Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

This was obviously one of those strange unexpected spots the TARDIS brought them to from time to time. Even The Doctor was not entirely sure where they were. But the atmosphere was breathable and there were no obvious hazards, so there was no reason not to look.

They stepped out of the TARDIS and looked around. Rose’s first thought was that it looked like the neatest airport terminal in the universe. It was so very CLEAN and white and sterile.

Her second thought wiped all others from her mind.

“Daddy.…” she cried and ran to the man who stood waiting. He smiled and embraced her.

“What?” the Doctor exclaimed, and then his face paled in shock. “Julia….”

“Chrístõ, my love.” The woman he had loved as a young man, his wife, the mother of his son, his own Julia, reached out and took him by his two hands as he battled with the impossibility of the situation. “Don’t ask why or how,” she told him. “Just hold me.”

He did, and it felt wonderful. She looked as she did when they were first married, a beautiful twenty-three year old Human woman with long dark hair and eyes of the deepest brown, almost black, against a clear porcelain skin. He had fallen in love with that face more than seven hundred years ago. She had died in his arms six and a half centuries ago.

And yet this WAS her. She felt right, she smelt right – he remembered the perfume she always wore, a delicate rose-based scent that triggered remembrances of the rose gardens where they had courted.

“My Julia,” he murmured. “My own Julia. Oh, I’ve missed you.” He didn’t know how or why, but she was in his arms and that was enough for him.

“Lets go to our special place,” she said and his hearts sobbed with joy at the idea.

Jack stared at his two travelling companions and tried to make sense of it all. He heard their side of the conversations, and he understood that some deep emotional turmoil was involved. But they were talking to, interacting with, empty air.

And then he was alone.

She had often imagined it as a little girl - walking along the promenade at Brighton, hand in hand with her daddy, the sea breeze in her face, just like all the other children with their daddies. She looked at him and he smiled and squeezed her hand and asked her where she would like to go.

“Turbo coaster,” she said, pointing to the roller coaster at the end of the pier. Now she was big enough to go on it, and her daddy was with her. They could enjoy it together.

“Turbo coaster it is, then.”

The Doctor walked with Julia under the bright copper moon of Gallifrey, by the great waterfall that descended the sheer east side of Mount Lœng. There was a narrow path that the daring and deeply in love might traverse, bringing them under the waterfall, to a cave shielded from view by the curtain of water. They climbed together, hand in hand where the path was wide enough. He lifted her over rivulets and small crevices, all of which she protested she could manage perfectly well on her own, but after all, wasn’t it his job to look after her.

Jack looked at the life signs indicator on his wrist. Usually he could locate either of his friends easily but something about this place was interfering with it. The screen was just a jumble of white noise.

Inside the cave behind the falls the air was cool and sweet and they had made it their own when they were first married, a place where they could escape the complex formalities of Gallifreyan life. They had spent many sweet nights there, man and wife, loving each other with every fibre of their beings. He was fairly sure his son was conceived in one of those sweet nights in this cave. It was, very much, their special place, from the time when they were most happy.

Rose climbed into the coaster and her daddy sat beside her, putting his arms protectively around her. Even though the man came and fastened the seat belt it was his arm that made her feel safe as the coaster began to slowly move up and up and up….

Jack went back to the TARDIS. He knew he could not fly it. The TARDIS was symbiotically connected to The Doctor. Nobody else could take it anywhere unless he set it to a pre-formatted co-ordinate for them. But he could operate its data banks and scanners and find out what was happening.

But the scanners were giving him very strange readings.

The coaster had been fun. They had gone on it four times before her daddy had said he couldn’t take any more. But he had taken her on the old fashioned carousel instead, riding side by side on the beautifully painted fairground horses. Now they were walking along again. She held his hand, half afraid to let go. She was sure something terrible would happen if she did.

According to the scanners there were thousands of people all around the TARDIS, but The Doctor’s unique DNA stuck out a mile away. So did Rose, the only pure Earth-born Human in the room. They were both easily identifiable. They were both within a few yards of the TARDIS. He went outside again.

The great cavernous room was empty and silent.

He went back to the console. It told him he was in the midst of a bustling crowd.

He went back outside.

The Doctor stirred in his sleep and pressed himself closer to the warm, soft body beside him. It felt so right. The last few hours had been so wonderful. They had picnicked together behind the waterfall, eating all their favourite foods, drinking wine, letting it affect him just enough to make his brain feel relaxed and untroubled. He had listened in that mellow mood to her soft voice telling him of something he could not remember, but which had made him laugh. He had reached out to her and kissed her as he remembered kissing her so many times before, and finally they had gone hand in hand to the bed of furs and rugs at the back of the cave….

