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Camera Obscura - A Doctor Who short story





“Doctor Who is a trademark of the BBC, story and original characters are copyright 2015 EH Walter, all rights reserved.”


They were like birds. Large, black birds – shadowy descendants of pterodactyls – gathered in the shadows and out of sight. A movement from one of them could be dismissed as a trick of the light – the mind placing tricks with the shadows of the night. They were hungry. Ravenous. And they could feel their next meal getting close. A rip in time. Juicy energy waiting to be consumed. Gathered around one special person. A person with the potential to change the world. All they had to do was find a way through and then they could begin their feast.


The faint breeze that carried the leaves against the wind was the only sign of the arrival of the blue box as it set down in the middle of Prince’s Park, materialising out of the air. The Japanese tourists, lost on their way up to the castle, paid it no attention such was the power of the blue box designed to go unnoticed – even in a world where no blue boxes remained outside museums.

“Have you never tried to change it?” Clara asked as she opened the door and stepped out into the park, “I mean – it’s meant to be camouflaged. Sure, it might have worked fifty years ago – but now?”

“I like blue,” her companion said as he followed her out and closed the door to the TARDIS, locking it with a key. “I did once think about going for a red telephone box – do you think that would be better?”

“Again, Doctor – years out of date.”

“Well what do you suggest? A photobooth?”

Clara shook her head. “You are so out of date.”

“I should hope so too, maybe you will be as well when you are over nine hundred years old. Anyway, I like blue – it’s distinctive – so blue it stays.” He patted the box protectively. “Do you think she sounded a bit off? Like she had a cold or something?”

“The TARDIS with a cold?”

“Well, she doesn’t sound right anyway.”

“It sounded fine to me. Now where are we? You said I was going to get a dose of culture.”

“I think what I actually said was you should see some more of your own country and own time. And I have to come here once in a while to do a little job. Guess where we are.”

Clara turned in a three sixty, taking in her surroundings.

“Got it yet?”

As she turned for a second time a cyclist dressed entirely in neon yellow bore down on her.

“Watch it!” he cried, his accent distinctive.

“Sorry!” Clara said.

“Tourist!” the cyclist muttered as he sped off.

“You shouldn’t be cycling in the park anyway!” She called out. She turned to the Doctor. “Scotland. And by the look of that rather big castle up there and that monument over there – Edinburgh. At last, somewhere that matches your accent.”

“You should try a new accent, it’s most refreshing. Almost as good as a new face. This way.”

Clara followed him off through the park, matching his fast pace even though his legs were much longer than hers. “Well I hope your dose of culture doesn’t include Irn Bru and deep fried Mars bar.”

“Do you always believe stereotypes, Clara?”

“Well what are we here for?”

“The oldest purpose built tourist attraction in Edinburgh.”


“The Camera Obscura.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a projection of the city inside a small room.”

“This city, the one we are walking through now?”


“The one I can see without being in a small room and walking up a large hill?”

The Doctor nodded innocently. “Yes. And it’s not just any hill – it’s the Royal Mile.”

“If it makes you happy, Doctor.”

“There it is.”

The Doctor paused for effect. Clara stopped and looked up. A tall, grey tenement building stood before them. As she looked up she saw the grey stone ended and mounted at the very top was a round building built of white with black edging and crenelated like a parapet. Above this was a brown dome.

The Doctor looked at Clara expectantly.

She frowned for a second and then said: “Woah?”

“Exactly!” and he turned on his heels and approached the building, heading straight past the queue of tourists – psychic paper in hand. “Camera Obscura Inspector coming through…”

Clara sunk into her shoulders as she queue jumped. “Sorry…” she said, “…with him…”

The Doctor was already at the ticket office where he was thrusting his psychic paper into the ticket seller’s face.

“Honestly Doctor,” Clara said, reaching into her bag, “you are so cheap!” She put a hand out and pushed the psychic paper back towards him. “I’ll get this.” Smiling brightly at the salesman she said: “two please,” and took the tickets he offered along with an information leaflet. She opened the leaflet but managed to read no more than the first paragraph before the doctor was off again.

