The Silent Land

by AJK [Reviews - 9]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Drama, General

Doctor Patrick studied his ‘patients’. Everything seemed fine, but he couldn’t help the worry that was beginning to spread through him. The un-naturally heavy sleep the two people shared was starting to unnerve him. If he did believe what the Doctor had told him and their conscious minds were wandering around in quasi-corporeal bodies back some five thousand years, what the hell was he supposed to do to help them if something went wrong? What if, for some reason or other, he had to wake them up in a hurry and their ‘minds’ didn’t make it back? He sighed, rubbing the ball of his hand across his forehead. He should have listened to his father and become a brick layer. He blew his cheeks out and rose sharply to his feet. This was crazy, he could drive himself mad thinking about what ifs. He’d just have to react to any problems as and when he found them.
The tent opened and the Doctor came in.
“It’s been over a day,” Patrick started, “how much longer do you think?”
The old man shook his head. “Not long, maybe another day.” He came further in, studied his friends and then left, pausing only once to glance back at the bodies on the beds, muttering something under his breath.
Patrick frowned. What he thought he’d heard made no sense, it sounded like: ‘I’m beginning to remember.’

The young boy, the image of Khufu, came running out of the temple. He stopped as a male figure stepped in front of him.
“Why the haste, young one?”
“I had some news for Sham the scribe. News he had long awaited.”
“What news?”
“A discovery of great worth. Better than any treasure. The road to immortality.”
“Ah!” The sigh was like the first drop of rain on a long parched desert. “Was he pleased?”
“Relieved, master.”
The figure laughed. “Does he have this discovery with him?”
“This evening master. It journeys a long distance.”
“I see. I will keep you no longer from your duties.”
With a swift bow the young man scurried away. The figure studied the temple doors a moment before walking across the sands and disappearing behind a dune.
Ian stepped out from behind the half built tomb, now acting as a real burial place, Sennu’s body concealed below layers of slabs. Satisfied that no one was watching, he headed for the temple. The first stage of the plan was working, time to ready stage two.

Inspector Iffram watched as the white haired man left the tent and made his way across the desert towards the temple, a journey the policeman had watched him make on several occasions.
His detective’s instincts told him that something was going on; his two prime suspects in the mummified body fiasco had disappeared inside the tent, he’d not seen them now for over a day. He didn’t yet know what was going on, but whatever it was, he decided, he wouldn’t like it.

Ian paced up and down. Since this whole thing had started he must have paced for miles, he reasoned. He turned at a movement behind him. He could only stare as Barbara came out of the shadows. She now wore the gowns of the priestess. She was putting on a brave face, but the whole idea was clearly making her uncomfortable. She shrugged; this was just something that needed to be done.
“I still don’t like this,” Ian said, finding his voice again.
She removed the headdress and placed it carefully on the alter stone. “We don’t have a lot of choice.”
“I still think there should be another way.”
“Look, I don’t like dressing up in the clothes of a dead woman, but if it’s the only way to get back then it has to be done.”
Ian immediately felt very guilty, as he noticed how upset Barbara was getting.
“Barbara,” he moved forward and drew her into an embrace, “I’m sorry.”
She returned the hug. “Oh, it’s alright,” she pulled away. “I don’t mind really, as long as we get to go home.”
The moment was broken by the arrival of the scribe.
“I have sent a message; our enemy should be with us soon. Are we ready?”
The two teachers nodded, Barbara returning to mingle with the shadows. Ian leaving the temple to act as look out. Sham stood behind the alter, the box in front of him.

The detective listened outside Patrick’s quarters. The elderly man had returned a few minutes ago. All he could hear was an indistinct muttering. He needed to be inside but he knew he had no grounds to enter. He’d bide his time, something would happen soon and he’d be ready.

