The False Memories of Donna Noble
"Now you two really have to sleep now." Wilf told the two children as he put the storybook away and tucked them both in. "It's way past your bed time, and you're not going to talk me into reading another one to you." He pinched Donna's nose and planted a kiss on her forehead. His granddaughter giggled when his stubbly beard tickled her cheek. "You too Martin, or no more sleepovers. Understood young man?"
"Yes sir." Martin returned him a cheeky grin and made a salute. Wilf straightened his back and returned him his version that he had picked up from his time in the army. It was one of those quirky little rituals that he loved to share with the boy. He had grown rather fond of Donna's little playmate. Oh well, he had to admit that the lad was a bit of an oddball sometimes, but there are all sorts of people in the world, and Martin was a sweet kid who had his heart in the right place. He was sure of that.
"And no reading." Wilf said strictly in his most fatherly voice. "You'll ruin those fine young eyes of yours."
"I won't do that sir." Martin agreed, although he was already reaching for the flashlight that he had hidden underneath the covers. "Good night Wilf."
"Good night gramps!" Donna blew him a goodnight kiss.
As soon as Wilf had headed downstairs, Martin fished out a thick volume from under his pillow, turned on his belly, wriggled himself into a comfortable position, and switched on the flashlight to illuminate the pages.
Donna rolled over to his side of the bed. "What are you reading?" She asked, peering over his shoulders.
"Stuff that you would find boring." Martin told her. "Stop peeking." He added without lifting his eyes from the page. "Didn't you hear what your granddad said? You're going to ruin your eyesight."
"No I am not. Not before you've gone complete blind first. I am not the one who hardly sleeps and reads all night."
"I don't need that much sleep."
"Well, that's because you're straaaange." Donna replied as she lazily stretched her leg, keeping it raised above the bed. It cast a shadow on the wall that looked like a giraffe's head. "I on the other hand, am a normal person, and right now I feel very tired."
"Then go to sleep."
"Can't sleep. You're keeping me up with your flashlight." Donna complained, yawning extensively.
"Go to sleep Red." Martin said sharply, ignoring her because he knew that she was just teasing him.
Donna stared back at him, still seeking attention. "Why do you always have to have all the mirrors covered up?" She asked after a short while. A mosquito has bitten her on her heel and it was itching like crazy, and she absent-mindedly scraped her foot over the wallpaper. "You let gramps hang a towel over my wardrobe mirror. Why is that?" She mused.
"Maybe it is because I am straaaaaange." Martin muttered.
"Oh come on now. You can tell me." She crawled up to him on her elbows, placed her hands under her chin, and waited. She knew he was getting too annoyed to be able to continue to ignore her for very long. "You can tell me anything. I will keep it a secret for you. I always do."
Realizing that there wasn't going to be a lot of reading with Donna around, he shut the book with a dramatic sigh.
"You're not going to give up, are you?"
Donna returned him a wide grin. "Oh nope."
"Are you sure you want to know?"
She nodded eagerly. "Does it have anything to do with the Doctor?" She imagined it could be. Although Martin had by now, grown out of his imaginary friend phase, the extraordinary time-traveler in the blue box that had once sprung from her friend's colorful imagination still deeply intrigued her, but Martin shook his head. "If anything, it was the Doctor who kept them away from me."
She was surprised that her friend was reacting so seriously to her question. "Kept who away from you?"
"The monsters." He replied in a timid voice. "The ones who live inside the mirror." There was a change on his face that alarmed her. His features hardened, became more tensed. "They first started to appear when I was very little, maybe just a toddler. Every time when I passed by a mirror, I would spot a movement, a glimpse of something, strange figures, moving out of view. I wasn't that frightened at first. I could hardly understand what they were. But as I got older, these figures became clearer." He swallowed and gazed frightfully at the covered mirror in the corner, as if the recollection itself was enough to draw them out into Donna's bedroom.
"What did you see?" Donna asked, getting a little bit frightened herself.
