A Doctor Who/Sookie Stackhouse story set in the world of Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus.
The blue Police Box appears amidst the black and white striped tents. You wonder at its color surrounded by so much stark. The light on top pulses in time to the tinkling music that skips on the wind. You aren’t sure if it belongs. If it’s one of the magical tents that dot the landscape, offering dreams in ice gardens and drifting cloud mazes, or something new. The color of the box, the light that beckons from the windows, glowing gentle against the torch light that lines the lanes between fantasies: all of it begs you to enter. To push open the door and discover what wonders lurk inside. You take one step. Then two. The universe holds its breath.
Next Stop, Everywhere
They’d just left 17th century Scotland. Almost burned alive. That’s something I could definitely do without repeating. King James and his witch obsession hadn’t gone well for me. My eyes traced a path around the circular room, lingering over the earth-toned interior, the lights that seemed to grow out of the walls, the pillars that held themselves like arms. I wondered what the Doctor had planned for us next in our search for Eric. We’d been traveling along his life line, following the trail his DNA left like breadcrumbs throughout history, but we still hadn’t found Eric, not the Eric who belonged in Fangtasia, the Eric I knew. The frustrating, flirtatious, handsome Eric I’d come to love/hate.
The night Pam told me he was gone, I felt my world crash around me. I didn’t know why I felt so strongly, but I chalked it up to the fact that I considered Eric a friend. Pam and I spent months searching for him, but he’d vanished without a trace. Marnie the psycho witch refused to tell us where she sent him. Pam tried, but even she couldn’t get the witch to talk.
I’d all but given up hope when The Doctor and the TARDIS appeared in my backyard. When he offered his help, using a stray hair of Eric’s left in an old sweatshirt he wore one night, I jumped at the chance. But we’d had no luck either.
I shook off the worry that I’d never find him again. I walked around the center console, dotted with levers and bells, whistles and knobs, and the thrumming heartbeat of the TARDIS wrapped itself around me like a comfortable sweater. I’d grown used to her sounds, as commonplace as crickets at twilight.
“Never a dull moment traveling with you, eh Doctor?” I slipped my arm through his, leaning my head against his shoulder.
“Whatever do you mean Sookie? Being almost burned alive doesn’t agree with you?” He winked at me and then grabbed the monitor filled with Gallifreyan gobbledy gook. “I must say, I could have done without that myself. I’m sure you didn’t mind the part where Eric swooped in to save the day, though, now did you?”
“Was almost dying worth Eric zooming out of the night sky, reflected in flames of the pyre, to rip the bonds from my wrists, and fly me away from all that death? Lemme think about that one…Ummm, no. Not worth it. Almost, but not quite. You forgot about the dungeon I was kept in, populated by insane-os and rats. Seriously. Rats. Big. Huge. Clawed. Rats.” I used my hands to indicate how big those rodents were. Rodents of unusual size. And Eric was my Wesley. I chuckled to myself. “Okay, so yeah, I can chuckle about it now. But at the time, my life didn’t exactly equal whoo hoo! Fun! Excitement!”
The Doctor laughed great guffaws of hysteria. I stared up at him, giving him my best Oh Really? expression. He finally pulled himself together and slung his arm around my shoulders, pointing at the monitor with his free hand. “This is where we’re going. Right here.”
“Uh, Doctor. Same as yesterday, I still don’t read Time Lord.” I shrugged, laughing that he could never remember that simple fact.
“Oh. Yes. Right. Well here’s the thing, Sookie. You need a break. So, we’re gonna hit a beach. I’m sure you could use some beach time, right? Rose always talked about how much she loved the sun and the wind and the crashing of the waves…” his voice trailed off at his mention of Rose.
I knew how much he missed her, it equaled the amount I missed Eric, so I popped up on my toes to place a quick kiss on his cheek. “Whatever you say, Doctor! I’m sure you’re right, the sunshine will do us good.” My heart ached for every moment Eric was lost, but I didn’t know what else to do. Maybe the beach would give me a new idea.
The Doctor beamed one of his addictive smiles my way. “I packed you a bag already. Run down and grab it out of the cubby underneath the ramp.” He gestured in the direction of the entrance.
