By Lorraine Anderson
As our hosts have graciously allowed me pen and paper to record my experiences, I hereby start my recollections in this Tower of Babel. Claudia stands over me and fingers my paper, and says how odd the writing stick I have in my hands. I act nonchalant, even though I, too, am not familiar with pens without nibs, ink without inkwells. But this unfamiliar thing is a minor inconvenience.
Claudia asks what I am writing, and I tell her. She snorts much like a horse, most unlady-like, and I am reminded again that despite her sterling qualities, she was once a Scarlet lady of Pompeii and has never been a Christian. She calls our hosts slave-keepers, and claims that she has not changed her profession, but merely her locale. Her point is well taken. I tire of this building and this garden, and wish to travel through this new world our hosts have brought us to, but they claim that we are not ready to experience new things. I wonder why they have bothered to "save" us, if we shall merely spend the rest of our life in a laboratory. I also wonder that if this is so, why they have deposited all of us in one building. Surely, if Claudia is ready to experience the modern conveniences of pen and ink, then I am ready to experience the modern world of com-pewters. - I stand corrected. The base word is compute, hence computers. I had read of Babbage's odd machine, but I had not made the connection between his mechanical device and these small devices run by electricity. I am learning, more than I thought.
I digress. I had meant to describe my present world and my place in it. Even though this record is private - or so our "hosts" claim - I shall write this section in the secret code I made up as a child and keep this journal on my person at all times and make another for their enormous appetite for knowledge.
Claudia is telling her life story verbally, into a machine. She has never learned to read or write, even though I understand that most Romans were educated somewhat.
My name is Margaret Knoble. I was... am the daughter of a well-to-do New York family, not extremely wealthy, but rather comfortable. As befitting my station, I had attended the best finishing schools, I had a number of beaus, I knew some of the right people, belonged to the right church. As this is a private diary, I will admit it was all somewhat stifling. Anyway, I was returning home from a "broadening trip" on the Continent, on an elegant ocean liner named the Titanic.
I mentioned the name to our hosts, and they smiled and their eyes got dreamy. I, too, have seen the Moving Pictures, in the guise of our host's therapy. They don't know. They weren't there. A picture cannot give you the sense of terror that I felt after I found myself prone on my tilting stateroom floor and emerged on deck to find that all of the life boats had been launched.
It was my own fault. I hadn't felt well and had administered myself a sleeping draught.
I screamed when I realized I was doomed. Then a bright door opened in front of me, and friendly voices urged me through. At the moment of panic, I took the unknown and ended up here. Lord help my soul.
Have they faced certain death? I doubt it. Claudia nods to me, her dark eyes understanding. She knows. She saw the ash drifting down on Pompeii, and although a whore, she had intelligence enough to know what that meant.
I am ever so glad she cannot read English. The last time I called her a whore, she scratched my face.
Our little community is diverse. They have a community of primitives which they call Neanderthals. They keep these in a separate conclave which they claim mimics their natural environment. But I have looked into their eyes and found the same lost look I see in my mirror every morning.
In our section are those lost souls "saved" from those times before 1980. There are about 100 of us, some from disasters, like I am, others from famous disappearances, like Amelia, or so I am told. One is from the lost Colony of Jamestown. He claims the rest were captured by Indians.
We reside in a stark area. The walls are White, the carpeting Beige. The decorations are bright and did hurt my eyes, but I'm getting used to it. The smell was very chemical, but I do not smell this now, either.
Up towards the ceiling of one wall are mirrors. Behind these mirrors are halls in which our captors give tours. I do not know whether these tours are for the public; I suspect they are, to a certain extent. I do not believe this compound has the capital to run without outside income. Also behind those mirrors are guards. How do we know? One of my compatriots crawled onto a chair with one of our floor lamps and caught them like a deer in a lantern.
So we are not only held, but we're being spied upon. Probably in even our most private moments.
Our captors are now aware that we know, and they ask how we feel about this. They claim it's for our own good.
