The Lost Girl

People get lost in time sometimes, but there's no one quite as lost as Amanda Grey. She's spent an eternity jumping from place to place, much like the Doctor does, but she can't control it, can't stop it. She's alone in the universe, but she has hope. There are stories scattered through time about the Doctor. Fair warning - female Doctor. If you don't like don't read.

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9. The Garden in Hell

Alex jolted awake, breathing heavily in the chilly air. He frowned, ran his fingers through his hair, checking that everything was where it usually sat, unchanging. His eyes drifted over to the open wardrobe, and the brightly coloured sweaters beaming out at him. He was wearing the black shirt he’d had under the jumper he’d ruined with tea, and it was thick with greenish moisture and dust. It was green with people.

His stomach lurched and he tore it off, flung it across the room, shuddering as the sheets stuck to his sticky skin, but as he was about to stumble along the hall to find a shower, urgency caught up to him. “Doctor”, he called, snatching a clean t-shirt off a hanger and running down the hall, the soles of his shoes squelching, thick with human humus. The Doctor’s merry humming floated, amplified as the Tardis walls shifted. It liked Alex. It always had. He was safe, as normal as normal got. No hidden paradoxes, just a boy with a poorer dress sense than even the Doctor. The Tardis liked that.

Alex could only imagine what the Doctor had subjected it to before. He’d felt its distaste, pungent, when they dragged Amanda on board. He walked into the console room and the Doctor smiled widely when she caught sight of him. “Did you have a good sleep?” she asked shrilly, fiddling with cogs.

Ignoring the question, Alex climbed the steps, running his fingers along the railing, tenderly, apologising, he thought, for the shock they’d given it earlier. The Doctor probably hadn’t thought to say sorry, or didn’t need to, but the Tardis would enjoy being acknowledged.

It hummed pleasantly as Alex joined the Doctor at the console. He glared uncomprehending at the screen, hoping it might display their location, a sneak peak of whatever barren and unfriendly environment they were about to step onto. The Doctor was angry; Alex could see it in the set of her shoulders, the arch of her jaw, the way her eyebrows knotted. She pranced around the Tardis, but it seemed contrived, more of a device not to stand still than any real zeal for where they were headed.

Still, he reasoned, it could hardly get any worse than that library, though the Doctor had a knack for surprising him. He was almost afraid to ask, but he did anyway, “Where are we?”

She looked at him and grinned, but then seemed to realise how utterly fake it was, and her face drooped. She straightened her back and said quite solemnly, “We’re in the best prison in the universe”. She selected an umbrella from the stand beside the door and gazed back into the Tardis, as though uttering a silent prayer that she would see it again.

The latest incarnation of the console room was beautiful; an echo of a potting shed lay about it. There were benches covered in fragments of red ceramics and a musty smell in the air. The console was glowing soundly in the centre of it all. The space was bright, old fashioned; not at all what Alex suspected was once a spick space, all grey metal and functionality, symmetrically beautiful. The Tardis now was wild, like a town garden overgrown with wildflowers, and occasional pot of struggling flowers interspersed through it in an attempt to tame the small wilderness.

“I always bring an umbrella when I go out”, she jabbed the air in front of the faded blue doors, “They’re very useful things”.

Alex rolled his eyes and followed as she swung the doors open, and he almost allowed relief to punctuate the thumping beats of his heart as light streamed in and a few leaves skittered across the threshold, no doubt immediately set upon by the tiny storm of nanobots the Doctor had manufactured to investigate new organic matter brought onto the Tardis after that incident last year when the Tardis got a cold. That had been worse week of everyone’s life: literally. Think of the worse week of your life; that was the Tardis’ fault, because it got infected by some sort of mechanical bacteria. The engines wheezed and great gusts of foul air blew along the corridors for days on end and the Tardis wilfully released clouds of sparkling, razor sharp dust in the midst of a fever that relieved it of all its senses.

The Doctor and Alex spent that week in Rome while the Doctor attempted to pinpoint which week in her long life had actually been the worst. She hadn’t settled on an answer yet. He stepped over the leaves and into a patch of arid air that penetrated his lungs cruelly when he sucked in a breath. He blinked against the sunlight and the Doctor threw up the umbrella to shield herself from the glare. She peeked around the side and raised her eyebrows, not in concern; she looked mildly impressed. “I don’t imagine the Time Lord made it this pleasant”, she murmured, and Alex blinked for a few moments before forcing his eyes to focus on the scene before him.

