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The Young and the Dark, and the Tall

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The Park Hill Estate looms against the mountainside. It’s coloured shutters wind across and back in their serpentine configuration, it’s pale stone walls stalwart and true beneath the hardy winter sun. 

Yaz hasn’t been back home in a long time. 

As for how long, she isn’t sure. How is she meant to keep track of time as she’s running through it? For a long time now, the TARDIS has been her home, but now old loyalties and a blistering curiosity have driven her right back to her childhood estate. She’s been avoiding this moment for far too long. 

Having taken the stairs at a lumber, Yaz hesitates for a moment at the door to her family flat. What will she tell them when they ask her where she’s been? The truth is surely out of the question.  

Yaz lets herself in. The flat looks as it always did, which thrusts her headlong into burnished memory, like a good dunk in ice water. She shivers; the last time she was here she was swinging by to grab lunch on her way to the suburban TARDIS for another fruitless day of control cataloguing and crying. 

There’s the cramped dining table, the cluttered breakfast bar, her Dad's attempt at dinner cooling to thick grease in the wok on the stovetop. Everything looks slightly too big, but things tend to expand in the dark, where edges blur and trick the mind.

Sonya’s face peers into view, her posture guarded and afraid. “Yaz,” she murmurs.

“Sonya!” Yaz beams, projecting joy enough for the both of them – because Sonya looks sad, her black eyes heavy lidded and smudged grey in the hollows. “How are you?” It seems a pointless question. 

“Where have you been!” Sonya cries. Her anger breaks through in one manic burst, upon reconciling reality. Her mouth splits wide and her skin cracks, translucent and faintly blue. “We were waiting for you! We were all waiting for you! Where did you go?”

“I - I,” Yaz falters, and her eyes wander askance toward the windows. They’re boarded up with splintered, mouldering wood. Something scuttles across them, small and stick thin with limbs protruding at odd, sharp angles like a demented, winged rat. “You know” – Yaz forces herself to look Sonya in the bedraggled, depthless eye – “I’ve been around. Travelling, like I said. It can’t have been that long.” 

Can’t it? She programmed the descent herself, and the TARDIS has been less than agreeable of late. Sonya says nothing to dispel her fears. Yaz peers either side of Sonya at the dim and musty house. How did she fail to notice it before; the steady march of cockroaches across the splashback carrying morsels of her Dad’s festering meal; the thin white branches growing up the walls, rumpling the plaster where they struggle upwards, and tearing it clear where they burst through? Fungi nestles vibrant and fluffy and tendrilic in the linoleum seams, the ceiling cracks.

“Where are Mum and Dad?” Yaz asks.

“They’ve gone away,” Sonya says dreamily, her gaze wandering up to the knitted canopy of pale branches above, that winds uncaring through the light fixture. More of the black, winged, insectile creatures scrape and chitter within, cradled.

“Gone where?”

“Just away. Out into the dark. They were tired of waiting, but I stayed. I knew you’d come back someday. You wouldn’t just leave me.”

“Of course I wouldn’t. I promised, didn’t I?” Yaz walks forwards, all the while judging her sister’s guarded, twittering actions, and embraces her warmly. “I promised I wouldn't leave again.”

Sonya wraps her trembling arms around her, sleeves tattered and brown. “I've been trying to hold this place together all on my own,” Sonya sobs into Yaz’s shoulder. A discrepancy between body and voice; her chest is still, her shoulders do not wrack, only her mouth moves, and pushes out choked blubs and wails as if in performance. Like a child. "I've carried the burden – me! Keeping the house while Nani sleeps. She always loved you so dearly, and I've been so lost without you, Yaz. Down here in the dark." The furniture is too big. Yaz didn't notice the extent of it before, at the threshold. Further in the effect is more pronounced; the room appears to yawn around her, to unlock its cinder-block jaw.

The stools at the breakfast bar raise their hackles.

"Open the windows then," Yaz says, trying to inject a little cheer into the situation. "The sky is lovely this time of day." Yes, a creamy shade of honeyed marmalade, spread thick and cloudful above the snow-capped mountain.

“No use, no use,” Sonya mutters. Yaz pulls free of her clasping hands and wanders over to the window by the dining set, elongated as it is, beige and round and elbow height.

The boards over the window are flimsy, shunted at splintered angles against the window, which is also larger than she remembers. Like a child, she approaches the gritty sill, places her fingertips on the ledge and stands on her tip-toes, peering up. Yaz wedges one of the boards free of its lopsided nail fixture with a rending crack and a puff of sawdust. The glass beneath is smashed, and the sky is pewter black. Reaching out, her fingertips brush over rich, damp soil.

