28 Feb 2013

The Vanishing Man, Chapter 2

Fire. Burning. Orange, burning fire. And screams and cries for help. Pain. Indescribable pain. And then confusion and a figure kneeling down. And then a hand extending towards him.

His saviour.

Cole woke up with a start. He was slumped on the seats in arrivals. He had tried for the past two hours to get out of the airport, but it had been impossible. Every time he tried to get out he would appear back in arrivals, always on the same seat as well. He had tried the train again, a bus, and even walked over the hills surrounding the complex to try and escape, but it had been to no avail.

Every time he tried to get away he would fail and end up back in arrivals. He didn’t understand it and when he tried to tell airport security they just told him he was being stupid. And no sooner had he told them, but they soon forgot he’d even been there in the first place.

The taxi driver that had crashed had even forgotten why he’d crashed. Even when Cole had walked up to the ambulance and made himself known to the taxi driver, he hadn’t recognised him. It was like he was a snowflake. There for the briefest of moments before melting away as if it had never existed.

So now he was going to try something else. He walked right up to airport security and tapped the guard on the back.

The guard turned around and Cole noticed his firearm attached to his belt.

“Can I help you, sir?” said the stocky man.

“Yeah, you can actually. I’m armed and dangerous,” said Cole, blankly.

With that the guard reached for his weapon, drew it and ordered Cole to get down on the ground.

All around the arrival hall people screamed and ran out of the way. Cole obediently got to the ground and put his hands on the back of his head.

“Don’t move,” said the guard as he radioed for back-up.

Ten minutes later Cole was being bundled into the back of a police car, handcuffed and flanked by two police officers.

The police car turned the corner that led out of the car park and he closed his eyes, praying that he wouldn’t wake up back in arrivals.

But he did. He opened his eyes and there he was again. And everything seemed to return back to normal. Curious onlookers where wondering exactly why they were curious and why they were onlookers.

Cole walked up to the same security guard who he had spoken to before and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Can I help you, sir?” he asked again.

“Do you remember me?” asked Cole.

For a moment the guard looked confused, almost as if there was some recognition, but then he just shook his head. “No, sir. Never seen you before in my life. Should I remember you?”

It was getting dark outside and Cole had walked all around the airport. He had tried to explain the situation to the airport authorities, but they had just laughed it off and had slowly forgotten him. Even when he had threatened a member of staff, they had soon forgotten who he was.

And it was the same over and over again. He tried to leave the airport in so many different ways. He walked along the train line…and appeared back in arrivals. He stole a car…and ended up back at arrivals. He even tried to board another plane and ended up back at arrivals. He could walk all around the airport, but he just couldn’t leave it.

Now he was checking his mobile for numbers. Strangely, though, they had all disappeared.

“This is getting stupid,” said Cole. “There’s got to be someone I can call.”

He was about to dial 999 when the whole airport violently shook. It was like a minor earthquake. There were screams and people began to panic, running for the exit, but the earthquake soon passed and everyone returned to normal. Everyone had forgotten.

It was during the tremor that he had heard the sound. The sound of grinding, wheezing engines…and then they were gone.

He made his way back along the sky link, stopped at a vending machine, got himself a drink and then headed towards T3 Departures. Somehow he had to get to the bottom of this.

And then he spotted the man. He looked quite young, probably in his mid-thirties, with short, blonde hair and a nasty scratch on his arm. He was crouched down, examining something on his wrist, and he looked a little worried.

“Excuse me,” said the man, looking up at Cole. “Could you tell me where I am?”

That seemed like a slightly odd comment, thought Cole. Surely he knew where he was. Even after the weird day that Cole was having, he still knew where he was.

“You’re at Manchester airport,” said Cole, crossing over to him. “How don’t you know that?”

“I-I don’t know,” said the man.

Cole looked at him more closely. He was dressed all in black and he had a number of bruises and burns on him.

“Do you need help?”

“I’m not sure,” said the man. “I’m confused. I’m not quite sure how I got here.”

“Come on,” said Cole, “let’s get you to a nurse. Perhaps we can both help each other.”

The Doctor, Caroline and Danny were standing on the cold platform at Sheffield station. They weren’t able to land the TARDIS any closer to the airport. Every time they did, the TARDIS would start screeching and wailing, as if putting it’s breaks on, and the Doctor would be forced to ease off.

It was only when they were over the city of Sheffield that they were able to put the TARDIS down quietly and safely.

It was getting on for 11pm and the train had been delayed. There was frost about and both Caroline and Danny were wearing scarves and gloves.

The Doctor was standing beside a vending machine, examining the contents inside.

“Anything you fancy?” called Caroline. “I’ve got a bit of change.”

“Ninety-five pence for a packet of Mini Cheddars!” exclaimed the Doctor. “No thank you.”

He walked back to the bench that Danny and Caroline were sat on.

“Even in 2003 the prices were way too steep,” said Caroline.

“This is weird,” said Danny, with a little smile on his face. “It’s like we’re in the past, but we’re not, if you get what I mean.”

