Creatures at an Exposition
Author: Metaldog

Chapter 2
An Appointment with The Doctor

-=Chapter Two=-

Mary couldn't wait to tell her grandparents about how she got a second daddy for her birthday, but I swore her to secrecy as I drove her over to their house.  I knew that she would tell them anyways, but I hoped that they would just think that it was the product of the wild imagination of an eight-year-old girl.  The other me (who had started referring to me as "me the former" and himself as "me the latter") was back at the house.  He said that he was just glad to be home, where nothing weird ever happened.  Well, not until now, that is.  I wanted to sit down with him alone and find out everything I could.

He had been time traveling, but where did he go?  The past?  The future?  Did he know the winning lottery numbers?  And when, supposedly, was I going to leave on this trip through time?  What should I bring with me?  How long would I be gone?  He didn't look any older than me; maybe he had just taken a short trip.  And we were wearing the same clothes, so maybe it was going to happen today?  But we had both agreed that Mary should go ahead and visit my in-laws for the day, because they were already expecting her.  He could answer my questions when I got back.

And there it was, that blue box again.

I drove down the street, dropped Mary off, and drove right back down the street, and there it was on the corner where it hadn't been a few minutes before.  I pulled the car over and parked in front of it.  In the bright sunlight, I could see flaws and cracks in the blue paint, and I reached out to feel its texture.  It was warm, and it seemed to hum.  I stood in front of it and read the little sign on the door: "Police Telephone.  Free for use of public.  Advice and assistance obtainable immediately."  Advice and assistance, that's what I needed.

I pulled open the little door; an antique-looking telephone was mounted to the inside of it.  I picked up the receiver and heard nothing.  I didn't really expect to hear anything on that phone.  But just as I was about to hang it up, I heard a voice.

"'Ello?"

I snatched the receiver back and pressed it to my ear.  "Hello?  Hello?"

"The telephone doesn't work.  Not hooked up to anything, you know."  The voice was behind me.  I turned quickly and my boots shot out from under me on the icy curb.  I swung for a moment on the end of the telephone wire, then sat down heavily in the snow in front of the Police Box.  A man stood over me, the same man I had seen in my hallway just a few hours ago.

"Can I help you with something?" he said, in that slightly confusing British accent.  "You look like you might need some help."

I scrambled to my feet.  "Who are you?" I asked.

"Funny you asking me that.  You're the one messing about with my TARDIS."

"You were in my house last night.  I mean early this morning.  A few hours ago."

"Was I?  Really?  I suppose I'll have a good reason for being there..."

"You were there to drop me off.  And you did.  And he's there right now."

"Ah! ...  OH!  So there's two of you now?  Funny thing, paradox.  I remember one time there were two of me and Peri said... no, wait, it was Tegan... Well, I guess you had to be there.  It was funny at the time." he started to chuckle slightly.  "'Pair-o'-Docs' indeed!  Heh heh..."

"Listen, this is serious.  You're some kind of time traveler, right?  This is your time machine, this Police Box, right?"

"Yes, absolutely.  You want serious, you can have serious.  Or would you rather have Sirius?"

"What?"

"Sirius.  The planet.  Not to be confused with Sirius, the star.  Completely different parts of the Universe, those two.  This thing travels through Space, too.  Time and Relative Dimensions in Space.  TARDIS."  He started to explain the nature of the machine, but I stopped listening.

I sat back down in the snow.  Okay so I found my time traveler, and he's a crackpot.  As he babbled about his time machine I took the time to assess him.  He was pale and skinny, and his clothes didn't quite fit right.  They seemed a bit out of style, too, like he had gotten them from a second-hand store.  And there was something about his eyes...

"Are you an alien?" I suddenly asked, interrupting him in the middle of a sentence.  "Or just from the future?"

He took a second to consider, then answered solemnly, "Both.  Does that scare you?"

"No.  I read a lot of sci-fi."

"Science fiction is mostly nonsensical gobbledygook.  It'll rot your brain."

"So's the real world.  So what do we do now?"

"We?  I know what I'm going to do now."

"What?"

"It's four o'clock.  Tea."

