‘The Deepening Rain’ (Z), Chapter 3

3. Charoc’s Game

Evening had come. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe woke up. They found themselves the prisoners of the Skeletrons as they lay on hard beds of rock. Zoe reacted in fear once she saw the monstrous boned-faced creatures. The Doctor and Jamie shuddered as the creatures stepped foward to meet them.

“You are not ready yet!” the leader declared. “Your dreaming has not ended! Go back to sleep!”

“Yes!” the scout joined in. “Go back to sleep!”

The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe were able to break free out of their bonds made of rope as they got up from their rock beds. They backed away from the skeletal robots.

“No!” the Doctor defied them. “You’ve harmed us too much already!”

“You won’t get us under your spell again so easily,” Jamie added. “Whatever it is.”

Zoe then found herself groaning. She was tired and in shock. “What’s been happening?” she demanded. “I feel so giddy!”

Jamie tried to help Zoe but he was feeling tired too. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s only just come onto me too.”

“It’s the after-effects of the dreaming process,” the Doctor explained.

“Dreaming process?” Zoe queried.

“Yes,” the Doctor replied. “We’ve all been asleep for a long time and have had dream experiences.”

“Dream experiences?” Jamie questioned.

“Time for explainations later.” the Doctor became anxious, as the Skeletrons advanced on them with menacing intent.

“We told you once before!” the Skeletron leader said. “We will not tell you again!”

“Get back on the beds!” the Skeletron scout said, threateningly.

Just then, Charoc jumped in for the rescue. She snarled as she approached the Skeletrons ferociously.

“You will not rip the skin flesh off these people!” she snarled. “They are mine to deal with! You have no skin to protect yourselves!”

The Skeletron leader turned the other way. “Back!” it cried. “Back all of you!”

Howling and roaring, the Skeletrons retreated. However, Charoc leapt onto one of the Skeletrons and pinned it to the floor. She bit into its neck with her sharp long teeth, ripping its robot head clean off and destroying the Skeletron completely. The Skeletron rasped and writhed once its head came off and the robot blew up completely.

Jamie, Zoe and the Doctor what happened and were completely amazed and a little disturbed.

“Whoa!” Zoe exclaimed. “That was pretty brutal and scary!”

“Aye!” Jamie agreed. “But impressive!”

The Doctor cautiously made his way over to Charoc, who had finished her Skeletron meal.

“My dear Charoc,” he started. “You saved us!”

Charoc turned to them. She didn’t growl this time. She only purred. Modestly.

“You are free now,” she purred. “From the dream experience.” She paused for a moment. “But now we must move on. I must send you back.”

Jamie then noticed two other people sleeping on two rock beds nearby.

“Aye, but what about them?” he enquired. “We can’t just leave those two there.”

Zoe and the Doctor saw them. They recognised them immediately.

“Matthew!” Zoe exclaimed. “It’s Matthew!”

“And Chloe!” the Doctor added. “We must get them free! Get those ropes off them!”

Zoe and the Doctor made their way over towards them. Charoc’s purr slowly grew back into a soft growl.

“They are already free!” she growled. “They will not require dispatch from their bondage. The young are free in light and dark.”

Despite what Charoc had said, Zoe and the Doctor broke the ropes off Matthew and Chloe.

Jamie turned to Charoc. “Aye, that is well! But we’ve still got those Skeletrons to sort out. They’ll be coming back here and no mistake.”

At that moment, another figure approached them. It was Albert. This time he was angry and upset, like a spoilt child.

“No!” he shouted. “You can’t do this to me! You can’t! This is not how it works! I make the rules! This is my game now! You’re going to spoil everything! You’re going to let on! You stupid Charoc!”

Charoc snarled ferociously as Albert stood there. She turned back to the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe who had freed Chloe and Matthew.

“Go back, Doctor!” she growled. “Go back to the king’s throne room! This is going to be a bitter fight! One he’ll enjoy…and I’ll enjoy!”

The Doctor and his friends were puzzled. Charoc began to make a leap at Albert standing there. The Doctor realised this and called out, “No! Wait Charoc, don’t!”

But it was too late. Charoc roared wildly as she lept forward and came down upon Albert, attacking him. The Doctor saw this only for a split second as he, Jamie, Zoe, Matthew and Chloe faded out.

They eventually found themselves back in the throne room of King Rowan’s castle in Riseford. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe woke up with Matthew and Chloe who were also starting to recover.

“Where am I?” Matthew asked, baffled. “What is this place?”

“I feel like I’ve been having…the most peculiar dream,” Chloe said wearily.

Zoe and Jamie helped Matthew and Chloe as they slowly came around. Jamie attended to Chloe…

“Hey it’s alright now. You’ll feel better soon, lass.”

…whilst Zoe attended to Matthew.

“Don’t worry, you’re safe now. Nothing’s going to harm you.”

