Book: The Mammoth Book of Extreme Fantasy

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Sigmund stepped over the New Doctor, dropping a subway token onto her devastated body. He stepped around the spreading shadow of his best friend, Carlsbad, who had died as he’d lived: inconclusively, and without fanfare. He stepped over the brutalized remains of Ray, up the steps, and kept his eyes focused on the shrine inside.

This room in the temple at the top of the mountain at the top of the world was large and cold, and peer as he might back through the layers of time – visible to Sigmund as layers of gauze, translucent as sautéed onions, decade after decade peeling away under his gaze – he could not see a time when this room had not existed on this spot, bare but potent, as if only recently vacated by the God who’d created and abandoned the world.

Sigmund approached the shrine, and there it was. The cup. The prize and goal and purpose of a hundred generations of the Table. The other members of the Table were dead, the whole world was dead, except for Sigmund.

He did not reach for the cup. Instead, he walked to the arched window and looked out. Peering back in time he saw mountains and clouds and the passing of goats. But in the present he saw only fire, twisting and writhing, consuming rock as easily as trees, with a few mountain peaks rising as-yet-untouched from the flames. Sigmund had not loved the world much – he’d enjoyed the music of Bach, violent movies, and vast quantities of cocaine – and by and large he could have taken or left civilization. Still, knowing the world was consumed in fire made him profoundly sad.

Sigmund returned to the shrine and seized the cup – heavy, stone, more blunt object than drinking vessel – and prepared to sip.

But then, at the last moment, Sigmund didn’t drink. He did something else instead.

But first:

Or, arguably, later:

Sigmund slumped in the back seat, Carlsbad lurking on the floorboards in his semi-liquid noctilescent form, Carlotta tapping her razored silver fingernails on the steering wheel, and Ray – the newest member of the Table – fiddling with the radio. He popped live scorpions from a plastic bag into his mouth. Tiny spines were rising out of Ray’s skin, mostly on the nape of his neck and the back of his hands, their tips pearled with droplets of venom.

“It was a beautiful service,” Sigmund said. “They sent the Old Doctor off with dignity.”

Carlsbad’s tarry body rippled. Ray turned around, frowning, face hard and plain as a sledgehammer, and said “What the shit are you talking about, junkie? We haven’t even gotten to the funeral home yet.”

Sigmund sank down in his seat. This was, in a way, even more embarrassing than blacking out.

“Blood and honey,” Carlotta said, voice all wither and bile. “How much of that shit did you snort this morning that you can’t even remember what day it is?”

Sigmund didn’t speak. They all knew he could see into the past, but none of them knew the full extent of his recent gyrations through time. Lately he’d been jerking from future to past and back again without compass or guide. Only the Old Doctor had known about that, and now that he was dead, it was better kept a secret.

They reached the funeral home, and Sigmund had to go through the ceremony all over again. Grief- unlike sex, music, and cheating at cards – was not a skill that could be honed by practice.

The Old Doctor welcomed Sigmund, twenty years old and tormented by visions, into the library at the Table’s headquarters. Shelves rose everywhere like battlements, the floors were old slate, and the lights were ancient crystal-dripping chandeliers, but the Old Doctor sat in a folding chair at a card table heaped with books.

“I expected, well, something more,” Sigmund said, thumping the rickety table with his hairy knuckles. “A big slab of mahogany or something, a table with authority.”

“We had a fine table once,” the Old Doctor said, eternally middle-aged and absently professorial. “But it was chopped up for firewood during a siege in the 1600s.” He tapped the side of his nose. “There’s a lesson in that. No asset, human or material, is important compared to the continued existence of the organization itself.”

“But surely you’re irreplaceable,” Sigmund said, awkward attempt at job security through flattery. The room shivered and blurred at the edges of his vision, but it had not changed much in recent decades, a few books moving here and there, piles of dust shifting across the floor.

The Old Doctor shook his head. “I am the living history of the Table, but if I died, a new doctor would be sent from the archives to take over operations, and though his approach might differ from mine, his role would be the same – to protect the cup.”

“The cup,” Sigmund said, sensing the cusp of mysteries. “You mean the Holy Grail.”

The Old Doctor ran his fingers along the spine of a dusty leatherbound book. “No. The Table predates the time of Christ. We guard a much older cup.”

“The cup, is it here, in the vaults?”