---

Strictly speaking, it wasn't tea time yet.  But I figured that with that accent of his, he probably kept his clocks set to Greenwich Time, so I didn't argue as I followed him into the Police Box.  Well, it wasn't the Emerald City of Oz, but it was significantly larger on the inside, and it looked about as much like "alien from the future" as one could imagine.  At first I thought that it was one big room, but after two cups of tea I needed to find a lavatory, and he opened a door to reveal a gently curving hallway.  "The facilities are the first door on the left.  The kitchen is the second door, if you suddenly feel a compulsion to do dishes or bake some more biscuits."

I opened the first door.  It was a smallish room with a toilet and a sink, both of which seemed to have grown out of the floor.  I opened the second door to find a room twice as large, with a sink overfilled with dirty dishes and a refrigerator that seemed to date back to the 1960's.  There was a triangular table with three mismatched chairs; a teacup with lipstick on the rim sat half-full on a saucer on the table.  I opened the third door to find a room that was half again as large as the kitchen, and the next room was much larger...

"Fibbonacci" I said.

"What's that?" he called out from the main room.

"These rooms remind me of the chambers of the nautilus.  It's a sea creature that grows its shell in accordance with the Fibbonacci sequence of numbers.  Each number is the sum of the previous two numbers.  Each new chamber of the shell is as large as the previous two chambers combined.  And the curving hallway, and all the rooms being on the left..."

He stood in the door of the hallway, looking at me, astonished.  "Of all the people who have ever been in the TARDIS..." he beamed a huge smile that almost scared me with its toothiness, "Bra-VO!  Now where do you suppose the hallway ends?"

"At the largest chamber, obviously.  In a nautilus shell, that would be where the creature lives."

"Which is this room.  The control room.  The hallway loops around and comes out over there." He pointed across the control room to another door that was only barely discernible.

"But..."

"But?" His eyes started to glow in anticipation.

"The hallway doesn't curve enough to come out over there."

"Relative Dimensions.  They say Space isn't curved enough to come out where it does, but it does.  And once your race figures out the why and how of that mystery, you'll be building time machines of your own.  Not as nice as this one, obviously."

"Obviously.  You know, I don't even know your name."

"Nor I yours.  I'm the Doctor."

"They call me Metal."

---

Somehow I found myself elbow-deep in the Doctor's kitchen sink, scrubbing teacups and plates and saucers.  I washed, he dried.  Every piece of china seemed to have come from a different era.  Some of it was probably worth a fortune, but when I asked him about it, the Doctor picked up a filthy platter and showed it to me.

"You see this platter?  Nice, isn't it?  I found it at a yard sale in the year 2555.  Cost me two uber-pesos.  I don't even know what an uber-peso's worth in today's money, but I doubt it's much.  I don't even know what year this is, anyways."

"Twenty ten."

"Eleventy-teen to you too, sir."

"No, the year.  It's Twenty Ten.  Or Two Thousand and Ten, if you prefer.  I like Twenty Ten."

"Ah!"  He scraped the chocolate frosting from the platter, revealing a Presidential Seal.  "This is from his second term.  See the hologram?"  The Doctor wiggled the platter back and forth.  "Looks just like him!"  Then he flipped the platter over and wiggled it some more, "Oh, wait.  This guy wasn't really a President, he just played one on TV, I think."  He flung the platter into a corner.  "See?  Worthless!"

---

"So what kind of name is Metal, anyways?"  We were in one of the medium-sized rooms of the TARDIS, playing pool on an octagonal billiards table with holographic billiard balls.  They were very realistic, but you could only touch them with the cue sticks.

"Not my real name.  My real name's Matthew Schoaff.  Never liked it much.  How about you?  What kind of name is 'The Doctor'?"

"Enough about me, let's talk about you.  You know, 'Schoaff' means 'Thumb' in Glessadomnian.  Glessadomnese.  The Glessadomn language.  Which is fitting, because you're about the size of one."

"A Glessadomn?"

"No, one of their thumbs.  Greatest hitchikers in the galaxy, the Glessadomns.  Why 'Metal'?

"'Metal Dog'.  It's my sign in the chinese zodiac.  So I used it as a screen name for video games.  Got shortened to Metal."

"Metal Dog."

"Yes.  I was born in 1970."

"Your screen name is Metal Dog."

"Yes."

The Doctor jumped up from the stool where he had been sitting.  "Of course!  That's why you've met me!  I'm looking for you!"