"Monsters. Tall human forms without faces. No eyes and no nose, only a mouth, wide and gaping." He paused, shutting his eyes. "After a while, instead of vanishing when I looked at them they just stayed. Although they have no real eyes, I know that they are looking at me. They see me right through the mirror. Where ever I go, where ever there is a mirror, they are there, following me around, always spying on me." He gazed at her. The look in his eyes was one of genuine fear. It shocked her that his complexion had turned as white as a sheet.
"I used to scream when I saw them. My parents thought that I was mad and hired a whole army of doctors trying to cure me. Even I thought I was crazy." He laughed bitterly. "I mean, scary ghost men living inside a mirror who are stalking a young boy in East London for no particularly reason, now that sounds like something out of the over-active imagination of a sick mind, doesn't it? So I really wanted to get better, I wanted be normal, but nothing the doctors did to me ever worked. I just kept seeing them. In the end, because I was getting so sick of all the pills and injections, I just pretended to get better, forced myself to stop screaming so the adults would leave me alone. After that, I started covering everything up." He blinked his eyes and gazed back at Donna. Never before had he told anyone about this, these nighttime horrors what were eating away at his soul. He didn't like to expose this side of himself that was so helpless, and frightened and perhaps even mad, but this was Donna. He trusted her. He always had.
She wrapped her arms around his skinny shoulders and pulled him closer. Holding on to him, it worried her that he felt almost like a block of ice.
"I am still afraid of them." He muttered into the tangle of her red locks, his hands clasped onto her. He was shivering uncontrollably. "I don't look into mirrors anymore, but I know they are still there."
"Shush." She whispered, gently stroking his head and kicking herself that she had caused all this by asking her stupid little questions. "They can't harm you if you can't see them, right?"
He shook his head. The covered mirror is now in his view and he kept watching it without even so much as daring to blink. "They sometimes whisper to me, when I am alone at night, lying in my bed, I can hear their voices coming from underneath the dustcover. Most of it is just gibberish, but sometimes, just sometimes when I really try to concentrate, I can hear them call out to me. I can hear them, repeating one word, over and over again…"
The Doctor and the empty house
"The Master." Arziah told Clara as she followed him up the winding staircase to get to the guest bedroom. "That's how he named himself. Oh we should have known that it meant trouble from the start." He was leading the way, lighting her path with a lantern filled with a swarm of dazzling technicolor fireflies. The beautiful glow that these strange creatures produced sputtered like a miniature firework, splashing flashes of colors on the grey tower wall.
"Why is that?" Clara asked, while carefully trying to watch her steps on the steep stones.
"Because the name that every Timelord chooses represents an important element of his character. Take me for example, Arziah, means loyal in old Gallifreyian, and loyal I am indeed. I've served the Oakdown family for over 2 centuries now."
"Two whole centuries?" Clara admired. "Wow, you guys do age pretty well." She wasn't just flattering him. Arziah looked as if he was around her dad's age. "And what about the Doctor?"
"His name means healer. From what I have heard of others who travel out into the far reaches of the universe, he is pretty much living his life up to his name." Arziah told her with a knowing wink. They have arrived in front of the guest room door. Arziah took out his chain of keys and turned the lock. "Here you are Clara." He swung the door open for her. "This will be your room. If you need the Doctor, his room is just at the other side, right across the hallway."
Clara stepped inside. The guest chamber was spacious and clean, but had, like the rest of the house, a dark depressing quality to it, a sense of lost glory. "I leave you alone for while." Arziah told her. "If there's anything else, just let me know."
"Wait, I do actually need something." She hastily pushed him inside and shut the door behind the groundmaster. "I need information." She said with an inquisitive glint in her eyes. "Can you tell me more about the Master?"
Arziah seemed somewhat taken by her request. "Why don't you ask the Doctor?"
"He doesn't want to talk about him." Clara explained. "I've tried several times since we've been here to start up the conversation, but he just refuses to explain anything. He doesn't even want to mention his name."
"I am not surprised." Arziah put the lantern down on the bedside and sat down on the bed. "It's not exactly a happy story to share with someone you barely know."
