Exclusive: 'The Book' by James Goss

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Cover from The Doctor: His Life and Times

Read an exclusive short story by James Goss - co-author of The Doctor: His Lives and Times, which is published this week - about a mysterious Book. A Book brim-full of secrets and untold stories. A Book that waits for the return of it's strange, ever-changing owner...

THE BOOK

In a dark room on the dark side of the dark planet, the Book waited. It waited for him to come.

"Oh, I won’t tell him a thing. Not a thing," the Book promised itself. "Whatever body he comes in – the white-haired man in velvet, or the little lost clown, oh no, I shall not say a word."

"I could, obviously. If I wanted to. I know all about him. I contain every story that makes up his story. I could tell him what the Vengeful God has to say about him, or reveal the secrets locked in the ancient city found in Darkest Peru… I could, but I won’t."

Smugly, the Book settled down to wait a bit longer.

"Oh!" a thought struck it. "I hope it’s the old one. That grumpy old man with no idea where he’s going or of all that’s going to happen to him. No idea! But I could read to him from his granddaughter’s diary, I could lay out the lonely path charted for him by the Elders, I could let him hear the sad songs of the Crystals of Mondas. I could do all that. But I won’t."

Chuckling, the Book drifted into a happy reverie. Time passed in the dark room.

"I wonder..." The Book announced to no one at all, "I wonder if he knows that Tegan still waits for him, or where the Starliner landed next, or why the Haunted London Walking Tour is so silent about Perivale? Hmm." The Book laughed. "I bet he doesn’t have a clue! No more than he’s read the Black Scrolls of the Valeyard, or paid a return visit to the Slow Museum."

More time passed in the dark room on the dark side of the dark planet. And still the Book waited.

"Perhaps," it whispered eventually, "I shall tell him that Sarah Jane did hear his last message to her; that Victoria mentioned him in her letters home; and that Wilf never betrayed him. Those things would bring him comfort of a sort. But no, I am not here to comfort him. And I know too, too much." The Book was delighted at that thought.

The Book did indeed know many things – what the Master had said at his trial; what occurred the day that ‘Revel’ of the Remove confronted the White Robots; the Sycorax word for Christmas; and Mr Strax’s singular method for cooking jugged hare.

It even knew precisely why Queen Elizabeth I had run screaming from three men and a horse. "Oh yes,’" it giggled, "and no one is supposed to know that yet."

It knew so many stories that the man himself must never hear – stories told by the clever woman called Verity, the warlock Robert, Terrance (the scribe with a pleasant, open face), and Steven – the Guardian of the Future.

"But I can’t tell him about any of them," smiled the Book. "It would quite ruin the illusion."

Instead, the Book settled down to wait a little longer, and wondered, just slightly, where the man was. Even the young one with the bow tie. "Bow ties are not cool," the Book thought. "That is one thing I certainly can tell him."

Left to its own devices, the Book wondered how long it had been there. Surely, even by the man’s own reckoning, he should have been here by now? But the man did not come.

In the dark room on the dark side of the dark planet, the Book waited for a man who would never come. And, in the darkness, it didn’t notice a yellow piece of paper stuck to its front, covered in handwriting all too familiar to the Book.

It was a note which read: ‘Next time, perhaps try leaving a light on?’

The Doctor: His Lives and Times by James Goss and Steve Tribe is published on Thursday 26 September in hardback, by BBC Books.

Buy it from BBC Books now or pre-order from Harper Collins.