Under Three Hundred

The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Cars Are Cars


Earlier this week a new Big Finish series was announced, featuring the ‘Paternoster Gang’ from Doctor Who (as seen in A Good Man Goes To War, The Snowmen, The Crimson Horror, The Name of the Doctor and Deep Breath). My story, The Cars That Ate London! is the first of three in the first box set, so I have the task of setting up the series – although I’m pretty sure everyone can guess how the series will work, as the format for future Vastra, Jenny and Strax adventures was pretty well established in The Crimson Horror. It’s a spin-off series that fans have been requesting for a good five years now, so it’s great to finally kick it off. My story, as it’s the first one, is deliberately a fairly what-it-says-on-the-tin thrills-and-spills adventure in order to launch the format; you have to establish what a standard story is, and then later on you can subvert it or experiment with the form.


I wrote it in ‘Steven Moffat’ mode (which is mainly just a process of imagining him laughing at the jokes) so hopefully it will be a seamless continuation from Deep Breath. I was fortunate enough to attend the recording and I can tell you that all the cast were absolutely note-perfect. It wasn’t hard to imagine the characters – in fact, it was harder to imagine the actors. Dan Starkey knows Strax so well he can adlib indefinitely, while it was rather wonderful to be able to watch Neve McIntosh and Catrin Stewart interacting as Vastra and Jenny; not just saying the words, but acting out the scenes physically and reacting with looks and gestures when they didn’t have lines. Which should all come across in the finished product; you will be hearing the three of them in the studio, together.

Anyway, the observant readers amongst you will notice that I haven’t mentioned what the story is about. Well, that is for Big Finish to announce as and when, you’ll get no secrets from me, Silurian. But it will be a lot of fun, I promise you.

The full announcement can be found here and the box set can be pre-ordered here.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Hallowed Ground

This short story was original published in the Big Finish anthology Short Trips: A Universe of Terrors in 2003. It’s been out of print since 2009 (approx) and the copyright has reverted to me, so I thought I’d share it with you as a little Halloween treat. If you read it and enjoy it, I would be delighted if you could make a donation to Comic Relief.
Note: this is the text as submitted (with a few corrections) so may differ from the published version. It remains my copyright and may not be reproduced without my permission, and may be deleted from this blog without warning!


MAURITZ

The darkness was so absolute, so intense, I felt that if I were to reach out my hand, I would be swallowed up. All I could see was a shifting blur of after-images as my eyes struggled to accustom themselves to the deep, blotted night. The gloom seemed to press itself against me, my skin prickling to its touch. I drew in a breath of clammy air, thick with the smells of corrosion and decay.
A torch clicked into life and its beam swung through the darkness, picking out ever-falling apparitions of dust. The beam drifted across the stone floor and scuttled up a pillar of crumbling plaster, its glow weakening as it crossed the vaulted ceiling and then brightening as it settled upon the opposite wall. More brickwork, rotten and stained, strangled with creepers and moss. A number of archways, each leading into blackness.
The beam drifted around the chamber, awakening more dust phantoms, gauging the extent of the room. The heaviness of the atmosphere gave me the impression of being far underground. I shivered and put my hands in my pockets as I followed in the Doctor’s footsteps.
The Doctor halted and announced in his boom of a voice, “Shop!”
“Where are we, Doctor?” I asked.
“Literally or philosophically?” The Doctor strode across the floor, his long scarf sweeping the dust behind him. He seemed distracted, hunched in thought.
“Either?”
“Ah”. The Doctor turned his wide eyes upon me and shrugged, breaking into a conspiratorial grin. “In that case, I haven’t the faintest idea”.
“You should know,” I told him. The Doctor possessed a vast intellect – he was the greatest scientist I had ever known - but he could also be frustratingly whimsical. Indeed, he sometimes took a strange pride in his foolishness. My own belief was in logic, in rigorous thought; a belief the Doctor did not share. “You claim you can control the TARDIS”.
“Just because one can do something, does not mean one should,” countered the Doctor. “A wine cellar, without the wine? An unoccupied crypt? How cryptic.” The Doctor lifted his head to address the ceiling. “Hello? Anyone home?” His words echoed back at him indignantly.
I glanced away from the Doctor. Down one of the passages something flickered, casting flitting shadows across the rough walls. Two lamps bobbing in motion, held by two figures in robes, one tall and stooped, one standing at about my height. They remained motionless, as though watching us, their faces obscured by cowls.
“Doctor-”
The Doctor dashed to my side melodramatically. “What?”
I shrugged to indicate the passageway, but the figures had gone. The archway led to blackness once more.
“I thought I saw-” I began, but the Doctor shushed me, a finger to his lips.
I listened. I could hear the sound of footsteps, a steady pat-patting upon the ragged floor. They seemed to be approaching from every direction. I backed towards the TARDIS. The empty archways loomed threateningly around us. The footsteps grew nearer, nearer still, and halted.
“Welcome,” said a voice behind me.
A figure stood between us and the TARDIS. A figure draped in robes, its face hidden by a hood. The habit was of a coarse, woven material, unornamented and hanging in folds. It raised a lantern in one hand as if in greeting.
The Doctor’s expression dropped into concern. “Hello,” he began cautiously, avoiding eye contact. “You don’t know me, but I am…”
“The Doctor,” answered the figure. It had the voice of old man, breathy and hesitant, the words scraping at its throat. It turned its facelessness towards me. “And Adric”. The figure raised its hands and lifted its cowl to reveal a drawn, lined face, the features set in a downcast frown, the hair thin and moon-white. His eyes were grey and lifeless. He bowed, and smiled, revealing worn, yellow teeth.
“Welcome,” he said, facing us in turn, his expression softening. “My name is Mauritz”.


