The Horror of Hume

by vegetables [Reviews - 0]

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

The Doctor had to do something clever with her torch to catch up to where the Earthlings had gone. It gave out light in a way that wasn’t quite like brightness, making everything in the caves look lit by a winter dawn. The cold light made Chris very aware that it was cold beneath the asteroid, too, even wrapped in the folds of her ridiculous spacesuit. She shivered, and breathed in the false air the suit had produced for her. She felt very alone in that place, in a way that she never had before.

Yet even as she did she could hear the voices of the Earthlings, chattering to each other at a place where the cavern sloped down and away. They’d come for oil, but there wasn’t much of it so far up: just tiny pools of it that welled up from spots in the rocky ground.

“We were looking for oil on an asteroid back home,” said Chris. “I thought it was a stupid idea. Is it this one, too? Or is there oil everywhere?”

“I’m working it out,” said the Doctor. “I have a few ideas. If we’re very lucky, they’ll all turn out to be wrong.”

“It was never going to be easy,” Drocks was saying up ahead. “A mission like this was always going to have its obstacles. At least a rockfall’s easy to overcome.

The light of the Doctor’s torch met the light from the Earthlings’ suits, and the five of them looked at each other uncomfortably.

“Rocks in the way,” said Bol. “Don’t suppose you could give us a hand? You could film it, even, to show what it’s like behind the scenes. This can’t be the worst thing your crew has had to put up with.”

“It’s not,” said Chris as she shivered in her suit.

“Only we’re on a schedule, you see, and I’ve important plans back home. My wife’s just hatched us a clutch of children. I’ll need to be getting back so we can eat them.”

What?” said Chris.

“I know,” sighed Bol. “I should’ve been there when they hatched.” He laughed. “My wife’s going to kill me”–

“She’s going to kill your children!” said Chris. “She’s going to eat them. I’m a child,” she said. “If I was yours, would you eat me?”

You?” said Kala, horrified. “You look so old! Bol and I both have sons that aren’t really children anymore. We certainly wouldn’t think of eating them. Even to consider it would be shocking.”

“It’s shocking on Hume however old a child is,” said the Doctor. “They care a lot about children there. It’s one of the reasons why I’m so fond of the place. And why I’m so particular about saving it.”

“I think the mammals are right, if I’m honest,” Drocks said as he chiselled away. “Everyone does it,” he said cheerily, “but that doesn’t mean it’s right.” He smiled. “Maybe we’re all just awful, and don’t deserve to survive at all. And maybe we won’t, if finding the oil goes south.”

“Why do you need oil from space, anyway?” said Chris. “There’s lots of it there down on Earth.”

“Not anymore,” said Kala. “Word is if we don’t find more soon we might even have to drill in the oceans. Though the Sea Devils’d have something to say about that!”

Kala!” said Drocks. “You can’t use slurs like that! Not in front of the aliens! Not in front of anyone!” He looked apologetically to Chris and the Doctor. “It’s not like people think. We don’t say things like Sea Devils where we’re from. Please don’t put that in your documentary.”

“Oh, everyone thinks it,” said Kala. “Who wouldn’t, the things they’re getting up to? Time was war was unthinkable; you know that people’re thinking about it now. Though they don’t say it. Not about something as small as oil.”

“Is that what it was?” Chris asked the Doctor very quietly.

“Who knows,” said the Doctor in a distant way.

The Earthlings looked uncomfortable, trying to get away from the thought of the end of the world. But that made Chris think about what their world must be like, and whether–

“Do you have stegosaurs on Earth?” she asked.

“Not where we’re from,” said Kala. “I think they have one in the zoo. It’s in a very small cage; I think it’s cruel.”

“How do they mate?” Chris asked. “There are lots of plates running up their backs, so I didn’t see how.”

“Um,” laughed Kala, “I don’t think that’s an appropriate subject for children!

“But you eat your children!”

“Yes,” said Kala, “And we talk about appropriate subjects when we do.”

“See?” said the Doctor. “Lots of demand from Humans for these documentaries. So many questions about planet Earth that only our films can answer. But filming isn’t the only skill I have.”

She nodded over to the rocks.

“Chisels are all well and good,” she said. “But if you really need your rocks shifted, they’re not a patch on a screwdriver.”

Bol looked at her. “You’re planning to unscrew them?”

“In a way. These rocks, they’re emitting gravity. It’s why we’re able to walk so easily at all, down through this tiny asteroid. But a blast from the sonic can turn things right around. We just need to reverse the polarity.”

“Of the gravity?” said Chris.

“Well, only in the rocks. We wouldn’t want to go falling onto the roof.”

“That’s stupid,” said Chris.

“I’m inclined to agree,” said Drocks. “Gravity doesn’t have a polarity.”

“Not that you know about!” said the Doctor.

“Sometimes I think you just make things up, but then they work anyway,” said Chris. “In the same way that adults do.”

“Oh, I make things up all the time,” said the Doctor. “But I’m getting better. And this one’s true, anyway. Lots of things have a polarity, lots of solutions involve reversing it. It’s a uniting scientific discovery; you’ll discover it some day.”

“On Earth, too,” said Kala.

“Yes,” said the Doctor. “It’ll be discovered on the Earth.”

Chris tried to look at the Doctor’s face then, to see how it looked when it told a truth that was also a lie. But she couldn’t help looking round as the Earthlings’ gasps rose above the whine, as the rocks lifted from the ground exactly as the Doctor said they would. It was slow work, but before long there was enough space to continue through the caves.

“We should run through,” said the Doctor. “Gravitational polarity can be funny. Sometimes it just flips back to normal, then the rocks fall down and crush you. It’s more horrible than funny, really. But the distinction won’t much matter, is what I’m saying.”

“Then we run,” said Bol. “We did want to do this as fast as possible.”

The five of them ran on under the floating boulders, down to the dead oil that lay below. None of them thought how strange it was, to be the only living things on that rock.

And that was a fortunate thing, because before long they would discover that they were not.