“Come on!” the Doctor said enthusiastically, “Let’s go through the Magic Gallery.”

“Is this trip for me, or for you?”

“Giant plasma balls, Clara! Giant. Plasma. Balls.”

“Very pretty,” she said absently as she placed her hand on the glass. Pink bursts of light jumped up to the edge, meeting her palm and fingers.

“Woo!” the Doctor said, making pink lightning jump across another ball. “Oh come on Clara, lighten up!”

“I would,” she muttered, “if I didn’t always feel like your babysitter.”

Releasing the plasma ball he reached for her hand and dragged her to the doorway. He paused on the threshold and arched his eyebrows.

“You’re like a little boy sometimes,” she said softly.

“Just sometimes?” he said and led her into the Camera Obscura room.

It was dark and in the centre of the room was a white inverted disc, like a large dinner plate, upon which the streets outside were being projected.

“Everybody out please,” the Doctor said loudly, brandishing his paper, “routine inspection.” And with his hands he shuffled everyone out of the door as if they were unwanted pigeons on a monument. “Go on, go on!” He turned back to Clara, a wide smile on his face. “Isn’t it amazing?”

“But what possible use is it?” she asked.

“Aw, Clara – do things always have to have a use? Can’t we just do things because we can? That’s what I like about you humans – why stop at doing what you must – do something just because you can, for the fun of it. Imagine what this has seen since it’s construction in the Victorian era.”

“We could have just gone to the Victorian era to see it.”

“There are things worth seeing in any era, Clara, even yours.” He referred to his watch. “And I need to be here… now.”

“It’s just, when you persuaded me to take another trip with you I didn’t realise we would be coming here. I could have got a train here and they make better tea than you do.”

“No one makes better tea than I do.” He looked around, “Hey, do you want to see something very cool?”

“How cool can you go?” she muttered sarcastically.

His answer was a wink and he reached into his pocket for his sonic screwdriver. He fiddled with it’s settings and pointed it to the roof. “I can play with the abundant energy in this room. The Victorian era, m’lady.”

The image on the disc changed, the people moved around and changed. Skirts became longer and horses appeared.

Clara leaned over the large, white circle. “To be honest, Doctor, it doesn’t look much different.”

He leaned over her shoulder. “No, I suppose not. Well, we are in the Old Town. Perhaps I can send it further afield?”

With another press of the sonic screwdriver the image changed again, this time it was zooming out so everything got smaller. Then it refocused on another town and zoomed in.

“Again, Doctor, something I could do on my iPad with Google Earth.”

The Doctor pursed his lips and then leant closer to Clara. “You want to see something really different?”

She raised her eyebrows.

“I’ll take that as a yes then. You see, when this was built it served one very clear purpose.”

“And that was?”

“Think about where we are – the oldest part of Edinburgh – seat of the Scottish kings. This spot was not just chosen for being a huge great rock suitable for building a castle on, it’s also a well.”

“A well?”

“A well.”

“That’s nothing new. Settlements always needed wells.”

“Ah, but this is not a water well. This is an energy well. It draws up from the earth and gives out energy. It’s quite amazing really. No wonder some of those kings ruled for so long and were so strong. The well energised them. It draws upon the Earth and all time.”

“If they were so strong why aren’t they still here?”

He flicked his hand dismissively. “Touchy subject, Jacobites, Act of Union et cetera, et cetera…”

“And you are here to inspect this well? Why?”

“It leaks. I come along every fifty-five years to make sure it is still plugged. It hasn’t given anyone any problems since it first leaked in 1853, but I always check.”

“1853?” she looked down at the leaflet that she had been given with their tickets. “When the Camera Obscura was built?”

“Ah! Now you’re getting there, Clara. The Camera Obscura was built so that the guardians of the well could see approaches from any angle; many beings would like to tap a powerful well.”

“The guardians of the well? Shouldn’t they be inspecting it?”

“Well technically they are since I am the last of them.”

“You’re a guardian of the well?”

“Amongst other things. Not the most impressive of my titles, I will admit.”

“And now it’s just a tourist attraction?”

