There wasn't much sleep to be found this night. Every little noise jolted me awake, making me look around to see if anyone else was up or if anything had snuck into our camp. Through my blurry sight I thought to make out the same shadows as before, silently waiting. Watching. But each time I moved a bit too much I could feel something solid in my back, not moving, not giving any sign he knew of my fears. But the Master's presence alone calmed me down enough to fall back asleep eventually.
Exhaustion must have knocked me out completely at one point, because suddenly I found myself in a long corridor, filled with a weird grey fog that obscured my view and didn't allow me to see its end. There was only a light in the far distance, pulsating from white to yellow and back again, slow and steady. As if the corridor itself was breathing.
And why wouldn't it? With all the veins that had dug their way through the old concrete, that had cracked open the rotting surface to grow and grow and grow until they wound themselves all along the walls, pulsating slowly in the same rhythm as the light at the end. A light I had to reach, to
I winced and fell out of the dream, almost as if something had zapped me. But nothing was there to do that. And this time I found myself alone, although a quick look was enough to show that the Master was still nearby, something on his lap that looked like a book. And he seemed to be writing something in it.
Quickly I grabbed my glasses, sat up and had a thorough look around our camp, finding not a single one of the creepy shadow figures.
Ulkta hadn't come back.
Everyone's mood was tense during breakfast. Bor and Darwil argued for quite some time whether or not to go looking for the missing woman, but in the end neither had a clue where to even start searching. For all we knew she could be literally everywhere. Alive maybe. But probably not.
"It feels so wrong to just go on without her," sighed Bor. "I know you're right, but…" He glared at the sky and shook his head.
"If she is still alive, she can find her way back." Darwil lay a hand on Bor's shoulder.
"When we're back, I can scan the area with my ship," said the Doctor. "Searching for life signs, heat signatures, n' stuff. You know?"
"You… what?" Darwil glared at the other man. "You have technology like that and yet you let us stumble around and have us in danger!?"
"Oi! He's not responsible for those things," called Donna. "Can't have known, can he?"
"You could have scanned the place!" shouted Darwil, stabbing a finger at the Doctor's chest. "You could have spotted those creatures and could have warned us!"
The Doctor shot his hands up in defence, stammering some technical nonsense that no one even understood and made Darwil even angrier. The man tried to lash out, wanting to hit the Doctor or maybe more than that. But his fist hit nothing. Instead it got caught mid swing, losing all its strength in a single moment as the Master caught it with his hand, pushing the other man backwards with a force that was truly… inhuman.
"Keep your hands away," growled the Master. "If you want to keep them." He shot hot glares around and at everyone who dared to cross his eyes. "Our ship is broken. We came with you in the hopes to find something here that can help fix it. Before that's done none of us can enter without getting poisoned."
"Th… that's what I was… uh… trying to say," spluttered the Doctor, catching up with the lie quickly.
"Then use words that people can understand, idiot," growled the Master and stepped away, not regarding anyone with another glance. He walked back to the piece of debris he had sat on previously and picked the book from the ground, stuffing it inside his backpack.
"Is… that so? I'm.. I'm sorry. Really," muttered Darwil.
"Yeah, 'm sorry too," mumbled Bor, not looking up.
"You guys flippin' scared me for a second," sighed Donna. "Don't just go 'round and start picking fights. 'S not helping your friend one bit. Let's stick together, yeah?"
The two men mumbled their agreement and soon we were packing up and had to decide how to proceed.
"There is no straight way anymore," noticed Meyla. "We have to go through the buildings."
"What about…" Bor threw an uncomfortable look at the ruins.
"I think…" the girl drawled. "They only were inside. So maybe they don't like fire. If we keep a light on us we might be safe."
"I'm not turning back," grumbled Darwil sullenly. "Everything would have been in vain."
"Yes. Agreed," said Meyla and cast a look at us. "What's with the rest of you?"
Donna puffed herself up, fists stemmed into her sites. "I didn't walk and climb all the flippin' way up here just to turn around now! Not happening, I tell you. Absolutely not happening. And if those black things go anywhere near me I swear to god I'll whack them in the face!" To make her statement clear she even lightly stomped her foot onto the ground. "'Sides… we might still have a chance to find your friend somewhere. Shouldn't forget that."