The road to h- is paved with good intentions.
Is certain death better than this? I am not so sure.
A new man has been deposited amongst us. This is not terribly unusual, as new people are brought to us all the time, and it is left to the residents to give them Christian charity, to make him or her feel at home. So to speak. But this man is different. Most are brought in either despondent or angry or eyes wide open, ready for Heaven's glories. The last are the hardest to deal with, because we have the sorry task to inform them of their status. A few go mad and are taken from us. I do not know their fate.
But I fear this man was insane before he came. It's a shame. He's a fair man, good to see. Blond hair, white suit and vest, young, polite, yet direct. Yet he wears a bit of celery in his lapel, and he seems to be angry at our hosts... not in the way that everyone else is angry, angry with a lost look in their eyes, but angry with a purpose and an ideal. Does that make sense?
I attempted to talk to him the other day, because I thought he may be a contemporary of mine. He set me straight immediately.
"I am a Gallifreyan," he said angrily.
I must have looked truly bewildered, because he looked at me and his tone was gentler. "A Gallifreyan. A former resident of the planet Gallifrey." I stared at him. "That's all right, dear, no one else believes me, either."
"What is your name?"
He smiled. "I'm afraid you couldn't pronounce it correctly. I am called the Doctor."
"Are you a Medical Doctor?"
"I'm am expert of many things. The years get boring sometimes, and one must keep occupied."
"How old are you?" I blushed at my impertinence. "I'm sorry. I really am getting too personal."
"Not at all. But I'm afraid I would strain your credulity. I'm much older than I appear. Most Gallifreyans are."
The dinner bell rang, and any further conversation was lost. Our hosts get testy if we're late for dinner.
What a shame. He seems to be lost in some fantasy of Mr. Swift's.
The Doctor and I had another conversation today, and I fear that my world is shook, once again. I thought he may be mad: I discovered that he is not.
Claudia came into the room and stared at him, shock on her face. I looked at her; I don't believe I've ever seen her so perplexed before. Her lips moved.
The Doctor finally noticed my stare and followed it. He smiled. "My dear Claudia! How are you?" His smile faded. "What are you doing here? I thought I told you..."
"You did, Doctor." Her eyes lowered. "I was in Herculeum, trying to herd them to the beach, when I stepped through this door and their machine caught me and transported me here."
Claudia, a heroine? A whore? It was clear I misjudged her badly.
The Doctor looked at her sadly. "You can't save the world."
Claudia lifted her eyes and looked at him steadily. "But I can try to save my little corner of it."
The Doctor just smiled. "It is good to see you."
"Is your magic box...?"
His face darkened. "No. I was trying to save some of the passengers of the Andrea Doria when those meddling sots opened their door in front of me..."
Claudia smiled. "You can't save the world..."
"This was different."
Claudia grinned impishly. "Yes, Doctor."
So I have no choice but to believe in the Doctor's tales. Claudia may be a whore, but I have never known her to be a liar.
It is unbelievable what happened yesterday. No more unbelievable than that whores should be heroes and madmen, doctors from other planets, I suppose. But I should start at the beginning.
It was the start of a normal day. The Doctor, Claudia, and I had just finished breakfast and were sitting at the table in a dispirited way. We had nothing to talk about, not that the Doctor actually talked about anything except current events, and there were very few of those. I looked at the window, wondering if the tours had started, wondering how I had transformed from ingenue to side-show exhibit in just one fateful moment.
Suddenly the Doctor sat up straight and glanced at the window, then looked at the wall, a blank look on his face. I followed his gaze and saw a light on the opposite wall, blinking as if...
I looked away. Was it Morse Code? If it was, I didn't want anyone to discover. A second later, and the Doctor relaxed.
Claudia had noticed, too. "Doctor?"
"Everything is fine. We have confederates." As in soldiers? I wasn't sure I liked the sound of that, then I realized that he meant allies. "Be at the garden at noon."
The Doctor was being very mysterious, but we both nodded seriously.