“And a very leaky energy well.”

“So seal it up then.”

“I will do – as soon as I find the centre of it.”

“I thought you were a guardian of the well? Shouldn’t a guardian of the well know where it is?”

“It’s an energy well, Clara – it moves.”

“So how do we find it? Dangle a crystal? Wave the sonic screwdriver around?”

“It’s easier than that. We can do it old school. Here – I’ll show you. Put out your arms.” He took her arms and straightened them. “Feel the force, Clara. Okay – only joking about that part. Close your eyes and let your hands do the work. You should be able to find it on your own.”

“I just want you to know I don’t feel at all stupid doing this.”

“Oh good, I’ll let the tourists back in then?”

“You dare…”

Clara took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Then she opened one.

“Concentrate, Clara!”

She closed her eyes again and took another breath. Stretching out her fingers she waited to feel something. Nothing. She took a step to the left. Nothing.

“Are you sure I can do this?”

“No, but it’s very amusing watching.”

She stared at him, narrowed her eyes and then closed them. “I can do it if you can. That is if it can really be felt.”

“Oh, it can. Do hurry up Clara, I have to plug it up by midnight.”

“Or else?”

“Or else all the goblins and pixies come out. No, seriously. It just starts to play with time and reality.”

“A bit like a TARDIS.”

“Well, everything is energy. Energy has to be controlled and organised otherwise it all gets a bit crazy, like those plasma balls out there. Energy wants to burst free and given a chance will. Have you found it yet?”

Clara stopped as her fingers tingled. It was as if they were being tickled by sparklers. She moved one arm back half a metre and the tingling stopped. “Got something.” She moved her hands slowly until she felt the energy increase.

“Clara, stop there. Don’t move.”


“Your hand has disappeared.”

Clara’s eyes shot open. Her right hand had gone and around her wrist were ripples like circles on a pond.

“Try moving back slowly.”

She took a small step backwards and as she did so her hand began to reappear, wrist first. She didn’t breathe until her whole hand was visible. It felt numb and she shook it.

“Well, that’s interesting,” the Doctor said, “we have got a little bit of a rip in time. Your hand probably just surprised someone in another time and place. Where and when, I don’t know.”

He flicked out his sonic screwdriver and pointed it at the space Clara’s hand had just vacated. “Oh dear.” He shook the screwdriver. “This isn’t good. Not good at all. We’re too late. Someone has beaten us to it.” He raised the screwdriver to the roof. “We have to go up!”

The Doctor took off with haste, Clara rolled her eyes and then took off after him.

“An explanation would be nice!” she called out after him.

“This rip in time is like water going down a plughole. What we have seen is the bottom of it, the small end. The leak is up on the roof and we have to get to it.”

“I’m not going to like this am I?”

The Doctor stopped and looked at her. “Probably not,” he said before tearing off to the stairs.

As Clara stepped out onto the roof the Doctor was already at work, stood between two large telescopes, pointing his screwdriver at a fixed point towards the centre of the roof. Night was drawing in.

She felt something brush past her right ear, a black shape out of the corner of her eye, and cringed. “Urgh! What was that? A bat?”

The beam of the screwdriver followed the path the thing had taken. The Doctor looked at his screwdriver. “Worse. Much worse. A wee beastie.”

“Come again?”

“Something that feeds off energy, more specifically the energy gathered around people, places and times that give off the most energy.”

“What does that mean?”

The Doctor spoke rapidly: “Take Napoleon, for example. A man who influenced people and countries, who brought about changes for thousands of people through his actions. He sent all that energy out into the world – energy some creatures like to feed on. But, the man Napoleon has sent out that energy – these creatures look for the potential. Give them the choice and they’ll go for the young boy growing up in Corsica with all that potential energy to feast upon.”

“Feast upon? That doesn’t sound good.”

“Do you ever wake up feeling like you haven’t rested, you’ve slept but you feel just as tired if not worse?”

She nodded.

The Doctor nodded. “That’s them. Sapping at your potential; your get up and go.” He sighed. “All those people out there who could have done something really remarkable with their lives too tired to do anything else but sit with a take away in front of some appalling TV program. It’s criminal.”

