Caroline opened her eyes.
She could smell smoke. And it was warm. It was a warm summers evening. She felt around her, waiting for her eyes to adjust. She was lying on what felt like stone cobbles. They felt damp, almost as if there had been a summer shower.
Her eyes started to clear and when she eventually gained focus of her surroundings she realised she was at the base of a large, stone, clock tower. Two metal arms with what looked like lamps extended from either side. The roof was pointed and at the base of the tower was a wooden door. Just below the clock face was a sign which read ‘CENTRAL MARKET’.
To her right was a pub called “The Red Lion.”
She got up and her head was spinning. Next to her was the wrecked remains of the TARDIS escape pod which she crossed over to. She picked through the debris, hoping the find something that would give her a clue as to where she was, because this certainly wasn’t Thornsby.
And then she noticed a newspaper lying in the gutter near the pub. The deep, black letters pronounced that it was “The Thornsby Evening Telegraph”.
Caroline looked at the newspaper and then quickly looked up. This didn’t look anything like Thornsby. The clock tower stood in the centre of a cobbled road and was surrounded by buildings. A little way from the tower was a road which crossed another and towards a bridge. Something about this place was familiar…but slightly off.
“What the hell?” said Caroline as she made her way along the cobbles, past the tower and towards the bridge.
She crossed over the road which bisected the one she was on and on the corner was a building which also looked strangely familiar. In fact she was very familiar with that particular building.
The side of it read “Palace Theatre”. Except that it wasn’t exactly how she remembered it. She knew it as the Carphone Warehouse building with a Domino’s Pizza outlet stuck at the back. But here it was much bigger and larger than she knew it. A huge, grand theatre with a large, pointed roof and a bell high up in a tower. That part of the building definitely wasn’t how she knew it. That was meant to be a car park. At least that’s how she remembered it.
She put a hand to her forehead and then turned and ran back to the newspaper in the gutter.
She knelt down and read the date: June 1st 1901.
“Oh my God,” she said to herself. “Thornsby, but 1901. Thanks, Doctor,” she finished sarcastically.
“Miss?” came a warm, well-spoken voice from behind her.
She turned and standing next to the clock tower was a tall, young man in a black suit, shirt, tie and his neat hair plastered down.
“Oh, hi,” said Caroline, a little unsure of how to react. This was her first time going back in time. Really back in time. And to her home town as well.
“I beg your pardon?” he said. He smiled, his thin face showing off boyish good looks and his hazel-coloured eyes glinting in the evening sunlight. “Are you okay, miss?”
“I’m fine,” lied Caroline. She really wasn’t. She wanted to go back to the TARDIS.
“Is that some kind of costume?” asked the man, moving a little closer to her and eyeing up her dress. “For a summer party perhaps?”
“It’s my dress,” said Caroline, looking down at herself and realising that this may be a little too racy for the early 20th century.
“It’s a little…short,” he said, blushing slightly.
Caroline gave a slight smile. “All the rage where I come from.”
He extended his hand. “William Fieldgate.”
Caroline hesitated and then took his hand. “Caroline Parker.”
“A pleasure to meet you, miss.“ William looked her up and down again. “So, it’s all the rage where you’re from, is it?” he asked.
“Eyes front, boy,” smiled Caroline. “And yes, it’s all the rage. And somewhere I need to get back to.”
“Are you taking a train?”
“No,” said Caroline. Then she stopped herself. “Actually, yes. I’m waiting for my friends to arrive first though.”
William noticed the wreckage of the small escape pod nearby. “What on God’s green Earth is that?” he asked.
“No idea,” said Caroline, realising she shouldn’t allow him to get involved. She took his arm and guided him away.
“Miss Parker, when will your friends be arriving?” he asked, noticing the cut on the side of her head.
“I….I don’t know,” she said, honestly unsure of when they were going to arrive. She didn’t even know if they were still alive. The last thing she remembered was falling off the sofa. She assumed that the Doctor and Danny had gotten her into the escape pod, but there were no signs of the two of them. Or Matthew for that matter.
“Then you must come with me.”
“That wound must be seen to? You’ve clearly had some kind of accident. Do you have lodgings?”
