A/N: This story just happened into my brain this morning after a lively discussion involving American Girls, fishnet stockings, Felicity, and Doctor Who. I don't really intend to finish it, because I have a day job AND I am still working on a novel (to be completed by the year's end, I hope). But this was a delightful writing exercise, so I just might continue it for the fun of it. For now, though, just enjoy, let your imagination go crazy, and take time to send me some feedback if you are so inclined.
Sixteen-year-old Felicity Merriman tugged on the reins and brought her black stallion, Patriot, to a standstill at last. The horse snorted, as though eager to be on his way again, but Felicity knew that he must have appreciated the rest. She had ridden far outside of her home in Williamsburg, Virginia, today-first at a respectable trot, and then a ferocious gallop, once out of sight of most prying eyes. She took a moment to breathe the fresh air and savor the quiet. Nothing surrounded her but open fields, occasionally broken by groups of trees, and she heard nothing but birds and the grass rustling in the wind. She looked up at the expanse of blue sky and a few fluffy clouds, grateful that spring now seemed to be replacing winter for good-or for another year, at least. She waited for Patriot to take a nibble at the grass before she clucked her tongue and urged him forward. He shook his mane and began a slow trot, while Felicity lazily took in the view of the countryside.
From what she saw at that moment, it was almost unbelievable that she was living in a land torn apart by war-a war for independence that had been raging for several years, and building up long before then. Even now, even here, it was dangerous for a young woman to be unprotected and unchaperoned. Any tall brush, any tree, might be hiding a British Redcoat, or a starving, violent soldier from the Continental army, or even a hostile Indian who had no qualms about scalping a colonist. A shiver touched Felicity's spine as she imagined an entire regiment of Redcoats rising up from behind tall grasses and training their muskets on her. They might demand her horse and her money, and refuse to believe her when she would claim she had no coin purse.
Her imagination running wild, she considered turning Patriot around and going home. Surely she would be missed by now, and no doubt would be greeted with a reprimand for whatever task she had left undone. Felicity could almost hear her mother now, asking her how she expected to keep her own household in order one day if she could not take care of the smallest tasks now. Her future husband might be a wild Patriot, but surely he must hope for a civilized wife one day.
Tucking a wayward strand of red hair behind her ear, Felicity's mood became a little less sunny when she thought of Benjamin Davidson, her father's former apprentice and her own dear friend. He, of course, was the wild Patriot her mother would mean, and although he had not officially proposed to her yet, it was more than understood among Felicity's family-and between the two of them. She had not received a letter from him in several weeks, but that was to be expected in such times of uncertainty and upheaval. Still, every day that passed made her increasingly worried about his health and his location, and she prayed constantly that he was at least alive.
Something felt as though it had been caught in her throat, and Felicity at last felt an overwhelming desire to go home. She turned her horse, but allowed him to proceed at an easier pace so she could think. How unfortunate that she had ridden out of town to escape the talk and fears of war, and yet the war had followed her here, in her very mind.
Passing a small grove of trees, Felicity was suddenly distracted from her morose thoughts. She glanced over to make sure she and Patriot were still alone, when something caught her eye. There appeared to be a strange structure hidden within the clump of trees. She tugged on the reins and brought her steed to a halt again so she could squint and peer toward the grove. This was no trick of light and shadow-she really did see something there. Were there other buildings nearby, she might have taken it for an outhouse. But they were out in the open, and no one would build an outhouse here, surrounded by trees and far from any other human dwelling. Neither would someone bother to paint an outhouse bright blue, and yet she knew she was looking at such a thing. Her curiosity overwhelming any fears she had, Felicity clicked her tongue and urged Patriot forward, pulling the reins and guiding him toward the trees to get a better look.