Meanwhile, the Doctor confronted King Rowan who sat on his throne, aghast at having seen his unexpected and unwelcome party arrive.

“You three dare to return!” he bellowed. “I ordered you to be executed! Why aren’t you executed?! That security captain disobeyed me!”

“I don’t think your Captain Carey has got it in his heart to do his job as you might expect, your majesty,” the Doctor said, amused. “Where is the captain by the way?”

At that moment, the whole throne room shuddered. Captain Carey entered with his men to address the king, bowing before him.

“Your majesty!”

“Give me your report, Captain Carey!” the king demanded sharply. “This instant!”

Carey geared himself ready to tell his report. “The rain’s gone stronger and all troops are suffering badly.”

“Excuse me, captain; your majesty?” the Doctor interrupted. “But what seems to be the matter here?”

“What do you think what’s the matter?” Carey asked sardonically. “Riseford Castle’s under siege!”

Carey then double-reacted. He became horrified, seeing the Doctor before him.

“You!” he exclaimed. “You’re back! You and your friends!”

“Yes,” the Doctor grinned. “I gather you all missed us.”

Carey began bitterly, “I should have killed you three when I had the…”

But King Rowan interrupted him, angrily. “Never mind about that, captain! Tell me what it is you were going to report!”

“Well,” Carey started gradually, “the Skeletrons are killing some of our troops left; right and centre outside the castle.”

“Skeletrons?!” the Doctor reacted, afraid. “They’re here?!”

“Yes, of course they’re here,” Carey replied.

“Will you stop interrupting, Doctor?!!” King Rowan bellowed.

The Doctor seemed hurt by the king’s outburst. His face fell sadly. King Rowan demanded Carey to continue.

“Well, like I said. Some of our troops are being slaughtered by the Skeletrons. But some of the troops have been knocked out by the rain. They’ve fallen asleep! Some troops have tried to wake them up but even those who wake them up get hit by the rain and fall asleep too.”

The Doctor grinned, amused. “Yes, I thought something like this would happen. I’ve been through this deepening rain experience myself, your majesty. Most illuminating!”

King Rowan was far from happy as he turned his anger onto Carey. “You’re such an incompetent security man, Carey! If these reports of attack continue to be relayed to me by you, I shall go berserk!”

“That I’m not surprised by, your majesty,” Carey retorted. “You hardly do anything else.”

“What did you say?!” King Rowan yelled.

Whilst the Doctor was amused and a little startled by King Rowan’s outburst, Zoe was making Chloe and Matthew comfortable on the throne room floor as they lay down exhausted. Jamie went over to join the Doctor.

“Doctor, they say these Skeletrons keep attacking their soldiers,” Jamie said anxiously.

“Yes Jamie,” the Doctor replied. “I had gathered that.”

“And the rain makes them go to sleep,” Jamie added. “Just like we did when caught in this deepening rain thing.”

“Yes there does seem to be a connection with the rain and the Skeletrons at this present moment,” the Doctor stated. “I’m agog as to what that is.”

“What about that son of Brendin’s?” Jamie suggested. “The high official. You know – Craiger. The king was keeping something hidden on him, wasn’t he?”

“Yes Jamie, that’s good thinking,” the Doctor approved. “With the king occupied about this attack from the Skeletrons, he can’t refuse to let us see Craiger.”

The Doctor turned to the king and addressed him. “Your majesty?” he said boldly. “If you want this war stopped, you’re going to have to trust me and my friends. Or trust me at least. You’re going to have to let us see Craiger, Brendin’s son.”

“No!!!” King Rowan shouted. “No one shall see Craiger! Not even you! Don’t try to bother me with these…”

“I have a suspicion that Craiger is very ill, your majesty,” the Doctor interrupted. “And I believe you know it and that the rain has something to do with it.”

King Rowan began to protest. “I categorically deny…”

“If you want this city saved,” the Doctor interupted again, “if you want this planet saved; you have to listen to me!”

“Aye!” Jamie supported his friend. “Listen to the Doctor! He knows what he’s talking about!”

“Thank you, Jamie,” the Doctor said gratified before he turn to everyone else. “Now, will somebody please show us where Craiger is?”

A moment of silence ensued. No response from anybody. Eventually, Carey stepped forward. He agreed to show the Doctor to Craiger’s room, much to the king’s annoyance. Jamie, Zoe and their news friends Matthew and Chloe eventually followed after them.

At the gateway where the Skeletron base is, Charoc and Albert faced each other. It’s quite a confrontation as Charoc is wild and snarls ferociously at Albert coming onto him.

“Now, now, Charoc!” Albert tried to tame her. “Behave yourself! Like a good cat!”

Charoc lasheed out and scratched Albert on the chest. Albert cried out in pain once he’d been scratched.

“You…you dare to strike me!” said Albert, shocked. “How dare you do such a thing, Charoc?! You’re my pet! I own you!”

