“He’s worried,” Jasmin said as the three friends watched The Doctor at work. “Look at him. He’s really worried about the TARDIS. As if it’s sick and he has to nurse it.”

“The TARDIS is his oldest friend,” Wyn said defensive of both The Doctor and his ship. “And when you’re his age ‘oldest friend’ has a whole new meaning.”

“Well, I’m a BIT worried about this, myself,” Alec pointed out. “I mean… if the TARDIS breaks down…”

“Don’t go there,” Wyn said. “Anyway, it will be all right. Trust The Doctor.”

“Trust The Doctor.” Alec laughed gently. “We should have little badges and t-shirts with that as our slogan. ‘Trust The Doctor!’”

“Are you saying you DON’T trust him?” Wyn asked. She looked rather fierce as he spoke and Alec had the oddest feeling that if they were in a school playground he’d be challenged to a fight at any moment.

“Of course I do. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. But... well, you know….”

“No, I don’t know.” Wyn really DID look like she was about to challenge him to a fight for the honour of The Doctor.

“He’s not the most predictable of people, is all I’m saying. We trust him because we know him – but I always get the feeling we only know one tiny little BIT of him - and the rest is a big secret.”

“Well, it’s HIS secret. Like I said, his age, there’s got to be a lot going on in his head.”

“Yes. But.…” Alec realised he WAS treading dangerous ground again. “What if… you know… he could have been anything in the past. A criminal or….”

“Oh Alec,” Jasmin told him gently. “You’re letting your imagination run wild. YOU believe in The Doctor as much as I do.”

“You’ve got a thing for him,” Alec answered her. “Which, by the way, I’ve NEVER been jealous of.”

Jasmin blushed and protested her innocence, but the blush was the give-away.

The Doctor smiled to himself and wondered if he ought to tell them that Time Lords have exceptional hearing. It was no news to him that Jasmin had a ‘thing’ for him. But it wasn’t anything that could harm her relationship with Alec. Wyn, bless her, had her mum’s loyalty to him. She would never hear a bad word, either. She used to defend him to the Brigadier with a fierceness that shook the dyed in the wool military man.

And as for Alec, he was right. There were a lot of unanswered questions. Some of them always would be. Some of them he didn’t know the answer to himself. Secrecy was a mantle he put on centuries ago, back when he and Susan lived in a junk yard in London and tried not to draw attention to their differences. Before then, even, on Gallifrey, as the political situation became more complicated by the day.

Anyway, it was a long time. He had just become used to being a deep, complex person and knowing that even those closest to him hardly ever scratched his surface.

“Doctor?” Alec glanced up at the viewscreen. “Where ARE we exactly?”

“Exactly?” The Doctor grinned. “Do you want that in binary, machine code, metric or imperial measurement?”

“Very funny. I mean… look… THAT is not a normal colour for space.”

“No,” The Doctor admitted. “It’s not.”

The space – and they clearly WERE in space - seemed to be going through the colour changes of an evening sunset. There were reds, oranges, russet browns, bright yellow….

“It’s very beautiful, whatever it is,” Jasmin said. “But what is it, Doctor?”

“I don’t know. It almost feels as if we’re entering a completely different universe - one with different physical rules.”

“Doctor,” Wyn told him. “Just admit it. “We’re lost. You haven’t a clue. You ARE allowed to be lost and confused like the rest of us.”

“No I’m not,” The Doctor answered her. “I have to be the hero. You lot need to be able to look up to me and depend on me.” The TARDIS engines changed their tempo and he looked at the console with a frown. “Oh? What? Now you’re landing us on a planet without so much as a by your leave? I mean, since WHEN did you decide where we’re going?”

“He’s talking to the TARDIS!” Alec said, shaking his head and laughing at The Doctor’s actions.

“Oi,” The Doctor told him. “Come here and grab that lever and I won’t tell anyone outside of this console room that YOU used to talk to a poster of Led Zeppelin.”

Alec did as he asked. The Doctor winked and added quietly. “And I won’t tell the others you also had long conversations with a Paddington Bear poster in your younger days.”

“It’s only mad when they talk back, Doctor,” Alec replied. Then his attention was taken by the console. All the lights were blinking madly and the time rotor was rising and falling as it should, but it was perfectly clear that The Doctor was NOT in control.

