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The Old Man and the Police Box


In 1913, schoolteacher John Smith submitted an unusual story to a local magazine. Long out of print, it tells of an eccentric inventor from the land of Gallifrey who steals a miraculous time ship...

Scifi / Romance
Rowena Zahnrei
Age Rating:

The Old Man and the Police Box

The Old Man and the Police Box
From the writings of Dr. John Smith
Edited by Rowena Zahnrei

Long, long ago in the distant future there lived a silver-haired old man who stole a Police Box. He did this for several reasons.

The old man was an inventor. He imagined new and wondrous things no one had seen before, then built them in his laboratory. He was a scientist and an engineer and a pioneer in every field he studied.

But in the strange and distant land in which he lived, imaginations as marvelous as his were very rare. His ideas were considered by many to be eccentric, even dangerous, and so he had few friends. As clever as he was, this man was very lonely. So he decided to run away.

The old man's world was a wonderful place with spires and citadels, impressive lords and imposing ladies. But to his inventor's mind, his people were boring and stuck-in-the-mud. Things rarely changed because there was no one to question, no one to wonder whether things could be made better than they were. No one but him. It was only later that he realized this sorry state of affairs was largely due to the fact that the Gallifreyans, as his people were called, had no children.

It was not always that way. Countless ages ago, the Gallifreyans had been a primitive people. They delighted in tormenting those they considered to be lesser than themselves. But, because they were also lazy and had no desire to leave their world to collect their victims, they invented incredible machines they would use to scoop people off their home planets and drop them in their gaming arena. Once there, the Gallifreyans would force their victims to face dangerous and frightening tasks for their amusement. The Gallifreyans called them intelligence tests. They treated their captives no better than laboratory animals, and most of them did not survive.

This was a shameful period in the history of the land of Gallifrey, commonly called a time of chaos. Life in those times was short–only a brief span of seven or eight decades–and the Gallifreyans were forced to have children to ensure the survival of their race and knowledge.

Out of this primitive society emerged three great leaders who stood out from all the rest. The two greatest were called Rassilon and Omega. The third was a mysterious figure known only as the Other.

Rassilon had an idea. He believed it was possible for a Gallifreyan to travel backwards and forwards not only in space, but also in time. Working with his friends, Omega and the mysterious Other, he invented a marvelous ship. This ship was not built in the ordinary fashion; rather it was grown on a great frame. Because there had to be a lot of room inside the ship, the three men invented a way to make a lot of space fit into it. And because it had to travel in time, they made it so that the ship could vanish from one place and reappear in another at any where and any when they desired.

To make this kind of travel possible required a lot of energy. Omega declared he could provide that energy by flying into a star. This he did, but the energy he released was so great it consumed him, ship and all. The Gallifreyans could now travel in time and space, but the cost had been the life of one of their greatest leaders.

With Omega gone, the mind of Rassilon began to turn. He had long passed middle age by this time, and he feared his death was near. He also feared what would happen to his people once he was gone. The ability to travel in time had not pacified the population as they had hoped. Instead, it had only provided them access to new and different victims to torment. And so, Rassilon came up with a new idea.

Rassilon and the mysterious Other were very clever men. Working together, they came up with a way for a Gallifreyan to live not one life, but thirteen. All it would take was some careful manipulation of biology. In this way, they gave their people another heart, a physical and mental connection to the temporal plane, and made it possible for them to start another life when they died. They did this in the hope that by removing the fear of death and time, the people would settle into a life of peace and happiness.

But the Gallifreyans were still primitive in their minds and behavior. Although they could now live for centuries, they were reluctant to give up their old habits. Children continued to be born, increasing the population at an alarming rate. Something had to be done.

And so, Rassilon came up with yet another idea. But this time, he was alone. Unlike Rassilon and Omega, the mysterious Other was known to have a family. Now approaching old age, the Other had become quite set in his ways, as old men are wont to do. He therefore refused to accept a second heart and an extended life and resigned from public service, resolving to live out his remaining days with his wife and granddaughter.

Rassilon toiled in his private laboratory for several years before his invention was complete. He called it a Loom, and it was a revolution. No longer would Gallifreyans be forced to have children to ensure the survival of their race and culture. Instead, when a Gallifreyan reached the end of his or her thirteenth life, he or she would be replaced by a biological Cousin grown in the Loom. These Cousins would emerge from the Loom fully grown and with the potential to live thirteen lives, but their minds would be like those of children. After several years of schooling, they would be ready to take their place in society.

