“Do you say what you said to me to everyone?” Chris asked the Doctor.
“That depends,” said the Doctor, idly completing paperwork with her sonic screwdriver. “What was I saying to you?”
“That the things in my head are real. That people might tell me they aren't, that I'm delusional– but that I shouldn't listen to them, no matter what they say.”
“Not at all,” said the Doctor. “I tell most people I see that they’d benefit from medication. The universe is full of surprising things, astonishing things. But that doesn't mean people’s visions are always there.” She absent-mindedly waggled her screwdriver, blotting ink all over a form. “Time was, I didn't believe in pills. Thought they were made by people with tiny minds to make everyone as small as them. But I was wrong. Earth medication is very, very primitive. But it's often still the best thing I can offer, to the people who I see.”
“Could you not just give them better pills?” said Chris. “Ones from space.”
“Can't do that sort of thing. Time would explode.” The Doctor blew out her cheeks, making a poofing noise.
“Oh. Fair enough. Y’know, I'm glad you said that. About pills. If you were going around saying to everyone the things that you say to me, I’d’ve had to contact someone in charge. It wouldn't be right. Even if you are an alien.”
“No. It wouldn't be. You can't go round telling people their visions are real. Except, of course” — she glanced meaningfully at Chris — “except if it happens to be true.”
“That's the other thing,” said Chris. If they are real — the Nack — then why do they look like that? A grinning skull on a load of gas, but it’s a human skull. Is that the sort of thing all aliens have?”
“Aliens look like all sorts of things,” the Doctor said, “but that's not what the Nack really look like. You have to understand” — she hesitated — “that they're a bit beyond you.”
“What? Because I'm a child?”
“No! Because you're a human. And what you just said there, that's why you can see them at all. Skulls mean danger, at a primal level; you know that there's something there and turn it to something you can understand. But it's the knowing there's a world outside you that does it. You’re smart, but you're also young; adults are always telling you off. Saying there are things a child’s too young to know. Never occurs to them.”
“That there’s things an adult’s too young to know, too. Look, what would they say if I told them there was a creature whose reality — whose conceptual world — was utterly beyond adult understanding? That the things that creature thought and did were things their brains just couldn't understand– not because they were stupid, but because they weren’t built that way? And what would an adult say if I told them those creatures would put their world in danger, and that they wouldn't even see it until it was far too late?”
“They’d say you were mad,” said Chris. “They’d stop you from being a psychiatrist.”
“And what would the creatures in that forest say,” said the Doctor, waving out of the window, “if we could say the same thing to them?”
Chris went to look at the forest, fenced in with trees all covered in red X’s. Soon the bulldozers would move in, to build houses that were closer to the hospital, houses that no one would be able to afford.
Suddenly, she began to feel very, very afraid.