‘”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!”
“You’re right, Doctor,” Dusty said. “It all sounds like it’s a bunch of random gunk. None of it makes sense to me.”
“Start again at the beginning Newt,” the Doctor suggested, “and let’s start taking it apart.”
Newt nodded, and began again.
‘”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-“
“Stop there,” said the Doctor. “Comments anyone?”
“It sounds like she’s telling us that she believes this creature, or spirit, or something, actually lives in her crystal ball, and that it somehow gives her the information. Telepathy maybe? Is there really such a thing as telepathy?”
The Doctor nodded. “There is such a thing as telepathy, and it would be entirely within the realm of possibility that there is some sort of a creature that lives in her crystal ball, It’s also possible that this creature is telepathic, so this part of her speech might be genuine, or it might just be her standard opening when she’s telling fortunes, but at any rate, all it does is establish her credentials as a fortune teller.”
Harold nodded sharply, showing his agreement with what the Doctor had said, and Newt decided she agreed also, so she went on with the next part of the fortune.
“You must do nothing. All will be revealed unto you when the time is right.”
“Well,” Harold said, “that could mean anything. I mean, all it says is that if we don’t do anything to try to get back home, someone will come along and tell us what to do.”
“That sounds reasonable,” agreed the Doctor.
“The first part of it’s pretty plain to understand, anyway, said Dusty, that she thinks we shouldn’t do anything, which to me says to just go with the flow and take events as they come.”
Newt nodded. “Agreed. And the part about things being revealed to us in the future, well, we’ll just have to wait until the future gets here and see if anything new is revealed to us.”
She looked down at the note pad and turned to the next page in order to continue reading.
“Midnight is the witching hour, and the hour when the greatest power comes to those who have power,” Newt read from the note pad, then continued, “That just sounds like establishing her authority again, or explaining. Like she was telling us that something will happen at midnight, because there is more power at that time of day.”
“Well,” the Doctor said, “lots of cultures believe that midnight is a magic time. It’s the hour when one day changes into the next, and you get a clean start on the next day. Cultures that practice magic, or have what we would call magic as a part of their daily existence, all tend to attach a great deal of importance to the hour of midnight. Who am I to say they’re wrong. So, your Madame Du Pompadour explains that midnight is a time that’s significant to many practitioners of what could be termed magic, and why she thinks it’s that way. What’s next? Something else about midnight, was it not?”
Newt nodded. “It says, ‘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,’ so maybe the first bit about midnight was to tell us why Old Mrs. M’s spell would be lifted at midnight.”
“Hang on!” Dusty said, and then screwed up his eyes in intense thought until they were completely closed. He threaded the fingers of his right hand into his hair and gripped the hair tightly, as though he could pull the errant thought from his brain directly through the hair follicles. Everyone at the table sat patiently while he thought, politely and considerately giving him time and space to retrieve whatever memory he was after.
Finally, he let go of his hair and opened his eyes, and looked at them with a great deal of excitement sparkling in his bright blue eyes. His hair continued to stick straight up, still twisted by his fingers, and Newt wondered how much hair gel he had used to keep his fine hair from static electrically sticking to the inside of the hood of his Vashta Nerada costume.
“Old Mrs. M said something about midnight, just before that flash of lightning knocked us out.
“That’s right,” Harold said, “I remember now… it was something about… um…”
“Midnight,” Newt broke in. “She said we had until midnight.”
“That’s right,” Harold agreed.
“But,” said Newt, “we’ve been here overnight already, and it’s now in the afternoon of our second day here. So that kind of kills the ‘things will revert back to normal at midnight’ theory, doesn’t it?” She sat back in her chair and exasperatedly blew her breath out in a way that would have blown her bangs upward out of her eyes, if it hadn’t been several years since she had had her hair cut so that she had bangs.
“That’s one theory,” the Doctor said, “but you’ve to keep in mind the nature of time. Most people assume that time is an orderly progression of events, from cause to effect, but in reality, it’s more like a big ball of tangled string, and if you pull on one of the ends hanging out of the ball, you’re never quite sure what other threads inside the ball are going to be moved, knotted, and disrupted along the way. Which is why it’s never wise to meddle in time, and try to change past events.”
“The fortune teller’s words continue,” Newt continued, “but beware, for time doesn’t run at the same speed when in different dimensions.”
“Well, there is that to consider also,” agreed the Doctor, “which probably means that the spell will lift at midnight, in your own time zone, at home, regardless of how much time you spend in other dimensions and time streams.”
“That makes sense to me,” Harold said, and for the first time since they had arrived on Purvis Major, Newt saw that his face actually looked cheerful. Dusty’s face was showing that he was cheered by the news also, and Newt suddenly realized that Dusty might have been blaming himself for the entire incident, since it had been his suggestion to cut through Old Mrs. M’s yard. Even when they had protested that they shouldn’t be doing it, he had practically forced them to go on without him, or follow him. With a horribly sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, Newt wondered what would have happened to Dusty if she and Harold hadn’t followed him into Old Mrs. M’s enchanted yard. He would probably still be there taking tea with the Victorian woman, and would have therefore been trapped in the past, with no way home. Newt shivered at the possibility that Dusty would have vanished completely from the face of the Earth, had their friendship not been strong enough to follow him into the well enchanted garden.