“I don’t know. The TARDIS almost feels as if it’s under remote control pilot. But I’M the only one who could do that.” The Doctor looked at the viewscreen as they materialised. “Something pulled us to this planet. Something – or someone - wants us here.”

“And I suppose there’s no chance it wants to give you a medal and invite us all to a slap up celebratory supper?”

“That would be a first,” The Doctor admitted. “But I’m not banking on it.”

“Well, it looks pretty,” Jasmin said. “Are we going to explore?”

“Course we are,” Wyn replied. “When would we come to a new place and not explore it? The Doctor ALWAYS explores.”

“Am I SO predictable?” he asked, teasingly. “Maybe I ought to let you three explore and I’ll stay in here and run a diagnostic to find out exactly WHY we’re here.”

“What? You’d let us out on a strange planet by ourselves?” Wyn laughed. “Do you think we’re old enough to play out on our own?”

“Yes, come to think of it, why not. I really DO want to get to the bottom of this.”

“He wants to be alone with the TARDIS!” Jasmin said. “A little private time with his first love.”

The Doctor grinned and told them to be nice to any natives they bump into and have a good time then set to work opening up the panels beneath the console. By the time the three of them had found their coats he was knee deep in wiring. He barely heard the door open and close.

Such was his concentration on his work that he hardly noticed three hours passing. He was surprised when he realised. It shook him a little. Time Lords, apart from everything else that made them different from the Humans he kept company with more than any other species, have an innate sense of time and place. He was always aware of the passage of time. He almost never had to look at a clock. His watch told other things than merely time.

So it was strange that he should have passed three hours without being aware of it.

It was as if for those three hours he hadn’t aged.

Maybe…. The half-formed thought was disrupted by a hammering on the TARDIS door. He glanced at the viewscreen and saw it was Alec. He reached for the door opening mechanism and then crossed the floor to hold him up as he stumbled over the threshold.

“I’ve found you,” he cried. “At last.” The Doctor half-carried him to the sofa. He didn’t look badly injured, but every exposed part of his arms and hands and face was covered in scratches and abrasions as if he had been fighting his way through a bramble bush. His t-shirt was filthy and in tatters. He was sweating profusely and his heart was racing madly.

“Where are the others?” he asked, trying to keep the urgency from his voice. He needed to calm Alec and if he seemed to be anxious it would not help. He put his hand on his forehead and gently calmed him. He felt his heart slowing and his breath becoming more regular. But he was aware, too, of fear and grief.

“I don’t know,” Alec said. “I got separated from them two days ago. I’ve been trying to find them or get back to you….”

“Two days?” The Doctor glanced back at the console clock. He lifted Alec’s arm and looked at the time and date on his watch. It showed a difference of nearly forty-six hours. Time in the TARDIS was always confusing when one of his companions came from Earth in 2010 and the others from 2025, and he himself came from a planet that existed outside of regular universal time and had twenty-six hours in the day instead of the twenty-four the others were used to. For clarity the three Humans set their watches to the same time as the TARDIS clock, and that was set to Wyn’s Earth time.

Three hours had passed in the TARDIS. Forty-six hours for Alec.

And yet….

“Alec, may I look deeper?” On his own planet, where telepathy was taught in school along with a subject called psychic ethics, it was considered the height of bad manners to read somebody’s mind without permission. He found it even more important to ask when the subject came from a race that didn’t have the ability. Alec nodded numbly and allowed The Doctor to put his hands either side of his head and reach inside.

“You came to an archway, a grand looking thing across the path you followed. You all three walked through together, but when you came out the other side you were alone.” The Doctor looked to Alec for confirmation. “You turned and went back but the landscape had changed. Both sides of the arch were now a deep, dark, impenetrable forest and you had to cut your way through with a penknife.” Alec went into his pocket and pulled out a multi-purpose pocket knife. All three of the blades were broken and even the bottle opener, corkscrew and strange tool that was supposed to remove stones from horse’s hooves looked chipped and bent as if he had used them as a last resort.

“I thought I’d never be free of it,” Alec said. “When I saw the TARDIS I was so….”

“You’re ok now,” The Doctor assured him. “I suggest you go take a quick shower and get a clean shirt on then grab yourself something to eat and drink. I’m going to take a look at the environmental monitor and see if I can work out where the girls are. Then we’ll decide what to do.”