"Hey I am not a stranger. I know the Doctor." Clara said defensively. "We've been traveling together for months now."
"Ah." Arziah muttered, nodding his head. "And how long would that seem to him, you think?"
"Right, you guys live for centuries." Clara admitted, realizing that for the Doctor, a few months must be like a few seconds that had passed him by in a blink of an eye. "I just want to get to know him better. That's why I am asking you this. I know this is important to him, but he only keeps giving me these little snippets of information. Most of it had to come from you."
"You think that knowing what happened to the Master would somehow make you understand the Doctor better?"
"Yes." Clara said with conviction. She sat down next to the old groundmaster. "Exactly."
"Then you already know him better than I thought you do." Arziah sighed. "Oh well, it's all in the past isn't it? All done and dust, like old lord Oakdown used to say. There is no harm in telling you…and the Doctor does deserve a good companion, one who understands him." He glanced over at Clara, his grey eyes looked passed her into the distance, gazing back into the days gone by. "It all started with a little boy, smarter and more gifted than any child that was ever born on Gallifrey. He was his father's pride and joy, and the Doctor was his friend..."
The false memories of Donna Noble
The colors shifted again, letting go of that strange night in Donna's bedroom and transporting her to a less distant time. She was sitting at her desk attending class. 11 years old now, Donna had grown into a round-faced cheeky girl with red pigtails and green ribbons in her hair. Secretly chewing gum and slowly succumbing to boredom, her mind wandered from the lessons, until someone gave her a hard shove with the elbow. It came from the boy sitting next to her. Tommy Naylor was his name.
"Psst! Hey Donna. What the heck is he doing now?" He whispered, pointing out the lanky boy who was sitting at his desk in front of her. He seemed very busy, writing feverously with a red marker into his textbook. From the way he casually swung his legs under the table, you would never have guessed that something had ever been wrong with his legs. He had not worn the metal leg-braces for years now.
"Nothing that concerns you. Leave Martin alone." Donna whispered back defensively.
"He's doing it again, isn't he?" Tommy grinned.
"You're not going to tell on him." To make her point, she kicked Tommy's leg hard under the table. "I warn you!"
Tommy eagerly stuck his hand up to get the attention of their teacher.
"Oh I am so going to kill him." Donna groaned. She tried to get Martin to stop with whatever the heck he was doing by kicking in the back of his chair, but as always, he was too occupied to notice anything around him.
"What is it Tommy?" Miss Jenny asked.
"It's Martin miss, he's doodling in his textbook again!" Her student reported, giving his fellow classmate a mean look.
The young teacher had to conceal a sigh. "Martin, is that true?"
It wasn't till miss Jenny was standing right in front of him Martin finally looked up. He didn't say anything, but was clearly irritated that was disturbed him in his work. She flipped his textbook around and looked over the pages. "What have you done now? You've written all over the margins."
"I was making corrections." He told her calmly.
"Corrections?" She raised an irritated brow.
Martin gave a little sigh. "This publication about our solar system is full of errors and is hopelessly outdated. You shouldn't be teaching us this. I know our school is having a lot of trouble with getting financed, but frankly, this text was already unacceptable in the 1970s."
"Martin, please stop being a smartass." Donna reminded him urgently.
Unimpressed by Martin's explanation, miss Jenny picked up his textbook. "You have added a 10th planet to our solar system."
"Because there is a 10th planet, at least if you consider Pluto to be a planet that is. It's simple. The evidence for this is easily provided. Anyone who keeps a little bit up to date with NASA's scientific publications can reach the same conclusion. You can check my calculations if you don't believe me. They are written down on the dustjacket together with my list of literature references."
"You even gave it a name, Deca?" Miss Jenny said, a little perplexed.
"Of course I did." His teacher's obvious stupidity earned her another sigh from him. "I am entitled to. If you discover a star or a planet, even if it is still theoretical, you may give it a name."
"Unbelievable! You've done this with every book." She went through the content of his school bag with growing annoyance. "What's this in your biology textbook?" She flipped through it quickly. "A whole chapter on something called microRNA?"
