Home : Archive : TSV 21-30 : TSV 26 : Fiction

The Message

By Jon Preddle (writing as Donald Peathe, Jnr.)

Children shouted and laughed in play, and ducks quacked as they swam in the pond. It was a typical Sunday in the park, thought Sarah as she walked along the path towards the fountain. She watched the children play with a touch of sadness. She had always longed for children, but with the sudden death of her husband her life had chnaged.

Once more she glanced at the note pad bearing the message that had been given to her by her Aunt Lavinia: I NEED HELP, MEET ME AT THE FOUNTAIN IN THE PARK AT MIDDAY, SUNDAY. THE DOCTOR.

She smiled. She had not seen the Doctor for many, many years. The problem is, she thought, will I recognise him? He's probably regenerated yet again.

She arrived at the fountain and sat on the bench facing the cascade of water. Next to her sat an elderly man wearing a bright orange coat, and a young woman with a baby carriage. Seated next to the elderly man was a middle-aged man, wearing a straw hat, and holding an umbrella with a curiously shaped handle.

Sarah glanced at her watch. It was 12:05. Trust the Doctor to be late. Some things never change, she smiled to herself...

She cast a glance at the elderly man. Could this be the Doctor, she asked herself? As if in response, the old man stood, and quietly sauntered away.

Sarah began to hum to herself, but stopped as she realised she was singing William's favourite tune. Oh, how she missed him. It was just over a year since he was taken from her. She tried to hold back tears, but found it difficult.

‘Are you all right?’ she heard someone ask.

She turned to see that the man with the umbrella had moved over to her and was offering his silk handkerchief. She took the cloth and wiped her wet eyes. ‘Thank you.’

‘What's wrong? Maybe I can help.’

‘It's nothing, really.’ She took a deep breath and tried to smile.

‘Yes, losing someone can always be difficult,’ said the stranger.

Sarah frowned at his words. ‘How did you know?’

‘Oh, I can see it in your eyes. You have suffered a great deal.’ Sarah couldn't help but notice the twinkle behind the strange man's eyes: a kind of intelligence she had only ever seen before in the Doctor's eyes. Could this be the Doctor?

A woman dressed in a nurse's uniform approached the man. ‘Come now, Clarence. Stop annoying the young lady.’ The nurse took the man's hand and she lead him away.

Sarah watched them go, her mouth open in disbelief. She forced herself to smile again, as if it would solve all the world's problems.

Once more she looked at her watch: 12:15. Where was the Doctor? Why hasn't he shown up? Maybe the danger he was in or was fearing had already disappeared. She looked at the baby in the carriage. Memories of William clouded her eyes and she started to cry again. She took another breath and wiped her eyes. She reached into the carriage and began to tickle the baby's exposed feet. The baby smiled up at her, in a way that only babies can. Sarah smiled back.

‘What's your baby's name?’ Sarah asked the young woman.

‘That's not my baby,’ said the woman, frowning.

Sarah was about to say something when she heard a familiar wheezing, groaning sound. However all reality broke up as the baby carriage dematerialised, taking Sarah with it. The Doctor's help had arrived. He would need someone he could trust to look after him in this latest regeneration crisis...

This item appeared in TSV 26 (December 1991).

[Jon's note: This short story was submitted to DWM for their Brief Encounters series. Needless to say, it was rejected!]
Index nodes: Fiction