“You’ve just described half my class.”

He looked right at her. “Oh, they like the young best of all. The younger the better. They hide in the shadows and peck away at all the potential in a human soul until only the very basics remain.”

“As I said Doctor, not good.”

“It isn’t and we need to find out where this creature has gone and if he is alone. If they feast on the energy they will take it from the person who was due to use it and change history. These creatures and an energy well are the worst possible combination. Who knows what damage they could do to someone really powerful and influential.”

“Yum yum Corsican boy, no more Emperor Napoleon?”

“That’s right. Goodbye ruler of a large chunk of Europe, hello second rate cobbler from Corsica – or similar if you get my drift. Although technically speaking he probably would have followed his father into law. A good lawyer was Carlo Bonaparte.”

“So how do we find out where it’s gone?”

“Oh that’s the easy bit, Clara. We follow it.”

“I’m not going to like this, either – am I?”

Before she could protest, the Doctor seized her hand and pulled her towards the centre of the roof. Her head went first, pulled by a strong but invisible force. Edinburgh and the night sky disappeared. Clara felt her body being squeezed and compressed one second and then loosened and expanded the next. It was like going down a waterslide that was constantly changing in size.

The light when they landed was blinding and Clara hit the ground rapidly. She managed to put out her hands, breaking her fall. She crouched there for a moment, sick and blind. She scraped her fingers across the ground. Dusty. Dry. Small stones in the earth?

She lifted her head and looked about. Gradually shapes began to appear in the bright sunlight as her eyes adjusted. Trees? A house? Sky, definitely sky.


“Daylight,” he said, “daylight is good. This buys us time. These things keep to the shadows and hate, hate, hate light. Night is the time they prey.”

She blinked. The doctor was pointing his screwdriver up.

“Northern Hemisphere and by the air quality I would say post 1918 pre 1939. Bad news – there’s definitely an energy reading for more than one of them. Good news – we are here to save the day!”

When it became clear no help would be forthcoming from the Doctor, Clara got herself up. The her clothes were covered with a fine, earthy dust. She tried to slap some of it off her top, but quickly gave up. She looked around. There was a metal box on a stand. She approached as the Doctor continued to fiddle with his screwdriver, walking around in a circle as he did so.

“Northern hemisphere…” he muttered again, “I’ll narrow it down in a minute…”

Clara looked at the metal box and then saw something lying beneath. She picked it up and opened it.

“Somehwere near Atlanta, Georgia,” she said confidently.

The Doctor took a closer look at his screwdriver. “Yes, you could be correct.”

“Of course I am,” she said and smacked the newspaper into his chest. “Atlanta, Georgia third of July 1934 to be precise.”

The Doctor took the paper and looked down at it. “I did say Northern Hemisphere.”

“So where are these things, these wee beasties, then?”

“Hiding. Hiding until dark. We have…” he pointed the screwdriver at the sun, “…we have until eight forty-five this evening, so two and a bit hours.”

“Two and a bit?”

“I like to be exact. Stay here, I’m going to trace their energy patterns and try to work out how many there are and how long they’ve been here.”

“What do I do in the middle of Georgia?”

The Doctor looked at her: “Don’t get lost?”

As the Doctor wandered off, eyes fixed to his screwdriver, Clara looked about her. She was on a street, the houses wider than English homes. To her left there were low level houses with porches at the front, to her right there was a little grocery store and a side road before the road continued with much larger houses – taller and with columns instead of modest porches. The mailbox that she had picked up the newspaper from was in front of a yellow and brown house, it seemed to nestle between the two sides of the street in size. A screen door opened and a small child stomped out. He sat on the top of a set of four steps and sunk his head between his hands. Clara recognised the look of a child trying desperately not to cry.

“Hey, kid…” she called out, “what town is this?”

He looked up. His brown eyes met her’s. “It’s Auburn, ma’m.”

Clara smiled. She loved how Americans were so polite, calling strangers sir and ma’m. “Is Auburn a nice town?”

