The Misadventure of Mark Thorne was a story originally published in the 2007 Doctor Who anthology, Short Trips: Snapshots, edited by Joseph Lidster and published by Big Finish Books. It is now out of print, and the rights of the story are all mine again. Of course, I do not own the Doctor Who elements, which does somewhat prohibited the story being reprinted. However, I can share a new version of the story with you for free. And here it is… A bit of official Who fiction, from me.
The Misadventure of Mark Thorne
By Andy Frankham-Allen
‘Look, it’s perfectly simple. Mayonnaise, lettuce, tomatoes, bacon. Come on, you can’t be that cowing thick!’
Mark Thorne looked down at the trembling hands of his trainee, and smiled. This was power. In this kitchen he was the king of the hill, and all who came here to work had to bow before him. The trainee started adding the seasoned mayonnaise with a knife. Mark tutted loudly, and snatched the knife out of the trainee’s hands.
‘No, no, no! You’re using the wrong knife now.’ He put the knife in the sink and reached for the knife with serrated edge. He knew his little monkey had been using the correct knife, but that was hardly the issue. It was about power.
Hours later Mark threw his coat on and barged his way out of the unit. Head lowered, he wasn’t particularly interested in who got in his way. They wouldn’t be there for long. Like a rhino he carried on, barging his way through the crowded concourse of Cardiff Central Station. It was match day, and the people were jostling to get to an exit in one piece. Unfortunately most of them were not natives of Cardiff, and so they experienced a moment of indecision as they wondered which exit offered the quickest route to the Millennium Stadium. Even more unfortunately, for them at least, Mark did know which exit he wanted and he was not in the mood to tolerate their blocking him.
So he carried on relentless, leaving curses in his wake. Finally he reached the doors. Just as he was about to step through them and out to the cold air, an unusual sound penetrated his single-minded course. He stopped, and looked around. He had never heard anything like it. In the concourse people were also looking around, trying to locate the source of the noise. Some reacted in shock, no doubt disturbed by the sudden strangeness of it all – expecting some kind of bomb to go off, perhaps. Mark smiled. It was clearly nothing. The inside of the concourse looked like it did on any other match day, so he turned away to continue on his way outside.
He walked smack into a hard object, and for a moment was dazed, but he couldn’t step back. Instead someone from behind bumped into him, and the solid object before him gave way. He stumbled over something, and found himself surrounded by a bright light.
A strange humming sounded resonated behind him. Mark turned to look, but the effects of concussion had begun to sweep over him. He imagined he saw two large white doors closing, but his feet gave way and he fumbled backwards. He spun around, which did not help the dizziness, and before he knew what had happened his head slammed into something with a sharp edge.
He was on the floor, and the light was fading. He blinked again. Something came into his vision, something silver. It looked vaguely like a man, reaching out, as if to help him up.
And then… All was darkness.
He pushed the door open and it swung with force. ‘Right, that’s it! Where am I?’ he asked loudly to what, it turned out, was yet another empty room.
Mark checked his phone once again. It had been almost an hour since he’d awoken in that strange bedroom. An hour since he had started trying to find a way out of this clinical looking place he had found himself in. For a while he had entertained the notion that it was some kind of hospital – it was certainly white enough – but he’d never been in a hospital like this before. Plus there was the total lack of wards and, well, people. He had found many different kinds of rooms behind the various closed doors along the multitude of corridors, but no people. It had got to the point where he would have been happy to see the silver man, whom he was sure he’d imagined anyway.
He looked around the room he was in this time. It looked strangely familiar. In the centre of the room was an object that… His head subconsciously reached for the bump on his head as his eyes rested on the sharp edge of the console. Six sided, resting on a plinth, with a glass column running through the middle of it. There were various controls on each of the six panels, including what appeared to be a computer keyboard.
Mark approached the keyboard section. He was pretty good with computers, and hopefully he could call up some kind of information on the monitor above the keyboard. Just then he noticed a difference in the wall before him. Unlike the other five walls, this one had cracks in it. He peered closer, and then it came to him.
A pair of double doors. A way out. At last!