“The shivering stars will get out!” Charoc growled. “They’ll hunt you! I am my own woman! My own animal! The game will persist forever! You can never get out! You can never be free!”

“Riddle away all you like, savage creature!” Albert retorted. “I will have the computer!”

Charoc growled terrifyingly. “This is my game! You do not have control of my game! You have abused it! With your own power! With your own knowledge!”

“You know nothing of the thing I bear!” Albert replied. “You’re simply a plaything for me! A very pretty plaything!”

Albert tried to grab her and hold her close. But Charoc struggled and roared wildly as she struck her claws into Albert’s face. Albert writhed as he backed off Charoc’s body. Crumpled onto the sea bed, he sobbed away like a baby. Charoc got up from the ground and looked down on Albert repulsively and dismissively.

“You do not have the power of the lion,” she growled. “You do not have the power of my domain! The game still belongs to me! I control what sleep does not! What it takes from those who are not free!”

“The game is mine!” Albert cried. “The computer is mine! I created the computer! I created the Skeletrons!”

“The Skeletrons are dead!” Charoc growled. “Dead people! Enemies of this world who fought long ago! You cannot control them!”

“I will control them!” Albert protested. “I will control them!”

“They have no minds to play with!” Charoc growled.

“All these things you say,” Albert pointed out. “They are ways to give you the computer freely. I am not fooled so easily.”

“I do not want your computer,” Charoc growled. “I have no desire for it. You only use it to change the game that’s played here. I use the rules of the game to play wisely and tenderly. Not unlike some.”

Albert then let out a howl of absolute rage. He is unable to control the fury inside him.

“Go away!!!” he yelled. “Go away, you witch! I don’t want you here! Get out of my sight! Please!”

Albert crumbled on his hands and knees, sobbing bitterly away. Charoc saw this and walked away, leaving him to his sorrows.

“Very well,” she growled. “I shall leave you to your misery!” She let that sink in. “Your time will soon come, Albert. The game is not yet over. Your mystery…will be let out.”

With that, Charoc ran off like a wild ferocious animal on a hunt. Albert saw her leave and became bitter.

“We’ll see,” he whispered. “We shall see.”

At that moment, the Skeletron Leader approached Albert. He got up off from the sea bed to greet the leader.

“Yes Skeletron Leader, what is it?” Albert demanded.

The Skeletron gnashed its metallic bony teeth before speaking. “It is ready. The list of potential dreamers.”

“Yes!” Albert cheered.

The Skeletron leader handed a sheet over to Albert for him to take. Albert took it and glanced at it curiously.

“The victims shall be collected,” he said. “You shall have your company one by one to share in the power as well as me.”

Albert jumped up and down, cheering with delight.

“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes,” he cheered. “This is the moment I’ve been waiting for! Now we shall see who controls the game! If that thing of a wild girl thinks she can control my destiny, she is wrong! I shall gain whatever I want! No-one can stop me! Nobody can dare! The army will be prepared. And then my reign shall last forever!”

Albert laughed out loud whilst the Skeletron leader stared curiously at him.

Back in the king’s citadel, the Doctor attempted to revive the sleeping Craiger who slept in his bed. He wasn’t successful. Jamie, Zoe, Matthew and Chloe stood by him along with King Rowan and Captain Carey.

“Can you no do anything for him, Doctor?” Jamie asked.

“I’m trying, Jamie,” the Doctor replied. “I’m trying my best.”

“You can’t wake him, can you?” Zoe realised. “Is it some sort of coma he’s in?”

“I don’t know,” the Doctor replied. “I wish I knew. Every time I try medication and your smelling salts Jamie, they do no good to wake him up.”

The Doctor looked at Craiger curiously. He clapped his hands together in front of his face. Still no response. The Doctor turned his attention to King Rowan and Captain Carey.

“How did he end up like this?” he asked. “Do either of you know?”

“No,” King Rowan replied. “And I don’t care!”

“He was found outside the halls of the city,” Captain Carey told the Doctor. “Out in the wastelands.”

“The sea beds,” Zoe wanted to confirm.

“Yes,” Carey answered. “It’d been raining and we found him lying there. The king ordered me to bring him in.”

“Must you bring me into the conversation?” King Rowan asked, bitterly.

“He said he just went for a walk,” Carey continued to the Doctor. “That was the last thing he said before he blacked out.”

“Blacked out,” the Doctor said intrigued. “I see.”

“He must’ve been caught in the rain as well,” Matthew remarked. “The same as us.”

“But rain doesn’t usually happen down here on this planet, does it?” Chloe asked.

“Aye, that’s right,” Jamie agreed. “So why would it be raining in an underwater kingdom?”

“You don’t think the raincloud’s artificial do you, Doctor?” Zoe asked.

“Oh I’m sure it is,” the Doctor said. “In fact, the rain penetrated into our minds so that we could dream and dream until we gained no control over our psyches.”

