A small boy sat on a swing in the park and swung slowly back and forth, his toes barely dragging on the ground. He had brown hair cut in a crewcut, a round face, and round grey-blue eyes hidden behind thick glasses that were taped together because a bully had broken them a few days ago. He was sitting on the swing because he never got to sit on the swing when the other kids were in the park. They were all at lunch now, but he hadn't been called for lunch. It was rare that he was. If he wanted lunch, he went in and made himself a sandwich and tried to avoid his foster brothers.

It was nice sitting on the swing by himself. Everything was quiet, right at noon, when all the people were in their houses at lunch. He could see down the whole street, all the houses, and knew what everyone was doing. Everyone was sitting at a little table in the kitchen, mothers with their children, some fathers who had come home from work for lunch, all looking so much alike from the outside, but he knew what most of them were really doing. Mrs. Taylor was trying to keep Billy and Mary quiet and well behaved so Mr. Taylor didn't get mad at them and hit somebody. Mr. Daniels was looking like he was reading the newspaper, but he was daydreaming about being an astronaut, which he had always wanted to be as a child. Mrs. Howland was eating by herself and thinking about the young man at the hairdresser's. The Lintons, though…He wasn't sure about them. They were difficult. They'd been here the whole time he had, but he couldn't figure them out any more than if they didn't actually exist. They were like cookie-cutter people, images of the perfect family. Even their mail was nothing but circulars and normal bills for electricity and things. No letters. Who didn't get letters? And they always put their bottles out for milk on the wrong day. And got milk back in them, too, which was the really strange thing. And the family next to them, the Wilsons, well, they'd been getting strange recently. Bobby never came out to play anymore, and he was the one boy who'd been nice. He'd decided that was worrisome, because the whole family was nice, and now they acted like they were prisoners in their own house. Mr. Wilson went to work every day, hurrying out the front door and into his car, and came back from work, hurrying into his house from his car, and that was it. Word had gotten around that Bobby had the measles, but no doctor had come. He wondered if they needed help. Obviously they couldn't ask for it, just like he couldn't when that boy tried to beat him up at school. Some people just couldn't ask for help. Circumstances, he said to himself wisely. But someone should help them anyway.

As he swung gently, a wind started up, just a brush of air at first and then suddenly it was almost like a tornado all around him, and there was a noise in it, not like the noise of a tornado (he'd almost been in one last fall) but whirling and roaring, half mechanical, half living, and right in front of him blue was growing in the air. He held tightly to the chains of his swing and watched as a little blue shed slowly appeared out of nowhere.

Slowly he released the chains, got off the swing, and walked over to it. A kind of humming came from it, more like something you could feel than something you could hear, a little like the purr of a cat, and he thought if he put his hand on it, it would be warm, like a cat's side. But you had to be careful with cats, because they didn't always like to be touched. He didn't always like to be touched. He looked up at the tall blue side of the purring shed and wondered, Is it alright if I touch you?

It wasn't until considerably later that he wondered why he was talking to a shed, why he was talking to a shed in his mind, and why he felt so strongly that the shed told him it was alright to touch it. He touched it, and it felt like painted wood, but it also felt like painted wood only held the outside of whatever it was, the way his skin only held the outside of him, and in his brain there was so much more that his skin could never express. Blue wood wasn't what this thing was. It was only what it looked like.

Like all sheds, this one had a door, just around the corner from where he was standing, and as he watched, it opened, and an old man came out. His white hair was swept back from his face and hung down to his collar; he wore a black coat, a white shirt with a pointy collar, and a sort-of tie tied in a loose black bow, and his face was wrinkled and a little stern, and his eyes were deep and, lighting on him with surprise, a little gentle. He was immensely tall and stood looking down at the rather small boy for what seemed like a very long time.

It seemed like he should say something, so he did. "Are you an alien?"

Well, really, there was no other explanation for it all, and the man seemed pleased. "Yes, I am." He spoke oddly.

"Have you come to help the Wilsons?" Because why else would an alien land his blue wooden spacecraft here?

This seemed to surprise the man again, but after a moment he said quietly, "Yes, I have. I'm the Doctor. Who might you be?"

He pondered for a moment. Who he might be was different from who he was, and who he was was different from what everyone called him. And this man, he thought, was interested in who he might be, not who everyone thought he was or should be. So he told him his secret identity, the one that was the only thing that was really his. "Sparrow," he said. "Harold Sparrow."