I am alone on Gallifrey. When it was beautiful. When the idea of a ‘Time War’ was unthinkable. Home, as I prefer to remember it.
I might be my thirteenth face. I might be my first. I am never granted opportunity to find out.
I cross a field of crimson grass topped with snow, beneath a copper sky. I know, without checking, that the forests are behind me, a fact borrowed from the deepest recesses of my memory. I have left the cover of the silver-leafed trees, into the soothing half-light of an ending day. One sun of the twins is almost gone behind the shining mountains of Solace and Solitude. Its sister sun, one of brighter orange and higher in the sky, will light my world an hour more, before nightfall.
I follow the descent of the red, white-capped meadow, facing west and now able to see the Citadel. Capitol, Gallifrey’s first city, encased in a vast, glass dome, its surface sparkling with rays from the sun. Within that fragile shell are the mighty gold towers and spires of the city itself, the place I called my home, my school, my life – for over a century.
I am blessed with a few seconds to admire it, a few more steps towards it.
Then, the city dies.
Capitol bursts, burns, melts, falls, crumbles, runs with innocent blood. Its once proud and divine existence is struck down without mercy.
I listen to the silver forests burn, crack, disintegrate behind me. Despite the Capitol, I turn to see. I look behind me, towards the sad pile of broken kindling that stretches into the distance.
Then, I look down, at the way I came here.
The second sun dives below the mountainous horizon, its descent impossible, accelerated ahead of schedule. Whatever remains of the city, of my home word, is cast into impenetrable darkness.
I have still seen them. My footprints in snow, on crimson grass, the accidental image that’s left is undeniable.
My steps back home, soaked in blood.
That sight burns with me, like an after image, until darkness engulfs me completely. Then, I shall wake.
Agitated, restless, and without the benefits of sleep that others seem to enjoy, I return to the conscious world containing 31st century Earth and sit up. Nearby, Aloy sleeps peacefully enough but with her weapons within reach. I watch her, briefly, with a mild sensation of envy uncoiling itself through my veins. It’s not her fault – or anyone else’s for that matter – that I can’t sleep, or that when I do, I endure the same nightmare*. I just wish, sometimes, that I too could be granted eight-ish hours of peace.
Another curse of the Timelords, I suppose. A race that holds, if anything, too firm a grip on reality.
I lie back and stargaze a short while, able to put the time at somewhere around three in the morning. It’ll likely be another 3 or so hours before Aloy joins me and we continue our adventure.
Maybe I’ll try to drift off again. See the nightmare once more. Try and learn something new this time.
Perhaps I’ll actually reach home for once, before my chance is gone forever.
* In my one-thousand-and-five-hundred-plus years, I have slept less than twenty times. Each time has brought the same dream – with one very recent exception: I had the honour and the privilege to speak with Lord Morpheus, King of the Dreaming**. I require no better further proof for my limited sleep record: his reason for visiting was to remark upon the fact he had not sensed my presence for several centuries.
** If I may mildly impugn that honour, the reason I was asleep is linked to drinking too much mead among too many Vikings.