Barbara tensed in her hiding place as she heard the doors open. From where she stood she had a very limited view, able to see just Sham and the box, everything else was blocked. She watched as the scribe tensed, relaxing as he recognised who was coming in.
“What are you doing here?” he demanded. “I thought I asked you to wait outside.”
“I’ve come for the book, old one. I do not wait to be invited in.”
Barbara gasped involuntarily as the new arrival stepped into sight. It was Ian, his double. He was dressed in the robes of a priest, his long braided hair, hanging down his back. She watched Sham tense again as he realised his mistake, watched as the old man’s eyes darted to the entrance, some movement having caught his attention. She let her breath out slowly, obviously Ian, the real Ian, had followed the stranger in.
“Is that the casket?”
“I believe so.”
“You have not opened it?”
“You instructed me not to.”
“Yes, I did.”
The priest strode arrogantly up to the altar. He swung the box round to face himself and studied the hieroglyphs. He let out a dangerous laugh.
“All this trouble to find what I wanted, all this effort to save your priestess and I killed her anyway. Still the power is mine.”
“We each receive what we deserve,” Sham muttered.
“You say your priestess deserved death?” The stranger caressed the box lovingly, his eyes ablaze with fanaticism.
“We each receive that which we work for.”
“Your answers are meaningless,” he snapped, as he pulled at the catches to open the casket.
Sham’s hand slammed down on the lid, causing Barbara to jump as the noise thundered about the stone temple. The priest snapped his head up to glare at the scribe, his eyes ablaze with hatred.
“If you open the box, you must be wary of the consequences.”
“The consequences will be supreme power and eternal life. Remove your hand old man, or I remove you from this earth as easily as I removed that pious priestess of yours.”
The scribe studied his enemy before shrugging a little. “I have tried to warn you, I can not make you hear.”
He removed his hand from the lid. Barbara was surprised to see a look of genuine regret spread across his face, sadness dulling his eyes.
The priest snorted derisively, still glaring at the scribe as he lifted the lid. Finally his attention switched to the interior of the box. A triumphant smile curled his lips; his eyes alight with pure madness. He reached into the casket, withdrawing a large leather bound volume.
“The book of Thoth,” the stranger muttered.
The smile spread wider, before a slight frown coloured the expression, the smile slipping turning into a growl of anger, a howl of pain.
Barbara stood, mouth agape as she watched the acrid smoke billowing away from the man’s hands.
“What faint trickery is this?” he bellowed, struggling to free his burning skin from the cover of the tome.
“We each receive what we deserve.”
Finally the book was flung across the room, as his hands ripped free. It landed on the floor, propped open against the altar.
“We each receive that which we work for,” Sham’s spoke softly.
The priest looked up, tilting his head like a curious puppy. He listened, his ears detecting a low noise, just within his hearing; like a distance sand storm and the noise of people fleeing in terror. When the wind came it knocked the man from his feet, causing him to cry out in agony as he was forced to break his fall with his ravaged hands. The scribe looked across to Barbara, the signal that she was due to appear. Preparing to brace herself against the wind, she stepped from the shadows.

Iffram’s ears pricked up as he heard excited voices coming from inside the tent.
“What’s happening?” Patrick’s voice called, just keeping panic from his tone.
“It’s near the end.”
That was all the police officer needed. Without a seconds pause he pushed into the tent. The sight before him was strange to say the least. The camp doctor and the white haired old man stood over his two prime suspects, lying on separate cots, to all intents and purposes, asleep.
They must have been the grip of some terrible nightmare; they were both panting, sweat forming on their faces, bodies tense. Both seemed to be mumbling to themselves.
“What is happening here?” he demanded.
No one reacted.

The priest was trying to avoid the faces and voices of the many ghostly figures that surrounded him. He recognised each and every one of them, all people he had destroyed, all had come for him, each calling his name, each accusing him. His attention was suddenly drawn by a very solid, sandal shod foot that stepped in front of him.
His expression became more alarmed the further up the body his eyes travelled, until they reached the face.
“No!” The scream of denial almost succeeded in blanking out the noise of the wind.
The man struggled to his knees, cradling his damaged hands. Tears, wind drawn from an otherwise arid soul, streamed down his face. The air stilled, the many voices joined into one, one coming from the mouth of the vision before him.
“I exist beside Osiris. Shining in the Duat, my life force goes on.”
The man shook his head vigorously. “No! No, I killed you.” He laughed; he was starting to lose his very loose grip on reality. “I squeezed the life out of you.”
“I saved her.”
He span at the new voice behind him and saw........ himself.

Iffram stepped further into the tent. “What is happening?” He demanded.
Patrick looked up at the Doctor. He wasn’t even trying to hide his panic now.
“Look, I really think we should do something. They can’t take much more of this. Ian’s body certainly can’t, it’s still recovering.”
“No, we mustn’t interfere.”
The inspector had had enough; he stepped between the two unconscious people.

