April 27, 2011

Enchanted Garden Chapter Fifteen

The three friends ran down the path through the purple forest. Their sides ached with the effort, but still they ran, not slackening their pace in the least. Their breath came in great heaving gasps in and out of their tortured lungs, but still they ran on, seeking greater speed. Their legs cramped, and then grew wobbly with weariness, but they continued to run, even when their running became staggering, they neither stopped nor let loose of one another’s hands, until they had returned to the large circular meadow where the TARDIS was parked. They spilled out of the forest and fell, gasping and panting, face down in a little heap as the blue sunlight bathed both them and the purple grasses with its feeble warmth.

Only when at last they were able to sit up under their own muscle power, and breathe at a normal rate, and the breeze had dried most of the sweat from their faces that they had gained by the exertion of their headlong flight, only then did Dusty break their terrified silence. “What all did she say?”

“I don’t remember it all,” Newt answered.

“Shh!” Harold commanded, and then motioned that he needed something to write with.

Newt jumped up and ran into the TARDIS. She flew down the now familiar corridor, and burst into the craft room. Ignoring the questions of the lady pirates, and in fact, ignoring the lady pirates altogether, Newt quickly grabbed up a notepad and a pen, then whirled and left the room at top speed.

She flew back through the corridors of the TARDIS, and smacked right into the Doctor as she came flying into the control room. Only his quick reactions saved them both from a nasty tumble onto the expanded steel floor, which could have hurt badly, and possibly could have caused injury to one or both of them.

She had momentarily forgotten that Harold had a perfect recall of words he had heard, providing he wrote them down quickly, before more words came into his ears to crowd out the ones he wanted to preserve.

She dashed across the meadow, aware that the Doctor was following closely on her heels, and practically flung the writing materials into Harold’s hands.

As soon as he had hold of them, Harold started writing frantically fast, covering many of the pages of the small note pad with large and sloppy lettering, hastening to record her exact words before they faded from his very short term photographic hearing.

The Doctor started to speak, probably to ask what in the world was going on, but Newt whirled around and clapped her fingers gently across his mouth. Fortunately, he was a man of great intelligence, and stood quietly, holding his questions until Harold had finished his scribbling on the pad.

Harold wrote it all down fast and sloppy, and then Newt watched as he tore all of those pages from the pad and went through them carefully, transcribing them into his more usual, very neat handwriting. He scratched his head a couple of times, and Newt was afraid that the terror of their flight back to this meadow had driven the words from his mind, but eventually, he looked up at his assembled audience. By this time, the pirates had also followed Newt from the TARDIS. The Doctor had shushed them as they arrived, and the entire group waited for Harold to speak.

Harold, for his part, simply handed the note pad of neat writing and the torn off sheets of sloppy writing and the pen back to Newt, compressing his lips into a tight line as an indication to Newt that he wasn’t going to share her secrets without her leave.

Newt looked down at the pad and read the words that Harold had used his unusual gift to preserve for her.

“The familiar spirit that has chosen to live within my crystal ball, which is that being who delivers to me proclamations regarding the future, instructs me to say to you that you must do nothing. All will be revealed unto you when the time is right. Midnight is the witching hour, and the hour when the greatest power comes to those who have power. The spell that has been cast around you as a net will lift at midnight, and you will find that all in your life will be as it should, but beware, for time does not run at the same speed when in different dimensions, and therefore you must be careful, for any injury that you take while in this continuum will travel with you into the next, even unto death. Beware of pirates who make false promises, and always trust your physician, after all, an apple a day gets the doctor away!”

Newt looked at the very inquisitive group before her, and tucked the pad and loose papers into the back pocket of her jeans.

“I…I didn’t mean to startle anyone, sorry about that, I…it…it was just that Harold suddenly got a good idea for a story he has to write for our Lit class, and needed to get the idea on paper before he forgot it. So I ran to get him some paper and a pen,” Newt lied.

“I see,” the Doctor said, with a very grave expression on his face. “Well,” he added over his shoulder to the pirates, “nothing more to be seen here, go on back to whatever it was that you were doing.” Without so much as a single word of argument, the pirates turned as a single entity and returned to the TARDIS.

The Doctor stood, unmoving and silent, until the TARDIS door had closed behind them.

“The thing is,” he said to Newt, “if you had been telling the truth, then the papers with the idea on them would have ended up in Harold’s pocket, not in yours. Therefore whatever it was that he was writing down with such fervent concentration actually belongs to you. Therefore, it’s not some idea for a composition project for a class at school. Am I right?”

Newt sat in silence for a long time, desperately hoping that the Doctor would go away and leave them to examine Madame Du Pompadour’s words in privacy. She had a niggling idea that the fortune teller had warned her who to trust, and who not to trust, and at the moment, she couldn’t recall which was which.

The Doctor just stood there, towering over the three young teenagers in a majestic and commanding silence, as he waited for his question to be answered. Both of the boys sealed their lips shut, and Newt knew that her two best friends would never betray her to the Doctor, or to anyone else. She knew that if she didn’t speak of this, they never would.

Still maintaining her stubborn silence, she pulled out the pad of paper from her pocket, intending to read it silently to see if it was at all clear on which people she was supposed to trust. Several of the loose papers came fluttering out of her pocket at the same time. The Doctor stooped quickly and picked them up, and then deliberately folded them writing side in so that there was no way he could see what was written there and handed the folded papers to her without looking at them.

Suddenly, her heart loosened within her chest, and she felt a flood of trust come forth. Somehow, she knew that she could trust the Doctor with her life, with all of their lives, and that he wouldn’t interfere in any way with their return home. Newt decided at that moment to place her full faith and trust in the Doctor, come what may.

Haltingly at first, and then in an ever escalating flood of words, Newt explained how the three friends had met in the forest and talked, and then described in every detail their journey to the fortune teller, Madame Du Pompadour. A veiled look entered the Doctor’s eyes when she spoke the name, and Newt wondered why that would be. She finished by explaining the transitory nature of Harold’s photographic hearing, and why that had necessitated such a rush of speed as she had gone into the TARDIS to fetch the paper and pen for him.

Finally, she finished up by telling him that the three of them had thought to have privacy as they tried to decipher the aged fortune teller’s words to her, but that she, Newt, would be more than very glad if the Doctor would lend them the services of his well developed intellect and superior experience.

Newt then extended her hand, and offered the small writing pad to the Doctor. He took it gently from her hand, and his demeanor seemed to show that he fully understood how important this giving was.

April 22, 2011

Winding Down...or Ramping Up?

Two weeks. Four more "Instructional Sessions" in each of my classes. And Finals. then I'm out for the "summer". I'm worn out and looking forward to the break.

As soon as I'm free of schoolwork, I'll return to my very neglected writing. Anne has been working over Deadly Gamble, and should pass it to me soon.

I will be diving into learning photoshop, with the idea of making our own cover this time instead of using a CreateSpace template. It's not that we don't love their templates, but if we use their template, they own the copyright on the cover, and I can't use the same cover for the ebook. If I make the cover, I can use the same one for the ebook, and I like that.

I'll also be learning better ways to format the ebooks so they look better internally.

I'll go over Deadly Gamble, and then it can be formatted for print and ebooks, and the cool cover put on it, and sent out into the wide world.

There will be website updates as well, something I've been neglecting. Does anyone know how hard it is to make a shopping cart for your website? I was going to take a class on that this fall, but they've decided not to teach it (now that I've completed the prerequisites!)

As soon as I've finished that, I'll be making new covers for Tanella's Flight, Fabric of the World, and Clues to Food, and uploading those for print; then I'll be reformatting the ebook versions and republishing with the new covers and better internal formatting.

If it's still not time for school to start, I'll get working on final edits for The Siege of Kwennjurat, which is the sequal to Tanella's Flight.

The fall semester will be challenging mentally, but not as challenging physically, because most of my classes are online, and those that are on campus are lined up in neat, compact blocks on Tuesday and Thursday, so I'll have a lot less travelling and wasted time than I have with the swiss-cheese schedule I have now.


Enchanted Garden Chapter Fourteen

We dare you to have your main character talk to a psychic with a crystal ball. What do they find out about the future?

Nothing in the clearing stirred as the children walked toward the caravan, other than the animal that was like a horse but not really a horse. That beast continued cropping the purple grasses, and utterly ignored them. With a jolt in the pit of her stomach, Newt realized that this was the first animal she had seen, heard, or even seen any sign of, since she had first awoken lying on her back in the lavender, heliotrope, and solferino colored grasses of the broad meadow in which the TARDIS was currently parked.

There was no sign of life in the caravan at all, as Harold, Dusty, and Newt approached it. They cautiously made their way up the four decayed and withered steps that led to the tiny porch at the back end of the caravan. Timidly, Newt let go of Harold’s left hand, and raised her right hand to knock on the weather beaten door.

Harold placed one hand on Newt’s shoulder, maintaining contact with her while he quietly stepped behind both her and Dusty, and took up Dusty’s other hand, keeping the three of them linked. Newt approved of his move. He firmly believed that maintaining physical contact was the best way to ensure that whatever other magic befell them, it would befall them all equally, and that they wouldn’t become separated in the course of their adventures. Newt had a feeling, deep down in the darkness of her soul, that the only true chance she had to return home lay in remaining in the company of those with whom she had begun her travels.

The corner of the ragged cloth covering the filthy glass pane set in the door of the caravan stirred slightly in response to Newt’s rap upon the panels of the door. One blue eye, once bright, but clouded now by age, peered out from the very corner of the glass made murky by virtue of the grime and filth encrusted upon its surface.

A thin reedy voice issued through a crack between two of the door’s panels.

“Who be ye, and what do ye be seeking?” the voice asked, and despite the weakness of the voice, Newt heard the authority of command at the core of it, with a strength like steel.

“I seek Madame Du Pompadour,” Newt answered, and noted with pleasure that the fear currently causing her knees to quake and rattle one against the other had no hold upon her voice, which came out clear and firm. “As to who I am, do you tell me that a woman who claims the power of foretelling the future cannot know that without asking? Or perhaps age has tempered her powers, and we should seek in other places for some one who can lay the future open to us.”

The eye disappeared from the corner of the window, and they heard the hurried sound of the door’s bolt rattling against its fittings as it was being drawn back. The door swung slowly open to reveal the supposed fortune teller, Madame Du Pompadour.

