Doctor Who: A Pilgrim's Progress
Materialised by Keith Dunn
"THE SANDMAN, MY FRIEND, IS LIVING IN HIS OWN SKIN -
AND HE CAN'T STAND THE COMPANY"
It was an empty beach. It could have belonged to any resort in the nine galaxies. Where it was not important. What was happening on it, was.
There was only one deck chair on the beach. On the chair there was a man dressed in clothes that had seen better days. The baggy red trousers and black thick overcoat were innately the wrong outfit to be worn on a tropical beach.
The sandy hair flowed well past the collar and the loose hair screamed to be cut. The cat like face had an expression of bliss in the contemplation of the sun's rays, at one with the environment. His mind was at peace. He knew that his companion was in the jungle collecting botanical samples that in less than ten years would be extinct.
In recent trips he had come to enjoy places like this - not for the sun, but the peace, the quiet, a chance to review the cosmos and his place in it.
Unseen, another man approached across the beach swinging an umbrella with an oddly shaped handle. He was dressed slightly better to suit the environment, brown jacket, brown checked trousers. In the other hand to the umbrella he carried a Sainsbury's shopping bag jammed full of clothes.
Humming nervously to himself he stood over and looked down on the tramp "asleep" in the deck chair.
The Tramp opened one eye leisurely "Oh no, what do you want?"
"To talk. May I sit down? "
They both stared at each other like duellists, on one side a tramp and vagabond, the other a Traveller and Tourist. One sitting. One standing. On a lonely empty desolate beach.
"Hhoo well if you must "
The Tourist looked around and then sat cautiously on a second deck chair. There were a few moments of embarrassed silence then he turned to the other figure.
"What do you think you are doing?"
The Tramp closed his eyes partly to keep them out of the sun but mostly in exasperation for the coming discussion.
"Enjoying the sun."
"That's not what I meant and you know it."
The battle was joined .A battle that the tramp felt that he was not going to win.
The tourist leaned forward, "I've gone through a lot of trouble to find you."
"Ha! You didn't have to. Not on my account."
"A lot of people don't want you back."
"And you do."
"I need you back - a lot depends on that."
The Tramp started as if someone had sent a snap of electricity through him and glared at the Tourist.
"Oh no you don't. You're not laying that one on me. I've had enough interference in my life from them, " he rolled his eyes skywards, "I don't need you too. From now on. I mind my own business, my own thoughts. I'm just staying and watching the cosmos go by." The tramp settled back in to the deck chair.
The Traveller leaned further forward in his chair,
"If. as you say, you're going to divorce yourself from the universe and live out your remaining lives in stark contemplation, then why did you go back for her?." He nodded his head back towards the jungle. His eyes watching keenly for a reaction. The only reward he got was a slight tightening of the jaw.
"I couldn't leave her there. She would have been well cared for, comfortable, oh yes, but not happy. She had to be returned to where she came from."
The traveller looked at the tramp with an owl like gaze that developed into a sole ripping stare. "You misunderstand - you went back for her, you meddled. It's in the blood, It's in our soul."
"I shall change my habits in future."
"You can't " The Traveller replied "I'm here, aren't I"
The Tramp stirred in his chair, "What you do is of no concern to me"
"But what you don't do is of concern to me. " came the reply
"LOOK, why don't you do us both a favour - get in your little box and disappear".
"I can't do that " came the quiet reply "The future needs to be shaped."
"Mmm I've had the future revealed to me and I don't like what I see."
The tourist settled back with a secret smile "Oh our learned prosecuting counsel. I shouldn't worry about him. As a friend would say. He's well taken care of"
The tramp came back with a sarcastic retort "That makes me feel so much better"
"Listen to me" said the Traveller in a quiet voice, a voice that demanded to be heard, "What you've been doing here has deprived him of a lot of his power, there is only the potential for his existence now, a probability of his being .But it must stop here and now or that probability will grow again".
The tramp turned round to look at the tourist "And that's your reason for coming"
"Yes that and other things."
The tramp began to look intrigued "What other things"
"At times you haven't been in full control have you?"
The tramp felt his hackles begin to rise "What is that supposed to mean?"
"I'm not calling into question your sanity, just some of your methods."
"My methods... Of all the..." Came the strained whisper
The Tourist started to speak quickly in anticipation of the coming explosion of anger.
"Please don't miss understand me. It was a process that needed to be started, you could say it was our own destiny and it was about time it was started. But you were too stubborn and thought you could do it all yourself without help. Your personality was disrupted and swamped by the knowledge that poured through the link - you can't do it on your own."
