The Things that are Human by vegetables
“And the Cybermen just leave after praying,” said Lorna, who was still struggling to believe the situation.
“Why wouldn’t they?” said Chris. “They need access to the Mosque; we’re happy to give it to them.”
“Right. And they’re definitely really Muslims?”
Humza sighed. “You think that anything that had no emotions wouldn’t be, don’t you? Because there’s no way you could ever be nothing but reason, and find that you still have a faith.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You didn’t really need to,” said Humza. “There were a lot of people with prejudices.”
“You can imagine what some people were like. World gets taken over by checkout machines, and it turns out a load of them are Muslims.”
“That’s… that’s not something I would ever say”–
“And now you’re making it about you. I tell you,” he said to Chris, “if she wasn’t your mother”–
Lorna’s phone went off in a jolly way, the screen flashing the word DOCTOR even though they’d never given each other their numbers.
“It’s her!” said Lorna, relieved that her friend was alive and that she didn’t have to continue the conversation.
“You’re alive!” she said down the phone.
“You’re alive! That’s a relief, I was hoping you were. I’m just outside, with this man who doesn’t want to let me in.”
Lorna frowned. “But there’s no way you could know where we are.”
“Oh, that! I just hacked your phone.”
“But that’s an invasion of privacy!”
“No privacy anymore in Cybermanchester. There’s a man with no brain just looking at us all. Can I come in now?”
Lorna swiped her phone off, slightly less relieved that her friend was alive.
“The Doctor wants in,” she said to her daughter.
“Oh,” said Chris. “I don’t know if we should say yes.”
“Chrissy… Chris. She’s been trying”–
“She saved my life and then took it all away from me. I can’t forgive a thing like that.”
“She still saved it, though. She saved the both of us!”
“If it wasn’t for her, I’d never have lost you.”
“If it wasn’t for her, there wouldn’t be a me. I’d be dead, and you would. There wouldn’t even be a world. And none of this was her fault, not really. She was only trying to save us–“
“Save us!” laughed Chris. “Do you even know, Mum, how much damage in my life has been done by the people who were trying to save me?”
“I just think it would’ve been worse. Without her, and what she did.”
“I said to myself I’d do anything for you, if I ever saw you again. It kept me sane, when I wanted to give up emotions. And if this is what anything means, then. If it’s what you really want, we’ll let the Doctor in. But,” she added, “I’m not going to pretend that I like her.”
“No,” said Lorna. “That would be incredibly challenging.”
Chris clomped to the gate to let the Doctor in, soon coming back with her former friend alongside.
“Lorna!” grinned the Doctor, giving her an enormous hug. Then: “You!” she said to Humza, giving him an even bigger hug while he looked incredibly uncomfortable.
“Don’t give me a hug,” said Chris. “I can literally crush you. Why are you here?” she continued, “Can’t you just leave us alone?”
“I will soon enough. I was just thinking, you know, about the world. Now that it’s ruled by the Cybermen. It’s all very clean, but I thought it might be better… if you lot took it over once again.”
“Us?” said Humza. “The Things that are Human?”
“Anyone who’s human, or wants to be. As long as they still have emotions.”
“That sounds like something a lot of us want,” said Chris, “but I’m not sure there’s any way to do it.”
“I have a way of doing things,” said the Doctor, “when there aren’t any ways to do them.”
“And what’ll you do this time?” said Humza.
“I’m going,” said the Doctor with a huge smile, “ to give a big speech.”
“Oh, we definitely shouldn’t have let her in,” groaned Chris.
“No, it’ll be great! It’s going to be all about the things that make being human special; so inspiring it’ll make you believe in each other again.”
“And what sort‘ve things do you have in mind?” asked Humza skeptically.
“Oh, all sorts of things,” said the Doctor. “Sweating a lot. Chewing gum without dying. You see a lot of colours!” she sighed, “people do get jealous of that.”
“You don’t know, do you?” asked Chris through the acid in her voice.
“Not as such, no,” admitted the Doctor.
“You mean you don’t know what you’re going to say?” gasped Lorna.
“It might not matter. That’s what people like these days, isn’t it? Grinning blondes who don’t have a plan.”
“You can’t do it,” said Chris. “If you don’t know what you’re going to do, you should back out; you should go away. We’ve had enough to deal with, without you making things worse.”
“It’s too late,” said the Doctor. “It’s already been announced. To be broadcast all over the world! In New Trafford,” she said, “which they said is like Old Trafford, but”–
“With more Cybermen?” said Lorna wearily.
“You know, of course,” said Chris, “that you’re messing with real people’s lives.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” said Lorna. “It shouldn’t be that difficult, should it? There’s all sorts of particularly human things. Like… poems, or something, or art.”
