Out in the hall Victor squirmed and jumped around as though trying to shake a cluster of spiders from his skin. He wiped his hand on his pants, the wall, the floor, the bottom of his shoe—anything to try and scrape the putrid slime from his fingers where he had touched the doorknob.
“Argh! Gross! Why put a toad there? Disgusting.”
He marched down the hall, back into the bedroom.
“At least this room isn’t so bad. Except for the smell. What is that?”
He plonked himself on the stool like a miserable toddler and grumbled quietly.
Victor was rarely one to feel sorry for himself, and so his self-pity was short-lived. He took a coloured pencil and scribbled on the desk. The pencil was some sort of pastel, and the tip crumbled as he drew. Victor pinched the crumbs and sifted them between his thumb and forefinger, watching them fall like tiny, blue snowflakes.
Suddenly he sat upright and scanned the desk. He pushed the stool back and got down on his hands and knees, searching. He checked near the wall behind the desk, rummaged through a pile of notepads on the floor, and finally upended the desk—all to no avail.
“Son of a gun,” he muttered.
Victor had noticed, before scouring the room, that his wallet and keys were on the desk where he had left them earlier. His phone, however, was missing. He went to the doorway and glared up and down the hall.
“I don’t know who you are,” he shouted, “but I know you’re there. Now listen, I didn’t break into your house—the door opened. So you’re now keeping me here against my will. Just give me back my phone and I’ll be on my way!”
Answered only by silence, Victor turned back into the room and instinctively felt his left side, beside his heart: he realised he was shirtless—and without his jacket. With a gasp he turned and raced up the hall to the library.
“No, no, no,” he scolded himself. “Oh please let it still be there.”
He put his hand on the door but then paused.
“Damn it,” he said, thumping the door with his fist.
He ran back down the hall. Careering into the linen closet, he scooped up a bundle of sheets, blankets and pillows and dragged them out. In mere seconds he had his torso padded front and back with old pillows, and wrapped in sheets like a toga. He fashioned a colossal turban from four bath towels and then draped himself in an impenetrable robe of blankets. Under inches of woollen armour he waddled into the bedroom, put on the sunglasses and took the fireplace poker in his hand. He then shuffled out of the room and up the hall, looking like a monster from a B-grade horror movie.
At the door to the library, Victor slipped his fingers out from beneath his bulging sleeve and fumbled for the doorknob; it opened and he sneaked inside. The room was bright and still—no wind or thunder or rain—and the blind man stood cloaked next to the reading chair.
“Now look,” said Victor, extending the poker toward the blind man like an épée. “I’m just here to get my jacket and then I’m leaving. And don’t bother with your flying books and your lemon juice storm, because it won’t work this time.”
The blind man tilted his head as Victor sidestepped around to the other side of the chair.
“Ah, faithful child,” said the blind man. “Hast thou come to restore my sight?”
“You haven’t got any eyes,” said Victor.
He loosened his arm enough from the blanket robe to reach his jacket hanging over the chair.
“Then thou hast failed me,” whispered the blind man, in a deep, strained voice that seemed to come from all around.”
“Yeah, whatever,” said Victor, taking his jacket.
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