“So you’re saying there are people out there controlling the Skeletrons and the rain,” Jamie realised. “To make us sleep and dream without knowing it.”

“Who would want to do such a horrid thing?” Zoe wondered.

“I don’t know,” the Doctor replied. “There are many forms of artificial and sensory controls of the mind. It could be anyone and in any form. It reminds me of a time when…”

The Doctor stopped mid-sentence. He became thoughtful for a moment.

“Aye Doctor?” Jamie prompted. “Reminds you of a time when what?”

The Doctor didn’t hear Jamie at first. He muttered to himself, thoughtful, “I wonder.” He paused for a moment. “No it couldn’t be, could it? But that would mean…no!”

“Doctor?” Zoe prompted.

The Doctor was startled by Zoe as he came to his senses. He grinned delightedly at them.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he apologised. “I seemed to wander for a bit. Don’t worry, I’ll be alright. Just a silly little idea really. Now! About Craiger!”

“Aye now,” Jamie joined in. “How are we going to wake him up?”

“There was that lion girl we met in our dreams,” Matthew pointed out. “Charoc her name was. Surely we can get help from her to wake Criager up.”

“Yes,” Chloe agreed. “To be sure she could.”

“Do you think it’s worth a try, Doctor?” Zoe asked.

“I suppose so yes, Zoe,” the Doctor replied. “But it would be dangerous. Charoc seems agitated and anxious about something. Things seem to be at a critical point as far as she’s concerned.”

“We’ll soon be in danger if we stay around here, won’t we?” Jamie pointed out. “We’ll have to risk it, haven’t we?”

“We don’t want to be sleeping and dreaming away forever with Skeletrons attacking us, do we Doctor?” Zoe also pointed out.

“Yes,” the Doctor mused before realising. “Yes, Jamie; Zoe. Of course, you’re quite right. I should make contact with Charoc. The thing is where to start?”

“You’ll have to sleep again and enter Charoc’s game,” King Rowan said.

“Hey?” Jamie asked, puzzled. “Charoc’s game?”

“Charoc’s game?” Zoe repeated.

“Ah, so you’ve finally decided to speak up have you, your majesty,” the Doctor challenged him. “Well, what is this game of Charoc’s then?”

“I’m only helping you because I want to get out of this hellhole alive, Doctor,” the king told him before he continued. “Charoc’s game is part of the dreaming process. Once you’re asleep, you have to wait until Charoc appears and ask her to help you with the game. That way you can save Craiger.”

“You seem very sure about this, your majesty,” the Doctor observed.

The king was reluctant to answer at first before he said, “I once played Charoc’s game when I fell asleep. It was a thrilling and an enlightening experience! It destroyed me! Made me into a selfish man!”

“What? No more selfish than usual?” Jamie chided.

“Jamie!” the Doctor told him off before he addressed Rowan again. “Your majesty! You’re saying if I play Charoc’s game, I could have the power to rescue Craiger out of his sleep if I wanted to.”

“It’s more complicated than that,” the king said. “But that is about the general gist, yes.”

“I see,” the Doctor said. “Well err…show me how it works and I’ll get started.”

“You must first find a bed; lie on it and fall asleep,” the king told him.

“Yes well, that seems easy enough to begin with, doesn’t it?” the Doctor remarked.

“Make that two beds,” Jamie demanded. “I’m coming with you, Doctor.”

“Three beds,” Zoe added. “I’m coming as well.”

“No Jamie; no Zoe,” the Doctor said kindly. “Not this time.”

“Ach come on, Doctor,” Jamie protested. “You’ve got to let us come!”

“You’re not leaving us behind to let you walk into danger,” Zoe argued.

“Jamie; Zoe, don’t you see?” the Doctor stressed. “I have to do this alone! If I let you come with me, you’ll be risking yourself into danger as well as me.”

“Aye well, we’ll just have to take that risk,” Jamie stated.

“No!” the Doctor refutted. “You are to stay here and do as I say. I only need half an hour in there anyway. Give me half an hour and I shall wake up as I may. Alright?”

Jamie and Zoe were resistant to the idea. The Doctor pressed for an answer. “Well?”

“But Doctor…” Jamie began to argue.

“Alright Doctor,” Zoe interjected. “We’ll stay.”

“But Zoe….” Jamie couldn’t believe what Zoe was saying.

“Give him half an hour, Jamie,” Zoe insisted. “That’s what he said. We go after him if he doesn’t wake up.”

“Yes,” the Doctor said, satisified. “To which I hope you don’t have to come after me.”

A moment of silence ensued. Jamie was still resistant to the idea of letting the Doctor sleep and dream alone. Eventually he agreed.

“Alright then, I’ll stay,” he said grumpily.

“Thank you, Jamie,” the Doctor said, gratified.

“But half an hour mind,” Jamie iterated. “No more. If you don’t wake up, we’re coming after you. Understand?”

