When I was a kid my mum used to tell my brother and I the most fantastical bedtime stories. She made up a character called "The Doctor." He had no other name, just "Doctor." He was an alien, a mad man with a box, a spaceship that was bigger on the inside and looked on the outside like a blue police phone box. (I had to Google what that looked like, but it's pretty cool.)
Mum would say when she was younger she travelled with the Doctor. She says she only left him because of us. She told us she met an alien on another planet in the future and she was drunk and things happened. I never knew my father, and I have no doubt that my twin brother and I were a drunken mistake. I'm not so sure about the alien bit though.
When I was a kid I believed my mum. I was always waiting for the Doctor to come back and take us away. My more practical twin gave up long before I did, eventually beginning to mock me for it. Eventually I realized that he was right. They were just stories, but I still wish they were true, especially now. I am 20 years old and my mum is dying. She needs a doctor. She needs The Doctor.
Mum is in the hospital, with days left. They discovered the cancer too late, there was nothing they could do. Today there is a new doctor here to see her. He sends all of the other hospital staff away and takes Mum's hand. "Oh Donna. I am sorry. I am so, so sorry."
Mum blinks up at him. "I haven't seen you before."
He laughs sadly. "Oh, but you have, just not with this face. Remember Donna? I'm the Doctor."
Mum's eyes flicker over his face. "Doctor? I know you're a doctor."
"No Donna, not a doctor, the Doctor. You forgot, but now it's time to remember. The Doctor: Space Man? Come on Donna!"
Mum grins weakly. "Oi Spaceman!"
A sad smile splits his face. "Oi Earthgirl!"
Mum's face has changed. It's as if she suddenly remembered something important she had forgotten. The strange man turns to my brother and me. Offering his hand to Josh to shake he states, "Hello. I'm the Doctor."
Being tactful as always, my twin says incredulously, "Are you wearing a bow tie?"
The strange man grins. "Bow ties are cool," he says and adjusts said bow tie. Josh snickers, and I elbow him in the side.
Mum is getting excited. "The Doctor. I thought I was making up stories, but I was remembering!" Then her face falls. "And I remember why you made me forget. I had your memories and your knowledge. The Doctor-Donna. It was killing me! That's why you came back now, isn't it? Because I'm dying anyway."
The Doctor nods. "It wasn't cancer. It was those memories you thought were made up. Over time, they've been killing you slowly. I wanted to say goodbye. A proper goodbye. And I wanted you to know the truth. You deserve to remember. Now then, who are they?" he says, pointing to Josh and me.
"My kids," Mum says proudly, "Josh and Jacquelyn."
"Jake," I correct. "I go by Jake."
"Josh and Jake, pleasure to properly meet you."
"Properly meet us?" I ask.
"Did you ever meet your father?" he asks. When we shake our heads he goes on. "I knew your mum was pregnant just before she left. The TARDIS monitors life signs, I had an early alert. I was about to ask her if she knew when the disaster happened and I had to wipe her memory. We were in the future, on a planet a couple galaxies away from here, and your mum got drunk, and… well… you know all that humany-wumany stuff." He blushes a bit at this. "In case you're wondering, your dad was human, humans were all over the place by that time."
Josh just stares at him. He gave up on the "Doctor" fantasy ages ago, and moved on to realistic things, like being a total nerdy genius in school. "This is crazy!" he states.
"Josh, Jake, Doctor," Mum says, "it's time."
Calmly the Doctor takes her hand and beckons us to do likewise. Mum smiles. "I'm glad you came back."
The Doctor smiles, but it's filled with heartbreak. "Of course. I had to say goodbye to my mate. Goodbye Donna."
Mum turns to Josh and me. "I love you both very much. Take care of each other." She squeezes each of our hands in turn, then closes her eyes.
"Bye Mum," I whisper, before turning away.
The Doctor turns to Josh and me. "Come with me," he offers. "Let me show you the life your mum had."
Josh shakes his head. He has a future ahead of him: a high paying computer programming job, and a long-time girlfriend he's about to propose to. I'm a slightly different story. I'm rather antisocial, and I didn't do well in school. I have no future.
The Doctor holds out his hand, "At least one trip?"
It's to be expected, what I do. After all, I am my mother's daughter. I take his hand.