SUMMARY:Ask me again when it's written. In my brain right now, it's incredibly fragmented… In short, post-DWTB, John-centric angstpoemfic.
RATING:I'm going with PG to be safe… And it's angst. Obviously. It's quite dark in places, so may even verge on PG-13.
DISCLAIMER:I do not own the characters. The poem belongs to T.S.Eliot.
SPOILERS/SETTINGS:Set post-DWTB, therefore spoilers for that. Set at some point afterwards when John has managed to save himself and find a planet. Your typical desolate landscape full of thugs, obviously…
AUTHOR'S NOTES:In the midst of mourning the closure of "Cats" in the West End (may it rest in eternal peace in the Heaviside Layer…), I discovered the original poem that was the inspiration for the songs "Memory" and "Grizabella". It's called "Rhapsody On A Windy Night", by T.S.Eliot, and when I read it, it just screamed out to be turned into a fic. And "Farscape" was the only thing angsty enough and gritty enough to work with it. The poem contains some absolutely fantastic imagery (I've included it at the end of the fic for reference purposes) and conjured up so many different pictures in my mind, I simply had to turn them into something. It's also very fractured and random, so I imagine the fic is, too… Anyway. Please R&R.
ADDITIONAL:As I understand it, Season 4 started on June 7th for the US viewers. Here in the UK we have to wait frell knows how long, possibly until September, before we get it. I'm trying to remain 100% spoiler free (at the very least, 90%), and it's no easy task. Therefore, if you've seen the beginning of the season, please read this anyway, and please, please, PLEASE, don't put spoilers in any reviews. Thank you.
It was always midnight. Always; or the hours that followed. Always tomorrow, feeling like it should be today; life twisting slowly away with the hands of a watch, or the chugging, rolling numbers of a station clock, images in his memory. The morning was in its smallest hours, approaching dawn, but black as a winter evening. It's hotter'n Hell, tonight… The curious timepiece he'd found and fixed up told him so, in its amalgamated form of half-sundial, half-pocket watch. It was cantankerous, working forty per cent of the time at best, but always correct at midnight by some bizarre trick of time. It was a constant. It was the only way he knew.
The street, at this time, was deserted. It contained barely more than five people during the day on this desolate world. How he'd found it, he didn't recall. Given the choice now, he'd pick somewhere else; at the time, it suited his state of mind perfectly. It was barren, devoid of any emotion, lost. Resting place for the weak in spirit; offering nothing to those who wanted nothing. It was hardly more than a rock. The part of him that was still Human had likened it to the Wild West, once, with its dry, reddish mountains, and the wooden shacks that served as buildings. It was all superficial. Coincidental. Ain't no John Wayne out here. No, sirree. No Lone Ranger. Ain't no more Butch and Sundance…
He stopped walking and sat instead, heavily, disturbing the orange dust. He was on the edge of the city, if it could be called that. The planet's three small moons provided something resembling light, once the eyes adjusted. In front of him, a landscape, flat except for the occasional crater - could be on the moon - except the craters were tree stumps, evidence of the natives' need for building materials. Nothing left now. Behind him, currently serving as a convenient backrest, the wall of a dilapidated building, long abandoned. To his left, the unpaved street previously walked, the backs of accommodations and seedy bars that provided his lifestyle. To his right, a massive graveyard, identifiable only by unnamed mounds in the dirt. Nobody stayed very long; nobody came here to live.
Sleep was evading him tonight. He noted with minor amusement that his timekeeper was doing its job without a glitch, for once. He leaned back against the creaking wood and closed his eyes, and tried to pretend he was somewhere else. Anywhere else. Home.
Minutes passed in silence. And then, a voice. Harvey had been quiet of late, so it was probably about time he manifested himself again. But this… this wasn't Harvey. It was a softer, quieter voice, and it wasn't in his head. It was all around him, above him, in the air. He opened his eyes. One of the moons, the larger of the three, was talking to him.
That couldn't be right, surely; there must be someone out here with him. He looked around, searching for any evidence of another person. Nothing. The place was, very definitely, deserted. It was still; too still, he thought, as if the small planet had simply stopped moving, stopped breathing, simply ceased in time.
There was that voice again. C'mon, where are you? He looked up. It was definitely that moon. He laughed, knowing he'd finally gone insane, but the voice persisted, its words incoherent and unrecognisable. It was slithering and sliding through his mind, probing the dark, underused areas, poking at memories and images he'd spent the past four monens learning to forget. He thought he should probably resist, but the voice… the nonsensical voice… it wanted him to remember. It was persuasive. So he remembered…
He traipsed through the murky reaches of his mind, the primordial soup of his tattered sanity, feeling around like a blind man. He used to know the way around here, before; now, he was fumbling and tripping, unable to see for the haze. He focussed, forcing his thoughts to come together and form a point of reference. Slowly, a lot slower than he would have liked, everything moved forwards, creaking, groaning, until finally, there was a pop, and silence. In the black, a tiny pinprick of light manifested itself.