“Yes Jamie, I understand,” the Doctor nodded before he turned to King Rowan and the others. “Well, I suppose it’s time I should get ready for bed.”

Rain echoed in the background. The Doctor found himself walking about in a garden. But it wasn’t a garden he would normally expect. Everything was still. It was like the Doctor was walking through a still photograph.

“Yes,” he remarked. “Most unusual. I can’t imagine the garden having much trouble with weeds.”

The Doctor walked on a bit further as he continued to explore. He knew he was asleep and was determined to find Charoc wherever she was. He couldn’t feel the path under his feet. Everything was so still. He saw a waterfall with no water flowing from it. There was a staircase with no steps to grip on.

“I could easily fly over this photo garden with my hands flapping all about,” he said. “It’s most very strange.”

No sound could be heard. The Doctor continued before he saw a figure a few metres ahead of him. It was her! He found Charoc! He called out to her, “Charoc! Charoc!”

Charoc roared in reply as she stepped forward to call the Doctor. “Follow me! Follow me on the path, Doctor!”

The Doctor felt nervous. “Alright,” he answered. “I’ll follow.”

The Doctor walked on further, following Charoc with no idea where he was going. He looked around to see hedges surrounding him. It felt like being in a maze. The Doctor began to run. He wondered why Charoc was far ahead of him. Why couldn’t she let him catch up?

“Wait, Charoc!” he called. “Wait a minute! Let me catch my breath! Can’t you wait for me?”

“Follow me!” she called. “Follow me on the path!”

The Doctor moaned as he trudged on, catching up with Charoc.

A while later, he found himself at a gate in the garden. Curious, he slapped his hand on the gate for emphasis. He hurt his hand, rubbed it under his armpit and contorted in pain.

“Ooh, My hand!” he said pained. “I’ve really got to stop doing that!”

He eventually looked at the gate again. The Doctor became curious and fascinated as he seemed to remember the gate somewhere else before. Then he remembered! It was the same gate that he, Jamie and Zoe encountered when they first came to Riseford! That’s where it all started!

“This gate,” he said fascinated. “I wonder. Where does it lead?”

“You’re about to find out!” growled Charoc behind him.

The Doctor jumped out of his skin as he turned to see Charoc behind him.

“Oh Charoc!” he gasped. “You gave me quite a scare. You really shouldn’t appear out of nowhere when no-one is expecting you.”

“Does my presence disturb you, Doctor?” asked Charoc, growling.

The Doctor became nervous. “What? No. Why should it disturb me? It’s only when you appear out of nowhere that makes me nervous.”

“I merely appear when I feel somebody’s presence,” Charoc growled. “I can only exist in that reality!” She paused for a moment. “Now we must go in!”

Charoc opened the gate for her and the Doctor to enter. The Doctor became curious.

“Charoc, what is the significance of this garden?” he asked. “Why does everything have to be so still?”

“The garden remains still,” Charoc growled, “before the time comes!”

“The time?” queried the Doctor. “The time for what?”

“The time for everything!” Charoc growled. “When all must be unstill!”

“I see,” the Doctor said puzzled. He didn’t really see but it was best to be polite. “Charoc, we need your help,” he continued. “We wish to wake up our friend Craiger? He was dear to me.”

“That is why I have come,” Charoc growled. “Why you have come, Doctor! In the game of Charoc!”

“Oh yes,” the Doctor realised. “Your game. I’ve been meaning to ask you about that.”

“Come!” Charoc commanded. “We must enter! He is waiting for us!”

“He?” the Doctor queried. “Who’s he?”

“The one!” Charoc told him. “You know him, Doctor. You have seen him before.”

“Have I?” the Doctor wondered. “When? Who is he?”

“His name is Albert,” Charoc growled.

“Albert?” said the Doctor, surprised. “But…”

“That is all you need to know,” Charoc interrupted. “You will soon find out more later on.”

“But Charoc,” the Doctor insisted. “Your game…”

“Later,” Charoc growled fiercely. “The game comes later! Confronting Albert comes first!” She paused for a moment again. “Come Doctor! He waits for you!”

The Doctor continued walking with Charoc out of the garden as they went to confront Albert.

Back in the king’s throne room, Jamie and Zoe were worried about the Doctor. They saw him sleep on a prepared bunk laid out for him. They watched as he was unmoving and unresponsive.

“Has it been half an hour yet?” Jamie asked. “He’s been sleeping for too long.”

“It’s your imagination, Jamie,” Zoe said. “We wait, remember?”

“Aye well, I’m fed up with waiting,” Jamie told her. “Anything could’ve happened to him. And I don’t like the Doctor going off and doing things alone.”

“Neither do I, Jamie,” Zoe said. “But at least we have some time.”

“Aye, but time to do what?”

Zoe was about to reply before the king entered with his security chief Captain Carey. The king wasn’t too happy. He made his way over to Zoe and Jamie as they confronted each other in the throne room.

