Across the Universe

By Jeff Stone

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither blindly as they slip away across the universe...

The Beatles, Across the Universe.

The voice was calling him again.

It's not real, he told himself helplessly. It's not real. Go away, GO AWAY!!!

Go away? Oh, I can't do that, John. Don't be silly.

There it was again! His throat contracted in terror. God help me...

The voice spoke again, through the cloudy blackness. The voice was sexless, devoid of emotion, bereft of humanity. The words echoed in the air like wind in a letterbox. It pushed in on him, like a shroud.

God, John? Come now; since when have you been a religious man?

There was a note of scorn in the statement, as if the voice belonged to an annoyed teacher, scolding a dim-witted pupil.

You have no god, John. No one to pray to. No one can help you. You are mine.

Leave me alone, he pleaded. Tears ran down his cheeks. You're just a-

Just a dream, John? The voice actually laughed at this point.

You don't believe that, do you, John? Of course not.

He gazed around in desperation, searching for somewhere to hide. The voice was drilling a hole in his mind, blotting out his reason, his memory. HELP ME...

You know I'm not a dream, John. Anyway, in a few days, it won't matter. You and your friends will be mine then. No, not long now, is it, John?

The sentence collapsed into a braying laugh. The peals of uncontrollable mirth seemed to bounce off the swirling fog all about him, converging on where he was cringing in terror. He felt the malevolent laugh wash over him, then pull him down, down, down, into a bottomless vortex. He screamed...

Still screaming, John Lennon sat bolt upright in bed, wide awake.

‘Land of hope and glor-y, mother of the freeeeeee...’

Darren ‘DJ’ Johnson cringed for what seemed to be the ninth time in a minute. He gazed across to where the Doctor stood by the TARDIS console, singing that God-awful song. Sighing - this is probably fruitless, you realize, Darren? he told himself - he piped up.

‘Yo, Doc! Put a sock innit, willya?’ This remark had, amazingly, its desired effect - the Doctor ceased singing ‘Land Of Hope and Glory’ and glared at DJ with not a little annoyance. It could not be said that the Doctor, now in his eighth incarnation, was inclined to anger and fits of temper tantrums (something his sixth persona had had some trouble with) but he was still capable of the kind of quiet fury that tended to unnerve most people. He was now employing this technique.

‘You object to my singing, Darren? Mmmm?’ DJ hated being called ‘Darren’; the Doctor detested being called ‘Doc’ just as much. The two friends usually resorted to ‘Name-Calling’ when they argued, and now was no exception.

DJ, after he had swallowed his anger at being called Darren, anxiously searched for an excuse for his impudence. As it happened, a bleeping light on the console came to his rescue, and he pointed to it.

‘No, of course not, Doctor. Your singing is - er - great. I just wanted to draw your attention to that light.’ The Time Lord noticed the urgent beacon at this point, and immediately began tapping at the controls.

DJ got off the couch he had been relaxing on and joined his 967-year-old friend at the console. The Doctor's face was set in concentration, lines of worry creasing his dark-skinned face, while his long fingers danced over numerous touch pads on the control panels.

Once again, DJ was left baffled. The Doctor had changed in almost every way following his last regeneration. He was much taller, he was black, and he had a radically different taste in clothes. But one thing had remained unchanged from when he had been a short, white man, with twinkling eyes and a faint Scots accent. He still had an annoying habit of keeping all the facts to himself, only letting them out very slowly. That had remained the same.

DJ knew that he would never get an answer to his question unless he asked, so he did. ‘Uhh... what's up, Doc?’

‘Are you trying to be funny?’ The Doctor was not in a good mood today.

‘No. I just wanna know what's going on.’

The Time Lord glanced up from the console at this time, and he smiled in a warm way. ‘Of course, forgive me.’ He punched at a few buttons, and a shimmering cylinder of light shot up from the top of the geodesic Time Rotor. Another few buttons and a diagram appeared, floating miraculously inside the light cylinder. The diagram showed a ruler-straight line of light arrowing out of nowhere, finally ending at a gaudily coloured blue-green world that looked maddeningly familiar. Symbols then appeared beside both planet and line. It was presumably Old High Gallifreyan, as DJ could not make head nor tail of it.

‘Very pretty, but what does it mean?’ DJ asked.

The Doctor's face fell slightly - he didn't have many chances to show off the tri-D holoviewer/scanner he had built into the console some time ago, and he had expected a more amazed response. He sighed.

‘What it means, DJ, is that your world is in trouble... again.’ DJ gaped.

‘You mean that's Earth there, on the scanner?’ A nod. ‘So, what's that line?’ The Doctor peered at the data spooling down one of the console monitors. When he had found what he was looking for, he looked up again.

‘That line is a focused beam of energized tachyon particles. We nearly flew through it a minute or two ago, which is why that light went off.’

‘So these tachyons are dangerous, are they?’

The Doctor raised an eyebrow at this somewhat stupid question. ‘I'll say they are! A tachyon particle travels at a speed roughly nine times faster than light. If the TARDIS was hit by a focused beam of them, it'd drill a hole in the hull large enough to fly a supertanker through.’

DJ pursed his lips at this notion. ‘I can't say that I've seen many flying supertankers, but it sounds pretty nasty.’ He smiled. ‘Emergency over now. Let's go somewhere hot and sandy.’ The Doctor shook his head, however.

‘'Fraid not, DJ. I must find out why someone - or something - would want to fire a stream of tachyons at Earth.’ He thought for a moment. ‘I remember reading somewhere that your people were experimenting with tachyons as a form of instantaneous transportation during the 21st Century, but it never got far.’

‘Maybe this is much later, when they've perfected it,’ DJ suggested.

This too the Doctor dismissed. To prove his point, the Time Lord put the TARDIS's present spatial and temporal co-ordinates on the scanner.

‘1967 AD,’ DJ read. He shrugged. ‘That makes it certain.’

The Doctor nodded. He crossed to Panel Three and began programming the TARDIS for a microjump. ‘We're in lunar orbit at the moment; I'll have us down on Earth in a jiffy.’ He loaded the new settings into the flight computer and flicked the dematerialization switch. As the Time Rotor began oscillating, the Doctor suppressed a shudder. That tachyon beam is a transporter all right, he told himself, transmitted from deep space. But, what was it bringing to Earth?

The tabby cat had finally cornered his prey. The grey mouse cowered further back into the crack in the wall, waiting for the inevitable deathblow. But it never came - abruptly, the cat raced off, howling in fear, as an object began solidifying in the alley not two metres from it.

When the TARDIS had properly materialized, the two travellers stepped out into the cool air. It was about six in the evening; DJ could see the sun setting behind a row of tenement buildings in the distance. As he and the Doctor emerged from the alley onto a busy street, he realized just where they were.

‘London,’ DJ breathed reverently. ‘This is London.’

‘Hmm?’ said the Doctor. He had his nose buried in a large hand-held device he was carrying. It consisted of a slim black case, covered in buttons, a small radar-screen-like VDU above the buttons, and an enormous parabolic dish on the end. The strange object was beeping furiously, attracting many a puzzled glance from various passers-by. DJ fended these off by smiling affably, pointing to the Doctor, and mouthing ‘He's a bit mad’ at them.

Two minutes later, the two friends paused outside a fish and chip shop. While DJ ducked inside, the Doctor continued to examine the readings on his device. The tachyon beam's landing point was somewhere near here; the buildings were cluttering the scan, preventing a precise fix. Never mind, it'd-

‘Oi, Coony.’

The Doctor ignored the growling voice that addressed him, thinking that he was not the one being talked to. He did look, when the owner of the voice shoved him harshly. The Time Lord was confronted by a tall, heavily built white man aged about 22. His clothes were dirty and sweat-stained, and the smell of hard liquor seemed to waft from his mouth. Unsure of what to do, the Doctor smiled in a friendly way. ‘Hello. I'm the Do-’

‘Sharrup, Nignog, and bugger off!’ snarled the man, contempt in his piggy eyes. ‘We don't like your lot rahnd here. Gawan, push off, ya nigger bastard.’

A rather gaunt man, dressed in brightly-coloured clothes, gazed up from his bag of chips and observed the tense situation developing on the pavement beside him. He moved to help the Doctor.

The Time Lord, meanwhile, stood his ground, as the drunken young bigot before him grew more and more angry. The lout pulled a rusty knife from his back pocket and threatened the Doctor with it.

‘It you won't go nicely-like, ya bloody golliwog, I'll ‘ave to cut ya!’

Instantly, the Time Lord bent into a defensive crouch, his eyes steady and calm. The Doctor's attacker merely laughed.

‘So you're a little fighter, are ya, Sambo? Righto, you asked for it-’

The man lunged for the Time Lord, but got no further than a few inches. With a speed that astounded everyone watching, the Doctor leapt forward and jabbed the drunkard just below the right ear. Instantly, the man's limbs froze in position. ‘Bloody ‘ell!’ he gasped desperately. ‘I can't move!’

Any further words were lost, as the Doctor spun on his left foot and brought his right up, connecting with the man's chin. Without a sound, the Doctor's former attacker collapsed in a heap, out cold.

A few seconds later, the sizeable crowd that had gathered broke their paralysis of amazement and clustered about the apparently lifeless drunkard.

‘Venusian Aikido,’ the Doctor explained. ‘He'll be fine in a while.’

A tap on his shoulder. The Doctor turned to see the man who had tried to help him, smiling as he did so.

‘Wow, man, that was just amazing!’ said the brightly-clothed stranger.

‘Thanks. Practise makes perfect, I suppose,’ said the Doctor modestly. At that moment, DJ emerged from the shop, brandishing two large bags of chips.

‘Here we are, Doc. I hope you like vineg- heck, what happened here?’ The young time-traveller peered about in bafflement.

‘Never mind about all that,’ the Doctor said, accepting the proffered bag. ‘We must be off, before the signal gets too garbled.’

The Doctor's new friend goggled. ‘Hey, can I like tag along? It sounds like you two are up to something really heavy.’ DJ suppressed a chuckle.

‘Your name isn't Neil, by any chance, is it?’ he said.

The man looked puzzled. ‘No, it's Julian. Julian Mace.’

He shook hands with both of them. The Doctor introduced himself and DJ.

‘DJ? As in Disk Jockey?’ Julian asked in amazement.

‘No,’ was DJ's only response. The Doctor, munching away, decided it was time to be off. He indicated that DJ should lead.

‘Pleased to meet you, Julian. Sure, tag along; the more, the merrier. You lead, DJ - the signal's coming from somewhere over there.’ The Doctor indicated the direction, and the three of them moved off into the dusk.

‘It's called a Sony Discman,’ DJ explained, handing the small machine to Julian. The two of them were temporarily alone, as the Doctor had gone on ahead to verify the tachyon beam's landing point.

Mystified, the hippy turned the Discman over and over in his hands. ‘Like what does it do, man?’

‘It plays music. See - I'll show you.’ DJ attached the machine's headphones and gave them to Julian. When he had them in his ears, DJ pushed Play.

For a few minutes, the young hippy sat entranced, listening to the music. When the song ended he removed the headphones and said in a sombre voice: ‘DJ... that was the heaviest thing I've ever heard. What is it?’

‘Pet Shop Boys,’ said DJ. ‘One of their earlier ones. Released in ‘88...’ He realized Julian could have no idea what he was talking about, so he gazed ahead. ‘Ah - here comes the Doctor.’

Presently, the Doctor joined them on the steps they were sitting on. He looked excited. ‘The signal,’ he panted. ‘I've nailed it down.’

He pointed to a tall apartment block some distance away. ‘The tachyon beam's landing point is situated in the top floor of that building. Let's go.’

They moved off and about three minutes later, they arrived at the building in question. All three of them gazed skywards and noticed that a strange reddish glow was hovering over the roof of the apartment block.

‘Wow, man. What in hell is it?’ Julian breathed.

‘Charged particles, my dear Julian,’ the Doctor answered. ‘The tachyon beam causes friction in the air, hence the glow. So, any more questions?’

‘Will America win the Vietnam War?’ Julian asked.

‘No. Come on.’ Still utterly baffled, the hippy followed DJ and his strange friend into the foyer of the building. One lift-ride later, they stood at the front door of the penthouse flat. The trio could hear the sound of music, laughter and conversation wafting out. DJ frowned.

‘Are you sure this is the right place, Doc? They sound pretty happy in there.’

The Doctor, by way of answer, showed his friend the readings on his scanner. ‘The power levels are off the scale. This is the place, all right.’

‘What now, then?’ enquired Julian, tugging on his wispy beard. ‘Do we knock?’

‘Yeah,’ said DJ, an evil grin on his face. ‘Let's gate-crash.’

‘Sometimes I worry about you, DJ...’ The Doctor shrugged and knocked smartly on the door. Some time later, it was opened, letting the loud sounds and strange smells within come out. DJ nearly had a cardiac arrest when he saw who had opened the door.

Paul McCartney peered blearily at the three of them, swaying from side to side as if he was at sea. ‘Yeah?’ he managed to croak.

As Julian and DJ were both standing stock-still, their mouths open in amazement, the Doctor decided to do the talking.

‘Hey man!’ he said brightly. ‘I hope we aren't late!’ Despite his strange behaviour, McCartney frowned in suspicion.