The priest’s eyes followed his mirror image as it crossed to stand with the vision of a dead woman. The tears on his face were genuine, as he felt the last of his reason slipping away.
“I hate her!” He screamed. “I loath everything she stands for.”
His twin shook its head. Locking hands with her it brought them up placing them on its chest, laying his other hand over them.
“I care about her.”
The enemy was shaking his head too, in denial. “She has stopped everything I tried to do!” He yelled at the vision.
The vision of himself turned to look at the woman, leaning forward it kissed her gently on the lips. A sudden rush of anger flowed through the stranger.
“No!”
With sudden strength, he launched himself forward, a knife appearing in his hand from somewhere inside his boot.
“You will die this time!” He laughed again as he felt the blade sink into the woman’s flesh, disappearing up to the hilt.
Ian looked on in horror as Barbara fell from his arms, blood flowing from an open wound in her stomach.

“Look,” Iffram shouted again. He stepped back, so far back that he knocked into the two people on the cots. Their linked hands fell away from each other.
“What have you done?” the old man snapped. He stared at the inspector, dread etched into his features. “What have you done?”

Ian felt the familiar tingling sensation; saw his surroundings beginning to fade. He watched as his twin plunged the dagger into his own heart, collapsing at the feet of the scribe who was racing to Barbara’s side. The school teacher reached forward with his fast disappearing hand.
“Barbara!”
Her terrified eyes found his face. She reached out, trying to grasp at the transparent flesh.

“Barbara!”
All three men were stunned into silence by the sudden shout. All three stepped back as the school teacher’s eyes snapped open and he all but fell from his cot in his desperation to get to his friend’s side.
“You’ve got to wake her up.” The words were almost incomprehensible.
“What?” Patrick asked, still stunned by the reanimation of his all but comatose patient.
“Wake her up!” The Doctor prodded him into action. “Quickly, she’s dying.”

Barbara could feel the warmth draining from her body, her eyes were glued to spot where Ian had stood. She tried to call his name but no sound came out. She was vaguely aware of Sham picking up her head, speaking softly to her, trying in vain to stem the flow of blood. Her gaze fell on the body of the man who had done this to her. His eyes were still open, he still stared at her. She watched as life fled from those eyes, slowly, silently his body faded from sight.

“Barbara,” Ian called, shaking her shoulders roughly. “Barbara, wake up.”
He was vaguely aware of a mad scrambling coming from somewhere behind him, and then the young medic was beside him, pushing up her sleeve, injecting something into her vein.
“What was that?” the Doctor wanted to know.
“Stimulant,” the young man put in sharply.
“Come on Barbara.”
Ian picked up her hand, stroking it gently. Nothing happened for what seemed like an age, then the woman’s eyes flickered slightly.
“Barbara?”

She heard her name called faintly. “Ian?” she managed to gasp out.
She felt a slight tingling in her limbs, a tight knot in her stomach. The old man was still talking to her. He slipped something into her hand, it felt like a pebble, before lowering her head to the floor and stepping away.
“You’ll be alright, child. You’re going home,” she heard him say.
Just as the temple started to fade, she heard something else, a voice so faint she wasn’t sure she had heard it. A familiar, friendly, much missed voice.
“Grandfather, is everything alright now?”

“Barbara.”
Her eyes opened, a slight, weak smile lit her face. “Ian.” She swallowed, her throat felt parched. “I thought I was dead.”
With a relieved laugh, Ian kissed her on the forehead. “Welcome back.”
Iffram stood in the corner where he’d been forced to retreat. “Will someone please tell me what is happening?” he asked, his voice barely carrying over the laughter and excited voices.