The boy shrugged. “I liked it well enough.”

“Liked? Not like?”

He bit his lip.

“Can I sit a moment? I’ve travelled quite far.”

The boy shuffled along the step, even though there was already plenty of room.

Clara stuck out her hand. “I’m Clara.”

The boy took her hand and shook it seriously. “Mikey, Mikey King.”

“Please to meet you, Mikey. So, what’s wrong with Auburn?”

He shrugged. “I’m just having a bad day, s’all.”

“Sometimes it helps to talk to someone.”

“I would talk to Bobby, but I’m not allowed anymore.”

“Oh no. Why not?”

“Cos his daddy don’t want him playing with me now we go to different schools.”

“It’s hard when friends go to different schools, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still be friends.”

“His daddy don’t want it.”

“Why not?”

“Cos Bobby is white and goes to a white school. I’m black and go to a black school.”

She sighed. “Nineteen thirties America. I’m sorry, Mikey.”

“So I can’t tell Bobby about my problems.”

“Would it help to tell me?”

“You’ll think I’m silly.”

“Well, you won’t know unless you try me.”

“You won’t laugh?”

“I promise.”

Mikey looked around, then lowered his voice. “Okay. I’ve been having nightmares. Really bad nightmares.”

“That’s nothing to be embarrassed about, Mikey – we all get nightmares.”

“They’re the worst nightmares in the whole wide world.”

“You know, sometimes it helps to take something bad and concentrate on turning it into something good. So find the opposite of a nightmare and try to think about that instead.”

“Like a nice dream?”

“Yes, turn a nightmare into a dream. Can you do that?”

“No, I don’t think I can. These are different. These are really, really bad nightmares. I’m asleep, but it’s like I wake up but I can’t move and I can’t stop them. I can’t move, so I lie there in the dark whilst they… peck at me.”

“Peck at you?”

“They aren’t birds. They’re bigger and meaner. They come out of the shadows. I don’t want it to get dark. I don’t want to go to bed. They’re gonna eat me again. They’re gonna gobble me all up until nothing is left.”

“I think I know someone who can help you, Mikey. His name is the Doctor and he helps people solve their problems.”

“Can he help me with mine?”

“He can and will.”

Mikey began to smile. “You promise?”

“I do.”

“He ain’t gonna give me an injection, is he?”

“He’s not that kind of doctor. There are many doctors – he is the one who comes when people need a different type of help – no matter where or when you are.”

“A different kind of doctor?”

“Look – there he is now.”

Clara pointed to the right where the Doctor was approaching, eyes fixed on his screwdriver. He walked into the mailbox.

“Who put that there?” he asked.

He’s gonna help me?”

“He is. It’s best to think of him like a mad scientist, a man so focused on science he doesn’t see what’s right in front of him.”

“Like a mailbox?”

“Like a mailbox.”

“Ah, Clara, small child…” the Doctor began, “hello small child.”

“I’m Mikey.”

“I’ve been around the block,” the Doctor said, “actually several times. There is a definite cluster of them, but the main energy tracks back to here.”

Clara put her hands over Mikey’s ears. “Would the person under attack be getting nightmares?”

“Oh most definitely. A child would probably experience nightmares, whereas an adult would probably describe night terrors.”

Clara signalled the boy with her eyes. “Then I think we’ve found our victim.”

The Doctor put his hands on Clara’s and pulled them off Mikey’s ears. “Hello, I’m the Doctor – but you can call me Doctor.”

The boy put out his hand. “I’m Mikey.”

Crouching the Doctor looked deep into his eyes. “I hear you’ve been having some nightmares young Mikey.”

The boy nodded.

“Every night?”

“Two nights now, sir.”

“Two nights. Okay.” The Doctor sprang up and turned to Clara, keeping his back to Mikey. “That’s enough to do some damage, but hopefully not too much.” He spun back to Mikey, “your dreams are caused by the monsters that live under your bed…”

“My momma says monsters don’t exist.”

“That’s because all adults have forgotten about them, the monsters only like to nibble on children.”

“They’ve been nibbling on me?”