There. That was more like it.
Now, feeling as if he had at least some kind of direction, he moved towards it. As he approached, it turned into a streetlamp, casting a familiar orange glow over him, and illuminating a grey pavement beneath his feet. More lamps lit up the way ahead at regular intervals. He knew this street. He knew this time. He'd been here before. He walked slowly, trying to figure out why. His head hurt, unsurprisingly, and every time he went under a streetlamp the light seemed to bore into his skull, like a percussion to drive him even crazier than he already felt.
Concentrating, he dug out the memory. Ah, yes… This was the street where his grandfather used to live, in a small, friendly, unforeboding house on the corner. He'd spent weekends here as a kid; happy, carefree weekends running around the backyard, pounding around the block for hours with no apparent aim. It hadn't lasted long. His grandfather had been ill; now he remembered. He'd never been told what was wrong, just that he couldn't see him any more.
Clarity hit him – that day they took him away 'to be looked after', that was when this was. He'd been told to stay in the car; not knowing any better, he had done. From the corner of the street, he'd watched as two kindly, patient looking women in green nurses' uniforms escorted his grandfather from the house. At the end of the path he'd stopped and struggled, then stooped to grab at some of the flowers in the border – he'd been so proud of that border – and brandished them menacingly, cursing and shaking them.
He understood now. Turnin' into a crazy ol' man, just like my Grandaddy…
The image, if that's what it could have been called, faded before him, and silence descended. He slouched against the lamppost, sliding to the ground again. He sat there on the floor for a few seconds, wondering why that particular memory had chosen to come back to him, and what it could possibly mean in the scheme of things right now. But then again, his brain was far too tormented to be logical of late.
He examined his timekeeper. An hour and a half had passed without him realising it.
His headache was made all the worse when the light above him began to sputter, flickering a few times before plunging him into darkness. That figured. Nothing in his life lasted very long. Then, the voice started again, the same small, tinkling voice, and through its incoherent mutterings, he managed to ascertain that he needed to look up. He lifted his head, and found opposite him a doorway in a wall that hadn't been there before.
A sliver of light emanated from underneath it, which widened as the door opened, apparently of its own accord. The white strip arced out like a smile, bright and full of teeth, and then a silhouette appeared in the doorway, a harsh, black contrast. He could tell it was a woman, but couldn't see her face yet. She stepped forwards – he caught a glimpse of heavy boots, a knife tucked into one of them, and the hem of a silvery-grey dress, ripped beyond recognition and slightly dusty.
The woman turned and began to walk away from him down the street, and he saw the back of her head, and long, flowing, black hair trailing down her back. No way… it can't be… She half-turned to look at him, one visible grey eye catching both of his blue ones in a fleeting glance, and then she carried on walking.
He was up on his feet like a shot, scrabbling to get his balance, and ran down the street after her. As soon as she met the dark between the streetlamps, however, she was gone, and he was left standing alone in the street. This feeling was familiar. Too familiar. A horrible reminder of why he was even here.
The brief encounter with the woman instantly started another barrage of memories through his mind – images, sounds, feelings, all beyond his control. It was a gruelling, torturous mess of emotion that only served to make his head pound even more than before, and made him feel like curling into a protective ball. However, the memories came so fast he barely had time to think, and was momentarily paralysed. The bombardment ended just as suddenly, and he found himself still staring down the road into the darkness, looking for the woman he knew wouldn't return. I gotta get out of here…
He resisted the urge to collapse after the ordeal, and turned and headed dutifully in the opposite direction, his own footsteps echoing all around him. The concrete beneath his feet began to shift and change as he walked, turning from grey stone to brownish sand. His feet slipped and slid, nearly knocking him off-balance. He looked around at the change in surroundings, and discovered himself on a beach. Another place from his childhood. The tide was out, too far to see, leaving debris lying on the sand – driftwood, seaweed, small rocks, cracked and broken shells, even the occasional dead fish. He picked up a branch, pure white and stripped of bark, smooth, but slightly pock-holed, like a bone.
There was a familiar noise – one of his old dogs, unmistakably, pounding down the beach towards him, barking and panting. He threw the branch. The dog skidded to a dusty halt, falling over its own lumbering feet, and turned on its heel in pursuit, before vanishing over the horizon. It didn't come back. Figures…
Turning again, he was confronted with something he didn't recognise. An abandoned factory or warehouse loomed before him, grey and foreboding, its myriad windows all smashed and cracked, clouded over so that whatever lay within the darkened building remained a mystery. The lower, larger windows were boarded up with warped, wooden panels; the corrugated doors were padlocked. Its identity had been removed, leaving a large, white rectangle in place of a sign. On the metal roof, with its familiar zigzagging panels, dead leaves had gathered, thick and congealed with rainwater.
As he approached it, a little curiously, a breeze picked up, whistling through the broken windows, whipping dust and dead leaves around his ankles. What the frell…?
