Before I begin, I just wanted to give a shout out to those of you who took advantage of the free offer of Alternate Endings. I hope you enjoy what you read, and hope to hear from you soon about it! Let me know what you think!
And now, for the next part of my fanfic. Enjoy!
See you in the Vein!
From the pillars, from the ceiling, from the floor, from the darkness beyond, from everywhere and yet from nowhere they came: screams. Screams of mourning, of fright, of joy and delight. Of lust and hate. Of desperation and madness. Screams of infants and of elderly. Of men and women. Of voices both familiar and alien. They rolled through the vast expanse of the chamber and crashed upon the Gallifreyan trio, drowning them in a cacophonous roar, awakened from the slumber of a monstrous nightmare.
The three dropped to their knees, clapping their hands against their ears in a futile effort to prevent the horrifying cries from piercing their minds. Searing pain burned within their heads, filling their vision with dizzying stars. The Paladin’s rifle clattered against the currents of blue flowing through the solid floor; she went to reach for it, but the disembodied wailing chorus prevented her from retracting her hand from her ear for more than a sliver of a moment.
Then, as suddenly it had started, it ceased.
The Librarian was the first to release his ears. He rose, blinking away the scattering pinpoints of imaginary light that occluded areas of his vision. “What was that?” he gasped.
“You tell me, old man,” the Monitor grunted, shaking his head as if waking from a deep sleep. He buried his face behind his fingers, groaning. “Aren’t you the one who arranged this excursion to meet your imaginary Keeper?”
“Like hearing the echoes of the damned,” the Paladin murmured, retrieving her weapon. She began to look about. “I’ve no desire to hear that ever again, Librarian.”
“Nor I, child.”
“Count that for all three of us,” the Monitor added. “My headache has increased a hundredfold.”
“My lord!” The Paladin hissed, raising her weapon.
The Librarian gave the female Gallifreyan an unsure look, then followed her gaze, his face shifting from perplexed to amazed. The Monitor lowered his hands from his aching forehead, turning to look upon whatever had gained the attention of the soldier and the elder Time Lord.
A form in the darkness.
Distant, shrouded in some sort of robe, it walked toward them—no, not walking; it’s movement suggested floating, as if it had no feet. Beyond the general shape of a hooded head and robed shoulders, no other features could be made out, and even as it slowed, reducing its distance to little more than half a dozen steps away from the Gallifreyans and their TARDIS, they could discern no other details.
The Paladin glanced back at the other two, making sure they remained behind her. “Identify yourself!” she ordered, keeping the rifle trained upon the newcomer.
The mysterious figure did not move. It’s face—if indeed it had one—remained obscured in a thick mask of unnatural blackness.
“I repeat, identify yourself!” The Paladin snapped.
“Please,” the Librarian began, taking a step forward. The Paladin sidestepped in his direction, careful to prevent him from advancing beyond her. “Please, we seek the Keeper!” he pleaded. “Are you the Keeper?”
“We demand your identity, alien!” the Monitor announced, his quantum screwdriver in hand. “We do not wish to employ hostile methods, but we will defend ourselves if the situation requires it.”
The hooded being held its ground without words.
“We beg you for assistance, friend,” the Librarian pleaded. “We have come a great distance to seek the Keeper. We’re Gallifreyans, like she. Please… if you are she, or if you know her whereabouts, we beg you for assistance in locating her.”
At the Librarian’s mention of their planet of origin, the figure’s head moved—slightly. After another moment of silence, a voice came from within the concealing blackness of the hood: warm, low, feminine, somewhat fatigued.
“Gallifreyans?” she asked.
“Yes! Yes, that’s right!” the Librarian answered with excitement.
“From Gallifrey? In the constellation of Kasterborous?”
“Yes! From home!”
“Home,” the voice moaned. The hooded head turned downward, the shoulders relaxing. “I’ve not heard that word spoken to me in the span of a million lifetimes.”
The Monitor stepped beside the Paladin, holding his screwdriver parallel to the aimed rifle. “Who are you?” he demanded. “Our sentry ordered your identification, yet you have not yet provided it!”
The head raised again. “Who am I?” it—she—asked, then added with a laugh. “It’s been so long since I’ve uttered my own name, I don’t even know that I know it anymore.”
The form began to move to the right of the guarded trio, passing behind a shimmering column for a brief moment. “I did know it at one time,” she continued, “along with knowing everything else. I could tell you everything about myself: about where I lived as a child, where I received my education, what my parents and siblings were like, what meals I enjoyed on warm nights when the moons of Gallifrey paraded across the black theater of stars like actors in a play taking center stage. And now…”
The figure paused, facing the travelers. “Now I know everything. I know the past. I know the future. I know reality and surreality in this and a million other dimensions conceived of by few and seen by fewer still. I’ve seen the rise and fall of civilizations great and small on worlds in this universe and in others, about which nothing will ever be known by the vast populace of the worlds with which you’re acquainted. I’ve followed the lives of the famous, the infamous, the mundane and the unknown, from an innumerable multitude of aliens, some of whom I doubt you’ll ever know about. I’ve seen secrets made, secrets kept, secrets broken. I know things about this universe hidden to the most intelligent and inquisitive minds. And all this I learned in the fraction of a moment.
“But my name… my name has been lost to me. In this place—in the Void—time is a meaningless word. A hundred millennia may have come and gone on Gallifrey; perhaps it already has—”
“Far more than that,” the Librarian interrupted, “if you’ll pardon my interruption.”
The hooded figure turned in the direction of the hairless, aged man. “Indeed!” she replied, a sudden hint of age-tinged fatigue filling her words. “And yet, though I grasp your clarification with my intellect and believe it, I still feel as if I have just arrived in this place, that I am a newcomer to this massive, lifeless infinity.”
The robed newcomer raised an arm and exposed an upward-pointed finger. “Perhaps this calls for a rethinking of the concept of eternity, yes?” she asked. “For so long, sentient societies of every sort have had a concept of eternity as a stretch of boundless, unmeasurable time. But I posit that eternity in fact is a complete absence of time; a reality without it, much like a vacuum is devoid of air.”
The hand dropped. “What do you think?” she asked.
The trio of visible faces exchanged glances with each other. The Librarian took a second look at the Monitor, waving off the furious visage of the younger Gallifreyan. “I think,” he began, “that you need to become reacquainted with yourself, Merriana.”
The robed figure jerked, flinching as if dodging something thrown at her head, then resumed her upright stance. The hands reached for the hood and pulled it away.
“Merriana…” she whispered. “I am Merriana.”