Each passageway was submerged in darkness, the only illumination the swinging, oversized shadows cast by Mauritz’s lamp. We followed the scuffle of his footsteps up narrow stairwells, the mould-encrusted walls barely a shoulder width apart, and passed through vaulted chambers identical to the one in which we had arrived, each one in a differing state of disrepair. And at no point did we pass a window, or catch sight of any natural source of light.
The man who led us did not utter a word. Every question the Doctor and I put to him was answered only with a beckoning motion. Occasionally Mauritz would disappear completely from sight, ducking into a side-passage, only to emerge from another passage a moment later. He repeated this trick time and again, seemingly unaware of doing it.
We emerged into a long, dusky hall lined with reading desks and bookcases. The bookcases extended to the ceiling on three levels, each accessed by a balcony, accessed in turn by stairwells. Each bookcase brimmed with tomes and parchments, each bound in a cover of what appeared to be leather.
Seated at the desks, what appeared to be monks leafed through the ancient tomes by the gleam of their candles, their identities shrouded in the same anonymous robes.
We moved wordlessly through the library and arrived at a heavy door. Mauritz unbolted the lock and led us into a spartan dormitory. A fireplace was set into one wall, and he quickly set to work on it, gathering up coals and puffing the embers with the bellows until it finally snapped into warmth.
Three high-backed chairs surrounded a wooden table; to one side was a drape that I presumed concealed a bedchamber. Again, there was no window.
Without a word, the man ushered the Doctor and I into the chairs. The door creaked open and one of the monks entered, his face again obscured by his cowl. He carried three steaming bowls, and set them on the table before us, bowed and left.
I was famished, having not eaten for several hours, and dragged the bowl towards me, feelings its heat tingling my numb fingers. The soup’s steam was rich and spicy, and the liquid contained clumps of white meat. I was about to bring the bowl to my lips when the Doctor shook his head in warning.
“What is the soup?” he asked nonchalantly, sliding his bowl away from him.
“We are provided with a supply of meat,” answered Mauritz.
“Cattle?” said the Doctor.
“We make the most of that which we have.”
“We?” I asked, reluctantly putting down my bowl. “Who are you? What is this place?”
“A monastery?” suggested the Doctor.
“A place of study. Of contemplation, certainly. You are not hungry?”
I looked again at my soup. Following the Doctor’s lead, I shook my head. “Maybe later?” I smiled apologetically.
“Of course.”
The Doctor stood, the low ceiling causing him to stoop. He ruffled his hair. “So would you say it was more a university?”
“All will be explained.” Mauritz rose from his chair. He considered for a moment, then smiled in decision. “If you are ready, I will show you the citadel.”