"Specified short sequences of RNA that regulate messenger RNA, again, if you look at the evidence that I've gathered you will come to the conclusion that -"
"Martin, I really don't have any more patience nor the time for your elaborate pranks." Miss Jenny slapped the book on the desktop and pointed at the door. "Go see the headmaster in his office. You now where it is."
Surprisingly, it actually took a while before the headmaster had enough of Martin and sent him back out again. As always, Donna was waiting for him in the hallway.
"It was not a prank." He muttered in annoyance as he came out.
"Do you have any idea what time it is?" She grumbled. "You've been in detention for more than two hours. Two whole hours, why do you always have to do this?" She asked, flapping her arms around as she walked away with him from the headmaster's office.
"Do what?" He asked innocently.
"Stir things up. Prove yourself to be clever, and generally being a total smartass who nobody likes."
"I don't need to be liked." He told her explicitly. "I just need to be right. Does it ever occur to you Red that they are actually the ones who are incredibly wrong about almost everything, every single time?"
"Even when you're right, you don't have to point that out in everyone's face. Honestly, if you just behaved normal like everybody else you won't be in so much trouble all the time."
"So you admit that I was right?" He smirked.
Donna just rolled her eyes at him and quickened her pace.
The light of the vortex flared in front of Donna's eyes and reality shifted to a time a few years later when Donna was 16. Once again she was waiting for him to get out of detention, but this time she was standing outside of the headmaster's office of their secondary school. The door opened, and a young Martin Oakdown walked out. He had grown willowy tall, but his eyes still had the same piercing blue color. He greeted her with a devious smile and a matching glint in his eyes.
"Congratulations Mr. Oakdown, you've been officially in detention for what, half of your life now?" Donna mocked. She had grown into a fetching young woman, with lank red hair, a pouty, ironic smile and heavy mascara eyelashes. "You're an idiot." She scolded at him when he just responded with a shrug and a wide arrogant grin. "Worse, you're a smug idiot."
"I am an idiot?" Martin scoffed. "What about mister Meyer and his quantum physics from before AD? Don't tell me that he doesn't qualify to be top-quality idiot material as well. That man never had even heard of the string theory!"
"Oh don't start with that." Donna sighed. "Honestly, don't even mention it. I swear if you try to explain it to me one more time, I am going to scream."
They were walking side by side down the school corridor when they bumped into Tommy Naylor and his clique. The group of young troublemakers loved to hang around in the public areas during class time, thinking that it was cool to skip classes in full view of others. They were having a fag, blowing their cigarette smoke out of the window to avoid setting off the fire alarm.
"Hey freak!" Tommy shouted at Martin. "How was your visit to the old headmaster? Bored the old sod to death yet?" His goons laughed and giggled, echoing the word "freak" as if they were a bunch of demented parakeets.
"Oh no, don't even bother with them." Donna muttered, pulling Martin out of their way. But Tommy wasn't done yet. He deliberately stepped on the back of Martin's heel and made him trip over, causing yet another hysterical round of laughter from his mates.
"Stop it!" Donna said fiercely, going back to confront the bullies. "He didn't provoke you. Leave him alone." She ignored the mocking cheers behind her back and was about to go back to her friend, when Martin pushed her aside. He walked up to Tommy with his head and chin raised. He was almost half a head taller than him, and he stared down at the bully with a silent rage burning in his eyes.
"What do you want freak?" Tommy spoke, hardly intimidated, puffing smoke into his face.
Martin's response was to punch him hard on his cheekbone. The impact made the cigarette fly away from his lips. Martin caught it in midair, took a few steps back before the boys could lay their hands on him and held it up to a smoke detector located in the ceiling nearby. The alarms immediately went off. Warned by the alarm, teachers and pupils were rushing out of the classrooms to find out what was going on.
With a satisfied grin, Martin flicked the cigarette back at the bully. It landed on his chest, burning holes in his favorite Gun's and Roses T-shirt.
