Ethereal had, for reasons literally known only to her, whipped up some 4D cocktails. These mind-buggering beverages are so called because the act of drinking one is to experience taste, texture, smell and song, all at once. Whatever the mixture, it’s the latter which messes with the head the most. I started sipping my Pina Colada and each time heard an extra little snippet.

and getting caught in the

She had asked me “would you prefer an American Pie?” but while I can take the whiskey, I’m not so fond of the rye.

Below the bubble-glassed cockpit and just above the ‘Rip’ mechanisms, I was sitting in a red-and-white striped deck chair likely stolen from Brighton beach, on the force-fielded open-air top deck. Gazing out into eternity.

In my hand I held my chosen drink, occasionally sipping a potent mixture of whiskey, vodka, lager and cider.

I get knocked down

And with a mix like that, it’s easy to see why.

I leant over and settled down my glass, pausing before sitting back upright. “Those wings are stealthy, I’ll give you that.”

Angel Demon had settled into the empty deck chair beside me.

AD: “You cannot have known-”

“No, of course not. I always set up two chairs when I’m by myself.”

Their silence rivalled the one of the void beyond the force field.

HH: You returned, then.
AD: We’ve hunted you for two years, I believe I am entitled to know why.
HH: With your ‘defects’ I imagine you already do.
AD: Is that what you call them?
HH: Spark Plug’s words, not mine. I’ve yet to figure his defect.
AD: And mine?
HH: Extraordinary telepathy, for one.
AD: Not quite.
HH: Regale me, then. Prove me wrong. I can tell you’re dying to try.
AD: I would never die to do anything.

I had never heard something so human from somebody who wasn’t.

AD: Telepathy treats the mind as an open book. My ability gives me most of the chapters, but not all of them.
HH: Depending on the main character, I suppose?
AD: Correct. I see the good in people, and the bad, and all the memories attached. Judgement without confession.
HH: So you can’t see, for example, the time I wandered deserts in isolation?
AD: No, but I can see memories of genocide. That’s memories, plural.
HH: You be so much fun at parties.
AD: Can you relate, Timelord? I find you drinking, as I thought I might.
HH: What can I say? Ethereal mixes a mean liver-killer.
AD: Typical habit of a haunted soul.
HH: Maybe you’re right. And y’know, it’s even better when left alone. Doesn’t come with a side order of judgement.
AD: I won’t apologise.
HH: No, of course not. Once you know someone well enough to apologise, it’s too late. You’ve already read them. A truth, once known, cannot be forgotten. Though I admit, drinks like this do help.

I get up again, you

AD: It is, as I believe goes the expression, my ‘thing’.
HH: Mmm. And how often do you have to say that?
AD: Not. Most can assume it from my name.
HH: Is that so? My initial reaction was white-wings and halo on one shoulder and red horn and pitchfork on the other.
AD: Angels and demons are the embodiment of judgement, both the act and result.
HH: And yet only one type is usually considered to be correct.
AD: They are both correct, neither assume otherwise.
HH: I do. Guess that puts me on the middle ground, huh? Never entirely sure what’s right but I am working on it.
AD: You used to know.
HH: I used to be a soldier. Soldiers aren’t there to consider right and wrong. They follow orders from someone who decides for them.
AD: They can still change their minds.
HH: As I said. Used to be a soldier.
AD: In the great Time War.
HH: Humph.
AD: I said something funny?
HH: I’ve yet to describe a war as ‘great’.
AD: And yet you won.
HH: No-one wins a war, but I survived them both.
AD: Ah yes. Another two words that fester in your mind. Silent Plains.
HH: Silent Plains was more than just a war. It was a place where over a hundred different races collided and killed in the name of something none of them, nobody, truly understands. I was conscripted and commanded to make sure nobody ever reached it. If the Timelords couldn’t know, nor could anyone else.
AD: You were born in battle, and have lived the life of a soldier, ever since.
HH: I deserted. Tell me, confessional buddy, was that right? Does that make me redeemable?
AD: It makes you a coward.
HH: Duck you. You don’t know a damn thing about me.
AD: I know how many people you’ve killed.
HH: Then you should also know how many I’ve saved.
AD: An imbalanced ratio.
HH: Give me time.
AD: How much, Timelord? How many years of penance and self-punishment will it take to undo your lifetimes of bloodshed?
HH: However many I have left to give.
AD: Humph.
HH: Now I’m funny too?
AD: You want so badly to be good, but you don’t know what that is. I don’t believe you’ll ever know.
HH: Nor will you. You’re colour-blind, seeing people as one or the other.
AD: I see people for what they truly are.

‘re never gonna keep me down

HH: Whatever. I’ve just finished my drink, and decided that I don’t care. The opinion of a morally misguided wanderer, friends with a dream and an owl, matters very little to me.
AD: Change the owl for a penguin and you describe yourself. There’s your problem, Homeless Helper. There’s what keeps your good and bad side so at odds.
HH: And that would be…
AD: No matter how much you force yourself otherwise, you do care. About all of it. You. Care.

Angel Demon stood.

HH: Hunting me, for two years. I thought you wanted to know why?
AD: I do. I just needed you to keep talking while I read you.
HH: And was it worth it?

Angel Demon vacated the deck, no doubt satisfied in their revenge over my disarming knowledge, earlier. Swaying slightly, I upended my drink, yearning for whatever drops were left. The war veteran with a drinking habit. I must’ve been front of the queue when they were handing out clichés…

I returned the glass to the ground, then addressed the entity I’d been ignoring.

“Will I ever stop caring?”

E: “Yes.”

I waited for the other answers, the other versions, but there were none. My hearts beat a little faster.


E: “Three endings and the last is your own. It happens before then.”

And then Ethereal was gone again.

I trailed off, gazing into the distance, staring into the infinity of space.

And I felt as though it was staring back.



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