There is a sense and an order to Time.
A structure to it that, when he turns his eyes inwards, he can see inside himself. It is like light wrapping back upon itself, golden timelines woven together in the vast tapestry that makes up everything. Some threads are fluid and can be changed, adjusted, the pattern of the weft changing subtly. Some must remain as they are, the warp holding the shape still and stable.
There is also a structure and a logic to Space and to Matter.
He feel it in the many planets that he stands on, their surfaces so firm beneath his feet. It is as if he can sink roots down into the ground. He can feel soil packed tight below him, giving way to caves, which give way to stone and then to bedrock. He can feel layers of gradually heating rock rippling down, merging into a molten sea of lava. At the core he can sense the iron heart, a secret that no one will ever see wrapped in the depths of a planet. All the geology, layered and structured, just as it should be from the inside out, the whole sphere of a planet ruled over by gravity and its twisting orbit.
He hears it in the sound of pulsars beating out their signal in space, dim echoes reaching his ears and buzzing across his mind; distant and lonely neutron stars singing out into space I am here, I am here . When he passes them by and hears their call, he times his hearts to their pulses. He lets their desolate signal resonate through him, hearing the flood of energy that punctures the dark of the space around them over and over.
It is there in the taste of black holes on his tongue as he passes them by, skirting dangerously close to their greedy edges - pushing against the place where the laws of physics break down, and almost hoping for a glimpse of that chaos. The taste of them is acrid in his mouth; bitter and dark, a dragging sensation that pulls his words and his breath away for just a second.
Then there is his ship. The vortex burning at her heart, the wild journeyer who carries him onwards and outwards. She is the essence and the law of Time channelled into living form. She cannot speak, and she cannot touch as he can, but he knows her through the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet. He feels the edgeless light that lies at her centre.When he speaks, he he can feel her listening, though no answer ever comes back to his ears.
He sees and hears and feels so much. The Universe sings out to him - billions of stars and galaxies creating a symphony inside his mind. He answers it with a smile and with the love of his blue box. He answers it by streaming through space and time, finding those he can take with him, those he can share the bright edges and dark corners with - companions who he pulls spinning around the console.
They salve the dark and their laughter rings from the walls of his ship. They flare bright, their lives so brief and intense, leaving imprints on him like sunflare.
But yet...the sense they make of it all is not the same as his perceptions and musings.
Humans see time as a straight journey from A to B. A solid marching progression that never deviates from one point to the next. This is their law of being. For them it’s as if the present is a point drawn onto white paper with a soft lead pencil - press your finger to it and drag, and the present smudges away, receding back into the past. It fades gradually more and more for them the further back it goes, smudged time giving way to the blank white sheet of forgetting. In the end they have to trust first in the memories of their ancestors, and second in the records within history books.
He takes them away from all of that, away from everything they thought they knew. He pulls them out into the black, carries them spiralling through the vortex - and watches as their ideas of the laws of the Universe first unravel and then restructure themselves. He shows them Time like an onion skin; layer upon layer building upon each other, paper thin wisps of moments pushed together. And all he needs to do is punch through, like a needle into the soft flesh and he can take them anywhen, everywhere.
He urges them inside his head.
Understand this, understand me, know my mind.
At first they are awestruck at the gradual collapse of their perception of ordered time. Eventually, though, they laugh at the known science of their home planet, and they open their arms to the stars and to the history and future which fans out around them. But - by day he listens to their words, and by night he listens to their dreams, and he finds they cannot fully understand how he sees it. Not really. Their brains are not structured for it, they cannot encompass it as he can. They are alien in the end. As alien as he is to them.
He longs for the brush of another mind against his; a kindred mind, that knows his shape and his feel instinctively because they are like him. A mind that can understand and share with him all the joy and delight, and all the horror and despair, and everything everything everything that he sees. He presses his hands to the console and wishes hard, the hum of his ship through his palms seeming to respond to his thoughts, and secrets held within the light inside her (secrets that he longs to glimpse) burning and burning.