‘Who invited you guys?’ he asked. The Doctor thought quickly.

‘Ah... Jimmy said it was OK.’ Who was it that had said there's always a Jimmy at every party? thought the Doctor. Nevertheless, it worked - McCartney nodded and waved them in. ‘Fair enough, man. Come on in.’

Five minutes later, the three of them were sitting in the spacious lounge of the apartment, surrounded by some of the greatest musicians in history.

All four Beatles were present, as were various members of the Rolling Stones and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Jimi himself, sadly, was absent, which made DJ slightly annoyed, but he soon got to talking with Jim Morrison of The Doors about, of all things, skateboards.

The air was full of marijuana smoke, and several sheets of what looked suspiciously like LSD were on the coffee table. DJ and the Doctor both refused the offered joints and hence had to sit around while everyone else sunk further into a drug-induced oblivion. Jim Morrison had wandered off the topic of skateboards and was staring at the ceiling, giggling loudly, when the Doctor came over and gestured that he wanted to talk to DJ. The two of them left the lounge and talked in the hallway.

‘This is bloody amazing, Doc!’ DJ babbled. ‘The Beatles! The greatest band ever! I've died and gone to heaven!!’

The Doctor was not as excited. He grasped both of DJ's shoulders and stared him in the face. ‘Something very bad is going to happen,’ he said simply.

‘What do you mean?’ Suddenly, DJ remembered and clapped his hand to his head. ‘It must be all that dope smoke. I forgot about the tachyon beam! What's happening about that?’ The Doctor looked blank.

‘I'm not sure, DJ. I just know that something's going to occur eventually. I took readings in the lounge - the tachyon field is increasing in strength steadily. Something is going to happen soon, I'm sure of it!’

DJ mulled over this news. He was anxious to return to the lounge and start collecting autographs, but the real reason for their coming here took priority. ‘Perhaps whatever it is that's sending the beam is getting ready to beam himself... or herself... or itself here,’ he suggested. The Doctor gave a nod of agreement. He crossed his arms in frustration.

‘It's a terrible situation, DJ,’ he said. ‘For all we know, whoever's sending that beam may be friendly.’

‘Or it might want to destroy the world!’

‘Precisely. It's the uncertainty that's so annoying. Well, good or evil, all we can do is wait. Wait for something to happen.’

When they returned to the lounge, things were very jovial. Ringo Starr came up to DJ and gave him a pint of lager. ‘Here, get that down yer,’ he said, smiling.

Knowing the Doctor would go bananas if he caught him drinking alcohol, DJ took the drink with a weak grin. ‘Ta, Ringo,’ he said.

‘Are you influencing our impressionable youth, Ringo?’ John Lennon called from the other side of the room. Everyone laughed, and conversation started up once again. Finishing his beer, DJ joined Julian and the Doctor, who were talking to the Beatles.

‘...and these dreams persist?’ the Doctor asked.

John Lennon nodded. ‘Yeah, and it's always the same thing,’ said the famous musician. He described his dreams to the time-travellers, Julian and the other Beatles. He recalled the voice, the rolling mist, the words the voice had said. When he had finished, DJ glanced at the Doctor. If it was possible for a black man to be as white as a sheet, the Doctor definitely was. His face was covered in a rictus of terror. Julian noticed the Time Lord's fear too.

‘Hey, Doc. You okay?’ The Doctor did not reply for a second. All the Beatles, apart from Ringo, had got up and moved to another part of the room, and only when they had left did the Doctor speak.

‘On my world,’ he said in a low voice (Ringo and Julian frowned in bafflement) ‘there is a very old legend about a being called the Vahgol. In my language, ‘Vahgol’ means ‘tormentor of the soul’. Legend has it that the Vahgol came to Gallifrey long before I was born and created a reign of terror that no one has ever forgotten. The Vahgol, I'm told, took control of a person's mind when his or her mental defences were down. Like the Mara, this usually occurred during sleep.’

The others were staggered by all this. Ringo looked at DJ. ‘Is your friend... er...’ Gauging the Beatle's gist, DJ shook his head.

‘Oh no. He's not mad. If he says it's happened, it has. Though, I know it's hard to believe. Would you believe me if I told you I was born in 1974?’

Ringo had no time to answer - the Doctor continued his story.

‘As I remember, the Vahgol's victims experienced dreams like the ones John has been having - shortly before they succumbed and became a mindless automaton, a slave to the Vahgol's will. The dream manifested itself five times, then the Vahgol itself actually transposed its life-energy into the victim.’

Julian stared at the joint he was holding in his hand, wondering if all this was just a really weird trip-out. He doubted it.

DJ's face went white. ‘John said that he'd had that dream five times just before!’ he said. ‘So that means that that beam's-’

‘A carrier wave for the Vahgol's life source!’ the Doctor finished in a panicked voice. He glanced at the sensor. It was still off the dial, and was heading into the overload region. Both his hearts nearly stopped.

‘It's happening,’ he whispered. ‘It's happening now.’

It rode the winds of time.

How long it had been doing this, it did not know. It did not know or care.

All it knew and cared about was the feeling. The feeling of total freedom, to be able to go anywhere, anytime... it had drifted across the Universe for aeons, caressed by the winds of a million suns. It had seen planets being born in the fiery bosom of its mother sun... it had seen them die too, obliterated by the last dying breath of their parent. It had lain in the arms of a nebula, watching the cosmic storms rage about it.

It had seen so much. But it still wasn't enough. It had searched for a new game to play... it had found one.

Many of the worlds he - it had no sex, but it considered itself to be masculine - were inhabited by incredibly primitive animal organisms, that possessed some modicum of intelligence. He had found that entering the minds of the organisms and tormenting them was enormously gratifying. He experienced an almost orgasmic joy at watching a mind crumble and splinter in his hands.

This feeling refused to diminish and before too long (ten or eleven thousand years, give or take a century) the beauties of the cosmos around it no longer held any interest. He had found his reason for existence at last.

He plunged down the corridor in Time and Space that he had created for himself, towards a planet that intrigued him. The civilization that existed on this planet was just the right type for his latest game.

The game had taken some time to prepare, but now all was ready. At last!

He no longer cared about riding the winds of time...

It had fallen silent in the lounge now. The only sound was a rhythmic pulsing hum that seemed to pervade every molecule of the room. The sound was so loud...

DJ and Julian were scared out of their mind, and sat rock-still on the floor. Ringo, who was used to weird occurrences, was peering about in bafflement, wondering why the air seemed to be turning red.

The drummer walked over to his fellow Beatles. They were apparently asleep and nothing Ringo did could awake them. He glanced at the Doctor. ‘Hey, you're a Doctor, aren't you? C'mere - my mates are in a bloody coma!’

