Perpugilliam Brown, known to her friends as Peri, was having a ...

By Ryan Robinson,2014-12-12 00:35
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Perpugilliam Brown, known to her friends as Peri, was having a ...

    The Door To Nowhere

    Perpugilliam Brown, known to her friends as Peri, was having a surprisingly pleasant day. The weather was quite warm, not as warm as it was back home in California, but warm enough to take off her jacket and bask in the sunshine as she drank take away coffee on a bench next to The Doctor. He, too, had taken off his coat. The colourful waistcoat underneath didn‟t look quite so out of place here. He almost fitted in. He, too, actually looked relaxed. He was smiling as he watched a group of children in colourful costumes of their own letting off steam in the play area after taking part in the festivities that had finished only an hour ago.

    “I enjoyed watching the St. Patrick‟s Day Parade,” she said to The Doctor. “Nice to see one actually in Ireland. I‟ve been to the one in New York a few times.” She looked around at Eyre Square in Galway City, where ordinary traffic was starting to circulate again after the roads had been closed for the parade. A number 20 bus let off its air brakes noisily as it stopped not far from their seat. “Actually, this parade was a lot

    smaller than the American one.”

    “Well, that‟s only to be expected,” The Doctor replied. “The tug of the exile‟s heartstrings. You have to leave a place to really appreciate it properly.”

    Peri looked at him closely. There was something in the way he said that which struck a chord.

    “Do you appreciate your home properly when you‟re away from it?”

    His expression was hard to gauge. She wondered if she‟d said the wrong thing.

    “I‟m never really away from Gallifrey. It‟s right here in my hearts. Besides, I

    couldn‟t get away from it if I wanted to. And believe me I‟ve wanted to.”

    Peri decided to change the subject. She looked around the urban park in the middle of the Square. It was actually called Kennedy Memorial Garden, after the famous son of one of those exiles The Doctor had mentioned. Close to their seat was a huge sculpture made of iron but managing to capture the movement of the canvas sails on a Galway Hooker, which she was assured was a kind of fishing boat.

    Another talking point in the Square was the Browne Doorway, which literally was a big old fashioned stone linteled doorway with an oriel window above it, set into a rectangular piece of wall. The wall was free standing. Through the door she could see that number 20 bus pass by as it got on its way to wherever it went. The Doctor had teased her gently about the „Browne‟ name, which had prompted her to go and read the

    information plaque next to it and discover that it wasn‟t another eclectic piece of modern

    thart. It really was the entrance door to the home of a 17 century merchant called Browne,

    and had been moved from the demolished house to this spot in the square in 1904. There was no explanation of why it was done. It wasn‟t a bequest to the city. It didn‟t commemorate any significant event that happened on the site, or at the original house. Somebody in 1904 just seemed to have decided that what the centre of Galway needed was a door to nowhere.

    Which only proved to Peri that her own species were about the maddest, unpredictable, infuriating people she had come across in all her travels with The Doctor. Nowhere else in the universe would somebody put a door where there was no reason for a door to be.

    She felt a little proud of the Human race.

    The Doctor agreed with her. He thought the universe needed a lot more doors where there didn‟t need to be a door.

    “I think there must be a bit of Irish in you,” Peri told him. “You seem to belong

    here, somehow.”

    “Irish? Me, not a bit,” The Doctor replied. “Though in one of my former lives I

    did play the tin whistle quite well. Would you like some more coffee?” He took her empty cardboard cup and disposed of it carefully. The shop where they purchased it was just across the road next to a traditional Irish pub that they had decided against visiting since it had filled up quite quickly after the parade with traditional Irish drinkers. There was a restaurant further along that might do nicely later, but sitting in the sunshine taking in the sounds of children playing and a busker somewhere nearby playing an old Irish song on an accordion was good enough for now.

    “Yes, please,” she said. “Could you get me a bag of crisps, too. Or a sandwich, maybe. Doing nothing in the park is hungry work.”

    The Doctor grinned and shuffled in his pocket. He pulled a handful of coins out and separated the alien currency from the Irish Euro coins. He put the rest back and jogged away across the road, taking care to avoid the traffic that was building up. Peri relaxed again, closing her eyes and drinking in the sounds of Galway contentedly.

    “Would ye like yer fortune tellin‟?” A voice close by disturbed her pleasant reverie. She opened her eyes to see a woman dressed in a multicoloured peasant blouse and long skirt and a shawl wrapped around her shoulders. She had a wicker basket over her arm containing sprigs of heather bound up with pieces of ribbon, and an assortment of small trinkets.

    “I don‟t really...” Peri began. “I mean I don‟t... think...” The instinct of a careful

    tourist kicked in. This could be an attempt to scam her out of some cash.

    The woman grasped her left hand and stared at it in a rather theatrical way. Her eyes widened as if she was surprised by what she saw there.

    “Ye‟ve travelled a long way,” the woman said. “A very long way.”

    “Yeah... like... anyone who heard my accent would know that,” Peri replied. “You‟ll have to do better than that.”

    “You‟ve travelled a VERY long way,” the woman insisted. Then she took Peri‟s other hand. “You‟re going to travel much further and for much longer. You will never

    travel home.”

    “That‟s not funny,” Peri said, pulling her hand away. “Stop it. You‟re not fooling me. And I‟m not going to pay you for that nonsense.”

    “I ask no payment. I wish only to warn you... warn you that some doors do not go

    both ways. Beware you are not lost.”

    The woman grasped her hand one more time and Peri felt her press something into it. Then she hurried away. A few moments later, The Doctor returned with the coffee.

    “What‟s up?” he asked her. “I wasn‟t gone that long.”

    She told him. He looked around first to see if the woman was still there, then he took Peri‟s hand and examined the trinket that had been pressed into her palm.

    “It‟s a Saint Christopher medal,” he said. “The patron saint of travellers. I don‟t really go for superstitions myself, but there‟s no harm in it. She gave it to you without asking for payment?”

    “Yes. She said some stuff about not getting lost, and gave me this, and hurried off.”

    The Doctor‟s eyes took on a distant look, as if he was thinking very, very deeply.

    “Your accent certainly could have been a giveaway. But... on the other hand it‟s just possible the woman did have some rudimentary psychic power. Many Humans do, you know. In fact, it is latent in almost all of you. And if she was a genuine Romany... the latent power is stronger in some sub-sections of humanity than others. It‟s quite possible

    that was a genuine psychic reading.”

    “In that case...” Peri sat down on the bench, hugging the fresh cup of coffee and clutching the Saint Christopher medal so tightly it was leaving an imprint in her palm. “Well... in that case... the things she said... I‟m going to travel much further than I ever have before... and... and... I will never travel home...”

    “She said that?” The Doctor asked. “‟You WILL never travel home? Not „you

    MAY never travel home‟? There was no doubt about it?”

    Peri shook her head.

    “Well, that‟s unusual for a fortune teller. Usually they leave an element of chance in their prediction, in case they‟re totally off target.”

    “So it‟s true?”

    “No,” The Doctor replied in a firm and assuring tone. “You see, as strong a psychic as that lady might be, she doesn‟t know about the TARDIS. You‟ve travelled in the time vortex for quite a long time. Time is not constant for time travellers. Your future

    is not a straight line and it cannot be read that easily. I think she saw a glimpse of your future, but out of context.”

    “So it isn‟t true? I WILL go home... eventually... when... when I‟m ready to... go...”

    “Home is where the heart is,” The Doctor told her. “Don‟t you worry about that.”

    “All right. But what about the other thing she said. About doors.... some doors do not go both ways.”

    “Well, literally speaking, many doors are one way. Fire doors, revolving doors. I must admit I don‟t quite know how that remark applies to you. Again, it might just be a

    glimpse of something in your future that is just completely out of context.”

    “So I don‟t need to worry?”

    “Not at all, especially not on a lovely, quiet, uneventful day like today.”

    “Thanks, Doctor,” she said. He was maddening, insufferable, completely insane,

    but all the same she trusted him more than anyone else she had ever met, and if he said there was nothing to worry about, she believed him. She drank her coffee and ate the cheese and onion crisps that he brought from the shop and carried on enjoying the atmosphere of Eyre Square as she had happily done before that strange interruption.

    The Doctor gave the impression of a man utterly content with his universe who was dozing off in the sunshine. But from underneath his half closed eyes he was watching Peri carefully, assuring himself that she really wasn‟t worried about the odd prophecy from the strange woman.

    One of them worrying about that was enough.

