For fifteen minutes he remained there, staring at the ceiling. Finally, he sat up; he rubbed his shoulder where he had run into the door. With no expression besides the odd yawn, he shifted the old bed frame back into its corner. The bed springs squealed as the mattress thumped on top of them. New sheets tucked in. Blanket spread out. Pillow fluffed. With the bed made, Victor stripped to his boxer shorts; as he removed his pants he felt an object in his pocket: the lollipop from the storage closet. He tore the wrapper off the lime green sweet and held it up for inspection. He sniffed it, sneered and tossed it onto the desk.
“So much for dinner.”
The lollipop landed by the sketch pad Victor had read earlier.
“Hmm. Maybe a quick read before bed,” he said. “See if I can learn some more.”
He picked up the stool, set it front of the desk and sat down. Reaching down beside the desk, he took up the next sketch book and opened it; blue, green and purple spots filled the pages. The gentle tap of claws neared outside the door; Victor watched the beast’s shadow eclipse the slit of faint light over the threshold, and then pass by. The footsteps faded. Victor turned back to the book and read the words formed in green dots:
13 JANUARY 1992. WE HAVE RID TWO MORE ROOMS OF THE CURSE. MARK IS CONFIDENT OF FURTHER SUCCESS. I FEAR WE HAVE REACHED A DEAD END. THERE ARE TOO MANY ROOMS. NINJAS. DINOSAURS. CRAZY BIRDS. OUR ONLY HOPE IS HOLDING OUT FOR RESCUE.
18 JANUARY 1992. THE POTS ARE GONE FROM THE KITCHEN. NO WAY TO COOK SPROUTS NOW. WE MUST EAT THEM RAW. FOUND SOME PHOTOGRAPHS. THE WOMAN IN THE PAINTING IN THE BALLROOM IS GARY’S MOTHER. THE VAMPIRE LOOKS LIKE GARY’S STEPFATHER. WE HAVE ENCOUNTERED SIMILAR LOOKING MEN IN OTHER CURSED ROOMS.
20 JANUARY 1992. I SAW HIM.
Footsteps tapped in the hall again, approaching the bedroom. Victor crept to the door. With his hand tight on the doorknob he turned it slowly until the latch clicked. The footsteps passed the room. Victor eased the door open an inch and peeked out with one eye. He squinted and watched, and then opened the door wider.
“It’s just a dog,” he whispered.
Only the beast’s hindquarters were visible to Victor, as the shadow consumed its front half. It had bear-like paws, narrow legs and a thick, taut body. Shiny black fur covered the creature right through to its stumpy tail.
“Looks like a Rottweiler. It’s huge, but still… just a dog. There must be some way to get at it.”
As he wondered quietly at the enormous animal patrolling the hall, Victor’s hand relaxed and slipped from the doorknob; the latch snapped back.
The beast stopped and grunted. As it spun around to face Victor its front half emerged from the darkness and came into view. Victor’s jaw dropped; his eyes riveted to the terror before him. The beast snarled and charged. Half-petrified at the abominable sight, Victor fumbled to shut the door as the beast lunged. Just as it clicked shut, the door shuddered as though struck by a Sonny Liston right cross. A screw sprung from the top hinge. Raspy breaths heaved outside the door, followed by a long, trumpeting crow. Victor stood staring at the door. After a tense silence, footsteps tapped away down the hall.
“Wha… What the hell was that?” he gasped.
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