Live The Dream

Entry by: jaguar

24th February 2017
‘Live the dream, Michael, live the dream.’ He placed his stupidly high bid on Ebay and waited as the seconds ground by. Just another minute and he might legitimately have it, the last piece of his collection, the lacuna, the missing link.

It was agonising, he had to look away from the screen. He turned and smiled at the shelves of blue boxes, the little K-9s, sonic screwdrivers, Daleks and more books and DVDs than he’d ever thought possible. Yet he couldn’t forget the auction entirely and his gaze lingered on the Tom Baker figure with its ridiculous scarf and no Tardis to hide it in. What would it feel like if he had them all? For a second he was as afraid of success as he was of failure.

His memories were so precious, so fragile. Watching Doctor Who together on a Saturday, him, Mum and Dad having high tea in front of the telly. How indulgent it had been, how exciting. Dad said that was the start of his mum’s moral laxness but all Michael remembered was the warmth of anticipation of the best bit of the week.

It all came crashing down when she left them. Dad still let him watch Doctor Who but there was no high tea, no banter. ‘I am your father and you will be my son.’ Life became a series of tasks that Michael wasn’t good at, strange things like steam engines he couldn’t show enthusiasm for, long monotone lectures about how he could do better. Growing older seemed to bring nothing but grief. He wanted to retract back into his early childhood like a tortoise hibernating. He wanted to protect himself from the cold.

When he’d started collecting it was stuff his friends were throwing away. They’d moved on in real life and were happy to jettison their jewels. Back then there were no DVDs or box sets. You could only see the programme once, in its proper moment, framed by its time. But there were the toys, the models, the conjuring tricks of play. His Dad was a printer, had a book of pantone colours. Michael recorded the exact shade of blue for every Tardis. Most people didn’t realise each Doctor had his own.

The only one he hadn't got was Tom Baker’s, his favourite Doctor, the one before Mum left. When Michael was at university he’d modeled Tom’s look. His father only visited once. It turned out to be the last time Michael saw him. The last thing he ever said was: ‘I see you’re still dressing in that strange, and regrettable, way.’

Michael gave up the hat and the long knitted scarves because his father’s disapproval tainted them. He acted normally throughout his accountancy course only indulging his cravings at night. Once Ebay appeared most of his evenings were spent scouring the listings for treasures. Once or twice he’d become quite friendly with a fellow collector but as soon as he realised they were competitors he cut them dead.

Night after night he dreamt he’d found it, the final Tardis. Sometimes he ordered one but the shade was just-off when it arrived. People faked them nowadays, you had to be so careful. But the serial number was right on this listing and he knew the seller. There had been a time he briefly trusted her. Until she’d said that thing:

‘You know, don’t you, that these tawdry plastic objects reflect us?’ She was standing in his lounge, laughing at his collection just after she’d shown him pictures of her own.

‘What did you mean?’ His collection wasn’t a reflection of Michael, it was him, more concrete and recognizable than the uncollated contents of his mind.

‘All this,’ she waved her hand around the room, ‘is silly really, isn’t it? We’ve let playthings have more significance than reality. I think it’s a very good thing we’ve finally met in real life. We need to get on with things, you and I.’

Michael regarded Julie solemnly. He’d thought she was someone who truly understood but it seemed it wasn’t his collection that interested her. ‘Get on with things?’

She raised her eyebrows. ‘You do realise that between us we have a complete collection? One or other of us can sell theirs if we move in together.’

‘Move in together? ‘ They’d only just met and she was talking about selling a collection.

‘Perhaps, one day. Live the dream and all that.’

But it wasn’t his dream, he had to stop those words gushing out from her fat throat. His fingers closed on her, holding a cushion over her stupid face, positioning her jerking arms away from him as if she was one of his figures. He drove her home, took her keys from her bag, carried her body into her lounge and stood in front of the Tom Baker Tardis before he checked the number. It was genuine but he couldn’t just take it.

He had to do things right. Julie made things easy for him by keeping her passwords in a file index on her desk. He took a bad photo that made the box look a darker blue to fool fellow collectors then he posted it on her Ebay account. He meticulously cleaned every surface he'd touched including her computer and keys. Then he wrapped the precious Tardis inside his coat and took it home.

He waited a whole day before bidding on it. He started low but whatever price it reached he had to win. His phone beeped as an email came in. He’d got the prize, the Tardis was his. He knelt on his living room floor and unwrapped it. He lifted it into its proper place as the blind was sucked against the window. The room seemed airless as if living his dream was suffocating him.