The Doctor, who had been trying to analyse the air temperature with yet another device, came over and examined George Harrison first, checking his eyes and muscle position. He than looked the other two over. After this, he stood up and rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

Ringo, who was getting pretty distraught, yelled out. ‘Well? What's wrong with them?’

The Doctor peered at the drummer. ‘I'm not sure, Ringo. It looks like they're in some sort of cataleptic trance - how it's induced, I've no idea.’ By this time, DJ and Julian had joined the Doctor and Ringo in the examination of the other party guests.

‘They're all out to it, Doctor,’ DJ reported, after checking under Keith Moon's eyelids. ‘It has to be the Vahgol.’ The walls now seemed to be pulsating in and out, like an obscene lung. The Doctor nodded sagely.

‘An astute observation, my dear DJ.’ The Time Lord's face betrayed more genuine fear and trepidation than his voice - his mind was working overtime.

Meanwhile Julian made a fairly obvious discovery on the coffee table around which the three comatose Beatles lay. He held up a large sheet of blotter paper for the Doctor's inspection. The paper was covered with about fifty identical heart shapes. Paper, impregnated with ink containing LSD.

‘It isn't that Vahgol, man. They're tripping out.’

The Doctor's eyes widened as he realized something. Grabbing the blotter paper, he tore off five of the heart shapes and handed them around.

DJ stared at his heart with a mixture of puzzlement and not a little apprehension. He had a sneaking suspicion as to why he had been given it. ‘Umm... Doc? What's this for?’

The Doctor looked up from his heart-shape. ‘Don't ask questions - eat it.’

DJ had been expecting this answer, but he was outraged nonetheless. ‘Say what? You want me to take LSD? No way, man!’

Ringo and Julian frowned - they too were baffled as to why the Doctor was suggesting they take drugs when their friends were getting their minds taken over by aliens. The room was beginning to rock under their feet.

The Doctor sighed heavily - explanation time again. ‘Your friends are now under the power of the Vahgol. Their mental barriers were obliterated by the LSD they've just taken.’

‘Where's the Vahgol, then? I thought you said-’ Ringo began.

The Doctor cut him off. ‘I know. I was wrong. The Vahgol's opened a link between its own environment and here - Paul, John and the others, or rather their minds, are on the other side of the link.’

‘And what good,’ demanded DJ, ‘will us tripping out do?’ The Doctor had an answer for this one as well.

‘You want to save the others, don't you? Of course you do. The only way that we can defeat the Vahgol is to fight it in its own world.’

‘And we have to take LSD to get there,’ concluded Ringo, who was still utterly baffled by all that was happening.

‘Precisely. Our minds will become receptive to the Vahgol's signal, as it were, and in seconds, we'll be there.’

DJ didn't like the sound of ‘there’, and he was still very reluctant to take the LSD. But, if it was to save the greatest musicians of the Twentieth Century from death, it had to be done. The living room was taking on new and strange shapes around him, as the tachyon beam warped the atomic structure of the walls and the furnishings. Abruptly, DJ stuffed the innocent-looking piece of paper in his mouth and sucked on it. A taste resembling lemons coated his tongue, but nothing else happened.

DJ watched as the others took their LSD. For a couple of seconds, everyone stood there awkwardly. Nothing was happening!

‘Is that it?’ asked DJ in disappointment. ‘Bit of an anticlimacccccc...’ Further words suddenly became impossible, as DJ felt his head turn inside out. The Doctor turned into a green apple before his eyes. Terror-stricken, DJ blundered about, as everything went crazy around him. The sofa became a cow, the lamp a snake with five heads. And just when that seemed to be it, DJ felt the world explode around him in a blaze of colour.

He screamed as the bottom fell out of the Universe...

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

The Beatles, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

DJ awoke to feel water lapping at his feet.

Opening his eyes, the young time-traveller sat up and gazed around. He was lying on a riverbank. All around him, the world was a blaze of colour - the grass was a vivid blue, the water deepest green, and the sky... oh, God, the sky! The sky was a shifting, shimmering orange colour. Clouds the hue of quicksilver scudded across it in endless succession.

DJ was in a forest of colour - trees of every shade imaginable stood only a few metres away. The boy knew that this was not his world; it probably wasn't even real. All he was certain of, however, was that he had never been anywhere so beautiful. I never want to leave here, he caught himself thinking.

Then he remembered where he was, and why he was here. The Vahgol lived in this incredible world, and it had to be stopped. How could something as evil as the thing the Doctor had described inhabit such a lovely place?

Another thought struck him - where were the others? He looked around - he was totally alone. He called out.

‘Doctor! Julian! RINGO!!’ His voice seemed to carry forever across the rainbow-coloured forest, but he received no answering call. Well, Darren, he told himself, you'll have to go find ‘em...

‘Hello, DJ.’ DJ whirled at the sound of his name to face a stranger. The being that faced him was human in appearance, a girl.

But not your run-of-the-mill girl - a girl with skin the colour of the sky back on Earth; a girl with forest-green hair; a girl more beautiful than any girl DJ had ever seen; a girl with glittering silver eyes.

For once, DJ was lost for words - he merely gaped and croaked, ‘Hi...’

‘You have come at last, DJ,’ the girl said in a reverent voice. She stepped forward and took DJ's hand in hers. Her skin was warm, humanlike.

The young time-traveller had not expected the girl to appear. He did not expect her to know his name. His disbelief faded suddenly, to be replaced by surprise, as the girl moved closer and kissed him full on the lips.

It was turning out to be an interesting day after all...

‘Knowing him, he's probably gone after the Vahgol himself,’ the Doctor observed dryly. He, Ringo and Julian had woken to find themselves deep in the prismatic forest and now they were fighting their way through it, in search of both DJ and the Vahgol.

Ringo had seen some really strange things when he'd taken drugs before, but this, he concluded, took the proverbial cake. ‘Are we really on another planet?’

‘Yes and no, Ringo,’ the Doctor answered. ‘Yes, we are several light-decades from Earth; no, we're not on another planet.’

This made no sense to Julian. The hippy pushed a purple creeper the size of his arm aside and asked the obvious. ‘Then, where the hell are we, man?’

The Time Lord thought for a second, searching for a reply that his human companions would understand. ‘We are in what we Time Lords call an a causal temporal continuum embolism - a pocket of unreality in the Time/Space Vortex.’

‘Where the hell are we?’ Julian repeated. The Doctor scowled.

‘Ho, ho, very funny. Keep moving.’ The trio pressed on through the forest until they emerged onto yet another incredible sight.

