle, but it's not nearly high enough to reach anything interesting. Maybe a bird, on occasion." He shrugged as though the confines of space and time were no great matter, and Maggie supposed that to him they weren't.
"Will we see the stars?" she asked, feeling meek as they started talking down the first street they saw, the Doctor snapping his fingers to close the TARDIS behind them like a proper illusionist.
He steered them deftly through the masses of people in constant motion, weaving and diving when the timing was appropriate, and scoffed. "Oh, Maggie, will we ever," he cryptically replied. "Now, why don't we start with something small, like music?" Without waiting for a reply, he pulled her off down a side-street and into what looked to be a pub.
"Do you have a ticket?" asked a bored-looking boy with a metal bar through his lip and oddly-messy black hair. At least Maggie thought they were a boy until she looked closer and gasped with realization. The girl narrowed her eyes at Maggie, then took in hers and the Doctor's matching clothes with a sigh.
Without pausing, the Doctor pulled a small leather fold from his pocket and held it out to the girl. "This should do?" he assumed, and the girl let them pass by. The Doctor showed her the paper inside of the leather fold.
"A blank paper?"
"Precise-what, no!" the Doctor pouted, looking from her to the paper rapidly before tucking it back into his pocket with a sigh. "That's what I get for getting a companion with too much imagination, I suppose. It's slightly-psychic paper. Shows people whatever I want them to see. They think I'm a reporter. Now come on, we've got some popular culture to catch you up on!"
The Doctor called it a concert, though Maggie had never known one without seats or in a proper theatre. There were people of all ages, races, livelihoods, and gender (though the majority seemed to be very rough-hewn women) crammed into the pub, staring rapt at the stage where a jumble of equipment was being set up. "Those are microphones," the Doctor explained enthusiastically, "they amplify the voice and instruments. And those over there are speakers. Sound goes into the microphones and out the speakers. Heh, shape of the microphone reminds me of a time on Perseis V, my friend Jack, see, he -"
"Shh!" a nearby woman hissed, pressing a finger to her lips as another woman, pretty and small with curly brunette hair, walked onto the stage to eruptive cheers. Being shushed seemed a bit unnecessary in the din, but Maggie didn't want to start a confrontation, especially not now that things were getting interesting.
Clearing her throat, the performer forwent the voice-amplifiers and stepped right out onto the lip of the stage to more applause from her audience. It seemed almost indecent, the amount of shrieking the people were doing, but the woman didn't mind as she stomped her foot and began to strum her guitar and sing.
"I left home a long long time ago
In a tin can for the road
With a suitcase and some songs
I went miles through the night-time
Ain't no time for looking back to the place where I belong
How these days grow long, now I'm on my way back home
It's been hard to be away
How I miss you and I just wanna kiss you
And I'm gonna love you 'til my dying day
How these days grow long."
The rest of the number passed in a blur as Maggie gripped the Doctor's arm like a lifeline. This was music? This cacophony of noise and tight-pressed bodies and the smell of sweat was what people sought out for entertainment in the future?
The Doctor patted her hand. "Give it time; you'll get used to it," he murmured in her ear, and so she waited.
Then the most glorious thing happened.
The next song wasn't to her taste either, but after that two men, identical twins, entered the stage to roaring applause and took the center microphone for their own. The woman left the stage, grinning nervously before vanishing. The pair exchanged a glance, and one of them began to play before they opened their mouths and sang in perfect harmony.
"Hello darkness, my old friend..."
The room filled with so many screams and claps brought on by the one line of song that Maggie flinched, wondering for a moment if something horrible had happened in the back of the pub, but the Doctor pulled her to face front again. The perfect synchronization of the men's voices was haunting, seeping into not Maggie's ears but her every pore, filling her with the unwanted desire to jump, run, scream, do anything but stand stationary and listen. It was so calm, and yet her heart was pounding in her ears. Their voices were beautiful, but the words - the words! - were so bleak and so forlorn that she fought not to weep. Her hands shook at her sides, tears brimmed but didn't spill, and she swayed in time with the ghostly tune.
When the song came to an end, both only seconds and lifetimes later, she erupted into applause and cheers along with the rest of the crowd. She didn't want just to scream, however, and when the shouting died down she blurted out, "That was beautiful!"
The twins looked directly at her, grinning from ear to ear, and she blushed profusely to the amusement of everyone else in the pub.
