May 20, 2011

Enchanted Garden Chapter Nineteen

We dare you to make your characters talk in rhyme for at least two pages.

We dare you to get your characters from wherever they’re right now to Antarctica by the end of the chapter.

The Doctor patted Newt’s hand and let go of it, then whispered to her, “Stay right here, never fear, I will light the lights, my dear.”

Newt giggled at the rhyme, and said, “No fear, my dear, I’ll linger here, though the dark I do not fear.”

The Doctor made a grunting noise that sounded like “humph!” and then walked away into the darkness. Newt suddenly recalled the gaping hole they had left in the middle of the floor, and hoped the Doctor wouldn’t stumble into it and hurt himself.

“Beware the hole left like a mole had made a door in the midst of the floor,” she called out in warning, and then stopped. Why had she spoken in rhyme? Could she speak without making a rhyme?

“I’m a poet,” she whispered, and then firmly clamped her lips shut, clapping her hands over her mouth to prevent herself from finishing the rhyme.

“And I do know it,” the Doctor finished the rhyme for her from across the room, as the lights snapped on.

The Doctor grinned at her from where he stood near one of the doors. “The language circuit now is fixed, the little beast of light was nixed; the rhyming should end sometime soon as the language circuit finds its tune.”

“In the meantime we should eat,” Newt said, “I’ve already cooked us up a treat, and left it in the kitchen to heat.”

“In that case, let us seek our dinner, or I might starve and then get thinner,” the Doctor said, then he smiled merrily, and offered his arm to her. Newt laughed, and then took his arm as they left the control room together and walked sedately down the hallway to the kitchen, where presumably, the others had had the sense to stay when the lights all went out.

They were in the kitchen all right, all six of them, and were sitting in their places at the table. The emotions on their faces ranged from fright to amusement. They had all been babbling to each other in rhyme when the Doctor and Newt entered. As they became aware of the Doctor’s presence, they all dropped into silence for one long moment, and then their fear poured forth from them in the form of angry voices which sounded ridiculous in rhyming words. The six voices babbled over each other, intertwining into a long rhyme, as some of them finished each other’s couplets, and the more they rhymed, the more farcical an ludicrous they sounded, until Newt couldn’t stand it any more and started to giggle.

Her laughter initially sparked more anger to begin with, but then as the people in the room realized how they sounded, they began laughing also. During the laughter, Newt walked over to the cooking machine and deftly removed and served the ice water. To her utter amazement, the ice hadn’t even melted in the chilled glasses of water. She set the water on the table, and began to pull out the food from the warm section of the machine. The meatloaf looked just like she had imagined it, with the red sauce baked on the top. The rich, dark brown gravy smelled wonderful, and the potatoes looked so smooth and creamy, with the perfect pat of butter nestled in a small, shallow depression in the exact center of the mound of potatoes, which themselves nestled in a beautiful cut crystal bowl that was exactly like Newt’s mother’s bowl, down to the tiny nick on the edge that had appeared after Newt accidentally washed the bowl in the dish washer and it had jostled against the other dishes during the wash cycle.

With sudden jolt, Newt realized that the TARDIS had reached into her mind and somehow recreated her mother’s bowl, exactly, even the tiny nick. She indignantly wondered what else the TARDIS had been doing in her mind. She served the rest of the dinner to the assembled party as she listened to the rhyming talk. The Doctor still hadn’t explained exactly what had happened and why they were talking in rhyme, other than his initial comment of, “I’ll explain later, please pass the tater.”

The assembled group settled down to eat, and several nicely rhymed compliments were sent in Newt’s general direction, each one making her blush worse than the last one. She knew in her heart that she was absolutely not a great cook, and that anyone with a good imagination for exactly how the food should look and taste could make this machine work and have a reputation as a great cook. She devoutly wished there was some way she could take this machine home with her when her time in the TARDIS was finished, because she really liked cooking by imagination.

They finished eating the dinner, and Harold and Dusty volunteered to help clean up the dishes and put everything away. The pirates rose to leave, but the Doctor motioned silently to them to remain in their places, and the five of them remained at the table while Newt and Harold and Dusty bustled around, cleaning up the kitchen and putting away the dishes, and restoring everything to perfect cleanliness and put in order so that everything was prepared for the next time that the TARDIS rose in flight.

When their chores were completed, Newt and Harold and Dusty returned to the table and sat back down in their places again. Then, to Newt’s amazement, the Doctor just laid one finger over his lips, asking the assembled party for utter silence. They gave him what he asked for, and he smiled, then closed his eyes in concentration, looking inward. What seemed like a very long time to Newt passed in complete silence, as every person seated at the table simply sat silent and still, staring at the Doctor, and no doubt, doing what Newt was doing, which was wondering what they were all doing sitting around the table staring silently at the Doctor while he sat apparently lost in thought.

