Sunday, December 06, 2009

Day Six! Doctor Who Adventure Calendar

'What do you think?' Beth Summers turned round and burst out laughing as her grandma brandished a bright red feather boa around her shoulders. 'This used to belong to my mother,' continued Beth's gran as she jiggled her hips, causing her 12-year-old grand-daughter to laugh even more.
'You could put it on the Christmas tree if we can't find the tinsel,' replied Beth. They were hunting in the attic for the Christmas decorations and had found all manner of things but there was not a bauble in sight. As her laughing subsided, Beth pulled an old blanket off a dusty box, uncovering copper pots and pans and something that looked quite out of place. Pulling it free, Beth held a frame of some kind and her gran came over.
'Now this belonged to my great-grandmother...' said the old lady. For a moment it seemed to stir a half-memory before she added, 'I'd forgotten all about it. It's the advent calendar she was given for her first Christmas.' The frame was a dull silver colour and about the size of a large book. Its edges were intricately designed and Beth thought it looked quite beautiful. She could see small hinged windows all over its surface, some of which were open and behind each one was a very old photograph.
'That's her there,' murmured Gran wistfully as she pointed to one of the tiny sepia images, a baby in a pretty white dress. 'Ah ha!' Moving the box of pots and pans aside she revealed another, crammed full of decorations. 'I think we deserve a cup of tea now we've found these,' she announced and picking up the box she made her way out of the attic. Beth went to put the advent calendar back, but on a sudden impulse decided to take it with her and after switching off the attic light, made her way downstairs.
Some hours later they were putting the finishing touches to the Christmas tree which sparkled as the tree lights caught the reflective glow of the decorations. Gran's living room, despite being quite large, was warm and cosy. Beth loved seeing her gran and had jumped at the chance to spend a few extra days with her ahead of the holidays. Her parents were arriving on Christmas Eve, so Beth had her grandma all to herself for nearly another week. Exhausted, they both plopped down on chairs admiring their handiwork. Next to Beth's chair, on a small, round, slightly battered mahogany table lay the advent calendar. Picking it up she studied it more closely. On each of the closed windows she could make out ornate numbers. Beth tried to close one of the open windows, but it wouldn't budge and neither would the next or the next. 'Probably rusted open,' thought Beth. The lowest number that she could see closed was '15'.
'Today's the fifteenth!' declared Beth rather more loudly than she intended.
'That's right dear...' muttered her gran, whose voice tailed off as she fell asleep.
Beth reached for the window and with just the gentlest of touches it swung open... Was that lightning? Beth looked up sharply. A blast of cold air made her shiver and jump at the same time. The room was darker and her gran was gone. The Christmas tree stood in a slightly different position and was now unlit. Where there had been a gas fire seconds earlier a log fire roared but did little to warm the room. The wallpaper was more austere and somehow the furniture had changed. The round mahogany table still stood by Beth's chair but looked new and unscathed.
'I must be dreaming' thought Beth but another chilly breeze made her think again. She reached out, touching the table and suddenly felt the smooth mahogany scar beneath her fingers. It was old again. The room had returned to its usual state and her gran was sleeping quietly. Shaken, Beth stood and in spite of her instincts reached for the sixteenth window. It remained firmly stuck. Realising she had been holding her breath, she let out a deep sigh of relief and put the calendar down. 'Just a silly dream,' she muttered to herself as she tip-toed out of the room to get ready for bed. It was getting late, after all. 'Just a silly dream...'
The following morning was bright and sunny and promising. Gran had nipped into town for a spot of Christmas shopping and Beth was in her bedroom, finishing the last of her holiday homework. Satisfied with her answers, she closed her school books and wandered out onto the landing which overlooked the hall below. Her gran lived in a grand old Victorian house which had been in the family for generations. Beth descended the wide sweeping staircase, which always made her feel like a movie star, and went through to the lounge. The advent calendar was sparkling in the sunlight and Beth picked it up, smiling as she looked at the photographs. Then her heart seemed to miss a beat as she saw, for the first time, the fifteenth photograph. It was of the living room she had dreamt of the night before. Her heart pounded as she again tried to open the sixteenth window. This time she felt it move easily beneath her fingertips.