We found ourselves in yet another vaulted chamber. Treading across the flagstones, I would have believed we had returned to the chamber in which the TARDIS had landed, except that a section of the wall had collapsed to reveal the cloisters beyond. Six monks busied themselves at the wall, clearing away the rubble and bracing the ceiling with wooden joists.
I had been handed a lantern, and walked over to the damaged wall, the shadows snaking away as I approached. The masonry lay in an advanced state of decay, the plaster crumbling to the touch. It seemed strangely brittle. Ground creepers coiled through the cracked flagstones.
A monk cemented a new brick into place, smoothing the edges with plates of wood. I sensed the Doctor and Mauritz approaching behind me, the light of their lamps conflating my own.
“This quarter of the citadel is currently uninhabited,” explained Mauritz. “And undergoing renovation”.
The Doctor looked bleak. “No sooner do you put it together than it falls apart.”
 “Indeed,” said Mauritz, covering his face with his cowl and moving amongst the identically-dressed monks.
The Doctor took a brick from the pile, weighed it in his hands and then returned it. He looked for Mauritz amongst the monks, and remarked offhandedly, “Where do you get the bricks from?”
“We make the most of that which we have.”
“Like the cattle?”
One of the monks lifted his cowl, revealing Mauritz’s features. “What we cannot use for food, we employ elsewhere.”
“So nothing goes to waste?”
“Inevitably there is always waste. That is taken to the gardens. Follow.”


The gardens turned out to be a chamber of the same dimensions as the library. The ground, however, consisted of soil, broken up into avenues. Dozens of monks toiled in the murky candlelight, hoeing the earth and planting bulbs. Others harvested the crop, which consisted of spindly growths, somewhere between a mushroom and a coral, that reached to little above knee-height. The gnarled stems and branches of the organisms were covered in transparent grey leaves and sickly, pale pod-fruit. Evidently whatever they were, they did not require natural light for sustenance.
We watched as a monk brushed some dirt over the bulbs and mixed it with compost, the rotten remains of fruit and meat.
“So everything is ploughed back,” said the Doctor. “Home-grown, very efficient. Don’t need to pop out to the supermarket much?”
“No,” replied Mauritz. “We do not require outside support.”
“Not at all?” I asked. “But you must, occasionally. You can’t just live on this -”
“We never leave the citadel.”
“Why?” I removed" my hands from my pockets and clapped my fist on my palm for emphasis.
A silence fell over Mauritz as he turned to the Doctor. Whilst I had been talking, the Doctor had strolled over to the monks, watching in fascination as they dug one of the fungus-corals out of the ground. He wandered around them, oblivious to the fact he was trampling over the crop. “Hello, I’m the Doctor,” he said genially, addressing one of the robed figures. “So you’re on gardening duty, eh?”
The figure did not respond. The Doctor gave a nonplussed pout and turned to another figure. He blocked the monk’s way. “Still, I’m sure it’s all worth it, come supper time”. The monk did not respond.
“Not trappists, are you?” inquired the Doctor as he advanced on another monk. He brushed his nose and grinned. “If you don’t want to talk about it I’ll quite understand.”
The monk ignored him and turned his back on the Doctor. As he did, the Doctor leaned forward and pinched the top of the monk’s cowl, drawing it back suddenly to reveal the monk’s face
He was an elderly man, hairless, with lined features fixed in a downcast frown, his eyes buried in wrinkles. Black marks freckled his saggy, ghost-pale skin. He was obviously exhausted, close to death.
It was Mauritz.
Or, at least, an older version of Mauritz. This man was at least twenty years the elder of the man standing beside me.
The Doctor dashed over to another of the monks and tugged back his cowl. Again, it revealed the same face, but this time the man was about the same age as Mauritz. He did not seem startled or shocked. He simply gazed ahead, his eyes devoid of expression.
One by one, the remaining monks solemnly removed their hoods. They were all the same man, some little older than Mauritz, some twenty or thirty years older.
“Do not be alarmed,” said the original Mauritz. “I should explain.”