Barbara leant up the warm bark of the palm tree. The temperature was very pleasant here in the shade and she allowed her eyelids to slide closed, the quiet lapping of the water from the oasis willing her into a light sleep.
Her mind came back from her peaceful daydream when she heard someone approaching. She didn’t need to open her eyes to know who it was.
“Yes Ian, I’m fine.”
The man drew to a halt. “I didn’t say anything,” he said defensively.
Her eyes opened, a smile touching her lips. “You didn’t need to.”
He laughed lightly, lowering himself down into the sand beside her. “Have I been that bad?”
“Yes.”
He had the good grace to look ashamed. “I worry.”
“Mmm!” She closed her eyes again, the smile still evident.
Ian watched her for a few moments, and then he too rested his head against the tree, his mind drifting away from the traumas of the past few days.
This was exactly how the Doctor found the pair when he came looking for them a few hours later.
“I don’t know how you find the time,” he stated in mock anger.
The pair awoke with a start.
“Doctor!” Ian said, accompanying the word with a exaggerated stretch. “What time is it?” He looked bleary eyed at his watch, not quite able to bring the face into focus.
“Time we were leaving, I think.”
“Oh, why?” Barbara climbed to her feet. “Just as things are settling down again.”
“The best time to leave anywhere, my dear; before anything else can happen.”
“We’re not even staying for the opening of the tomb?” Ian wanted to know.
“Oh, you slept through that.”
“What?” Ian was on his feet now.
”Doctor, that was the whole reason we were here,” Barbara admonished. “You could have woken us.”
“I thought it best not to, just in case.”
“In case what?” The school master was obviously puzzled.
“In case things were not as you expected.”
“What does that mean?”
“Who was in the tomb?” the old man asked.
“What do you mean?” Ian often wished their companion would just tell them what they needed to know.
“The inscription said it was Sham.” Barbara answered the question.
The old man shook his head. “They found inscriptions explaining that the occupant was a priestess called Sennu. They found her body this afternoon. The coroner’s agreed to have a look at it.”
“How can that be,” Ian asked, “we were there when they found the funerary cone.”
“That was after you tampered with history, before you corrected it.”
“Oh!” Ian frowned. “So whose body did I find outside Barbara’s tent?”
The Doctor shrugged. “It was a male; apparently he’d been stabbed through the heart.”
Ian remembered the final moments in the temple, the things he saw just before his world faded out. Okay, so now he was really confused. “You mean I fell over my own body?!”
Barbara giggled.
The Doctor sighed, shaking his head. “Oh don’t be ridiculous young man. If it had been your body you could hardly be here now, could you.”
“Well, no,” Ian blustered. “I suppose not.”
“How did you explain the sudden change in gender?” Barbara asked, trying to keep a straight face despite Ian’s very puzzled expression.
“What change in gender?” the old man asked, gripping his lapels. “As far as the people here are concerned the body has always been a male.” The Doctor waved away his companions questions. “Time has a way of clearing things up. You, young man, had already found a body. So a body had to be supplied - a void would have caused all kinds of problems.”
“Why are we the only people who know both versions?” Barbara wanted to know.
“You two were at the very centre of the changes and so the ripple effect didn’t reach you.”
“The ripple effect?” Barbara asked, although she had a feeling that she wouldn’t understand the answer.
“Any change in time is like throwing a pebble into a pond. The ripples continue to grow, sweeping all before it, getting larger until they eventually fade to leave smooth water behind.”
“How do you remember?” Ian started. “You were here with everyone else.”
The Doctor took a deep breath and raised himself to his full height. “I, my boy, have a special relationship with time.”
“Yes, of course.” The school master coughed. He’d put his foot in it again.
“Doctor,” Barbara interrupted, “I have a question.”
“Yes, my dear.”
“Just before I woke up, when I was still back there, I heard a voice call out to Sham.”
Ian noticed that the Time Lord suddenly looked very uncomfortable. “Really,” he coughed nervously, “are you sure you didn’t imagine it. You were under a great deal of stress.”
“I didn’t imagine it.”
“What did this voice say?” Ian asked.
“‘Grandfather, is everything alright now?’ ” Barbara turned her attention back to the squirming Time Lord. “It was Susan.”
“What!?” Ian too, stared at the now very uncomfortable old man.
“Yes, well....”
“Is this true?” the school master demanded.
“Yes,” the Doctor admitted reluctantly. “It happened a short while before you and I met.”
“Then why couldn’t you just tell us what was going to happen?”
“Because I didn’t know.”
“You mean you didn’t remember?” Barbara asked.
“No, I mean I didn’t know. As far as I was concerned it hadn’t happened yet.”
“Wait a minute.” Ian rubbed his hand across his forehead. “You just told us that it happened before you met us, but now you’re saying that it didn’t happen to you until a few days ago.”
“Had you ever been to ancient Egypt before you met me?”
“Of course not!”
“Well then!” The Time Lord seemed to think this explained everything. He studied his companions. Obviously they weren’t satisfied. “How could I have met you before you went back in time?”
Ian opened his mouth to say something, but could think of nothing to say, so he closed it again.
“Susan and I were in that period of Egyptian history, I did meet Sennu and Sham.”
“There was a real Sham?” Barbara was surprised.
“Yes, he was killed shortly after I arrived for refusing to help find the book. I pretended to be Sham, to see if I could rescue the situation, but was forced to leave when Sennu died too.”
“How did I change history then?” Ian asked, still trying to put the pieces together.
“The body you found was Sennu’s. Originally she did die from a snake bite, but I’m not sure if it was an accident. So when her body was found in 1999 I had a fair idea something was badly wrong. Then when they found the tomb with Sham’s body I knew something had to be done.”