“What else did the fortune teller say to you?” the Doctor prompted, and Newt realized she had been silent for a time, wrapped in her own thoughts.
She hurriedly looked at the note pad, turned to the next page, and continued reading.
“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.”
The Doctor nodded. “Standard good advice for time travelers. Even if you’re in a time that’s in your own people’s history, you can still change things you shouldn’t change, or get horribly hurt or even killed. It’s very possible for you to have been born in the twentieth century, and die in the eighteenth.”
Newt nodded. “So she gives us some good advice. Advice to be careful is never out of line.” She took a drink from her cup, and was amazed at the wonderful clean taste of the water. It was the most delicious thing she had ever tasted in her life, and she wanted more of it. She drank again, deeply, until her cup was drained. Suddenly she felt cold all over. Eating food in the TARDIS seemed different, somehow, than the water that came from the planet they were on, probably because that food had been brought to Purvis Major by the Doctor. Harold had been so certain that they shouldn’t eat or drink anything that was offered them, because according to the rules of the fantasy realms he had read, eating or drinking native food items would trap you there within the sorcery forever. She even recalled a Greek myth to that effect, a girl who had been trapped in Heck for half of each year because she had been tricked into eating a few pomegranate seeds, or something to that effect. What in the world had she done? Would she now be allowed to go home?
“Drink up!” the Doctor said in his cheerful voice. “I love the taste of fresh well water from a nice mossy well. The moss filters out the dirt and germs, and it just tastes better than any other water, don’t you think?”
He refilled his cup as well as hers, and drank deeply of his own, with a wink.
“But…won’t we be trapped here for drinking it?” Harold asked.
“Well,” the Doctor said, that’s the rule for some enchanted worlds, I suppose, but this isn’t an enchanted world, no matter how you got here, so the food and drink wouldn’t have any effect on you. Except to taste good. And anyway, you’ve been eating food from the TARDIS, how is that different?”
Harold grinned. “Well, you brought that with you, it wasn’t a part of the enchantment of this world, unless you yourself was part of the enchantment.”
The doctor considered his words for a moment, then nodded. “Your logic is good, I’ll grant you that. Be assured that I don’t usually frequent worlds where you can’t eat the local foods.”
Dusty shot a glare at Harold, but it was only short lived as the two boys drained their mugs of water, and agreed that the clear, cold, moss filtered water was the best they had ever tasted.
“So,” said the Doctor, “was there any more to your Madame Du Pompadour’s pronouncement?”
Newt flipped to the last page, and looked. “Just a little more,” she said, and then read, “Beware of pirates who make false promises, and always trust your physician, after all, an apple a day gets the doctor away!”
Newt turned to the next page, and saw that it was empty. “I think that’s where I asked her what it meant, and she got mad and chased us off.”
“Well, beware of pirates who give us false promises makes sense,” said Harold, with a grin. “How many times did that Hollerin’ Holly lie to us about how much further we had to go to get to the top of the mountain?”
“Too many times,” Harold answered with a mock groan, but we did find that box, and it was sort of fun, having a reward waiting at the end of our hike. I wonder if there are any of those letterboxes in or near Belly Button, Arizona?”
Newt kicked him under the table. “We’ll find out about letterboxes later, after we’re safely home. I’m sure that if we search online, we’ll be able to find out more about them with out having to ask that lying pirate Hollerin’ Holly.
“Read that last bit again, Newt,” Dusty said, “not the bit about the pirates, but the other part. It sounded a little strange, but I can’t quite put my finger on why.
“Always trust your physician, after all, an apple a day gets the doctor away!” Newt read, obediently.
“Trust your physician,” Harold laughed. “I think she means the Doctor.”
“Well, I trust the Doctor,” Newt retorted, “and I didn’t need her to tell me that.”
“An apple a day…what exactly does that say Newt?” said Dusty.
She checked the paper again. “An apple a day gets the doctor away.” She recited, then looked up at Harold. “Are you sure you got that bit right? I thought it was ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’”
“Not the doctor,” Dusty said, suddenly, “the Doctor!” and he pointed excitedly at the tall man seated at the table with them. “An apple a day GETS the Doctor away. She was telling us how to fix the TARDIS,” Then he sat down again, a frown on his face. “Never mind, that suggestion was a real piece of rubbish. How could an apple fix a machine?”
The Doctor sat bolt upright, his eyes going very wide. “Dusty, I think you’ve the right of it. I’ve been looking at the hardware, but there is a set of programming instructions filed in the apple file, for restarting the TARDIS if everything should go strange at once. If I follow the codes and directives in the apple file, I would bet it would put the old TARDIS to rights again, and then we could leave.”
The Doctor’s eyes were gleaming as they got up from the table and hurried outside to return to their meadow.
“Thank you!” the Doctor shouted, his face tipped upward, as though he were talking to the trees.
Newt thought she may have imagined it, but it seemed to her that a sudden breeze rippled through the distant canopy of leaves, almost as though the forest laughed and giggled an acknowledgement to the Doctor’s voluble thanks.