It had been beautiful. As beautiful as it used to be. It all felt right.

But it wasn’t. His eyes opened wide and he looked at the face of his beautiful young wife as his hearts fought against his head. He wanted it to be real. He wanted her to be there with him, still young, still beautiful, still a part of his life. But he remembered her dying. He remembered the last kiss they shared, when she was no longer a young, beautiful girl, but an elderly, white haired woman, her face lined, her bones brittle with age, her eyes the only unchanged part of her. He remembered her eyes looking at him, blessing him for staying by her, for never wavering in his love for her. He had known the moment was coming. He made her last moment a sweet one, enfolded in his arms, his kiss upon her lips. As he kissed her he felt her soul slip away. He laid her down on the bed again and said goodbye. He had said it again as he buried her, their son by his side. And then the two of them had done their best to live their lives without her.

This was definitely the best fun she had had in ages, Rose thought. They had gone for fish and chips for dinner, and then down on the beach, just walking along, with their shoes off, paddling in the water’s edge. Her daddy looked funny with his trousers rolled up. He laughed when she kicked up the spray, wetting them both. It didn’t matter. It was a warm day and they would dry quickly enough. Meanwhile – ice cream - she saw the van on the promenade and he looked in his pocket for change. Off you go, Rose, my sweetheart, he said. Enjoy yourself.

He sat up as he focussed on the truth. Julia was dead. Long dead. He was not Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow aged two hundred years old with his life before him. He was The Doctor, he was nearly a thousand years old and had seen and done much since those beautiful days when he had lain with Julia in the cave behind Mount Lœng Falls.

The woman by his side stirred and opened her eyes. She looked up at him and smiled. “Aren’t you sleepy, Chrístõ?” she asked.

“No, I’m not.” He reached out and touched her face gently. “You look real. You feel real. I WISH you WERE real. But you’re not. I know you’re not. My Julia is dead. I buried her centuries ago on Gallifrey. GALLIFREY is dead. Even her grave is gone. She lives only in my memory. So… who are you?”

“Chrístõ.…” The voice sounded hurt and it was Julia’s voice. It pained him to hear her speak that way. The only time he had been knowingly responsible for hurting her was when she was giving birth to his child. She had willingly accepted that hurt for his sake.

But this wasn’t Julia. Julia was dead.

“Stop it,” he said. “You’re not my wife. She is DEAD. The dead STAY dead. There is no going back. This place doesn’t even exist. This is an illusion and I won’t live in an illusion. Take it away. NOW.”

The cave shimmered around him. Julia – the image of Julia – shimmered. He reached out and touched her. For a moment she felt solid and real, and then he felt her fade beneath his touch and he almost regretted rejecting the illusion. The next moment he was kneeling on a hard, smooth floor alone.

“Doctor!” Jack was suddenly beside him, reaching out his arm to steady him as he stood up from the floor. “Good God, are you all right?”

Jack stared at him. He had never seen The Doctor look as physically ill as he did at that moment. He was pale, his flesh clammy with a cold sweat, his eyes bloodshot and weary. And he was crying. Jack held onto him, sure he would fall over if he let him go.

The Doctor gave a long, slow sigh and rubbed his eyes and then, a moment later, he stood back and looked at Jack. The colour and texture returned to his face, his eyes were as bright as ever and there was no sign of his strange weakened state before.

“How long have I been gone?” he asked.

“About ten minutes. Ten scary minutes, I can tell you.”

“You weren’t affected?”

“Affected by what?” Jack asked.

“I was in an illusion that seemed to last much longer than ten minutes. I was with Julia when she was young and we were happy. It took me in for a while. I wanted it to be real. But then I realised it couldn’t be.” He looked around. “Rose?”

“She’s still missing. Before she vanished… she said.…”

“Daddy.” The Doctor nodded. “She’s with her father. Well, she’s safe I suppose. He wouldn’t hurt her. But….” He went into the TARDIS and Jack showed him the panel which indicated so many life-signs in the silent, empty hall. He could see Rose’s easily enough. He knew her DNA profile as well as his own. But she was invisible or out of phase with them in some way. He turned to Jack. “Why didn’t it affect you?”

“If the illusions are to do with people close to us.…” Jack reasoned it out slowly but surely. “Then they’re onto a loser with me. I’ve never lost anyone close to me. I’ve never BEEN close to anyone. I’m an orphan with no family. I’ve never really loved anyone. There’s nobody in my head they could fix on. You miss Julia. Rose has always longed to spend time with her dad. But I have no longings like that.”