    Of course, a lot of his companions over the years hadn‟t returned to their exact home place when he parted with them. His own granddaughter had settled for Earth in the twenty-second century, having followed her heart. Vicki who had come aboard the TARDIS after her chose to become a noblewoman of ancient Greece for the same reason. Jo had never returned to MI5. Instead she had married a Nobel prize winning ecologist and gone off up the Amazon. Leela of the Sevateem had surprised him by becoming a

    lady of Gallifrey, of all places. Nyssa of Trakken had left her world far behind. Many others had made choices that took them from the home they started from to futures beyond their imagining. Their time with him had changed their expectations and led them to make those decisions.

    If Peri found a life more satisfying than she had before she joined him, was that so surprising? Was it something to be concerned about? It shouldn‟t be. He told himself so to put down the strange foreboding about Peri‟s future that rose as he thought about her in

    that way. He would see her right. He always did. He looked after his travelling companions.

    Except for Katarina, who died to save him and his friends, and Adric who died to save planet Earth itself. The traitorous thought pressed in on his mind. Was Peri destined to leave him in that way? Was that why she wasn‟t going to return to her home?

    He pushed the thought away. He had no reason to think it would happen that way. Peri could just as easily meet a nice young man in Galway and never set foot in the USA again. That fulfilled a vague prophecy like that.

    Peri was reassured by The Doctor‟s relaxed appearance. She was certain he would

    not be snoozing in such a laid back way if he really did think there was any immediate danger. She let herself relax and enjoy the sunshine and the birds in the trees, the children playing, the sounds of impatient traffic around the periphery of the Square.

    She was watching a group of youngsters, two girls and three boys, who were playing some variation of tag around the fountain with the red metal sails. It involved splashing each other with the water and Peri fully expected the game to end with somebody falling in or a parent turning up and giving them all hell for their mischief, especially since they were all dressed in their Irish dancing costumes from the parade. The girls dresses were elaborate velvet affairs with embroidery all over them. The boys were in long trousers and white cotton shirts with embroidered waistcoats. They all had medals pinned to their clothes for their dancing achievements.

    Instead, it ended with the children gravitating towards Browne‟s Doorway. One of them ran through the door and encouraged his friends to do the same. There was nothing

    to say going through was against the rules. Peri had assumed it was perfectly all right to do so. Why else put a doorway to nowhere in the public open space. It was interactive art. But to the children it was a huge dare. One by one they stepped through the doorway.

    “If you go through three times three times, you go to the fairies,” one of the

    children said.

    “You go to Tir na Óg,” another suggested.

    “You go to Salthill,” a third said and that was apparently a really funny joke among them. But it was obvious what was going to happen next. They would test the theory. Who wouldn‟t? Certainly not a group of children. They ran around the side of the

    doorway and stepped through it a second time. They ran around again a third time...

    After eight times one of the boys changed his mind.

    “I don‟t want to go to Tir na Óg,” he protested. “I want to go home.”

    The others called him names for his cowardice, but he wouldn‟t be persuaded. He turned and sat on the edge of the fountain, crying softly because he had been laughed at. The rest turned and stepped through the doorway.

    And disappeared.

    Peri stood up and stared at the doorway. She could see traffic through it. Both sides were very definitely here in this place, and this time.

    She stood up and drew closer. She fully expected to find the children hiding behind the section of wall that framed the doorway.

    “Don‟t go through!” screamed the boy who had stayed back. “Don‟t go through, miss. It‟ll take you, as well.”

    The boy kept on screaming, drawing the attention of passers by to the fact that four of his friends had disappeared. Very quickly a crowd was forming, and even more quickly the mothers of the missing children arrived.

    Soon after that the Gardai Siochana arrived and tried to make sense of what was being claimed.

    “I‟m telling you,” Peri, now the centre of attention for the police, the near

    hysterical parents and the steadily growing crowd of onlookers. “The kids went through the doorway and vanished.”

    The boy who stayed back confirmed her story, but the Garda trying to take statements wasn‟t having it. Nor were some of the onlookers who started jumping

    through the doorway and running back to prove they were still there.

    “Yes,” Peri said in exasperation. “The kids went through three times three times –

    nine times. THEN they vanished.”

    “Are you sure you didn‟t shove them into a van?” somebody asked.

    “What van?” the Garda asked. He looked around. There was clearly no van anywhere around. Somebody in the crowd suggested that she must have an accomplice who drove the van away.

    “If there was a van, it will be on CCTV,” Peri pointed out. “But there wasn‟t one. There were just four kids and this doorway. And I was sitting over there with The Doctor and I saw... I saw what I saw, and that‟s all there is to it. Look at the CCTV and see for yourself. There was no van. The kids were not kidnapped. They just vanished.”