“You!” the king said accusingly. “You’ve brought this curse on us!”

“Hey now, what’s all this about?” Jamie asked incredulously. “What are you accusing us for this time?”

“The Skeletrons are nearly onto us!” King Rowan exclaimed. “They’re about to break into the throne room and it’s your fault!”

“Skeletrons?!” said Zoe, shocked. “Breaking in?!”

“But we’ve done nothing!” Jamie protested. “The Skeletrons have nothing to do with us, we tell you!”

“Likely story,” King Rowan scoffed.

“A moment ago you were willing to trust the Doctor,” Jamie pointed out. “Now you’re condemning us to death.”

“Perhaps you have an alternative reason, your majesty,” Zoe suggested. “Perhaps you’re still into this game with Charoc.”

“Enough!” the king bellowed. “Captain!” he commanded Carey. “Take these two away! Put them in a cell and let them rot!”

Carey nodded and made his way forward, ordering guards to grab Jamie and Zoe. The two companions struggled as they were caught in the grip of the guards.

“Alright; alright!” Jamie protested. “Leave off!”

Chloe and Matthew entered as they witnessed what happened. They made their way over to protest to the king.

“You can’t do this, your majesty!” Chloe protested. “Let those two go! They’re innocent!”

“They were in much the same spot of dreaming as we were,” Matthew pointed out.

King Rowan turned on Chloe and Matthew, rather hungrily as he heard them speak.

“So! You two are in this too, are you? I might’ve known it!” He barked, “Carey! Arrest these two as well!”

Chloe and Matthew were soon caught in the grip of the guards as well as Jamie and Zoe. They struggled to break free but to no avail. Jamie grimaced as he saw Chloe and Matthew getting caught.

“Och aye,” Jamie began to scoff. “Not turning out to be a fine day for us, is it?”

Suddenly, glass cracked and smashed. Rain crashed through the windows above in the throne room’s ceiling as well as in the walls. The throne room doors burst open as the Skeletrons charged in, gnashing their teeth ferociously and beginning to attack. King Rowan and the security men saw this and became terrified.

“Invaders!” King Rowan bellowed. “Burglars! Run for your lives! Run for your lives, everybody! RUN!!!”

Jamie, Zoe, Matthew and Chloe ran for it too once their guards released them and fled for their lives after seeing the Skeletrons enter the throne room. The four youngsters made to escape but were soon caught up in the rain as it fell on top of their heads. Everyone in the throne room was affected by this. The rain first knocked out the king; then Captain Carey and then the security guards as they collapsed to the floor. The four youngsters started to slow down and slumber in the king’s throne room too.

“Oh no!” Matthew groaned. “The rain! It’s affecting us already! We’re caught in it!”

“I…I…I can’t keep this up!” Chloe said exhausted. “I…I…I feel so tired!”

Matthew and Chloe fell to the floor. Jamie and Zoe struggled to get out of the rain as it became too strong for them.

Jamie looked to Zoe. “Zoe!” he cried. “Zoe!”

“Yes Jamie?” Zoe replied, wearily.

“Find…the Doctor,” Jamie struggled to say. “Find…the…”

Very soon, Jamie and Zoe were overcome with tiredness. The rain grew strong as the two companions fell to the floor as well as to sleep. The Skeletrons snarled and laughed mockingly as they saw the fallen bodies of the Riseford people and its outsiders on the throne room floor. The Skeletron leader stepped forward and looked on approvingly.

“Excellent!” it declared proudly. “Excellent! The work of our master Albert has begun!”

Rain echoed in the background. The Doctor kept up with Charoc as they were now inside a guest house. They walked down the hallway about to enter the dining room. The Doctor was puzzled and perplexed by all that was around him. He looked to Chaorc who was silent and unwavering.

“Err…Charoc?” the Doctor questioned her. “Very nice of you to bring me here indoors, but…why have you brought me here to this place?”

“The answers you seek are inside,” Charoc growled. “When we enter the dining room, we will meet the man at the dining table.”

“Man?” the Doctor puzzled.

“Be quick to learn to seek the answers you find,” Charoc told him. “Some are the result of all our dreams.”

The Doctor then spotted something that caught his curiosity. He knelt down as he examined a bank of computers on a wall at the far end of the hallway.

“Hmm,” the Doctor shrugged disregarding. “More stupid computers I take it.”

Charoc stood beside him, purring. “It is the machine that controls the deepening rain and its Skeletrons.”

“Is it indeed?” the Doctor became intrigued. “This man we’re seeing in the dining room…”

“Yes Doctor,” Charoc growled, interrupting him. “It is the same man who made the machine. He is the cause for the rain as well as the cause for the Skeletrons.”

“And he’s the man you confronted when he came to meet us out of nowhere,” the Doctor realised. “Protesting like an upset boy.”

“He is more childish in his ways than he knows,” Charoc said. “Far more than you know, Doctor. Far more.”