“Cloning?” I suggested as we wound our way up yet another steep staircase. The climb was exhausting, the steps narrow and worn smooth, the walls dribbling with condensation. “You’re all clones of the same man?”
“Nothing so rudimentary.” Mauritz pushed open another door, and we emerged into a vaulted chamber. Again, the chamber was identical to the one in which the TARDIS had arrived, but it had the appearance of being recently constructed. The plaster that covered the walls was smooth and clean. The lines of the brickwork were fine, the paving stones free of dust or grime. The air smelt clear and cool.
“You know,” remarked the Doctor, rubbing his lips. “I’m beginning to get the feeling we’re going round in circles.”
I agreed. I had felt a fleeting sensation of déjà vu. If I did not know better, I would say that had been visiting the same chamber, over and over again. But throughout our time in the citadel, we had never walked down a staircase, only up. So it was impossible.
“No, Adric, this is the chamber in which the TARDIS arrived,” said Mauritz. “Or rather, the chamber into which your TARDIS will materialise. You see, in this part of the citadel, you have yet to make your visit.”
“What?” exclaimed the Doctor, somewhat over-loudly.
“Time is not an absolute here.” Mauritz walked to the centre of the chamber, and gestured expansively. “This citadel comprises all pasts, all futures. Take this chamber. We can visit this room at any point in its history. The day it was built, or a day a later, or a hundred centuries later. Every room, at every point in time, exists within the realm of the citadel!”
I was beginning to understand. “You mean, you can travel into the future, just by walking into another room?”
“Precisely,” smiled Mauritz. “We can access any time, in any future.”
“Just a short hop down a corridor and fa-zam! You’re back where you started, but in the next week?” suggested the Doctor.
“The… geography is inevitably a little more complicated than that, but yes. As you might expect, the more distant the future, the more inaccessible. A thousand years hence may be many miles distant.”
“Of course, of course. It’s all relative.” The Doctor grinned a wild grin. “So here we are,” he said, waving his lantern-light across the chamber. “Standing in the middle of last Wednesday.”
“So that’s why you said there was no outside,” I breathed, patting my hands together. “Because in every direction, there is no boundary to the citadel – there is merely more of the citadel, or rather than same citadel again, but at another time. More of the same rooms, extending further and further into the future.” I could barely contain my awe. To stand inside such an achievement of multi-dimensional engineering, I felt suddenly giddy.
“Infinite?” asked the Doctor, as though enquiring about the weather.
“Impossible to tell. But to answer your next question, yes, it is a closed system,” said Mauritz.
“Hence the recycling. No supermarket.” The Doctor wandered the chamber, lost in thought. “You have to make the most of what you’ve got, I see, because there’s nothing else…”
“It’s incredible,” I said, jogging over to Mauritz. I couldn’t help myself burbling over with enthusiasm. “A four-dimensional space, mapped into three-dimensions. Of course, mathematically it’s quite straightforward…”
“A four dimensional space?” muttered the Doctor derisively, staring at his shoes. “Five dimensional!”
“Five?”
“The Doctor is correct,” said Mauritz. “The citadel does not merely allow access to one future. It permits passage to every potential future.”
“Every potential future?”
“Every probability is played out somewhere within the confines of this building. Naturally, the more remote the possibility, the more remote the region. But,” Mauritz leaned closer to me, fixing my eyes with his, “take this chamber for instance. In ten years’ time, it may have fallen into disrepair, or it may have been adapted for a new use. Both possibilities exist within the citadel.”
“A multiplicity?” I grinned. “But how do you do it?”
“The technical explanation is not relevant.” Mauritz collected his lamp and headed for the door opposite. “Let me show you the new library. Or, to put it another way,” he paused, “let me show you the library when it was new.”