Finally, at long last, the Doctor opened his eyes again, and gazed at the assembled group.

“I think,” he said slowly, “that things are fixed now, and that we’ll not be speaking in rhyme any more.”

He let the silence go on for a minute or two, making certain that no one else had the compulsion to make what he had said rhyme. No one spoke.

“Good,” the Doctor said, then went on, his voice very quiet, and deadly serious. “Now, I’ve repaired the environmental controls, and I’ve also repaired the damage done to the chameleon circuit when you lot,” he glared at the pirates and pointed accusingly at them as a group, “tried to force the TARDIS to look more like your idea of a space ship.

“I’ve also fixed the damage that a small sprout did when it burrowed into my ship in order to escape the intense cold that the ship was radiating. The sprout, the precious child of the forest, has been ousted, and I hope it wasn’t traumatized permanently for its attempt to keep from freezing to death. I’m telling you all, and I’ll be telling you this only once.” His voice rose to a raging shout. “Keep your bloody hands off my ship.” Then his voice dropped to a very threatening whisper, and his face became very hard edges and solemn, and suddenly he was scarier than he had ever looked. “Don’t touch anything. Don’t touch a single knob, button, or switch. I’m going to lock you four,” he pointed at the pirates again, “in your bedrooms, and take you home. In the meantime, you aren’t to touch anything at all. You broke in here uninvited, you abused my hospitality, you broke my ship, and you very nearly killed a sprout of the Forest of Cheem, and if you had succeeded in that, there is no telling what interplanetary incidents you would have set off, all for the sake of finding a bit of carved rubber. It’s not worth it. Now go,” he practically hissed at them. “Get to your rooms, and stay there until I tell you that you can come out.” He raised his arm and pointed to the door, and as one, the lady pirates rose from the table and fled from before his wrath.

Newt, Dusty, and Harold sat frozen in place at the table, stunned by the venom and vituperation they had just heard in the Doctor’s voice.

“As for you lot,” he continued in a much more gentle and benevolent tone, “you had no choice about coming here. You boys have done your best to stay out of the way, and Newt has done much to try and help, and to make the situation better. I want you all to come with me to the control room while we take those women home and get rid of them. Then we’ll see what can be done about getting the three of you returned to your own homes, and getting your mess straightened out.”

The Doctor rose from the table and left the room, the three children bobbing and scrambling in his wake.

By the time they all reached the control room, the Doctor was leaping around the main console making all sorts of settings and muttering to himself, as though to make certain that nothing was set wrong or forgotten. Very shortly, the clear, blue lit rods in the central column were moving up and down, accompanied by a wheezing, groaning sound, and Newt felt a thrill of anticipation as she wondered what would happen next. Presently the wheezing stopped and the rods in the blue column stopped, and silence reigned with the TARDIS.

The Doctor disappeared, and came back again in just a few minutes with the four lady pirates.

He stood for a long moment, thinking, while they stood in a small clump and looked at him with trepidation written not only on their faces, but in every line of their entire beings. After a time, the Doctor apparently came to a decision.

Without a word, he took hold of Hollerin’ Holly’s arm, and brought her near the control console, then pressed a button, and a helmet descended from the ceiling. He set it gently on her head, and strapped the strap under her chin, then flicked a switch on the console. Blue and white lightening crawled all over the helmet. Hollerin’ Holly screamed, and then dropped to the floor, unconscious. The Doctor removed the helmet, scooped her up, and moved her over near the door that led to the outside of his TARDIS.

Then he took hold of Darth Wolf’s arm and began to lead her to the helmet. She tried to pull her arm from his grasp, but Newt could see that the Doctor was far stronger, and Mama Wolf didn’t stand any chance of escaping from his will.

“What are you doing to me?” Mama Wolf screamed at him.

“I’m erasing your memory of the time you spent with me,” the Doctor replied. “It will hurt, but there will be no lasting damage. The four of you will wake up in the woods, and you will be fine.” The whole time they had been talking, his fingers were busy fastening straps and things, and then he flicked the switch again.

The lightning crawled over the helmet and with a scream, Mama Wolf also dropped to the floor.

The Doctor removed her also to the area by the door, and turned back to the room to find that Knit Wit was already fastening the helmet on her head.

The Doctor walked back to the control panel. “I’m sorry for this,” he murmured as he reached for the switch, “I’m so very, very sorry.”

“I understand completely,” Knit Wit replied, “and I forgive you.”

