It is an plain-looking telephone. So although it has been placed in a cosy corner (and someone has thoughtfully set down a vase of orchids beside it) with a grand entrance announcing its presence and availability, the telephone remains mostly unused. The busy people zip along the corridor without so much as a second glance at the little black device.
An emergency and a smart but dead phone was what it took me to step into the telephone booth and pick up the receiver. I stuck out my forefinger to jab at the numbers that made up my mother's phone number. (I am proud to say I have an acute memory for phone numbers; the increasing ability of inanimate objects to remember and repeat has not eroded my memory.)
Only there were no buttons on the dial pad. No numbers to dial. Where the dial pad ought to have been was a smokescreen, tendrils of white mist and rainbow colours swimming beneath the surface as if in a crystal ball. I picked up the receiver, that seemed to be the only thing to do.
Hello, crooned a voice so rich it seemed to spill warm golden sunlight on me. It asked me where I wanted to go and I said that I had no plans to go anywhere and that I was only trying to place a phone call but that there was no dial pad on this device, which is strange, I added, because it says Telephone at the entrance and of what use is a telephone without a dial pad, I asked.
The voice, which seemed to come from nowhere near but from all around me at the same time, enveloped me in a warm cocoon and said it was sorry to hear of my ordeal. And in order to compensate me for the trouble I have had to face, it offered to arrange for me to visit the person I was trying to place a call to. All expenses paid, it added.
I said that was very kind indeed and that I would love that.
Very well, Ma'am, said the voice, and with a clap and a poof I was gone and reappeared at the gate to my parents' house.
I find it is a useful thing, this inconspicuous telephone. So far, at my bidding, it has sent me on little jaunts to many places across the globe. But time travel is beyond its capabilities, it says. It is unable send me to a past or a future where telephones do not exist, for the simple reason that I wouldn't be able to return to the present, it explains.