The castle problem
I was woken early one morning by a hammering on my back door. I quickly dressed and rushed downstairs to find Alun in an agitated state.
"It's the castle inspectors, Jed," Alun said, "They're coming to inspect Happy Island Castle."
"But we don't have a castle," I reminded him. The site of the old castle is still there, of course, three feet to the left of where it used to be, but the castle has moved on, the stone being particularly useful in an archipelago that can't afford overpriced mainland building materials. What was once the castle has now become the stone well on Morrison's Island, the stone smoking shelter on Take Your Bad Habits Outside Island, the stone farting shelter on Take Your Bad Habits Outside Island and the stone pigsty on Glad Island. The islanders, of course, still build their own houses of wood and straw, but after hearing a cautionary tale of pig safety (the wolf problem) always keep their pigs in stone houses.
"I know we don't have a castle, Jed," Alun said, "It's just that we might have been claiming for the upkeep of the castle from the Mainland Heritage Fund."
"The use of the word 'we', is this the 'I might get a shorter sentence if there were two of us involved' usage of the world?" I asked.
"What are we going to do, Jed?" Alun said, ignoring my question, "We can hardly rebuild the castle in a single day, not without dismantlling every farting shelter, pigsty and well in the archipelago."
"We could try the Castle Hire Company," I suggested, remembering one of the regular advertisers in the Off-Mainlander Magazine.
"They're a bouncy castle hire company, Jed," Alun said. "The Mainland Heritage have world-renowned experts on castles and old-world gubbins, we can hardly expect to fool them with a bouncy castle. Besides, you have to reserve those months in advance, they're really popular this time of year."
"In which case we'll just have to tell the inspectors that the castle blew down in last week's storm."
"We can't do that Jed, I told them that the east tower blew down in the storm, I've put in a claim for a million mainland pounds to rebuild it."
"A million mainland pounds. What on earth were you planning to do with all that money?"
"Rebuild the east tower Jed, honest."
"That's a ridiculous lie, we both know there never was an east tower," (the original castle constructions had a pro-western bias, as a result of which the castle had two west towers but no east tower). "It was probably your fraudulent claim that brought the inspectors here in the first place. There's nothing we can do, it looks like your fraud is going to be exposed."
"Yes Jed, unless..."
"Who said that third 'unless'?"
"It was an echo Jed, we get a lot of them on this bit of the island, bit of the island. Let's move over there, move over there, move over there."
"Unless?" I repeated my question.
"Unless we use the empty house."
One of the special features of the empty house is the chameleon circuit, which means it can change its appearance. Another feature of the empty house is that it can travel through time and space, which meant that by changing the appearance of the empty house into a castle with a recently-collapsed east tower, going back 500 years in time to give the castle an authentic 'not-lived-in' appearance, it blended in perfectly with the landscape.
The castle inspectors from the Mainland Heritage Fund duly arrived on the next boat, inspected the castle and declared that it was indeed in need of urgent repair and presented us with a cheque for a million mainland pounds.
"You're only claiming for one castle?" the inspector said.
"Yes of course," said Alun, "We're not charlatans or fraudsters," he said.
"What I mean is," said the castle inspector, "Why aren't you claiming for the other castle?"
"The other castle," Alun and I said together, to avoid unnecessary duplication which would slow down the narrative and risk boring the reader.
We looked to where the castle inspector was pointing and sure enough, there on the east side of the island was a second castle, which had clearly been there for over 500 years but which hadn't been there an hour ago.
There was only one possible explanation.
"They've found us, Jed."
To be continued (eventually, I get distracted)