“Yes. That makes sense.” The Doctor walked out into the hall again.

“But it’s WRONG. It’s all wrong. Just because I think of Julia doesn’t mean I am pining for her. She was a beautiful part of my life, but I accepted long ago that she is part of my PAST. Rose is my present and my future. And Julia… if she could see us… she would accept that and be happy for me.”

“And what about Rose?” Jack asked.

“I thought I replaced her daddy in her heart long ago,” The Doctor mused. “At first - when she first came with me - I think that’s how she thought of me - as a replacement for her dad. I looked about the right age and I looked after her the way she wanted her dad to look after her. It wasn’t until after we actually MET her dad that she resolved those issues and let herself see me as… as a man she could offer a woman’s love to. But either way, NEITHER of us are THAT close to the ones we have lost. Whatever it is that happens here - it should not have happened to us.”

“What are you doing?” a voice demanded. The Doctor turned as a tall, slender Humanoid with smooth, silver-grey hairless skin approached them. He was clothed in a silver robe and his expression was calm even though the tone of the question had been accusatory.

“I am The Doctor and I am looking for a friend who has disappeared here.”

“Your friend is perfectly well. She has become one with the Hall of Lost Souls.”

“She?” The Doctor challenged. “How did you know it was a ‘she’ we were looking for? We are being monitored?”

“Of course. We are the caretakers. We take care of all the lost souls. Your companion is happy. You should be happy for her. You have relieved her burden.”

“She didn’t have a burden,” The Doctor responded angrily. “And if she had, I would not have brought her here to relieve it. She knows I can give her anything she needs. Get her out of… of whatever it is you have her in.”

“But that’s impossible, the Caretaker said. “Nobody leaves when they have perfect contentment here.”

“I DID!” The Doctor snapped.

“That’s impossible!”

“I LEFT the illusion you created. Oh, it was perfect. It was beautiful. I COULD have stayed there forever. But I didn’t. It was TOO perfect. And call me a cynical old man, but when you’ve lived as long as I have you get suspicious of perfect. So thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick with the less than perfect reality. But I want Rose with me in it. GET HER BACK.”

“I’m sorry,” the Caretaker said. “But nobody leaves unless they choose to. And nobody.…” He saw The Doctor’s stony glare and flinched. “…Almost nobody… chooses to leave.”


“I cannot,” the Caretaker repeated. “It would be better if you left.”

“I’m not going anywhere without Rose,” The Doctor insisted. “I’m going to get her back. All I want to know from you is - are you going to get in my way of finding her?”

“There is no purpose in your quest.” The Caretaker turned on his heels to leave. The Doctor turned and went back into the TARDIS. He looked at the screen and touched the life-sign he knew was his Rose, as if hoping to make a connection to her that way.

“I know you’re in no danger, Rose,” he whispered. “I’m sure you’re having a beautiful time. But this isn’t right. And I’m coming for you.”

“What are we dealing with here?” Jack asked. “Ghosts?”

“No.” The Doctor remembered the way it had been. It had been a very good illusion but not a ghost. Julia was not a ghost. He knew ghosts existed. They were the fragments of souls that had reason to hang onto a semblance of life, to try to fulfil some objective or to demand justice for a life cut short. But Julia had no reason to do that. She had died peacefully at the end of a happy life and her soul had been at rest for a long, long time. If it hadn’t, he would have known long before now and he would have made sure she found the peace he would wish for her.

“No. The lost souls are not the dead. They’re the living people who have come here looking for a past they can’t let go of. They’ve let go of reality and given themselves up to the fantasy – the recreation of when their loved ones were alive, when things were sweet and good. They all know it’s not real. If they told themselves it isn’t they would wake up and know the truth. But they don’t want to let go. I can understand that. It was hard even for me. It felt so real. And it felt so good to be with her again, to feel the love we shared… to make love to my wife in our special place - it was beautiful. I could have stayed and relived it again and again and never tired of it and never wanted to leave. But it was a lie. I couldn’t live a lie.”

“What if Rose does?” Jack asked.

“She doesn’t,” The Doctor insisted. “I know she doesn’t. Even if she does – we can’t let her. It’s not right. This place… it’s insane. People can’t just give up and live in fantasy. They have to face up to their lives – no matter who or what they have lost.”

“Could you, if you lost Rose?” Jack asked him.

“Yes. I would have to. It would hurt. But our hurts make us what we are as much as our joys. We have to accept them. But I won’t accept that I’m going to lose Rose in this place.”