A garden stretched out below them from where they stood on a small hill. It wasn’t the sort of garden you find in a suburban back garden, with a meagre attempt made at cultivating a flowerbed or two. No, this was a buzzing, rustling mass of trees and flowers, ponds and fountains, and the air pressed down heavily onto all of it and only buzzing, rustling and merry chirping rose above the oppressive silence.

“Where are we?” Alex asked, and the Doctor looked at him in surprise.

“Did I not tell you?” He shook his head. She frowned, “Right, must have been… self-defence”. She balanced daintily on one foot, and Alex noticed for the first time that she had changed into a fitted dress that fell below her calves, no doubt from some formal dinner on a planet where anything above the knee was treated with horror. She looked surprisingly comfortable in it, and curvy.

With her head cocked guiltily to the side, she told him where they were, “Do you remember that place where we were, with the evil monster thing and that long chat. We were propelled into my mind and then you were spirited off to that library for no apparent reason other than to spite me?” Alex opened his mouth, but she didn’t wait for a response, “So, yeah, this is the place where the creepy monster which you know nothing at all about, but who still tried to kill you horribly, lives”.

Alex didn’t bother looked surprised. He gestured to the garden, “It’s a nice place for a monster to hide”.

The Doctor shrugged, “Monsters like pretty things too, and don’t worry, this is basically the parlour. The décor will probably get edgier the further into the bowels we wander”.

“Ah”, Alex said, “So you’re planning on bowel-wandering then?”

The Doctor made a face, “Let’s uninvent that phrase, shall we?”

“Probably best”, Alex agreed.

She held out her hand to him, and he took it without thinking, just as he had the first time they met. The Doctor pulled him forward, perilously close to tripping over her own feet already. They moved through rows of flowers boasting bright reds and flickering oranges, melancholy blues and deep-sea black. There were traces of scuff marks in the dust, where others had walked, or perhaps just one person, trawling through the garden with measured carelessness, wending back and forth, sprinkling water where it was needed, waving aside plump bees, snatching at fat beetles and generally exhibiting all the love a gardener has.

“I still haven’t told you what this thing is”, the Doctor decided suddenly, almost halting.

“You haven’t, and it’s very confusing”, Alex told her.

She nodded slowly, resigned to telling a difficult story, “Time Lords were charged with taking care of time, fixing when things went wrong, but we didn’t interfere, like I do. Not back then. It wasn’t permitted. People did it anyway, rebels flew around breaking all the laws because it was the right thing to do, and they were reprimanded. Time has enemies, of course, beings who delight in shredding holes in the paper-thin barriers that stand between one event and its contradiction. It’s complicated stuff, but one could do great damage to events if one so desired.

“This creature – this monster – was one such perpetrator of these crimes, the worst, infamous, a figment of scary bed time stories that parents tended to tell their Gallifreyan children, when they could. There are stories about this monster, this wilful destroyer of time. You know from travelling with me, and my dropped hints, that time travel is damage. The Tardis protects the universe as she flies through it, but this monster could tear great lengths of time out of the universe, and from beyond our universe, beyond our existence, it has been manipulating Amanda, using her to tear great swathes through the order of events”.

The Doctor shrugged, “I don’t know how such a thing was done, but I suspect outside fraternisation, but from whom I cannot imagine. You need a Tardis to get into this prison, and the thought of some malignant enemy out there, armed with a Tardis and all the tools of the Time Lords, is frightening. Perhaps it is even more frightening than this monster”, she waved one hand from side to side, “I won’t know until I fall right into the middle of it, precisely when it’s too late to make any strategic preparations. So it goes”.

She began to pull Alex along again, and he stared at her back, transfixed by the rays of sunlight dancing on the fabric of her dress. He looked around him, at the stunning, almost gaudy, beauty of his surroundings. A creature that gleefully tore holes in the universe had created this shrine to order, the wild sort that growth constitutes, but nonetheless an orderly function of life-cycles. He’d sensed it, as it tore into his mind planting ideas, he knew, that he had not yet realised. He has sensed a love of chaos but also a desire for order within the process of creating chaos. He recalled the careful way it had planted those mad notions, those unbelievable, but still incoherent, stories into his mind. They were crouched in the depths of his subconscious, awaiting the call to arms, a deadly, destructive order applied to their revelation, one by one breaking the barriers of his trust in the Doctor.

Together the Doctor and her companion tore through the orderly lines of boisterous life, toward a darker horizon that lay somewhere above the trees, waiting for them.

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