"I told you," Sonya wails. "Dark! Dark as the schism! Black as the scrolls!"

"But I was only just outside. It was daylight."

"Oh, daylight. Daylight.” Sonya’s fingers wander across her front in a trailing, dance-like motion, cresting her frail hands up and down in a soothing wave. “I like to lie beneath the chimney chute and look up at the little square of sky. But you must keep a rag over your face. For the soot, and the fish. Candleday," she mutters, and all of a sudden the sconces flare deep red. Black beetles scarper from the blotchy spread of light, spiralling in reams from the wrought iron torches and settling in a circular perimeter further afield.

Sonya looks different; between every blink she grows more decrepit. Taller, paler, thinner, sadder. Her hair grows, like a bristling shoot from the earth, and winds itself in a thick dark braid from nape to floor and up again, as if pinned and plucked by an invisible needle and wound around a bobbin protruding from her spine. It curls and tufts and greys – forms a hermit's shell upon her back, and beneath its weight she hunches, weeps.

Yaz goes to her. “Sonya –”

Her expression is a rigid, carved mask of despair. “Why did you leave?”

“Because she was scared,” says another voice, from beyond the rotting anteroom. Yaz’s childhood friend stands by the hallway entrance with folded arms and an arched, scrutinising brow.

“Ryan!” Yaz beams. “How are you mate?”

“Oh, you know. Alright.” He glares at her from beneath hooded eyes, cheeks sallow and leeched to a deep, cold grey. “We’ve all been here, living great lives.”

“Scared?” asks Sonya. “What do you mean, scared? Yaz left for Special Forces. Mum and Dad were so proud. She was ambitious, Ryan, and there’s no need for bitterness. They said she might make Cardinal someday, isn’t that right?” The roots of Sonya’s hair are turning white.

“Sergeant, yes,” Yaz agrees, and lets the memory of the old want clag bitter below her tongue.

“But you didn’t,” Ryan says. “You ran away, because you were afraid of what would happen when I told them the truth.”

Yaz doesn’t have the patience for this. Already the follies of nostalgia have struck her down, claimed another sentimental fool. She should never have come back here. She rounds on Ryan. “What are you talking about?”

“I saw it. I always knew, but I could never confirm it. Not until I found the records. And before I could speak out, you silenced us. Buried us.”

Yaz chuckles. “You’re being quite dramatic, don’t you think?”

Sonya shakes her head minutely and says, “I won’t have this, not in the house. Not after all this time.” She clamps her hands over her ears and scuttles hunch-backed over to the sofa, torn and bloated with rumpled foam wounds. She switches on the TV in a harsh garble of red and green then begins to scroll through Netflix.

“Why don’t you come in, Yaz? We’ve all been waiting.” Ryan holds out his hand, palm pale and clammy with an odd stench like old knitting. Yaz walks past him and takes the lead herself. She remembers the way.

The hall stretches out as if opening its long arms for an embrace, or a spring trap. The picture frames set between elaborate pilasters right themselves as she passes, standing to attention. Enormous cobwebs hang from the ceiling in intricate, filigree latticework.

They pass a room abrim with cackling laughter. Izzy Flint sneers out from the gap in the door, lets out a fierce, shrieking cry, then slams the door in her face.

    There is a man in the hall attempting to apply a thick coat of white paint to the walls. The blockwork itself is stripped in places and shows the blackness behind the house, but the workman doesn’t seem to care. He keeps going over and over the same empty pockets of air, letting the white paste slide from the flat of his trowel blade and cake upon his shoes. Part of Yaz recognises something in his posture, and his blue newsboy cap.

“Dan!” she cries.

As she dashes over to him, Ryan says “I wouldn’t bother him if I were you.”

Dan turns and waves at her, his fingers covered in cracked white plaster. His eyes go wide in delayed recognition.

“Yaz! What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?”

“Plastering,” – he casts a bemused glance at the broken wall – “obviously.”

“What is this place? I thought it was my house. It was my house, but –”

“I said,” – Ryan grabs Yaz’s arm and pulls her back – “stay away.”

“Get off me!” Yaz cries. “Dan –” But her voice catches in her throat and slithers back down. Dan’s arm is made of wood and his expression is just as hard. His gaze is piercing, his jaw locked – he drops his tools and reaches forwards. Yaz stumbles back into Ryan.

