“Did you ever wonder why I chose you all those years ago?”
“I chose you. You were unlocked,” the Doctor replied.
“Of course I was. I wanted to see the universe, so I stole a Time Lord and I ran away…
And you were the only one mad enough.”
The boy ran. He ran as fast his legs could carry him. If he had run any faster, he would have flown. And oh, how he wanted to. He wanted to fly away. Away from everything that kept him rooted to the ground. He wanted to see the stars, he wanted to sing to the moon, he wanted to walk on the very edges of time and space.
It was dark and it was not long before, he felt raindrops stain the back of his shirt, and yet, he didn’t care. He kept running. Until, he tripped and fell…. plunging into the dark shadows of the midnight streets. Pain was everywhere, he could barely stand. So he just sat there, curled into a feral ball, his chin resting snugly between his knees – his glowing green eyes sparkled in the pale moonlight. He was tired and his limbs ached from all the running. At that point, he was sure he was going to go home. But he shook the thought off as soon as it arrived.
Home was where there were rules and parents and the wretched High Council. The boy shuddered. He was certainly not going back. He swore he wouldn’t do as much as look behind his shoulder, for whatever that lay back there, was the past.
He sighed as he observed the lonely streets – no one would find him here. After checking his surroundings, he let himself drown in his own thoughts.
Stop talking to yourself. Stop talking! The whispering. Stop it. Shut up.
Go play with your friends. Don’t you have any?
No. Eleven Time Lords. Eleven will be final.
Alone. Go away! The flag will rise.
Scarlet. Purple. Petrichor. Mother… Strawberries.
Stop it! Stop talking.
“Hush,” the boy said to himself finally, as if saying the word out loud would make more of a difference. He held his head in his hands – swallowing the sobs that had already gathered at the base of his throat. The events that occurred earlier that day had taken its toll on him. He needed rest.
When, suddenly, he heard a voice. A voice that echoed in his mind – a voice that was very distinctly not his, and very distinctly female.
A big word! Its a big sad word!
And then, she was humming. A tune that was so foreign to his Gallifreyan ears and yet so beautiful.
He shot up to his feet so fast, that his knees cracked painfully. He suppressed a groan, as he ran around the corner, following the voice in his head. Maybe he truly was mad.
Its on the tip of my tongue… so sad..
And then, the humming was louder, and clearer as he neared his destination. And much to his dismay, it stopped as soon as he stopped running. He let out a deep breath, momentarily confused. He was in front of a museum. It was old, very old. Its magnificent structure hovered above him like a looming cement monster. The boy gulped and listened carefully, trying and hoping that the girl’s voice would come alive again.
“Lets play a game,”she said suddenly – her voice invading his mind like a ton of sweet strawberries. The previous melancholy in her voice disappearing suddenly.
“Where are you? Why can’t I see you?”
“It’s a surprise. Lets play a game. If you win, we’ll be friends and we’ll explore everywhere in existence.”
The boy didn’t know which had him first. The fact that he will finally have a friend or the magical way she said the word ‘everywhere’.
He nodded dumbly – completely oblivious to the rest of the world around him.
“Very well. One rule: Answer in your own words,” she said this part in a serious tone.
“Cross my hearts and hope to die,” he said in feigned innocence as he used his finger to draw crosses on the two parts of chest – where beneath, lay his two hearts, beating a mile a minute.
She laughed. “Good. Look in front of you. Somewhere high and uptight. The Council, if you will.”
That was too easy, he thought as he peered above the roof of the museum, where the Galifreyan flag waved in tatters amidst the dark stormy night – valiantly, braving through the harsh fall of raindrops. It was then, the boy realized it was still raining and that he was in fact, drenched to the bone.
“Tell me what you see – with complete honesty. Let it be anything. You only have one chance,” she said slowly – her voice as clear as day despite the thundering rain he was standing in.
His mind raced. Red. It was red, but he had always been told that it was scarlet. But he never liked scarlet. It was always crimson.
He imagined her smiling. And he began to run again. He didn’t know to where but something told him that he knew, or he will know, soon enough.
“Eyes are the windows to the soul. Do you agree?,” she asked.
His eyes immediately flew to the high windows that arched in great lengths on the museum walls. They were familiar – so oddly familiar. The window panes so delicately fixed in to fit. The prophecy. He was a Time Lord.
This time he heard her. He was right and she was laughing. And he couldn’t help but laugh along. He had never been this happy. This free. He laughed so hard until his insides hurt unbearably. He gasped for air and laughed even more. While the rain poured down his face, pressing his dark hair against his skull like a second skin.
When both of them finally stopped, there was a silence. And she knew, he knew. So he cleared his throat and yelled on top of his lungs,
One more, he thought. There’s one more. Then, the key is mine.