“Why?” Barbara was trying to keep track of the story.
“The real Sham’s body was cremated. Another ‘accident’.”
“So the body they found....” the school master started.
“Was mine,” the Doctor nodded. “A temporal tautology. I could not possibly have died before I met you or I would not have been here when they dug up my body.”
“I see,” Ian stated.
“Do you?” Barbara asked a little surprised.
A pause. “No,” the man admitted. “How did you not know what was going to happen?”
“Because everything that happened when you went back, was happening to me for the first time.”
“But I......”
“You really don’t understand the inter relationship of time do you?”
Ian held up his hands, finally admitting defeat.
“How did the bodies come into the future Doctor?” Barbara decided to change tack.
“Hmmm, that’s a little harder to explain. I think in Chesterton’s case, the snake venom certainly had something to do with it. Egyptians certainly believed that the snake was an agent of chaos; they also believed that the sun god - Ra had a cobra form. It was stated in their mythology that to meet this form of the god the traveller had to ‘move outside time itself’ - in a way your mind did this through the coma.”
“But why back to that period, at that time?” Ian wanted to know.
The Doctor sighed. “After travelling with me for so long, it could simple be that when your mind sort something familiar it found the TARDIS. I now believe that there must have been some kind of leakage from the temporal circuits. Your subconscious homed in on that. It might also explain why the bodies came here; they too were sensitive to this leakage. There was certainly a major fault in the ship by the time Susan and I came to your period, which was why we were forced to stay so long. Perhaps, in its time of trouble it sort some thing familiar, homing in on the traces of temporal leakage lingering in your brain waves.”
The earth people exchanged puzzled expressions, then Ian turned to the Doctor shaking his head.
“Okay, we’ll leave that particular discussion for another time.”
The Time Lord raised his eyebrows, a small smile creasing his lips. “Are you sure?”
Ian’s brows drew downward. “Now, Doctor, why were you so desperate to get rid of me when I first arrived?” “Remember, I had no idea who you were, for all I knew you could have been the person making Sham do all those things. Even if you were innocent of that, I couldn’t afford the risk that you would tell Sennu anything it wasn’t safe for her to hear.”
“Yes.” The regret hung heavy in his tone.
“Come, come my boy, it’s all very much in the past now.” With a nod and a sad smile Ian carried on. “I know the stakes were high but don’t you think the performance with the snake statue was a bit over the top?”
“Mind over matter, dear boy.”
“Ah!”
“It was a lucky coincidence that at that moment Doctor Patrick gave you the antidote. It gave me quite a shock, I can tell you, when you faded out like that. That’s when I started to realise that something odd was happening, and when I accidentally over heard your conversation with Barbara then I knew I was in trouble.”
Ian nodded. “But was it really necessary to stab yourself like you did?”
“Stab himself?” Barbara asked, shocked.
“Yes,” Ian clutched his upper arm, “just here.”
The Doctor withdrew a knife from some interior pocket. “Like this.” He drew the blade across his palm, leaving a trail of deep red.
“Doctor!” Ian and Barbara called together.
Barbara snatched at the man’s injured hand. Ian grabbed the knife.
“A simple trick.” Barbara wiped at the blood, there was no wound. “Just something I picked up while I was in America, I visited a place called Hollywood - have you ever heard of it?”
“Yes,” Ian stated on a relieved laugh, “we’ve heard of it.”
Barbara had a question. She wasn’t really expecting an answer to it, but she might as well try. “Why did everyone here seem to have twins back then?”
“We don’t know they did, my dear. It could just have been the way the mind perceived these people.”
“But Doctor, the killer thought I looked like Sennu, as did you and Ian. We both thought the assassin was Ian coming in and you obviously looked enough like Sham to take his place without raising too many questions.”
The Time Lord didn’t like to admit defeat, so he gave the question a lot of thought. “Genetics is a wonderful thing Barbara, but there must be a limited amount of patterns for it to follow.”
Ian snorted doubtfully. “That’s a very convenient answer Doctor.”
The Doctor was beginning to get really tired of this particular human. He turned his most penetrating gaze on the school master. “Perhaps so young man, but can you think of any other answer?”
There was silence, but Ian finally had to admit he couldn’t. He shrugged, noticing the satisfied expression that fled briefly across the Time Lord’s features.
“There’s just one more thing,” Barbara started, reaching into the pocket of her jeans. “I think you should keep this.” Lying in her hands was a small Jet amulet, a miniature carved Anubis.
“Thank you.” A sad expression crossed the old man’s face. “It belonged to Sennu.”
“Is that what you picked up from the finds table?” she asked.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow, surprised that anyone had noticed this little act. He nodded. “Sentiment - not something I like to admit I feel.”
“Where did you get it?” Ian asked of Barbara.
“Sham,” Barbara smiled, “Sham gave it to me just before I came back.”
There was a moments silence as each person was lost in thought. The moment was broken as the Doctor sighed loudly.
“Well, I think if we’re all finished here we should be leaving.”
“We’re not even going to say goodbye?” Barbara inquired.
“We’d probably have to answer a lot of questions we’d rather not,” Ian answered a little sadly.
“Quite true.” The Doctor walked away heading for the temple and the only home he’d known for a long time.
Barbara let out a sigh. “Despite everything that’s happened, I shall miss this place, the people.”
Ian placed an arm about her shoulders. “Yes, I know what you mean. There have been times when it’s been almost relaxing here.” He took one more look about the oasis, breathing in the warm desert air. “Well come on, we’d better go or he’ll leave without us.”
With a nod Barbara allowed herself to be led away.