Another burst of light. Beth shivered as the temperature plummeted and she found herself in the strangely familiar room once more. This time she was standing and had clearly not fallen asleep; she gingerly took a step forward. This was real. It was her gran's living room although with the exception of the small mahogany table she didn't recognise anything. Unlike her Christmas tree the one in this room was cold and sinister. It was dark outside and the room lit only by candles. Walking over to one of the windows she pulled back a curtain. It was snowing outside and on the broad white lawn beneath the oak tree she could see a strange blue wooden box. The oak tree was much smaller, it looked, younger...
'How is that possible?' The door to the hallway suddenly swung open and a tall willow of a woman entered the room. She was pale and unsmiling with dark hair tied tightly and neatly in a bun. She wore a pristine white pinafore over a long black dress that just touched the floor.
'Hello,' stammered Beth, her shaky voice echoing round the room. She ignored her completely and bent down next to the log fire. 'Excuse me...' said Beth but the stranger seemed oblivious to her. 'Can you hear me?' Then something else struck the terrified Beth.
Not only was the woman ignoring her, but there was no noise at all. The flames of the fire which should have been crackling were silent as they moved in their merry dance. While the woman could have had extremely light footsteps Beth should have been able to hear her stoke the fire but there was no noise at all. It was like Beth was watching the television with the sound turned down.
'Are you a maid?' enquired Beth as the woman stood up. Without the slightest hint of recognition, the servant glanced round the room, puffed up some cushions on the sofa right in front of Beth and left as silently as she had arrived, closing the door behind her.
'Where am I?' Beth was shaking as she looked down at her trembling hands which still clutched the advent calendar. In the newly revealed picture was a young man, probably in his mid-thirties wearing a crumpled pin-striped suit. His brown hair was rather unruly even by modern standards and Beth intuitively warmed to him. But there was something else. While all of the other photographs were clearly posed, this one offered a snapshot - a moment of life quickly captured. The figure in the photograph looked unprepared and utterly surprised.
Beth made her way to the door and it opened quietly. Her footsteps on the cold tiled hall floor and her breathing were all she could hear in the large, silent house. She jumped as another maid, almost identical to the first, glided silently across the hallway carrying a large tray with a tea pot and china cups and saucers. The maid knocked twice on the door to the library, before opening it and disappearing inside. Beth narrowed her eyes as she glimpsed what appeared to be her long dead relatives, vaguely familiar from the photographs. She saw one of the ladies holding a baby - a baby in a pretty white dress. They appeared to be laughing and joking but Beth could hear nothing. She had watched the maid knocking on the door, so why hadn't she heard it?
Deciding to explore she crept upstairs, turned the corner of the landing and walked straight into a tall figure who towered over her in the candlelight. She screamed. Loudly.
'Hello!' boomed the man in a warm friendly tone. Looking up she saw the tousled hair from the photograph. It was him. 'Sorry. Didn't mean to startle you,' he said. 'Are you alright?'
'Who are you?' she asked not unreasonably.
'I'm the Doctor!' he replied smiling broadly, as though that answered everything. He took her hand, shaking it vigorously. 'And you look quite lost...' his voice trailed off as he waited for Beth to introduce herself.
'I'm Beth, Beth Summers and I'm not lost exactly. This is my gran's house, well I think it is. It all looks so different and there are maids here and ...' before she had a chance to continue the tall stranger - the Doctor - interrupted her.
'And you suddenly found yourself here, alone in the dark, not knowing who or what brought you here.'
Beth nodded slowly. 'Do you know, Doctor?'