She wore a dress very similar in many ways to the one Newt had rented for a Halloween costume. The hoops spread out to either side, rather than in round circles as Newt’s hoops were. The ancient woman wore no blouse beneath the gown, and the low neck threatened to reveal her bosom. Judging from the look on Dusty’s face, he was rather hoping that the dress would slip rather more than a few inches.

The sleeves were short little puffs at her shoulders, and the front of the gown was split to reveal a faded under skirt that had at one time been dyed a rather bright yellow. The gown itself had originally been a deep blue, but its color was as faded as everything else about this caravan had shown itself to be. There were many places where bare threads stuck out from the gown, showing where beads or jewels had been sewn, once upon a time, but now the once beautiful embellishments had either fallen off or had been removed, leaving only the bits of thread as mute testimony to the former grandeur and glory of this gown.

The wig the woman wore had once been piled high atop her head, but now the strands lay limp and straggly along her shoulders, although the jeweled pins still firmly attached the wig to what was left of the ancient woman’s thinning hair.

Newt heard the Doctor’s voice in the back of her mind, recalling his words concerning her need of different clothing to wear. He had said there was no need for her to traipse through the woods looking like a refugee from the French Royal Court. Suddenly, she knew that this woman truly was such a refugee, and she wondered how she had come to be here, and whether or not the Doctor had known of her existence and residence on this planet when he had chosen those words to describe her costume. Or had he, as a traveler in time, actually been present at that court, and what sort of memories did her costume dredge up from the depths of his mind?

The elderly woman retreated from the door, doddering her way to a chair at a small table in the center of the caravan’s small single room.

This room was draped with the ragged and decaying remnants of rich fabrics, which now hung as frail as cobwebs, their fragile fibers barely clinging to each other out of long habit.

If the sum total of this room was her office, Newt wondered abstractedly where the elderly crone slept, and where she prepared her meals. She didn’t have the appearance of being undernourished or ill, merely old beyond imagining. Even her wrinkles had wrinkles.

Newt advanced into the room in the wake of the superannuated woman, her friends following behind her, and keeping themselves in firm contact with her. She felt security and comfort flowing from Dusty’s hand, and hoped he felt the same in clinging to herself and Harold.

The fortune teller calling herself Madame Du Pompadour had by this time reached an upholstered chair at the far end of the caravan which was at least as aged as her body. It was losing its stuffing in several places where the fabric had simply given out, the elegantly and intricately carved wood was scuffed and scratched, dried out and appeared to be quite brittle, and at least one spring was visible as it protruded from the fabric covering the seat.

Madame Du Pompadour seated herself with all the grace and elegance of a queen. Without a word, she gestured to Newt to sit in the hard wood chair on the side of the table opposite her. This chair, though it had never been more than a well carved hard wooden chair, looked a bit more comfortable than sitting on bare springs poking out of the seat cushion. However, the wood itself appeared to be of an equal age with the other furnishings of the caravan, and Newt wondered for a moment whether or not the chair would actually hold her weight.

She sat gingerly on the edge of the chair, and looked at the table in front of her. The table was covered with an ancient, yet elegantly draped cloth that had lace work along the edges. The cloth had long since yellowed, and there were places where the threads had worn so thin that the table could be glimpsed through the actual fabric of the cloth. The lace had aged better, and though yellow, it was holding together well. It didn’t look like it was either knitting, crocheting, or tatting, all of which she had seen some beautiful examples of that had been made by her grandmother, but this lace still had the appearance of having been hand made, with each individual thread woven or knotted securely into place. Set squarely in the center of the small round table was an ornate base covered with carved vines that cradled a ball made of solid crystal, some seven or eight inches across, and as far as Newt could see, entirely without any sort of bubbles or blemish throughout the entire piece.

Suddenly she felt very silly, having come here to consult a fortune teller, when she didn’t even believe in any sort of magic at all. Then she laughed within the privacy of her own mind. How could she say that she didn’t believe in any sort of magic at all? If she didn’t believe in any sort of magic at all, then she was in the midst of a very elaborate hallucination, and she had entirely lost her mind. She preferred to believe that she had come to believe in magic, than that she had entirely lost her sanity.

“So,” said Madame Du Pompadour as soon as they had both seated themselves, “what sort of fortune would you have me tell, then? You’re interested in Palmistry? Or tasseomancy, perhaps?” She reached for Newt’s hand, and Newt hastily pulled her hand back to her side, out of the old woman’s reach. A sudden chill shook Newt’s frame, and she shivered with the fear that wormed its way into her heart. Newt had no idea what prompted her fear, but suddenly she didn’t want the woman to touch her.

“N…no,” Newt stammered. “I…” her voice failed her for a moment. She cleared her throat and tried again. “I would like my fortune told,” she said, “by having you look into your crystal ball and tell me what I need to do in order to get home again.”

“Where is your home?” Madame Du Pompadour asked, with a crafty gleam in her eye.

“Wrong answer,” Harold said, speaking in Madame Du Pompadour’s presence for the first time. She gave a start, as though she hadn’t noticed him or Dusty until just this moment. Then again, with the way the cataracts had clouded her vision, perhaps she hadn’t noticed them.

“You’re supposed to be the fortune teller here.” Harold continued. “That means we ask the questions, and you supply the answers. Or are you just one of the millions of frauds who pump their client for information and then spout off generalities that are calculated to be what the client wants to hear.”

“What do you want of me?” the old woman whinged.

“We want what you advertised,” Harold said. “Look into your crystal ball and scry her future. ‘Fortunes told, be they fair or foul’” he quoted from her sign. “So do your job. Tell the lady what she wants to hear. How does she find her way back home again? And you get no hints from us.”

He closed his mouth, pinching his lips together, and a look of utter resolve came across his face. Newt watched as Dusty straightened his spine and did his best to emulate Harold’s cold and calm demeanor, and she did likewise, sealing her lips shut, and glaring at the ancient and decrepit crone, daring her to actually tell what the future might hold.

Madame Du Pompadour looked at the three resolute teenagers in her small caravan for a long moment before she apparently came to a decision.

She nodded her head, once, with a rather jerky motion, and then bent studiously over the large crystal ball on the table.

“The girl wants to know how to go home,” Madame Du Pompadour announced, then sat motionless in silence as she gazed steadily into the large crystal ball upon the table in front of her.

Newt sat tensely on the edge of her hard carved wooden chair and looked intently into the crystal ball also, just to see if she could see anything in its depths. To her gaze, the ball remained as clear as it had in the beginning, which was a little bit strange, as the crystal ball was apparently the only object in the little caravan that the woman ever dusted. Either that, or the familiar spirit that resided within the ball had rendered it incapable of collecting the dust in the first place.

Newt felt the palm of Dusty’s hand grow clammy against her own, and felt the tension mount within the tiny and ancient caravan, as minute after minute passed in silence. Madame Du Pompadour stared into the crystal ball without pause, silently, and after a while Newt began to wonder if the venerable octogenarian had fallen asleep over her crystal ball, or perhaps she might have suffered a heart attack and died; such was the depth of the stillness both in sound and motion that the old woman exhibited.

Finally, at long last, the aged diviner made a pair of small, soft moans, and then a long exhalation of her pent up breath.

“I see,” Madame Du Pompadour said to no one in particular, though Newt got the impression that she was using the crystal ball to communicate with some being that resided at a far distant location from the planet Purvis Major. There was a long pause while she listened for a reply that as far as Newt was concerned, hadn’t been given.

“But what can then be done about that?” she asked next, and listened again to the reply that was either nonexistent or inaudible to the children.

There was an even longer pause while Madame Du Pompadour stared, eyes apparently unfocused, into the ball.

“Can it be reversed? Or is there no solution at all?”

On hearing these words, Newt’s heart suddenly shrank within her chest, as though it had suddenly been seized by icy cold talons. Dusty’s hand tightened on hers convulsively, as though he didn’t want to even think the thought that there might be no way home.

Finally, the old woman sighed, and, passing her hand over the ball as if she was erasing the messages that had appeared there, or perhaps as though she was turning it off for a while, she sighed deeply and turned her attention back to Newt again.

“There is only one way for you to return to your homes again,” she said wearily, her voice even thinner and weaker than it had been when she had answered the door to them.

“What is it?” Newt asked, suddenly fearful of what the woman might say, but not at all sure what exactly it was that she feared the woman would tell her to do.

“The familiar spirit that has chosen to live within my crystal ball, which is that being who delivers to me proclamations regarding the future, instructs me to say to you that you must do nothing. All will be revealed unto you when the time is right. Midnight is the witching hour, and the hour when the greatest power comes to those who have power. The spell that has been cast around you as a net will lift at midnight, and you will find that all in your life will be as it should, but beware, for time does not run at the same speed when in different dimensions, and therefore you must be careful, for any injury that you take while in this continuum will travel with you into the next, even unto death. Beware of pirates who make false promises, and always trust your physician, after all, an apple a day gets the doctor away!”

Newt was totally confused. “But…but what does that all mean?” she asked.

The old woman, Madame Du Pompadour, cackled with delight. “I deliver to you the pronouncements of the familiar spirit who lives within my crystal. He, whom I mustn’t name under any circumstances lest he leave me, has made his pronouncement. It’s neither his fault nor mine that you aren’t able to understand it. The interpretation of the fortune is yours, and yours alone. Now get out! Get thee out of my caravan, and out of my meadow, and away from me, and never come near me again, unless you desire to provoke me to a much greater wrath than she whose wrath you’ve already provoked, she who has sent you to this time and this place, with the intent to harass both thee and me. Now Begone!” Her voice rose steadily throughout her diatribe, until the last words were so shrilly shrieked that they were nearly inaudible.

Newt jumped up from the hard, elaborately carved wood chair she had been sitting in with enough force that the chair sailed backwards and slammed into the wall behind her. The chair hit the wall hard, and collapsed into what seemed like a hundred million splintered fragments.

Harold threw open the ancient door, and pulled his friends behind him in his wake as the three of them fled back the way they had come across the small clearing and down the path into the forest.

April 20, 2011

Enchanted Garden Chapter Thirteen

Newt finished her sandwich and wandered down the hall to her bedroom. There was nothing to do there, however, and she quickly became bored.

She decided to go out to the control room to see if there was any way she could help the Doctor finish his repairs, but halfway there, he came rushing down the hallway and passed her going the opposite direction.

She peeked into the craft rooms, and saw the lady pirates working on various different projects that they apparently found satisfying. They invited Newt to come in and join them, but she didn’t see any thing in there that she was currently interested in getting involved in.

