“No doubt you’ve heard the tired, old phrase, ‘History is written by the winners’? Well, it’s arrant nonsense. Winning is writing history. Or rather, writing history is what makes you win. Eventually. Look at my people, look at the Time Lords. They don’t actually do anything, except decide what happened and when, and they are, I flatter myself, one of the most powerful races in the galaxy. Written history alters everything. It can even change the future — I should know.”
The Doctor’s library was as white and sterile as the console room. For some reason Evelyn had expected rickety metal bookcases and a filing system so disorganised she would have to turn back (much like that at dear old Sheffield), but, aside from containing a lot of books, the two places were nothing alike. There were no desks filled with sleep-deprived students, no glowering librarians, in fact no people of any kind. The library was completely still. Meanwhile, the filling system might well be as complicated as Sheffield’s, but it seemed there was no need to get to grips with it. There was a desk in front of a multitude of shelves, which was, most unusually for the TARDIS, labelled with its function in large neon letters: ‘Book Finder’.
Evelyn sat gingerly in attached seat and typed in her name into a keyboard mostly filled with characters she didn’t recognise.
“This is to be our little secret, you understand,” she told the machine, amused at her own foolishness, and pressed Enter. A small, round robot underneath the desk detached itself and rolled away down the aisles in search of her published works.
It was the Doctor’s fault, of course. He had been soliloquising about history books from somewhere underneath the TARDIS console that morning. Evelyn had missed exactly what it was that had set him off — it was probably a mistake to ask and by the end of his rants the beginning scarcely seemed to matter, but it had got her thinking. Now, here she was, twiddling her thumbs and waiting to see (it was embarrassing to admit it, even to herself) whether he’d read her books. They were undoubtedly trivial works to a time traveller, riddled with errors, of course, but it was possible he’d picked them up somewhere, wasn’t it?
The robot returned after several awkward minutes.
“Symthe, Evelyn,” it said in a metal-sounding voice. “Author three volumes, ‘Faith, Politics and Protest in Elizabethan England’, ‘All The Queen’s Men’, ‘Writing History’. Search took five point zero five six minutes.”
“Thank you,” Evelyn said and took the books from the compartment that had opened on top of the robot.
“Two out of six,” she remarked, largely to herself, “not bad, Evelyn.” They did appear relatively new (unread in other words) but perhaps the Doctor took good care of his books. He did not seem like the kind of man who believed in dog-earing pages to mark his place, for example.
Evelyn read the blurs on the back of her little books fondly, opened them and read a couple of lines. Hopelessly inaccurate. How could she have represented Dudley as a refined, artistic man? He’d been a boor and a tedious one at that, but all the written records seemed to support his pedigree. She chuckled and closed ‘All the Queen’s Men’. Even if the Doctor hadn’t read them, she felt quite touched to know these pieces of her ordinary life were here in his grand library. The third volume, however, the mysteriously titled ‘Writing History’, was entirely new to her, though Evelyn thought she could guess what was in it.
Unlike the other books, it was wrapped in a thick skin of something that looked like polythene, with another label (two in one day — most peculiar) stuck across it. This one read ‘SPOILERS’ in large, black capital letters. Even if the word’s meaning hadn’t been obvious, Evelyn had spent a good deal of time with people more intent on what might be happening in next week’s Neighbours, than what might have happened 400 years ago. Spoilers: secrets about the future. Clearly whatever this book was, it wasn’t meant to be read yet. It was probably best to put it back.
She put it down on top of her Elizabeth books, but then, after a moment, picked it up again and peered at the cover, distorted by the plastic-casing. It couldn’t hurt to look at it, after all: the Doctor had done that. Besides, she already suspected that she held her own memoirs in her hand. So, she was already spoiled… to an extent.
The book was blue, with mahogany coloured writing. There was definitely a picture of herself in an oval, and above that the name ‘Evelyn Rossiter’.
Evelyn Smythe put the book down again. Then, before she could change her mind, she picked all three books up and put them back inside the robot, which obediently trundled off to replace them on the shelves.
It was quite something to know one’s future had been written, though as a time traveller she had known it had to be somewhere. She had thought of Rossiter over the last year, but to see their names linked like that when she couldn’t be sure he even remembered her (though, clearly he did if the name on the memoirs was to be believed) well — that was quite something, too. It was probably one, or both, of these that now caused her dickey heart to race.
She walked slowly back through the white corridors to the white console room, where the Doctor’s yellow-chequered legs still stuck out from underneath the hexagonal overhang. He was humming jauntily and only broke off after Evelyn had said “Doctor?” twice and prodded him on a green-spatted foot.
“Hmm?” he asked, sliding out from under the console. “Oh, hello, Evelyn. Sorry, have I been under here all day?”
“Yes, you have,” Evelyn said, smiling.
“Well, as it happens, I think I’m done,” the Doctor said. He stood up and dusted himself off, checked his pocket watch. “And in time for lunch, I see. Where would you like to go? My treat. No, no, I insist. How about the Savoy?”
“Actually, Doctor,” Evelyn said in a would-be casual tone, “I thought we might take a look at Vilag, if you didn’t mind. See how they’re getting on with all that rebuilding.”
“Oh,” the Doctor said. His face fell. “Hardly a prime luncheon destination,” he said reproachfully, “but I suppose we could make a brief sojourn, shall we say… a year after our last visit?” He pressed several buttons, pulled a couple of levers and made a pleased sound as the TARDIS started wheezing.
“So, what made you think of Vilag?” he asked in a voice as casual as Evelyn’s had been.
“Nothing. I just… remembered, that’s all.”
“I see,” the Doctor said without looking at her.
They’d been together long enough that Evelyn could tell without asking that he was thinking about the tightly-wrapped book in his library. She hoped, when he eventually read it, he would like what she was going to write, or rather had already written, about him. Perhaps she would play down how awful the coat was and let him win a few more arguments. It was the least she could do, she thought, looking now at the stubborn line of his jaw, to misrepresent him a little.