the histories of mary sharpe
The Doctor had only just settled down to read The War of the Worlds when he felt the twinge. Half-sitting, half-lying on the slightly moist grass, he had only just begun to truly relax when the sensation hit him. It felt, he reflected later, something like déja-vu, and something like an itch inside the back of his head. He wondered what it was, but still focussed the better part of his interest on the doings of the Martian invaders. He wondered how Ssard would have reacted to reading about the fictional inhabitants of his own world. Then the twinge hit him again, stronger this time, as if in protest to being ignored the first time.
He stood up, instinctively looking around for the source of the effect. He had felt similar things before. It was the sensation he got when something, nearby, was interfering with time.
The Doctor straightened his cravat, and thought about the problem. Something was clearly wrong, but he had no real idea of what. He clasped his chin in his right hand, stroking it thoughtfully for a moment. Someone, somewhere was up to something.
He left the park, purchasing a newspaper from a café nearby as he strolled though the village. He leafed through it, hoping to find news on any local scientific experiments, although it seemed unlikely that anybody could be experimenting with temporal distortion in the late twentieth century. Finding nothing, he moved to discard of the paper in a bin he was passing, only to catch his eye on a page that swung open.
‘MARY LOUISE SHARPE’, read the obituary page. ‘Taken from us tragically, 7th June 1998. All our love goes with you…’ The passage reached a premature end. The words slowly disappeared, receding to the top of the page, vanishing completely. The page became taken up with the obituary of the only other occupant of the page, one John Timms, his picture expanding to fill the space left by Miss Sharpe’s absence.
The Doctor looked up from the page.
‘Someone has changed things,’ he said to himself, before another wave of temporal distortion hit him, and he fell to the ground.
The Doctor opened his eyes, to see a small old woman looking down at him. In spite of the heat of the summer’s day, she wore a thick pink duffel coat and a pale blue bobble hat.
‘Are you alright, dear?’ she asked.
The Doctor leaped to his feet.
‘I’m fine, thank you, miss…?’
‘Missus,’ said the old woman. ‘What happened to you then?’
‘Temporal distortion wave,’ said the Doctor. ‘I would appear to be, unsurprisingly, the only person hereabouts sensitive to it.’ He brushed a little dust of his trousers. ‘And they seem to be getting stronger. But why?’
‘Oh, it is, is it?’ said the woman, beginning to wander off.
‘Wait!’ cried the Doctor, darting in front of the woman. ‘Do you know where I can find a Mary Sharpe?’
‘Oh, one of her fancy men, are you?’
‘One of her what?’ said the Doctor, screwing up his face slightly with indignation. ‘Never mind,’ he said, waving his hands frantically, ‘You clearly know her. You must tell me where to find her, the stability of time could be at stake!’
‘Doesn’t surprise me, knowing her. The woman pointed vaguely eastwards. ‘She lives down Willow Way.’
‘Thank you,’ said the Doctor, and ran in the direction she had pointed.
‘Bloody students,’ said the woman, inexplicably.
The Doctor eventually found the flat occupied by Mary Sharpe. He knocked on the red painted, metallic door, fidgeting impatiently.
‘Hang on,’ said a male voice from inside.
A young man with large muscles and short brown hair opened the door. A tattoo of a snake peaked out from under his T-shirt. He looked like the sort of man who was not easily worried. This just made the look of fear in his eyes more disturbing.
‘Hello,’ said the Doctor. ‘I’m the Doctor. I’m look-‘
‘We didn’t call a doctor,’ said the man.
‘Nevertheless – ‘ began the Doctor.
‘But I’m glad you here. My girlfriend… she’s… there’s something wrong with her. I mean, really wrong with her.’
The Doctor followed him into the living room. There, on the sofa, was a young woman with long red hair. She was wearing a green shirt and a denim skirt. She was pretty, but there was nothing really unusual about her. Except for the fact that she periodically faded away into nothingness, then faded back again. She didn’t look like she realised what was happening. She just looked confused.
‘Miss Sharpe, I presume?’ inquired the Doctor.
‘Yes,’ she said, in a voice that seemed to originate several rooms away. ‘Who are you?’
‘I’m the Doctor. I’m here to try to find out what’s wrong with you.’
‘There’s nothing…’ said Mary, fading out again.
‘Doctor,’ said the boyfriend, ‘What’s happening to her?’
The Doctor looked him in the eye. ‘She’s caught between two realities. She shouldn’t exist here. Not any more.’
‘What do you mean? Why shouldn’t she?’
‘She’s supposed to be dead. Someone has tried to change that. Do you really know nothing about it?’
‘I don’t even know what you’re talking about.’
‘So you weren’t the one responsible. Someone clearly cared about her enough to risk severely damaging the timeline. What I wish I knew was how.’
At that moment there was a knock at the door.
‘Another doctor?’ said the boyfriend.
‘I doubt it. You’d better find out who it is.’
He opened the door. In walked another young man; this one was less masculine, with longish dark hair.
‘Keith,’ he said, ‘Is she here?’
‘Bern, she’s sick. Something’s really wrong with her.’
‘But she’s here?’
‘I think she will be in a minute,’ said the Doctor, as Mary faded back into view.
‘Mary!’ cried Bern, practically leaping forward to embrace her. Keith grabbed him.
‘Back off,’ he growled. ‘She’s not yours anymore; however sick she is, she’s still mine.’
‘Something tells me that you’ve got something to do with this,’ said the Doctor to Bern.
‘What’s happening to her?’ he said, as Mary began to once again vanish away.
‘She’s losing her existence in our reality. She can’t exist here, Bern. She’s dead. You must accept that.’
‘No. I’m not going to accept it. She should never have died.’ Tears began to stream from his eyes; ‘She should never have died!’
‘I’m sorry Bern,’ said the Doctor, putting his hand on his shoulder. ‘It’s the way it is. It can’t be changed. Time is returning to its original shape.’
‘No,’ he said. ‘This isn’t right, this isn’t right!’
Keith finally interjected. ‘What did you do, Bern?’
‘I saved her!’
‘How?’ questioned the Doctor.
‘I met someone. He said he sensed my pain. I don’t what he was, but he said he could help me. I told him what happened, and he told me he had a machine, something that could reshape time. He said he could bring her back to life.’
‘He couldn’t. I don’t who he was, but he couldn’t change history. Whatever he did is unstable. The false timeline is breaking down.’
‘She was murdered!’ he yelled, collapsing onto the floor.
‘Murdered?’ said Keith, aghast.
‘The night she left me, on her way to see you. She was cut down by some thug. No one even knows why he was in the village. He killed her! Why did he kill her?’
‘I’m sorry,’ said the Doctor, crouching beside him. The lights were fading. They both looked up. Mary and Keith were gone, the lights were out. Mary no longer lived in the flat. She no longer lived at all.
‘It’s over,’ said the Doctor, straightening up, helping Bern up with him. ‘Time has gone back to the way it was.’
‘But I loved her. It didn’t matter who she was with, as long as she was still here.‘
‘I’m sorry. But neither you, nor I, nor the one who helped you, have the right to alter time for our own gain.’
‘What right did he have to kill her?’
‘None. I know that, but it changes nothing.’
‘But you,’ said Bern, looking the Doctor hard in the eye. ‘Wouldn’t you have done the same? If it had been someone you loved?’
The Doctor looked thoughtful. He thought about Grace. He thought about… Patience.
‘Perhaps,’ he said.
He turned around, his arm on Bern’s shoulder.
‘Perhaps there is a way.’
Together, they walked out of the door.