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A day in the life of a Raggedy Man

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Part 1: Afternoon

"A falling star fell from your heart and landed in my eyes. I screamed aloud as it tore through them, and now it's left me blind."

I touch the wall. I'm not sure why. I just want to. I lose my balance, though, and sit down on the bed, half-falling. But that's all right. The wires of my earbud tangle in my fallen brace and "You left me in the dark" but it's only coming from one ear, now. My guides are in the other.

At first I believed they were bad. But they want to help me; they're my friends. Dead now. But just the same. "I was in the darkness." Dead and gone, now. "So darkness I became." But I don't want to talk to them.

"I like this song" a woman voice. She calls herself River. Sometimes Professor Song. "You aren't the real Doctor" so I nod. It's easier. I turn off the music. "Because I liked it" Yes I think, because you liked it. "Getting cheeky now" Yes. Then I'm quiet. It's easier. I watch the dust drift through the sunlight from the window. The branches sway. Silence for a few minutes as I stop hearing River Song. I rub the scars on my arms. They're moving again. Wriggling under my skin. Like they're trying to get out, or get to my head and fix that, too.

"Sorry, hard to fix something so screwed up" laughing voice, male-sounding voice. Master. Used to call themself Koschei, and I remember it well. "What, not gonna say anything? Huh? Mute boy? Soundcheck?" I don't say anything, because I can't, I'm having a bad day and "You don't really think those pills are helping? It's you. It's just you, idiot. The Doctor needs one now, huh? Let's write a play about it" it's just jeering and surface scratches, so don't mind them. Only a flesh wound. "Where did that come from? You sounded normal just then" so leave me alone and "No." Well, that's just fine then, don't get worked up. Hate getting worked up. "I'm trying to protect you," Amy's voice now, maybe it's her and maybe she's lying, little miss poison so "I know what it feels like to be surrounded" Roman, Latin again. He knows it's confusing so he usually speaks English for me, plain English that I memorized. "Doctor, you're surrounded" "I'm only trying to help" so surrounded by what "Me" and I go cold. My scars-- the wires squirm at the grating robotic voice like they're trying to go back home. Into the metal. Into the dark.

"You didn't think I'd left you" didn't you, eventually? My hands sweat so I rub them on my trousers. "Never. Cogito ergo sum. I'm smarter than you" and nobody's smarter than me, trying to be blustery, swagger away but there's nowhere to go, not really, that would be safe from him, "Your friends are right. I like them. I'm taking them" have to go through me first but what am I? Fragile, stunted, swaying in the sunlight. Braces undone, cuffs torn, hair too long.

I'm Raggedy. A raggedy man.

"I'm watching" and he's giving me a hint so I play the game, one last time, there'll never be a last but how? "Guess, it's no fun otherwise" the lampposts. They're out the window, reflecting the light, I stand up and I can see them now. "Good, yes" and then I can't tell who's talking, all of them at once, but "Don't play with him, he's stupid and not the right Doctor, and he's faulty and he was left behind and no-one thought to come back and anyway it'll kill him in the end, who wants to play with a person like that?" then "No dawn, no day, I'm always in this twilight" so the world stops

(I think I made you up inside my head.)

••• --- •••

When I regain myself Amy is looking at me. She purses her lips and angles her eyebrows down, inward too and I don't know what that expression means. She says "Are you all right?" and I reach for my notebook, take my pen and glide it across the paper, my handwriting is swooping now that I've remembered it, like flower petals I want to see flowers. "I don't have a mouth" I write. I tap the paper and "What do you mean?" so I try to speak and no words come out, just air and I tap the paper again. Amy turns her head away and I don't know what that means, either. I nearly touch her shoulder. But hesitate. She gets up and walks away and she doesn't look at me and "She's sad" Roman says.

••• --- •••



Part 2: Evening

Amy's hair is getting dull. It needs to be copper-bright why isn't it? Wrong. Wrong, wrong. The sun isn't honouring her correctly with its light, ooh, didn't we sound a bit different then and didn't we go back a few steps? Weird, weird, weird. "What are you writing, Raggedy?" Rory. I stare at him because I didn't realise I was writing and maybe I look afraid because "It's okay," he says, so easily as if he hasn't been replaced, as if we aren't all dead and put in boxes and hospitals. He should wear more gold. I look at the notebook and pen in my hands. I have an idea but it isn't finished yet so it doesn't really matter, and then Amy gives me a hug and a frown that's trying to be a smile, and I'm led away from them.

My room is compact and mostly white like a seashell, I remember Scotty showed me a seashell once. There is a bed which is small and made. A window is taking up a lot of the wall and that's good, at night it won't be so pitch-black and deep and dark, I like that "Of course you would, it's boring as anything, the dark" says Amy. I knew you were here, and "I never left, I'm wired-in" Amy's voice is getting dull. It needs to ring copper-bright why doesn't it. Wrong. I'm wrong, wrong. The people took my shoes and braces and bow-tie I walk the halls in my stocking feet. There are a lot of strangers why are there so many people, too many people. A person in a uniform says that it's dinnertime. I sit at one of the tables where there's a place setting across from me that I don't pay attention to so "Don't eat" It's a whisper. Why and "What if there's something in it?" so I look towards the kitchen where the too many people are getting food. "The machine is after you, he'll have put something in the food" Better safe than sorry "Acta non verba" Roman's voice is hushed and encouraging and I know he likes to be trusted. I trust him. I sit at my table rub my scars and don't eat.

