Entropy had won. The universe was dying. All the attempts to save people, to upload them, to prolong life, had, in the end, become somewhat useless. The heat death was upon everyone, and everything, and all that was left was to give in.

Or maybe not. In the last million millenia before the heat death, a curious event happened. All the uploaded individuals, and all the individuals who had died, found themselves attracted to one piece of space time. No one knew what or why it was, but somewhere along the line, it became known as the Soulbound Nebula, or for the more cynical, the Nebula of Lost Souls.

Thousands of transparent, sentient beings–from all races and all places--were moving in a line, seeping through the black cracks in the energy bridge and pooling into a big ball of moving light. This mist wasn't just any mist. A few of the beings paused at the blue police box that was discreetly floating out of the way, and the two girls looking around. One girl was a Caucasian brunette, and peeked around nervously, as if sh was afraid she would be devoured by the mist. The other was an Egyptian, and stood tall, staring at the specters with great interest. The Egyptian occasionally whispered into the other girl's ear and placed a hand on her shoulder, clearly trying to calm the girl down. It didn't seem to be working.

“What's wrong, Peri?” asked the Egyptian. She swung her legs from the edge of the floating TARDIS, looking deep into Peri's eyes.

“Nothing, Erimem,” said Peri. “It's just...the Doctor doesn't even realize how terrifying this is. This is supposed to be the last place in the universe. All these souls are dead, and the universe is dying. And we've been taken here because...the Doctor's feeling morbid?”

“I'm sorry you're not enjoying the experience, Peri. I do have a good reason for being here,” called out a blonde man standing ahead of them. Unlike the two girls, the man was in the heart of the fog. He was breathing in the green mist, looking straight into the conflagration as the souls enter the vortex leading to the beyond.

“I know you do, Doctor. It's just, well, no one likes to think about death, you know? I like living my life, and not being reminded about dying or going to heaven all the time.” To herself, she thought “I get enough reminders about it hanging with you as it is.”

“Heaven?” asked the Doctor. He turned around, and his face looked otherworldly with the green mist floating around it. “ This isn't heaven, or hell, or purgatory. It's a perfectly scientific process. This is the final procession, where all the life forces and saved files and uploaded biodata are all taken to their last stop in the universe. Anyone who has ever lived in this universe has some representation here. This is where they say their last goodbyes, and go forth to the beyond. The explanation behind it is very intriguing, involving gasomorphic principles and the multiple world theory, plus some epistomological sublimation theory--”

“Which I'm sure can be saved for later,” said Peri and Erimem in unison.

“As I was saying before being interrupted,” said the Doctor, “the theories are interesting, although some people don't find them so. But I can't tell you where they're going.” There was a hint of embarrassment in his expression.

“Why not?”said Peri.

Erimem smiled. “Isn't it obvious?”

Peri pouted. “No, it isn't.” She never liked being left in the dark.

“Because we're alive. Clearly, these are secrets of those who die. It would not be wise to intrude, lest we become dead ourselves,” said Erimem.

The Doctor nodded. “A little more flowery than what I would have said, but basically correct.”

Peri shook her head. Sometimes she forgot that Erimem and the Doctor weren't like her. The Doctor was far older than he appeared, and probably didn't even see death in the same way. Erimem grew up with sacrifices, and a world where death was a lot more commonplace.

Peri was the only normal person here. Or maybe she was the odd one out.

Erimem softly said “Peri, are you okay?”

“Yeah, yeah. I'm fine,” said Peri quietly. To be honest, she was sort of falling apart, but it wouldn't do well to mess up everyone else's fun.

Erimem didn't seem convinced by Peri's words, though. “Doctor, I think she's had enough...Oh! Didn't you say there was appointment with Lord Byron that you needed to go to?”

“Oh dear!,” said the Doctor. “I wanted to stay here longer...but I'd better go now. Or I'll forget again. Thank you, Erimem!” With that, the Doctor rushed back into the TARDIS.

Peri and Erimem giggled at the Doctor. The man could be so mercurial at times.

“Thank you,” Peri said to Erimem.

Erimem grinned at her. “It isn't a good idea for the living to stay in the Land of the Dead anyway.” She walked back into the TARDIS, and Peri was about to follow.

“Peri” whispered a woman's voice. The voice was familiar somehow.

“W-who's there?” said Peri. All she could see is green mist.

“Peri, you're here!” said a voice that Peri recognized as her mother's.