"Tommy Naylor!" Mr. Meyer's voice boomed down the corridor after he had come out of his office and had spotted the smoking youngsters. In panic, Tommy and his goons threw their cigarettes buts on the ground and tried to stamp them out, just when the bloody sprinklers switched on.
"I have seen what you've done!" The head master said angrily, blinking water out of his eyes while his soaking wet toupee was flushed halfway down his forehead. "I am writing down your names! You're getting a whole month of detention for this, each and everyone of you!" He swore, as he watched how Tommy's clique scattered out in all directions.
"Come on." Martin laughed, taking Donna's hand. "Time to get out of here before Mr. Meyer's wrath falls upon the innocent."
They didn't stop running till they were outside the school building and only stopped when they turned the corner of the bicycle shed. Just when Martin was looking out for any sign of Mr Meyer or Tommy's mates, Donna yanked her hand free.
He groaned when he finally noticed the look Donna was giving him. "Oh what now?"
"You know he's going to kick your ass for this."
"Oh let him come." He said, standing a little taller and leaning his back against the wall. "Him and all of his goons. I can outsmart them all."
"You're enjoying this." Donna remarked, baffled, but mostly she was getting annoyed with him. "You really are having a ball aren't you?"
"A little bit of excitement never has harmed anyone." He said, almost giggling.
"They'll find a way to hurt you back. Don't you even care?"
"He called me a freak." He spoke resentfully.
"Well maybe if you stop acting like one they won't call you names." Donna wiped her hand over her wet face, anger blunting her words. "Can you please keep yourself out of trouble, just once!"
Martin's eyes flared up. He didn't understand why she was blaming him for this while it was obvious that he was provoked. "I am not a freak!" He told her harshly. He wouldn't care what all the other people in the world thought of him, but these acquisitions coming from her hurt him more than he would ever allow himself to admit. Somehow he managed to keep his angry pretence. "I am bored Red. This school is like a bloody prison to me. I don't even know who are actually dumber, kids like Naylor or those moronic teachers with their tedious lessons that I have to endure day after day. I don't belong here!" He waved with his hands in desperation. "Every day I am dying of boredom. My brains are wasting away. I feel my neural synapses melting together into one big rotting mess. I need to be challenged!"
"So what are you saying? You don't want to do this anymore?" Suddenly she felt sick in her stomach, knowing what it would mean. "You were the one who wanted to come here. You begged your own mum to let you join my school."
"Yes. I did." Because I wanted to be with you. But he couldn't really tell her that, perhaps not ever, so instead he said; "Because I wanted to be normal." He looked away. "I wanted to be like you. It's not like I didn't try Red. I did. Believe me I tried very hard. It's just…It's no use…" He added, no longer his usual articulate self. He paused, and fixed his eyes on hers. "Red, I am not normal, am I?" He concluded for himself.
It was then that Donna finally realized that the broken little boy that she had met on that day in the snow had never left the dark room of the grand house. Not truly. "No…" Donna said, and solemnly shook her head. "No…I am afraid you never were."
The Doctor and the Empty House
The room that Arziah had given the Doctor was quite large and quite depressing. He tried the bed, testing the springs and rolling his head over the cushions, lying down this way and that way, before he gave up and came to the conclusion that he was going to have a rough night. He didn't like a soft mattress. It made his spine all curvy. He didn't like a curvy spine. So he contemplated if he should sneak out later in the night to nap in the Tardis, but then he had to wake Clara as well, because he wouldn't feel safe leaving her behind in the old house. It would be suspicious and weird, and she would think that he didn't want to stay because he was afraid of spending the night here.
