The room we first entered was small. And considering we were miniscule, that’s saying something. With the wooden door behind, and another door directly opposite, the room was filled by three small chairs and a table. Stone walls and floor, and a hearth. As it was warm, no fire was burning, although the hearth was charred and blackened as though a roaring fire had been there many times before.
Walpole gestured that I take a seat.
“Would you like a drink? A nice cup of tea? Came a voice from the room beyond.
I looked up at Walpole.
“The maid.” He explained.
“The maid?” The voice replied, as an industrious looking woman, portly in stature, and dressed in a long white and blue striped dress walked from out of the room. “I’m his wife. Maid indeed. He always says that when we have company. We’ve been married for 45 years now, but sometimes it feels like a hundred and forty-five!”
Walpole rolled his eyes.
“Away with you woman. You know full well it feels like only five.”
“On some days.”
“This is Wanda. Wanda E. Epstein. Wanda, this is Aquatom.” Walpole nodded in my direction, as though there were others in the room. With three of us there, it did feel quite crowded anyway.
“Just Tom” I quickly replied, hoping that my original username would never be used again.
“Ah, yes.” Walpole looked back at Wanda. “He’s changed it.”
“I know.” Wanda said, quite wearily. “You’ve told me that about a million times already.”
She looked over at me, “He reads your blog regularly”
“I remember him telling me that once.” I replied. “Pleased to meet you, Mrs Epstein.”
“That’s Mrs E. Epstein, if you’re going to refer to her that way,” Walpole commented. “The E dot is part of our surname. Just call her Wanda. Or Maid as I do.”
“Maid indeed” Wanda said, and I noticed that she had a completely different accent to Walpole; English in fact. I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed it earlier.
“Have you told him why he’s here, Walp?”
“I haven’t had chance to yet, Wand. He’s only just got here, and you’ve monopolised him as soon as he’s come in through the door.”
“Charming.” Wanda walked out of the room, back to where she’d come from. “I’ll make the tea.”
“She has a point, I suppose.” Walpole sat in the chair closest to the hearth. “I surely bet that you are a-wondering why I’ve brought you here”
“I was a little” I said, also making a rather bad pun about how tiny we actually were. It seemed to go over Walpole’s head.
“We need to get supplies from the city on the horizon.” He pointed out of a small window on the wall where the door was – I hadn’t noticed it before. On the horizon, I could see tall glass-like buildings that were reflecting the sunlight in a multitude of colours.
“That’s Gem City. We need to get seven gems for my new contraption to get us back home. The first contraption exploded after bringing you here, trapping us.”
“But, if you need me to help you, and you used the contraption to get me here before it exploded, why didn’t you just use the contraption to get you home in the first place?” I had to ask the question, but as soon as I had, I wished that I hadn’t.
“That’s the way paradoxes work, my friend. Trust me, things needed to be done in that order.”
Wanda returned with the tea. “Here you go, a nice cuppa, ahead of your journey.”
I looked out of the window again. “So we have to walk all that way? Or take a butterfly or something?”
“No!” Walpole erupted into a fit of laughter. “That was just to show you what we are capable of here. No… we have to take the train.”