I think if I play that song one more time in the TARDIS, Womble may just kill me. Although on the way over here, he put his headphones on and went back to riding on the roof. Few more times on repeat, no harm done. Excepting perhaps to my ear drums.
Noodle didn’t seem to mind it. She just sat in my chair, waiting patiently to be dropped off.* Went into the cabin of cruise liner with no questions asked; nor did she question when I gave her a cat mask and a metal suitcase. Maybe she’s the one who knows everything…or rather more likely, doesn’t know how to speak English.
Leaving the ship, it was a simple box jump a few miles out of the way. Aim for the big orange island shaped like a giant tree. Looks a bit like Tracey Island from Thunderbirds. Made entirely of plastic. Can’t miss it.
I must admit, since we landed and Womble removed himself from the roof, there’s been a bit of an itch. Perhaps Timelords have an allergy to huge floating bits of pollution. For the same reason, I wonder if the litter-picking Womble’s head is about to explode.
But we’ll stick around. Explore the huge white mansion, do a bit of whale-spotting, see if either of us are any good at rowing. But first…
“Hey Womble, come check this out.”
He jumps out of a tree and comes to join me at the edge. The top of the island is pretty high; the docks and lighthouse below aren’t exactly full of features from up here. But we can see
“Submarines. Right there, look.”
A small fleet of underwater vessels break the surface of the water, all of varying colour, size and design. Leading the pack of metal fish is a huge, black ship shaped like a shark. I wonder how that’d look as the TARDIS’ exterior shell, shooting through the vortexes.
Womble’s voice brings me back from a dream of TARDIS designs. “Yeah?”
He doesn’t speak, instead points to a scene of an utmost bizarre nature. Sitting atop a huge pedestal of compacted dirt and scrapped cars is a manatee, getting a back scratch from…what can only be described as a black cloak wearing a gas mask.
I glance sideways at Womble. It’s not like I know what exactly goes on in his head, but I imagine for someone like him to encounter a being resembling Death is like a relapsed alcoholic bumping into the chairman of the AA.
The masked shadow doesn’t acknowledge us; nor even turn around. It continues with giving a massage to a sea creature, until someone down at submarines-level takes two shots at it. Two holes puncture its cloak, but apparently unharmed, it turns in a huff and drags the manatee and itself into the waters below.
Both Womble and I release a held breath. Far below us, the submarines and their occupants make no motion to continue onto Plastic Beach.
“Let’s go,” I say to Womble, heading back to the box.
“What? We only just got here.”
“I know. And as much as I’d love to stay, more than anything, this is where the story ends.”
To this, I get another Look. One of confusion. I point his attention back out onto the sea.
Not one wave moves. Suspended in mid air hangs a seagull, its wings in mid-flight. Even the clouds have called a halt. An entire picture on pause.
Womble looks back at me.
“It never went beyond here,” I explain. “There were dreams, plans, and everything shining in rhinestone eyes. But it never came to be. This story quits, here.”
I turn and continue back to the TARDIS. Womble joins me as I open the doors, and I allow him entry first. A moment, one last moment to look upon a scene, a fantastical scene of the song I love. Here I am. On Melancholy Hill.
It always deserved more. The best I can offer is top position on my list labeled “Most Played”. The last redemption left.
As the box dematerialises, the noises of the engines die away into the eternal silence of Plastic Beach.
Just one last playthrough. Sorry, Womble, feel free to take the roof again. Though not before you choose the next destination.
Up on Melancholy Hill…
*First Towels, now her. I’ll be taking the taxi driver exams any day now. Remind me to read up on obscure radio stations and opposing views, with no distinction as to what the passenger actually said.