Coming closer, Felicity saw that it was an outhouse-or, at least, it was about the same size as one. It seemed the wrong shape and size for a smokehouse, and it was certainly too small to be a kitchen. Besides the strangeness of its bright blue color, there were small, clouded windows near the top, and the words "Police Box" written in white letters. There was a small metal handle in the middle of one side, which must have been the door. Below it was a strange sort of keyhole. There was a sign posted next to it, but a tree branch cast a shadow over it that made it unreadable. Felicity felt a thrill inside her as she tried to make sense of this ... this object, and why it was here at all.
Patriot snorted and stepped back a few paces, clearly nervous. Felicity sensed his fear, and indeed shared it, but could not move away yet-not until she could understand a little more. She had been in this area before, and had never seen this structure. The object, and its location, seemed to serve no purpose-and what did "Police Box" mean?
Her horse tossed his head again as Felicity slid off the saddle, as though in protest. With one hand on the reins, she crept a little closer to the blue box. Looking down, she saw that several tree branches and underbrush had been crushed under the box. It had not been built here-it seemed to have been placed here, as though dropped by a giant's hand. But how? And by whom? She looked at the sign posted beside the metal handle. It read:
FREE FOR USE OF PUBLIC
ADVICE AND ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY
OFFICERS AND CARS RESPOND TO URGENT CALLS
PULL TO OPEN
Felicity understood most of the words written there, but the ones she did not understand left her head swimming. "Advice and assistance available immediately"? That sounded promising. "Pull to open" sounded even more promising. And so, yearning for an explanation at last, Felicity reached for the metal handle.
Just as her fingertips brushed it, before she could take hold of it, the door rattled. Felicity jumped back with a shriek and Patriot tossed his head again and neighed. She reached out and caught hold of the horse's reins again. If he was spooked, he would have to drag her away with him. Even terrified, she could not run all the way back to Williamsburg on foot today.
Her heart beating wildly, she stared at the blue door as it rattled again, and then burst open. Fear was now overwhelming her curiosity, but she was rooted to the spot, as though in a nightmare.
A man emerged from behind the door and glanced around casually. He saw Felicity and he gave her a wide-eyed, toothy grin that made her wonder if she might not be scalped after all.
"Hullo!" he said, stepping fully outside of the blue box. He wore a massive, long coat over a striped suit with long trousers, and black-and-white shoes the likes of which Felicity had never seen before. His hair was short, dark, and unkempt, and his brown eyes seemed both wild and clever. Not only was the man woefully out of fashion, but he seemed to belong to another world entirely.
"Oh, nice horse," he said. Felicity tightened her grip on the reins, thinking he meant to steal Patriot from her. Instead, the man continued to look around his environment. A few broken tree branches caught his eye.
"Hmm, shame," he said, pulling off a twig and then dropping it at his feet. He stopped and sniffed the air, his brow furrowed and his expression becoming a little less fearsome. "Well, it smells like Earth," he said. "I'm on the right planet, that's sure enough." Looking at Felicity again, he laughed loudly, almost a cackle. She stepped backwards and turned to flee.
"No, no, no, no, don't be afraid," he said, although his appearance did not provide any comfort. "Is this the year 1899 by any chance?"
"1899?" Felicity repeated in a whisper, her hand on Patriot's saddle. "No, sir, no. 'Tis ... 'tis 1781."
"Oh, damn," the man said, leaning on the blue box. "Missed it by little more than a century. Well..." He moved as though to go back into the blue outhouse, but stopped. He looked at Felicity again. "Am I in America, by any chance?"
"Aye, sir," Felicity said. "The state of Virginia, just outside of Williamsburg."
At last she had her explanation-he was a lunatic escaped from the hospital. She still had no idea how this blue thing appeared here, but at least now she understood the reason for the man's strange behavior and costume.
"Excellent!" he said. "It's been a while since I saw the Revolutionary War, and I haven't been to America in 1781 before." He chuckled at Felicity's thunderstruck appearance.
"Sorry," he said. "Forgot to introduce myself-I'm the Doctor."