“Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there - I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life. People sometimes say that the way things happen in the movies is unreal, but actually it’s the way things happen to you in life that’s unreal. The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it’s like watching television - you don’t feel anything. Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television. The channels switch, but it’s all television.”—Andy Warhol
“You listen to people so that you can imagine them, and you hear all the terrible and wonderful things people do to themselves and to one another, but in the end the listening exposes you even more than it exposes the people you’re trying to listen to.”—Paper Towns by John Green, pp. 216
“This fear bears no analogy to any fear I knew before. This is the basest of all possible emotions, the feeling that was with us before we existed, before this building existed, before the earth existed. This is the fear that made fish crawl out onto dry land and evolve lungs, the fear that teaches us to run, the fear that makes us bury our dead.”—Quentin “Q” Jacobsen, Paper Towns by John Green, pp. 140-141
All these stories end at night, so of course it was night now, the last vestiges of the scent of midsummer evening lingering in my nostrils, slowly being replaced by the railway station’s smell: the strong aroma of the diesel, the less distinguishable stench of toilet and the smell of body odour, of human beings going about their business.
My train is being called, the disembodied female voice notifying the station that the train standing at platform five was now boarding.
"Well, this is me," I say. I hate goodbyes, and I hate this one in particular. Last time I said goodbye to her, it was a hasty hug in a cheap bar with a promise to keep in touch and see each other "soon". The goodbye was so fleeting, there wasn’t time to feel very much. But now…
The familiar emptiness, bordering on nausea, washes through my stomach as she puts her arms out for a hug. I put my case on the floor and I have to tiptoe into it, partly since she’s slightly taller than me in those shoes and partly because I tiptoe into every hug.
She pulls me into her, and I’m especially conscious of the firmness of her breasts against my chest and her breath on my hair as she says, softly, “I had a nice time. Thank you.”
"Me too," I reply, perhaps too softly. We are friends, I remind myself. I’ve been reminding myself of that for the last five years. I can feel my eyes stinging, the pressure building in the bridge of my nose. I try to resist the feeling, but somehow she can tell and she pulls back slightly to look at me.
I don’t think our faces have been intentionally this close before. For a long time we just look at each other and I can see she’s trying to hold back the tears too.
I’m more aware of her lips moving than I am of the sounds coming out, but she’s asking if I’m crying and I answer yes, because at this point I am: I can feel the tears pooling in my eyes and then gently running, hot and wet, down my cheeks.
She’s crying too, and it reminds me of the only other time we were this close, the time I found her late at night in the pouring rain sitting under a tree in the park, crying soundlessly from some upset or other. I did the only thing that I could do, and got down onto the ground and held her while the silent sobs shook her body. Then, before I was quite aware of what I was doing, I pressed my lips to her forehead. Although perhaps I remember it calming her somewhat, there was a voice deep inside admonishing me for being so selfish and inappropriate at a time like that. Though I wanted to kiss her more and for longer in more places than just the top of her forehead, the realisation of what I was doing made me stop, so we just sat there for what seemed like all night, her in my arms, crying silently while the rain fell against the leaves of the trees and the traffic on the motorway rumbled far off in the distance.
The disembodied voice repeats an announcement for another train, but I don’t know where it’s going or what platform it’s going from since the voice sounds so distant, almost a world away from our embrace.
"Why?" she asks, and I wonder why what? Why are we on this Earth? Why am I saying goodbye? Why had it been so long? Why am I crying? Why are we crying?
"Because I’ll miss you," I answer quietly, not sure whether I’ve answered the right why. She smiles faintly, the corners of her mouth curling upwards slightly then dropping back down as she says, “Me too.” Her voice cracks between ‘me’ and ‘too’, the latter becoming more of a hiccoughing sob than an actual word and it cracks me too, fresh tears pooling in my eyes, the wave of nausea crashing inside me as I look into her green eyes, around them red with the tears, her cheeks wet and glistening under the harsh lighting of the concourse. Then her lips part as if to say something, but I’ll never know what because at that moment my mind has been made up, it’s too late and to Hell with me for it.
“The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment may be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”—The Iliad, Homer (via shylocks)
“There comes a time when we realise that our parents cannot save themselves or save us, that everyone who wades through time eventually gets dragged out to sea by the undertow - that, in short, we are all going.”—John Green, Looking for Alaska
This is getting silly, thought The Doctor. He re-read the last paragraph:
Frankly, after not seeing Jock for a couple of weeks (while he was sorting out some business in America), she was desperate for a bit of incestuous action. Cora looked over at the Doctor, still unconscious, and then back to her father/lover. Jock got the hint.
"He’ll be out for a while; he’s a heavy sleeper," shrugged Jock.
"Hmmm…fine. In which case, Jock, I did chain you to the wall."
He sighed and looked up from the photocopied sheets on his desk. He’d agreed to read Jack’s memoirs over before he started sending them around to publishers, but now he was regretting it. The biggest problem with the manuscript in front of him wasn’t that it was still unfinished; it wasn’t that Jack had “changed names to protect the innocent”; nor was it that it was titled Cora, of all names. The Doctor’s biggest problem and annoyance with Jack’s book was that there was very little in the text that pertained to real life.
He picked up the phone and dialled Jack’s number.
"Are you sure you sent me the right manuscript?" The Doctor demanded as soon as Jack picked up.
"Um, yeah," replied Jack, but it sounded a bit like a question.