I stepped back a bit, but found myself against a wall.  "You're looking for me?"

"Yes, I am.  And you know it."  He suddenly looked very angry, and stood very close to me.  I could feel his breath on my face, and it seemed strangely cold.  I had the feeling he could freeze me with his words while he burned me with his eyes.  Those alien eyes.  "You've been lying to me.  You know exactly who I am, and you're not just the college dropout lorry driver you appear to be.  Who are you?"

---

Now, I'm a lot bigger than the Doctor, and I could probably take him in a fight.  You know, if I really had to.  Really, I could.  He was about my height, but really scrawny and very young.  But he scared me.  So when he told me to go to the control room and sit down, I went to the control room, and I sat down.  He waved something in front of me; it looked like a small flashlight but the light was blue and it made a high-pitched whistling sound.

"What's that?"

"I'll ask the questions around here, mister!  This happens to be the most versatile tool in the universe.  A sonic screwdriver!"  He brandished it like a baton, and stirred the air.

"A screwdriver?"  I was a bit nervous.  I didn't want to be screwdriven.

"Of course!  It wouldn't be much use if it were a sonic hammer, now, would it?  You can't scan bio readings with a sonic hammer.  Now, where was I?"

"Scanning my bio readings with your sonic screwdriver."

"Ah, HA!  How do you know that's what I was doing?"

"Ummmmm.... lucky guess?"

"A lucky guess indeed!"  He stared into my eyes, not blinking.  I didn't blink, either.  A few seconds passed.

"You're not blinking," he said.

"Neither are you.  I thought maybe it was a game."  I blinked.

"Ah, HA!  You blinked!"  He walked away, laughing to himself.  Then he bent over the controls of the TARDIS and poked at a few buttons.  He looked at the screen and frowned, then poked a few more buttons.  Then he poked them again, more vigorously.  Then he hit the control panel and yelled, "Come on, give me something..."  He sighed and turned back to me, "You, sir, are not an alien."

"Well, thank goodness," I said.  "Does that mean I'm free to go?"

"Of course you're free to go!  I never said that you weren't.  But, uh..."

"But?"

"I need your help.  I need to know how you got those pictures."

"Oh!  I found them in somebody's filesharing folder.  But how do you know I downloaded those pictures?"

"You posted them online in a public forum."

"No, I didn't."

"You didn't?"

"Nope.  Not yet, anyways."

"Not even one?"

"Not even one."

"Not yet?"

"Well, I was going to."

"When?"

"Probably today."

"Then I know what I have to do."  He ran over to the controls and furiously punched buttons, leaping about like a frantic monkey.  He pulled a lever, turned a crank, then looked at me and said, "Hold on!"

---

He pushed a button and suddenly my chair was no longer beneath me.  I landed hard on the metal grates that served as a floor.  The room stopped lurching after a few seconds, and as I pulled myself to my feet he bolted out the door.  "Wait here!" he yelled.  So I waited.  I dusted off my parka and found my gloves which had fallen from my pocket.  Then I started to wonder where I had left my hat; it was in the TARDIS somewhere.  Of course, the billiards room!  I went back down the hallway, retrieved my hat, and stepped back into the control room just as the Doctor came running back in from outside.  His shoes were snowy, and he was rubbing his arms to warm up.

"Where'd you go?" I asked.

"Your house.  Last night.  Back yard.  Had to delete those pictures from your hard drive.  Ran into myself, too."

"Weird, isn't it?"  I chuckled.

"Oh, I've done it before.  Just don't touch yourself.  I mean, don't touch your other self.  The release of temporal energy burns a tiny hole in the fabric of the universe."

"Yes, my other self told me."

"And I told him.  Just now."  He looked at me pointedly.

"Of course."

"And while I was in there, I was able to trace the download, and I know where you got those pictures.  Want to come along?"

"Sure, why not?  This is a time machine, so I've got plenty of time, right?"

"Oh, by the way," he said, as he fiddled with the controls, "that bio reading I took of you?  You should quit smoking."  He punched a button and the room lurched again.  This time I was able to catch myself on the railing.  It was kind of like being in a tilt-a-whirl while standing, and that may have been why I felt nauseous.  Or maybe it was the Doctor's words making me nervous.


 

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