I hopped off the platform and knelt down, pulling on the tiny white circular knob lined with gold. Sure enough a blue tote bag sat in front of me, along with a rainbow striped umbrella and some pink flip-flops. I grabbed them and popped off to one of the multitude of rooms that lined the MC Escher-esque corridors of the TARDIS.
When I came back out, The Doctor hadn’t changed, not surprisingly. But he did drape his tan trench coat over the railing next to where Rose’s jean jacket lived.
“Even at the beach, you don’t change your clothes. Aren’t you going to be hot?”
He clucked his tongue and winked. “I’m always hot, Sookie. But look,” he held up his Converse clad foot, “I’m already wearing sand shoes. So I’m all set. Looks like you are too!”
He’d chosen me a light pink gingham maxi-dress that swished around my ankles. I tugged my hair up into a high ponytail and held out my hand. “Ready?”
He fingers intertwined with mine and we bounced down the ramp to the door. “Next stop, everywhere, Sookie Stackhouse!”
The grass beneath your feet, the smell of caramel in the air, you approach the magical box. The night agrees with your choice and you can feel the wind push at your back, warm and encouraging. Is this a dream? In all your years of wandering the earth, you’ve never been anywhere like this circus. A place where mysteries come to life and romance lives in the spaces between impossible places and serendipitous exchanges.
You move slowly, one step at a time, crossing the brilliant green grass. You are a moth flying towards the warm light that emanates from within.
A moment of hesitation. A dash of doubt. Your hand outstretched, only instants from grasping the brass handle of the door. Do you enter? Do you dare? You can feel your life changing the closer you get. Something summons you forward, are you ready?
Not in Kansas Anymore
The Doctor flung the door open to what was most definitely not a beach.
“At least it’s warm?” I asked with trepidation. I didn’t know how to take this situation. Every other time on this magical mystery tour The Doctor knew where we were going to land once we’d gotten there.
We both stepped out into the star clad night. Black and white circus tents surrounded us making the TARDIS stand out, her blue more suited to the sky than the world around us. The Doctor reached into his pocket, pulling out his sonic screwdriver and whirling it around. My feet moved of their own volition, my eyes taking in the torch light and the smell of caramel, the faint music serenaded our arrival.
I reached back for The Doctor, waving my hand in his general direction without looking. “Um. Doctor?”
“Yes,” The Doctor even sounded confused. I turned to face him. His eyebrows and nose scrunched up as he tried to interpret whatever his sonic screwdriver displayed just then. “This just doesn’t make any sense.”
“Tell me about it. Doctor, can the TARDIS take you to a not-real place?” His brown eyes met mine. “I mean, like a place that only exists in a book?”
“Well, that all depends on the book. There’s a whole planet based on Middle Earth from the Lord of the Rings. And Oz did come to life a while back. That’s a pretty cool place to visit. Except for the flying monkeys. Monkeys really shouldn’t fly. Creepy.” He shuddered. “And then there’s Austenland…But I digress. Mostly, enough people just have to believe for a book to come to life. Belief is half of creating. So, yes, a world could have existed first in a book before it became real.”
I considered and gazed around me more. Definitely a circus. Definitely the fairytale landscape I’d read about. Had the TARDIS found Eric in a story? “I think I know where we are.”
The Doctor shoved his sonic screwdriver back in his interior pocket, and he grabbed my upper arms. “Well, where are we? Don’t hold out on me now, Sookie.” His face looked so eager, so excited to be somewhere he didn’t know about.
“I think we’re in The Night Circus.” The Doctor still looked confused. “It’s a book by Erin Morgenstern. And oh, it’s so beautiful. There’s a tent filled with an ice garden, and a contortionist who fits herself into a glass box and then disappears. OH! And of course this fortune teller. See, the circus became a three dimensional love letter between two magicians who were supposed to be competitors. Marco tried to sacrifice himself for Celia, but she wasn’t having any of that. They gave their lives for each other in the end.” I was getting all choked up. I’d loved that book so fiercely. I swiped at the tears forming in the corners of my eyes.
“Well,” he gestured towards the tiny sign that grew up out of the grass in front of the tent across the way. “It looks like you found your ice garden.”
