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A HIGHWAY OF DEMONS - CHAPTER ELEVEN

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Demonland    5,041

WJ continues his search for 1964 ...

A HIGHWAY OF DEMONS by Whispering Jack

CHAPTER ELEVEN - FOUR STRONG WINDS

I stood on the deck of the Tardis, stargazing. The golden sun in the distant horizon was shrouded inside a must of thousands of brightly lit particles of space dust that sparkled like fireflies. Somewhere deep inside the haze was our destination, the blue green planet of my birth.

I was coming home at last, the Doctor at one side, K9 at the other and my good friend the Brigadier labouriously practicing his putting on the bridge below.

Our final tour had taken us close to Titan, Saturn's great moon which the Doctor said had an atmosphere and was inhabited by exotic life forms. He loved his native Gallifrey but Saturn, with its rings and its hundred or so moons and especially the largest one, which was dedicated to the god of time, held a special place in the heart of every timelord.

My thoughts were full of anticipation for news from home. I wanted to see my family and friends and to learn of the fate of my beloved football team, the Demons, who were due to confront the dreaded Magpies on the very afternoon that the Doctor had plucked me away to embark on our incredible journey. But now the Dalek armies were defeated, Davros had perished and the deadly creatures of his manufacture were consigned to a time and place from which there was no escape. With our mission accomplished, I was homeward bound.

Or so I thought.

I learned long ago that I should never take anything for granted whilst in the Doctor's company but I felt certain that nothing could prevent my return this time. As usual, I was wrong.

The serenity of the moment was interrupted when we took what felt like a gentle bump but it soon became a rattle that grew in intensity so before long, panic set in and the Tardis began to shake in violent convulsion.

The Doctor, who had been staring closely in the direction of the sun through his sonic eyeglass, remained calm. His deft hands were playing with the instruments on the panel in front of him like a piano. Miraculously, he managed to avoid crashing into the debris that careered directly into our path through the roaring cosmic wind. There was a crash; the Tardis plunged and we found ourselves in a different time and place, safely away from the storm that had threatened to destroy our ship and all who travelled inside her.

We had landed on the banks of a wide river. A distant ferry boat was nearing the other side and in the foreground, a sailor and a pretty young girl laughed playfully as they waded knee deep in the gentle waters that lapped by the shoreline.

It had been a close call but what the Doctor told me next, provided more cause for concern.

"Just as the storm hit us, I was looking inward past the red planet searching for a sight of the earth but ... "

"But what?"

" ... but, it wasn't there."

"Four strong winds that blow lonely,

Seven seas that run high,

All these things that don't change,

Come what may.

But our good times are all gone,

And I'm bound for moving on.

I'll look for you if I'm ever back this way."

~ Four Strong Winds [by Ian Tyson]

To my surprise, the Doctor approached the sailor with who he appeared familiar. They spoke briefly, heads were nodded and he walked back in my direction waving at the young couple and gesturing with hands that told me it was time to return to the Tardis. Our ship had been damaged in the cosmic storm and we were low on fuel. There was work to be done.

We walked along the sea strand under darkening skies. The breeze stiffened and it soon began to whistle as if in time with the pealing of the Sunday morning bells of Our Lady of St. Nicholas, the church of seafarers and the tallest building in Liverpool at this particular time. I had no idea why but I knew we had landed by the Mersey River and the year was 1837.

I waited until we were back inside the Tardis before I asked about the sailor. I discovered he was a young American who had gone to sea and had landed in the port of Liverpool aged only 18. His name was Herman Melville and one day he would become a great writer. The Doctor had given him some strange advice.

"Just make sure that the whale wins the battle and prevails in the end."

That was all the Doctor told me before he took to the deck and with the flick of a red button, the Tardis lurched and moved us back 173 years to the future.

We were still in Liverpool but the surrounding buildings were new and modern. We saw wedding cars, a bride alighting and, by craning our necks we could watch the wonderful ceremony as it took place.

The Doctor motioned in the direction of the father of the groom and told me to seek him out because he had some vital information of interest for me. Then pointing to one of the guests, a middle-aged man who looked vaguely familiar, he warned,

"Under no circumstances are you to approach that man or speak to him!"

"But why?", I stammered.

"Because he's you!"

"So fare thee well, my own true love,

For when I return, united we will be

It's not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me,

But my darling when I think of thee"

~ traditional - The Leaving of Liverpool as sung by The Pogues

I felt the crumpled scrap of paper in my coat pocket and wondered how long it had been sitting there. The handwriting, neat and even, was not mine.

