The Things that are Human

by vegetables [Reviews - 1]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe, Drama, General, Horror, Humor, Hurt/Comfort, Introspection, Mixed, Series

School treated Chris differently, when she came back from space and time. Not because of where she’d been — they wouldn’t have known, or been very interested either — but because the things that they couldn’t have understood had vanished forever from the world.

When the aliens who were grinning skulls had come for Chris and her friends, they’d done something that meant nobody would care as those children began to die. Funeral after funeral went by and Chris shouted that something was wrong, and no one noticed or listened until exactly the right someone did. The Doctor had saved her and broken her as well, and now she was back in a world that seemed broken too. Because now people realised what it meant to lose three friends in fires, and that was the worst thing that could have happened of all.

She wouldn’t have thought so, when she’d come to school that day. She’d hoped they’d have felt the pain of it, given her space and talked through the trauma. She didn’t like the teachers there that much, but she’d not lost all faith in them yet. But she had forgotten how people reacted to mistakes that were so big and so stupid, too huge to ever be able to admit to. Nobody said that they hadn’t realised what that experience would be like to Chris– only a stupid person would fail to see that, and they knew they were not stupid people. None of them said they could have been fooled by things beyond human understanding, because no human wants to believe there are things that they can’t understand. And so they felt shame and confusion and rage at themselves, and all of them turned out that anger onto her. Her teacher shouted and her classmates mocked her; the Deputy Head snarled as she passed her by. Chris imagined flames devouring the pupils, then the teachers, then the world, and as they licked up over the planet she wondered why the Doctor saved anyone at all.

The school did make one concession to her, however. In the afternoon as the classes filed into lines, she made her way to the nurse’s office by the stairs where the ugly picture stood. By that time she’d mostly given up hope the meeting would do any good, although her encounter with the Doctor had broadened her expectations of medical professionals. But the nurse was nothing like the Doctor; not alien and strange with a time machine hidden in the woods. She was odd, though. Chris thought she was very odd.

Even before the skull-faced men had appeared in Chris’s life, her mother had taken her to see a lot of people who thought they could make children better. Through their many failures, Chris had thought she’d seen every way an adult could misunderstand the help that she might want from them. But the nurse had misunderstood her in a way no one else had even thought of: she’d asked her if she really wanted emotions at all. She’d said that after seeing so much a child shouldn’t and feeling so much she wouldn’t be able to understand, it would be perfectly natural to never want to feel a thing again. And Chris had replied that emotions were what she had left of all her friends, and that failing to feel sad that they were gone would have been a disservice to them. And she’d tried to keep her voice steady as she’d done so, but had heard it crack half the way through, so that by the end she was shouting, crying at the stupidity of the nurse and the Doctor and the world. And the nurse had looked very distant, then, and said she’d once thought emotions were important too.

Chris thought about that conversation a lot, over the coming years. When she got home that day and her mum and the Doctor were gone, and the police found the shop they were in a shattered and broken ruin. When they announced that people could apply to become checkout machines at one supermarket, and soon demanded they became them in them all. When she saw her first Cyberman on the street and realised what had spoken to the nurse way back then, and when the politicians said there was no need for humans anymore in their high and mechanical voices.

For so many times Chris thought of that conversation, and what it could mean for her, and what it meant to keep her emotions as they grew heavier and more disreputable to hold. But she never once thought she should let those emotions go. For although she didn’t realise it yet, the Doctor had taught her the most important lesson she could, in the short time they’d spent together in another world. And so in the darkness of that place she now found herself in, Chris struggled, and fought, and lived by the choice that she had made.