“Mom!” cried Peri. She ran into the green mist, searching wildly around for the source of the voice. All she could see was green. She stared into the coalescing portal at the edge of the bridge. Her vision began to blur, and she was starting to feel light-headed. Her skin looked like it was glowing green.

Someone from far away called her name.

Her mom's voice returned. “Wait, why are you here, Peri? Something's wrong with you. You don't belong here.” The voice got angrier. “You don't belong here. Get out. Get out.”

Peri was getting lost in the green swirling energy in front of her. She found herself touching the energy door with her hand. It sent sharp pain down her fingers, but she didn't care. Her body felt removed from the pain, and she took another step into the green---

“GET OUT!” screamed her mother into her ear, and it sent shock waves down her spine–and she felt it this time. She took a step back, and saw her mother's pitch-black eyes, and it felt like oblivion piercing into her skull. (And then she remembered that her mom's eyes were never that black, so who was she talking to? By now, it felt like oblivion was hammering it's way out of her head, so it seemed like a good time to scream.

Peri screamed. The pain stopped, and she opened her eyes to see her being dragged back into the TARDIS. She looked at her hands, and was shocked to see her fingers bleeding slightly.

She was lying on the floor of the console. The doors were being slammed shut, and she could see Erimem's and the Doctor's feet around the console. Soon, she could hear them taking off.

“Erimem, go find some medical supplies,” said the Doctor. “Please don't argue.”

Soon, the Doctor's eyes were staring into Peri's. They looked angry, an emotion Peri had never really seen on the Doctor before.

“Why did you walk into the portal?” said the Doctor. “That place is meant for the dead. What did you think going in there would do to you?”

“I heard my mother! She was calling out to me!” said Peri.

“Everyone's mother is in there! You're in there; I'm in there; everyone from Rassilon to the lowliest peasant in the lowliest village is there!” said the Doctor. “There are places people like me and you just aren't meant to go.”

“Why'd you even take us there, then?” said Peri. She was upset now. “If we aren't supposed to be there, then why bring us to see that? Was it to remind us that we're going to die? Because that isn't really a good way to cheer me up in the morning.”

“Peri, that couldn't be farther from my intention. I didn't come here to make you sad,” said the Doctor. He brought his hands to his temple. “Peri, do you know why I came to the Nebula of Lost Souls?”

“I figured from the name that this where lost people go, so...because you're always getting lost?” said Peri.

The Doctor laughed. “Actually , the Nebula was originally named after a legend of a disappearing galaxy...which I've always wanted to investigate. But, anyway, the reason I came here is because, well, I've died quite a few times. Often alone. And I've seen a lot of death. “

“I'm still not seeing the good part,” said Peri.

“But when I come here, and see all these souls, I realize that no one truly dies alone. All of our loved ones who've died and left us behind–we'll see them again in the end. Well, it might be a copy of them, or a genetic reconstruction. But at the very least, they won't be alone. And maybe we'll get to make the apologies in death we could never say in life,” said the Doctor. His blue eyes looked far away.

“You know, I never thought of it like that,” said Peri. But she wasn't fully satisfied with the explanation. “But how do we know they're going to anywhere good? For all we know, this could be some trap by the Master or something.”

“True. But Peri, is it useful to think about all the ways this could go wrong? For right now, I'd rather look on the good side,” said the Doctor.

Peri nodded. The Doctor had a point. She thought about the specters moving forward, all defying the end of the universe. None of them must know where they were going, but together, those ghosts were going to find out. It was beautiful, in a way.

Erimem returned with supplies. “The TARDIS really needs to stop moving the bathroom. Is everyone alright?”

“Yeah, I'm fine,” said Peri.

“Well, then I just wasted a trip. Someone else is bringing all these back,” Erimem declared, looking at the Doctor.

The Doctor innocently looked at Erimem, and said “Exercise is good for the body.” Dodging a towel that was thrown at his head, he continued “Now, I have an appointment to get to.”

Peri sat in silence for a few minutes, thinking. Finally, she said “Hey, Doctor.”

The Doctor, who was being given a first-aid kit by a smirking Erimem, said “Yes, Peri?”

“Thanks,” Peri raid.

“Always,” said the Doctor.

As the four beings left the Nebula, some of the specters noticed. The form of a boy with a badge of mathematical excellence, a Grecian girl, a metal dog, and others watched the box dematerialize, and whispered amongst themselves.

But for the most part, the three intruders and their ship were ignored. They were of the living, after all, and it was not their time yet.