The three of them were standing at the base of a mountain that seemed to stretch into infinity above them. At the top of the imposing peak there stood a castle. Apparently carved out of the face of the mountain itself, the castle's spires clawed at the prismatic sky like a massive granite beast.

‘Don't tell me - that's our destination,’ Ringo said glumly.

The Time Lord smiled. ‘C'mon Ringo! Where's your sense of adventure?’

‘It got left behind on Earth.’

‘Tsk, tsk. What about you, Julian?’ The hippy shrugged non-committedly.

‘Hey man, I'll go anywhere, as long as it gets us home. This place gives me the heebie-jeebies, know what I mean?’

It didn't take an intellect as large as the Doctor's to figure out that his two friends were less than enthusiastic about things in general at the present moment. The Time Lord wasn't keen about climbing the mountain and facing the Vahgol himself. But, nothing ventured...

‘Well, lads,’ he said, ‘the Vahgol has to be stopped, your friends have to be saved, we have to find DJ, and we have to get back to Earth when we've done all of that. To do all of that, we must climb this mountain. Let's go.’

So saying, the Doctor strode off across the field of grass they were standing in, heading for the still distant mountains. Shrugging, Ringo and Julian brought up the rear.

Approximately thirty kilometres to the northwest of where the Doctor was, DJ and the girl he had met were trudging down the main street of a village. The duo paused for a rest on the steps of a regal-looking colonnaded temple - they had been walking for a very long time.

DJ tossed a chunk of rock he had picked up from hand to hand as he surveyed the scene around them. The village's buildings were of an unearthly design - they seemed to flow and change shape as one watched them. When they were stable, they assumed shapes that made the most surreal M.C. Escher lithograph look like a picture in a child's colouring book.

What made the village so strange, though, was the total lack of life; the streets were empty, as were all of the houses DJ peered into on his way through the weird town. Where the hell was everyone?

‘Galia,’ DJ asked, ‘you still haven't answered my questions.’ The girl, whose name was indeed Galia, ceased her examination of a shattered pot and directed her dazzling gaze on the young time-traveller.

‘What exactly do you want to know, my love?’ she countered simply. DJ winced at the last two words - ever since they had met, Galia had apparently fallen head over heels in love with him. She hung on his every word, worshipped the ground he stood on. This was no false sentiment; the girl was genuinely infatuated with him. It didn't help matters that DJ found himself feeling something for her as well. He cleared his throat.

‘Well, for starters, how did you know my name, and that I'd come to this world?’

Galia smiled. ‘Your coming was prophesized, my love. The legends of my people tell of a young man from another universe arriving to end our misery. We have awaited you for centuries, DJ.’ The incredible girl took his hand again and sighed. ‘I am the only one of my people left to await your arrival.’

This alarmed DJ. ‘Th-the only one? What does that mean?’

The girl swept a hand around, drawing his attention to the deserted village. ‘This was my home. The home of my people. For countless years, we lived in peace. Then the Unspeakable one came...’ Her face showed pain. DJ clasped her blue-skinned hand in moral support.

‘The Vahgol?’ DJ guessed. Galia nodded sadly.

‘The High Priests of your temple,’ (DJ goggled internally - he was a god here, for Pete's sake!) ‘believed that this was your Coming at last. But they were all so wrong, so very wrong...’ Galia broke down at this point, but over time, DJ gleaned the whole tale: the Vahgol had turned Galia's world into his personal lair, enslaving the populace and turning them into horrific creatures. For some inexplicable reason, the Vahgol had allowed some of the people to live in relative peace, in the village the two of them were standing in now. This had been the status quo for nigh on eight hundred years. It appeared DJ had arrived too late - four days ago, the Vahgol's servants had captured or killed everyone in the village. Only Galia, a handmaiden of the temple to D'zhe (as he was known to them) had escaped.

DJ stood up, an uncharacteristic fury filling his body. His mind screamed to avenge Galia's people... his destiny was truly assured. He looked at Galia.

‘Galia, my love,’ he said with genuine warmth, ‘it looks as if I was meant to come here. So, I must fulfil my destiny. Take me to the Vahgol.’

Bowing reverentially, Galia led the way out of the village. Far ahead loomed the mountain. On the way out of the village, DJ saw the remnants of a massive stone statue. At the base of the statue, what looked suspiciously like a three-metre long granite replica of one of his favourite skateboards lay.

DJ laughed. What a world...

The Doctor, Julian and Ringo, meanwhile, had made it to the summit of the mountain and were now gazing up at the ominous black walls of the Vahgol's castle. It had not been an easy journey, by any stretch of the imagination; an no less than eight separate occasions, they had had to take cover as one of their Nemesis's patrols clambered up the mountain past them. They were amazing troops - hideously warped parodies of people and objects from Earth and a dozen worlds. The strangest of all the beasts that the trio saw was a thing that resembled a rocking horse with human features.

But all that was academic now - they had made it. Up closer, the Vahgol's den looked no less terrifying than from a distance. Ringo half expected bats to come fluttering out of the towers at any moment.

‘Right, we've seen it up close. Let's go, man,’ said Julian, turning to go. He was not surprised when the Doctor grabbed him by the jacket lapels.

‘Oi, you! You aren't going anywhere. I need both of you when we're in there, if I'm to have any chance of defeating the Vahgol.’

And thus it was with ever-growing reluctance that Ringo and Julian followed the apparently fearless Time Lord across the drawbridge and into the castle.

Ringo rolled his eyes - the castle's doorway would have to resemble an open maw...

The interior of the castle was, if that was possible, worse than the exterior. Blood-red moss and slime virtually covered every surface, and the very air had an edge of malice - a palpable sense of unclouded evil.

So far, the trio had not encountered any opposition, which struck the Doctor as being very strange. Unless this was what the Vahgol wanted...

After some time, the three friends emerged from the warren of dank passages into an echoing banquet hall. The chamber measured about sixty metres long and about twenty metres wide. The walls were covered in paintings and elaborate murals, priceless-looking chandeliers hung from the vaulted wooden ceiling, and the floor was of the finest polished teak. The massive banquet table that ran down the centre of the room was also of rich, dark wood, and was laden with delicious food. Ringo's stomach growled in sympathy - he'd had nothing but a ham sandwich to eat since breakfast, and he was damned hungry.

‘Quite a feast,’ the Doctor observed. ‘It seems we were expected, gentlemen.’

Julian, who was examining the paintings, suddenly gaped. ‘Doc! Check this out!’

Curious, the Doctor and Ringo joined the shocked hippy. Julian's distress soon became explainable - the paintings were of souls in torment and of general suffering. Each one showed a different hideous aspect.

‘God Almighty, this Vahgol can't have a good blood cell in his body,’ Ringo breathed incredulously. The Doctor snorted ironically.