Heart racing he rushed around the console. There had to be something on there that would open the doors. Some kind of… Aha! Right before him was a lever with a red handle. Smiling at his brilliance, Mark pulled the lever and, with a sense of satisfaction, watched the doors swing open.
OK, having all those rooms and corridors inside a blue box was one thing, but the place outside? Mark had to wonder if he was going mad.
He was standing in the middle of a field. The grass beneath his feet was a kind of orange, contrasting horribly with the garish green sky above. In the distance he could see trees. Although they weren’t like any trees he’d ever seen. The trunks were as white as the purest snow, with leaves of baby blue. Mark shook his head, wishing he’d brought his sunglasses with him. The colour scheme, coupled with the mild case of concussion, was giving him a granddaddy of a headache.
‘Hello?’ he called out, before it occurred to him that it might have been a better idea to keep quiet. He had no idea where he was, or indeed what kind of people populated a place like this.
Out of his depth as he was, he wasn’t the kind of person who could just wait. Ask anyone at work. Patience was not a virtue of his. He glanced back at the blue box once more, making sure he got a complete picture of its location in his mind. Wherever he was, whatever he was going to find here, this box was his ticket home. And he had no intention of losing it.
He followed a road, not yellow brick unfortunately, although he half expected there to be one, into a built up area. Once more he was faced with the startling differences between cities he knew and the one before him. He was probably being generous likening it to a city, it was more of a small town in size at least, but there was something about the grandiose nature of the buildings that made him think city. They reminded him of something, although he could not think what, the way they were all carved out of stone. It was as if the mountains themselves, which he had only just noticed now standing on either side of him, were part of the city.
All he needed to find now were some people. Maybe they knew who that silver man had been. Maybe that’s what he was going to find here. Hundreds of silver men.
As he was soon to discover, he couldn’t have been more wrong. As he walked deeper into the city he heard the sound of scuffling. Smiling to himself he sought out the source of the sound. Whatever he was going to find couldn’t be any madder than everything he’d seen so far.
Famous last words, he thought, when he turned the corner.
First he noticed the two men backing up against the stone wall. They were roughly the same height, looking much the same age, too. One of them was dressed in a strange outfit that looked vaguely like cricketing whites, while the other one was dressed in dark grey slacks and blazer. He was the younger of the two, and also clearly the one out of his depth. Mark could appreciate that. But the other man seemed perfectly at ease. He was even offering out a hand and a smile to the aliens who were literally cornering them.
And they really were very alien. They stood almost four feet taller than the two men, and were as wide as both of them put side-by-side. Their skin, what he could see of it through the haphazardly spaced tufts of coarse hair, was an oily black.
Mark backed away a bit, so that he was mostly hidden by the edge of the corner.
He watched events unfold, having no intention of getting involved. He knew it was a character flaw of his, the amount of times he’d seen someone fall over in the concourse while at work and never offering any help, but he couldn’t help it. In his kitchen he was the master, but outside it he was little more than a regular Joe. A cowardly one at that, too.
‘No need for any hostilities,’ the blond haired man was saying. ‘Perhaps introductions would be best here? I’m the Doctor and this is Turlough. You are..?’
The two aliens turned to each other, and for the first time Mark got a good look at their faces. They had one huge eye in the centre of their faces, with big, slobbering lips, saliva dripping. Mark didn’t want to be quoted, but it seemed to him they looked hungry. Very hungry.
That decided it. Even though it seemed clear the two men must have arrived in the blue box, too, Mark’s survival instinct was higher than his desire to be a hero. He quietly slipped away.
He didn’t get far. He turned around just in time to notice another two aliens come up behind him. Mark swallowed hard.
‘Erm. Hiya,’ he said, his voice never having sounded so small.
The aliens smiled. At least, Mark hoped it was a smile. It was so difficult to tell through all their drooling.
They introduced themselves as Trawets and Naitsirk, although considering the way they were always moving around him Mark had great difficulty remembering which was which. He hated to sound racist, but they really did look exactly the same. He had expected something sinister, but instead they constantly talked to him, offering him much food. A sign of respect for honoured guest, or some such, Mark assumed. Either way, one thing was certain, they loved their food.
