Title: The Time-Torn Man
Rating: Blue Cortina for character death (sort of), angst, disturbing images. Gen fic.
Word Count: 960
Summary: You've been prepared for this.
A/N: Spoilers for both series of 'Life on Mars', including the finale, and for episode 1 of Ashes to Ashes.
Also, please bear in mind that I haven't seen beyond episode 1.01 of 'Ashes to Ashes'. This is simply my take on the events of 1980, and what may have happened to Sam; or at least, to his body. Dark.
The Time-Torn Man
You’ve been prepared for this.
At some point, in the overstretched moment between the loss of control and the plunge, there flashes a half-memory; a single calm voice, dispassionate and disengaged within your head, has appraised the situation and offered a solution, all with perfect clarity.
‘The majority of deaths in such cases are caused by a failure to adopt the brace position in due time, by a lack of foward planning and by indecisiveness once the car is in the water...'
Where it comes from, you can’t tell- from some film that hasn’t been made yet, perhaps, or some book still to be written.
Then the river opens up to greet you, and instinct- savage, animal, unconscious instinct- takes over.
Folded up on yourself inside the boot of the Cortina, you beat and hammer and rage yourself hoarse. The car’s interior stinks of cigarettes, of discarded sandwich wrappers and gum and stale bodies- a smell so real that it seems to enclose you, like a second skin.
You want to cast it off.
Get the window open; out of all the voice’s instructions, somehow this one manages to penetrate the initial adrenaline rush.
They’re old windows, of course- it’s an old car, even by the standards of the day, the handles stiff and almost unworkable on the left side from your collision with the balustrade.
You should try to bring your body round, get some weight behind you to land a kick- but in the panic impulse outstrips thought, and instead you swing your right fist up against the glass. The gravity of the mistake hits home at the second of contact, and for an instant everything goes black.
There is a terrible, tearing pain in your arm, and familiar hands on your shoulders. You’re so brave, Sammy, nearly there now; too old for ‘Sammy’, or for tears, but the tears come anyway, hot and thick and fast as you blink to keep them in-
-a terrible, tearing pain in your arm and aching emptiness within you. Poor soul has had such a shock, not even shed a tear; strange hands clutching at you, pulling you from the coach-
On your back now, elbows drawn up by your chest, you lash out with both feet, hard as you can. The first two attempts buckle the window’s metal frame but leave the glass intact; at the third attempt you twist away, aiming instead for the topmost corner, and this time the force of the blow goes straight through.
The sudden shift in pressure makes your head sing. Reflexively, you gasp for air, but take on water; the world no longer has direction, out of time, out of orbit, the shock and the cold and the pain receding as the river surges over them.
You open your eyes, and see red.
“Leaving so soon, inspector?”
Joni Newton drifts out of the darkness, pale gaze fixed and empty; but the voice from her slashed throat belongs to someone else.
“Can’t we tempt you to stay?”
The metallic crimson tang, staining the pavement, the leather coat; colouring the kitchen of your not-yet-flat; streaked across the wall where Terry Haslam fell.
The red wells up, blossoms out, and fills your mouth, your lungs.
“He would have lost consciousness before he hit the ground...the- the impact itself would have broken several ribs, causing blood to build up in the chest cavity.”
Your mother’s voice overlies the other, brittle as broken glass.
A fierce rattle of static, like a dying breath; your head is ready to burst, mind on fire with memories, with the pressure of too many lives.
“It truly is remarkable. All this time, so upright and so still, and yet there’s no sign of atrophy; no bedsores, no loss of muscle capacity. It’s almost as if his body has left us too, and this...”
From a distance of three decades, a hand touches your arm.
“Where are you, Sam?”
There is a girl wearing the red now. Her features glide, and flicker; a child to a woman, to Annie and back again.
“You’re dead, Sam.”
The static has become a single, one-note tone, ringing through your ears.
We’ve got no pulse.
“None of this is real.”
The red is fading fast with the words, moving into and outside of you, beyond all recall. Soon there will only be water left.
Still nothing. I’m going again. Stand clear...
“Not long now, Sam.”
Gene, Chris, Ray, Annie. Oh God. Stay.
“Not long now.”
Weightless, and limitless, you fall. Or maybe you fly.
There’s no difference any more.
Time of death...
The car and its confines have slipped away, and the fearful heaviness in your legs and arms has lifted; freed from every burden, there is nothing to do but drift, surrounded on all sides by immeasurable shadow.
Time is harsh, and unforgiving, and you are at its mercy. But it has held you safe before, and it will do so again. Of this you are sure.
Far too high above you, the darkness starts to thin.
The neutral voice is back, pricking inside your head while the sunshine pricks your vision.
‘As you exit the car, do not kick your feet. You could injure other passengers.’
Part of you wants to laugh.
From a hospital bed in 1950, Sam Williams stares out at a world that no-one else can reach. Not yet.
In a wasteland in 1973, DI Tyler jerks, and gasps, and staggers to his feet.
By a canal in 1980, DCI Hunt strikes at the buckled and useless railing, over and over again.
On an ambulance in 1981, a mother holds her son close.
Somewhere in 2006, DCI Sam Tyler is weeping, and dreaming, and running, and falling.
He never lands.