“Well.” The Old Doctor frowned at the book in his hands. “We don’t actually know where the cup is anymore. The archives have…deteriorated over the centuries, and there are gaps in my knowledge. It would be accurate to say the agents of the Table now seek the cup, so that we may protect it properly again. That’s why you’re here, Sigmund. For your ability to see into the past. Though we’ll have to train you to narrow your focus to the here-and-now, to peel back the gauze of time at will.” He looked up from the book and met Sigmund’s eyes. “As it stands, you’re almost useless to me, but I’ve made useful tools out of things far more broken than you are.”

Some vestigial part of Sigmund’s ego bristled at being called broken, but not enough to stir him to his own defense. “But I can only look back thirty or forty years. How can that help you?”

“I have…a theory,” the Old Doctor said. “When you were found on the streets, you were raving about gruesome murders, yes?”

Sigmund nodded. “I don’t know about raving, but yes.”

“The murders you saw took place over a hundred years ago. On that occasion, you saw back many more years than usual. Do you know why?”

Sigmund shook his head. He thought he did know, but shame kept him from saying.

“I suspect your unusual acuity was the result of all that speed you snorted,” the Old Doctor said. “The stimulants enabled you to see deeper into the past. I have, of course, vast quantities of very fine methamphetamines at my disposal, which you can use to aid me in my researches.”

Sigmund said “Vast quantities?” His hands trembled, and he clasped them to make them stop.

“Enough to let you see centuries into the past,” the Old Doctor said. “Though we’ll work up to that, of course.”

“When I agreed to join the Table, I was hoping to do field work.”

The Old Doctor sniffed. “That business isn’t what’s important, Sigmund. Assassination, regime change, paltry corporate wars – that’s just the hackwork our agents do to pay the bills. It’s not worthy of your gifts.”

“Still, it’s what I want. I’ll help with your research if you let me work in the field.” Sigmund had spent a childhood in cramped apartments and hospital wards, beset by visions of the still-thrashing past. In those dark rooms he’d read comic books and dreamed of escaping the prison of circumstance – of being a superhero. But heroes like that weren’t real. Anyone who put on a costume and went out on the streets to fight crime would be murdered long before morning. At some point in his teens Sigmund had graduated to spy thrillers and Cold War history, passing easily from fiction to non-fiction and back again, reading about double-and triple-agents with an interest that bordered on the fanatical. Becoming a spy – that idea had the ring of the plausible, in a way that becoming a superhero never could. Now, this close to that secret agent dream, he wouldn’t let himself be shunted into a pure research position. This was his chance.

The Old Doctor sighed. “Very well.”

“What’s it like?” Carlotta said, the night after their first mission as a duo. She’d enthralled a Senator while Sigmund peered into the past to find out where the microfilm was hidden. Now, after, they were sitting at the counter in an all-night diner where even they didn’t stand out from the crowd of weirdoes and freaks.

Sigmund sipped decaf coffee and looked around at the translucent figures of past customers, the crowd of nights gone by, every booth and stool occupied by ghosts. “It’s like layers of gauze,” he said. “Usually I just see the past distantly, shimmering, but if I concentrate I can sort of…shift my focus.” He thumped his coffee cup and made the liquid inside ripple. “The Old Doctor taught me to keep my eyes on the here-and-now, unless I need to look back, and then I just sort of…” He gestured vaguely with his hands, trying to create a physical analogue for a psychic act, to mime the metaphysical. “I guess I sort of twitch the gauze aside, and pass through a curtain, and the present gets blurrier while the past comes into focus.”

“That’s a shitty description,” Carlotta said, sawing away at the rare steak and eggs on her plate.

The steak, briefly, shifted in Sigmund’s vision and became a living, moving part of a cow. Sigmund’s eyes watered, and he looked away. He mostly ate vegetables for that very reason. “I’ve never seen the world any other way, so I don’t know how to explain it better. I can’t imagine what it’s like for you, seeing just the present. It must seem very fragile.

“We had a guy once who could see into the future, just a little bit, a couple of minutes at most. Didn’t stop him from getting killed, but he wet himself right before the axe hit him. He was a lot less boring than you are.” Carlotta belched.

“Why haven’t I met you before?” Sigmund shrank back against the cushions in the booth.