Right now they sat around a table, various meat dishes filling up most of the table’s surface. And still they talked. Mark had an image of the two men he’d seen earlier taking part in a similar scene. For a moment there he had thought that perhaps the aliens wanted to eat the men, but he was glad to be proven wrong. Sure, they looked hungry, but during the short time he’d spent with them that had not changed.
Mark laughed. What a ludicrous idea! Trawets looked at him. ‘Sorry, private joke.’
‘What is a “private joke”?’ Trawets asked, and when he spoke his lips moved in a way that did not go with the actual words. It was like watching a badly dubbed film.
‘Can I see more of this place? First time, erm, off world, so I’m figuring I need to soak up the experience,’ Mark said, in a not very subtle attempt at side-stepping the question.
Trawets turned to Naitsirk. Mark watched them, wondering what that look meant. He was never very good at reading body language as it was, so trying to read these two was nigh on impossible. Naitsirk slowly nodded his large head, and Trawets returned his attention to Mark with what Mark now knew to be a smile.
‘Walk is good,’ Trawets said.
On reflection Mark realised he liked it here. Sure, everything was so alien (an inane thought) but all the Shev were so damned friendly. He was surrounded by at least ten of them now, and all were listening intently to his stories about working with food. It seemed an obvious topic for a race who prized appetite above everything else, and if there was one thing Mark knew well, it was food. Well, that and old films and TV shows, but he didn’t see how the Shev would have any interest in such things. Unless he told them about Junior down at Fraggle Rock. A distant relative of the Shev mayhaps? Looking at the ten gathered around him Mark could see the physical similarities.
As he told his stories, putting himself up there with the gods of course, in terms of his culinary skills, his mind drifted back to his life in Cardiff. He was, he thought in all modesty, clearly an undiscovered genius. Too good for the city, as drab and cold as it was. But here he had a purpose, a fellowship with the Shev that he just didn’t have back home. Maybe, he considered, he wouldn’t bother trying to find those two men and that silver man (whom he had almost certainly imagined) so he could get back to Cardiff. This planet was vibrant, and it made him feel alive.
A sound rang out, both cutting his story and his thoughts short. Whatever the sound meant it sent a ripple through his audience that superseded anything he had to say. They started talking to each other animatedly, jumping with unsuppressed excitement.
‘What’s going on?’ he asked.
One of the Shev, possibly Trawets, turned to him, saliva drooling even more than usual. ‘Food has escaped. Now we join the hunt.’
Well, Mark had never hunted for food before. Living in a city it had never been necessary, not when there was a Tesco on hand. ‘When in Rome,’ he said, standing up. ‘Let’s go chicken hunting!’
‘Yes! You lead us, we follow you. You smell the food better.’
Mark wasn’t entirely sure what was meant by that, since the Shev had bigger noses than he did, but he was game. His chest swelled with pride. Oh yes, move on Gordon Ramsay. It was the Mark Thorne show now.
‘Yeah, why not?’
Trawets soon took over, since it became obvious early into the hunt that Mark just didn’t have the nose for it after all. This came as a great disappointment to Trawets, although Naitsirk exhibited no surprise at all. So the hunt continued, through the city, out over the hills, and onto the burned orange pastures. All the while the Shev were getting more and more excited, and Mark was finding it hard to keep up with them. For all their bulk they were incredibly fast. Occasionally he slipped on the ever dripping saliva. Now, Mark loved food as much as the next man, possibly more, but he was beginning to get turned off by the constant slobbering.
Finally, they caught up with their prey. And Mark pulled back in shock.
Surrounded by a good twenty Shev were the two men he’d seen earlier. For a few moments Mark was stuck trying to process this development. He wanted to deny it, pretend the men were simply helping the Shev in their hunt, just as he was. But too much was coming together. The huge meal, the friendliness of the natives, why walking would be good for him, and now this…
‘You eat people?’
Trawets just nodded his head.
‘You eat people?’