‘If he had any blood, that is, Ringo. Our friend the Vahgol is composed of pure energy in a phased state. Intelligent light, you might say.’

Ringo looked puzzled, then moved towards the banquet table in search of a snack. Espying a fat chicken and asparagus roll, the hungry Beatle stretched his hand out. Instantly, without a sound, the mouth-watering food was replaced by platter upon platter of human flesh and body parts. There also appeared steaming tureens filled to the brim with hot blood. Ringo, understandably, screamed.

The other two turned at the sound. ‘Hey, what's wrong - GORDON BLEEDIN' BENNET!’ Julian cowered at the horrifying sight, while the Doctor merely gaped.

‘It's an illusion,’ he told himself. ‘It isn't real!’

Real or not, it was definitely disgusting; the Doctor felt nauseous. But his illness faded as he watched the double doors at the other end of the hall swing open. Seconds later, more of the travesties that the trio had seen while climbing the mountain filed into the room and took up positions around the banquet table. Among the prospective diners were Ringo's fellow Beatles.

‘Paul! John! George! What the hell are you doing?’ Ringo yelled. The three musicians, apparently oblivious to Ringo's impassioned plea, sat down at their places. The feast was about to begin...

‘Give me a boost up, Galia,’ urged DJ. The girl dutifully complied, giving DJ the added height he needed to gain entry to one of the castle's lower windows. Once he was inside, he helped Galia up - the girl was surprisingly light, so it was not a difficult task.

Climbing the mountain had been easy, too - the two of them had used a goat- track known only to Galia to scale the tall peak. They too had come across members of the Vahgol's retinue; DJ had had to fight one of the rocking-horse creatures when it came across them. It had not been an easy battle, as the cuts on DJ's arms and legs testified.

‘Which way now?’ DJ thought aloud. Both ways along the passage they were presently in looked equally uninviting; dark, damp, gloomy and mysterious. Galia shrugged, so DJ flipped a coin. ‘Heads... that way.’

DJ pointed down the eastwards passage, and the two of them set off.

It had fallen silent in the banquet hall - all the ‘guests' were seated before the grisly food, but nothing happened for almost a full five minutes. The Doctor had tried to revive Ringo's friends from their comas, snapping his fingers in front of their staring, unseeing eyes and the like, but to no avail.

‘I can't wake them up. We'll probably have to get them out of the cas...’

The Time Lord's words froze in his throat as two lavishly dressed humanoids strode through the doors and took up positions on either side of them. The colourful duo then raised ornate brass horns to their lips and blew a series of discordant notes. The trio clapped their hands to their ears, in an attempt to blot the awful racket out.

The musical torment was mercifully short-lived; the buglers ceased their blowing and blissful silence descended once more. This too did not last - yet another humanoid strode out, drew himself up to his full height, and declared in a loud, braying voice:

‘If it may please my lords and ladies of the court, I present to you our beloved ruler, the Mighty One!’ Abruptly, all present burst into peals of joyous applause. The Doctor peered at John Lennon - his face remained utterly blank and expressionless. The other guests were no different. The Time Lord marvelled at the complete control the Vahgol had over his subjects; he was at once amazed and appalled by this show of absolute power.

The discordant music started up again, this time with a more triumphant tone. The applause increased in intensity, and it was into this storm of noise that the Vahgol walked.

Ringo and Julian had expected the Vahgol to be a twelve-foot tall red demon with nine heads or something equally horrifying; what they got, and what the Doctor expected, was quite different.

Their arch foe was a man, nothing more, nothing less. The Vahgol stood at the head of the table, surveying the scene, allowing the puzzled trio to get a good look at him. He was about 35, with dark brown hair and pale white skin. His eyes were a watery blue, and seemed to be perched over a hawkish, sharply pointed nose and full, red lips. The Vahgol was not particularly heavy-set, nor was he thin or reedy. In short, their enemy was wholly unremarkable in every possible way. Even his clothes were nondescript - a tight-fitting one-piece leather jumpsuit, fastened with brass studs across the torso. The Vahgol, apparently unaware of the Doctor and his friends, spread his arms expansively.

‘Friends,’ he announced in a clear, accentless voice that suggested neither good nor evil, ‘you do me honour to attend my humble feast. You have all been our loyal subjects for a long time, and we value this.’ The Doctor noted that the Vahgol had trouble deciding whether or not to use the Royal We. The Vahgol continued. ‘And tonight, dear comrades, the fulfilment of our venture is close at hand. Before we dine, I have the inestimable pleasure of welcoming three new followers!’

The applause began again as the Vahgol pointed straight at the Doctor and his two companions.

‘Welcome, Time Lord. Would you care to dine with us?’

Things were not going well for DJ and Galia. It was proving impossible to get anywhere in the castle without running into some kind of peril or danger, be it wandering patrols, booby traps, or seemingly endless maze-like corridors. They had surmounted each new threat to their safety with remarkable courage, but they were becoming exhausted and there was still no sign of the Doctor and the others. They hid behind a staircase to collect their thoughts.

‘It's no good. We must've searched every square centimetre of this place. The Doctor can't have made it here yet.’ Galia sympathised with DJ - she could sense that he had a great deal of affection for the one called Doctor. (He looked up to him as a son did to a father; she could tell this from his words.) The girl tried to look encouraging.

‘You must not give up hope, DJ. We have a holy quest to perform.’ DJ knew this to be true, and he took in a deep breath before speaking.

‘You're right, Galia. I must face the Vahgol on my own. In the Doctor's name.’ DJ prayed that his Time Lord friend was still alive, and had not succumbed to the Vahgol's power. God, if it came to that...

‘I will help you, my love; you are never alone.’ DJ and Galia smiled at one another, and bent forward to kiss when the Doctor's voice filtered, seemingly, out of nowhere. DJ immediately got to his feet.

‘It's the Doctor!’ he exclaimed. ‘He's alive. Quick - before we lose his voice!’

The two of them raced off down the corridor, following the sound of the Time Lord's voice. We're coming, Doc...

All eyes were on the Doctor, who stood at the opposite end of the table to the Vahgol. A tense situation developed.

‘Not hungry, Doctor?’ the Vahgol mocked.

‘Not for this food.’

‘Well then. That's easily changed.’ The Vahgol waved his hand, and the grisly feast vanished, to be replaced by the food the trio had seen when they came in.

‘Illusion, my dear Time Lord. But the question is, which is the illusion, and which is reality? Is anything really real in this world?’ The Vahgol laughed and fixed his gaze on the terrified Ringo.

‘Ah, Mr Starr! How nice of you to come. As you can see, I have your friends here with me. I must say, they are a nice bunch of lads... when they saw my way of thinking, that is. You, Mr Starr, are largely superfluous - I only really wanted the three I have now. But, four is better than three.’