“I’m heavy ordnance,” Carlsbad said, his voice low, a rumble felt in Sigmund’s belly and bones as much as heard by his ears. “I’ve been with the Table since the beginning. They don’t reveal secrets like me to research assistants.” Carlsbad was tar-black, skin strangely reflective, face eyeless and mouthless, blank as a minimalist snowman’s, human only in general outline. “But the Old Doctor says you’ve exceeded all expectations, so we’ll be working together from time to time.”

Sigmund looked into Carlsbad’s past, as far as he could – which was quite far, given the cocktail of uppers singing in his blood – and Carlsbad never changed; black, placid, eternal. “What…” What are you, he’d nearly asked. “What do you do for the Table?”

“Whatever the Old Doctor tells me to,” Carlsbad said.

Sigmund nodded. “Carlotta told me you’re a fallen god of the underworld.”

“That bitch lies,” Carlsbad said, without disapproval. “I’m no god. I’m just, what’s that line – ‘the evil that lurks in the hearts of men.’ The Old Doctor says that as long as one evil person remains on Earth, I’ll be alive.”

“Well,” Sigmund said. “I guess you’ll be around for a while, then.”

The first time Carlsbad saved his life, Sigmund lay panting in a snowbank, blood running from a ragged gash in his arm. “You could have let me die just then,” Sigmund said. Then, after a moment’s hesitation: “You could have benefited from my death.”

Carlsbad shrugged, shockingly dark against the snow. “Yeah, I guess.”

“I thought you were evil,” Sigmund said, lightheaded from blood loss and exertion, more in the now than he’d ever felt before, the scent of pines and the bite of cold air immediate reminders of his miraculously ongoing life. “I mean, you’re made of evil.”

“You’re made mostly of carbon atoms,” Carlsbad said. “But you don’t spend all your time thinking about forming long-chain molecules, do you? There’s more to both of us than our raw materials.”

“Thank you for saving me, Carlsbad.”

“Anytime, Sigmund.” His tone was laid-back but pleased, the voice of someone who’d seen it all but could still sometimes be pleasantly surprised. “You’re the first Table agent in four hundred years who’s treated me like something other than a weapon or a monster. I know I scare you shitless, but you talk to me.”

Exhaustion and exhilaration waxed and waned in Sigmund. “I like you because you don’t change. When I look at most people I can see them as babies, teenagers, every step of their lives superimposed, and if I look back far enough they disappear – but not you. You’re the same as far back as I can see.” Sigmund’s eyelids were heavy. He felt light. He thought he might float away.

“Hold on,” Carlsbad said. “Help is on the way. Your death might not diminish me, but I’d still like to keep you around.”

Sigmund blacked out, but not before hearing the whirr of approaching helicopters coming to take him away.

“I’m the New Doctor,” the New Doctor said. Willowy, brunette, young, she stood behind a podium in the briefing room, looking at the assembled Table agents – Sigmund, Carlotta, Carlsbad, and the recently-promoted Ray. They were the alpha squad, the apex of the organization, and the New Doctor had not impressed them yet. “We’re going to have some changes around here. We need to get back to basics. We need to find the cup. These other jobs might fill our bank accounts, but they don’t further our cause.”

Ray popped a wasp into his mouth, chewed, swallowed, and said “Fuck that mystic bullshit.” His voice was accompanied by a deep, angry buzz, a sort of wasp-whisper in harmony with the normal workings of his voicebox. Ray got nasty and impatient when he ate wasps. “I joined up to make money and get a regular workout, not chase after some imaginary Grail.” Sigmund knew Ray was lying – that he had a very specific interest in the cup – but Sigmund also understood why Ray was keeping that interest a secret. “You just stay in the library and read your books like the Old Doctor did, okay?”

The New Doctor shoved the podium over, and it fell towards Ray, who dove out of the way. While he was moving, the New Doctor came around and kicked him viciously in the ribs, her small boots wickedly pointed and probably steel-toed. Ray rolled away, panting and clutching his side.

Sigmund peered into the New Doctors past. She looked young, but she’d looked young for decades.

“I’m not like the Old Doctor,” she said. “He missed his old life in the archives, and was content with his books, piecing together the past. But I’m glad to be out of the archives, and under my leadership, we’re going to make history, not study it.”

“I’ll kill you,” Ray said. Stingers were growing out of his fingertips, and his voice was all buzz now.

“Spare me,” the New Doctor said, and kicked him in the face.