"I think that was the creepiest, most beautiful thing that poor girl's ever heard," the woman said teasingly into the microphone, prompting more laughter at Maggie's dispense. But it was not entirely unkind laughter. "Where you from, anyway?"
She gaped helplessly from the woman to the Doctor before stammering a reply. "L-London!"
For some unknowable reason that was cause for applause, even from the performer herself. Maggie very badly wanted to hide her face, but the Doctor looked so very pleased with her that she couldn't bear disappointing him with her bashfulness.
They left soon after that nevertheless, the Doctor claiming that he didn't like to draw attention to himself, "Though you did look so very cute when she started talking to you."
Maggie fought the urge to grumble at him and kicked a stone instead. "Can we hear more music? Something different?"
Beaming, the Doctor pulls her by the crook of the elbow. "Why d'you think I picked this city? If the streets are the arteries, then music is the blood!" They were off down the street, a breeze drawing blood to their faces as the gentlest rain began to fall, more a mist than anything else.
They dove next into a small theatre, the Doctor using his alien paper to get in there as well, and quickly found seats near the front, though everyone else was standing. Another woman, this one at a piano, was beaming out at the crowd from the stage. The beat of the music was steady and sharp, stronger than a heartbeat and braver than a soldier, and much more pronounced than the last. People all around were moving about to the rhythm of the song in what Maggie supposed was meant to be dance. It just looked rather silly, to be honest, and yet she felt compelled to do the same.
"Maybe is a vicious little word that can slay me
Keep me when I'm hurting and make me,
Hang from your hands
Well, no more,
I won't beg to buy a shot at your back door
If I make it at the thought of you, what for?
It's not me anymore."
As she continued to stand stationary in the middle of the lurching crowd, she felt the Doctor's eyes trained on her. Before she could turn fully and ask what he found so remarkable, the man had grasped her hands and spun her gracelessly around. She laughed outright, trying and failing to mimic the Doctor's obscure movements that were extraneous even for a crowd such as this one.
The Doctor spun her again, and she came face-to-face with a girl of her age, laughing in a friendly manner at them. "You guys look so cute in your matching clothes!" she shouted over the thrum of the music. "Do you wanna come over here with us? We're doing the dance from the music video!"
Not seeming to hear, the girl grasped Maggie's hand - making her heart leap into her throat at the unexpected contact - and began pulling her through the masses of bodies to the other end of the row. Maggie reached back and grasped the Doctor by the bow-tie to make sure they didn't get separated. The small group waiting at the other end cheered when they joined in, wrapped one arm around their waists in a choreographed fashion, and Maggie and the Doctor scrambled to keep up.
"And I'm not the girl that I intend to be,
I dare you darling, just you wait and see
But this time not for you but just for me,
And I say:"
The Doctor took her hands again, and they danced independently from the group. Never had Maggie felt so independent, so liberated, in all her life.
"Ooh, how'm I gonna get over you?
I'll be alright, just not tonight
Someday, oh I wish you'd want me to stay
I'll be alright, just not tonight,
Again, they did not stay for much longer than a few songs, feeling overwhelmed by so many people being crammed into one building. The rest of the night was passed in running about the city in search of music. Then they rode up to the top of what the Doctor said was called the Space Needle and had breakfast under the guise of something titled a health inspector, and his assistant.
"Where are we going next?" asked Maggie when they'd set off back toward the TARDIS, the thrum of a million songs echoing in her veins. They passed at least three musicians on the street itself, one singing in a voice so hollow and rough that Maggie had to stop and listen as though under a spell. He screamed his pain, raindrops shining in his copper-colored curls as he abused the instrument in his hands.
"If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dreams
Where immobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop
Could you find me
Would you kiss-a my eyes
Lay me down
In silence easy
To be born again
To be born again
THERE YOU GO!"
She jumped at the whirlwind of emotion the man set off, and only resisted a little bit when the Doctor pulled her to carry on. "We've been out all night, you should get some sleep before we head out again," he explained, but Maggie wasn't tired in the least. She didn't think she could sleep if she tried, so alive was her head with the sounds of music echoing all through her body.
Nevertheless, she did as she was told and crawled into bed when they arrived back at the TARDIS, staring up at the ceiling for what felt like hours as melodies chased one another through her head. She couldn't escape from this glorious new feeling, this sensation of falling into something and never wanting to come back up. The technology was astounding, the liberation of all genders and races was exhilarating, but the music, the music, the music! It would never leave her, not until the day she died.