In the corner of a house there’s a room full of books. Big books, small books, books full of color and books full of black. No one could possibly read every book in this room full of books, surely; there are books about cooking, books about history, books about dinosaurs and books about what Sally did on holiday when she met Harry. No one could be interested in all of these books enough to read them all, cover to cover. But no one minded if no one did, because someone read some of these books and read them cover to cover. A kid.
A kid? Of course a kid, what else but a kid. Scrawny and white, all pale and shy, with dark brown hair and bespectacled eye. A kid in form, in mind and in wit, a kid whose heart and mind was lit by literature and writings, all ordered and free. For no one would push back the pages they read, and no one would pinch or say what they said, for in this room in the corner of a house this kid read alone as hushed as a mouse.
As they read alone in this room so quiet, in their mind the world was a colorful riot- what wonder, what power! What passion, what sorrow! How they smiled at the thought of what words had to follow. This is faith, this is light, this is everything right! So the kid read through each day and waited each night.
Time, though, wraps its chain onto every living soul, and as time carried on so the kid became old. Soon gone were the days that they could fill with written page- the rat race soon came forward for those of their age.
The day that it came the kid ran, feeling dread, for the world was not the way that literature had said. Right had no sway on the evil that walked, and the kid needed teaching in rules that weren’t taught. The way of kindness was hollowed with every mistrust; for every step that the kid took, their faith began to rust. Every lesson took heart until the heart gave no more. The kid wandered and stumbled and never found whatever for.
You should be more like him, but less like them, they said, in a loud and righteous cry. You should worship her and him and be grateful for their time, they said with suspicion and fire in their eye. You should be strong, they said, you should be funny. You should know all this.
Why can’t you be more like them? The kid asked themselves, unable to answer. Why couldn’t you learn? The kid asked again, still unable to answer. Why did you turn out this way? The kid cried, over and over, still unable to answer. What good has come of all the time that you spent? They all asked, again and again, and each time the kid was unable to answer.
Until the heart had enough and took everything it had. It screamed to the kid and drove the kid mad. It chased the kid back to the room full of books. It hid from the sky, and the world, and the looks.
In this room full of books, full of memory and peace, the kid found their smile, and the heart its release. Alone in this room of accordance and dreams, together they could hope, reflect and believe. The kid’s story was written and the kid had grown old, but its words can be read again, and the story re-told. Believe in this heart, wherever it may lead, the kid told themselves. Believe in all the good from the things that you read. Believe and be kind, whether you see or remain blind, for this world will forever remain empty and hollow without a song to be sung and dreams it can follow.
And with that, the kid walked into the world once, knowing nothing of strength or of love, or what for. But the words in the room that raised them remain, and what good is a hero without troubles to be slain?
I see a man writhing. On fire. HH, I presume. He is in agony.
Something is tearing him apart from inside out.
Cracks stalk his skin and spit light into the monotonous pall- every color imaginable, every shade and every hue. I think this is related to the so-called “regeneration” all Time Lords supposedly have: the power to change their own DNA and resurrect, at the cost of a stranger’s personality. Something is wrong.
HH isn’t changing. The body is fighting itself and his mind is split in two, both refusing to let go, grinding itself down against the pressure of constant regeneration. He simply cannot cope with conflicting personalities in a cycle of unending rebirth. It’s too much.
It’s impressive that someone even came up with something so specifically designed for a Time Lord. They’re not easy to pin down, and for the most part they’re not even worth bothering with*. Build an appropriately-sized wooden shed, seal the exits, hire a very big dog to sort out everything else and you’re laughing.Whatever HH did to offend the darkness, he must have done it in spades. And then some.
Time to light the pipe, I guess. And use the lighter I’ve been lagging around on the off-chance something villainous might actually plan ahead for once. The top glows a familiar shade of turquoise, sending faint lines into the air that spread out like upended roots. I inhale, and the sensation that hits my senses sends a tingle through my spine. It’s what happens when you step between two very specific dimensions, except that this is happening inside me: by combing the earth of one realm with the raw power of another, I’m temporarily within both- their conflict has created a union, so to speak, which I can use as a tether.
It’s a nice feeling. I sense the darkness around me like I imagine a fish would the ocean, an ocean in which I can swim freely. It’s custom-built for what I’m about to do to the thing destroying HH.
I’m not sure if he even realizes it, but in this form I can see it clearly; whatever’s tearing him apart isn’t made of light, it’s merely forcing light out as cover. Amidst his breaking skin is a creature as black as the world around us, a fulcrum of sorts for all the pain to flow out from. I’m guessing this is his inner demon or something, because I can’t imagine he’d let the darkness in.
Somewhere within HH was a door of sorts, hiding something from thought. All the darkness needed was a key, and HH’s guilty conscience would do the rest, struggling with something that could only fester and wait until the moment he slipped. It’s not beyond imagining that the darkness found an opening- live long enough and you’re bound to leave a few scraps unfinished.
“I can hear your thoughts. Who are you?”
“So you noticed? Fabulous! Nice to meet you, I’m Womble.”
“What’s a Womble? Why can’t I see you? Why are you here? Go away. Leave.”
“That’s not fair, I’ve only just arrived. What’re you doing?”
“THAT IS NOT YOUR CONCERN. LEAVE.”
“Unfortunately it is. If you want to make it easier, I’d suggest you talk. I like talking. Beats fighting any day.”
“Who are you to command me? Here I am all. I am god.”
“Heh…I’ve never liked gods. And they’re not keen on me either, on account of that one time many billions of years ago, so you wouldn’t be an exception neither. Anything else I should know about you?”
“Who are you to mock me?”
“I’m sort of the hero. Not a very good one. I should’ve been a villain, really, with clothes like these.”
“He is beyond saving. You cannot save him.”
Rule one on how to be the hero: when some says “can’t”, take that as your cue to be heroic. Never fails. It’s like the sight of some lonely couple passing through a moonlit pasture to the average firefly. Regardless of what aught to happen, it’s got to happen.
It’s rather simple what happens next. I reach towards HH and grab the creature by one arm, so that half of my arm is stuck among the cracks of light with the darkness- my hand hidden by the remains of a Time Lord shoulder.
I’m sort of glad HH won’t be remembering this…
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”
This comes as shriek. I can see it’s confusion as claws scramble over my arm, tugging and scratching, trying desperately to remove something it can’t really fathom, and I almost laugh at the sheer irony of our present situation.
It really is simple.
“I’m buying time.”
Let the firefly strut.
*I’ve always wondered why bad guys are genuinely surprised when a certain Time Lord starts ruining things for them. If they’re doing something so bad that it takes a time-travelling sort-of-immortal brainiac to show up and/or wave his glowing stick in order to stop it, they should be prepared for anyone. It should be the first thing on their list when deciding if the plan is worthwhile or not- e.g. “Is this going to encourage heroism?”- and be insured against. But maybe that’s not villainous enough.