By spying on their pasts and listening in on their private moments, Sigmund learned why the other agents wanted to find the cup, and see God:

Carlotta whispered to one of her lovers, the shade of a great courtesan conjured from an anteroom of Hell: “I want to castrate God, so he’ll never create another world.”

Ray told Carlotta, while they disposed of the body of a young archivist who’d discovered their secret past and present plans: “I want to eat God’s heart and belch out words of creation.”

Carlsbad, alone, staring at the night sky (a lighted void, while his own darkness was utter), had imaginary conversations with God that always came down, fundamentally, to one question: “Why did you make me?”

The New Doctor, just before she poisoned the Old Doctor (making it look like a natural death), answered his bewildered plea for mercy by saying “No. As long as you’re alive, we’ll never find the cup, and I’ll never see God, and I’ll never know the answers to the ten great questions I’ve composed during my time in the archives.”

Sigmund saw it all, every petty plan and purpose that drove his fellows, but he had no better purpose himself. The agents of the Table might succeed in finding the cup, not because they were worthy, but simply because they’d been trying for years upon years, and sometimes persistence led to success.

Sigmund knew their deepest reasons, and kept all their secrets, because past and present and cause and effect were scrambled for him. The Old Doctor’s regime of meth, cocaine, and more exotic uppers had ravaged Sigmund’s nasal cavities and set him adrift in time. At first, he’d only been able to see back in time, but sometimes taking the Old Doctor’s experimental stimulants truly sent him back in time. Sometimes it was just his mind that travelled, sent back a few days to relive past events again in his own body, but other times, rarely, he physically travelled back, just a day or two at most, just for a little while, before being wrenched back to a present filled with headaches and nosebleeds.

On one of those rare occasions when he travelled physically back in time, Sigmund saw the Old Doctor’s murder, and was snapped back to the future moments before the New Doctor could kill him, too.

Ray ate a Sherpa’s brain two days out of base camp, and after that, he was able to guide them up the crags and paths toward the temple perfectly, though he was harder to converse with, his speech peppered with mountain idioms. He developed a taste for barley tea flavored with rancid yak butter, and sometimes sang lonely songs that merged with the sound of the wind.

“We’re going to Hell,” the New Doctor said.

“Probably,” Sigmund said, edging away.

She sighed. “No, really – we’re going into the underworld. Or, well, sort of a visiting room for the underworld.”

“I’ve heard rumors about that.” Hell’s anteroom was where Carlotta found her ghostly lovers. “One of the Table’s last remaining mystic secrets. I’m surprised they didn’t lose that, too, when they lost the key to the moon and the scryer’s glass and all those other wonders in the first war with the Templars.”

“Much has been lost.” The New Doctor pushed a shelf, which swung easily away from the wall on secret hinges, revealing an iron grate. “But that means much can be regained.” She pressed a red button. “Stop fidgeting, Sigmund. I’m not going to kill you. But I do want to know, how did you get into the Old Doctor’s office and see me kill him, when I know you were on assignment with Carlsbad in Belize at the time? And how did you disappear afterwards? Bodily bilocation? Ectoplasmic projection? What?”

“Time travel,” Sigmund said. “I don’t just see into the past. Sometimes I travel into the past physically.”

“Huh. I didn’t see anything about that in the Old Doctor’s notes.”

“Oh, no. He kept the most important notes in his head. So why aren’t you going to kill me?”

Something hummed and clattered beneath the floor.

“Because I can use you. Why haven’t you turned me in?”

Sigmund hesitated. He’d liked the Old Doctor, who was the closest thing he’d ever had to a father. He hated to disrespect the old man’s memory, though he knew the Old Doctor had seen him as a research tool, a sort of ambulatory microfiche machine, and nothing more. “Because I’m ready for things to change. I thought I wanted to be an operative, but I’m tired of the endless pointless round-and-round, not to mention being shot and stabbed and thrown from moving trains. Under your leadership, I think the Table might actually achieve something.”

“We will.” The grinding and humming underground intensified, and she raised her voice. “We’ll find the cup, and see God, and get answers. We’ll find out why he created the world, only to immediately abandon his creation, letting chaos fill his wake. But first, to Hell. Here.” She tossed something glittering toward him, a few old subway tokens. “To pay the attendant.”

The grinding stopped, the grate sliding open to reveal a tarnished brass elevator car operated by a man in a cloak the color of dust and spiderwebs. He held out his palm, and Sigmund and the New Doctor each dropped a token into his hand.

