Cerulean Skies - a Doctor Who Fan Fiction

Telephone boxes are red,
the Tardis is blue;
Once a pair of girls very mad
asked:
"Doctor? Doctor Who?"

Chapter 1

An Introduction to Ginger Hicklebottom, the Girl Who Slid Down the Drainpipe

The blanket presses down heavily on my shoulders. It’s soft, almost velvety, and coloured a deep indigo that drowns you when you stare at it for over a minute. Round dots of beautiful light peek through it like a secret, threatening to blind me. When I breathe in deeply, I discover that the aroma around me is both sweet and minty. It reminds me of the dawn I so often wake up to, and my best friend’s soap. I suppose it smells of the Northern Lights, too, but I can’t be certain. There is just something about it that reminds you of winter and wind and nightly kisses.

Even though I’m dead beat, I do not dare close my eyes. Everything is just right tonight. It would be a pity to let sleep deprive me of this magnificence, splendour that I know my mind can’t replace with even the most marvellous dream.

That’s why I just look at the universe that warms me from the inside out. I trace my finger over the cerulean above me and silently mouth the names of planets far away, so unreachable and yet agonizingly close. My pupils, soothed by the darkness, follow the occasional shooting star and then inevitably dart back to the moon and the constellations surrounding it. The sun is somewhere above me too, but momentarily still hidden by night’s dark mantle.

It doesn’t matter that the panes of the roof dig into my back, reminding me that I’m currently where I ought not to be. It doesn’t matter that the sky is slowly paling, being run through by light pink sweeps as if some funny man in the galaxy above has dropped his paint brush. It doesn’t matter that, however far I stretch my arm, I cannot reach the planets and stars smiling down on me.

Being under their watchful gaze won’t suffice in the long run. It never does in the end, and I’m aware of that. But as I blink lazily and the entire Milky Way blurs together to form a second moon, I’m able to fool myself into thinking everything’s normal again for just a moment. Then, however, the chilly September wind strikes my face, and I’m brought back to reality with a shiver.

The tides are turning. Aliens are no longer creatures from fairytales: they are real as you and me. Conspiracy theories aren’t what they were before either, since nowadays people think twice about a rumour and toss a sideways glance at the parliament. There are those who pass the whole thing off as a joke, too, but I hope that faction is smaller than my parents claim it to be. By not taking extraterrestrial life seriously, we humans run a great risk of becoming ignorant.

I can’t understand my friends anymore. They prefer lies to truth, and blind themselves with cheap gossip to avoid what I consider vast and stunning. I wish they would open their narrow minds and be more tolerant, but you can’t get everything you fancy. That’s just the way the world works, fair or not – in other words, I’ll have to put up with the intolerant crowd until Earth is sent an alien not intent on ruling the universe (which, with each passing day, seems more unlikely).

Any patience I have left is ebbing away, shrinking to the size of a seed. My hope and joviality are declining with it, and I worry about the future. Someday, however far from now, my metaphorical jar of positive feelings is sure to become drained. I blame humanity’s mentality for this. Although that cruel assassin of negativity bides his time well, one day he will stop lurking in the shadows and press the cool blade of depression to my neck.

At this thought, my throat closes up. It’s only when I remember how to breathe that I realize someone is waving from the roof opposite mine. My eyes narrow in on the person’s face, and promptly, I feel a scowl form. It’s Kitty Litter, a girl who prides herself on her ability to French kiss and burp while smoking. I’ve expressed my disapproval for her more than once, but words can’t drill through her thick skull. In fact, they only seem to encourage her rapid tongue, which acts at ten times the speed her brain does.

Instead of acknowledging her, I toss a last glance at the brightening sky and then clamber back through my window. The floor of my room is cold when I hit it with a thud, one loud enough to wake up my whole family, and I curse myself for staying outside so long. It feels like it’s under nil, a thing my mum will surely notice when she comes to sweep my room for dishes and laundry. This means I’ll have to do my own cleaning if I want to keep her from knowing I’ve been on the roof again, although I risk running late for my job if I do. I’m not sure if it’s worth the trouble, since I’d rather be yelled at by my mother than my employer.