Of course…that wouldn't be too far from the truth, but Clara was already very concerned about him, and he didn't want to alarm her even more. That girl was as sharp as a box of knives. She could be asking the right questions anytime soon and he would have to give her something, something of his past that he would rather forget. Oh he was getting so very good at forgetting…
"Right." The Doctor said, sitting up and rubbing his hands together as he glanced around nervously. "This was your plan, you wanted to do this. Shouldn't be too bad. So stop making excuses to weasel yourself out of this." He told himself in a strict voice. He rested his eyes on a tall structure that stood in the corner of the room. It was covered by a white sheet. Curious, the Doctor went over and lifted a corner to take a peek underneath. "Oh look at that…There is a mirror under here." He muttered, and removed the cover to reveal a long dressing mirror, framed in gold like almost everything else in this house. He looked into it, inspected his reflection and straightened his bow tie. "You." He told himself. "You look very calm for someone who's very frightened. But then, people tend to say you have nothing to fear if you have a clear conscience." He paused and frowned. "The question is of course, is that the case? Do you really have a clear conscience?"
The last time the Doctor had met the Master, he had died and regenerated on Christmas day.
He wasn't the same man back then. If the crisis had happened to him now, he would probably have acted very differently, but at that time, he didn't know any better but to come between Rassilon and the Master. He supposed that his sense of guilt had made him do it, but what exactly was he guilty of? "I didn't plant the drums inside his head." The Doctor argued, trying to convince himself. "Nor am I responsible for any of his deeds. If Pond was here, she would tell me that I am not his babysitter." He did feel sorry for him though. "It wasn't like he had a choice." His other self argued. "You know how bad it was for him. You heard it. You listened when you were still your previous self. You know what drove him mad. You also know what could have prevented it." The Doctor turned away from his reflection. "Oh no! Don't pin that one on me!" He said selfishly. "It's my life. I can do what I want with it. I am not responsible for anyone else!"
"You left him." His reflection said accusingly. "Right when he needed you the most. You stole the Tardis and abandoned him."
"Because I had to! He was out control. I couldn't do anything for him, no-one could!"
"Liar. You could have stopped him. After he killed his father there was no way back for the Master. You know that, don't you? You could have prevented it. You could have saved your friend's life, but you didn't. You ran away because you were too much of a coward to deal with him."
"I've been running away from him ever since." He finally admitted, shamefully bowing his head. "And now I am back. Right where it all started." He looked up, but instead of his own reflection, a boy was standing in front of the mirror. The Doctor, doubtful if what he saw was real, blinked away the wetness in his eyes and squinted.
"Are you the Doctor?" The boy asked.
"Yes. Yes I am. Do I know you? What are you doing inside a mirror?"
"You have changed. Your face, it looks different, but it is still you. Your eyes didn't change." The boy answered very observantly. He leaned forward and looked into the room with a fearful expression on his face. "Are they here?"
"The monsters. The men without faces. Are they coming for me Doctor?"
"No…No there aren't any monsters here." The Doctor replied, scratching over his head, momentarily confused. "Tell me, where are you exactly? What's your name? And why are you afraid of monsters?"
"You know who I am. You've been visiting me since I was 5." The boy answered, rolling his eyes and knitting his brows in an irritated frown.
"No I haven't. Actually, hang on for a minute, I am not entirely sure about that last statement." He corrected himself after thinking it through. "Could be that I visit you in the future. Anyway. It seems that you're in trouble kiddo. You've got a monster problem that needs fixing." He took out his sonic screwdriver and wheeled it in the air most confidently. Dealing with the past and the memories of the Master was hard. Dealing with monsters was a piece of cake. "Tell me where you are, and I'll make sure that you can sleep safely tonight. Absolutely monster free, 100% guaranteed."
The boy sighed deeply as if he was getting tired of answering all these rather pointless questions. "My address is Cheswick lane, number 669, London. I am in my bedroom on the second floor, first room in the hallway on the left when you get up the staircase. That's not the point Doctor. The monsters are not here with me. They're not in my room. They are on your side of the mirror!"
Something brushed past the Doctor, something cold and white. Spooked, he swirled around, and in the corner of his eyes he caught a glimpse of a pale human form vanished into the wall. "What the hell was that?" The Doctor turned back to the mirror, but the boy had disappeared. He switched on his sonic and was just about to check the mirror-surface for any disturbances in space-time when a loud scream cut through the silence, coming from right across the hallway.
To be continued, meanwhile please review or comment!