Chapter 6: The School Master’s Wisdom
Rose and the Doctor were just unlocking the door of their enchanting, blue box when Timothy barrelled into his room and intercepted them with all the enthusiasm and bondless energy of a boy with a secret and two secret friends (and aforementioned blue box) to dazzle and delight with it.
“Did you hear?” he panted.
“Well I don’t know. You’ll have to be more precise,” the Doctor grumbled but Rose elbowed him playfully, from which he fained mock outrage, and sprang onto the boy’s bed eager to indulge some childish gossip and wonder even if Timothy did stand in her way of a warm shower and familiar bed.
“No, come here and tell me everything,” she beamed, patting the mattress beside her, an invitation which the boy readily accepted.
“Don told me, who heard it from Joshua, who overheard Mr. Web talking to Mrs. Hastings, saying that Miss Hartford’s missing, presumed dead, well, Josh added that last bit. Can you believe it? Do you think we’ll get a day off school?” he gushed.
Rose felt her mouth go limp with sudden gravity and shock as she inwardly groaned and flashed a glare at the Doctor who had suddenly perked up and shifted his attention from a pocket recovered corkscrew, with what looked like a small ice-cream scope and half a mini cheese grater attached to it, to the young story teller.
“When was this?” he asked curiously and Timothy beamed at grabbing yet another adult’s attention.
“She went out for a walk a couple of hours ago and no one has seen her since and it was her job to organise the picnic for today so everyone’s worried. She wouldn’t just leave.”
“Did anyone see her out walking?”
“Not since she went for a poke about the school house is what I heard but she’s not there now.”
Five minutes later and the Doctor is in manic pacing and hair ruffling mode pausing only briefly to play with an old paint chipped abacus by the window while Rose is practicing her calligraphy with a quill, ink pot and paper at one of the students writing desks knowing better than to interrupt him when he’s calculating and self-depreciating something far beyond her understanding.
“She was here,” he finally voices hesitantly. “But she’s not now, well, she’s not anywhere now,” he finishes gravely.
“What do you mean?” and in this setting with a faded parchment of a map of the world hanging on the wall, spelling sheets in the corner and a chalky blackboard standing proudly in front of a wood wormed desk (complete with apple and old dictionary) she can’t help but feel like the student, studying the wonders of the universe from this intrepid, ageless man who stands imposingly at the front of the class.
She uses his pregnant pause to imagine after school detention with a stern and sinfully handsome Doctor, enlightening her on the practices of ‘Sex Ed’. She wonders if she still has her old school uniform with the obscenely short skirt and what creative punishments he could suggest for being naughty and cheeky to her teacher or perhaps homework with a practical edge.
“I can see that, sir!” Her eyes twinkle with mischief and his mouth seems to go illogically dry as he beholds her there, attentive and inquisitive and oh there are some lessons he’d love to teach her.
He clears his throat and frowns, “No, I mean gone, gone as in ceased to exist, shuffled off this mortal coil, paid the reaper.”
Rose immediately sobers and stares at him guiltily.
“Something with a great deal of power literally ripped her into atoms and, most likely, feed on her life energy, only the smallest of residual trances remain.”
“What could have done this?” she asks, sickened and outraged as the Doctor quickly reminds himself of the definition of the word ‘tact’.
“There are unfortunately several beings who can absorb…” he stops abruptly and is stiller than she’s ever seen him, before he’s all motion again like a DVD taken off ‘pause’.
“Oh, of course, that’s…I’m so stupid. Gah!” and then he’s right in her face and she’s accustomed enough not to flinch.
“But only one species that hails from the Demeter Alignment which is where we were drifting when the TARDIS picked up that transmission, only it wasn’t a transmission, it was only an echo of a moment in time originating here in Timmy’s bedroom and flying through space and through the TARDISs time stream to Alidor like a Chinese whisper travelling on an interstellar breeze.”