Naitsirk came over to them. ‘Human meat is the best kind. That is why we breed you. Trawets thinks it is better to get to know your food first. I think Trawets is right now. Much more satisfying.’
Mark didn’t know what to say. There was really nothing more he could say. But he knew one thing for sure. He wasn’t going to be served up like a Sunday roast. He turned and pegged it.
As he ran he heard laughter behind him. He had got used to the Shev laughter, found it strangely addictive. But now it made his skin crawl. So he ran faster.
Mark knew they were close behind, but he didn’t care. He doubled back on himself, running through the city, hiding from time to time in the shadows. If he stayed on the right track he knew he could find his way back to the blue box. If nothing else, his running hopefully was enough of a distraction to allow the two men a chance to escape. He just hoped they were heading back to the box, too. If not, then perhaps his imaginary silver man was not so imaginary after all. He had to get into the box, or else he’d be dead meat. Quite literally.
He shuddered, poked his head around the corner to make sure the way was clear, and shot out of the shadows. Before him was the non-yellow-brick-road. The path to freedom.
On the horizon he saw the box, and let out a sigh of relief. But like a kick in the chest the sigh was ripped away from him when he noticed that the door of the box was closing behind the man in the grey slacks.
Mark shouted out, and doubled his speed, ignoring the stinging stitch in his side. He had to reach the box, to let them know he was here. Surely the silver man wouldn’t let them go without him.
He was wrong. Before he could reach the box a wrenching noise filled the air. He recognised it as the same noise he had heard in Central Station, which seemed so long ago now. His running turned into a stagger, which in turn became little more than a crawl on the grass as he witnessed the box fade into nothingness. Mark screwed his eyes shut. If the silver man ever told them about him, it would be too…
He heard the grass pressing beneath the pressure of many large feet.
Spittle landed on his head. Then, a voice.
‘Trawets was right, much more satisfying.’
Mark was bundled unceremoniously back to their hut, where he was stripped naked by Naitsirk while Trawets prepared the pot. A third Shev had joined; a family friend come to taste the new meat. Mark struggled, finding a well of courage he never knew he had. Perhaps it was simply his survival instinct overriding all else. As it turned out, his struggles were for nothing. The Shev were so much stronger than he.
Once he was naked they sprayed him with a misty something. It smelled lovely, and for a moment Mark closed his eyes imagining how it would add flavour to the food being prepared. He shook his head, the horror of the situation just beyond his grasp.
It was so insane. He was the one being seasoned, like some leg of beef. He knew that, but still his mind could not quite accept it.
They strung him up into some kind of cradle, which they gently lifted off the floor and attached it to a pole over the top of the large cauldron. Mark looked down, grateful that the lid was still on the pot.
‘Listen,’ he said, his voice pitiful, ‘you don’t need to do this. I can offer you so much, teach you of the ways we cook things on Earth. There must be something I can do for you.’
Naitsirk looked at Trawets, and if Mark read it right there was a doubtful look in his eye. Trawets shook his oily head, and approached the cauldron. ‘All you can do is hope you digest slowly.’
Mark’s eyes widened in horror, the sound of the lid scraping against the cauldron. ‘I hope you choke on me,’ he said feebly.
‘Unlikely,’ Trawets said, and opened his mouth. Mark looked into the deep chasm. It was impossibly wide.
As they began to lower him into the cauldron of bubbling liquid, Mark’s eyes watered and he looked around.
‘Please,’ he began, then blinked. It was impossible surely, but before his eyes, unseen by either Trawets or Naitsirk, the third Shev was changing. His oily black skin was turning silver…
Mark could not help but smile, tears of relief pouring from his eyes. The silver man had come to save him.
Pain seared through him as his naked legs sunk into the boiling liquid. ‘Help me!’ he screamed, looking for the silver man.
There was no silver man, just three Shev watching him in glee as he was boiled alive.
It was the end of the Mark Thorne show…
Fade to black.
The Misadventure of Mark Thorne © Andy Frankham-Allen 2007, 2012. All Rights Reserved.
Doctor Who © BBC 1963,2012. All Rights Reserved.