It was the same library, the same long, solemn hall, the same three galleries of bookcases. But a gust of warm air brushed our faces, and there was no taste of dust, no aura of decay. Hundreds of monks filled the chamber, occupying every desk, scratching away at parchment. Others bustled from bookcase to bookcase, recovering and filing the leathery tomes. Others hurried in from adjoining passageways, heaving in piles of dust-coated book. The chamber echoed with hushed words.
“So you can go to this same library in the future,” said the Doctor, “see what will be written in ten, twenty years time, and bring it back here?”
Mauritz nodded.
“And no fines to pay?” He grinned that irreverent grin again.
Mauritz smiled and shook his head.
“You must have a very efficient filing system,” joked the Doctor. “But what about paradoxes?”
“Yes,” I shuffled forward. “What if you go into one of the future libraries, take out a book, and in the process of bringing it back cause it not to be written?”
“Every potential future is as valid as any other,” explained Mauritz. “Paradoxes may either stabilise or collapse.”
“Stabilise?” I couldn’t help but assume a note of superiority. “But that’s ridiculous!”
Mauritz did not reply, but his expression disagreed.
“But it’s not just every potential library that exists, is it, Mauritz?” said the Doctor darkly, his gaze averted. He nodded towards the monks. I had almost forgotten. Beneath those cowls and robes, they would all be identical copies of Mauritz.
“No,” said Mauritz. “Every potential future version of myself also exists.”
“Together?” I shook my head in disbelief. “You mean they… are all future versions of you?”
“Indeed. Learning from each other. Passing on their knowledge. All of them,” he blinked sadly, “what I am to become.”
I watched the monks in awe. The same man, at different stages in his life. Some hunched with age, others standing tall. Muttering to each other, passing parchments between them, oblivious to the sheer… impossibility of it all.
“For every potential course of action, there will be a future me,” said Mauritz, folding his arms. “A future that I can learn from.”
“And thus know in advance the outcome of every decision,” said the Doctor delightedly. “So you can predict events with the benefit of hindsight. How dreadfully cunning!”
“You mean,” I began, clicking my fingers in realisation, “if you have a choice, you can go and visit a version of yourself from five years in the future, see how things turned out, and compare notes?”
“Precisely. For every choice, every alternative is played out within the realm of the citadel.” Mauritz paused. “There is one more thing I wish to show you. Or would you prefer… to return to your craft?”
The Doctor and I exchanged glances. The Doctor stared at me with his wide, grave eyes, and I was gripped with a sudden foreboding. I shivered. For a moment, I considered suggesting we go back to the TARDIS. But, no, it was too fascinating an opportunity. We had to see more.
“So be it,” said Mauritz, leading us to one of the passageways. “If you will join me-”


After an exhausting ascent up another sheer stairwell, we emerged from the citadel and I took in a lungful of rare night air. We ducked through a low archway and out onto a square balcony at the summit of a high building. Above us hung a heavy iron bell in its tower, ropes looping through open floor-hatches.
I made my way over to the balustrade, rested my hands upon its rough, rusted railings and gazed out across the turrets of what seemed to be a vast city. Everywhere there were narrow, vertiginous ledges and flues and bulwarks. Dark, sinister walls dropped away, some smothered in creepers and ivy, others choked in soot. Many hundreds of feet below us they sank into a tide of undulating fog.
Squinting into the distance, I spotted another bell-tower, its zenith rising through the drifting mist. A collapsed, hollowed-out edifice, it was otherwise in every way identical to the tower in which we stood. Looking to the left there was another bell-tower, again identical. And beyond that another bell-tower, and another, and another, stretching away to the horizon. And not far distant, maybe a mile away, a bell-tower was undergoing construction.
I walked a complete circuit of the balustrade. In every direction, the minarets and ramparts and roofs continued in a never-ending maze of architectural confusion. A sea of buildings extending to infinity, at first similar in their greyness and bleakness, but in the details, each one unique. Acres of slate and coughing chimney-stacks, roof after roof of every incline and variety.
Something caught my attention at the nearest bell-tower. Standing within it, I could see three unmoving robed figures returning my gaze. Oddly, they were of different heights. Then I spotted more of the monks below, strolling through galleries, making their way up and down flights of stone stairs. Constantly in motion, hurrying from doorway to doorway in a ceaseless, mathematical pattern.
“The citadel,” announced Mauritz.
“It’s endless,” I said, glancing up into the cloudless sky. Above us there was a canopy of blackness, scattered with a million untwinkling stars. Utterly still and lifeless. “The stars…”
“Other possibilities,” said Mauritz. “Too strange, too distant to reach.”
We stared out into that infinite, fog-laden night for some minutes, and then the Doctor spoke. He rounded on Mauritz, looked him straight in the face, and asked, “But you still haven’t explained why. What is it all for?”
“Contemplation. Research. Meditation.”
The Doctor pah-ed derisively.
Mauritz continued. “I created the citadel because I wished-”
“You created all this?” I interrupted.
Mauritz nodded. “…because I wished to study. To attain a plateau of pure thought. To create the purest philosophy. To reach understanding.”
“I see,” said the Doctor, then held up a hand. “No, I don’t. You built all this, single-handedly… to have a bit of a think?”
I decided to explain to the Doctor. “But, don’t you see? The intellectual resources here are unimaginable. Because every potential future-Mauritz can put his learning at the disposal of the current generation… every possible avenue of thought can be covered, studied, and recorded. A feedback loop of knowledge... It’s fantastic!”
“Standing on the shoulders of giants,” brooded the Doctor, deliberately avoiding my gaze.
“Adric is correct,” said Mauritz. “For every problem, every solution can be investigated. I have a hundred, a thousand, a million selves to consult.”
The Doctor remained unimpressed. He took another tour of the balustrade, and stared out into the distance. “Or, rather,” he said. “Standing on your own shoulders, and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.” He rounded on Mauritz. “Don’t you get lonely? I mean, here you are, all on your own, all however-many of you?”
Mauritz bowed. “One is never alone if one appreciates one’s own company.”