Someone sits in front of me blocks my view of the kitchen. I crane my neck to see it behind him. "Why aren't you. Eating." he asks. "Stop fidgeting, be polite" River says her tone clipped, I can almost hear her eyes roll. He looks my physical age maybe a year or two younger. He wears a T-shirt that's too big for him with a superhero symbol on the front and plain trousers. His face is gaunt and pale, his hair is copper like Amy's but more orange. His eyes are lidded. "Aren't. You hungry." he says so easily as if he isn't dead. "No" I write. That seems to satisfy him and he eats ravenously like an animal. "Gods, when's the last time he ate?" says the Master full of disdain but I don't react, and they leave me alone because they are bored. There is a person in a uniform sitting beside the man. "My name is. Howl." says the man. I like the name. "My name is Raggedy" I write. "Why is there a person next to you" "I tried to. Escape." Howl turns to the uniformed person. "How many times." He tilts his head and the person answers, it's a nice trick, maybe I'll use it if I get out of this. "Twice now," says the person. They go back to watching the too many people. Howl flinches so I flinch too. "I can hear them. Panting." he says panicked and "Panting in my ears. I can feel their. Breath on my skin. They're close now." "What are" "The wolves," Howl says. He nearly flinches but he holds it back, I can see it in the set of his slim shoulders stiff. He looks at me his eyes are searching like mine used to be, I think. "You aren't one. Of them." he says. I nod. "I can't see them" I write and listen to the buzz of humans as he reads. "They are hiding." He glances around at the room, cutting his green eyes at the sharp shaded corners and the open doors. They have signs on them and insignias like the one I saw on the big front door. "I'm not mad" I write. "You're both mad" so Be quiet, Master. "Make me" I am silent "What are you gonna do? Give me the silent treatment again? I'll just keep talking" Stop and "Don't take that tone with me" then there is light pressure on my shoulder like downpours, I want to see rain, I want to see it again. Howl takes his hand away. "You were. Spacing out."

And he smiles without fangs.

••• --- •••

After dinner a person in uniform tells me that it is recreation hour. I find my way back to my room trailing my hand along the wall, then my wires squirm and I stop. My bed is small and made. I sit on it cross-legged. "Look out the window" says Amy. I turn. There is a lamppost there. It is rigged with listening devices and wires that sort of thing that I would usually get so excited about. Instead I gaze at it with an unchanging face and think Why are you helping me. "We're friends, Doctor" "He isn't the real Doctor" River argues so "Nobody asked you" Amy snaps and "Well there's another one in a purple coat running about, no denying that, you've seen him" and I wait until they quiet down, missing my music sorely.

Half an hour later Howl comes into my room. His uniform person is still with him. "Here." Howl says. He smiles with effort. I can tell. He hands me a piece of paper that crinkles, it has a drawing of me on it. I have the eyes of a wolf. I smile and nod it is a way of thanking him, I hope.

After they leave, I flip the paper over because I am curious, ooh, remember that-- curiosity? On the back is a note. "Come to my room at 6:45. I want you to meet someone." Howl writes as though he is rushed letters leaning and slurring like they're drunk he writes as though he is being watched.

••• --- •••

"This is my brother. Joel." says Howl motioning to the empty space beside him. I nod and smile because I am several centuries old (forgot how many) at least three centuries old and I've found that anything is possible. Except for writing. Because there's a lamppost outside Howl's window, too. "He doesn't like you." Howl says face unchanging. "But he takes a while. To warm up to people." I wonder if Joel is a ghost like my guides. I think he might be. I pity this Howl with a ghost for a brother who has tried to escape two times. But he seems fine. Well enough to draw. I hold up the paper and tilt my head, that seems to mean question. "Joel wanted. Me to draw that. He doesn't... like the wolves. Either." I do not like the wolves even if I want to see them, I am curious, but you know curiosity kills and I think the wolves have killed Howl's brother.

So I don't want to see the big bad wolves with their glowing eyes, I don't want to marvel at how silent they stalk, I don't want to go into their den.

••• --- •••

Amy laughs and it sounds like music. Scotty has done something funny and cute, which is good because he's autistic and when I'm not there he has a lot of bad days usually, with meltdowns and shutdowns, but he hasn't had many yet because Rory and Eleven are keeping a close eye on him to know when he is getting overloaded, and have gotten him a weight blanket. I am glad that he's glad. I smile at Amy. The visit is allowed to last one hour I count the time tick-tock, in my head, because I'm a Lord of Time. Time Lord. Tick-tock, all the time. Every second. "What about you?" Amy asks. "What have you been doing?" so I take my notebook from its drawer and show her what I've made. It's a drawing of a circuit and some runes as I saw them before I was locked in the box, it all glowing green and clanking and moving, me all screaming and pulling and don't think about that. "What is it?" she asks. I blank my face and turn the page where there is another sketch, this time a restraint. I have shaded the drawings so they look real. But I can't quite recall how they looked so I'm not sure how correct they are. I turn the notebook so Amy can see it better. "I don't understand," she says the corners of her mouth turned down. Strange that she is playing dumb, but then I realise she probably knows we're being monitored right this instant by the machine. Nice thinking, Amy.

