site banner

an empty vessel

'Never close off your mind, absolutely, to anything, my boy.' snapped the old man, philosophically just before creaking unsteadily to his knees to investigate the small electrical fire that had sparked  and flared up beneath the console earlier.

Ambling around above him, the tall, dark wavy haired, handsome ex-space pilot Steven Taylor bumbled in his usual way towards the wrong conclusions. 'You mean to tell me, there are other universes that are not akin to the reality of the physical that's all around us, outside the ship?'

'Bah!' crooned the aged Doctor testily. 'If you can't understand the argument I'm stating, don't keep making unfounded assertions. What I'm saying is, that these other universes are 'akin' to our own, except we can't touch them or enter them. They are there, they are tangible - physical you might say to anyone within them, but because they are on a different plane we cannot move to them, or exist in them unless we become part of their reality.'

Steven frowned a little until his face awoke like the dawning of a new day. 'Ah, like matter and anti-matter, Doctor?'

'Exactly, exactly. Two totally different corporeal points but both in existence.' The discourse concluded the Doctor took out his pencil torch and pocked it into the panel he had opened earlier. His angular nose haughtily sniffed as if he was trying to smell out the damage. After a brief inspection, he moaned softly and rubbed a knurled hand through his mane of white hair. 'Impossible.' he griped contradictorily, causing Steven to be amused. 'All the circuit jammers have been rendered obsolete.' His bottom lip twitched with unfrequented fear, as the inspection of his words took a strangle hold over both himself and his wonderful craft.

Steven helped the Doctor onto his feet and asked with anxiety what exactly was the Doctor getting at.

Grasping his lapels, the Doctor intoned mournfully, 'This means every circuit in the TARDIS cannot be switched off or overridden. They will therefore continue to be active until they burn out. When that happens..the TARDIS will be finished and us with it!' It was now, that the Doctor, had to steady a collapsing companion who, being very mortal, could fear death more readily than the seemingly timeless traveller.

Suddenly, the whole room shook like some building afflicted by an earthquake and the console began to reverberate with the groans of what seemed to be a dying beast. To the Doctor, this only meant one thing, destruction and then the cold, black embrace of death. He chocked as the air within the vessel suddenly began to stifle his already dry throat.

Steven dragged himself with the last vestiges of strength he had and growled croakily, 'Doctor, surely we aren't finished yet?!'

Sweating profusely as the console room began to get even more humid than a few seconds earlier, the Doctor mopped his brow with a grimy handkerchief. 'I'm...I'm afraid so, my boy. All the systems are breaking down'

Behind him the console was beginning to smoulder and disintegrate before their strained eyes. 'Oh...no...no...the central column is melting to nothingness...' His voice trailed off as a flickering candle flame of now raw white energy appeared from the base of the column and then began to engulf the whole column until it was unbearable to look into.

'Dissipation...' was the last word the Doctor ever uttered because everything blurred and blazed out of his vision, then everything went as black as a coal face.

~~~

It seemed like an infinite number of years had passed since the deadly disruption had afflicted and destroyed

( the indestructible? ) TARDIS. So much so, that when Steven and the Doctor rose groggily to their feet they felt they were suffering from some form of an elongated dream. They had awoken within...the brightly lit TARDIS console room - a console room that should not, in all practicality still be there! But as the Doctor discovered when he tried to activate the main console there was...'No power, no power at all, yet all the circuits appear intact again.'

His head aching, but his internal workings all in order and his once parched throat now wonderfully wet, Steven Taylor came to stand at the Doctor's shoulder. 'But how can that be? I mean, everything went up like a hundred tons of dynamite. We surely didn't imagine it, did we?'

Imperiously, the Doctor replied, 'No, no, we didn't imagine it at all...' The septuagenarian sucked in a sharp intake of breath and sighed. 'All I can see as an explanation is that the TARDIS itself somehow held itself together and restructured itself safely wherever here is, but in doing so used up all the last reserves of power.'

Cautiously, Steven eyed the TARDIS main doors and held the old Doctor's arm as he ventured to step outside. 'Wait! Doctor. We haven't any power, right?'

The Doctor snorted impatiently. 'Obvious, my boy, obvious.' He held up a hand. 'And therefore you go on an further, yes, we can't see what is outside. But in order to recharge the TARDIS' energy reserves we have to go out there and find a power source...' With that his voice trailed off to silent oblivion and the sprightly aged gentleman activated the door controls and walked himself out of the craft.

Not wishing to seem a coward, Steven took a deep breath and similarly followed. The sight that greeted him was extremely unwelcoming. Poor Steven found himself surrounded by a confusing whirl of clinging, constantly shifting, mist. He could discern through the bleakness shadowy figures some distance away just milling around. He strained his eyes because the darkness blotted his vision so much, that even outlines were fading to obscurity.

'Doctor?  Doctor, where are you?' Echoes greeted his questioning in a mocking repetitive cycle that boomed like a hollow oil drum at the bottom of a well. He decided to continue walking, yet no footsteps sounded. Instead, Steven found himself floating just a little above and just a little below the level of the mist curling around his feet, ensnaring him like a rabbit in a trap. He withered to try to get away from the fact that he was defying the laws of gravity, a fact so alien, he could not comprehend it. In doing so, he overbalanced and fell into the fog, disappearing from sight...

~~~

Meanwhile, the daring Doctor had had no such problems, and with Steven momentarily forgotten he had walked until he had left the misted aura and found himself in a marble pillared anti chamber with a luxurious, elaborate grand staircase stretching upwards before him to another misted veil at the top. He ascended and stepped through the curtain of mist and kept ascending until finally he emerged into the very darkened scenario of the bridge of a huge luxury liner, the ship's wheel being manipulated by wizen hands, nothing outside the windows all round the area except inky, unpenetrating blackness.