“It’s alright,” Ryan says to Dan, who seems taller now. Taller than usual. “She’s my guest.” He smirks. “For now.”

“Unhand me,” Yaz mutters, fear quite forgotten. Plastered over. She continues down the hall.

Without being told so, she leads Ryan into her childhood bedroom, only to find it occupied. An old man sits at what was once her desk eating a squished cheese sandwich.

“And where did you get that from, Grandad?” Ryan points accusingly at the sandwich. 

“Oh, hello lad.” He beams and peers curiously at Yaz. “Who’s this?”

“The one I was telling you about.”

The old man blanches and goes very still. It occurs to Yaz that she knows him. She would know him, under ordinary circumstances. She recognises his kind face, the creases by his eyes, and the ghost of a fatherly smile in the line of his mouth that now sits flat and frightened.

“Graham?” she says, small and shocked. For a moment the whole room looks wrong. The air tastes of rust and rich, metallic ores, and the mildew of an unfamiliar biological baseline. All of a sudden Yaz is desperately afraid, but angry as well. Bitterness rises up to more than a lump in her throat, hardening to a tangy metal bearing – and she wants to yell at someone, but can’t recall who. A voice says, No! Push it back, not along! They don’t like it! 

Ryan is eyeing Yaz with a satisfied little smirk. Knowing, and Yaz hates not knowing when others do. “Shall we play a game, then?” he asks, patronising. “Like old times.”

It would be impolite to refuse, Yaz thinks, and with a curt nod she sits down cross-legged upon the bed. Memories patter soft and downy from a time long past, pressing in upon her lovingly from the scratched, scorched, chalk-stained walls. Scraped knees and bright T-shirts patterned with stars. Make-believe games played running down the halls, and sweet buns baked fresh by Grace.

Waiting patiently upon the blue duvet are the faded frame and bent, bitten cards of their old game of Guess Who. They used to play it together after school.

They set up the game with remembered ease. Yaz recognises most of the faces in the pack from somewhere in the past, or in the future, stretching either side in memory or premonition. Some are strangers. One is simply the lumped shape of a head covered in a thick black cowl. 

“You have too many cards, love,” Graham observes, peering over Yaz’s shoulder.

“Unfair, isn’t it,” Ryan mutters. It’s true; he only has thirteen cards. Yaz has many more. Her odds are out of thirteen, whereas his are near impossible.

They exchange decks; Ryan will guess her faces, and she will guess his. 

They begin to play.

“Is your person a man?” Ryan asks. Obidiently, approximately half of his infinite cards flick down with a resigned clack.

“I’m not sure that’s quite right,” Yaz mutters.

“House’s rules. The Kithriarch is old fashioned.”

Ah yes, dear old Umbreen. Yaz has missed her deeply. Perhaps the house does play favourites, as an extension of Nani’s mind. Yaz is certainly her’s.

Ryan asks, “Is your person an insufferable tart?” Only a few cards supplicate. “That isn’t nearly enough,” he remarks, and even Yaz is inclined to agree with that.

“Is your person a God?” The black-shrouded face bows its head in baleful surrender.

“Wait,” Yaz cries, “don’t I get to ask a question?”

“She does get to ask a question, son,” Graham says amicably, his mouth full of stale bread. He seems to have pulled a new sandwich out of one of his coat pockets.

“She gave me too many cards!”

“That she did.” Graham nods sagely.

“One more then,” Ryan says. His expression is knotted up in intense, broiling hatred. “Was your person the quiet sort in the school yard? Did she sit on the benches beside the playground all alone, and brood like a grumpy little cat? Was she distant? Was she wise and shy and widely disliked? Did she contradict what the teachers said at every turn? Was she different? Was she special?”

Yaz let’s put a cruel laugh. What a waste of a great many questions. None of his cards go down.

“Ah, lad, I don’t reckon that’s how the game works,” says Graham.

The board changes. No, the board always looked this way; a checkerboard, only with more squares, and existing in more dimensions. Cuboids and tilted prisms spin and merge and split.

Yaz takes her turn and rolls a six.

“And here as well,” Ryan grumbles. “The house plays favourites.” Yaz moves her counters to surround his brutish attack formation.

“Why all this obfuscation?” Yaz asks him coldly as he takes his turn. “Tell me outright. What do you think you know?”

