“I’m from Gallifrey,” my brother, two years my elder, informed me from the top bunk one night when the sky was clear and we could see the stars from our bedroom window.
He didn’t answer.
“Don’t tell Dad.”
“I mean it, don’t tell him.”
I didn’t tell him.
“Dad, where’s Gallifrey?” My Dad was busy shelling peanuts for his world record attempt.
“I dunno. Somewhere in Ireland?” I left him to his peanuts.
Gallifrey wasn’t on any map of Ireland.
“Where is Gallifrey?” I asked my brother the next night.
“Far, far away,” he answered, leaning from the top bunk to stare out into the night sky.
“I travel all around time and space.”
He didn’t answer.
“What do you travel in? To get around time and space, I mean.”
“It’s a kind of… spaceshippy time-machine thingy.”
I didn‘t believe him, obviously. “You don’t have a time machine. I would have seen it.”
“It’s disguised so that no one will notice it.”
“Disguised as what?”
“I’m not telling you. And you don’t tell Dad about this either.”
“I mean it.”
“Dad, we’re playing a… game. I have to find a spaceship in the house. Where do you think it could be?” He was at the peanuts again, I could tell he was getting faster.
“I looked in the shed, the spaceship is really well disguised.”
Dad stopped shelling peanuts. I could tell he was thinking hard. “The downstairs loo, that would make a good spaceship.”
I was unconvinced but Dad would be no more help, he had started to shell peanuts again.
I didn’t find the spaceship anywhere.
“The oven is my spaceship,” my brother told me that night when I pleaded with him to tell me. “I’ve been some places in that oven… places you wouldn’t believe.”
“Isn’t it a bit… small?”
“It’s a lot bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside.”
We lay in silence.
“Do you go on your own or… could someone go with you?”
“They could, I suppose, but I prefer to travel alone. It makes things less complicated.”
“How do you mean less complicated?”
The bunk above me stayed silent. I began to wonder if my brother was still up there. After about five minutes he spoke, “go to sleep.”
But I didn’t want to sleep. “Can I go for a trip in your spaceship? Can I go somewhere in the oven?”
“I’ll tell Dad.”
“Ok. One trip. But you don’t tell Dad or anyone about it.”
We stood in front of the oven. From the next room came the reassuring sound of peanuts being shelled.
“Ok, climb in,” my brother opened the door to the oven and gestured inside.
Now that I looked in the oven I was unsure about going in there. I hesitated.
“Well, if you don’t want to go in…”
“No, no, I do.”
“Where would you like to go?”
“To see the dinosaurs,” I answered. I was big on dinosaurs.
I climbed in headfirst. It was a little cramped but he was right, it was bigger inside than it looked on the outside.
“I’m just going to set the controls, ok?”
“And I’m going to close the door, ok?”
“You’ll set off any moment now. Just one quick warning – you might feel a bit warm but that’s perfectly normal, that’s just space travel.”
“Ok,” I wished I hadn’t worn a jumper.
“And remember,” my brother shouted through the oven door, “whatever happens, don’t shout Dad. You promised.”
“Ok.” He was right, I had promised. And anyway Dad wouldn’t be able to help me when I was flying around in space.
“I’m just going to slide this cricket bat through the handles of the oven so the door is secure. It’s just for safety.”
“Ok.” I was all ok-d and ready to go.
Nothing much happened. The oven was dark and began to smell of gas and got a little warmer but that was normal for space travel. I remember reading that there was lots of gas in space. It got hotter, I began to sweat. The oven didn’t seem to be moving much but then I was travelling in time and maybe that didn’t involve much movement, I didn’t know. It got hotter and hotter. I kept telling myself that these hardships had to be endured if I wanted to travel in time. This was all part of my exciting adventure. Meanwhile, it kept getting hotter and I was struggling to breathe and…