“Doctor,” Clara interrupted, “should you be telling him all this?”

“Why not, Clara. I need him to be angry, I need him to be very angry. Tonight, Mikey, those monsters are going to try and creep out from under the bed and out of the shadows in the closet. They want to nibble on your soul Mikey, but with your help I will make sure they’re not going to manage it. We are going to fight them off.”

“Fight them? How?”

The Doctor looked upwards, as if he was doing a very complex calculation. “I’m going to need a funnel, a sonic screwdriver and an energy source. The bigger the better. Luckily I already have a sonic screwdriver.”

“What’s an energy source?” Mikey asked.

“Something that gives out electricity,” Clara said, “like a plug socket or a battery.”

“Daddy’s car has a battery – he showed me it when he explained to me how it worked.”

“Perfect.” The Doctor said, “Now if we put it all together now we should have enough time for a cup of tea before it all kicks off.”

“Daddy’s car is parked on the street.”

“Lead they way, young man, lead the way.”

Mikey smiled for the first time. Clara put out her hand and helped him to his feet.

“It’s this way.”

Mikey down the path and past the mail box. He pointed to a shiny red car with a black trim. “That’s it.”

“Nice car,” Clara said.

“Model Y Ford,” the Doctor said with a smile, patting the side of the car, “if I’m not very much mistaken. And I’m not. She reminds me of Bessie.” He walked around to the side of the car and slid up the side of the bonnet.

Clara peered inside. There was an abundance of wires. “It looks… busy.”

“Ah, after tinkering with the insides of the TARDIS this is nothing…” and he began to pull off the wires with a mixture of confidence and ignorance.

“Hey, this ain’t gonna hurt Daddy’s car, is it?” Mikey asked, “I mean, you can put it back together – right?”

“Oh, yes.” The Doctor looked at a wire in confusion. “Now what do you do?”

Mikey looked at Clara.

“Don’t worry – we’ll fix it.”

“I sure hope so, or Daddy’s gonna be mad.”

“Help me, Clara,” the Doctor said, “it’s rather hefty.”

“And dirty.”

“Skin has this amazing property, Clara, it’s waterproof and wipe clean.”

She took a breath and put her hands on the battery.

“One, two, three…” the Doctor said.

He was right, it was hefty. Between them, they managed to pull it out and set it on the ground.

“We need to get this up to Mikey’s room. One, two, three… Mikey, lead the way.”

“Come round the back.”

Clara and the Doctor lugged the car battery after Mikey, who went up the steps and turned right under the porch. Around the back Mikey held open a screen door for them and they carried the battery into the kitchen.

“Mikey King what are you up to?” a woman asked.

“Momma, this is the Doctor and Clara.”

The woman dried her hands on a towel and looked at the two strangers suspiciously.

“Where are my manners?” the Doctor said and rummaged in his pocket for his psychic paper. “Here we are…” and he held the paper out in front of her. “You got the letter through the school I take it?”

She took the paper in her hand and inspected it closely. “No.”

“Really? They forgot to send it? It’s most important we carry out our experiment on dream states…”

“What university is this?” Mikey’s mother asked.

“Edinburgh,” the Doctor said.

“Hence the funny accent,” Clara said.

“I think it’s a very fine accent, Doctor. Please go ahead and set up your equipment, but I won’t have Mikey’s sleep disturbed. His daddy gets back from Germany tomorrow and I want him well rested to welcome him home.”

“Ma’m, our little experiment will ensure Mikey sleeps soundly.”

“Go ahead then.”

The Doctor and Clara lifted the battery through the kitchen. The Doctor turned. “I don’t suppose you have a funnel, do you? And a cup of tea?”


Clara and Mikey watched as the Doctor set up the battery at the end of Mikey’s bed. At the top of it he fixed the funnel and stuck his sonic screw driver on the side.

“Does he actually know what he’s doing?” Mikey whispered to Clara.

“I’m never quite sure,” she said, “I think he has a rough idea… sometimes.”

“Perfect!” The Doctor said and stood back to look at his creation.