“Oh, I know I know.” He makes a surprisingly smart move. Underhanded, very scabby. That’s alright, it’s her favourite style of play. Passive aggressive. “

Ryan sneers. “You aren’t one of us, not really. You’re something else now.”

Yaz does not deign his theatrics with a response.

They play back and forth and do not speak. It is almost enjoyable. Naturally, Yaz wins in just a few turns by pushing Ryan’s Chapterhouse counters into a shameful retreat before dealing the final blow. Some say that the game is random, but those people are sore losers. There is a subtle art to manipulating chance.

Upon her victory the game board cracks apart into many-faced, three-dimensional shards. A pane of glass – and like the window in the front room it bears out onto blackness, the oceanic swirl of the duvet compressed to pleated folds either side. Yaz keeps her counters afloat in the void, but Ryan breaks concentration by fiddling with something in his lap. The red chips clatter down into the house’s stomach. 

“Eyy, Sepulcasm!” Graham cheers.

“I win.” Yaz grins wickedly.

But Ryan holds one of the shattered slabs of the board between his grey fingers, and lurches forwards, nicking Yaz on the arm with its chiselled edge.

“Hey!” she cries. Her hand flies to the entry point, blotting the welling blood with a fingertip.

“Look, see! The colour is all wrong!” Ryan exclaims. He’s right; it is not red. The blood seeps under her fingernail in a line of rusty brown. An evening sky orange.

“But that isn’t right,” she whispers.

“Oi, oi, now that’s definitely against the rules,” Graham tries to take the shard from Ryan’s hand. 

Ryan ignores him and grabs Yaz’s wrist, pressing his fingers to her pulmonary artery. “There, feel that? One, two, three, four,” he punctates each beat with a finger snap.

“Stop!” Yaz yanks her hand away. And when a distant, buried part of herself stares into Ryan’s eyes, and the malice there, it recoils. He would never hurt her like this, never yell. But anger overtakes – the fury of the role she is playing. The ghost in its future says, Hang tight, I can see it now. The outline, from the scattered pieces. Just a little longer, and we can take it back.

“Can’t you see what you’ve become?” Ryan glowers. 

“What are you prattling about, you fool? I am your friend!” The cut on her arm has already healed over to a faint, orange line. 

“No! You left us. Left your parents and your sister. Left Graham and me. Left the world! I don’t know who you are anymore.”

“I haven’t changed, Ryan.” The name sounds wrong; sour and pungent like rotting citrus. “I didn’t mean to be away for so long.”

He talks over her. “You don’t belong out there, but now you don’t belong here either. Caught somewhere between Space and Time. The very first creature of Heresy.” 

“Yaz,” a small voice says from the doorway. Sonya. She looks almost like herself again. “What is he talking about?”

Yaz stammers, the words clog. Beyond the scope of her dream.

“You don’t even know,” Ryan says. He taps along to the heartbeat of four against his thigh. The gap in the bedclothes still yawns, and in its depths, in the foundations, purple light conspires, thick and searing. Yaz tears her eyes away, only to fall upon Ryan’s, just as black. 

“Do you know what I think, Yaz? I don’t think you’re anything. You are a mirror, like the looking glass through which the Housekeeper watches all. Did you never wonder why you change so much? Why you morph to fit the people around you? It’s because you’re hollow, Yaz, as hollow as the house. You copy, that’s all.”

The voice in her mind that is not her own – the slivered part of a whole, fragmented consciousness – sees things more clearly. Muddled, muddied. It wasn’t like this at all. It’s mixed up, and pushed down. Pulled apart. Dissected. Remade.

“Rewound,” Yaz mutters aloud.

“Yaz?” Sonya pleads, voice cracking. 

“I swear to you, I don’t know what he means!”

“Look at your hands,” Ryan says boredly.

Palms up, Yaz surveys them. Beneath the creases in her skin, clung to with red sand, her skin glows faintly gold. A hum starts up, which fizzles out to a whine; careens, whistles to the tune of a song faintly remembered. Graham mutters it loosely, gravelled and low. “Eighth man bound, make no sound.”

The voice within joins, and mutters boredly along from Yaz’s mouth. “The shroud covers all. The long and the short.”

And Yaz sings in tandem, in a haunting playground chime, as the flames lick out from palms to fingers, and along the veins in her wrist. “And the old and the loud, and the young and the dark, and the tall.”

Sonya is crying. “You’re not my sister.”

“Of course I am,” Yaz says, though she isn’t sure that the words escape her burning throat.