“Right, what?” She couldn’t help but be entranced at his enthusiasm and the way his mouth formed and punctuated words but he was still bloody infuriating at times.
“Ok,” he squares his shoulders and pulls up a pew as the Doctor enters ‘lecture mode’. “We are standing in history with actual ruins spanning over the better part of a century of living existence. Naturally over time the concentration of energy signatures from different time periods has formed a faint temporal paradigm, lining up certain dates and events side by side, muddling them up as if they were contemporary to each other. But that’s ok, normally only people who are extremely sensitive would notice but all across the universe there are places where the walls of time and space are naturally weak, usually at points when an event has occurred to branch the timeline into a parallel dimension, could have been anything, but anyway such temporal confusion would cause small friction that could, in theory, eventually rub away and form the teensy weensiest tear in the fabric of reality, like the hundreds of shoes that have worn down the steps at the entrance to this school house, making them curve in the middle. Now if something was to force its way through, it would squash the timelines represented here together so that they would bleed and merge and excite the already present creative energies to the point where every Tom, Dick and Harry are suddenly seeing ghosts – out of time energy signatures. No, this isn’t about the ghosts, they’re harmless, just a side effect.”
“Pretty spooky side effect. So these shadows they’re what’s come through only…we’ve seen the ghosts but these things seem not quite there, is that what they look like?”
“Oh, Rose Tyler you are brilliant, did I ever tell you that?” he swooped down and gave her a peek on the cheek which left a blush print in its wake and stifled her usual modest reply.
“You right, they’re phasing. There’s not enough energy yet to let them cross over completely. It’s not the shadows, it’s not the ghosts, it’s something else, something we haven’t seen yet. One of their own sent on a scavenging mission to absorb enough temporal energy to rip that tear further and allow the rest through, like inflating a balloon in a flexible hole. Problem with the Alidorites is they’re shape shifters, it could look like anything, could be here right now…” he broke off in a whisper, unconsciously holding his breathe as he and Rose both scanned the room in silent understanding. After several drawn moments and an intimate inspection of a writing tablet with a smiley face drawn on it in chalk, and yes, it was definitely chalk, the Doctor licked it in confirmation, they sagged in defeat.
“Nah,” the Doctor bellowed suddenly causing Rose to jump and hurl the nearing blunt object at him which just happened to be the chalk duster.
“Don’t DO that. We’ve talked about this!” she accused.
“But I like stealth mode, makes me fell all ninja turtle-y!” he waggled his expressive eye brows at her before karate chopping the air and Rose rolled her eyes, “more like ninja porcupine!” she muttered.
“I heard that! I have superhuman hearing!” he smirked the smirk of the smug.
“Pity you don’t have super human hair gel!”
“I thought you liked the hair?” he pouted like a kicked puppy, a kicked puppy with a puppy sized bone that had just been stolen by nun cats in wimples.
She smoothly sidled up to him, “I do like the hair, I love the hair.” She fondly tossed the errant locks of thick, soft brown and he absently closed his eyes and almost purred at her ministrations, letting his jaw go slack and emphasising his beautiful, prominent bone structure. Rose’s heart swelled for this ludicrous alien and she silently vowed to do everything in her power to make him look content and happy at every opportunity.
When his eyes fluttered open she almost backed up in surprise. He was so like any other man when his eyes were closed but when they looked on you they were so profound, so intense, encompassing so much that the mind reeled and whirled breaking its wheel. They were the eyes of long life, reflecting ages of burning, muted and avoided emotion but held such belief and hope and a sense of self so strong as to be defined in the engravings of the first book of time. If memories maketh the man then he is everything to everyone, fragments of his valour and sacrifice scattered across the universe and through the millennia, shaping, saving and shouldering the vastness of reality just so that the smallest moments of individuals lives, 2am on a street corner, a red bicycle, the touch of a hand that lingers too long, the birth of a child, the sharing of a secret, had a change at ever existing. And he was everything to her – she got to touch and laugh with and fall in love with ‘everything’.