Galia and DJ had reached a small door, from behind which the two of them could hear the Vahgol's speech. DJ opened the door slightly and peered in. His relief at seeing the Doctor again was incredible.

The Doctor walked over to where the Vahgol stood and faced him at close quarters. ‘If the legends of my people have any basis in truth,’ he said, ‘then this ‘venture’ of yours can only be an evil one. I must and will stop you!’

The Vahgol looked almost hurt. ‘Oh, come now, Doctor! You haven't even heard what it is yet. Grant me that, at least!’ The Time Lord frowned.

‘I'm listening, Vahgol, though I don't know why.’

The Doctor's enemy raised an eyebrow. ‘Huh! The impudence of it! Very well. I shall tell you. I believe that you are aware that Mr Starr and his friends are very well known and popular on their planet of origin.’

‘Of course I do. They're the Beatles.’

‘Precisely. They are probably the most popular musicians in the history of the Earth, and it is this that I aim to exploit.’

‘How, precisely?’

The Vahgol had a twinkle in his eye as he replied. ‘Ah-hah! That is the interesting bit of my little game. You see, in the 1980's period of their planet's time-cycle, a few of their scientists discovered that the mind could be programmed, as it were, by subliminal messages. That is, messages that are encoded in such a way that only the subconscious can under-’

‘Yes, I'm familiar with the concept,’ the Doctor butted in. ‘Tell on.’

The Vahgol looked annoyed at being interrupted but continued regardless. ‘As I was saying, the human mind is very susceptible to these messages, especially those that are back-masked.’

The Doctor was beginning to guess the Vahgol's plan - back-masking was the act of putting a message of some kind into the melody track of a song, in such a way that only the subconscious mind would understand and interpret the message - and be controlled by its words. Normally, the message itself could only be discerned by the conscious mind if the song was either played backwards or at a different speed. It was a little-used technique, as it apparently didn't work.

‘But what have the Beatles got to do with it?’

‘In a few months, Doctor, they will finish recording what will become their most famous LP. And, by bringing them here and converting them to my way of thinking, I will make sure that several of the songs on the LP contain subliminal messages of my own creation. Very special ones.’

Ringo was shocked by this news, as were the Doctor, Julian, and DJ. Galia, who was ignorant of such things as LPs and back-masking, merely felt confused.

‘What messages?’ the Doctor demanded, not expecting an answer. To his surprise, he got one.

‘Messages that call on the listener to join my cause, Time Lord. Messages that will turn the listener into my slave. Messages that will destroy civilization as they know it.’ The Vahgol smiled. ‘The humans will not know that as they play the LP, they are about to wipe themselves out.’

‘But why, for God's sake?’ Ringo exclaimed in terror. ‘Why?’

The Doctor stared with undisguised contempt at the Vahgol. ‘Boredom, Ringo. The Vahgol's existence is so utterly empty, his life so pointless, that he only feels a sense of worth when he is sentencing a race to death.’

The Vahgol smiled, then dealt the Doctor a savage blow across the face with the back of his gloved hand. The blow catapulted the Time Lord across the hall like a rag doll, until he hit a wall and crumpled in a heap on the ground. Julian rushed to help him, but the Doctor was not badly hurt. His nose bloodied and broken, the Time Lord got to his feet.

‘You see what I mean, Ringo?’ he said sadly. ‘The Vahgol only feels alive when he is causing misery and death.’ The Time Lord's eyes condemned the Vahgol. ‘Your world is nothing but an interesting plaything to him.’

The Vahgol's eyes were blazing. ‘Exactly, you primitive garbage! The Earth and all who live on it are mine to do what I will with. Just as the inhabitants of a million worlds were before it.’ He sneered. ‘Do you really think that your pathetic little planet is any different or more important that any of the other worlds I have crushed between my fingers?’

‘Yes, you bastard!’ a voice rang out. The Doctor and his friends whirled as DJ, the owner of the voice, and Galia entered the room.

‘DJ - Rassilon's Star, I'm glad to see you!’ the Doctor said in relief.

DJ smiled back. ‘Likewise, Doc.’ He stared at the Vahgol and put his hands on his hips. ‘Vahgol, I have come to destroy you.’

‘Have you gone nuts?’ Julian demanded. But there was no madness in DJ's eyes - all the Doctor could see was determination. The young time-traveller marched up to the Vahgol and pushed the Doctor away.

‘What on Earth is going on?’ the Doctor asked.

‘This is my fight, Doctor,’ DJ declared. The Vahgol laughed out loud.

‘This is my fight,’ he mocked. ‘A child... a child dares to defy me? You would let a child do your dirty work, Time Lord?’

DJ's face looked savage. ‘Don't you dare mock the Doctor! I choose to defy you. He has nothing to do with it!’ DJ was putting on a front of bravado - he was petrified with terror inside. What in hell could he do against the Vahgol, for the love of God? He had no plan, no recourse, nothing!

He decided to keep bluffing, until an idea presented itself. ‘The people of this world have prophesized my arrival for centuries. It is foretold that I shall defeat you.’ Again the Vahgol laughed.

‘Well, then, my brave warrior! Fight me. As you can see, I'm unarmed.’

This was true - DJ saw no weapons. But the Vahgol looked quite strong, and there was no telling what tricks the bastard had up his sleeve. It was then that DJ heard Galia's voice in his head. He goggled as the girl's words echoed in his mind. Do not be afraid, my love, the voice said. The Unspeakable one has many deceptions at his disposal, but I will help you.

DJ shot a glance at Galia. She smiled and nodded at him. The young time-traveller sighed, and turned to face the Vahgol.

‘Defend yourself, then,’ he declared. The Doctor tried to intervene, but the Vahgol swatted him away again. The Time Lord hit the wall, out cold.

‘You scum,’ DJ snarled, and jumped at the Vahgol. They struggled momentarily, then DJ jumped back in terror; the Vahgol had changed into a huge snake with eight heads! The serpent hissed malevolently at the horrified boy, and it was all DJ could do to avoid the striking heads.

Galia, seeing her love in danger, closed her eyes and concentrated. In seconds, DJ had transmuted into an identical snake. The two monsters entered battle, coiling around one another and biting viciously.

The titanic clash continued for nearly twenty minutes. Ringo and Julian watched in awe as the Vahgol changed into a new and more terrifying beast, only to be faced by its twin. Galia's face was showing the strain of matching the Vahgol's creations - her forehead was lined, and sweat streamed down her beautiful face. The Doctor, meanwhile, was wavering in and out of consciousness; he was suffering from mild concussion.