“No,” Ryan says. “She’s beyond that now. All that Time, and now what are you? Falling through.”

Sonya croons. “Alone in the dark.”

Yaz screams as the light reaches her hearts.

 

And she remembers at that moment the first time she left the house. The first real time; with purpose and malcontent and the selfish urge for more. The furniture snapped at her heels as she ran out into the black night beneath the mountain. In the square outside the vast estate, a blue box was waiting. Inside she found a dark and outstretched hand. It was waiting for her, and had been for a long time; the placeholder, the new form of an old, beloved thing. Loyal companion. It was so excited to see her. Dearest friend, dearest pet. They met in mutual recognition. 

One, the blueprint of all the best qualities of her race; curious, kind (rebooting, regenerating). The other, its creation, through the looking glass. 

The hand they made, and that made them in turn – shaped their history from the sidelines by reaching in, rearranging. That tore stars and worlds asunder just to save their measly planet. Yaz sees it from above, and feels its tilt; glorious red, and pitiful blue. Who created who? 

The hand told her to run, that it had something to show her. Curious and bored and scared all at once, Yaz reached into the dark and took it. 

 

Her mouth is still open when she wakes up. The sound is dead but her jaw is tensed, tendons still straining with the effort of the sound. Her throat hurts. Yaz checks her pulse, and finds it singular. She is standing up and her arm is outstretched. 

Her body must have walked itself from her bespoke, blue spatial pocket back toward the ship proper. Her boots are slick with viscous black, which behind her stains the corridor with a meandering track of footprints, zig-zagging across the tilted floor.  

The lights before her blare gold and warm as flame. The console room. It is still lopsided, still shifting and curling its knotted mechanisms in her peripheral as soon as her focus slips away. There is a stranger standing at the controls.

An imposing figure in a crisp, navy coat. Flayed, crimped sleeves hang orange and green and pink over brown fingers ringed with bands of gold. A black jewel sits gaudy and silver-framed on their index. Black, coiled hair fades to harsh red.

“Doctor?” Yaz asks, but her voice comes out choked. Her chest aches and her mouth is dry, and she recalls running through a long hallway, pursued by wooden creatures. The woman at the console turns, and for an instant Yaz recognises her: Ruth, her face framed with lime green spectacles. She glares down her nose stoic and impressive – and Yaz recognises the previously half-believed truth plainly in the confident line of her shoulders, the black gleam in her eyes.

“What the hell are you doing here?” The Doctor says.

“I – where’s…”

The Doctor’s expression dismantles – the calm, striking authority unmaking itself stone by stone. She tilts her spectacles down and peers at Yaz closely.

“Yaz,” she whispers, then her expression falls in earnest. Like a vast house, crumbling under the force of an avalanche, her features are buried, swallowed up, slathered over by pale snow. Dark wood under sleet. 

Sallow, milk-coloured skin; her posture sinks, shoulders jut beneath a coat now drab and steel grey. The Doctor teeters dangerously toward the floor, and her bones clack, as if held loosely and jumbled by their encompassing skin. Hunched over, the Doctor is breathing very fast. 

“I had it!” she hisses, and up come her hands; splayed and turning. “I placed the regenerative print in my own Time-stream, I got it free.” Her head rears upon her thin and vein-scarred neck, gaze landing upon Yaz. Her jaw is clamped and tremoring. “I had it!” she shouts. “Why did you ruin it!”

“Doctor –”

“No, no, I can’t,” she mutters, spinning her hands up around her head as if to cradle, or cower. And yells again; “I said lead them away!” She kicks out against the console, and a black droplet spatters up to spot her pointed chin.

Caught between wanting to hold her and wanting to shake her, Yaz dashes forwards and holds her arms awkwardly aloft. “Stop it! Just stop!”

The Doctor swipes Yaz’s searching hands away and snarls, “No! I won’t stop! You don’t understand! You can’t understand.” Her expression snaps then, voice cracks, despair peers through. Yaz tries her very best to sympathise, if only to prove her dreams wrong. Yes, her pulse beats a steady single drum, but what if she is changing in other ways? What if she is becoming just as bitter, and jaded, and cruel?

A human grumbles somewhere by her feet. Dan is slumped over at the base of the stairs, head pressed against the bottom step and hand gripped white-knuckled upon the railing. Plaster-speckled and stiff as wood. 

Yaz leaves the Doctor to her ruminations, forearms steady on the console-ledge, and lank hair hanging down, faceless. 