I crawl onto the sofa (which is more comfy than people think it to be) and pull the sheets over my head, only to realize that I ought to be readying myself for work if it’s already getting light out. Muttering angrily under my breath, I push the blankets away and snatch the uniform hanging over the arm of the couch. My lids are heavy and threaten to fall over my eyes, but I force myself to strip off my heavy clothes and, like a zombie, waddle over to the door.

My body, clad only in underwear, shrinks away from the chilly hallway as I tiptoe my way to the bathroom, trying hard not to wake my little sister (who, if I know her as well as I think I do, is probably up and about regardless of my efforts). Once inside the safe confines of our snug bathroom, I flip the light switch and turn the tap on, humming as the water slowly warms. I reach for the cabinet to get my toothbrush, but when I open it and glance at the mirror to ascertain just how tired I look, I realize that both the windows and the mirror are already fogged.

While anyone else would have brushed this off, I stiffen. A feeling forms in the pit of my stomach, and both my heartbeat and breath pick up. I haven’t had the shower on long enough for condensation to form. My hand folds around the edge of the sink and I look downwards, biting my lip in fear as I feel the slightest wetness under my fingers.

“You’ve got that look on your face again.”

My head whips up at the sound of the heavy voice, and my poor heart gives another jump. Then I recognize the person standing in the doorway, and I breathe a sigh of relief. “Callum,” I scold, “you scared me.”

My brother meets my reprimanding gaze with an amused glint in his brown eyes, well aware of what frightened me so much. “What, did you think an alien did that?” he mocks.

“No,” I say, choosing my words carefully. “I just thought it... odd... that the bathroom was misty when the shower hadn’t been on long at all.”

Callum ruffles his too-long hair and grins sheepishly. “Sorry, Ginger.”

My brother is not referring to my hair – which, I’d like to mention, is more blonde than red – but using the affectionate pet form of my name. Although I hate Ginger with a passion that impresses even my stoic parents, it’s the lesser of two evils. Most people know me as Vera, but in a successful attempt to irritate me my brother insists on calling me either Virginia or Ginger. It’s a habit my sister Rosie has taken over, and so I am doomed to being referred to as either redhead or spice. ‘Somewhere,’ my father always says when I complain about it, ‘God is laughing.’

I don’t think I need to explain that I don’t believe in any deity.

“Open the bloody window when you’re done showering, Callum,” I tell him in a rather sharp tone, “or the whole place will become mouldy.” As soon as the words have left my lips, I wish to take them back. Not only did they sound rude, but they also made me look like a frightened little girl in front of my sibling. He already teases me about my fascination with the supernatural and finds my obsession with aliens silly. In Callum’s mind, everything that happened was planned by the government, just acts to scare us into obeying our nation’s leaders without thinking clearly. Brainwashing, he calls it. All of it is nonsense... faked.

I don’t think you can fake a giant spaceship hovering over London. I couldn’t just see it, I could hear it. I could feel the air vibrate when I snapped out of my trance and found myself to be wobbling on the balls of my feet. I remember staring first at the ant-like world below me, and then raising my head to glance at the intimidating monstrosity that filled the sky (funnily enough, it took another five seconds for me to realize I was standing on the roof of a flat). I wasn’t alone, either: there was a crowd of people surrounding me, strangers and acquaintances alike. My father was there too, perched on the very edge in his bathrobe. If I remember it right, Callum was standing right behind him in a Donald Duck printed jumper. Of course, he claims the CIA passed information to the Secretary of Defence regarding mass-scale hypnotization. To people who believe in neither possibilities, I’m not sure whose theory will seem crazier; his or mine. As reluctant as I am to admit it, they’d probably consider me more of a lunatic than my brother.