I was standing on the deck of a cargo ship in the North Atlantic heading in the direction of Greenland. The Tardis was safely stowed away in the ship's hold as the Doctor and K9 worked on its repair. The Brigadier continued to practice his golf.

The crystal fuel that was vital in running the engines of the Tardis was mined at our destination. Once it was collected and installed, we would be mobile again, the Doctor could carry out his plan to save the earth and then drop me off outside the ABC television studio in time to watch the grand final.

I gazed at the paper handed to me by the father of the groom from the wedding and read its message,

"Melbourne 8.16.64 defeated Collingwood 8.12.60"

It was dated the 19th September, 1964. The day the earth stood still for me.

We were nearing land for I could hear the screeching of the seagulls. The wind was gusting and my mind was on other things because, as my concentration lapsed, I loosened my hold on the scrap of paper. It took flight above the deck and, watching helplessly as it fell into the raging sea below, I noticed the distant silhouette of the tail of a great white whale.

"Oh Greenland is a barren land

A land that bears no green

Where there's ice and snow, and the whalefishes blow

And the daylight's seldom seen, brave boys

And the daylight's seldom seen"

~ traditional - Greenland Whale Fisheries as sung by The Pogues

We followed the railway tracks deep into the mine. Inside the trail widened into an underground labyrinth whose floor extended to reveal an inland lake from which emerged perhaps a dozen reptile-like creatures. Their leader shook heads with the Doctor. They seemed to communicate telepathically. To my relief, things went well and we were soon away with a sackful of green crystals which the Doctor had exchanged for a thin leatherbound volume.

Later, as the Doctor fuelled the Tardis, he explained that the creatures were a peaceful branch of a race of Silurians whose mission was to protect the whale species. He had given them a copy of Melville's Moby Dick, the story of Captain Ahab whose one purpose is to seek out Moby Dick, a ferocious, enigmatic white sperm whale, that had previously destroyed his boat and bit off his leg. Ahab's obsession is to take revenge against the whale irrespective of his own safety and that of his crew. Inevitably, the story ends in tragedy.

"When I saw the earth exploding, I sensed it was the work of the Silurians angry at the failure of its inhabitants to protect species such as the whale. The book and some words of comfort conveyed to their leader elicited a promise from their leader not to destroy the planet."

I was relieved to hear this but there remained a look of concern on the Doctor's face. There was more.

"I've just received a message of warning from the Silurian leader. He read the book and says that it contains a coded message that foretells of an assassination about to take place in Dallas, Texas. The world is full of men like Captain Ahab who are driven by obsession and revenge. They operate in politics, in religion, business and even in sports clubs like your Melbourne Football Club. We can't stop the murder but we have it within our power to do things to change history and make the world a better place. As soon as we're fuelled up, we're on our way to 22nd November, 1963."

"But, er ... what about the grand final?"

"Oh, that can wait. And anyway ... if we don't do what we have to do in Texas, then Neil Crompton will never get to kick the goal that wins you the '64 flag and Paul Roos might well not agree to coach your team to what will ultimately become its next golden era of 2014 and beyond. We have it in our power to change not only history but also the future. Please trust me on this one."

I shook my head and walked outside where I was taken by the stillness in the air.

"Oh the time will come up

When the winds will stop

And the breeze will cease to be breathin'.

Like the stillness in the wind

'Fore the hurricane begins,

The hour when the ship comes in."

~ The Hour When The Ship Comes [by Bob Dylan]

TO BE TO BE CONTINUED

Fifty years ago, the world was shaken by the assassination of American President John F Kennedy during a motorcade through the Texan city of Dallas. The event overshadowed the debut of the BBC series Dr. Who which occurred in the same week.

The American author Herman Melville landed in Liverpool in 1837 and was inspired by his seafaring experiences to write several novels including the classic Moby Dick. There is a theory that the novel foretells of a number of assassinations including that of JFK.

Bob Dylan's Farewell from the Bootleg Series: Volume 9 was based on The Leaving of Liverpool

Ian Tyson who wrote Four Strong Winds is not believed to be related to Dominic Tyson who was recruited to the Melbourne Football Club when I started writing this chapter.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy is probably not related to Jay Kennedy-Harris who was recruited to the Melbourne Football Club when I finished writing this chapter.

You can celebrate 50 years of Dr. Who tomorrow night on ABC1

7.31pm Dr Who: The Day of the Doctor

8.50pm An Adventure in Space and Time

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