“No,” said Caroline. “But I’m sure they’ll be here soon. My friends.”
William smiled. “We’ll leave a message with the Lion’s landlord. When your friends arrive he can direct them to my home.”
“I don’t know about this,” said Caroline, looking back tentatively at the escape pod. Something was telling her not to get involved in this.
“Please. You need to get that cut looked at. My mother is trained in nursing. She can clean it up.”
Caroline looked back at William. He really was quite dashing. She smiled. “Okay, but then I’m coming straight back here. I need to make sure I meet my friends.”
“June 1st, 1987,” said the Doctor, putting the newspaper back into the bin.
“But it’s definitely Thornsby?” asked Danny.
“It’s definitely Thornsby,” said the Doctor.
“Thought I recognised the hideous, 1980’s style buildings,” he said, pointing towards the brick monstrosity which housed a Presto supermarket, next to St James’ Church.
“Yes, I’m afraid the mid 20th century didn’t have the eye for architecture in the way that previous eras had.”
“You’re telling me!” exclaimed Danny.
The Doctor looked up at the building next to him. It’s white, painted walls reflecting the sun back off them.
“The White Hart!” said Danny with glee. “This place is still around in mine and Caroline’s day.”
“Do they have rooms?” asked the Doctor.
“Rooms? What do you mean? It’s a pub.”
“Rooms for people to stay at. To sleep in.”
“I think so,” said Danny slowly. He frowned. “Why?”
“Because we need somewhere to stay while I try and work us out of this mess.”
“Surely we can just get straight back in the escape pod and try again,” suggested Danny hopefully. “I don’t fancy being stuck in the 1980’s.”
“The escape pod has burnt out,” said the Doctor, leading Danny back around the pub and to the archway leading to a passage behind the building where the grey cabinet stood, silent.
“We need to get to Caroline. We have no idea where she is.”
“She may even be in this time,” said the Doctor, hopefully. “But we’ve got no way of finding out. Not yet anyway.”
Danny scratched the back of his neck and looked down the passageway. “Is there really no way to get the TARDIS back?”
“We don’t even know if the TARDIS is still there,” said the Doctor solemnly. “Hopefully it’s adrift in the vortex, but it could just as easily have been destroyed.”
Danny shook his head. “So we need somewhere to stay?”
“Unfortunately, yes. Until I can work out of a way to locate Caroline and try and get her back.”
“Brilliant!” exclaimed Danny, but it wasn’t an exclamation of joy.
They made their way through the old, wooden door of the White Hart pub and emerged into a large, horse shoe shaped area with a bar opposite the front door and various cubicles and sectioned off areas lining the walls. All along the walls were pictures of the pub and the town over the years and the whole place looked as if it needed a good modernisation doing to it.
As they made their way towards the bar, the wooden floorboards creaked under their footsteps.
Standing behind the bar, cleaning a glass was a man in his late 40’s. He had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and had a bushy moustache. He was going bald, but the back of his hair was still long and hung over his shirt collar.
“What can I get you two fella’s?”
“Two rooms, please,” said the Doctor, rummaging in his pockets for some change.
“Rooms? Blimey! No one’s rented rooms out for a bit.”
Danny, meanwhile, was busy gazing around the pub.
“Everything alright, son?” asked the landlord.
“Yeah.” He got closer to the Doctor. “This place is a restaurant now. I mean…not now, but when I come from.”
The landlord overheard and frowned. “You sure you’re alright, lad?”
“It’s just…amazing!” said Danny, continuing to gaze around him.
“Time travel,” smiled the Doctor, and rolling his eyes at the landlord.
The landlord cleared his throat, took a drag on his cigarette and put two keys on the bar. “Room’s 6 and 7. It’s five quid a night - pretty cheap, if you ask me - and breakfast is served at 8am. Or when I get up.”
The Doctor laughed as well.
“How long will you be staying?”
“I’ve no idea,” said the Doctor, taking the keys from the top of the bar. “Hopefully not too long. We need to get out of here as soon as possible.”
“Many a person has said that about Thornsby,” laughed the landlord.
But the Doctor was serious. Something about this place didn’t feel right. Something felt slightly…askew.