“Yeah,” grinned Caroline, “I’ve been thinking that too.”

“I’ve been trying to think about what we were doing back in 2003.”

“Well I was at Hypersave,” said Caroline, glumly. “Still am at Hypersave if I ever get my life back on track.”

“And I got a job at Harper’s Advertising!” said Danny, remembering. “My first job after Uni.”

“What were you doing in 2003, Doc?” asked Caroline.

“I’ve been to this year several times,” said the Doctor, looking up and down the platform impatiently. “I could have been doing any number of things.”

“Illusive as always,” said Caroline with a roll of her eyes.

“Where’s that train?” grumbled the Doctor.

“You can tell you don’t use public transport much,” laughed Danny. “It’ll come.”

“It’s not good enough.”

“And it won’t get better. Even in 2011 the trains are still running late.”

The Doctor winced and put a hand to his chest.

“You okay?” asked Caroline.

“Same as usual,” said the Doctor, taking a pill from his pocket and popping it into his mouth. “Being almost fried to a crisp on an electric chair didn’t help matters and neither did being tortured by Tressure.”

“Do you know what this illness is yet?” asked Caroline. “You haven’t been very clear about that.”

“No change there,” said Danny. “We don’t have answers about anything.”

The Doctor clearly didn’t want to discuss the matter and crossed over to Danny. “You still haven’t told me why you attacked Kate.”

“Don’t change the subject,” said Danny, refusing to make eye contact.

“Why not? What are you afraid of, Danny?”

“What are you afraid of?” asked Danny.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re quite happy to keep us in the dark about your condition. Why should I tell you about mine?”

“A-ha!” said the Doctor, with a clap of the hands. “So there is something wrong?”

“I’m just a little stressed out. This has all gotten too much for me.”

“It’s more than that,” said the Doctor. “That Apparite is still inside you, isn’t it?”

“Don’t be daft,” said Caroline, shifting uncomfortably on the bench. “Why would it still be inside of him?”

“I’ve never heard anything so stupid in my life,” said Danny, crossing his arms and looking away.

Just then there was a sound from down the tracks. Soon two pinpricks of light came into view. It was the train.

“I’m not coming,” said Danny, getting up and walking away from the bench.

“What?” said Caroline. “You have to? What are you going to do?”

“Stay out of his way,” he said, nodding to the Doctor as the train pulled up and the doors opened.

“But it’s the middle of the night, Danny,” said Caroline. “You can’t just hang around a station.”

“I’ll be fine,” said Danny. “I’ll get a hotel room. If you’re not back at the TARDIS by lunch time tomorrow, I’ll take a train down there. I just need some time on my own.”

“Danny-” started the Doctor.

“Shut up,” he snapped back and turned to walk away. “See you later, Caz.”

Caroline looked back as Danny disappeared down the steps leading to the passageway running under the station.

“Come on, Miss Parker,” said the Doctor as the doors began beeping, signalling them closing.

“I hope he’ll be alright,” said Caroline.

They made their way into the carriage and sat down at a table seat, opposite each other.

Caroline watched as the train pulled out and the station slowly moved past them, her chin resting on her hand.

“Everything okay?” asked the Doctor, who had found a packet of peanuts in his coat pocket and was busy popping them one at a time into his mouth.

“Not really,” said Caroline. “Why do you think the Apparite is still in him?”

“Because Kate told me. He told Kate that he was still possessed and that’s when he attacked her.”

“But you can’t be sure?”

“It’s not that I can’t be sure. I know it’s still there, but it must be hidden so deep inside him that there’s nothing to prove that it’s in there.”

“We’ve got to help him,” said Caroline.

“And we’ve got to help you, as well,” said the Doctor. “It’s so easy for these things to be forgotten. We’ve all got our problems, but things keep getting in the way.”

“And you need to start coming clean with us,” said Caroline.

The Doctor sighed and leaned back in his seat, looking up at the ceiling. “To be honest with you, Caroline, I don’t quite know what happened to me. It’s all a bit of a blur. It was soon after I regenerated.”

Caroline nodded, remembering what Ivy Coldstone had told her about the Doctor’s people being able to change their faces and renew their bodies.

“I felt different. More different than normal. I felt…sick. It seems that as soon as I regenerated into this body…well, it was like I was already dying and my body wanted to regenerate into my next incarnation.”

“Has that happened before?”

“No. Never. It was like this incarnation had failed right at the start.”

“So why didn’t you regenerate?”

“That’s when Aleena came along. She said that I couldn’t regenerate anymore.”

“But it’s still trying to happen?”

“Yes,” said the Doctor sadly. “If I don’t keep taking these pills, my body will quickly wither away and I’ll die.”

The conductor bustled in and Caroline and then Doctor handed their tickets over to have them stamped. They waited for him to pass and then returned to their conversation.

“Aleena did extensive tests on me and all of my regenerative cells have died.”

“So if you allowed yourself to wither away and die-?”

“Then that‘s it. That’s the end. No come back. No encore. I’d be dead.”

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