“Clara, you and I will go and have a cup of tea whilst Mikey here performs his ablutions…”

“My what?”

Clara winked at him. “Get ready for bed.”

“…and then we will be ready for them.”

“You’re not leaving me alone with them – are you?”

The Doctor placed a hand on Mikey’s shoulder. “We won’t. They won’t come out until dark and by then we’ll be ready!”


Mikey lay in bed, blankets grasped in his fingers and pulled up to his chin.

“Do I just lie here and wait?” he asked.

“You have to,” the Doctor told him.

“And where are you going to be?”

“Waiting…” he looked around, “Clara you sit in the chair beside his bed, look like you’re sleeping or you might put them off.”

Clara sat. “And where are you going to be?”

“In the closet, all the beasties like a closet. I’ll sit in there and wait for them to make a move.”

“Go through it again, Doctor,” Mikey asked.

“You sleep, they come out of the shadows and think yum, yum, yum. They approach the bed to begin the feast and then I get rid of them.”

“You’re not gonna let them eat me, are you?”


Clara recognised that ‘no’ as the Doctor’s ‘no’ that usually meant he hoped for the best, but couldn’t quite be sure what was going to happen.

Mikey lay back and closed his eyes. Then he opened one and looked at Clara. “Will you hold my hand?”

She smiled and reached out to take his hand in hers. Then she sat back and closed her own eyes, ears prickling and listening for the slightest movement that wasn’t the Doctor tripping over a pair of shoes in the closet.

“I don’t believe it,” she said quietly to the closet, “he’s asleep. I never thought he’d sleep.”

The Doctor’s head appeared between the slightly ajar doors. “Of course he’s asleep. They’ll all be asleep by now. I can’t have them running around and interfering. Besides, he has to be asleep or they won’t come out.”

“Doctor, did you drug Mikey and his family?”

“That would imply the use of a drug… I merely helped their brain patterns calm down.”

She shook her head, but said nothing. Mikey had loosened his grip on her hand, so she wrapped her arms around herself.

Despite her intentions otherwise, Clara began to drift off and was woken by Mikey’s murmuring. Her eyes shot open. Mikey was asleep and in the first grip of a nightmare. At first, she couldn’t see anything, but then as her eyesight adjusted she began to make out the shadowy bird-like figures. They were clustered around Mikey and pecking into his flesh with their non-corporeal beaks. Like vultures, they tore their prey and threw their heads back to swallow what looked like silvery threads of spider webs.

“Doctor…” she said quietly.

“I’m calibrating…” he returned with a whisper.

“Get rid of them, Doctor.”

“I’ve got to lock on to their energy signature before I can… Oh…”


“Clara, are you ready to run?”


“Yes, run. Proceed with haste, move swiftly.”


“There’s one thing these creatures like more than potential.”

“And that would be?”

“Time travellers. I need you to distract them so I can finish calibrating to their energy signature. On my count, run through the house – lead them on a merry dance but end up back here – I need the battery. Run!”

Clara leapt to her feet and flew to the door. As she did so, she felt the weight of a million shadows pursuing her. She headed down the stairs and ran in a loop around the lower floor, sometimes outrunning them, sometimes feeling the peck of a shadow bird on her soul.

After two zig zagging loops of the ground floor she ran back up the stairs. The birds gained on her as they had no need for stairs and took the shortest route. She headed back into the bedroom as she felt them flutter around her face and heard the familiar buzz of the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver.

“Out of the way, Clara!” he said.

She threw herself to the floor.

Green light filled the air above her.

Twisting, she looked up and saw the shadows were now caught in the green light projected by the sonic screwdriver and gradually moving towards the Doctor who stood behind the battery. One by one the shadowy creatures were sucked into the funnel attached to the top of the battery. After some minutes all of them had gone.

“Is that it?” she asked.

“Is that it?” he scoffed, “I had to do some quite complicated mathematics to catch those beasties.”

“But they’re gone, right?”

“These ones are. There are probably more of them out in the world, but these ones were my problem and now they are no more.”

“And Mikey?”

“He’s had some potential stolen from him, they’ve been at him for days, but we’ve saved him from any further damage.”