The Doctor nodded, rubbing his neck. "Yeah, she's not wrong. I'm certainly coming along too. Not sure' bout…" A look wandered towards me and another one towards the Master.
"I'm definitely not going back," I said, determinedly. "This is the coolest place I've been in a long time." Screw my no-adventure rule. This was too good to be missed. "Although those shadows do creep me out quite a lot," I admitted, wrapping my arms around myself.
"You practically begged to find some ghosts," came a taunting remark from the Master. He stepped next to me and casually propped his arm on my shoulder, resting his chin in his palm and looking down. "I'm not allowing you to run away now, lil' lumin."
My eyes shot to him and I swallowed, cursing my heart for doing a stupid jump because of his proximity.
"Dunno if those are ghosts," I mumbled. "You coming too?"
"Sure. Someone has to make sure my property doesn't get scratches." He chuckled, ruffled through my hair and sauntered away to get his backpack.
I was left with a great lot of stares that probably made me blush furiously. And before anyone could say a word I ducked away and got my own stuff.
The talk from before hadn't helped much with the mood. Silence loomed between us like thick fog, making the walk uncomfortable. We had to concentrate anyway, however, now that we were inside one of the buildings. It was one of those that had fallen over and was partially leaning against a bunch of other skyscrapers. The climb wasn't too steep, but we had to scramble over roots and debris, careful not to fall into holes or slip.
Eventually we reached a part that was practically melted with another building. Like an open wound there was hole gaping in the wall, surrounded by plants and leading deeper into more stone walled rooms. Those looked to be standing upright, although the plant life had covered everything that might even remotely remember furniture.
The Doctor checked his Sonic to make sure we were still headed towards the centre and after a quick break we continued our way. At least we were walking on somewhat solid and straight ground again, wandering through the enormous rooms.
Donna fell back a little, gave me a smile and still got slower until she was next to the Master who walked a little behind me. It wasn't hard to hear what they were talking about.
"Uh… just wanted to say thanks for your help this morning," she began, but got completely ignored. "For stepping in. He's such an idiot; he would have let himself get punched."
That made the Master break his silence. A snort escaped him, then a giggle. "Yeah, bloody idiot."
"'S true though, isn't it? He could have checked?"
"Probably not. I doubt those shadow things would have shown up on any device. And that gas is messing with the internal systems."
"Well… still was nice of you. Protecting him, you know. Sometimes I think he can't really do that for himself."
The Master hummed. A tone that was neither confirming, nor denying.
"That's it. I don't like you anyway. But you doing something nice needs to go noticed. Maybe you'll do it more often."
I could barely hold in a laugh and from the Master came nothing but a derisive grunt. Donna then picked up speed again and was past us both faster than I would have expected. She always managed to surprise me.
"How can you like that idiotic woman?" grumbled the Master, catching up to me. "She must be one of the most insufferable specimens of your entire race. And I met enough of your kind to tell you that."
I chuckled. "I like people who're not hiding things. And she is quite the open book."
"I could perfectly do without that."
We had to climb through an opening that seemed to have been a window at some time. One that was large enough to step through standing upright, but time, decay and nature had claimed the opening.
It probably had been a door, I realised, stepping through and swiping some leaves and twigs away that obscured my sight. The sound of wind hit my ears, the creaking of old metal and the gasp of someone before me. I walked a bit further, ducking under another branch full of leaves and straightening to see where we had ended up.
It was a blessing I had lost my fear of heights a long time ago.
"That has to be at least… two hundred metres?" pondered Meyla.
"Sonic says… two hundred and thirty six," corrected the Doctor.
We had reached one of the many metal bridges that connected the upper parts of the skyscrapers, swaying gently in the wind that roamed free in those heights. Sometimes there was a faint creaking of ancient metal adding to the noise, but still strangely quiet and far away. Structures bending under time and the weight of nature. Luckily the bridge in front of us seemed to be still intact, at least from what I could see. A few holes gaped in the floor and the bannister wasn't in too good shape anymore, but it seemed to be stable.
I stepped outside, carefully slipping past the others to take a look down. Seeing the city from this height was a completely new experience, since we were now inside of it instead of on some hill in the distance. I even took out the camera to take a few shots and found myself being stared at from several pairs of eyes.