“What does that mean?” the Doctor asked, worried.

“We shall not keep him waiting,” Charoc growled. “Let us enter.”

Charoc took the Doctor’s hand as they both walk forward. They soon entered the dining room as the doors opened and closed for them.

Upon entering the dining room, classical music was being played. People were at the dining table, laughing jollily and chatting away rather friendly to each other. The Doctor and Charoc saw Albert there at the table. He looked up to greet the Doctor and Charoc.

“Ah!” he cheered. “More guests! How delightful! All are welcome to my house!”

Albert got up and went over to greet the Doctor and Charoc. His attention was more focused on Charoc than on the Doctor.

“And you must be…?” Albert asked, looking at Charoc more than the Doctor.

“The Doctor,” the Doctor announced. “I’m known as the Doctor.”

“Welcome to my house, Doctor,” Albert said distractedly. “I’m so glad you were able to join us for dinner. Please take a seat and help yourself to whatever you fancy.”

“Oh how kind,” the Doctor said pleased. “Thank you.”

The Doctor made his way over to sit down and make himself comfortable at the dining table. He looked to see Albert take in Charoc for a short while before going back to his seat at the dining table with the other guests around him.

“And please Doctor,” Albert cheered. “If you have any problems over dinner, don’t hesitate to call for me.”

“Well, thank you again, Mr….”

“Albert. My name is Albert.”

“Oh yes of course, Albert.”

Albert then raised his glass at the table and spoke to everyone.

“Everyone!” he called. “We have a special guest with us today! The Doctor! A fine man of intelligence and wisdom.”

Everyone cheered as they welcomed the Doctor. The Doctor became rather touched once welcomed.

“Oh no, please,” he said. “You’re too kind, Mr. Albert.”

Albert then lifted a bottle of wine and began to pour it into the Doctor’s empty glass.

“Some wine, Doctor?” he asked.

The Doctor quickly placed his hand on top of his empty glass before Albert could pour anything into it.

“Uh no, thank you,” he said. “I’ll do without if that’s alright.”

“As you wish,” Albert said.

Albert placed the wine bottle back onto the table whilst the Doctor noticed Charoc being neglected and standing alone. Everyone else kept on chatting away to each other at the dining table.

“Doesn’t Charoc get to join us, Mr. Albert?” the Doctor asked. “You didn’t greet her as you did me.”

“He doesn’t need to greet me, Doctor,” Charoc growled.

“I beg your pardon?” the Doctor asked, puzzled.

“Look who sits with him at the table,” Charoc growled.

The Doctor looked and gasped with horror at what he saw.

“Oh my word!” he said. “It can’t be!”

He turned to Charoc. “It’s you! Another you at the table! Only she’s tied up and chained to her chair.”

“Yes Doctor,” Charoc growled. “That Charoc…is the real me.”

The Doctor was utterly baffled. “I…I don’t understand.”

“He desires me!” Charoc explained. “And I desire him! But he has only desired half of me! The heart of the dark! I am the heart of light!” She then pointed at Albert accusingly. “He is the man who has blocked the gates! He has endangered all of us in this one place!”

“What?!” the Doctor was shocked. “You mean…he’s the one who’s made all of us sleep and dream. Me, Jamie, Zoe and the others. With the rain and the Skeletrons. But…but why?” he asked, baffled. “Why?”

“You may ask him, Doctor,” Charoc growled. “He will answer.”

The Doctor felt unsure at first. But then he addressed Albert. “Why Albert? Why are you making me and my friends sleep unwillingly? And dream unwillingly.”

Albert let out a mocking laugh, which set the Doctor on edge.

“I’m sorry, Doctor,” he laughed. “But I can’t let you all go so abruptly!”

“But…but why not?”

“I need the company. Albert needs everybody to exist in this reality.”

“He has lived at the edge of this gateway – the gateway of dreams and the deepening rain – far longer than you or I have,” Charoc growled. “He desires the dreams. He loves them. He wants to exist in the dreams. It’s why he wants me.”

“And he wants you because he wants to dream,” the Doctor realised. “Because you are the dream! You exist only as a dream! A dream filled with light and dark! The good and bad sides of every living being! The opposite forces working together inside the subconscious!”

“He seeks to gain the power of that,” Charoc growled. “The power within the rain. He can control anything and anyone with the power of the rain. If it is granted to him.”

“Yes! I’m beginning to understand now,” the Doctor realised. “I know now what all of this is about. And I’ve waited so long for it.” He turned to Albert. “I know what you are, Albert! I know why you’re here! What you really want! Well, you’re not having it! Never ever, do you hear?!”

Albert started to become afraid of the Doctor. It slowly turned into vengeful, unclenched anger.

“Do not reveal me, Doctor!” Albert demanded. “Don’t you dare reveal me!”

The dinner guests all vanished now. The Doctor, Charoc and the chained up Charoc with Albert remained with him.