The sun beat down on the yellow desert sands. A few hours ago the heat would have been almost unbearable, forcing all but the most hardy inside. Now, in the early evening, the temperature had dropped taking the ferocity out of the stars rays.
Winding their way through the landscape was a small procession: six men, each carrying a small portion of a simple wooden coffin. Following at a short distance, was an elderly man, the unusual natural white of his hair glinting in the daylight.
The procession came to a halt outside a tomb, the newly completed structure nestled in a small hollow in the surrounding ground, the top slabs still baring the yellow tinge of freshly quarried stones, the sun having not yet had the chance to bleach them.
The old man stepped forward, pulling something loose from around his neck. He placed the object on the coffin lid, laying his hand over it bowing his head briefly before stepping back.
As the wooden box was taken through the doorway and down the steps into the dark interior, the object slid from the coffin lid. No one noticed as a sandal shod foot trod on the tiny impact crater, removing all trace of the amulet, except for a small piece of the leather thong.
Nearby stood a complex of buildings, one was a large temple, the door of which stood ajar. Two people stood in the gap, both looking towards the ceremony at the tomb.
Barbara touched Ian lightly on the shoulder. “Come on Ian, we’d better get back to the ship. The Doctor did ask us to wait there for him.”
“I just wanted to say goodbye,” he said, facing her.
“I know. She was a good woman.”
With a nod, he reached for his friend’s hand and they walked back into the temple.
Behind them a small grey feline shape came out from behind a tree. It sat and watched them leave, mewing quietly to itself. It watched as the ceremony finished, it watched as the old man disappeared inside the temple structure and after a few minutes a slight wheezing noise broke the silence of the sands.
The cat looked up at the golden solar orb, closing its eyes against the brightness and turning its head, almost sun bathing. A slight breeze lifted tiny grains of the desert, shifting them towards the tomb. The breeze turned into a wind. The feline did not seem to notice as the palm trees about it received a battering from the rapidly strengthening winds. It rocked slowly to and fro with the power of its purring. It was happy.


THE END.