Chris and Humza exchanged a knowing smile.
“That’s right enough,” said Humza. “Take that thing, over there.” He nodded to a painting of Old Manchester on one of the few bits of intact wall. It wasn’t a masterwork, but it was still beautiful: it captured something of the light and spirit of the city in a way that could never be done just by looking at it.
“Exactly,” said Lorna.
“A Cyberman did it,” said Humza with a smile.
“What?” said Lorna. “But it’s so”–
“Human?” said Chris. “We all thought like that, a few years ago. But it’s not really true. It was nice to think there were things that we needed emotions for — that a machine could never do as well — but they’ve done them all as well now, or better. We’re not the best at anything, not anymore.” She shrugged. “But we still want to live.”
“There was a video, a long time ago now,” said Humza. “When they still let humans access YouTube. It had so many arguments about what made humans better; why we should keep fighting against the Cybermen. But it turned out a Cyberman has written it. They were better than us even at that; at saying how we should be alive.”
“So we let go,” said Chris. “It’s their world now; we feel it. So it won’t be enough, to give an inspiring speech.”
“What about a logic puzzle?” said Humza.
“A logic puzzle?” said the Doctor.
“Well, I thought; they’re a bit like robots, right? And that’s what they used to do on TV. When the humans had to beat a robot– they’d do it with a logic puzzle.”
The Doctor grinned an enormous and goofy smile.
“That’s completely wrong,” she said. “They’re nothing like robots at all.”
“Then why are you grinning?”
“Oh! I liked the wrongness of it; its sort of shape–“
“Shut up,” said Chris.
The Doctor looked genuinely stunned.
“I believed in you, you know,” said Chris, “when you were my psychiatrist. And it was because you listened to me, even though nobody else ever would. But now I’m older you’re just talking about nothing, even though you’ve already said you’ve no idea what you’re going to do. You think that it’s charming, don’t you? Because you’ve done it for so long, and it’s how you always got by. But I think it’s everything you said that you weren’t and I”– she started to cry –“And I really believed in you”–
She broke down then, starting to sob. Her mother awkwardly patted her on her plastic shoulder, with no idea whether it was doing anything at all.
The Doctor sighed.
“You’re right,” she said, “about everything.”
Lorna glared at her.
“Except,” said the Doctor.
The glare intensified.
“Except I know exactly what I’m going to say.”
“Oh, COME ON, Doctor!” shouted Lorna. “You can’t do that! You can’t just make my daughter cry because you were pretending you don’t have any solutions, just ‘cause you think that it’s fun ”–
“No,” said the Doctor. “I really didn’t know, when we started this conversation. But I do, now. And it’s going to work, I think. It’s going to save the world.”
She gave the knowing look of someone who was utterly sure their plan would succeed, which was the same look of someone who was also completely wrong.
“But,” she said, “I’m going to need your help.”
“I don’t want to help,” said Chris, while Humza nodded vigorously.
The Doctor’s face fell. “You don’t want to save the world?”
“‘Course she does,” said Humza. “But we don’t believe you can do it.”
“Oh, but you should,” said the Doctor, “I’ve done it lots of times.”
Chris looked round the mess of their broken building, as water ran through the holes the invading humans had slammed through the wall.
“You didn’t stop this,” she said very softly.
“No,” said the Doctor. “No, I didn’t. This time, I let you down.”
“Sometimes I think,” said Lorna. “When I listen to you. That you’re not a woman who understands what it means to hope a little and have that hope just crushed, again and again ‘till you want to become a Cyberman.”
“You can’t believe,” said the Doctor, “because it makes you think of how you knew things could be better, and it makes you realise just how bad they’ve become. And it gets bad enough that it feels like hoping, even for a second… is to lose everything that’s been taken from you all the way over again.”
Chris looked at her oddly. “Then you do understand.”
“Yes. This world’s had so much taken from it you’re scared to even think that it could be saved.”
“If that’s how you want to put it,” said Chris.
“Then…” said the Doctor. “Then I think I’ll have to do something about that. A tiny woman comes along and saves the world. Is that really any more ridiculous, than all that’s happened ‘till now?”
“Everything that happened ‘till now wasn’t good,” said Humza.
“Then,” said the Doctor, “I’d better give a really good speech, hadn’t I?”
She smiled at them all, although her eyes did not.
Lorna sighed. “I’ll be there.”
“Me too,” said Humza, “at least it’s an outing of an evening.”
“Fine,” said Chris. “But I might be a teenager about it.”
The Doctor told them what they needed to do, then headed out to New Trafford alone.
The three of them stood for a while on the blackened carpet.
“She’s doomed, isn’t she?” said Lorna.
“Oh yeah,” said Humza. “Of course she’s doomed.”
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