He crossed the hall and went back to the bedroom he had inspected earlier, the one with the unbreakable window. He placed the lollipop on the desk, and then fished out his phone, wallet and keys from his pockets, and put them on the desk as well. Victor took off his jacket and threw it on the bed, and then sat down on the ancient mattress, which creaked and sank in the middle. Victor buried his face in his hands and groaned, “Why did I have to come here?” He sighed and looked around. “And how am I going to get out?”
A small, bright flame danced upon the candle on the desk. Victor stood (to the accompaniment of squealing bed springs) and went to the bookshelf. On the top shelf a congregation of identical red spines drew his attention; he took one of the books down and opened it. Its spine was creased and its cover weathered, in a charming indication of love. Each page was filled with large handwriting that was messy yet not careless. As he leafed through, Victor realised it was a diary. The entries therein contained complaints about school, admissions of fear, secret wishes and dreams, love poems, a ranking of the author’s favourite football players, and numerous rants about someone named Arthur, whom the diary more than once described as a buttface. Victor returned the book to its shelf then sat on the stool by the desk. The open notebook on the desk stared at him with its page of spotty artwork. There was something curious about it.
A soft creak came from out in the hall. It was barely perceptible, but had the effect of crashing cymbals. Victor jumped up, falling backwards over the stool. A short flurry of footsteps echoed outside the door; Victor scrambled to his feet, grabbed his jacket and ran into the hall.
“Hello? Who’s there?”
The hall was empty. Victor waited, and after a few seconds a doorknob clicked. He spun around and watched for a door to open, but none did.
He walked up the hall to where the click came from; two doors on each side there were closed; it could have been any one. A sliver of light crept out beneath each of the doors and Victor watched for movement. In the doorway closest to him on the right, a shadow passed through the light.
“Gotcha,” he whispered.
Victor opened the door and barged in. “I know you’re in here!” here yelled. He stopped suddenly and said in a politer tone, “Oh, sorry. I didn’t, uh… I thought you were hiding from me.”
The room was a small yet well-stocked library. Handmade wooden shelves towered all around, filling every inch of wall space with literature: classic novels, history books, poetry collections, bird watching guides, a thick volume for every military campaign of the nineteenth century and all but one of William Shakespeare’s plays. The single work of Shakespeare missing from the shelf was lying on the small, round table in the middle of the room. Beside the table was a slender electric lamp and a leather reading chair. Beside the chair stood a hunched figure in a ragged, grey cloak, with his back to Victor.
© 2019 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED