Alone in the Dark
This story was written recently, as a submission to Big Finish's Short Trips competition. I was not among the winners. So you get to read it here.
It was formless, and infinite. It was sentience, and pure instinct. It was isolated in its void, the only being in its own small, unbounded universe. It was eternal, and needy as an infant. It was ever on the search for a way out of the aloneness...
The TARDIS shuddered like a wet dog shaking itself off -- again! -- upending Tegan's hot chocolate all over her jeans, her blouse, and the tattered paperback of Jackie Colllins' Hollywood Husbands.
"Ooo, Doctor!" Her cry echoed around the cavernous, empty room. She calmed herself with a sigh, plucking at her wet clothes. "He has got to snap out of it," she growled to herself.
Tegan had never been a girl to hang out in libraries. But this was one of the beautiful things about traveling with the Doctor: Hollywood Husbands hadn't even been published yet, from Tegan's perspective. The library had been a godsend, she'd quickly discovered, after she'd accidentally wandered into the TARDIS on the Barnet Bypass with no more reading material than the copy Princess Daisy by Judith Krantz that she'd happened to have in her purse. And there was no way a 1980s working girl could possibly survive without Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins, and Judith Krantz: even life in the TARDIS wasn't as exciting as Mistral's Daughter. Wandering into the TARDIS library had been just as accidental -- if she'd even considered the notion of a library of paper books on the TARDIS, she'd probably have figured that it would be crammed with boring technical journals and dense history books and the Venusian scientific poetry the Doctor liked.
Fish Story, Part 2
I squeezed into the cramped cockpit and wedged myself between the back of Ayren's seat at the navigation console and a locker labeled WEAPONS. (I'd checked it already -- it was locked, of course.)
Ayren leaned back against the headrest and looked up at me. "You're all right?" she whispered, and I nodded as another laser blast rocked the little craft. "I was afraid you were getting tossed around back there."
"I was." We were getting shaken up like beans in a tin can, and I had banged every extremity against metal bulkheads in my little sortie from the cockpit.
"They're just shooting across my bow." The pilot, in front of us, stretched forward to peer out the cockpit window, speaking not to us but simply thinking aloud. "Close enough to knock us around. Man, that is some precision shooting. Why aren't we dead?"
The fat chef, overflowing the copilot's seat next to her, gripped the armrests with white-knuckled fingers. "Can't this thing go any faster?"
"This is it, pal." The pilot scowled at the chef. "Maybe your employer doesn't have the inside track you think he does. How could he get that transporter information and not know my ship'd be no match for those cruisers?"
Another scarlet laser blast seared past the window, jolting the ship in its wake. "Did you find a replicator?" Ayren whispered.
"Yes." I crouched down till I was face to face with her. "It's gumblejack, all right. But you won't believe this--"
Fish Story, Part 1
This story was written in the early 1990s, and was intended to appear in a zine I was to publish called 'A Single Soul,' which would collect all of my Ayren stories. It was never published, and this story appears for public consumption here for the first time.
"The last time I fished this particular stretch, I landed four magnificent gumblejack in less than 10 minutes... The finest fish in this galaxy, probably the universe. Cleaned, skinned, quickly pan fried in their own juices till they're golden brown... ambrosia steeped in nectar. The flavour is unforgettable" --the sixth Doctor in "The Two Doctors"
"What's the matter, Doctor?"
"I'm hungry." I was whining, and Ayren was getting irritated with me. I was standing at the refrigerator door in the TARDIS galley, bent at the waist, staring in at the overladen glass shelves. Zaurakian treefruits, cheeses from Habar and Mira, leftover Algenib mountain-steer steaks, sliced boarham from Bellatrix, the fresh grainbread we'd picked up the day before on Cebalrai... None of it called to me. I closed the door and stretched, sighing.
"You've been like this for days," Ayren said. I thought the bowl of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia she was eating whispered my name... but no. "Snap out of it. Have a sandwich or something."
This story was written in late 1990 or early 1991, and appeared in the fanzine 'Faithful Friends/Agreeable Companions,' published in June 1991.
The mirror sucks me in.
The Routine -- I do it every evening -- takes me just a few minutes now. It's a little dance I choreographed myself. One long, slow turn in front of the cheval in our quarters, to examine the splatter of freckles and moles that've appeared on my face and along my arms and across my chest and back over the past five years. So far, just shades of brown -- nothing black, nothing bleeding. Then, arm in the air, my fingers press careful circles into my breast and up into my armpit. Then the other side. So far, no lumps. And I thank the Keeper for another day.
But this mirror snuck up on me -- mirrors have a habit of doing that. I pulled a stack of books off the shelf to pack, and there it was, the engraved looking glass Olvir gave me last year. "Is that a new mole on your cheek?" it asks.
Terrified, I turn my head toward the light -- but no, it's just a shadow. I breathe again, and take the little mirror and place it face-down on the pile of packing cloth. I'll wrap it later -- I can't look at it again yet.