Alec nodded and went to do as he said. The Doctor watched him thoughtfully. His memories were of two days struggling through that jungle. His physical condition confirmed it.

But his body clock denied it. That innate understanding of time meant that he could tell to a second a person’s age by looking at how old their body thought it was. Alec’s body was swearing on oath that it had only just gone out of the TARDIS for a couple of minutes.

The plot thickened!

And it was thicker still when Alec returned to the console, looking slightly damp from the shower but in a clean shirt and with a can of cola and a sandwich. He stood well back from the console with his snack. The one strictly adhered to TARDIS rule was no liquids near the controls, but he watched as The Doctor studied the data screen on the environmental console carefully and bit the inside of his cheek in puzzlement at the feedback he was getting.

“This place doesn’t exist,” he concluded. “It is not a real place. It does not exist in space and no time actually passes no matter WHAT goes on, no matter what our clocks and watches say. I took three hours running diagnostic checks on the TARDIS and I didn’t feel any time pass. You thought two days had gone by. Your watch agrees. Your body disagrees.”

“So the girls might be ok. They might only be just outside the TARDIS and only gone a few minutes?”

“Or they could have been gone for months,” The Doctor added. “Incidentally, I’m not sure right now how we can get out of here when we find them. The TARDIS needs a point in time and space to begin from. Without one I’ll never get it to accept a co-ordinate.”

“Oh.” Alec took this news philosophically. Maybe it was the way The Doctor broke it in such an after the fact way, but it didn’t seem to worry him as much as what had happened to Jasmin and Wyn. And that was REALLY starting to bother him. Before, he had been too relieved to find the TARDIS. He had HOPED they were already there.

“We’re going to look for them?”

“Yes,” The Doctor said. “But let’s take some precautions.” The Doctor lifted a panel in the floor. Underneath was a sort of general collection of junk that had no particular place elsewhere. He took out a length of washing line, of all things, and an axe. He slung the line around his neck and the axe in his belt. “Ok, let’s go.”

They stepped out of the TARDIS and The Doctor looked around in surprise. He could FEEL the effect even more acutely now - the lack of time passing. Alec couldn’t feel it, of course. Humans wouldn’t. But he was distinctly aware of it, like the biological equivalent of putting a DVD on pause.

“There’s the arch ahead,” Alec said. “When we step through it, we’ll lose the TARDIS.”

“We have to take that chance,” The Doctor said. “I’ve never lost the TARDIS for very long. She and I are inseparable.”

“Yeah, right, Doctor,” Alec grinned and watched as The Doctor unrolled the length of washing line and tied an end of it around his waist and offered the other end to Alec.

“Simple, tried and trusted method of sticking together when we go through,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be so sure, Doctor,” Alec said. “I was holding Jasmin’s hand when we walked through, and then a moment later, she was gone.”

“Well, we’ll see.” The Doctor looked at Alec. “We’ll find her,” he assured him. “I promise you that. We’ll find them both.”

“I believe you,” Alec said. “I know I was sort of questioning about you earlier. But really… I do believe in you.”

“Well, of course you do,” he answered with a grin. “Come on then…” He stepped forward. Alec was beside him and he was only a little surprised when he reached and grasped his hand.

As they stepped under the arch, though, The Doctor felt his grip slacken and when he looked around Alec wasn’t with him. He pulled the rope and found the end of it but no Alec.

“I thought that might happen,” he sighed.

“Doctor!” Alec yelled as he found the end of his piece of rope. He looked around and was at least relieved to see he wasn’t in the forest again. But where WAS he?

“Hello!” A familiar voice raised his hopes and he turned and saw Wyn sitting on the edge of a jetty that jutted out into a rather beautiful lake. She had a fishing rod in her hands, which totally surprised him. “There’s nothing else to eat around here. It's a good job I like fish.”

“How long have you been here?” Alec asked.

“I’ve always lived here,” Wyn answered. “It’s a nice place. I just wish there was something other than fish to eat. It never rains, either. You know, I’m sure there is a place… I’ve been somewhere else once… and it rained there. And it didn’t have Orcaions.”

“What’s an Orcaion?” Alec asked, although in fact that wasn’t his most pressing question.

“That is,” Wyn said as something with tentacles rose up out of the otherwise placid water. Wyn grabbed a heavy club that lay beside her on the jetty and whacked the tentacles until the thing gave up and dived down under the surface again.