Dan coughs as he pulls himself up into a sitting position. 

“You okay?” Yaz asks, knowing that he isn’t, and that she can’t be looking much better; dark-lidded eyes, drawn cheeks, drying sweat aglisten on their brows.  

“Oh, hi Yaz. I’ve just been having a bit of a kip. Not so comfy, but I couldn’t find the bedrooms.”

Maybe this is the sort of human that the Doctor prefers. The sort that comes up with convenient, ridiculous cover-ups all on his own. Too stupid and agreeable to ask difficult questions

Cruel, she reminds herself, and keeps her back to the Doctor, in case it’s catching. The memories are, so why not the rest? Dan’s only new, and Yaz was as well, once upon a time. It’s easy to forget the way that things once were; the awestruck eyes, the sunbeam grins, and the hapless, askless following. All her self-assured excuses. 

“Here, take my hand,” Yaz says, offering her arm to Dan. He looks up at her with uncertainty, creasing the skin on his high and noble brow. He’s a good sort, and Yaz wants him to trust her. She’ll have to work to be worthy of it, given what he’s experienced so far. He’s come in at a difficult time, that’s all. The end of the universe, in fact. All Yaz had to do was stop a teeth-covered blue alien from ripping a crane operator’s jaw open.

Yaz injects as much patience into her tone as she can muster, if only to prove to the Doctor that she can, easily.

“Up you get Dan,” she huffs, as she tugs him to his feet. 

“Ah, yes. Dan!” the Doctor spins to face them and almost trips over her feet. Her smile is wide to the point of mania.“Hello. Nice rest?” She barrels on without breath. “Good. Brilliant. I’m still a bit busy here.” She leans back against the ledge a touch too far; less of a casual lounge, more of a slow collapse. There is an uncomfortable squelch as her elbow slides back into a pile of congealing black gunk. She seems to have smeared some through her hairline. The Doctor grins impatiently. “Go on then. Yaz can show you the bedrooms.”

“Oh, can she now?” Yaz snaps. 

The Doctor’s expression darkens. “We can discuss it later.” Her tone is hollow, faintly whistling like air through old wooden rafters. 

“Later, right.” Yaz swallows a shout, and only mutters, petulant, “I’ll be waiting. I always do.”

“Yaz,” she cautions, sharp. “Don’t be unfair.”

A heavy silence follows, in which they both avert their eyes. 

“Well, well, well, I’m sensing some tension in here,” Dan drawls.

“Leave it, Dan!” Yaz blurts out. So much for patience. She softens her tone with mechanical precision. “Just, come on back now. Let’s go find the bedrooms.” She takes his arm tightly, and Dan looks down at her, a little bemused. 

“You know, I’m not actually tired.”

“Just let her work,” Yaz whispers, but makes sure to put enough force behind it for the Doctor to catch it as well. “When she gets like this, you’d best stay out of the way until she calms down.”

“Right.” Dan eyes the Doctor warily. 

The Doctor states daggers at Yaz’s back, but when she turns, the Doctor pretends to be preoccupied, hands flying up to palm the leaking console. 

As they leave the console room, the path now resolutely straight and short, as if to ease their outward passage, the temperature drops again. Trickles down, then tumbles, like an avalanche. 

“Bit nippy,” Dan puffs. Yaz will have to break into the wardrobe pavilion and grab one of her old coats. When Yaz doesn’t reply, Dan asks, “is she always like this?” and jabs a thumb over his shoulder to indicate the room behind, already shrinking off to a russet window in the distance, though they are standing still. 

“She’s brilliant,” Yaz says coldly, and kneads what little warmth she can generate through her palms. No fire there now, and the blood that rises in her cheeks and her numbing nose is only red. But there is fire of a different sort broiling in her chest, and fear of the same – who is she now? And who will she be, once she puzzles it out? 

Both of them, mirrors. Leeches, repeaters; interference through an echoed microphone, bouncing back and forth and growing to a rending, whining, awful pitch. Their anger only compounds.    

She says, to the young girl sitting across from her, with neat twin buns and a bright T-shirt and a pretty smile, “look what Time did to you.”

 It is not her own voice. It is clipped and ratty and Scottish.

The girl replies, and beams with pride, “Look what you did to Time.”  

“What are you looking at?” asks Dan. 

“Nothing,” Yaz replies, and meets his cautious glare with a flimsy smile.

“Are you okay?”

She sighs, and leads on. “I’m fine.”