by Nostalgia

There are rooms that are not always there. Rooms that come and go, that change in size and shape and turn up in corridors that used to be empty. Rose is used to that by now. It's amazing how soon things start to seem normal, and she reckons that things'd have to, or you'd start to go mad.

But it gets worse than that; in this place there are rooms that are barely even real.


This room, the one that wasn't there yesterday, seems to flicker round the edges when viewed from corner of her eye. It's like some weird Victorian menagerie, all taxidermied animals and old furniture. In the centre of the room is a desk, with everything else laid out as if creating a path to it. There is no possibility that she's not going to follow the trail.

Something crawls past her hand as she leans on the desk. A creature like a bat, like a stick-insect with wings and a kangaroo face. She pulls away from it and stares. What is this place?

A flower sits in a vase next to the not-bat thing. A Harkness rose, says the label, and "he only had two years missing."

Just in front of the chair, the desk is covered in biros and pencils and a set square. An A4 spiral-bound notebook sits in the centre, invitingly, temptingly open. It's his handwriting, a somehow legible scrawl that leans forwards as though trying to get to the next idea before the current one is even finished.

The writing says:

slugs and beetles, the house coming to life. It is a dead House, a living house, a machine with ghosts in.

She worries about privacy and reads his found scribblings anyway.

"perhaps I will come back in a different medium. A rose or an iris?"

"was he really my brother?"

"the seasons are getting shorter; encroaching blackness, threatening to sweep everything away; the end of my life (or at least, a pause)"

"the twins - was I mother or father to them? And why the uncertainty? I couldn't keep the family forever, not with that day job, and then one day they disappeared. Blinked out into nothing. Static on a TV."

She stands there for an uncertain length of time, reading. Pages and pages and none of it makes any sense. There are sections that she recognises as truth, and half of them are denoted in the margin as lies.

On the last page she freezes:

"there's no point looking in here for the truth"

It is underlined, neatly but with an air of determination.


Underneath the notebook is a map of something he has labelled "the past". It is indeed another country, with enclaves and exclaves and rivers between them linking them. Oxbow lakes and calderas. Airstrips onto which things can be dropped, perhaps, occasionally. Islands, archipelagoes...

"Where was I?" asks the legend in the centre of the map.

"Mines of Information" says one area. "Desert of Creativity." "Sea of Revisionism." "The Fourth Wall."


"You found it then?" There he is, at the door, leaning on the frame-that-isn't and watching her as though uncertain about the reason she exists.

"I had a nightmare," he says. "I woke up and I had to write it down before I forgot. I don't know what any of it means. Maybe I woke up too soon."

"So all this... this is what you do when you have a weird dream?"


"I just have some coffee."

"I like to think of it as art."

"It's a bit..."


She nods.

"Oh, I grew up with creepy," he says. "The things that went on when I was a kid... I'd be hiding behind furniture half the time."

"What's it all mean?"

"I don't think it means anything. Other than that I've lived far too long, done too many things, met too many people. At least I still make sense when I'm awake."

"Most of the time," she says, and he leans in close.

"I think she knows, and she won't tell me," he whispers, as if afraid that someone will overhear. "But she always comes back for me. Always has done."


He laughs at that. "You know, somewhere in here there's a whole volume on that question." He drops into an armchair and rests his feet on something that looks like a tortoise. "Bit morbid in here, isn't it?"

"Just a bit."

"Thing about a TARDIS," he says quietly, "is that when they get old, they go a bit peculiar. Start making things up. Stories. Outright lies. Sometimes you wake up from a nightmare, and there's a room just next to yours that wasn't there before. And it's got all the things in it that you need. So obviously one of us doesn't know fiction from reality and I hope it isn't me. One time," he adds, "I fell asleep watching Come Dancing and I woke up in a ballroom."

Rose spots something moving in a corner and tries not to look at it. "What's with all the animals?"

"Oh, they were already in here."

"Well," she says, hoping for some levity, "I suppose this'll teach you not to eat cheese at bedtime."

"It was the vortex," he says, staring at her in a way that makes her want to run. "You don't remember any of it, but it shows you things. Things that happened, things that didn't happen. Universe next door and all that. And of course when you sleep your mind starts wandering, and then you wake up wondering what's real."

She considers all the things he has told her in a comment format, opinions becoming a story. How much of what he's said is actually true? How's she supposed to spot a lie in amongst all the things she doesn't know?

"But you know what's real. You remember it."

He moves so fast, too fast, and he's standing in front of her, taking away her personal space and holding her hands over his hearts and staring. He's got that look in his eyes, the one she's never seen in this new one, the one that always makes her wonder how many people he's killed.

and he says

"the memory



Rose wakes up.


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