“There’ll be no chance of any more fish now,” she sighed and stood up, picking up a basket where there were already four brown fish. “Come on then,” she said. “If you want dinner, you’ll have to say hello to Roo.”

Alec followed her along a narrow path that came, presently, to a group of mud and thatch huts with very low doors. Wyn ducked inside one of the huts. Alec followed her.

“This is Mak and Roo,” she said, introducing the two occupants of the hut. Alec nodded politely at what he would describe as pygmies. They were no more than three feet high but perfectly proportioned humanoids with open, friendly faces. “I stay with them. They don’t charge rent as long as I catch plenty of fish. They’re a nice couple.” She gave Roo the basket of fish and she took them and skilfully filleted them before cooking them on a stove in the corner of the room. Within a short time she was serving them to them all with some kind of green vegetable. Alec didn’t like to ask what it was. It was hardly polite to question food that was offered willingly.

“We can’t stay here though,” he said as they ate. “We have to try to get back to The Doctor.”

“What Doctor?” Wyn asked. “Nobody’s sick around here.”

“Wyn?” Alec reached out and took her hand. “Wyn, can’t you remember? Sure, Roo and Mak are lovely people. But they’re not your people. You don’t come from here. This planet… it’s weird in some way. And I think it’s caught you up in it. Try to remember. The Doctor. The TARDIS. Earth, your home. You have a mum and dad and brothers. You hate them. Your brothers, I mean. You love your mum and dad. And you love The Doctor. He’s your best friend. And…” He thought for a minute. “Rain. Yes. Rain. Think of the rain, Wyn. Think of walking to school in it, getting soaking wet.”

“Fed up because dad owns three cars and he won’t drive me to school. He says he walked to school as a kid and just because we’ve got pots of money doesn’t mean we have to be flash.”

“That’s right. That’s it.”

“Rain?” Mak said. “What is rain? Tell me about it.”

“I can’t,” Wyn said. “I don’t have time. I forgot…” She looked at her native friends then she looked at Alec. “How come I forgot everything except the rain? The Doctor, the TARDIS. How could I forget them? And yet I remember RAIN?”

“I don’t know,” Alec said. “But you remember now?”

“I remember I’ve NEVER liked fish.”

“Do you know how long you’ve been here? Or how long you THINK you’ve been here?”

“It seems like ages. Must be a year at least. That means… Oh no. My time with The Doctor will be used up. I’ll have to go home. It’s not fair - stuck here in this boring place catching fish and bashing Orcaions every day.”

“The Doctor says that this place is outside of time. However long we’re here no time passes in reality and we don’t age. So that’s the good news. The bad news is this place is really weird and I don’t know how we get back to the TARDIS. But we have to try. Wyn, let’s get away from here before we both forget who we are.”

“We should do the washing up first,” she said and Alec thought there was something in her eyes that made him think she was forgetting again.

“Nuts to the washing up,” he said, grabbing her up from the seat. “Mak, Roo, nice meeting you. Great fish, great… green stuff. I still don’t want to know what it is, but Wyn and I have to go. Can you point us to the road out of here?”

“The way out is up,” Mak said. “Goodbye, Wyn. Goodbye friend.”

“The way out is up?” Alec looked around as they came out of the pygmy hut. His eye stopped on the sheer mountain side that rose up behind the village. He could swear it wasn’t there before. This place WAS weird.

But halfway up it, on a sort of plateau, was a blue box that didn’t belong to this planet. It looked the size of a thimble from there, but it WAS, definitely, the TARDIS.

“First jungle, now mountain climbing,” Alec groaned. “Come on, Wyn, we’ve got a long haul ahead of us.”

Jasmin was getting scared. The house had looked nice from the outside - the sort of house where nice, normal people might live. But it didn’t look like ANYONE lived in it, and she couldn’t get out again.

She looked at the window once. Outside there was nothing but a sort of wall, pressed right up against the window. Somebody had built a wall around the house while she was inside. The windows wouldn’t open. The door just came to a dead end.

It covered the roof, too. She had gone up to the attic and tried the skylight, but there was a wall across THAT, too.

She was trying to work out how long it would be until the air ran out. It seemed to be okay so far, but there had to be a limit. A few hours? A few days? She didn’t know.

