My name is Penny Blake, and I'm about to tell you the story of the saddest day of my life. Maybe you won't think it was sad, of course. Maybe you'll read it and at the end you'll think, "That was the worst thing that ever happened to you? You didn't die. You didn't lose a limb. You didn't even stub your toe on the front step. Nothing even really happened to you, but you're acting like the world ended. Now I've got real problems."
And I'm sure you do. We've all got problems. And no, I didn't die, or lose a limb, or stub my toe on the front step. But I did see the end of the world. All the worlds. Everywhere. Ever. I should tell it in the order I experienced it, or it won't make any sense, but I'm a journalist. And the first thing a journalist learns is, 'Don't bury the lede.' So yes, at some point in this story, the universe is going to end. And no, it's not a metaphor.
I should start with the journalism, because that turned out to be more important than it seemed when I woke up this morning. Because I say, 'journalist', but it's not like I'm a hard-hitting investigative reporter. I write up local events for the Blackwell Journal. It's eight pages on a good week, and that's with plenty of pictures. Put it this way: The morning started with me visiting a touring funfair and getting my fortune told by a gypsy lady, and that was front-page material.
(You're probably wondering what the gypsy lady told me, seeing as how this was the morning of the worst day of my life. But all she said to me was, "Your future, love? All your future is, is what's going to happen to you next." There's cryptic, and then there's bloody shite, you know?)
Then I went back to the office, and did boring journalist stuff for the next four hours. That's not the bad part. That's the boring bits. Every day is full of them, you know? I didn't really notice, before today, but there is boredom everywhere. It's like, even on Christmas Day, there's that dull bit around teatime when all of the presents are out of the box, and Christmas dinner isn't for another hour, and the telly's just full of boring stuff they've chucked on there because they figure we'll all just have it on in the background anyway, and...dull bits. The bits of life we can't skip.
But then there are the other bits. The good bits. I knew what tonight's good bit was going to be--Robin, he's my bloke, he has a birthday today. (Sorry, that should be in the past tense. That's the problem with today, it's mucked all my tenses up. Probably be weeks before I get back to talking about past, present and future like they always happen in that order.) Anyway, I spent weeks setting up a surprise party, came up with a whole bit about being stuck at a conference in Birmingham for the night, and instead I got all his friends over to the flat with a cake and balloons and presents and enough beer to sink a raft. I thought we'd give him the shock of a lifetime.
I suppose we did. Him and Martine. Bloody bitch. You know I didn't even finish shouting 'Surprise!'? Turned on the lights, saw the two of them snogging, and it was more like, 'Surwhatthebloodyfuck?' That ended the party pretty quickly. And not just the party, if you know what I mean. After that, I decided to take a walk. A long, sad, angry walk, because I wanted to give my now-ex-boyfriend time to gracefully see his boss off and pack up his shit. Or mine. Didn't much care at that point, really. Didn't much care about anything. If I'd been in the mood to care, I'd have noticed that it got dark awful early for a summer night. Or that there were no stars. No moon, either. There were some people looking up, but I walked until I didn't see people anymore. I wasn't in the mood for people.
Maybe that's why I found him. Maybe that was the instinct that led me down the back alley around the side corner back behind the pizza place in what passes for the shopping district in Blackwell. Maybe that was why I found the blue box. Because I wasn't looking for people...and the Doctor was anything but.