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Doctor Who Missing Internet Adventure #18 - "Festivals of Light and Darkness"


Chapter 2
"In A Pickle"
by Mark Phippen


---


"I should bloody well hope so!"


       Everyone in the room is taken aback when the chest begins to talk.


       "I did wonder a couple of times, mind you. My fault for taking the cheap option, I suppose. You know, those Intergalactic Mail guys are salt of the universe, but do they know how to handle a delicate package? They most certainly don't! I mean, I was marked as 'fragile' but do you suppose that made any difference? Bashed around from pillar to post half way across the galaxy, sat upon, kicked about. It's a wonder I'm still in one piece!"


       Mrs Gormenghast is a little taken aback. She hadn't expected her mail to talk, obviously.


       "Oh, sorry," say the box, "I should have said. I'd like a room please."


       "You want a room?" Mrs Gormenghast asks, dumbfounded.


       "Oh dear. Don't tell me they've got the wrong address again. Last time that happened I spent a very uncomfortable fortnight with a Jarkan couple. I mean, they were nice enough, and they didn't try to eat me even once, but they weren't much for conversation."


       "I'm surprised they could get a word in edgeways," mutters Tegan under her breath.


       "Well, you're in luck, dearie," Mrs Gormenghast is saying, "we've got a vacancy at the moment."


       "Well, I did book," the box replies.


       "You did? I really don't remember." Mrs Gormenghast is interrupted by the ringing of a big black telephone in the hall, and goes to answer it. Tegan strains to hear the muffled conversation, but the wooden chest is still talking.


       "Oh dear," says the box, "I do hope that isn't me on the phone. If it is, it would explain Mrs Gormenghasts's rather odd tone when I called her. I sometimes think I'll never get the hang of this time travel lark.


       "You're a time-traveller?" Tegan asks out loud.


       "Why yes," the box replies, "aren't we all?"


       Without the indications of body language, Tegan cannot be sure, but she is sure that that last comment was aimed at her and Nyssa. A genuine, rather than rhetorical question. She gets an uneasy feeling; a feeling she hasn't felt since the Doctor first brought them here.


* * *


Flashback


       They were sitting outside a café. Tegan couldn't remember where, but she was sure it had been Earth. Europe? Her memory was a little hazy.


       Something across the street had distracted the Doctor. He was leaping up from the table "Back in a moment," he said.


       Tegan looked at Nyssa who was sipping her fruit juice and casually looking around as if the Doctor had explained everything.


       "Did you buy that?"


       Nyssa looked confused. "No, the Doctor did." She frowned.


       "No, I mean his story. About coming here for a break. I mean, since when have any of the Doctor's holidays ended in anything but a showdown with the latest evil from the dawn of time?" She glanced over the road to see the Time Lord approaching a squat machine set against the wall of the opposite building.


       "I think he means it." Tegan noticed Nyssa was watching him too, perhaps in case he was about to do anything that contradicted her even as she spoke. "We've both been through a lot lately, we could do with the rest. The Doctor too. The strain has been getting to him I think."


       "So what's he doing now?"


       The Doctor was slotting some coins into the machine, and pulling out a newspaper. He began scanning it as he started across the road back towards the table.


       "He just can't sit still for one moment, can he?" Nyssa sounded disappointed, like he was letting her down.


       "He's probably just checking the weather reports," Tegan suggested unconvincingly.


       But as he approached, the Doctor was babbling excitedly about strange occurrences in the area; a spate of missing persons, strange lights in the sky.


       "Doctor, you promised!" Nyssa's voice was cracked, like it was breaking.


       The Doctor sighed and sat down. "I know. I'm sorry," he was folding the paper, "It's the TARDIS; she's attracted to trouble like a moth to a light bulb." He dropped the paper into the nearest rubbish bin.


       "Trouble is, it's us who get burnt," Tegan said pointedly.


       Either the Doctor hadn't heard her, or he was choosing to ignore her. "The TARDIS knows me too well, that's the trouble. She knows what I'm looking for."