And then there were the rooms. They were weird. She had been lost in the library for hours - not because it was a big library, but because it just didn’t seem possible to get out of it.

She came into it in the usual way - from the landing on the second floor. She was a bit tired by that time, having run around all over the house looking for windows that didn’t have a wall in front of them. There was a big armchair that looked comfortable. She sat in it. It WAS comfortable. She let herself relax for a little while, then a little while longer. It was too cosy to move just yet.

“Are you all right, Wyn?” Alec called out as he edged around the narrow part of the mountain path. He kept his eyes looking straight ahead. He wasn’t going to do anything so dumb as to look down, and up was no better. He moved sideways a little more, then a little more. Wyn edged along after him. She was doing her best not to whimper. She was scared. Alec was scared too. The down he didn’t want to look at was terminal. If either of them fell there was no hope for them.

“I don’t want to die here,” Wyn whispered, despite herself. “I don’t want to die here.”

“We’re not going to die here,” Alec assured her. “We’re nearly there. The path widens again in a few more steps. Keep on going.”

“I wish The Doctor was here,” Wyn said.

“He couldn’t help us much,” Alec told her. “He’d be stuck here, too.”

“I bet he wouldn’t be,” Wyn answered. “I bet he’d think of something.”

“He’s got a bigger piece of this washing line than me,” Alec said. “He could tie us all together… so if one falls, we all fall.”

“Don’t talk about falling.”

“I’m nearly there. Just… one…more…step. Here… Wyn… take my hand.” He reached back around the jutting rock that had caused them so much trouble. A hand grasped his, but he was pretty sure it wasn’t Wyn’s. It was way too hairy. He looked around and saw what looked like an orang utan climbing down the rock face.

Which struck him as odd in so many ways.

Orang Utans didn’t DO mountain climbing for one thing.

It grinned at him and chattered in Orang Utan, and then let go of his hand and carried on climbing down the mountain. He watched it dumbfounded.

“Never mind the bloody monkey,” Wyn’s voice complained. “Give me a hand.”

“Sorry,” he said, reaching for her and helping her over the last few steps to the relative safety of the marginally wider path up the sheer side of a high mountain. “But you don’t see that sort of thing every day.”

“Should have asked it if it had a spare rope and some crampons it wasn’t using,” Wyn said.

“I don’t speak Orang Utan,” Alec pointed out. “Or I would have done.”

“Are we going to wake up in a minute and find this was all a really weird dream?”

“Just this planet, or all of it… The Doctor and everything?”

“Just this planet,” Wyn said. “The Doctor isn’t a dream. He’s the most real thing in the universe.” She looked up. The blue box looked about the size of a toy police box for five inch action figures to call the police in now. “Besides, there’s the TARDIS.”

“Yes, but isn’t that just part of the dream? What if….”

“Do you think the side of an Orang Utan infested mountain is the place to discuss the psychology of dreams?”

“Here’s my card, come see me in my office any time,” said the eminent psycho-analyst Carl Jung as he sauntered past, apparently not at all worried about the precipitous path ahead of him.

Wyn looked at the card and tore it into very small pieces.

“The Doctor says you’re a fraud and so is your mate Freud,” Wyn shouted after him.

“This has to be a dream.”

“Have you ever actually dreamt about mountain climbing monkeys and long dead psycho-analysts and people-eating tentacle things?”

“No, but I have had ones about having to fight my way out of an impenetrable forest and climb impossibly high mountains and I’ve done both today.”

“This isn’t just us living our dreams though,” Wyn said. “Because none of this has been in any dream I ever had. It sort of reminds me of a book I read once - one of those fantasy ones. Not a very good one. I never actually finished it. But now I’m thinking straight the pygmy guys sort of remind me of it.”

“Well, this mountain is real enough. And…” He looked up at the TARDIS. It was closer now. He was glad of that. He’d wondered if it was going to be a mirage that never got any closer and just teased them to the top of the mountain only to disappoint. He thought he might just start to go completely nuts if that happened, but so far the TARDIS looked wonderfully real and solid and it was the one thing keeping him going.

Jasmin woke up from her nap, feeling slightly fuzzy as she always did when she slept in the afternoon. If it WAS afternoon. She glanced at the horrible walled off window and sighed. Better try to find some way out, she thought. She stood up and went to the door. She opened it and stepped through.

Into the library.