“Why are we going…down there?” Sigmund asked.

“To see the Old Doctor, and get some of that information he kept only in his head. I know where to find the cup – or where to find the map that leads to it, anyway – but I need to know what will happen once I have the cup in hand.”

“Why take me?”

“Because only insane people, like Carlotta, risk going to Hell’s anteroom alone. And if I took anyone else, they’d find out I was the one who killed the Old Doctor, and they might be less understanding about it than you are.”

She stepped into the elevator car, and Sigmund followed. He glanced into the attendant’s past, almost reflexively, and the things he saw were so horrible that he threw himself back into the far corner of the tiny car; if the elevator hadn’t already started moving, he would have pried open the doors and fled. The attendant turned his head to look at him, and Sigmund squeezed his eyes shut so that he didn’t have to risk seeing the attendant frown, or worse, smile.

“Interesting,” the New Doctor said.

After they returned from Hell, Sigmund and the New Doctor fucked furiously beneath the card table in the Old Doctor’s library, because sex is an antidote to death, or at least, an adequate placebo.

“That’s it, then,” the New Doctor said. “We’re going to the Himalayas.”

“Great,” Ray said. “I always wanted to eat a Yeti.”

“I think you’re hairy enough already,” Carlotta said.

Sigmund and the New Doctor sat beneath a ledge of rock, frigid wind howling across the face of the mountain. Carlsbad was out looking for Ray and Carlotta, who had stolen all the food and oxygen and gone looking for the temple of the cup alone. They wanted to kill God, not ask him questions, so their betrayal was troublesome but not surprising. Sigmund probably should have told someone about their planned betrayal, but he felt more and more like an actor outside time – a position which, he now realized, was likely to get him killed. He needed to take a more active role.

“Ray and Carlotta don’t know the prophecy,” Sigmund said. “Only the Old Doctor knew, and he only told us. They have no idea what they’re going to cause, if they reach the Temple first.”

“If they reach the Temple first, we’ll die along with the rest of the world.” The New Doctor was weak from oxygen deficiency. “If Carlsbad doesn’t find them, we’re doomed.” She looked older, having left the safety of the library and the archives, and the past two years had been hard. They’d travelled to the edges and underside of the Earth, gathering fragments of the map to the temple of the cup, chasing down the obscure references the New Doctor had uncovered in the archives.

First they’d gone deep into the African desert, into crumbling palaces carved from sentient rock; then they’d trekked through the Antarctic, looking for the secret entrance to the Earth’s war-torn core, and finding it; they’d projected themselves, astrally and otherwise, into the mind of a sleeping demigod from the jungles of another world; and two months ago they’d descended to crush-depth in the Pacific Ocean to find the last fragment of the map in a coral temple guarded by spined, bioluminescent beings of infinite sadness. Ray had eaten one of those guardians, and ever since he’d been sweating purple ink and taking long, contemplative baths in salt water.

The New Doctor had ransacked the Table’s coffers to pay for this last trip to the Himalayas, selling off long-hoarded art objects and dismissing even the poorly-paid hereditary janitorial staff to cover the expenses. And now they were on the edge of total failure, unless Sigmund did something.

Sigmund opened his pack and removed his last vial of the Old Doctor’s most potent exotic upper. “Wish me bon voyage,” he said, and snorted it all.

Time unspooled, and Sigmund found himself beneath the same ledge, but earlier, the ice unmarked by human passage, the weather more mild. Moving manically, driven by drugs and the need to stay warm, he piled up rocks above the trail and waited, pacing in an endless circle, until he heard Carlotta and Ray approaching, grunting under the weight of stolen supplies.

He pushed rocks down on them, and the witch and the phage were knocked down. Sigmund made his way to them, hoping they would be crushed – that the rocks would have done his work for him. Carlotta was mostly buried, but her long fingernails scraped furrows in the ice, and Sigmund gritted his teeth, cleared away enough rocks to expose her head, and finished her off with the ice axe.

She did not speak, but Sigmund almost thought he saw respect in her expression before he obliterated it. Ray was only half-buried, but unmoving, his neck twisted unnaturally. Sigmund sank the point of the axe into Ray’s thigh to make sure he was truly dead, and the phage did not react. Sigmund left the axe in Ray’s leg. He turned his back on the dead and crouched, waiting for time to sweep him up again in its flow.