As soon as Callum rolls his eyes and shuts the door, I undress further and tentatively step into the shower. Warm water rushes over my shoulders, slipping down my chest and burning my cold feet. My straight hair becomes slick against my back, and I have to grabble around with my eyes closed for my solid shampoo. Chunks of seaweed get stuck in my hair; the price of buying completely organic hair products. Mouth-watering scents fill the confines of the bathroom as rosemary, lavender, citrus and fig swirl together to form a nectar-like mist. I remember being called crazy my fondness of scents, but they’re food for my soul. When I go without refreshing aromas for over forty-eight hours, my mind just shrivels and drives me to say the most idiotic things. I suppose you could say smells are like a drug to me.

My hands slide towards the back of my neck, and I massage it gently. My muscles are knotted, probably still tensed from the scare they had this morning, although I don’t doubt that its roots lie in my night on the roof. I roll my shoulders and stretch my back. It takes nearly all of my strength to reach for the hot water tap and turn it to the left. As was my intention, the liquid thundering down on my skin becomes first tepid, and then downright cold. My eyes, which were half-closed, shoot wide open and I gasp. Without thinking I push open the glass shower door and step out, still shuddering. My only consolation is that at least the page of my mind has been refreshed.

I shimmy into black trousers and white shirt that belong to the café I work at. It’s not far from here, which is one of the main reasons I chose it. I don’t have a drivers licence, and taking the underground or bus to work every day would diminish my earnings by hundreds of pounds. As I’m saving for college, every penny counts. Not all education comes free to us, and I’m learning that the hard way. As it turns out, the hard way is the road taken by a lot of people. It reminds you that you’re not the only sad story in this world, that everyone has a great, dark monster sitting on their back. With some it’s just harder to see than with others.

My hands twist themselves into strands of my hair, wrapping them together to form a bun. I close my eyes and let the elastic band over my wrist snap things into place – Rosie calls it securing the prisoner. I’m not sure whether this means she has a sense of humour or whether she actually feels bad for my hair.

On cue, I hear the bathroom door open. I glance towards the entrance, unsurprised to see my seven-year-old sister. Her wide eyes stare accusingly at me as if I’ve committed some heinous crime. Knowing Rosie Hicklebottom, I probably have.

“Ginger,” she trills, “you woke me up.”

“Not now, Rosie,” I say sternly, pushing past her. “I’m late for work as it is.”

Her feet patter against the carpet and soon after, I feel her small fingers intertwine with mine. “You’re wearing a bun again,” she complains, trying to keep up with me as I make a beeline for my room. “It makes you look so old.”

“It keeps my hair from falling in people’s food,” I tell her. “It’s mandatory.”

“I don’t like it.”

Prying my hand from hers, I glance at her round face. There is a mulish pull to her mouth, one I know only too well. “Sometimes,” I reply, choosing my words carefully, “we have to do things we don’t like, Rosie. For the sake of the greater good.”

Reminding me that she’s awfully sharp for a little kid, Rosie remarks, “How does working in a café have anything to do with the greater good?”

She’s right. Granted, it will get me an education, but then what? No one wants to hire a young woman whose interest lies with the supernatural. There are hundreds of girls out there; prettier, smarter and more social than I am. Who is to say I’ll get a decent job? Although I tell myself that going to college is for more than that – that it’s important to educate oneself properly – it’s only partly true. I’ve read more books than most students have; I’ve studied day and night. College would be a formality, and an expensive one at that. I’m fighting hard for something that will only keep me busy for a bunch of years. And then what? What purpose will I, of all people, ever serve in society?

But I don’t tell Rosie this, who would just give me a glassy look. Instead I say curtly, “You’ll see.” My statement is followed by a slamming of the door as I shut my little sister out, promptly beheading any smarting retorts forming in her head. She’s becoming more intelligent than I had anticipated. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

It’s then that I realize I already have my uniform on and that there’s nothing left to do in my room. I’ve been cornered by a seven-year-old girl: story of my life. Cussing under my breath, I push the window open and peer at the sky outside. It’s laden with thick, dark clouds; of course it is. This is London, what had I expected to see – azure skies containing not even a wisp of grey? Not bloody likely, not in my lifetime.