“Follow me, where we’ve never been before. A door to worlds. For when you least expect it, something great will come along – something better than you’ve ever planned for.”
He walked through the museum doors, old and heavy. The floors coated with a layer of thousand year old dust. His wet footsteps revealing the beautiful copper flooring beneath.
It was dark inside, save for the tiny glimpses of the pearly moonlight glow. He shivered. His body was finally coming to its senses. His clothes stuck to him like glue and he was cold. Very cold. Nevertheless, he followed her – his swift legs, slowing down after ever few minutes. He was losing energy. His eyes were droopy. It was late – that he could tell.
Suddenly, her voice wavered.
“This part is very complicated. Please, don’t be angry.”
The boy suddenly seemed very awake.
She was sad. He could tell.
“This is when the game ends.”
“But I still have one more word.”
She chuckled slightly.
“And you have one last chance.”
The boy paused, understanding slightly. If he answered wrongly, she would disappear, forever. But what if he didn’t answer at all… He would never see anywhere beyond the light of day. There was a long silence. A soft breeze entered.
“Doctor. Are you there? It’s so very dark in here,” she asked in a small voice.
The girl sighed.
“I’ve been looking for a word. A big, complicated word but, it was so sad… I’ve found it now.”
“Alive… I’m alive.”
“Alive isn’t sad,” he asked, ignoring the unpleasant feeling forming in his gut.
“It’s sad when it’s over. I’ll always be here. But this is when we talked. And now, even that has come to an end. There’s something I didn’t get to say to you….”
The boy didn’t understand. And after a moment of silence, he said, carefully,
“No. I just wanted to say… ”
It was at that exact moment when his feet decided to fail him once again. It was the second time of the day that he tripped and he couldn’t help but feel embarrassed. He got to his feet slowly, his face flushed red. What he saw, however, was the complete opposite. Only one word came to mind and before he could stop it, he blurted,
Nothing happened. Something snapped within him.
“No! Don’t go! I don’t want you to… Please! Please.”
He kicked the air in frustration and inadvertantly landed on his bottom on the dusty floor. The sound of pattering raindrops faded away and not long after that, he could see the beginnings of dawn from the high windows. He cursed himself for being so foolish. She was gone, he was sure of it… and all he could do about it was stare at the brilliant blue police box which stood in front of him. Everything was lost.
The Gods were not kind.
Even if they are any of you up there, you don’t seem to be doing your job very well, lately.
He felt like screaming but his sore throat didn’t allow him to. He coughed and sneezed at the same time. A wad full of dust invaded his lungs.
He wheezed. Petrichor, petrichor, petrichor!
After a while he heard something faint. And ever so slowly, the door of the blue box opened. The boy smiled – the past sadness and confusion vanished within seconds. He pushed past the door and went tumbling in.
And with that he stared at his surroundings in awe – drinking up the sight as if he were a child in a candy store. It was bigger on the inside! This police box – a traveling device, impossible! He whirled in his seat and grazed his fingers lovingly, across the console – memorizing every microscopic detail for later reference. After doing so, he sat there, staring.
The awkward silence was broken abruptly as he suddenly burst into a fit of laughter, tears of joy slipping down his cheeks – upon which he trailed his long fingers against them. He had never experienced this sensation before. It was electrifying.
It was then, that out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a piece of parchment rolled neatly into a scroll – tucked safely between one of the huge levers in the console. And as he unraveled it, he couldn’t help but smile.
Petrichor. The smell of dust after rain.
And with that, he pushed the lever down and the madman and his box disappeared into oblivion.
* * * *
The Doctor observed the peculiar lady. ” I don’t understand. Who are you?”
“You really do not know me? Just because they put me in here?”
“They said you’re dangerous.”
“Oh, the cage is stupid,” she said. She stopped and touched her head.
“In here. They put me in here. I’m the…”She bit her cheek.
“What do you call me,..ah….We travel! I go…” she imitated the TARDIS sound with her mouth.
The Doctor stared at her. An unbelievable half smile forming on his lips.
“The TARDIS? You’re my TARDIS?!”
“Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. Yes, that’s it. Names are funny. It’s me. I’m the TARDIS.”
The Doctor twisted his eyebrows.
“No, you’re not. You’re a bitey mad lady. The TARDIS is up and downy stuff in a big blue box.”
“Yes, that’s me. A type 40 TARDIS. I was already a museum piece when you were young. And the first time you touched my console, you said…”
His eyes softened ever so slightly.
“I said you were the most beautiful thing I’d ever known.”
“Then you stole me. And I stole you. “
He paused. ” I borrowed you.”
The lady arched an eyebrow.
“Borrowing implies the eventual intention to return the thing that was once taken. What makes you think I would ever give you back?”
– inspired by the episode ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ written by Neil Gaiman, from BBC series Doctor Who.