The Professor showed up after only a couple of weeks and found the door to the oubliette.
The door creaked open on long-unused hinges and the Professor’s voice boomed into the darkness. “How long have you been in here, Dume?”
“Two and a half years or thereabouts,” I replied. “Why?”
“The door wasn’t locked, you idiot. You had me rush over here to let you out of a room you were never locked into in the first place.” He turned and strode back up the stairs. “I expect your best whisky for this, Dume.”
I considered pointing out that a couple of weeks’ delay could hardly be considered ‘rushing’ but discovering that I could have left at any time left me a bit shamefaced. Maybe I could consider it an extended holiday or leave of absence. In the event, I gathered up my computer and followed the Professor up the stairs.
The grey gloom of a Dume Swamp evening seared my eyes. It was going to take a little time to adjust to this much light. Perhaps a little longer to adjust to this much freedom. It does feel good to be back though and to have the means to write again. There really wasn’t much to write about in the oubliette. Every day was the same and every night was the same as the day.
Now I think about it, it’s really quite a tedious little room. I should redecorate, or just fill it in and forget about it. The irony of forgetting about an oubliette is really quite appealing.
The Professor stood at the drinks cabinet, glass of whisky in hand, and glowered at me.
“Someone asked me something about visions and I had to drop that line of inquiry to trek all the way out here. It makes me look inefficient, Dume.” He finished his whisky, turned on his heel to face the drinks cabinet for a moment then strode to a chair and sat down, placing his full glass on the table. I have never worked out how he does that.
“Sorry.” I placed my computer back on its desk and plugged it in. “If I had known the door was unlocked I wouldn’t have troubled you.”
“It never occurred to you to try it?”
“Well, no. It’s an oubliette. It’s not supposed to be easy to leave.” I started the computer and watched it fire up to make sure it was all in order. “Who let you in? Click? Senga?”
“The front door was open”. He took a cigar from his pocket and lit it. “I haven’t seen anyone else.”
“Open?” I felt a twinge of alarm. I would have to get my crossbow and sweep the place for intruding Ferals. There was also the matter of young Caligula. Five years old and possibly alone in the swamp or worse – the village. The damage he might do could be incalculable.
Eventually, after making quite a dent in my drinks cabinet, the Professor left. I set about combing the castle for Ferals and the missing members of the household.
Caligula was fast asleep in his room and I quickly identified the strewn remains on the floor as those of his mother. He did look rather well fed but she was starting to decay quite badly. I decided to clear up later unless I could find Click and make him do it.
There were no Ferals in the castle, but given the reception they normally receive here that was hardly surprising. To them, an open door might look less like an opportunity and more like bait.
A quick visit to the vault reassured me that Father was still in residence and guarding what he still considers to be his money. As he always said, if he can’t take it with him then he’s staying here with it – so he did.
Click was in the laboratory, cowering under a table. I coaxed him out gently with a handy cattle prod. No need to ask who he’d been hiding from. Caligula would have made a snack of him.
“Little monster.” Click hugged himself. “Eaten everything, eaten all visitors, eaten his mother.”
“Yes, well, he was probably hungry. I’ve locked him in his room now. Nothing to worry about.” Well, not until I send him in there to clean up.
I took a seat and rubbed my fingers on my forehead. “I was only away for two and a half years and the place has gone to pieces. Can’t be helped, I suppose. Well, Click, we’d better start tidying up.”
Two and a half years of oblivion, but it’s over now and I’m back in control of Dume Towers at last. I suppose I should be thankful of this chance at a new start. Not many people get that.
Aside from Professor Crowe, none of my visitors ever do.