The Spice Doctor

Tempting Midnight's Children

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the afterlife is not quite heaven for some...

Abigail Reeves was a mystic. She'd had the gift since she was a child. Various 'experts' had debunked her as a fraud over the years but that was just sad middle-aged men projecting their empty lives on her, wanting her to be a fake to justify their own worthless lives. She had the gift, all too well at times to be honest. She could see and hear the dearly departed more clearly than she could this world. They were like dressed up dolls, captured in a moment of grief and held for all time in that perfect moment like flies in amber. They couldn't move on because of grieving relatives too selfish to let go of them. Abigail tried to give the relatives peace, to allow the departed to move on, but the relatives only reinforced their visual images of their lost ones and this strengthened the bonds holding them back from reaching the next life. Some of the departed were beginning to go mad with rage at being denied their entry into heaven. Their forms became twisted with anger and they cursed their grief stricken kin with threats of the bluest variety and darkest imagination. Abigail felt such a relief when finally one of the departed was released by the passing of his or her captor, often by their passing also and they took cruel delight in enforcing them into the captivity that they once endured. Taking pained delight in recounting their own years of torture and horror to the frightened kin folk who even now were being held down by the grief of their own family. One of the departed could never move on though, he was being remembered much too hard and strong by one seemingly immortal being who had held him in chains since the beginning of the world it seemed. His insane pleas for mercy went unheard by any ear and his blue badge became a familiar curse to his whole damned undying grace. The boy called Adric screamed like the darkest lightening storm the world had ever known, demanding release or retribution against the one known only as The Doctor.

 

The immediate afterlife was like a closed box, no one was certain what was inside of it, but being outside was infinitely better than being inside. However the grief of the surviving relatives created a strong bond like iron chains to hold the departed back from escaping the box into the unknown hereafter. Only when those bonds were broken could the departed finally move on. This purgatory was a nightmare place of wailing souls trapped in an infinite agony of misery and strife. They were held back from achieving their natural state, the overwhelming desire to become something other than the enforced artificial parodies of their living form was a moment by moment state of living hell. Children suffered the worst as their parents forced their unwelcome designs upon them, turning them into glorified tragic figures that were far from truth or reality. The wailing of these frightened souls was the most horrific sound anyone should have to hear, in this place it was just part of the background noise of endless misery and futility. At the core of this stood a young man trapped since before time was recorded on this world. Holding a frayed piece of rope in his hands like a noose, his bloodied hands wrung it tightly over and over, making fresh blood pour out of freshly opened sores on his hands. His face was twisted in pain and misery. His voice thin and pleading for release. Adric was the king of the dead in a realm that should never exist and he wanted the kill the one person responsible for holding him here in this tortured hell.

 

 

 

Abigail Reeves lived a lonely life, shunned by neighbours and family all of whom wanted to be seen denying her gift, as if the act of separation would make it untrue. Their contempt for the other world however merely allowed Abigail to seek the company of the departed. She tried to befriend them and find common identity with them, but the flame of life burned brightly with her and they recoiled from her as if she were an inferno. However they welcomed her attempts to free them from their bondage, to release them from the selfish imprisonment of their living relatives. Every now and then a poor trapped soul was freed and their passing was a cause of hope among the departed because maybe they would be next.

 

Abigail worked a night shift cleaning up in an old hospital. She mopped floors and scrubbed away the stains of death that only she could really see. Her evenings off she gave sťances to the few regulars who used her as a salve for their egos, a ritual of false grief to satisfy their own need to be seen to be suffering. However even in the most selfish of hearts there is just enough genuine grief to keep the most tenuous of links to bind a poor departed person to the land of the living. These were the hardest bonds to break because if she tried too hard then the grief was stirred and it grew stronger and harder and the clients sometimes didn't come back if she didn't tell them what they wanted to hear that that really damned the poor departed who was hoping for their freedom to pass on to the next life.

 

After a particularly exhausting shift Abigail stumbled home in the dark pre-dawn streets. The slowly lightening skies shone too dimly to dull the false bravado of certain obnoxious youths who had taken to verbally abusing the witch girl as she was forced to walk past them to reach her home. One of them grew bold indeed, intending to take her necklace as a trophy to prove his courage. However as he pushed the scared frail woman to the floor strong hands grabbed hold of him and threw him against the wall. "Pick on someone your own size, yeah?" Mickey Smith glared at the youth who was barely a teenager. "Now get home before I tell your mother you were mugging someone." The group of youths broke up and ran off leaving their colleague behind. Mickey let the youth go. "Go on, get out of here." He helped Abigail to her feet. "I'm sorry I didn't get here earlier. The Doctor's directions were very vague."

 

Abigail froze up at the mention of The Doctor. "You know this person?"

 

"Yeah." Mickey replied. "She saved your life."

 

Abigail started to walk away. She felt the cloying closeness of the lost soul called Adric. His long suffering anger like a cold wind down her spine. "I...you should go."

 

"Let's get you inside of your house first, yeah?" Mickey took Abigail's hand. "I'm not going to hurt you. I just like to see a job through, is all."

 

Abigail knew the truth of Mickey's intentions. There was no malice inside of him. He was a Good person; he genuinely wanted to help her, although he thought she needed a bath and some new clothes. "Come inside then, I'll make you a cup of tea."

 

"Tea, just the thing." The Doctor grinned.

 

Abigail jumped. "Who's there? I see no one."

 

"I'm the Doctor." The Doctor introduced herself. "I've been here with Mickey the whole time."

 

"I can't sense you. You are not bound to this world."

