Victor tried another open door in the hall, and entered a child’s bedroom. It was large but uncluttered, containing a bed, a wardrobe, a small bookshelf and a desk. A candle on the desk cast a soft light. The room showed signs of age and use, and a stale stench pervaded the air. Victor went and pressed his face against the window on the far wall, but could see neither star above nor shape below. He spun around eagerly and grabbed the wooden stool next to the desk, but then noticed a pile of random objects on the floor at the foot of the bed. He put the stool down and sifted through the objects, which included: a short length of rope, a chair leg sharpened to a point, items of tattered clothing, old sheets of paper, two billiard balls, a pair of Ray-Bans, a large video camera and a fireplace poker. Victor smiled as he took the poker in his hand and swung it back and forward with the anticipation of a slugger stepping up to bat. “This will do the trick,” he said. He went to the window, positioned himself side-on and turned his face away. He raised the poker then whipped it backhand against the glass. Instead of a climactic shatter there came only an impotent clink. The poker rebounded and shot a painful vibration through Victor’s wrist; he dropped the poker on the floor. Rubbing his wrist he examined the window, which had sustained not even a scratch. Partly from a desire to escape and partly from wounded pride, Victor took up the poker and gave the window a thrashing. After inflicting fifty vehement lashes, to which the window remained impervious, Victor collapsed in exhaustion. “What the hell?” he complained.
Victor recovered his breath then stood and threw the poker back on the pile where he found it. He looked around the room. Yellowed copies of adventure stories filled the bookshelf, along with some vintage comic books. A few issues of Batman leaned together on the bottom shelf; Victor grabbed one. “Whoa,” he said, looking at the cover, “Batman, nineteen sixty-seven. This could be worth a lot.” He flicked through and saw scrawled across the final page in black marker: ARTHUR IS A BUTT FACE. “Or maybe not,” he said, and put the comic back on the shelf. He blew the dust off a notebook which lay open on the desk, next to some coloured pencils. The open page bore some weird art, comprised of a bunch of blue and green and purple dots. Victor sighed and gave the room a parting look of disappointment.
He decided to try one of the closed doors, the one directly across the hall. Victor opened it, and stood stunned. Thirty young children in drab uniforms sat writing at desks arranged in precise rows. Next to a blackboard at the front of the room, behind a desk whose immensity seemed to serve no purpose besides intimidation, sat a serious man in an equally serious brown woollen suit. He was tall and bald, with a neat moustache and wild eyebrows. With short, heavy strokes of his pen he corrected the essays on his desk. Victor entered the classroom and looked around in wonder; the students continued writing; the teacher looked over his glasses at Victor, sniffed, and then went back to grading papers.
“Well, get on with it Grimes,” said the teacher. “We haven’t got all day.”
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