Thursday, May 17, 2007

'Doctor Who's Wacky Funtime Playhouse', Part Two

A continuation of last week's story, which was written to the brief "Reinvent Doctor Who, keeping nothing but the name and the concept of time travel..."

Dale went into his dressing room, shut the door gently, and then carefully wedged one of the two spare chairs in the room underneath the doorknob. He could have just locked it, of course, or even just left it closed—people didn’t really walk in on him in his dressing room. But that seemed so un-melodramatic for what was, essentially, a huge cry for attention.

He sat down in his own chair, in front of the mirrored dresser where he did his own make-up, and reached into a drawer. He pulled out a piece of paper on which he’d already composed a note (sealing it carefully in a waterproof envelope), and a .22 caliber revolver. He held the gun nervously, turning it over in his hands with the wary air of someone new to the world of firearms. He was, in fact, new to the world of firearms; this was the first gun he’d ever owned in his life. He’d never felt any great need to possess one before, and had always worried about something going wrong with it—imaginary headlines like ‘CHILDREN’S TV STAR KILLS YOUNG BOY’ kept him from ever seriously contemplating having a gun. But he figured that by this point, he was through worrying about newspaper headlines. In fact, for the past year or so, he’d even taken a morbid pleasure in imagining them. Surely, he thought, everyone would understand. Many probably expected it. After all, if you were recognized anywhere you went as a man who dressed up in a goofy fake doctor’s outfit to entertain small children, wouldn’t you eat a bullet sooner or later?

His mind made up, he reached back into the drawer and pulled out a box of ammunition. He carefully loaded each chamber of the gun, one bullet at a time. He was aware that he’d probably only use one bullet, but decided that it was better to be safe than sorry. Then, snapping the chamber back into position, he put the barrel of the gun into his mouth, grimacing slightly at the taste of oiled metal. He cocked back the hammer. He closed his eyes tightly, and prepared for the release of oblivion.

“Excuse me,” someone said behind him, “but what are you doing?”

His finger tightened reflexively on the trigger in shock, and he suddenly realized three things in very short order. One, he’d forgotten to take the gun’s safety off. Two, the person watching him had just seen him humiliate himself further by trying to shoot himself in the face and failing. Three, there was someone watching him. Four, which came to him as a surprise bonus, that meant that there was someone in the room with him.

He opened his eyes and looked in the mirror. Behind him, a…a…a come-back-to-that-later had seated him…her…itself down in his other spare chair, and was looking at him with an expression of what looked like it might be polite interest. Dale wasn’t sure, because now that he did come back to it, the…person?...didn’t look human.

Oh, it looked human-ish. It had two arms, two legs, and a head. But it had two sets of ears, one right on top of the other, and its nose was just a flattish bump with two tiny slits that fluttered as it breathed. Its skin was a whitish-gray, the color of a four-week old corpse, and it had black, shark-like eyes. It stared at him, its fingers (seven on each hand) steepled together in a pose of patient interest. It opened its mouth and spoke again.

“I am sorry,” it said, “but again I must ask what it is that you are doing.”

Dale was so unnerved, he forgot he had a gun in his mouth. “Oo he huck ar oo?”

The creature blinked. Its eyelids were on the sides of its eyes, he noticed. “I am sorry, Doctor. I do not understand.”

Doctor? He took the gun out of his mouth and said, a bit more calmly, “I asked who you were.”

It smiled. Its teeth were all flat and rounded, like a horse’s teeth. “I am Gogos, High Researcher of the Vinomian Archives. Please, Doctor Who, forgive this intrusion. I do not wish to interrupt such an important moment in history, but we simply had to know for ourselves what happened to you.”

Dale slammed the gun down onto the drawer, suddenly irate at the intruder. “As it happens, I’m trying to kill myself. I was hoping to do so in privacy, and with perhaps a little dignity, but I guess that’s just a little too much to ask! Jeez!” He sighed. He paused as he actually started thinking about what the being had said. “What are you talking about?”

Gogos gestured towards him. “I am from a planet called Vinoma, five thousand light-years away from your world of Earth. We are an advanced species, capable of many technological feats that your planet has not yet developed even in our own time. For our signal-catchers, it is child’s play to capture and replay the transmissions of your Earth ‘television’. We have been watching your broadcasts for twenty years now, and the entertainment that ‘Doctor Who’s Wacky Funtime Playhouse’ has provided has helped unite the warring factions of our vast empire.

“Seven years ago by our time-scale, the transmissions ceased. Our records show that no episodes of ‘Doctor Who’s Wacky Funtime Playhouse’ were broadcast after this date in relative history. Without your show, tensions have once more built up among our different races. No other program has succeeded in uniting us in mirth and happiness the way yours has—not even the legendary ‘Howdy Doody’ broadcasts that brought about the cease-fire in the Horghal-Iridus War. I decided to use our time-belt to travel back to the date of the final broadcast, over five thousand years ago, and determine for myself what caused the end of ‘Doctor Who’s Wacky Funtime Playhouse’.”

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