The Show Must Go On
You stand frozen in indecision and turn to watch the passersby. A woman saunters by sipping hot chocolate, the kind where magic makes tiny marshmallows dance on the froth, and sparkles out of the heat that rises from its surface. A child’s silver balloon catches the reflection of flames and stripes, they watch transfixed as it shifts shapes: a panther, a unicorn, a bouquet of roses whose petals glitter like tiny stars. A couple whispers to one another, secret smiles given and received; a bag of chocolate mice shared as they decide which tent to visit next.
You turn around and face the bright blue box again, so shiny against the monochrome. Vibrant and beckoning you like a siren. It reminds you of a recurring vision, one where you are not alone.
Every night you dream of love. Of a woman with hair the color of sunlight, who lives in a farmhouse somewhere the trees grow tall, reaching for the sky and the world is colored with broad strokes of vitality.
The dreams have plagued you for years. For years you’ve searched for her. Or has it been days? Weeks? Months? You aren’t sure anymore. You only remember her and you are hopeful, like a dragon awakening to a world to find the dragon riders have returned.
You have been lost for so long. The circus took you in and turned you into The Hypnotist. You gift entire audiences with simple stories and turn them into vivid memories. Are they your past? No one knows where you came from, only that you showed up one night as the train traveled from Paris to London.
You wonder, not for the first time, who you are, where you’re from. You wonder if you’ll ever find home again.
You turn away from the brilliant blue box, walking back to your own tent. You have a performance to give. As you walk away, you could almost swear you hear the creaking open of a door, but you refuse to look behind you, to succumb to dreams. You keep walking. The show must go on.
The Twists and Turns
“Do you think…?” I let the unsaid words hang between us, but hope bubbled up inside me.
The Doctor squeezed my hand. “Only one way to find out: Come on, let’s go explore.”
And we do. The lanes between tents go on forever. Twisting this way and that, winding into spirals and tumbling over one another without ever touching.
“I could get lost here so easily,” I say to The Doctor as we pass a stand selling hot spiced apple cider, the scent wafting in every direction, smelling like fall, like home.
We entered the Ice Garden first, tip-toeing through the sculpted ice crystal roses, and the towering trees. Next we discovered the tent with a forest of trees made up of scraps of poems. Tiny ink love letters from Celia to Marco. I reached up and plucked a poem-leaf.
“Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love. “Hamlet Act II Scene II – William Shakespeare
Folding the sliver of paper, I slipped it into my pocket. Following the path, The Doctor and I search around every bend. We find lovers hidden behind manuscript tree trunks, lost in each other, but not Eric. I let the beauty of the place seep into my veins, calming my worry. This tent had been my favorite when I read the story the first time, and it came to life exquisitely. I could almost hear the whispers of the poets reading their poems. Lines floating around me, circling my heart, offering me hope.
Next we visited the acrobats, who flew above us on the trapeze. Their bodies graceful and soaring as if weightless. I searched the faces of the audience thinking I might find him there.
We searched, in and out of the tents that were all bigger on the inside. I asked The Doctor if maybe the circus was created using Time Lord Technology.
The Doctor wore a look of utter enchantment on his face. “No, Sookie. It is built out of the imagination. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything quite so stunning. I always wanted to believe in magic, but I was raised on science. But I do think we’ve found a place where magic thrives and stories come to life. Stories, the last bastions of fantasy. I’m glad to see the galaxy still creates worlds out of the hearts of millions of readers.”
We picked up some caramel covered popcorn and wandered amongst the tents some more. I looked down at a sign in front of a smaller tent.
Fortune-teller. “Oh! We’ve found her. She reads tarot cards. Maybe she can give us a hint where to find Eric.” I pulled The Doctor into the interior, pushing aside the strings of black and white beads that drape across the entrance.
“Hello?” I step inside fully and let my eyes adjust to the low light. “Is anyone here?” I almost called out for Isobel, but then how would I explain that I know her name? Well, see, I read about you in a story once. I didn’t see that going over well.
Rustling seeps out from behind a curtain farther back in the room. “I’ll be right there.”