Newt then wandered into the control room. It seemed that things were at least a little better now, the room was a more normal room-temperature temperature, and all of the moisture seemed to have entirely evaporated.

Unsure of exactly what to do next, Newt went outside and crunched through the dead iced over frozen purple grasses, and then proceeded through the meadow until she reached the edge of the forest.

Harold and Dusty had been sitting there lounging against trees, and they stood up as Newt walked up to them.

They greeted her and the three of them walked a little way into the forest, but not so far that they couldn’t see which direction the meadow was in. The three children, Harold, Dusty, and Newt found three trees close together and sat down facing one another.

“What do you think of everything?” Harold asked. “I mean, this whole thing, everything that’s going on, is all pretty weird. Think about it. How likely is it that we would get magically transported to some alien planet, and such an unnatural one at that, and then run in to other people from Earth, and also this Doctor guy straight from Dusty’s favorite television show?”

“I know, it’s more than just a little bit strange,” Newt said. “I keep wondering if old Mrs. M has just given us a joint hallucination or dream or something, so that we all think we’re seeing the same thing, and we’re really all still just in her garden hack in Belly Button, Arizona, in the good old U S of A.”

“I don’t know,” said Dusty, “the rubber stamps and the books feel pretty real, and my muscles are aching after that hike this morning. Would muscles ache after imaginary five mile hikes?”

“Sure they would,” Harold said, laughing, “because you believe you were on the hike, and so your mind makes your body believe that you were actually on the hike by making your legs hurt when there is really no reason to feel it unless your legs hurt. So your mind makes you think that your legs hurt, just so that you will believe that you were actually on the hike that you hallucinated that you were on.”

Dusty turned to Newt. “Did that long convoluted run-on sentence of his make any sense to you, or did he get lost somewhere in the middle of it?”

“I think he may have got lost just a little bit in the middle of that long run-on sentence,” said Newt with a grin, “but although his grammar was absolutely faulty, I agree in essence with what he appeared to be trying to say, which was that since our minds believed we were actually on the hike, they’re fully capable of making us believe our legs hurt from the hike, even if we didn’t go on the hike, and even if our legs don’t really hurt at all. Or at least something to that effect,” finished Newt in a rush of words.

Dusty just laughed, and Newt gave him a very offended look, as though he had just hurt her feelings immensely.

“I wonder about that path up the mountain,” she said, “and why it’s here, and who put it here, but I don’t want to go trying to find out about it, either, because we just might not be able to find our way back to the TARDIS, and as far as we know, that’s the only way we’re going to get out of this mess.”

Dusty smiled. “Yeah, I vote we stick with the Doctor, because whether the Doctor and the TARDIS are actually a part of our shared hallucination, or whether the Doctor and the TARDIS are real and actually here, even a hallucinated Doctor is better than no Doctor at all, and he will help us to get out of this mess.”

“If anyone can help us at all,” Harold said darkly.

Newt smiled. “Why don’t we ask the fortune teller?” she asked.

“What fortune teller”, Dusty asked, his confusion written plainly on the features of his face.

“The fortune teller that that sign tells us about,” Newt said, pointing at a nearby sign that she was suddenly certain hadn’t been in the forest on either of the other two occasions when she had been in among the trees.

The two boys looked at her as though she was totally insane, but as they followed her pointing finger with their gazes, both of their faces were totally overcome with incredulity.

Dusty heaved himself to his feet, and offered first Newt and then Harold his assistance in rising. Once all three of them were on their feet, they three friends, Harold Porter, Dusty Brown, and Alexandria “Newt” Newton took careful hold of one another’s hands and set off down the trail toward the fortune teller that the sign assured them lay ahead.

Only a short way down the path they came into a small clearing. Newt’s memories of the sight of the forest she had seen from the top of the mountain belied the very existence of this clearing, but although one part of her mind shrieked out that something was very, very wrong here, another part of her mind shrugged things off, rationalizing that so many strange things had happened to her since her footsteps had left the sidewalk in front of Old Mrs. M’s home, that one more impossible thing was very simply no longer out of the ordinary at all.

The sight that met their eyes made them stop suddenly and they dropped each other’s hands. The clearing opened abruptly from where they stood at the edge of the purple forest. It was floored in the ubiquitous purple grasses which seemed to grow everywhere on the planet that wasn’t covered over by the trees. Nothing at all of any sort grew underneath the canopy of the trees. In the center of the clearing stood a dilapidated gypsy caravan. The bright paint was faded and peeling and the purple grasses twined through the spokes of the wheels, plainly showing that this caravan hadn’t moved from its place in many, many years. One of the wheels was broken, and the caravan rested a bit crookedly on the remaining prongs of the wheel’s rim, and what was left of the spokes.

A light green sway backed horse with six legs grazed dispiritedly nearby. There was no trail out of the clearing that was wide enough that the horse, if it was a horse, could possibly have dragged the caravan down, even if the caravan had been able to move, and even if the horse, if it was a horse, was capable of pulling it. There was a dilapidated sign near the four sagging steps that read, “Madame Du Pompadour, Palmistry, Tasseomancy, Scrying by Crystal, Fortunes Told, be they Fair or Foul.”

“What’s Tasseomancy?” Dusty asked.

“It’s when they read signs and omens in your tea leaves,” Harold replied.

“I don’t know about you two,” Newt said, “but I don’t think I would drink any thing offered me by some one who lives in a place that filthy on the outside. Who knows how bad it’s on the inside, and what sort of pests and rodents live within that dwelling?”

“Maybe it’s just her office,” Dusty surmised, “and not actually her home.”

“If that’s the case,” said Newt, with a practical note in her voice, “then tell me where does she live, assuming she’s a she. I don’t see any place any where in the near vicinity that would be conducive to living in.”

“She’s most likely a she,” offered Harold, “since the sign says that the caravan belongs to Madame Du Pompadour.”

“Do you think we should go have our fortunes told?” Dusty asked, an unusual note of caution in his voice.

“Well, we came to ask,” said Newt.

“Does any one of us have any money to pay the fortune teller?” Harold asked.

“Actually, I do,” Newt said, and reached into her pocket to jungle the change that resided there. “I brought it with me so that I could buy ride tickets and a caramel apple at the carnival at the mall.”

“Too bad the carnival is back home in Belly Button, Arizona, and we’re here,” Dusty said.

“Yeah, a caramel apple sounds really good right about now,” Harold agreed.

“I’ll make you caramel apples when we get back to the TARDIS,” Newt said, “but for right now, let’s go get our fortunes told, be they fair or foul.”

“You can make caramel apples in the TARDIS?” Harold asked.

“Yeah, I figured out how the kitchen works,” Newt said.

“How did you figure that out?” Dusty wanted to know.

“The TARDIS told me,” Newt said with a grin. “I think it likes me.”

“The TARDIS is talking to you?” Dusty said, shaking his head, “and you didn’t tell us?”

“She just now told us,” Harold said. “We can talk about the TARDIS later, For now, are we going to go talk to Madame Du Pompadour the Fortune Teller, or not?”

The three children joined hands again and walked cautiously across the clearing to the very small caravan.

April 16, 2011

Enchanted Garden Chapter Twelve

The room was quite warm, and almost unpleasantly steamy, as though they had walked in from winter’s chill to find themselves in a sauna. Harold pulled his fogged up glasses from his face and used the tail of his shirt to wipe them clear before he returned them to their usual position in front of his eyes.

The pirate ladies immediately started sweating heavily in their thick sweaters, and quickly left the hot room in search of something cooler to wear.

Newt looked around the room. The orange light was brighter now than it had been at any other time she had been in the control room, and it nearly drowned out the thin thread of blue light that ran up the vertical central shaft.

Thawing icicles hung from the ceiling, dripping softly through the expanded metal of the floor and dropped with sparks and hisses on to what Newt hoped were not delicate electrical parts that would short out from the moisture that was present in every nook and cranny of the large cathedral-like control room.

The Doctor wasn’t in evidence. Newt took her notebook and stamp to her bedroom, and while she was there, she showered and laundered the violet velvet outfit she had worn hiking. She browsed through the other clothing that had appeared in her wardrobe, and found an outfit consisting of a pair of jeans that still looked nice, but was just worn enough to be in that soft and comfortable state, and a blue short sleeved blouse with a cute rounded collar of eyelet lace. She pulled them on, and then on a whim, she transferred her money and MP3 player from the blue pearl encrusted embroidered purse that was a part of her Marie Antoinette Halloween costume in to the pockets of her newly acquired borrowed blue jeans.

Clean, dressed, and presentable, Newt decided it was high time that she went to the kitchen in search of a nice long drink of icy cold water.

As Newt walked through the corridors of the TARDIS, she realized that it was getting easier and easier to find her way around. In fact, the distances between places that she wanted to go seemed somehow shorter. She briefly wondered whether the TARDIS was creating short cuts for her, or at least, telling her where she needed to go. Newt thought about what the lady pirates had said when they had first met, about “their” ship being able to read your mind and translate languages, and though she didn’t doubt that the TARDIS could do this, she did wonder for a few moments if that was the only thing it was doing while it was inside her mind. With a jolt, she realized that if it could access the language centers of her brain, it could certainly implant the knowledge within her mind of how to get around the inside of the ship easily.

When she reached the kitchen, she noticed that the icicles in the corner were completely gone. At first glance, the room seemed empty. Newt rummaged in the cupboards and quickly found a glass, then, looked around for anything that resembled an ice box. As she looked at each piece of machinery, the function and workings of it seemed to float to the top of her awareness, as though she was remembering what it was and how to use it. “Aha! Caught you!” she said aloud as she confirmed to herself that the TARDIS was indeed inside her mind, and apparently trying to be helpful, now that it recognized her as a guest of the Doctor’s.

Newt walked directly across the room to the correct piece of machinery, slid open the cover plate, and pressed her empty glass against the lever in the cubbyhole, while thinking very hard in her mind that she would like half a glass of crushed ice, and then cold water filled to the brim. She hoped that the TARDIS would read her mind and give her what she wanted. Her theory proved to be an accurate one, and the glass filled halfway with tiny ice cubes of a uniform size, and then topped itself off with sparkling crystal clear water. She pulled the glass from the machine, drank about half of it, and refilled it, then closed the door on the dispenser. Suddenly realizing she was hungry after her hike, Newt set her glass of water on the table, and slid open another dispenser door. She placed her hand against a plate, and imagined the peanut butter and honey sandwich that she wanted to eat. In far less time than it would have taken Newt to assemble the sandwich from ingredients spread across the counter, and with no mess or fuss at all, a small door in the face of the machine opened and her sandwich, fully assembled, sat upon a small crystal plate.