The Doctor nodded as he flicked the switch for the third time, and caught Knit Wit as she collapsed.

After he had laid Knit Wit by the TARDIS door, the Doctor turned to RavenWolf, and gestured to the helmet. “It’s your turn now.”

She shook her head, then pleaded, “Please, Doctor, don’t take my memories of this. I give you my solemn word that I’ll not tell a single soul what happened, not even these three, no matter how much they plague me. I’ll not even tell them that I retained my memories. I know you’ve no reason to trust any of us, but…” she spread out her hands, fingers spread wide, palms up, in her mute appeal for mercy.

“Give me one reason I should leave you your memories,” the Doctor said. “Just one.” His voice was whispery and hoarse, choked with emotion, though Newt couldn’t say, exactly, which emotions were affecting him so profoundly.

RavenWolf looked at him for a long, long moment that stretched out for at least five minutes, though it may have been ten or twenty times that long. Then, calmly meeting his eyes, she made her statement in a serene and matter of fact tone that brooked no argument. “Because I’m nothing more or less than the sum of my memories, and I beg of you not to diminish me. I ask you for mercy and forgiveness. We entered your ship, not meaning any harm. Not finding anyone on board because you chose to hide from us, we incorrectly assumed that it was an abandoned craft, and did our best to learn to fly it. We intended only to have a little fun. You told us yesterday, when you finally chose to reveal your presence that you took off and removed us from our rightful place, because you were only having a little fun with us. Neither side meant any harm. No intentional damage was done. That makes both sides even, in my book. But I ask you, I beg of you, not to intentionally do harm to me. Please don’t diminish me. Please don’t take from me the one thing that you could never give back, my memories. I give you in return my solemn oath that not one word of this adventure will ever pass my lips, or ever be set down on paper. No one shall ever learn of it from me, a burden I would carry alone for the entirety of my short human life.”

RavenWolf then dropped her hands to her sides and dropped her head, staring at the floor, awaiting the Doctor’s judgment with resignation.

Silently, the Doctor turned away from her and picked Knit Wit back up, then carried her outside the TARDIS, returning a few moments later for Mama Wolf and Hollerin’ Holly the Troll Master of the Talley Valley Farm Clan and South Carolina Sith Lord.

RavenWolf maintained absolute silence while she watched him.

The Doctor came back in the TARDIS doors, and nodded stiffly to RavenWolf. “I’ll take your word on it. Go out there and lie down and pretend to be unconscious until after they start waking up. Make sure you’re the last person to wake up.”

He turned his back on her and began adjusting things on the TARDIS’s control panel.

RavenWolf fled out the doors into the dark of night.

Newt crossed slowly to the door and closed it softly. Then she joined her two friends where they stood near the TARDIS control console.

The Doctor finished his adjustments, and then stood back and looked at three children.

“Next stop, Belly Button, Arizona,” he said, “so I would suggest that the three of you go back to your rooms and clean up and get back into your Halloween costumes again.”

Harold and Dusty nodded and headed off down the hall, but Newt lingered in the control room with the Doctor.

“Do we really have to go back so soon?” she asked.

“I’m afraid you do,” the Doctor answered. “My life isn’t a safe one, and I can’t take responsibility for someone else’s children. Sorry. But you really do have to go back before your parents miss you. They will be looking for you shortly after midnight, is that right?”

Newt nodded. “Yes, the Halloween party at the school was supposed to be getting out at midnight, but our friends will miss us if we’re not at that party. In fact, we had people that were expecting us to be with them from about noon on.”

The Doctor nodded, scratching his chin, and then he pulled Newt around the console to the computer like screen that sat on one side of the round plinth.

He tapped at the screen several times, then motioned to Newt. “Here is a map of Arizona. Work it like a touch screen, and zoom in on a good place to land the TARDIS, someplace that won’t be noticed by half the population of Belly Button.

Newt fiddled with the screen for a few minutes, and finally directed the Doctor to the small tangle of woods in the city park.

“And where is the Old Mrs. M’s house,” he asked, “the woman who sent you out of your own time and place, where do I find her?”

Newt peered at the very good rendering of the aerial pictures of Belly Button, and found the information the Doctor had asked her for. Then, weary beyond belief, she headed down the hall to her bedroom to change back into her Marie Antoinette Halloween costume.

She reached her room and was reaching out for the latch to open the wardrobe when there was an enormous slapping sound that reverberated through the TARDIS. At the same time, the floor tipped sideways, and Newt found herself sliding down the steep slope that was actually the floor. The TARDIS began to spin, and the floor rocked wildly from one side to another, and then with a sickening sound of splintering wood, the motion suddenly stopped, and both silence and darkness descended.