Name: Apollo 23
Writer: Justin Richards
Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: 11th Doctor, Amy Pond
For Jim, Nick, & Simon the Gentlemen who Lunch
Twenty minutes before he died, Donald Babinger was feeding
Bits of his cheese sandwich to a pigeon.
It was a cold, grey day, and the pigeon seemed grateful
For the attention as well as the” crumbs. It pecked eagerly at
The bread, ignoring the cheese and the pickle. Babinger was
Sitting on the steps up to the bandstand, huddled in his coat.
The bandstand was where the teenagers hung out in the
Evening, in the park near the library. The railings were
Rusted and the pitted concrete floor was studded with dark
Blobs of well-trodden chewing gum. But the cracked roof
Offered some shelter from the persistent drizzle.
Ten minutes before he died, Donald Babinger stuffed the
Last remains of his sandwich into his mouth, smiled
at the pigeon, and stood up. A brisk walk
Round the edge of the little park, then back to the office. He
Liked to get out at lunchtime, even when the weather wasn’t
Babinger believed it was a good idea to get a breath of fresh
Which was ironic, given how he was about to die.
His mind already returning to the spreadsheet he
Needed to sort out in the afternoon, Babinger walked
Slowly across the little park. He nodded a mute greeting to
A young woman pushing a toddler in a buggy. He smiled at
A woman in a red raincoat walking her dog. He shook his
Head sadly at the litter blown in clusters against the low
Metal fence round a flowerbed. He wondered yet again
How the developers ever got permission for the new
Shopping centre that cast its grey concrete and glass
Shadow across the end of the park. His colleague Mandy
Would still be queuing for her lunch at Perfect Burger. What a
Waste of time when you could bring your own sandwich…
Perhaps he wouldn’t have begrudged her the time if
Babinger knew he only had five minutes left to live.
He spent most of that five minutes completing his tour of
The park. With only thirty seconds left to live, he checked his
Watch, saw that his lunch break was almost over, and turned
Back towards the bandstand. The mother and toddler were
On the other side of the park. There was no sign of the
Woman with the dog.
Babinger decided to cut across the park rather than
Follow the path the rest of the way. Best to get back and
Crack on with the accounts. Yes, that was the wise decision.
The decision that killed him.
Donald Babinger was almost back at the bandstand
When he felt the first tightness in his chest, the first
Difficulty in getting his breath. His vision blurred and swam.
He blinked, and shook his head to clear it. But the world was
Going grey. The sky was darkening.
His breathing came in ragged gasps. His chest
Continued to tighten. The ground under his feet was no
Longer damp grass but dry dust. The shopping centre was
Gone. The bandstand was gone. Everything was gone, and in
‘Oh my – ‘ Babinger started to say.
But no words came.
He had no breath to speak them.
Babinger was on his knees, his hands tearing at his
Burning throat. His tongue fizzed like his saliva was
Boiling. His eyes felt like they were about to burst.
Babinger’s whole body seemed light and bloated. He fell
Onto his back, convulsing and shaking. So cold.
Then, abruptly, he was still. The drizzle pattered on his
Face. It pooled into his unseeing eyes, until it overflowed
And ran gently down his face like tears.