Between the grass and weeds growing through the cracks of the tarmac, he kicked absently at a large spring, the only evidence that the place had ever been used. It was rusty, snapping in half at the slight pressure. He felt a lot like a spring on occasion – tightly wound and under pressure, waiting for a release that never came. He too was covered in rust – the ever-present red dust from the planet that coated everything it came in contact with. He wondered if he would snap one day, too, if the oppression bearing down on him got too heavy.
On a whim, he checked his timekeeper. Two and a half hours had now passed; looking up as he wondered where the time had gone, he found himself back on the street again, under a lamppost. Or was he? No… this time it was different, slightly; he could hear the not-so-distant sounds of water. Following it, he discovered a quay, just as grey as the street had been. The ebony, rippling water vanished into the sky. This seemed a peaceful place, if a little eerie.
He walked out to the water's edge and peered into the murk beneath him. It was too dark to see the bottom, but he saw himself reflected back; only it wasn't him. It was a much younger version of himself from many years before, from a time when the very idea of living ships and the curious aliens he came to know as friends were beyond his wildest imagination. The face staring back at him was so naïve it sickened him, and he had to look away again. Was I ever an idiot back then…
Looking back at the street again, still as grey and mysterious as ever, he spotted a cat, a scraggy, mangy creature with only one ear, scavenging in the gutter. It found something apparently edible, looked both ways, then slicked out a quick, rough, grey tongue to devour it. It scarpered before it was caught. The cat was used to life on the run, just like him; how many times now had he stolen food and bolted into the night?
Deciding that the water was infinitely more interesting than the empty street, he returned his gaze to the lake. He was stopped in his tracks by the appearance of a small child – a girl, in fact - sitting at the end of the quay. He watched, fascinated, as the child's hand reached out for a little, clockwork toy of some kind, which was trundling towards him. The girl pocketed it, and it vanished from sight before it could be identified.
He approached her cautiously, not wanting to startle her; she got up when she saw him coming. When he was within approximately a foot of her, he stopped and knelt to her level to examine her better. She had startling blue-grey eyes, and a mess of shoulder-length black hair, and she was so horribly familiar that it hurt. If he could just figure out where he knew her from…
He decided to try and initiate conversation to ascertain if he really did know her.
"Hey, kiddo…" The girl stared back at him, but said nothing. He tried again, telling her his name, and asking for hers. Again, he received no reply, only a piercing stare that seemed to be boring into his soul. Only one other person had been able to do that, and he realised with a painful clarity who he was staring at. In the girl's eyes, he saw only himself, and the woman he'd lost. That was why she was so familiar; as for the child herself, he could tell nothing about her other than her lineage, so he gave up trying. He stood again, under her curious scrutiny, and left the quay, heading back towards the lonely street.
He could tell nothing about anybody any more. His ability to figure out someone's personality after a brief meeting had gone; he supposed it was a Human trait that he had slowly lost over the years. He recalled, only a weeken ago, sitting in the hovel that currently served as his home, how a pair of eyes had appeared between the slats of his shuttered windows. Examining, seeking a roof over their owner's head for the night, hoping that the place was empty. The old version of himself would have let the person in willingly, but in this town, you didn't dare. Finders, keepers. He searched the eyes before he shooed them away – but there was nothing there. They were empty, soulless. He wondered briefly how his own eyes appeared now. Would someone be able to see into his mind through them? Would they realise his shattered dreams? Or was he now just another shell, trying to live?
He sought out the place he'd been sitting at the beginning of his strange mental journey, and sat down heavily once more. Another apparently random image came to him – he was on the beach again, climbing over rocks searching for small creatures to torment. He'd found a crab, a large, ugly, orange one with dangerous-looking pincers. With his nine-year-old bravado, he'd poked it repeatedly with a stick; then, when the aggravated creature snapped the end of the twig with its claws, he'd run.
The memory faded again. Out of sheer boredom and some curiosity, he looked around him to find the red ground of the planet in his field of vision, and the creaking building behind him again. He was back, and whatever had been trying to communicate with him had obviously given up for the time being. He was partially glad – at least his headache was dissipating – and partially annoyed that the message hadn't gotten through to him yet. He'd been enjoying the trip down memory lane.
He longed for a crab on this world. For a cat, or a lolloping dog. For some reminder of who he was. He wanted to get off the planet, to find another one, find the Leviathan, find her… but his module was beyond repair, and the planet was far too desolate and primitive to be of any use.
He coughed on the permeating orange dust, the same orange as the hair of a young woman he once knew, and wondered when salvation would come…
To be continued…
A/N:Yes, I'm leaving it there. I want to get this up, and by leaving you on a cliffhanger, I can at least finish the end of it. I'll include the poem when I update (which I will, I promise.) This fic comes in bursts, so I can't say when exactly it'll be here, but for now, please R&R.
Also, it occurs to me that I uploaded my "Coin With Two Sides" fic almost immediately after the airing of DWTB in the UK, so it may have gotten missed by the US fans. I appreciate your opinions. Please read that one, too, if you didn't the first time. I'm seriously craving feedback right now…