We had returned to Mauritz’s dormitory. My calves ached from our long descent, and the heat of the fire came as a joyous relief. I dragged my chair nearer to the hearth and warmed my palms.
The Doctor slouched in the chair opposite, watching as a monk brought in three bowls. The monk handed me my bowl and spoon, and I inhaled a deep breath of the steaming soup. It smelt delicious. I stirred it and some white meat bobbed to the surface.
Mauritz sat at the table and ladled himself a mouthful of the soup. He looked directly at me as he swallowed, a smile wetting his lips. “Please.”
I looked at the Doctor, who was staring vacantly as though awaiting some stage direction. I shrugged and brought a lump of the meat to my mouth-
The Doctor launched himself out of his chair and stood upright. “Of course!” He glared at Mauritz. “A closed system!”
I dropped my spoon. “Doctor-?”
““We make the most of that which we have”,” said the Doctor, hurling each word in Mauritz’s direction. “You don’t keep any cattle here, do you?”
Mauritz did not reply.
“No, of course not, you don’t need to. Where do they go, the future Mauritzes? Where do they all end up?” The Doctor knocked his bowl to the floor. “A feedback loop! They end up right here, on the dining table!”
“What?” I gulped.
“You eat them,” said the Doctor. “There’s nothing else to eat, is there?”
Mauritz did not reply.
“All your future selves – boiled down to soup. And their skin… dried and bound into books. Their bones, baked to make bricks. This whole place, it’s all made out of one thing. You!”’
I looked down at the bowl. The white flesh I had been about to eat lurked beneath the surface. Human flesh. I shivered and felt a sudden coldness as the blood drained from my face.
“For each of my selves,” said Mauritz at last, “there are a dozen or more potential future selves. When they die, they are not left to waste. Just as each of my selves learns from each of his future selves, so, when they die, he will draw nourishment from them.” He looked up at the Doctor and his lips parted into a grisly smile. “Yes. Every brick of this citadel is made of my ground-up bones. Every book in the library is inked in my blood upon my skin. My body fat is used for candles, my hair is woven into twine. And what cannot be used is composted and ploughed back into the soil, to create the plants that give oxygen and wood. I require nothing. I depend on no-one but myself.”
“Well I’ve heard of self-sufficiency,” joked the Doctor humourlessly. “But this is ridiculous.”
“At least,” continued Mauritz meaningfully. “Until you arrived… now I have company.”
The Doctor nodded to me, and I inferred his meaning immediately. He gathered up his scarf, collected a lamp, violently upturned the table, and bolted for the door.