       "Well what we are looking for, Doctor, is a real holiday. Somewhere safe, away from the evils of the universe." Nyssa looked at the Doctor. "Just for a few days, that's all."


       The Doctor smiled gently at her. "It's not too much to ask, is it? I know a place where we can stay, one of the few places in the universe where I can really relax. And it'll be lovely seeing that dear lady again."


       "And it's safe?" Tegan asked.


       "There's nowhere in the universe that's safer, believe me."


* * *


Shigan offers to carry the new guest to his room, and Mrs Gormenghast offers to make him an extra large packed lunch for the day. With extra Cantaar eggs.


       Talk of lunch reminds Tegan that the Doctor still hasn't returned. She is getting worried about him, and tells Nyssa as much. Nyssa reminds her that nothing can happen to him here.


       He's probably just enjoying himself so much, he's forgotten the time.


       Time.


       What was that again?


       Shigan returns to the kitchen, and Mrs Gormenghast hands him his picnic hamper. He bows, and bids them all good day. Then he was off to do whatever it was Draconians do in a place like this. And Tegan looks at Nyssa. She knows exactly what she's going to be doing.


       And Shigan bows, and bids them all good day. Then he's off to do whatever Draconians to in a place like this.


       And Tegan looks at Nyssa. But Nyssa's not there. She's coming into the room, yawning.


       And Mrs Gormenghast is saying "Here she is at last."


       And there's a knock at the door.


       And Shigan bows, and bids them all good day. Then he's off to do whatever Draconians to in a place like this.


       And Shigan returns to the kitchen, and Mrs Gormenghast hands him his picnic hamper.


       And there's a knock at the door.


       And Tegan looks at Nyssa. But Nyssa's not there. She's coming into the room, yawning.


       And Shigan bows, and bids them all good day. Then he's off to do whatever Draconians to in a place like this.


       And Tegan looks at her watch. There are no hands. How can she tell the time?


       Time.


       What was that again?


       And alone isn its room, the box chuckles quietly to itself.


* * *


He thought he was safe here. Thought he would have time to relax, plan his next move.


       Enjoy himself for once.


       But they had found him. Only he didn't yet know who they were.


       The Doctor looks at what's left of his lunch, and decides to make the best of the situation. Munching away on his ploughman's, he tries to remember how he got himself in this pickle.


       A café. On Earth. He had promised the girls a break, a real holiday. Get away from it all. Literally.


       And there was nowhere more 'away from it all' than here. At least, that was the idea.


       But here he was, on his train, the track stretching out before him as far as he can see. No landmarks, no bends. No stopping.


       He should have reached home by now. Should have pulled into that little station that was there only for his benefit. But he couldn't even see the town. Something was very wrong, here, in a place where nothing went wrong.


       Something had followed him. That had to be it. If he wouldn't go to the evil, the evil would come to him.


       Well, let it come.


       The Doctor feeds the engine with more coal.


       "Let's get to the point!" he shouts into the wind.


       And the world disappeared.


* * *


Nothing.


       Not darkness. I would welcome darkness. At least it would be something, something other than this endless nothingness.


       For countless millennia I have waited here, alone but for the dying embers of what I once called the universe. And not even that for the last few million years, once its dull glow had guttered and died.


       Until today. Until I saw the light.


       Faint at first, so faint I thought I was imagining it. I have been through many forms of madness over the last few millennia, from the simple hallucination to full blown imaginary worlds. Ironically, it was my madness that kept me sane, in the long run. I have lived many lives in my mind, but always the truth comes back to me. And that truth is that there is only the Nothing.


       Until today. Until I saw the light.


       And when the light became brighter, began to fill my vision, I began to take it seriously. And when the odd little being appeared at its centre in a gust of wind I was genuinely surprised for the first time since I could remember.


       The being looked like he had absolutely no idea what he was doing.


---
To be continued...



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