Then Claudia's face darkened. "No. I am not going and leaving these people."
Is that what he had planned? Then I wanted nothing to do with this scheme, either.
The Doctor shook his head and smiled sunnily. "Still saving the world, Claudia?"
"We're not leaving without the rest." She looked at me steadily, then nodded, finding support in my face.
The Doctor leaned across the table and set his hand on Claudia's arm. "I'm not planning on leaving without everybody. Why do you think we're meeting in the garden? That's where everybody meets for the fire alarms, don't they?"
It occurred to me belatedly that the captors may have listening devices here. I knew they had some here. The Doctor pointed them out one day. "Doctor...?" I pointed to the plant and tried to mime a wire.
He raised his eyebrow. "I still had a trick up my sleeve." He put something in his pocket, then nodded at the technicians who had come in, glancing at our table. He had done something to silence the listening device.
We left the table, then returned to our rooms to continue our life stories. The morning dragged on and on and on. I entertained myself by recalling the childish antics of my brother, some of which were true, some were not. Why should they care?
The problem was that I entertained myself so thoroughly that I lost track of the time. Suddenly I was jerked by the smell of smoke and the fire alarm. I said a most unladylike epitaph to myself, grabbed my journal, and rushed out of my room...
Into the arms of one of our guards. He grabbed me reflexively... I realize this in hindsight... but I was so wound up that I slammed him with my fist and kicked him in his privates. (May the Lord forgive me.) He went down, curled up. I felt a twinge of guilt, then left him, heading for the garden. I saw him later, thank the Lord, or else I would have felt extremely guilty when I saw the blaze that was starting in the compound. But I did have the satisfaction of seeing him flinch from me.
When I reached the garden, I found that many from the compound were already there. The Doctor was anxiously scanning the crowd, and grabbed me as I passed him. He smiled. "You're here!" He turned serious. "I can't explain now, but our transportation is here. I need you to help guide people to the Tardis."
"The what...? Oh, yes, your traveling machine." I looked at the strange box in the garden. It looked like it could manage one person, if that one person wasn't too large. I looked at it incredulously. "But will it be big enough...?"
He smiled. "More than enough. Trust me."
I did, especially when I started guiding people towards the box and they disappeared, never to come out again.
Finally, the guards realized that something suspicious was going on and started to prevent us from entering the Tardis. God bless the Neanderthals. They may not be civilized, they may not talk, they may smell to high heaven, but they each picked up a guard and carried them into the Tardis with as much ease as I pick up an umbrella.
Suddenly, the compound was empty. I watched the burning compound, mesmerized, than Claudia yelled, "Come ON," and I left the world of the future.
But I did not go back to the past. The Tardis was a Time Machine, but, as the Doctor explained to Claudia and me, he could not simply take us back to our own time. It was something to do with major paradoxes and minor paradoxes and time healing itself and... I did lose track at this point. He did offer to take the two of us back. Claudia swore Latin words for her answer, and I admit I did think about it a moment. Then I said, "No, Doctor. I don't believe I fit at home anymore."
He looked at me intensely. "Don't you want to rejoin your family?"
I smiled. "Of course. But I shall see them again in Heaven."
He shrugged. I do not believe he was a Christian.
He has set us down on a planet of people he says will make us welcome. Do I believe him? I think I do. I think I must.
I was thinking of the Doctor the other day. While I have kept this diary throughout the last year I've been here, I believe some closure should be made to the incredible experience we had.
He was wiser than I had thought. He set us down on a planet of gentle people who made us welcome and gave us our own homes and worthwhile things to do. I am engaged to one of the natives; while he is not a Christian, the local belief is such that I believe they just have different names for the one God. Claudia is a farmer's wife, and claims she is the happiest she has ever been.
We have not seen the Doctor since our last Goodbye. I miss our talks. Claudia says he is like that. I believe that doesn't mean he cares any less, it just means he has too many other people to care about. I hope he is faring well wherever he is.
God bless and keep the Doctor in his travels.