'How could anyone steer a course in this thing, through this darkness?' pondered the Doctor to himself. His keen eyes twinkled with thought, but then he became more and more bewildered. He began to shake and turn to escape as he sensed a great danger creeping towards him and tainting the very air itself with its evil.

But the shadow before him had already arrived and was blocking his only place of escape. A whispering voice like a sighing hissing, breeze hoarsely said, 'Too late I'm afraid for you and your companion. "Late" being the operative word!' There was more than a hint of chill menace there.

The Doctor closed mournful eyes, and felt the fetid touch of clammy fingers upon his face, as a shadow clasped his jaw in a vice like grip...

~~~

Arriving with a thud on a hard, polished floor Steven Taylor groaned in agony. It was quite a long fall he had encountered, but he was glad of a friendly face helping him to his feet while he tried to clear his head.

'Thanks, Sara,' he intoned gratefully, brushing himself down and wincing at his bruises. He stepped back from the pale woman in the SSS security uniform all of a sudden. 'No! Wait! You're...dead! How can...?' Steven remembered the wrath of the Time Destructor blasting Sara Kingdom back to the dust.

The dark haired beauty, eyed him with puzzlement, before the curling mist took her in its embrace again. 'Of course...but aren't we all here?'

He followed her and stepped into an anachronism, there, before him was a beautiful magnificent ballroom with its delicate wall carvings, stained glass windows and hanging chandeliers, but dancing to a haunting melody were thousands of floating, wheeling figures, some recognisable such as Abraham Lincoln, Hitler, Queen Victoria, Churchill, Byron, Julius Caesar, Shakespeare and many others; consisting of very ordinary people from the various ages of human existence. This was too much for the astronaut. He rocked and fell into the floating unconscious heap.

~~~

Sweeping past the Doctor, who stood there aloof and disinterested, showing his revulsion, the shadow of darkness began a triad that turned the Time Traveller's blood to ice.

'I am Death...!' The anticipation of a question was bought into play, as the shadow glided to face his capture. 'You have heard of me, I suppose?' An evil chuckle, guttural and unfriendly, sadistically followed.

'Of course!' snapped the Doctor, his voice cracking a little. 'You are the spectre that haunts all life throughout the Universe...'

'Oh...' whispered the shadow, chidingly. 'There you are wrong. I am only the master of the Earth beings on this celestial plane. A small, insignificant morsel that barely states my appetite.' Spectral hands clutched the Doctor's shoulder and the shadow closed in. 'I need souls, and I need a place to store and feed upon their meagre energy.' He waved a hand of nothing away from the old man.

'This Titanic vessel had been useful, it had capacity and many dead souls all charged with the beauteous fear of doom, of me. Such a feast, but now, even now, the vessel is over populated with empty husks...weakened am I, as my fear no longer holds its reign, no
goodness to be had from the unafraid soul but it comes here all the same!' His hand waved over the Doctor's head and pleasurably, he croon, 'I see you do not fear me, but I sense your fear stems from that...that transport you arrived in You do not wish me to possess it.' As if thinking, the awesome being suddenly stopped. Then it laughed, long and hard, as the TARDIS appeared on the bridge.

'No, Sir!' shouted the Doctor commandingly, 'You shall not have me or my vessel. As I am not dead, you have no hold on me!' He stepped in front of his beloved craft and waved his walking cane menacingly.

The grim reaper of millions of souls edged forward and hung a deep, darkening shadow towering over the trembling old man. 'Give me your craft and I will promise you an eternity at my side. Together we shall reap the entire Universe throughout all time! Once again all will feel my grip and fear my passing. When nothing survives I wil lbe supreme, over bloated and content!' Pity seemed to be creeping into this foul abomination's voice as he whispered, 'I plead with thee...give me life.'

The Doctor chortled. 'Give Death life!? That would be a contradiction wouldn't it? Hmmm? No, my friend. Never!' He backed away into the craft and locked the doors.

Like a bat, Death flapped helplessly around the outside of the ship and tried to hold onto it as it groaned from solidity to emptiness. Death slid away and parted with the empty air. It took to the wheel of the vessel and steered a new heading as it felt a violent rumbling of distant gun fire...'One day, I shall catch up with you,' came the harsh threat. 'All of you. Be sure of that!'

A white, pale brown figure of a man began to appear at his side, blood stains over his body, just coming into being, but still a little transparent. 'Nearly there, Mr. Kennedy, I shall be with you quite soon...'

~~~

A far away voice sounded in Steven Taylor's head. It was muttering about energy banks having recharged themselves. As his eyes fluttered open, the young space pilot groggily rose to his feet to find himself back in the TARDIS control area.



The Doctor hunched over the main console, staring intently at the controls. 'What's happened? I just don't know.' He grumbled to no-one in particular. He looked up. 'Ah, my boy, back to the land of the living I see.' The Doctor wagged a finger. 'It was lucky for both of us I recovered from the electrical shock we both suffered or I might not have been able to resuscitate you.' The Doctor smiled a wicked grin. 'At one point, I thought we both had it. Death nearly paid us a visit.'

'I could have sworn we did,' muttered Steven, quivering inwardly. But dismissing the nagging thoughts he had, distant memories of being somewhere else, Steven turned to leave the console room.

If he had stayed afew seconds longer, he would have seen his mentor close his eyes and shudder, for the Doctor had met his greatest enemy. Death. Realising that not even he could live forever...

"And the last enemy to be destroyed is Death"
I. Corinthians. Chapter 15. Verse 26.

written by
DARREN FIELD
copyright 2009

artwork by
COLIN JOHN
copyright 2009