The morning sun hit the bedroom and Clara’s eyes opened just before Mikey’s. He stretched out and smiled.

“I had a dream, Clara – a dream.”

“No more nightmares?”


She smiled. “That’s good. I’m glad. Doctor?”

She got up and opened the closet door. There was no sign of him. Out on the landing she heard laughter and peered over the bannister. She couldn’t see anything, but it sounded like the Doctor’s laugh.

Following the sound, she went downstairs and towards the kitchen. The Doctor and Mikey’s mother were sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea.

Mikey’s mother smiled. “Tea?”

Clara nodded and the woman rose and went to the kettle on the stove.

“You weren’t in the closet,” Clara said to the Doctor.

“Why would I sleep in the closet when there’s a guest bedroom?”

She stretched her back. “You might have told me. I ache all over.”

“How’s Mikey?”

“He had a dream.”

“Mikey!” his mother called out of the door, “Hurry up – we need to drive to the airport and pick your father up in half an hour. He gets back from Germany today.”

As Mikey appeared in the kitchen the Doctor ran the screwdriver over him, but said nothing. “Time to go, Clara. Young man, goodbye.”

They said goodbye to the Kings and were shown out the front door.

“Keep dreaming, Mikey,” Clara said and planted a kiss on his forehead.

They were halfway down the path they had first arrived on, when Clara remembered.

“We didn’t put the battery back in the car,” she said.

“No time.”

“We can’t leave it. We promised Mikey.”

“No choice. Besides, we’ve just made that the most powerful car battery never invented. That car battery will probably never need replacing. It’s good for life now. Hold on.”


He put out his arm and pulled Clara close.

“Here it is.”

He reached up and felt around the air until his hand was seized by an invisible force which pulled them both up and sucked them into darkness.

Clara landed on her knees this time. It was morning and the sun was just peeking over the crenelations of the Camera Obscura building.

“That was lucky,” the Doctor said, peering over the wall to the ground several stories below. “A slight move in the wrong direction and we could have landed there.” He pointed his screwdriver at the point they had landed. “One energy well all plugged up. Come on, let’s get back to the TARDIS before this place is swarming with tourists and Irn Bru.”

They walked back to the park in silence, watching the sunlight begin to light up the city.

“Will Mikey be alright?” Clara asked as the Doctor unlocked the TARDIS.

“Oh yes, he did quite amazing things with his life before it was sadly cut short. You’ve probably heard of him.” The Doctor disappeared into the TARDIS.

“Mikey King? I don’t think so.”

He poked his head out of the door. “His father changed his name on his return from his trip to Germany. He was inspired to in tribute to a theologian he studied. Come on.”

“Theologian? Who?” she asked as she stepped inside and closed the door behind her.

“Martin Luther. Now come on Clara, don’t dilly dally. Places to go, people to see…”



I envisaged this as a script; some ideas tell you how they want to best be written and this was very visual in my head. However, the BBC no longer take on spec submissions and it’s impossible to get a script seen unless you’ve already had one produced, so I decided to turn this into a short story. I hope you enjoyed it.




EH Walter has published several novels and short stories that are available as e books on Smashwords, Amazon and other leading e book retailers.

Camera Obscura - A Doctor Who short story

They were like birds. Large, black birds – shadowy descendants of pterodactyls – gathered in the shadows and out of sight. A movement from one of them could be dismissed as a trick of the light – the mind placing tricks with the shadows of the night. They were hungry. Ravenous. And they could feel their next meal getting close. A rip in time. Juicy energy waiting to be consumed. Gathered around one special person. A person with the potential to change the world. All they had to do was find a way through and then they could begin their feast. The Doctor takes Clara to Edinburgh where he has to plug up a leaking energy well. Unfortunately, he is already too late and they have to pursue the shadowy bird-like creatures through time to stop them consuming the raw energy of a child destined for great things...

  • Author: EH Walter
  • Published: 2015-09-21 22:05:07
  • Words: 6365
Camera Obscura - A Doctor Who short story Camera Obscura - A Doctor Who short story