••• --- •••



Part 3: Night

I'm allowed to live at home. It is my prize for taking my tablets the white pentagons and pale yellow circles all cut into halves. They say I take my pills as though they are candies. But. I am tricking them. Scotty squeals when he sees me walk through the door in my swaying way and he slams into my knees, catching them with his little bird-arms, bronzey orange curls bouncing. He is too small to be seven but still he almost knocks me over. I pat his head. He cannot speak, but he traces two hearts in the air above my chest and I trace one in the air above his and that is our hello, that is our I love you and I missed you and you are my best friend. Amy laughs and it sounds like music, she laughs so easily as if we aren't surrounded (and don't you know how that feels?). My bow tie and braces are blood red. I look at Rory and Amy. She should wear more red. He should wear more gold.

••• --- •••

I watch Rory's face as he gives me tablets. He puts them into my flat palm. He pours water watches me out of the corner of his eye. I know he doesn't want to watch me but he does, and he wants to trust. "Imbecile" mutters the Master the first guide to speak for a day. They are quiet after that, too annoyed probably. Rory wants to trust me. But. When I tip my hand back instead of falling into my mouth the tablets slip into my sleeve.

••• --- •••

Scotty hums along to the theme of his show "Kipper," it looks like the storybooks I've seen Amy take from the TARDIS and carry to Scotty's room. He kicks his feet happily. I sit next to him, my notebook balanced on my lap, a pen balanced on the paper I am a circus act. I'm wondering whether Scotty has ever been to the circus but deciding he wouldn't like the noise so it's better to watch it on TV, then there are wires on TV, and my hearts are stopping. Links of metal welded together screens that show nothing shining cords that sink into darkness, no face, and this is the machine, latched onto every lamppost, listening.

Scotty looks alarmed or quizzical something like that, it looks strange on his face that look, his slight birdlike face all twisted in what I decipher as fear. Yes. It is fear. I've seen it before but aimed at clowns and under the bed and whales for some reason, not at me.

My eyes focus on my paper and I am writing almost without movement, without reason, I'm shouting the words and muttering them and when Scotty speaks I snarl. I am writing over my drawings, STOP THAT, you'll ruin them but I can't control myself. My handwriting swoops like flower petals Cogito ergo sum Cogito ergo sum Cogito ergo sum I think therefore I am. My guides are screaming wordlessly, they are afraid of the machine and the bad ones name him. "AM," my guides chant, the ones who hate me, River and Master and robot-voice, sounding out the name, "AM is coming. AM. AM is here."

The world

••• --- •••

I fake my pills again. I rub my scars as the wires in them squirm. Deep dent-scars going up my arms straight like bones, the wires squirm put there by the box or maybe by AM when I was locked in; they meant to fix me when I was hurt. I think of Howl. Who fixes him when he's hurt? Joel? No Joel is a ghost and ghost healing never works because ghosts can't even comfort themselves long enough to stop wailing or talking to the living. They can't even bring themselves back to life. River listens to me speak of healing. "Good Doctor" she says.

Shut up.

••• --- •••



Part 4: Dawn

I go into the attic and find a bucket of paint, beigey-brown, the color of the house. I creep back in the moonlight, the floorboards creaking and the moonlight glinting off the walls full of metal.

I lock the door to my room when I go in and lock the windows, too, for good measure, and I set the bucket of paint on the floor brushing the most recent drawings away. Dried paint clings to the sides of the lid but I claw it away and pry the lid off with my fingers. I dip my hands in the paint and they're all sticky, all sickly, all wired-in. I put the paint on the window. I slather it there and spread it out, there that's good, isn't it good? Nice and deep and dark. The dawn can go away, I don't want to see it. Pitch-black I sit on my bed. But it isn't enough. I drag a chair from the kitchen a wooden one with arms, I sit in it in the centre of the room and yes. Yes. It is enough.

I sit and stare into the dark. Madman in a box. Used to say that didn't I. I can hear myself breathing. My hearts beat stutteringly like the breaths of dying men. The chair dragging made an awful lot of noise I hope nobody noticed. Would anybody notice such a raggedy man. No no of course not "The days slip away, that's why I'm here," Amelia. She sits on her suitcase in the dark, but she is bright. "It's rubbish. I think the days are grey, don't you? Grey days. A day in the life" she huffs. Getting a little philosophical for a seven-year-old aren't you "I'm bored" and that's the end of that conversation.

Hours pass.

Someone is trying the lock, I'm secure, in the knowledge they won't get in. I need a distraction so the thought bleeds through I could hear myself. Breathing. Thinking about the end. Of the world. There is yelling from the other side of the door I squint when it finally opens. Amy steps in, ringed by light. She is tall and wonderful and crying. I look at Amy with her copper hair I look at Amy I look at her
and speak.