“Then let’s find her.”

“I am finding her.” The Doctor said. “But I need you. Come here and watch this panel.” Jack did as he asked. He was a little surprised when he felt him touch his forehead. “I’m trying to make a psychic connection with you, Jack. I want you to keep looking at the screen, and I will be able to see what you’re seeing – and know when I’m near her. Are you ok with that?”

“I trust you.” Jack felt The Doctor slip inside his mind. It felt like a streak of silver touching the inside of his head - sharp and unusual but not unpleasant.

The Doctor closed his eyes and tried to look through Jack’s eyes instead. He saw the screen clearly. When he opened his eyes again he could still see it, superimposed on his normal vision like a heads-up computer display. He touched Jack on the shoulder and thanked him, in words. He could have done it telepathically, but he did not want to risk disrupting the visual connection.

The idea worked perfectly. He could see the lifesigns monitor as he walked and he was able to home in on where exactly in the great hall Rose was.

When he judged that he was standing right next to her, he took a deep breath and folded time, stepping into a different phase. He was unsurprised to find, in his slowed and shifted time, the room was full to bursting with people. It was as he had guessed. They were not invisible. They were simply out of phase with “real time”.

The people stood quietly, not talking, not moving very much. But so close together there was barely room to move through them. Rose was almost lost in the press of bodies.

He took her hand.

He looked around and found himself standing on Brighton promenade.

Rose looked at him in surprise.

“Doctor?” she said quietly. “Why are you here?” She looked around at her father.

“It’s a nice dream,” he told her. “But it’s only a dream. Time to wake up, my Rose.”

Rose looked back at The Doctor, then to her father again. She had known it was a dream all along. She knew her father had died when she was a few months old and had never taken her to Brighton or anywhere. But she had wished for it so often, imagined it so vividly, that when it was able to come true she was perfectly willing to suspend her disbelief and enjoy the day out with her daddy to the full.

“But…” She looked down at the Doctor’s hand, firmly holding hers. The Doctor loved her as much as she thought her father would have done, and he was real. He was there for her every day. He was the most special man she had ever known, or hoped to know. And as nice as this day had been, she wanted to be with The Doctor.

“Kiss your daddy goodbye,” he told her, and she was grateful to him for that understanding. She turned and put her arms around her father’s neck and kissed him on the cheek.

“It was a lovely day,” she told him. “Thank you, my daddy.” Then she went to The Doctor. He enfolded her in his arms and kissed her on the forehead.

Brighton dissolved around them, but she hardly noticed. She was in The Doctor’s arms and that was the place she most wanted to be in the whole world.

“He seemed so real,” she said when they were back in the empty hall.

“I know,” The Doctor whispered consolingly. “That’s because, as far as your feelings are concerned, it WAS real. Don’t feel cheated by it. You had a pleasant day out with your father. Store it in your memory as one of the precious times, and don’t regret it for one moment. I know I won’t regret the remembrance of things past that this place gave me. I just refuse to stay in it forever and forget to live.”

“It affected you?” Rose asked. “Where…who….” She shook her head. “No, I guess I shouldn’t ask.”

He brought her by the hand into the TARDIS. He touched Jack on the shoulder and told him it was ok to stop monitoring now, at the same time breaking the telepathic connection with him. Rose looked at the screen in astonishment.

“So many people,” she said. “Can’t we get them out, too?”

“No,” The Doctor sighed, shaking his head sadly. “I don’t think we can. I broke the spell myself by realising that I wanted to be in the present with you and Jack more than I wanted to be in the past with Julia, no matter how nice it was. When offered the choice, you also chose to be with me. But these people have all decided for themselves that a fantasy is better than their real lives. And there is nothing I can say for them to change their minds. Just one thing bothers me….”

He stepped out into the room again and put his fingers to his lips. He gave a piercing whistle. A moment later the Caretaker emerged complaining about the unseemly noise.

“One question,” he said. “Is everyone here because they chose to be, or because they were accidentally sucked into it like we were?”

“You came to this room uninvited,” the Caretaker said. “Your – machine – did not pass through our protocols. Lost Souls come in through our main foyer and give their written pledge that they are here by their free will.”

“Well, there we are then,” The Doctor said. He turned to Rose and Jack. “I can’t interfere with free will. I believe there are thousands of people here who really would be better off facing up to their lives. But it’s not for me to tell them. I can do nothing. Come on, we’re done here.” He put his arms around both his companions and led them back to the TARDIS. The door closed and a moment later it dematerialised, leaving the Hall of Lost Souls and all its endless dreams.