Tuesday, 13 October 2009

What Dreams May Come

Doctor Who
What Dreams May Come
John Davies

Once there was an estate that was so large it defied every attempt to catalogue it. As a result, historical documentation was hazy at best, but all those who lived nearby remembered their parents talking about it, or working on it, and their parents, and their parents to the point of folklore.

It had a name, but the sheer size and magnitude of it rendered such identification redundant. It was known as what it was, the Estate.

The owners, as always in these things, were a long line of mysterious figures who rarely ventured from their rooms over the millennia. They were only ever seen in public at ceremonies, weddings, burials and christenings, and even then it was a tokenistic gesture. Despite this reclusive lifestyle, there had never been a break in lineage, and the present head of the Estate had a son, an heir. On quiet evenings, he would take his son for walks around the grounds and gesturing with a large sweep arm state, “One day, all of this will be yours.”

The son usually just nodded, striving to keep the fear of such a prospect from showing in his eyes. He need not have bothered, for his father was usually mentally elsewhere after such exclamations, but you never knew with him. There was something about his father that frightened the son. It wasn’t a fear of violence, although he had seen his father be violent while out shooting, but rather a fear of his unpredictability. He was an eccentric, and as such volatile in mood and totally unpredictable. It worried the boy that some in the Estate had commented that he was displaying these tendencies, too. He sincerely hoped he wasn’t, and yet the realist in him suspected he probably was on some subconscious level.

The boy loved to play, especially in the expansive grounds of the Estate. He was supposed to be chaperoned, but he easily eluded these guardians and ran through the knee-high grass, his fair hair blowing back from his clear forehead.

He didn’t want the responsibility of the Estate. He was young and could only view the world from the eyes of youth. He was free, unburdened with real world trials and, of course, he was immortal. This moment, this time, this day was endless. None of it would end. He would not grow up.

Of course, he did.

Days bled into weeks, the weeks into months and the months into year after rolling year.

Then one day the inevitable happened.

Lying in his bed, his mattress so soft it often appeared not to be there at all, the boy clearly brought the event back into his minds’ eye. He has been playing in the garden, even as a youth rather than a boy he still played in the fresh, open grounds. Unaware of the grass snake encircling his right trainer, he had jolted when a voice called for him. He was tempted to ignore the voice, but it carried such an air of urgency and concern that he knew he could not.

That had been the first responsible reaction in his life.

Striding toward the main house, he had been greeted by a man in a white suit, his father’s executor and one of his guardians. He knew before the executor even spoke that his seemingly eternal father was dead.

As the youth was led inside the main house, each footfall was heavier than the last. This was his now, all of it. It was all so familiar, and yet now was as alien and unknown as the deepest reaches of the ocean.

In his bed, the youth blinked. Today was the day of his ascension. He was to perform one of those tokenistic gestures as the executor handed over the Estate in deed as well as word.

No time like the present, the youth decided, and swung his legs from his bed and went down to the main hall.

The executor was there, his face impassive. Looking at him, the youth realised more than ever before that he did not feel ready. Just being told repeatedly that one day all this would be his had not prepared him in the slightest. That theory, a theory that he had strived to block out for the most part, was meaningless in the face of the impending practical. He wanted to run, to scamper back and hide in the refuge of his carefree days.

But he knew he could not.

“It is time.” The Executor said.

“I’m not sure.”

“It’s inevitable. It is your destiny. You must carry on the lineage.”

The youth rammed his hands deep inside his jacket pocket. “Very well.”

As they crossed the threshold to the world outside, the executor paused. “Oh, just so you are aware, your father has left you the charge of others as well as the Estate.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Toward the end of his days, your father found himself looking after some disenfranchised people. He stipulates, or rather stipulated, that you carry on his work with them.”

“Will you please stop talking in riddles? I’m not Alice, you know.”

The executor gestured toward the hillside copse, beyond the marquees being erected for this day of celebration. From within the trees, the sound of spirited voices could now be heard. The youth, the man, shielded his eyes against the glare of the sun and focused on the bank of trees. Three figures were sprinting down the steep hillside toward the Estate.

“But they’re –“


The man nodded.

The executor simply shrugged his shoulders. “That’s the problem with inheritance. You’re never entirely sure what you’re going to get.”

As the children carried on toward him, they passed a lively and jovial group of brightly dressed youths dancing in synchronization around a tall pole.

Lying not on his bed but in the air of the Zero Room, the Doctor opened his eyes as he heard footsteps approaching from outside.

In a moment of frightening clarity, the Doctor realised he was that maypole. One central core rooted to the “ground” but maintained and enriched by thirteen tethered yet vigorously floating aspects of the same.

However, if this was the case, why did he now feel as though his particular banner was no longer attached and was in grave danger of floating perilously far away?

The moment may have been prepared for, but he felt like a badly unrehearsed understudy called into action on the first night.

The children. Nyssa, Tegan and Adric. They seemed to believe in him.

Or was that just need?

As the doors to the Zero room opened, the Doctor decided that if it was need, at the moment it was symbiotic.

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