The red-haired woman joined us in the main parlor area. At least I think it looks like a parlor. Soft velvet and satin pillows in grey and silver lined the walls, and a single table covered in a black and white silk cloth covered in an intricate design of swirls and geometric shapes stands in front of the curtain Isobel just entered through.
I smiled at her, “Hi. My name’s Sookie and this is The Doctor.”
Isobel studied The Doctor intently. “You come from the stars. Both of you.” She looked shocked and a bit uneasy. “You aren’t like the others who venture into my tent.”
The Doctor plopped down in the chair in front of her table. “Nope! We’re just, uh, visiting. But we’re looking for a friend of ours.”
I sat down next to The Doctor, leaning in towards Isobel. “Can you help us…I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”
She tries to hide her confusion at the two people from the stars come for a tarot reading. It doesn’t work very well, but she finds her voice just the same.
“Well hello, Isobel, it’s very nice to meet you. Do you think you can help us find our friend?” I ask as gently as possible.
Isobel simply nods and begins to shuffle the beautiful deck of cards. “I can only tell you what the cards reveal. If your friend is here, they will lead you to him.”
Separating the cards into three piles, she laid them out in front of us. “Who knows him better?”
“Me, that would be me!” I say trying not to sound overexcited, but I feel like we’re getting close. Eric was here somewhere, I knew it.
“Choose the pile that calls to you.” Isobel’s eyes glittered with anticipation.
I gazed at the piles. Which one? Which one? I had to choose correctly or Eric might remain trapped forever. My hand reached for the pile on the left, and Isobel picked it up placing the other two piles underneath it.
She flips the cards over. I don’t pay attention to any of them; they make no sense to me anyway. In her mind, I see a picture form. Of a tall blond Viking vampire. His face softer than I’d seen it before, lost and little boy-like. Even in her memory, I could see the confusion in his glacier blue eyes.
“It’s him, Doctor! He’s here.” I grab his arm, shaking him. “Oh god, we’ve found him. I never thought we would.”
Isobel stops flipping the cards over and just stares at me. “You’re her.”
I freeze mid-shake. “Huh? What do you mean, I’m her?”
“He’s been dreaming of you since he came here. No one knows where he’s from; he doesn’t even remember his own name. He just showed up on the train in the middle of some random Wednesday night as we were traveling to London.” She paused, swallowing thickly. She reached over to cover my hand with hers. “We’ve taken good care of him, I promise.”
Tears threatened to escape, and I choked down a sob. “Where is he? I need to find him; he’s been gone so long.”
The smile she gave me was sweet and kind. “Two tents down, follow the path to the left. When you get to the Cloud Maze, take a hard right. Follow the spiraling moon flowers past Old Frank’s stand and you’ll see the tent marked The Hypnotist.”
“He’s part of the circus?” I asked, shocked.
She just laughed. “Yes. Though we offered to let him simply travel with us, enjoying our hospitality until he regained his memory, but he insisted on earning his keep.”
I cracked up. I couldn’t help it. “Eric ran off and joined the circus. It makes absolutely no sense, but I don’t care. I just want him back.” I stood quickly. “Thank you so much, Isobel. You have no idea how much this means to me.”
“There is no need for thanks. Simply tell him goodbye for me.”
I nodded and sprinted out of the tent. Eric was here and I was about to find him again.
The lights have only just dimmed as you begin your performance. You blink, thinking you’ve seen her shuffling into a seat. But it can’t be true. It’s only the blue box filling your head with possibilities. The crowd quiets, waiting as you sit utterly still in the center of a simple white circle outlined in black.
“Close your eyes. Only for a moment. Remember. The imagination of your childhood. The knights in shining armor, the hot air balloons that whisk you away to the land where your dreams come true. Open your heart; let the universe fill the void that has slowly emptied of hope each moment that has passed since you were only a child. Since the time you still believed in fairytales.”
You look around the room and you can feel the magic start to build. You know when they are ready; you can feel it in your bones: a surging emotion, an opening of a once-closed door. Their faces reflect the innocence of childhood, when anything is possible.