Newt laughed aloud with her delight, and removed her hand from the touch pad and her plate from the dispenser. She turned again toward the table, and suddenly noticed the Doctor sitting at a small table in an alcove that she was certain hadn’t been a part of the room last night when they were all in here sharing the Thanksgiving feast.

“I see you’re figuring out how things work,” the Doctor observed.

Newt nodded, and at the Doctor’s gesture, picked up her glass from the large table and joined him at the small table in the alcove. “I was hungry after that hike,” she said, “and I didn’t think you would mind if I got myself a sandwich.”

“Not at all,” the Doctor said. “Make yourself at home. What sort of sandwich do you have there?” he added, peering at her plate.

“Peanut butter and honey,” she answered, then asked, “What sort are you eating?”

The Doctor grinned at her. “Peanut butter and anchovies.”

We dare you to make your villain eat an anchovy and peanut butter sandwich in the next scene…and like it! (I don’t really have a villain, so I’ll make the Doctor eat it)

Newt’s automatic response was to scrunch up her nose and pull the corners of her mouth down in an expression of distaste, even though she knew it was rude of her to make even a silent comment on her host’s dubious taste in sandwiches.

The Doctor laughed. “That’s what I thought too, before I tried it,” he said, “and believe you me, I would never have tried it voluntarily out of my own choice. But after I had been forced to eat one, much to my surprise, I found that I like them. Occasionally. The oils in the anchovies and the peanuts seem to combine in such a way that it helps me think better.”

“So how are the repairs coming?” Newt asked.

The Doctor sniffed deeply and exhaled loudly.

“They’re going all right,” the Doctor said, “Well, I say all right, but actually, they aren’t going so well at all. I’ve managed to warm things up a bit in here, though, and resynch the interior of the TARDIS with the proper season on Gallifrey.”

“I noticed it’s warmer in here, Doctor,” Newt said, “but are you aware that the winter is now leaking out of the TARDIS, and killing the grasses in a big circle all the way around the TARDIS? Also, was the TARDIS supposed to change from looking like a flying saucer to looking like a blue wooden box?”

“It’s simply amazing that those women persuaded the TARDIS to look like a flying saucer at all,” said the Doctor. “They shouldn’t have even been able to change the appearance at all. I think maybe that’s what broke things in the first place. So did you find this letterbox that you all went after?” the Doctor asked, changing the subject.

“Yes, we hiked just about forever, though Knit Wit said it was only about five miles total. We did find the box, but I have to wonder how it got here, and how they knew about it in the first place. This planet doesn’t seem quite natural, either, it’s all forest, with only one clearing, this one, and only one mountain, and the mountain is a perfect cone. The top of the cone is sheared off flat, and the box is in a pile of rocks in the exact center of the flat spot on the top of the mountain. There is no sign of any animals or birds or anything living in that forest, except for the plants. It just seems like there is something all wrong about it.”

“Did you say that the plants outside the TARDIS are dying of cold?” the Doctor asked.

“Yes, I said that ages ago, Doctor, were you not listening to me?” said Newt.

“But there should be no way that the internal weather should be able to leak out into the outside world!” the Doctor shouted as he suddenly leaped to his feet and dashed out the door.

April 13, 2011

Enchanted Garden Chapter Eleven

Newt had expected to come out of the TARDIS doors, then down the ramp and see the others in the letterboxing party lounging in the shade under the TARDIS when she exited the ship.

Very much to her surprise, when she opened the doors, there was no ramp, but she stepped directly out into the purple grasses of the meadow. She closed the door behind her, and walked over to the edge of the forest and joined the others of the group. When she turned around and looked at the TARDIS, she gasped.

It really shouldn’t have astonished her as much as it did. She knew that the TARDIS was alien technology, just her experience in the shower and laundry facilities should have convinced her of that, not to mention the thunder storm and blizzard in the control room. She knew also, just from the relative sizes of them, that the inside and the outside had to be only loosely connected to each other, but for some odd reason, it had never occurred to her that the outside of the ship could take on a different appearance than that of the pirate ship that she had originally seen when this incredible ship had first landed in the meadow.

She should have guessed, she supposed, but on the other hand, there was really no way that she could have guessed, or any hint that she should have to do any guessing. What she saw sitting before her in the pristine purple grasses of the meadow, however, wasn’t a sleek black flying saucer shaped pirate ship, but a rather dilapidated looking blue painted wooden box with a sign on each side near the top that read “Police Public Call Box”.

Staring at it, Newt shook her head and rubbed her eyes, but the blue box didn’t change.

Dusty stepped quietly up to her side. “That’s the way it looks in the television show,” he said.

“I think I’m going to have to start watching this show with you, now that I’ve actually met the Doctor,” Newt said quietly.

“Good.” Dusty said. “The Doctor said that probably about ninety percent of the elements of the television show are fictional, but that some of the stories are actually based on things that have happened to him, and some of the alien creatures are real, though the portrayals of their appearance or behavior are sometimes not accurate.”

“I can understand that,” Newt said with anxiety, “because it would be hard to duplicate some things with a man in a suit, and also it would be a little harder to hire real aliens to play themselves.”

Dusty started to laugh. “And in which currency would you like to be paid, Mr. Schwazzleneck Blain der Slitheen of Raxacoricofallapatorius?”

Newt laughed. “Mr. who from where?”

“In the show,” Dusty explained, “Raxacoricofallapatorius is the name of a planet where some green creatures are from. They’re interplanetary thugs, a family business, kind of like the mafia. The family name is Slitheen, and the planet is called Raxacoricofallapatorius. Interestingly enough, the sister planet has green people on it who can absorb other beings into themselves, and that planet is named Klom.”

“Klom?” Newt said. “That short? And the sister planet has a hugely long name? Raxaco…”

“Raxacoricofallapatorius,” Dusty supplied helpfully, “Rax-a-cor-i-co-fall-a-pa-tor-i-us,” he said again, pronouncing it slowly so Newt could hear each syllable.

“Raxacoricofallapatorius,” Newt said slowly after him. “Raxacoricofallapatorius. I think I’ve it now!” she said, laughing.

“Congratulations,” Dusty said, clapping her on the back. “Though that one, I think is probably fictional.

“It’s all right,” Newt said, “it’s a fun word to say. Raxacoricofallapatorius. Raxacoricofallapatorius. Raxacoricofallapatorius.”

Dusty laughed.

“All right, everyone!” Hollerin’ Holly said, calling to them from the shelter of the forest. “Are we all here and ready to go?”

Everyone gathered around Hollerin’ Holly, and Newt let her eyes flicker around the group, so that she would know who she was going into the forest with.

Hollerin Holly was no longer wearing the pirate’s hat, in fact, none of the pirates were wearing their pirate hats. Newt then made the assumption that the pirate hats had been their Halloween costumes, and that they were also from the same planet Earth that she herself came from, since they were celebrating a similar holiday on the same day, and also based on the similarity of the side dishes of last night’s feast being so similar to a traditional United States Thanksgiving celebratory feast.

Hollerin Holly stood in her leggings and sweater, wearing sensible sneakers for the hike. She wore the same, many pouched belt, however, with its bulging pouches. Knit Solo and Darth Wolf flanked Hollerin Holly, the changes in their apparel very similar.

Newt noted with a slight bit of satisfaction that their sweaters seemed a bit crumpled and rumpled, and Darth Wolf’s had a small red stain on one cuff where she had spilled cranberry sauce on it last night at dinner. Evidently, the Doctor hadn’t seen fit to take the time to show, or even to tell, the pirate ladies how to use the laundry facilities. She felt a bit smug about that. The Doctor liked her better than he liked them. Of course, she hadn’t tried to steal his TARDIS, either, and he’d told her several times that he liked the way she used her mind.

Harold and Dusty stood on either side of Newt, each of them carrying their new books. Newt assumed that their stamps were in on of their pockets, which was where she had stashed hers.

RavenWolf wasn’t in evidence.

“Where is RavenWolf?” Newt asked.

“Remember that it’s now officially November,” said Knit Solo, “and she has been writing frantically on her novel since midnight. I don’t think she’s had any sleep. I doubt if a tornado could pry her away from her computer.”

“I’ll go get her,” Darth Wolf said, and then she walked off through the trees and grasses back to the TARDIS.

Within just a very few minutes, she had returned, with RavenWolf trailing in her wake.

Hollerin’ Holly pulled out her battered piece of paper from one of her many pockets, and she consulted it closely.

“We’ll need to take a heading of two hundred and seventy degrees, Mama Wolf,” she said, and then added to Knit Solo, “and Knit Wit, we need to go about a quarter mile to the trail head, according to wassa’s directions.”

Darth Wolf, who was apparently also called Mama Wolf, nodded and pulled out a compass and began fiddling with its settings.

Knit Solo, who apparently was also called Knit Wit, reached into one of her pouches and pulled out a key ring with a leather thong on it that was strung with several beads and had knots in it also.

Mama Wolf indicated the direction that they would need to go, and they all set off together.

Curious about how Knit Wit would use the beads to keep track of their distance, Newt walked near Knit Wit. Newt saw Knit Wit’s lips silently moving as she walked, and realized the she was counting their steps.

Knit Wit held the beads in both hands, with one finger tucked through the loop of the key ring.

Every few steps, her fingers would move, and by careful observation, Newt realized that Knit Wit was moving a bead from the top of their area on the cord to the bottom, as she took every tenth step.

About the time that Newt figured out what Knit Wit was doing, she realized that she was soon going to run out of beads. However, after the last bead was moved, they walked another ten steps, and the large section of nine beads went back to the top knot of their section, and one of the beads from the next section of the leather lacing was moved.

On further observation, Newt realized there were three sections, containing nine, nine, and five beads, and could be assigned as ones, tens, or hundreds, depending on the distance that you needed to mark off as you covered it. All you had to know was how long your stride was, and you could accurately know how far you had gone, and not have to worry about losing count of your steps.

She resolved to make herself one of these step counters when she got home. If she ever got home.

They walked for a while, then Knit Wit announced they had come to the end of the quarter mile. Hollerin’ Holly consulted her paper, and muttered directions to Mama Wolf, who fiddled with her compass, and they turned left, almost back the way they had come, and there on the forest floor was a well trod path, and furthermore, one that looked more like it had been made for human body widths, rather than the slender track it would be if it were a game trail used only by animals.