She turned around and opened the door and looked.

The door led to the library again.

“Oh, come on!” She groaned. “I don’t want to play fun house. I just want to go back to the TARDIS.”

She walked through the door and this time left it open. She looked from one library to the other. She stepped from one to the other. They WERE identical. Except….

She picked a book from the shelf. It was in mirror writing.

So this was not the real room that she first came into, because she knew that had ordinary books in it. She had looked at a couple of them. They were mostly fantasy novels - the usual stuff: Tolkein, Lewis, Pratchett, and some guy called Rousse who she’d never heard of, whose stories seemed to be pale imitations of all the others. She wasn’t even particularly interested in GOOD fantasy stories. She wasn’t bothered about bad ones.

She did wonder if this was Rousse’s own library, since there seemed to be a LOT of his books in there.

One of them was on the table by the chair. She picked it up and opened it randomly and read a paragraph.

It was about a girl stuck in a weird house with no way out and where doors led into the same room time and time again and sometimes the room was reversed like a mirror. She spent so long running from one room to the next that when she stopped and looked in a mirror she had aged twenty years.

“What a load of rubbish,” Jasmin said and dropped the book. Even so, she glanced at the mirror over the fireplace. She was reassured by the young, fresh face that looked back at her.

And something else, too. She turned around and wondered why she hadn’t seen it before.

There was another door from the library.

It was hard to spot because it was in a dark corner between two of the big built in shelves. But it was a door.

She closed her eyes as she went to wrench it open. She dreaded seeing another library inside.

The Doctor was tired. He’d hacked his way through the forest for what might have been hours or days, but was probably only a few minutes. His body clock still felt like it was stopped.

So was that a good thing or a bad thing? He wondered.

Bad, because it wasn’t normal. Even in the TARDIS, zipping through time and space, time, actual time, passed. He’d lived several centuries in it, and despite external appearance he had certainly aged a thousand years.

Aging, time passing, was normal even for a Time Lord.

There was light ahead. He could see it. He hacked once more and came out of the forest. He stepped into the clearing and stared at what he found there.

Wyn and Alec reached the plateau. For a moment they just stopped and stared at the TARDIS and thought it was the most beautiful thing in the world.

They hardly noticed the man sitting dejectedly by the door until he spoke to them.

“Hello,” he said. “Can you help me? Do you know how to open that box?”

“Course I do,” Wyn said, taking the key chain from around her neck and putting the key in the lock. One hundred and eighty degrees clockwise. Ninety degrees anti-clockwise. Any other combination, The Doctor had told her, caused the lock to shut down and set off a very loud, penetrating and irritating alarm in HIS head. She didn’t want either thing to happen so she was very careful to get it right.

“Come on in then, if you’re coming,” she said to the man. He scrambled to his feet and followed her and Alec inside the TARDIS.

It looked like shell, or some kind of limestone accretion over what he guessed was a house underneath. He stepped closer and touched it. Yes, it definitely looked like something that had grown up around the house and then hardened.

He raised his axe and hit it. It cracked with a very satisfactory noise. He hit it again and a piece broke off. The shell was only about an inch thick and very brittle. It wouldn’t take long to uncover the front door.

“Damien Rousse?” Alec looked at the man. “That’s you?”

“Yes,” he said. “I’m… I’m a writer.”

“Yeah, I think I’ve heard of you. You write some sort of fantasy fiction - a sort of sub-standard Pratchett imitation.”

“He must be after my time,” Wyn said. “I’ve never heard of him. But who cares. What’s he doing here? And where’s The Doctor and Jasmin?”

Jasmin opened her eyes and was relieved to see she was out of the library at least. This room seemed to be a playroom. It was full of toys, the sort of toys found in an old fashioned nursery, a big spotted rocking horse and a nearly lifesize clown and a dolls house and puppet theatre. There was a table in the middle of the room and she looked and saw a half-made jigsaw puzzle on it.

The picture was of the very room she was standing in. The rocking horse and clown were both nearly completed, so was the dolls house. She could even see part of the library through the door along the completed straight edge.

There was nothing for it but to put the rest of the pieces in place. She did so with a touch of fear. It was the oldest urban myth in the universe – somebody making up a jigsaw which was a picture of themselves making up a jigsaw and there was a piece missing and the piece showed a monster at the window or a mad axeman in the room or something horrible.

