Marcus L. Rowland
It’s cold and dark. Susan isn’t sure what she’s lying on, but it feels like bare rock. She hurts, especially her chest. She touches it and the pain intensifies. Tries to breathe, and there’s a bubbling noise. She remembers… Harkness shot her.
Beside her someone groans, and Harkness says “Where are we?”
“Not… sure.” It hurts to talk.
There’s a click, then another, a tiny spark, then a yellow light. Susan tries to focus, and sees Harkness sitting up, holding a cigarette lighter.
Harkness shouts “Hello!” There’s no echo, just endless silence. All she can see, in the light shed by the flame, is an endless dark surface, smooth grey rock. Harkness looks towards her, and frowns again. “Stay still, you’re bleeding.”
“I don’t think I can do much about it, I don’t even have a handkerchief.”
It’s getting hard to talk. “Bottle… on a… chain… my neck... pour in wound…” Moments later she’s unconscious.
Susan wakes to darkness. Her chest still hurts, but not nearly as badly as before. She touches it, and the pain doesn’t get any worse.
“How are you feeling?” asks Harkness.
“A little better, I think.”
“If that stuff comes from Narnia, they should export it. It closed your wound in about three minutes.”
“No.” He hesitates, then says “I think the bullet’s still in there, it may be near your heart. Try not to move too much.”
“How long have I been asleep?”
“About six hours. Sorry about the dark, I’m out of lighter fluid.”
“Still no stars? Something’s wrong, Narnia never has nights like that.” She feels for her handbag, fails to find it, and realises that she’s dressed as Queen Susan again. She hopes that the blood hasn’t made too much of a mess of her dress.
“Are you sure this is Narnia?” asks Harkness.
“It feels like it. Somewhere around Cair Paravel, maybe a bit further south.”
“How do you know?”
“I just do,” says Susan. “I couldn’t tell you how I know. I lived longer in Cair Paravel than I lived in London.”
“The alternative is we’re in a cave or something. Anything like that around Narnia?”
“Not like this. You’d see the roof and the walls, even with a lighter. Have you tried shouting?”
“A little. Couldn’t hear any echoes, not even when I fired my gun.”
“Did you actually call for Aslan?”
“I... no, not yet.”
“Try that. You’ll have to do it, it hurts me to talk.”
Harkness shouts “Aslan!” There’s no reply.
“Try again, louder.”
“Try again, third time’s the charm.”
Susan joins in, a croaking whisper compared to his bellow.
The sound seems to sink into the distance. They both listen, eventually Harkness says “I don’t think it’s working.”
Susan isn’t so sure; she feels an odd sense of immanence, a certainty that something is about to happen. “Feel that?” There’s a slight breeze, the first they’ve felt since arriving, and a faint smell of something fresh and clean. Then they hear music, a faint beautiful wordless song that seems to sob and exult simultaneously and slowly fades away.
“He’s coming,” says Susan.
Something coughs, the loud rasp low and menacing.
“I think you’re right,” says Harkness.
There’s another cough, this time a louder roar, much closer.
“Captain Harkness,” says Susan, “Aslan isn’t a tame lion. I think you’d better get rid of your gun, or he’s likely to hurt you.”
“Hate to lose it… Okay.” She hears a clinking noise as he empties the cylinder, then sends it sliding off across the rock.
Another roar, and the air is warmer, with the animal scent Susan associates with Aslan. Then his soft voice says “Daughter of Eve, Son of Boe. Why are you here? What is this foolishness?”
“I guess it’s my fault,” says Harkness. “I thought she was trying to kill me. I fired without thinking.”
“And you, Daughter of Eve?”
“I thought I was dying. I wanted to escape. To be with you.”
“Yet you brought this creature with you.”
“I… I think I wanted to show him that I was right. I wanted to win the argument. It was stupid.”
“Yes.” There’s a faint golden light, growing brighter by the second. The source is Aslan, standing about thirty feet away.
“That’s a big lion,” says Harkness.
Aslan paces towards them, saying “You should not be here.”
“Where are we?” asks Susan.
“This was once Narnia,” says Aslan.
“Everything must come to dust. All things. Everything dies. Your family fought in the final battle. After that all that was good in Narnia moved on, into the real Narnia, the Undying Lands. Your family and friends are there. I have unmade what was here before.”
“But I was here a few hours ago!” says Susan.
“No. You joined me in the Undying Lands.”
“Can we go there?” asks Harkness.
“No. The only way there for the living is the route Susan took, the path of dreams.”
“So if I die I’ll go there?” asks Susan.
“Eventually… yes. Eventually we will welcome you. It is not yet your time.”
“What about me?” asks Harkness.
“You know the answer to that, Son of Boe,” says Aslan, a note of sorrow in his voice. “Everything must come to dust,” he repeats. “Even you. But it will not be soon.”
“Thought so,” says Harkness. He sounds resigned, defeated. Susan has no idea what they’re talking about, except a vague feeling that ‘Come to dust’ is a classical reference. Shakespeare, maybe? No, it's from the Bible. How does Aslan know it?
“What happens now?” asks Harkness, “What about the rift? Hundreds of people must have fallen into Narnia over the years.”
“Your rift is not my doing. I blocked the paths that lead to Narnia, but I cannot close it completely. Try to remember, Captain, that few go that way by choice, most have no wish to be your enemies.”
“It doesn’t feel like that to me. There are monsters out there.”
“Then it is time for you to return and resume your stewardship.”
“Next time I will not be merciful.” Aslan’s been circling closer as he talks, and suddenly he lashes out with a huge paw. Harkness flies off into the darkness, his shirt ripped to shreds, and Susan thinks she sees bloody gashes in his chest and neck. She stifles a scream, listens, but doesn’t hear Harkness land. There's blood dripping from Aslan's claws and paw.
“Aslan… I think you killed him!”
“No. I sent him back. But he will remember. And now, soon, it will be time for you to leave.” He sounds sad.
“There’s something you aren’t telling me,” says Susan. “Something in my past, maybe? Before they found me in Cardiff?”
“Oh Susan… I’m sorry, so sorry. I would have sheltered you from this if I could. Stand before me, Daughter of Eve.”
She summons up her nerve – thinking ‘not a tame lion’ – and walks forward, until her face is only a yard from his. His eyes brighten, and she inhales his warm breath, feels something move between them, an energy she doesn’t quite understand. She feels herself swaying, her eyes closing…
…and wakes, lying in a cobbled street at night, lit by a distant street lamp. She hurts; the pain in her chest is back, worst than ever, and when she coughs there’s blood. She remembers that she was hurt in London but the cordial was used in Narnia, or wherever the dark place was, not on Earth. When she used it to restore her memories she had to do it on Earth, or it would have been wasted. Does that apply to its healing too?
She coughs again, and realises she is dying.
Some of Aslan’s dialogue in this chapter is stolen from Rose Tyler in The Parting of the Ways, who probably stole most of it from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, which derives from from Genesis 3.19 in the Bible. The theme music for Aslan’s arrival also comes from this episode – google “doctor who soundtrack bad wolf theme” to find it. Because if we’re talking omnipotent creatures who can make or destroy worlds, they have a lot in common…
Comments greatly appreciated as always. The final part will again be a couple of days, I know what's going to happen but haven't written it yet.