Back on the T.A.R.D.I.S. who seemed thankfully more like her old self, even with circuitry, gadgets and gizmos strew around (this was fairly normal after all), Rose and the Doctor nursed another cuppa and compared notes.
“Have you ever heard of anything like this before?” Rose wondered as she gratefully sipped the steaming, hot beverage and pulled a blanket more snugly about her shoulders.
The two of them sitting cross legged in a nest of pillows, looked like they were ruminating around a camp fire or telling ghost stories to tantalise and scare at a slumber party.
“Well many cultures and societies have their own lore and myths concerning harbingers of death. It’s strange how fascinated the living seem about dying. Most of these fables grew from ancient oral traditions and morphed over the centuries like Chinese whispers but such similar accounts may suggest, as in most cases, that the stories were born from some seed of truth.
The Irish have their banshees, shrieking eerie screams in the night, the Bean Sidhe, fairy woman. Certain animals are associated with the dark arts and possession, seeing a black cat, a crow or an owl are all said to foretell a coming fatality, these beings, supernatural messengers. Greek and Roman myth has Cerberus, the three headed dog as a guardian to the portal of the underworld and hence the British legend of the Black Shuck, dog, is often associated with imminent death like Conan Doyle’s ‘Hound of the Baskerville’s’.”
“Good old Sherlock!” they shared a pensive smile.
“Then there are the stories of vehicles that come to collect the souls of the dead like the headless horseman and the horse drawn coach rattling through the fog on cobbled streets. The Egyptians believed in the Asphyx, a spirit that appeared at the precise moment of a person’s death to convey their soul to the underworld, though later Asphyx became a death metal Dutch band!”
“So this Asphyx then, is that like succu…succumbo…” Rose’s face scrunched into adorable dimples and frown lines in thought as the Doctor smiled fondly at her, helping her out, “Succubi or Lilith? No a succubus was a female seductress that drained life energy from men as they…hmmm…fornicated.”
Rose snorted, “Fornicated? You mean shagged.” The Doctor blushed.
“Poor women, ever since that blasted Eve one…”
“Oh no there are male succubi as well though they’re known as incubi.”
Rose chuckled quietly, then louder as her body joined in with shaking convulsions!
“You’re such an adorable geek,” she mused.
“Intelligence is sexy,” he rebutted.
“Yeah, Geek Chic!” She laughed harder as the Doctor feigned a pout with his lovely moist, swollen, bottom lip.
“You wanna start again but with your brainy specs on?” the T.A.R.D.I.S. seemed to join in her mockery with an interpretive high five.
“Oi!” he huffed, arms folded against a puffed out chest.
“Ok…ok…” the spasms slowly abated, “So how comes there’s no shadowy Asphyx thingy on the snaps we saw? Wrong photos? Or did they disappear into the image?” Rose’s voice dropped to a husky whisper as she did her best Leonard Nimoy, ‘Beam me up, Scottie’ impression. The Doctor quirked a ‘seriously?’ eyebrow and smiled fondly at ridiculous human.
“I’m not sure there ever were any shadows”, he replied wistfully.
“But Madden saw them?”
“Oh, now you want me to play clever clogs again, eh?” he teased and mimed zipping his mouth shut. Rose rolled her eyes, as if the silence would last!
“Ohhhh, but you’re so good at it,” she whined with an added batting of her eye lashes which caused the Doctor to do a double take and force back a smile.
“Psychosomatic,” he curled his tongue greedily around the word and winked at Rose with a wiggle of his eye brows.
“No? Oh ok. You know that whole, ‘In 1492 Columbus sailed the Ocean blue’ memory aid thing?” she nodded amused by yet another tangent. Did this infuriating man ever just answer a simple question?
“It’s purported by scholars of quantum mechanics that when the indigenous people of America looked out to where Columbus’ galleons straddled the seas they saw nothing, the idea being that the invention of ships was so beyond the imagination of possible realities to the natives that their brains simply dismissed them as fact. Each reality is personal due to our perceptions and what we find it capable of conceiving…of… Sorry that was clumsy!” he winced.
“Anyway, it’s said that as the naval fleet grew closer the big chef, shaman guy noticed the effect on the tides and realised that there must be a cause so he stared night and day out to sea until eventually his mind allowed him to see the vessels on the horizon. Once he’d seen them, he could describe what they looked like and suddenly everyone could see them.”
“And?” she prompted.
“And…” he slapped her playfully on the arm and Rose stuck her pink tongue out at him cheekily. “…this could be similar. Madden described what he saw, planted the idea, the suggestion, into our ‘victims’ minds and in such a superstitious, backward society their imagination provided the rest.”
“Awh, that’s very boring and logical,” she sulked. “Can’t we just go ghost busting?”
“Ok…the Asphyx do exist…” He visibly braced for the anticipated, shrill reaction.
“What? You sneak!”
He raised his hands to placate her.
“But they don’t cause death nor are they spooky harbingers, omens or foreboding messengers. They’re just astral beings that feed off intense psychological emotion. They’re peaceful, respectful. They don’t drain too much nor invoke the conditions they’re just somewhat temporally sensitive and are drawn to powerful events in a person’s timeline to absorb the excess energy. They exist on many planets and have never yet posed an actual threat.”
“Yet? But we can’t see them, right? So what would they do if for some reason they were seen?”
“I don’t know,” he paused, ruffling manically through his long, sleek hair in vexation.
“The only time they’re ever seen are time’s that can’t be quantified or reported as they only usually manifest strongly enough under the highest of stress and emotion, when someone is about to die and even then they can only be seen due to the high concentration of a person’s psyche that briefly resides in them and the ‘soul’ recognises itself.”
Later that night the Doctor crept silently into his own bedroom sanctuary and sat rigidly on an old embroidered chair by the voluptuous bed. His mouth was set in a thin, grim line, elbows on his knees, breathing as quietly as a corpse through his nose.
Rose slept peacefully with a serene, lax expression on her silken creamy face. She looked like a child, diminutive and out of proportion in the huge bed.
The Doctor allowed himself an affectionate smile in the face of her grace. Awake she resembled so strongly, the laughing, passionate person of Stella in that final photograph. His hearts stung in his chest, constricting painfully and making breathing difficult and laboured.
One day he’d lose her, this was a certainty in his life. His precious, sarcastic, compassionate, uneducated Rose. After all this time he’d truly convinced himself that he was accustomed to loss but the thought of losing his Rose pained him more than his loquacious words could say.
The absence of the object of such pride, freedom, salvation and ,chuckling mirthlessly, he added subconsciously, of love, would leave such a hole, the kind of which may never be refilled. Oh there were so many things he wanted to say, to do, her briefest touch tingled and reverberated through his skin as powerful as an oasis to the desert wanderer. He was so bereft of any faintest symbols of intimacy that a hand to hold was sensitive enough to still the turning of universe in the blink of an eye.
He needed her so much, too much, it terrified him. If he let himself belong to her any further he would drown in the swell of fountains of tears that would bleed him dry when she was gone. So for now he watched over this incredible human child and vowed to spend every last day he had with her repaying her trust and devotion with excitement and happiness, a full and fantastic life.