"It’s called Cora, yes?"
"Yeah, yeah, why?" Jack really didn’t sound so sure somehow…
"Well, it’s just that it’s less your memoirs, more some fantasy story you’ve come up with!"
Jack laughed nervously. "So you read it all, huh?"
"What there is of it, yes."
"Heh, er, it started as my memoirs…but I got a bit carried away…" Jack trailed off.
"So I take it this Jock fellow is you?" asked the Doctor patiently. "And I’m Doctor Whom then?"
"So why don’t you tell me quite who the hell is Cora, and why have you been doing what-have-you with the character portrayed as your daughter?” The more he talked through it, the worse it sounded, and the more annoyed he got.
"You are so British!" exclaimed Jack, and this only served to annoy the Doctor some more. "Listen, I know it’s a bit outlandish, Doc, but a man has to have his vices, and mine’s writing crazy stuff."
"You know, sometimes I wish I’d left you in the 51st Century."
"Oh, don’t you play the high and mighty with me, Mister!" said Jack reprovingly. "What about that whole thing with that River Song chick. You ain’t whiter than white either!"
"Oh yeah, Jack, thanks," said the Doctor. He should have know Jack would bring that up. "Of course, you’re completely ignoring the fact that it was all your fault!"
"My fault?" asked Jack innocently.
"Yes! Your fault! You showed him your time-watch…thingy…" The Doctor’s anger was getting the better of him now. "And then you let him steal it!"
"I thought he’d had potential! He said he’d get us a TV show!"
That was it. “We had a TV show!” he shrieked.
It was true - they’d had a TV show. They had met some guy called Russell in a bar in Cardiff. He worked for the BBC, so he said. So, as these things go, Jack hooked up with him, and he hooked them up with the BBC. Those were the good times. Then Russ and Jack got closer and the Doctor felt more and more like a spare wheel. The scene subtly changed - there was a new spin-off revolving around Jack and the good old Doctor was pushed to the sidelines. Then it stopped - Jack dumped Russ to chase after other men, in particular one man he couldn’t have: a married man with kids.
But Jack would not and could not give up. In an attempt to impress this Steven fellow, Jack showed off with his time-watch thingy (as the Doctor called it) - a relic of his past in the 51st Century. Steven stole it when Jack was asleep one night, Jack thought he’d lost it, then Steve pretended he’d found it a couple of weeks later. But the damage had been done.
Suddenly strange things started to occur: crazy time paradoxes, people who should have been dead popping up, old enemies resurfacing. One time the Doctor hit a time paradox so huge the TARDIS spent three weeks up on bricks being repaired.
It turned out Steven had messed with their lives and timelines just to create a new reality TV show. And it worked - the damage to the TARDIS was so bad the Doctor needed the money from a new TV contract to pay for the repairs. Jack disappeared for a month, re-appearing with no memory of what had happened to him and, with no money in his bank account, he too signed up to Steven’s show.
Predictably, the ratings bombed, the show was pulled, Steven rode off into the sunset and the pair were left high and dry. Now Jack worked in a call centre, while the Doctor moonlighted as a hearse driver in the day and a pizza delivery guy at night.
"I mean, seriously," said the Doctor, returning to present but thinking out loud. "I have a wife but the last time she sees me is our first date?"
"Well, when you put it like that," mused Jack. "It does sound a little crazy…"
"But not nearly as crazy as your "memoirs", Jack," said the Doctor, hoping to return to the topic at hand. He didn’t want to think about disaster of a marriage, nor the divorce payments if he ended it
"Seriously, Doc, what do you really think?"
"Honestly?" asked the Doctor rhetorically. "It’s a load of rubbish. They’ll never print it."
"Yes, really. I think you should bin it and write something better."
Jack sighed, as if he was contemplating a very important decision. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I wasn’t sure how I wasn’t going to finish it anyway.”
Thank goodness, I think I’ve just saved English literature, thought the Doctor.
"Beer tonight anyway?"
"I suppose so, I’m not working tonight and I’m still too scared to take this old girl out for a spin, what with all the paradoxes around."
"Steve was a dick wasn’t he?" lamented Jack.
"Yes, indeed he was. I never knew what you saw in him anyway. See you later, Jack." The Doctor hung up.
Rising from his seat, he only stopped to light up a smoke before he picked up the photocopied sheets comprising “Cora” and unceremoniously dumped them into the bin.
benevolent god:okay i'm gonna set everything up really nice and make sure everyone is comfortable and then i'll zoom right in and watch carefully oops is your hunger bar getting low don't worry shh i have that taken care of i have a cheat shhh it's okay keep painting that weird purple thing i love you
distant god:i'll set your life in motion but then i'm gonna pull back and let you do your thing maybe i'll wander the town a bit i'm sure you'll be fine
loki:OOPS WHERE'D THAT DOOR GO I GUESS YOU'RE TRAPPED AND OH NO DID THE POOL LADDER DISAPPEAR I WONDER HOW LONG YOU CAN SWIM FOR HAHAHAHA FUCK YOU MORTAL
BUT WHAT IF IN THE DISTANT FUTURE AND 60 PLAYSTATION GENERATIONS LATER SONY ANNOUNCES THE PLAYSTATION 64 AND NINTENDO JUST LAUGHS LIKE YOU’RE SO 3000-LATE AS THEY ANNOUNCE THEIR NEW MIND-CONTROLLED CONSOLE CALLED NINTENDO THEM