The Red Lines Page

May 5, 2011

Earth & Beyond: Excerpt

Filed under: Audios,drwho,Earth & Beyond,writing — Peter A @ 10:32 pm

This is an early scene from my short story on the Earth & Beyond audio. Unlike the other two stories on the tape, it has never been published in book form. You can also see how it fits in to the original proposal.

The Doctor found the bicycles where he and Sam had abandoned them at the top of the beach. He was soon skittering along the dirt-track road after Metal Detector Man.

The road curved upwards, growing steadily steeper. Ahead, the Doctor could see a thin man jogging uphill, braided ropes of hair jostling over his dark shoulders. At first, he thought it was a Seychellois man, until the figure turned its head. “Splay-nosed,” panted the Doctor to himself as he pedalled on, “and bracycephalic. What should that remind me of?”

Around the next bend came a group of islanders, carrying boxes of bright fruit down the steep hill. They seemed unmoved by the sight of the strange alien. The Doctor looked at the creature again, and was surprised to see it shimmering like a heat-haze on the hot road surface. Now it did look like a Seychellois, and instead of alien equipment in its hand it was carrying a simple fishing rod. “Of course!” said the Doctor, “I should have guessed – it’s a Rhiptogan.”

The islanders came past him, nudging each other and laughing at the strange, wild-haired figure on a bicycle. The Rhiptogan had paused briefly, looking back at the sound of laughter. “Wait!” called the Doctor. “I only want my key back.”

But the Rhiptogan had already started to run. The Doctor stood up on the bike pedals and gave chase.

The road flattened as they reached a village clearing between the tall palms. A small group of Seychellois were stepping out into the long, cool shadow thrown across the street by a church’s tall, white bell tower. The Rhiptogan shimmered, feinted right, and slipped into the growing crowd.

“You can’t hide,” the Doctor shouted, skidding his bicycle to a halt. “You can’t fool me as easily as you can humans.”

He saw a blur of movement beyond the congregation at the corner of the church. He hopped off his bike and wheeled it swiftly between the islanders. Several nuns in white habits were emerging from an arched door in the side of the church. Three of them were whispering to each other. Two more smiled at him as they sat down on a sunny bench. To their right was a battered Seychelles mini-moke, its black fabric roof half-rolled back and its rear seats full of decorating equipment. At the wheel of this vehicle was another nun, staring straight ahead through the grimy windshield. She was panting.

The Doctor grinned, and stepped forward. At which point, the nun gave him a furious look, gunned the engine, and accelerated towards him, her wimple flapping in the rush of air.

The Doctor threw himself to one side as the Rhiptogan swerved past him onto the winding road. He leapt to his feet, scattering nuns like frightened geese and scrabbling his way back towards his bicycle. It lay in a tangled mess by the roadside, its wheels buckled and useless where the mini-moke had driven over them.

The mini-moke disappeared down the hilly road in a cloud of red dust. Through its open metal frame, he could see the Rhiptogan driver’s rope-like hair flapping in the slipstream.

The Doctor stood at the roadside, arms akimbo, and stared helplessly into the blue sky. Behind him, the church congregation buzzed with amazement. But he could also hear the drone of an engine returning. He peered through the dense foliage beyond the road perimeter, and saw the grimy yellow shape of the mini-moke swerving along the roadway below.

The Doctor remembered how he and Sam had pushed their bicycles up to the village earlier that day. The hillside was so steep that the road had to undulate up it in long, almost parallel stretches. If he cut through the foliage in a more-or-less straight line, his path would intersect with the road at three or four points. Maybe he could reach the mini-moke, and recover his key before the Rhiptogan reached the TARDIS further down the hill.

He dived into the undergrowth, feeling the low, thorny plants snatch at his legs. Tall grass and low casuarina branches whipped across his line of vision, and he half-ran, half-slid down the sharp incline. The sandy road surface loomed ahead, and he sprang out onto the dirt track, skidded straight across it, and plunged back into the trees.

The engine noise faded, and then started to grow louder again. Through a clearing, the Doctor could see grey tarmac where the road joined the island’s main thoroughfare. Briefly blinded by the sun, he pushed through a large spider’s web, stretched between two tree trunks. Its sticky strands clung to his cheek. The spider dropped onto his right shoulder. Its body was the size of his hand, and its legs clung tentatively across his neck. He twisted into the roadway, flicking at the creature with his left hand. The insect dropped off him, and scuttled out of view. The Doctor fell heavily onto the tarmac, just as the mini-moke screamed past.

The oily smell of exhaust filled his nostrils. The Doctor’s white shirtsleeves were spotted with blood from his plunge through the razor-sharp palm leaves. He spun round to watch the mini-moke approaching the next turn, two hundred metres from where he was lying in the road. Ahead was the TARDIS, half-covered by a drooping takamaka tree. The Rhiptogan was slowing down as it approached. The Doctor staggered to his feet, desperate to prevent the alien from getting there first. But the mini-moke accelerated, swerved into the bend, and roared past.

The Doctor stumbled over to the TARDIS, and leant heavily on its warm blue surface. The Rhiptogan had not tried to enter it, perhaps unaware of its purpose. But the Doctor still had to recover the key, or he would never get back into the Ship. And then getting Sam back to London would be the least of his problems.

© Peter Anghelides 1998, 2011

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