Hollerin’ Holly continued to consult her paper, as she and Mama Wolf conferred one with the other, and led them down the garden path.

Knit Wit continued to count her steps, although Newt didn’t see why, since Hollerin’ Holly hadn’t told them how far away the next landmark was supposed to be.

After a while, Dusty called out, “Hey, Holly!”

“What do you need?” Holly called out over her shoulder, without stopping or even slowing down.”

“How much further are we hiking?” Dusty wanted to know.

“Well, I’m not exactly sure, since I haven’t been to this letterbox before,” Holly said, “but according to the clue sheet, it’s not a very long hike.”

“Thanks!” Dusty called back to her.

Knit Wit snickered under her breath as she continued to count steps.

“What’s so funny?” Newt asked Knit Wit, but Knit Wit just shook her head and continued to giggle as she counted her steps and recorded them on the beaded strip of leather thong.

Shortly, the path began to rise, at first gradually, and then a little more steeply. Newt was quite accustomed to walking pretty much every where she went, yet she wasn’t at all accustomed to hiking up the side of a mountain with any amount of speed, and was very shortly finding herself very short of breath. After a little bit more hiking, she was breathing hard enough that she pretty much couldn’t hear anything other than the frantic pounding of her heart, and the rasping sounds as she gasped deeply in a vain attempt to draw in a lungful of air that actually contained oxygen.

Newt looked over at Knit Wit, completely ready to hit her if she was still laughing, but Knit Wit was very obviously doing nothing but breathing and moving beads. She had even ceased to move her lips as she counted her steps to herself.

Harold, ever the gallant knight protector, lagged back a little and offered his hand to Newt. She took it gratefully as she traversed the steeper patches of trail, which all seemed to also be the parts of the trail with the slipperiest rocks and the most treacherous rolling pebbles.

“How… much… further?” Dusty asked again, having to insert his words in between the great gasps of air his heaving lungs were demanding.

“Not much further!” Holly cheerfully replied, without the slightest bit of decrease in the incredible pace she was keeping. It was clearly apparent to Newt that Hollerin’ Holly might be part mountain goat, because she scaled the ever steepening trail as quickly and easily as a child climbs up upon a stone table.

The path wound steadily upward, and Newt wondered how she could have stood in the meadow and totally missed the presence of a mountain of this height towering over the forest.

Finally, they came to a place where the trail was slightly wider. A small bench had been placed in the wider area, and a very small shelter built over the bench, so that it might sit within a small pool of cooling shade while a hiker rested and recovered from the upward climb.

Without a word, Dusty flung himself onto the bench, gasping, and then fixed Hollerin’ Holly’s retreating back with a glare that very plainly said that it would be several minutes before he was going to move again. Newt sat down next to Dusty, and leaned forward, bracing herself with her hands against her knees, as she, too, fought to regain full control of her breathing.

Since it was now evident that the bench had only been designed to accommodate two rather narrow teenagers, Harold dropped to the ground at Newt’s feet and lay on his back, also breathing heavily.

Knit Wit, having counted her way to the bench, took two steps more to the farther end of the bench, and set her last bead.

“Holly,” Knit Wit said, Hollerin’ Holly, already continuing up the trail, called back to them, “Only a little further, come on!” and kept climbing.

“Holly!” said Knit Wit, more sharply, and Holly turned around. Newt could imagine the picture they presented, red faces, gasping for air, worn out, and slumped and huddled together on and around the bench, as though seeking for protection from some terrible fate.

And the terrible fate was coming back down the trail toward them, Newt thought. The idea of Hollerin’ Holly being a ‘terrible fate’ made Newt want to giggle, but as she had neither breath nor energy for it, she merely allowed herself to be content with being highly amused within the private confines of her own skull.

Her reluctance to stop showing plainly in every fiber or her being, Holly slowly walked back toward the gasping teenagers on the bench.

“They aren’t used to hiking with you, Holly,” Knit Wit said, and they’re desperately in need of a break.”

Newt smiled her gratitude up at Knit Wit, happy that she had a champion who would speak for her, now that her exertion had temporarily robbed her of the ability to speak.

Hollerin’ Holly waited with visibly growing impatience while the three children, Newt, Dusty, and Harold, regained control over their breathing. Newt’s knees were wobbly, and she wondered how she was going to have enough energy to finish climbing the mountain and still walk back down the hill and through the forest to get back to the TARDIS.

As she slowly regained her breath, she realized what a wonderful view was spread out before her eyes from this idyllic resting place. She was appalled to see exactly how high they had climbed. Other than the top of the mountain at their backs, she could see nothing higher than they were. She could see the round meadow below them, the only open place in a sea of foliage. The TARDIS sat in the meadow, a tiny blue box in the sea of purple grasses. With a pang of concern, she saw that the grasses nearest the TARDIS, and for a small way out from it in a circle centered on the blue box, appeared to be winter bitten, and dying from frost and cold, while those plants right next door were flourishing in what appeared to be summer health. The cold feeling in the pit of her stomach spread and clenched at her heart. The cold in the TARDIS was spreading into the outside world, killing the plants in its vicinity. What if the Doctor wasn’t able to find out what the problem was, or was unable to repair it? Did he carry spare parts? It didn’t seem right that the cold should spread beyond the outside of the TARDIS, especially in view of the already tenuous connection between the inside and the outside of the ship.

The leaves on the trees in the forest below them appeared as a patchwork quilt worked in every possible shade of purple that the eye could perceive or the mind could imagine. They were lovely, and Newt suddenly wished she had brought her camera with her when she had left home. This one photo would more than make up for all of the trepidation and fear she had experienced since Old Mrs. M had put the spell on them in her enchanted garden. Come to think of it, she had had a few moments of unease and anxiety in the enchanted garden before Old Mrs. M had popped out and scared them nearly half to death and then put that horrible spell on them, which flung them halfway across the universe.

‘But,’ the little voice in the back of her mind reminded her, ‘if you hadn’t trespassed yesterday morning, you would never have met the Doctor.’ A pleasantly warm feeling suffused her midsection, and she ineffectually tried to bat it down with a great deal of annoyance. ‘Boy, have I ever got it bad for him,’ she thought, ‘and nothing is ever going to erase the age difference between us.’

Newt noticed that Knit Wit had hung her beads on a small clip on her belt, and counted them. They had been moved so that it looked as though, if she was reading it correctly, they had taken five thousand three hundred and ten steps. She quickly started figuring. At approximately two feet in a stride, and five thousand two hundred and eighty feet in a mile, they had walked approximately two miles from the TARDIS, most of it, apparently, nearly straight up.

RavenWolf fished a small digital camera out of one of her pouches, and Newt tugged at the hem of her sweater.

RavenWolf continued taking pictures, but answered her any way. “Yes? What do you need?”

“Could you email me a copy of those?” Newt asked.

“No problem,” RavenWolf replied. “Hang on a sec.” She finished taking pictures of the view, then turned a knob at the top of the camera and pointed it at Newt. “I’ve got it on video. Tell me your email address,” she commanded.

Newt smiled for the camera, and said “My name is Newt, and my email address is Newt@gmail.com.

“Spell that for me, please,” said RavenWolf.

So Newt obligingly followed her directions. “That’s en, ee, double you, tee, the ‘at’ sign, gee, em, ay, eye, ell, a period and then cee, oh, em,” she carefully spelled in a loud enough voice that the camera could catch the sound and RavenWolf would be able to send her the photos later. If they were from the same planet, and connected to the same internet. The horrible feeling that they might not be both connected to the same internet suddenly seized her, and she grew worried that she might never see the photographs RavenWolf had just taken.”

Knit Wit grinned. “Harold and Dusty and I had a long conversation about home planets, and we’ve realized that not only are we from the same ‘Earth’, but the same country on the same Earth. I’m from North Carolina. I understand that you all are from Arizona, right?”

Newt nodded, and her heart filled with joy that she would eventually have copies of the photos that RavenWolf had taken of the beautiful purple forest below them.

When the three of them had sufficiently rested enough that they could continue, Harold rose to his feet and asked Holly, “So, how much further is it, any way?”

Holly grinned at him and said, “It’s not very much further, I promise.”

“You’ve been saying the same thing all the way up the mountain,” Dusty said. “I don’t believe you.”

Mama Wolf caught Knit Wit’s eye and they burst out laughing, then Mama Wolf said, “But Holly ALWAYS lies about how far it’s on a hike. It’s traditional for her to lie to us on hikes. However, we always get the box we’re after, if it’s still there, and we always have a lot of fun doing it. So, to us, it doesn’t matter that Holly always lies. It’s become a point of pride to survive a hike with Holly.”

The four letterboxers all drank from water bottles they produced from their pockets, and then shared with the children when it turned out that they hadn’t brought water with them.

“Nobody warned us that this was going to be an all day excursion,” Harold pointed out, “you all make it sound like a simple little walk in the woods.”

RavenWolf giggled and when Harold demanded to know what was so funny, she answered him that there was a book with the title, “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail”. It had been written by Bill Bryson and was his memoir of his hike up the Appalachian Trail.

At the mention of the Appalachian Trail, Newt ceased to worry about whether or not they were from the same planet Earth. There were now just too many similarities between their home worlds to be two different places. She had actually read “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail”, two summers ago.

They finished their drinks, and set off again up the path, always upward, ever upward. With a suddenness that was startling, the path ended in a very small circular area that was covered with purple grasses and rocky soil. The grasses were neither as lush nor as tall as the variety that grew in the meadow so far below, but they were obviously a related plant.

The wind here whipped at them, and Newt was put in mind of the arctic blast that had whipped through the TARDIS, save that this wind, though chilly, was not nearly as cold, or quite as strong.

Exactly in the center of the perfectly round mountain top, was a large pile of dazzlingly white boulders, and Hollerin’ Holly the Troll Master of the Talley Valley Farm Clan was comparing the boulder pile with something on her piece of paper, assisted by Darth Wolf, who was alternating between enthusiastically looking over Hollerin’ Holly’s shoulder at the piece of paper, and dashing around the side of the boulder pile looking at various crevices in it.

“Where did you find these clues, anyway?” Knit Wit asked Hollerin’ Holly.