Albert turned accusingly to Charoc. “You lion girl! I shall have all the light and the dark from within you! I shall rule this reality with the power of the rain! The Skeletrons are my servants! You Doctor and your friends can’t exist without me!”

The Doctor and Charoc remained silent as they continued to defy him.

Rain echoed in the background. Jamie, Zoe, Matthew and Chloe entered a drawing room in a library. They moved very quietly before Jamie accidentally knocked something over which fell to the floor. Zoe; Matthew and Chloe hushed Jamie up.

“Jamie, will you be quiet!” Zoe hushed.

“Why, what’s wrong?” Jamie asked.

“We’re in a library for goodness sake,” Matthew told him.

“Oh right,” Jamie realised. “Sorry. Right-ye-are then.”

They all moved into the centre of the room. They found themselves sitting in some comfy sofas which were made out of leather. Chloe breathed deep as she enjoyed the feel of leather.

“Hmm! Nice leather!” she said.

“Aye!” Jamie agreed. “You don’t get leather like this.”

They became silent for a moment and were content.

“Where are we?” Zoe asked.

“I think we’re in a library of some kind,” Chloe suggested.

“Oh aye! Is that a fact?” Jamie remarked.

“Hey, Zoe; Jamie; Matthew,” Chloe called out. “The daughter of Riseford and my rat bag! Zoe, you’re a mess! I’m wet!”

“Rowan and Carey walk up at dawn to get to Kelto,” Matthew said. “Shark and…Riseford.”

Jamie and Zoe became confused. They didn’t know what Chloe and Matthew were talking about.

“Rich punching himself in the face,” Chloe said. “The king getting into the bar. My bar that is, you know.”

“Never stop laughing!” Matthew exclaimed before he shouted. “NEVER STOP LAUGHING!!!”

Chloe and Matthew laughed out loud as they sat in their sofas. Jamie and Zoe were still confused.

“Chloe; Matthew?” Zoe enquired. “Is everything alright?”

“Sweet peas!” Matthew exclaimed. “I’m dreadfully sorry, Chloe. I haven’t called you in days. I realised my mouth’s frozen and I got so annoyed when I turned it off.”

“Yes Matthew!” Chloe agreed. “I’m officially rubbish! I do apologise! Right the end of the summer and I’m going with my mates till the end! Will you be there?”

Jamie and Zoe then suddenly realised what was happening to them. It all became clear.

“Doctor!” Jamie exclaimed.

“Ah Jamie; Zoe,” Matthew impersonated the Doctor. “How glad I am to see you two! How are you today?”

“Doctor!” Zoe called. “Doctor, help us please! Doctor!”

Jamie and Zoe got up out of their seats as they called up to the ceiling.

“Doctor!” Jamie called.

“Doctor, can you hear us?!” Zoe called again.

“Yes Jamie; Zoe?” Matthew impersonated the Doctor again. “What is it?”

“Not you, Doctor!” Jamie said to Matthew before he realised. “No! You’re no Doctor!”

“We’re all in great danger!” Zoe exclaimed. “Charoc said so!”

“Charoc, aye!” Jamie realised. “I remember her name!”

Just then, Matthew and Chloe began speaking over each other. Their voices grew louder.

Chloe repeated, “Coffee? Coffee anyone? Coffee? Coffee anyone? Coffee? Coffee anyone? Coffee? Coffee anyone…”

Whilst Matthew repeated, “See! I told you it’d work! See! I told you it’d work! See! I told you it’d work! See! I told you it’d work…”

They kept repeating what they said continuously. Jamie and Zoe became increasingly anxious as they called out again.

“Doctor!” Jamie called. “You have to help us! Help us to find a way out of here!”

“We can’t escape, Doctor!” Zoe called. “Doctor, please help us!”

Matthew and Chloe continued repeating themselves as they were getting louder.

“Coffee? Coffee anyone?” Chloe repeated. “Coffee? Coffee anyone? Coffee? Coffee anyone? Coffee? Coffee anyone…”

“See! I told you it’d work!” Matthew repeated. “See! I told you it’d work! See! I told you it’d work! See! I told you it’d work!”

Their voices increased in volume and were beginning to hurt Jamie and Zoe. The two companions groaned and struggled to cope with Chloe and Matthew’s voices inside their heads. They eventually crumbled to the floor. Jamie and Zoe tried to speak over Chloe and Matthew’s voices, but they were growing louder and louder by the second.

“Stop!” Jamie shouted. “I can nae hear you! You’re too much for me!”

“Stop please!” Zoe shouted. “You’re hurting my ears! My ears are hurting me!”

Jamie and Zoe then screamed. Everything and everyone, including Chloe and Matthew, stopped in the drawing room. A moment’s silence ensued. Pretty soon, Jamie and Zoe disappeared in a flash out from the library. Chloe and Matthew remained in the library, unaware that Jamie and Zoe had vanished.

© Tim Bradley, 2020

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