In the hall, Victor put on his shirt and jacket, which were both miraculously clean and dry. Even the fragrance of lemon juice had left his clothing; all that remained was a hint of body odour (forgivable after a day spent walking beneath the scorching country sun). He looked up and down the passageway; if the rooms he had entered were anything to go by, he fancied entering as few more as possible, yet physical necessity demanded he enter at least two: a kitchen and a bathroom.
He walked up the hall, peeking in two open doors on the left that revealed long-abandoned bedrooms. He cracked open a door on the right then shut it immediately. “I can’t deal with that right now,” he said. At the end of the hall, Victor looked in an open door on the left, for that was all he could do: the room was a small fortress. A long table bearing dozens of deep scratches leaned on its side, sealing the lower half of the entrance, while above it a grid of bed sheets woven into cords formed a thick, almost impenetrable net. Victor crouched and leaned hard up against the table, which held solid against his weight, then wriggled his upper body up behind the tightly-strung web. He saw the table was lodged in place, weighted with large fragments of marble and braced with varying lengths of scrap timber. Behind the barricade were empty cans, blankets, two single beds, an overturned wardrobe and a variety of makeshift weapons: sharpened chair legs, a pool cue with a carving knife lashed to its end, homemade slings and a cricket bat. To the side was a pile of what seemed to be damaged supplies: shreds of blankets, an iron bedpost snapped in half, fractured slats of wood and a refrigerator door that appeared to have been crippled by a cannonball. In the corner a candle flickered, resting upon an upturned shoe box. Beside the shoe box lay a leather jacket with three long, parallel slash marks down the centre of its back. Around the marks the jacket was stained dark red. Victor stared, astonished, then slid back down behind the bed sheet net and stepped back from the room.
Two closed doors were left: one ahead at the end of the hall and one to the right. After a short inner deliberation (Eeny, meeny, miny, mo), Victor opened the door on the right.
“Ha! Yes,” he laughed. “Thank you.”
It was a bathroom. Small and basic, it offered no extravagances, just a bathtub, toilet and sink. The room had a sickly, greenish aura courtesy of a shadeless electric light globe, dangling from the ceiling like a condemned man from the gallows, washing the duck egg blue wall tiles with its abrasive yellow radiation. Victor unzipped his fly, lifted the toilet lid and seat, and proceeded to relieve himself.
No sooner had he begun than he suddenly stopped and stood still. After waiting a few seconds he recommenced, this time aiming at the porcelain rather than the water. Again he stopped. Victor zipped up his fly and looked around the room for the source of a dull clattering he had heard in unison with his urination. He had felt the sound’s vibration in his chest. A brief but careful search of the bathroom showed nothing amiss, and so Victor returned and stood in front of the toilet. He unzipped his fly but then waited, holding his breath. He detected the faintest rattle. He zipped his fly up, then down, then up again. When he stood in front of the toilet with his fly down, the mysterious sound returned, and when he closed his fly the sound disappeared. With his fly open once more, Victor listened and traced the noise to the wall behind the toilet. He pressed his ear against the wall and listened; there was a low, constant hum. With the bottom of his fist Victor gave the wall a short thump. The humming stopped. Victor stepped back and looked up the wall. “Old pipes,” he said. He smiled and shook his head. “Victor, you fool, you’re letting this place spook you.”
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