“They were in the bottom of that bag of kettle corn you bought me at the Wal-Mart,” Hollerin’ Holly answered, her eyes still on the crevices in the pile of boulders she was eyeing as though she were suspicious of the poor innocent pile of rocks.

We dare you to have your main character discover a treasure map at the bottom of his or her bag of kettle corn.

Suddenly, the unnaturalness of the entire planet struck Newt. This colors being different thing was strange enough, but this went beyond that. There were no streams, only one mountain, and endless forest. There was only one meadow in sight from this mountain, and it was perfectly circular, as though it had been deliberately cut that way. The mountain, viewed from their vantage point atop it, was conical, as though it was an old volcano, but there were no ridges, no anything other than a perfectly conical mountain sticking up abruptly from the forest that surrounded it. There was only one trail up the mountain, and it was a good trail, not entirely natural, but a made trail, intended for use by human beings, or at least human shaped beings, and someone had even put the bench half way up the trail as a resting place. Again, the top of the mountain was perfectly flat, as though it had been chopped off by a giant sword. There was no sign of a crater, as there should be if it had indeed been an old volcano. Furthermore, the pile of rocks was precisely in the center of the upper meadow, and was also circular. Suddenly Newt felt trapped, as though there was no way this was a coincidence, and she felt that the entire place had been built. It would be awfully expensive to build an entire planet, or even to change one… what was the word for that? Oh, yeah, terraform a planet to have such a peculiar configuration. She knew that whoever had done it had had access to technology far beyond anything the Earth had ever possessed, and she couldn’t even conceive of why any one person would want to so change a planet and do this to it. If she had been terraforming a planet, she would have given it lush fields that could be used for farming, in addition to the forests for harvesting wood from. Where were the fields? Where was the freestanding water? Grasses and trees wouldn’t grow without water, and yet these were all flourishing without any sign of any sort of surface water. Despite the warmth of the bright blue sunlight, Newt shivered in the briskly chill wind, and desired nothing more than to gain the relative safety of the TARDIS.

Harold spoke from just behind her shoulder, and Newt jumped from her alarm, until she recognized his voice.

“This place is just too perfect,” Harold said softly. “It’s spooky.”

Newt nodded. “I feel it too. I don’t like it. I want to go back to the TARDIS. I felt safer there.”

Harold grimaced. “I want to go back too, but we can’t do that without that piece of paper that Hollerin’ Holly is carrying, and also a compass. I can retrace the path as far as the base of the mountain; that part is easy, but I don’t know what compass heading will take us from there back to the meadow where the TARDIS is. Furthermore, I hope that that piece of paper will tell us, when we get there, because as far as I can tell, the paper only tells us how to get here, not how to return.”

“Well,” said Newt, “when we left the meadow, I heard Holly tell Mama Wolf that we needed a heading of two hundred and seventy degrees. Then when we had gone the quarter mile that Knit Wit measured for us, the second compass heading put us directly onto this path, which led to the mountain.”

“This path just started where we were standing,” Harold said, “we didn’t join it some place in the middle of it. So if we were to go to the end of the trail, and then go…” he screwed up his eyes to do the mental calculations for the reciprocal course, “three hundred and sixty minus two hundred and seventy is… um…”

“Strike off the zeros,” Dusty said. “Thirty six minus twenty seven is nine, so put the zero back on and our heading back would be ninety degrees. But we would still need a compass, because we don’t know whether the magnetic field here is lined up with the poles, and whether the planet rotates in the correct direction to make a solar compass work. Besides, there isn’t enough light on the forest floor to really do a good job of making a solar compass, anyway.”

“How do you make a solar compass?” Newt asked, interested in spite of her worries.

“Well, it’s a very crude compass, even on earth, but you can use it for general direction finding, and it can be helpful if you’re lost.” Dusty said. “You stick a stick into the ground, and then use a rock or another stick, or something for a marker, and somehow mark the exact place where the end of the stick’s shadow falls. It doesn’t even have to be a straight stick, and you can use anything that will hold still and make a nice pointy shadow.

“Because, on Earth, anyway, the sun moves from generally east to generally west, shadows move from generally west to generally east. So you wait about fifteen minutes or so, and then mark where the shadow has moved to. You draw a line between them, and extend it out to both sides. This line will be as close to east and west as you can get, but it’s true east and west, not magnetic. Then you draw another line in the dirt, perpendicular to the first, and that’s north and south. If you’re good at geometry, you can even figure out most of the other angles from there, and get the heading you’re looking for. But you still have to know what the magnetic variation is for your area, and compensate for that as well, because a compass points to magnetic north rather than true.

“Anyway, the point is, that at home, I could make a solar compass if I could find a patch of sunshine, but here I don’t dare to do that, because there are just simply too many unknown factors, any one of which would leave us wandering around in the forest and unable to find the TARDIS before we died of exposure, thirst, or hunger.”

“So unless we steal their compass and abandon them to hopeless wandering in the forest, we’ve to stick with them,” Newt said.

“Got it in one,” Dusty replied.

With a sudden cry of exultation, Knit Wit reached into one of the crevices of the large pile of rocks and pulled something out of it.

Assuming that this was the object of their search that had brought them up to the top of this mountain in the first place, the children gathered near so they could see it.

“It” was a small plastic box that had been entirely covered in brown and green camouflage duck tape. Newt watched as Knit Wit almost reverentially popped open the flaps that kept the lid on the box and provided the watertight seal. Things clicked in Newt’s mind, and she suddenly recognized the camouflaged container as a lock and lock, the sort of container that her mother used to store leftovers in the refrigerator. She lifted the lid, and to Newt’s disappointment, the only thing visible was a wadded up plastic zip lock baggie.

Knit Wit pulled out the baggie, and suddenly Newt could see that there was a small book in the bottom corner, a book that had been made to exactly fit within the small rectangular lock and lock container.

Knit Wit handed the zip lock encased book to Hollerin Holly, who promptly flopped down on the purple grasses and started pulling things out of her various pockets. A trio of markers, and a stamp, and a small notebook were very quickly in evidence. Every last one of the letterboxers sat down and began digging their books and stamps out, so Newt and Harold and Dusty did likewise, copying their hosts. The sooner they could complete this strange ritual, the sooner they could reach the safety of the TARDIS and try to help the Doctor discover the cause of the problems with the environmental controls, and effect the necessary repairs, so that they could get off of this unnatural planet as soon as they could manage it. Newt shrugged off her feeling of impending doom and disaster, and tried to concentrate on the stamping in ritual that the letterboxers were participating in with great relish.

Hollerin’ Holly had freed the small book from its zip-locked confinement, and was busy coloring on her stamp with her marker. Knit Wit was pulling a lump of felt from a second zip lock that had been lodged in the bottom of the lock and lock under the small book. The lump of felt proved to contain a rubber stamp. Newt rolled her eyes. They had hiked all this way for a rubber stamp that they could have just as easily carved back at home?

Each person took their turn stamping the stamp from the box into their own books. Knit Wit told them the name of the box, “The Extreme Mountain”, and they all dutifully wrote the name of the box next to the stamp in her new book, and also, they entered the date. They used November first, two thousand and eight, because they were all still operating on Earth’s calendar, and didn’t know the local equivalent on the local calendar.

As a matter of fact, they didn’t even know if there was a local calendar, since the planet was supposedly uninhabited.

Newt suddenly realized one of the things that had bothered her about the forest. There were no animal sounds. No bird calls, no insects droning about their business, no game trails or foot prints, or scat, or any other signs that anything lived here on this falsely formed planet other than the plants.

The sheer sinisterness of the forest pressed harder against Newt’s consciousness and she shivered again.

They had also written the name of the person who had left this box here, or his letterboxing nickname, Newt guessed, because she couldn’t conceive that any loving mother would have chosen to name their child the rather unlikely name of wassamatta_u.

As the book that had been in the box was passed around, each of them stamped their personal stamp into that book, and then wrote the date and their home town next to their stamp. Newt flipped through to book when it came to her, and was surprised to see that there were already three finders who had beaten them to this remote place…someone named Arizona Roadie had been there first, followed on separate days by a couple named Pete and Wanda, and someone named BR1.

She put her mark into the book, and passed it on.

Just as she was about to put the book away, Mama Wolf said, “Exchanges!” Noting the blank look on Dusty’s face, Knit Wit explained.

“When letterboxers meet each other, they stamp into each other’s boxes as well. This is called an exchange, because we exchange stamp images of our personal signature stamps.

So they all had to pass their personal books around the circle, and Newt was obliged to stamp her stamp into every person’s book and note the date and place they had met. Every one stamped in to her book also, but she noticed that the four letterboxers didn’t stamp in to each other’s books. Apparently they had “exchanged” before, and didn’t need to trade stamps again.

Finally all of the stamping was finished, and the stamps had been cleaned and put away. In fact every thing had been put away, and the box repackaged exactly in the same manner that they had found it. Knit Wit, having been the person who had found the box, put it back into the crevice and then they all joined in artfully arranging the rocks over the box so that it wasn’t visible from any direction.

Everyone shared the last bits of water from the water bottles, and the bottles were again stowed in whatever places the letterboxing pirate ladies had hidden them before they all had left the TARDIS.

Newt was a little uneasy at the knowledge that they still faced quite a long walk, and that it must be made entirely without water. She decided to ask advice of Knit Wit, who had seemed to be the most helpful among the pirates so far. Besides, when they had been using star wars-ish names yesterday, her name of Knit Solo had seemed to indicate she was on the side of light and goodness, while Darth Wolf definitely sounded as though she sided with the Sith, and a couple of times, she had referred to Holly as a Sith Lord also.

Newt walked over to where Knit Wit was checking her belt pouches, and, Newt saw as she read Knit Wit’s notations in her logbook upside down, she was recording the approximate length of the hike they had just taken.

“How far did we come?” Newt asked, hoping that her question would sound just mildly curious.

“About two and a half miles, give or take,” Knit Wit answered, putting her book away and resetting her beads to zero.

“Are you going to count steps on the way back?” Newt asked.

“Yes,” Knit Wit answered, then explained, “because then I’ll take the average of the steps and determine the actual mileage. We humans tend to take shorter steps going uphill, and longer ones going downhill, so if you count and measure both directions, you will have a more accurate estimate of the actual distance travelled. I’ve us now at about two and a half miles, but it’s probably not quite that far, because it was a pretty steep hill we were climbing, so our shortened steps didn’t cover quite as much ground.”

“That makes a lot of sense,” Newt acknowledged, then asked, “Do you think it will be very hard on us to walk all the way back to the TARDIS without being able to get a drink of water?”