The Doctor sucked some air in sharply through his teeth. 'Sorry, not a clue, no idea. Sorry.' Then he grinned broadly, a wide welcoming smile that Beth instantly trusted. 'Ah, but you're my responsibility now. I'll get you back home. I promise.' He winked at her before asking, 'What was the date this morning?'
'December 16th 2009,' she replied. Beth was calming down now, her mind racing to process what the Doctor was implying. 'I've moved back in time?'
'Oh, very good, Beth Summers!' replied the Doctor. 'You're quick. I like quick. And, yep, you've moved back in time! It's December 1859.'
'But... but how is that possible? You don't look as though you're from 1859, you're wearing trainers and your hair doesn't look very Victorian...' Beth laughed despite herself, as the Doctor involuntarily ran his fingers through his hair.
'Umm, well you know how it is, one minute you're knee deep in giant wasps and screeching companions and the next you're taking a stroll on one of the twin moons of Prionia. I've been busy!' Before he could continue, a door off the upstairs landing opened. A smartly dressed man in a butler's uniform emerged and swiftly walked past them and quickly, but deliberately, stepped down the stairs towards the front door.
'Come on, I want to try something,' said the Doctor as he sped after the butler. Hesitating only momentarily, Beth ran frantically down the stairs after her new friend. 'Wow, he's fast' she thought to herself as she caught up with him, breathing heavily.
The butler opened the door and welcomed a lady and gentleman who were standing outside. Beth and the Doctor stood to the side, as the butler's mouth moved but no sound came out and the man silently replied.
'Try to sneak past them out into the snow,' suggested the Doctor.
'But I'm not dressed for snow,' Beth protested as she looked down at her skirt and slippers.
'Just try!' urged the Doctor. Beth moved around the lady, who was now removing her coat, and reached the threshold but could go no further. Try as she might she couldn't step through the doorway.
'My feet won't move, Doctor. I can't step over.'
'So neither of us can leave the house...' pondered the Doctor. Beth turned her head sharply towards the newcomers. 'Oh, don't worry, they can't see or hear us,' said the Doctor motioning to the people stood beside them.
'Whoever did this wants us to stay inside. Now, let's see if we can find something to eat in the kitchen while we plan our next move.' As the butler silently escorted the two visitors to the library, the Doctor and Beth walked across the hall, their footsteps echoing around the house.
'Whatever caused this is way beyond current Earth technology. The TARDIS...'
'The TARDIS?' interrupted the confused young girl.
'My ship, the TARDIS, was drawn here by a temporal signature. As I entered the house there was a flash and I found myself - I dunno - out-of-sync with reality. Some sort of temporal trap. Not being able to hear any sound is a side effect. Or a clue. Or both.'

'You're not from Earth?' asked Beth, her eyes widening in disbelief.
'Well, no but some of my best friends are human,' he said cheerily.
'But you don't look alien' she persevered.
'Oh, aliens come in all shapes and sizes and some look, well, just like you and me,' replied the very human looking Doctor.
As they entered the kitchen, the cook was silently barking out orders as the maids and footmen busied themselves with their duties.
'The kitchen is the heart of the house, I always find,' said the Doctor. 'And more importantly, the best place to find - yah, here we go!' He carved two generous slices from a fruit cake that was still warm on top of the oven and handed one slab to Beth. They sat on stools in a corner of the busy room, watching the silent servants and tucking into the cake.
'The question is, why are you here?' wondered the Doctor, 'I can think of quite a few reasons why someone would want me out of the way for eternity, but why you?'
'I think it has something to do with this,' said Beth between bites, showing the Doctor the advent calendar. 'It used to belong to my grandma's great-grandmother. That's her in the picture.' Beth pointed to the baby in the photograph. 'And look. In this window...'
'Is me,' finished a puzzled-looking Doctor. He removed a pair of dark rimmed glasses from his breast pocket and perched them atop his nose. 'I see what you mean about the hair.'
Beth smiled as the Doctor tried to make light of the situation but she could sense his concern. He fished in his pockets and pulled out a long cylindrical object with a blue light at one end.
'I wonder what would happen if I did this...' The Doctor activated the device which emitted a whistling sound as the blue light lit up. 'Now that's interesting,' muttered the Doctor, engrossed in his experiment. Beth glanced around.
'Doctor,' she stammered.
'Oh, now aren't you a clever little thing?' he murmured, clearly distracted by the calendar.
'Doctor!' Beth half screamed, her chest tightening with fear.
The Doctor looked up and saw the maids advancing menacingly towards them; their arms outstretched, with pure white unseeing eyes. The Doctor eased Beth back into the corner as the servants' relentless advance continued. They were going to be torn limb from limb. Beth closed her eyes tight as the nearest maid reached towards her...

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