In this, the mind of Darkness, I am the audience. But it isn’t the monster’s memories, surrounding me. It’s my own.
Silent Plains. Location, site and all-round no-man’s-land to the Final Exit. Also home to the universe’s bloodiest war. Everyone gives that title to the Time War, in which I also served. But no-one knows about this one. The Timelords kept it strictly off records. In a way, I was the only archive of that war, utterly unopened until a few minutes ago. This conflict was marked at the highest confidentiality – the fewer races which knew about it, the fewer oppositions, the better. The worst wars are the ones we don’t know about.
It started when the Final Exit first appeared here and never ended. I, well, he was just a blip in its timeline. In the grand scheme of things, my time of protection was a footnote. There were several Guardians before me. I hoped to win. To be the last one.
“And instead, you gave up.”
I look about me, confirm that I am standing alone, somewhere in this memory of a dead planet. No need, really, seeing as the voice is coming from inside my own head.
I wave my arm vaguely at the carnage going on around me. “Can you really blame me?”
He does appear, then, in a whirl of dust and smoke as my memories piece themselves together. This is my fifth face, I believe, the penultimate one. Or the sixth, they were the same after all. For the first time in centuries, I look my past war-torn self in the eye. For once, it’s not a reflection.
“Don’t be so sure on that,” he retorts, wearing a Look of abject fury. “And yes, in answer to your first question, I can blame you. I can and I will, for everything.” He grasps his hands behind his back and starts walking in a circle around me.
He was always taller. All of my war-selves were taller; it made for a higher target but ideal for running and further field of vision. Short, army-cut hair with no facial at all, of course. Hard eyes which could outstare a bird of prey. Mostly bones and sinew by this point- I’m not saying I’m out of shape, but a few lives of relaxing on the TARDIS has moved me beyond his thin frame. And with Gallifrey-class army attire, not exactly one with an eye for fashion.
“You’re certainly one to talk. Is your recent TARDIS interior a charity shop? Or doesn’t the Doctor’s ship work properly for you, seeing as you left Odyssey behind.”
Time to reclaim my own Look/Glare for such occasions. “I did not leave Odyssey behind. I could never do that. He reached his end. He…he died.”
“Because of you!” He stops walking in circles now, pointing a gnarled finger at me. Always a glutton for trigger-finger, me. “Everything going wrong started with you!”
“Me? Let’s not forget one important thing here: we both pull that trigger.”
“This one, you mean?”
The scene around us suddenly rushes forward as if stuck on fast-forward which, presumably, it is. Several hundred explosions go off, more bullets than I can count shoot past us, as we follow my past self through the battle at plus speed. Then everything comes to a slow, silent halt.
A few feet away from us, in a duplicate to the one standing beside me, is my sixth self. Tears cut lines in the grime and dirt soaked into his face. A gun is held in his left hand, the barrel rests against his temple, as if politely waiting for its cue. Guardian leaves everything on Pause.
“This is where it changes. Where he changes. In that split second, I stopped being myself and started being you. The first person HH ever killed.”
“You’re shifting the blame. You can’t deal with the fact that you did something so inexplicably immoral.”
He laughs. “And you know what’s really funny? I can say the exact same thing to you. You are, extremely literally, talking to yourself.” His Glare vanishes, replaced by something far worse. A Look I filed away with everything else about him. One small smile of sick, grim victory.
“I’ve…come to terms with it.”
“Hah! Tell me that again when I haven’t just been buried under several centuries of repression. The truth is staring you in the face, HH, your past has finally caught you up.”
“And what about the…monster, the Darkness, where does it stand in all of this?”
Guardian shrugs, and despite everything, I believe his ignorance. “I haven’t a clue.”
I stand in your mind, Timelord.
Without change in appearance but expression, Guardian becomes a new puppet. The unseen monster plays the ventriloquist.
At the end of everything, all fall to my infinite night. I carry the lost and the dead from all eternity. And somewhere deep in my evil within, screams a man enraged, who yells for the Timelord known as Homeless Helper. The Guardian is a part of me. And he is a part of you. Asleep for so long, but now ready to return.
“Why would you want him to be free?”
The Guardian has been cursing your name for so long now. I wish to let him have his fun.
“Why? What have I done to hurt you?”
The face smirks. Whether it’s Guardian or the Darkness, I’m unsure. Not that it makes it any less unnerving.
Too soon, Timelord. Too soon.
Guardian drops back into control without any hint of a change-over. “Guess that answers that.”
“This Darkness, its been with me the entire time?”
“I’d say it exists within everyone, HH, we murderers and suicidal especially. Of course I took my opportunities to take control, before. The remnants of Rapture. What was his name…Chompy? But you were always far too stubborn to accept a foreign invader into your mind. Now you’ve lost by a new means – an attack from inside the walls.”
An attack from inside…”Wait a minute. That thing had my book, from the Library of Life. It was…controlling me?”
“What a gift, that was! Enough to push the dear Robins to their demise and enough to push you towards your old, true self once again. To return to what you do best, HH, to harm and maim and kill. To get you beyond the breaking point. All of it leading to one inevitability.”
My mouth says “What?” before I can even get my head round it all.
The glorified smirk returns. “Your second suicide.”
A jolt of pain rips through every vein in my body; in one instant of sheer agony I’m rocked out of my stupor and back into reality. For a second I see the Darkness-HH standing above me, his faithful servant nearby. Then another jolt, and another – within moments, the rocky walls echo my yells.
Guardian keeps talking inside my head. “One thing you never paid enough attention to was your personal biology, HH, so wrapped in the mentality side of things you never considered the physical.”
“What are you-aaahhh…”
“Your fifth and sixth self wore the same face, HH. Any idea how much regeneration energy that saved you? Any idea just how many wounds and scars you now have which could’ve been healed? Hell, you could’ve had four arms!”
“It’s a good thing it wasn’t left to just sit and fester at all, to become unstable as any poorly stored energy will do. And it’s also a good thing that you haven’t mixed your drinks or dabbled in any other forms of immortality. Say for instance-“
Oh Ned, please, no.
“-a zombie serum? I’ve had a long time to brew my perfect poison, HH. You won’t see Chompy again but you’ll feel what’s left of him burning you away into nothing.”
“Killed by the same thing meant to keep you alive. How suitable, wouldn’t you agree? You pulled the last trigger, HH. Now I’m pulling this one.”
Every inch of my skin is on fire. Usual regeneration cycles see you glow in heavenly golden light. My body is boiling with a blood-red flame. If this is what dying is truly like, please Ned, Womble, anyone – let it end.
“You kill me.”
“I kill you.”