All the same, I’m quite relieved it’s not raining. I’m not willing to face my despot of a sister, and a window’s as good as a door to me. As long I don’t let go of the drainpipe while clambering down everything should be fine... unless I slip and fall to my death, of course, but you only live once and I’d rather die in defiance to my relatives then face the horror that is Rosie’s temper tantrum.

With that thought in mind, I swing my legs over the edge of the window and fold my free arm around the raggedy drainpipe. While the pace of my heart picks up, I slowly turn around and begin my descent, trying to find as much support from the wall as I can with my feet. Once, my hands – made clammy by the moisture outside, or that’s what I tell myself – almost slip, and I have a short-lived moment in which I think about all the embarrassing things Rosie will say when I’m cremated. Just as I’ve regained my confidence and I’m halfway down, however, someone startles me to such a degree that I nearly release my tight hold on the wastepipe.

“What are you doing?” a masculine voice asks. There is a hint of indignity in the person’s tone, as if I’ve mortally offended them by escaping through the window.

I dare to look over my shoulder to face the individual, who does turn out to be male. He looks so out of place in our murky garden that I have to blink twice to reassure myself he’s not a figment of my imagination. “What does it look like I’m doing?” I retort somewhat shakily.

The stranger’s lips turn up quirkily, and he adjusts his peculiarly patterned bowtie. “Well,” he responds smugly, exaggerating the E, “judging by the position you’re in, I’d suggest you’re climbing down a drainpipe in a classic attempt to escape from someone’s room.”

I hug the wastepipe just a tad tighter. “Escaping from my own room,” I say, “into my garden. Which..” I trail off and frown at him, “which you are standing in for some inexplicable reason.”

“Oh, yes...” he begins. “I can explain that.”

“Well, you’d better!” I cry out. Without intending to, I slide down the rest of the drainpipe. There is a very humiliating noise as I do so, and then I fall to the dead grass below me with a panicked squeal. When my tailbone connects to the solid ground, a brief flash of pain shoots through my body. The worst thing, however, is the look of childish glee on the man’s face. He neither offers to help me up or moves away from me, but instead peers up at where I came from and points what looks like a small flashlight at my room. As I gather myself together, scramble up and brush the dirt off my pants, he begins to mutter madly to himself. I instantly regret not taking my phone with me – this oddball is obviously some sort of lunatic.

“Excuse me,” I tell him, unable to keep a hint of rudeness out of my voice, “but this is private property.”

“I’m aware,” the stranger mumbles. His lips are half parted in a look of admiration. For what, I do not know. The architect who built the simple apartment he’s standing in front of, perhaps?

“Well,” I bluff, “If you don’t leave, I’ll have to call the police.”

“No you won’t.”

I blink and fold my arms, feeling almost put out. “And why not?” I respond challengingly.

The bloke barely spares me a glance and puts on a pair of spectacles. “Because you’re too curious for that.”

I am mortally offended for some reason. “Oh yeah?” I say, wishing for him to clarify himself despite my anger. “You know nothing about me!”

He whips around to face me and takes a step in my general direction, staring so sharply at me that I’m inclined to run back into the house. “You’re between the age of seventeen and twenty-one. You work at a café or restaurant nearby, and you’ve got a cat... a Russian Blue, I’d say. You spent last night on the roof, have at least one relative who smokes and a younger sibling who annoys you to such a degree that you’re willing to escape through the window...” The man stops rambling and takes in my stumped face, slowly fishing an ID paper out of his pocket. “You also called for me.”

“Who are you?” I manage.

A large smile grows on his face; eyes glow to life; folds appear in his face. “I’m the Doctor.”

*

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