“Well,” said Knit Wit, “I think we’ll probably arrive at the TARDIS thirsty, but I don’t think we’re in any danger of over heating or getting the equivalent of sunstroke. Today isn’t a very hot day, and most of our return is downhill, and much of the rest of it is in the shade, so I think we’ll be just fine. It was smart of you to be concerned about the water situation, though, it shows you’re using your head. That’s a wonderful thing to see kids doing; you don’t see enough kids using the brains the Good Lord gave them.”

Newt smiled, a little unsure how she was expected to respond to this statement, but fortunately she didn’t have to respond, because Holly called out, “Is everyone ready to go?”

There were nods and murmurs of assent from every member of their group, and Holly counted her responses, and then blithely led the way over the edge of the mountain’s lip and back down the path they had arrived on, which was, in fact, apparently, the only path on the entire planet.

Knit Wit had been right, Newt mused as they rapidly descended the mountain. They took longer steps, and moved faster, and with much less effort going down the side of the precipitous slope. In fact, they were hard pressed not to run, though in the name of safety, Holly had forbidden that activity.

In what seemed like no time at all, they had reached the base of the mountain, and were retracing their steps to the beginning of the trail.

Once they had arrived at the place where the trail ended, they paused while Holly consulted the sheet with the directions, and Mama Wolf fiddled with her compass. Then they set off again through the forest, not following any path other than the imaginary one that Mama Wolf’s compass showed them.

Very shortly, they had returned to the meadow, and guessing from their reactions, the others were very surprised at the oasis of frost that surrounded the TARDIS. There was actually now a small snow storm centered directly over the TARDIS, and a great pile of the fluffy white stuff was heaped on and around it, as though a large truck load of snow had been dropped directly on top of the small blue box, and had fallen to the ground around its base.

The frozen grasses crackled under their feet as they made their way through the gentle snow storm, and Newt wondered what they would see and how cold it would be when they entered into the TARDIS itself. She had visions of the control room being entirely encased in ice, and the Doctor, still buried past his knees in the control console frozen at his post, an eternal Popsicle.

However, when they pushed open the TARDIS door and entered into the control room, Newt saw that she couldn’t possibly have been more wrong.

April 08, 2011

Enchanted Garden Chapter Ten

Newt hurried down the hall way to her bedroom, and then quickly put her arm load of clothing down. First, she put on the chemise shirt and pantaloons from her Halloween costume, and stepped into the shower stall in the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

Water sprayed from all directions, and she scrubbed at her hair and face until they felt clean. Shortly, she was standing in a warm blast of air, which cut off only when she was totally dry.

She returned to her bedroom and was carefully folding her costume parts when she noticed a latch on the wall that she hadn’t seen before. She pulled it, and a closet rack slid out of an otherwise hidden compartment in the wall. She quickly hung up her costume parts, and then slipped back in to the soaking wet velvet top and flower petal skirt that she had taken from the TARDIS’s huge wardrobe room. Because her shoes had just been cleaned, she set them carefully into the wardrobe, and slid it back in to the wall, then stepped into the shower stall bare footed, and waited.

The shower cycled again, this time cleaning and drying the beautiful velvet clothing that Newt had feared had been ruined by the rain storm. Returning to her bedroom, she reopened the wardrobe, and very much to her amazement, it was full of many different outfits, all apparently in her size.

She changed into the pants of the velvet outfit, which still needed cleaning, and returned to the shower once again.

When that shower was finished, she put the pants away, and finally, took one more shower, wearing nothing but the skin she had been born in. She could see how her hair could be clean, but didn’t think that she could possibly have been cleaned underneath her clothing.

At first, she wasn’t sure this was a good way to do laundry, but on second reflection, she saw that if you came in each evening and washed your clothing and then put it away, you would never have a lot of laundry to do.

Newt changed back into the velvet top and the flower petal skirt. She recalled that when the Doctor had seen her through the smoke, he had called her Nyssa. She wondered who Nyssa might have been, and why she had left her clothing in the TARDIS when she left.

From her bedroom, it was only a short path through to the kitchen, and when Newt arrived, she discovered everyone else there already, snacking on leftovers from last night’s turkey dinner with all the Thanksgiving trimmings.

“Where have you been?” Captain Hollerin’ Holly demanded as Newt entered the room. “We’ve been waiting for you for at least half an hour, if not longer!”

At the same time, Harold asked, “Where did you get those clothes?”

Dusty looked up and blinked several times in succession, but said nothing.

Newt ignored Hollerin’ Holly, though she could see how she might have got her name, but she smiled at Harold as she helped herself to some of the leftovers, piling turkey, potatoes, gravy, and stuffing on to her plate. She sat down at the table, and began to eat.

“The Doctor showed me where to find some different clothes,” she said, “because he said he figured that I wouldn’t want to be traipsing around in the forest looking like a refugee from the French royal court.”

“I see his point,” Harold said, “and agree with it, and I only wish he had shown me where to get some regular clothing too, since I can’t move particularly comfortably in this outfit either.”

“I can show you,” said Newt, “I think. I’ll do my best, any way, to remember the way to the wardrobe room.”

Dusty leaned over and said, “Why did you pick out that particular outfit?”

Newt shrugged. “It was the first thing that I found that would fit me, that wasn’t some totally historical piece. Why do you ask?”

Dusty smiled. “I asked because it looks exactly like a dress that was used as a costume in the television series. It was worn by a character named Nyssa.”

“The Doctor called me that,” Newt said, “when he was trying to see me through all the smoke.”

“All what smoke?” Harold and Dusty asked in unison.

“Well, when I went in to the control room, after I had found the clothing, the Doctor was in there working on something under the control panel. Then there was a big puff of smoke, and he crawled out from under there, and then something in the console kind of, well, exploded, and–”

“Exploded!” Dusty exclaimed, his face a classic mask of shock, concern, and fear.

“Yeah, like I said, it exploded,” Newt said, “and there was a lot of smoke, and even some flames, and I tried to help the Doctor use my blanket to put the fire out, but then it started raining-“

“Sprinkler System” Harold said knowingly.

That’s what I thought too,” said Newt, “but the Doctor said that the TARDIS doesn’t have a sprinkler system, plus there was lightning and thunder going at the same time, right there in the control room, and then finally the storm quit, but the fire was out by then, so that was good, but then the temperature dropped and it started snowing-“

“It was snowing?” asked Dusty.

“It was snowing indoors?” asked Harold

“She’s obviously lying,” said Hollerin’ Holly, “just to get some attention.”

“Yeah, you would know all about lying, wouldn’t you, Holly?” asked Knit Solo, with a sly grin.

Holly sniffed loudly and grumped out of the room.

“Yes, it was snowing, indoors, in the control room,” said Newt, “and then one of the corridor doors flew open, and this terrible wind started blowing, and it blew me over, and it was all the Doctor could do to get the wind to quit, and when I left him it was still cold in there, and icicles were starting to grow on that tall column in the middle and on all the hand rails, but the Doctor was buried up to his waist in control console, and he’s trying to fix it.”

“Does he know what’s wrong with the TARDIS?” Knit Solo asked with a concerned look on her face.

“He said he thought it might be that the environmental controls were fried, but that he hoped that that wasn’t the cause of the problem,” answered Newt.

“Environmental controls, huh?” said Dusty. “Well, that makes sense, because it’s the interior environment that seems to have gone crazy.”

“The Doctor said he would try to get an emergency temporary patch in place and then come in for breakfast,” said Newt.

“And here he is,” said the Doctor from the doorway. “I see that you’ve been catching everyone up on the events of the morning Newt?” the Doctor asked her by way of greeting, and she smiled shyly and nodded.

“I hope it’s all right that I told them what happened,” she said.

“Not a problem,” said the Doctor, “they’re passengers here also, so they might as well know the situation that we’re in. Unfortunately, it will take me several days to effect permanent repairs to the TARDIS, and I don’t dare move her until they have all been made, or I risk fusing several other, much more important circuits. So, we’ll be staying here on Purvis Major for a few more days, which will give you more time to find that letterbox of yours.”

The Doctor then turned his attention to his breakfast, and made short work of the food he had piled on his plate before he hurried off in the direction of the control room again.

Newt showed Dusty and Harold where the main wardrobe room was, and they both picked out several outfits. Then she explained how the showers worked, and they hurried off to their rooms to clean the Halloween costumes they had worn yesterday, as well as their own bodies.

Newt stopped in her room to get her new book and newly carved rubber stamp and went back to the kitchen in search of the lady pirates. There was only a note on the table.

It said, “Gone outside to wait for you. It’s too cold in here, and it keeps snowing on us.”

Newt looked around, and noticed the icicles starting in one corner of the kitchen.

She hurried down the hall toward the control room, and reached that door at the same time as Harold and Dusty.

“Every one has gone outside to wait for us,” she said.

“Hey,” Harold said, “I have a magic closet in my room, it filled up with other stuff my size after I closed it.”

“Mine did that too,” said Newt. “I wonder if it had to wait for me to close it to know what size clothing to move.”

“That’s a good question,” said Dusty, “I’ll have to ask the Doctor about that when I get a chance and he’s not so busy repairing the TARDIS.”

The three of them, Harold, Newt, and Dusty, all moved into the control room together, and the boys headed straight for the outside doors.

Newt stopped off near the control console.

“Doctor?” she asked.

“Yes? What’s it?” The reply came, even more muffled now. Newt noticed that only his legs from the knees down stuck out, and she thought it reminded her of that song where you’re being slowly eaten by a boa constrictor, one body part at a time.

“What’s it?” the Doctor asked again.

Newt kneeled down so she could direct her voice into the hole where the Doctor was laying, and answered. “I just thought you might like to know that it’s snowing off and on, and there are icicles in the corner of the kitchen now.

“Thank you,” said the Doctor, a worried tone creeping in to his voice. “It’s spreading, and I’m not quite sure what to do, with it being winter in the TARDIS. It’s not supposed to be winter, in any event, as it’s summer now on Gallifrey.”

“See you later,” Newt said, “we’re all going out to look for that letterbox thing.”

“Have fun!” the Doctor replied, and then Newt got up from the freezing cold metal of the floor and walked slowly toward the exterior doors of the TARDIS.

Suddenly she turned and hurried back. “Look,” she called into the hole that was eating the Doctor. “Is there any thing that I can do to help you? Even if it’s just to hand you tools or hold a light for you or any thing?”

