Word count: 2776
Hours passed as they sat in the little room. At first, Amy and Rory were content to be silent whilst David sat as still as a stone, staring into space, but the boredom eventually took over and they began chatting in low voices about nothing important. Their first words were like gunshots in the silence, but their companion didn’t react so they continued to talk when they felt like it. The day and sunlight waned, and the creeping darkness was effective in muting any conversation. The room began to chill, and David jumped up to close the window, tottering a bit again, then scooped up his coat and laid it around Amy’s shoulders.
“Thanks.” She pulled it around herself and spread it over her bare legs as David returned to his spot. “How are you feeling?”
“Unreal.” Amy could see him trying to inspect his hands in the darkness. “I feel like a child at a carnival for the first time. So many things to see, and none of it makes any sense.” He clapped lightly. "But, I feel a lot more stable now. If only this light in my eyes would go away. Or, I guess I'll have to get used to it being like daytime when I go to sleep."
"It has faded quite a lot." Rory tried to sound encouraging. "Maybe it just needs a bit more time."
"It's creepy," stated Amy. In addition to the golden eyes locking onto her, she could feel Rory's amazed stare next to her. "No, not the glow itself. Just seeing these eyes watching me in the darkness. I can't look away."
For a moment, offended sputtering emanated from the darkness. Then the actor murmured, "Wait." His vague shadow shifted, and after some plastic clicking, the shining eyes disappeared, a very faint shimmer hanging where they used to be. "Is that better?" David's voice was constricted with annoyance.
"Yeah. What did you do?"
"Sunglasses. Of course, now I can't see a thing. Sunglasses at night, and then I'm blinded by the reflection on the lenses. Gah! All I can see are my own eyes in the lenses. You’re right. This is creepy."
"Thanks, David. I'm sorry."
"Yeah." He sighed. "I wish they'd give us a lamp. Hm." More random noises, then a groan of disgust. "You'd think he'd carry a torch! What is...? I think this is a Bunsen burner. Got a gas line?"
Rory shrugged though no one could see him. "I wish they'd bring that food they mentioned."
"Oh! I think there's a package of Jelly Babies in here, and... Yes! Half a package of biscuits." He leaned over and handed them to his friend.
"Thanks." For a moment, the cell was filled with the crackle of packaging being opened, and then crunching. Rory held out the open bag of biscuits. "Here."
"No, thanks. Not hungry. Wait, hold on.” After a moment’s silence, he murmured, “I think this is a sandwich.”
Amy choked. “Oh, that’s disgusting!” She heard the unmistakable sound of clingfilm being ripped open, then a few sniffs.
“No, this is fresh. Ham and cheese.” Another sound told her that he’d taken a small bite. “Yes, very fresh. Good ham.”
Amy slapped a hand to her forehead. “Just how long has that jacket hung in your wardrobe, David?”
“It’s always been there as far as I know.” His dark form held out the sandwich, a little high so that it floated in front of her face, evidence of his inability to see anything. “Try it. It’s good. Maybe time doesn’t pass inside his pockets. Maybe it’s the wrap. Chronostatic clingfilm.”
She got a tantalizing whiff of ham and her stomach rumbled. “What are you on about?” She took the sandwich from him and inspected it. It certainly smelled delicious, with no hint of any spoilage. “Are you sure about this?”
“I haven’t thrown up yet.”
“Maybe Time Lords can eat rotten food.”
“I wouldn’t put it past them.”
Amy took a nibble and had to agree: it was a fine sandwich. “This is good. Thanks. Want some, Rory?”
“Sure, I’ll take a bite, since you said it’s fine.”
“Oh, believe her, why don’t you?” David complained in mock offense. He leaned back against the wall while his friends ate, then suddenly jerked upright. “They’re coming.”
“What? How do you know?”
“I can hear them. Metal armour and voices.” He jumped up, fumbling yet again, this time hitting the wall hard due to his blindness and untuned proprioception. He grunted as he grabbed his bruised shoulder.
Amy and Rory were beside him in a second. “You’ve got to take it slow. Are you okay?” Rory blindly patted his friend on the back.
“I keep forgetting. Yeah, I’m fine.”
The door to the block of cells opened, and Amy immediately dashed to the cell door to peer out of the little window. A guard with a glowing stick, like a torch but without flame, walked into the hallway, followed by a robed woman who was obviously a prisoner and two other guards. The last guard was grumping, “If there’s one, there’s always another. You can never have one problem at a time.”
Their prisoner begged, “Please, no! I didn’t mean what I said. You’ve got it wrong! I’m faithful, I am. Please!”
The lead guard opened a cell and grabbed the woman, pushing her into it. “Shut up and take your punishment, blasphemer!” He pushed the door closed and bolted it.
“Oi! Soldier boy! We want to talk to you!” Amy called as Rory and David came up beside her, the actor pulling his sunglasses off and stowing them in his pocket.
“Ignore the demons,” ordered one of the other guards. “Don’t let them ensnare your mind.” The three of them turned their backs and left, closing the door and casting them into darkness again.
Rory spun and strode away, throwing up his hands in frustration. “We’re going to be stuck here forever!”
Amy called to the other cell. “Hey! You okay over there?”
There was a short silence before a quiet, tentative voice replied. “I’m fine. You’re the demons, right?”
She wasn’t quite sure how to answer. “Well, no. We’re not demons. We’re just people.”
Another brief silence. “You’re from the stars, aren’t you?”
Puzzled, Amy glanced at David before answering. “Yes, we are.”
“I knew it!” Her tone was triumphant. “You’re proof, that’s what you are.”
“Proof of what?”
“Proof that Orsanal is not a god.” Amy could see that the woman had appeared at her window and was trying to see who she was talking to.
The outer door opened again and a gruff voice admonished them. “Quiet in there! No talking, or I’ll come shut you up!” The door slammed again.
“What do you mean?" Amy called softly after a few moments.
"He's one of you, isn't he?" she answered, just as quietly. "A man from the stars, with devices that enforce his will."
"Uh, he's not one of us, but I don't know where he might be from." She glanced at Rory with a puzzled look. "I'm Amy. What's your name?"
"Nice to meet you, Minlay. Why do you think your god is a man from another world?"
Minlay hesitated, and suddenly she sounded guarded and closed. "Er, well, it's just silly talk, really. No one really believes it. It's just stuff you say, you know."
David whispered to Amy, "She's not going to talk about it if she thinks she will be condemned for it."
"Oh! Yeah, I get it." She turned back to the window. "We're really not demons, you know. We came here by accident, and we just want to be on our way. Tell us. Maybe we can help."
"Oh, I don't know..."
"Please? Just tell us a little, so we know what to expect when they come to get us."
There was a slight pause. "You really don't know, do you?"
"We don't even know what the name of this world is."
Another pause. “This is Cherel. How do you not know that?”
“As I said, we came here by accident. Please.” Amy put a little desperation into her plea. “Tell us what’s going on, and why you’re here with us.”
"I suppose it doesn't hurt anything. It can't get any worse." After a bit of scuffling, Minlay's voice was rather clearer, though still low. "My people were once ruled by god-kings, avatars of the gods made flesh to rule and guide us." She sounded like she was reciting a school lesson. "But we descended into evil and corruption, and the god-king Orsanal decided that we needed a firmer hand. He made his manifest self immortal among men by creating the Chamber of Rebirth here in his most holy temple and cleansing his mortal body once a year. It is a sacred ritual, the creation of his new body and the discarding of the old.
“My family is beholden to the temple. We’ve served as cleritechs, Keepers of the Chamber of Rebirth, for countless generations. We maintain the Chamber, per the instructions in holy writ, which we are trained to read and interpret as soon as we are old enough to speak.
“But as Keepers of the Chamber, we see more than anyone else. We work closely with the divine magic. Or that’s what we’re told. But the magic is nothing like anything else we’ve seen. Our soothsayers and priests work with rituals and prayers and draughts, but we work with metal and lightning. And His Holiness understands none of it. He pretends that he does, but he waves us off and tells us to study our scripture when we must ask him. It makes no sense."
"'His Holiness' is the god himself," Rory murmured to his friends. "Not the pope. Actually the god." Unable to hear him, Minlay continued to tell her story.
“We speak among ourselves about this, but there was no explanation until you arrived and claimed to be from another world. When we heard of this, my sister, Darrow, suggested that His Holiness is one of you, and that you had come to take him home, and we talked of it. The guard heard me and arrested me for blasphemy.
“But it’s true, isn’t it? His Holiness is one of you.”
Amy hesitated, glancing at David and Rory before answering. “I don’t know. I mean, maybe, but we didn’t come for him. We don’t even know him. We really did come here by mistake.”
“Oh.” Minlay’s despair was evident in her voice.
“I’m a blasphemer, and I’m not even right. If I’m going to die, I’d at least like to be right about what I said.”
“Why are you going to die?”
“All blasphemers are executed.”
“What? You can appeal, can’t you? Repent and appeal?”
“Appeal? For speaking against the god? There is no appeal. Just judgment and death.” She choked back a sob.
“Don’t worry. We’ll think of something. We won’t let you die.”
David grabbed Amy's arm and pulled her from the window. “What are you doing?” he hissed. “We can’t promise that.”
“We can’t just let her die! We’re responsible for her being here in the first place!”
“This is not our world. We can’t just walk in and change their laws.”
“Even a law that kills a person for saying one little thing?”
“It’s not our judgment to make. How would you like it if aliens came to Earth and demanded that we changed our laws to suit their morality?”
Amy jabbed David in the chest. “Don't argue degrees of morality with me! She's going to die for something she said. That's not justifiable on any world."
"That's your opinion."
"And it's not yours? You'd just let her die? That's not like you."
David inhaled to argue, then froze in confusion. "Isn't it?" He tore at his hair with both hands. "I don't want her to die and I think it's a horrible law, but it's not that simple. It's not our place to judge their society. And we don't know what might happen if we try to save her." The glow in his eyes intensified. "We might be able to... then it might... but then..." As he dissolved into rambling, unconnected babble, his eyes shone brightly enough that Rory could see Amy clearly in the golden light. The girl lashed out a hand and caught David smartly across the cheek. He stumbled away, shocked, and Amy followed him, trying to help him recover.
"What’s wrong with you?"
"It's hard for me to think straight," he coughed out. "All the threads, all the possible futures - I can't handle how they weave through my mind, not yet." The light in his eyes began to fade. "We come in here and we try to do what's right, or what we think is right, and there are so many different ways it could turn out. Maybe we'd save her life and everything goes on as normal, but there's also a timeline in which their entire society is destroyed and results in war and chaos and the deaths of millions of people. And there are a thousand other outcomes in between."
“Can’t you find one that ends like you want it to?”
“It doesn’t work like that. It isn’t just one event after another. Every action spawns possible new outcomes. I can only do something and hope for the best.” He looked up at her, his eyes wide with horror. “And besides, who am I to decide what’s the right future, for anyone?”
"But we can't just let her die! It would be our fault!"
David scrubbed down his face with both hands, his mind still staring at the timestream. "I... I don't know what to do. Maybe no one can. Maybe this is why the Time Lords didn't interfere, because they could see all the possible results and couldn't guarantee the right one. They knew they couldn't even make the choice of what the right one was.” He clapped a hand to his mouth. “Ohh. That's why he..." The last phrase was more of a murmur to himself.
“Oh, god, Amy. You’ve got to help me. I can’t do this.”
Amy shrugged, incredulous. “What can I do? I don’t understand what you’re saying at all.”
“What you do,” interjected Rory, coming up next to David and grasping his shoulder, “is what you’ve always done.” His voice was soft and gentle. “It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks is right. Do what you think is right, and whatever happens next is whatever happens next. You can’t let your fear of what might happen stop you from doing the right thing now. If you did that, you’d be frozen and never do anything.”
“I feel frozen,” David mumbled.
“Well, I’m going to try my best to help her.” Amy set her fists on her hips. “I don’t know what we can do, but I’ll at least make the attempt.”
“I want to help her. I really do. I just can’t ignore what I’m seeing, and the paradox is just confusing it more.” He rubbed his eyes. “I’ll try. Go ahead and comfort her. I’ll try my best.” He strode off to stare out of the window into the courtyard.
Murmuring softly across the hall to Minlay, Amy reassured the woman that they would try their best to request leniency for her, and they began chatting. Having led a cloistered life inside the temple, Minlay was curious about Amy’s home and town, and she listened with rapt attention. Whilst Rory joined them, adding bits of colour to Amy’s stories, David continued to stare out of the window.
As Amy began to tell Minlay about her so-far limited travels with the Doctor, David interrupted them. “Someone’s coming.” He spun to join them at the door, the three of them straining for the first glimpse of anyone through the tiny door window. A number of seconds later, the main door opened and light from a carried torch momentarily blinded the four people who had been standing in the darkness. The guard carrying the torch held the door for another guard, who approached the door to the three prisoners’ cell.
“Come on,” he grunted, pulling back the bolt and opening the door. “Step smartly. I don’t have all night.”
Amy shrugged off the coat and handed it to David before she turned to walk out of the cell. “Where are we going?”
“Quiet, you.” He motioned toward the main door. “You’ve been summoned. That’s all I know. Now move.” As they moved past Minlay’s door, Amy flashed her a smile.