The Doctor

The things start coming out of the washing machine, and there are lots of them.

He is sitting against the bedroom door, a noise like the TARDIS blaring from his stomach – a sound like the TARDIS taking off and taking off and taking off, appearing and disappearing and reappearing a hundred times a minute.  A sound like that.  He shivers and clutches at himself, his face contorts and he gasps for air.  “Are you regenerating?” she asks.  She is worried about him, knows he hasn’t been happy for weeks.  She puts his cape around his shoulders.  Lights a cigarette and puts it between his lips.  “We’re all,” he says.  “We’re all regenerating.  All the time.”  She smiles on a cellular level, and remembers.  He shakes, his coordinates all over the place, fit-fit-fit-fitting in fast and miniscule movements against the bedroom door.  On the other side of the door they can hear climbing, dragging, scraping as the things come out of the washing machine.  More and more of them.  Fit-fit-fit-fit.

When he has finished, he climbs out of the window.  He is still wearing his cape and it billows around him like bad weather as he descends the drainpipe.  She follows him.  “Are you ok?” she asks once they are on solid ground.  He nods.  She wants to hug him, to show that she loves him, but he is not a tactile person.  They get into his little blue car and she drives whilst he takes in water and salt, looks at his hands, thinks, they listen to ‘Satellite Of Love’ on the radio.  They stop at a barbers and he has most of his hair shaved off, then they continue on in to the town.  In the changing room of an expensive men’s outfitters he tries on a charcoal grey suit, applies eyeliner and mascara in the mirror.  Buys the suit.  “Wow,” she says when he reappears.  Back in the car, he paints his fingernails as she drives them away from the town, heading for the coast.  When they reach the sea they stop and buy ice-cream, sit in the car and eat whilst they listen to ‘Satellite Of Love’, which is playing on the radio.  “Better?” she asks.  “Almost completely,” he replies.

They return to the flat.  He drives slowly, they listen to the radio.  “So, those things.  In the flat,” she says.  “Yes,” he says.  “It’ll be ok?” she asks.  “Yes.”  He is thinking whilst he drives, thinking about the things in the flat.  “What kind of washing machine is it?” he asks.  “I’m not sure.  Is it important?”  “Probably not.”  She always does the laundry, he does the hoovering, that’s how they function.

She looks at him and thinks and worries about the things that are in the flat.  She knows it could be serious.  She cannot help but look at him, the new him, the cut and dash.  Admire his new androgyny.  The way he holds himself in a new, sophisticated way.  Even as he drives he has his legs crossed.  She rolls the window down, puts her hand out and high-fives the lampposts, the passing buildings, the clouds, the sun.  Knowing that her man is back.

Meanwhile, he is formulating a plan.  He begins to drive faster in the little blue car until they are speeding through the streets.  “We are all regenerating…” he says as they go.

He parks the little blue car outside the flat.  They can see the things crowding against the window.  There they stand, things in the clang and the dream and the image of an army, all stopping and standing together, beating one fist into the other.  Dislocated in time and space and after him, after him, after him.  “What are they – what do they want?” she asks.  He does not answer.

“What are they?” she asks again, eventually.  “Infrastructure,” he says slowly.  “Bits and pieces.  Things constructed out of pipes and bolts and things that hold things together.  Things from under the ground, things from inside the walls.  Things made of things, taking forms…  And then they’ve climbed out of the washing machine and into our flat to come and get me.”  “Why?”  “Because,” he says, sitting there, smart in his newness, his refreshed aura, “because they could tell that I was unhappy.”  “And now?”  “And now?”  “And now you’re not?”  “They don’t know that.” He sighs and his heavy head drops and he examines his painted nails.  “They still want to recruit me,” he says.  “So…” she says, “how do you beat them?”  “Its not a case of beating them.  They want to help me.”

“I just have to persuade them that I’m happier doing this.”  She takes his hand.  “And are you happier-“  “Yes.”

“I suppose we’ll have to go in the way we came out.”  He gets out of the car and starts towards the drainpipe and she follows.  The image of the him climbing the drainpipe in his new suit is an odd one.  She allows herself a smile.  From the drainpipe he gets on to the window ledge.  The window smashes as the infrastructure break the glass and grab him, drag him inside.  He disappears face first.

She climbs faster, following the same route.  From the window ledge she can see into the flat.  He is nowhere to be seen, engulfed in the morass of things – monsters she thinks to herself now, nothing but monsters.  The way he walked in there all confident, she had thought…  That everything would be alright.  That he would just walk in and sort it out.  The things – the infrastructure – are barely distinguishable as individual beings, they appear more like one room-filling mass of pieces of metal twisted into vaguely recognisable skeleton shapes and he is nowhere to be seen, nowhere at all.  Nowhere, she panics.

One of the things breaks off from the brawling mass and she can see how it is its own separate entity.  It turns toward her, completely disinterested.  There is a pause.  And then she, frightened but more frightened of losing him forever, leaps forward with her hands set like claws and grabs at the thing and joins in.  The thing, taken by surprise, is wrestled to the floor by her kamikaze attack but soon more of the things note the disturbance and launch a counter-attack, shoving her to the floor, crowding her until she feels like she is being suffocated under so much machinery.  And as she feels the weight of the things on top of her, and the absence of air to breathe and breath in her lungs, she thinks that this is the end, that she too will be killed and taken off by the things, stolen away by the infrastructure for a life as piping or cogs or some kind of plumbing.

And then there is movement, the feeling of the things moving, the pain easing.  “Stop!” she hears someone shouting.  The things are rearranging themselves, taking a step back.

“Stop!” again.  And then his face is above her.  His beautiful face, bruised and bloodied and swollen.  He helps her to her feet.  She stands and breathes.  Thinks about them both being alive and, still, human.  They turn to face the infrastructure.

“Look,” he says, addressing them.  “I am happy here.”  He glances at her.  “I’m staying here.”  “Thank you but you can leave now.”  The things stand still and look like nothing more than some scrap metal sculpture cluttering the room.  She looks again, can’t make out their faces.  There is no suggestion that they will move, disappear just as they appeared.  She nudges him.

He takes something from the pocket of his suit.  “Here,” he says.  “You can have this.”  He throws the object and as it travels through the air it unfurls and lands draped across the stationary things.  “You can take him, take him and make him part of your infrastructure.  I don’t need him any more.”

Nothing happens for a moment.  And then the things slowly begin to shift once more.  The cape disappears within the tangle of clanging thinglike bodies.  Some of the things begin to nudge the door open.  She stands next to him and neither of them move, neither of them say a word, neither of them dares to breathe until the last of the things has dragged and scraped their way back towards the washing machine, climbed in with a tumble of noise, and disappeared again.

They see to their cuts and bruises, their war wounds.  Then he hoovers the flat whilst she cooks.

As they eat their tea she looks across at him and asks: “Do you feel better now… do you feel like that was what you needed… to reinvent yourself?”  He nods imperceptibly and they listen to ‘Satellite Of Love’ on the radio as they eat.  Later on they have a conversation about something completely ordinary, and it feels good.

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