 

"Oh, I'm bound to it in ways your species can't even conceive." The Doctor smiled. "For instance...no, no one believes that. I don't sometimes and she's the one who...oh I'm babbling again. Never mind that now. You mentioned something about tea?"

 

 

 

Abigail's vision swam as it reconnected with the real world that despised her so much. The phantom world was very much like the real world, only its ash grey streets were populated by chained up bodies of the departed, struggling futilely to free themselves from the unwanted bonds of unrequited grief and false love. The real world was one of contracts of warm hues and cold relief. The warmth of the front room enabled her to see the Doctor for the first time. A short blonde woman on the very wrong side of thirty-something. There was a sense of ancient dust and mouldy books about her, as if one lifetime were not enough to contain all of who she was. She was also wearing the most absurdly heeled boots she'd ever seen, obviously some sort of reaction to cover up her short stature.

 

The Doctor sat in a well-worn armchair and sipped the cup of tea welcomingly. "Don't you get tired of trying to liberate the dead from their loved ones?"

 

Abigail shook her head violently. "Never. I can't do enough to help the poor departed. They beg me for their freedom; they are poor innocent victims of their own loved ones."

 

"Surely though some of them deserve to be there, for a very good reason?"

 

"There's no reason good enough to justify the torture they endure. If I picked and chose who to help would I be any better than those who didn't care at all for their fate? I have to help them all or I'm helping no-one."

 

"I don't understand all this mystic stuff." Mickey said to the two women. "Mum used to think Gran could hear her though. She used to talk to her everyday about stuff, as if she was still alive."

 

"The departed can hear everything, but its false grief that imprisons them. Selfish grief, not true grief. The departed are grateful for the remembrance, but false grief is like a chain that anchors them down, it's a terrible crime against the departed. No one wants to hear that though, they don't want to hear the truth. They want them to be not who they were in life, but a false romantic ideal. Children suffer the most, there's nothing more selfish than parents unable to let their departed children rest in peace. Those poor lost lambs cry out for mercy but there's no one to hear them but me and I can't calm them down and tell them not to fret. My hands burn them hotter than fire, the departed recoil from me because life is the antitheses of their being. I want to help but I don't know how and they cry out for vengeance against their captors, the oldest one condemns you Doctor, he wants revenge against you for never letting do of him."

 

"Who's that?" The Doctor asked, stunned that she's to blame for any of this.

 

"He wears a blue badge and calls himself Adric."

 

The Doctor clutched at her chest, just over her right heart as it seized up with guilt and shock.

 

 

 

Abigail watched the Doctor rise up out of her body. She seemed to be many more people all at once than she appeared to be. The hints about not being human seemed to be all too horribly real as the many-faced being rose up into the ether. She followed effortlessly behind, a path she'd taken before as she followed, or more usually passed by, a freshly deceased soul into the great beyond. However the Doctor was not chained down by any ties of grief or love. Instead a single red line of thread connected her back to her body. Whether this was an indication of life or alien-ness Abigail was unsure.

 

In the distance Rose and her Doctor danced arm in arm.

 

Adric was screaming for release when an unfamiliar figure approached, yet it was all too horribly familiar. "DOCTOR!" He screamed. "Let me go. Release me!"

 

The Doctor shrugged for a second, before approaching closer and throwing her arms around the soul of her former companion. "I'm so sorry." She wept bitter tears. "I had no idea."

 

Sara Kingdom was reunited with her brother Bret Vyon.

 

"You're strengthening the bonds." Abigail sighed, knowing all too well the events that were unfolding happened all the time.

 

The Doctor backed away, and then ruffled Adric's hair. "It's good to see you again." She kissed him on the cheek. "My grief for you shall never die but it will be pure grief and not false grief."

 

To one side Katarina was reunited with her tribe.

 

Adric felt lighter and lighter, his body started to rise upwards to the light, where he was becoming...other...

 

Abigail followed upwards.

 

The Doctor tugged on the thin red line and drew herself back down towards her body. Her eyes snapped open as Mickey was kissing her.

 

Mickey backed away when the Doctor's eyes opened. "My god, I thought you were dead Doctor." He helped her up to her feet. "I tried CPR and everything. Then you just woke up. At least you didn't change your appearance or anything like that."

 

"I merely paused, half way between death and life. It was just a simple matter of returning to you and this life." She looked over at Abigail. "However our friend didn't come back."

 

"What?" Mickey was shocked.

 

"I think it's what she wanted." The Doctor said quickly. "She was more a part of their world that this."

 

"That's so sad." Mickey said after a moment. "I thought she was a quack at first, but maybe there was something more to what she had to say?"

 

The Doctor smiled. "All of the wisdom in the entire universe is too much to fit into just one head. Although I must admit I do have most of it in here." She winked at him. "Come along, there's plenty of more things to do, your room for instance, you could at least let the carpet see the ceiling once a week."

 

This is almost a complete reversal of a short story I wrote in a writing group about a twisted vision of the afterlife.  In that story people went mad in heaven because they didn't know they were dead and wanted to live hteir lives again.  Here departed souls cannot move onto the next life because their families won't let go of them and try to keep thjem in their lifes for selfish reasons.  I also wanted to play on the Doctor's guilt about letting Adric die when the 5th Doctor could easily have saved him.
As for the title I just picked something that sounded pseudo-Babylon 5 that was vaguely about what the original outline was going to be, a demonic figure seducing the departed souls into hell and the Doctor leading them into nirvana, but it became about the Doctor's guilt instead and I couldn't think of a better title.
 

+++++weird Dr Who adventures+++++