Victor kept fit and had remarkable core strength, yet it wasn’t long before he noticed a tremor in his arms: he would not be able to hold himself up much longer. He looked down and saw the rat staring back up at him. His hands began to slip.
Inch by inch he shuffled his right hand across and down the door, and slid it onto the door knob. He took a deep breath.
“Piece of cake. Just like a push-up. Come on.”
To push himself upright from a near-flat position would require extraordinary strength. To turn the door knob at the very instant his weight left the door would require precise skill. Victor did not overestimate his ability in attempting such a manoeuvre. He did, however, overlook the instability of his footing. He leaned in toward the door as far as he could, and then thrust himself back with a mighty push, twisting the door knob as he did so. The stool instantly slid back and collapsed beneath his feet to send Victor crashing flat to the floor, jarring his ribcage and slamming his chin on the timber. The rat slipped out from under him just in time.
Victor laid on his stomach, breathless and dazed. As he sucked in wheezing breaths, his hand groped in front of him. It wasn’t the first time Victor had taken a hard knock, and he knew better than to let it stop him; besides, he was a Furbank, and a Furbank never quits. His hand finally took hold of what it had been reaching for—the open door. He tried to close it but it butted against something; through his glazed eyes he could not see what it was. Then it became clear. A huge black paw stepped over the threshold and padded into the room. Another giant paw followed. Victor tried to stand but found his limbs to be as sturdy as overcooked noodles; all he could do was roll onto his back. The door opened fully as the paws stepped closer, and the face of the abominable beast was revealed. A black-feathered rooster head, with crimson comb and wattle, glared down above Victor. The head was about three times the size of a regular rooster’s, but still looked minuscule upon the immense, rippling shoulders of a Rottweiler. The beast moved in on him and gave a low, croaking sound. It set one heavy paw on Victor’s chest, hooked claws digging into his bare skin. Victor’s eyes lost their glassiness and regained their focus. With no reasonable hope of overcoming such a predator, he raised his hand up to the beast’s face and presented what resistance he could—he gave it the finger.
As if offended by the gesture, the beast lifted its paw and took a step back. Its head tilted as it stared—though this time not at Victor’s face. Its gaze seemed fixated on his stomach. Victor peered down and saw the object of the beast’s fascination: the rat, standing on its hind legs, next to Victor’s side. Victor recoiled, blurting a repulsed string of obscenities as he rolled away. Spying the bed close by, he took advantage of what flimsy cover it offered, and dragged himself beneath it. Wide eyed and breathing fast, he wriggled back beneath the rusty bed springs. He watched the rat and the beast. The two loathsome creatures faced each other: the rat defiant, the beast curious. The beast clucked, and then stamped the floor; the rat didn’t flinch. Crouching low and tilting its head with a flop of its comb, the beast slowly extended a paw toward the rat. The paw came too close for comfort. The rat set its front paws back on the floor, raised its hips and whipped its tail around like a loose fire hose. With a maniac stare, the fearless rodent bared its teeth and hissed. The beast snarled and pounced. Victor edged his head out from under the bed; his mouth hung open as he watched the rat’s head disappear into the beast’s ravenous beak. A sharp flick side to side snapped the rodent’s neck.
© 2019 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED