The cloaked figure tilted his head upon hearing Victor’s voice.
“Hark!” declared the figure, in a deep, overly dramatic tone. “What treacherous melody assaileth mine ears? Doth! Be it thou, Edgar?”
The figure’s elocution was impeccable; his grasp of language was lacking.
“Forsooth, cruel fortune. Ye!”
“Um… My name is Victor. I’m just, uh, trying to get out.”
The figure raised a trembling fist to the heavens. “Fie! Oh, yonder!”
“Yonder?” whispered Victor. “Listen, friend, sorry to disturb you, but I’m trying to find my way out—could you tell me how to leave this house?”
“Leave?” said the figure. “Wouldst thou leavest ye olde pater to darkness? Ah, evil fate to befall mine evening years, plunging depths of sorrow. ‘Twould!”
“Ah, you know what? Never mind. I can see you’re busy.”
“You can see?” asked the figure, turning around to face Victor. “And what of Gloucester?”
The figure removed his hood to reveal a haggard face with grotesque, gaping sockets where his eyeballs were absent. Blood streamed down his cheeks, staining his beard red.
“Oh sh**!” yelled Victor, turning for the door, but faltered at that sight as well. “Oh, now what the—?”
The doorknob had transformed from an understated yet stylish silver orb into an oversized cane toad covered in quivering boils.
“No way I’m touching that.”
He backed into a corner, trying to keep away from the blind man, who was shuffling about the room with his hands stretched out in front of him.
“Edgar,” called the blind man, “wouldst thou verily forsake thy father in this, his hour of peril? Edgar, my son—forsooth!”
Victor kept silent. The blind man, after waiting for an answer but receiving none, grimaced and stood straight. He bowed his head; blood dripped like tears from his eyes onto the floor. His voice became calm and threatening.
“Very well,” he said. “Since ye abandon thy father, thou shalt endure the storm.”
The blind man concealed himself under his hood and tucked his arms within his cloak. As he did so, approaching thunder murmured.
The library grew dark and cold, and an ominous wind swirled. Victor crouched and huddled himself as best he could in his jacket. Back and forward the gale blasted; the bookshelves trembled until the clatter of books was like a marching army. Victor watched as a political biography fell from the top shelf on the wall opposite him. It dropped, but rather than hitting the floor it slowed and hovered a foot off the ground. The book opened and began twirling, faster and faster, like helicopter blades, while its pages flipped and rustled. It hurled itself across the room at Victor and he ducked just in time to avoid a hard cover to the face. The book crashed against the wall behind him. A sudden sting throbbed atop of his head; he rubbed his scalp. When he looked at his palm he noticed a small blush of blood: the flying book had given him a paper cut. Thunder rumbled and the wind howled. Books began dropping left and right, each one hovering, spinning and then attacking Victor. Under intense fire, he scurried for protection behind the reading chair, but the defence it offered was limited: the books struck him repeatedly, leaving him bruised, and cut on his hands, face and neck—wherever his skin was uncovered. After a five-minute onslaught the wind died down and the books flung themselves back onto the shelves. Victor looked at his stinging hands, striped bright red with paper cuts. He rubbed his face.
A bright flash speared the darkness and a deafening crack shook the room. Rain darted down from the ceiling—sporadic drops at first, bringing a pleasant citric fragrance, but then soon a torrential downpour. The discomfort in Victor’s head and face flared, and he pulled his jacket over himself. Thunder boomed. The rain pelted him and pricked the wounds on his hands, which were exposed. He rubbed the back of his hand and noticed it was slightly sticky. He smelled it. Then licked it.
“That’s lemon juice,” he said.
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