It was the day after the kitten knitting celebrations and my husband and I were most anxious to relax in the Eroticorium when, upon entering the front door of our grand estate, my husband noticed a letter marked URGENT.
“Oh, do put it down Cornelius,” I exclaimed, my breast heaving like the underthroat of a frog.
“I must ensure the security of our fortune,” he said, tearing the envelope asunder and discharging the paper within, “goodness.”
“Whatever is the matter?” I said, by now just as concerned as he.
“Those damnable rogues at Slipsync have charged an extra ninepence on top of our bill. Do you recognise these places?” He thrust the page into my unsuspecting hands and I searched the offending list.
“Herevet, Mandleford, Bebe’s Swinging Jazz Club? No, upon my honour, we have never been to these places!”
“That’s it,” my husband fumed, “we must return the cupboard and the phone.”
“Oh no,” I pictured life without our handy portal to any place in any world or dimension which doubled as a cupboard, or our handy communicator with any place in any world or dimension which doubled as a phone, “Surely if we went to see them we could smooth any issues…?”
“Very well,” Cornelius conceded, and thus we went henceforth into the back room whereupon we opened the musty old cupboard and stepped through.
Slipsync was not the most beautiful of places, though it is true it is in the eye of the beholder. However the frequent thunder and lightning striking each turret of the dark stone building could be off putting to most. It sat upon a cliff edge overlooking a broiling sea, and great torches of fire burned beneath the thin slits of window. We made our way to the entrance, jumping back when the drawbridge slammed down without warning, almost crushing us beneath.
The stone corridors, lit by more torches, were cold and workers draped in as many as three cloaks shuffled past us or sat at tiny desks taking calls from headsets. Shrieks could be heard from the bowels of the place and we shuddered. Eventually we found the desired destination, the Help Desk.
A woman garbed in black with a pale face and long, dark hair looked up insouciantly, “yes?” We relayed our issue, showed her the paper and waited for our apology, “well, it says here you was there,” she indicated shining images upon the surface of an emerald sphere bathed in mist.
“It’s mistaken,” said I, for my husband was more inclined to pay the money. I however, was not.
“We have but one choice,” I whispered to Cornelius, “we must use our lucky penny.”
“Further charges,” he wailed, but I had already removed it from my leather pouch and rubbed it’s surface.
“How may I be of assistance?” a learned man with pipe in hand and amusingly embroidered waistcoat said from behind us. His beard was reassuringly thick and grey and he exhaled marvelous shapes with the smoke, first the horizon after a storm and then a long and winding road. Throughout our story he nodded sagely then approached the desk, “I wish to speak to the manager.”
The girl froze, eyes wide and mouth open. All about us was silence, all calls ceased and footsteps halted. “You need a pass,” she whispered, but of course he was ready with it.
We followed him up a spiral staircase into almost utter darkness until finally we alighted on a floor encrusted with cobwebs and thick dust. We covered our mouths and noses as we battled forth lest the evil specks should travel to our lungs and sprout a fluff tree as happened to Mabel several winters ago. Once a year her family yanks out the branches budding from her mouth and it’s a terrible chore, they never seem to grasp the roots.
In the dim light we saw a heavy wooden door on which our saviour knocked thrice, sending it creaking open held by an unseen hand. We gasped when the Manager was revealed – a withered figure all twisted and grey, his thin arms reaching up to the ceiling. “Is it time yet?” he asked in a voice raspy with age and suffering.
“Most assuredly,” said our saviour, gently taking his arms and pulling them down with terrible cracks and creaks. Strings of web tore away with him and as soon as he was laid on the floor he disintegrated into dust.
“Goodness,” said Cornelius, thoughtfully covering my face with a handkerchief.
“One of the tasks of my office, Bingley Bingley Bingley and Beardsley, is to enforce the closure of such disreputable companies,” said the gentleman as he lit his pipe once more, “and we thank you for bringing this to our attention.”
“Not at all,” I said, though my face was covered with cloth.
“The cupboard and telephone are now legally yours,” he handed us a rolled document tied in red ribbon. As soon as Cornelius had tucked it into his breeches a slab of stone crashed to the floor, followed by another and another. Screams rang out from below and we heard the sounds of people running for cover beyond the window. “Allow me,” said our friend, rubbing a penny and touching my shoulder.
We were again inside the cupboard, our bodies pressed tightly against one another. “Shall we go to the Eroticorium?” said Cornelius.
“No,” I said, “here’s good enough.”