"Oh and you can?" Came the terse reply.
The Tourist thought for a while.
"No I have a very dear friend to help me and I've made certain allegiances within my own mind."
The Tramp made a dismissive noise at the back of his throat,
"hmm methods, methods " he grumbled "Methods. METHODS. Let's talk about METHODS. I've heard about some of your methods, they gained you many titles other than the ones you usually use. "
"I have many titles - not all of them deserved" came the anguished reply.
If the tramp recognised the danger signs he didn't heed them. Instead he continued,
"Yes and I know them all - Warlock, Harlequin, Magus, Lord of the Flies, Holder of the Sword Sinister, Ka Faraq Gatri, Destroyer of Souls and Eater of Worlds. Who gave you the right to do these things?"
"NO ONE GAVE ME THE RIGHT!" erupted the reply in an explosion of anger. An anger that spoke desperately of spoilt friendship and rejected happiness, "Favours were asked for, tallies were made, vows spoken " The voices that had started with a shout had now wound down so that the last words were almost a whisper, "A lot of us have seem to have forgotten that."
The Tramp watched the Tourist intensely while attempting a half-hearted reply.
"Its not some thing I do lightly, without consideration or full knowledge or experience of the pain it courses me."
The Tourist was uncomfortable with the way the conversation was heading but to be truthful, it needed to be said He pulled out his fob watch with a defiant flourish.
"Time moves onwards." He stood up and reproached the watch "I have to go."
"More events to shape?" The Tramp asked with a half smile.
"Yes." He looked down. "Thanks for the chair it, showed a willingness to talk. " The tramp followed his gaze and with a sudden jolt realised its significance.
"I did that?"
"Yes but don't let it worry you, don't force it. Things like that will only come in time. Make your allegiances, share your adventures, share your adventures with your friend don't just let her just accompany you."
"Yes." There was a smile in his voice, "Sharing does mean telling them the whole truth."
The Tramp stood up staring at the deck chair suspiciously and then down at the tourist, "I shall bear in mind what you've said."
The Tourist smiled up at the Tramp.
"You do that. But do remember it hasn't been for nothing, this "Pilgrim's progress". Without it, or you, I wouldn't be able to do what I do."
He turned to go and he paused, a new thought entered his brain and went back.
"Everything needs to be looked after." He reached up to the Tramps coat lapel and started to brush off some of the dried mud.
"Even a domesticated cat turns feral if neglected and there hangs a tail." and with that he turned and strolled away .
A sudden realisation hit the Tramp,
"If you're the future, how long have I got?"
The Tourist stopped, turned, pulled out the fob watch and flipped it open, all with a showman like flare.
"You've got as long as you want, but more than you need. Think on what I've said."
And with that he turned on his umbrella and strolled purposefully away
The Tramp watched the figure disappear down the beach. As he looked down he noticed a flash of silver on his lapel. Looking closer and without surprise he saw a silver cat badge with a certain key hanging from its tail. He knelt down to examine the shopping bag that the tourist was carrying. He recognised the coat with many clashing colours, the black and yellow striped trousers. His robes of office. In retrospect they were a bit garish but they were what he had chosen.
She strolled from the jungle her arms full of flowers, she screwed up her resolve. It wasn't that she didn't like miles and miles of white sun kissed beaches, but after 23 land falls she was sick to the back teeth of them. God help her she was begging for the old days, the old planets Karfel, Varos. My god, even Jaconda and that was saying something.
It wasn't until she got over the ridge that the smell of smoke reached her nostrils. In sudden panic she ran the rest of the way down to the beach, only to discover a single deck chair with a black overcoat, baggy red trousers, and tatty jumper all burning brightly.
"Oh no. " came the quiet exclamation. Then in fear she shouted,
"Where are you, where are you?"
"Here." came the quiet reply.
She whirled round in a heart pulsing frenzy to see a familiar figure in an even more familiar coat and trousers, with a long lost gleam in his eye. A gleam that she hadn't seen since Androzani. An old gleam only more so. He opened his arms.
"Shall we go Miss Bro... Peri. There's work to be done".
They both walked off hand in hand to a blue hut-like structure at the edge of the foliage
The pilgrim had arrived.
"Hear me now bleak and unbearable world - thou art base and debauched as can be. And a knight with his banners all bravely unfurled now hurls down his gauntlet to thee."
(inspired by Summoned By Shadows, More Than A Messiah and an original party by Jean Riddler.)