“No, Newt, there isn’t a single thing that you can do that would help me, but I do thank you again for asking again. You’re really a very thoughtful young lady, and I really do appreciate that very much.”

“Well, I guess I’ll see you later, then,” she said, and then she once again, got up from her freezing knees and headed to the door way, to join the others.

April 05, 2011

Enchanted Garden Chapter Nine

Newt woke in the morning to a tapping sound on her bedroom door. She opened her eyes and suddenly sat bolt upright in the bed. She wasn’t in her bedroom at home! Memory came flooding back to her, and with a rush of warmth to her face, she recalled the handsome Doctor, whose space ship they were now staying in for a little bit.

The knock came again to the door, and she leaped to her feet. She had slept last night in just the white shirt and knickers of her Marie Antoinette costume, and had left the other parts of her costume draped neatly across a chair in her borrowed bedroom, because she couldn’t find a place to hang them.

She hastily grabbed the dress, and was about to pull it over her head, when the knock sounded a third time, and the Doctor’s voice came through the door, just a bit muffled.

“Newt? Are you awake yet?”

“I’m awake, Doctor,” she called out, “but hang on a second, because I’m not dressed yet!”

The door opened just a crack. Not far enough for the Doctor to see through, but just wide enough to be heard through.

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” he said, “I didn’t think you would want to go hiking in the woods with our pirate women dressed as a fugitive from the French royal court.”

Newt laughed, threw the dress back on the chair, and pulled the blanket from her bed and wrapped it around her. “Come on in, Doctor,” she called, and the door opened just a bit wider, and his head popped through the opening, reminding her of the jack in the box toy that belonged to the children she often baby sat.

“Ah!” the Doctor said, as he came the rest of the way into the room. “There you are! I’ve got a well stocked wardrobe, and there should be something in there that will fit you, and will be easier to hike in than what you were wearing yesterday. Come on!”

He set off down the hall, with Newt trailing in his wake.

“So where are you from?” the Doctor asked as they set off down the corridor.

“Um” Newt started, as she thought of Knit Solo’s comments yesterday about every culture calling their planet ‘Earth’. “Well, we call it Earth, but I suppose that’s no help, is it?”

The Doctor laughed. “Not much, but I also can see that you’re human, and speaking what sounds like American English, and the TARDIS isn’t having to translate for me, so I’ve a pretty good idea of which Earth you’re from.” He grinned over his shoulder at her, and then slackened his pace a little to allow her to catch up with him. “So, what part of Earth are you from, and more importantly, when do you need to get back?” He grinned again, and his deep dimples made Newt’s knees melt. Really, she couldn’t keep doing this to her self every time the Doctor showed her any sign of friendship.

“So where in the States are you from?” The Doctor prodded.

Newt laughed. “I live in the tiny little town of Belly Button, Arizona, which is a wide spot in the road between Snowflake and Taylor. In fact, Belly Button isn’t even a town any more; it’s been swallowed up by its bigger neighbors. Mind you, when I say ‘bigger’, the neighboring towns are only bigger by comparison; they both still qualify as very small towns when compared to places like Phoenix or Tucson.

“As far as when, it was Halloween, October thirty first, two thousand and eight, and it was about nine in the morning, when the witch, I mean, when Old Mrs. M, sent us off to this place. Is it actually named Purvis Major?”

The Doctor nodded. “It is,” he said, “and you give very good directions for a young lady of your age.”

Newt felt the sudden heat in her face, and knew she was blushing.

The Doctor laughed. “And you blush very prettily, too,”

Newt’s face grew warmer, and she hoped they were not too far from the promised wardrobe. They had already come down so many corridors and made so many turns that she knew she would never be able to find her way back by herself.

“And here we are!” The Doctor exclaimed, throwing open a door on their right. “Go on in and find something your size, feel free to use anything you find in there.”

Newt entered the room, and was promptly amazed. She was still getting used to the sheer size of the interior of the TARDIS, but this was totally off the scale for comparisons. It consisted of one room, containing at least two floors, and racks and racks of clothing. As far as she could tell, they were not sorted or organized in any particular manner. Adult clothing hung next to children’s sizes, and a very starched Elizabethan neck ruff was draped over a long Medieval gown, which hung right next to ripped black denim pants held together by safety pins, and a long trench coat that would be nearly floor length on the Doctor, and would be wearable in nearly any age since World War One. She sighed. The room was nearly as large as a Macy’s or Sears store. She walked up and down the aisles, looking for something in her size, something that would work well to go for a hike in. The forest parts of the planet Purvis Major didn’t appear that they were very steep, but then, Newt didn’t know what the terrain would do once they left the immediate area of the meadow in which the flying saucer no, the TARDIS, had parked. Newt chastised herself, and told herself to remember the correct name for the ship.

She rounded a corner and saw a beautiful deep purple sleeve sticking out from between a white dress with a purposely tattered hem and a red Elizabethan ball gown. The purple sleeve turned out to belong to a royal purple velvet fitted tunic with long sleeves that were slightly puffy at the top. It also looked like it was about her size. Newt looked around the room, and, fully confident that she was the only person in evidence, pulled off her blanket and her white blouse, and slipped the purple tunic on. It fit perfectly. There were two extensions with clips hanging from the same hanger, one holding a pair of matching pants, and the other a skirt in several layers of poofy, petal shaped panels in various shades of purples and lavenders, which appeared to each be made from nearly translucent fabric, but when sewn double, then layered over one another they managed to hide her limbs with a proper amount of modesty and decorum.

Newt chose the skirt, but brought the pants with her also, in case she might like to wear them later. She hastily gathered up the blanket and the pantaloons and the blouse, or chemise, belonging to her Marie Antoinette costume, and made her way back toward the door where the Doctor had left her.

When she regained the hallway, there was no Doctor in evidence, and she trudged back the way she thought they had come. After a couple of minutes, she had to admit that she was thoroughly lost. Why had the Doctor brought her so deep inside the TARDIS and then just left her there to fend for herself? Didn’t he realize she wouldn’t remember the way back to her room? She chuckled. Obviously he hadn’t realized it, or he would have waited for her.

On the other hand, he did have important business to tend to, such as keeping the universe running, if he hadn’t been making a joke when he had said that was his job. However, somehow, in the private space in the very back of her mind, Newt had a niggling feeling that the Doctor hadn’t been entirely kidding about that very serious matter.

She went through yet another door, expecting to find herself in yet another corridor, but instead, to her very great surprise, found herself back in the main control room. The Doctor was busy staring into a television or computer monitor, and then frantically leaping around the control panel, moving switches and buttons. As she watched, he crawled under the console and pulled a small stick out of his pocket.

This was evidently some kind of tool, because it suddenly lit up with a blue light on one end, and made a whirring sound, and then there was a great deal of sparks flying out from under the console, and the Doctor backed out coughing, followed by a great billow of smoke.

He was waving the cloud of smoke away from his face when he saw Newt standing in the doorway watching him.

“Be right with you, Nyssa,” the Doctor said, and then he froze. “Nyssa?” He shook his head. “It can’t be Nyssa.”

“It’s Newt, Doctor,” she said.

Just then there was a fairly good sized explosion from under the control console, complete with a lot of smoke and several spare parts flying across the room.

Flames erupted from the control panel, and Newt hurried forward with her blanket to try and put out the blaze. A deep bell sound came from no where, and suddenly there was a flash of light and a crack of thunder, and it began raining in the control room of the TARDIS.

We dare you to create weather inside a character’s house for one chapter. Perhaps a tornado in their living room?

Between the blanket and the rain, it didn’t take very long to get the fire out, but in the meantime, Newt and the Doctor were both soaked clear through to the skin. When the fire was out, the rain eased off, but not without another rumble of thunder dying off into the distance.

Newt and the Doctor looked at each other.

The Doctor’s hair was plastered to his skull, and water streamed down into his face. His suit was dripping water down into the electronics in the under parts of the TARDIS’ control room, and there was soot smeared across his face.

Newt supposed she looked about as good, which is to say, terrible.

The Doctor reached out with one corner of the dripping blanket, and wiped Newt’s face. She supposed the soot on her face was now either gone or smeared badly.

“Was that the sprinkler system?” she asked. “You would think it could put out the fire without the lightning and thunder”

The Doctor laughed delightedly. “Sprinkler system? No, but that’s very good. You really use your mind, Newt, I like that! No, the TARDIS doesn’t have a sprinkler system, but I think, and I really hope that I’m wrong, but I think I just fried the environmental control systems.

Newt shivered. She suddenly realized that the temperature in the TARDIS control room had been steadily dropping. Without warning, snowflakes began falling, twirling and swirling around the central column as they fell. One of the doors flew open, and a freezing wind shrieked through the room, knocking Newt to the floor. The Doctor grabbed her hand and helped her get up and over to a safety rail. She held on for dear life while he slowly made his way against the wind to the inner door and firmly closed it. The wind ceased, and Newt sighed with relief.

“Go on in to the kitchen, Newt, and get some breakfast,” the Doctor ordered her. “I’ll see what I can do about getting a temporary patch on this problem, and join you there.”

Newt nodded and headed out of the control room and toward the kitchen. She poked her head back into the room. The snow was still falling, and so was the temperature, though the wind had abated. The Doctor’s legs were sticking out from under the control console, and they were the only part of him that was visible.

“Doctor?” Newt asked.

“What?” his voice was muffled as it came from the depths of the TARDIS, but he didn’t sound annoyed.”

“How do I get me and my clothes dry again? Have you got a laundry? And if you did, where would I find it?”

The Doctor chuckled. “In your room, go into the bathroom. I’m sure you noticed it last night?”

“Yes,” Newt said, a little uncertainly. She had seen the bathroom, which seemed to consist of a toilet and shower stall, and nothing else.

“Well,” the Doctor said, “Get into the shower stall, and it’s all automatic.”

“But what should I do about my clothes?” Newt asked, thinking that she would have to put on the Marie Antoinette dress again, because it was the only dry thing she had left.

“The Doctor chuckled again. The laughter, distorted by the circuitous path it had to take to get to her ears, sounded vaguely sinister. “The shower does the laundry, too. You get in to it fully clothed, and come out cleaned, pressed, and ready to go.”

“Oh,” Newt said, trying to get her mind around the concept of this sort of technology. “Cool. Thank you. Do you need anything?”

“No,” the Doctor answered cheerily, “but thank you for thinking to ask me.”