In the corner by the window, Victor checked the oddly stained floor.
“I guess this is the spot.”
He put the ball of his foot down and leaned his weight onto it. A section of timber broke off beneath him and he fell on his backside as his foot dropped through the gap.
He pried his lower leg loose from the collapsed floorboards, cursing as his shin scraped a jagged edge.
“Bloody rotten timber.”
He finally got to his feet, and wiped his hands on his boxer shorts. Whistling the theme song to The Golden Girls, he began relieving himself, aiming for the hole in the floor. Mid-stream, Victor spied two shiny dots in the darkness below. The dots moved.
He stopped and stepped back, watching the dots. There was a squeak and then the two glinting specks surfaced, staring at Victor, eyes in the furry, grey face of a large rat.
He turned and leapt in a single terrified bound across the room onto the bed, snatched up the blanket, and held it in front of him as a shield. The rat poked its head up above of the hole in the floor, twitched its nose and then disappeared below deck. Victor lowered the blanket but kept his eyes on the hole. After a few seconds, tiny claws appeared and latched onto the broken floorboard, a flurry of scratching sounded beneath, and in a sudden the rat flipped itself up and into the bedroom. Victor gasped at the sight of the of the oversized rodent, its fur glistening, wet from the urine in which he had just unknowingly doused it. His feet sank into the mattress as he backed up against the wall. The rat sniffed and looked around the room, then crept toward the bookshelf.
Movement by the desk caught Victor’s eye; one of his socks was writhing on the floor. His eyes widened.
“That could work,” he whispered to himself, his gaze darting between the rat and the sock.
He moved delicately to the head of the bed, wincing with every squeal of the bed springs. The rat, busy exploring new surroundings, paid no attention. Victor stepped down from the bed and edged along the wall, toward the desk. Keeping watch on the mighty vermin, he crouched, reached out, and picked up the sock. He untied the knot and shook the sock gently on the floor, releasing the snake inside. The python was lethargic, and took a minute to uncurl from its pretzel-like state. Victor gave it a nudge; the snake wriggled then straightened out. It flicked its tongue, and then raised its head and became still. It had seen the rat. The snake slithered, slow and undetected, toward the bookshelf. Victor remained still and watched on. Silent and cunning, the snake stalked it prey, which was oblivious to any danger as it chewed the spine of a black book on the bottom shelf. Victor tilted his head and read the title—Dracula. Almost at the rat’s tail, the snake stopped. The rat ceased chewing, and twitched its whiskers, as though coming to the disturbing realisation that it was being watched. It sniffed the floor side to side then spun around. Upon seeing the python it jumped back and hissed—Victor shuddered at the sound. The snake dropped its head and rushed across the floor like quicksilver. The rat lashed out with its paws, and, with what appeared more like a lucky punch than skill, stunned the snake. It scampered away under the bed, while the snake crawled in slow-motion up onto the books on the bottom shelf and laid there, with only its hanging tail protruding from the shadow of the shelf above.
Victor, meanwhile, had jumped onto the desk, and now sat there staring at into the darkness beneath the bed. Two shiny dots stared back at him.
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