Carlsbad found Ray and Carlotta dead, and brought back the supplies. By then Sigmund was back from the past, and while the New Doctor ate and rested, he took Carlsbad aside to tell him the truth: “There’s a good chance we might destroy the world.”

“Hmm,” Carlsbad said.

“There’s a prophecy, in the deep archives of the Table, that God will only return when the world is destroyed by fire. But it’s an article of faith – the basis of our faith – that when the contents of the cup are swallowed by an acolyte of the Table, God will return. So by approaching the cup – by intending to drink from it – we might collapse the probability wave in such a way that the end of the world begins, fire and all, in the moments before we even touch the cup.”

“And you and the New Doctor are okay with that?”

“The New Doctor thinks she can convince God to spare the world from destruction, retroactively, if necessary.”

“Huh,” Carlsbad said.

“She can be very persuasive,” Sigmund said.

“I’m sure,” Carlsbad replied.

The fire began to fall just as they reached the temple, a structure so old it seemed part of the mountain itself. The sky went red, and great gobbets of flame cascaded down, the meteor shower to end all others. Snow flashed instantly to steam on all the surrounding mountains, though the temple peak was untouched, for now.

“That’s it, then,” Carlsbad said. “Only the evil in you two is keeping me alive.”

“No turning back now,” the New Doctor said, and started up the ancient steps to the temple.

Ray, bloodied and battered, left arm hanging broken, stepped from the shadows beside the temple. He held Sigmund’s ice axe in his good hand, and he swung it at the New Doctors head with phenomenal force, caving in her skull. She fell, and he fell upon her, bringing the axe down again and again, laying her body open. He looked up, face bruised and swollen, fur sprouting from his jaw, veins pulsing in his forehead, poison and ink and pus and hallucinogens oozing from his pores. “You can’t kill me, junkie. I’ve eaten wolverines. I’ve eaten giants. I’ve eaten angels.” As he said this last, he began to glow with a strange, blue-shifted light.

“Saving your life again,” Carlsbad said, almost tenderly, and then he did what the Table always counted on him to do. He swelled, he stormed, he smashed, he tore Ray to pieces, and then tore up the pieces.

After that he began to melt. “Ah, shit, Sigmund,” he said. “You just aren’t evil enough.” Before Sigmund could say thank you, or goodbye, all that remained of Carlsbad was a dark pool, like a slick of old axle grease on the snow.

There was nothing for Sigmund to do but go on.

“The cup holds the blood of God,” the Old Doctor said. “Drink it, and God will return, and as you are made briefly divine by swallowing the substance of his body, he will treat you as an equal, and answer questions, and grant requests. For that moment, God will do whatever you ask.” The Old Doctor placed his hand on Sigmund’s own. “The Table exists to make sure the cup’s power is not used for evil or trivial purposes. The question asked, the wish desired, has to be worth the cost, which is the world.”

“What would you ask?” Sigmund said.

“I would ask why God created the world and walked away, leaving only a cupful of blood and a world of wonders behind. But that is only curiosity, and not a worthy question.”

“So anyway,” Sigmund said, sniffing and wiping at his nose. “When can I start doing field work?” He wished he could see the future instead of the past. He thought this was going to be a lot of fun.

The cup in Sigmund’s hands held blood, liquid at the center, but dried and crusted on the cup’s rim. Sigmund scraped the residue of dried blood up with his long pinky fingernail. He took a breath. Let it out. And snorted God’s blood.

Time snapped.

Sigmund looked around the temple. It was white, bright, clean, and no longer on a mountaintop. The windows looked out on a placid sea. He was not alone.

God looked nothing like Sigmund had imagined, but at the same time, it was impossible to mistake him for anyone else. It was clear that God was on his way out, but he paused, and looked at Sigmund expectantly.

Sigmund had gone from the end of the world to the beginning. He was so high from snorting God’s blood that he could see individual atoms in the air, vibrating. He knew he could be jerked back to the top of the ruined world at any moment.

Sigmund tried to think. He’d expected the New Doctor to ask the questions, to make the requests, so he didn’t know what to say. God was clearly growing impatient, ready to leave his creation forever behind. If Sigmund spoke quickly, he could have anything he wanted. Anything at all.

“Hey,” Sigmund said. “Don’t go.”

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