Every Gallifreyan Family was assigned a Loom, which contained knowledge of their basic biology. When one Family member died, the Loom was activated and a new Family member emerged. In this way, the population soon leveled off and remained constant. And to ensure it would remain so, Rassilon secretly worked into the Looms an instruction. Gallifreyans now lived too long to be saddled with spouses and children, he reasoned. He, himself, had never been fond of children with all their noise and their pestering questions. To his mind, the Looms had made all that type of fuss and bother unnecessary. And so it was that no children were born on Gallifrey from that day on.

In the millennia to come, this would become known as the Curse of the Gallifreyans: to live a life of pure intellect, forever, without ever knowing the kind of all-consuming love that can shrink the universe down to a single, cherished smile…Always alone, always objective, never allowed to connect…

It was around this time that Rassilon and the mysterious Other had a mysterious falling out. To the people of Gallifrey, Rassilon was their greatest hero, the benefactor of their race. The Other, however, believed that Rassilon's power and fame had gone to his head. They had a fight in public, and the mysterious Other was forced to flee the city. When he tried to return, Rassilon declared him a traitor and a danger to the peace and ordered his arrest.

The old inventor was present that day. True, he was from the distant future, but when he had run away he had stolen an abandoned time ship and decided to go traveling to see his world's legendary past. And so it was that he was there to witness the Other's last act of defiance against the new order of Rassilon.

In the inventor's time, the Other was seen as a terrible evil. He was an enemy of Rassilon and Omega, constantly working to hinder the great men who had freed the Gallifreyans from their primitive existence. Now, to his great amazement, the inventor discovered this was not the truth at all. The Other was not evil. He merely was not afraid to speak out against Rassilon's ideas.

The Other feared that Rassilon's Looms would cause the Gallifreyans of the future to stagnate. He believed their culture would cease to change and grow because, without children or the fear of death to spur them towards discovery, the people would cease to change and grow. The inventor had seen the future, and knew this to be the truth. His was a world without the ties of deep familial, filial, and matrimonial love. In his experience, all he had known was the distant, polite affection of his Cousins. Deep in his hearts, he found, to his surprise, that he was envious of what the Other had. But he was wise enough to understand that if he tried to intervene on the Other's behalf, he would be doomed to share his fate.

After being chased from Rassilon's great palace, the Other first returned to his home. Knowing his end was near, he kissed his wife a final time and made a promise to his beloved granddaughter. He promised her that, one day, he would return for her. He told her that, although he may look different when he arrived, she would be able to recognize him nonetheless.

Then, taking leave of his family, the Other went to the House where the first Loom was kept; the prototype built by Rassilon himself. This Loom had been given to a very old and prominent Family, a Family Rassilon believed would be sure to keep it in prime and pristine condition. As Rassilon's guards closed in, the Other leapt into that Loom, where his biological material was immediately unraveled into its component atoms.

The inventor, who had hidden himself among the gawping crowds, was stunned beyond measure to realize he knew that Loom. It was the Loom from which he himself had been spooled. And now, for the first time, certain things began to come clear.

By this act, the Other had apparently, for all intents and purposes, become his direct biological ancestor–and perhaps more, even, than that. The inventor had always felt he was different from his fellow Gallifreyans. His Family had long held a reputation for producing eccentrics, and he had often been mocked at school as being Theta Sigma—the cream of the crop.

And now the inventor realized that he could not return to his own time. More to the point, he didn't want to. He had a time ship. He had his curiosity and an inventive mind. He wasn't meant to live out his lives trapped in a cycle of routine and ritual. What he wanted, more than anything else, was to explore.

Leaving the buzzing crowds behind, the inventor began the trek back to his stolen ship. On the way, he came across a young girl. This girl had dark hair and dark eyes and a small, elfin face the old man found somehow familiar. He looked at her and she looked at him for a long, long time. When she embraced him, he wasn't surprised to find his arms warmly returning the hug. And when she called him grandfather, he just smiled and took her by the hand.

"I'm just on my way to London," he told her as he opened the door to his ship. "It is a place I've read much about and have long desired to see for myself. Would you care to accompany me, my child?"

The girl agreed and chose a year and the time ship appeared in London in the center of a junkyard. Upon landing, the ornery machine, which the girl christened the TARDIS, took upon itself the shape of an old blue Police Box, and no amount of coaxing would convince it to change. And so it was that the old man and his young granddaughter traveled to London in a stolen Police Box. It was the first of what were to become many, many impossible adventures.

John Smith

Hulton Academy for Boys

Farringham, Norfolk

April, 1913

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