How we found our way back I do not know. We dashed across the library, and hurried down the nearest stairwell, grabbing the walls for balance. I struggled to keep up with the Doctor, barely able to see more than the reflected glimmer of his lantern, whilst also taking care not to tread on his trailing scarf. We passed through dozens of vaulted chambers, all in different states of disrepair; some thick with ivy, some collapsed, some freshly constructed. We hurried through the library, its empty shelves draped with cobwebs, its floor smothered in dust, the air still and silent. We dashed through the gardens, some full of monks tending the stunted corals, others filled with ghost-pale trees.
But after another descent down another narrow staircase we emerged into the vaulted chamber in which we had first arrived. I recognised the patterns of rot that daubed the walls, and our footprints trailed across the musty floor.
The Doctor swung his lamp forward, and in the corner the TARDIS emerged from the darkness. The lamp flame reflected in its windows. A surge of relief filled my heart as we ran towards it.
There was a grinding, churning sound. The light on the TARDIS roof span and flashed. I could almost reach out and touch the surface of the Police Box as it faded from view. I found myself staggering into the square of floor it had deserted. The sound of dematerialization hung in the air for some seconds more.
The TARDIS had gone.
Recovering my breath, I looked up, aghast. The Doctor and I had been joined in the chamber by dozens of monks. Some stood tall and stooped, some were about my height. They lined the walls, each of them in robes, their faces concealed by their cowls. They made no motion, and gave no sound.
Another monk entered and lifted his hood. Mauritz. He raised his lantern, its red flame flickering in his eyes.
“Your time machine has gone,” he said.
I exchanged a worried glance with the Doctor. He looked suddenly unnerved, his expression grim. “We noticed!”
“Do not be alarmed,” said Mauritz. “As you will remember, the citadel does not merely allow access to one future. Every potential future is played out within these walls. Earlier, you had the choice to depart in the TARDIS. There was the possibility you might leave, or the possibility you might stay.” He paused. “But both alternatives occurred. So… there was the Doctor and Adric who returned to the TARDIS and left,” he gestured towards the empty stone floor, “And you. The Doctor and Adric who decided to stay.”
I took a step backwards, my mouth suddenly dry.
“You will join me. As it shall be, so it has always been.”
Mauritz smiled as all the other monks in the room lifted back their hoods. I immediately recognised the faces.
The monks were me and the Doctor. Over and over again. Some looked as we did now. Others were many years older and had grey hair, and lined faces, and watery eyes.
I saw myself as a man of forty, my skin coarsened with age. I saw myself as a man of sixty, my hair thin, my skin cracked and folded. I saw myself as a man of eighty, bald, my skin blotched with cancers.
And the Doctor – that same face, over and over again, but with the eyes increasingly hooded and dulled, the hair increasingly thin and grey. Wearing an expression of infinite sadness and regret.
“You have always been here,” said Mauritz. “Here, by my side. Welcome.”


If you have enjoyed this story, I would be delighted if you could makea donation to Comic Relief.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Robot Man


Two things.

Out later this week, I think Thursday, is another Doctor Who Magazine with a couple of articles in it by me. There’s another instalment of The Blogs of Doom featuring a fan favourite character (well, a favourite character of this fan) and a brief but nevertheless in-depth article on UNIT’s place within the Who-niverse, and how it works as a storytelling device. It’s available from all good newsagents and Smiths.


Big Finish have also announced that my ‘Main Range’ story out next March is not called Empire but is, in fact, called The Kamelion Empire, featuring as it does the legendary robot Kamelion alongside the fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough. I am, of course, sworn to secrecy, but can say that the story was inspired by the paintings of Claude Lorrain and Pierre Patel, and that it doesn’t feature Kamelion being put in charge of Whitbury New Town Leisure Centre. For reasons that will become clear in due course it was quite a tricky story to write. I hesitate to say it’s experimental but it’s certainly not comfort zone stuff.


It has been asked elsewhere how this run of four ‘Kamelion’ stories will fit with Craig Hinton’s 1994 Doctor Who novel The Crystal Bucephalus. The simple answer is that it doesn’t. It can’t, because, as anyone who has read the novel will know, or who has simply scanned the opening and closing pages, the book doesn’t just take place in the gap between The King’s Demons and The Five Doctors, it also seals the gap, leaving no space for any other stories, as well as ruling out any further Kamelion stories after The Five Doctors.


I don’t quite know why Craig did this – I suspect he misunderstood the nature of the ‘fitting books into the gaps’ brief – but I do know, or I like to think, that he wouldn’t give a damn about some more stories coming along 25 years later and doing something different. In my mind, he would be laughing his head off at the utter silliness of it all. “Who cares, Jonny?” I can hear him saying. “Who cares?” However, I was very conscious when I was writing The Kamelion Empire that I was following in Craig’s footsteps, so to speak, and so the story is dedicated to his memory.

It can be pre-ordered here.