The only water in the forest is the river...
His companions ask him how it works.
He tells them how he can see the way time bends across space, the gentle curve of reality, wrapped around fixed points occurring in set places. He cannot meddle, he explains to them, he cannot fix some of the things that have happened across the Universe that seem as if they never should have happened – all of it has happened before and all of it needs to happen again and again and again in Time. Endlessly, there can be no change. And then there are some things which have happened that are locked away beyond sight, beyond sound, he tells them. Things that are sealed and seared only into memory. Sometimes there is no way back, no way in. He touches the soft curve of space and whispers to himself
Some things cannot be changed.
Yet other things can be changed. Rewriting the lines of people’s memory as he goes, he moves through past and future - correcting, saving people, defusing bombs, stopping wars. He wanders the margin of what is fixed, and works around it. He places himself cleverly at the outskirts of what is possible, and what can never be possible.
The companions follow in his wake, the ones he’s taken away from their lives, the ones he has changed forever by showing them stars and nebulae and alien civilisations. They follow him willingly, time flowing through their veins, their pathways in the Universe changed forever by the touch of this strange man and his even stranger blue box. They reach out for him, adore him, admire him and somehow it is never enough. He carries them to their doom, or to their damage, to their gentle goodbyes, or their screaming ends; and with their departures, the empty space inside him grows.
Then there are those other things out there in the Universe that have no law and no logic about them.
The two emotions that generate every other possible shade of feeling - the fire in the belly, the cold slide of ice across the skin; the things that seed both anger and passion in the soul. He tries not to make himself beholden to those things. They cannot be grasped or pinned down, there are no maps of them, or rules that govern them - sometimes it’s unclear where they touch you, if they have seeded inside you. They just are and they are more basic and primal and fundamental than anything else he has ever encountered .
When one threatens, he pulls himself away and focuses on the re-wiring of his ship. He retreats below the deck, sits in his repair swing and tangles his wrists into the wiring, securely wrapping himself into Her as lights stutter and sparks fly around him.
It doesn’t help.
He is and always has been a sentimental old fool. He cannot help but love them all, every single one of them that travels with him. They set up residence inside his chest; his hearts seem to echo all of their names, spreading back over the long years. Even though they aren’t like him, even though he is an alien to them. Even though - at times as he suspects - he seeks their company over any other species in the Universe due to their resemblance to his own lost race, but then finds only a shadow of his own people there. Even though all those things, try as he might he does find himself beholden to a force that has no laws, that does not bend to will or to order.
And in the end, he’s glad for it.
He flies as close as he dares to a supermassive black hole.
Stars and planets are dragged into it; a slow and elegant collapse of flaring light moving into darkness. Here is where order meets chaos. Matter which has been ruled by physics, born from it, given life by it, is stretched and broken beyond its own reality. Law and reason break down, swallowed up into blackness.
He orbits above it, pressing his hands to the doorway of his ship, watching the black heart turn. He tries to glimpse the juxtaposition where structure becomes dissolution, tries to stretch his senses to encompass the singularity that lies burning and impossibly dense at its heart. He wants to know it, to understand the impossible, the illogical.
He moves over and across its face, hovering like a bird, wings just grazing at the surface. The immense force it exerts is something he can feel vibrating in his bones and through the body of his ship. It tugs at them, hooking into bone and metal, beckoning them on, downwards, into oblivion. It’s a huge risk, but it’s worth it - to glimpse the order of nature breaking down around the edges.
He wonders what it would be like to plot a course for the very centre, to hurl himself and his beloved ship down into that darkness. He wonders how it would feel, what he would see, what he would come to know before his life was stretched so thin it was extinguished once and for all.
It doesn’t matter. What he sees in those depths from this distance is enough. In the centre of the swirling chaos within is a mirror. A mirror so dark it is like polished obsidian, swallowing all light, reflecting him back to himself; reflecting back place where his inner self touches the world outside and around him.
By the time he steps back into the warm glow of the Control Room and presses his hands to the thrum of the Console, he knows enough.