    “Doctor?” the Garda looked around. The Doctor hadn‟t actually moved before now. He looked like he had slept through the whole thing. He was strolling towards them as if only just aware of the drama. “What sort of Doctor?”

    “Why do you need a Doctor?” The mother of one of the missing children turned to Peri accusingly. “Are you some kind of nutter, one who grabs kids? Is that what you are?”

    “You‟re foreign,” somebody else pointed out. That surprised Peri. Her American accent was distinctly different to any around her, but she had long ago stopped thinking of herself as an American, and thought of herself as a Human, a native of planet Earth. Out there with The Doctor, on other worlds, this divided world‟s concepts of nationality

    had ceased to matter to her.

    Now, in a park dedicated to a man born on the same continent as she was, her foreignness became proof among the crowd that she was somehow connected to the missing children. Peri wondered how her fellow species could be so paranoid. She protested her innocence with a sinking heart, knowing that anything she said would be seized upon in all the wrong ways. Then The Doctor parted the crowds by the simple method of saying „excuse me, please‟ in a very calm, quiet voice that seemed to infect the

    noisy onlookers until they all became very quiet and The Doctor was standing there in the centre of a silent, listening crowd who were ready to attend to his every word.

    “There really is nothing to see here,” he said, equally calmly. “Move along now.”

    And strangely, they did, all but the Garda and the parents of the missing children.

    “That‟s better,” The Doctor continued. “Now, it is quite obvious that an accident involving a reality shift has occurred here. The old stone of the doorway became the focus of the shift. Gates, doorways, arches under bridges are notorious for them. But don‟t worry. Leave it to me. I‟ll sort it out. Officer, you look after these unfortunate

    parents. Take their names and addresses and all of that, and send them home for now. I‟m

    going to take Miss Brown to that restaurant over there and buy her a bowl of home made soup.”

    And that was exactly what he did, much to Peri‟s surprise. Again, The Doctor‟s

    calm demeanour silenced any possible criticism of his plan. He put his arm around her shoulder and guided her across the road to the restaurant where he ordered freshly made soup of the day and a cheese salad half baguette for them both.

    “I don‟t think I can just calmly eat knowing there are children missing and I‟m the

    only one who knows what happened to them,” Peri said.

    “Yes, you can,” The Doctor insisted, taking a bite from his half-baguette and a

    spoonful of his carrot and corriander soup. “First, because you need to eat. Second, because there is nothing else to do for a few hours. The reality shift depleted its energy when the children slipped through. When it‟s had time to regenerate, I can put my plan into action.”

    “You have a plan?”

    “Of course, I do.”

    “That‟s ok, then,” Peri told him. She ate her soup and calmed down a little.

    “So... what is a reality shift?” she asked.

    “It‟s exactly what it says on the tin - a weak point in reality where unreality is

    able to find a way through. As I said, doors, gates, bridges, that sort of thing, tend to attract them. Any kind of portal from one place to another. I suppose I ought to have realised a door that doesn‟t lead to anywhere is asking for trouble. The chances of the Browne Doorway not being the focus of a reality shift are miniscule.”

    “So... where did the children go?” Peri asked. “They said to the fairies or... something called Tear na...”

    “Tir na Óg,” The Doctor said in perfectly enunciated Connaught Irish. “The land

    of the young, where nobody grows old. Perfectly possible. Might even be where the legend comes from. But what it‟s really like... I couldn‟t say. With any luck, the children will be back home in a few hours, and no worse for their experience.”

    “With any luck?” Peri studied The Doctor‟s face carefully. Did he really mean that, or was he hiding the possibility that the children were in grave danger wherever it was they had gone?

    There was no way of knowing. She sighed and turned her face away. She looked out of the window. The area around the Doorway had been taped off by the Garda, but they had seen no reason to leave anyone there. There was nobody near the spot except a man walking a dog. Peri watched the dog pull away from the man, who dropped the lead. It bounded away under the police tape and through the Doorway...

    And disappeared.

    “Doctor!” Peri exclaimed. “It‟s happening again.” She jumped up from her seat and ran out of the restaurant. She narrowly missed colliding with a bus and a taxi as she crossed the road. She actually did bump into the confused dog owner and got tangled briefly with the police incident tape. Then she ran right through the Doorway....

    And stopped herself before she stepped off the pavement into oncoming traffic.

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