Tristan's Father, Part 8
[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Part 7]
Paranoia was a concept I'd learned here, on Earth, yet one more cultural oddity I'd had to assimilate from the late twentieth century and the early twenty-first. We hadn't even had a word for it, not just because the language we'd been bequeathed was an odd mixture of English and Spanish and Japanese and Arabic squeezed through an apocalyptic bottleneck, but because the culture my ancestors -- the ones still in the future, and now in an alternative timeline to the planet Earth I was now living on -- created in the aftermath of what they'd survived had consciously rejected such notions.
But I'd learned about paranoia fast, at the mercy of UNIT, and in the suspicious and mistrustful atmospheres of the political and media circles of London and New York. And I'd become paranoid myself, and still couldn't decide whether that was a healthy response to an environment that -- as Tegan had once characterized it when I'd tried to describe for her a culture that did not inspire paranoia -- "menaced you with threats you weren't sure were real wielded by people you weren't sure existed."
The Locksley Dagger, Part 4
[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3]
I didn't wake up so much as I was jolted back to consciousness by the pounding in my head. Opening my eyes was torture. Any movement beyond that was simply out of the question.
"At least have the decency to pretend to be hung over," I croaked. Sprawled in a chair across the room, the Doctor stretched his legs out before him, cupped his chin in one hand. He wore only his boots and his leggings and the bloody bandage around his middle. He smiled at me, and I closed my eyes again and groaned.
The Locksley Dagger, Part 3
[Part 1] [Part 2]
I was shivering with excitement as Will Scarlett led us down the wide stone steps to the great hall of Nottingham Castle. This was history come alive, the past made present. People were living here in this castle: those men in chain mail standing guard over there would go home to the soldiers' barracks; the young scullions rushing back and forth with trays heaped with steaming chickens and loaves of bread would probably sleep among the dogs and goats tonight, and be thankful for the warmth of other bodies.
The Locksley Dagger, Part 2
The TARDIS gave a little shudder. I leaned over to check the navigation panel -- everything fine -- and then turned back to the data cubes.
The Doctor had a definite head start on me: I half woke in the middle of the night to see him sitting up in bed, pillows propped at his back, the icy blue light from the cubes glinting off his half-rim glasses. I struggled to wake fully, but he lay a hand gently in my hair and pressed a kiss to my forehead. "Go back to sleep, love," he whispered, "and dream of Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest."
The Locksley Dagger, Part 1
This story was written in 1991-2, and appeared in my fanzine 'The Cricketer: Tales of the Fifth Doctor,' published in 1992.
The Doctor was trying to get the maitre d's attention.
Planet Souverane was very much in the centre of this era's multicultural, interstellar society, so it was not that unusual that humans were a minority at the bar -- where everything from Aldebarian brandies to Romulan ales were served -- and that it was necessary for the Doctor to tell the android maitre d' that we would like to be seated away from the methane breathers, please.
I signalled the bartender for a refill on my wine. "Perhaps it's developed a short," I suggested, but the Doctor was twisted around on his bar stool and he didn't hear me.
Tristan's Father, Part 7
[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6]
46.9 hours earlier (Earthtime: Monday 5:17pm Eastern)
Earth. In jeopardy. Again. And it was all my fault.
Tristan didn't protest as I hauled him bodily into rush-hour traffic on Riverside Drive -- he just hung limp in my grasp, resigned and despondent, as I stalked us across four lanes of jammed-up, honking vehicles.
Of course it would be Earth that would be so at risk from my own child's untutored ignorance. Because of course it would only have been a human of Earth who would be his mother, a human of Earth whom I would have fallen in love with and produced a child with -- however in Rassilon's great realm such a thing could have happened. And so of course it would only have been here that that child would be present and capable of doing such unwitting harm.
I'm MaryAnn Johanson: longtime Doctor Who fan, professionally a film, TV, and pop culture critic and writer/editor. New Yorker born and bred, now living in London. Vices (other than Doctor Who and movies): wine, books, theater.
photo by Ian Mantgani
(in case of site outages or other emergencies, I'll update my status on Twitter and Facebook)
- Alone in the Dark
- Fish Story, Part 2
- Fish Story, Part 1
- Father Figure
- Tristan's Father, Part 8
- The Locksley Dagger, Part 4
- The Locksley Dagger, Part 3
- The Locksley Dagger, Part 2
- The Locksley Dagger, Part 1
- Tristan's Father, Part 7
- Tristan's Father, Part 6
- Tristan's Father, Part 5
- Tristan's Father, Part 4
- Tristan's Father, Part 3
- Tristan's Father, Part 2
- Tristan's Father, Part 1
- Alone in the Dark (1)
- Father Figure (1)
- Fish Story (2)
- The Locksley Dagger (4)
- Tristan's Father (8)