DJ and the Vahgol were in the shape of Minotaurs as the fight entered its twenty-third minute. Neither seemed to have the upper hand, but suddenly the Vahgol made a lightning move, goring the DJ-Minotaur with his horns severely. Blood gushed from a wound in the DJ-Minotaur's chest, and within seconds, the illusion faded. DJ, his white T-shirt stained crimson, lay at the Vahgol's feet, near death. Galia screamed in anguish.

The Vahgol, his eyes alight with triumph, kicked DJ's heaving body mockingly. ‘Quite a fight, you worm. I underestimated you.’ He directed his gaze at Galia. ‘Your precious Saviour is vanquished, you slut. Your prophecy was nothing more than words.’ He laughed spitefully. ‘You will never defeat me. No-one can defeat me.’ He laughed again, but this time he didn't stop; he laughed and laughed...

Galia's rage grew like a festering abscess. She became blind with livid fury towards the murderer of her love and the destroyer of her world and so many others. As her anger rose, a glowing white aura sprang up, covering her body with an incandescent white light. Without thinking, she ran forward, screaming like a demented banshee.

‘MURDERER!!!’ she shrieked, ramming into the startled Vahgol. Her glowing fingers clasped around her enemy's neck and she squeezed with insane power. Taken completely off-guard, the Vahgol could only gurgle helplessly as the grip tightened. Eventually, he lost control over his appearance, and reverted to his true form - a pulsing blob of red light. Galia's light mixed with the Vahgol's until they were indistinguishable.

Ringo helped the Doctor to his feet, and they joined Julian in watching the tableau. Without warning, the shimmering form exploded, sending a blastwave screaming through the room.

When the Doctor felt the noise and light fade away, he looked up to survey the scene. The blob of light was gone - only Galia remained. She stood in the centre of the room, looking serenely calm. All around her was chaos; every stick of furniture had been smashed to matchwood, and rubble was everywhere. The dinner guests had regained control of their minds at last, and they were presently looking around in bafflement.

The Doctor shuffled over to where Galia stood. She smiled at him.

‘It is over, Doctor. The Vahgol is no more. My people are avenged, as are all those who have suffered and died at his hands.’

Nodding, the Doctor gazed about. ‘The prophecy was wrong. You are the Saviour of your people, not DJ.’ Galia admitted this with a nod.

‘I could not have done it without him, though, Doctor. He weakened the Vahgol enough for my powers to be unleashed. All is clear to me now.’ She rushed to DJ's side immediately after she said this. The boy was delirious with pain and he was still losing blood rapidly. Julian dabbed at his damp forehead with his psychedelic T-shirt; it was all he could do. Galia touched the hippy's shoulder. Julian looked up into Galia's angelically glimmering face.

‘Heavy, man,’ Julian breathed. The girl knelt by DJ and placed her hands on his deep chest wound, closing her eyes as she did so. Julian gaped in alarm. ‘Hey, man! What are you doing?’

The Doctor restrained Julian before he could do anything. ‘Relax, Julian. I think I know what she's trying to do.’

The Doctor was right - he and Julian watched as Galia's glow suffused itself over DJ. The wound in his side closed up in seconds and colour returned to the boy's pallid features. Abruptly, he sat up.

‘Galia!’ he cried, then his voice died. Galia was beside him, no longer glowing. Indeed, she looked drawn and on the point of death herself. ‘The Vahgol... you saved me...’ DJ breathed. Galia beamed weakly.

‘The prophecy was a little incorrect, but it worked out for the best.’ She faltered; DJ supported her. Galia and DJ stared at each other; he knew what was happening. Galia's actions against the Vahgol and her saving of him had drained all of her life-force.

‘Don't die,’ DJ pleaded. ‘You mean so much to me...’ But Galia was shaking her head. She kissed her love one last time.

‘Remember me, my love,’ she whispered. Every second, she grew weaker. ‘I may die now, but I will live in your heart forever... I... love...’

She never finished her sentence. Exhaling heavily, she collapsed into DJ's arms. For two full minutes, he held her. Then he cried, more than he had ever cried before. The Doctor could only place a consoling hand on the boy's shoulder as he wept the tears of a thousand lost worlds.

‘I have no idea what happened, and I don't want to know, but thanks.’ John Lennon shook hands with the Doctor, DJ and Julian in turn, and clapped Ringo on the back. DJ managed a shaky smile.

The four Beatles, Julian and the two time-travellers were standing in the room where all the past events had happened. The Doctor had managed to return all of the Vahgol's minions to their proper worlds and timezones, and now it was time to say goodbye.

Paul McCartney smiled at them. ‘I can't remember much, but what I can recall has given me some great ideas for songs. Ta for the tips, DJ.’ He frowned in thought. ‘What did you say that song was called, again?’

‘It's called ‘Hey, Jude’.’ Believe me, Paul. You follow my tips and you'll have a hit on your hands.’ The Doctor stepped forward to cut the conversation short. He shook hands with everyone again.

‘Well, we must be off, before DJ gives too much away about the future,’ he said brightly. ‘Places to go, things to do...’

George Harrison nodded in understanding and showed them to the door.

Two minutes later, the two travellers were alone again, heading back towards the TARDIS. The Time Lord gazed at DJ. His young friend was still very upset and sad - who could blame him? He felt responsible for Galia's death, but he couldn't bring himself to admit it.

‘I should have tried harder,’ he said. The Doctor put his arm around his shoulder and gave him a reproving look.

‘You did your best. That's all Galia expected of you. That's all anyone should expect of anyone else. You know that.’

DJ nodded reluctantly. ‘Will the memory always hurt, Doctor?’

‘No, of course not. In time, the only memory of her that you'll have is the one she'd want you to have - a girl with kaleidoscope eyes, that will love you forever.’ Abruptly, the Time Lord changed tack.

‘How does a trip to Antrosia grab you? I hear the skating's great this time of decade.’

DJ grinned widely. ‘Sounds great... let's go!’

The two friends walked off down the street, towards their familiar Police Box... and towards new adventures.

‘What a weird pair,’ John Lennon observed. The other Beatles agreed and began cleaning the wrecked living room up. Lennon cleared some books off the coffee table, stopping when he uncovered a piece of paper. Opening the folded sheet, he found a message addressed to him, from that DJ character.

It read:

‘Dear Mr Lennon,

I know this is going to sound incredible, but I assure you that it's the absolute truth. On the night of December 8, 1980, you will be shot and killed outside the hotel in New York that you will be living in at this time. You...’

Laughing, John Lennon screwed up the paper and tossed it into the rubbish bin.

And in the end, the love you take
Is equal to the love you make.

The Beatles, The End

This item appeared in Timestreams 3 (August 1991).

Index nodes: Fiction