The bowtie flutters to the floor.
Like a lost, blue-and-red checkered dream.
Like a whisper of a memory.
Then comes the agony. The searing fire, the liquid pain throbbing in my veins, scolding my system like a thousand Gallifreyan suns. The infernal purge burns and renews, burns and renews, like a phoneix rising from the ashes. My head...feet...legs...arms...two hands...two hearts...crushing, churning, changing. My body destroys in order to rebuild, mimicking the relentless way of Earthen misery; every time those stupid, pitiful humans - for they truly are beautiful, wonderful, spectacular, in their pitifulness and stupidity - break down, they manage to build themselves back up and grow stronger than before. It is one of the things which has always drawn me to them, not so much like a moth to a flame, but like a tortoise to a mayfly. I know I can live a hundred lifetimes - eleven incarnations, and counting - and I know I can rebuild, remodel, remake myself, but the humans can't. When they fall, they fall. When they break, they break. When they die, they die. Every instinct and fibre of universal evolution should tell them to curl up into a ball in some dank, dark corner and wait for their inevitable end, wait to see me watching helplessly from the sidelines with my basket full of years, but they don't. They refuse. Their courage refuses.
Somewhere in the brightness and the darkness - for the pain is truly bright and burning, but there is no light in my stretch of this hellish tunnel - I think I hear a voice. Delicate, tear-strewn, barely whispered.
"Please don't change."
The only girl who has ever scattered herself across time for me, jumped into my own lifestream to protect my soul. The only person in this goddamned universe who knows the agony I'm facing right now.
But whilst she had her Earthen courage, I am weak. The pain is too much...unbearable...I want to shout and scream at her...tell her that asking me not to change is as useful as standing on Skaro in front of the Daleks, begging for extermination, and expecting them not to harm you...as useful as volunteering yourself for Cyberman conversion and requesting that they leave your silly, pretty human face in tact...but I can't...too much pain...pain...my features being melted off my face...a new man being left in the old one's place...
I break through the surface.
Gasping. Air. I must get air into my new lungs. Their tightness is overly-restricting.
But then...she's there.
In front of me.
Who is she?
C, I think. C, her name begins with C.
I open my new eyes. Blink once. Twice. Once more for good luck. On my new limbs, I move toward her, beady bird eyes open and staring, absorbing. Light coloured shirt. Dark cardigan and skirt. Gold statement necklace and choppy bangs. There are her eyes, big, brown, doe-like things, covered by soft skin and neighbours to a cute button nose. Her full bottom lip quivers in the flickering blue light of the Tardis as I pull myself closer, draw my new body to her face, and inspect this tiny female. She opens her plump lips to speak...
Every instinct in this new body tells me not to show any signs of weakness, but the wince escapes my lips without my brain's command. Actually, on second thought, screw wince. I yelp again as my insides feel like they are being sat on by Dorium Maldovar. Yes, definitely screw wince - screech is more appropriate.
"Kidneys!" I wheeze, clutching my side. "I've got new kidneys!"
The girl's big, doe-eyes blink quickly, practically popping out of her head.
I touch my side again with a brand new hand, straightening up. "I don't like the colour."
"Of your kidneys?" she asks, still blinking.
At this rate, she'll need new eyelids by then end of our exchange.
"They're like a mixture between marshmallow pink and fuschia," I say.
"Fushia..." she repeats.
"I would have preferred khaki," I confide.
She swallows. "Khaki kidneys..."
I furrow my brow, allowing my new eyes to drink her in again. "What colour are yours?"
Suddenly, the Tardis swerves violently to the side. With a combination of my newlegedness (not a registered condition, I know, but it should be) and her human clumsiness, we topple haphazardly to the opposite side of the control deck, my new hip smacking against the control console in the process.
"What's going on?" the girl yells, wrapping her tiny, trembling fingers around the silver railings by a seat.
"We're crashing," I say, glancing around us.
A cresendo of pops and sparks starts up out of nowhere, as all of a sudden the Tardis swerves once more. Finding my new sea - or should that be space - feet, I stumble toward the console and take in the sights. Buttons...dials...levers...and - oh, yes! - more buttons. I pick the brightest, shiniest one and start punching it. Nothing. Next, I go for the smallest one. Nope, it doesn't do the trick either.
"Stay calm," I order - although I'm not sure if the command is meant for me or her. "Or rather, keep calm and carry on. Don't panic. Everything's going to be all right. Bob's your uncle."
She sucks in an unsteady breath in disbelief. "What?" she asks, shaking her head in bewilderment. Another swerve sends her skittering down the railing as she avoids getting thrown to the other side of the Tardis.
I shrug, still staring at the console and begging my brain to figure something out. "It just seemed like the right thing to say."
She barks out a laugh in mild horror. "Bob's certainly not my uncle right now."
I shrug again. "How am I suppose to know your uncle's name?" I say. "We're currently crashing through the space-time continuum like a very big bull in a very scary, planet-filled china shop. Or we could be getting sucked into a timey-wimey black hole of never ending doom. Or we could just be running out of gas. For all I know, your uncle could be called Bob. Or Richard. Or Muhammed. Or General Khaz-Ghijklsh of the Nine Hundredth and Thirty First Legion."
She rolls her eyes. "My uncle could never be called...well, that name."
"He could if he was a Judoon-Silurian hybrid. Nasty buggers."
Another swerve. My gaze fixes harder onto the console.
Green button? No.
Red button? No.
Bigger, red button? No.
I blink hard, swallowing. "Just one question," I say, raising my gaze from the control console to meer her unsteady gaze. Sweat beads are forming on her dainty, little brow. "Do you happen to know how to fly this thing?"
She doesn't even move to shake her head.
Silence and her still-blinking eyes are the only response I get.
With no other choice left, I stop fighting the nagging, urging itch in my mind which encourages my mischevious new eyes to wander over to the big, gold, shiny lever near the centre of the console.
I reach out a hand, hovering inches away from the handle.
"Are you ready?" I ask.
Again, I'm not sure if the question is for me or her.
I smack down the lever.