London was most definitely not evacuated for three months in 1969 to deal with an alien invasion. People would remember that happening and they did not, ergo – it must not have occurred.
But people did remember aliens.
Kora dipped her paintbrush in the titanium white and drew a bold line across the water of the Port of London, one which she immediately feathered out into a tawdry grey and then a gausey outline which suggested the reflection of a ship, framed by moonlight.
In 2005 an alien spaceship had crashed in the Thames river. For a brief giddy moment people genuinely believed that things would change for the better. And then everyone realized that alien first contact was going to be just as mishandled and disappointing as everything else in the omnishambles we call Earth. The government tried to pass it off as a hoax afterwards but the floodgates, as they say, had been opened.
That Christmas a rock that rained body parts parked itself over the city and was subsequently shot down by the government. Kora had a 15x15 canvas on the wall which depicted children standing on rooftops, waiting for a new contact that never came.
(She had been one of those children, standing with her godfather while the adults freaked out.)
She cleaned her brush down to its ferrule and loaded up a dab of Cadmium Lemon. The lights in her flat were dim and so the color was barely visible but her hand was guided by instinct; a sense of which color was right and where the paint needed to go which did not come from her eyes.
The Christmas Star. UFO’s over the Taj Mahal. Giant insects in Wiltshire. Mysterious little cubes. And of course a time when children all over the world suddenly stopped and chanted in unison that aliens were coming.
Paintings in Kora Seacole’s flat frequently showed such events. Her muse had been as damaged by these events as the national psyche. Suicide rates had doubled after the Thames incident was declared a hoax. There had been a sense of palpable betrayal and rage as powers-that-be smothered hope like kittens in a pillowcase.
When the ruined frame of the HMS Ascendant was towed up the river ghosts were sighted and photographed along its banks and exhausted London news services had simply reported it as fact. Similarly documented: a woolly mammoth rampaging in New York City and the adorable fuzzy submarines.
The world was going mad. Like something from the Book of Revelations, graves bursting open while the sky burned or the horror of the Day of the Miracle.
Blue paint mixed with black to outline the contours of a ship in the Port of London casting its reflection at night. She cleaned her brush and went to look for another color for the body of the boat, and then hesitated. No, there was no boat here... only a reflection.
Another mystery for London. Kora rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Is anyone going to be here this year?”
Because Kora's paintings did not exclusively depict past events. Sometimes they were glimpses of monsters or disasters that had not yet come to pass and sometimes never did.
Like a reflection without a boat. Or the men with burning lilies on the faces, bloody coral or strange and empty places where once a word had stood. And... the rings. The endless brown rings which coiled around her canvases menacing and inscrutable.
“Who will stop them?”
Special Copyrights notice:
Doctor Who: The Feast of the Drowned © Stephen Cole 2006. The HMS Ascendant and other elements from that story appear with the permission of the copyright holder.
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