"Wh… what is it?" I stammered, perplexed.
Darwil hummed amused. "This height scares even me. And I grew up in those mountains."
"I'm not sure I can cross that," said Donna, eyes wide and visibly confused about my lack of fear.
"Seems to be pretty stable," I noted. "We should look out for porous spots, but I think that's it. Maybe not too much weight at once… what're y'all staring at me?" I scowled, however, finding it amusing.
The Doctor just smiled. The Master let out a barking laugh. "You're the scaredy-cat of the group, usually." His laugh faded to a grin. "But heights don't seem to bother you at all. Not scared of falling?"
Weren't I? Meyla and Bor started to cross the bridge, trudging carefully and making it to the other site with ease. So I shrugged and simply followed, keeping my eyes on the bridge to spot potentially dangerous spots, but the metal was still strong and unbroken.
"I used to be afraid," I answered the Master late. "But… it's gone. I don't like climbing downwards, that still scares me. Heights themselves though…" I shrugged, bending a little to follow the others inside the next building. This one was as high as the rest, but stretched in enormous directions in width and length.
Inside here was where we found the first somewhat intact furniture. The architecture is hard to describe. It was a mixture of what you might find in old noble houses and the elegance of modern simplicity. No paintings adorned the walls, but some borders and corners were decorated with subtle carvings and frescos. Patterns instead of flowers, geometric shapes instead of animals or heads. A few desks and beds were there too, simple yet elegant and so forlorn in their decaying state.
Nature had made its way in here as well, but the deeper we got and the less sunlight reached us the less plants were around. Some spots were so damp we feared to fall through the floors, but didn't. Other rooms were stained with huge patches of black mould.
We found something that might once have been a large dining room, with cupboards full of porcelain and even table cloths still in place. Another room might once have been a study, although there was not a single book to be found. The Doctor, however, discovered a few cube shaped devices that might have been used to store information. But they were long drained and impossible to read.
Something rustled behind me.
I thought it was one of the others and when I turned my suspicion got confirmed. But Meyla's face was contorted in a fearful expression, herself frozen in place.
On the other side of the room, there between torn wallpaper and damp spots, stood a shadow. It didn't move, nor did it belong to any of us. Meyla's flashlight wasn't pointing at the thing directly, the being only visible through the ambient light from our combined light sources.
"There's another one," whispered Donna, grabbing my upper arm and pointing a bit to the right of the first one.
Both didn't move and I risked a glance around to see if we had any light source nearby. But we were so deep inside this huge building that we had reached a part where no cracks revealed the sky or any part of the outside. Darwil turned around and let out a grunt, shining his light directly at the first creature to have a better view at it.
But the light didn't help, did not even find anything to illuminate, as if the shadow would simply swallow it all or bending it so that it couldn't stick.
The shadow moved.
First it was only a twitch, then the motion repeated and slowly started to clumsily stagger in our direction. Bor also shone his light at the thing, without it being of any use, and we watched in horror as the second shadow started to walk as well, close enough to be visible within the radius of our torches.
Donna grabbed my hand and tried to push me behind her, but I wouldn't budge. The Doctor frantically waved his Sonic Screwdriver in the shadow's direction. We all huddled closer together, coming to stand back to back to give as less room to attack as possible.
Bor let out a scream.
He fell to the ground, struggling and flailing, trying to free himself from the relentless grip of another shadow creature that had its hands around his ankles, slowly, but deliberately dragging the young man away from the group.
"Lights off," growled the Master suddenly.
"What? Have you gone nuts?" protested Donna.
I winced, feeling an icy cold sting run through my blood all of a sudden, until I saw that a dark hand had gripped my wrist, tugging almost playfully to pull me away, to lure me into the darkness they were forced to live in.
"Oh no, you don't!" Another hand grabbed my free wrist, this one warm and firm. "Lights out! Bloody idiots! Now!"
"Do it!" screamed the Doctor.
The shadow dragged me farther away, the cold freezing my blood with every step. It was too strong to struggle and only the Master prevented me from getting pulled away. I glared at the face of the creature, seeing nothing there, nothing at all but eternal blackness.
And then nothing.
Finally they all listened to the mad demand and turned off their flashlights, letting the darkness swallow us whole and complete.