There was a clunk and a grunt. Victor looked up.
“Ow, sh**,” said the blind man.
He stood beside the table, rubbing his hip.
“Need some help, Gloucester?” asked Victor. “Because if you can’t see with those glasses—”
“Nay!” yelled the blind man. With his right hand he held the glasses to his face; his left hand stretched out to feel the table. “Ha-ha. Nay, I needeth no help. It uh… merely takes some adjusting. Ah, yes, I see better now. Clear as a summer’s day.”
He inched forward, feeling for obstacles ahead. Victor looked back down at the gun. Before his eyes a transformation took place: while the weapon retained its shape, its substance morphed from metal and wood to a soft, pitch black clay. He prodded it with a finger, and then pinched the hand grip; a thimbleful of the goo stuck to his thumb. It had a smooth texture and a strong smell. Victor held it up and examined it. He sniffed it and then tested the tiniest amount on his tongue.
“Mm, that’s weird,” he said. He put the tip of his thumb in his mouth and sucked the black substance from it, massaging it between his tongue and the roof of his mouth. He swallowed and smacked his lips. “It’s Vegemite.”
He poked the gun again and the barrel broke off and collapsed. “So much for that,” he muttered.
The blind man stood by the reading chair, supporting himself on the arm rest, his back to Victor.
“How’s your sight coming along now?” asked Victor.
The blind man made no reply. Victor watched him.
“Gloucester,” said Victor. “I said how’s your sight—are those glasses doing the job?”
The blind man kept silent and still, as Victor once again witnessed a metamorphosis. In seconds the blind man’s weathered cloak darkened from Gandalf grey to Batman black. The wispy, silver strands adorning the back of his head flattened down on his scalp and became as dark and sleek as crude oil.
“Gloucester?” said Victor.
He stepped around behind the chair and in front of the blind man, whose face, hands, clothing—his entirety—had turned to Vegemite.
“Incredible,” said Victor, wondering at the fragile ebony statue.
He stepped up to it and waved his hand in front of its face. He touched its nose, which squished inward so that it appeared to have melted. When Victor tried to remove the sunglasses from the statue’s face they became slime between his fingers, feeble Vegemite eyewear.
“Sorry about this, Gloucester,” said Victor. “But you did try to kill me.”
He pressed his palm up against the statue’s face and shoved it hard. The statue’s face caved in as its head detached neatly from its shoulders and toppled backward, landing on the floor with a mild splat.
Decapitation weakened the structure, and piece by piece the statue dismembered and folded in upon itself, finally coming to rest in a large, lumpy mound on the floor. An object like a black football dropped from the ceiling and fell in front of Victor, startling him: it was the giant cane toad—now made of Vegemite. It fell and splattered on top of the Mound.
As Victor stared at the pile of iconic yeast extract, a small sphere, like a black tennis ball, rose from it. The sphere’s Vegemite skin melted off, revealing a brilliant light—the same kind Victor had seen in the linen closet. It grew brighter, if possible, yet was gentle to Victor’s eyes, bathing everything in its purity. Suddenly he felt as though lifted from the ground. A great wind rushed against his face and he heard the screech of an eagle, only it sounded familiar, like the voice of a friend. Around him he could see white, like satin, cool and comforting, rising up in waves then draping upon him like petals of an enormous azalea. He could taste chocolate milk. The laugh of a hundred kookaburras, the smell of bacon frying, the satisfaction of making the perfect Frisbee throw, the thunderous standing ovation of thirty thousand cricket fans and the admiration of a British commentator: “That’s a century at Lord’s for Grimes. The finest I’ve ever seen”—all these sensations flooded Victor in a moment, and then just as quickly subsided. He was left sitting in the reading chair in the middle of the library, which was now neat and quiet, though caked in dust. The electric lamp was gone, substituted with a small but elegant candlestick, which warmed the room with its gentle glow.
After a few minutes coming to terms with the latest series of absurdities, and his escape from them, Victor stood up and collected his shirt and jacket from the floor. He checked the inside pocket of his jacket and heaved a sigh of relief. “Still there,” he said, and patted the pocket with gratitude. The room was remarkably still, even serene. As he walked to the door he took a long look around, and against the sombre shades a small, bright flash caught his eye: a yellow lollipop lay on the floor. He picked it up. He found the door furnished with an inanimate, wooden knob, which he turned gladly and left the library.
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