That seemed to be to plan so far. The jigsaw showed a perfectly clear picture of a pretty Asian girl with long black hair, bent over a table making up a jigsaw.

And there WAS a piece missing. It was the piece that showed what was behind her.

She didn’t dare turn around. She could HEAR the sound of somebody breaking down doors with what had to be an axe, but she couldn’t move. She was frozen with fear.

She waited as the footsteps drew closer.

She froze in fear, waiting for the axe to cleave her skull in two with a brief moment of pain and then oblivion.

The Doctor stepped beside her and dropped the final piece of the jigsaw in place.

“Silly story isn’t it,” he said. “The only people who could possibly be scared of it are college students around a campfire telling ghost stories.” She looked at the picture and it had changed, quite improbably, to a picture of the two of them standing together in the sudden sunshine as the shell completely shattered and the house was free at last.

“It took me a while to find you,” he said. “But you knew I would.”

“Course I did,” she said. “I knew I could depend on you. And… Oh… Doctor… Look.” She looked out of the sunlit window and saw, some little distance from the house, standing on the edge of a cliff she didn’t remember seeing before…

“The TARDIS!” The Doctor laughed. “Home.”

“Doctor!” As soon as he stepped through the TARDIS door Wyn ran to hug him. “Oh, you have no idea what we’ve all been through. I got stuck in this place full of pygmies and fish and tentacle monsters and then we had to climb a mountain full of monkeys and psycho-analysts and…”

“Yes, we’ve all had rather an odd time of it,” The Doctor said with a smile. He saw Jasmin and Alec hugging each other as if it had been a VERY long time. “So who’s your new friend?”

“I think he was lost here, too,” Wyn told him. “He’s called Damien Rousse and he’s a writer.”

“Well, that’s one word for it,” The Doctor said. “Damien Rousse? You went missing in 2026 - vanished from your home, never seen again. I recall hearing about it. It was in the papers. Your books had a brief revival then a rumour went about that you faked your own death for the publicity and it all went downhill again.”

The man nodded miserably. The Doctor looked at him and grinned at his three companions. They all looked attentively at him, recognising the signs that he was about to say something interesting.

“Did I ever tell you lot about the second shortest sci-fi story in the universe?” The Doctor asked them.

“Nine once told me THE shortest one,” Wyn said. “The last man on Earth was sitting alone in his room when there was a knock on the door.”

“Yeah,” The Doctor grinned. “That’s a good one. But I was thinking of a slightly longer one.” He took a deep breath before reciting it from memory. “A famous writer was sitting at a table with his friends celebrating his award for best sci-fi novel of the year. His friends asked him, “How do you think up such gruesome and terrible monsters all the time? Your detail is so amazing. The aliens are so horrible.” And he said to them, “One day I thought of this planet on the other side of the galaxy, and as I thought of it I felt as if it really existed - that it was there. I decided I would populate it with the most repulsive monsters, creatures that would sicken the stomach to look at them. And again, it felt as if it had come into existence the moment I thought of it. And then, I thought, if I could visit the planet, if I could look like one of the monsters, and walk among them unknown - and suddenly there I was, living as a monster on the planet of my own invention. It was terrifying. Looking at myself in a mirror made me feel sick. And the worst of it was I had no way to escape. I didn’t give myself a way back to my own world.” Then he paused and looked around at his friends. They looked at him and one of them asked. “Go on then, tell us, how DID you get back?” And he smiled quietly and said. “I didn’t. I never did.””

There was a silence for a moment.

“I don’t get it,” Wyn said, and she was speaking for them all. Then her expression changed as she GOT it. “Oh! Ohhhh!”

“Oh… you mean he….”

“I never did,” Alec repeated. He turned and looked at Mr. Rousse. They all did as the reason why The Doctor had given them that parable dawned on them.

“You’ve got a bit of the same trouble, haven’t you, Mr. Rousse,” The Doctor said. “You wrote yourself into your own story and now you can’t get out.”

“And neither can we,” Jasmin murmured.

“I’ve tried. Every way I can. I’ve been stuck here for years. I’m… I’m lucky to be alive. Those CREATURES.”

“I thought the little pygmy guys were sweet,” Wyn said. “But the Orcaions….”

“The Orang Utan was very polite,” Alec admitted. Jasmin murmured something about a library and a jigsaw puzzle.

“I can’t say I enjoyed it much,” The Doctor said. “All that thrashing my way through dense forests, bit too much like the prince charming trying to find sleeping beauty kind of thing.”

“So, ok,” Alec said. “He got himself stuck in his own book. But how did WE get here?”

“I… that was my fault,” Rousse said. “I was… I thought if I could bring a real hero into this world… And the only REAL hero I know of is The Doctor.”

“What do you mean, know?” The Doctor asked suspiciously.

“You’re on the internet,” he said. “The hero who saved the world from alien invasion so many times. I have read all about you. You’re… you’re the one person I knew would be able to help us. So I wrote about your ship… the TARDIS… arriving here.”

“And you sucked us into your insane fantasy!” Alec looked angry but The Doctor put a restraining arm on him.

“What made you think I could help?”

“You’re the hero.”

“Yes, but you trapped me here with you. You didn’t think it through. My TARDIS can’t get away from here because this place only exists in your imagination and I don’t have a co-ordinate for the inside of your head.”

“The TARDIS won’t start?” Jasmin looked worried. “Oh, Doctor. Please. I know nothing really hurt us, apart from the tentacle things Wyn was talking about. But really this place is horrible. I want to get away. I want… I want to go home… to Earth. I don’t care what century, or what country. But I want to go home where doors lead into the next room.”

“What can I do?” Rousse moaned. “I’m sorry. I thought The Doctor would have the answer. He always has the answer.”

“You got us here by writing it down?” Alec said. “You wrote it and the TARDIS got taken off its course and landed us all here?”

“Yes,” he said. “I ran out of paper ages ago, but I wrote it in the sand down on the beach. The tide washed it away, of course. But once it was written….”

“So… if you wrote something down… it would happen?” Wyn asked.

“Well… here on this planet, it does,” he said. “I think so.”

“Ok,” The Doctor said. “That’s our solution then. Pull up a chair. Word processor….”

There were no chairs, in fact. The Doctor always stood at the console. But there WAS a functioning word processor. Rousse stood before it and looked at The Doctor.

“Type this,” he told him. And Rousse began to type as The Doctor dictated to him. “The Doctor moved to the navigation console and typed in the co-ordinate of Rousse’s study in his house in Surrey where he was last seen, because The Doctor had realised that Rousse never went ANYWHERE. He had been trapped in his own books, in his study. Therefore they were ALL still in his study. And because he knew that he could get them out of this strange place, this fictional place where time and space didn’t exist.” As he spoke, as Rousse typed, he went to the Navigation console and set the co-ordinate.

Everyone held their breath as the time rotor began to rise and fall and the familiar sound of the TARDIS dematerialising was heard. They hardly dared breathe again until they saw the TARDIS materialise, a few minutes later, in a rather untidy study in a suburban house on Earth, in the spring of the year 2026.

“My house!” Rousse cried. “I’m home.” He ran to the door. It didn’t open. He looked around.

"Before I open the door….” The Doctor began. “What you do with your life is your own business. But you mixed us up in it. It seems like no matter what I do I can’t get rid of my name off the internet. There will always be people making things up about me. But I want your word that you will NEVER write one single word on paper, word-processor, sand, in the soap bubbles in your bath even, about me or my friends or my ship. I don’t intend to get stuck in one of your weird fantasies again.”

“You… have my word,” he said. “I… I’m giving up writing anyway. I… I’ll get a proper job. You won’t hear from me ever again.”

“Ok, then.” The Doctor reached for the door opening lever. “Saves me the trouble of wiping your memory. Goodbye, Mr. Rousse.”

“Goodbye, Doctor,” Rousse said. “And… and to your friends. I am… I’m sorry for the trouble.”

“Go on,” The Doctor told him. “Before I change my mind about wiping your memory.”

Rousse ran for it. The Doctor closed the door and turned to his friends. “Jasmin, Alec, 2026 is only a year after you left the planet. Do you want to get off here? If you think you’ve seen enough of my weird world.”

“I don’t mind YOUR weird world,” Alec told him. “I’m not ready to jump ship yet.”

“Me neither,” Jasmin told him. “But I would like to visit somewhere on Earth next. How about a bit of time travel?”

“No problem,” The Doctor answered as he reached for the time co-ordinator. “Backwards or forwards? Your choice.”