She is on your mind and you tell the story of the first time you met. You know it isn’t real, but you can see it so plainly in your memory. The red against white of her sundress. Her heart, pure and kind. You didn’t even need to talk to her, you simply know. Despite the thin, wan looking man who accompanies her, you know she will love you.
The room around you starts to thrum with music and the plain stool on which you sit turns into a velvet clad throne. Chatter fills in as the story begins, the din of the crowd sipping cocktails as she stands perfect before you. The black and white of the circus turns to black and red. Leather clad vampires mingle with denim clad patrons. Couples whisper in the vinyl booths, but you only have eyes for her.
You tell the story of how you fell in love in an instant, her heart calling out to yours. You tell of her beauty, her bravery, her openness and willingness to sacrifice herself for what’s right. The woman from your dreams is perfect, and the audience sighs along. The story isn’t a long one, but you tell it with such conviction, in such minute detail, that you begin to believe it yourself.
True Love’s Kiss
I listened as Eric told the story of how we met. I didn’t even remember all the details until he painted them into reality. I gazed in awe as Fangtasia came to life in front of me. Eric’s memory of that night rocks my heart. I want to go to him, but I hold myself back, caught in the rapture of the story of a love beginning. He makes me want to go back to the start, to begin again. To wander into his bar by myself, skipping over every misunderstanding between the two of us. I know now that he’s been telling me the truth the whole time. This Eric holds nothing back, and I realize during his telling that I’ve been in love with him since that night.
He comes to the end of our fateful meeting, and he pauses as if searching for the ending. I knew now the way it should have ended, and it was if he waited for me to finish the story for him.
I rose from my seat and saw The Doctor’s eyes flash up at me in alarm. I placed my hand on his shoulder and walked towards Eric sitting so calmly in front of the mesmerized crowd. I made my way down the stairs, creeping closer to him with every footstep. When I entered the circle of Fangtasia brought to life, his eyes captured mine.
“She loved you that night, even if she didn’t know it.” The words came without thought. I knew I was telling him the truth, all of it for once. I took a single step towards him and the other me he’d brought to life dissolved before the crowd. “And every night since she’s wanted to come to you, but she was too scared to risk. She wasn’t brave. She was only a scared girl too afraid of loving a man so unlike her. A man so vibrant and strong, so full of life.”
I took another step towards him, and he stood, his face full of wonder. “You’re name is Eric Northman, and I am Sookie Stackhouse. I have been searching for you; you’ve been lost for so long.”
He reached for me, and I crossed the last few steps to slip my hands into his.
“You’re real. I’ve dreamt of you every night…” his voice trailed off, the words trapped inside him.
“Yes, I am.” His fingers lifted to my cheek, his thumb tracing down my jawline. “Eric, I’ve missed you so much.”
He tilted my chin up. “You found me.”
I nodded, my cheeks stained with the tears I could no longer hold back. He bent down, hesitant, his eyes searching mine. I wrapped my arms around his neck, lacing my fingers through his long blond hair, feeling its silky lengths slip between them.
“I will always find you, Eric. Always.”
His lips found mine then. Soft at first, then more urgent, his breath mingling with mine, our tongues dancing while the room spun away; his heart seeking its twin and finally finding it, here in this moment, in this kiss.
Once Upon a Time
Her kiss reminds you of your past, unlocking your mind. The memories come flooding back. All the stories you’ve been telling are true; you know it now. In this kiss you are home. The audience applauds and when the lights come up, you see them wiping their cheeks; each tear a witness of your reunion. You gaze down at the woman you still hold in your arms. Sookie. You always searched for her without ever knowing.
She holds your hand as you wander the lanes, as the circus winds itself down before the approaching dawn. The crowds have thinned, leaving only those wearing red scarves, the ones who search for one last waltz with magic. She stops and you stand unbelieving in front of the blue Police Box. The draw you felt came from her, from your heart knowing she was so close.
The Doctor grasps the brass handle and opens the door, showing you a world full of more magic than you could ever imagine. The warmth of the light that shone out from within beckons you closer. She stands, patient, hand outstretched, waiting for you. You take that last step, the one you couldn’t take just hours ago. You know where you belong now.
“Come on, Eric. Let’s go home.”